How do you best compare one car to another? Car and Driver thinks it has the formula down, and it calls it Lightning Lap.
There's only so much you can tell about a car's performance from specific parameters. 0-60, 1/4-mile, top speed, slalom... these are all parts, but what testers try to do is form a picture of a car's capabilities as a whole. For many, that means testing at the Nurburgring, but for Car and Driver, that means Virginia International Raceway. That's where C/D performs its Lightning Lap group test, comparing the best year's best performance machines in price-categorized groups to see which offer the best overall package for its price.
For the 2013 edition, Car and Driver brought out the Lexus LFA (which stood alone in the top-tier LL5 class), the Jaguar XKR-S and Ferrari 458 Italia (dueling for LL4 honors) and, in the most populated LL3 category, the Ford Shelby GT500, Porsche Boxster S and 911 Carrera S, Audi RS5 and S6, BMW M5 and M6 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series.
Two versions of the Chevy Camaro (SS 1LE and ZL1) competed against the BMW 335i in the LL2 category, while the Fiat 500 Abarth, Subaru BRZ, Ford Focus ST and Hyundai Genesis 3.8 R-Spec battled it out for the base LL1 class. Finally, Car and Driver also brought a couple of police vehicles - the Dodge Charger Pursuit and Chevy Caprice PPV - for the new LL Oink category. Check out the run-down on this year's Lightning Lap in the video clip.