We are very much used to 0-60 mph (100 km/h) as a metric for gauging how quick a car is, just like we have top speed for its sense of outright power bragging rights. But I just bumped into a different metric: 20-40 mph in fourth gear, a test of a car’s sort of general performance is everyday driving.
This came up when I started reading this 1989 CAR Magazine comparison test between the last rear-drive Porsche 911 Turbo (with the 3.3-liter and the five-speed) against a Porsche 944 Turbo (with the older eight-valve engine) and the 928 S4.
The 911 Turbo was the fastest car around a track, then the 944, then the 928, but the reviewers didn’t find the cars all to different in terms of raw pace on the road.
A quick test helped explain why:
Drop your right foot, any gear, any revs, and the big S4 lunges forward with a regal effortlessness that the frenzied blowers cannot equal. For evidence of that, look no further than a 20-40 mph fourth gear time of 4.6 seconds, compared to 8.0 seconds for the 911 and 10.0 seconds for the 944.
“Well yeah,” former 944 owner Aaron Brown rolled his eyes at the story. “You’re not supposed to do that. You’re just lugging a turbo engine. That’s not good.”
Indeed it is not, but it is a good way to show torque and drivability. I wouldn’t rush to do it in my car, but I’m glad I now have it in mind.
Should more reviewers use this test? What would be the 20-40 mph champ?