By on March 22, 2010

The “First Drive” is one of the perennial stumbling blocks of automotive journalism. In return for exclusive access to the latest, most-hyped automobiles that everyone wants to get their hands on, outlets like Edmunds Inside Line are asked to swath their “First Drive” write-up in the most glowing terms possible. Or, as we’ve put it before, the price of an exclusive story is a straight face. Unfortunately the results of this kind of compromise are difficult to read with straight face. We’ve seen no better example of this than Inside Line’s recent “First Drive” of the Honda CR-Z, which yielded such unfortunate lines as:

The CR-Z is like a Tesla Roadster, but without the $109,000 price tag.

You know, besides having a different powertrain driving different wheels, a huge performance disparity, and, well, everything else.

Besides the glaringly obvious issues with IL’s verdict, what other indications do we have that this “First Drive” is less than entirely truthful? How about lines like:

Honda claims only a 97-pound reduction in weight from the Insight sedan.

Or:

Just like the Insight, the 2011 Honda CR-Z features a parallel hybrid system with an electric motor powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries. The motor is rated by Honda at 13 hp, and some complicated calculations by the engineers (don’t ask) lead Honda to rate the combined output of the CR-Z’s powertrain at 122 hp at 6,000 rpm and 128 pound-feet of torque at 1,000-1,500 rpm (123 pound-feet when equipped with the optional CVT)… Once you bring the engine to life, you’ll recognize the uninspiring clatter. But when you select a gear from the six-speed manual, your frame of reference shifts along with the gears, as this tight, precise, short-throw linkage makes you think of the CR-X… We also tried the 2011 Honda CR-Z with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), and even with the slightly detuned engine (111 hp; 106 lb-ft of torque) required in this configuration, the car still accelerates briskly and smoothly.

We’re pretty sure that Tesla Roadsters don’t fire up with an “uninspiring clatter.” Still, we’d be willing to allow the reference if there were a single line that inspired belief in the claim that the CR-Z should be compared to Lotus Elise-based EV sportscars. Instead we get this:

This Fit-based 1.5 is no sports-car engine and starts to get loud at around 5,000 rpm. Keep the hammer down and all too soon you find the engine stuttering as it hits the ignition cutout at 6,500 rpm. Worked hard, the engine sounds flat and hard — not exciting at all. And when you’re on the limit rather than just pushing along, the CR-Z gives in to soggy, plowing understeer, and the body rolls over in distress. And a few hot runs up and down the hills soon had the brakes smoking. Yikes.

By the time you get to this portion, however, you’ve already given Inside Line its much-desired (and hardly well-earned) unique traffic. Which makes you part of the problem. You might have to wait a little longer for the TTAC review, but rest assured it will be a lot more informative and, well, truthful. Which means you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for too many Tesla Roadster comparisons.

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33 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me Edition...”


  • avatar
    Orangutan

    I complained about that story as soon as it was posted. It reeks of advertising. You’ll notice that the author is merely a “contributor” and not one of the usual testers or editors for Edmunds. Whenever they have one of these types of stories, they’re most often outsourced to third parties. The only other thing this Peter Nunn has written for IL is another shilling piece about the glories of the (then-future) 2010 Prius written back in ’08.

  • avatar

    So, does the CVT-equipped CR-Z make 123 lb/ft of torque, or 106?

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I have been visiting TTAC a lot less (and other blogs a lot more) because of posts like this.

    • 0 avatar
      mistercopacetic

      That’s funny. I have been visiting TTAC a lot more (and other blogs a lot less) because of posts like this.

    • 0 avatar
      jjmcubed

      I’d like to hear both sides of your stories, not just an “I hate/love you”.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been visiting all blogs a lot less because of posts like this…
      How bout you guys worry more about covering automotive news and less about how other people cover automotive news.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      “I’ve been visiting all blogs a lot less because of posts like this…
      How bout you guys worry more about covering automotive news and less about how other people cover automotive news.”

      I’m fascinated that this is how you feel. For me, an automotive blog is a journalistic outlet that reflects society and culture via cars. Its interesting to me when the autoblog’s (namely TTAC) turns an eye back on itself, because sometimes the distortions are strange and perplexing.

      Personally, articles like this simply verify my initial reasons for choosing to frequent TTAC over IL.

