The car sprints to 60mph in 5.1sec and to 100mph in 12.4sec. Not bad. As we’ll find out, only one car here will go faster over those trips. But the 4C doesn’t hit 150mph, with drag taking a heavy toll on its rate of acceleration above 100mph. Terminal speed is pegged at 141.4mph. A steady start.
Next, the A4 3.0 TDI quattro, a car whose all-paw drivetrain gives it about as much need of a launch control system as it might have of a diamond-encrusted dead man’s pedal. This full-house 268bhp version combines that engine and four-wheel drive system with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, whereas less powerful versions come with a twin-clutch equivalent. But still, freshness to market, combined with Audi’s typical focus on efficiency, means that like-for-like executive saloons don’t come much more frugal.
There’s no need to worry about shifting gears here – just wind up the torque converter against the brake pedal and then mash the accelerator pedal. The car rumbles swiftly and smoothly through its lower ratios but, save for a fairly savage release from rest, it never feels desperately fast. It’s brisk, sure, but less and less so as speed rises. There’s enough time to notice that we’ll be lucky to average less than 15.0sec to 100mph. Eking out as much speed as possible before braking, the car averages a top speed of 136mph.
Time to get serious. I’d have put my next pay rise on the D3 Biturbo striking the sweetest compromise here of performance and economy, having seen upwards of 50mpg from six-cylinder BMW diesels on several occasions on the road and already sampled the latest Alpina version’s punchy turn of speed first hand. But we’ve got the rear-wheel-drive version of the car and conditions are just greasy enough to make it struggle for grip ever so slightly, even with launch control.
Once third gear is in train, the car forges on as if our chilly winter day was in fact bone dry and 30deg C, its motor revving so freely that you wouldn’t believe it could be diesel. Having missed Alpina’s 4.6sec claim to 62mph by quite a way, the D3 dips under 13.0sec to 100mph. More like it.
It feels like it’d run well beyond 150mph given enough room but, disappointingly, not here and now. The end of the straights calls time on the D3’s top speed at a two-way average of 144mph.
With only one car left, my worry is that nothing will crack the 150mph standing-mile threshold, bringing our test to a premature end. But we’ve saved the carbonfibre-tubbed wild card until last: the i8, the most accelerative car here, according to those manufacturer claims. Not that it’s an easy car to set into motion with optimal force.
BMW does include a launch control mode, but it doesn’t seem to work well with the car’s electric motors, so holding the car on both pedals feels a bit like you’re inadvertently tearing it in two.