By on April 12, 2011
Car 0-60mph Speed Price BFTB
Ford Mustang V6 5.6 22145 0.806
Subaru Impreza WRX 5.2 25495 0.754
Chevrolet Camaro V6 6.0 22680 0.735
Ford Mustang GT 4.8 29145 0.715
Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 6.4 23700 0.659
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 R-Spec Coupe 5.9 26750 0.634
Hyundai Sonata SE 6.5 24345 0.632
Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart 5.8 27695 0.623
Kia Optima SX 6.5 25995 0.592
Honda Accord Coupe EX-L 6.3 29730 0.534
Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring 6.4 29320 0.533
Corvette ZR1 3.4 111100 0.265
Bugatti Veyron 2.5 1700000 0.024

 

For budget minded leadfoots Forbes came up with a list of the ten quickest cars that cost less than $30,000, based on performance data measured by Edmund’s InsideLine. You can go over to Ray’s place to check out the list in greater detail or Forbes for the original version, but the list got me thinking. Can you derive a metric from performance and price information that measures “bang for the buck”? When cost is not much of an issue, performance is a given. High performance at a lower price point, though, is as worthy of note as high buck supercars. I’ve always been partial to products that provide a large fraction of state of the art performance at a small fraction of state of the art prices. The question that I have when it comes to fast cars is: is there a way to come up with a statistic that realistically models performance per dollar?

I decided to multiply the 0-60 time by the MSRP, take its inverse and multiply by 100,000 to get a decimal fraction like a batting average. Like a batting average, a higher score is better and I decided to call that stat BFTB, Bang For The Buck. I think it accomplishes what I’m trying to do: a more expensive car with the same speed has a lower BFTB but a cheaper car that isn’t quite as fast, might have an equal or better score. A hypothetical $30,000 four second car would have a BTFB of 0.833, the same as a $24K car capable of a 5 second run. The BFTB stat also would reward a more expensive car, if that expense translates into a significant increase in speed. To a point. As cars approach six figures, BFTB nosedives even though there’s some very serious speed involved. You might say that the BFTB disfavors some of the fastest cars on the planet. I say that it shows just how expensive incremental improvements in speed can be. Of course, the people who buy those very fast cars are the folks who aren’t exactly looking for bang for the buck.

I asked TTAC’s house statistician, Michael Karesh what he thought, and he suggested that BFTB might need a log function in there somewhere. I’m guessing that because in real life a low time is preferred, and also because when you plot out 0-60 times the curve starts approaching an asymptote somewhere south of 4 seconds, there’s already a logarithmic or exponential function involved.

Above is a table with the cars ranked from highest BFTB to lowest. I added the Chevy Camaro that Jalopnik noticed was missing from Forbes’ original list. For comparison’s sake, I also ran the figures on the ZR1 Corvette and the Bugatti Veyron. By that standard, the V6 Mustang is the BFTB champion. The Subaru Impreza WRX comes in second. The Mustang GT may be faster than the V6 version of the pony car, but you end up paying $7,000 more to go 0.8 seconds faster to 60 mph. If you want to calculate BFTB yourself, I posted a spreadsheet that you can download here.

I suppose you So I’m throwing it open to the B&B: how would you measure the most efficient expenditure of performance dollars?

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50 Comments on “Ask the Best & the Brightest: How to Measure Bang For The Buck?...”


  • avatar
    redliner

    If only there was a way to include braking distance, slalom speed, quarter mile time/speed, and ride comfort into the BFTB quotient.

    • 0 avatar
      spinjack

      +1

      To be truly accurate, the equations would have to account for a number of objective factors and those factors would need to be weighted based upon their importance (which itself is very subjective).

      The usual suspects of 0-60, 1/4 mile, corner g’s, and top speed should all definitely be included. But should fuel economy, cargo capacity, and back seat leg room be included? Dunno.

      • 0 avatar
        Almost Jake

        Somewhere in there should be reliability. Having a vehicle sit in your driveway or constantly needing dealership attention really puts a damper on BFTB. First and foremost, the vehicle has to run.

