Christmas is only a week away. The New Year is just around the corner. As 2014 draws to a close, I’m not the only one taking stock of the year that’s we’re almost shut of.
Depending on who you are or what you do, the end of the year can bring to mind tax bills, school semesters or scheduling dental appointments. For me, for the last eight or nine years, at least a small part of this transitory time is occupied with recalling the cars I’ve driven over the preceding 12 months.
Since I started writing about and reviewing cars in 2006, I’ve done an uneven job of tracking every vehicle I’ve been in, each year. Last year I made a resolution to be better about it, and the result is a spreadsheet with model names, dates, notes and some basic facts and figures.
Armed with this basic data and a yen for year-end stories, I figured it would be interesting to parse the figures and quantify my year in cars in a way I’d never done before. The results are, well, they’re a little bizarre, honestly. And I think they’ll affect how I approach this gig in 2015.
My tally for the year is 68 cars, as of this writing. Before the calendar flips to 2015 it’ll be as high as 73.
Let me give you a tiny bit of background about how automotive journalists typically get cars to test. There are basically two pools of vehicles I drive on a regular basis: media fleet vehicles and those available on “first drive” programs.
The latter group is pretty self-explanatory. Journalists are gathered in one location (sometimes local, sometimes far-flung) with a new model(s), there’s usually a day of driving, then we report back to you with our impressions.
Media fleet vehicles are different. These are distributed to publications and individual journalists far and wide, and the test period goes from a few days to a week or more. Whereas first drives almost always result in a piece of review content, fleet loans only sometimes do. Other times they serve to give context about brands, segments, technology and the like, to editors and writers.
So, adding up the loans I’ve had out of the press fleet and things I’ve driven at events, my tally for the year is 68 cars, as of this writing. Before the calendar flips to 2015, it’ll be as high as 73.
At one of the buff books like Car and Driver or Motor Trend, reviewers might rotate through five cars a week, or more.
I know that number sounds high, but as best I can tell, it’s pretty average for the full-time professionals in this business. At Autoblog, full-time car reviewers (guys “in the rotation” as we say), typically have loans once per week, per editor. Since we don’t always work out of the same office (some of us never do), that’s a simpler way to do it. At one of the buff books like Car and Driver or Motor Trend, where a lot of the editorial staff is in one place, Monday to Friday, reviewers might rotate through five cars a week, or more. And it’s very common for the in-office Autoblog staff to do the same.
For instance: Jason Cammisa, Senior Editor at Road & Track, keeps a detailed yearly accounting of the cars he’s driven (as well as miles, an idea which I’m going to steal going forward). Cammisa’s total dwarfed mine in 2014, with 179 cars projected in the logbook.
Rotation reviewers that are higher up their respective mastheads might get more cars, or higher-performance, more expensive cars than those on the bottom rungs. People that work at enthusiast-oriented publications may also have results that are skewed towards more-exotic-than-average metal, and location helps, too – guys out in Los Angeles tend to have a more ample supply of high-end metal than we Michiganders do.
Autoblog covers everything, but we lean more enthusiastic than pedestrian, and it’s probably fair to say I’m in the high-middle of the industry in terms of access to vehicles. So, what did my daily driver look like in 2014?
This is how a brief Vital Stats panel would read for my fleet cars if I average the combined totals with the aggregate number of vehicles.
- Output: 328 horsepower / 332 pound-feet of torque
- Miles Per Gallon: 19.8 City / 28.5 Highway
- Fuel Type: 95.5 Diesel / 0% Hybrid
- Transmission Type: 80.6 Manual (for simplicity I’m lumping everything without a third pedal into “Automatic” here)
- Base Price: $63,998
- As-Tested Price: $73,443
Holy crap. I should note that my as-tested price there is soft; there are lots of cars that I never got official pricing for, so where I lacked the real number I made an informed – if conservative – guess.
For the sake of comparison, I dug around to find the best data available for the average vehicle in the 2014 model year, in the US. For the technical stats, this data comes from preliminary reporting from the EPA, and the sales data (year to date) comes from TrueCar.
