Hooniverse Asks: What’s Your Most Meaningful Automotive Performance Metric?

The Shelby 427 Cobra legendarily could do 0-100-0 in under 14 seconds. That’s a stat worthy of bragging rights, but holds little real world, or racing, worth. Envisioned as a track car without compromise, perhaps a better benchmark might have been acceleration out of a corner, or maybe just straight line speed. And yes, I know that’s a 289 Slab Side up there. 
The most common performance metrics do seem to have little relevance in the real world. 0 to 60? Quarter mile time through the traps? Usually I’m climbing a ramp when I’m heading toward freeway speeds, do they ever account for that? I’m more interested in how quickly a car would go from 50 to 70 so I’ll know whether or not to pass those slow-ass trucks.
What do you think, are most automotive performance metrics bogus? What ones are important to you?
Image: Car Builder Index 


  1. Car and Driver has been using a 5-60 mph metric for a while. To me, it makes more sense than a 0 mph transmission-killing off-the-line launch.

    1. But these give an incomplete picture of performance without knowing other factors. 14″ discs do not have the slowing effect on a 9000lb HD pickup truck as they would on a 3500lb sports car, for example.

  2. I like 80-120 km/h (50-75 mph) acceleration time because it is representative of overtaking on a two-lane road.
    Bogus – 0-60 mph times “with roll-out”. There is no roll-out in zero!

    1. Rollout isn’t completely bogus. It replicates the starting conditions on a dragstrip, where the car blocks a beam of light with its front wheel at the starting line and doesn’t unblock the beam to start the clock till it moves about a foot forward. (Or till it picks up the wheel in the case of the Challenger Demon.)

      1. I know what roll-out is and I completely agree, but only for the quarter mile (or 1/8 mile). But not for zero to whatever speed timing. You don’t get a 0-60 time at the drag strip! Nobody but US magazines do it, and they apply a completely arbitrary time. As tonyola observed if you want to do that, measure 5-60 mph and don’t pretend.

        1. I’m actually fine with it even for 0-something measurements. It may be arbitrary but it’s fairly consistent and repeatable.

  3. Passing times, both top gear and maximum-effort (the latter of which is all you get in an automatic).
    0-60 is almost irrelevant except for bragging rights.
    1/4 mile trap speed is a bit more relevant, as that informs me how easily a car will be able to get up to highway speed on an on-ramp.

  4. MSRP (and rebates), Used Values, maybe HP. Can really tell a lot more by just driving the car.

  5. 0-60 is the first metric I look at, although the first car I bought with my own money, Renault 4cv, had a 0-60…wait its top speed was 59mph. I would like to find a car that weighed a little over 2k pounds with 260hp much like the Cobra in the R&T test panel. I love the old R&T test panels, they look great framed, especially the April editions.

  6. Rear hip room. This sets the tone for tranquility on any car trip with my two offspring lasting more than three minutes. The easier it is for them to touch each other, the worse day I’m going to have. I nearly bought a 3 row SUV or van for the ability to add an additional dimension between them.

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever really paid attention to any advertised numbers other than $$$$$$$

  8. No performance numbers other than lap times mean much IMO. Acceleration takes a distant back seat to handling characteristics, which unfortunately aren’t very well represented by skidpad numbers. For me, it’s more about the subjective than the objective. Some of my all-time favorite cars are slow by today’s standards but provide such great driver feedback that I prefer their modest limits.

    1. Concur and this is why I bought my IS300 instead of the G35 I was also looking at. The IS was quite a lot slower, but just felt so much better. Connected and responsive.

  9. Go to the dealer, park your butt in the seat, and take it for a decently long test drive. Numbers are good, but nothing is as good as seeing how you enjoy driving it. If it doesn’t make you smile in some way, then forget it.

  10. actually, some time spent in a pick a part yard observing chosen vehicle failure modes is enlightening. i am constantly surprised by the number of transmission failures and cars just run until junk with out any attempt to do even minimal maintenance during their life. found a 5 series bmw with clay like oil in the top end and rod bearings that looked like sunflower petals. manual transmissions which had a belly full of gear dust and not a drop of oil in them. majority of engine failures were found to be stuck rings-can not imagine how that would have happened-or timing belts/chains gone away and valvetrain trashed.
    the numbers the factory puts out are a good thing to see, but a dose of reality helps too.

  11. That is most assuredly not a 289 Cobra in the picture. There were no 289 Cobras when that article was published, they were all still powered by 260 ci engines.

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