By on May 22, 2012

I’d like to lend you a car for the weekend. It’s going to be sunny, and you can head off early before the crowds get out. Take a nice road-trip: maybe, as I just did, blast up the Sea-to-Sky and into the rolling foothills beyond the Pemberton Valley.

Your choice, take anything below.
Car A: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car B: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car C: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car D: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car E: 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds

So, what did you pick? Click the jump to find out.

Apologies for the heavy-handed and clunky approach, but A through E, the cars are: 2012 BMW X5 alphabet-soup-with-the-V8, 2012 Volkswagen Passat VR6, 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and a 2012 Ford V6 Mustang. Oh, I almost forgot: you could also take a sixth option, Car F, which will do 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

Lucky for me, that’s the one I chose.

And here it is.

Jack has already given us a piece on the pandemic prevalence of speed and power. His take? A call for a higher-bracket measurement; the 0-80mph benchmark that we now need to separate the nose-candy Fezzas from the front-driver family-wagens.

I’d like to pick up the threads of an earlier bit, one of his usually thoughtful screeds from the Avoidable Contact series. As Jack points out there, the world certainly doesn’t need a Hyundai Sonata that could easily walk away from Crockett and Tubbs if they miss even one shift.

But we’ve got one. We’ve also got a WRX that could go toe-to-toe off the line with my beloved Porsche 959, and in the Shelby GT500 we’ve got a Mustang that’s capable of outrunning the F40 at the top-end. A Mustang!

When I was a small boy, car magazines always had a page at the end of the review that included the various measurable properties of the car in question: 0-60, quarter-mile, skid-pad and so on. It was Very Important to memorize all this information, such that one was properly prepared for playground debate. If the new V8 Camaro pipped the V8 ‘Stang through the quarter, then it was the better car. If an available handling package meant the ‘Stang redeemed itself on the skid-pad, then it was better.

These things could be empirically and scientifically sorted out through the application of careful testing. We nascent gearheads had all the information required to bench-race any of the top performance cars and crown a winner without shadow of a doubt.

Then along comes something like the GT-R. With the heart-heavy sigh that comes from knowing this statement will probably cause unrelated debate, the Nissan GT-R is the fastest car in the world. If it’s not, then the gap is so close as to be unimportant. Godzilla has made the supercar irrelevant.

But there’s something missing about the car, a sense that perhaps instead of signing your name on the purchase order you should be handed an old-school NES controller: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start. It’s not uninvolving – dear me, no – but it feels artificial somehow. It feels like cheating. Godzilla? More like God-Mode.

And another thing, it’s inconveniently fast for the road. I’m sure there are visceral thrills to be found on the racetrack – and if you own a GT-R, for God’s sake sign up for a trackday and get it out of your system – but I don’t live on or particularly near a racetrack. I live in a province with absurdly low speed-limits, an active police force, and a Motor Vehicle Act that allows the constabulary to take away your vehicle if you exceed 40km/h (25mph) over the posted limit.

There’s a place just before my freeway exit where the limit drops from 90km/h to 70km/h at the tail end of a long, straight hill. When I was driving a Hyundai Genesis with the V8, I had multiple moments where I’d enter the zone without thinking, having picked up a few extra klicks in the whisper-numb Korean without noticing it, and have to quickly correct my speed. I’m not normally in the habit of driving without an awareness of my velocity, but the effortless wafting of the Genesis was very deceptive, as with so many modern cars.

Power is no longer a luxury item. It is a universality of the modern motoring experience. What’s more, from an enthusiast’s perspective, it’s a real-world liability.

We are all suffering from a glut of horsepower. It’s a silly measurement anyway: bragging rights for Victorian steam-donkey owners. Real joy is not doled out in pound-feet or kilowatts and cannot be measured at the drag-strip or on the skid-pad. True driving pleasure is entirely an ethereal thing, which is why it’s so hard to get right.

“Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow,”; it’s a tired old saw, but not without merit. I’d change it to, “driving a fun car fast is more fun than driving a fast car fast.” Whether or not a car is enjoyable to drive is almost entirely divorced from its performance prowess.

We wait to welcome the FR-S and BR-Z with open arms, surely, but we also hail the CX-5 and the Sonic Turbo, the Kia Rio and the Volkswagen GLI. I hope that somewhere in a lab in Honda, engineers are studying the Fit in hopes of finding that last gleam of Soichiro’s original spirit.

The Miata (fine, MX-5) takes a lot of stick for being a “girly” car. It projects none of the be-louvered aggression of other sports-cars, and certainly doesn’t produce anywhere near the numbers.

But it’s not a car that’s about bragging rights, not a car for peacock strutting or posturing. It is, in short, not a car you drive for other people. It’s a car you drive for yourself. And that’s what makes for a truly great machine, no matter what the numbers might say.

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126 Comments on “The Unimportance of Speed...”


  • avatar
    tonyola

    That’s why my 1984 CRX 1.5 was endless fun. With 76 horsepower, I wasn’t going to win many stoplight challenges, even by 1984 standards. However, it was a delight to drive because I could push it hard without being too aggressively antisocial. A trip to the grocery in an M5 would be dull because one could use only a tiny fraction of the car’s ability. That same trip was fun in the CRX because I could stand on it and dart around rather than just burble along.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Same with my 1983 VW Rabbit GTI, which had all of 90 HP with about 2000 pounds of weight to deliver a sizzling 0-60 time of 10.8 seconds. What was amazing about it is it just *felt* fast, even though the numbers indicated otherwise. I drove a friend’s highly modified 600 HP Mustang GT recently and while it certainly was scary quick, it just didn’t have that same tossable and noisy fun that the GTI engendered. I’ve come to realize that it much more than the numbers — certain cars have a soul that others can’t match even though they are way better on paper in every respect.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      That’s why I loved my ’83 Civic that I drove back in the 90′s, it had that same 1500cc motor with 67hp in it and it was a lot of fun to pilot.

      That’s why I love my Mazda Protege5 as it’s much like that Civic, though with 130hp on tap, but wind that motor up and it comes alive…

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “That’s why my 1984 CRX 1.5 was endless fun. With 76 horsepower…”

      125 horsepower, I could see (been there, approximately, way back when).

      110 horsepower, I am more skeptical, but was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

      Slightly under 100 horsepower? I hope your sled is extremely light and purpose built rather than sold as a daily driver.

      76 horsepower? I can not defend you any more, my brosef. Honda’s snickety-snick gear shifter may have given you boyracer hand, but you barely got the ponies merge onto highways and keep up with traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You could more than keep up with 1984 traffic, when many cars that weighed 75% more had 30% more power.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        You’re very wrong. I never felt threatened by the lack of power in the CRX and I drove mine hard as a daily driver for nine years. Between the great gearshift and the engine’s willingness to rev, I could deal at least adequately with any situation. Keep the revs up and the car moved along very nicely. Besides, when the car weighs around 1,800 pounds, 76 horsepower does the job well. The brilliance of the Honda was that though it was not a fast car, it was a quick car – it could maintain a very high average speed between point A and point B, not least because it was as nimble and responsive as just about any other car out there. All this with great fuel economy and rock-solid reliability.

