By on June 18, 2015

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About twenty years ago, I made a decision that had the potential to severely limit my earning potential, increased my chances of becoming an alcoholic, and statistically ensured that I would die much, much younger than most people.

That’s right, I decided to major in Jazz Saxophone Performance. Yes, you can do that. No, I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily, a combination of factors led to my ceasing to pursue music as a career a long time ago, but not before I spent nearly four years working behind the counter of a musical instrument store in the Brass and Woodwind department as a part-time college job. We sold three levels of most instruments – Student, Intermediate, and Professional. Guess who we sold the most “Professional” instruments to? Professionals? Uh, no. A professional-level saxophone retails for more than $4,000 in most cases. For your average professional musician, that’s like, a year’s worth of ramen noodles and Crown Royal.

Nope, we sold them to the upper-middle class parents of high schoolers. They’d come in with their kids, who had been given a recommended name brand and model by their private lesson teacher, and I’d send the kids into a practice room with three or four different examples of professional-level instruments to try. They normally sounded equally horrible on all of them, but they always came out of the room proclaiming the clear superiority of the one that their teacher had recommended, or, lacking a recommendation, the one that had the coolest looking engraving or lacquer. They possessed neither the talent or the ear to discern any difference between the professional horns and the student one that they came in with. Buying a more expensive instrument was not going to make them one iota better as a musician.

But, considering that I stood to make about $200 in commission if they bought one of them, I congratulated them on an excellent choice, cheerfully swiped the parents’ credit card, and sent them all on their merry way. Hey, those pizzas I ordered to my dorm room weren’t gonna pay for themselves.

This is exactly what the modern day car review is like. Allow me to explain.

Dig, if you will, the picture of a Driver with a capital D. Got it in your mind? Okay, now picture exactly the opposite, because that’s what most car reviewers are like. The vast majority of them have never driven a single, solitary timed lap on a racetrack. Their performance driving experience is limited to three laps at a time in lead/follow sessions with factory drivers leading the way at roughly fifty percent of the car’s maximum capability.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS

Why, you may ask, does this matter? Well, let me give you some examples of automotive journalism from a recent launch where, thanks to our friends at Jalopnik, everyone in the world knows that the track experience was limited to three laps with a pace car:

“The Camaro rides on a platform that is significantly lighter than the one used before. You immediately feel this in every aspect of the new car’s dynamics, whether you’re punching the gas on a straightaway, or braking as hard as you can for a 90-degree corner.” No, you can’t. Well, maybe somebody else could, but you couldn’t. You did three laps in the car. You drove at sixty percent. You have no clue what “braking as hard as you can” means. I would bet enough money to cover all of my blackjack losses for the year that you never, ever engaged ABS.

“Camaro has answered with a steed … built on a small luxury sedan chassis. The same Alpha platform used by the sensational, best-in-class Cadillac ATS carving knife. By Turn 2 at Belle Isle, I knew the Gen-6 Camaro was a different animal.” Really? By Turn 2, on a lead/follow session, your finely tuned senses were able to determine the Camaro’s handling capabilities? That’s impressive. Also, best-in-class Cadillac ATS? Somebody page DeadWeight to this thread.

“Ride and handling are outstanding, with the suspension able to soak up track imperfections with ease, while not disturbing either the steering or stability. The brakes feel much stronger as well. The 2015 model’s brakes felt squishy and overworked after several laps with journalists at the wheel, but the 2016 model exhibited no fade or softness in the pedal.” If I showed you a picture of this particular journalist, you’d feel much more comfortable accepting his review of, say, an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet than you would his review of the 2016 Camaro. What exactly does “outstanding ride and handling” even mean?

Car reviews are full of this kind of nonsense. They talk about “understeering at the limit” or “cornering like it’s on rails.” But what the vast majority of reviewers really mean is that they’ve reached their personal limits, not the limits of the car. And there’s quite a difference between the two.

557Let me give you an example of this: At the ST Octane Academy I recently attended, we all had the chance to drive the Focus ST on the West Course at Miller Motorsports Park. They waved me onto the track right exactly a minute after another young man. It took me less than three full circuits of a 2.2 mile track to catch up. If you do the math, that means I was completing each lap nearly twenty seconds faster than he was, and I was still learning both the car and the track. After watching my in-car video, I would conservatively estimate I could have been two to three seconds faster per lap, given some more time behind the wheel – the car had more in it than I could get from it in the limited time provided. After the drive, I spoke at length with him about his experience. Both of us felt like we were driving at “the limit.” Yet my “limit” in the car that day was considerably faster than his.

Why does any of this matter? Because it’s in that last ten to twenty percent of a car’s capabilities that the difference between a Mustang and a Camaro and a Challenger or a Corvette and a Viper or a 911 and an R8 reveal themselves. When driven at seventy percent, all cars are pretty much the same. When you combine a lack of driving ability with a heavy desire to get invited back to the next event, it’s easy to see how the “There Are No Bad Cars” narrative gets pushed so heavily.

When you read a review of a car by somebody who doesn’t know what it’s like to battle for position on a racetrack, braking at the last possible second to try to put your nose to the door of a competitor, and occasionally exceeding those limits and finding yourself on an agricultural tour of Turn Seven – how does that person truly determine what the “limit” of a car his? How does he actually know how good the brakes are?

I’ll tell you how: he doesn’t. He possesses neither the talent nor the skill to discern any difference. Hence, all cars are good. Every new model is better than the model it replaces, because why would it be NEW and REIMAGINED otherwise?

The real question is: does anybody care? I don’t think so. The OEMs are happy that their models are getting positive reviews. The search engine optimization rankings keep getting better. The reader’s desire to reaffirm the choice he’s already made is satisfied. It’s a win-win-win. But I think that you deserve better.

It’s just like those kids playing all of those saxophones in the practice room. The difference is, those kids will someday have to play for an audience that knows the difference between good music and bad music, and most of them will figure out one of two things: they either need to get some lessons and get better, or they need to quit and do something else. If only we could get the car reviewers to do the same.

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165 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: Why Does The Public Accept Car Reviews From People Who Can’t Drive?...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I have been wondering this for years. IMO I dont read reviews from USA Today or NY Times. I just dont trust their opinion as it sounds paid. Yes I used to be under the spell of the rag mags when I was a teen but I knew they could drive (with the exception of a few stupid accidents per year). Why would anyone go to CNET for a car review and why do they get invited to the reviews in the first place?
    The only non drivers I trust are CR and only due to their testing process.

    • 0 avatar
      Dsemaj

      Why would you go to CNET fo a car review? A point that most enthusiasts forget is that most people don’t care about on the limit handling, they care about ergonomics, technology and user interfaces, which is what CNET Car Tech does a pretty good job.

      That said, Jalopnik don’t do a very good job reviewing cars. Their interviews read like they were written by the keyboard warriora that live in an enthusiast bubble. They do a great job of covering car culture, but they should leave reviewing to the experts.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      Good old C&D… Regarding 2011 BMW535i. lol

      ” We wanted to get a jump on testing a new F10 535i sedan so badly that BMW let us choose from a selection of previously ordered vehicles. At the high end were 5ers costing close to $70,000. At the absolute low end was this white 535i with a manual transmission and the Sport package ($2200), Dynamic Handling package ($2700), a $400 iPod connector, and cinnamon-brown Dakota leather seats ($1450). Grand total: $57,225. On paper, we were drawn to its simplicity. We thought that this might be the kind of 5-series we would spec out were we to actually purchase one. One of the many lessons learned at the Bay of Pigs is that theory is often at odds with reality.

      In the logbook’s first entry, associate online editor Jon Yanca set the tone for this car’s tenure: “I know everyone will complain about the lack of navigation, heated seats, and satellite radio.” Sure enough, entry after entry complained endlessly of cold seats and the cheap non-navigation iDrive display that resembles an old cathode-ray tube more than a modern LCD flat screen. ”

      http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2011-bmw-535i-long-term-road-test-review

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    DING! CHICKEN’S DONE!!!!

    Counterpoint………. given that most people can’t drive, won’t track their cars, and often buy performance cars for image and ego, don’t these puff piece reviews actually serve their true purpose?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Agreed. I’d argue that if you can adequately drive a car on a public road you have all the skill required to review a car. 99% of them live their life on public roads generally within what the laws allow.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s some truth to that. I once heard a Corvette owner say that there are two things that Vette owners talk about at meet-ups:

      1) What cleaning products they use

      2) How fast the magazines say their car can go

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yeah, I made a big reply about that below, but I’ll summarize here.

        RaceCarDriver and Driver are different categories, and most people aren’t even Drivers – but a Driver can write a great review for them.

        A review from a Driver shouldn’t pretend to be by or for RaceCarDrivers; that’s the irksome part, not that they’re not a RCD.

        Don’t tell me about skidpads and lap times and limit-handling. Tell me what you can actually know something about, and what might realistically be relevant to me.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      And also, many of the optimizations that makes a car faster around a race track for Lewis Hamilton, make it slower, or at least harder to go “fast” in, down a winding road (and even around a track) for the average, self-perceived “performance driver.”

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    “The public” doesn’t pay attention to these sort of reviews. At all.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    +1 billion on everything, ditto for off-road vehicle reviewers.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Along with the total lack of detail in offroad reviews “it did great and was surefooted through the obstacles!!” what really grinds my gears is the total butchering of any and all technical terms and concepts. When the cocktail shrimp connoisseur spouts off something like “All sorts of locking differentials and offroad hardware,” to entirely describe the technical specifications of a 4wd vehicle, that sort of thing. To get a decent offroad review, the only choice is to read something like Petersen’s, or any number of foreign reviews (Australian, I happen to like my Russian sources).

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I should invent the Double Locking Differential, and make a fortune!

        Maybe one that locks so much nothing can move, thus saving people from going offroad?

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          No, the tri-axial, wirelessly adjustable, variable resistance differential, available in three different materials.

          The car will not be able to move, thus guaranteeing no chance of colliding with anything.

          Yeah, hey, got to love “and all that other off-roading technology stuff.”

          I can’t stand a car that doesn’t come with enough “stuff” as part of its option pacckages.

          Or some great line like “the suspension has been totally revised for 2016, offering an all-new driving experience you won’t want to miss.”

          Fairly soon, they will be telling that next year they plan to add a “Giant Economy Size Model” to their lineup…

          And then there is the type of comment such as “gear selection is smooth and effortless as you call up your desired gear with just the flip of a fingertip on the whale penis leather paddle, though the color is a bit dark when compared to the rest of the interior.”

