Of the four major auto-buff monthlies, I subscribe to three, and for the first time I can remember, all three of them arrived on the same day. So I had lots of fresh statistics to examine, and at some point, I found myself thinking, Does anybody really give a damn about zero to sixty?
Well, obviously the guys (or girl, in the case of Automobile) who run these mags think so, or they wouldn’t keep hammering away at it month after month. I did a quick scan of Car and Driver’s Road Test Digest, and the 0-60 numbers vary over nearly a six-to-one range: the Bugatti Veyron does the deed in a stirringly-negligible 2.5 seconds, while the smart fortwo in Passion trim will take a sluglike 14.4. (The online version hasn’t been updated all year. Go figure.)
Even allowing for the grandly-general “faster is better,” what’s fast enough? Sandy, my late, lamented Mazda 626, saddled with a tiny (just under 2.0 liters) four-banger and a Ford slushbox, was rated by the manufacturer at 12.5 seconds, easily the worst showing of any 2000 mid-sized sedan. It didn’t seem that slow, I thought, and once I actually attempted to do the measurement; I came up with 11.6, which does not inspire anyone but which didn’t sound quite so slow. And truth be told, I never felt the car was all that slow, especially since it didn’t complain much with the revs up. (The maximum 130 ponies could be had at 5500 rpm, a thousand short of the redline; above 6000, the little engine mostly processed gasoline into noise.)
Still: what’s fast enough? Only once have I seen this addressed in a car mag: in an early-80s (I think) issue of C/D, in which L. J. K. Setright explained why he’d bought a Volkswagen Scirocco: one reason, he said, was that it met his requirement of zero to sixty in ten seconds. The Scirocco, back then, was considered speedy. Nowadays, family sedans break nine seconds; give them six cylinders and they’ll break eight, even seven.
Before you ask: Gwendolyn knocks out 0-60 in about eight seconds, though I haven’t put a stopwatch on her.