Analyze This: Cars of 2018

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
analyze this cars of 2018

Year-end lists are great. Music-themed roundups of the last twelve months rock, no pun intended. You know what’s the best, though? Exactly. Stories of this ilk which focus on cars.

Because he is a total anorak with an unhealthy interest in data, your author kept a spreadsheet of the 39 local press fleet machines which passed through his slovenly hands during 2018, not counting First Drives occurring in other locations.

Microsoft Excel is responsible for indigestion for many, but fear not: we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. What rig was the most powerful? Which one was the lardbutt? Are there any performance trends emerging? Did Excel make Matthew’s computer crash again?

The answer to that last one is an emphatic “yes.”

A few notes before we dive into The Good Stuff. Five metrics were tracked all year: horsepower, weight, fuel economy, price, and acceleration. The first two measures were taken straight from manufacturer data sheets. Mileage is derived from my own observations over a week’s driving. Price is the car’s window sticker in Canadian dollars.

Wait, wait: hang on. Before you protest too loudly that those prices are no good to you, consider that a good many machines here in The Great White North have options packages different from those south of the border. Trying to duplicate comparable Monroneys for 39 cars would be a lengthy and ultimately futile exercise. The upside: if the Land Rover Discovery was the most expensive machine of 2018 in Canada, it would have been so in the States as well. Price differentials between the 39 cars shown here are roughly the same on both sides of the 49th parallel.

As for acceleration, it will not surprise you to learn TTAC does not possess professional testing equipment. There are plenty of third wheels, however. But the metric is important. With that in mind, we took acceleration data for these vehicles from a major buff book. Using a single source means these numbers were collected by the same testers using the same testing procedures, which eliminates some variables.

With that out of the way, let’s check out what 2018 (and the fleet guy) delivered over the last 12 months. We’ve sprinkled this post with charts we thought you lot would find interesting.

Max, Min, & Median

The 2018 median test vehicle – a fictional construct representing the exact middle of those 39 cars – weighed 3,895 lbs, packed 254 horsepower, averaged 23.3 mpg, and cost $50,650. Going with the buff book’s acceleration numbers, it would’ve scuttled to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds.

I know; I was surprised by that horsepower number too. Double- and triple-checking proved it to be correct. Blame an influx of crossovers, most of which make power in the low- to mid-200 range. The big winner was the 460 hp Mustang GT, while the laggard was a diminutive Yaris Hatchback (making just 106 ponies).

Using buff book numbers, the launch controlled all-wheel drive Audi TT RS sang a glorious five-cylinder song to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds – best of the lot. Close behind was the hairy-chested Mustang GT, whose Line Lock function I deployed with glee (closed environment, etc.) Sadly, a few rigs still inhabit the Ten Second Club, including the Subaru Crosstrek, which is an otherwise pleasant machine.

The heavyset lad was, unsurprisingly, the Chevy Suburban RST (5,808 lbs), which we tested on these pages earlier this autumn. This group’s lightweight was the aforementioned Yaris Hatch, ever so slightly eking out the fresh MX-5 by just a few pounds. Six of the 39 weighed less than 3,000 lbs, according to their manufacturer.

Cars of 2018 – Curb Weights

Here’s a quick hit of the extreme measures for each category:

  • Most Expensive: Land Rover Discovery
  • Heaviest: Chevrolet Suburban RST
  • Most Frugal: Honda Insight
  • Quickest: Audi TT RS
  • Most Powerful: Ford Mustang GT

The Decadent Ones

Those who are the life of the Christmas party are sometimes the guests which are the loudest, hardest partying, and wear the best clothes – cost be damned. An octet of extroverts landed on the “fun” sides of all metrics, which is to say they were lighter than average but also had more horsepower and better acceleration than the median.

It’s a list that reads like a good many dream garages: Audi TT RS, Mustang GT w/Performance Pack, and Kia Stinger GT. Guess what? Their prices were all above the average, too. The Mazda MX-5 should get an honorable mention here, as its 181 hp was not enough to land in the top half of our measure but easily aced the other two metrics while pegging the grin meter.

Dangerous Curves

You’re familiar with the phenomenon of “grading on the curve,” right? It involves shifting class expectations to align with real-world performance, so a teacher isn’t left trying to answer the headmaster’s stern questions of why all their students are getting C grades.

For this exercise, let’s assume that the top 7 percent of a class gets an A, the next 24 percent receives a B, and the middle 38 percent earn a C mark. This leaves the next 24 percent with a lowly D, while the bottom 7 percent get to come back next year. If you don’t like that scale, feel free to make your own. Or simply complain in the comments.

This chart is a synopsis of the curve for these five metrics. Around here, assume that cheaper, faster, and more powerful are better.

The Curve – 2018

For a car to get straight As in 2018, it would have to weigh less than 2,578 lbs, have more than 435 horsepower, and scamper to 60mph in fewer than 4.1 seconds while getting better than 37 mpg and costing less than roughly $26,000. Sadly, the chances of a car with all those qualities getting built is about equal to all hands in Washington agreeing on something.

