This latest installment of “Your Turn” comes from one of our fellow automotive scribes, William Maley of Cheers & Gears. His reviews, news stories and commentary can be seen on C&G, as well as The Hooniverse and his own personal blog. He is also one of the co-hosts of the Motorama Live Twitter chat.
Without further ado, here is what Maley has to say about one aspect to the art of doing auto reviews…
If there is one thing that I have learned during my time as an automotive writer, it’s that time plays a key role when reviewing a vehicle.
The more time you spend with a vehicle, the better informed you become when writing out a review. You might think this a trivial thing, but we seem to forget it as automotive writers and readers. If someone who drove a vehicle on a first drive really liked it and then bashes it when they had it for a full week, more likely than not, time played a huge role into that.
Consider this, most first drives that automakers put on usually give a person about four to six hours in a vehicle. During a review period, a person is given around 168 hours or seven days. That longer time gives a person to drive a vehicle on a variety of roads, play with all of the gadgets and tech, use it in their daily life, and form a better opinion about what they think.
Here is an example: Earlier this year, I had the chance to briefly drive the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid at an event. In my write-up, I said the Optima Hybrid could be the best hybrid on sale, despite the poor fuel economy ratings when compared to the new-at-the-time Toyota Camry Hybrid. But I had only spent fifteen, twenty minutes on a driving loop with it.
How could I stand by that statement? I knew that I would have to get one in for a week.
Last month, I got my chance. I had a Kia Optima Hybrid for a week to see if I could stand by that statement or not. After spending said week with it, I wrote this,
"If you're looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion."
There are two reasons as to why I wrote this. One, the fuel economy falls in comparison with the Camry Hybrid and especially the new Ford Fusion with its 47 MPG across the board. Plus, a few days before the review went live; Hyundai and Kia announced they had inflated fuel economy numbers on a number of their vehicles; the Optima Hybrid being one of the vehicles involved.
The other thing was the way the transition from electric to hybrid power. From my review,
"The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration."
Now, I have driven a couple hybrids and most have this problem in varying degrees. The Optima Hybrid was the worst of them.
Otherwise, I really liked the Optima Hybrid. It had the exterior and interior design down pat, came well equipped, nice to drive, and a low price tag. But my week-long evaluation showed some flaws that I didn’t notice during my short time and it helped me make a better opinion about the vehicle than a quick drive would.
So the next time you’re reading a review of a vehicle that someone loved during a first drive and is now hating it or vice visa, ask yourself this: How much of that person’s opinion changed because of how much time he spent with it?