By on May 1, 2012

The year was 1987; the place was the bleak suburban landscape of central Ohio. My friend Woody had decided to buy a mid-Seventies FIAT Spider, one of the over-bumpered 1756cc models, in plain white with a black vinyl interior. It was way cool, and it seemed considerably faster than his previous car, a Celica of similar vintage. We just didn’t how how fast it really was. “We need to test the 0-60,” I suggested.

Essington Drive was the straightest, flattest, least police-infested road we could find for this. Slightly over nine hundred feet long. I held the stopwatch. Woody revved the FIAT to about three grand and dumped the clutch. There was a modest squeak and we were off. Essington seemed awfully short as the speedometer swept past the 30 mark, dallied past 40, and meandered by 50.

“Don’t give up!” I called out. “We can do it!” It was just about possible to read the individual letters of the stop sign ahead when Woody yelled,

“Sixty!” and hauled the Spider down to an unevenly-calipered stop. I looked at the digital stopwatch, which indicated 14.1.

“Fourteen seconds. I might have hit it too late at the end. It could be, like, really, thirteen and a half, probably. ” There was a pause, and then we both said,

“NOT BAD!”

Fast-forward to the present day, twenty-five years later, this very morning. I am sitting at a stoplight in my Porsche 911 Carrera 2. Car and Driver obtained a 4.6-second 0-60 time in a car more or less identical to this one. About three hundred feet on the other side of the light, my lane ends and I will need to merge. There’s a pinched-looking middle-aged woman in the lane next to me, driving a light blue Camry, and when the left-turn arrow ahead of us turns green, she betrays her future intentions by reflexively creeping ahead a few inches.

Hmm. I can’t see the wheels or badging of this Camry.It’s probably a four-cylinder LE. It could, however, be a V6 XLE, the rocketship of the empty-nest crowd. I consider my options. If I roll out mildly when the light turns green and she floors it, I am proper fucked. The 911 won’t have the torque to close the gap and I will have to take my chances with the vehicle behind her, which is — checking — a Yukon Denali. I would probably have to do the old ghetto trick of pulling the clutch out on the move, redlining the engine, and popping the left pedal. This is not something I am eager to do, or to be seen doing.

On the other hand, if I pull a full axle-hopper of an autocross start and she rolls off, I will confirm every stereotype of Porker owners the world ’round. I look at the woman’s face. She has both hands on the wheel and is looking straight ahead. It’s probably go time.

As the green arrow turns yellow and then clicks off, I feed the 911 some throttle. When the full green hits, I click off a ProSolo-worthy launch and see the Camry’s nose rise aggressively in my right-side mirror. I grab second with about a four-car gap back to what is obviously a freakin’ V-6 and flick the turn signal to take the lane. Another impromptu street-racing victory. In a Porsche. Against an old woman in a Camry. And it wasn’t a sure thing. Welcome to 2012.

Once upon a time, the average family sedan did 0-60 in about fifteen seconds. Fast cars did it in under ten. Supercars did it in six or less. The 2012 Camry, by that definition, is a supercar, as are many of the cars we drive here at TTAC, from candy-assed four-cylinder budget Bimmers to Lexus hybrids. It’s rare to find a car or truck that can’t run the benchmark in nine seconds or less. Cars are faster now than they have ever been, in every segment.

Not surprisingly, people are using the capabilities. Traffic runs fast and close nowadays. The default speed on Midwestern freeways is well north of 70mph nowadays, and my recent experiences in Chicago, New York, and Detroit suggest that, in the cramped and difficult-to-monitor urban arteries, the average driver may be closing in on 80. I’ve completed a few long-distance freeway hauls lately and averaged well over 72mph, including rest stops and the occasional slowing down to stare at an accident with my fellow morons.

The 0-60 test dates back to the post-WWII motoring journals. In an era where even the “highways” were slow-moving affairs infested with trucks doing 30mph uphill and forty-horsepower Volkswagen Beetles, it made sense. Sixty miles per hour represented about the maximum speed at which decent people traveled.

Today, people who merge onto the Interstate at sixty are roundly cursed by the cars behind them and the tractor-trailers which cacophonously Jake-brake down to avoid pasting them into little hybrid-powered metal doilies. Some time ago, I was towing my race car and and I blew one of the four trailer tires. There was an exit about three-quarters of a mile ahead so I decided to drop down to forty or so, ride the right lane, and chance it. For the next two minutes, I saw no fewer than ten or eleven cars swerve around me at full speed. It simply didn’t occur to them that anybody could be going that slowly. It really looked like I was going to receive a free Mopar colonscopy.

It’s time to replace the 0-60 test with something that is actually relevant to modern American motoring. The quarter-mile, as wonderful as it is, really does exceed what’s safe and sane. I suggest eighty miles per hour as a good compromise. With the possible exception of I-94 in Chicago and 495 in northern Virginia, if you can accelerate to eighty miles per hour you’re going to be good to merge.

I would also suggest that, in lieu to time, we substitute distance. How much room does a car need to get to eighty? That’s the most relevant power statistic we can provide the American motorist. It’s unlikely to catch on. After all, quarter-mile times are still more eagerly quoted than trap speeds, even though trap speeds are a better genuine indicator of the car’s prowess. Maybe we could provide both. Time and distance to 80mph. It’s worth considering.

0-80 is the right statistic, at the right time. Perhaps TTAC’s own Alex Dykes will put his license in jeopardy by collecting it on his future tests. As good of an idea as it is, however, I’m glad it didn’t occur to my fifteen-year-old self. Google Maps doesn’t make it abundantly clear, but there’s a steep hill at the end of Esslington. We would have put that Spider into orbit trying to get to eighty. The first FIAT in space!

