By on September 25, 2007

cdjul771x1.jpgWhen I first picked up Car and Driver’s (C&D) fateful December 2006 issue, I was convinced that the splashy, graphics-heavy revamp sounded the death knell for my favorite buff book. But the resulting reader backlash was so loud I felt sure Ann Arbor’s finest would be scared straight. A plaintive apology followed the editor’s arrogant dismissal of the reader revolt. C&D seemed poised for a revival. Nope. The October 2007 issue isn’t just the lowest point in the mag’s inexorable descent; it’s a dive below the limits of acceptability.

The buff books’ decline is inversely proportionate to digital media’s rise. Why fork over good money for a magazine subscription, endure two-month old editorials and wade through dozens of ads when the web provides fresh, instant and less ad-intrusive content for free? For the mags, there's an obvious answer: an upmarket re-imagining of the paper-based genre, like the UK’s elegant, ballsy evo magazine.

No such luck. Like The Big 2.8, even a precipitous decline in market share and profits hasn’t convinced the powers-that-be at Car and Driver, Road & Track and Motor Trend that there's a pressing need for radical change. The buff book Old Guard eschews brave revolution in favor of gentle evolution. Even worse, they throw poisoned fruit at the web-slingers– even as these digital vanguards saw away the branch upon which they sit.

In C&D’s October review of the Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, the editors make their opinion of webheads– their own no less– abundantly clear. “When [the CL63] arrived on Hogback Road, it caused all the web-site interns to run outside and gawk… The rest of the staff wasn’t easily beguiled by the CL63… because the CL600 can do everything the CL63 does without the fanfare and flamboyance of the AMG car.”

Yep, that’s us: tacky, juvenile, given to fleeting fads. But where is the cold-eyed, experience-hardened objectivity of these experts in their own evaluations? Well, as concerns the CL63 vs. CL600 debate, here’s how the pros’ prose goes: “You can’t really go wrong with either, so which would you rather live with?” Thanks, Motor Trend.

On the next page, we see more journalistic brilliance, this time applied to the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster: “…the SLR’s dynamics are hard to love… It’s hard to be smooth with this car. But whaddaya want for a half-million bucks?” I’ll tell you what I want for twelve bucks a year: the occasional negative comment about a car that deserves it.

You won’t find any in the October issue’s “Short Takes.” The executive summary of the Subaru Tribeca’s driving dynamics: “Its fun-to-drive index is low, but its road manners are almost beyond reproach.” And there I was thinking that a low fun-to-drive index equaled middle-of-the-road road manners. The closing paragraph of the Taurus write-up compares the refreshed Five Hundred to the 1985 Taurus, rather than the new car’s current competitors.

The Buick Enclave review quotes a 0 to 60 time of nine seconds, 14 mpg fuel economy and an as-tested price of $43,950. C&D’s conclusion? The Enclave “undercuts the pricing of key competitors: Acura MDX, Lexus RX350, Volvo XC90. And the Enclave measures up well against any of them.” Uh-huh. The intro to that piece damns a New York Times writer for telling GM to build vehicles that people “actually want to buy;” a “dazzling insight,” says C&D. 

C&D’s “Road Test” is a format that usually allows more candor. In this case, the mag reviews the new Volvo C30– a car aimed straight at the MINI– without once describing how it handles in the twisties. “The steering zeroes in on ‘straight down the road’ when you cruise,” they assure us. “Expect understeer,” they elaborate, kind of. Their “Verdict:” it’s “a Swede to be seen with.” As for the Audi S5: “What the Audi brings to the party is a real sense of style… isn’t that what coupes are all about?” Um… what do you think?

Methinks C&D’s increasingly bitter tone stems from the passionate, seasoned, talented auto writers’ need to sacrifice every last shred of journalistic integrity on the altar of diminishing ad revenue. They can’t possibly enjoy it.

To their credit, the October issue does include a well-written comparison of the Dodge Viper and Corvette Z06. It seems clear that as long as the iron involved is sufficiently unattainable to the mere motoring public, C&D can muster its mojo and call a spade a spade.