    • 0 avatar
      mistercopacetic

      Let’s try a thought experiment. Your neighbor just bought a new refrigerator. He is very happy with the purchase and tells you about the great features and low price. He gives you the make and model number of the fridge, and encourages you to buy one of your own. Which scenario below would make you value your neighbor’s opinion more?

      a) He spent two weeks researching fridges, reading reviews, and going to stores to talk to salesmen about what features to look for in his price range. He also talked with current owners about their experiences with this model and with this brand generally. Taking the good with the bad, he weighed his options and decided to purchase this model.

      b) He went to a store to look at fridges, with a basic understanding of features to look for. The salesman told him there was an informational seminar on this model, in Hawaii, open only to new prospective customers. The salesman notes that the fridge company will pay for all your expenses during the trip. Your neighbor goes to Hawaii, enjoys the sand and surf, gourmet meals every night, and finally takes a look at the fridge. A company representative points out all the new features about the fridge. The rep also mentions that the company plans to hold a similar meeting next year in Paris, the following year in Tokyo, etc. But customers may only continue attending events if they tell all their friends, family, and neighbors about the great fridge, made by a company generous enough to provide for an all-expenses paid vacation in Hawaii. On the taxi ride back to the airport, a company rep gives your neighbor a sheet of paper listing the innovative features of the fridge, and implies that such phrases could be used to more effectively convince your friends to purchase the same fridge. Your neighbor does not volunteer any of the above information to you, since he honestly believes it does not affect his perception of the fridge’s merits compared to the competition.

      If you believe scenario b would make you value your neighbor’s opinion more, TTAC is not your kind of website.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Areitu, +1

    That review may not be good. But, instead of just refuting it with its own words, a TTAC’s own review would be much better and would save some network bandwidth.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      Sorry guys, but I disagree with your disagreement with TTAC’s posts disagreement about the disagreeable review that Inside Line gave.

      Its reviews like IL’s that keeps me coming back to TTAC, and TTAC’s ability to recognize when journalists are pandering to the companies interests and not my own.

      Also, I’m sure that TTAC’s review (when they get a chance to test the car out) will be quite capable of refuting IL’s review.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Inside Line deserves the criticism. It’s poor writing designed to score page hits with a few Tesla tags. And TTAC’s criticism may stop the further deterioration at Inside Line.

      Note old time editor Frank William’s take on newspapers’ ‘so-called’ auto reviews:
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-newspaper-car-reviews/

    • 0 avatar

      wsn: You know how to get your hands on a CR-Z? As far as I’m aware, sucking up to Honda is just about the only way. That’s what sucks about these first drives: you only get ’em if you play ball, and they’re usually stunningly craptastic as a result, but they can’t be “refuted” with a fair test because OEMs restrict access pre-launch.
      Also, has bandwidth become that scarce of a resource? Please say yes… I was looking forward to a long motorcycle ride today instead of blogging!
      In seriousness, calling out this kind of review has a long, proud tradition at TTAC (as ihatetrees points out). If you’re not a fan of our tilting at auto-media-incest windmills, we hope you enjoy the rest of our diverse mix of stories… at least until the bandwidth runs out!

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      Ed, then how much is the post related to not being given equal access vs. what IL actually said? After all, TTAC hasn’t driven the car. There is some validity to the posts – TTAC gave a scathing review of the A6 3.0T and C&D’s comparo, but then conducted its own comparo scoring that same car second behind a 5-series. One can’t help but wonder whether the review of the car was just that or simply an attack on C&D.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t see the excerpts as particularly flattering of the CR-Z.

  • avatar

    I’ve been thinking the same way about “First Drives”, “Previews” and similar “reviews” from all the major outlets for years.

    All of them read like a glowing press release straight from the manufacturer and give little to no objective impressions about the vehicle. Thank goodness for TTAC.

