Motor Trend's Best Driver's Car used to be called Best Handling Car, and with that title I would not have an issue with this year's results, but since they called it best Driver's car, I have a few issues. And for those familiar with my work, I will actually be defending some American cars. You have to read this to believe it.
Warning, the following has been rated Put Your Big Girl Panties On by the Internet Writers Association of California. The following contains repeated bitching and brief moments of American bashing. It also contains intense journalist criticism and some attacks on their driving skills.
First let us analyze the actual name of Motor Trend’s competition and I can explain further why I take issues with the results under the current name. Motor Trend calls it the best driver’s car but they used to call it best handling car. The first few paragraphs of the intro explain further their criteria. They try to “bridge” the results from the numbers people, and the people who grade a car from how the car makes them “feel” behind the wheel. Right off the bat though they ignore their own criteria because a Viper finishes behind a Focus ST. If they took the numbers into account then the Viper would have finished above the Focus, because unless the Viper caught on fire, no amount of quality control issues places a V10 powered RWD car behind a four cylinder FWD car. The Viper has over two and half times the horsepower, two and half times the pistons, and a little over twice the amount of torque; 2.2 to be precise. If Motor Trend and its merry band of crappy drivers (excluding the actual racing driver) had taken the numbers into account, the Viper would not have finished last. But now we can get into the actual criteria they took into account when ranking the cars.
The name Best Drivers Car does not accurately describe the winner, unless you think a driver’s car is something that does most of the driving and asks less and less of the actual driver. One of the biggest gripes they had with the Viper was that it was hard to drive. This should explain a lot. I think a driver’s car should be constantly pushing its driver to get better at driving. A good driver’s car should not do all the work, it should make the driver work for the rewards, which could be an epic drift, a blistering lap time, or just a rewarding back roads drive. It should also kick your ass when you make a mistake, not coddle you and console you, you should walk away crying when you make a mistake. If driving fast were so easy then everyone would be doing it.
While I’m no fan of American cars, and even less of a fan of Chrysler, it saddens me that the Viper finished behind the Focus. The Viper has more in common with an SLS than I’d like to admit, but the main thing it shares is the amount of skill it actually takes to drive them. The SLS is an oversteering pig, and it’s not easy to drive fast, at least according to Jeremy Clarkson. The Viper shares similar aspects, but it takes some real balls to drive fast, balls the folks at Motor Trend seem to lack them hence the Viper’s last place finish. I think the Viper made some of them cry so they put it in a corner, those bastards.
We move on now from defending the American’s to defending a German, something I’m used to, but not this particular German. BMW is not my favorite which is why what follows is not easy. The BMW M6 finished one place ahead of the Focus ST, which while better, is diminished when you consider the car that finished ahead of it weighs over 5,000 pounds.
Before I continue defending the BMW though, let me ask you all something first. Can a Grand Touring car be considered a great driver’s car? I’m inclined to say yes, but only when compared to other GT cars. I ask this because the M6 is considered a GT and the GT cars that finished ahead of it include the Bentley Continental GT Speed in 9th place and the Aston Martin Vanquish in 8th. I’ll let you make up your own mind on what the order should really be. But in the meantime, back to the M6.
The thing that really struck me about their analysis of the M6, and it’s a trend throughout the whole piece, is one of the judge’s comments on the car: “Driving the car fast is a lot of work.” And with that comment we get back to what a driver’s car should be considered. If most of you agree that a driver’s car should not be the easiest car to drive, then Motor Trend placing it near the back of the pack is another nail in Motor Trend’s coffin that I just started making.
And now we’re back to somewhat defending an American, and I will make this short. Motor Trend took issue with the Focus ST and its brakes because they destroyed them on a racetrack. Not on the street, where a FWD hatchback is intended to be driven, but on a racetrack where race cars with racing spec brakes are meant to be driven. I understand that some cars are designed from the beginning with the track in mind, but they usually are RWD, don’t have a ton of cargo capacity, limited seating, and many more things clearly differentiating itself from a family hatchback. Bitching about the brakes on a family hatchback is almost as stupid as saying a FWD hatchback is a better driver’s car than a V10 sports car.
