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This is how you write a car review
November 1, 2006 5:10 AM   Subscribe

"At freeway speeds, the Toyota [Prius] is a near silent and comfortable cruiser, whereas the Audi [RS4] sounds and feels like a volcano making love to an avalanche." ... "you would swear the Audi is being launched from a trebuchet." ... "Let's say you're cruising at 80mph in sixth-gear and the engine is doing 3,000rpm, the mechanical equivalent of sipping a latte." ... "RS4 can blast sideways with such force that you will swear you are piloting violence."

Whether you are into cars or not, TTAC's Lieberman entertains. Not entirely unlike Jeremy Clarkson, but without the formulaic, wishy-washy introductions. Read the whole thing here.
posted by SharQ (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's astounding the marked difference between the mainstream automobile review press and the internet only biggies.

It's almost as amazing as the difference between the UK and US car media.


Great review though.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:48 AM on November 1, 2006


I have driven an RS4 and I agree with the interview wholeheartedly. Except for the part about the 100mph turns. I didn't get to do that. But I want to. Very badly. Someone please give me $75k so I can buy an RS4 today or I will cry like one of my children.
posted by eatyourlunch at 5:55 AM on November 1, 2006


What a beautifully worded review. I have no immediate aspirations for a demon car, but he painted quite a beautiful picture indeed. I'll be looking at this site in the future, thanks.
posted by cavalier at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2006


Great review! It reminded me that yes, I *would* in fact sell my left testicle for an RS4.

Off to ebay with me then.
posted by clevershark at 6:45 AM on November 1, 2006


I don't even like Audis and now I want one.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:52 AM on November 1, 2006


The volcano/avalanche quote totally makes my morning.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:56 AM on November 1, 2006


Wow, that's the best write-up on a car I've ever read.
posted by cellphone at 7:06 AM on November 1, 2006


Very good site; for someone who is new car shopping, it is actually useful, too. I'm afraid I will have to pass on the RS4, though.
posted by TedW at 7:10 AM on November 1, 2006


I've had the pleasure of driving an RS4 several times, being an ex-employee of a closely tied VW/Audi business partner. I'm not even really a car guy, and I'll be the first to tell you that these things are simply sex on wheels.
posted by fusinski at 7:15 AM on November 1, 2006


As much as I want an Audi, they seem to enjoy spending a lot of time in the shop from what I've heard. It wouldn't bother me too much to spend $80k (or whatever) on a car like this if only it were as reliable as a Nissan or Honda.
posted by ernie at 7:27 AM on November 1, 2006


The URL for a feed of all posts by Lieberman:

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?feed=rss2&author=5
posted by thebabelfish at 7:32 AM on November 1, 2006


I really really really wish I could write like that. Made my morning too--thanks!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:33 AM on November 1, 2006


The thing I like best about this review is the way it shows exactly how people will never ever give up their cars until there literally is no gasoline to be bought or the air gets so bad it won't support combustion any longer. Global warming? Get used to it.
posted by jfuller at 7:34 AM on November 1, 2006


No, wait, I take that back: single link FPP? What is wrong with you? etc. etc.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:34 AM on November 1, 2006


Does sound like a fun toy, if you can afford it. I still love my Prius though...    I'll probably never buy a regular car again.
posted by DesbaratsDays at 7:38 AM on November 1, 2006


Forget violence, you are now driving war.

It's like a textbook course in superlatives.

There aren't enough superlatives (or space) to properly describe the vulgar joy of driving an RS4.

Hm. Well, A+ for trying to find them all and squeeze them in.
posted by GuyZero at 7:39 AM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Turtles: I really really really wish I could write like that.

Me too, and I used to write car reviews. I love, LOVE ttac.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:40 AM on November 1, 2006


The thing I like best about this review is the way it shows exactly how people will never ever give up their cars until there literally is no gasoline to be bought or the air gets so bad it won't support combustion any longer.

