It’s time for your latest installment of "Ask Doug," which occurs every Friday here on Autotrader Oversteer. The way this works is, you send an e-mail "asking Doug" a question, and Doug awakes from his slumber to answer your question before returning to eat his Cocoa Puffs in bed.
If you’d like to "Ask Doug" a question, you can! And you should! Email me at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will proudly read your question, and possibly even display it here on Oversteer for the whole world to see. Then, if you are very lucky, and if you compliment me just enough, I may even answer it.
Today’s question comes to us from a reader named Bert. Bert writes:
I just finished watching your Porsche 918 review, and like (nearly) all of your reviews, you go over the quirks and features of a car, then drive it on the road. Some of this road driving (which involved nearly hitting a deer once, in another expensive car) usually starts with a few stabs of the throttle to give a sense of the speed of the automatic shift if present, or for the glorious engine note of the vehicle you’re driving that day. I know from experience on ridiculous sport motorcycles that first gear alone can approach 100 miles per hour, and yet there are times when you’ll get deep into second or so. Have you ever looked into booking track time to limit the number of venison sausages you create? What roadblocks have you encountered when trying to pursue this? Can we expect your overlords at Autotrader to provide you with a private test track to flog your test vehicles, in between enjoying caviar and fresh ants with Marvin?
For those of you who don’t wish to read Bert’s remarks, because his name is Bert, allow me to summarize. He asked why I don’t review cars on race tracks. Then he mentioned Marvin, my stuffed anteater, who — it should be known — does not actually eat caviar, but is currently engaging in international wire fraud.
This is a good question, Bert, and it’s one I get fairly often. There are two main reasons I don’t test cars on race tracks: logistics and realism. I’ll take logistics first, because it’s far more important.
Here’s the situation: When I test cars, I’m generally borrowing them from a reader, viewer or local dealership. They’re usually comfortable giving me the car for something like four or five hours, which is very generous. What they’re generally not comfortable doing is going well out of their way to do this. This is the main reason why I fly all over the country to film my videos and review cars — because if you come to people, they’ll be a lot more likely to let you borrow their vehicles. My goal is to make it as easy as possible for them.
And, simply put, track use isn’t easy for them. Tracks are almost never located near major cities, due to noise, meaning I’d have to ask the owners to drive long distances in their vehicles just so I can get it on the track. For instance, Bert mentioned the 918 Spyder: I reviewed than in Nashville, and I’m not even sure what the nearest decent track would be. Road Atlanta, which is five hours away? Something in Virginia? Either way, it would be dramatically inconvenient.
And then there’s the cost. Race tracks are wildly expensive to rent out, especially to make a stupid YouTube video and write a little column. I’ve never understood the economics of Chris Harris-style videos, which must cost tens of thousands of dollars to make, and certainly don’t earn back anything close to that. Yes, it’s fun for everyone to watch, but we aren’t in the business of providing content for free — or at a loss. And I simply don’t have the budget to rent out a track. And I never will.
But honestly, Bert, even if I did have some track situation, I’m not sure I’d take much advantage. For most of my videos, the majority of people want to see the "quirks" section where I highlight all the cool stuff — and the driving experience, while relatively important, isn’t as big of a priority.
More importantly, the vast majority of people will never drive these cars on race tracks — and I think letting people know what it’s like to drive around in a car like this on the street, where these cars will actually get driven, is a lot more practical and interesting. I, personally, am much more interested in watching a video about how the 918 Spyder drives around the suburbs than seeing the umpteenth video of it on the race track, where the camera makes fast cuts and people yell about turn-in and tire temperature.
So, there’s your reasoning, Bert, and I hope you will continue to watch my videos and read my columns, even if I don’t film on race tracks, and even if I keep wearing a large shirt under a small shirt. Find a car for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.