          These jokes about whale penis leather lead me to want to relate a story [WARNING: Funny, NSFW, totally unrelated to cars].

          The famous author and food critic Calvin Trillin was on Johnny Carson not too long after Nixon’s famous outreach to China.

          Carson asked him what his most unusual dish was, of all the Chinese cuisine he had tried.

          And Trillin replied “Twice-cooked deer penis.”

          It was one of the few times Carson was ever caught off guard. As he recovered, he asked Trillin, “what made you decide to try that dish?”

          And Trillin replied, “Because I figured it would be the only opportunity I would ever have to say ‘twice-cooked deer penis’ two times on network television.”

          And when called upon to find an unusual animal of a certain taxonomy, my son first found “Penis-Fencing Flatworm.” I convinced him to forego that opportunity, but only by helping him find a reasonable substitute: “The Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.”

          I had to concede, however, that the Penis-Fencing Flatworm technically met the requirements of the assignment, though he was able to understand how that might not be his best move.

          All of this nonsense tells me I have too much time on my hands. I am recovering from minor surgery about a week ago, and it seems my spirits are returning to normal before my head has fully cleared.

          My recovery began with me eating a piece of fried chicken and drinking a Coke on ice, against medical advice (after fasting 18 hours), and reading Jack’s Huracán review.

          Life is good. And a bit of humor makes it better. As does the combination of silliness and intelligent comments that are comprised by the TTAC forum.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I know I’m not everyone, but honestly the amount I care about racetrack performance when vehicle shopping is zero and even general “handling” maybe breaks the top 10.

    Even if I was shopping a Camaro all I need a reviewer to tell me is if it faster in a straight-line than a Mustang. I can figure the rest out during a test drive.

    Reading car reviews for most enthusiasts is just entertainment or to reinforce preexisting opinions.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Great article. I give reviewers more slack if it’s an SUV or similar but when it comes to sports cars I’ll stick with people like Randy Pobst. Obviously I can never get close to that but it at least gives you an idea of the cars capabilities.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Why bother caring what Propst has to say or the car’s ceiling if you won’t commit to getting yourself there as the driver? You’re just the middle class parent buying the $4k instrument.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    My #1 peeve is when the 15th report on the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 reads exactly the same as the 1st report. Even when the 15th report comes out six months later.

    Same thing with the Jeep Renegade. How many goddamn times can the writers report that the redline graphic was inspired by paintball???

    Why can’t someone say “go read all those articles first, then come back when you want more?”

    I’d really enjoy a “Take 3” review which is one single article, longer than a 200-word long-term update, and moves past all first impressions. A review for someone who is looking for the tiny things that build up over time.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      You’re looking for a review by Alex Dykes. Many around here don’t like his review style, but he lays out all the facts with very little opinion to allow the reader/viewer to make up their own mind. Some people prefer to have the decision made for them though.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        Really? What don’t people like about Alex’s car reviews? I see nothing but well deserved praise for him on TTAC.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I don’t like that they’re from the point of view of someone who would rather the vehicle drive itself. So I avoid them because they offer nothing toward explaining the quality of the man-machine interaction. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that the information is irrelevant to me. Sort of like a Consumer Reports car review. The only details I want to hear about electronic nannies and driving aids is how difficult it is to permanently disable them.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Everything is salesmanship. You’re trying to sell us your self-image, Jalopnik is trying to sell us a Camaro. Some of us buy it, some of us don’t. But as a salesman, you already know that. The fundamental truth of sales is that it’s a numbers game.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Few people take their cars on track.

    This article should have been about car reviewers who don’t really own cars. They just swap long-term testers, which causes them to belly-ache about minutiae, when the average person is really quite happy to leave their 5-10 year old vehicle behind.

    My Civic commuter is over 10 years old. When I sit in the new CVT Sentra, the car feels quiet and refined. The engine is a sewing machine. When a car reviewer sits in the car, they boohoo about the spartan interior and the lackluster driving dynamics.

    • 0 avatar

      This. I always hate when car comparisons note how much better one car is when it’s way more expensive than the other.

      Torchinsky’s response to the NYT’s Mirage review is one of my favorite things ever written.

      http://jalopnik.com/this-brutal-nyt-mirage-review-is-whats-wrong-with-cheap-1583123298

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    “they either need to get some lessons and get better, or they need to quit and do something else”

    I was wondering about this throughout the story. In most any profession, you in invest in continued education to get better. It sounds like there isn’t much of that in car journalism to improve on driving skill. Why? Time? Cost?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      For most automotive journalists, there’s nothing to gain and a lot to lose by knowing anything more than how great the manufacturer says the vehicle is.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Car reviews are written by people who can’t drive, because they’re read by people who can’t drive. It’s matching the producer (journalist) with the consumer.

    Pro-Drivers don’t read car reviews, because they don’t need to. They read spec sheets, talk to other Drivers/Enthusiasts, and go to track days, or test out someone else’s car, or have an extensive test drive.

    But the Driver Consumer is the 1.5% of 100% of driver consumers.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I think it’s also important to separate INFORMATION from ENTERTAINMENT.

    If I want useful INFORMATION about a car, I pretty much check 2 sources: Consumer Reports, and Alex Dykes.

    If I want to be ENTERTAINED, I will watch/read the work of entities like Chris Harris, Steve Sutcliffe, and video channels like MT, EVO, Autocar, ThatDudeInBlue etc.

    One mistake internet auto nerds love to make is taking the “review” of someone like Jeremy Clarkson as some kind of objective meaningful look at a car. No, it’s entertainment.

    Part of entertainment can be the suspension of belief. That is where journohacks like whoever dude quoted fall woefully short. They also fail in giving you any meaningful sense of how the car actually drives. The articles read like Mad Libs. Mags like EVO etc. do a much better job of that, which is easy to do when you actually drive the cars at 10/10ths.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “Mags like EVO etc. do a much better job of that, which is easy to do when you actually drive the cars at 10/10ths.”

      Which most of the people at EVO can’t do.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I always enjoyed the Clarkson reviews, back when they did those reviews of cars. Those guys were a realistic counterpoint to a clinical point by point analysis like CR or Alex Dykes. Here were 3 guys that actually owned some cars, admitted they couldn’t drive, and were totally open about liking a car for irrational reasons over some technically superior thing.

      Come to think of it, thats really what this site was founded on, Farago’s word limit was so low that the writer had to put it all together into a succinct description of the whole, without resorting to BS complaints about understeer at the limit.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    Maybe differences in ultimate performance and controllability at the limite only arise in the last 20% of a car’s capabilities, but differences in FEEL can appear much sooner. Because my real world limits are much lower than any car I’m likely to buy, I evaluate steering feel, ride quality, shift quality, engine sound, throttle response, etc., all of which can be assessed on a good test drive.

    For example, when I bought my Saab 9-5 Aero in 2001, I knew it would be an understeering pig on a track, but I didn’t care because it had massive midrange torque, a decent MT, great steering feel, and a tolerable ride quality. In the real world, it was an outsanding sport sedan, even if it would lose every car mag comparo to BMW, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      Exactly. But the thing is, feel is subjective, so you are always better off test driving yourself than reading how someone else perceives a certain car.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Came here to say this. Handling is about much more than dynamics at the limit of traction, which seems to be all that Bark thinks is relevant. It’s also about steering feel, body control and transient responsiveness at sane speeds. There’s a big difference between how a 2000 LeSabre with shot struts and a new Mustang with Performance Package handle turns, even tooling around the neighborhood. All sorts of factors go into that difference, and I don’t think you have to be a racing driver to evaluate them.

      And of course there are big differences in ride as well, which are apparent whether you’re even turning or not.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I do have to say that feel is much more apparent and useful for most normal drivers, since driving 9/10ths on public roads is a great way to get arrested in short order.

      But while Bark has a point that it’s very unlikely you could tell the difference in limit handling for a mustang vs a camaro without intensely driving them, you can definitely tell the difference in limit handling between a family sedan and an all out sports car even on the street. It’s also really easy to trigger ABS on non-performance cars-just smash the brakes.

  • avatar

    I believe car reviews actually make cars worse for the general public…In most comparison tests much is made about the “numbers. Skidpad, 0-60 etc…No manufacturer wants to be last in these tests so this leads to them optioning and setting up their cars so that they win the tests but are not actually more satisfying to drive..

    There was an article in a magazine a few years back explaining how most OEMS setup their gearing so 60MPH can be hit in second gear because 0-60 is faster since there’s one less shift required. This happens since every reviewer would complain about a “disappointing” 0-60 time even if the car was better overall because it’s gearing kept the revs in the right place.

    I also blame car reviews on the influx of massive low-profile tires that will be destroyed by the first pothole you hit… It’s essentially become an arms race, since bigger, low profile tires generally provide more “grip” and better skidpad times, OEMS slap them on so they can win tests ride comfort and real world “fun” be damned.

    • 0 avatar

      I read the book “All Corvettes are Red” years ago, about the development of the C5 Corvette. One of the things they did is switch from the digital dash in the C4 to analog in the C5. Actual Corvette owners actually preferred the digital gauges, but auto reviewers hated them, so they went analog.

      • 0 avatar

        I always wondered about the whole group of digital cluster that went into GM’s late-eighties cars, but disappeared when those cars were redesigned in the nineties. For instance, the seventh-gen Buick Riviera had a digital cluster when it debuted for 1986, and received an improved digital cluster for its MY1990 facelift. But when the eighth-gen, and final, Riviera bowed in 1995, it featured a conventional analog cluster with digital measurements for the odometer and trip computer.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Pac Man dashes were an 80s trend and were problematic for both GM and Ford (can’t speak for Chrysler). Dropping them by the mid 90s seems appropriate (except for Deville which still offered them till at least MY96 and I believe after, as well as Town Car till MY98)

          • 0 avatar

            My first car was an ’87 LeBaron that had a digital dash. I thought it was kind of cool, but I was 17. It did read about 10mph too low, although I never got pulled over in it.

            We bought a 2nd-gen Scion xB at work last year. I was surprised to find it had a digital speedo.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seems like today many of the newer dashes offer a mix of analog and a digital readout which I have to admit I like very much. The only dash I can think of which does not offer an analog speedometer is the 06+ Civic but it sounds like Scion did it as well.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Actually there is a nuance to the idea that C4 drivers liked the digital gauges, but the reviewers didn’t, @madanthony.

        I knew an owner of a brand new C4 who loved his digital dash, and poo-pooed my analog 88 Thunderbird SuperCoupe analog dash.

