Off the line…

Posted on October 19th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Holden,Mitsubishi,Power by Julian Edgar

The week that I am writing this we have two press cars. It’s unusual to have two new cars simultaneously; in fact, it’s something I normally strive to avoid unless I am interstate for a period. Then it’s OK because those cars are usually not able to be obtained in my home state – so better to work harder for a short time in order to sample more.

One of the cars is a Mitsubishi 380 VRX 5-speed manual and the other is an automatic 5-speed Holden Epica 2.5.

Both are front-wheel drive but the 380 has 175kW and 343Nm in a body that weighs 1590kg, and the Epica has 115kW and 237Nm and weighs 1500kg.

Clearly, then, the VRX is going to be the faster of the two cars, not only because of its higher flywheel figures outweigh the slightly greater mass but also because its manual transmission has less losses than the Epica’s auto trans.

But is the VRX faster? Not a test in the world is going to show the Epica as being faster than the VRX (or the equivalent in other comparative cars) and yet as is so often the case, the power, torque and mass figures tell a story that is massively incomplete…

It so happened that my wife and I ended up in driving the two cars at the same time. I was in the Epica, she in the VRX – and in front of us a red traffic light. Both in pole position – and when the light turned green, we went for it.

Trouble is, the Epica was ahead all the way to 80 km/h…

Next red light, Georgina got a better launch – but she still took until 60 km /h to get past the Epica.

Simply, the power and torque of the 380 was so great that the traction control kept shutting down the engine as wheelspin occurred.

The same story could be repeated with lots of different cars – those with auto transmissions and insufficient power to break traction (or, to put it another way, a lower torque curve that extends further up the rev range) can be very quick off the line in real world conditions. On the other hand, manual trans cars with bulk off-the-line torque can be relatively slow.

I remember the disbelief when former colleague Michael Knowling wrote of an STi WRX that a Corolla was quicker away from traffic lights; an absolutely true story symptomatic of the STi being the opposite case to the VRX – no bottom-end torque at all…

No matter what figures might show, for real-world quick getaways, very little beats an auto trans matched to an engine that won’t spin the driving wheels.

8 Responses to 'Off the line…'

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  1. Winston said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 2:38 am

    …that’s really REALLY hard to believe that a VRX launched well isn’t always in front of an auto Epica which is such an underwhelming piece of crap…I’d suggest launching the VRX from 3500 rpm would yield a better result or if you can’t manage that, launch it in 2nd gear at high revs

  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Riiiiiight. I mean, everyone launches in second gear from high revs when they’re leaving traffic lights, don’t they?

    And if you have no bias, what’s hard to believe? I don’t care less which car is better or worse in the situation described.

  3. Todd said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:54 am

    I think you have made a great example of where figures dont tell the real world story (again).

    A couple of years back I couple of us who work for a particular government health agency took delivery of some new Falcons and Commodores. Both similar figured sixes. Two more different cars you could not find. The Commodore was a demon off the line, the falcon a slug. Both autos, just the ratios, tuning etc was so different between them.

    Funnily enough the Hyundai Trajet van was one of the quickest off the line. Once all were well rolling a different story but by then it was the next traffic light!

    Now get these deisel stories out here and stop teasing…. been waiting for a deisel serier as long as you dont push the price of second hand deisels up even more.

  4. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:59 am

    (First diesel modification story on Pug is scheduled for Nov 12 and then one part every week afterwards for at least the following 8 weeks.)

  5. Igor said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I don’t see anything wrong with the article. I’m sure with the traction control switched off and a decent launch, the 380 would catch the Epica allot sooner, but this wasn’t a drag strip. Good exapmle of real world situations.

  6. Richard said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Would be interesting to test the Epica auto against a 380 auto.

  7. Oosh said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 11:55 am

    The torque multiplication of an automatic car from stall isn’t to be sneezed at.

    Julian, were you loading it up and releasing the brake to then launch, or did you simply release the brake and take off normally?

  8. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Just tromping it. No loading up.

    And Georgina wasn’t blip-blip-blip-LAUNCHing the VRX.

    Was just your average run off the lights….

  9. doctorpat said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve often wondered how this could be captured in a repeatable test.

    Something like “0-60 in the wet”, or “0-60, WORST out of 10 trys” something like that should give a real view of how a car actually feels driving around without using 7000 rpm or drag racing style launches, which gives a warped view of the real world quickness of a car.

    (My thinking behind the “worst out of 10 trys” is that in your own car, you will drive conservatively so that you aren’t going into wheelspin 10% of the time. So any launch that only works 80-90% if the time is clearly “too hard” for that particular car on a public road.)

    All of which explains why my next car is going to be 4wd with tiny little turbos.

