A decade’s progress Are yes­ter­year’s su­per­cars now merely av­er­age?

Motor Trend - - We Say... - @markrechtin Mark Rechtin REF­ER­ENCE MARK

When Mo­tor Trend started Best Driver’s Car back in 2007 (when it was known briefly as “Best Han­dling Car”), only one car in the field of­fered more than 500 horse­power—the 505-hp Chevro­let Corvette Z06, which we char­ac­ter­ized as a “fire breather.”

Lord only knows what our 2007 staff would have made of an SUV show­ing up with just as many ponies un­der the hood, as we had this year with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadri­foglio. Or that, in just over a decade, Chevy en­gi­neers would cre­ate a ’Vette with an apoc­a­lyp­tic 755 hp.

In fact, 500 horse­power has nearly be­come the cost of en­try into Best Driver’s Car these days. In fact, it’s the av­er­age out­put of our field. Seven of our en­trants this year blasted past that bar­rier, and we could have added a cou­ple more to the field were it not for things like “the per­for­mance-value equa­tion” (Civic Type R), “the sur­prise quo­tient” (Kia Stinger GT), and “stay­ing true to our han­dling roots” (Mazda Mi­ata).

Even the mid­pack cars ap­proach­ing the five-cen­tury horse­power num­ber are tremen­dous. The Audi TT RS has a 2.5-liter in­line-five that pours out a gar­gling, snarling 400 horse­power. The circa 2007 Porsche GT3 (win­ner of our de­but Best Han­dling Car con­test) barely ex­ceeded that num­ber—and we called it “a race car for the street.”

How far we have come, in­deed. Of course, all that power means noth­ing if you can’t get it to the pave­ment. Ad­vance­ments in trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy and dura­bil­ity, not to men­tion tire stick­i­ness, means quar­ter-mile times have plum­meted.

This marks the eighth year we have con­ducted the World’s Great­est Drag Race. The win­ner of WGDR No. 1 was the 2012 Nis­san GT-R, which turned in an 11.2-sec­ond quar­ter-mile run at 121.8 mph. Pretty im­pres­sive, right? If we were to run that year’s Godzilla against the col­lec­tive WGDR pack, it would fin­ish in 22nd place.

How quick is progress? The top three World’s Great­est Drag Race fin­ish­ers this year all smoked last year’s win­ning Tesla Model S P100D Lu­di­crous. Just as we’d caught our col­lec­tive breath think­ing Elon Musk had cracked the quick-ac­cel­er­a­tion code with bat­ter­ies and mo­tor-gen­er­a­tors, the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion boys have come roar­ing back.

But it’s more than just raw power. Sus­pen­sion and trac­tion tech­nol­ogy im­prove­ments al­low for han­dling per­for­mance that would have blown the minds of our 2007 judges.

Our 2007 win­ner of “max lat­eral g” was the Porsche Cay­man S, which han­dled a re­spectable 1.00 g load that we de­scribed as “im­pec­ca­bly bal­anced.” This year a Ford Mus­tang and a Honda Civic Type R ei­ther matched or beat that skid­pad num­ber (granted, the test­ing was done on dif­fer­ent sur­faces, but still).

Let’s look at the ex­tremes, too. If the Cay­man’s win­ning 1.00 g was thought im­pres­sive in 2007, con­sider that five cars eas­ily bested that score this year, topped by the Porsche GT2 RS’ face­warp­ing 1.17 lat­eral g rat­ing. If 1.00 g pulls hard at your in­nards, 1.17 flings them into next week.

2007 wasn’t that long ago. Sure, the in­ter­ven­ing re­ces­sion has made it harder to re­call that era, but re­mem­ber the av­er­age car on the road to­day was built in that year. It’s not like we’re show­ing grainy black-and-white movies here.

So does that make the 2018 field lightyears bet­ter than what was around a decade ago? To some tech­ni­cally minded folks, the an­swer is a de­fin­i­tive yes. But there also ex­ist many driv­ers who are de­lighted by a par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion of 911—be it a 1973 RS 2.7, a 1987 911 Car­rera with a G50 man­ual, or that 10-year-old GT3 whose 415 horse­power is “just right.” Is the cur­rent GT2 RS’ out­ra­geous 691 hp too much? Ask me in an­other decade. n

POWER TRIO Chevro­let Corvette ZR1, Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Mclaren 720S

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