How Much Does a Tenth Cost? (Or, How Chevy is Paying You to Buy the Spark)

Have you ever wondered what car gives you the best acceleration bang for your dollar? By that, I mean which new car on sale is the best 0-60 value. I’m a weirdo, so the question has been obsessing me ever since the C8 Corvette came out. So I decided to find out how much a tenth of second costs.

Method

I decided to start my important mission by finding the slowest accelerating car in America–the Mitsubishi Mirage—and then measuring how much more a faster car costs.

This turns out to be easier said than done. Although, yes, automakers of fast, sporty cars are perfectly happy to brag that their cars get to 60 MPH in so many seconds, the makers of slower cars are less eager to publish–or perhaps even measure–that information.

Shockingly, nobody really cares how fast these are

A further hitch in the plan is that if automakers are publishing these figures, what’s to stop them from publishing incorrect information? Audi, famously, lowballs its 0-60 times. Others, I’m sure, have been accused of the opposite.

The solution is simple: Wherever an automaker doesn’t publish 0-60 times, look for it in a reasonably trustworthy publication that does its own instrumented testing, like Motor Trend or Car and Driver.

This, again, leaves us open to criticism, since at least half of those is sometimes accused of finding 0-60 splits that are, shall we say, uniquely fast.

To that point, even if we accept that their numbers are accurate, what were the conditions on the day of the test? What was the altitude of the track? Was the test conducted at a drag strip with prepared tarmac? Were the cars going downhill? What do 0-60 times even actually mean if they aren’t conducted in laboratory conditions? Can we really measure anything accurately? Is reality as stable as we believe? Is life just a simulation being run by hyper-intelligent emus?

Here’s the deal. If you ask “why?” long enough, you’ll find questions to which there are no answers. Questions like, why are you behaving like a precocious child? This is a silly blog post about a silly idea, so we’re going to accept these 0-60 times because I’m not going to be able to run scientific tests on all 523 cars I’m using as data points here, no matter how sincerely I’d like to.

Observations

Now that we all accept with total confidence that my numbers are beyond reproach, we can say that the Mirage has a 0-60 time of 12 seconds. And now we can see how many tenths faster every other car on sale is.

commençons!

For example, the most expensive car on the list—the Bugatti La Voiture Noire (or as I like to call it La Outlière)—is 95 tenths of a second faster to 60 than the Mirage. It does, however, cost $17,986,205 more than a Mirage. If we divide that by 95, we find that Bugatti is charging you $189,328 per tenth of a second.

As I intimated, though, the Bugatti is something of an outlier in that it costs about $15,000,000 more than the next most expensive car on this list and is a one-off. It, therefore, screws up a lot of data despite not even being the quickest car on the road.

Interestingly, though, it is part of the most expensive subset of cars (as organized by tenths). Cars that reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds on average cost $6,895,000. Even if you remove the La Voiture Noire, the average price only falls to $3,100,000. That means that cars that get to 60 95 tenths faster than the Mirage cost considerably more than those that do it in 96 or 97. Frankly, any car that hits 60 in specifically 2.5 seconds is a rip-off.

 

lol

Now, the reason the 96th tenth costs less than the 95th is pretty simple. There is only one car that claims to accelerate to 60 mph in precisely 2.4 seconds and that’s the Tesla Model S. Ringing in at $90,115, it’s a 0-60 bargain. Tesla only charges you $702.03 per tenth of a second. You have to go all the back to the 74th tenth(4.6 seconds to 60) to find cars that, on average, cost less per tenth than the Tesla.

And that hints at a larger trend happening throughout this data. Slower cars are a better value per tenth. Whereas cars that are two seconds faster to 60 than the Mirage charge, on average, $216 per tenth, the fastest cars on this list, the cars that claim to hit 60 mph in just 2 seconds charge more than $10,000 per tenth.

That’s because the Mirage is just about the cheapest car on the road, so of course, cars that go faster cost more. More importantly, and a little ironically, car prices rise faster than cars accelerate. Starting at just $13,795, the Mirage explains its slowness through cheapness.

The Mirage is not the cheapest car on the road, though.

Ringing in at just $13,220, the Chevrolet Spark was the cheapest car we could find on sale today—we’re only concerning ourselves with MSRP here. Better yet, it accelerates to 60 mph in just 10.7 seconds, making 13 tenths of a second faster than the Mirage. That means that Chevy is charging you -$44.23 per tenth of a second. They’re practically paying you to go fast.

mission accomplished: the best bang for your accelerating buck!

This revelation does, however, point to another flaw in the assumptions I’ve been making. Since prices can only go up and acceleration to 60 mph has a clear bottom end—it’s not acceleration if it happens in 0 seconds–there was always going to be a parabolic progression. It only stands to reason. So maybe a more useful question is, which car most outperforms its tenth?

mission slightly less accomplished?

