The hit BBC car show, Top Gear, is known the world over for feeding the appetites of gearheads (or petrolheads, if you're in the UK) with its hosts' wonderful antics and its surprisingly informative commentary and track tests. Now the boffins over at Boost Labs LLC in Gaithersburg, Va., have put their analytical skills to good use to give every fan the tools they need to evaluate the relative awesomeness of cars of Top Gear using a new Top Gear Test Track interactive dataset.
Our initial findings are that, not surprisingly, Ariel Atom cars dominated most of the metrics and may be, statistically speaking, the best in the world.
No test on the show is more important than the Stig's track test. The Top Gear Test Track, designed by Lotus, stresses cars every which way with the end result being that the times the cars post are generally considered to be pretty good indications of the overall performance of the vehicle. According to Boost Labs' report, many of the turns tempt over-steer and under-steer to reveal imperfections of a car's chassis.
The Top Gear Test Track interactive dataset includes the lap times of every car tested on the show since 2002 and displays the length of time that the fastest cars held that title. Boost Labs also parsed out the cheapest cars tested on the track and assigned awards for the lightest car and most powerful car, among others. They also assigned a trophy for most affordable speed.
The visualization Boost Labs put together provides fans and auto enthusiasts with an exceptionally accessible tool for arguing about which car is best, a game that is a perennial favorite among gearheads. The one problem is that the data doesn't leave much room for argument: The Ariel Atom V8 500 holds the current top time on the Top Gear track, and, at 1:15.01, it's more than a second faster than the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport.
The Ariel Atom's dominance doesn't stop just with the current top time. The little car that could has held that title for three seasons running. The only car to hang onto the top slot longer was the Gumpert Apollo Sport, which sat at No. 1 for around three-and-half seasons. The thing is that the Ariel Atom V8 500's predecessor, the Ariel Atom 220, also held the title of fastest car around the Top Gear track in 2003, albeit briefly before being replaced by the Koenigsegg CC8S.
Only two other manufacturers, Pagani and Koenigsegg, have also had multiple cars in the top slot since 2002, but they're all a wee bit more expensive than the indomitable Ariel Atom. The Pagani Zonda F starts at $667,000, and the Koenigsegg CCX is a more affordable $540,000. And the Ariel Atom V8 500? Just $225,000. Its smaller cousin, the Ariel Atom 220, is just $39,203. There's a reason Ariel Atom also won the award for Most Affordable Speed. The Ariel Atom 200 also took home the trophy for lightest car (1,094 pounds) -- something to think about when considering maneuverability.
The upshot? According to Top Gear Test track data, the best car in the world is definitely the Ariel Atom. It's incredibly fast. It's maneuverable. It's cheap (compared to similarly quick cars). It has a history of being a top performer. Honestly, why doesn't everyone buy an Ariel Atom and be done with it?
Because it's an insane, open-air, two-seater track-day vehicle that looks more like an overgrown go-kart than a car. There's none of that silly trim people seem to expect these days, like a windshield. At the end of the day, the Ariel Atom is a perfect experiment in automotive speed, engineering wizardry and leanness, which makes it the best car in the world if that's all you care about. But if you want any hope of going to get groceries and surviving a rainstorm, you might not want to sell your sedan just yet. So is the Ariel Atom really the best? There's still plenty of room for argument.
Check out Boost Labs' Top Gear Test Track data visualization here.