      • 0 avatar
        TexasAg03

        I would include the following:
        0-60
        1/4 mile
        Slalom
        60-0
         
        Once you have the performance BFTB number, then you could seperately look at comfort, convenience, and utility. One key thing to remember is to use a price for similarly equipped vehicles. Maybe the base price is the best place to start.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ AlmostJake,…. I guess that takes all of the VW’s off the list……Oh wait…sorry none of them made it.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      0-60 and 60-0 are old measures of a cars performance (and really reward cars that don’t need to shift a gear – i.e. favoring displacement).  Slalom is not needed as this is a measure of a car’s straightline performance.  The best measure is redo the ranking with MSRP and 0-100-0 times as that gives you a better measure of a cars prowess of acceleration and braking.
       
      Handling is too difficult to measure as a simple skidpad or slalom does not tell the whole tale.

  • avatar
    aspade

    mv^2 at the end of the quarter / price.
     
     

  • avatar
    steronz

    A Yaris slots in somewhere between a Mustang GT and a V6 Camaro using your spreadsheet.  That’s the problem with these formulas.  It’s very difficult to weed out cars that are incredibly cheap yet still manage to have an engine and 4 wheels.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I don’t think any $22k Mustang V6 can pull that 5.6 to 60 off. I think the rather pricey performance package is required for that, and the WRX is probably the true BFTB champ.

    • 0 avatar
      banjopanther

      As far as I know, the performance package adds: GT suspension and brakes, 19-inch wheels with summer rubber, and a strut-tower brace.  Not sure how that would decrease 0-60 times, except for having sticky rubber, but 19s are heavier than 18s.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I was at a Subaru/Ford dealer less than a month ago. I was stunned to see on one end of the showroom a nearly fully loaded (it was missing the glass roof) 2011 V6 premium going for 32,500 and a mid-grade WRX with it’s 5-speed, 265hp and slower track and 0-60’s times going for 32,000. I can’t remember ever thinking that the WRX was pricey.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      The performance pack is $1995 and you get a whole bunch of kit for that. One of the best values in performance options I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    The engineer in me saw your premise and numbers, and realized the only real flaw was the previously mentioned log basis with asymptotic acceleration numbers. Although, for a fun exercise, I would suggest that you use historical numbers (inflationaryily [sp?] adjusted o/c) to generate what is effectively a 3rd axis of values. Might I suggest x is the cost in 1k$’s, y is the speed in 1/10ths, and z is 5 year increments. Then we get to see the B-B (bang to buck) corrected ratio, and compare it historically to find outliers in the last 50 years.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    How about some Panther love?  Used Panther (5-10k) with second-hand supercharger (1k?) FTW!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I think we are confusing art with science.  A great sports car is about the wind in your hair, the sound of the engine, the weighting of the clutch, the grip of the tires.  You will never measure how a sports car feels with this sort of calculus, which is why RAV4s and Camrys outrank Miatas and Boxsters.

  • avatar

    please stop it with the 0-60 times!!

    there is nothing that tells you more about a car’s straight line performance than 1/4 mile ET/speed

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      well, I actually like zero to 30 and 40 more.
      It’s where I really spend my time driving. Going from stop light to stop like drives me nuts and that’s why low end torque gets my attention.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        I agree.  1/4 mile times are only useful on the track.  What’s important to me is 5-60 times, since I’m unlikely to dump the clutch or brake-torque every start.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Wow! The Chrysler 200 has a BTFB of .679, better than a Mazdaspeed3! My father’s Cirrus will beat all comers with a BFTB of 4.396. I’d hate to see what a LeMons racer would do.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      My Volvo 745 Turbo, depending on source, ran 0-60 in somewhere between just under 8 seconds and just under 9 when it was new. When it’s in a good mood, nine seconds isn’t far off today. Since I paid $200 for it, that’s a rough score of 5.555…6.

      I suppose the few hundred bucks I’ve had to put in to keep it on the road influence its score rather negatively, but the point’s been made: used cars are where the bargains are.

      • 0 avatar
        redbeard

        Put a big ol’ turbo on that sucker. I did that (and some supporting mods) to my Volvo 744 Turbo and I’m low 5s to 60. Not bad at 4800 ft above sea level.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Unless you can measure driving pleasure then I’m not really interested. A current model V6 Toyota Camry is faster than many Porsches and Ferraries of the 80s but that does not mean its fun despite rating high on the BFTB index.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Ronnie…

    This a whole lot like my hunt for wines. It’s easy to find great wines at any cost, but just try to keep it between 15 and 25 dollars!