        Numbers and statistics don’t tell the whole story when it comes to a tiny and darty pocket-rocket like the CRX. My love for my CRX doesn’t need your defense.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I have a tercel automatic with 70-80hp, it can easily keep up if not out run traffic. Ofcourse, it had some engine tweaks but its low weight that matters.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        If you consider the average B segment car in the US these days is about 3,000 pounds with about 160 horse power, even if you car weighed only 2,000 pounds, you’d still be looking for 105-107 horse power to have the same power to weight ratio. Having 70 horse power in a 2,000 car is equivalent to having 105 horse power in a 3,000 car today.

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        “Was” is the operative word here.
        Back in 1984, I don’t think grocery getters would have had much more than 80hp, so back then, it is entirely feasible to keep up with traffic with 76hp.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Ditto all of the above comments.

        I had a 1981 Rabbit Diesel, with all of 56hp on tap and it was a hoot to drive (5-speed manual). By necessity, I had the go pedal mashed to the floor and used every last foot of freeway onramp, and leaned forward to complete the effect.

        I also had a 1981 Mazda GLC and several 1986-7 Civics (all with a 5-speed as well) and they all had under 100HP I believe.

        On the other extreme, I also had a 1969 Cadillac Ambulance with a 472 engine that weighed about 6500lbs, and I drove that to its limits as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        Crock, my 78 Scirocco had similar power/weight figures and while not a rocket it was more than capable of outrunning 80′s traffic. I will grant that 120hp does make for a more fun ride since my second Scirocco was a 16V.

    • 0 avatar
      naterator

      I put a 1.6 motor from a Jetta GLI into my 1980 Scirocco. Damn, that car was a blast to drive. Except when the excess heat melted your shoes.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    So maybe now we can put to rest all those comments about how “fast” the Camry is.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Oh, I can play the numbers game with my Miata. Try perfect balance, not just 50/50 but a low polar moment and low center of gravity. This thing knows how to yaw and pitch its 2200 pounds. Try 185 width, 65 profile all season tires that I can get a slip angle on at legal speeds. Try pin point steering and no ABS or traction controls, only a cable connecting my foot and the engine, not a gas sipping silicon algorithm. Try a car simply built so I can diagnose it and work on it. Try watching the distaff tribe try not to stare or turn bodily when they catch sight of it. Oh, I’ve got the numbers for you Brendan.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    If I had money (and the storage space) for an extra car, the Miata would be it. Until something better comes along.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Driver size depending! I’m 6’3″ and “fit” in a Miata. I do love driving it but it is a track only car prepped to racing rules. I think another car that should be high on everyone’s radar is the Subaru BRZ (I say Subaru as they did the majority of the development on this car but on Toyota’s dime and taking some of their technology – such as the direct injection). Hopefully sometime this summer I will finally get mine to really speak about it.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Yeah, I’m 6’3″ as well, but with a long torso and relatively short legs and can’t find a comfortable sitting position in a Miata that doesn’t have me staring right at the top crossbar of the windscreen. So, no matter how much I try, the Miata is out for me.

        Fortunately, a GTI fits me perfectly and I get a lot of the fun quotient of the Miata without the discomfort. I know it’s not quite the same– FWD vs the MX-5′s RWD and a hatch versus a cabrio, but it still is a nice vehicle. Perhaps a 128i might be a close as I can get to the overall balance of a Miata?

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      I stored my Miata sideways on dollies in the back of the garage. The space was 6 feet by 12. I set up the “tennis ball” so my daily driver would tuck right up against it.

      In summer the Miata got the garage space and the daily driver parked just behind in the drive way. The Miata was so manueverable I was able to back around the daily driver and get out. They’re very small.

      Craigslist has a just-fine-thank-you 1994 for $3500 right now… and a beater 1990 for $2000…

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Absolutely right.

    The only thing all that power is really good for is passing a slow-moving truck on a winding road. But you don’t really even need that much of it there. I have previously mentioned the time I had to pass a line of cars, including a Corvette, to get behind a truck so I could pass it at the next opportunity. My car? 2001 Golf tdi. 90 hp. But I use every little horsie it has.

  • avatar
    racingmaniac

    Random tangential mention, last year on my visit to the beautiful Vancouver I was chauffeuring my parents and their friends around in a rental VW Routan(Pentastar V6, 270bhp IIRC). I hate Minivans, they have such horrible driving position and size, and bulk, and crappy everything. But the roads in the province were amazing. And it was fun just trying to keep up with the flow of faster moving traffic. I’d kill for a chance do drive some of the same roads in an actual car…

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Great article. THis was the same conclusion I came to when I was car shopping last summer. For the longest time I had been wanting to get an 02 maxima because it was cheap and fast. I test drove one and yes it was extremely fast…. and the best way to explain that is with the word stale. It was very stale car to drive. Fast yes, fun no. It would blow the doors off my old 88 Honda Prelude SI but I’d take the prelude any day. The same goes for the 14.3 quarter mile camry v6. It’s stupid fast but it’s still a camry….

    I ended up going panther because I wanted to try RWD for a change. The grand marquis is way more fun than the maxima.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    All of this is very true and probably very problematic for carmakers. Dual clutches might shift faster than I ever could, but is that fun. Is a high power car that could be in just about any gear more fun than a lower power car where I have to work the gears. Does a car have to “sound” a certain way to be part of my car driving experience? Should sports cars purposely not have all the electronic doodads because part of that experience comes in the form of a more stripped down car? And how will all of these expectations vary with the type of vehicle (sports car, luxury car, coompact, CUV, etc). What is fun is subjective and car rags have been hiding behind stats for decades to hide that fact. But slowly the emperor is finding that he has no clothes.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Too many variables in accelerating from a stop. Only in Easter Pennsylvania would you be stopped at the bottom of an onramp expecting to match highway traffic.

    Consistent acceleration at a stop light when you need to move to another lane but what is a consistent road surface?

    I prefer to match 60 mph acceleration to quarter mile time and trap speed. Most cars will see 100 mph trap speed today which is plenty enough in normal driving.

    A 100 mph quarter mile trap speed will match most 300 V6 cars today, unless it’s turbo charge 100 mph trap speed which match a normally asiprated 110 mph trap speed car from 100-150 mph(or gearing limited). A 110 mph trap speed will rule all but a few cars on the street. Any faster and you can run with 600cc sport bikes around 100 mph on up.

    As the power rachets up there is a separation of the owner to ring the most of the car. Unless the owner frequents the drag strip or road course they’ll fall prey to less cars with good drivers. Corvette owners fall into this category.

    In the end you going to have to turn and brake. So if I’m again the clock on a tight course I’ll take a sub 2800 lbs 4-cylinder(preferably turbo charger) any day.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Western PA is the same. I don’t understand what the difference is… None of the surrounding states do that. It’s just PA-based drivers. I’ve even seen PA plated cars doing it outside of PA…

      I’ve also observed (having lived 80 miles from Pittsburgh for 8+ years, and travelling to Philadelphia many times via the PA Turnpike) that the prevalence is directly proportional to how close you are to downtown Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, although even on the rural entrance ramps south of Pitt on I79 they practice that unfortunate maneuver.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        +1 to Kalapana. Merging is one of those things that people can’t do, but it seems especially prevalent in PA. Maybe because people think they are “hurting” their car if they hold it at WOT to merge or something, I don’t know. But to come across a car stopped on an on-ramp is horrifying or even worse, if they are nearly into traffic and stop or swerve. Some of the ramps on I-70 in SW PA are awful, with no accleration lane, making stopping almost necessary. But if you do, dammit, do it quickly!

