Forza 6 May Save Car Culture

Or, why driving simulators can—and should—consume the lives of every generation.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


Forza Motorsport 6, affectionately known as “that friggin’ car game” by my father, is the newest driving game from Turn 10 Studios for Microsoft’s Xbox One. It also may be the most sophisticated driving simulator ever developed for basement-dwelling otaku around the world. But Forza 6shouldn’t find its biggest fans in basements, but rather in the above-ground legions of car fans who do not play video games.

I was born in 1991 and raised on Need for Speed and Test Drive, simply because they were the next step in the natural progression of car fandom after the Cozy Coupe, Matchbox cars and the city map rug. Parents invariably do not look fondly on their child’s first video-game phase. To them, gaming is an irredeemable obstacle to youth development that does not land you a job or develop character. They don’t understand a boy’s love for shitty Nineties Eurobeat, the Mazda Eunos Cosmo and Gran Turismo’s Special Stage Route 11.

My brother, 15 years my junior, loves them, too. My father still thinks a game like Forza 6 is for retrograde millennials hell-bent on squandering their youth. But there are sound arguments why he—an inveterate, lifelong car guy—should be Forza 6’s biggest fan.

Reason 1: Forza Bridges Generational Gaps

Dad pined after Corvettes in the Seventies, Porsches in the Eighties and Supras in the Nineties. He doesn’t see how Forza could possibly scratch those itches.


And yet, if he gamed, he’d get the feedback of a virtual tire edging beyond its capabilities and the subtleties of a lightened rear end growing squirrelly under braking—all of which can be applied to the dream cars of his youth, which are well represented in the Forza 6 garage. Yes, the game controllers would look like a Rosetta Stone at first. But once up to speed, he’d understand that Forza Motorsport 6 is a storytelling medium—a means of sharing across generational boundaries.

Reason 2: It Makes You Want to Drive. Hard.

“Well, the graphics are excellent,” dad concedes from the sofa.

He says nothing else as I weave through the Nürburgring Nordschleife in one of Forza 6’s starter cars, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. He was quiet until I pointed out Brünnchen, the corner where he watched me lap the Green Hell for real in July 2012.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “I remember looking out for you every 15 minutes or so. I’d start to get nervous you had wrecked. How big was that track again?”

We began recounting tales from our vacation in Germany, the cars we saw at the track and the omnipresent risk at the world’s longest, deadliest circuit. We spoke about Niki Lauda’s crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix and my father’s concerns about his eldest son experiencing the same in an econobox with a roll cage. He didn’t care, however, to reminisce about our top-down drive at 127 mph to our hotel in Cologne via the autobahn, with me piloting our rental car.

“That was damn terrifying.”


Reason 3: It’s a Motorsport Utopia

While my eight-year-old brother and I howl through Daytona International in a pair of Risi Competizione Ferraris, I explain the grueling nature of multi-class endurance racing and the history of the Rolex 24. He asks why a fluorescent orange Lamborghini Aventador—his favorite supercar—doesn’t compete in IMSA events. I tell him that I didn’t know.

“It’s probably because it would always win,” he suggests. I can’t prove him wrong.

Forza Motorsport 6 has over 450 cars—twice as many as its predecessor—that provide an opportunity to recreate races and trade experiences. Formulas 1 and E are represented, as are new and old sleds from the Tudor Championship, IndyCar, V8 Supercars and the World Rally Championship. The car list is all-inclusive, covering everything from the golden age of American muscle to the tech-dripping, wind-sculpted world of hypercars.

Daytona International, Brands Hatch and Monza comprise just half of the new circuits. Forza Motorsport 6 presents a motorsport utopia, where race cars from my father’s youth and my own compete on the same track.


Reason 4: “Forzavista” Lets You Get Handsy With the Models

The series’ facelifted “Forzavista” feature slows things down to offer a sharpened, more hands-on environment, allowing players to open doors, start engines and interact with automobiles that are out of grasp for most of the planet’s 7 billion human residents.

Don’t know an Ariel Atom from Ariel the little mermaid? The game provides each car’s upbringing and legacy. And it’s all offered with pornographic levels of graphic precision.


