A racing savvy gambler makes you a betting proposition. This scenario necessarily assumes you can afford the bet.
The conditions of the wager are:
1: 500 mile unlimited speed races on a large racetrack. Each of you will race separately, and it is assumed weather conditions will be identical. No pit crews. Re gas filling etc, there will be a can available for you trackside with your allotment, but you do it all yourself re filling. If a tire blows you use the trunk spare. You’re essentially on your own and you must drive the car.
2: Total amount of gasoline available to both drivers is 20 gallons. You run out of gas before finished you lose period.
3: Both of you pick a brand spanking new car that you can drive off the lot for less than $ 40,000 (not including tags, title insurance etc) after you make your best deal. No used cars are allowed. No discounted demonstrators etc. No aftermarket modifications, high performance tires etc allowed. Cars must be as they would be sold off the lot.
4: Fastest finish time wins. Winner gets (fully paid off) title and keys to other racer’s car.
Which new car do you choose to give you the best chance of winning?
OK lets eliminate the gas restriction, and since that’s gone the race is now 50 miles. What’s the fastest, balls out car you can walk off the dealer’s lot with in stock condition for $ 40,000 that would be the best for winning this (now) 50 mile race.
Well for the original scenario, I’d suggest a VW TDI - your choice of Passat, Jetta, Golf or New Beetle. The minimum range for a tank is 600 miles and with the right conditions (summer fuel and manual transmission) you can get 750+ per tank. They also have plenty of torque and will easily accelerate without down shifting, even in 5th. If you opponent has to stop for fuel, you’ll win hands down.
The "do t yourself requirement"is still fully in place, including re-fueling, in the second unlimited fuel scenario. You’re not limited in the amount of gas you can have available in the roadside cans. You’ve still got to put it in yourself if you need fuel.
Using the first set of rules I’d suggest a Smart diesel. They can get 90 mpg and can do 75 mph (eventually).
Using the second set of rules is tougher. If you could change the $40,000 to £40,000 then there’s loads of Euopean cars to choose from. With the state the dollar is in, $40k will get you a VW Golf GTI. Which is actually pretty quick with a 200 bhp 2 litre turbo that will do 145 mph.
You’re basically looking for which car will do the fastest speed while getting 25 MPG. It doesn’t matter if you can get better gas milage than that at a different speed, since how much fuel you have when crossing the finish line isn’t a factor.
Lots and lots of cars get 25MPH on the highway, especially with the windows up and no AC. So we need to find the car than can go the fastest and still maintain 25 MPG. Some larger sedans might do that very well, with a fairly large engine turning slowly. IIRC, some Caddies now shut off one bank of cylinders at highway speeds to get better gas milage. It may only get 25MPG but if it can keep that at 80 MPH you might have a winner.
The other thing to check would be how fast can a Prius go and still maintain 25 MPG. It’s major savings is around town with starting and stopping, on the highway you are running mostly off the engine.
I’d go with a Ford Crown Victoria interceptor or Mercury Marauder ($31000 - $35000). They don’t quite make the gas mileage requirement – 22mpg highway – but they’re designed to run at 140mph all day long.
An '04 Mustang Cobra gets 24mpg with 390hp for $35000. Looks like it might be our winner so far.
The Dodge Magnum might also be a contender, at $30000, 22mpg, and 340hp.
I don’t know a heck of a lot about cars, but I would think that most cards would get substantally poorer mileage at high speeds than what the EPA says they’d get on the highway. Rather than buying a Mustang Cobra which would get something like 22 MPG at 65, I’d go for a V-6 Honda Accord Coupe, which gets like 30 MPG on the highway, and run it flat out for the race.