Whenever car enthusiasts get together to talk about cars, numbers and expletives fly in equal parts. Talk of engine specs, horsepower, 0-60 mph times and top speed figures dominate conversations. For some of the nerdier types (*raises hand* guilty as charged), some more in-depth figures also start to fly, such as lateral g and braking distances. To be honest, most of those figures are meaningless, being that if one percent of car customers actually used those figures, it’d be a shock. However, as this excellent piece by Motor Trend’s Kim Reynolds shows us, those performance metrics can actually make cars safer.

It doesn’t take a PhD in mechanical engineering to understand that the quicker a car can brake from 60-0 mph, the safer it is. Or the more agile it is, the easier it can maneuver out of the way of an obstruction in the road. It’s no secret that the more capable a car is at high speed, the more likely it can avoid danger. However, it’s hard to quantify that. Thankfully, Reynolds did just that.

In this new article from Motor Trend, we get to see the data on how a BMW M340i performs on the road, in the most normal of everyday driving, and on the track. Reynolds uses graphs to show the car’s capabilities both at its very limit and in its most relaxed possible state. Seeing the hard data is really quite fascinating.

Few M340i owners are ever going to push the lateral g-limits of their car often. In fact, for most M340i owners, the car will likely never see half of the g-forces it’s capable of. Having said that, in that once in a lifetime moment where something big, heavy and dangerous falls off the back of a truck in front of you at 70 mph, you know that the M340i will be able to quickly react and swerve around it, avoiding danger. So long as you’re also quick enough to react, of course. Still, you know the car won’t let you down.

This is a fascinating article if you’re like me and like the nerdy details. It also shows that, while essentially pointless in everyday life, modern performance cars can actually save your life in those rare moments when you need something that agile and that capable. Sure, most of the performance in modern cars is just for bragging rights, often times for the companies themselves, but it can also be the difference between life and death.

[Source: Motor Trend]