From the February/March issue of Car and Driver.
While everyone is busy celebrating the complicated sound maker under the hood, a device that needs all kinds of care and feeding and still only delivers peak power in a minuscule range, they tend to scorn the system that might be twice as powerful. ignore. That’s right, the brakes.
The whoa part of the equation is just as responsible for a fast lap as the go part, even if its sound doesn’t get people out of their seats. So this year we quantified how hard braking systems worked at Lightning Lap, by instantly calculating the kinetic energy of a vehicle at its peak front end speed and how quickly the brakes shook it off before Turn 1, expressed in familiar horsepower terms for you engine lovers.
Energy increases with the square of speed, so the relatively light but fast entries, such as the Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, are way up there. But the heavier and slightly slower Mercedes-AMG SL63 is the highest. By comparison, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which is 1,014 pounds lighter than the SL63 and 26 mph slower, has about half the energy.
When it comes to measuring stopping power, the Huracán and Corvette Z06 are tops, averaging over 1000 horsepower for the 4.6 seconds it takes to clear over 100 mph. If you’re not immediately impressed, in the case of the Z06, it’s nearly four times faster than it takes to accelerate between those two speeds. Zooming in on the hard-working few seconds, those cars slow down with the power of more than 1600 horses.
If you instead compare average braking power to peak engine power, the BMW M240i, the Audi RS3 and the Hyundai Elantra N are the top performers, each with their brakes slightly more than twice as strong as their not too shabby engines.
But even the Kia Carnival minivan—in which case it’s already experiencing brake fade—has stopping power 1.3 times that of its engine. This is why a firm application of the brake pedal should remedy any kind of stuck throttle or unintended acceleration situation, and also why it’s better to be a little fast at the end of a ramp than the opposite; speed is much faster than getting it.