Compare Magnum's car to other performance car

On the Car Show a couple of weeks ago, they did a segment called Icon vs Econ where they raced a Ferrari like Magnum PI drove against a 2011 Toyota sedan for a quarter mile straight away. The new car won by a little bit. I know that there was a period after emissions testing was passed where the car companies could not make a performance car that passed the rules and so cars sucked for a decade or so. Is that the reason the Ferrari did so poorly or are all cars so good now that no car older than 15 years or so can compete? Was that just a bad time for Ferraris?

For its time, the Ferrari 308 (the car on Magnumn PI) was near the top of the performance heap. It was pretty lightweight and had ~240 hp (though that came about thanks to high revs) while others like the Corvette were wheezing by with like 160.

Modern cars are just that much better. Advanced engineering tools along with modern fuel systems and modern controls means engines have been able to get remarkably more powerful while also running cleaner and with better fuel economy. Case in point, the Mustang GT:

in 1979, the Mustang’s top engine was a 302 c.i. (4.9 liter) carbureted pushrod V8 which made 150 hp on a good day.

in 2011, the Mustang’s top engine is a 302 c.i. (5.0 liter) fuel-injected, DOHC V8 which makes 412 hp all day, every day. And it gets better fuel economy in a much heavier car than the 1979.

ETA: another thing that makes this kind of thing possible is variable-valve-timing (VVT.) In 1979, if you were to get 400 hp out of a 4.9 liter pushrod V8, you would have to have a single-plane intake, high-CFM carb, and such an aggressive cam profile that the engine literally would not idle. Like on NASCAR races, when the drivers start their cars and are constantly revving their engines- they’re not doing that to be dicks, they’re doing it to keep the engines running.

With fuel injection and VVT, the modern 5.0 idles smooth as silk.

Can’t speak for the accuracy of these tables, but it seems that a 2011 Toyota Avalon would be neck-and-neck with a 1980 Ferrari 308 GTS.

This just blows my mind.

Cars lose horsepower over the years simply due to age. Top Gear has done tests on cars that were 10-15 years old and discovered that they now had drastically less horsepower than they did when new.

keep it in perspective- the 1980 equivalent to the '11 Avalon (a 1980 Corona) had 90 hp.

Also, despite the fact that they describe the Toyota in the video as an “economy car,” the fact is that they used the 3.5 V6 Camry, and not the standard 4-cylinder version. While the Camry is still a fairly run-of-the-mill family sedan, the V6 doesn’t even crack 20mpg in the city, or 30 on the freeway. That’s not what i’d call an economy car.

But, despite all that, it’s still pretty clear that you can now get, in a fairly cheap car, the sort of performance that would have been restricted to the wealthy only a few decades back.

Here is the video the OP is talking about. They also race a Delorean against a Sienna.

that’s no fair, the DeLorean was a dog even when it was new.

Sweet. I’ll try to keep my wife from getting her minivan above 88mph then.

And the current successor to the 308, the 458, puts out over 550hp, and gets to 60mph in 3.4 according to factory figures. Road and Track magazine managed to do it in 3 seconds flat. And that doesn’t even take into consideration how superior the Ferrari would be in terms of handling.

In 1968 Ford had a 302 that made 250 hp - 100 more than 10 years later. The low 1979 result will have been as a result of emissions controls constraining what was an old engine design.

From here:

This is a comparison of the Ferrari 308 to a 2007 Kia Sedona minivan. The Ferrari won but not by as much as you would expect.
I read an article in Grassroots Motorsports a few years ago that compared a Toyota minivan, a Jaguar XKe and (I think) a Porsche 911 (original version). The minivan kicked butt thoroughly in speed and handling.

that 1968 number was “gross” hp. I invite you to figure out how much net hp it actually had.

No doubt. I used to have an old 1976 Chevy Suburban with a 350 cu in(5.7 liter) V8 with a 4 barrel carburetor. It made (per the spec sheets) something like 180 hp with 260 ft lb of torque. It made around 10-12 mpg city, 14 highway.

My current pickup has a 3.7 liter (225 cu in) v6 that makes 210 hp/235 ft lb of torque and makes about 14-15 mpg city, and about 18-22 highway.

I realize that there are more variables in play than just the engine, but I’m still getting more power, similar torque and better mileage from smaller displacement and a smaller, lighter engine.

I also realize that GM had some serious performance versions of the 350 that really blow away my Chrysler powertech v6, but I figure a full-size suburban vs. a mid-size pickup is a relatively fair comparison.
I suspect it’s a combination of fuel injection, higher compression ratios, and much more effective computer engine control that make the biggest differences. Old-time carburetors were sort of a best-guess kind of way to get fuel into the engine and spark timing was more or less fixed, while modern ECUs use the output of several sensors (O2, MAF, MAP, throttle position, etc…) to determine exactly what’s going on in the engine and meter out the best amount of fuel and set the optimal spark timing.

Combine that with 40 years of material improvements and design improvements and it’s not at all unlikely that a 2011 sedan would beat a 1980 Ferrari.

Yup, those would be gross numbers. The way HP was measured was changed in 1971/72. For example, in 1971, a big block Corvette was rated between 390 and 425HP depending on the options. In 1972, it had 270HP - same engine. I owned one and got between 8 and 12mpg on a good day.

Nowadays, the decendant of that engine, the 427 cu, 7 liter engine in the Corvette Z06 makes over 500HP, without forced injection and gets 24mpg on the highway thanks to a low 6th gear.

It was a Porsche 356. It came down to the tires. The van beat the Jag. It lost very slightly to the Porsche with both having stock tires, but beat it once they put mildly high-performance tires on the van.

Follow up article here with results and final impressions of additional tests.

Even as late as 1994, the mighty Mustang 5.0 V8 (302 ci) was pushing out 215 HP. Running through five speeds, it was good for a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds.

Most newer Honda Accords (early 2000’s) and their peers running V6’s and 5-6 speed automatics will handle that Mustang.


That’s fascinating stuff.