        Having dealt with this forever, I put great emphasis on acceleration.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr.Nick

      Heck, Connecticut has plenty of on-ramps on the Merrit Parkway where there is a stop sign prior to the merge area. They basically set you up for a drag to get on the highway. I’m not sure how the people who don’t like match traffic speed on a regular highway do on those ramps. I am not sure who taught them to merge onto a highway at 35mph in the first place.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Just recalled a comment made by a Porsche salesman. He mentioned in passing his best daily driver is the base Cayman. Not the S and not its 911 big brother.

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      That’s what I have (base Cayman) and if I’m honest with my self, around town doing daily chores, I often prefer my “winter beater” Protege 5 over it. The thing is like a go-kart, and you can cane the crap out of it at every turn without ever really going fast. It’s a good time. They Cayman does not like trudging along in city traffic.

      Roadtrips to the countryside on the other hand……

      • 0 avatar
        peekay

        Nostrathomas, I agree. I’ve done over 110,000 km in the two base Caymans I’ve owned. Maybe 2,000 km of that has been trundling around in city traffic. And maybe another 10,000 km on freeways. The rest has been winding secondary roads from my home in Vancouver to other parts of BC, down into WA,OR,CA,ID,UT,AZ, etc. Most of the traffic (and the speed tax collectors) are on the freeways, leaving the secondary roads as a playground for some safe fun. Not a lot of speeding necessary to have fun in a superb handling car on a twisty road.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Remember the RX-8? Yeah, that’s what happens to cars that handle well and are fun to drive…and are comparatively slow.

    Most people, when push comes to shove, would be perfectly happy with a Pontiac Grand Prix GXP or Nissan Maxima (aka, the Japanese Pontiac Grand Prix)

    • 0 avatar
      tmkreutzer

      I shopped the Grand Prix GXP with the Northstar V8 and thought it was pretty impressive. I might have bought one if it had been a little bigger…

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        It actually wasn’t the Northstar, thank god, it was the 5.3L LS4. The Bonneville had the Northstar.

        I really liked that car (the Grand Prix). It was pretty silly, but fun.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yes, I rented one of those Grand Prixs a few years ago on a trip to Los Angeles – it was a $5/day upgrade so we did it – what a hoot! I’m not sure that the automatic tranny in that car will have a long life, however!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      To be fair, the RX8 had some intangible issues as well.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      The RX8′s reputation killed it more than anything. Took Mazda too long (and too many engine failures) to fix the issue and by that time the car was wearing the Scarlet “U”

      And it was probably priced too high for its “speed,” especially with the Z right down the street at the Nissan dealer. I had an 8 for 2 years and even though it didn’t throw you back in the seat, it most definitely was not slow.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Yep that is why I got a Z. Everything I read about RX-8 made it seem like too much compromise: it drinks oils and drinks gas, but handles great! Well I live in Florida were its ruler flat so handling isn’t making up for those other things.

        Also after owning several turbos I’ve gotten used to have torque on demand. In past I owned a Honda Prelude Si which was an awesome car but like all Honda’s its lack of torque meant mashing your foot down often didn’t produce much in the way of results till the RPMs climbed. At times (like passing or powering out of a corner) that can be a major bummer. In contrast my turbo Eclipse was a joy, with what seemed like endless acceleration due to its mid-range (on boost) power.

        What really makes a car “fun” to me is its responsiveness and feedback. The Z excels in these areas, plus its quick enough despite being “heavy” according to most purists. Sure its loud and the suspension stiff but that’s what makes it enjoyable. Personally I feel the is just about right as is… but I’ve haven’t run it round a track yet.

      • 0 avatar
        ccd1

        The rotary’s reputation for blow-ups continued LONG after the problem was addressed. Most of those issues related to turbo-charged RX-7s, which is probably why Mazda refused to turbo the RX-8.

        I also don’t think price was the problem with the RX-8. On the contrary, it was very competitively priced. But poor gas mileage and the unique aspects of the rotary killed the car. You drive a RX-8 differently to keep the revs high and compensate for low torque. And you have to keep it filled with oil.

        One result of the increased horsepower in most cars is that you really don’t have to work the gears to drive them. The RX-8 requires running thru the gears and too few people were willing to do that, no matter how well it handled.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Could it also be that the RX-8 has the fuel consumption of a Chevy Tahoe and that the “wind it up until it screams” technique of getting power out of a low torque motor was not to many people’s liking?

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I had a similar epiphany when I moved back to the States a few years ago. Since I had finally “made it” in my mind, I decided I could buy whatever car I wanted provided I could put my two (now three) kids in the back.

    After 6 years of Japan, and more than a decade of foreign cars, I decided this time I would buy American (or at least an American brand) and make my homecoming complete.

    I thought about all the great new muscle cars on the road and envisioned myself living out all my high school fantasies – but then something clicked. Since this was also going to be a family car, was I going to be running rampant over hill and dell and stepping out the back end on every corner? No.

    I put away all my crazy ideas and bought an 03 300M Special. I had rented a 300M years ago and had enjoyed it. I knew it would move me around in comfort and had a style I admired – who cares if it isn’t the latest, the greatest, the fastest, the best handling car on the road? It does what I want every single day and still makes me smile when I see it hunkered down in my driveway looking like some kind of rocketship ready to head to Mars.

  • avatar
    niky

    Similar to e MINI showroom… Best driving car? I was talking it over with the local branch manager, and we both agreed that the Clubman was the best car to drive. Sounded best, had the best balance, drove best…

    I’d go further and say that the regular Clubman is best… No torque steer, no excessive understeer under powrer… It doesn’t rattle your fillings out… It just goes.

    Last time we were on track, I got told off while driving the Clubman… I was going so fast in the corners that I was bunching up behind the guy in the Cooper S….

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Yup. What he said! Nice photos by the way. My rough rule of thumb is for a general-purpose passenger car, hitting 60 mph in between 6 and 7 seconds is plenty fast. And for a “sports car” knocking a second off of that time will do the job. 95% of the time, you’re never going to use even that capability.

    Given that, when I was learning to drive, hitting 60 in less than 10 seconds was considered reasonably fast, perhaps my standards are low.

    Beyond that, other things become more important in the driving experience; and many of them are much less quantifiable. In particular, what does not appeal to me is the application of insane amounts of horsepower to two-ton plus vehicles (SUVs, Panameras and the like) in an effort to produce rapid acceleration numbers together with serving tray-sized brake discs to make them stop in less distance than an aircraft carrier needs at 30 knots. The automotive equivalent of a bumblebee. That is the feeling that I have whenever I drive a Corvette . . . a lot of mass moving around.

    Not my idea of fun. See if you can find yourself a vintage Alfa Romeo GTA or Spider Veloce to drive — even “slower” than your Miata, lighter and more fun.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Speed is unimportant? What a shameful, blasphemous heresy to post on a car blog!

