QOTD: How Do You Measure Fast?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Did you notice that TTAC was short one article by yours truly this week? Probably not — but if you did, allow me to explain the reason. I’ve spent the entire week doing testing for Road & Track’s Performance Car Of The Year issue. Today, I drove 10 mostly brilliant and remarkably capable vehicles against the clock around the NCM West course, ranging from a Honda Civic Type R to a Lamborghini Huracan Performante and a McLaren 720S.

I think that a lap around NCM West is a good indicator of a car’s speed, insofar as it includes everything from a straight-line drag race to some unpleasant off-camber turns that can send a car sideways at freeway speeds or well above. If you asked me how fast a car was, I would suggest you let me drive it around NCM West — only then would I be able to tell you.

Since doing that is expensive and often impractical, most people measure automotive speed the old-fashioned way: they read Car and Driver. But that still doesn’t settle the issue: what is the proper yardstick of automotive pace?

Two weeks ago, I told you that I believed the new Camry to be wickedly fast and very possibly the fastest four-cylinder Japanese family sedan on the market. This week, Tim Cain told you that the Camry isn’t that quick, and he used some data from C/D to do it. A few of my readers used the same data in responding to my comments as well.

I don’t think 0-60 means anything in the context of modern automobiles. Most freeways in this country nowadays run at 75-90 when the road ahead is clear of traffic and law enforcement. Which suggests that the quarter-mile is a better measurement — but that time can be heavily affected by traction off the line.

After some thought, I’ve come to believe that trap speed at the end of the quarter is all that really matters for street-driven cars. It’s rare for me to exceed 110 mph on the street nowadays, because I’m a sad old man who wants to watch his son graduate from high school. If you can tell me how quickly a car gets to 120 mph or so, that’s all I want to know. Since quarter-mile trap speed is more widely reported than 0-120 times, that’s good enough for me.

What about you? Do you use 0-60 times to bench race? Quarter-miles? Corrected or uncorrected? Do you trust your local dragstrip more than the math-adjusted results at the major magazines? Or are you patiently waiting for me to tell you how the new six-speed Porsche GT3 handles that long front straight at NCM?

[Image: Ivan Kurmyshov/ Bigstock]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • The Soul of Wit The Soul of Wit on Sep 23, 2017

    To me....quick means real-world quick. Like Jack, my supra-100 MPH days are behind me....but I need the ability to zip from 30 to 75 to pass the occasional tractor or preacher's wife on our Indiana two-laners and county roads, and get the pass done before I hit the oncoming combine or school bus. My C300 Benz has the gumption and then some to do that in spades, thankfully. "Seems" quicker in that test than either of my 5.0 Mustangs I had previously. But maybe that's just because my Benz handles such tasks with the droll aplomb of a jaded RAF pilot during the blitz. It's quick without seeming to hurry....we've revved nearly to redline a tick after planting my right foot...by comparison, my Mustangs felt like they were in a panic.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Sep 25, 2017

    0-60 or 1/4 mile TIMES are a measure of how quick a car is. The trap speed is a decent indicator of "fast" but how well a car can negotiate a track is a better indicator of how fast it is overall. If you want to be able to merge easily you need a quick car. It doesn't matter if the top speed is 110mph or 210mph, just that it gets to freeway speeds in a reasonably short time. If you want to run on the autobahn you need a relatively fast car. You don't want a car that goes 0-60 in 4 seconds flat but tops out at 85mph. JMHO anyway the different between fast and quick. Since it was asked.

  • 2ACL Too much, but at least it can get out of its own way. One adjustment I don't think I'll ever make to the modern automobile is sub-160 hp beyond $25k.
  • MaintenanceCosts The black wheel arches and rocker trim are ghastly. Looks like to get them in body color you have to downgrade to the N Line. And you can't get a 360-degree camera on the N Line. Oh well, I'm not a compact CUV customer anyway.
  • Gray Where is Subaru on the list? They build them in Indiana. NASCAR should field the Legacy sedan to go up against Toyota.
  • Redapple2 H-K Styling. May not be my cup of tea but they re trying. Gripe. This would be a deal breaker. Door cut out - seat postion - 'B' pillar. I m over 6'. So the driver's seat is towards full back position. Rental Equinox last week. 1100 miles. The seat bottom to seat back point was 8 inches behind and around the 'B' pillar. I had to be contortionist to get in and out of the car. Brutal POS. Wife's Forester? Nearly equal/flush. I ve never seen 1 car review where they complain about this.
  • Lou_BC In my town the dealers are bad for marking up products, even pickups. There were multiple "mega-projects" on the go in my region so money was flowing fast and loose both by corporations and employees. All of that is coming to an end plus we've seen a pulpmill close, one pulpmill line close and a few sawmill closures. Cash is getting tight.