By on September 2, 2010

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Automotive Journalism recently got their hands on a trio of Corvettes just for fun. But what unfolded was on the verge of hilarity, if not for their self-proclaimed journalistic superiority over us “punk kids with lots of servers and a desire to get free test drives.”

And that’s why it stings, in case you missed the backhanded TTAC insults in the link above. So let’s start with the Video reviews: I am no Jack Baruth, but I see numerous problems with their driving.  For one, Edmunds Chris Walton is caught–on camera–with his hand on the bottom of the tiller. (2:00 in the Grand Sport video) Anyone who’s taken a weekend driving school knows that 9-and-3 hand positions are the only way to fly.  After a brief reality check with Baruth, the other glaring deficiency comes to light: rarely, if ever, did Edmunds come close to hitting a racing line.

While power-on oversteering burnouts and gratuitous audio of LS-X mills are most welcome, Edmunds needs to hit apexs, take advantage of the entire track, and generally drive to the expectations of their most savvy readers.  To that effect, the commentator “1krider1” has it right: “Get some track instruction and learn to drive.” And consider the source, he’s probably be NASA racer/LeMons winner and Speed:Sport:Life contributor Rob Krider.  I’m no Tiff Nidel, but the rest of Edmund’s puff piece leaves much to be desired.

After just one launch with our Quicksilver Metallic 2002 Z06, it was obvious that the trick to getting the most out of the veteran Vette would be traction management. While Team Corvette has just announced major improvements are in store for its preferred Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, nothing could be done for these vintage examples because they were toast.

Don’t take my word for it, the comments section is filled with complaints that Edmund’s didn’t spring for a new set of tires when putting a C5 Corvette against a pair of hand plucked, PR-approved C6s from GM’s stable. With very little doubt, the C5 Z06’s track numbers on fresh rubber would easily match or (probably) beat the 2010 Grand Sport.

Again, it’s those tires. Surely the skid pad would reveal how little ultimate grip remained in the weary run-flats, and we were right. At 0.92g of lateral acceleration, the result shows some decline from the 1.0g a car like this could post in 2002

Apparently Edmunds isn’t big on doing their homework, since the C5 Z06 never came with run-flat tires. And if they installed a set, shame on them for stacking the cards in the C6’s favor.

As our test driver said after finishing this portion of the track test and anticipating the next day’s adventure on a road circuit, “I know I should be looking forward to driving three Corvettes on a racetrack tomorrow, but after today, I’m not so sure about this car. I’ll give it my 98 percent effort and reserve 2 percent just in case.”

Let’s blame the old car, not the people using worn rubber in a comparison test. Stay classy, Edmunds.

The Grand Sport now proves communicative, and we could confidently explore its limits thanks to its quick turn into each cone and the ability to throttle-steer the rear of the car. Did we just say that about a Corvette?

If you’ve spent enough time around C5 and (especially) C6 vettes, you’d know that they all behave this well once you ditch the run-flat tires for normal rubber. Or, for maximum butt kicking, installing the barely-legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cups used on top dollar Porkers.

We finally managed a run of 71.3 mph with the stability control on while sawing madly at the disinclined steering wheel.

Let’s hope you weren’t “sawing”  from the bottom of the steering wheel.  Not that you should saw at the wheel. Ever.  Especially when mad.

(We tried to verify with GM if these discrepancies could be explained by the Carbon’s active suspension or any other differences in hardware, but the Corvette engineers reported that the steering racks of the two cars are identical and further insisted that our impressions of the two cars should be reversed. Hmmm, sounds to us like prototype engineering might be the culprit.)

Not exactly. We might answer this question if we knew the Carbon’s active handling status: 100% on, 100% off and if the Traction Control was disabled or in “Competitive Driving” mode.  Edmunds needs to get off of the usual excuses for prototype vehicles and fess up to which mode was used while “sawing madly” at the wheel. I am not the only C5/C6 handling nanny-savvy reader on the planet, so let’s just finish this train wreck.

We have no qualms declaring the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition the best Corvette money can buy. You might suggest that the ZR1 represents a better deal since you get 133 hp more for just $5,495 more. But here’s the deal. The Porsche 911 GT2 is more powerful and both quicker and faster on a drag strip (and more expensive) than a Porsche 911 GT3, yet we still prefer the immediacy of the GT3’s naturally aspirated engine, its linear power delivery and the overall cohesive personality of the chassis. The same goes for the Corvette Z06 Carbon.