        A few months later, shortly after the Vette was out of warranty, its digital dash went to ground, and stayed there. Bringing it back to life was well over a grand, in 1990 dollars.

        After that, he admitted that analog dashes did have their advantages.

        A speedometer cable was only about fifty bucks, plus or minus, and the labor time was probably no more than a hundred bucks worth, or so. Sure beat a grand.

        So I doubt that C4 owner would have bought a new C5 or C6 if he had to deal with another digital dash.

        And by the way, @Bark, the phrase “taking an agricultural tour” was a classic. A bit of your writing when it is at its finest.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Some carmakers are starting to care less about that 0-60 than you’d think though. here’s a short list of performance cars that I know need 2 shifts to get to 60:

      FS-S/BRZ
      AP2 S2000
      06+ Civic Si
      WRX STI

      The modern STI is an even funnier case, as the 09-13 WRX is geared longer due to the 5-speed and therefore only needs to be in 2nd to hit 60, meaning it actually has a faster 0-60 than the STI.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      60mph shift points are not an artificial construct, designed solely for the car comparison charts.

      60mph is where most highway passing begins, so it logical that the car either begin to come into is powerband in third at 60 (or if the car is geard really tall, to wind most of the way to 60 in first, and wind through 2nd up to state trooper attraction speeds.)

      Besides, of 2nd gear ran out of revss below sixty, it would be a fairly low geared vehicle. Most trannies have ratios between gears of approximately 4:3 ratio, So if 2nd redlines at 55, 4th would redline about 55 times 16 divided by 9, or around 95 mph for redline in 4th.

      A BUNCH OF MATH AND SOME DESIGN ASSUMPTIONS FOLLOW — JUST AN ATTEMPT TO SHOW THAT IT ISN’T JUST A WAY TO POST A ZERO TO SIXTY TIME THAT IS DECENT WHEN YOU LET 2nd GEAR RUN OUT PAST 60MPH.

      Assuming a redline of 6000, that would leave the car cruising above 3000rpm in fourth, at 55mph — not too good for your mpg ratings.

      So the question is not whether 2nd should extend to 60mph or better, but rather how much beyond it should 2nd take you?

      Keep in mind that inter-gear ratios greater than about 4:3 will leave your revs dropping way down in the powerband at shiftpoints — not very helpful when trying to accelerate smoothly. So 4:3 is the approximate limit between the gears.

      Now if you go with a similar setup, but put redline in 2nd at about 72mph, fourth gear at 72mph will be something like 3300, and at 60 mph you would be running a decent bit below 3K rpm. Or if you “leg out” top gear, you can get cruising rpms down below 2500.

      This is still above what you see in larger vehicles designed for highway cruising, but very typical for “sewing machine” type econo-boxes set to give some performance.

      If you think you can get away with inter-gear ratios more like 5:3, if you redline 2nd at 6K rpm at 60mph you end up with fourth gear at 60 mph taking about 2150 rpm.

      But any way you slice it, there is no point in having 3rd gear begin pulling, flat out, below 60mph, trap times or no. Unless we end up going to a national 40mph speed limit for autonomous vehicles to be able to have enough time to communicate with each other, given network congestion possibilities. But perish the thought..40 mph for trips under 200 miles, and some other form of mass transit for longer hauls, autonomous electric greyhound busses perhaps.

      Damn, that is a dark vision.

      But 60mph is more a natural consequence of powerbands, shift points, natural gear ratios, etc, than a contrivance to post a zero to sixty number.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Yup, I’m an Engineer and a car guy (whatever that means, probably nothing) but when I get to that stuff in a review I just skip ahead. Zero relevance to my life.

    Brass instruments on the other hand are very relevant at the moment, trying to find a used Yamaha YTR-2335 trumpet for my highschooler. That’s one step up from what the school provides, I did briefly consider a new intermediate instrument but thought “nah, if he gets really good, really good instruments will still be available”

    • 0 avatar

      BUY THE YAMAHA.

      Full disclosure: Both Bark and Mrs. Bark are Yamaha Performing Artists.

      • 0 avatar
        Snowdog1967

        I’d agree with that…
        We did with my boy’s keyboard, but for his starter trumpet, we are getting a STARTER trumpet. (He wants to play percussion anyway…)

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        Back in my college music career days, I also worked at a music store and I sold a sh!t-ton of Bach Strad trumpets. Preferred the King 3B F-attachment for pro-level trombone (my axe in fact, and I had to save up for it myself in HS, as well as my Ricky 4001). Yamaha was coming on strong (this was 25+ years ago, mind you) especially with saxophones, but the college g/f and the music prof I house/cat sat for were big into the Selmer Mark VI Series. Today, Yamaha is totally killing it across the board, even getting the Gemeinhardt flutists to reconsider their axe of choice. And flutists are like crazy, AFAIC.

        Doug D, after college, the pro trombone sat in my closet, unused a couple years. I was only gigging as a bassist and was pretty sure my trombone days were over. I sold it to the parents of a freshman in HS. The horn was in great shape, but all the lacquer was gone wherever the horn touched my hands and shoulder (lots of sweaty marching band practices and countless hours in the practice room will do that). Even still, I sold it for what I paid for it because pro level horn prices had gone up quite a bit over the 10 or so years I owned it. So, yeah, while you’ll drop several grand for a pro Yamaha trumpet, it’s still gonna be a pro trumpet in 10 years and someone’s going to want it. That intermediate axe will be garage sale material when your kid quits or moves up to the pro instrument. So just buy the top of the line now and get it over with. (Which is the spiel I’d use at the music store, and still say today, cuz it’s true.)

        And this is also true: The better the instrument, the more your student will want to play it. And the better he’ll get. And the more he’ll use it. Etc, etc.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    Some good points made, some major points missed. Is track performance all that important a gauge of a car’s quality? It is if you do track days. But for those of us who just like the occasional fast run up a twisty road, it’s not that critical. Having test cars furnished for you at race tracks really makes a reviewer feel like Hot Salami, of course. And I can see why more and more magazines test the hottest cars at the track — who wants to lose their driver’s license, never mind the sheer danger of driving fast on a public roads. But when magazines confine their reviews to the fine points of how Racer Guy X took this baby around Laguna, much is missing. The real-world experience is gone.

    In fact, the greatest shortcoming in most media reviews is the unwillingness to describe real-world driving values of a given car.

    Some of the newspapers had good writers, by the way. Before they got rid of their Sunday car section (which was real good) the NY Times had fine writers like Lawrence Ulrich, Ezra Dyer and Kevin Cameron composing their stories. That’s gone now, damn it. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil is a tremendous writer. Do I wonder how Neil would do on a racetrack? Not at all. Reading him is such a pleasure, and the images he evokes really seem to nail the experience of driving that car, that I don’t give a damn about his lap times.

    USA Today, though, that is some very weak tea.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    When I read a review, I don’t want to find out what is right with the car – I’ll determine that in my test drive.

    I want to find out what is wrong with the car relative to its peers in its class.

    I don’t care about absolute ratings based on your reviewing “experience”. I want to know objectively how cars compare with one another – and what they are NOT good at.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Agreed. Not sure if they still do it but Edmunds long term reports were the best when came to this stuff. They reported what drove them nuts, what broke and when swapping cars constantly what stood out between the various models. Plus real world mileage is good info. The “feel” is important because the numbers don’t tell you everything. Some cars feel bigger then they are, some feel faster. These things do matter and some writers can get those feeling across in their articles. However some are clearly just spewing PR BS, mostly the old print mags we all now avoid.

      Knowing how the car performs at its limits is useless for 99% of driving public. However if there is one thing I’ve learned from tracking my car its your impressions of a vehicle change completely once your pushing it. My Z felt light and quick on the street, plus slightly tail happy, but on the track it feels heavy and slow, as it actually understeers at the limit due to the staggered tires. Regardless its fun to drive and begs to be driven harder.

      • 0 avatar
        stodge

        I love reading their long term reports because they are relevant to the real world. Or at least relevant to MY real world. :)

        • 0 avatar
          hgrunt

          And they get a diverse set of opinions from different editors, which was also nice. There were a couple cars where some editors loved them, but another one would have a very different opinion.

  • avatar
    segfault

    “When driven at seventy percent, all cars are pretty much the same.”

    If you drive my farm truck at seventy percent, you will slide off the edge of the (very) flat leather seat into the door panel or console. Very different from a car with grippier and/or more supportive seats. Other than that, it’s like most other vehicles.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    And this is why the only reviews I trust are Regular Car Reviews.

    mY wIfE hAs TrIcEpS nOw
    ShE nEvEr PuTs ThE wEiGhTs DoWn
    WhAt Do ThEsE pIlLs Do??
    ShE oNlY LoVeS mE wHeN i CoMe BlOoD

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Great article Bark, entertaining read. If I can input my own opinion, the excerpts you quoted would be absolutely useless to a car buyer such as myself. I’ve never tracked a car. I’d like to, but who knows if I’ll ever make the time. (That said, I’m actively looking for one of these in-car winter driving skills training courses). All of the performance fluffery in that article, but even accounts from you and Jack that are based on fact are almost as useless, regardless of their accuracy, because I just don’t drive my car like that.

    So, I don’t necessarily believe for what I am looking for, it matters whether the reviewer has ever tracked a car, but are they looking at the factors that matter to me. An example of this is Alex Dykes recent review of the Infiniti Q50. These cars and their competitors are more sporting than most, yet he doesn’t prattle on about limits, and grip thresh holds, instead he comments on the power, how it goes down a road, not a sweeping apex, how the steering doesnt transmit potholes and why thats weird. As someone who drives a comfy, rolly polly Buick with a decent amount of shove, I appreciate that a lot more than fantasies of carving a B road. I can take the B road to Jasper with the cruise control set to the speed limit in my car, without feeling like I am going to fly off the highway, as a moderately skilled driver. Thats all I need to know about a car I am looking at, and I don’t need a track trained pro to tell me that.

    Last but not least though, I sure would prefer a pro’s opinion when reading about sports car’s doing things that I don’t know about. In this case, a Jack, a Bark, and Randy P from MT do a great job of describing whats actually going on, not just bandying about car dynamics buzz speak.

    • 0 avatar
      tarmorn

      I can confirm that the Q50 has been neutered compared to the G37x… An unfortunate turn of events.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Car and Driver’s review of the car and its steer-by-wire system is hilarious.

