0-60 champions!

We race against the clock in six of the UK’s fastest-accelerating cars.

Click here to see all six cars doing what they do best in our exclusive 0-60 video feature!

It’s the most famous motoring measurement in the world: the 0-60mph sprint. In low-powered models it can be an arduous effort, but launch a high-performance machine and you’d better be ready to hold on tight for the white-knuckle ride of your life!

Ever since the late Forties, it’s been the benchmark performance test for anything with four wheels, even though a 0-60mph time is far from foolproof. The weather, the skill of the driver, the condition of the tyres and the road surface all have a huge effect. Yet none of that can detract from the bragging rights of a class-leading time for any car maker.

Auto Express has recorded acceleration times in all the models we’ve road tested since our first issue in 1988 – and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the fastest cars come in all shapes and sizes.

To find the ultimate 0-60mph champ in 2009, we’ve taken the quickest choices in six different classes of the new car market and started the stopwatch! Our contenders have qualified for inclusion thanks to their claimed 0-62mph times – the European figures that equate to 100kph now quoted by most makers. We then brought the models together to record our own 0-60mph times in the worst of Britain’s winter weather.

To rule out cost-no-object hypercars, we have a £100,000 limit – so our six are the fastest SUV, lightweight track model, sports car, saloon, hot hatch and electric vehicle on sale in the UK today. Let the acceleration begin...

HOW WE RECORD AN ACCURATE SPRINT TIME

Over the years, car magazines have used a variety of methods for recording 0-60mph sprint times of the models they test.

A stopwatch was the first, but a more accurate solution was a bicycle wheel, which was mounted to the car’s rear. The speed of this fifth wheel was recorded and matched that of the vehicle.

In the late Eighties, things got more elaborate; a light box was stuck on to a door, and this sent a beam on to the tarmac, which allowed motion to be detected. Today, though, we have the benefit of a far simpler GPS-based system.

0-60MPH RANKING

1. Porsche 911 Turbo 3.7 seconds £99,679

2. Ariel Atom 300 S 4.1 seconds £40,000+

3. Audi RS6 saloon 4.3 seconds £74,560

4. Mercedes ML63 AMG 4.9 seconds £77,455

5. Tesla Roadster 5.1 seconds £96,000

6. MeganE R26.R 5.9 seconds £23,314

Verdict

Not one of our cars took more than 5.9 seconds to cover 0-60mph – this is amazing considering that such pace was way out of reach not very long ago.

Slowest was the Mégane R26.R, but that doesn’t tell the full story. The Renault is less than one-third of the price of nearly every other model in this test, feeds power to the front wheels only and was one of the most engaging vehicles to drive to our test location.

It failed to live up to its official times, but our Tesla development car still turned plenty of heads as it whirred its way from 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. That was only two-tenths behind Mercedes’ mighty ML 63 AMG, which proved SUVs can be quick.

Each of our top three fastest-accelerating models offers something different. Porsche’s 911 Turbo was the ultimate performer – it reached the highest top speed and got there the quickest. The Ariel Atom was a real thrill, testing the driver’s skill to the limit, yet both models left everyone involved with sweaty palms.

That’s why the car with the third best time is our pick of the contenders here. The Audi RS6 saloon is not only breathtakingly quick; it also makes you feel you could go on posting the same times all day long.

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