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107 Comments on “Zero To Irrelevant In Sixty Years: It’s Time To Change The Performance Benchmark...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    Wow not sure what part of Chicago you drove in, but I’m hilariously happy if the 6 cylinder camrys & 8 cylinder SUV’s get to 50 in the 1/2 mile COMPLETELY STRAIGHT on-ramp I get on…..(I-94, northbound)

    I’m sure they don’t fear someone rear-ending them when they merge at 45 into the right lane where people are going 60-65 since they have 5000-6000 pounds of SUV surrounding them.

    The SAME people WILL creep up to 70-75 or maybe 80, but it takes them a couple minutes to get there.

    These people seriously jeopardize me when they are in front of me and I’m on my 600 sport bike…..If someone rear-ends me going 20mph faster I’m dead.

    For this reason I’m super cautious & stay in 2nd or 3rd until I get up to cruising speed. I try to stay infront of everyone & take off at the light but it usually doesn’t require much.

    • 0 avatar
      jtk

      I can confirm this. I regularly get behind people who are apparently planning to merge at 40-45 on my commute north to Schaumburg. They also then cut in front of many other people on their way to the left lane, where they then sit at 65.

      After years of pondering this, I’ve decided that people are deathly afraid their cars are going to roll over. Don’t know where this fear came from.

      Also, I hit 80 regularly on this same commute. And there are almost always people that are going significantly faster than me.

    • 0 avatar
      michal1980

      My geuss would be I94 north of Chicago.

      Or most of 294 if the is no traffic. 294 sometimes scares me. I could be doing 75 in the a lane other then the passing one and still have cars blow past me.

      For those that dont know, the speed limit is generally 55mph. I see cars get pulled over sometimes, and wonder how fast they were going to actually have the cops notice.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        With that being said, the on-ramp I’m talking about is the one whe

        I think 55 on the north side of I-94 up to the wi border is kind of a “yeah our opinion is that you should go 55, but if you don’t your chances of getting a ticket are pretty low”.

        Then you cross the border into WI where the speed limit is 65 and I see 8 cop cars on the 40-50 mile drive to Milwaukee.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        Argh, my comment got cut off…

        The ramp I’m talking about is where skokie blvd turns into 41/I-94

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        I was on 294 about a year ago and while the rest of us were doing 75 or so, a brand new 911 decided he wanted to do three figures. Ah, what it must be like to own a vehicle that goes past 118. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @Robstar

        Going to the CAS a few years back, taking 41 down (I live in Green Bay), I was amazed that right near the IL border everybody sped up to 80+, and the few cops I saw on the side of the road were rightfully sitting there, (safely) not making a move.

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      I love those 40 yard on ramp merge lanes like the ones along the Kennedy. You either have the power to merge at 80 or you are literally stopped, looking over your right shoulder, waiting for a gap in traffic to floor it.

    • 0 avatar
      Slab

      Same here. Every morning I access the freeway on a looong onramp. If I’m first in line, I’ll use that space to accelerate to 65. As I approach, the onramp parallels the freeway, so it’s easy to adjust my speed accordingly to fit into the best gap. This is driver’s ed 101, right? Sometimes I get a speed demon on my tail, but more often I get stuck behind someone going 45. These are the same yahoos who slow down before they’re on the offramp, too. How did they ever pass the license exam?

    • 0 avatar

      I would just be glad if everyone on the freeways, in Chicago, would quit cruising at 50-60 mph in THE LEFT FUCKING LANE! That is the worst metro area I have ever been where the majority of people don’t understand the concept of lane discipline.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    dumpy middle aged women in camrys aren’t the usual suspects but you get a lot of young dudes (and dudettes) in WRXs/EVOs and V8 automobiles roasting everyone at the lights… let them have it, its not worth the time since ‘street racing’ seems to be a capital crime here

    you do get a lot of strangeness though… old ladies in automatic Corollas who try it on with LSX/Coyote powered cars…

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      I get people trying me in my box stock V6 4.slow 95 Explorer. Its rather amusing actually.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I deliberately avoid making eye contact with any drivers next to me at a light because I know that my car is squarely middle-of-the-pack and want to keep my insurance rates on a downward trajectory. Sometimes it’s fun to watch when one person ahead of me is thinking that a street race is in the works and the person next to them just sits there after the light turns.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      If the person next to me looks like a fast driver, I let them have it. I don’t mind being behind someone who wants to drive faster than me.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Depends on the car and driver. Nothing worse than the gun-it-on-the-straights, snails at the slightest sign of a turn (where you don’t have visibility to pass) crowd. Better ditch’em and forget’em them when you can.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Your experience with your buddy makes me think of the times spent with my best friend Jeff in out 1982 Celebrity and mid 80s Buick Somerset respectively. How fast can a Midwestern rust bucket get to 60! We found racing down Ohio back roads much more satisfying although Jeff learned the hard way about under-steer. (Oh he’s still kicking, I was just better at staying on the road.)

    Yeah 0-60 is pretty irrelevant. Most 80s and 90s sports cars would get their asses handed to them by a V6 Malibu or 3.6V6 Impala in that metric. Distance to respective speeds would be interesting, how many FEET does it take to reach 60, 80, 100 mph? How many feet does it take to STOP from those distances?

  • avatar
    ajla

    You actually dealt with a V6 Camry owner that gunned it from a stoplight? And it wasn’t even the SE version? I would have been caught fully surprised if I was in your position.

    I don’t know about the need of changing the 0-60 metric for practical reasons. Your St. Thomas Town Car knocks off about a 9.5 0-60. Do you ever feel like you’re holding up traffic in that?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      9.5 is more of a Signature L time. I bet I can break nine in my Townie no sweat.

      Driving on the freeways surrounding New York City I found myself foot to the floor more often than I’d like, I confess.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        Actually Jack, most of the locals in metro NYC have cars with gas and brake pedals removed.

        Instead, there’s a two position switch within reach of the steering wheel. The up position gives the car full gas, and down locks up the brakes.

        Brilliantly simple.

