Dumbest Post of the Year: And the Winner Is ...

MT Figure 8

As you might imagine, we read a lot of stories every year. Between the various journals, periodicals, press releases, websites, newspapers and enthusiast magazines, sometimes it seems like a miracle we have time to do anything else. 

But every so often, we read a piece that so vividly misses the mark and completely misunderstands what the main point should have been that we have to stop and bask in its glory.

We have to say, at this point, this award usually goes to some TV or newspaper organization that can't afford to hire anyone on staff that knows the difference between ring gear and GVWR, but what is so odd about this year's winner is that it comes from a source who should know better: Motor Trend magazine. (We should note that we have no way of knowing if this story will show up in the magazine; we found this on Motor Trend's website.) 

To be honest, the story itself, at least from the title, seems to have merit: "The 10 Most Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011." It's always good to know what vehicles live up to their promises, and if the experts at Motor Trend — who by all accounts seem to be doing the best job of testing the most new vehicles every year — are interested in calling these vehicles out, it seems like it might be a worthy story to look at. I was wrong. 

I should also note here that I'm not commenting on the story's accuracy. These are the most dynamically challenged vehicles MT tested over the last 12 months as recorded from its unique Figure-8 testing procedures. The problem comes when you ask of what use is this information? The asnwer looks to be not at all. At least, not as it's presented. 

Not only is there no context provided, but in each case, the vehicles are being rated in a realm that neither the design engineers or the potential buyers would care much about. I get the idea that an enthusiast magazine, one that prides itself on its testing numbers and thoroughness, would want to put every vehicle it track-tests through the same critical testing procedures, but at some point you have to ask of what use is the data and what is it suppose to communicate, especially when all the tested vehicles are so incredibly different from one another?

To judge a heavy-duty pickup truck on the same basis, with the same testing procedures, as a full-electric microcar or performance sports car, at some point, doesn't just become silly, it becomes irresponsible, especially if you want to call yourself the expert about all things automotive. I'm not arguing with the data collected here, just the way in which it's being displayed and represented, and what that resulting data is supposed to imply.

The folks at MT should know better than anyone how important context and perspective can be. (It does, after all, have separate awards for car, sport-utility and truck of the year.) Yet, here they are, providing neither in this story and making themselves, and the vehicles they've tested (but mostly themselves), look silly.

It does make one wonder why there aren't other top ten posts on their site about sports cars called, "The Ten Most Payload Challenged Vehicles of 2011" or "The Most Cargo Incapable Vehicles of the Year" with a bunch of two-seater Porsches and BMWs and Audis splayed all over the photo gallery. Judging vehicles for what they are makes sense. Judging vehicles for what they are not, just looks stupid.  

If MT wants to be the best-handling testers and drivers in the automotive universe, I will fight to the death for its right to do so. But if it wants to evaluate vehicles that have their primary strengths and design parameters far outside their abilities to judge and understand what they are, then I say either get smart about your subject or stop pretending to know what you're doing.  

I'm not sure exactly what we're supposed to learn from the story when vehicles are judged in such a singularly prejudiced fashion. Maybe that would have been a good question to ask before the story was assigned or written. Some might argue all data is important and, for the most part, I would agree, but there is also a responsibility for those who should know better to offer some kind of explanation in what that data might mean or possibly convey.

To no one's surprise, Motor Trend's 10 Most Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011 — which, oddly, has 18 vehicles in the list — has five full-size pickups, four SUVs, three minivans, two commercial vans (both NVs) and four compact cars (three of which are hybrid or full electric). These are all vehicles designed, marketed and intended for buyers that care very little (if at all) about the performance handling characteristics around a completely subjective, miniature figure-8 course. At no point in the story are any segment comparisons made or references to their most direct competitors. All the numbers are left floating in midair without any connection to reality.

Here's some constructive advice: At least offer comparable numbers and values for similar vehicles. It might be fun to know which is the fastest or most dynamically supreme of all vehicles sold in the U.S., but you might be giving yourself too much credit if you think those of us out here in the real world care about seeing performance handling tests between vehicles that can do work (or even get much better fuel economy) with those that can't.


@Vulpine - No worries.

Oxi- I challenge you to find another article exclaiming .97g stock for the x-runner. Even Toyota lists it around .90, I wonder what kind of tires were on that magical "stock" .97 truck. Sounds like the Nissan GTR crew had their hands on it, lol. You are telling me a stock x-runner can out skid pad a many Corvette's and equal a C5 Z06? Come on man, be proud of your truck but not overly proud. The highest I have found minus that one .97 is a .92, big difference. Also in reference to the best handling truck, pick up yes (the SRT-10 Ram and GMC syclone can't beat .90 but a few SUV's can, most notably the SRT8 grand cherokee 06-10 can do .92 regularly (.92 > .90).


.92 listed here and I have seen regular reports near .90, not besting the X-runner (which I give props) but not the .81 you say...

Reality check? Please research before speaking!


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