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Finding helpful car reviews that don't assume I'm a racer
January 18, 2013 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What resources are available to accurately assess a car or truck's performance in specific situations? I'm interested in knowing how different makes and models stack up in stop-and-go traffic or poorly-maintained roads, and it seems every review site ignores or spends little time on situations like these.

Many reviews are focused on things that either don't apply to me, or don't help me assess how a car will perform during my usual commutes. Knowing how much horsepower and torque a car has is nice, but I'll rarely have to consider that when I'm at a traffic light. Reading about smooth or off-road suspension sounds nice, but so far nothing indicates how that may translate when driving over pot holes or uneven/rough asphalt. And related to suspension, I always seem to read about how well a car corners at speed, but I never have to do that.

Are there review sites that compile the type of information I'm looking for? I'd like to have a short list of possible vehicle to test-drive, rather than have to go through every single make and model.
posted by CancerMan to Shopping (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What resources are available to accurately assess a car or truck's performance in specific situations?

Most of the information is there, but needs to be interpreted. The issue isn't necessarily that they don't test for your conditions specifically (which they can't do for everyone) but in that yo udon't know how to translate or interpret it into the information you need:

Reading about smooth or off-road suspension sounds nice, but so far nothing indicates how that may translate when driving over pot holes or uneven/rough asphalt.

Completely related - smooth suspension means it is good at coping with road imperfections. A smooth suspension car will run better over potholes or rough roads than one considered less smooth.

And related to suspension, I always seem to read about how well a car corners at speed, but I never have to do that.

This is a marker of safety - the better a car handles at speed, the more easily it will cope with an emergency evasive move, or underestimating how tight a corner is and how much grip is in reserve generally in your normal day to day driving. The high performance handling directly relates to what the industry calls 'primary safety', which is the ability of the car to avoid an accident or the conditions that will result in one.

Knowing how much horsepower and torque a car has is nice, but I'll rarely have to consider that when I'm at a traffic light.

It gives you a great comparative (especially if you consider weight). You need to road test a car of known power/weight and torque and find if it feels sluggish or too fast for you or in between. Then you can judge relative to those numbers with the car test data.

The fact that they do a relatively specific set of tests and descriptions is actually good because once you work out how to translate those tests into what you want from it (handling = primary safety etc) then it is still good information for you, just not necessarily written in the most obvious way. You may have to road test some new cars to get your bearings as to what asset relates to your own needs, but after that the road tests are useful.
posted by Brockles at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Another helpful type of review are those long-term (3-6 month, 1 year) reports like these from Car and Driver. They are more maintenance focused, but can be helpful in discovering things that may or may not bother daily users.
posted by fennokin at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2013


The Car Talk Website is down to earth and very honest.

Consumer Reports is the dernier cri of this sort of review.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2013


Are there really *that* many cars that fit your criteria anyway? In my experience for most people when you look at your needs for:

1. Budget
2. Passenger capacity
3. Cargo capacity
4. Appearance
5. Major features you need/want (AWD, ground clearance, nav, etc.)
6. Fuel efficiency

...you're probably going to end up with a list of only around 5 vehicles. Unless you REALLY have no idea what you want. And when you're down to that short of a list, it's worth actually going and test driving them all.
posted by primethyme at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2013


Warren Brown reviews cars for The Washington Post. A bit more "real-world" than some of the auto mags...
posted by kuanes at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2013


You might also check Edmunds.com. It has consumer reviews...so the model gets a lot of different situations discussed.
posted by artdrectr at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2013


Thanks. I never considered trying to apply a different perspective on all the marketing hype!
posted by CancerMan at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2013


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