  • avatar
    Botswana

    0-60 does seem irrelevant on modern roads. I’m not worried about the acceleration of my little 4 pot, it’s plenty zippy and does well enough when I need it. Most drivers have no idea what their car is capable of and don’t have the interest to learn.

    Give me horsepower, torque, and weight and I have a pretty good guideline for what a potential car purchase might do. Still, a test drive is in order and I will be a little rough with it because I want to get an idea if it will be suitable for my daily drive with some of the most aggressive traffic I’ve ever experienced.

    At the same time, this is why “commuter” cars like the Smart or the iQ have no interest to me, aside from being overpriced as well. Having a top speed that just barely surpasses what I routinely hit every morning on the way to work does not inspire any confidence in me.

  • avatar
    Hank

    It really is amazing how far things have come. I was driving our family hauler, an ’05 Odyssey, in northern NJ traffic the other day and things were humming along smoothly. I saw a 60 mph sign and glanced down, expecting to see that I was doing 65-70. I was doing about 92 mph, and the darn thing was still running in eco mode with 3 cylinders firing. The slow lane was doing ~85. And this was just a boring commute back north, nothing to write home about. 20 years ago, it would have been a automotive “fishing story”.*

    *This I know to be true, because I remember taking the same road in a Country Squire 20 years ago. Yikes!

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      I call bs on your speeds. I have never seen the slow lane average 85 in the tri state area. Even for the fast lane with limited traffic, usually 80 is the avg speed aside from some nut jobs. I684 between exit 1 and 6 is probably the fastest highway I’v seen around here and the fast lane is usually going 80 and the right lane 65-70.

      Might want to check your speedo accuracy.

      • 0 avatar
        GeeDashOff

        I suggest you hop on I-287 pretty much anywhere between the NY state border and 78. People will tailgate you doing 90 in the fast lane and anything less than 70 in the slow lane can hold up traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        I have to concur with Hank. ~80mph on the car-only lanes of the NJ turnpike is about the average right lane speed on the a weekend morning (before the Atlantic City crowd gets out). Of course, on occasion you have some guy going at 70mph on the right lane.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        Not sure what state you’re driving in, because every time I make the commute back and fourth from my PA college to Orange County NY (go through NJ for about 40 minutes), I’m going ~80mph at all times on I80 and 287, and I almost always stick to the middle lane. Why? because there’s a car blistering up behind me in the left lane doing 90 if not faster every 10 seconds or so.

    • 0 avatar
      CompWizrd

      I’ve been at 85mph in the far right lane on the 401 up by Toronto, and had people tailgating me… possibly related to being in a ’96 TransAm and they expected more.

      Now that we’ve got the $2k fine/7 days impound law for 30mph over the limit, it’s a lot more sane up there.

  • avatar

    The problem with this suggestion of 0-80 is we don’t have 0-80 for every car.

    I like 0-60.

    Still relevant.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    I am not going to argue which test is relevant today, to me honestly they are all irrelevant because what counts is 20-80, not 0-whatever.

    But it is utter BS to say that a car that cannot reach highway speed in the merging lane is unsafe. That’s why it’s called “merging” and not “passing” lane. When I drove a new Merc, I’d punch the gas pedal and get to speeds higher than that slow lane vehicle I see in my mirror. Now that I drive a Volvo 240 in NYC tri-state, I simply let those moving faster than me pass, time my entry and I am just fine. Yeah, it takes a bit more work to get on the highway in the way of advanced planning and foresight. Guess that means I can’t text or check Facebook while doing so. How sad.

    • 0 avatar
      Botswana

      Acceleration still matters to me. There are still too many drivers that see a turn signal as a challenge.

      If I need to get over at a stop light I’m more than happy to psych out some 20 something in his wannabe racecar if he’ll open up a gap between him and the car behind him that I can slip through. It’s not always about being fast or first.

      On the other hand, sometimes you just gotta beat traffic. Also, I hate wolfpacks and prefer to stay out of them. I don’t understand this need to trap folks in a big rolling potential accident. I’ve never seen such rude behavior like when I try to break out of one of those groups.

      In a perfect world of drivers who are cognizant enough to realize cooperation makes traffic flow smoother this whole article would be irrelevant. Unfortunately, I drive in a world populated by people who are just barely conscious that there are other people who need to get to a destination as well.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        When I daily-drove my barely-functional 740 wagon (turbo, clocked once at about eight-and-a-quarter to sixty the one day it chose to run properly) I relied on other motorists being spooked by the car’s appearance – missing bumper cover with handprints painted on the aluminium, surface rust on most panels, exhaust leaks, mismatched wheels. In Massachusetts, most folks are used to that but either respected or feared the car; at home in New Hampshire, most folks know how to drive.

        The 244 got by by having excellent brakes; the 850 is largely anonymous and can scoot passably well (unlike the 240) if I drop it into third (or, more commonly, fourth).

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      When the moron in front of me is texting and checking facebook and uses the entire ramp and half of the flat merge lane at 35-40 mph before realizing where he is and calling on 200+ horses to pick up 30 mph and bail him out, then yes a 15 second to highway speed buzz box is unsafe.

      • 0 avatar
        tallnikita

        That’s when you should be applying your skill and leaving more space between the person in front and yourself so that when he is gone you still have options. You essentially should be merging on your own terms, not on the terms dictated by those in front or behind you. You put yourself in that situation.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      “because what counts is 20-80, not 0-whatever” I am just the opposite, because what is most important to me is that 0-20. It’s how quickly and safely I can make a left through heavy traffic, or turn onto a busy street and get up to a safe speed without causing traffic to brake for me.

