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gussnarp's avatar

Why do we make cars that go 200 mph?

Asked by gussnarp (2820 points ) October 7th, 2009

I’ve never anywhere in the U.S. seen a speed limit over 75 mph, although before the nationwide 55 mph speed limit there were apparently “Safe and Reasonable” speed limit signs out west. At any rate, is there any reason that cars on the public roadway should be capable of going more than say, 85 mph? Seems to me that’s about the upper limit of the vast majority of people’s driving tolerance, only a handful of people will ever go that fast, even less will be truly comfortable, and probably none truly in control. It seems to me that it would be safer, and not an undue restriction, for cars to be governed to about 85 mph. What say you?

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49 Answers

jackm's avatar

To be honest, some people like knowing they have a fast car. Even if they can’t legally drive it on the street that fast people like knowing they could. Also, maybe they want to race it on a track legaly

When it really comes down to it the question is does the government have the right to regulate speed, as simply having a car that goes fast doesnt mean you will break any laws.

marinelife's avatar

Wikipedia: “For approximately thirteen years (1974–1987), no speed limit in the United States exceeded 55 mph. Prior to that, speed limits were mostly the same as today, but more often higher or nonexistent in rural areas. Montana and Nevada among others previously had no statutory speed limits for cars and motorcycles in certain conditions.”

Darwin's avatar

Because we can.

The potential makes us feel excited and strong, and if we are male, manly. Thus, having a speedometer go that high sells more cars because of the fantasy involved.

But who says we never go that fast? I once went 155 mph in my friend’s 1976 Corvette on a deserted stretch of road that cut through the King Ranch. Granted, it wasn’t 200 mph, but it was pretty darn fast (and no one saw us).

Now my truck’s speedometer only goes to 160 mph, but it may be able to go faster than that. It has a 8.1-liter big-block Vortec V-8 that makes 330 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, and was designed for high-speed towing, so I am sure it could go faster.

Besides, it helps me pull other trucks out of the mud.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s a phallic object, that car between your legs. It’s about machismo, and the way that attracts others, and the attention it gets, and the way it makes you feel.

and some people actually take the car out on a track

drClaw's avatar

Americans would revolt if cars were required to have speed governors. Cars are a major part of American society, whether it be solely for transportation or as a hobby/passion.

virtualist's avatar

….it is not the top end velocity that grabs us…... that is just a parameter that goes along with what we REALLY enjoy on current streets/highways…... and that is beautifully-drivable acceleration from 0–62mph in 4.5 – 5.5 sec ( that is 55 +7 = 62 and they usually won’t pull you over for that in a 55 mph zone)

….there really are not any laws against acceleration…..

virtualist's avatar

….it is not speed or acceleration that can hurt you (at street level , anyway) ...... it is the abrupt deacceleration against the tree that REALLY gets you!

gussnarp's avatar

My dad got a ticket once for accelerating at a dangerous rate.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Because there’s places where one can.

Also, It’s understood by some car designers that if a car performs well at 120 mph then it certainly should perform very well at 60 mph.

A cars power is a tool like any other. It’s not about ego or penis compensation. The more power I have available the more options I have. Yay pro choice!

Why shouldn’t I be able to put my car where I need it asap in traffic? Why shouldn’t I be able to exit a corner with a satisfying amount of vigor?

The OP mentions not being comfortable at speed. If this is the case you’ve chosen the wrong hardware.

An adequate trust to weight ratio is something you either get, or don’t.

Disagree? There’s always your off the rack USDM Camry.

Zaku's avatar

Lame vehicles may be unsafe above 60 mph, but cars designed to be safe over 100mph (e.g. German sedans) are more controllable and safe at 60mph, or in adverse conditions, etc.

There are also situations in the US where it is legal to exceed the speed limit, for example when passing on a two-lane road.

Also, not everyone agrees with the speed laws, and many many people routinely speed. It’s not the agreement that they are terrible people and it should never happen, except in some people’s minds. There is a fine and/or a pain in the ass when caught.