But that’s not enough to save a magazine that’s gotten too big for its britches. If a car mag can’t be bothered to spill the beans on the sort of cars real-world enthusiasts drive– you know, the lowly souls that might write for a “web-site”– it simply can’t expect to survive.

Brando got fat. Jacko got crazy. And America’s best buff book has lost it. Good night, C&D. Thanks for the memories.

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50 Comments on “Car and Driver RIP...”

  • avatar

    What attracted me to TTAC was the candor, the frank opinion about cars. I was tired of reading puff reviews of cars knowing full well they were full of idiosycrocies.

    C and D emphasised them the most.

  • avatar

    I’m of the opinion that C&D lost its soul when it moved to Michigan from New York City. It looks like it has now finally lost its will to live.

    Sad, really, as I remember picking up the 50th anniversary edition (or was it editions… I really think they milked that cow for all it was worth) and reading the missives of Brock Yates, and all the other old editors and writing staff. But the author here raises a fine point. You can really see the decline of print in the automotive industry. The “good old boys” of C&D, R&T, etc., are dying a slow death with the sparkles of the “ricer” mags like Import Tuner (really, who reads that for the articles?) and the overweight DUB magazine leaving phosphenes in their closing eyes. There’s no question, I’d rather be reading an article on the web.

    That said, I used to buy an issue here or there for the pictures – quality photography is the only real thing they have left to offer. A sidebar; I’d love to see some fantastic pictures for the reviews on the site (instead of the stock press images) but know the price just may not be right… premium photography ain’t cheap.

  • avatar

    tommy! :

    A sidebar; I’d love to see some fantastic pictures for the reviews on the site (instead of the stock press images) but know the price just may not be right… premium photography ain’t cheap.

    All of us here share your desire for high quality TTAC photography.

    When we have the money, you’ll have the snaps. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that we’re incorporating the author’s photos into some of the reviews.

  • avatar

    tommy! :
    September 25th, 2007 at 8:11 am

    I’m of the opinion that C&D lost its soul when it moved to Michigan from New York City. It looks like it has now finally lost its will to live.

    Agreed that the move to Michigan was for the worst. It seems they got too chummy with the Detriot car culture and 2.8 reps to be able to give fair reviews.

    The decline of C&D reminds me of the problems that radio had with sporting events when television first appeared. The radio commentators could make up whatever they wanted to about a game, but it because harder and harder to do once people had the technology to see the plays for themselves.

  • avatar

    i was quite surprised how many pictures of exterior american car publishers put in their mags. while interiors are neglected. it already shows the skin deep beauty attitude. ditto the c&d.

  • avatar

    I figured C&D jumped the shark when they started licensing their brand for car care products and accessories years back.

    I can’t find a picture of it online, but in my mind’s eye I’m looking at a tacky plastic 14″ wheel cover with the C&D logo on the box.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    The lost me in the 1990s when they chose the “new” Chevy Malibu as the Car of the Year. It then proved itself to be one of the most unreliable vehicles sold that year.

    My favorite (Web) customer review of the 1990ish Malibu said something like: “Good points: The ash tray. It opens and closes properly. It is the only part of this vehicle that didn’t break.”

    I haven’t read C&D since.

  • avatar

    Reading C&D is like picking up a copy of Stereo Review, in which all audio gear (at any price point) sounds wonderful and delivers great bang for the buck.

  • avatar

    Are their performance statistics reliable anymore? That’s the only reason I give them the time of day…

  • avatar

    Sometimes I don’t mind the fawning; sometimes I’m filled to the brim with automotive love. When I drive my dad’s 2003 Grand Prix GTP, a car this site would likely excoriate (for many good reasons) I realize that sometimes even C+ effort cars are satisfying and fun to drive when you’re not looking for shortcomings.

    However, when I go to buy my next car I want solid objective comparisons, not fanboyism or Big 2.8 cronyism. For real reviews, I’ll turn to the web. I think the buff mags serve a new purpose, to give us all a taste of the love and excitement of driving new cars. They don’t to give us reviews of the shortcomings of the vehicles because it’s all about the love now. While it’s all somewhat cotton candyish, sometimes I just want to read something sweet about the cars I love.