Reason 5: Forza Turns Back Your Clock

But perhaps FM6’s most special trait is the sense of wonderment it inspires. The game’s opening film posits competition as an inherent human trait. Viewers, in the throes of an unexpected nostalgia trip, are led immediately into a race with the game’s title car: the new Ford GT. It’s impossible not to smile.

Enhanced online gameplay turns Forza Motorsport 6 into a social sandbox, connecting fans around the world. But what does this mean for non-gaming car fans? For my dad, and for maybe you? It means that online gameplay is the next generation of the weekly enthusiast meetup.

For non-gamers, Forza Motorsport 6 can be seen with this grander purpose in mind. It’s a meeting table for new and old car fans to swap stories and share their infatuation for driving pleasure. Forza offers proof that people’s fascination with automobiles is not waning, just evolving. It’s keeping car culture alive.

Eight ways video games make driving more fun

A symbiosis has formed among road, track and game console—and it’s making us all happier behind the wheel.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive.


1. Touristenfahrten at the Nürburgring Nordschleife— Why content yourself with ripping through the Nordschleife on Gran Turismo when you can do it for real? Touristenfahrten is the very real opportunity for the public to try their hand at the circuit known as the Green Hell. While the Nürburgring has always been a mythical destination for race fans, its popularity boomed after the track’s debut in driving simulators (not that heightened interest has staved off bankruptcy. Sigh.). Touristenfahrten days are some of the track’s most popular attractions. Devotees can even rent specific track-prepped machines for their 20.8-kilometer adventure.

098575100_12251931212. Extreme Track Cars — Ask an eight-year-old gamer to style a track toy, and you’d get a hyper-minimalist, sinister machine with digital everything. Remove any semblance of creature comforts, push wheels hard to the corners and you’ve created this generation’s Caterham or Lotus 7. Cars like the KTM X-Bow even incorporate gaming-style lap timers. The only thing separating these cars from virtual reality is an Oculus Rift.


3. The Lap of Manhattan— In 2013, a driver initially known only as “Afroduck” shared a visual cocktail of blurry boulevards, reckless endangerment and a BMW Z4 on YouTube. In just over 24 minutes, Adam Tang whirred around Manhattan’s perimeter at an average speed of 66 mph, shattering a very much unofficial, and equally illegal, record time of 26:03. The video circled through the automotive community and Tang gained a reputation as a real-life Midnight Club racer. Although he was convicted of reckless driving, fined and sentenced to a year in jail, the Canada native fled northward, where he remains.


4. The Survival of Boutique Automakers— Sustaining a tiny, performance-oriented brand was once a near impossibility. Who would take a risk on an unproven artisan when names like Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren existed? The video game generation, however, proved a tremendous asset for niche manufacturers. British carmaker TVR saw success when they made the original Gran Turismo roster—if not enough to avoid falling into receivership. But today, names like Pagani, Koenigsegg, Wiesmann, GTA (pictured) and others survive and thrive, due in part to gamers and developers keeping these niche pleasure craft on wealthy enthusiasts’ short lists.


5. Driving as Escapism— Anyone who has fiddled with the Forza Horizon series understands that the exotic vistas, weirdly appealing music festivals and rare cars scratch a voyeuristic itch. Throw in barn finds, social online gameplay and a sandbox environment, and Turn 10 Studios has a heady brew in hand. It’s no coincidence that ads for cars like the Scion FR-S and Mazda MX-5 Miata have pitched driving as a meaningful endeavor. These machines, known somewhat paradoxically as driver’s cars, appeal directly to gamers who seek low-priced, non-virtual chariots.


6. Aftermarket Insanity— When the Need for Speed franchise took on street racing culture in the wake of the original Fast and the Furious film, the popularity of modding exploded. Bright neon underglow, vertical doors and spinning wheels were basic facets of Need for Speed: Underground. After the game’s debut and sequel, car culture went even more rabid for bodykits and spoilers. Functionality be damned, you could buy kits and aero parts for anything from the Mitsubishi Eclipse to the Dodge Caravan. Depending on whom you ask, this is the automotive yearbook page you skip. It’s just too embarrassing.


