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Compared with the relatively simple nature of those first two categories, handling is string theory.A proper dissection of it could fill a book (or much of one; see “Race Car Vehicle Dynamics,” Milliken & Milliken).What’s more, every bar graph’s range between worst to best result has been scaled to be equal so you can tell at a glance what’s nominal or not.And so did our 18 measurements actually identify our Best Driver’s Car?Steering angle at 0.5 g (also sampled at the skipad) doesn’t seem to need any explanation, but be careful-it’s more than just an expression of the steering ratio as there are lots of squishy bushings, flexy tire sidewalls, and a bit of understeer involved too.Steering effort and roll angle at 0.5 g of cornering seem self-apparent, but the car’s steering response time to 0.5 g (produced by a sharp steering input) brings into play the opposing influences of steering ratio and tire grip, against vehicle mass and those squirmy bushings and tire sidewalls.“Best-Handling Car,” an exhaustive multipage feature replete with in-depth analyses and qualitative data on the year’s most imposing crop of high-performance machines.We’ve spent hundreds of hours driving an array of curve-carvers along challenging public roads and, with a little help from pro racers Max Angelelli and Randy Pobst, around the infamous 2.3 miles of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Acceleration is represented by three familiar numbers: time to 60 mph, time to quarter mile, and passing time, which we define as seconds elapsed accelerating from 45 to 65 mph.
Steering gain, recorded on the skidpad, is how much additional steering angle is required-above what’s necessary just to creep around it at a few mph-to produce 0.5 g of lateral acceleration.
Similarly measured is understeer (or at least this reader-friendly definition of it): It’s the difference between the steering-wheel angle at maximum lateral acceleration and that creeping-speed steering angle just mentioned (note that both of these are presented as percentages to cancel the confusing effect of different steering ratios).
Both the speed and lateral g plots employ the same color scale to indicate high and low values.
Bright purple means the greatest speed and lateral acceleration we recorded among any of the cars; pale blue means the opposite.
At a glance, you can see how each car’s time (highlighted in red) fared against the rest.