    The only automotive writing that seems objective anymore are blogs like Edmund’s own long-term test blog where they keep vehicles in their fleet for over a year. Those yield vastly more information about a vehicle than a short write-up and most road tests.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I agree that some lines in the IL review strained credulity, yet others were unusually frank for a “first drive”. The undercurrent here is that many enthusiasts (including myself) WANT the CR-Z to be a dog, to validate their complaints that the car is not a CR-X, has a hybrid powertrain, is too slow, and looks like the cross between a giant gourami and an Air Jordan.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    i don’t see how lines like “Once you bring the engine to life, you’ll recognize the uninspiring clatter.” ; “Worked hard, the engine sounds flat and hard — not exciting at all.” and “And when you’re on the limit rather than just pushing along, the CR-Z gives in to soggy, plowing understeer, and the body rolls over in distress. And a few hot runs up and down the hills soon had the brakes smoking.” could be considered pandering or less than truthful. I honestly don’t get what TTAC is trying to say. That you’d be more honest, they sounded fairly honest, but then i didn’t read their entire review

  • avatar
    IGB

    I actually read the review. Ed did a poor job of conveying it’s tone with his post. It’s actually an overwhelmingly positive review and the two negative quotes in the blog post were inserted into the review like two raisins in a vat of banana pudding. They just didn’t belong with the tone of the article. The Tesla comparison which is the headline is completely out of left field. They even invoke the Bugatti Veyron. It’s a bit ridiculous really.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Edmunds is not run as an enthusiast’s site.

    It’s primary goal is to be a corporate kiss-ass of a company that will offer content to a segment of the population that knows little to nothing about cars.

    I know what I’m saying sounds mean to the point of disbelief. But everyone I’ve met from Edmunds, especially within the corporate sanctum, couldn’t change their own oil to save their ass from first base. The reviews that come out of there essentially reflect a ‘Motor Trend’ attitude towards anything with four wheels.

    What should they be given credit for?

    1) They use fairly good mathematical algorithms for their used car price guides.

    2) The ‘owners review’ section lends itself to a large breadth of online shoppers who want snippets of information instead of a long summary.

    3) The navigation tools within Edmunds are exceptional.

    The content at Edmunds is just complete schlock. Most of their reviews are either written by journalists who have little to no automotive experience… or servile flatterers who are willing to exchange honesty with access.

    For the novice, Edmunds is about three steps below Consumer Reports. Compared to sites that attempt to be truthful to their audience (Autoblog and TTAC would be my top two but there are far more out there) Edmunds isn’t even a consideration.

    A few examples….

    2009 Kia Rio: Edmunds rates ‘Good’

    “Still, you should shop around some before settling on the 2009 Kia Rio. True, if a rock-bottom price for basic transportation with a great warranty is your primary concern, the base Kia Rio is hard to beat. But if you’re looking for a nicely equipped fuel sipper, we think there are better choices. The redesigned Honda Fit, in particular, is a better all-around car, thanks to its versatile interior and sporty driving characteristics.”

    2009 Kia Rio: TTAC Version (Rating 1 1/2 Stars)

    Summary:

    All of which means that if the Kia Rio loves good times as much as you do, you don’t love good times. At all. The Rio has nothing whatsoever to offer the enthusiast and even less to offer the frugalist. OK, the warranty is long and extensive. But then most cars today will last 200k miles.

    It’s a shame that the most economically-vulnerable members of society will be seduced by the Rio’s low sticker. If they checked eBay’s completed items section they’d see that an ultra-low mileage four-year-old Rio has trouble breaking the $4k barrier. That’s $2k worth of depreciation per year. On the flip side, you can buy a certified three-year-old Corolla or Civic for nearly the same price as a new Kia Rio and get lower depreciation, better fuel economy and far better overall quality. Game, set and match.

    The reviews pretty much say it all.

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      Steven, funny you should say that about MT as it summarized my thoughts exactly. But I started a subscription for my son and today, under Angus McKenzie and a host of newer writers, it really seems to be much improved and not automatically biased against US manufacturers like some other pubs. In fact, in many ways, it’s better than C&D since C&D comparos of late review differently configured cars at wildly different price points.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Steven Lang:

    But isn’t Inside Line supposed to be the “enthusiast” part of the larger Edmunds mothership?

    I mean IL is where they post those awesome columns by Brock Yates “The Mechanic” where he bitches about NASCAR, brags about how much money he has, and laments that we can’t all drive cat-less 500CI V8s.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      We can’t?

      Oh. You can’t… I do so love living in a country with such lenient sniffer tests. Four cars and ten years catless, and I still haven’t failed a single one.

      Oh, pipe down… I’m running on propane… so my emissions profile is still better overall than most.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    I can’t get over that front fascia which looks like it was stolen from a Mazda. I never liked the big smiley face on Mazda for that matter.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    Saw one at the autoshow and liked how it looked in person a lot better than in pictures. But this is going to be the “for a hybrid” faint praise car.