    I agree completely.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    At 6’3” and 190 pounds I can’t fit in the Miata.

    Everything is too small, it’s like I time traveled back to when 5 feet was the average height of an adult male.

    I understand how small is important for sports cars, but would it kill them to make the seats adjustable for those of us who don’t need to overcompensate?

    • 0 avatar
      j3studio

      … and that is one reason people (like myself) buy Corvettes. Even the maligned (and mis-provisioned) C4 interior has enough room for me (6 foot 3 inches, 190 pounds on a good day) to take multi-day trips.

      I’ll agree that sometimes 230 bhp is more fun (or at least more engaging) than 436 bhp. However, the 436 bhp (and all the effortlessness that comes with it) is darn nice to have.

    • 0 avatar
      sylvialegacy

      BRZ works! (Confirmed as someone who owns one)

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have NEVER bought a car for speed. I buy for what appeals to me – and is economical. Why do you think I own a 2004 Impala 3.4L? I cruise easily during my 100-mile-a-day commute that nets me over 30 mpg consistently and our 2007 MX5 satisfies wifey and I on our weekend cruises on Saturday evenings when we go out to dinner and shop, listening to the ball game and thoroughly enjoying the ride.

    On our recent vacation in SoCal, we also enjoyed cruising up the PCH to Santa Barbara in our rental Impala – which I requested, mind you; being cool, calm and collected at our destination. We thought about getting a convertible, but knowing we would be spending a few days in and around LA and dealing with that traffic, comfort was more important than open air – I’m getting old, remember? and getting less and less tolerant of riff-raff.

    40 years ago when in the air force and owning my beautiful 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible, I cruised everywhere, top down, driving easy, enjoying the air and the wide open roads in the Sierra foothills and the congestion of the Bay area. Being young, I tolerated riff-raff back then!

    Speed? Who needs it, except to pass! But don’t you know who I am by now? If I owned a Corvette, nothing would change…umm…mostly… ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      2012 Impala? 300 standard hp? Dual exhausts? 6 speed auto?

      How was the 100 plus extra hp compared to your daily driver?

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I know many of the car rags have complained about the 3.6 sounding harsh in the SRX (I haven’t heard any comments at all about it in the Lacrosse, nor do I have any recollection of hearing the engine in it – I guess QuietTuning(TM) really works…), but I really like how it sounds in the Impala. A bit gruff, but in a good way, not unlike the slight growl under acceleration from my beloved and missed 2002 Diamante. The LTZ with the stiffer suspension is crucial. Call me crazy, but I think it’s the all-around best GM sedan since the late-90s. And it’s a hell of a bargain for what it is.

        Yes, I’m wierd. I like the Olds Aurora and LSS, Buick Park Avenue Ultra, Cadillac STS, and other cheaply-built boats from that era vastly more than the “better” newer stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @KalapanaBlack, I feel the same way – I have driven a base model 2012 Impala (fleet spec) that is part of my school districts fleet and in a few years when there are multiple models on used lots selling for %50 or less of MSRP they will be screaming deals also.

        I enjoyed the fact that the 6 speed kept the 3.6 turning at about 1800 rpm even at 85mph. That made it quite and pleasant to drive, not unlike the old box B-bodys were on the highway.

        I just want Zachman’s impression because his Impala love runs deep. If they had called the Lumina the “Impala” instead he might have bought one. :P

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Nope, Dan, just a standard rental LS, but still a nice ride, but that’s just me – but wifey enjoyed it too!

        We rented out of LAX with Enterprise and they tried to stick us with a minvan but we pleaded for something else and the Impala is what we chose, as what they had left were SUVs, and with gas being what it was/is, well…

        Maybe that ride up to Santa Barbars would have been more interesting with 300 hp under foot…perhaps next time!

        EDIT: I really liked the 1st gen Luminas, especially the Euro Sport in red-orange, please, but the 1990 Acclaim we bought was much less expensive.

        I had a 2nd gen Lumina – a Monte Carlo – as a rental back in 1995 for a business trip and it was fine, but the styling – or lack of it turned me off – too many horizontal lines making the car look like a layer cake with a sort-of bubble roof plopped on top. Comfortable, though, if memory serves me.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Zackman:

        All 2012 Impalas have the 306 hp 3.6 DI/VVT “High Feature” V6. Even the base rental-spec LS! SCREAMING deal!

        Too bad about the lack of a bench seat… 300+ hp and a bench seat would be pretty awesome in an old-school way!

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      My favorite memories of trips up the coast to Santa Barbara are in the ’72 VW bus, 0-60 in 30 seconds, maybe, or the BMW R60/5 motorcycle. There is only one real entertaining stretch of PCH the whole way, the few miles south of Point Magu. The rest of the drive is about scenery. Why didnt you get the convertible?

  • avatar
    Dr.Nick

    I’m afraid that the fast cars won’t last much longer. Between increasing electronic surveillance with cameras and black boxes on one side and CO2 concerns on the other, we’ll be left with going fast in the slow cars.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    My first car was a Bug Eye Sprite. The second was an MGA. I got an early start on learning how to drive a slow car fast. Ultimate velocity was certainly not the objective. The direct connection between hands and feet to the machine was. I learned the difference when I bought a Mustang GT. It wasn’t.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Great article, Brendan….

    (although I think you meant “Unimportance of Acceleration”, and not “speed” per se.)

    I fully agree. My ride is an older-style Z4, which is way underpowered by some standards, but like the Miata and Cayman (and Boxster), it is a real blast in country driving and on curvy roads. Hates tar-stripped super-highways and city traffic.

    Great suspension, grippy tires, 48/52 weight balance, good interior, open air, decent speed, 34 mpg, no repairs, good looks … what could be better**? (See my thumbnail above.)

    ** Yeah, I know: the Porsche Boxster S … (^_^)..

    ————–

  • avatar
    replica

    If you have a car with a lot of power, if you’d like to NOT use it all the time, simply don’t press the gas pedal down as far. Owning a great handling car is just as much fun. So why not have both in the same car?

    I owned a 2003 Miata for about a year when I lived in Houston. You know how many times I actually got to take thrilling turns? ZERO. Great handling cars fall victim to the same problems as high powered cars. There are so few occasions to actually enjoy any kind of performance car on most streets.

    It seems the best thing to do is buy a car that fits your environment. Live in a flat, open road city? Buy the nastiest, most violently powerful car you can. Live near the hills? Find the lightest car possible.

    I used to nod along with the comments that “fast” cars won’t be around much longer, but year after year, they just keep getting faster. We’re in a new age of power. An all-time high.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I’d say that’s what it’s all about – environment.

      The places I’ve lived – mostly in and around the Appalachian mountains – have PLENTY of areas to exercise a securely handling car within a few paces of home. If you live in, say, the midwest, there are fewer chances to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      You lived in Houston . . . which is flat as a dining room table. What you want in car if you live in Houston is a really badass air conditioner. Everything else is secondary.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Great article. I’ve owned a ’67 427, and a 2005 C6 vette. Both were fun (and truthfully, I’d kill to have mny ’67 back).

