The Truth About Cars » road and track The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » road and track Housekeeping: Do You Want The “Director’s Cut”? Sat, 22 Feb 2014 18:57:30 +0000 Scion_FR-S_3-22-2012-Toyota-Motorsports-Kickoff-Day-USA-100-57

At TTAC, I take it for granted that most of the B&B have more real-life experience and a better grasp on industry matters than I do. Sometimes, it can be detrimental.


When Road & Track asked me to do a guest post on the slow sales of the Scion FR-S and how it might impact the future course of upgrades for the car, I wrote a 700 word piece going in-depth and explaining many of the granular details behind the economics of the auto industry. My TTAC piece, though well received, was much shorter and skimmed over many of the broader topics.

What I want is for you, the readers, to let me know what course of action you prefer. Should I keep giving you a brief rundown of the topic at hand, assuming that you can fill in the blanks yourselves? Or would you prefer a more fleshed-out “director’s cut” version, even if it’s a topic that is already familiar to you?

]]> 200
The First-Ever Road&Track Performance Car Of The Year Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:18:03 +0000 BMW43503-md

Thirteen cars, from the Ford Fiesta ST to the Ferrari F12berlinetta, met in Michigan two months ago for Road & Track‘s first “Performance Car Of The Year” shootout. Seven were eliminated around the “Motown Mile” concrete airport road course, one died an ignominious death in the hills of Ohio, three made it to the finals, one was crowned the 2013 #pcoty.

In a nod to the “new media”, the magazine permitted a pair of online-writer controversialists to participate in the event. Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski spent the day at the track with us before jetting off to a Bentley event where the journalists were being allowed to hunt some of Joseph Kony’s child warriors in open-topped Continental GTCs while being force-fed foie gras in a test of meta-irony. (That’s not even remotely close to being true; I think he went home to bathe his golden retriever or something.) You can read his coverage here.

Your humble E-I-C was permitted to attend the whole thing, annoy the other writers, perform a couple of double-yellow passes that will haunt the nightmares of the magazine’s editorial staff for years to come… and, oh yeah, I wrote the story that made the young girls cry. You can read it online if you like, but I’d really prefer that you buy the magazine on the 19th and read it there. Not because I need the money, although I do. It’s more for the fact that this 3,200-word barbaric yawp is meant to be held in your hands and read old-school. There’s very little concession to short attention spans or quick paragraphs. I wanted you to be right there with us as we drove the cars. So buy the magazine, okay?

]]> 33
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better! Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:31:54 +0000

I haven’t seen it yet — my only current magazine subscriptions are The Economist, Vintage Guitar, and Juggs — but I am reliably told that your humble author has two, count ‘em, two articles in the newest issue of that well-beloved and august publication, Road&Track. TTAC readers are already comparing me to the Emperor Napoleon as I triumphantly return to color magazines the way Napoleon returned from Elba.

Yes, I said return.

Twenty-two years ago, I began writing for Bicycles Today magazine. In a monthly column entitled “One Racer’s Perspective”, I railed against the excesses of the industry, provided advice for new racers, and exposed the too-cozy relationship between the manufacturers and the color mags. I even wrote a little fiction. Sounds thoroughly familiar, right? Most of all, I campaigned for riders to be given a voice in the sport of bicycle motocross, which at that point was run by an unholy coalition of parents and sunshine-state scam artists.

When BMX Action! became GO! magazine and a fellow pro racer named Chris Moeller took control as editor, he invited me to contribute and I did so… only to see the rag fold before my first column could be printed. Oh well. The first experiment in letting the inmates run the asylum was a failure.

A decade after that unhappy ending, I wrote an angry letter to Car and Driver objecting to their praise of a certain South African kit-car manufacturer. C/D printed the letter and a major online car forum of the era made said letter a subject of discussion. My decision to join that discussion started a chain of events that landed me right here nine years later.

Road&Track is not the first major car magazine to ask me to contribute. I declined for a variety of reasons in the past and when Sam Smith contacted me in August my first impulse was to decline again. Over the course of a couple discussions, however, I became convinced by the three-inch-thick stack of Benjamins Hearst Publications offered me clarity and integrity of Sam’s vision for the mag.