I’m now going to skip a few cars and get down to the top three which include the Audi R8 V10 Plus in third, the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series in second, and the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S in first. I don’t really have anything to say about the Audi because then I would just be bitching for bitching’s sake, but I do want to point out what a judge said about the new DCT in the Audi that I found funny, “It’s the kind of gearbox that’ll always make you want to shift even when it’s uncalled for, just to feel the smoothness…” Feel the smoothness? Really? If it’s that smooth how do you feel it? But whatever, onto the Mercedes.
If you just consider the top three then the Mercedes should have finished first, but that’s only if you agree with me that a driver’s car makes the driver work, not does the work for them. By their own admission the Mercedes is that car. The say that it’s one of the best cars there and Mercedes has made great strides since the original SLS and it handles much better, but it still has a tendency to oversteer and you have work to drive the car fast. The 911 though is much easier to drive fast according to them. I also think their assessment on the SLS’s tires is a little off. They called the tires street tires, but if you’re at all familiar with Michelin’s tires, which I am, you know they’re actually closer to racing tires than street tires. Street tires would be Pilot Super Sports, whereas the new Sport Cup 2 tires are just thinly veiled race tires. The fact that Motor Trend called the SLS a race car for the road should provide evidence to the fact the tires are not normal, or at least they shouldn’t be.
Back to the actual car though; the judges said how improved it is but kept citing their lack of skills on why it placed behind the 911. Here are some of the judges’ comments on the car that highlights their ignorance on what defines a good driver’s car. Lago: “There’s still a slight nervousness to this tail. It’s not snappy, but it can let go quickly.” Probst: “You know, you need to be really perfect with it. It doesn’t do the driving for you.” Sounds good to me, I think most of us can agree that we don’t want our driver’s car to be doing the driving for us.
Let’s move onto the Porsche, which while a great car, I think in the field Motor Trend assembled, it might not be considered the best driver’s car, best handling car yeah, but not best driver’s car. I’ll use the judges’ comments to help explain why I believe this. Burgess: “A couple of times, the person behind me was catching up to me. At first, I took this as a condemnation of my driving, but then I realized everyone catching me was driving the 911. After that, I never got in line with the 911 behind me, and no one caught up.” I found the following comment by Lieberman funny because he obviously doesn’t understand that a good AWD usually mean faster lap times, “If you need proof of just how outstandingly good the 911 is, this year’s Carrera 4s gains weight compared to last year’s 2WD model, yet lapped Laguna faster (1:39.19 versus 1:39.30.)” He also failed to understand that it takes extra parts to drive another two wheels, it doesn’t happen magically, and roughly one hundredth of a second, yeah that’s LOADS faster. And I think Kong had some sexual frustration that he took out on a poor defenseless car, “The 911 urges you to beat on it. You feel the urge to push the accelerator and brake pedals hard, pull the paddle shifters hard, and bend into that corner a little faster than the previous run.”
In Mackenzie’s column at the end of the issue he preempts some arguments that he thinks will arise, and he thinks they will be focused on numbers. He defends the Porsche by pointing out its insane acceleration relative to its horsepower and the weight it’s saddled with. He also uses the lap times to further his argument. It was faster than the M6, the Aston, the Jaaaaaaag, the Cayman (duh), the E63 Wagon, the Bentley, and bringing up the obvious rear is the Focus. But just because it’s faster around a track than more powerful cars make it a better driver’s car than something else. According to the journalists it was the easiest to drive fast and the most forgiving when you made a mistake. Maybe the people at Motor Trend forgot but I think they were among the many criticizing the 918 for being overly complicated, but I’m pretty sure the same people make the 911, unless Porsch-uh makes the 911 and Porsch makes the 918.
But my opinion is just one out of millions and billions on the internet. What do you, the fine folks of Oppositelock think? Do you agree with me that a driver’s car should not be easy to drive and take some skill, or do you agree with Motor Trend and think the easiest car to drive equals the best? And remember, I have the power to delete your comments forever, and this being the internet there’s no other possible place to voice your opinion.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it, if you did let me know, if you didn’t, you too can let me know in the comments.
(McLain Neville, or His Stigness as he is known to the internet, was born and raised in California and has not left yet except to visit Germany on an exchange program. He is currently working as a California BAR Licensed Smog Inspector; he is also an ASE Certified Technician and former Volkswagen Factory Technician.)
I know that if I have to ask if you got the joke then maybe it wasn't that funny, but since there isn't a laugh meter accompanied with the page views and number of comments, I'm never sure if you guys found some of my writing to be funny. Did anyone get the joke with the warning message?