Today’s carbon fiber twin charged hybrid electric supercars offer the highest top speeds and the quickest acceleration runs in the history of the commercial automobile. And yet they may be the slowest cars ever sold.
We’re well aware that modern supercars have exceeded our standard measurements of automotive performance. Traction control, launch control, electric motors and all-wheel drive have helped cement that their 0-60 times are bullshit measures of speed, well and truly gamed by now.
And we know that their top speeds are impossibly high. The only place to get to the Bugatti Veyron’s top speed is on Volkswagen’s private property, and they’re very stingy about who gets to use it. Seeking out the top speed on your own terms is either illegal or impossible.
A different metric is much more interesting to me, possibly because I made it up the other night when I was walking home from the subway:
Average Life Speed.
This is the the average speed a vehicle travels over its entire lifetime, and I think it’s the measure that most exposes how supercars get used.
A LaFerrari, for instance, may have a few owners who will take their cars out on alpine passes and powerslide them like they were in a movie. But even those cars are very rare drives.
Most of the time these cars will sit in garages, and that’s in a best-case scenario. It leaves out the million-dollar cars bought simply as collector’s items, cars that just sit in garages to be observed. Countless custom Ferraris rotted under the ownership of the asshole Sultan of Brunei, most famously. Now, a handful of supercar owners do regularly drive their exotics, like that one dude in Japan who DD’s his 249-mph McLaren P1. Watch him drive the car and you realize he’s puttering around in traffic no faster than a ‘98 Nissan Maxima.
Actually, that’s not right. A ‘98 Nissan Maxima is certainly faster than any supercar.
You see, a McLaren P1 is going to spend most of its time in a garage, or slowly driving from nightclub to nightclub in the south of France. On the rare excursions up the rev range on a track day or illegal road run, it’ll unlikely pass a buck fifty, and that will only be for seconds at a time. The P1 might have a top speed of 249 mph, but its Average Life Speed has got to be around 3.
A ‘98 Nissan Maxima, on the other hand, has a top speed of 137 mph and an average life speed of, and this is a rough estimate, 137.
I have watched countless Ferraris, Porsches, AMGs, M cars and everything else get dusted on the highway and in the city by Maximas, Avalons, and (in recent years) Acura TLs with half an exhaust. These are cars that are driven hard, all the time, every day. They are screeching tires at every intersection, they are doing 19 over the speed limit on every Interstate. (You have to keep things low key in case you hit a speed trap.)
I don’t know if 1990s V6 sedans are really the fastest cars on the road today in Average Life Speed, but I can feel assured in saying that supercars are the slowest.