To bring me on as an occasional contributor, Sam not only had to convince me, he had to deal with a firestorm of objections, criticism, and negative reactions from automakers and fellow journalists who have been on the receiving end of my cordovan MacNeils since 2007 or thereabouts. To his credit, he did that and his boss, Larry Webster, stood behind him. They’re still hearing that they’ve made the wrong decision — from people in the business, from the yes-men in the PR cliques, from the whispering cowards at the press events.

If you pick up the April issue of Road&Track, you’ll see that my editorial voice and personal commitment to truth were allowed to shine through without modification or mollification. The comparison test I wrote, which pits the 911 Carrera S PDK against the Lotus Evora S IPS on the back roads of South Carolina, may shock the mag’s regular readers but it won’t shock you.

I will continue to do the majority of my writing right here at TTAC, but I am pleased to note that for the foreseeable future, you’ll also be able to read me at Road&Track. I’m also asking you, the reader, to hold me accountable for what I write here and there. I’m not doing this for the money or the perks; I’ve owned the kind of cars most autojournos have to sign two waivers just to touch and when I want to fly somewhere nice I just take out my wallet. I’m in this business because I believe in truth and I remain deeply passionate about cars. That won’t change.

This experiment that Hearst is trying — that of stacking a color magazine with actual club racers and letting them run wild — may fare no better than Wizard Publications’ decision to let Chris Moeller run BMX Action! I’m hoping that’s not the case. This time, the good guys deserve a win, and I expect to be standing right next to them when it goes up on the scoreboard.

Be seeing you.

]]> 41
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Tesla Model S Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:27:12 +0000

If Elon Musk is still smarting about how much damage the New York Times has done to Tesla, the fledgling automaker can take comfort in the fact that the positive reviews are still pouring in.

For example, take a look at this glowing write-up on the Model S from Road & Track’s Jason Cammisa. Although the Tesla’s door handles receive a vigorous and thorough critical assessment, its other flaws are glossed over or simply omitted from consideration. After praising the Model S for  its remarkable driving dynamics, amazing powertrain and homegrown pedigree, Cammisa gets to the real meat of the EV issue – and promptly sidesteps it all.

Set aside the discussion as to whether EVs are actually feasible 
given our overtaxed power grid, and whether our electricity-generating power plants are any more environmentally friendly than a really efficient gasoline engine. Ignore, for a moment, that we don’t know how the Model S will age or how reliable it will be a decade on. Time will answer all of these, as well as the question of whether Tesla itself can stay solvent long enough to survive into maturity. We set them aside with the knowledge that the Tesla S means these discussions will finally be worth having. The Model S is the car that proves that the EV isn’t just viable, but truly desirable.

In my opinion, the above paragraph represents a pulled punch with respect to the real issues surrounding Tesla and EVs. It’s fine to evaluate the performance, aesthetics and build quality of the Model S as one would with any other car, especially in a road test. But 0-60 times and lateral g’s are a small part of the picture here. If EVs do not contribute to a net reduction in carbon emissions, why bother with a powertrain that offers significant compromises over an ICE equivalent? If Tesla cannot keep itself afloat, or if the car will turn into a 4000-lb paperweight in a decade, is buying a Model S a prudent decision? Despite leaving these critical questions unanswered, Cammisa somehow asserts that EVs are in fact “viable” and that these discussions are “…will finally be worth having”.

My question is, why aren’t we having them already, in influential publications like Road & Track? Despite what Cammisa says, we don’t have to wait for time to pass before we know the answers. A bit of intellectual labor can give us a picture of how things will play out. Furthermore a publication like R&T has both the budget and freedom from the daily grind of the blogosphere news cycle to delve into these matters.

Sure, there are a number of agenda-driven entities that propagate bad information and do little to enhance the discourse, but isn’t journalism all about sifting through bad information to find the truth? I’ve been down this road before; when the “scandal” regarding the Tesla Roadster and “bricked” batteries came out early in 2012, TTAC was among the first to call bullshit on the claims of the plaintiffs. The exercise illuminated why doing the “hard work” was so important. This is an era where hearsay can quickly become fact – a dangerous prospect given how much bad information is already floating around out there. The onus is on us as journalists to, well, do our jobs and find out the truth – whether it’s getting to the bottom of a malicious smear campaign against a fledgling startup, or determining the viability of pure EVs outside of the normal “car guy” parameters of going fast and looking cool.



]]> 41