    However, I’ve owned a copy of each of the three MX-5 models. They just kept getting better and better, and the most fun drive was my 2008 Miata.

    I’d like to plug the Miata’s bullet proof reliability here, but I must (reluctantly) admit that the ’05 ‘vette was absolutely, positively trouble and rattle free for the four years I owned it.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    Here in Michigan, where every 25 year old whose parents paid for their college education owns a C5 ZO6/Camaro SS/Mustang GT, almost no one ‘gets’ my AP1 Honda S2000. I get absolutely murdered by Camry V6s at stop lights. I wouldn’t even bother against an I4, they have more torque too. I can barely keep up with traffic shifting under 5000RPM. I don’t even get it most of the time – it’s really quite an annoying car to drive in a straight line around town. Shrill even, akin to a woman screaming at 80dB in your ear every time you try to get ‘excited’. The clutch is heavy, the synchros just don’t want to mesh when shifting below 4000RPM, it’s cramped, and its most modern feature is a CD player.

    Then I drive out of the endless Detroit Metro suburbs, find some roads with the yellow signs with a curvy arrow on them and a ‘suggested’ speed, and all is forgotten. The chassis is rock solid, it’s eminently tossable and very easy to drive close to the limit. Whoever complains about snap oversteer must be armor-all’ing their worn out winter tires; I have no issues sliding around corners with 100% control. The steering is almost telepathically precise, the brakes are solid, the shifter is devastatingly perfect in its throw, heft and feel.

    It’s not a perfect car by any means. It’s actually a downright awful car for most people. But when the road gets curvy, for a driving enthusiast it’s among the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s just fast enough to eat up curves, but slow and closely geared enough to have to really work at the car to get the most out of it. All the qualities of a Miata, razor edged with a maniacal side thrown in.

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    Not too many people would disagree that just about everything Mazda makes is relatively fun to drive. But where has that taken them? Not to the top of car sales, that’s for sure! Matter of fact, seems First of all, I really liked the closing paragraph. Nicely put!
    I read here within the last week that things aren’t looking good for Mazda at the moment. Most people don’t seem to buy cars because they’re fun or because they themselves like how car feels to them. It seems most are interested in the numbers: HP, MPG, price, etc. Sounds like there’s rarely a fun factor involved.
    When I owned a modified Miata a couple years ago, the first question most guys would ask is: “How fast will she go?” My immediate thought was: “You just don’t get it!” You don’t need a drag strip or race track to enjoy a truely fun car. You can do it every day on your way to or from work or even the store.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      There’s brand cachet involved, which I would argue is at least partially derived from performance pedigree, but BMW would seem to be a case study in how fun to drive can also be a major selling point. They seem to be moving away from that in recent years, but it hasn’t really affected their sales.

      I would say Mazda shot themselves in the foot with their otherworldly styling, beginning with the ’09 6 and ’10 3. The previous generations of both cars sold absurdly well, despite so-so reliability. I think they were nearly universally good looking cars that also happened to drive pretty well. Just goes to show that there are limits to odd styling in the mainstream market, and they are definitely lower than in the luxury category, where built-in brand cachet is more prevalent.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Thanks Brendan, I couldn’t agree more. Having moved up the sports car ladder over the years I found less and less joy in driving cars with limits and performance that could never be explored in daily driving. Many powerful cars have also become less immediate with numb steering and frustrating throttle lags (probably designed to stop the inexperienced driver from killing themselves). The quest for numbers superiority has killed the fun factor of a lot of cars and applaud both Toyobaru and Mazda for bucking the trend.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Honestly I think we are living in a golden age of power and handling. Choose a car that is appropriate for your needs.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Funny…I was just having this very same discussion with my sister, who had just returned from a family visit to Germany in which she got to drive a C-Class unrestricted on the Autobahn. But here in the States, that kind of driving is danged-near impossible (and highly illegal). I’ve been anticipating the arrival of the Abarth but truthfully, after driving the Sport with manual it made more than enough power for the type of driving I do here in Alabama, and costs about $4k less. While many folks talk about high horsepower and speed , it just isn’t very usable (or needed) on this side of the ocean beyond bragging rights, and I guess at 42 years old, I’m kinda done with needing to have the highest HP car on the block. That’s why cars like the Miata and 500 are appealing to me…it’s my own personal opinion, but they feel more engaging and entertaining to drive. I guess to each his own…

  • avatar

    I was supposed to get a Miata as a press car today, but Mazda pulled it from the local press fleet. The fleet company then substituted an Evo. Many people would see this as a stroke of good luck. My feelings are quite mixed.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      The Evo X is much more mannered than the earlier VIIIs and IXs. X owners report that the latest (and probably last) generation doesn’t feel as fast as the earlier ones and a lot of raucous fun was removed with the engine and platform upgrade. Still, the X could surprise you with the remarkable amount of technology packaged underneath the relatively cheap exterior.

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    I can honestly say that I’ve had more fun under 40 MPH in the snow in an underpowered rear-drive Volvo than I have at any speed on dry pavement. It’s not about having the best tool for the job, but making the best of an acceptable one.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think drag racing can be fun…

    I kind of disagree with the hook of the article too. I think a better line would have been “It’s more fun to drive a car you like than to drive a fast car fast.”

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’ve never owned a ‘fun’ or a fast car. But I won’t drive a car I hate, either.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The car your grandmother drives today will outrun the muscle cars of your youth. It will also handle and stop about 10 times better.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    My wife has an E90 328i that I drive quite often. Being an enthusiast, I scour the BMW forums and have had the mantra that “you ain’t fecal matter if you don’t have a 3335 with a manual transmission and a sport suspension” drummed into my head by all the idiots that post there. I agreed with them for a long time but after getting to know the car, I’ve become a fan of its smoothness and having just enough power for almost every situation that I can imagine. When it goes, I’ll probably be more than a little sad and I know that I’m going to miss that legendary normally aspirated inline six.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Owning a Mazda 5, had a few Mazda 6 as rental cars and desiring to own an early Miata as a fun car, I suppose myself( and many people on here) don’t fit the average car buyer mold. We care about having fun behind the wheel and how the car “talks” to us. It’s a shame that’s lost on car as an appliance crowd. Before driving a Mazda, I always thought the “Soul of a Sports Car” or “Zoom-zoom” where just taglines. No more.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    So I guess I’m ahead of the curve by still driving a rear-engined Skoda…0-60mph in ????

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    Great Contra reference! As soon as garage space allows, I’ll be adding a $2,000 old Miata.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Speed is “unimportant” in the same way that safety has become “unimportant” – namely, every car sold today has plenty of it, so we can afford to take it for granted.

    When virtually every car can hit 60 mph in about 10 seconds or less, and can cruise comfortably at 80-85 mph, people can choose cars based on other qualities.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      You have won the unofficial TTAC Comment Of The Week award.

      Feel free to brag to the neighbors, go skinny dipping in the Ozarks, and watch Facebook’s stock price perform s modern day version of Swan Lake.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No, no, no, no, no don’t you know.