- Output: 233 Horsepower / Torque Not Listed
- Miles Per Gallon: 20 City / 29 Highway
- Fuel Type: 94.5 Diesel / 4% Hybrid
- Transmission Type: 96.3 Manual
- Base Price: $34,386
- Transaction Price: $31,831
If you’re like me, the first and most mind-boggling stat in this comparison is the huge price gap. An average of over $70k as-tested is pretty wild, though some of that is down to just a handful of curve-wrecking cars. I tested four cars that go for more than $200k in 2014: both coupe and convertible versions of the Bentley Continental GT V8 S, the Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4, and the $365k-as-tested Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II. (Do I love my job? Yes.)
I probably need to work on my sub-$25k blind spot in the coming year. Progress through data!
When I take those four cars out of the equation, the average MSRP drops to $53,022 and as-tested to $60,486. Still way above the national average, but with a lot less daylight in between.
Obviously I’m driving a lot of premium, luxury vehicles. I think that’s helpful, as I write reviews for quite a number of products in that stratum, too. Still, I’ll admit that I probably need to work on my sub-$25k blind spot in the coming year. Progress through data!
I wasn’t taken aback to see that my average horsepower output is higher than normal (especially considering the money we’re talking about), but I do think that my average torque rating is telling of the era we’re in. Unfortunately, the EPA doesn’t track torque figures, but to see that my typical pounds-feet rating is higher than horsepower – and with less than five percent diesel in the mix – is impressive. The large-scale movement to turbocharging has that torque figure higher than ever, I’d guess.
Turbos (and direct-injection technology) are at the heart of what can only be seen as impressive EPA fuel economy figures, too. My averages practically mirror those of the nation as a whole, despite a much higher average output. Partially that’s down to my having driven just a handful of trucks this year, but it’s also a testament to the increasing ability of automakers to engineer power without compromising frugality.
Manual transmissions – why are my cars equipped with them at almost five times the rate that they’re produced for sale to Americans?
Finally, manual transmissions – why are my cars equipped with them at almost five times the rate that they’re produced for sale to Americans? First, we, along with a lot of you, love stick shifts, and probably over-report on manual-trans version of cars as a result. Second, automakers know we all love MTs, and probably overrepresent them in the media fleets. Real talk.
Here are some of the superlatives from my 2014 car list:
- Most Expensive: the previously mentioned 2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost, at $286,750 “base” and $365,250 as-tested. For the record, I believe this is also the single most expensive series production car I’ve ever driven.
- Least Expensive: 2015 Honda Fit 6MT at $15,650 base and $18,225 as-tested (a pretty loaded EX model that, true-to-form, still had the manual trans).
- Most Powerful: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat at 707 horsepower. Was there ever any doubt? The Huracán is a distant second, almost 100 hp behind.
- Least Powerful: It’s the Fit again, at 130 hp. And you know what, it’s still fun to drive in traffic.
- Most Torquey: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG at 664 pound-feet. I wrote at the time that this car was, “the perfect cure for my Mercedes-AMG GT hangover” which was on point.
- Least Torquey: Honda Fit at 114 lb-ft… did I mention it had a nice six speed?
I’d love to keep you reading for a few thousand more words, diving indulgently into the things that I loved or hated about every car on my list, but the other Autobloggers are looking over my shoulder, so I’ll keep it short.
I’ve uploaded a picture of just about every car that I drove this year – mostly from my own Twitter and Facebook pages, so follow me if you’d like to see more like this in 2015. If you’ve got questions about any of the cars you see therein, write them up and drop them into our Comments section below. I will look forward to answering back just as soon as I read them.
It’s been a fantastic, fascinating and uncanny year in cars. I’m one hell of a lucky guy. Here’s marking up a fresh spreadsheet in 2015, and bringing all the adventures that come along with that, to you.
Source Article from http://www.autoblog.com/2014/12/18/car-writers-year-in-cars-video/
A car writer’s year in new vehicles [w/video]
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