7. A Preponderance of Paddles— In the mid-Nineties, around the same time Ferrari was introducing them on the F355 sports car, the original Gran Turismo on Sony PlayStation was absolutely nailing paddle shifters. Before they were available on most mainstream cars, advanced gamers could enjoy the perfect blend of manual and sequential gearboxes from the comfort of their couch. As paddle shifters trickled down from sports cars to hot hatches, some games introduced handheld clutches to greatly enhance the gaming experience.


8. Ed Bolian’s Cross-Country Record— It’s a question ripped from the thoughts of any open-road gamer: How fast could I drive across the U.S.? In October 2013, the team of Ed Bolian, Dave Black and Dan Huang set this record on public roads, crossing the United States in 28 hours, 50 minutes and 26 seconds. Although the average speed of the trek was 98 mph, the trio’s Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG topped 130 mph for over 90 minutes total, and 158 mph on several occasions. It’s a record that probably won’t—and shouldn’t—be broken any time soon.

The hardcore hooligans: Ten cars with a little extra

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.

Carmakers push. If they create a widely loved vehicle, they tend not to sit back and admire their work. They ask, “Where to next?”

Such carmakers may try their hand at tuning: modifying their already impressive cars even further to create distillations – not distortions – of what makes them special. What follows is a group of cars that have received a little something extra; something that distinguishes them, and their drivers, from the norm. (Photo: BMW Group)

Mazda RX-7 Spirit R

The third generation of Mazda’s rotary-powered RX-7 is perhaps the most coveted of the breed. The curvaceous body, curious-sounding Wankel rotary engine and overall performance ticked all the right boxes for enthusiasts. So when the RX-7 was in its final years in the early 2000s, Mazda engineered a version specifically for the car’s most fervent fans. The Spirit R offered a 276-horsepower engine, a choice between an automatic and manual gearbox, and eye-catching aero tweaks, making it a faster, lighter and more aggressive proposition. Not only did it come in two-seater and 2+2 configurations, but the R also bore a Nardi steering wheel, lightweight Recaro seats and BBS wheels. All 1,500 Spirit R models were sold exclusively in Japan, save for one special unit produced for a Mazda executive in the United States. This car, the only existing left-hand-drive Spirit R, sits below Mazda’s Irvine Headquarters. (Photo: Mazda North America)

Ferrari 458 Speciale

Making its debut at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, this track-focused version of the 458 Italia coupe boasts Maranello’s most powerful naturally aspirated V8 engine, as well as active aerodynamics in the form of flaps that open and close at various speeds. This stripped and striped version of the 458 produces 34hp more than the base car, in addition to weighing a remarkable 200lbs less. The Speciale also introduced Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control system, giving the car a welcome dose of good sense at the limit. Combining all of this with the Speciale’s wider tires and lower stance means a zero to 60mph time of less than 3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 202mph. (Photo: Ferrari North America)

Honda S2000 CR

The S2000 was Honda’s answer to the Porsche Boxster: a lightweight, free-revving two-seat roadster that emphasised driving dynamics above all else. The Honda won over enthusiasts, but never sold in the volumes that would ensure it any more than sleeper status. In 2008, Honda introduced a club racer variant of the S2000. Though it retained the 237hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine of the standard car, the CR was given a removable aluminium top, firmer track-oriented suspension and a quicker steering ratio. In its zealous quest to further reduce weight, Honda removed the spare wheel and made systems such as air conditioning and audio optional – the better to enjoy the CR’s superbike-calibre engine whine. (Photo: American Honda)

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Wearing letters that hark back to the iconic 1973 Carrera RS, the GT3 RS of the mid-2000s was the 911 for a very particular Porsche buyer. The 3.8-litre 450hp flat-six-cylinder engine, sizable carbon-fibre wing and no-nonsense interior indicated these were not intended for idling in highway traffic. With the RS, Porsche flared the already-widened GT3 fenders to accommodate the nine and twelve-inch wheels at the front and back, respectively. But for a select 500 customers who craved an even more savage GT3, there was the GT3 RS 4.0, with 500hp and a curb weight just under 3,000lbs. (Photo: Porsche Cars)

