Question for Car Lovers

Hi SD,

I have a car, and I take no special pride in it. If it gets me from point A to point B I am happy.

I hear and see commercials with cars taking tight curves and driving empty city blocks. Do you car lovers really care about horsepower? How fast a car can take a turn? How fast it can get from 0-60?

Now, I’m not referring to highway MPG, four-wheel drive, back-up camera, etc. Those things I can understand people caring about, whether economically- or safety-conscious.

But this other stuff that shows off the strength and speed of the car…the power. The maneuverability. In today’s world, at least where I live, you’re going to be stuck in traffic much more often than you’re going to be tearing up the Autobahn. I just can’t imagine someone buying a car for these “superficial” reasons. I’d like to hear from people who actually pay attention to these kinds of advertisements and understand why these items matter to you, especially given the multiplying dangers of the road these days (texting while driving, etc.)



My Wife and I each drive over the continental divide twice a day. 11,500 feet at that point. Getting onto the highway each morning we immediately head up hill. And it’s kind of a blind corner with other cars traveling uphill at 50mph.

We like a bit more oomph to get the vehicles moving quickly from that stop/turn because you may have someone come around behind you that you could not see when you pulled out.

My Wife just ordered an Outback with a 6 instead of a 4 cylinder engine. The mountain driving we do was the only reason for that. We do pay attention to how powerful a car is.

I use to be a real car nut. I’d modify cars for better performance and handling. Now most any car can readily break speed limits in the USA and some can do well over 100 MPH without breaking a sweat. I’m more into MPG now days.

I think that I had more fun driving under-powered cars like the old VW Beetle or my old '72 Toyota Corolla. You could thrash them for all they were worth and seldom worry about getting a speeding ticket!

Yep, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than drive a fast car slow.
But, I enjoy high horsepower vehicles, (enipla provides but one of the multitudes of times power can come in handy) and I really do think poor handling vehicles are unsafe. In modern vehicles, it’s not that hard to design one that has plenty of power, and still gets good mileage. The car that can handle turns well at breakneck speed, and can slow itself down deep into a turn is also going to be much better at avoiding an accident.

In other words, its responsiveness. That can be a very beneficial thing.

While you seem to be focusing on “how fast can it go,” I suggest you look at it in terms of how quickly and safely will it do what you need it to do. Can it accelerate well enough to let you transition from the on-ramp to the highway without forcing those already there to slow down to let you in – or heaven forbid, without your having to stop? Does it brake quickly and surely when you’re presented with a panic-stop situation? Will it take curves with stability and a feeling of certainty in its handling? A car that does what you want it to do when you want it to do it and with a fair amount of aplomb is safer and less distressing than one that doesn’t.

For most of us, it’s not about racing. It’s about the sense of security in having control in those less-than-ideal situations that crop up occasionally in normal driving.

I am a very conservative driver but I hate the feeling of being underpowered when I need the power. I also like a car that handles well as I enjoy mountain driving. My suv has sufficient power but the handling characteristics leave some to be desired. Overall I can live with it but if I could have two cars my second car would have more power and be more fun to drive.

I agree with what everyone else has said, but I also suspect the OP has never driven/sat in a hard-accelerating fast car. A fast 0-60 definitely gets the pulse going, even if you stop at 60 and never break a single traffic law.

Also, where I am we’ve got a lot of fairly busy mountainous 2-lane highways. If you’ve got an underpowered car, you’re holding people up on the hills and feeling like a jerk. If you’ve got a merely adequately powered car, you’re stuck behind those people. If you’ve got a fast car, you’ve got a much better chance of being able to safely pass and get out of the packs of traffic. A fast car on those trips makes the drive much more pleasant and can even save you some serious time.

I am not really a car nut, altho I can appreciate a nice ride. Good power and tight handling/responsiveness are hard to really describe - it is something you experience. Next time you have the occasion to rent a car, splurge on an upgrade to a performance car - just this once, and when you have a little extra time, go take it for a ride. You’ll see what people are talking about.

That said, I agree power and handling are over-advertised and not practical for the majority of American miles driven in traffic and on our horrible roads. For most people, they are content to consider their car an appliance to get from point A to point B.