  • avatar

    Last Christmas someone sent me a free subscription to C&D. I was a loyal subscriber for years in the 70s and 80s, but had long since let it drop.

    Well, I will not be renewing. C&D just isn’t worth the time to read anymore.

  • avatar

    I hear a lot about the decline of the hard copy media, and i know that newspaper readership has declined significantly. Does anyone have the numbers documenting a declining subscriber base for the car mags?

  • avatar

    Matthew Danda: The lost me in the 1990s when they chose the “new” Chevy Malibu as the Car of the Year. It then proved itself to be one of the most unreliable vehicles sold that year.

    That wasn’t Car & Driver, it was Motor Trend.

    Car & Driver doesn’t pick a Car of the Year.

  • avatar

    I stopped reading Car and Driver back in the mid- eighties. They compared an 86 Tornado to a 66 Toronado and panned the 66 for lack of lateral support form the bench seat! I cancelled my subscription the next day.

  • avatar

    I have been an avid reader of all of the US car mags since the mid 1980s. Honestly these rags have never been known for their objectivity. They are just another form of media entertainment. Even before the coming of the web, if you gave damn about the quality and reliabilty of your car purchase you took what the buff books had to say with a grain of salt and than picked up a copy of Consumer Reports. Car and Driver was always been known for it “tongue in cheek” stlye of writing. Are they less objective today than 30 years ago? That is a matter of opinion. If we can all agree that the cars being built today are head and shoulders above the quality and performance of their counterparts 30 years ago than we need to accept that the review will indeed be less critical in general. 20 years ago a slow car did 0 to 60 in over 12 seconds. 20 years ago a car that took 12 second to reach 60 felt slow. Today we have auto writers on the web and in print that trying to convince us that a 0 to 60 time of 7.5 seconds is too slow. The problem is a 7.5 sec run to 60 does NOT feel slow unless you are driving a Corvette!

  • avatar

    Things must be real bad over there. I just got a bit of their junk mail. Subscription for a year was less than two copies at B&N. That’s cheap, but it’s really just a sign of desparation. They’re coming across cocky and dismissive, but I have a feeling that at least the bean-counters are wettin’ themselves.

  • avatar

    If Car and Driver revives their old brand and mojo, they would be a success today. A few decades back there was a “cool factor” around C&D which set it apart from the other buff books.

    In 1964 when Car and Driver had the famous Pontiac GTO road test against a Ferrari GTO that issue raised the profile of C&D, even of the road test was “rigged”.

  • avatar

    Maybe it was my ignorant youth, but back in the 80’s I was jonezing for my monthly C&D fix at least a week before it arrived.

    The reviews and columnists seemed sharper. What sticks in my head from some long ago issue is a spoof of the Trabant as ‘Motor Rooters’ Car of the Year.

    I finally realized they completely lost about 8 years ago. Brock Yates’ piece in BusinessWeek speculated about when Detroit’s entire unionized/pension/work-rule fiasco would hit a tipping point. It was harsh and truthful – so I doubt C&D would have run it…

  • avatar

    Car magazines are a form of entertainment. They allow us to vicariously experience cars that most of us don’t have the opportunity to drive. I really don’t care if they point out every little flaw on the latest Ford Focus, I can head down to the dealership and drive one myself. I want to read a 1000+hp shootout with the latest Lambo, Ferrari and Viper

    And whoever said that Motor Trend was wrong for giving the unreliable Malibu the car of the year must not understand the premise of ‘Car of the Year’. By definition, it is not possible to evaluate the reliability of a brand new car, so they base their decision on other factors. Whether the Malibu should have been car of the year even with reliability excluded is another matter altogether

    The average consumer would be foolish to base their buying decisions solely on what C&D, MT, R&T or even TTAC says, but they do give you a decent overview of what each car’s about. I was able to imagine pretty accurately what driving a C6 Vette would be like after years of fantasizing about driving one while reading these magazines. When I finally bought my C6 (without a test drive since I wasn’t adept at stick shift driving but I wanted a stick shift car) the driving experience matched up almost exactly with what I was expecting based on what I’ve read in the magazines. That’s good enough for me

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This past year I let my 35-year-running subsciption to C&D lapse. It broke my heart, but I tired of the constant format changing, the discarding of several of the veterans writers, and the fact that while walking through an airport I could see the new issue 10-14 days before mine would come in the mail.