      Also, 0-20 is why I dislike DSG’s. they don’t provide enough slip in the tranny to get a modestly powered car in the powerband to accelerate quickly from a stop.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    I agree it’s somewhat irrelevant. 0-60 times are so close these days and I find it pretty hard to tell the difference between 0-60 in 6 seconds as opposed to say 6.2 but some people make their decisions based on that number. Without a stopwatch I notice very little difference in the 0-60 performance of my old 2004 A6 S-Line compared to my current 2009 A3 3.2 although on paper the A3 is 0.5 seconds faster to 60. I live at a higher altitude so the turbos on the A6 may have closed that 0.5 gap a touch but not by much. I DO notice a difference on the highway. Past 70Mph the A3 has much more power on tap in comparison to the 2.7T A6.

    Point being…the only real measure is to drive the cars and compare. If only a stopwatch can tell the performance difference between a segmant of cars then its time to use a different yard stick.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    oil company execs must be reading this type of article with a big smile on their faces.

  • avatar
    david42

    I want two separate measurements: 0 to 30 (for stoplight superiority) and 40 to 65 (for highway merging). Maybe the second one should be 30 to 70 (depends on the ramp, time of day, etc.), but you get the idea.

    Frankly, I never start at 0 and end up at 80. Or 60.

    Kind of a separate problem, but I’d love to see a measurement of torque steer. So for both of the measurements I suggested above, try them on a flat surface and see how far the car wanders. It’s one thing to have a fast acceleration time, but another if it scares the bejeezus out of owners so they never bother to floor it.

    • 0 avatar
      The Doctor

      “0 to 30 (for stoplight superiority)”

      From memory that was where the RS2 licked even the Macca F1.

      I’d say 30 to 80 would be the most useful for drivers whose feet occasionally turn to osmium.

    • 0 avatar
      brett_murphy

      Preach on.

      30 to 70 is what I’d like to see.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        I do believe I’ve seen some spec sheets and car reviews where they included a 0-60 time as well as a “Passing Speed” time and in parentheses they had (30-70mph). I wish this was a normal statistic people would measure and publish, it’s much more practical than a 0-60 time.

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Funny you mention the V6 Camry XLE. I had one launch on me when we were stopped at a light a month ago; his lane (right) was ending 1/8 a mile ahead. As it was a construction zone, I did not feel obliged to fight for supremacy.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Fear of being jumped by one of those ominous V6 Camcords, are why 3rd or 4th are any self respecting Civic/Integra/S2000 ricer’s freeway cruising gears of choice. There’s something very powerful feeling about loitering down the interstate right at high lift switchover, ready to unleash the mighty VTech on a moment’s notice……

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        Actually, I drive around in third at 9000RPM on the highway hoping that one of my conrods escapes from its home and hits you squarely in the face.

        Also, engine speed doesn’t really correlate to home phones at all. I got lost on that point.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    The bitter truth was shown to me a few weeks ago when a late model Porsche quickly opened a 50 yard gap on me, starting at 60mph. I’m not going to make up for it by writing about what I and my lowly Miata did to a BMW 6 through some naughty/nice turns; let’s just say Bimmers don’t expect you to exit a turn 15mph faster than them.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      It’s not necessarily the car, it’s usually the driver. I’ve only been driving for 10 years now, and during that time I’ve owned a succession of ropey old Fords of dubious mechanical durability. I have found over the years that whilst I’d usually get my ass handed to me in a straight line race by someone in a Porker or a Bimmer, take that same car onto the country lanes of the UK and I’d find myself pulling ahead of them on almost every corner going. My all time greatest victory over a superior vehicle was being tail gated by some angry looking lady in an Elise who couldn’t get past me for many miles on the straighter roads. When we finally hit some bendy roads up in the Peak District, she couldn’t/wouldn’t keep up with me, and I was in 1.25 Ford Fiesta. It’s not what you drive, it’s how you drive it.

      • 0 avatar
        ruckover

        Many years ago, Car and Driver made the same point; they said a 16 year old in a VW Van will find a way to beat a 60 year old in a Datsun 300zx across an intersection. I know I was faster on my Honda 350F in 1980 than I am on my Kawasaki ZRX today.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      One of the few pleasures left to drivers of sports cars is speeding up in the corners. I doubt that I use half of what my car can do (because I’m not sitting on the door @ 1G lateral) but most people are at even lower cornering Gs. Like in the past, when a gutless 356 would leave a more powerful car behind when the road got windy.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Speed/time reflects the launch which is mostly about short gearing and/or ability to dump the clutch, followed by traction if you pass that test.

    Speed/distance mostly measures power to weight until it gets into the 90+ mph range when the result becomes more a measurement of power to drag.

    Taking 2 extreme examples with somewhat similar power to weight, numbers from C&D.

    The stupidly tall geared 5 speed Charger V6, 15.7 @ 94.

    The well geared barn door Toyota Tundra, 14.6 @ 95.

    Which one is more responsive in day to day driving is a rhetorical question.

    Published 0 to anything times are almost invariably brake torqued or clutch dumped, neither of which I’ll do on a regular basis to a car I pay to maintain, and as such are meaningless in my book. You can’t cheat much on trap speed but there are too many highway cashiers for me to have any concern past 85 mph.

    C&D’s rolling start 5-60, 30-50, and 50-70 are the most useful and comparable set of acceleration numbers to me. If we’re going to add new tests instead of picking the least bad of the current ones, I’d like to see 5-30 and 5-75.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      If the 30-50 & 50-70 done in top gear, they say more about gearing than power.

      I think 20-80 is a good measure, since few cars have a first so high that you gain all that much by clutch dump shenanigans at 20.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    I haven’t looked at the 0-60 times in years. I like to check out the 0-100mph times.

    It’s incredible to me how fast cars are up to 100mph. The V6 Camry can get there in something like 14.5 seconds.

    I always compare this number to two vehicles that I owned in the past which seemed very fast at the time.
    - 1984 Porsche 944, 0-100 in about 21 seconds.
    - 1991 Porsche 911 C4, 0-100 in about 14 seconds.

