By on July 17, 2009

Like most people under the age of 40, I never read car magazines. Actually that’s not true. I’ve been stealing copies of Auto Motor und Sport from my dad for years. Even after its long trip across the Atlantic, the anal-retentive German’s anal-retentive car magazine still manages to scoop the American mags on many of the most compelling industry developments. But the real draw is the mag’s road testing, which really confirms every stereotype of Teutonic attention to detail. No metric is too mundane to be measured, graphed and scored… think Consumer Reports for people who actually like cars and think OCD medication is for the weak. On the other side of the equation is evo magazine, which is hands-down the best enthusiast-oriented car magazine.

In contrast to AM und S’s technical dissection, evo splashes gorgeous photography across the classiest paper stock in the business. Sure, a year’s subscription costs $100 when delivered to the US, but each issue looks and feels like the Sultan of Brunei’s own in-house car catalog. And, as an unabashed enthusiast mag, evo’s mission is to find real enthusiast options among new and used cars, from major OEMs and cottage industry wackos alike. These two magazines exemplify two approaches to automotive print journalism that really work: the high-end enthusiast bible and the on-point news/analysis monster. And yet none of the US buff books have been able to work either of these proven lines of attack. Like profitable automakers, good car magazines exist… just not in this country.

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21 Comments on “Daily Podcast: Death To The Car Mag...”


  • avatar
    Autopassion

    To the short list of auto-related “bibles”, I would also add “The Rodder’s Journal”, a magnificent publication.

  • avatar
    Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

    EVO does have some really great photos in their magazine. One of the few I actually look forward to flipping through.

    I’ve also noticed the lack of quality motorcycle magazines in the U.S. as well.

  • avatar
    26theone

    The difference might be that the US mags can be had for $10 for a years subscription (12 issues). That’s pretty cheap even if the reviews might be a little thin.

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I might be interested in checking out a car mag that basically just reprints the best and most interesting car/product reviews and editorials from websites.

    Most people don’t have enough time to check out every auto website’s content and may miss some real great writing or photography. A medium that could put that all in my hands every month would be pretty cool, as long as it’s timely (June content could be mailed out first couple weeks of July with some effort).

    This could be a real bonus for websites, too. They could some of their content out to more people and reference them back to the website for more.

    I’m starting to wish I had the capital to get this rolling, or at least investigate the idea further.

  • avatar
    Unlimited Headroom

    Scoff you may but I must admit that an evening with an unadultered (sp) edition of OCTANE is better (almost) than anything the good sultan can muster.

  • avatar
    twotone

    British car mags (Car, Top Gear, Classic Motorsports, etc.) are much better than what we have here in the colonies.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    I’m an Automobile fan myself and have really enjoyed the direction they have taken under their new English editor (Gavin something). While they have always done the automotive design analysis thing well and upped the humor quotient when they hired Ezra Dyer, they are doing some great stories on both car culture (rat rods, 24 Hours of Nurburgring, etc.) and racing personalities (Penske, Patron ALMS, Tanner Foust, etc). Oh, and I’m under 40.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    The great thing about US auto mags (MT, Automobile, Autoweek, R&T, C&D) is that they can be had for free via promotional websites.

    The bad thing is that some issues make you wish you hadn’t bothered. My retinas are still scarred from having caught a glimpse of Dutch Mandel in camo gear in a photo accompanying a narcissistic blurb about his humanitarian mission to Iraq.

    Note to Dutch: It’s about the cars, stupid!

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    It is not only the Germans. A friend of mine collects italian car magazines. I see dyno graphs, technical drawings of cams and cam mods, design curves for heat exchange and from what I can read of italian the commentary is not for the dumb.

    Those mags are to american mags as Stanford is to University of Florida.

  • avatar
    commando1

    “…The great thing about US auto mags (MT, Automobile, Autoweek, R&T, C&D) is that they can be had for free via promotional websites.”

    Please enlighten me further on this, spyspeed.
    The economy has killed all my discretionary spending…

  • avatar
    6c1500

    Don’t ignore AUTOCAR (weekly,British, expensive, intelligent),Car Graphic and, same publishing house, CAR, both Japanese with perhaps the best photography in the business, which partially compensates for the all-Japanese language text. Also Ruoteclassiche and La Manovella for superb coverage of the collector car world, from Italy. I’ve also read Australia’s MOTOR from time to time. Very good. All the above offer things not offerred is US publications. Almost forgot the British CAR. It’s damn good, too
    The only problem with the above menu is COST.

  • avatar
    the duke

    I’m not only under 40, but under 30, and still read car mags. I love Octane, but can’t really afford to subscribe, and its not for those with a mere passing interest in vintage cars (you must be obsessed, as myself). 0-60 mag is done well and where I get my fix for modern machines. And I still like Automobile, because as mentioned Ezra Dyer is great and the magazine is much better than Motor Trend, which I used to love (anyone remember C.V. Tune’s Mad Car Disease Editorials from the early-mid nineties?).