    I do miss the snarky writing, and I do remember about 5 years ago C&D tearing the then-new Saturn Ion to shreds, but I’ll get over it…..I have TTAC to fill those voids.

    Yesterday at the gas station I picked up the New Car Issue (always one of my favorites) and plan to snag a 10-Best in December (ditto).

  • avatar

    The only place where C&D is relevant is in the bathroom. When the web breaks into that territory, say bye bye.

  • avatar

    I renewed my subscription with great hesitation. Like JSForbes says, once I can take the internet into the bathroom (without looking stupid) its all over for the buff books.

  • avatar

    The decline of print magazines is the inevitable result of their high cost structures. Print magazines have high overhead costs which need to be payed for via advertising. It is this relentless ad revenue imperative which car companies exploit to their own advantage to manipulate editorial opinions. Web publication have very little infrastructure and very little fixed costs and thus are not under the same pressure to seek advertising revenue and compromise their editorial integrity in order to get it.

    C&D could have moved up market and reinvented themselves in the mold of evo but that would have taken a change of content to more glossy content and edgier writing.

    Or maybe they should have just embraced the web as the new medium for the content that they are known for, slashed their costs and regained their editorial independence?

  • avatar

    C&D is no different that other forms of physical media (CD’s, DVD’s, Newspapers) if they dont already have a bold online strategy they are going to be toast.

    C&D is in the business to make money first and foremost. Their “vehicle” to ad revenue happens to be articles covering automobiles. My expectations are quite low for all ad based magazines.

    The personal reviews and comments from actual car owners is what I value most. Look at the popularity of epinions, amazon reviews, etc.

  • avatar

    “This past year I let my 35-year-running subsciption to C&D lapse. It broke my heart, but I tired of the constant format changing, the discarding of several of the veterans writers, and the fact that while walking through an airport I could see the new issue 10-14 days before mine would come in the mail.”

    X 2. Mine lapses in January and that’s the end. The re-written PR pieces aren’t worth the paper they’re printed upon, and even the columnists lack the zip they once had. As much as I disliked Yates’ political bombasts, he did still have an opinion about what he liked and disliked in four-wheel transportation. And, as much as I enjoy the immediacy of internet-borne information, it would still be nice to get TTAC-quality reviews in print form. If I wanted breathless and insubstantial puff pieces, I would’ve subscribed to Motor Trend. Sorry, Csaba, it’s not just the sucky new format, but C&D editorials simply lack traction. At least Davis had the honesty in Automobile to simply reprint manufacturer’s data in lieu of actual test information, but then I wouldn’t subscribe to Automobile either.

  • avatar

    Car and Driver used to be fun. I loved the days when David E. Davis was there shepparding his troops into new mischief – like an aged professor sent to live in a Frat house to keep order, but who keeps suggesting new ways to raise hell.

    Generally the stories ran towards strapping Jean Lindamood into some outrageous piece of equipment and seeing if they could either make her pee her pants or puke. Sure, it got cliched after awhile, but it was fun.

    Where are the days of the 200 MPH Firebird? Of racing cars against bikes to see if bikes were really faster when doing laps?

    I used to smile when C&D came in the mail –what have those fools done this month? That’s gone, gone, gone. Now it’s all about the evils of ethanol, and another AMG or M3 review. While I still subscribe, it’s a disappointment every month.

    Guess I’m getting old.