    The only issue I have with the formula is you still need to keep the cars in categories.
    It is so much easier to get  a bang for you buck IF a back seat isn’t required.
    That’s why I think the Mazda6 and perhaps other sedans are more deserving of their rating.
    I do not know why the Mazda6 Grand Touring was chosen when this engine is available in any Mazda6 S.

  • avatar
    speed7bump

    please excuse this if it sounds dumb (as this is my first comment on the site), but wouldn’t power-to weight be a more important number in figuring out BFTB than 0-60 times?

    i would use pound-per-horse, lateral g’s, and stopping distance (with the last 2 combined only accounting for 50% or less of the final number).

  • avatar
    Prado

    I think the formula needs a little work. With a BFTB of 1.022 the Versa 1.6 blows everything out of the water ($10,750 and 9.1 0-60 per c/d)

  • avatar
    cmc540

    Hello all.  Long time lurker but joined to share this formula that was printed a long time ago in Road & Track.  The formula was called E2F2. 
    The formula was:  E2F2=((S+L+Q+f+O)/(A+b+T+p))*100 where
    S=skidpad g x 100
    L=slalom speed
    Q=quarter mile speed
    f=epa city / epa highway x 4
    O=observed mpg
    A=0 to 60 x 10
    b=60 to 0 in feet
    T=quarter mile time x 10
    p=price

    Sorry I don’t know how to post an excel spreadsheet.  This formula factors in many of the suggestions above and I’ve found it to be pretty accurate in predicting fun to drive versus price. 

    Sorry for the long first post!

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Yes, but then you could shuffle around the fit coefficients to make almost any car rise to the top.  I sumbit that there is no single objective metric which quantifies something as slippery as “bang for the buck.”  But you know it when you see it.

  • avatar
    segar925

    According to Motor Trend, the Nissan Maxima does 0-60 in 5.9 seconds,  quicker than the Accord.  Slightly higher in price, but worth every penny not to be another generic Camcord driver. 

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Just for fun, consider a Top Fueler. Average acceleration is around 4Gs. If that average holds from 0-60, then you’d hit 60mph in 0.7 seconds. Although it is slightly less practical than a Veyron, you have to admit that is a pretty impressive elapsed time. At then end of a quarter mile, they are up to 80mph faster than a Veyron is at top speed.  Comes from having 8 cylinders each one of which makes as much HP as all 16 of the Veyron’s. Well, for a few seconds anyway.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Formulas such as this remind me of the quote from a Car and Driver review, which I read on here the other day. It was in reference to the Chevrolet Vega (and I paraphrase): “Built to the numbers, yet it fails on all accounts.”

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The ONLY thing I ever liked from Motor Trend back in the day was their ‘Bang For The Buck’ contest.

    They would use a variety of measurements. Objective vs. subjective criterion, on-the-road vs. on-the-track performance, and  to determine what car was the real champion.

    This was back in the early 90’s I believe. 

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I thought it was Car and Driver that did that.  Either way I agreed with them when they picked the Plymouth Lazer and Eagle Talon as winners of that little award for the TURBO AWD manual trans models.  Cheap and moved like stink. 

  • avatar

    I used a very similar excel spreadsheet in order to choose between A Volkswagen GTI, a Kia Optima Turbo, a Hyundai Sonata V6 coupe and a Mustang V6. My result was the same as yours. I purchased my Mustang V6 for 22K. My son wanted more technology, so he went with the GTI for $25K. I am using all the money I saved on my Mustang to improve the handling and shift points through americanmuscle.com. And yes, the mustang is wicked fast, and can definitely make the 0-60 time quoted. This is my 5th mustang since 1979, and is the best one yet.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Hey Guys.  I’m smiling cause I realize from this list that I could afford a stripped V6 Mustang. 

    BTW wouldn’t the number be better for the Sonata if you considered a base GLS model with a six-speed manual?  The MSRP on that sucker is right around $20,000. 

  • avatar
    Matthew Sullivan

    No,  it can’t be done.

    The main reason is that people can’t agree about what constitutes “performance”.

    For instance,  there are a couple of guys up there arguing about “0-60” vs “1/4 mile ET” as the sole measure of performance.