    Great acceleration, “for a hybrid”.
    Great handling, “for a hybrid”.
    Sporty looks, “for a hybrid”.
    Good stopping power, “for a hybrid”.
    Fun to drive, “for a hybrid”.

    BUT NOT
    Great gas mileage, “for a hybrid”. Because it sucks.

    My 1991 Honda CRX Si was cheaper, faster, handled better, and routinely got me 35-37mpg with a lead foot, with no battery packs, complex hybrid drivetrain, and only 5 gears. Besides the obvious safety and emissions improvements(which could be obtained without the hybrid powertrain), how is this considered progress?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Doesn’t Honda typically provide the lower estimate of their gas mileage, whereas a lot of their competition often lists the higher spectrum of their possible gas mileage? A lot of comparos show the statistical Honda mpg less than it’s competitors but when they do the actual calculation based on fuel used – the Honda product did better than the others and its expected average. I know there’s an awful lot of complaints about Fords mpg – reality from sticker. Honda doesn’t get that much complaints – only the complaints up front that the sticker mpg is lower than they’d expect. Wasn’t that the point of the new EPA rules to bring the MFGRs advertised mileage down more to reality.

  • avatar
    Boxofrain

    It does seem like we are going backwards. Cars do have more power now, but are almost always way heavier also, so the power gain is negated. Is it just me or do many of the older vehicles from many of todays manufacturers look much better styling wise. I’m thinking Subaru Impreza, the entire Acura lineup, Toyota (mostly sporty models they no longer make). The list goes on. These hybrids just don’t offer any advantage overall than a small compact car with either a 4 cylinder gas or diesel engine. As for electric, not practical, and not enough infrastructure. If I bought one today, there is nowhere to plug it in in my parking garage and if there was, wouldn’t I being getting a substantially higher electic bill at the end of the month?

    Styling on these hybrids is terrible. Plus we haven’t seen the long term maintenance cost on these batteries and systems. What is the cost of ownership on used hybrids going to be after 6 or 7 years? Will they be in demand as used vehicles?

    • 0 avatar
      holydonut

      The weight gain is caused by two major factors that are outside of the automaker’s direct influence. The first is regulatory requirements for safety concerns. New cars have much more strict roof-crush standards that result in thicker pillars around the greenhouse. Furthermore the IIHS tests and NCAP keep getting more strict forcing more metal between passengers and objects that may hit those passengers. To a degree, there are ways around these loopholes – but volume automakers can rarely take advantage.

      The other contributor to the weight gain is customer feedback. Almost all volume-autos receive the same set of design gripes from their customers. People always complain that their car lacks space and could use a bit more room. You have to consider that the new-car buyer of enthusiast vehicles like WRX’s, 3-Series, etc are people who never drive the vehicle at a track. Rather these owners spend 99.9% of their drive going about on public roads or hauling their kids to events. For the majority group, they want more leg/shoulder room, truck space, etc. The automakers cannot make the next iteration of their vehicle have less room since the majority of their repeat buyers would view this as a step backwards.

      Imagine Bob bought a new Civic today and you fit in it comfortably. Assume 8 years later Bob want another new Civic. However, 8 years down the road rules have changed. Someone has determined that safety requirements had to become more strict. Everything in the car gets thicker and filled with side/leg/front air bags. Most likely Bob’s put on a few pounds as well. If the proportions of the vehicle don’t scale up, then suddenly Bob will find less leg room or his hair is smooshed by the headliner. Bob would view this as “Honda doing it wrong” because Bob fit fine in a Civic 8 years ago. He thinks it’s insane that Honda has had lots of time to make improvements but their car no longer is “Bob Friendly.” So Honda makes their car bigger, and Bob is happy. Sure some kid wanting to autocross his Civic is going to be sad about the weight gain, but people like Bob buy more cars than the boy-racer set.

      The cars you see on the road are the direct result of what customers say they want and what their government officials believe to be safe. Just be glad the efficiency improvements keep pace to mostly offset the heavier vehicles. If you want a car that throws all this out the window you should consider an Ariel Atom.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      I just want to chime in and give a huge applause to holydonuts post. Awesome summary!

  • avatar
    niky

    Not an absolutely horrible review… but I can’t get over the fact that you have to read the line “It’s like a Tesla…” four different times on the same page. It gets annoying.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I love the yellow CR-X in the video. The CR-Z looks a bit odd , but it apparently drives very well.

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