Why are the worst cars the best?
In many cases we see that sometimes facts and figures aren't all that matter
I had a thought recently. Why is it that when given a choice between two or more cars, the ‘worst’ car usually ends up being the best? For me at least this is the case nine times out of ten. Surely the car with the best 0-100kph time or the one that spends less time at the fuel station should be the victor? Or maybe I’m just a bit of a numpty. Fearing that I might be a numpty, I decided to investigate this matter further.
What determines a car to be ‘good’ differs from person to person, as we well know. To some, the battle between cars is won on the spec sheet. Take some really close rivalries as an example. A few years ago we saw the relatively unestablished McLaren upset the Ferrari stable with the MP4-12C. On paper, the McLaren was the victor in almost all areas. The 12C was faster from a standing start than the 458, more fuel efficient than the 458, more comfortable than the 458 and so on and so forth. However, in all the tests that I’ve seen and read between these two very close rivals the 458 was almost always the car of choice. Why? In the words of James May, the 458 Italia offered people ‘the fizz’ that the McLaren didn’t seem to possess. The 458 was certainly my choice. Now that Ferrari has also gone turbo-charged, though, they no longer have the naturally-aspirated trump card to pull out when somebody mentions McLaren. But, having never been in a 488 GTB or a 720S, I cannot make a fair judgment call on that as yet.
To others, the ‘best’ car might be the one that has the best performance. Let’s use another example. Relatively recently, we’ve seen two front-engine, V12 GT cars coming out of England and Italy. Yes, I know that Aston has just recently launched the very beautiful DBS Superleggera and Ferrari the rather astonishing 812 Superfast, but I want to talk about the Vanquish S and the F12berlinetta. It is my article after all and I also prefer them to their successors. The capacity of the F12’s engine is greater than the Vanquish S’, the Ferrari is about 300 kilograms lighter and quite a lot more powerful (about 150 more ponies live under the F12’s bonnet). The net result of all the ‘more than’ and ‘lighter than’ comparisons mean that the Vanquish S doesn’t stand a chance against the Ferrari on a track or any competition where speed is of importance. But despite that, I still feel my self being drawn to the Vanquish. The fact that Aston has sold even one Vanquish S means that there are other people like me too.
“But Barrie,” you may argue. “There is absolutely no way you wouldn’t prefer a Porsche 911 over the new Aston Martin Vantage. It’s the benchmark after all.” Well, sorry to disappoint you imaginary person I’m arguing with, but I do. You see once again, technically the 911 Turbo S is a better car. It’s more powerful than the new V8 Vantage, it’s quicker from 0-100kph and it’s cheaper too. In all honesty, the 911 is probably the ‘best’ sportscar money can buy. The thing is the Turbo S is all about the performance but at the expense of the theatre and being an event to drive, and that is what I look at when I need to determine what the so-called ‘best’ car is.
You see, facts and figures aren’t all that matter. It is very often the intangible aspects of a car that make it all the more special and indeed ‘better’ than a car that is faster, more practical or less expensive. One manufacturer immediately comes to mind, and that is Lamborghini. Ferrari and McLaren make cars that are far faster than both the Aventador S and the Huracán. Yes, the single-clutch mechanism in the Aventador may be a bit rubbish and practicality does take a back seat. But in terms of a sense of occasion and making ordinary driving in traffic exciting, you are going to have to pay a considerable amount more money to get close. Look at all the old Top Gear supercar, or even cheap car challenges. How many times have Clarkson, Hammond and May deduced that the worst car is actually the best? It’s a weird paradox, isn’t it? But one that all to many times is true.