On Test Driving Cars: Why?

A handful of years ago, I went online and Googled; “Nerdy, intelligent woman who can maintain sub-half-second lap splits and is properly bad at identifying birds. Must like dogs.” What the google returned was nothing short of a marvel. There, sat in the driver seat of an incredibly dirty rally car wearing a plain white Bell helmet and a massive grin, was the woman I knew would one day be my wife. Five years, a masters degree and two career changes later, we got married in a field, not one mile from where I grew up. We shared a cheeseburger and a milkshake while we waited for guests to arrive. It was perfect.

A few months before our wedding, I had my non-contributing contributing editor Pat, my fiancé, and myself together to do some wine tasting for the reception. For those who might not know, I used to be a professional cook, my job was to taste everything as critically as possible. Pat is a professional brewer who’s palette is second only to mine as the best… in the world. My fiancé, however, does not possess any professional tasting experience. While Pat and I discussed the various notes of things we were picking up and arguing over what is ideal based on our menu, my better half was simply picking the one she enjoyed most.

This led me to a question. Why the hell do we test drive cars? To the average person — irrespective of education or expertise in subject matter — their personal taste will always beat data. I’m yet to meet a person older than 20 who drives a car because it is technically perfect for them. Sure they will all say; “I like it, it gets me from A to B…,” but if pressed there will always be another car they wish they had instead. Too bad it didn’t come in the particular shade of gray they like. Or it was only available in cloth seats, and they wanted leather. When it comes down to what we have to spend a large portion of our lives in the specs and the dynamics don’t matter.

Except for Jeeps. Jeeps are terrible. 

What matters most is the bits the car comes with. How comfortable are the seats? How good is the Bluetooth? How many times do I actually have to touch the steering wheel per hour? Can I get it in the gray color that I love so much? Yet, no one worth less than a hundred million dollars would ever dream of buying a car without driving it first. There are so many properly disappointing cars available for sale today: Any Nissan, most Toyotas, all mini-SUVs, and so on… but there are very few, if any, properly bad cars. Except for Jeeps. Jeeps are terrible.

Now, keep in mind this doesn’t apply to the people who gather around sites like DriveTribe. People who care about cars, who want to participate in the drive not just ride along. Or put another way, 0.000267% of all drivers on the road. The rest, however, couldn’t care less. They just want to get to their festival or work comfortably and reliably. And even then, they probably aren’t thinking about comfort or reliability, they just need this Lizzo track to go a little louder. Oh, and they need it in grey. So I ask again, why would this everyday driver waste their time with Johhny Cardealer? Listening to him drone on about cams and fuel economy all while scheming on how to remove as much money from them as possible. 

I have it on good authority that Amazon fully intends to sell cars on their site. Once that happens, the remaining 99.9733% of the drivers on the road will never set foot into a dealer again. Who would waste a day at a dealer arguing about under sealant and blinker fluid? Especially when you can simply “Buy it now” while doing your morning bowel movement. I wouldn’t. So long as the shape I like comes in blue, anyway. 


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