There's little doubt that we are currently enjoying the golden age of automotive performance. Dozens of different models on sale today make over 500 horsepower, and seven boast output in excess of 700 hp.
Not long ago, that kind of capability was exclusive to supercars – vehicles whose rarity, performance focus, and requisite expense made them aspirational objects of desire to us mortals. But more than that, supercars have historically offered a unique driving experience, one which was bespoke to a particular model and could not be replicated elsewhere. But in recent years, even the low-volume players have been forced to find the efficiencies and economies of scale that formerly hadn't been a concern for them, and in turn the concept of the supercar as a unique entity unto itself is fading fast.
The blame doesn't fall on one particular manufacturer nor a specific production technique. Instead, it's a confluence of different factors that are chipping away at the distinction of these vehicles. It's not all bad news – Lamborghini's platform sharing with Audi for the Gallardo and the R8 yielded a raging bull that was more reliable and easier to live with on a day-to-day basis, and as a result it went on to become the best-selling Lambo in the company's history. But it also came at the cost of some of the Italian's exclusivity when eerily familiar sights and sounds suddenly became available wearing an Audi badge.
Even low-volume players have been forced to find economies of scale.
Much of this comes out of necessity, of course. Aston Martin's recent deal with Mercedes-AMG points toward German hardware going under the hood and into the cabin of the upcoming DB11, and it's safe to assume that this was not a decision made lightly by the Brits, as the brand has built a reputation for the bespoke craftsmanship of its vehicles. There's little doubt that the DB11 will be a fine automobile, but the move does jeopardize some of the characteristic "specialness" that Astons are known for. Yet the world is certainly better off with new Aston Martins spliced with DNA from Mercedes-AMG rather than no new Astons at all, and the costs of developing cutting-edge drivetrains and user interfaces is a burden that's becoming increasingly difficult for smaller manufacturers to bear.
Even Ferrari is poised to make some dramatic changes in the way it designs cars. While each of Maranello's current offerings rides on its own exclusive framework, future Ferrari models are expected to be derived from a single modular platform, much in the way that Volkswagen's MQB platform is shared between numerous models (and brands) of varying shapes and sizes. Will those upcoming Ferraris still be incredibly fast and breathtakingly beautiful? It's a pretty safe bet, but it's also likely that each model will be far more reminiscent of one another than they are now.
And with the recent news that Alfa Romeo's new Giulia sedan is expected to share its underpinnings with the next Dodge Charger and the upcoming Barracuda, it's becoming clear that the days of hallowed brands going it alone are quickly drawing to a close. While there's undoubtedly some virtue to the trend in terms of sustainability and R&D, it's hard not to lament the slow demise of vehicle design as a singular, uncompromised vision in favor of increased margins.