Between The Lines: Motor Trend on the 2008 Subaru WRX
As Motor Trend (MT) and its buff book brethren hemorrhage readers and cash to the Internet, they’ve reacted in the only way they know how: by kow-towing to their advertisers with even greater ardor and even lower journalistic standards (yes, “special advertising section” readers, it is possible). But what really galls is their continued belief that they’re superior to both Internet websites and those who visit them. MT’s first test review of the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX is a perfect case in point.
”OMGWRXLOL: Subaru's latest rally-bred rocket crash lands on the Internet. We pick up the pieces and set the record straight.”
The headline capping Edward Loh’s review of the WRX immediately exposes both Motor Trend’s superiority complex and their lack of clue. Here on the “internets,” abbreviations like “OMG” and “LOL” haven’t been used by anyone other than Dateline sex predators since 1998. Needless to say, Loh’s lead takes the ignorant arrogance-shaped ball and runs with it.
“Immediately after subscribers received our May issue– the one with our exclusive first look at the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX– the cover and story photos lit up Internet forums and blogs around the world. Auto enthusiasts flocked en masse to their favorite sites to weigh in on the new look.”
The scribe is implying that Motor Trend’s WRX coverage scooped the net, and then inspired it to sound-off. Not so, Loh. Australiancaradvice.com had full WRX pics and specs on March 27. Cars.ign.com covered the WRX on April 4, and Autochannel.com posted on April 5. Even if the magazine’s editor or ad manager had “convinced” Subaru to hide the WRX from the world for MT, the idea that a buff book with a two-month lead time still sets the automotive agenda is simply preposterous.
After quoting Internet posters’ pithiest comments (without paying freelance fees), Loh condescends to set the record straight.
“Amidst the knee-jerk reactionaries were a few cooler heads willing to wait out the hype until they drove the car before rendering final judgment. What a novel idea.”
Keep in mind that the vast majority of the Internet comments slated the WRX for its looks (which are, let’s face it, hideous). After vilifying any such conjecture, Loh immediately concedes that “WRXs have never been lookers,” and attempts to reframe the debate while displaying his [supposed] Internet savvy.
“They've always been drivers, and whether you're sprinting across town or around a mountain pass, the new 2008 WRX should make you LOL. Why? Because under the controversial new sheetmetal is much the same WRX you know and love.”
Well exactly. While the WRX’ competitors have moved on, offering more horsepower and plenty of dynamic fluidity, the “new” Legacy-based WRX offers only two important differences from its predecessor: the horsepower and torque arrive 500rpm earlier and the car gets five percent better fuel economy. And that’s what pissed-off the “forum trolls” [sic].
In this disappointment they are not alone. Even the traditionally gentle mainstream publications have trashed the new WRX. Automobile concluded “we’re not convinced: since when should a Subaru look and drive like a Toyota – and an ugly one at that?” Edmunds’ Inside Line summarized a pile of bad news: “Engine runs out of steam early; soft suspension with lots of body roll; sleepy styling.” Car and Driver: We suspect [the “WRX faithful”] will transfer their affections to the STI or other brands.”
Even though Loh admits that the new WRX turns in identical acceleration and slalom times as the old car, he’s determined to prove the Internet arrivistes are wrong. Or, if you prefer, fellate Subaru by praising handling-oriented changes that don’t actually improve the car's handling. Oh and…
“Gone are the stark silver plastics and restrictive rear legroom; occupants are now treated to more room in every direction, richly textured surfaces, and seats redesigned to support the entire back. Getting in and out is easier, too; the rear doors now open wider by one full stop and close with a satisfying thunk.”
Again, Mr. Loh’s doesn’t understand that the Subie-loving Internet denizens aren’t interested in surface textures or thunking doors; they wanted better looks, more bang-for-the-buck and major handling advances.
Mr. Loh’s cheery assessment of the 2008 WRX finally ends with– get this– an olive branch.
“What's the take-home message for the forum trolls? Give it a chance. With all the content Subaru has managed to cram under its controversial skin, the new WRX should have you laughing out loud.”
We take home a different message. Consumers are expressing themselves in huge numbers on the Internet. Their perspective is just as valid as the “pros.” In fact more so; it’s their money that keeps carmakers afloat. Or not. Meanwhile, so long as the mainstream press perches on its pedestal, it won’t be able to see everyone else sawing away at the base down below.
[Read MT's WRX review here.]
Tentacles on Sep 08, 2007
They don't need to introduce anything, all they have to do is bring over the Caldina. The 3SGTE has enough sporting pedigree to satisfy weekend rally drivers. Or Mitsu could bring over the Lancer Evolution Wagon, I imagine either one will put a significant damper on Subaru's success.
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