    Anyway, my take is that cars today have too much power.

    Take my wife’s 250hp Odyssey minivan. I would trade away half the power if that got me 35mpg on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      I’m starting to agree that cars now have too much power.

      My SUV has/had 160hp out of the Ford 4.0 OHV motor if pressed hard, it’ll do 120mph given enough distance. 0-60 comes up around 11 seconds and you can cruise it on the highway without having to resort to cruise control to maintain a steady 70mph.

      Even my 145hp 5.0 powered ’77Chevy hits 60 in about 11-12 seconds and with no CC its a steady cruiser at 60 or 80, 70 seems to be difficult to maintain with it as its right on the torque peak of the engine at around 2200 rpm with a peak of 250 ftlbs.

      My sister’s BMW 3 series convertible is a pain in the neck to drive smoothly because its stupid powerful and the transmission has the never-ending hunt for gears. Both of her 3s have been that way.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        My driving would be a better match for the base engine version of my car. As it is, in 12 miles commuting, there is only a mile where gears 5 and 6 make any sense. And gears 1 and 2 will put the engine into a fatter part of the torque curve and it feels all lungy and aggressive. So I need a two speed transmission.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    What would really be embarassing is if you pop the clutch on the 911 going against the old Camry lady, and your Porsche engine blows a cam chain tensioner or something.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I saw a vid of a ‘vette racing a minivan at the drag strip.

      Of course, the van won (otherwise I wouldn’t be mentioning it), but that was mostly because the ‘vette’s engine blew up when the light turned green.

  • avatar
    old fart

    Growing up in the sixties anything that did 0-60 in 8 seconds or under was fast. Even though there are normal cars that will do it faster now , it’s a benchmark like a yardstick -easy to reference mentally. Racers use the 1/4 mile times for reference. Changing it all would be like switching to metric in the U.S. we would all be clueless as to what it means .

  • avatar
    carguy

    The 0-60 benchmark is useless as that is not how cars are driven. 0-80 maybe better but the rolling start benchmark is probably more indicative of useful power than a standing start.

    However, for an increasing percentage of vehicles all these measurements are useless. If a V6 Camry can give a Porsche trouble and a stock Mustang GT 5.0 can take on a Audi R8 (V8) then maybe we should accept that once you reach 6 > 0-60 times that “enough” is all the description needed.

    For economy cars 0-60 may still be relevant number as a CX-5 loaded with family and luggage may simply be too slow to merge safely or a CR-V on a mountain road may drive the owner nuts. In such cases the 0-60 number may still be useful to potential buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Right, my ’95 Explorer at sea level and unloaded does 0-60 in 11 or so seconds. loaded with 4 people and luggage, at 9,000 feet takes 20-30 seconds and its gasping like a landed fish trying to move that with reduced power.

      I drive it in the moutains with the OD off which can cause trouble as the OHV 4.0 doesnt breathe well over 3500 rpm.

  • avatar
    mbaruth

    As an eighteen year old, I remember being very excited that my brand new 1996 G20 would do 0-60 in about eight seconds, because it was approximately three seconds faster than my previous whip, a 1994 Jetta III. Not long after that, I had a Porsche 944 that my Pat Benatar-lookalike girlfriend said was the “fastest car ever!”

    Now I’m 34, and I drive a 4000-lb sedan that hits 0-60 in just over five seconds-actually considerably faster than the car I autocross. What’s wrong (or right?) with this picture?

  • avatar
    honfatboy

    “Another impromptu street-racing victory. In a Porsche. Against an old woman in a Camry. And it wasn’t a sure thing. Welcome to 2012.”

    Reason #3 That young people aren’t as excited about cars. Any car can go fast these days.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    0 – 80 is just going to give the woman in the Camry more time to make up for her weak start.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    At a time of manufacturers bragging about mpg’s we gonna have drag racing at every freaking red light? I don’t push my Corolla and it has rewarded me with years of dependable service and good mileage, I laugh at all those idiots doing jack rabbit starts from every red light.

  • avatar

    Forget about the loss of acceleration-advantage over time. -What about just plain Safety?

    Far too many roads in North Jersey, like Routes 17 or 4, are just freaking deathraces.*

    And a 3000lb car with maybe 115hp, and biggish tire diameter feels like running in slo-mo through an artillery range with one of those four-foot archery bullseyes on as a backpack.

    It’s a damn hp arms race out there. And if you’re not Really careful, -BOOM!

    +++Forget being in a rush -at all- if your car doesn’t have a p/w of 0.05 or better.

    .
    *(including 1 merge right outside a DMV, funnily enough! :P )

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Come down to Florida if you want slow drivers. Around here everyone tries to save gas by accelerating as slowly as possible, just so they can stop at the next light. But in between lights, they keep on going, 10-20mph over the speed limit. Its maddening, trying to stay in front of the slowpokes so you dont get stuck behind them at the next light, but not get a ticket for cruising along at 60 in a 45. On the highways, thanks to the snowbirds and the tourists, you are lucky to average 60mph, and the speed limit is 70 most places. Then if you do catch a break and get it up to 80, you are that much more obvious to the cops hiding in the medians.

    I envy your northern cities with the crazy speeding drivers.

    Oh, and for you gas savers who think going that slow will save you money, trust me, you waste way more gas stopping at every light than you do opening the throttle up to the speed limit and then getting through all the lights. Not to mention the time savings.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      I live in So Fla and I concur with your statement. I wish I had a dollar for every time some idiot does not keep up with traffic in that particular lane,(not the right lane ) forcing those behind to take evasive actions just to get passed them. Many times it’s the distraction of the phones as well.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I am surprised actually. I live in the Gulf coast side of FL, otherwise known as God’s waiting room. When I visit my dad in Boca (the other God’s waiting room), I find myself having trouble keeping up with traffic on the freeway, people down there drive FAST. I always assumed it was the preponderance of New Yorkers down there. I guess around town they are slow though, there seems to be significantly more traffic there though too.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Most people in Minnesota are just plain a$$holes, oblivious, or both. The whole idea of 0-60 is laughable at best; if anybody tried it on public streets they’d have to make sure a cop wasn’t around.