    My personal opinion is that print mags need to focus on good editorials, in-depth reviews, and comparisons that are not time-sensitive, and the blogoshpere does not cover. Just give up on car news and do content. The rags can’t survive otherwise.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    I look forward to EVO every month. Fabulous writing and photography.

    I’m also a fan of Grassroots Motorsports.
    I’ll pick up the odd issue of Top Gear, CAR etc. depending on content and how much time I’m spending on airplanes that month.

    Much like anything else, I find publications that find a niche, and do it well (EVO, Grassroots etc.) continue to do ok, but “generalist” publications that basically just give new car news and reviews don’t have a chance vs. free internet content.

  • avatar
    Seth L

    Didn’t RPM try to go the EVO route, and died?

    I’ve always loved CAR.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    EVO is the best car magazine I’ve ever read.

    Nothing else is even a close second, IMO.

    Oh, and I’m a subscriber – I don’t mind paying for the quality.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The British mags are fun, but their version of English is hard to read (I have less trouble with Chaucer), and they seem to have curious disinclination towards publishing some basic stats about the cars they discuss, like length and weight.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Rolls and Pleats is pretty good. Mostly pics of traditional style hot rods, and therefore never dated (or always dated?)

    http://pagesperso-orange.fr/jpdesvauxlavandou/magazine.htm

  • avatar
    niky

    Robert Schwartz :
    July 17th, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    The British mags are fun, but their version of English is hard to read (I have less trouble with Chaucer), and they seem to have curious disinclination towards publishing some basic stats about the cars they discuss, like length and weight.

    Length only matters when you’re parking the car. The European magazines publish weight in kilograms.

    -

    I’m an avid reader of EVO, and enjoy the odd AutoCar and CAR issue… Driver’s Republic (online only) is also fun, being made up of ex-EVO and ex-Autocar staffers.

    I pick up MOTOR (Australian) whenever I can find it… Nice magazine, too.

    I think the appeal of magazines like EVO is the fact that they concentrate less on the mundanities that most automotive reviews need to touch on (due to their demographics, five paragraphs on cupholders and stereo are a must for any regular magazine) and focus solely on the driving experience… which, to be honest, is all you really care about as an enthusiast.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I am a big fan of Evo and think they do many things right. The photography is one, the style and quality of writing another. I also like the no advertising perfect photo cover page if you are a subscriber – really do not understand why more mags don’t do it.

    I also subscribe to Autocar, which has some very good writing as well, and is more up to date – given the weekly format.

    On the subject of AMS my opinion is deeply divided. I used to love it as a kid and have been subscribed for a very long time. Back in the day I also prefered it to English publications for exactly the reasons mentioned – it seemed much more scientific and in the pre-driving days I could not fully grasp the difference in the description of how the cars felt like to drive.

    When I started driving myself and living in the UK, my opinion changed. I really started enjoying Car, Autocar and Performance Car (predecessor to Evo). Top Gear, not so much that came later for me.

    Looking at it from that perspective AMS slowly started to look a lot less appealing. In the old days I would simply assume that plenty of data equalled reliable results. And that German cars were so much better at everything that thywould have to win every test, which at AMS at tha time they inevitably did. There were clear favourites when it came to manufacturers as well. Reading more magazines made me appreciate how contrived the conclusions and justifications for AMS results sometimes were.

    Nowadays I only read AMS on the occasional trip to Germany and often just skip through large sections. The data is still good but I just cannot bring myself to really trust any of the conclusions, plus the quality of writing in the English seaking mags is just so much better.

    Octane has me completely divided – I enjoy some of the topics but feel the writing is not up to scratch on average ad that it doesn’t justify a subscription.

    Overall internet has not really in any way changed the number of car mags that I read or the fact that I read them at all. I get the up to date news online, then read the car mags on the train to and from work.

  • avatar
    pk1

    I grew up reading my dad’s copies of ams. or better, looking at the pics before I could read. When it comes to impartiality, there is a reason why it used to be called “Audi, Mercedes und Sport.”

    I still like ams, but the Italian Quattroruote beats it for technical graphs, explanations, and data.

    Evo is great, Car used to be great. What I like about both magazines, is, that my girlfriend – who is not the least bit interested in cars – can still be entertained by reading the articles and the pics.

    This is the problem with Octane: the featured cars and images are great, but the layout is b-o-r-i-n-g, misses any non literal artistic communication, enthusiasm, and the writing is ok at best, very, very, predictable.

    Top Gear magazine is not the best one in the WORLD.

    Road&Track, Car and Driver: Used to read them as a teenager. They are orders of magnitude too close to Consumer Report compared to Car and the like. Just watch the TV shows they produce: Yawn!

    My ultimate car magazine? The writing and visuals from Car and Evo, technical graphs and discussions from Quattroruote, discussions from Auto&Design, clever appreciation of each car’s strengths from Automobiles Classiques. Oh, and I spent all my teenage pocket money on the latter two, by the way.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    @commando1

    There are many forum threads dedicated to free magazine subscription offers. I follow this one, but you might also check sites such as fatwallet and slickdeals. Note, the offers usually expire within two weeks or less.


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