What’s the best car on sale today? What might sound at first like a pretty simple question isn’t really so easy to answer.
How do you quantify “best”? Are you talking about the car that accelerates the quickest, the one with the most practical interior, the one that can handle the toughest terrain, the one that offers the best crash protection, or maybe the one that uses the least energy? Maybe it should be the one that best blends all of those skills.
Imagine an international competition that pits cars from around the globe against each other and rates every one of those quantifiable attributes to come up with a winner. And I don’t mean something like the North American Car of The Year event, which the Honda Civic won earlier this month (the Ford Maverick and Bronco won the truck and SUV awards, respectively). I’m proposing a proper dynamic competition where sports cars, sedans and SUVs battle it out in various events to find a winner. I’m thinking CrossFit for cars.
Around 20 years ago, Britain’s Autocar magazine did something similar with a feature titled “Autocar Olympics”, or words to that effect. If I remember correctly, each staff member had to pick one car they would use for various challenges, some of which favored performance and others, practicality.
It was just a bit of fun, but it was also fascinating because it pitted things like a rapid TVR against a Renault Kangoo (essentially a van with windows), and you genuinely didn’t know at the outset which car would come our on top, particularly since the magazine threw in some curve balls.
One of the events was a sprint, which should have been a breeze for the TVR. But it involved carrying a greater load from start to finish than the TVR could carry in one go, so it had to make two runs, versus one for the much slower Kangoo.
You could have straightforward events that highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each type of car, awarding points for performance, handling, practicality and fuel efficiency. And you could throw in some complications that level the field, like Autocar did.
And since we’re in 2022 and not 1999, or whenever year it was Autocar published its Olympics feature, we could bring it up to date with timely events like how long it takes to pair a Bluetooth device, input a navigation address, or understanding even half of what you say after pressing the voice assistant button.
In my head it would be a visually spectacular mashup of car shapes and sizes, pushing each into and out of their comfort zones. But maybe I’ve been overlooking one important factor. When Autocar ran its original story at the turn of the millennium, SUVs were still pretty niche interest machines. Now, the things are everywhere, eating into every other sector of the market from city cars to supercars.
You’d have to apply massively punitive weight and economy penalties to give pretty much any conventional car a chance against something like a Porsche Cayenne. But there could still be something in the idea. What do you think? Would you watch CrossFit for cars?