      Doesn’t some of it come down to reaction time?

      Also, my friend recently went to Illinois and said that the police really only bother on the freeway if you’re not going with traffic. He said he was driving on a 55 mph highway, but traffic was going around 75ish and the only person who got nicked was a driver going the limit. Anybody in Illinois know if this is true?

      • 0 avatar
        Joshua Johnson

        “Most people in Minnesota are just plain a$$holes, oblivious, or both.”

        So true. People seem to take their sweet time accelerating, then either hold at 5 under the limit or ride the a** of anyone not going fast enough for them (usually 10+ over), just in time to stop for the next red light that they would have made if they had accelerated properly. I define proper acceleration as applying enough throttle to allow the automatic tranny to shift at 3k-4k rpm. Not a hot rodding WOT run, but not a granny sub-2k run either, and it allows most cars to apply maximum torque.

        “The whole idea of 0-60 is laughable at best; if anybody tried it on public streets they’d have to make sure a cop wasn’t around.”

        In an episode of me trying to get in front of a bunch of slowpokes, I was once pulled over by an Anoka County sheriff for “excessive” acceleration (subjectively enforceable). But since I did not chirp my tires at the get go or break the speed limit (both objectively enforceable), I was let off with a warning. Moral of the story is to not assume that LEO would ignore faster than average acceleration even if no speed limits were broken.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        ” I define proper acceleration as applying enough throttle to allow the automatic tranny to shift at 3k-4k rpm. ”

        You own a Park Avenue Ultra and a supercharged S-type and that’s your usual accelerating RPM? I would drive you crazy. I hit 4000 like once this month and usually keep my cars under 2500.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Dayum! I can’t stand even cruising at less than 2500rpm. Even in big engined cars, rpms like that feel like the engine isn’t fueling properly or something, and the drive line feels loose. But I came of age in ITRs and S2000s (and on 600cc bikes), so I may be a bit damaged.

      • 0 avatar
        Joshua Johnson

        “You own a Park Avenue Ultra and a supercharged S-type and that’s your usual accelerating RPM? I would drive you crazy. I hit 4000 like once this month and usually keep my cars under 2500.”

        Wow I am impressed, especially considering how infrequently I post! Yes, that would be my usual and preferred acceleration style. I guess that would explain the quizzical looks from dudes in lifted trucks as I pass them in my big Buick.

        While your driving style is less than what I would consider optimal, I have noticed that my patience for other drivers has grown significantly as I’ve gotten ever so slightly older (due to recognizing that I am usually in no particular hurray – I just dislike inefficiency) and having driven the Buick substantially more than the Jaguar over the past year (likely due to cutting my available horsepower from 400 to 240).

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Never mind this sh!t, tell us more about that “Pat Benatar-lookalike girlfriend”

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      My brother probably won’t come across, so I will. This woman was in her mid twenties and simply smoldered. Dark, short hair, the build of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. She could sing, too.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Even at her best, Pat wasn’t all that special, bunny teeth and a big jaw/chin. Cute little tiny body though, and I always dug the short hair thing too.

  • avatar
    dutch45810

    My brother and I timed our retired-from-family-duty-and-with-a-vacuum-leak 77 Country Squire 0-60 one time. It was in the neighborhood of 76 seconds.

  • avatar
    replica

    As a recent Houston transplant to Seattle, I’ve never seen drivers this SLOW. The roads can be perfectly clear with great visibility, and they still bang out a solid 50 mph in the left lane. They seem to think that the left lane is the “slow” HOV/carpool lane. Many times, I briskly accelerate up to 60, only to MASH my brakes merging onto the freeway with the oblivious hippies.

    I just don’t get it. I’ve since perfected jamming my steering wheel to the right to dodge locals in the left lane.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I spent some weeks driving in LA and traffic is better there than in Seattle (or Portland).

      If there’s any sort of construction cones or accident, people will slow to a crawl even if they’re on the other side of a road with a dividing median. Failure to merge at a speed greater than 35MPH. And like you mentioned – failure to stay on the right. And the new roundabouts on the eastside are a constant source of comic relief. I used to do a commute up north to Bothell and I just loved how everyone slows to 40MPH on 405 when going up the hill just before the Canyon Park exit, as if they had to be careful that there might be deer or something up ahead on the interstate.

      It was even worse 10-15 years ago, when Seattle and Portland were relative backwaters, people would actually dead stop in the middle of a 4-lane boulevard with a center lane and let pedestrians cross.

      Then they go and blame all this on the Californians.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    One test I did the last time I shopped for a car was to see how quickly the engine and its computer would respond to the throttle pedal when I made a left. Trust me, not all cars are created equal.

  • avatar
    jogrd

    I don’t know how you’d measure it but the interesting thing to me is the “quality” of the experience at quick acceleration. My 9ish second 0-60 little car seems to happily leave stoplights quicker than my other vehicles which are on paper quicker but sound or act miserable enough when pushed that I rarely do it.

  • avatar
    redrum

    Are any of these performance metrics relevant in a modern city? You’re only as fast as the slowest car in front of you and I’m rarely able to accelerate freely in the Seattle area due to traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      I have to go through 405 from Renton to Bothell, it’s pure hell.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Same for me, except I am doing the Redmond – Renton commute.

        During the evening commute, the S-curves up to the Kennydale hill can eat up close to a half hour of commuting time, especially if it’s raining.

        I try to talk on the phone (using my Bluetooth headset of course) on the way home, as that distracts me from how frustrated I would be otherwise . . .