        “Where once romped a lively four-door now goes a rolling flea circus of driver-reduction technology that tries but ultimately fails to simulate all that was good about its predecessor . . . the helm bestows less confidence than before, which makes probing the car’s limits more like guesswork and less satisfying than it should be . . . a sense of understeer and disconnectedness is ever present. The Q50’s electronic Direct Adaptive Steering is largely to blame. The first production steer-by-wire system, it lacks feedback and natural-feeling resistance proportional to cornering loads . . . This car suffered a rare skidpad spinout. The steering is atrocious.”

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Well written.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    For the tiny percentage of folks who actually care about the difference between 8/10s and 10/10s driving, they know to obtain that information to their satisfaction. For the far larger percentage of folks who read these reviews, writing ability is much more important–and, let’s face it, even rarer than driving ability. The best vehicle review I have ever read was of a Ducati 900SS, by Hunter S. Thompson. It only tangentially evaluated the bike’s capabilities, and one suspects that the writer inferred much from his initial impressions.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    I feel that a car’s track-ability and limit performance matter to daily-driver consumers. I may not drive my car at 10/10ths, but I do drive it on war-torn Ohio roads, through blistering summers, and bitter, salt-encrusted winters. It makes cold starts, drives in high-speed stoplight-to-stoplight traffic, does 1,000 mile road trips fully loaded. And it will have to do this over 150,000 miles or more, with minimal maintenance, running on 87 octane, because I can’t afford a car that lives in the shop.

    If a car designed for normal use can’t handle 15 hot laps from a good driver with 1,500 miles on the clock, how is it going to hold up over 5 or more years of daily driver punishment?

    That’s why, to use the obvious example, Jack’s positive track impressions of the Camry SE matter.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Tl; dr: I think limit performance of everyday vehicles in the hands of a good driver correlates well with real-world durability.

      It may not matter to me that my car can be stood on its nose twenty times without brake fade, but it matters to me that the engineering went that deep.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      LeMons races frequently show that cars that are considered dead-reliable in real life are sometimes the first to die when pushed to a race pace. Similarly, a race level brake pad and tire, as just two examples, will take a ton of heat and abuse on track, but will wear out real quick if you putter to work with them 5 days a week. A Ferrari will be perfectly happy banging off 8,500 RPM shifts, but you’ll cry when you find out that the engine is scheduled to come out before 20,000 miles, whether you drive it hard or not.

      Racetrack performance and real-world durability are sometimes at complete odds with each other, and I definitely wouldn’t infer one from the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “If a car designed for normal use can’t handle 15 hot laps from a good driver with 1,500 miles on the clock, how is it going to hold up over 5 or more years of daily driver punishment?”

      Probably pretty well, since those are radically different things?

      Ohio cold starts and salt and crap pavement have *nothing to do* with lap times and ability of brakes to take ridiculous abuse they will never, ever have to take in the real world.

      Limit performance simply doesn’t map to durability and real-world handling.

      Like, at *all*.

      (I mean, I see your TL;DR below, but I don’t think it’s well expressed in the parent post – and I also just don’t think it’s true.

      Limit performance isn’t the same SORT of engineering as everyday durability and bad-pavement-handling. “Well engineered for X” is not “Well engineered for Y”; it’s not transitive.

      Arguably they’re *contrary* goals.)

      • 0 avatar
        Sam Hell Jr

        And possibly we’re talking about different things. I’ll try one more time and let it go. It seems I indicated that I think a car that tracks well will also be reliable. What I hoped to say was that a “normal” car which can take track abuse well is likely to be able to take real-world abuse well. I appreciate that track *performance* and CR scores don’t necessarily line up.

        To bring it back to the article: I want to know that a car is robust. The only real way to know that is to observe a representative sample of the model over several years. As that is not always possible, is at least like to know that a competent driver can wring it out to no ill effect.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          But again, a car whose tires, brakes and tires hold up well under track abuse won’t necessarily hold up over high miles on regular roads. Citing my tires and brakes again: your average car’s tires and brakes will wear out faster on the track than a performance car’s. In regular driving, though, the reverse is true. I wouldn’t trust an Impala’s engine to hold up well to being held at open throttle near redline for two hours, but that would be no sweat in a Porsche, even though I’d expect the Impala to rack up big road miles more readily.

          As has been said: the engineering it takes to withstand track abuse is sometimes at odds to what it takes to go the distance in the real world.

          It’s a little like saying that a jet boat should be able to make a great ocean voyager, because it can crash over waves at 200 MPH.

          Or to bring it back to “normal” cars: If I wanted something that’ll be stable and handle 125 MPH cruising speeds without going wrong, I’d grab a Golf over a Corolla, but if I want something I could putter to work in for a decade without having things break, I’m going with the Corolla. Even though they’re in the same price class, their engineering priorities are different.

          Someone who values high speed stability and safety will say that the VW is engineered better. Someone who wants the car to handle a lower performance envolope but have working power windows and not have to do as much maintenance, will say it’s the Toyota.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    A bit off topic, but I’m an amateur pianist who took about a zillion years of lessons when I was younger. I hear $4k for a professional instrument and think “Man, I shoulda been a saxophonist.”

    $4k in the acoustic piano world will maybe get you a decent used upright. I did a ton of research and spent over a year testing pianos before buying. The most expensive professional grade can go up to Ferrari levels (Steinway, Bosendorfer, Fazioli). There’s plenty of pro-grade at the Mercedes-BMW-Lexus price level as well.

    Buying a piano is remarkably like buying a car: similar pricing, haggling with dealers, reviews of varying quality, flame wars between brand enthusiasts…

    I made my choice and pulled the trigger. Let’s just say for the money, I could have bought a fully loaded 3-series, or maybe a stripped-down 5-series. And yeah, while I am far from the world’s greatest pianist, I could tell the difference between pro-grade and the rest.

    Piano Buyer’s Guide = The Truth About Pianos

    pianoworld.com = The Truth About Pianos comment boards

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I almost pulled the trigger on a Steinway “M” from the Twenties a while ago… would have been mostly for decoration.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “Buying a piano is remarkably like buying a car”

      Does the piano dealers association have a Ruggles?

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        @Jack

        Cool purchase if you’d done it, and you’d likely have been correct on its present-day musical qualities, unless it had been *exceptionally* well preserved. There’s a lot of false romanticism over older pianos, particularly Steinways. Many weren’t that great to begin with, and many of the ones that were will have deteriorated over the decades.

        @bball40dtw

        Heh. The most intense dealer negotiations I ever did was for that piano, and I was working with a very smooth salesman. Not a bad guy, but I could tell he knew all the tricks. I think I still got a pretty good deal.

        I’d have been happy to buy directly from the manufacturer, but the manufacturer doesn’t sell direct. Actually, I don’t have a problem with a middleman dealer as long as at least one of the parties on either side wants the middleman involved. Where I get cranky is when neither party wants the middleman, and the middleman forcibly injects himself into the transaction through state law. I have a big problem with that.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’ll pile on with the others and say that a car’s “100%” track-handling capabilities matter to such a tiny percentage of people that it doesn’t really matter if the reviewer is a professional driver. As it is, too many things on a car are designed for the spec sheet and reviewers vs. the people buying a car.

    Things that frequently annoy me with review/spec-driven cars:
    – Putting on oversized brake discs so it can be boasted in reviews. The facts are that even the cheapest econobox brakes can lock the wheels. The larger chunks of iron only come to play if you are driving the car like an idiot and need resistance to fade.
    – Depending on the cars, tires that either don’t last (performance-driven cars) or tires that are bricks (MPG-driven cars.) When replacing the tires, most consumers would never, ever, pick either of those. I remember the OEM tires on my ’04 Passat lasted all of 22k, and I drive like a freakin granny.
    – Doing evil things to the engine to boost peak HP that is only accessible when the car is near the redline. Few drivers drive their cars like that. Hefty torque down low, on the other hand, makes for a car normal people actually like to drive, as it enables reasonable acceleration without the engine starting to sound like you are driving like an ass.
    – EPA (or Euro) MPG-test tuned engines that do much worse on mileage in the real world. (Here’s looking at you, EcoBoost.)
    – Doing anything to a family car to help it handle when you drive like a complete moron (i.e. during a comparison test) that sacrifices anything when you drive it as intended.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      You touch on a near-universal thing I’ve noticed:

      “Base price is $XX,XXX. Our tester came well-equipped at $XXX,XXX.”

      Ever notice how no one EVER reviews a basic, stripped-down model?

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        On the other hand, $800 worth of whale penis leather, or a $2500 combination navigation system/microwave oven don’t change the overall experience of the car significantly enough that you can’t parse out how the base model should drive (at least enough to decide if you should head for a test drive), and a good reviewer should be able to inform you on what options would significantly alter the vehicle’s personality.

        • 0 avatar
          SaulTigh

          But whale penis leather is known for it’s buttery softness…

          Anyway, sometimes even the car mags gripe about this phenomena. I believe Porsche makes amazing cars…I also believe they only send out zillion dollar testers.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            There is a dairy products joke in there, but I just don’t have the heart to pull the trigger on that one. Too obvious.

            When was the last time anyone wrote a ruthlessly honest review of a six or seven figure car, and lived to review for pay another day? Jack B. probably runs along the jagged edge, dancing on the edge of the blade, to the point that perhaps manufacturers will learn that to dare to let him tell it like it is, is the easiest way to gain credibility.

            But most of the rest of reviewing is fifteen people all lining up over the course of several months, trying to plant their lip imprints squarely over those of the previous reviewers.

            When will manufacturers learn that even a small bit of negativity in a review would make it look like a breath of fresh air, containing enough truth to be taken at face value?

      • 0 avatar

        Of course you get the larded upon version. Tested, say, in the South of France in winter (journosaurs leave four feet of snow in Michigan). Or, maybe, the unveiling is in Dubai…with a spin around the F1 Track.

        The only stripper I’ve seen tested recently is the sport package 320i. I’ve yet to see one…every 320 I’ve seen has automatic, plastic seats, and maybe nav. No sport, tho.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I think no one cares because the ability of the journos and customers basically cancels out. What percent of people can, or want to, actually push their cars (at least the more capable and sport oriented ones) to anywhere near the limit. If you ever read sportbike comparisons, there is usually a line something to the effect of “since most people reading this can’t push any of these machines anywhere near their limit, just buy whichever you think looks the best.” I think the same thing applies here.

    • 0 avatar
      pbr

      I can’t believe no one has brought up Top Gear / The Stig / Power Lap Times. Love/hate/ignore Top Gear, for my cable TV dollars at least they hired a pro shoe, turned him loose and showed us the highlights (and some of the more entertaining lowlights).

