A Porsche 928 S4 pictured. Photo Credit: Porsche

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.

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“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?