There is also a fundamental line between having specific laws where certain speeds are not legally exceeded, and laws or practices that actually prevent cars from exceeding a certain speed.

There are also places besides the USA.

200mph (as opposed to 100mph) though seems excessive even to me, except on a race track or maybe certain very flat empty roads.

RareDenver's avatar

@gussnarp Why do we make cars that go 200 mph?

Because we can

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Exactly @RareDenver:

We casually enjoy our modern sedans that can cruise comfortalby at 90 because of the engineers in earlier decades that made cars that could push 160.

Darwin's avatar

Hey, @RareDenver – I said it first!

RareDenver's avatar

@Darwin So you did, I must admit to the guilt of reading the question and then answering before reading the rest of the thread. I should know better, am I forgiven?

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Bah, one’s imput is no less legitmate just because someone made the same statement first.

Darwin's avatar

@RareDenver Of course!

@Noel_S_Leitmotiv Grumpyboots!

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

@Darwin: Grumpynot! I wasn’t diminishing your statement, I was just saying @RareDenver‘s is just as valid.

Darwin's avatar

The Bah gave you away.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Would you like some Chef Boyardee?

Darwin's avatar

No, thank you. My mother said to always be polite.

asmonet's avatar

Because, we uh….can.
Durr.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Speaing of @Darwin‘s Law of Acceleration.

Let’s take a look at Volkwagen’s approach to the problem:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk1t6S737Cs

This gorgeous video explains the stunning engineering involved:

How do you cool two Audi V8s stuck together? At these speeds you have to worry about mirrors flying off, centrifical force opening tire valves…

El_Cadejo's avatar

” only a handful of people will ever go that fast, even less will be truly comfortable, and probably none truly in control.”

Drive a better car….

YARNLADY's avatar

Engines that are built to go 60 – 70 comfortably can also go faster unless they had a built in speed arrestor on them. It is the nature of the engine design that makes it happen, not the builders’ intentions.

Kraigmo's avatar

The governing needs to be above all potentially needed speeds. 85 MPH is too low for a governor. When you are in a two-lane highway, and you need to pass someone by going into the oncoming lane… driving 100 MPH is far safer than driving under 85 MPH.

Also, there are emergencies sometimes, where 90 to 95 MPH is appropriate. Only if the car and its tires can handle that, though.

mattbrowne's avatar

Because of German autobahns. Seriously, it’s a shame that most cars can do 90 mph and more. Tires could be produced differently saving precious fuel.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

You don’t want to drive a car that is at its design limits at 85 MPH or even 100 MPH. If you can design a car that is aerodynamically stable and will handle predictably at 150 MPH or more, then it will be safe to drive at 65. Most of the engineering advances that have made cars safer have come from racing programs.

You could try to get a law passed to install speed governors on U.S. passenger cars. It would suffer the same fate as the seat belt ignition interlock that was developed in the 1970s. People would hate it, they’d disconnect it, and they would scream bloody murder to Washington to get the law junked. Remember we tried to outlaw alcoholic beverages once. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a disaster. You can’t legislate morality.

@mattbrowne, tires with low rolling resistance can save up to 3 MPG, if you want them on your car. They also have longer tread life, saving you even more money. The downside is increased stopping distance and lower handling limits. They’re DOT approved, so go buy a set IF YOU WANT THEM. I don’t want them. I like my emergency handling just the way it is; I’m alive because of it.