        My observation about Seattle area drivers is that they tend to go 10-15mph over in town, and speed limit or lower on the freeway. Maddening.

        And I used to have a VW Rabbit diesel, and I would use every one of the fifty-something horsepower to accelerate onto the freeways – only to often end up behind some 300HP SUV going 15-under at the merge point, grrr!

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’ve noticed that, the areas through town that are 35 mph, I get tailgated for doing 40. Then we hit the freeway and it feels like I’m ripping a hole through time and space by doing 60 and all traffic vanishes behind me in a blur.

  • avatar
    eCurmudgeon

    How about just focusing on three numbers: 0-100, 100-0 and the Ring?

  • avatar
    threeer

    0-60 does become kind of irrelevant for most driving conditions these days (though my father-in-law with his last model year Firebird Firehawk tends to want to argue that with me to no end). I drive/commute to work in stop-go traffic (actually more stop than go) and blazing acceleration just doesn’t help me much. And when I am out on the open road, it’s for an 8 hour commute back home to see my wife. I’ve been really interested in the Abarth, but on a whim, I tested a Sport 5-speed just to see how intolerable 101 HP would really be and you know what? With a manual transmission it wasn’t bad at all. Maybe I’m getting older (wiser? That can be debated), but straight line acceleration numbers don’t tell the whole story regarding driving experience and enjoyment. And given today’s fuel costs, there seems to be more important statistics to discuss…

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    My little Subaru engine is just not what it once was, I think… I generally try to accelerate all the way up the on-ramps, which works out most of the time, as it means I’m going the speed of traffic when I’m at the top. If there’s no break in traffic though, it’s a bad situation, dumping onto the breakdown lane or stopping for a HUGE break in traffic.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    Was this editorial triggered by people deriding the FR-S/BRZ for being “slow” even though the difference between 6.7 and 7.2 is basically negligible except in print?

    You should bring sexy back with the 0-100-0.

  • avatar
    Toucan

    Agree about the distance. A car with faster 0-60 can lose the drag race with the other car scoring lower in this metric.

    Don’t agree about raising the target speed. The test should quantify the engine performance over entire rev range. 60% of 0-60 is done in 1st and the tach needle does the full lap. Then, from 2nd ongoing, only the upper power band matters. Going up to 80 will only increase the contribution of this upper power band part which is so rarely used.

    Whatever the new metric is supposed to be, lower band with corresponding gearing should be emphasised. Then passing prowess. Then throttle response + possible turbo lag. Then MPG at given speeds (so easy to compare!), then engine internal efficiency (BSFC).

    So many interesting parameters to measure that give real outlook. So few measured these days in fact.

    PS. Nice writeup, you made an ordinary sprint look like an epic battle. The lines “[...] and see the Camry’s nose rise aggressively in my right-side mirror. I grab second with about a four-car gap back to what is obviously a freakin’ V-6 [...]“. WOW! There is a protagonist and the well disguised antagonist. Fast and furious doesn’t even compare.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I kind of disagree, as it is too easy for a tester not paying for the car to get around lower band limitations by clutch dumping/slipping at low speeds. And any time you need to meaningfully accelerate, you’re not going to do so from idle anyway. Even old ladies in Camrys know that :)

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I’ve been impressed with the gains in acceleration and drivability since I started driving. Almost anything is a dragster compared to my mom’s Olds diesel. 0-60 by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. The first of my friends to get his own car had a VW Thing. 0- How fast?!?
    Right after graduation a friend inherited a good chunk of cash. Enough to cover a Mitsubishi Starion Turbo and cover one years insurance. Very fast, but a neck breaking power curve.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I think the roll-out numbers are better, something like 10-70 mph times would seem to be more real world. The problem is times don’t tell the whole story, the feel and sound makes a big difference. After owning several turbos I’ve noticed low-end torque equals more “seat of the pants” feeling of speed. My ’03 350Z is the quickest car I’ve owned (5.3 – 5.5 secs depending on launch), but my ’96 Eclipse GS-T (turbo) felt quicker because of the boost pressure, however the turbo lag was holding it back, especially in the 0-60. Now 30-70 mph was a whole different ball game since you were already into the boost. I know this because my wife’s Volvo C30 runs about the same 0-60 time as that old Eclipse (6.4 seconds) but the C30′s lower boost/less lag makes it feel slower.

    Now what I really want to see is more manufactures talking (and fighting) over is their 60-0 braking times. After all stopping is how you AVOID an accident! Acceleration is great fun, but the only spec you’ll care about right before you smash you ride is the one that keeps you from crashing. Brakes (and tires) seems to be the one area manufactures tend to penny pinch. They’ll spend tons of R&D on shaving .1 sec or gaining another 1 mpg, yet nobody seems to notice now long it takes to STOP. I put larger tires & brakes on both a Civic & a Dakota and the improvement in handling and stopping distances was very noticeable.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Brakes are only the limiting factor when they heat up, the first 60-0 is the one that matters on the street and that’s purely a test of the tires.

      So long as fuel economy goes in bold face on the window sticker while 60-0 goes in the fine print in magazines most buyers don’t even read, mass market stock rubber will remain hard and narrow.

  • avatar
    TW4

    More horsepower and more gears = drag racer’s paradise. The average 4-door car has gained 25%-30% more power in the last 20 years (?), and two additional gears (to offset the weight) and better AT’s. Now they are gaining turbochargers, which beef up torque throughout the entire midrange. However, I believe the arms race will slowly wind down, due to CAFE standards.

    Prius – 10.6
    Volt – 9.4
    Leaf – 10.3
    CT200h – 10.8
    Golf TDI – 9.4
    Insight – 11.8
    Fusion Hybrid – 8.9
    Sonata Hybrid – 9.1

    These cars are basically CAFE 2025 compliant. I think 0-60 will stabilize for most cars in the 8-10 second range as time goes on. It is already happening to some degree. Look at all of the 4-banger CUVs they sell these days. All of them are 9-10 second cars. Most new midsized sedans are four-cylinders now, with 0-60 times of 8-10 seconds.