Individually, however, these numbers prove a point and are often the standards by which we judge a car – whether we realize it or not. Our data suggests anything taking more than 9.9 seconds to run from a standstill to 60 mph gets a failing grade; we think most customers would agree. Similarly, a vehicle returning fewer than 15 mpg flunks our class. Not a lot of people would accept that statistic from their daily driver, either.

Rule Breakers

Naturally, there were one or two cars in 2018 which refused to play by the rules. If we take our grading scale at face value, the superb Mazda MX-5 would completely bomb the horsepower test. Anyone who’s driven the 2019 model with its 181 horses will agree the little convertible most emphatically does not fail any performance metric. Interior storage, maybe. But not performance.

This aberration is more likely chalked up to an abundance of ponies in even the most milquetoast of family vehicles. From our sample size, the median number of 254 hp is (logically) a solid “C” performance, a number which is inflated by rigs like the Chrysler Pacifica and VW Atlas making nearly 300 horsepower.

Good job no Hellcats or Trackhawks were put in our fleet; they would’ve skewed the data to hell altogether.

Here’s to Next Year!

It’ll be interesting to compare this data to next year’s cars. Until then, enjoy the remainder of 2018!

[Images: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Dec 23, 2018

    BRN's post above had me wondering something when he asked about the steep price difference between Mustang GTs. I don't know if brn is in Canada or the USA, but figured it might be worth it to ask. Car prices in the USA, on their most basic level, do not factor in taxes, license and fees. If a car is listed at $25k I would pay that plus whatever the local sales tax is based on my address. If I bought a $25k vehicle and lived in St. Paul, MN I would pay $25k+7.875%, the same vehicle bought based on an Eagan, MN address would be $25k+7.125%, and in Wisconsin would be $25k+5.5%. Does Canada do the same thing, or do car prices advertised reflect all applicable taxes?

    • Brn Brn on Dec 23, 2018

      tankinbeans, US. MN actually. The sales tax (in MN) would be dependent on the city, so your St Paul vs Eagan example is correct. There are also State licensing. This is putting aside all the BS fees that the dealers add (from documentation fees to destination charges). These fees drive me crazy. I should pay for the price of the vehicle, plus tax and licensing. Anything else you want me to pay for should be baked into the price of the car.

  • NG5 NG5 on Dec 23, 2018

    Power to weight ratio would likely make more consistent sense than separate HP and weight measures.

  • Theflyersfan As a kid, a neighbor had one of these full-sized conversion vans with the TV and wet bar in the back. And it was so cool to go in - as a kid it was, driving it had to be terror at times with blind spots, iffy power and brakes, and the feeling that you're hauling your living room with you! Kids of the 1970s and 1980s had this experience. Afterwards with minivans and then CUV everything, not so much.And I'm crushed that a 1977 van doesn't have some kind of mural on the sides. Coyote howling at the moon, American flag, Confederate flag, bright stripes, something! You can't have a 1970's era van with plain sides! At least a "Don't Laugh. Your daughter's in here" bumper sticker on the back. I always get a Gacy or Bundy vibe with these vans...
  • Jeff S In the EV market Tesla is not a niche player it is the major player. According to the latest data of the California-based vehicle valuation and automotive research company  Kelley Blue Book, Tesla has the lion’s share with 75 percent market share in  the electric vehicle market in the first three months of 2022.Tesla has dominated the electric vehicle market for years in the United States. The electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla accounted for 79 percent of the new electric vehicles registered in the United States in 2020 and 69,95 percent in 2021. The decrease in the market share in 2021 might be explained by backlogs and the global chip shortage, but the company is ramping up its sales and has already increased its market share to 75 percent in the first quarter of the year. According to Kelley Blue Book, the top 10 EVs sold in the US in the first quarter of 2022 are;[list=1][*]Tesla Model Y[/*][*]Tesla Model 3[/*][*]Ford Mustang Mach-E[/*][*]Tesla Model X[/*][*]Hyundai Ioniq 5[/*][*]Kia EV6[/*][*]Tesla Model S[/*][*]Nissan Leaf[/*][*]Kia Niro[/*][*]Audi e-Tron[/*][/list=1]Tesla has delivered 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, another first-quarter record. The success of Tesla is proven once again as the company has three electric cars in the top 10 most selling electric vehicles in the United States, while no other manufacturer has even two different models on the list.Tesla leads all others, selling slightly over 936,000 units in 2021. This gave the company a market share of nearly 14%.Mar 30, 2022https://interestingengineering.com/transportation/tesla-ev-market-75-percent-market-share
  • Jeff S I did not know Plymouth had a full size van prior to the mini vans. I did know about the Plymouth pickups and the Trail Duster.
  • Arthur Dailey When I grew tired of the T-Bird trying to kill me by refusing to start at the most inconvenient times/places, I replaced it with a '79 fullsized Dodge (Sportsman) van. Similar to this but with a different grille and rectangular headlights. The 4 'captains' chairs in my van were pretty much identical to the ones in this van. Mine certainly was not as nicely finished inside. And it was a handful to drive in snow/ice. One thing that strikes me about this van is that although a conversion it does not seem to have the requisite dark tint on the windows.
  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
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