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Car & Driver ~ Road & Track
Editor For The Day
November 10, 2012
I received an invitation to attend the Car & Driver  
"Editor For A Day" event at IMS which I then
registered for.

This was an opportunity to get a taste of what it is like
to be a car magazine journalist whom is testing new
cars.  

Four cities were selected for this program: San
Francisco, Boston, Indianapolis and Miami.

Luckily the weather was nice in Indy on the Saturday
that I arrived.  

The program ran different groups through, beginning
early in the morning.  I showed up for the last group at
2 p.m.

After signing some paperwork and partaking of some
refreshments, I joined a group of 12 guys who sat
around and listened to a marketing guy explain to us
about what we would be doing.  We were not here to
race on the track.  We were to clear our minds of all
perceived ideas about the five cars we would be
testing.  We would look at the heavily optioned
samples in a static environment and choose the car
that we liked best in various categories.  Afterward,
we would drive the base models and later report our
favorites in various speed, handling, braking type
categories.
They had prepared huge posters that hung on the wall
in front of us which held all the vital statistics of each
car.  They were remarkably similar.

The cars included the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion,
Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, and Nissan Altima.

We were given ipods that were preloaded with
questions and given a half hour to look at the cars, sit
in them, fiddle with controls, etc.



(Here were some of the impressions that stood out for
me:  

The Ford Fusion looked the best, but only from the
front.  It had stolen styling cues from the Aston Martins.

I thought the Toyota had the more luxurious interior.

The Ford Fusion's dash controls were unique and I
did not think I would like them.

The Accord had several display screens.

The Nissan Altima, who's looks I liked 2nd to the Ford,
had a trunk that was easier to access than the others.)



After I handed in my ipad, I went outside to have a
smoke.  Car & Driver had a lot of employees out
there.  Over to one side they were taping a show and
at one point radioed over to us to be quieter.

2-3 people would pile into a car with one of the editors
and head over to the course that was setup in the 4th
turn infield, which contains part of the road course of
the speedway.  Each person would take turns driving
the cars as the others sat in the back, with the editor
in the passenger seat.  At least one person became ill
from this backseat situation.

I was lucky to go last and did not have to share my car
with any other testers.  My editor, Matt, first drove me
through the course and explained what to do.   Cones
were set up to make the course.

I had been disappointed in the initial briefing as it
sounded like we wouldn't be pushing these cars.  I
was happy to find I would indeed be pushing these
cars for a tire-squealing good time.
The Obstacles:
1)  Drive fast, emergency lane change and back.
2) Acceleration followed by slamming on the brakes.
3) Slalom
4) Big Slalom
5) High Speed cornering.

I drove the course in each of the five cars.  All the cars
were around 3300 lbs with 4-cylinder engines which were
around 180 h.p. and were all automatics.  The air
conditioners were on also.   Consequently, the
acceleration test was not exciting.  However, the slaloms
and fast curve were all fun as I had the tires squealing
through out.  

Video cameras were mounted to the left windshield which
were in the way of my sight on the fast left hand curve
(which is Turn 6 of the IMS road course.)  None the less I
did not hit any cones, slow down, or drive off course.

These cameras were looking at me.  No one ever
mentioned what the cameras were for.

I found the Ford's steering extremely light, but the car
handled well.  The Toyota could not handle the speed
through the big slalom at the speed I was driving but I still
kept it off the cones even though I was getting it almost
sideways.

After my rides were over, I went back inside and answered
more questions on an ipad.

Driving the cars on the course was fun.



I do have some comments about how they could have
gotten better judgements from us.

The Static Test:
1) Throw out the ipods and replace with a clip board that
shows all the features they want us to examine and let us
rate each car's features on a scale of 1-5.  This would
have sped up the process and produced more accurate
results.  What happened was I didn't know what the next
question would be and I spent a lot of time going back and
forth between the cars and trying to keep in mind which car
I liked best for each new question, which was hard to do as
the cars were all so similar.

The Driving Test:
1) Once again, give me a clipboard with all the questions
and let me rate each car from 1-5 right after I drove it.  
Instead,  I did not know what they would ask, I had to drive
all five cars and then judge them from memory.  Once
again, the cars were so similar it was tough to remember.  
What was worse was that they had divided the course into
two sections (Atlantic and Pacific) and did not tell me until
after I'd answered the Atlantic questions where I was
thinking of the entire course.  Then I was surprised to see
the same questions pop up on the ipad, for the Pacific
course.