      Watching the Stig at play usually was worth a look, his lap in the Caterham R500 sticks out as Something I Would Like To Do Quite Often.

      I guess there you have it. This Driver looks at car media as marketing for the most part, and entertainment at best. I’ve learned to consider “reviews” critically, read between the lines for what’s left unsaid, think about the reviewer’s likely biases, seek multiple sources of information, and things like the Camaro piece mentioned in Bark’s post doesn’t bother me because I don’t pay any attention to them.

      • 0 avatar

        The Stig was my favorite part of the show. Real cars, exotic to mundane, on the same track, driven by a reference driver in the 99.9 percentile.

        When Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren all refused to allow the stig to drive their top cars on the TG Track, that too was very interesting….

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …Why Does The Public Accept Car Reviews From People Who Can’t Drive?…

    Why?

    Because 98% of the American public don’t care to know how to drive beyond getting from Point A to Point B, and even then do it quite badly.

    In a group I’m among the discussion came up that race car drivers aren’t athletes, the meme that NASCAR is rednecks turning left invariably came up.

    As a frequent traveler, with extended family that lives globally, and a sister who is an airline pilot, I spend a lot of time at Seatac Airport doing my Russian limo driver Pickov Idropov imitation quite frequently.

    Whenever the conversation among the Puget Sound set about NASCAR and driving comes up, my eye twitches a bit and my blood pressure goes up.

    First – study after study, survey after survey shows the same thing. Puget Sound has some of the worst traffic in the country and some of the worst drivers in the country.

    Not an athlete I quipped. You’re in a 120 degree cabin for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, wearing a head to toe fire suit and helmet. You pull 3Gs, equivalent to a Space Shuttle launch, four times, every one to two minutes, for 2 to 3 hours. You have to pull these 3 Gs over and over again, soaking in your own sweat, ignoring the roasting cabin, at speeds of 200 MPH (give or take), with other cars around you going 200 MPH just inches away. You can’t blink. You can’t sneeze. If you’re nose itches too bad. Get cramps from the heat there is no sideline to go sit on while the team doctor comes out and squeezes a bag of saline into your arm while you suck on 4liters per hour of oxygen.

    If the car is loose it’s your problem to keep it in the line – oh, and if you miss the line, if you’re off by a very narrow window, you get into loose track debris and eat the wall at said 200 MPH, hoping to God that the cars behind you going 200 MPH don’t drive through you, or that you take a bad bounce off the wall and end up cartwheeling, or airborne. You can have a catastrophic mechanical failure at any moment that can put you into the wall. Hitting the wall hard, even with all that safety gear, is going to give you a concussion. Get concussed a few too many times and the research is showing the problems.

    In baseball there are 30 teams, a roster of up to 40 players when you get to September. That is 1,200 positions open. In NASCAR for drivers there are what, maybe, MAYBE 50 to 60 drivers through an entire season, and very few of them have a full ride for the year.

    Have a bad season in baseball, you get traded out in a three way deal, you might go to AAA for rehab and development and come out the other side. Have a bad season in NASCAR and you may never race again in a meaningful professional capacity.

    Put another way – the club of elite drivers in NASCAR, or Indy, or F1, is almost as narrow as the number of people who get to become NFL quarterbacks in any given season (not combined, but for each racing league – give or take a dozen or two)

    You guys think that auto racing doesn’t involve any athletic ability? Try it sometime and come back to me. You have to be in stunning physical condition. Can you name me one driver that looks like Vince Wilfork or Pablo Sandoval?

    You guys think NASCAR is easy – you couldn’t even handle getting into the pit stop in your regular street car at pit lane speeds if it was empty. You know how I know that? Because you can’t even figure out how to pull in to the arrival or departure drop off section at the airport, and pull back out cleanly and quickly – which is a whole lot like doing a pit stop, at far lower speeds and with a lot less required precision.

    Why do people accept review from people who can’t drive?

    Because they can’t drive to save their lives themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “Can you name me one driver that looks like Vince Wilfork or Pablo Sandoval?”

      Tony Stewart resembles those gentlemen.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Vince Wilfork – 6’2″ – 325 pounds

        Pablo Sandoval – 5’11” – 240 pounds

        ==============================================

        Tony Stuart – 5’9″ – 180 pounds

        Wrong answer, try again…

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I will pay $100 if the Tony Stewart of June 2015 gets on scale and it reads 180.

          Ryan Newman and Jimmy Spencer were both stockier guys too.

          I like NASCAR and auto racing a lot, but I think it can be defended without putting down nose tackles or the other stick-and-ball stuff. Some sports just don’t require the physique of a marathoner or gymnast.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “I will pay $1000 if the Tony Stewart of June 2015 gets on scale and it reads 180.”

            Ha. Didn’t Tony Stewart get penalized because he didn’t want to weigh in?

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I play mostly play clarinets. The mouthpiece, ligature, and reed are way more important than the actual horn for a woodwind. I played a beginer straight bore plastic artley prelude for over 10 years and was always among the top players in our symphony and orchestra with the right reeds and mouthpieces. Clarinets with conical bores are better, but not necessary. Wood is extremely overrated and cracks, rubber actually sounds the best, i have a very special antique triebert french rubber clarinet i bought off ebay for 100 restored, plays like a dream. If i were to buy a new one, ridenour rubber clarinets are good enough for a pro and affordable. Any yamaha sax with the right mouthpiece is good enough as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to make this The Truth About Woodwinds, but that’s dangerously inaccurate information you’re peddling.

      • 0 avatar

        If I may expand on the heresy, take a $50 guitar off of Craigslist, throw $100-$150 worth of setup and fretwork by a pro, and most guitar players would not be able to tell the difference if blindfolded – that’s what the luthiers tell me.

        A CNC router doesn’t care if it’s in Fullerton, California or Guangzhou, China.

        • 0 avatar
          Fred

          I saw an interview with Josh Homme who liked those cheap odd ball guitars. Said they had a unique sound he liked. Of course he has some skills to make it work.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure that you know that Charlie Parker played a plastic Grafton sax after pawning his regular axe to buy heroin, and the recently departed Ornette Coleman played a Grafton for years because it was cheap.

        • 0 avatar

          Bird would have sounded good on a kazoo, but there’s no evidence that he ever recorded on a Grafton. And the horns of that era were incredibly technically inferior to even the Mark VI, much less modern horns.

          Ornette was an innovator, but not much of a saxophonist.

        • 0 avatar
          Domestic Hearse

          Parker, out of substance addiction necessity, and Coleman, not exactly known for his exceptional tone. Experimental and adventurous jazz, yes. Tone, no — reviewers have used the descriptive phrases “lunch hour whistle” and “sour toned” to illustrate. In fact, that harsh tone was part of the act, cutting through not one band, but sometimes, two.

          Look, I won’t argue that as far as guitars go, if John Mayer picks up any decent Strat copy, he’ll sound like John. Likewise, so would Buddy Guy sound like Buddy Guy. (Tone is in the hands, as they say.) But you have to work so much harder to make a bad instrument sound good.

          This is even more true for horn players. Yes, a pro can take his mouthpiece, be it brass or woodwind, grab a student horn, and make it sound great — it’s just so much more work, takes more effort.

          As for clarinets, the pro axe –and I’m talking aged grenadilla, a pro wouldn’t play composite — resonates so much more richly, projects so much better, that there simply is no…

          (wanders off, muttering to himself using much profanity)

          • 0 avatar
            nickoo

            I disagree. I have owned and played metal, grenadilla, hard rubber (aka ebonite), and plastic. Grenadilla is over-rated and requires too much maintenance, it also changes conditions due to weather and humidity as well as risk of cracks. Hard rubber is the way to go, of course, that’s just my opinion, not everyone has to agree, but many professionals also agree with me on that.

            I’m a huge fan of Ridenour’s ebonite clarinets.

          • 0 avatar

            Let’s start a tonewoods debate. Tubes vs transistors? Analog vs digital? No, better not.

            It’s possible that a synthetic or composite might work as well or better than wood in some musical instrument applications. There are some very nice carbon fiber cellos and violins. I found out about a no-longer-in-business company that made guitars with the Switch Vibracell brand. They were molded in one piece, neck and body, out of a controlled density foam that was supposed to yield the resonance of mahogany, only uniform, without changing due to temp and humidity like wood does. You can’t find a bad owner review. Jack liked one of mine so much he bought one, the only Chinese made guitar he has.

            Ultimately it’s the craftsman, not the tool. Miguel Cabrera would probably be able to hit .300 with a broom handle.

          • 0 avatar

            DH has it right. I will still sound like myself a student horn, but the effort required is exponentially greater.

            nickoo, you sound like a smart guy. Nobody takes Ridenour seriously. Like, nobody. The minute Richie Hawley, Ricardo Morales, Victor Goines, Burt Hara, Mark Nuccio, Corrado Giuffredi, Eddie Daniels, Anthony McGill, Caroline Hartig, Bob Spring, Elsa Vehrdehr, Bil Jackson, Debbie Bish, Joaquin Vandepenas, Dan Gilbert, Steve Cohen, Paqiito D’Rivera, or pretty much anybody who’s anybody plays on something other than a Buffet, Yamaha, or Backun wooden clarinet without being paid handsomely to do so, maybe the clarinet world will take it seriously. I mean, Buffet couldn’t even make a go of the Greenline.

            Unfortunately for me, I’ve spent a significant amount of time around clarinetists. They’re a fairly adventurous bunch when it comes to tech—hence the Backun barrels . But even the Rossi clarinets can’t cant much traction. Grenadilla (and maybe cocobilo) is the only serious choice for a professional clarinetist.

          • 0 avatar
            Domestic Hearse

            “Unfortunately for me, I’ve spent a significant amount of time around clarinetists.”

            Bark, you are so busted. She better not read this post or you’re doghoused.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Says the man who sells 4,000 dollar saxophones ;)

  • avatar
    godomatic

    “occasionally exceeding those limits and finding yourself on an agricultural tour of Turn Seven”

    Thank you; love it.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    I agree with what Bark says but there’s something else that car reviewers do that I can’t stand even more: when they spend half of the review giving their personal opinions on the car’s looks. When that happens I’m like “Dude, I can see the car myself and I don’t need you telling me whether it looks good or not. You don’t need to tell me how aggressive and dynamic the car looks. You’re just wasting my time. Shut up.” Sometimes it comes across as them trying to tell me what I SHOULD like and what i SHOULD not. It’s even funnier when the say which rims/color we should take. Sure, it’s good to add some personal touch to a review but when half of the review is just you describing your design preferences then you’re doing it wrong.
    Luckily, there’s always Alex Dykes. What I like about his reviews is the fact that he gets the personal opinion to facts ratio just right, and even when he says which version he recommends, he backs it up.

