We’re writing for people like you… just look at our review of the Nissan GT-R
For proof that practicalmotoring.com.au isn’t your usual car review site, look no further than Alex Rae’s review of the Nissan GT-R. It scored a distinctly lukewarm three-and-a-half stars out of five.
GO TO ANY other source of car reviews and it’s hard to find even a tiny sliver of criticism for what is, you’ll be told, Nissan’s extraordinary feat of automotive engineering.
Alex doesn’t disagree that it’s ridiculously fast and capable of burning up a track like few other cars. But he also takes the time to point out the counterbalancing issue. That the GT-R is bumpy, cramped and prone to making noises like a soon-to-expire washing machine.
Why the disparity? Because most road testers around the world are petrolheads, and fancy themselves as quick drivers. That’s the sort of people they’re writing for. To an extent they’re not even writing for the public who click on the sites. Instead their writing is driven by their subconscious desire to prove to other rival road testers that they can discern tiny difference between the handling and steering of car a) versus car b).
Fair enough in the case of a fantasy supercar. But what about when car a) and car b) are low-powered diesel crossovers? You often see the same kind of reviewing here too. Even though small differences in handling don’t, to the actual buyer, actually matter in the slightest. If you’re buying a low-powered diesel crossover, that isn’t the dynamic behaviour you’re looking for. You want a placid suspension, freedom from road noise, and good stability.
Any suspension engineer knows that to get a comfortable ride, you need comparatively soft springs and anti-roll bars. But that to get sharp handling, those things need to be the opposite.
(Of course there are boundaries. If a chassis is set up too soft it’ll roll and heave all over the place, giving the passengers nausea and possibly becoming dangerously unstable when the driver has to swerve. But there is a happy medium, and most cars are a long way too far on the hard side of that medium.)
You can see why the car engineers want to please the automotive media. The media is pretty influential on car buyers, so a car that scores high in road tests it’ll do better in showrooms. But the media – most of it – serves the majority of buyers badly, because road testers want different things. Road testers want handling and ignore ride, and are happy to sacrifice comfort.
Many car reviews are written off the back of car launches. The car companies run these events at venues where there’s either a lot of deserted, unpoliced twisting country road. Or a handy racetrack.
These are not conditions that have much relevance for normal daily driving. Daily driving means urban and suburban roads, going relatively slowly in amongst traffic. Or speed-restricted highways. Or, in Australia, dirt roads.
In all these conditions, you will notice a car’s ride comfort and suspension quietness in the first 100 metres of driving, and the entirety every 100 metres after that.
On the other hand you might have to drive 100km to find a stretch of road corner where you can, even for a few fleeting seconds, experience the sharpness of its on-limit handling.
That’s why if you’re a general reader looking for an everyday car, you’ve come to the right place.