  • avatar

    Personally, I never really liked C&D that much except for their annual new car summary issue. I did buy a few issues from time to time because as a kid in the 70's and 80's, I liked the pictures. Then as I grew older, a funny thing happened. I actually started reading the articles and the editorials. By the late 80's and into the 90's I had dropped every car magazine subscription. I did get the odd subscription to World of Wheels (Canadian magazine) because I liked the writing from a Canadian perspective. If I wanted a car magazine, there were local bookstores that even stocked Brit magazines like Car. The internet has been a boon for good writers that were never discovered. 

  • avatar

    As a long time reader and off and on subscriber I am deeply disappointed that C&D has turned into a slightly wittier Motor Trend. The 50th anniversary issues clearly show this, when you compare the writing that led to an Opel Kadett in a junkyard, and Buick repo-ing a long term test Riviera with the pap they write now. The British car magazines seem to have a better grasp. My favorite, Car, has heavy glossy paper, lots of content, good writing, and a risk taking attitude long gone from US buff books. Car had LJK Setright on the masthead long after Mercedes Benz forced him out of Car & Driver and featured comedians Rowan Atkinson and Alexei Sayle as columnists and road testers. Plus they called the ML55 AMG “as much use as a chocolate teapot”

  • avatar

    Here’s a line from the Viper/Vette comparison, ostensibly one of the better editorials.

    “At lower rpm, the exhaust sounds like a tuba having sex with a vacuum cleaner, and the baritone thrum of engine and road at highway speeds gets annoying in a hurry.”

    That’s the quality of writing. Not the most subtle approach, it would seem.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    “edgett :
    September 25th, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    “ `This past year I let my 35-year-running subsciption to C&D lapse. It broke my heart, but I tired of the constant format changing, the discarding of several of the veterans writers, and the fact that while walking through an airport I could see the new issue 10-14 days before mine would come in the mail.’

    “X 2. Mine lapses in January and that’s the end. The re-written PR pieces aren’t worth the paper they’re printed upon, and even the columnists lack the zip they once had. As much as I disliked Yates’ political bombasts, he did still have an opinion about what he liked and disliked in four-wheel transportation. And, as much as I enjoy the immediacy of internet-borne information, it would still be nice to get TTAC-quality reviews in print form. If I wanted breathless and insubstantial puff pieces, I would’ve subscribed to Motor Trend. Sorry, Csaba, it’s not just the sucky new format, but C&D editorials simply lack traction. At least Davis had the honesty in Automobile to simply reprint manufacturer’s data in lieu of actual test information, but then I wouldn’t subscribe to Automobile either.”

    Make that X 3. I have been reading C&D since 1966 and subscribing since 1970. At 50 years of age, I have been in the C&D camp since I was 9 years old.

    The fact is, I really prefer having a hard copy of a magazine to take with me wherever I want to take it. And for years, C&D had a cool factor that no other car mag could match. They pulled no punches and raised hell every month. Today, John Phillips’s pieces seem to be the last echo of that glorious era.

    I also subscribe to Road & Track (since 1971) and Automobile (since its creation in the early 1980s). R&T, for Peter Eagan and the salons/photography. Automobile, like C&D, is appealing because of the quality of the writing. But with virtually all of these journals, I get the feeling that everything has been run through both the legal and ad departments.

    I suspect I may be letting those subscriptions lapse next year.

    Motor Trend? I forgot about them 25 years ago.

  • avatar

    IMO they lost their good writers a long time ago. Well over 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    I’m something of an anomoly here, because I still regularly read Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Automobile Magazine, and Hemmings’ Classic Car. I don’t subscribe because they are available at the newsstand anywhere from one to three weeks earlier than having them mailed to me. I subscribe to AutoWeek because I can’t find it on the newsstand racks in my area.

    Then I frequently read Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Consumer Reports. If something else catches my eye, I’ll probably buy it, too.

    The subscription rates for Automotive News are excessive and now most of the good stuff on their website is only available to subscribers, which is a bummer, but I did enjoy reading it.

    Yeah, the print stuff isn’t as good as it used to be. It’s been cut with crap, it’s like someone’s been walking on it. But my addiction is so bad, I couldn’t get by without them and can’t give them up. At least not until they go belly up.