Wrong. Unlike the small displacement, turbo laggy Porsche GT2, there’s no lack of immediacy with a twin screw supercharger on a 6.2 liter V8.  Go ahead and ask me how I know. I know GM didn’t provide you a ZR1 for testing, but how could Edmunds get this so wrong? Oh wait, the lure of free press cars.  And the promise of more free press cars.  Press cars!

Benefit of the doubt: perhaps Edmund’s believes the ZR1 isn’t as track worthy because of the issues with heat soak in forced induction applications.  But will the intercooled “Z” lose 133 horses in 100+ degree weather on an asphalt track? Not bloody likely.

If Edmunds has the nerve to pull this stunt again, they better stop “sawing madly” at the wheel. And call out the Carbon Z06 as a fashion-statement fraud, because the Z06 + Z07 package is the real deal. Then they better put new tires on the C5 Z06. Have we journalists learned nothing from the Firestone tire debacle? If Edmunds doesn’t learn from their mistakes, they might face the wrath of more commentators like “1krider1” when he said:

“You guys are an embarrassment to real auto journalists.”

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24 Comments on “Between the Lines: Corvettemegeddon!...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Sajeev, how does Dr. Mehta like his new Vette?
    Shame on Edmonds for not leveling the playing field a little more.  I mean why not just unhook a spark plug wire next time?

  • avatar

    Considering that it was Edmunds, I’m surprised they didn’t burn out every Corvette’s clutch, back them all into poles, and complain about the seat heaters.

    However, IMO, discussion of things like the use of paddle shifters, competition mode, launch control, other traction/stability devices, and condition/mileage of the test car is something that every auto publication comes up short on. Even TTAC is guilty on this.

    We are all still waiting on your ZR1 review too. I need to know how the LS9 compares to the LS7.

  • avatar

    A little touchy, aren’t we? The video was in good fun. I don’t see any reason to defend the honor of the 2002 car or watch every frame of the video for ‘flaws’ in technique. It’s such a petty thing to do. I don’t suppose you caught the TG episode with footage of Senna driving an F1 car one-handed through Monaco?

  • avatar

    If you follow Edmund’s long-term blog at all, you’ll know that they apparently bought the 2002 Z06 mostly to complain about the seats and to give commentators an opportunity to bitch about the dash (which looks perfectly functional to me, but maybe my standards are low).  Nearly every entry since they bought the damn thing mentions the spent tires and is followed by 30 comments telling them to BUY SOME NEW ONES, mixed with another dozen comments on how shitty American cars are.

  • avatar

    InsideLine is supposed to be an enthusiast site, but rarely do I see true enthusiast content on their web site. (articles on how to improve driving technique, for example) Its more like a racy version of Edmund’s, which is about as exiting as jail food. I used to read Karl’s blog, but then he started using a Twitter format, and his blog became almost meaningless to me. Don’t get me wrong, I still like some of their content, and I am not blind to the fact that they are one of the “big boys,” so they usually get the newest cars and can afford the best spy photos.

    Every site has its purpose. Jalopnik has a very playful attitude, TTAC has opinionated, but informative reviews and editorials, and IL has (what do they have?) great access to new and upcoming products, as well as a lot of spreadsheet-type information.

    I recognize that each outlet has its own particular strength, so when I visit one, I try to focus on what it does best.

    • 0 avatar

      Understand that Inside Line exists because Edmunds was bleeding users to other blogs because they lost a pile of readers when the “reformatted” to become more of a portal and less of a research site.  The first redesign was a mess: too much portal/blog/buff book, but not good enough of a portal/blog to keep from losing readers to, eg, a nascent Autoblog or the Buff Books’ portals.
      IL allowed them to split their content style and refocus the rest of the site: they could be a research and services offering, as well as a blog without muddying the delivery mechanism.  In and of itself it’s pretty weak, but it helps the rest of the site by keeping editorial content the hell away from it.  Where Edmunds is in real trouble is that the IL content still isn’t that good, while they never really recovered from that first redesign that made it so much harder to dig for useful content.  Meanwhile, CR’s online offering is poaching everything good about Edmunds.
      Autoblog has the same dilemma, but from a different perspective: they started out as what Inside Line was supposed to be, but they’re weakening that brand by trying to offer Edmunds/CR-like services. The problem is that, to do what CR does you really can’t participate in “the Game” of automobile journalism.  Edmunds, if you don’t look to closely, manages to do this.  CR doesn’t play by default.
      One of the things I like about TTAC is that it generally doesn’t try to offer a weaksauce version of CR-like content in an attempt to be legitimate.  No “stars” (any more), no rankings, no comprehensive system of rankings: you can get that elsewhere (eg, TrueDelta).  If I were to offer a complaint, it’s that news and aggregation has been blurred into editorials.  I miss the DeathWatches and The Truth About Fill-in-the-Blank, or at least I miss their being distinct from the news feed.

