Welcome back to my 3 part series asking “Have performance cars maxed out?”. In part 1 we discussed top speed, and part 2 finds us reviewing acceleration.
If you’re an avid reader of GTspirit, it’s quite likely you have flattened the accelerator pedal on your car on one or more occasions; almost certainly several times. So you are familiar with the orgasmic rush that comes from accelerating in a motorcar as fast as the car can manage, no? Depending on what you drive, the experience can range from public road naughtiness to full-blown adrenaline explosion.
Acceleration is the main performance aspect of cars that most people are addicted to. The one aspect discussed the most, certainly more than handling or braking, but also way more than top speed simply because most of us, except for those who may hit the track days, never hit the top speed in our cars. Acceleration is a drug, and we all accept it and are seduced by it happily.
So when the newest and meanest hypercar or track car hits the market with new and exciting claims of 0-60mph (0-100kph/0-62mph) times that are allegedly faster than previous figures attained by previous vehicles, well, we just get plain giddy.
But, have you paused to ask yourself “Why?”, and more to the point, “Where does this end?”
Just like top speed, acceleration has it’s limits in the production car world. Why? Well, just like top speed, acceleration is exponential; for every 0.1 second you want to shave off an already fast 0-60 time, you need exponentially more “everything” the faster and faster you want to go.
Currently, a few hypercar makers claim their top offerings can manage 0-60 in 2.5 seconds or so. Bugatti being the most revered of the carmakers making that claim with their Veyron and Veyron SS. And I call it a “claim” because, if I’m honest, I don’t buy it. The Veyron is a seriously heavy car for what it is. Which do you think gets moving from a standstill quicker, a racehorse or a racing greyhound? And even then, very fast 0-60 times vary wildly depending on track condition, tire temperature, weather and driver, among other things. Let’s also remember that Bugatti, VW really, boasted the Veyron SS as being capable of 269mph or so but limited production versions to 259mph to “protect the tyres” – that’s code for “the Veyron SS really doesn’t hit 269mph” in my book. I suspect their claims of acceleration are “embellished” as well.
As for more likely claims of 2.5 seconds (or faster) to 60mph, this is where I stand firmly behind the Ariel Atom V8. It weighs less than a bicycle and has 500bhp or so; the calling cards for insane acceleration. Sure, the same conditions that affect 0-60 times for any car are certainly present with the Atom V8, but all the pieces are in place for me to believe Ariel’s claim is possible.
Speculation is also rampant about McLaren’s latest P1 hypercar dealing with 0-60 in 2.3 seconds or so. While that’s not officially claimed, let alone confirmed, by McLaren, it’s not entirely unlikely based on further speculation about the P1′s other specs. We’ll see.
But as we briefly discussed in Part 1, humankind has managed far more than just the commercial production car market can claim on all subjects; several decades ago in fact. Fighter jets launch off of carriers in way faster times than 2.3 seconds to 60mph, experimental research rocket sleds of the US Air Force even faster than that, and let’s just gloss over what NASA has done as the utter lack of air friction in space makes acceleration claims not directly comparable.
But what of motorsport? As before, Top Fuel Drag Racing once again shows us that internal combustion engines and the standard car configuration, albeit radically modified, can catapult a driver to 60 mph as fast as 0.7 seconds. Or put another way, “0-60mph in 3/4 of a second”. Of course, Top Fuel Dragsters are estimated to have 8,000 to 10,000bhp, which is the type of power production cars will never achieve, and acceleration of that sort generates so many G forces that a Top Fuel driver needs years of physical conditioning to avoid blacking out on a run. It’s said that the acceleration of a Top Fuel dragster could literally kill a driver, such as myself, who isn’t conditioned for such a launch (not that I’d be in the driver’s seat to begin with, but I digress).
So that brings us to the point of this installment: Where does acceleration increasing end for production cars? Or have we already hit the end? Perhaps 2.3 seconds to 60mph is plenty fast enough, and it’s just silly to try for quicker? After all, as 0-60 times decrease, G forces increase exponentially. Anyone who’s ever used Launch Mode on, say, an MP4-12C or similar knows the rush from the acceleration of a relatively tame time of the claimed 3.3 seconds to 60mph. So at what point does a production car’s acceleration capabilities put the driver in danger of a G force induced lack of consciousness?
Let’s drop another second from the average “fastest claims”, and say 1.5 seconds. Well, again, don’t overlook the maths. 1.5 seconds to 60mph requires a lot, a whole whole whole lot more power (to weight ratio), torque and grip than a run of 2.5 seconds to 60mph. Even then, would the average hypercar/track car owner be physically capable of staying conscious on that sort of über launch mode? (Yes, I’m aware some roller coasters achieve this, but if you do your research you’ll find that some folks have blacked out or nearly blacked out on said coasters.)
Now, I hate to even mention it, but an American automotive engineering company, TranStar Racing, is claiming exactly that with their allegedly upcoming hypercar, the Dagger GT: 1.5 seconds to 60mph. (Actually, they claim faster than that, as you can see on their website: http://www.gtr-xs.com/specifications.htm – Note that their “specifications” are labeled “goals”.) The reason I hesitate to mention the Dagger GT is because the claims made by TranStar are so extreme that I’m just not buying it – not for a production car. No way, no how. They also have the audacity to claim a 315mph top speed, which would mean the Dagger GT trumps the Veyron SS and the Ariel Atom V8 in both of their respective “top claims” by a long, long shot, so one should be careful to take TranStar with a grain of salt. And to answer those who may support the Dagger GT’s claims, I am aware that such performance is possible in a vehicle – but just not in a drivable, manageable and road-legal one, sorry.
In summation: I firmly doubt we can decrease 0-60 times by much more in production vehicles in a manner that will even approach practicality and common sense. Not because of the limitations of automotive engineers, but by the limitations of humans. Specially, human bodies.
What do you think?
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