There are many ways to measure the power a vehicle has – top speed, horsepower, foot-pounds of torque. Those are all important, but the most asked question is, “What’s the 0-60 time?” This is nothing more than a measure of how quickly a vehicle can reach the 60 mile per hour mark. It is a measure of acceleration of a vehicle. 0-60 times differ a great deal depending on the amount of power a motor puts out, of course. But anyone who spends any amount of time with car enthusiasts are sure to hear the ubiquitous term bantered around more often than most other metrics by which cars are measured in terms of power.
The only other measure that comes close as far as how acceleration is commonly measures in cars in the United States is the quarter mile time. Enthusiasts will often ask about how quickly a car can get through a quarter mile, but that can be seen as less accurate a estimate of acceleration than the amount of time it takes a vehicle to reach the sixty miler per hour mark. The quarter mile time can often have more variable such as driver experience.
The 0-60 mph speed is used as the standard in the United States, where the rest of the world prefers the 0-100 km version. But both measure the performance of a car. A lot goes into increasing 0-60 times in performance vehicles. As a normal rule of thumb, performance cars are considered those with 0-60 time of under 6 seconds, while Exotic cars will do 0-60 in 3 to 4 seconds. However, in most cases, a car isn’t simply “stuck with” the acceleration number with which it was born. Engineers and designers work tirelessly to provide better and better numbers with each progressive model of performance and exotic cars. But, even the back yard mechanic or muscle car enthusiast can determine the 0-60 times of their cars and make moves to improve them.
The testing of acceleration is usually done on a closed course away from people other than the team that may be working on the specific car. This limits putting anyone in danger who is not part of the test or the ongoing project. Testers can use something as simple as a stop watch and the vehicle’s speedometer. This is probably good enough for the typical muscle car enthusiast who is just looking for an estimate of how much power his latest improvements will give him. For engineers testing a new exotic sports car, though, a simple estimate is not accurate enough. They want hard and fast 0-60 times, and they use much more highly-technical equipment to get their numbers. With the 0-60 figure being so important in automobile sales, they do everything possible to ensure their numbers are incredibly accurate.
In professional testing situations, highly technical and accurate measuring devices are hooked to computers as the test is performed. The test is run in two different directions, to eliminate any influence of wind, an unseen downhill grade or any differences in traction. The average of these two times will be the recorded 0-60 time for the car. Doppler radar guns are used to ensure the tester is recording exact 0 -60 times. This leaves the driver to focus solely on running through the gears as precisely as possible and simply driving in a straight line. This allow for a more accurate measure, as does running the test first in one direction and then in the exact opposite direction.
Some still feel, however, that listing one 0 – 60 time is not truly indicative of what a new owner can expect from a performance or exotic car, or even a muscle car. Instead, some believe the measure should include a range of times rather than one finite mark to which all cars of any particular model should be held. For instance, they believe a BMW M3 should have a listed time of 3.9 – 4.2 seconds and a Corvette Z06 should have a range from 3.6 to 4.0. These people believe that a range of numbers better represents what an owner can honestly expect to see when he or she takes delivery of a new vehicle.
This contingent of car enthusiasts and engineers believes that there is no way for either the time to 60 mph or even a quarter mile time to be completely accurate, as there are simply too many variables that come into play. No matter if you are a 0 – 60 purist, or you believe that it is an inexact science, you can be sure that the measure itself will not be going away any time soon. It is still one of the biggest touted numbers for vehicles, and easier for people to relate to than horsepower and torque.