In Your Head, What Counts As Warp Speed In Your Car?

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Let me preface this first by acknowledging that this is, by any rational accounting, stupid. Let’s just get that out of the way and let the reality of it wash over us. All good? Great. Now, here’s my question: when you’re driving, and mind is wandering, and you’re sort of half-pretending your car is a spaceship, how do you define the line between faster-than-light speed travel and sublight speed travel? I ask because I have a sort of little guide. Let’s talk about it.


Again, I know this is all absurd and cars aren’t spaceships and they don’t approach the speed of light in any way. I’m thinking metaphorically. And, in my metaphoric logic, 60 MPH equals light speed, or, if we use the Star Trek-style vernacular, Warp 1.

The reason for this is that, again, in my stupid head, I’m differentiating between, as they say in Los Angeles, “surface street” (as opposed to what, the underground kind?) travel—that is, lower-speed city streets—and highway travel.

City streets are driven at sublight or impulse or whatever you want to call it speeds. On the highway, you’re on the major interstellar travel lanes, so you need to drive at light or superluminal speeds, with 60 MPH being sort of an accepted minimum.

So, that makes 60 MPH Warp 1, and since it’s a mile-a-minute that helps give it credence as a significant boundary speed.

Here’s where it gets trickier: the Warp scale isn’t linear, I’m told, and for our car-as-spaceship purposes, I think we need to think more metaphorically here. For example, 80 MPH feels like a pretty standard baseline fast highway speed that, while often technically illegal, is incredibly common.

It’s like a normal fast cruising speed, so, if we look at what that might be in Star Trek’s standards, that feels like Warp 6, maybe. If you’re driving 100 MPH on the highway, you’re hauling ass, so that gets to be something like Warp 8, and anything over that is the daring and foolhardy speed of Warp 9. You can add decimals, too, if that’s more fun for you.


Between Warp 1 (60 MPH) and Warp 6 (80 MPH), I think we can cram in whatever we want. Let’s say 65 is Warp 2 and 70 is Warp 3, and somehow we can cram Warps 4 and 5 in the 10 MPH between 70 and 80.

So, by this logic, my little 52 HP Nissan Pao is capable of sustained cruising at Warp 2, but I can push it to Warp 3 if needed, but I’m not really inclined to push it for that long.


Most modern cars are capable of sustained cruising at Warp 6, with the ability to hit Warp 8 with ease, and even Warp 9.2 for a bit, if no one’s looking.

This is useless, but, weirdly, kind of fun? What’s wrong with me?

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:



I feel like warp speed is best used as a subjective expression for the sensation you have in any given car at any given speed. Indicated 92 mph in a 4cyl Wrangler with plastic windows, questionable alignment and 4 unbalanced wheels on the Hardy Toll road in the late 90s was Warp 11. I was extremely uncomfortable at that speed. The velocity felt terminal to the car and myself.

Same road, same era, but in my dad’s Lexus LS400 (He was out of town and left the keys visible. Expectations of resistance are unreasonable) at 135 was at most Warp 1.