    All the online stuff isn’t enough to replace my need for print., the Truth About Cars, notwithstanding.

    I do like David E. Davis’ current webzine: It’s his vision of what a print magazine should be, but only available online, and I heartily recommend it.

    Addiction. It’s not pretty.

  • avatar

    C/D essentially called the new Accord a porker, and made it clear they were disappointed with the thing. If that’s not criticism…

  • avatar

    Thier increasing prozaic tone just begs the fact that they are almost solely funded by their advertisements. I haven’t bought a MT, C&D or R&T magazine in years. It’s been even longer since I actually subscribed. Now I don’t even pick them up to flip through them at the book store or the airport for fear of the subscription notices falling out and the sneaky MFGR written ads that look like actual articles.

    Sorry but the days of the slick car mags is coming to an end and they are not going out with respect just butt kissing..

  • avatar

    I’m still a Car and Driver subscriber but like many who have posted here its just not as enjoyable as it used to be. Spend a few minutes with the 50th anniversary book and you’ll see just how dull the magazine has become. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s my father subscribed to all three magazines but Car and Driver was always the one I wanted to read first and spent the most time with. Can you imagine the current crop of editors writing a counterpoint like DED Jr. did for the 1980 Cadillac Seville: “If the 1980 Cadillac Seville is tha answer I obviously misunderstood the question.” Or the sport sedan road test in Baja, Mexico where they sunk a Maxima, killed a cow with a Dodge 600 and Lindamood crused the streets of a small town with the sherrif’s girlfriend in the police car? The closest thing to their irreverent past is John Phillips and even he has becomed toned down recently. The last straw for me was when they let Brock Yates go. That there is no longer a place for Yates at Car and Driver says it all to me.

    Car and Driver was successful because it was entaining and informative and the writers had a real passion for what they were writing. The current version reminds me more of Motor Trend back when Ed used to tell letter writers that he didn’t agree with to hold their index finger up to their head and say the initials of Motor Trend.

  • avatar

    Car and Driver is a sore-point with me now days. I never thought the book would be a knight in shining armor tearing the auto industry apart, but it was informative, witty, and the reviews gave me some feel for the vehicles. The redesign marked a surprising change to everything I liked. Sure, it’s a terrible redesign. Thermo-nuclear ugly (to quote an old C/D review of the Ford Tempo). Yates was gone which didn’t bother me too much since I didn’t like his column very much. However, the magazine’s spirit seemed to go with him. The articles seem glossier, shorter, less funny, and less compelling to read. It’s moved closer to the form taken by MT. John Phillips is the only really great thing about it now. I don’t read it cover to cover anymore…and in order to get some attitude I have to read TTAC (even though I feel that this site has a bit too much attitude). It saddens me.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Whatta bunch of kids! The oldest of youse guys seem to be pining for the ’80s, maybe the late ’70s if you’re truly anciens. I was the editor of Car and Driver in the early 1970s, and boy, did we have a good time. Got laid a lot, too. Those were the days.

  • avatar

    The firing of Brock Yates was the last straw for me with C/D. I seldom agree with Yates — frankly, I think he’s a crackpot about 80% of the time (although he had his moments) — but I had great respect for the magazine for keeping an opinionated crackpot around. God forbid someone have a point of view. R&T has always struck me as frumpy, Automobile sometimes longer on editorial than, you know, cars, and Motor Trend has never excelled in any particular way. It was C/D that had character.

    It wasn’t that they were particularly objective; going back to the 60s, they certainly had their sacred cows (BMW, for one) and penchants for stunts. (One may argue that David E. Davis didn’t know that Jim Wangers had arranged for their famous test GTO to have a Tri Power 421, not a 389, but it’s splitting hairs.) It was that they were entertaining (and, after the mid-70s or so, technically credible).

    Where are the days (e.g., 1992) when Brock Yates opined that the then-new Pontiac Bonneville SSEi looked like it’d been sprayed from a gigantic can of Reddi Whip?