    I’d be more inclined to use a lap around a reference track as an all around measure of performance.  And since I’ve been daily driving Evos for almost 7 years,  I would want those to be wet laps. :-)

    Actually,  since I drive an Evo I would want to have the reference lap be around someplace like the bumpy,  terrible roads in Western Ireland (Ring of Kerry,  anyone?).   Smooth tracks favor overly stiff cars.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I’d settle for an ordinary well-maintained gravel track. My old rear-drive live-axle cars of choice (one with a locking rear… eek) might not fare so well, but it’d be great fun.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Agreed.  I bet using Nurburgring time in place of the 0-60 time would work well, or choose a shorter track with less straightaway to weed out high-speed supercars a little better.

  • avatar
    HalfMast

    I think you’re on to something, but I think it needs one more dimension… handling.  You can see by the above that it’s not quite right when the Yaris ranks above the Mazda3.  And than a 3 dimensional metric still isn’t so bad to calculate.  So I’d suggest:
    Cost
    Straight-line Performance (0-60 right now, but could be 1/4 mile instead)
    Handling (slalom or skid pad)
    Definitely logarithmic on the second two.

    And forget adding in reliability or braking.  This isn’t a bumper-to-bumper review, it’s a basic cost vs. performance analysis.

  • avatar

    Something that just measures 0-60 times is boring. But if that’s the goal, the formula has to take into account the law of diminishing returns. It’s important to me to have the sort of performance that gets you to 60 in 8 seconds or so; and 7 is even nicer, but beyond that I care less and less. At the longer end of the scale (more seconds to 60) shaving it is a lot more valuable.
    But This sort of thing just doesn’t capture the joy of driving; the wonderful music of a Boxster (not even an S, just a plain vanilla Boxster!), the incredibly sensitive and precise steering, the wonderful snick of the shifter. It’s a wonderfully refined piece of machinery, where, say a viper… well, I’ve never driven a viper,but I’m guessing that it’s extremely crude by comparison.
    After my Saturn bit the dust, for six weeks I had a rental impala while I was looking for a new car. The thing was pretty puissant with the six, and my ’99 Accord 4 cyl, when I finally found it, was not so much. But the engine responded more quickly, and it was much smoother than the Impala, and I was VERY happy (and still am).

    And that car was quite the bang for the buck: $5500 with a stick, 5 years old, and 67k on the clock.
     

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    I like your formula, except you should cube the 0-60 time and multiply by 10^6 instead of 10^5. That’ll put more emphasis on the small improvements on the faster side of the scale and de-weight cheap cars too slow to be serious fun.
    The best by this metric? Nissan GTR at around 0.41. Then Mustang GT at 0.31, Corvette at 0.28, Mustang V6 at 0.26, and so on.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    My first car did 0-60 in 17 seconds. But it was free. Therefore, my BFTB approaches infinity. Win!

  • avatar
    ...m...

    Presume 3 factors:

    – Price
    – Performance
    – Depreciation

    Price is straightforward; halving the price will double BFTB.
    Performance can use any convenient metric, but it scales geometrically, so doubling (or halving) its value will quadruple BFTB. I’ll use 0-60 acceleration in this example.
    Depreciation is a surrogate for maintenance costs, desireability, and that essential X-factor which makes a vehicle lustworthy.  I’ll use the ratio of current price divided by the market value for a 5-year/50,000-mile older model of the same vehicle, so doubling depreciation will halve BFTB.

    Let’s set a baseline real-world vehicle to cost $10,000, with a 0-60 time of 10 seconds, and to depreciate half its market value in five years.  To give a value of 1 for this baseline car, our formula is as follows:

    ($10,000) * (10 sec)^2 * ($10,000/$5,000)
    ———————————————
    (Price) * (Performance)^2 * (Depreciation)

    To simplify the formula:

    2,000,000 * (5-Year-Value)
    ——————————
    (Price)^2 * (Performance)^2

    Trust me, the math works.

    1.00 BFTB
    $10,000 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    2.00 BFTB
    $5,000 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    $10,000 Price – 7.1 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    $10,000 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 0% Depreciation
    4.00 BFTB
    $2,500 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    $10,000 Price – 5.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    $10,000 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 100% Appreciation

    Mixed factors measure nicely this way, too.

