How much do performance figures on sports cars actually matter?

How much do the performance figures on cars actually matter?

Extracting the acceleration data from fast road cars isn’t quite the art form it once was, especially since launch control systems became commonplace

As a junior road tester I used to love the art of figuring cars. I’d spend half my life up at Millbrook, trying to work out how best to get cars off the line with just the right amount of wheelspin or, more often than not, with no wheelspin at all.

And between myself and my fellow road testers on the other magazines, there was always an unspoken rule about competition – to see who could generate the best numbers, often out of the exact same test cars.

Nowadays, though, with launch control systems fitted to any performance car worth its salt, and paddle-shift gearboxes that deliver perfect upshifts, there isn’t much of an art to figuring a car. You just press a load of buttons in the correct order, bend the floorboards with both feet, then release the brakes and away you go.

And that includes cars like the McLaren P1, whose performance figures seem to have upset one or two commentators because, well, the ones we have recorded aren’t quite as phenomenal as those published by an American magazine.

There are a couple of reasons why this could be so. Perhaps the American magazine figured their P1 with less weight on board than we did – we always figure cars with half a tank of fuel and two people in situ: driver and passenger. Read more about how we figure test cars in Matt Prior’s blog here.

Or the P1 we tested wasn’t performing quite as it should on the day, although this scenario

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