    • 0 avatar
      Apple Orange

      Wow, I didn’t expect someone from Edmunds’ executive committee to log on here to explain the creation of Inside Line. But you were obviously right there in the room when all this strategizing was discussed and conceived. You’re not just working on half-ass assumptions and your own inferences, are you? I mean, come on, you were there with all the data in front of you and an ear tuned into every private discussion.
      I mean, come on, you wouldn’t just spew out your raw speculation and try and pass it off as true insight, would you? Because that would mean you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • avatar

    And you are wasting so much print space on this because?  Who cares what Edmund’s does.  Please do not keep writing articles like this. How does this advance what this web site is all about? Stick to what TTAC does best, honest and unique opinions about cars and the auto industry. 

  • avatar

    Aren’t test drives generally free?

  • avatar

    Yeah, I saw and read this, and i thought it was a waste of time to take the C5 on the track. They learned nothing about how it stacks up against the C6 examples from doing it with such worn tires. I’m surprised they didn’t have a blowout.

  • avatar

    @ Everyone: My apologies for those who weren’t here during the original Edmunds/TTAC kerfuffle in 2006, but I finally had to say something. Venting, carrying on our legacy of truth telling, whatever…I had to go there.
    @portico: Payback.  They give us crap about our opinions and our inability to get press cars, and title their masterpiece “Automotive Journalism 101.”  Four years later, they are still giving us the journalism equivalent of drivel.
    @ajla and Dan: motor has 500-ish miles on it, oil was changed, ceramic brakes are burnished as per GM specifications: 0-60-0mph for fifty times to get them sorted. Like any car, it’s not perfect. But it’s pretty close.

  • avatar

    Funny, considering the buff books considered to be a bunch of punks with a lot of servers.
    Edmunds is in a tough spot: they want to be the Consumer Reports of online automobilia, but they’ve two problems: one, Consumer Reports Online is already quite competitive with their offerings, if not outright better, and b) moving to a non-ad/vendor-supported model (and not lobbing creampuff reviews) without a replacement revenue stream would be slitting their throat.  They’re stuck being an online Buff Book, albeit a pretty good one, design-wise.

  • avatar

    It takes many years, many dollars, and a lifestyle-sized commitment to acquire Baruth-class driving skills. Most of us do not have that level of commitment, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect everyone who reviews cars to have that sort of background, not least because most who do can’t write well.
    On the other hand, it doesn’t take many years or that many dollars or anything more than a little negotiation with one’s spouse to do a day or two at Skip Barber or your local equivalent every year or two (or hell, if you’re cheap, take that 3-series that all lame auto writers seem to own to a few BMWCCA track days) to acquire some rudimentary on-track skills so that you actually know how to evaluate the cars you’re given to test. At least read a book or something. Geez.

  • avatar

    TTAC has a lot of servers?  really?

  • avatar

    It would seem that Edmunds is about as enthusiast oriented as CR. which means not at all.
    BTW:  Nice to have the taskbar back for posting comments!!

  • avatar

    Why would anyone use anything other than Pilot Sports?

  • avatar

    Nice write-up Sajeev. The “test” sounds anything but coldly objective, but maybe that’s as much a reflection on those who use Edmunds as their source of auto-informata. Hey, someone still reads “Motor Trend” as well…
    As to Jack’s skills, I have no idea if he is the equal of the average Porsche club instructor, but his writing is still great fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      At the risk of sounding like a complete prick — a risk I never shy away from taking — I am as much faster than the average PCA instructor as he is than a “green group” driver. I ran my Boxster at a Watkins Glen PCA day and was the second-fastest car in the Instructor group. The fastest, by six seconds a lap, was Sam Hornish Jr. in his Cup car.

  • avatar

    No criticism of your driving abilities intended, Jack; I was hoping to make an offhand compliment on your writing. That you occasionally sound like a complete prick is part of what makes it good reading. It’s the problem with much of the print world today, the “voice” of individual writers is frequently lost by over-editing.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      None taken… I just wanted to spell it out for the readers who are busy building bridges, creating art, or making love to beautiful women and therefore aren’t quite aware of the differences in pace between various types of trackday drivers and racers :)

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