  • avatar


    Actually, my favorite C/D article of all time is a Brock Yates/Jean Shepherd commentary on the mid-70s T-Bird, where Shepherd laments “What would Gatsby have thought?” and tries (unsuccessfully) to balance a coin on the hood with the engine running. Great days.

  • avatar

    The funniest magazine article I’ve ever read was the C/D review of the Yugo. I’d love to get my hands on that back issue just to read it again.

    I think there are too many players in the print mag market. We may see some consolidation (or outright death) among the buff books in the next few years. I think there is a market for print magazines, but because they can’t be timely enough to compete with the ‘net they really need to sieze on some kind of niche and deliver it consistently.

  • avatar

    I just let my subscription run out after 5 years of subscribing for many of the same reasons you guys did. I didn’t like the redesign, and too many of the cars were just plain out of reach for this mechanical engineer. I still receive the magazine from my father who got a free subscription for donating blood. I guess I’ll read it if its given to me. ;)

  • avatar

    Great article!

    I fully agree C&D has lost it. Even 10 years ago they were much better than they are now. Today, C&D articles are hypocritical, contradictory, and give almost nothing useful or worthy to the reader, other than maybe the car’s specs and performance times.

  • avatar

    I’ve been a C&D subscriber for about 20 years, but about 6 months ago I decided when my current subscription ends, I won’t renew. For all the reasons above – plus the fact there still are a few car magazines that are really enjoyable. The best for me is probably Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car – which is fun, written by enthusiasts, and tells it like it is. It also is primarily about older vehicles so there’s no problems with advertisers being miffed. And it’s aimed towards fun vehicles, even if they don’t have monster engines or navigation systems.

  • avatar

    Count me as another longtime (10+ yrs) subscriber that let his subscription lapse this year. I started reading C/D when I was a kid when my dad would take me to the library. I would grab a stack of them and find a spot and sit for hours. I got a subscription as soon as I got my first apartment. It’s just not good enough anymore. My biggest gripe is the “special advertising sections” that are made to look like the articles. That’s just wrong.

    I changed over to Automobile and R/T now but they are much the same. Automobile has some great photography. I canceled Autoweek because they couldn’t get it to my mailbox every Friday.

  • avatar
    Foxy STi

    In my opinion, C&D, R&T, etc, still make for good reading. TTAC is my “glass is half empty” car reviewing site, while C&D serves my “glass is half full” needs. If I need to know what’s good about a car, I can read about it in C&D. If I want a car nitpicked to death, I can find it in TTAC.

    I like the writing in C&D; the articles are generally clear and convey a ton of information. In contrast, I think that TTAC can sometimes get hung up on itself, striving to make a witty pun or using ironic slang (I’m sort of tired of seeing ‘spizzarkle’ in every other review).

    Of course, the testing information contained in the car mags is invaluable; I know how expensive it is to maintain all of that measuring equipment and to find testing locations.

    I guess what it boils down to is being able to read between the lines and picking out the bias from each review, no matter the source. For instance, in TTAC’s review of my car (Subaru Impreza WRX STi), the interior is described as “If Subaru spent more than ten bucks on plastics in the entire mess, I beg its beancounters to demand supplier reparations.” Honestly, I like the interior of my car, and find it of an appropriate quality for the car. Sure, an alcantara dash to reduce reflections in the windshield would’ve been nice, but it’s not as bad as the review implies.

    Wherever you’re reading, take the reviewer’s words with a grain of salt, as no one will have the exact same point of view as you do. Go check out the car yourself if you’re interested in buying it, and make your own decision.

    Oh, and I believe that the “Whaddya want for a half-million dollars?” comment is sarcasm.

  • avatar

    As a guy who grew up on C/D, I think it still has a few of its old legitimate strengths. Phillips is terrific, as others have pointed out here. And the format of the comparison test remains a powerful and compelling thing — proibably the best trick left for an organization financed and staffed as a print magazine is.

    Yes, the courage is lacking, and yes, the layout is hideous. I’m astonished that they’re sticking with it when even they admit it’s universally hated.