    Come to think of it, I think there’s an interesting phenomenon connected with that. Some time ago, I talked with several people about why they bought the cars they bought, and I saw two common themes. First, they didn’t choose the cars based on any quantifiable, objective data. So far so good – buying a car is almost always an emotional purchase, no argument there. What was far more strange was the fact that when it comes to color/rims/engine/options in many cases they didn’t even think about what they preferred – they went with what the “correct” options were (top trim+huge rims+leather seats+grayscale paint). The way I see it, the fact that cars nowadays differ so little from each other is precisely down to those notions of how the car “should” look like. Didn’t we all hear a variation of those: “I’m a doctor, I must buy a Merc”, “A car this big must be black”, “I’m taking the top trim no matter what”, “I won’t go any lower than 18’s” or so. I think the fact that it’s hard to buy anything other than an amorphous blob in grayscale with the mug of a rabid dog (in Europe, there’s more choice stateside albeit not by far) is linked exactly with that: people choosing “safe” options for fear of not sending the right message of maturity, affluence and tastefulness.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I think people like saying that they got their car “fully loaded”. Yeah, it might be a FWD sedan, but they can be excited about it because it has all the newest tech.

      I’ve purchased 6 new cars between myself and my wife. 3 were mildly optioned base model sporty/sports cars. The other 3 were family vehicles with leather, moonroofs, backup cameras, etc. I always get leather in the family car because it cleans up easily. The upper trims usually come with nicer material on the steering wheels. I also tend to dislike the lower trim wheels. I could swap all of that over, but I tend to buy less car than I can afford, so why not get the nicer trims? The important bits (seats, steering wheels, wheels/tires) in sporty cars tend to be good even in the base model. My FR-S isn’t a luxury car by any means, but the steering wheel and seats are great.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    The ability to make little cars go round and round real fast on protected and perfect surfaces is indeed cucial for those who would presume to review anything *I’d* buy.

    And I dare say that track skills are every bit as important to the public good as is playing jazz saxaphone. Or, indeed, any style of saxaphone.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    So, only reviewers with track credentials can review performance cars? OK. Does that mean that only accountants can review midsize sedans? Only Lacrosse dads can test 3-row SUVs? Only upper middle class moms can test drive small premium crossovers to and from spin class? Do they need to be blonde?

    Can someone write a review of a Mitsubishi if their credit score is above 480? If you test drive a hybrid Subaru, do you have to vote for Bernie Sanders?

    I just want to know the rules.

    • 0 avatar
      runs_on_h8raide

      “If you test drive a hybrid Subaru, do you have to vote for Bernie Sanders?”

      No, but a membership to the Audubon Society, living the Grateful Dead lifestyle, or being a kayaker will definitely earn you extra points.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    These types of reviewers know their audience. The guy that buys this Camaro based on the review will likely drive it to similar limits and be fine with that and not feel cheated of the final 3/10ths. Of course more skilled drivers need to take these pieces with a grain of salt, and for the most part I think they do.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    The only ‘limit’ I have ever reached was in a cool car was in your Fiesta ST. It’s ‘limit’ was when the pedal was mashed to the floor while driving the Autopista Champa out running federales because I’m a cheap ass and didn’t want to pay a 50 USD bribe. My ‘personal limit’ wasn’t present because I was borderline suicidal so that left only the limit of the car. I feel that the brakes on the ST were decent compared to my Fusion hybrid (other car I drove while under my ‘influential’ state). It also felt like it was ‘on rails’ and it’s transmission wouldn’t grenade when I missed a shift and ended up in 3rd at 140 kph.

    Even though you and Jack aren’t suicidal and outrunning jail time, I’ll gladly read your reviews and take your word for it that you know what you’re talking about. What you don’t know is that your word isn’t the Word of God nor is it as extreme as your article likes to state. We all get this is the TTAC and that’s why we are here. We all dream about the days we can track cars and have time to live the life you lead, but running a car to the limit is borderline insanity. The people who really know that last bit of detailed difference between MY’s of sports cars have crazy OEM track certifications and are harnessed in trying to work out some vehicle engineering issue that a track junkie will only notice at some specific G rating during some odd tip-in throttle scenario. You just got done doing years of work on the last platform and now you’re buckling into the latest generation platform to do it all over again.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      @tresmonos Hope your borderline issues are resolving themselves to your benefit. You are obviously a person of talent, skill and interesting paths in life. If you end up running down Baja way, reach out and I’ll introduce you to my brother, who is full-fledged dawn patrol for about six months out of the year.

      Your story brings a picture to my mind of the crazy race for the border in Breaking Bad.

      You sound like you, me and my brother all went to different schools together.

      PS Apropos of everything and nothing, the paperweight on my dresser is tres monos, made of brass, as a daily reminder of which way is up, etc. I would guess that your “tres monos” veían nada malo, oígan nada malo y hablan nada malo, si?

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    “Why Does The Public Accept Car Reviews From People Who Can’t Drive?”

    Toyota’s business model.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Compared to Jack and Bark, I certainly suck big time behind the wheel. I never raced and did only a few timed track laps in my life. I can do basics – I’m able to get most cars at the limits of grip (or limits of grip in my uncapable hands) and get some idea whether they’ll understeer hopelessly or are a bit playful, I can send an RWD into a powerslide, I can do heel ‘n’ toe downshifts and I’m able to scare my passengers on backroads. But I would certainly win no races.

    Even so, I don’t think that improving my driving skills is the most necessary thing for me to do better reviews. To evaluate the ride comfort, the ease with which the car can be driven, the driving position, and, most of all, the car’s feel and character.

    I think it’s necessary to be able to drive at least a bit – but being a semi-pro racer won’t make you any better at reviewing minivans and Camrys.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    The problem I have with the track star reviewers is that if a car makes them ejaculate at the limits they’ll often gloss over it’s shortcomings and ignore the things that are important to 99% of buyers 99% of the time. At the same time I hate the mass media “reviews” that simply list all the features and info that I can get from the manufacturer’s website. Then they sum up their test drive in one sentence: “the seats are comfortable and supportive, the suspension is compliant and composed, the steering is accurate with good feedback, and acceleration is more than adequate for freeway merging.” If you’re looking for useful real world reviews some of the tests at autos.ca are outstanding.

  • avatar

    “When driven at seventy percent, all cars are pretty much the same.”

    Funny, I got to a ton of crap when I wrote that all CUVs drive the same [o the street/road], I got a ton of crap for it, and was educated by the very people agreeing here, that they in fact drive differently.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I disagree as much with Bark as I did with you. Drive a Forester, Escape, and new Cherokee at 3/10, 5/10, and 7/10. In each case you will feel enormous differences.

  • avatar

    While track driving has relevance to street driving, “at the limit” only applies in emergency situations on the road. In normal street driving, you will only brake or corner at track levels when you’re trying to avoid an accident, and only very, very rarely will you have to use full acceleration on the road.

    As such, yeah, I want to know how a car handles at the limit and if the brakes will fade, but having driven a variety of cars on the street, there are substantial enough differences in the way cars handle at 7/10ths or even 5/10ths that comparisons can be made, comparisons that will be meaningful in normal driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Precisely this!
      Personally I do not care how this or that car fares on a track. I am not into racing. But I am sensitive enough to differentiate a Maxima from an Altima. They are pretty much the same car under their skins, yet manage to feel totally different in all modes, from city crawl to twisty country roads. One is pretty good, marred only by the CVT, the other is a floaty and cheap-feeling and riding chaland of a car. And all this is clear without getting even close to a race track.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Exactly. If all anyone cared about was how a car acquitted itself around a racetrack in the hands of skilled driver then everyone would drive a Camry.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Ummmm, not exactly, at least not for me.

          If you want to know how a vehicle performs in an emergency before buying it, that is a reasonable request.

          But it’s not the same as track performance. There are similarities, but remember that there are plenty of ‘ring time darlings that are downright scary at night in the rain on a windy two-laner, and likewise plenty of cars that are SLOW on the track, but heroes in an emergency.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I think of car reviewers who can’t drive as spiritual descendents of William Phelps Eno, a pioneer in traffic safety in the early 1900s. He’s known as the Father Of Traffic Safety, even though he was wealthy and used a chauffeur and never learned to drive.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    “…Dig, if you will, the picture of a Driver with a capital D. Got it in your mind? Okay…” Channeling a little James Ellroy there? :)

    Anyway, good article. One of the reasons I love Randy Pobst’s comments on cars for Motortend. Here’s a guy with real credentials and no bias towards any particular brand. He simply calls the cars out for what they are truly capable of. And that’s refreshing.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Dig, if you will, the picture of a Driver with a capital D. Got it in your mind? Okay, now picture exactly the opposite, because that’s what most car reviewers are like. The vast majority of them have never driven a single, solitary timed lap on a racetrack. Their performance driving experience is limited to three laps at a time in lead/follow sessions with factory drivers leading the way at roughly fifty percent of the car’s maximum capability.”

    Yes and no.

    Allow me to explain.

    Yes, Mr. “Never driven a solo lap” has no business talking about subtle performance and handling characteristics he couldn’t tell from a worn out ’94 Taurus, or the “limits of the car”. Agreed. Absolutely.

    But.

    Mr. Average Review Reader has no business caring about them either, realistically.

    (I certainly don’t; when I was comparing cars six months ago, I found a C+T comparative review [IIRC for the Allroad/X1/GLK] where they tried to pretend a .04G difference on the skid pad was *anything but irrelevant rounding error*, and I laughed. Limits? Never going to approach them, thanks.)

    But more importantly – “Driver” does not *have to mean* “Race Car Driver / Pure Speed And Performance Enthusiast”.

    Anyone who cares about driving-qua-driving, even if they *never go more than ten over the limit and never see a track* is a Driver, if they have the right mindset.

    If you *care* about how you’re driving, *all the time*, and endeavor to do it Just Right, taking that turn with exactly the proper line, keeping Just Right in your lane position, always watching your distances… you’re a Driver-with-a-capital-D.

    If you enjoy the process *for itself*, while attending to its minutiae, even when you’re just going out to get groceries or going to work, you’re a Driver.

