The Reckoner!

Is it better to drive a slow car fast, or a fast car slow?

So the adage goes, it's 'better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow'.  I'm curious to see just how true this really is.

Let me offer you two options:

  • Option 1

    I'm giving you a Maserati GranTurismo MC.  For free.  Boom.  In your driveway.  Keys are in the ignition.  But there's one caveat -- you can only use it to commute to work.  Otherwise, the engine won't turn over.  And your commute to work mostly involves sitting bumper-to-bumper in the freeway, with periodic bursts of ordinary highway driving.  No real room to stetch its legs.
  • Option 2

    I'm giving you a 1988 Ford Festiva L.  63 roaring horses under that hood, just waiting to get unleashed, buddy.  You can also only use it to commute to work.  The difference is, your commute to work is on the old Nürburgring, and you're free to absolutely drive the wheels off the thing however you see fit.  It's 14 miles of free and open track.

You only get one.  Also, the car disappears out of your driveway after a year, so the difference in value isn't a factor.  Which do you take, the Maserati puttering in rush hour, or the Ford Festiva on the Nürburging?

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The Official DC Friend of the Reckoner drove a 1988 Ford Festiva L in high school, hence the inspiration for this question.  That car was the most bitchin' car in the universe, bar none.  There was a nickel-sized hole in the floor on the driver's side.  We had to fight off dates with a stick when we rolled in that thing.

Even going ten miles an hour in turtle mode on the commute, the Maserati wins just for the comfort alone.

A slow car can indeed be more fun to drive than a really fast car.  My oldest son's 400+ HP, Mustang Cobra is unbelievably'll hit 100 in just a few seconds.  A thrill no doubt, but limited in where and how often that can be done. Most driving is done at the very bottom of the car's performance envelope.

A clapped out old Fiat X1-9 is still my favorite for fun. It's 50 HP motor was almost always maxed out and felt like you were going really fast when you weren't.

With driving fun as the only criterion... I'd take the slow car being flogged.

You can't beat puttering in style....give me the Maserati!!!

Also, I come from the school of thought that a car is only as good as you feel when you are driving it....I'm an ex-advertising executive, and if you look at car advertising, that's what it's all about- the feeling that car gives you when you are driving it. So if you think the same, you're not going to feel good at any speed in that clapped out Ford Festiva...

I have 2 Festivas. 0 Maseratis. The Festiva is able to be modified to hang with most factory speed demons out there. Check it out on youtube. FESTIVA FTMFW!!!

I'd also like to add that Linda Koch has never driven a Festiva. The careless feeling you get when you sling a 1700lb pound car into a curve is as close as you can get to a go-cart. The rush of flooring the pedal and bumping the fuel cutoff before you grab each gear cannot be reached by smooth driving. You may as well be watching a movie of scenery going by if you like the sterile numbness of what modern car makers call luxury. Is it luxurious to not feel anything? To be disconnected from the machine? No wonder you see high end car drivers plow into their obstacle of choice. They want to end it all. To correct their mistake. They could have the same feeling by taking a handful of Darvoset. Not me. I like the punch in the throat, "This thing wasn't made for this", nothing to hold on to, 4 wheels and an engine raw feeling. The same feeling of pushing everything to its limit, forcing God himself to pay attention to the calamity that is taking place. I refuse to sit back while lights, buzzers and safety limiters tell me how to drive. I would rather die than not live. I'd drive the Festiva.


I took a look at some YouTube videos of modded Festivas -- it's incredible what they can do with them.  It's definitely true that driving in a car like that makes you much more aware of the speed -- and the road around you -- than the hermetic bubble that most touring and sports cars create.

That's my kind of driving, personally.  That's what makes go-karting such a blast.  You may only be doing 40 MPH, which you almost certainly drove faster than on the way to the track, but it's 40 MPH with your butt about three centimeters off the ground.

@Dan If you'd like to join the econo-side, just do a search for Ford Festiva. We're the largest site on the web. We get giddy over stuff like this. We're trying to get Jay Leno to show us more of his "Shogun", a Festiva with a Ford Taurus SHO engine and transmission implanted in the rear. They're surprisingly durable, cheap, and easy to modify.

@Dustin...interesting take on this question. You really convey that passion for the man over machine feeling. I didn't factor in the people, such as yourself, who are really into the feeling and sensation of raw speed rather than the look, and luxurious perception. But, I guess you do agree that a car is only as good as the way it makes the driver feel...and in this case the Ford Festiva does it for you.

As the aforementioned Official D.C. friend and proud former Festiva owner, I can't tell you how much I miss that car.  Like @Dustin said, it felt like driving a Go-Kart.  No matter what speed you were going, it always felt fast.  

Plus, we used to be able to fit way more people into the Festiva than you could in a sports car. 

The Reckoner!