There was a guy we knew in college who threw up a lot – let’s call him “Chunky.” Chunky had a mathematical formula that became known as “The Chunky Quotient” – it was the percentage alcohol of a bottle of something, multiplied by the total volume of the bottle, divided by its cost. It was a handy way to figure out the most economical way of getting… chunky.
I have long tried to do the same thing with cars. Take the top speed, divide by the zero to 60 time, and then divide by the purchase price. It should give you something in units of mph per second per dollar, and be a handy way to figure out the most economical way of getting… arrested.
Except that it doesn’t quite work. You see, speed is a matter of perception. My 1982 Porsche 930 was the fastest car to 60 in its day (5.0s) mostly because you could get there in first gear. That’s only a fraction faster than a modern top-spec Toyota Camry. But oh Lordy, does it feel a lot faster. In the 930, a lot of things are happening at once: first there’s no power, then there’s too much, then the steering wheel starts to squiggle around, then there’s a bunch of noise, then the needle’s at sixty, then the police are pulling you over. In the Camry there’s…sixty. Not the same thing.
Or compare the top two of our Top 5 Fastest Under $100,000 from above. Number 2, the Nissan GT-R, is a twin-turbo V-6 with all-wheel-drive, launch control, and the computing power of the chess computer that beat Kasparov. To accelerate fast, you use launch control, which involves putting the car in gear, pressing the left paddle three times slowly, then the right paddle three times fast, then entering your high score on Call of Duty Black Ops 67, then handing the game controller to the kid in the passenger seat, then mashing the gas. And somewhere just under three seconds you’ll be at sixty.
Whereas with the SRT Viper, you put the big clunky Tremec six-speed into first, rev up the ridiculous normally-aspirated V-10, and dump the clutch connecting the engine directly to the two enormous rear tires and hold on. If you’re very, very good at it, you may get to sixty in just under three seconds. But holy smokes it feels like you’re doing a lot of living in those three seconds.
Either car is guaranteed to get you pulled over a lot. Heck, I got pulled over in the Viper in Los Angeles for not breaking the law. The cop said that it looked like I was about to break the law. You don’t really get that in your Camry.
Three of the cars on our list – the GT-R, Viper, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG – are just under our $100,000 limit. The Corvette is about three-quarters of the way there at $76,000. But the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is amazing value at about $55,000. Sure it’s less high-tech than the GT-R, less balanced than the Corvette Z06, less polished than the AMG, and less extroverted than the Viper. But if Chunky were here today, he’d point out that the Shelby is actually your quickest car, dollar-for-dollar.
And me? Well, I love the Viper for its swagger, and I appreciate the GT-R for its technology. I like the Z06 a lot but I’ve never been one for “track”-spec packages on the street. The Mustang is just a little too blunt for me, although I love the value it represents.
Nope, you’d find me in the #5 car – the E63 AMG. Because it’s classy, but still a sledgehammer. Because road cars should be excellent at hustling you down the road. And because the cops will pull me over a lot less for almost breaking the law.