    [Enjoyment alone is not enough; any number of dangerous, incompetent hacks “like to drive”. You have to care about doing it well to make the enjoyment make you a Driver, I say.]

    Driver and RaceCarDriver are different jobs. They’re related – and arguably RCD is a superset of Driver – but they are not the same.

    A careful review by a Driver who is not a RaceCarDriver is arguably more useful to 99% of readers than one from a RaceCarDriver.

    Even if you’re buying a BMW*.

    Who cares about the “limits” of the car? Tell me if it’s annoying on rough pavement or the ergonomics suck or if the controls are bad. Tell me about how convenient the mirrors are for parking. I don’t care what the skid pad says, for the love of God, or what lap time it can get; tell me if the seats are going to kill me if I sit in them on a roadtrip for six hours at a time.

    (* Reminds me of almost every time I see an M3 on the road: driven by someone who plainly is not a Driver, who can’t take a turn over 15 mph, or stay in their lane.

    They might enjoy “their Bimmer”, but they’re no Driver.)

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Bravo.

    I had the pleasure of having Jack as my instructor at Shenandoah a couple years back – the one where he wrote the infamous Camry on-track review actually. He took me out for a session in the Camry before it was my turn on the track, and he was scary fast especially considering the tires it was wearing.

    I was in an S2000 with Hankook RS-3s (really sticky tires) on it, and it was my first track day, although I had been autocrossing in my previous car for a few years prior and had taken the S2k to a handful as well. Comparing my times that I pulled with my lap timer app to Jack’s in the Camry, I was only averaging around 2 seconds faster on a roughly 1:50 track with more power, more tire, better suspension, and less weight. It really spoke to how much capability there is in any modern car with a good enough driver.

    He also happened to make the comment that I was a better driver than about 80% of auto journalists, which I don’t think speaks very highly of them since I still have a lot of improvement to do, but hey I’ll take the compliment.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Probably better than 90% now, some of the old guys with race licenses have retired!

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Thanks! I had some fun weekends at VIR the past couple years, but work and family have kept me from making it out as much as I’d like to.

        I’ve been promised at least one Summit Point and one NJMP day this year though, fingers crossed. How’s Thunderbolt?

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The reviews that get me are the ones that proclaim some house-expensive exotic “an unbeatable value for the money.”

    I’ve literally NEVER seen an honest review of an exotic, in the sense that I’ve never read of a reviewer getting out of some rear-engined monster after a drive and skeptically asking the manufacturer’s rep some variant of, “A million dollars? Really?”

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I’m fed up with car reviewers who have little ability beyond swerving through cones, listing soft interior surfaces and judging panel gaps. They don’t bother, for instance, to educate themselves about anything more than the most superficial aspects of AWD and hybrid systems.

    They pretend to be objective while their supply of cars will dry up if they’re critical.

    They don’t mention unmentionables such as the astronomical amount of money car consumers pay for endless varieties of parts that have no need to be proprietary, such as light clusters. They don’t criticize car marketing based on drama and theater.

    But, I guess it’s just a job.

  • avatar
    lOmnivore Sobriquet

    Frenchman. Middle aged.

    Can you imagine the fun I get popping into this website at times ?

    Nice post again.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, I read reviews only for entertainment value. I am quite capable of driving a car and deciding if I like it or not. There is more to a car than how it drives ultimately (which is why I will NEVER own a Corvette). There are a few cars I like enough to buy. There are a few cars I would not take as a gift (see Camry). What some random dude in a magazine or on the Internet thinks is really not relevant to me at all. Whether they can “drive” or not. Ultimately, I think their ability to write is far more important than their ability to drive. The Baruth Boys do seem to be blessed in both departments.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Currently pressed for time so I have not read all the other posts.

    Briefly, Jack you are 99% wrong here.

    Yes, I watched Top Gear and all their track times, etc but they mean zero to most real world driving.

    Also I generally could not care less regarding torque, zero to 100, full braking and all the other hoopla reviewers generally write.

    What I want to know is, how the heck will it perform in the real world. Stop and go driving. Kids spilling things. Dogs being sick. Idiots slamming their doors onto the side of the car. Road salt and stone chips.

    What is the estimated cost of ownership including parts costs and availability.

    How reliable is the manufacturer and how good is the warranty.

    And how safe is it for my kids to drive? Hardly any reviewers mention the terrible visibility in most new cars. Are if the driver’s seat in the base model is height adjustable.

    And why the heck do they always review (and recommend the top of the line model). I have always found one up from the stripped version to be the best value and the top of the line to be a total ripoff.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha, Jack’s even wrong when he didn’t write the article!

      Arthur, a press event won’t give you the chance to learn anything about those things that you mentioned. I probably need to write about what a typical press event is really like—it might just change people’s expectations.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Which is why press events and reviews based on junkets paid for or arranged by the manufacturer only produce totally useless information.

        And another reason why Clarkson is so highly paid. When he hated a car, he called it a turd. 99% of the reviews in the popular press dwell on “how improved” this vehicle is over the previous model.

        One reason why I originally stumbled on TTAC. Reviews of rental cars, actually criticizing manufacturers and new models and reviews written by vehicle owners. Those actually provide useful information. And there were/are some talented writers associated with TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “how the heck will it perform in the real world. Stop and go driving. Kids spilling things. Dogs being sick. Idiots slamming their doors onto the side of the car. Road salt and stone chips.”

      This is a good criteria, however not many new cars perform well in the area of “parts and repair”.

      Just getting a headlight for a new Focus can run in the 4 figure range.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The headlight on a new Focus costs the same as a new headlight on any newer car. $200. Because that is the deductible on my insurance. I could not care less how much the insurance company pays for it.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      I second Rather.

      As for driving at the limits, that’s only relevant to real world driving on rain, snow or ice. Precious few reviews ever cover driving on in the wet and frozen surfaces. Some of us spend nearly half our driving lives on these surfaces, but we’re instead supposed to care one whit about guys going 10/10 in the dry at speeds and Gs we’ll never see.

      Driving fast at the limits is entertaining to do, and it’s entertaining to watch. For those of us who ‘can’t drive’ (can’t go 10/10 in the dry) there remains the vast majority of the driving experience, where pleasure driving and real life driving reside, with decided indifference to racing. Racing is an outlier activity that improves the breed, but don’t please don’t think driving a non-race car like a race car matters. It’s the ‘will it blend’ of the automotive experience.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        I second Arthur.

        As for driving at the limits, that’s only relevant to real world driving on rain, snow or ice. Precious few reviews ever cover driving on in the wet and frozen surfaces. Some of us spend nearly half our driving lives on these surfaces, but we’re instead supposed to care one whit about guys going 10/10 in the dry at speeds and Gs we’ll never see.

        Driving fast at the limits is entertaining to do, and it’s entertaining to watch. For those of us who ‘can’t drive’ (can’t go 10/10 in the dry) there remains the vast majority of the driving experience, where pleasure driving and real life driving reside, with decided indifference to racing. Racing is an outlier activity that improves the breed, but don’t please don’t think driving a non-race car like a race car matters. It’s the ‘will it blend’ of the automotive experience.

  • avatar
    drw1926

    Funny that the author should give a tip of the hat to Jalopnik. Why don’t you just pack up the whole TTAC operation and move it to Kinja. You can be one of Jalop’s sub-blogs, like Truck Yeah or Oppositelock. I used to hang on every snarky, irreverent word in a TTAC article, until 2 or 3 years ago. Now it’s just Jalopnik-grade mush by another name.

    Or maybe I’m just in a pissy mood.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    So the gist of this article is that:

    a) the author majored in Jazz Saxophone Performance.

    and

    b) the author is an amazing driver who is much better than most auto journalists at achieving quick lap times, and thus can write more authoritative auto reviews.

    So it really is an article about how awesome the author is. Got it – brilliantly useless information, but got it.

  • avatar
    baconpope

    This is one of the most honest and self-deprecating resignations of all times. Ranks right up there with Nixon. Sad to see a good tag line leave, though the writing won’t be missed.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    You make a simple and very valid point. But it gets undermined by one simple fact that the guys at Top Gear understood a long time ago:

    Performance car reviews are for entertainment purposes only.

    It’s a whole different thing with comparisons, or the thorough tests that go into what people actually car about: seat quality, ergonomics, load capacity etc. Driving around on a racetrack is bloody irrelevant for 9 out of 10 drivers on the road.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I guess what it comes down to is that people simply seek out the sort of information they’re looking for. I don’t have any interest in car reviews from people who can’t drive because I’m primarily interested in the driving dynamics – on real roads – of a vehicle and the way it communicates to the driver. Everything else is secondary, and I won’t read a second review from someone who doesn’t consider the details of those things to be important. But most people don’t care about that stuff, so it makes sense that they would seek reviews from writers who also don’t care about that stuff. To them, that information is just fluff.

    I have plenty of sources of reviews to suit my tastes. As long as those are available, I’m not concerned that those with different tastes have theirs as well.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Secondary in terms of the review, that is. I have no interest in daily driving an Elise! Comfort and practicality are just as essential, but a reviewer doesn’t really know what I need out of a vehicle, whether it will be comfortable for me, and what my tastes are in interior and exterior design. A credible reviewer can tell me if the vehicle provides proper driving dynamics and communication.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But people can and do disagree greatly on the dynamics. Two examples – Jack seemingly loved the Camry SE, but having rented several, I don’t find them much of any better than any other Camry. Still dreary to me. I actually LIKE the lighter steering in the new BMWs that pretty much every writer on the planet despises. So ultimately, what difference does what a writer says about how the car drives make at all? It is not like there are so many cars in a given class sold in the US that you can’t just go drive them and make up your own mind.

        You can rule most of them out on non-dynamic issues anyway. To use my previous example, while I won’t buy a car because of its image, there are certain cars that I WON’T buy due to their image, with the Corvette being the poster child for that.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Yeah, when it’s time to buy it all comes down to the test drive. Everybody wants different things out of a vehicle. I do trust the opinion of Car and Driver because it has a long history of aligning with my own impressions, though the trust is certainly not absolute.

          BMW has had light steering in the past. I was surprised at how light and slow the steering on an E46 was the first time I drove one, while the E90 felt perfect on the highway but a little too heavy in the city for my tastes. The complaint about the current generation’s steering is not about its lightness but that it provides no information about the grip level and loading of the front tires. If true, that’s simply unforgivable in any vehicle under 10,000 pounds. I’ll have to drive one someday to see for myself!

