Okay. We admit it. Just like most automotive journalists, most of the team here at GreenCarReports love the thrill of power, speed and driving a really powerful car really fast.
But we know driving huge gas-guzzling V8s around a race track isn’t exactly good for the planet, our health, or our bank balance. The solution? Computer gaming.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a huge number of increasingly realistic games come to market for everything from a full desktop computer through to gaming systems and even cellphones, offering would-be champions everything from dirt-track racing through to Formula 1 and NASCAR.
For the most part, these games have sought to replicate racing internal combustion engined cars, but more recently we’ve seen more and more racing games offer virtual representations of both electric and hybrid cars.
Forza Motorsport 4 is just the latest title to do just that. Released earlier this month, it offers a huge range of over 80 different cars from around the world, as well as a huge collection of faithfully replicated raceways, drag strips and circuits to race them on.
Armed with a suitable beverage, a high-definition television and our XBox 360, we set out to do some of the most surreal test-driving we’ve ever done.
Everything from Teslas to Toyotas
For several years now, we’ve seen the iconic Tesla Roadster get represented on racing games. After all, with a 0-60 time of under 4 seconds and phenomenal handling, the Tesla Roadster has long been the token electric car in racing games.
But in Forza 4, other plug-in cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Chevrolet Volt put an appearance beside cars like the 2012 Bugatti Veyron, while other green, high-mileage cars, like the 2012 Chevrolet Spark and 2012 Honda Fit Sport are represented alongside the 2012 Toyota Prius.
As for the 2011 Tesla Roadster? It’s there too -- but only available as part of a downloadable add-on pack from the XBox 360 marketplace or as part of the limited-edition collector’s version of the game.
Race, buy, tweak
As with many racing games, Forza 4 revolves around winning races in various classes in order to win prizes and progress through the game. Race well, and you are rewarded with credits that you can use to buy new cars, or upgrade cars already in your race garage.
Once your car has been upgraded from factory specification, possibilities for tuning everything from brake setup to gear ratios are opened up.
For example with a little bit of patience and some upgraded power electronics in our stock 2012 Nissan Leaf, we were able to produce a fully tricked-out race-ready Leaf, capable of a 0-60 time of around 5 seconds and a top speed of over 130 miles per hour.