    4.00 BFTB
    $5,000 Price – 7.1 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 50% Depreciation
    $5,000 Price – 10.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 0% Depreciation
    $10,000 Price – 7.1 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 0% Depreciation

    So let’s look at the original real-world examples, using NADA to calculate Depreciation:

    1.83 BFTB – Ford Mustang V6
    $22,145 Price – 5.6 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 36% Depreciation
    1.87 BFTB – Subaru Impreza WRX
    $25,495 Price – 5.2 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 35% Depreciation
    1.57 BFTB – Chevrolet Camaro V6
    $22,680 Price – 6.0 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 36% Depreciation (Speculative)
    1.96 BFTB – Ford Mustang GT
    $29,145 Price – 4.8 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 34% Depreciation
    1.32 BFTB – Mazda Mazdaspeed 3
    $23,700 Price – 6.4 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 36% Depreciation (Speculative)
    1.37 BFTB – Hyundai Genesis 3.8 R-Spec Coupe
    $26,750 Price – 5.9 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 36% Depreciation (Speculative)
    0.99 BFTB – Hyundai Sonata SE
    $24,345 Price – 6.5 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 49% Depreciation (Speculative)
    0.88 BFTB – Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
    $27,695 Price – 5.8 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 59% Depreciation
    0.69 BFTB – Kia Optima SX
    $25,995 Price – 6.5 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 62% Depreciation (Speculative)
    0.95 BFTB – Honda Accord Coupe EX-L
    $29,730 Price – 6.3 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 44% Depreciation (Speculative)
    0.85 BFTB – Mazda Mazda 6 S Grand Touring
    $29,320 Price – 6.4 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 49% Depreciation
    0.95 BFTB – Corvette ZR1
    $111,100 Price – 3.4 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 39% Depreciation (Speculative)
    0.12 BFTB – Bugatti Veyron
    $1700000 – 2.5 Seconds 0-60 Performance – 38% Depreciation (Speculative)

    This formula actually gives a pretty fair assessment of real-world bang-for-the-buck comparisons, even at higher performance levels – run the numbers for the basic Covette, Elise, MX-5, 911, or Cayman for a sense of its utlity.  Obviously, the Performance value can be tweaked to reflect whatever metric suits one’s tastes, be it road course times, quarter-mile, stopping distance, slalom, or any combination thereof.  The point is that it works, and works well!

  • avatar
    John R

    Found a typo:
     

    Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring
    6.4
    29320
    0.533

    Nissan GT-R (2012)
    3
    96100
    0.347

    Corvette ZR1
    3.4
    111100
    0.265

    3

     

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Interesting formula. I like it. For the record:
    Kawasaki ZX-10R
    0-60: 3.2s
    MSRP: $13800
    BFTB (Baruth formula):2.264

    Hm. Let’s try again.
    Kawasaki Ninja 250R
    0-60: 7.7s
    MSRP: $4000
    BFTB: 3.24
     
    Yeah, seems about right.

     

  • avatar
    wsn

    Here is what I propose:

    BFTB = sqrt(N)*(2^(S/10))/A/P, where
    N = number of seats (need to give credit to extra seats)
    S = slalom in mph (such that BFTB doubles for every 10mph improvement)
    A = 0-60 in seconds
    P = price in $1k

    Some examples:
    Veyron: 0.04 (yeah, that’s what you get when you cost 1.7M for sub 70mph slalom)
    STI: 1.5
    Camry V6 SE: 1.2
    Mustang: 0.87 (similar to the Camry, only with fewer seats)

    Most of the raw data are from Edmunds Insideline.

  • avatar

    0-60 is a shit measure of a car’s performance.

    Example – the WRX may beat many cars from 0-60 but gets eaten alive by any good V6 sedan in the 50-70 or 0-120, never mind top speed category.

    A better metric would be a given lap time at a given track – this accounts for handling, braking, acceleration and top end power

    suggest comparing at fastestlaps.com or some other site like that.

  • avatar
    carve

    Since we’re looking at somewhat normal cars, I think this would be better if it used a somewhat normal driving style. Without side-stepping the clutch at redline the WRX doesn’t have such a great 0-60. How about 5-60 instead.

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