      0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds is dangerously slow! How can you merge onto the highway with a pokey car like that!*

      *Don’t believe that for a second, and bemused when the B&B make claims like this

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I had a Mazda2 manual touring, until about 2 months ago. I think that was one of the slowest cars I’d driven since a Ford Ranger. It was fun as hell and would merge well enough (hit 60 before entering the slow lane) with its monstrous “don’t hit the gas next to the coast or it’ll cause a tsunami” 100 hp.

        I think the 1/4 times are like 16.5′s @ 83 or so. I’m not sure how that translates to 0-60. high 9′s?

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    I own cars with over 300HP, but running my Subaru Outback base model up and down the hilly unplowed, unsalted streets of downtown Seattle without skipping a beat like I’m in one of their commercials is just too much fun.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I enjoy spirited driving, a lot and do what I can when the opportunity strikes, even if it means a brisk accelration, letting the motor rev to about 4Krpm before bumping up a gear (from say, 1st to second from a right turn at a light) and letting the car briefly hang in 2nd before slowing down at the next light at the next block.

    I have 130HP on tap in my Mazda Protege 5 and it’s much like a go cart in that even when hitting a turn hard, it keeps its composure and hugs the corner nearly flat. My old Honda civic (83 1500 DX hatchback no less) was loads of fun with its 67hp on tap and both cars have a similar driving dynamic, though the Mazda’s ride is firmer and flatter, though NOT harsh, just communicates what’s going while I drive.

    That said, it’s sitting in it’s parking spot, on the street with a broken driver’s door window. In a moment, I’m going to put my tarp over the window to keep the rain out while I await Safelite Auto Glass to come replace it. Some sh!t broke out my window last night and stole only a few petty items, left my portable Bluetooth speaker phone and the new stereo and didn’t even GET into the back as nothing there was touched and hit a Mazda Protege ES sedan behind me as well…

    Life’s a bitch sometimes, I tell ya.

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    One significant problem with the Miata … once you taste it you will never be satisfied with anything else. True story, all other cars will feel clumsy and lumbering by comparison.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I have much more fun driving either my 1981 Trans Am Nascar turbo or my buddies 1979 Olds Cutlass Calais than many fast modern cars. On a nice day with those t-tops removed the TA is a perfect touring car with a feel, sound and flair that is simply missing from today’s rides. The Olds Calais is a rare bird painted in canary yellow with white vinyl bucket seats, rally gauges, floor shifter, F-41 suspension with rear sway bar and a turning radius that would flat out embarrass most sedans on the road today. It handles amazingly well, even with P205/70 R-14 tires, rides like a dream but without the float and goes down the road like a new car despite having 120K miles. It just amazes me how fun to drive these two cars are. The best part is the 0-60 times. The TA is lucky to see 8 seconds 0-60 and the Olds does 9.7 with a hopped up 260 V8. Sure both cars would benefit from more power but that wouldn’t really increase my enjoyment of them.

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    Which is why you take the 1984 Ferrari Testarossa.

  • avatar
    texan01

    My 145hp 3900 pound ’77 Chevelle is more fun to me than my sisters ’10 BMW 3 series convertible.

    That 3 can beat the pants off that lumbering behemoth 6 ways to sunday but to me its a stressful drive, it’s very boring around town and just is annoying on the highway loafing along at 65mph.

    My old Chevy does 0-60 in 12 seconds tops out at 110 if you have a long enough road and while it will out turn the 3 on a low speed U turn, the tall floppy 225-70-15s are begging for mercy at high speeds. It’s noisy, and the worn out bench isnt as comfortable, but it leaves me with a smile on my face whenever I drive it. It’s not work to maintain 65mph in it, that 3 speed transmission snaps off shifts that the 6 speed automatic in the Bimmer would be hard-pressed to emulate with all its busyness of shifting up and down.

    Hands down the ancient Chevy is the more fun car.

  • avatar
    replica

    This “new” fad that “slow is the new fast” and that if you don’t love lightweight, underpowered cars, you aren’t an enthusiast, is getting a bit silly. Though, I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about. This article isn’t about speed, it’s about character. There’s no joy in a powerful car with no character. Character is that undefinable pleasure a car has that isn’t shown in performance tests or engine ratings. It’s just fun. “Character” and “speed” are not opposites, as I feel this article is hinting at.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      What is character?

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’m not really sure how to answer that. A driving feel that is distinct to the car your driving? The best way to describe a Miata is “character.”

        It’s a tough one.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      I try not to lay down rules that qualify “enthusiasm”. If you drive nothing but big ol’ Caddies, that’s still enthusiasm in my book. If you drive a Corolla and collect 1/18 diecasts, more power to you.

      My point is, roughly, that Fun is unrelated to Speed. I’d also point out here that I still love high-hp cars, but even expecting I’d love the MX-5, I can’t believe how much I didn’t miss my WRX, with twice the hp (and it’s an old one, so fairly raw).

      I’m currently in the ‘Speed3, a car which I also like very much. But it’s… well, the ‘speed3 didn’t immediately scurrying to craigslist and measuring my driveway.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’ve driven a Mazdaspeed3. Great car. But it wasn’t as fun as a Miata or Protege5, that I’d both owned prior. The 2006+ Civic Si is the perfect example of a car with no character, even though it’s faster than all SI’s before it. I’d take a 1989 Civic Si over a 2006+ any day. Why? Character.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Fun to me is getting something that isn’t known for performance, and wringing the snot out of it.

        Fun is getting my roll-over prone Explorer to hang the tail out on a turn, to beat the crap out of it off road, and race my buddy’s vastly more powerful cars and lose badly.

        Fun is taking my overweight underdamped landyacht Chevy and hanging with superior cars on a winding road where those M3/5, Miata, C5s are just starting to work, and mine’s sweating like a 500 pound junkie getting off the couch. It’s great fun to chase behind them and driving that old car 12/10s while they drive theirs 7/10s

        90% of the driving I do with that old car, the lack of power isn’t much of a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Nue

        Funny you’re in a ‘speed3 now, I just left mine. How’s the tranny and motor holding up for ya?

        The MX-5 is a real gem for sure, haven’t driven a current NC but I’ve borrowed a buddy’s NA and… wow. Two words; cable throttle. Throw that in with the old (but trusty!) 5 speed and you’re in for a blast. Not sure if I’m willing to take it as a daily driver though. Harsh, buzzy, low, and the tendency to end up either in half or under someone else’s undercarriage isn’t particularly enticing. Reminded me of the car before my ‘speed3, a 1998 GS-R. Almost the same in spirit but the thought of driving next to the heavily reinforced cars of today and potentially serving as their crumple zone made me reconsider it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ve owned both sides of the equation. Through my life I’ve owned cars from 82 HP to 394 HP and everything in between.

    My first car was an ’85 Ford EXP with a 5-speed. I believe it has the distinction of having the worst weight distribution of any car built in the United States 68/32. This car invented understeer. It plowed so bad in turns you can til a field with it.

    But drive it at 8/10s or 9/10s (and that wasn’t hard to do) and it was a complete, utter, blast to drive.

    My Ford Probe was another car that had that same quality. Push it to its utter limits, right to the 10/10ths and nothing but – joy.

    On the flip side the Porsche 944S2 and the Pontiac G8 GT laugh at on ramps. They demolish red light sprints and can/could haul their mass down to a stop so quick your eyeballs kept moving even after the car stopped. Yet there really isn’t anywhere in the “real” world outside of a race track that you can/could safely take these to even 7/10s.

