Answer; it depends.
Put it another way; who was/is the better footballer – George Best or Wayne Rooney?
Who was/is the better tennis player – Bjorn Borg or Roger Federer?
Who was/is the better racing driver – Juan Manuel Fangio or Ayrton Senna?
As a reader so eloquently pointed out to me this very morning when I attempted to defend the trusty old 205 GTi beside its more modern hot hatch opponents by presenting the Best vs Rooney argument; “We can’t be sure about George Best because he had inferior training and nutrition advice and wore heavy rubbish boots compared with the £3000-a-time ones Rooney wears. Besides, so much has changed in the game that we can never know who was best – other than by name…”
“But,” continued my new friend, “out of a 205 GTi and a Clio Cup 200 we can say categorically which is faster from 0-60mph, 0-100mph etc. We can also say which has the best brakes, the best handling, the most power etc. Which means we can also safely say that the 205 GTi would be left for dead by just about anything on sale today, including the diesels if you must.”
The inference, of course, is that because a 205 GTi’s performamce parameters have been eclipsed by its more modern siblings, it is somehow no longer relevant to any overall ranking system. It’s slower and therefore it’s not, and never was, as good as the cars that have superceded it.
But I can’t agree with this argument any more than I could agree that George Best or Juan Manuel Fangio are/were better or worse than Wayne Rooney or Ayrton Senna. And until someone invents some kind of formula that allows us to compare various icons and their achievements definitively across the aeons, debates such as these will continue to rage without ever reaching a clear conclusion.
Doesn’t stop them from being quite a good way of passing the time, mind you…