Monday, July 14, 2008

A different kind of performance

What seems to be the one word you most often hear associated with cars? If you guessed style, luxury, comfort, or even affordability, you guessed wrong. No, it’s performance.* This is the overriding consideration, or so we’ve been told, of a car’s worthiness. Performance today still means how fast can you accelerate from a dead stop to 60 mph, or how much cargo (usually a boat or gargantuan travel trailer) you can haul. With the new paradigm of ever-higher fuel costs, though, performance will shortly take on a new meaning: How far can you get on a gallon of gasoline/diesel?

I’ll be the first to admit that the new definition of performance is not nearly as sexy as the old, but things change. Shift a few years into the future and I can see a scenario where a young Lothario is bragging to his intended conquest of how little he has under his hood and how far it gets him. She, being duly impressed, decides to give him a spin.

Crazy? Science fiction? Preposterous? Perhaps. But politicians aren’t the only ones who can flip-flop; entire methods of living can too. Only those ignorant of history can argue the point.

The attitudes amongst the masses towards what performance means in an automobile are changing, but they are doing so slowly and grudgingly. Slap a couple of more bucks on the price of a gallon of gas and watch how quickly juvenile notions of speedy, fire-breathing performance evaporate. Even true juveniles, as opposed to those who are still in adolescence at 30, 40, 50, 60, etc., will not be able to evade reality for long owning a car that may zoom from 0 to 60 in an amount of seconds equal to the fingers on one hand, or have the ability to pull double duty as a barge tug, but that gets only a pathetic 21 mpg/city (with a tailwind) and costs $100-$150 to fill. When we get to the point where the choice is either walking or taking a car that chugs along steadily, but slowly and economically, we will have reached the era when the old definition of performance is quaint and outdated.

Take care.

*Or so it seems to me.

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