Bark's Bites: Ten Best Automobiles Today Shouldn't Be a Popularity Contest

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

When our esteemed Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, gave you, the Best and Brightest, instructions for nominating the TTAC Ten Best and Worst Automobiles Today, he gave you several criteria: Looks that stop traffic, the “WTF” factor, misused technology, and misery factor. Essentially, you could nominate any car you wanted to (except the Compass), you just had to give a reason.

Mark instructed you to act like travel critics who’ve never left their hometown or restaurant critics that don’t go out to eat. In other words, TTAC allowed you to nominate cars you’ve never driven, have never sat in, or — heck — never even seen on the street.

That ain’t right.

When Mark asked the staff to submit our nominations, I omitted some cars that some might consider obvious choices, including the omnipresent Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Why, you may ask? Simple. I haven’t driven them.

In fact, I’ve only driven any generation of Miata for a total of about 10 minutes.

Back in 2008, my Mazda RX-8 blew a seal in its motor at an autocross, which not only ended my day of autocrossing, but also put me in a pretty foul mood. Luckily, a fellow competitor that day offered me a co-drive in his NA Miata, which I enjoyed the heck out of. I was also offered a chance to drive somebody’s NC Miata at the Miatas at Myrtle Beach autocross in 2014. That’s it.

So I have no idea if the ND Miata is any good. Sure, my brother seemed to think that it was. So did Alex Dykes. So does everybody else. But I’ve never driven one, so I can’t, and didn’t, vote for it.

In fact, it’s statistically incredibly unlikely that most of you have driven one, either. According to our own Tim Cain, only around 3,500 of them have even been sold in 2016. We have about 30 times that many readers here every day. Of course you haven’t driven one. You know what else you haven’t driven?

The Porsche 991 911 (3,100 sold in 2016), the Chevrolet Corvette (9,100), the Volvo XC90 (10,000), or the Tesla Model S (no sales numbers available, but most flyover states don’t even have a showroom). But each of those cars ended up on our TTAC Ten Best Automobiles Today. So why did you vote for them? I think I know why.

First of all, you received bad instructions. You heard that you could vote for anything you wanted, as long as you had a reason. It should have been a good reason — like, oh I don’t know, you drove it and you liked it. As Jules once famously said, “sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfucker.” Unless you’ve experienced a car, how can you possibly know if it’s any good or not?

Secondly, the amount of groupthink that exists in the automotive journalism world — hell, in the world at large — is downright disgusting. Once an opinion is formed of a car at the “First Drive” event — which, let’s be honest, is typically nothing more than a wine tasting with some pre-production cars sprinkled in — it becomes difficult to get anybody to publish a contrarian opinion. So it becomes holy writ that the MX-5 is great, and nobody can ever say anything different. Every review that you’ve ever read of the MX-5 says it’s great. Every review that you’ve ever read of the 991 GT3 ( including mine) says it’s great. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid.

Naturally, you think the MX-5 is great, even though you’ve never driven one, because everybody says it is. You think the Fiat 500X is garbage, because everybody says it is. I thought the 500X was garbage too — and then I drove one. Turns out, it’s kinda awesome. (Tim Cain and I both agree on this. We both drove the 500X and thought it was everything the Renegade isn’t. It might even be the best Fiat money can buy — until the MX-5-based 124 Spider comes out. Ironic? —Ed) I didn’t vote for it for Ten Best, but it was right on the outside looking in. I thought the Huracan would be awesome. Turns out that I prefer the McLaren 570S. I might even prefer the NSX, which is utter sacrilege according to the automotive press (most of whom drove a pre-production model without functioning SH-AWD). I thought the Impala would suck, but after driving several of them as rentals, I’d have no problem placing it on my Top Ten list, which I did.

In fact, my entire Top Ten (well, twelve) consisted only of cars I’ve actually driven. It looked like this:

Ford Mustang GT350RChevrolet Corvette Z06Chevrolet ImpalaPorsche 911Acura MDXFord FlexSubaru WRXFerrari 488Ford Fiesta STMcLaren 570SGMC YukonMazda CX-5

Point is, each of us has driven a car that we were quite excited about in advance, only to be disappointed by it when we actually got behind the wheel. We’ve all been surprised by a car, too. So don’t let the scribes of the internet, most of whom actually get less seat time in a “first drive” than you would between leaving the rental counter at the airport and arriving to your hotel, tell you what your opinion of a car should be.

Before you cast your vote, whether it’s for TTAC’s Ten Best Automobiles Today or for something important like the President of the United States, form your own opinion. Don’t make it a beauty pageant. Do your homework. Experience it for yourself. Cut through the propaganda and PR, and think for yourself. And if we do a Top Ten again next year, I hope that you’ll be able to submit a ballot that reflects your own experience, and not somebody else’s.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Lemmiwinks Lemmiwinks on May 13, 2016

    Yeesh. 1. This was supposed to be fun. 2. Stop taking yourself so seriously. 3. The reviews y'all post here are supposed to be where the chickens come to roost. This is a side-bar exercise for us to say what we think -- We the masses who don't have the opportunity to indulge in our hobby as much as we'd like.

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on May 13, 2016

    What springs to mind immediately is that Jack has driven Yaris, and panned it. When I drove it, it was awesome for an econobox. Maybe not Fit awesome, but certainly better than many better regarded subcompacts.

  • Cprescott This is what happens when you are an early adopter. You are a test subject. Why do Toyoduh (and Honduh) owners feel so entitled?
  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.