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The Real Truth About Zero to Sixty Stats

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On paper, your car’s time needed to go from 0 to 60 mph may be impressive. But your car may not be the drag racing beast you thought it would be.

For decades, ever since the 1950s, young drivers have always had a need for speed that only a fast car can provide. There’s always that thrill of stopping at a red light, and then wondering whether you can beat the car sitting next to yours. Sometimes you may even find yourself in an impromptu drag race when the light turns green. It’s great when you win, and it’s frustrating when you lose.

It’s this kind of thrill that makes lots of potential car buyers take a very long look at the stat sheet of the car they want to buy. More specifically, you may find yourself focusing on the numbers for zero to 60.

But this number is actually deceptive. In the real world, you may find it either impossible to replicate with your own car, or you’d have to really abuse the car to match these purported results.

The Reality of Car Magazine Tests

There are several possible reasons why a car magazine’s test results or the car brand’s supposed 0-60 results are impossible to match when you use your own car.

  • In just about all these car magazine tests, the manufacturer provided a special car. This car may have components and added features that you don’t normally have on the car you actually bought.
  • The car magazine reviewers then treat this car in an extremely abusive manner that it’s almost sadistic and criminal in nature. If the car was an animal, these car test guys would be in jail. But they mistreat the car because it’s not actually theirs. They return the car to the manufacturer. The car test guys then won’t have to live with the damage they caused, like the bent shift forks, the sheared CV joints, and the mangled engine mounts.
  • The figures and times they get are also “massaged”, to account for the standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
  • Finally, they don’t actually start the timer when the car is at zero. The car goes through a foot of forward motion before the timer actually starts. This is called the rollout.

What the Heck is the Rollout?

In drag racing, the car is about 12 inches off the line that trips the timing light. So, they cross that space forward before the timer starts.

Car magazines then used a similar method of testing the 0-60 time, simply to match the time the car might achieve in your local drag strip. Over the years, car magazines maintained this standard to keep the 0-to-60 times consistent.

That means this 0-60 time isn’t actually measuring from when the car is at a standstill. That means it’s not really showing you how quickly the car can speed up when it’s stopped at a red light.

Other Potential Issues

How your car performs at these stoplight drag races may also not be quite as impressive as the official 0-60 time might indicate. Potential problems include the following:

  • Turbo lag, when there’s a slight hesitation in the throttle response when you step on the gas
  • Powertrain computers may be slow to respond
  • The built-in traction-control systems may be overly aggressive
  • The transmission may be programed for shift comfort, despite the wide-open throttle

Real World Examples

All these reasons are why some supposedly quick cars don’t do as well with these real-life drag races.

Take the latest BMW X2 M35i as an example. On paper, it has a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. But this car isn’t really all that impressive on the street.

First of all, BMW purposely put in a delay in the X2’s accelerator pedal. So, there’s a slight hesitation in the computer response to the flooring of the gas pedal. After that, you still have turbo lag to deal with.

Because of these issues, forget about trying to match up with a 5L Mustang Bullitt. On paper, it should be close, with the Ford Mustang’s 4.4 seconds from 0 to 60 only a bit better than the X2’s 4.6 seconds. But on the road, it’s just no contest when you start from a dead stop.

In fact, the X2’s performance in IRL is so unimpressive that you probably will end up being embarrassed by a Honda Odyssey minivan, which may keep up with the X2. This particular minivan can even show up the legendary Subaru WRX STI at the stoplight with the Subie’s 5.3 seconds for 0-60.

Looking at the 5-60 Test Figures

To compensate for these inconsistencies, some car magazines have now switched or have added what they call their 5-60 test. The timer starts the very moment you step on the gas pedal, so it reflects what you actually get in the real-world stoplight race. It also uses non-abusive methods for accelerating.

The results are very telling, as the times for the cars we’ve mentioned here can be very different than their supposed 0-60 test figures.

  • Ford 5L Mustang Bullitt – 5 seconds
  • BMW X2 M35i – 6.4 seconds
  • Honda Odyssey minivan – 6.6 seconds
  • Subaru WRX STI – 7 seconds

So, if you ever want to race your car at these impromptu drag races, check out the 5-to-60 test figures instead!

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