• Ben Barry
    ‘Ridiculous. One does not simply “get over” combustion engines’ It’s not often that, in the course of a casual Saturday morning drive and a chat, you find yourself facing an unpleasant truth you’ve been avoiding for years. I had planned to sit in the passenger seat of ‘my’ #BMW-M850i-xDrive-G15 / #BMW-G15 / #BMW and simply ask reader Andy Cole what he thought of the car. (The story’s in Our Cars) But then things got a bit heavy. Like us, Andy’s an enthusiast.

    Like me, he’s moved by a good Bavarian straight-six; they do something to him. Or rather, they did something to him. ‘I think I’m over internal combustion engines,’ Andy told me, matter of factly. Ridiculous, I thought to myself. One does not simply ‘get over’ combustion engines. But over the next couple of days it dawned on me that, like or not, I’ll have no choice but to get over engines. This ushered in a feeling of profound sadness, so last night I cracked open a beer, wandered into my garage and sat a while contemplating my little shrine to the engine. Having replaced a popped bulb in its instrument cluster and fixed its silent horn, I replaced the fairing on my 1991 Honda VFR400, with its 399cc V4: 15,000rpm redline and 55bhp (138bhp per litre to the Ferrari 812 Superfast’s 121bhp…). Then I glanced up, at the vast print of the single most impressive Formula 1 car yet conceived, the McLaren Mp4/4: a holy – and almost perfect – combination of Gordon Murray free-thinking and another superb Honda engine, the turbo V6 (a pretty punchy 433bhp per litre). What a waste. A century of hard-won expertise, gleaned and proven in competition apparently now redundant. The electric future resets everything, and so I find myself grieving for an age that, while not behind us, is surely on borrowed time. Does Honda feel the same? Secretly, I think it does. A couple of years ago I visited its Collection Halls in Japan.
    Ostensibly Honda’s museum, it’s also a shrine to the wonder of the internal combustion engine and one company’s passionate love affair with it. And at the recent Geneva motor show, at which Honda shouted about its battery-electric e Prototype city car, I spoke with the car’s project leader, Kohei Hitomi. I told him that for me Honda was synonymous with great engines. Did it plan to build the same reputation with motors? ‘When comparing engines with electric motors, the differences in characteristics and performance will be smaller,’ he told me, looking a little sad. ‘In the past Honda made a difference; with an engine’s characteristics, its performance and its reliability. This will change with the move to electrification. We will probably have to look elsewhere to make this Honda difference.’ I could have hugged him. Don’t worry, Kohei, together we can get through this.

    My garage – and my beer fridge – are always open. Another month, another couple of awards. This month we’ve cleared space in the trophy cabinet for further recognition of CAR’s standout writing: Ben Oliver for feature writer and James Taylor for road tester, at the recent Newspress awards. You’ll find irrefutable evidence of their greatness on Drive-My.

    Enjoy the issue.