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.