    Yes, they’re incredibly smooth, power to spare, responsive suspension a high revving 4 (in the S2 case) and gobs of torque on a flat curve in L76 powered G8 case. But there isn’t that same joy of taking a 30 MPH on ramp at 60 MPH in the Ford EXP, at 9/10s, and taking it at 60 MPH in the G8 GT at 6/10ths. The EXP tires squeal and protest and scream as you hit the threshold of understeer, the body leans, and you have to stay in the throttle because those 82 HP can barely keep the car going in the first place. In the G8 or the 944S2 the car almost lazily enters the turn flows through the apex to the exit point, tires making no protest. Its a joy…and at the same time there is something almost boring about it.

    My next toy will have less power.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    the sea to sky hwy is kind of the killer hwy of BC, many folks who thought they were great drivers would end up not coming home.what u comparing is the driveable & cornerability of the car, so how much power and who made it should be irrelevant.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    One thing not mentioned is size. Cars are getting too big and especially too wide. Let’s face it- the best windy roads are all narrow two lane roads. If you are piloting a behemoth like a GT-R, you have to constantly worry about whether you are crossing the yellow line or scraping the hillside, or falling off a cliff.

    The british sports cars of the 60′s got it right. A real sports car must be small. A large sports car is an oxymoron. The sportsbike manufacturers understand this also- almost all sports bikes are 55″ in wheelbase or less.

  • avatar
    alex159569

    As a young guy who has always dreamed of fast cars and wholeheartedly memorized Motor Trend’s spec sheets, I find that driving many modern cars feels like playing video games with cheats enabled. When first entering cheat codes for unlimited everything into the game, playing is SO much fun and awesome… for the first ten minutes. Afterwards – there’s no life left in it at all, something like driving modern cars where crazy acceleration and performance is available with zero skill or effort.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I won’t disagree with you at all. In many situations, you are right, the cars are too fast for the speed limits.

    But I think the example with the Genesis really pushes what I’ve long been preaching….that we need to seriously investigate our speed limits. I could go into it (again) but these limits are based on decades old or older vehicle abilities, etc., and of course are also there for revenue purposes.

    If we started setting limits properly, not only would I think we would see safer roads, lower insurance, fewer fines, and quicker travel/fewer backups, but I think we could actually use some of this HP glut discussed.

    Maybe someday….

  • avatar
    MRL325i

    ’88 E30 convert, manual. Sure feels fast. Most fun car ever.

  • avatar
    Geeky1

    “Whether or not a car is enjoyable to drive is almost entirely divorced from its performance prowess.”

    I completely agree with you there, Brendan, but I wouldn’t take it any further than that; “driving a slow car fast is more fun” is not a philosophy that I subscribe to, although I’m evidently in the minority around here on that.

    There are certainly a whole host of slow cars that are fun to drive; the ’61 190SL that I drove comes to mind, so does the ’69 280SL. E30 BMWs are fun, so are E28s (actually, my favorite-the 524TD-is probably the slowest of the bunch, at least as far as US models go); I DD a diesel Mercedes that MIGHT squeak under 10 seconds flat to 60 IF it was under 55* outside AND you brake torqued the hell out of it. And I really, really, really like that car. A lot. I’ve mentioned being buried in it. As far as sports cars go, both the RX-8 and the S2000 are considered “slow” (although in absolute terms they’re really not), and I’d happily own either one as a weekend toy.

    But I’ve also got a Z06, and as much as I like the RX-8 (it’s actually one of my favorite cars), there’s no way that I’d trade the Corvette for one. I don’t really *need* 405hp on the street. Especially in a 3100lb car. But the massive amount of torque, broad powerband and the throttle response that go hand-in-hand with a large displacement, high output, naturally aspirated engine makes commuting and dealing with stop-and-go traffic an awful lot more enjoyable than it was in my STI (even when *it* was putting down 400hp), and an awful lot more enjoyable than it would be in something like a S2K or a RX-8.

    And yet, having an excessive amount of power doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of the car at all. I know what it’s capable of, and I know that it’d be quite happy to forcibly acquaint me with the nearest tree should I fail to respect it. But taking it into the mountains and driving it at perhaps half of its capabilities is no less enjoyable than taking a Miata (for example) down the same road flat out would be. In some respects, for me, it’s almost more enjoyable because the Vette makes an absolutely tremendous, fantastic noise while it’s doing it. The Miata doesn’t.

    Besides, I got on the freeway behind a geriatric (censored) in a 996 convertible the other day. Doing 35mph. Yeah. I was just going to go around him like a normal person, but the second I moved over into the middle lane this senile little (censored) took off.

    Being able to grab 2nd, stand on it, and leave grandpa for dead-and the resulting look of stunned disappointment on his face-was far and away more gratifying than anything that I could’ve done with any other sports car that doesn’t at least run 12s in the 1/4 in that situation.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      ^This.

      I enjoy driving a slow, fun car. I DD a Miata and chose to go this route after having a couple of sport bikes. While I love the hairdresser car and don’t regret my decision, I do miss the instant, neck-snapping, ludicrous, other-traffic-humbling acceleration of the bikes. There’s something about going to work on a cruise missile that, although not wholesome, makes you feel like the king of the world.

      My ideal would be turbocharging the Miata. Possibly the best compromise of both worlds.

      • 0 avatar
        Brendan McAleer

        Well, that’s why I said “fun car fast”. The Z06 is one of those machines that – as you point out – is rewarding to drive in a non-sociopathic manner.

        Let me put it this way: the GT-R is God Mode. The Z06 is Unlimited Ammo.

      • 0 avatar
        Geeky1

        I like that analogy. I haven’t managed to drive a R35 yet; I’m curious, but I honestly don’t think that I’d care for it very much. For exactly the same reason you mention, actually.

        I kinda had the same issue with the STI. When I finished with it it was basically at stage 2, and it was a tremendously capable car. But driving it at genuinely homicidal speeds was just too easy to be fun. Enter corner at Ludicrous Speed, point the steering wheel where you want the car to go, floor it, let the AWD figure out how to go from A to B without parking you in an oak tree. Do it right and-when the turbo wakes up coming out of the corner-you’ll skip light speed and go straight to plaid. Rinse, repeat. I mean, I liked the car and-since it was a Limited it was a hell of a sleeper-it was great fun to mess with M BMWs, Corvettes, 911s, etc. whose drivers presumably assumed it was just some cheap japanese crapbox. But it wasn’t a challenge anymore.

        I imagine that, in that sense at least, the GT-R is very similar, albeit operating on a much higher level. I suspect that my grandmother could probably comfortably lap a track in a GT-R faster than I could get the Corvette around the same track. But powersliding the Z06 is probably an awful lot more entertaining than flawless laps in a R35. >_>

      • 0 avatar
        Brendan McAleer

        Funnily enough, Geeky1, a friend just sold his GR STi shortly after upgrading the turbo (GT35R rotated with something like ~500hp). The GT-R is not boring, nor is it the Playstation experience everyone intimates. It’s actually very rewarding to drive fast (and dominant!). It’s just not particularly involving on the street.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    This goes back to my observation 10 years ago that any fool can go fast point to point in a BMW M5 but it takes real skill to do it in a base model Ford Focus.
    This also explains the perverse attraction of 50cc and 125cc sport bikes because you can run them flat out everywhere, while staying under the speed limit, unlike 600cc and 1000cc bikes which will get you into many points territory with a single upshift.