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X MR

A rally car for the street, the Lancer Evolution has seen 10 generations. The formula has always been simple: a turbocharged engine, all-wheel-drive, four doors. The last three generations of the “Evo”, as the car has come to be known, have featured a more race-focused MR trim. Included in the 2014 MR is a twin-clutch automatic transmission, Bilstein shocks with Eibach springs and BBS wheels. The MR’s flappy-paddle gearbox also had three drive settings: Normal, Sport and an S-Sport optimised for high-revving track days. The only thing missing? A proper rally spoiler. (Photo: Mitsubishi)

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

At first blush, the Z/28 may not seem anything more than a standard Camaro with a body kit. The shelf-like front splitter and aggressive aero tweaks are hardly an indication of its performance. The Camaro Z/28’s 505-horsepower 7-litre LS7 is roughly the same engine found in the previous-generation Corvette Z06. Chevrolet also put the Camaro on a diet, giving it thinner glass, optional air conditioning and lightweight wheels and tires that all told render the Z/28 some 300lbs lighter than the ZL1, previously the ultimate expression of Chevy’s muscle car. Granted, $75,000 for a Camaro may seem exorbitant – that is, until the spec sheet comes into view. Buyers get carbon ceramic brakes, five drive modes and a high-performance limited slip differential, all adding up to a faster lap around Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife than the Lamborghini Murciélago and Porsche 911 Carrera S mustered. (Photo: General Motors)

Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR

Already one of the most raw of American sports cars, the Viper SRT-10 became one of the more frighteningly capable supercars on the market when it began sales in SRT-10 ACR form during the late 2000s. The American Club Racer package transformed the Viper into a track-gobbling carnivore. A carbon-fibre splitter, motorsport-style spoiler and eye-catching paint gave only a brief hint of the ACR’s capabilities. Its massive 8.4-litre V-10 churned out 600 horsepower and propelled the ACR to 60mph in under 4 seconds. Plus, with 14-inch vented brakes from Brembo, this striped serpent comes to a stop almost as quickly. So quick was the ACR, in fact, that it broke the unofficial lap record for a production car at the Nürburgring. (Photo: Chrysler Group, via Newspress)


Racing homologation is a simple rule: in order for a manufacturer to enter a car for motorsport, it must produce and sell a certain number of road-going versions of the car it wishes to race. In the early ‘70s, BMW produced the 3.0 CSL. The nameplate addition stood for “Coupe Sport Lightweight”, and it wasn’t a hollow marketing ploy. Aluminium body panels, thinner glass and a lack of soundproofing made the 3.0 CSL a canvas for high-speed motoring. So spirited was the car that the eventual racing version – nicknamed “The Batmobile” for its massive rear wing – became BMW’s first so-called Art Car, painted for competition by American abstract expressionist Alexander Calder. With just over 1,000 units produced, a clean 3.0 CSL commands over $100,000 at auction. (Photo: Benson Chiu/RM Auctions)

Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca

For the 2012 model year, Ford offered a multitude of trim levels for its pony car, but with apologies to the 500-horsepower Shelby GT500, this was the year of the Boss – namely, the Boss 302 Laguna Seca, a track-optimised version of the already potent Boss 302. Both cars came with a 5-litre V8 engine that churned out 444hp. But only the Laguna Seca, named for the race circuit in northern California, was stripped of its rear seats in favour of a chassis-stiffening X-brace; received a massive, downforce-abetting front splitter; and ultra-sticky R-compound race tires. Regardless of whether you opted for black or silver exterior paint, the body came adorned with bright red accents. (Photo: Ford Motor)

Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP Edition

The GP was an effort to take the already tuned JCW Mini Cooper to the next level. Mini removed the back seat to save weight, introduced an adjustable coil-over suspension and tuned the turbocharged four-cylinder engine to 218hp – up from 208. The GP edition was also distinguished by Recaro seats, ensuring driver and passenger would reach a well-bolstered 60mph in about 6 seconds. Only 2,000 of these Coopers were produced, making them some of the more coveted modern Minis. (Photo: BMW Group)