For the past 20 years I’ve taken the kids through the mountains on our way to and from vacations. I’ve always dreaded the time in the loaded down mini-van going through the mountains… even on interstates. Just going around a truck on a curve would make me nervous. I recently brought a car up from North Carolina, and even though it was only a Mazda 3 it was tons of fun on the same route.

I’ve had the opportunity to ride in a Hellcat, and a Viper, both with professional drivers and I can tell you that it is an amazing experience.

The OP said they are often stuck in traffic. I have no problem finding empty country roads around here, so yes I enjoy a performance car to just get out and have fun in.

My hope is that this summer I get a chance for my wife and I to take my Mustang GT on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Dave, like a lot of things… it depends.

City driving to/from work? A small car that fits into lanes & parking spaces with automatic transmission for the traffic is more than sufficient.

Snowy less-crowded roads, off-road, camping (or in my state driving on roads that have more holes than imported cheese) might open the door for an SUV or something with a heavier suspension. If you need to haul things, a pick-up truck is appropriate.

Empty highways and good weather might make you want to put a stick-shift, a sun roof and some good music to the test.

Then there are the bauble-mobiles: the cars that are so expensive that you really are just trying to show off your money. They are expensive to repair and maintain… and you’ll cry if you hit a pothole because a rim/tire/alignment will usually be in the 4 digits for you to shell out.
Some of the Really high end cars (depending on where you drive them) may spend more time in the shop than on the road and car theft becomes a real worry.

Yes, most really are fun to drive… but the people who I’ve seen buy them seem less interested in Ferrari performance or Astin luxury than trying to find a way to wave a fist full of thousands in their neighbors faces as they drive by without having the wind blow any away.

You’re essentially asking if there’s still a market for sports cars today, and the answer is a resounding yes. They’re still 99.9999% bought by men, but us guys still love both the look and performance of them. And with advances in technology, engines and even more tires, just the GT ‘sport’ model of an economy car will handle better than a Corvette of yesteryear. And I don’t know if the OP is from the US but in America there are roads suitable for performance driving practically everywhere (legal or not)…

Even with one at home, I’m doing exactly this next week just to play with one I’m not familiar with.

I don’t even know where to start with this.

This. People who think performance cars are pointless have never felt the exhilaration of a perfect launch or carving the fastest line through a twisty back road. There’s really nothing like it, unless you are a fighter pilot.

Or, I have to add, a motorcyclist!

I’ve found some people just flat out don’t like it, much like there are people who hate roller-coasters. All the acceleration just creates a panicky/nervous response. Trying to explain to someone like that the exhilaration of driving a performance car is liable to just fall flat, like trying to explaining color to a blind person.

De gustibus…

Why, yes. Yes we do!

Driving a 2-seater sports car just makes me smile - in traffic or on the open (winding) road.

Yes, I do care about the horsepower and handling of my car because I enjoy driving. I’m lucky enough to have countryside nearby where I can have fun with it, too. If I had to drive in b-to-b traffic every day, I might choose another car. Actually, that’s not true… I’d have to relocate. :slight_smile:

Those “superficial” reasons are valid selling points to the average joe. Dude wants to be able to brag to his friends that he has the Porche Neon 1300cc Super Turbo Magnesium Sport package and Porche’s marketers are doing their jobs. I can understand those things being viewed as impractical. But I think those superficial reasons you referenced are valid when buying a machine, more so than the approach of, “You’ll look expensive and smart in your new Lexus”. I’m ultimately more concerned about a car’s performance than anything else.


Feh. The 1300cc STMS is sooo last year. The 1200 cc Twin scroll Turbo Scandium Super Sport Package makes 15% more PWHP (perceived wheel horsepower) and costs twice as much.

To the OP. I think it has mostly been covered, but I used to lament loudly and often how Europe got all the cool cars and we didn’t, especially in the hot hatch and wagon department. I’m glad that has changed over the years. No one really has a legal requirement for 100+ mph cars, but they sure are fun!

Honda VTEC stickers are good for 5 PWHP each!

Well, there was that one time that I really needed some fresh sweet corn from the farmers market in a hurry.