  • avatar
    Aqua225

    The things I look for in a car are good steering feedback, massive horsepower right off idle to redline, and good traction to get it all to the ground.

    Some people here are claiming they passed the proverbial two trucks and a school bus with 90hp cars. The other cars were either not moving, or the passer was suicidal.

    I had a car once that *could* do that, and it took 310hp to make it happen.

    That is if you needed to do it in a short distance.

    I even read one guy above bragging about passing a line of traffic with a corvette in the line. Stop to think that the corvette driver thought it was really bad to pass at that moment? Even a 80′s corvette could hit triple digits in a very short amount of time.

    Finally, 0-60mph blasts are more practical and safer fun than carving up a road. Hence why Camry keeps getting more horsepower, but skidpad numbers don’t really improve all that much. A dad tied down with a car payment on a V6 camry can have a lot more fun blasting to highway speed on a onramp in a Camry, than being a danger to human and animal life alike carving up some back road at 70mph.

    For you public highway curve carvers, you haven’t yet hit that curve with the blue haired lady in a buick waiting on the other side of the apex, in tree cover, or the curve where deer or human pedestrians are not visible because you haven’t hit your apex.

    When this happens, they will bury you or put you in prison.

    Nope I will take my intoxicating 0-60mph blasts any day of the week. Safer, and in my mind, much more fun.

    Take your 76 to 90 hp economy cars to the track if you want to carve curves. And that is going to hurt when you find out your car really doesn’t corner all that well, since you don’t have enough power to test the chassis.

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      I take issue. The challenge of driving fast is to be safe at the same time. Taking a blind apex is as dumb as can be, essentially roulette. Positioning your car on the outside of a turn so you can see around the bend, knowing how close you are to the limit and keeping away from it, that takes some skill. Moving a car smoothly through turns and over brows so as to conserve momentum, that’s when a communicative car shows its value. If you want to have the traction control on your 300hp Camry give you an acceleration experience to 60mph, that’s your private business.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      Wow. Next thing you know you’ll be stating that manuals are more dangerous than automatics, or that V-8′s are the smoothest engines in the world (note: Bob Elton, a former TTAC contributor and GM engineer, stated such things…..)

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You should try hollering a beater around some time, its a bit more fun than drag racing your mothers Camry.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow

    So true.

    My 18-seconds-to-60 Mercedes is a blast, because I can floor it every time.

    (Contra Aqua, I find acceleration blasts boring as hell, but I’ll give you the safety edge if there are blind curves… especially if your car isn’t radically underpowered like mine.

    Since mine has great brakes and literally can’t get over 60mph uphill in curves, it’s not that big of an issue… it stops real fast at that speed.

    And like Jack Burton said, “I never drive faster than I can see”.)

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    Brendan, I don’t know if you regularly drive outside the lower mainland but I suspect not often if you think our speed limits are absurdly low. Narrow, winding mountain roads with poor sight lines and an abundance of wildlife and traffic do not make a good speedway for boy racers.
    I know the road you speak of well, and although it’s been upgraded it’s been the scene of many horrific fatal accidents caused by overconfident/reckless driving.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      There is only one part that catches me off and it’s a case of the corners being poorly marked and a dangerous speed limit change. A few clicks south of Squamish (heading north) there is a hard blind right hand corner that will try to kill you at 100 km/h (the speed limit is 80 or 90 but you’ll get run off the road doing that), followed by the speed limit dropping to 60 and then an even tighter left hand corner. Even at 80 that corner will bite you and the sudden drop in the speed limit adds heavy braking to heavy cornering with an already unsettled car/SUV/Ford F-250.

      EVERYONE gets caught by that corner, most seem smart enough to stay the hell away from the brake until they get through the first corner and THEN hammer on the brake.

      The safety improvements such as the concrete barriers have made most of the corners blind and the usually too low speed limits mean that when you really should be slowing down to 60 km/h it goes ignored. The section from Squamish to Whistler actually feels much better paced.

    • 0 avatar
      400 N

      Totally agree, from 10 years living in Vancouver in the 80′s. The Sea to Sky Highway was one of the most horrendous highways I’ve ever driven, and under many conditions even driving the posted limits could kill you:

      - landslides could spontaneously dump tons of rock on the roadway – going too fast would you with insufficient braking distance
      - during heavy rainstorms, heavy boulders would roll down the creeks and take bridges out. One memorable accident resulted in a series of cars launching into the gap and tumbling down the cliffside into the ocean.
      - heavy fog affecting visibility, freezing into black ice- I skidded on black ice one night heading up Whistler – we were headed for the rock when the tires got a grip again.

      So definitely speed was not the thing on that highway, it was getting home alive. During those days I was actively climbing, back country skiing and hiking, and the risk of death was higher on the road than it was in the mountains.

  • avatar
    Nue

    So, turns out the buff books were right after all about all those numerous car of the years. Just a sniff of hypocrisy that I’ve noticed with all the venom that’s constantly being thrown at them but in the end, they’re *USUALLY* on point when it comes to picking a so-called “driver’s car” with their annual list(s). The MX-5 or 3 Series or Corvettes are consistently earning their nod but in these cases, they’re not always fluff pieces being paid off by the manufacturers IMHO.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    “But it’s not a car that’s about bragging rights, not a car for peacock strutting or posturing. It is, in short, not a car you drive for other people. It’s a car you drive for yourself. And that’s what makes for a truly great machine, no matter what the numbers might say.”

    Great paragraph; now that the weather is nice, my 92 Miata never disappoints, even with 100k on the clock and cheapo tires. Someone mentioned they loved their 08 the best, made me think of upgrading, but there is something about the pop-up headlights that I can’t resist.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    I love how the 40 over = getting car taken away rule here in BC seems to have just made everyone drive just a touch under 40 over the limit all the time. GVRD drivers seem to have the safety in numbers thing down, they can’t pull ALL of us over.

    There is always that one unlucky guy that gets pulled over on Hwy 1 while traffic blasts by at 30 over the speed limit in a construction zone.

    The cops end up watching for outliers doing 110 km/h down Grandview.

  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    All this denigrating of powerful cars sounds like a reaction to more congestion, higher gas prices and stricter enforcement/sentencing guidelines against speeding. It’s tempting to go fast on a highway unless you’re about to rear end another car that’s crawling along with every other car. It’s hard to get away from the fact that increasing speed while keeping all other factors equal decreases fuel economy. And what sane person of limited means wants to risk getting a criminal record or getting their car confiscated just because they’re driving a car at a high, but perfectly safe speed?

    It’s nice that we still have cars that are fun to drive slow, but I hope that reasonably priced cars that can go to 60 mph in under 6 seconds doesn’t die off just because many of us don’t have much chance to unwind them to their potential.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Meh, How do you drive a car whose windshield only comes up to your eyes? How much did it suck going uphill?


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