Sports Car Illustrated was the name of Car and Driver magazine when it was first launched in 1955. The original intent was to publish content centered on foreign sports cars. In 1961 the focus shifted to a more general automotive agenda along with the current name, Car and Driver. Today, the magazine is published by Hearst Communications Inc. With a total audience of 10 million readers, it is the world's largest automotive magazine brand.
Car and Driver is on par with similar websites and publications in the car niche concerning the free industry standard tools, such as comparison and recommendation tools.
But it has something that stands out from the crowd—a full bodied list of review features. Two of the more unique review tests performed are an instrumented test and long-term tests.
This instrumented test is one component of a thorough test drive process done with new cars and then reviewed for car seekers on the website.
The comprehensive list of testing tools includes:
- First Drives
- Instrumented tests
- Comparison tests
- Long term tests
The First Drive test describes the reviewer’s first-time experience in a particular vehicle.
Valuable and useful information includes:
- Is the Car Economical?
- Is the Car engine loud or quiet when operating?
- Uniform Capability
The highlighted Instrumented tests examine the more technical components of a vehicle, such as battery and engine performance.
Comparison tests are done to decide the “reigning champ” of a category of similar vehicles. Features compared depend on genre. For example, when comparing minivans, compared features include:
- entertainment value
- safety performance
- sales price
- electronic systems that mitigate the loss of traction or stability
- tech package, i.e. lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise, and surround-view system
Another unique feature is the Long-Term testing. New selected vehicles are taken on road trips of 20,000 miles or more to see how the car performs over longer distances. Information the driver reports on include car ride quality, silent interior, and sprawl-out space.
Although the reviews can come across a bit salesy at moments, the feedback is poignantly honest and holds no punches. Each review has objective data with both pros and cons—valuable and useful information throughout the review that one can use to determine if they’d want to try the car out for themselves.
What’s cool is the way Car and Driver displays new (or the most recent) cars in their car research feature. All that is needed is the make and model of the vehicle and clicking the Research button. What pulls up is nothing short of a fully comprehensive report on the vehicle, all in one place instead of having to click through several website pages to compile the information yourself.
The list is comprised of:
- Car photo (front, side and back)
- Vehicle highs and lows
- Transmission details
- Dimensions (Wheelbase, length, width, height, curb weight, passenger and cargo volume)
- C/D Test Results (zero to 60 mph, zero to 100 mph, Top Gear, Breaking, etc.)
- Fuel economy (EPA city/highway driving)
- News and Reviews (i.e. instrumented test review, first drive review, commercials for the car, etc)
Car recommendations come in the form of the reviews mentioned above ( i.e. instrumented tests and as Editor’s Picks) and annual Editor’s Choice Awards—where Car and Driver editors publish a list of vehicles they consider to be the best cars, pickup trucks, crossovers, and SUVs for that year. Another recommendation list is their annual “10 Best Cars”. The Editor’s lists are broken down into year, car/truck make, genre and model.
A few additional likeable Car and Driver features include the Free Dealer Quote tool and the Auto Show page, where car enthusiasts can get the latest announcements and detail information on upcoming auto shows.
Granted, Car and Driver’s designated purpose is to review cars and provide auto industry information for auto lovers, but it does have a buyer’s guide. This guide seems to be missing a few basic research tools—vehicle history, payment calculators and trade-in value assessment tools to be more specific. One would think that if you have a used car listing totaling in the millions, you would also feel the need to include free tools that other car search websites offer to help buyers assess the trade-in value of their vehicle and calculate how much the true cost of their vehicle will be beyond the sticker price. But hopefully Car and Driver will have a change of mind.