Opinion: Test-Driving Is Broken

Avid BimmerFile readers know that we are due for a new car by the end of this year. Being on the market for a new vehicle is always exciting. You first come up with a few choices, then you refine said choices through research and test-drives. We’ve taken quite a few cars for test-drives over the past few months and it has been surprisingly frustrating.

Auto news outlets will never talk about this because their journalists don’t test-drive cars like the rest of us do. And there’s nothing wrong that. If car journalists didn’t have privileged access to new vehicles, we wouldn’t have Top Gear or Chris Harris. But regardless of how many time we watch Clarkson throw the F80 M3 around the Top Gear track, a slight feeling of dissatisfaction remains. Not only do we envy car journalists because they have the best job on the planet, but until we take the car in question for a spin, we won’t know for sure if it’s the one we want to drive for the foreseeable future.

Since March, we had the chance to take the F56 John Cooper Works, the MkVII Golf R, and the F22 M235 for 15-minute test-drives. Except for the Bimmer, the JCW and the R are quite expensive and rare models compare to their standard siblings. Because of that, dealers appear to be on the defensive when a potential customer wishes to get behind the wheel of these types of car.

Having a quick spin in a Cooper or a Golf through the streets of Boston is probably fine to help anyone decide if either of these cars is for them. It’s a different story when it comes to a JCW or a Golf R. You’re obviously not going to drive like a mad-man across a city, but can’t either make a decision based on a few miles driven at low speeds. At least that’s how we feel as enthusiasts.

Are there alternatives to this? Yes, but none of them are available to anyone or even doable. Maybe your best friend just bought the car of your dreams and is kind enough to let you have a proper go at it. Maybe your blog gets picked-up by the marketing manager of the brand you like, and they invite you to a press event. Or maybe your local network of dealers decide to build a test track for potential buyers of high performance vehicles.

None of these “solutions” are a good remedy for the frustrations we feel as enthusiasts. If any of you has a suggestion, don’t hesitate to share it in the comment section. In the meantime, we’ll continue to have fun, but nevertheless unfulfilling, test-drives in the streets of Beantown.

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  • Bosozoku

    Agree. I think there are two solutions. 1. Rent an example of the car you’re interested in. 2. Go to a BMW Ultimate Driving Experience or a driving event at the Performance Center (or Performance Center West.) Neither of which may be possible with brand-new and/or high-performance models. And, of course, BMW will only provide examples of their own cars at the PC/PCW events.

    There are a few car rental businesses that provide “exotic” cars to customers, but I hear they’re quite expensive. Still, how else can you do a 24-hour test drive?

  • Alex-Dan Luca

    Or just get out of the city during the test drive, and drive like a mad-man on some back roads? If you don’t live in a very large city that may be an option.

    If you do live in a large city, plan a meeting with the dealer outside of it, let him drive the car to and from the location, and you only do the mad-man part 🙂