    0-60 will be relevant in the future. Turbocharged small cars like the GTI, Fiesta ST, Veloster Turbo, Cruze SS, etc will get the credit they deserve when the midsized V-6s are gone. sub-seven-second turbocharged compacts will feel like lightning.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    This discussion is giving two wildly different pictures of the state of driving here and now. Is the road a bitter, Darwinian struggle for supremacy, or a lazy stream of slowpokes? Here in Denver, the slowpokes prevail. I rarely see anyone exploiting the acceleration potential of their vehicles. When I do, it’s usually some tool in a diesel pickup, spitting black smoke from an add-on pipe that belongs on a sidewheeler steamboat. I wouldn’t shame myself by racing a beast like that. And since driving is a workaday necessity, not an optional sport, I won’t be racing anyone at all. Anyhow, one of the pleasures of driving a stock, aging 90 hp TDI is that I do get to drive it hard, with pedal to the floor for seconds at a time, without attaining flamboyant velocities.

    This is the age of useless overcapacity. You see it in idle workers and abandoned factories, in vacant storefronts, and in overpowered vehicles, driven gently at a small fraction of their capabilities. Like using thoroughbreds to pull horsecarts.

    Things my be quite different though, in other regions. The Northeast is full of aged freeways with short ramps wedged into the urban grid. Curves are sharper, and more plentiful. My most challenging drive in years, besides one fling with karting, came on a trip through western Massachusetts. Everything seemed miniaturized and speeded up to my brain, so used to Western expanses. On those winding two-lanes, it seemed a stretch to maintain posted safe speeds– and I can’t blame the rented Cobalt, which actually had pretty decent manners at the helm. Curves rated for 45 mph would have been marked for 30 back home in Colorado, I’m certain. There is a faster pace of life back East, and it showed on that road. No wonder the sports car craze started there in the postwar years, and not somewhere else.

    Oh, and the 0-60 stat? Keep it, because it’s important to somebody. But I’d rather read about 0-60-0 times, or some index of performance efficiency that combines fuel economy with performance.

    • 0 avatar
      TW4

      “This is the age of useless overcapacity. You see it in idle workers and abandoned factories, in vacant storefronts, and in overpowered vehicles, driven gently at a small fraction of their capabilities. Like using thoroughbreds to pull horsecarts.”

      I agree; however, I believe this is the era of wildly-overpriced overcapacity. If price budges, overcapacity can continue. Whether or not prices can budge, remains to be seen. Preliminary signs suggest “no” b/c everyone is supposedly deleveraging, but who knows what the future holds.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Performance numbers in a typical cars in America today is just crazy. Even mundane cars seem to have 0-60 times that used to be associated with performance cars back then. Some are in downright supercars category, V6 Camries included. Insane!

    Cars in Europe seem to still have sane level of performance, with some of the more mundane ones have 0-60 of 10 seconds or more.

    Of course in developing countries it’s even worse. Cars still have 0-60 times of 15 seconds or more. On par with malaise-era cars in America probably. Though with much better fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    And the new standard is…

    Drumroll…

    POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO

    The most important number.

  • avatar
    raph

    I get on I64 at a certain on-ramp in southeast Va and 0-80 would still be lacking, I’ve merged well past 100 mph because the guy next to me didn’t want to be passed in his full sized truck.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You know, you could just merge behind that guy…

      Which is really the answer to Jack’s original situation with the old lady in the Camry. Grow up, act like an adult, put your turn signal on and merge behind her. Sheesh. Just because you are driving a German penis extension does not mean you HAVE to go first. You could even pull out and wait for the whole line of traffic to go by and merge last, and you will get where you are going all of 10 seconds later.

  • avatar
    dialing_wand

    I think it’s time to slow down.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Any performance benchmark that starts with “zero” is irrelevant to all but the most immature drag-racing teenagers. And even then, it’s not so much a measurement of power but one of traction. Yawn.

    I’m in favour of the distance proposal. Just make it on-ramp relevant, say distance from 30-70mph.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I drive a car i consider quick, a 2010 Challenger R/T. Best 0-60 is 5.02 seconds (It’s not easy, but it can be done). I run at full throttle a few times a day. Not for long, but I do hit the rev limiter once a day or so. Here in Toledo, there are endless numbers of people who crawl from light to light, usually driving Nissan Altimas, a car I never knew was so popular, but they are everywhere. Doesn’t seem to matter if they have the 2.5 or 3.5 engine, the drivers seem to be afraid to actually accelerate faster than a loaded semi can. Sometimes, I admit, I get frustrated and drop the hammer and pass them at, well, a lot faster than I should. An Altima in front of me when I’m approaching the entrance to the freeway is my cue to try to get around them ASAP. If I don’t, I tend to grind my teeth and mutter a lot, they have no idea what merging means. I have a video of me getting stuck behind a silver 2.5 Altima that stopped at the top of the ramp, and I don’t remember saying half the stuff I did on the recording. My mother thought it was hilarious.

  • avatar
    dgran

    As long as we are asking for ponies, here is mine: Make the benchmark 50 to 80. The speed that a car can go from a cruising roll at 50mph to 80mph says more about its useful power torque than naught to any number you choose. The zero do whatever benchmark says more about gearing and traction but once you have it around 50mph it takes some real finesse for a car to push you back in your seat.

  • avatar
    Reino

    Speaking of merging into the right lane: what is with drivers who cruise along in the right lane past multiple exits?! There should only be two types of drivers in the right lane: people entering the highway who should be accelerating up to the speed limit, and people exiting the highway who should be slowing down. So neither party should be going 20 mph over the speed limit.

    I hope someone rear-ends me every time I merge onto the highway. I’d love a nice fat insurance check and a new car.


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