Driving Emotion

Posted on September 24th, 2002 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Why We Hate [insert manufacturer of your choice here]

Again and again we see in on-line discussion groups how AutoSpeed “hates Fords”, or “hates Holdens”, or hates some other car manufacturer – you can just about list almost all of them and we’ve had that suggested of us.

Even some manufacturers themselves seem to believe that we have a bias against them (we never hear from manufactures who believe we have a bias for them – funny, that.) One manufacturer recently said when they organised to loan us a press car for a test that “they hope Julian Edgar has grown up since the last review he did on our cars”. In fact, listen to some people and you could believe that we’re arbitrarily negative about certain car makers – y’know, it’s just a whim or we got out of bed the wrong side on the morning we wrote the road tests.

So let’s have a look at the evidence. We’ll try to take most of the comments from the concluding paragraphs of road tests, so that they’re from summaries rather than out of context. Covering every road test we have ever run would become very boring, so let’s just pick those stories where we’ve been strongest in our perspective.

The Alfa 166 certainly attracted our criticism. “With Alfa’s history of poor retained values in its larger cars, you can be sure that a few years down the track the 166 will be available very cheaply indeed. But, even at $50,000, we’d still not be much interested,” we concluded in the test.

In the body of the story we were even stronger. “A severely flawed car….the ride and handling a mixed bag…the words ‘cramped’ and ‘poorly designed’ spring to mind…the image is staggeringly greater than the reality.” No, we didn’t think much of the car.

And we were also quite negative about the practicality of the Alfa 156 Sportwagon. “History has a habit of badly judging cars where form has so dramatically triumphed over function….” we concluded.

So, surely it’s obvious that we hate Alfas? Gee, that must be the case, eh? But hold on, what about the test of the 156 sedan? “Its ability to put corners behind you with poise and ease is simply breathtaking,” we concluded. “Like all brilliant cars, the 156 is able to contemptuously overcome driver errors. Get it slightly wrong and it puts a smile on your face; get it right and you laugh aloud at the sheer, intimate cornering delight that this car provides.”

And our test of the Alfa Spider – the car in which we did thousands of kilometres in the week we had it? “The over-riding impression gained of the Spider is that it is simply a beautifully-integrated package,” we concluded.


Ford fans – and the company itself, for that matter – just love to concentrate on just a few of our articles and ignore the rest. In an opinion piece I wrote of the 5.6-litre V8 (then!) being trumpeted by both Ford and the local media as something wonderful, “The Windsor V8 first saw the light of day in 1962. Nineteen Sixty-Two…. that’s no less than 39 years ago! We’re talking clean-sheet design technology that’s not just one or two generations behind, but from an era when man hadn’t even walked on the Moon… So distant in the mists of time that the old geezer pictured at the top of this page hadn’t even been born! That’s not automotive stone-age – it’s dinosaur age…”

And, after visiting the Tickford factory and watching how the body kits were attached, “I have seen neater and more careful jobs carried out in suburban body shops. Like, making sure that the hole through the rust-proofed panel was again treated. Like, not having to elongate holes…”

Obviously that shows a tremendous bias against Ford and its products, doesn’t it? I mean how can it be otherwise? Well, our previously published test of the Ford Laser doesn’t seem to match the ‘bias’.

“It’s easy to start believing that all current cheap cars are pretty good – y’know, in economy, NVH and comfort. But then you step into a car like this where the high-speed stability is excellent, the ride wonderfully fluid and the performance fine,” we said of the under-rated little car.

Or take the story we wrote on buying an AU Falcon as a used car. “For those sorta dollar figures, if you’re after safe, comfortable and effective late-model family car, we can’t think of much better,” we said of the model. “Roomy and safe – and in used form, cheap!” was the subtitle of the story. (But we also said that the car was a bit crude.)

Or when Ford did bite the technological bullet and release engines with current level technology, “In short, with this range of engines Ford looks like doing more than just play catch-up with its major competitor. In its range of sixes it’s leap-frogging the archaic Holden V6 engines to – at least on paper – stride ahead mightily. Double variable valve timing, variable intake manifold, ball-bearing turbo and intercooled – and it’s all on a Falcon six!”

It was a paragraph written completely by me as editor-in-chief – so much for “Julian Edgar hates Fords” mantra.

Hell, maybe it’s all just telling it like it is based on evidence and facts – and not being emotionally blinded by one brand?

Or what about Holden? We loved the VT SS Commodore, (“Weapons-grade performance with practicality.”) but thought the Monaro was way underdone (“We think that the car would be a greater success if the suspension and steering distanced itself from the muscle cars of the past and were spec’d with the realisation that not everyone wants to listen to a bellowing V8 as they drive around only on smooth bitumen.”).

The VT V6 Commodore had a real wet road problem, “Relatively slim and tall 205/65 tyres, a slick wet bitumen surface, ham-footed throttle use and something unexpected cropping up – a sharp hump mid-way through a corner, for example – and the VT can assume a missile-like life of its own as the rear attempts to snap past the front.”

But the later VX model fixed this with standard traction control and a more sophisticated rear suspension, “However, even with the extra rearwards mass of the test wagon, it’s very difficult to get the VX Series II to behave in this dangerous manner,” we said.

Hyundai? Of the Grandeur’s plough understeer we concluded, “Fix the suspension fast Mr Hyundai, and you’ll have a winner… one that we’d be pleased to sample again – that is, if you’re still talking to us!”

We said earlier in the test, “[The suspension is] 80 or 90 per cent there – but that last ten percent is so important to primary safety that to understate it in a test such as this would be to do you all a disservice.”

And as other media also found, the FX Coupe could be a real handful when being really pushed, “For those wanting contemporary sporty looks, a long warranty, excellent practicality and sufficient get-up-and-go, it’s a great buy. But if you want a jet fighter with predictable and delightful handling, go elsewhere.”

Unfortunately, we haven’t been in a position to drive any other Hyundais (a Getz is coming soon) so we can’t give examples of potentially more positive comments on better cars from the same maker.

Or what about Honda? Of the HRV (er, remember the HRV? – it didn’t last long in this market so obviously lots agreed with us) we said, “Get past the Honda badge. Get past the styling. Get past the electric gizmos. Assess it as a car. Look at the paucity of interior room. Look at the lack of interior comfort. Be deafened by the engine. Feel the lack of precision in swerve-and-recover manoeuvres. Assess the worth of a four-wheel drive system that is almost never functioning. And – especially if you’re not the sort of person who’s much interested in cars anyway – before you sign on the line, test drive some of the other new cars that you can buy for the same money.”

We just must be Honda-haters….

But what about the Honda Odyssey test? “With sharper steering we’d be ready to sing the praises of the Odyssey as the ultimate sports sleeper, but even with that shortcoming, it’s still a damn good car. Everyone around here wanted to drive it all of the time – and we don’t have arguments like that over boring cars….”

Earlier in the Odyssey test, “The 3-litre VTEC V6 and five speed automatic makes for one of the sweetest drivetrains around, and certainly rivals – for refinement, smoothness and power – some European luxury cars costing over twice as much. The V6 is simply a bloody powerhouse!”

The story subtitle? “Practical and roomy with a glorious VTEC V6 drivetrain.”

Oh no, another example shot down.

Subaru? Mazda? Nissan? Lexus? Look for the tests yourself – there are variously negative and positive tests for each of those manufacturer’s products.

By now it should now be blindingly obvious that to say we “hate” a particular manufacturer, or we have a “bias” against them, is simply rubbish. The good cars and technologies get praised, the bad ones get bluntly and strongly criticised.

And that’s just the bloody way it should be.

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