          I enjoy Jack’s reviews as they have seemed honest, accurate, and informative to me – as well as being highly entertaining – so it will be interesting when I get a chance to drive that Camry. The Camry has changed a lot over the years, and it was surprising but seems reasonable that it could have improved dramatically since the bleak mid-2000s version. My buddy finally replaced his ’92 V6 5-speed Camry this spring; a vehicle that I always enjoyed driving and riding in. It was handed down to him in 2006 when his mother decided it was time for a new one after fifteen years. I helped her car shop and we did test drive a new 2006 Camry, along with about ten other vehicles. She was initially unimpressed with the interior quality. They didn’t have any manuals available so I had to explain to her how to take it out of park. About ten minutes into the test drive, she said “it feels, unstable”. I was glad that even she noticed how unsettled the suspension was on that thing, because I was only trying to guide her to make her own decision and I had quietly determined that I didn’t like it almost immediately after exiting the lot. She ended up with a Forester.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Most people could care less about the last 2 or 3/10ths of the car’s capabilities, because not only will they ever drive in that range, they also have no idea how to take characteristics from that range and translate them into their DD experience.

    But the few, like myself, who know that I will never come close to a lap time like those of you and your brother, still I find that information helps me to understand what I will or won’t like about a vehicle when caught in a tight spot, or when driving in adverse conditions.

    Most people just don’t want to end up buying a car, only to find out from someone else for the first time at a cocktail party, that their model comes with the whale penis leather covered windshield wiper stalk.

    98% of drivers wouldn’t know over- or under-steer if it bit them in the *ss.

    One of the best car reviews I have ever read, perhaps the very best, was your brother’s R&T review of the Lambo Huracán.

    Although I probably will never even get a chance to drive one, much less own one and/or wring one out properly, it gave me a complete appreciation of the car’s strengths and weaknesses (which are practically non-existent, except for the fact that cars costing several times as much as it does can keep up with it).

    Beyond that, beyond the comparative ranking sort of evaluation, it gave me a solid feel for the exact nature of the driving experience, when driven “like you stole it”, or more precisely, drove it like you bought it to run hard.

    The average person looking for a new soccer van is only concerned about cost, reliability, mileage, other people’s perceptions of it, etc., and could care less what a hot shoe could get out of it.

    This kind of a question almost smacks of deliberate feigned lack of awareness of an obvious answer.

    Once again: most people don’t care what a car can do when driven by a hot shoe, because it has NOTHING to do with any of the parameters of the vehicle that relate to their experience of it.

    And once again, Jack’s review of the Huracán is a do not miss article, if any car article is.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Because truthfully, these writers are at the same level as most buyers including almost all of the readers of this blog. We are not racing drivers and therefore the comments of these writers is in fact more relevant to how we drive then how you drive (which by the way we are taking for a fact because you say so). Most of the AMG Mercs I see are being driven by the wives who have no idea of what the car can do and live with the harsh ride because of the badge. They would all be better off with the non AMG versions, really. Same goes for all of the Jag sports cars, hot Audis and Pors running around town. Be honest and admit it. Or continue to be Walter Mitty and enjoy it.

  • avatar
    gaudette

    In the middle of reading this I had an epiphany. I’m a truck guy, I know trucks, I get pissed off by almost every truck review ever because the reviewer knows nothing about them. Leaving the review to end up being about how trucks are so big and luxurious now rather than real world capability and ergonomics. Now I’ll never read a car review the same again.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I have a neighbor (whom I have never met) who always had new cars with MI manufacturer plates in his driveway…different ones almost daily. Turns out he is a guy named Jimmy Dinsmore, automotive writer for Cox newspapers. I don’t know if his reviews are any good, but it is fun to drive by and see what interesting stuff is in his driveway.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    What makes it really crazy is that reviewers focus on performance and ignore everything else. For example, I have a number of questions about the new Lotus 400, most of which do not relate to performance.

    The old Evora was a bear in terms of ingress/egress. They claim the new one is better, but is it good enough that ingress/egress is no longer an issue? What about rear view visibility? Has it improved or stayed the same? The trunk is claimed to hold a golf bag, but does it depend on the bag type? Will a carry-on bag fit back there? Lotus gives a max torque figure, but no torque curve? Where is the power located in the rev range. And since we using Lotus as an example, understand that people have concerns about fit and finish and you need to comment on that.

    If you can’t drive on a track, then tell me what the car is like to drive around a variety of public road conditions. For the Lotus, how problematic is the poor rear visibility, etc.

    There is a lot that can be said about a car, even if you lack track credentials. The problem is that far too many journalists focus on what they can’t do (drive on a track) and ignore everything else.

  • avatar
    thecapn_dennis

    And then there are the professional reviewers who never discover when a manufacturer makes a major change in how a car operates.

    Case in point — VW’s decision to change how cruise control works when the driver shifts to another gear in Golf MK7 equipped with a manual transmission.

    Downshift while cruise control in on and you’ll find the MK7 Golf zooming back to the speed set on the cruise control, rather than slowing the car down as has been the standard behavior for nearly half a century.

    If you want to resume your prior speed in other stick shift VW models, or probably all other cars period, you press the “RESUME” button.

    What’s next for the Golf Mk7? Release the brake pedal and the car rushes back to the set speed??

    Back to the point of this post . . . I’ve read nearly every review of the Mk7 series Golf, and have yet to find a single “professional” auto journalist mentioning this major change.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The car automatically resumes cruise control after you re-engage the clutch? That is very strange, and I don’t think a problem that needed fixing. It seems all to common these days, particularly with the user experience for software, that controls are changed just for the sake of change.

      In defense of the reviewers here, they drive too many cars to remember the quirks of every model, and what changed between models. It is surprising that no one has pointed out such unusual behavior though.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        This is not that unusual, BMWs have worked this way for ages. Wouldn’t surprise me if the rest of the stickshift Germans are similar. If you don’t want the cruise to resume, either tap the brake or cancel it before you downshift.

        To me this behavior makes sense – if you are downshifting to maintain speed, you would want the cruise to resume. If you are downshifting because you are slowing down, you should be braking anyway, if only to light the brake lights and let those around you know what you are doing. Though at least with BMW, if you use the cruise stalk to slow down, the car lights the brake lights anyway. Which only makes sense as well, since BMW uses the brakes in that circumstance, it doesn’t just coast down.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Define ages. My E39 didn’t do this and my E46 doesn’t do it either. In both cases I’m pretty sure that once you disengage the clutch, the cruise control is off until you hit the resume button.

          I’m curious to try to reproduce this though. Even in the SF Bay Area, I don’t think I have found myself using cruise control on a grade so steep I needed a downshift to keep moving. I have of course needed downshifts for some hills, but due to traffic I wasn’t using cruise control anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Two generations now for 3’s, e9x and f3x probably the same for 5’s and 7’s – e46 and e39 are quite old cars at this point. The change is probably concurrent with DBW and Dynamic Cruise Control, neither of which were present in those cars, AFAIK.

            On my e91, it even rev matches for you when you shift with the cruise on – up or down. I think it is pointless ultimately, but kind of neat.

        • 0 avatar
          thecapn_dennis

          Thank you for the comment, krhodes1. Since I first bought my Golf MK7 TDI Sportwagen I’ve done a lot of research, as has the service manager and the chief mechanic at the largest VW dealership in Florida, where I bought the car.

          I agree, the behavior was probably coded into the car’s management network because VW will be coming out with adaptive cruise control in the 2016 model year. Unfortunately for me, my car is a 2015 model year!

          I have, of course, adapted my driving to the new behavior because in all other respects, I enjoy the car a great deal.

          My biggest complaint with VW, a concern shared by the dealer, is that VW made no effort to educate dealers or consumers about the change. They just stuck the coding into the ECU, and expected those of who have decades worth of experience driving stick shift cars with cruise control to intuit the change the first time we came upon that a widow maker corner on the back country roads I drive in rural northern Floria and rural Maine.

          I think the new Golf is the only VW model that exhibits this behavior. And VW’s own “KnowYourVW” web pages tell those of us with Golf MK7 models that we can disengage cruise control by depressing the brake OR clutch pedal, as does the very complete German VW web pages, where you find the definitive technical information on VW’s Golf Mk7 series. (The pages can be displayed in English, as well as German)

          Like some folks, I spent a lot of time reading nearly every review and viewing many “video” reviews of the MK7 series. Had just one of the reviewers mentioned the new behavior, I would have been forewarned.

          BTW, I would have bought a BMW 5 series if I could have gotten their diesel engine coupled to a 6 speed manual. No joy, even in the 3 series. Have loved every late model BMW I’ve ever driven.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            So this behavior is not explained in the manual? That is surprising! BMW is very clear about it. I think given a choice, I would prefer to have the clutch disengage the cruise as well, but it doesn’t particularly bother me.

            Have you looking into seeing if this behavior can be changed via VAG-Com programming? I have access to one if you want to poke around the next time you are in Maine. Assuming the cable still works on the new car, of course.

            In BMW-speak “Adaptive Cruise Control” is the basic kind, but they do allow the cruise to apply the brakes to maintain speed downhill or reduce speed using the cruise stalk. You have to pay extra to get the radar setup.

            And I completely agree, if BMW would sell me a RWD, stickshift, 328d, I would have one in my garage right now. I might even settle for a RWD automatic, as the 8spd mates so well with the diesel. But I have zero use for AWD in a car, so I’ll keep my 328! wagon (stickshift, RWD).

  • avatar
    thecapn_dennis

    krhodes1 …
    Must be a Mainiac thing. Been in Bangor since the mid-1960’s, and have been perfecting my curmudgeon credentials ever since.

    Yes, in the section on cruise control there is one small sentence saying cruise control will resume after shifting a manual tranny. Right where it says cruise control will not resume after shifting the DSG trans into sport mode!!!

    As for BMW’s, don’t they say in very small print “everything is extra!”

    I’ve thought about getting the VAG-Com software and cable so I could exercise my retired systems level programmer skills. Worth a try, and it would be nice to flip a few bits so I could close and open my windows and sunroof with the key fob.

    Don’t know if email address is allowed here, so I’ll give you Thecapn_dennis ampersand yahoo period com if you’d like to swap tall tales and fables sometime.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  • avatar
    jimf42

    Excellent article…and one reason I do not take driving reviews seriously unless the driving was by a racer. After racing for 25 years in a variety of cars, I think most reviewers (certainly there are many who can drive well), as the article says, do not have the experience and/or ability to tell when a car is understeering or oversteering due to the car design, rather than their lack of ability to drive the car.

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