    I’ve heard it said that car magazine sales rise when the economy dips, because people use them to fantasize. Me, I’m exactly the opposite of the people who like to read about Lamborghinis. I simply can’t relate, because I know I’ll never own one. I want to hear well-considered opinions about attainable, usable cars, and I wish C/D did more of it.

  • avatar

    i love TTC. read it everyday and listen to each podcast. i also enjoy a good magazine. the one thing that this website cant do that the buff books can is a comparison test, which honestly, is the only thing i really care about. driving a car and saying “i like this” & “i dont like that” is fine…but i want to know how does the GTI feel right after you drive an Si or Mazdaspeed3. those tests are really the only reason i keep my subscription to any of the mags.

  • avatar

    C&D is way too biased. I still remember that in one comparison test, they ranked a broken down 3-series number one. Hello? A stalled car in a comparison test got to be in the last place! To make it fair, test it again the next year and see if there is any improvement.

    You know that magazine got disconnected with reality, when the cars they praise so much either ranked at the bottom of the reliability survey or had very poor sales (e.g. Passat).

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Ultimately, it is really about more than whether or not management – meaning Hachette-Filipacchi – leans on Csaba Csere to cut costs and raise advertising revenues; that’s just one factor.

    The overarching issue is that a generation has grown up so used to electronic media, delivered on various screens of various sizes, that that generation is not willing to read through an essay of 2,500 to 3,000 words. Essays such as that were what made Car and Driver one of the best magazines in the country. And the time period in which those essays flourished were when the late Leon Mandel was editor. As someone with a journalism degree from Cornell, he operated on a different level that the current editor, whose background is that of an engineer, who came from a major corporation (Ford).

    While I never met Leon, only talked to him on the phone once and communicated with him by e-mail in the last two years of his life, my impression is that he was not a “company man,” to borrow a phrase hardly anyone uses anymore. And he attracted other people who were free thinkers, such as Brock Yates, the late Warren Weith, Bruce McCall and Jean Shepherd (who was known to many people outside of auto magazine readers, for his radio essays and essay about wanting a rifle for Christmas, which became a beloved movie).

    The person who wrote that C/D “lost its soul” when it moved from New York City to Ann Arbor, Michigan, was onto something. Since David E. Davis Jr. came to magazine writing from advertising and was the person who leaned upon (then owner) Ziff-Davis to make that move, it was inevitable that the line between editorial and advertising would quickly diminish. I heard from a source who shall remain anonymous that the reason David E. Davis bounced Brock Yates out of the pages of C/D for a few years, was that DED didn’t like the brutal honesty of Brock’s book on Ferrari, still the best source on the car, the company and il Commodore.

    It’s a different time now, and Csaba Csere is not so much a villain, as someone trying to keep a certain level of writing in place, while shifting to the new media. A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless to protect his interests, told me that while contributors to the print edition of Car and Driver were being asked to accept 10 percent less for their contributions than they had been doing, three more editors were hired for C/D’s on-line edition.

    Several people here have said that John Phillips is one of the few things that keep them interested in the print edition of C/D. It is therefore ironic and also appropriate that the best thing in the November 2007 issue is an essay by John Phillips entitled “The Road to Remorses, the Road to Divorces” replicating a piece that Brock Yates did, back in the Seventies, about taking taking a Corvette through Alaska, on dirt roads (most recently done with a Corvette that had run on the Nurburgring).

    If you want to see C/D go back to what it was, it seems more logical to keep your subscription current but keep bugging editor Csere about what is now called, in Internet terms, “content.”

    For my money, while some of the newer writers are proving all right, it’s Patrick Bedard and Barry Winfield, along with the aforementioned John Phillips, that hearken back to the days of Leon Mandel.

  • avatar

    I read them religiously ( yes, I meant that) for nearly 25 years. The stories were the reason. P.J. O’Rourke and the high speed characteristics of pick-up trucks. A trip to the Yukon with a plastic Kroger bag. Cross country in a sealed up car.

    Not so much any more. And it IS sad.

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