gussnarp's avatar

There are some good arguments here, but also some that I believe are at best red herrings. I think it’s clear that the real answer is basically the political impossibility. I also understand that cars need to be capable of going faster than they ever will in order to ensure adequate power for merging and what not. On the other hand, I drive a Toyota Echo, and I can get all the acceleration I need out of it. I think the desire for fast cars is all about ego. As to safety though, if you need to go 100 mph to pass someone on a two lane road, then they are going as fast as you need to and you should slow down and stay behind them. The notion of being safe at high speeds due to proper engineering I do not accept. The human body did not evolve at 100 mph, and cannot react quickly enough to be truly safe or in control at those speeds. There’s a reason professional race care drivers make a lot of money – they are exceptional, they may be born with better reflexes, but they have also been conditioned to perform under extreme conditions, and they still crash. When you feel comfortable at 90 mph, it’s not because you are really safe, it’s because the car is engineered so that you don’t feel like you’re going 90 mph. And finally, I challenge the emergency argument. It’s sort of like the ticking time bomb scenario, a what if that never happens. What emergency justifies going 90 to 95 miles per hour? Only if you live in a very remote area and have a real medical emergency, pretty much nothing else.

mattbrowne's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex – I’m aware of the trade-offs. Is there a reasonable compromise? Save 1.5 mpg not 3 while meeting all safety requirements when never exceeding say 85 mph?

El_Cadejo's avatar

“The human body did not evolve at 100 mph, and cannot react quickly enough to be truly safe or in control at those speeds”

Again, i say, drive a better car….

“they may be born with better reflexes” So why cant others who decide not to pursue racing, but still enjoy driving a lot?

gussnarp's avatar

@uberbatman Again I say, it has nothing to do with the car. But obviously you aren’t interested in my viewpoint, that’s fine, you didn’t ask for it, I asked for yours. I just don’t agree with it.

El_Cadejo's avatar

How does it have nothing to do with the car? I would think safely and control would weigh very heavily on what vehicle one was driving. Care to explain how it doesnt?

gussnarp's avatar

uberbatman – I thought I did make it clear. It is about human reaction times and what human beings are capable of doing. Having a car that performs better at high speeds than other cars does not change the fact that, as I said, human beings evolved for a world where nothing moves faster than 35 mph, so we simply don’t have the skills to be consistently safe at speeds over 100 mph.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@gussnarp Are you saying that humans have stopped evolving? Or that we can no longer learn new skills? Have you ever considered that maybe some people have a lot better reaction times than you do?

gussnarp's avatar

I’m not saying we’ve stopped evolving, but evolution takes thousands of years, human beings have not changed due to evolution in less than 100 years. Yes, we can learn new skills, and if you are an exceptional human being, and train yourself extensively, then you can learn to control a vehicle at over 100mph in a controlled environment. But you never be able to effectively respond to sudden changes at that speed.

El_Cadejo's avatar

looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one

waterskier2007's avatar

it is possible to take your car to a track and run over 85. my friend does it all the time with his monte carlo. and yeah its a manly thing

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@mattbrowne , the latest issue of Consumer Reports did a report on tires. You can find some recommendations there. This one got the best rating among all-season models.

I run two sets of tires, one for summer, one for winter. Most people don’t want to bother with that solution, but it’s best for the conditions we have around here.

proXXi's avatar

(shakes head)

Why do so many flutherites seem obsessed with paying the government to limit their choices?

proXXi's avatar

@gussnarp, what is your objection with cars that are capable of 200 MPH?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@proXXi , some people just can’t stand to see anyone else having a good time.

proXXi's avatar

Why are you concerned about cars being capable of 200 MPH?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@proXXi , my first post to this board pretty much sums it up. You need solid engineering to build a car that goes that fast – even if you don’t want to.

Fred931's avatar

The better question is, why did some nutcase at Volkswagen make this sonuvagun?

gemiwing's avatar

Because it’s so much damn fun

Fred931's avatar

Btw, the highest speed limit in the U.S. is 80 mph in a few parts, like some tiny counties to the far west of Texas, as well as one county in Utah.

Roxax93's avatar

La-Di Frickin’ Da

Nullo's avatar

For the same reason why we make guns that could bring down large animals from great distances: There are very specific situations where such a thing would be useful.
Montana has no posted speed limits. Parts of Tennessee are rated for 80mph.

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