  10. Blair said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I still vividly remember an article in CAR magazine on the Bentley Turbo R in about 1986 or 87 one of the little pearls was that from 0 to 30 mph (50 kph) it was faster than a LAMBORGHINI COUNTACH!
    A wall of low down torque, big rear tyres, auto trans and effective LSD can do that. No clutch dumping, get it right some of the time drama, just bang, squeeze and go (I expect they did load up the turbo and trans, though.)
    The other thing that makes a huge difference is gearing itself. It can hinder bench mark 0-100 standing 400mt, but work so much better in the real world, any one who has driven an STi and an Evo can tell you that.

  11. Sami said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Take a look at the following Popular Mechanics article first published in the July 1999 issue. Notice the 0-30 mph time of the 3000GT. 1.7 seconds, and it’s third from the bottom in quarter mile acceleration. Not even the Viper with its drag radial rear tires can match it.

    Of course, being the only AWD car in the test would help.


  12. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    But with respect Sami, this sort of article is part of the problem.

    In the real world, where the car is your own, people don’t launch like that. Real world times are often so different from magazine test times that it’s simply madness to compare them.

    In AutoSpeed testing we always launch in a way that we’d be happy to repeatedly do in our own cars. There’s been many a magazine that needed a flatbed to trailer the car back to the manufacturer after launching super hard. They got the fast time to print, but so what?

  13. Sami said,

    on October 19th, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    True, although I just wanted to give a more extreme example of the fact that raw power to weight ratio cannot decide which car comes out on top in acceleration. I myself would never dream of “launching” a car like that if it were mine.

    Other than that, It seems to me that automatics have a smaller difference in times between a “track” launch and a “road” launch than manuals.


  14. Leon Weekes said,

    on October 20th, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Hi guys

    All interesting posts. And an interesting important all round discussion.

    I realise, the the ol’ work ute, al early nineties V6 falcon auto can zip off the line – off brake onto accelerator, faster than my 93 R32 GTR, UNLESS i launch my car at 3500rpm or above.

    On the other hand, I have done drag style launches in my car (not on public roads) and hand timed my 0-100 to less than 5 seconds (just) repeatedly. Car is stock with 80,000 kms on the clock – factory boost restrictor in place. Only changes are 255 Federal 595 evos, on forged aluminum rims, and bilstien suspension. The clutch does not like it and in the near future i’ll need a new one.

    So when the morons try and drag me off the lights in their newer V8 auto commies or fords, which happens very very often, I generally don’t bother but am happy in the knowledge my car IS faster.

    My bike suffers the same problem, wet 16+ plate clutch likes to slip the demon. This is not a problem though as 1st gear takes me to 80km, and by 12,000 rpm I will have overtaken most cars on the road.

    In any case with a relatively soft, smooth but swift clutch action, by mid way through second gear either vehicle will catch most cars on the road. 🙂

    DSG style boxes seem to be the go for newer performance cars many many advantages without loosing too much control (when they’re set up well).

    See details of the new Nissan GTR which uses this type of box on edmunds, inside line. It has already caused many a heated discussion as not being “pure” enough from a driving experience point of view. It will be interesting.

  15. Blake Parry said,

    on October 21st, 2007 at 4:48 am

    I do see where you are coming from, particularly in regards to a car with overpowered front wheels.
    FWD cars (ive driven a lot, varying levels of power/torque), vary significantly depending on the launch. If you nail it, perfectly quick, if you dont, either from bogging down, or too much wheelspin, and figures are significantly slower.
    Its a fine art in launching a manual FWD car with a decent bit of power.

  16. Darren Roles said,

    on October 23rd, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Was the 380 a manual or an auto, I can’t really tell from the article? The reason I ask is that the old model Magna only had traction control in the tiptronic 5spd auto.
    I found that they were very good off the line especially in the wet. Although you needed to be careful that you didn’t spin the wheels too much because when the TC cuts in it almost feels like the engine has stalled.
    But I would still definately have the auto over the manual anyday. The traction and trace control was sensational in ‘real world’ conditions.
    In 4yrs of ownership and having a fang along some of the roads in the Adelaide hills every other day I only had 1 moment that had me chopping washers.
    It was just about the worst conditions you could come across; downhill, right – left – right combo (all offcamber) with a hump in the middle, it was wet and there was roadworks that left mud on the road. The section is posted at 25 but I still went through there at over 50.
    It’s a little off topic but I currently have an AUII fairmont with IRS and I can’t believe how much better the Magna is, I’m trying to offload the Faimont and get another auto TJ Sport they are awesome with the added bonus that cops don’t look twice at a Magna…

  17. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 23rd, 2007 at 9:00 am

    “One of the cars is a Mitsubishi 380 VRX 5-speed manual and the other is an automatic 5-speed Holden Epica 2.5.”