To figure this one out, I looked at the average price of every vehicle that can get to 60 mph in a particular tenth then measured it against the cheapest car in that subset.

Measured that way, the tables turn and some fast cars become pretty good values. The C8 Corvette, for instance, was praised when it was revealed for starting at less than 60 grand and accelerating to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. And, indeed, that makes it the cheapest car to hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.

On average, it costs $208,855 to hit 60 mph in (exactly) 2.9 seconds. At $59,995 for the base C8, it only costs 29% of what it should. There are cars that outperform the new ‘Vette in their specific tenth, though.

The Caterham Seven 620 R, which I included in this list largely for kicks and whose base price I had to roughly estimate because Caterham doesn’t really work like other automakers, usually costs about $72,900 and can hit 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

There are nine other cars that can do that and, although most of them cost about twice as much as the Caterham, some, like McLaren Senna and the Koenigsegg Regera cost a LOT more. The $1.9 million Regera and the $837,000 Senna push the average value of a car that can accelerate to 60 in 2.8 seconds up to 459,837 (curiously, that makes the 2.8-second range even more expensive, than the 2.7-second range). That means that the Caterham costs just 16% of what it should. It is, however, about 16% as much car as the rest of the range.

The Dodge Demon, as you might expect, also punches well above its weight. As a member of the 2.3-second club, it is among the four quickest cars on sale today. And although no other car in the club costs less than $200,000, the Pagani Huayra BC costs $2.5 million. As a result, the average price of a 2.3-second car is $799,081, which means that the Demon only costs 10.5% of what the other cars in its class cost.

But the new Corvette still costs less, so what happens if we expand the pool to all cars that can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds?

Voiture Noire excluded because it makes the lower part of the chart hard to parse

Well, first of all, you find out that if you wanted to buy one of each, it would cost $37,350,491 (not including destination fees), or an average of $1.3 million. That means that the Demon costs about 7% of the average and the C8 costs just 5%.

It’s a bit of a hollow victory for the ‘Vette, though, since the Demon is faster than something that costs $18 million.

La Bad Deal

Impressive as it is, though, it isn’t the car that most outperforms its specific tenth. That honor goes to another Chevy: the Camaro ZL1. Although it hits 60 in a ponderous 3.1 seconds, it makes up for it by competing against just two cars, one of which raises the average of the tenth up steeply.

The two cars are the Mercedes-AMG GT 63S ($177,500) and the Pagani Huayra Roadster ($2.6 million). That brings the average price of the group up to $946,500. Which means that the $62,000 ZL1 costs just 6.5% of what it, arguably, should.

Now, of course, I recognize that there are other factors that go into a price, but I would argue that the second chart in this article proves that price and 0-60 time are related. As a rule, prices go up when 0-60 times go down, so there is inherent value in speed. But even if you don’t totally agree, it remains impressive that American manufacturers are willing to offer so much performance for so little. And that’s not even just thanks to big, simple V8s. The Tesla Model S Performance is the only new car on sale today that hits 60 mph in specifically 2.4 seconds, so it’s a little difficult to compare, but if we roll it into the 2.3-second club, then it costs just 14% what other cars in that tenths cost.

In fact, of the seven cars on sale that cost just a third of what other cars in their specific tenth, one is British (Caterham), one is Japanese (the Nissan GT-R), and the rest are American.

Conclusions

As for the humble Spark, it performs slightly less impressively when measured this way. Similar to the Model S, its specific tenth is too small to be significant, so I’ve measured it against the other slowest cars on sale (which get to 60 in 9.8 seconds or more) and it only costs 73% of what it should. That’s because although it costs less than any other car on sale, the other cars it competes against don’t cost that much more and none cost millions more.

it would be useful for the Spark if Bugatti could make one of these with a 1.6L inline-four

As a result, I remain impressed by the Spark. It’s indicative of a wider trend: Chevy gives you more speed than it charges you for. If you’re fanatically interested in tenths of a second and are weirdly obsessed with value–if you’re some sort of drag racing accountant–your best choices are American and mostly Chevy… and also a dumb Dodge, I guess.

Post Script

One final note. In case you were wondering what the worst value per tenth was, you won’t be surprised to find out that the La Voiture Noire is among the worst. Shockingly, though, despite being the most expensive car on the list (by more than $15 million), it’s not the worst value.

The Voiture Noire costs 268% of its particular tenth’s average, but it exists in the most expensive tenth. That honor goes to a pair of European supercar manufacturers, which I think we can all agree is peak Europe. The Huayra Roadster costs 275%, while the Huayra costs 308%, and the Huayra BC costs 319%. The honor of worst value in its tenth, though, goes to Koenigsegg Regera, which costs 413% of the average for its tenth. To be fair, though, most people buying those are less worried about value per tenth than they are about resale value.

please don’t blacklist me, Supercar manufacturers.

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