Virtual supercars offer a new kind of driving experience
Virtual supercars and the delights of sim racing mean you can test the limits of an Aston Martin Valkyrie or a Zagato, say, without leaving the comfort of your gaming den
The link between video games and car makers has never been closer. Since 2013, the Gran Turismo series of PlayStation games has included concept cars developed in-house by leading manufacturers, among them Mercedes, Nissan, BMW, Bugatti, Jaguar and McLaren. These Vision Gran Turismo virtual concepts have even spilled over from screens into real life, built up into life-size models (albeit with a fraction of the performance offered by their digital counterparts). It’s all part of the gamification of design, whether it’s Ikea’s new range of gaming furniture or Herman Miller’s collaboration with Logitech, or even concept cars that use the graphical language of video games to improve interfaces and interactivity.
If you’ve just invested a six-figure sum in a real supercar, you’d probably want to do more than just sit and look at it. However, the opportunities to experience its limits in real life are becoming increasingly curtailed by space, legislation, and old-fashioned common sense. Ironically, the right sim racing software will allow a kid with an XBox to glean just as much four-wheeled enjoyment as the owner with a stable full of real Italian exotica, with no fear of expensive insurance claims or eternal YouTube infamy. Simulators have played an important role in training racing drivers for many years, and the gap between pro software and consumer-grade entertainment is getting narrower. The challenge is to incorporate the sim racing hardware into the home without going all-out on the overt geek factor.
For those with the space – be it in sitting rooms, studies, garages, or even dedicated gaming complexes – there’s a new breed of digital driving experience available, developed in close collaboration with manufacturers and designers. The following fleet of virtual supercars is primed and ready to tackle the world’s trickiest circuits and most spectacular roads from the comfort of home.
A complicated membership system and close ties to some of the most iconic names in Italian car design defines the new eClassic venture, based in Liechtenstein. Working alongside designers at Pininfarina and Zagato, eClassic has created two physical simulator systems, large-scale installations that evoke the lines and curves of classic cars but swap wheels for screens. The company’s very first model, the Pininfarina Leggenda Driving Simulator, was sold at Sotheby’s for €175,000. It also makes a Zagato-inspired model, the Elio Z Edition, with a cutaway-style body that references the construction of post-war classic cars. Both have original wooden-rimmed Nardi steering wheels, leather upholstery and a 49in screen.
CURV Racing Simulators
Aston Martin has also ventured into the sim sphere, working in close collaboration with a new start-up, CURV Racing Simulators. Launched by AM test specialist and racing driver Darren Turner, the CURV AMR-CO1 is intended as a companion piece for Aston Martin’s most high-end product, the Valkyrie hypercar, with hardware inspired by the £2m machine and the ability to customise the colour and trim to match your example, should you deign to own both. The time you put in behind the wheel of this machine should also help get more out of the actual machine, with infinite margin for error. In the bespoke apartments at 130 William in New York, where Aston Martin has collaborated with David Adjaye, you can even specify a special ‘sim room’, with the CURV RS taking pride of place.
Project Brooklyn is a conceptual gaming chair developed by PC specialist Razer. A carbon-fibre bucket seat, finished in leather and incorporating haptic vibration systems, is paired with a wraparound 60in screen. Formed from a transparent OLED, the idea is to immerse the gamer within their environment, while a foldable table lets you switch between console or PC games.
BMW Designworks Fusion SL
The Fusion SL is a conceptual vision of the sim infrastructure of the future, developed by BMW Designworks in collaboration with German furniture company Sedus. BMW, which already partners with American sim hardware specialist Fanatec, set out to make sim hardware that can also function as a conventional table when not in use. The table pivots into position for gaming, revealing a real BMW racing steering wheel for an authentic driving experience.
MG Maze Concept
Not quite a gaming machine, but a concept car with a twist. Chinese manufacturer SAIC, which now owns the MG brand, recently announced the MG Maze, a futuristic sports car swathed with a lifting glass canopy. Inside, the canopy doubles as a display screen, augmenting the real world with data and information – or even, as MG suggests, a treasure hunt-style game that serves as a way of exploring the world.