Some auto shows are about fuel economy, some are about design and style. The New York International Auto Show that opens this weekend is about horsepower.
The average Honda Civic, for example, has about 150 horsepower — which is plenty.
Fiat Chrysler just introduced the Dodge Demon. It has 840 horses revving under the hood.
Why do drivers need cars with so much vroom?
"There's that moment when you want to forget your problems, you want to kind of almost transition to another dimension for a while," says Ralph Gilles, head of global design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. "That's what these cars do for people."
Sure, most of the time they're for commuting. But, Gilles says, "It's part of the dream. There's something about it. Even if you never exploit its performance, you know you could."
Jean Jennings, of Jean Knows Cars and the longtime editor and president of Automobile magazine, says: "This is the last gasp of like the 5-mile-per-gallon supercars." She's exaggerating, but only a little.
She says as consumers turn to SUVs, car companies are pulling out the stops when it comes to high-performance sedans.
"It is everyone's last chance to make all those car enthusiasts in the world who are screaming bloody murder about autonomous cars coming — this is the last gasp to make them happy," Jennings says.
"And then after that, you've got to buy a membership to a racing club somewhere. It's not going to be on the road," she says with a laugh.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Well, the New York International Auto Show opens this weekend and so does the eighth installment of the movie franchise "Fast And Furious." "Fast And Furious" is centered around horsepower, and the same is pretty much true with the New York Auto Show. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Some auto shows are about fuel economy, some are about design and style. This one is about horsepower. Now, to give you an example, your average Honda Civic gets about 150-something horsepower, which is plenty, trust me. Fiat Chrysler just introduced the Dodge Demon. It has 840 horses revving under that hood. It's the fastest car in production.
RALPH GILLES: OK. So my name is Ralph Gilles. I'm head of global design for Fiat Chrysler automobiles.
GLINTON: Why do drivers need cars that get, you know, over 200 horsepower? Isn't 150 good enough?
GILLES: (Laughter) Because you can, right? So the technology is there today. And first of all, we're balancing a lot with these vehicles. They're perfectly safe. They've got all of that stuff. And they get, actually, shockingly good fuel economy when you drive them normally. But there's that moment when, you know, you want to forget your problems. You want to kind of almost transition to another dimension for a while. That's what these cars do for people.
GLINTON: But, Ralph, you know, people aren't using these cars to forget their problems.
GILLES: Yes, they are.
GLINTON: They're going they're going to work on the 405.
GILLES: And that's OK.
GLINTON: They're going to work in Detroit. Like, why...
GILLES: But it's part of the dream. There's something about it. You get it - even if you never exploit it's performance, you know you could.
JEAN JENNINGS: This is very easy. This is the last gasp of, like, the five-mile-per-gallon supercars.
GLINTON: Jean Jennings is exaggerating just a little. Her website is Jean Knows Cars. She was the longtime editor and president of Automobile magazine. Jennings says as consumers are getting swayed to buy SUVs, car companies are pulling out all the stops when it comes to high-performance sedans.
JENNINGS: It is everyone's last chance to make all those car enthusiasts in the world who are screaming bloody murder about autonomous cars coming - this is the last gasp to make them happy. And then after that, you've got to buy a membership to a racing club somewhere.
JENNINGS: It's not going to be on the road.
GILLES: So if you want to get your supercharged "Dukes Of Hazzard" car or honor Prince with a little red corvette, Jennings and most of the engineers and designers here say you better hurry because, literally, the entire industry is betting on autonomy. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this report, we say that the Dodge Demon is the fastest car in production. The Demon has tested fastest on a drag strip. But at least one production model, the Tesla Model S when it’s running in “ludicrous mode,” has gone zero to 60 mph a few fractions of a second faster.]
(SOUNDBITE OF CLEAN OF CORE'S "A SAD LOOK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.