"People like their cars" - Mayor Weber.(Tom Skerritt).
posted by psmealey at 7:42 AM on November 1, 2006


Darn, I was hoping Shawne Merriman was a female.
posted by spock at 7:42 AM on November 1, 2006


What a great site. His review of the Mazda B4000 is quite the opposite of the man-crush he has on the Audi.
posted by bigdave at 7:55 AM on November 1, 2006


The scary thing is, BMW will go to the ends of the earth to make the new M3 even better. I can't imagine me keeping my license for too long if I owned an RS4. I test drove a MkV GTI a few weeks ago (my next car is either that or a WRX wagon) and even then I was shocked at how effortlessly I could break the law. I can't imagine what I'd do with over 200 more HP to deal with.

The thing with these new engines they're making isn't just in the torque and power numbers but in the delivery - he hints about this in the article. The power and torque curves are very broad and flat. The GTI pulls hard from EVERYWHERE in every gear and I can imagine the RS4 is hugely better.

Clarkson in an RS4 Part 1 Part 2
posted by jimmythefish at 7:56 AM on November 1, 2006


Reminds me of New Games Journalism as practiced at eurogamer
posted by empath at 7:59 AM on November 1, 2006


I'm surprised to be the first to say: don't buy this beast. The planet can't afford it even if you can. I'm not even sure it can afford the Prius.
posted by imperium at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2006


I have a turgid, secret back road I use to evaluate the handling prowess of my testers.

Turgid? I do not think this word means what you think it means.
< /inigo>
That aside, good review.
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 8:11 AM on November 1, 2006


I would probably crash or land in jail in a week if I had an RS4. I have an A4. It is a pleasure to drive and hard to keep to the posted speed limit. If I won the lottery, the first thing I'd do is buy an RS4 and use the rest as a legal defense fund.

The S4 isn't a slouch and a bit closer to my price range.
posted by birdherder at 8:27 AM on November 1, 2006


Man, I can't keep under the speed limit since they put that "V6" moniker on the back of my Kia Optima. In one of these devil-cars, I'd end up killing 3 people, laughing maniacally, and then perhaps running over a puppy for good measure.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:04 AM on November 1, 2006


This is all good and dandy, but let's not forget that for 5 or 6 thousand dollars extra, you can get a E60 BMW M5 with its animalistic planet destroying V10 engine. I have one and the ease with which it gets to 150+ is breath taking. Eventually I may get its electronic speed limiter removed, giving me over 200 mph of high revving fun. This, this isn't bad, but M5, that devil that, that is BAD!
posted by trol at 9:26 AM on November 1, 2006


It's almost as amazing as the difference between the UK and US car media. Correct, Lord Pall. Though there are exceptions (I did an FPP on Dan a couple of years ago).
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:29 AM on November 1, 2006


Damn. I'm gonna to have to keep chanting "11 mpg" and "my Lancer is paid for" all day now.
posted by Foosnark at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2006


Dissenting voice: He's just not rigorous enough, and he uses too many metaphors and analogies to distract from his lack of rigor. Here's a sample paragraph selected at random, with commentary interspersed:

Most buff books clock the RS4's 0-60 time at 4.6 seconds. That's stupid fast indeed, just ahead of its main competition, the M3. However, what they leave out is that the RS4 can do 0-110 in 4.7 seconds. Or at least it feels like it can.
The car feels fast. How fast? Like it could get to 110 in 4.7 seconds. What does that mean? Well...really fast. Faster than an M3? Does an M3 feel like it could get to 110 in 3 seconds, or more like 7.5, however one could possibly determine that? This is not a useful metric that can possibly be compared across cars, but rather a contentless rhetorical flourish.

Blindfolded, you would swear the Audi is being launched from a trebuchet.
This is empty noise that tells me nothing about the car. If I'm comparison shopping an M3, does it also feel like being shot out of a trebuchet at launch? Or is it more like a catapault? A speeding bullet? I'm not suggesting that Lieberman needs to answer this question, but rather that the very idea of sitting down in an M3 and thinking about whether it launches more like a trebuchet or a catapult is ludicrous. But if that's the case, why include this sentence in the review?

Sitting forward of the front wheels is an all-aluminum, 317lbs., 4.2-liter miracle of human imagination. Yes, it makes 420hp, but so does a Dodge SRT-8. While fun, the Dodge Boys' 6.1-liter Hemi is far from miraculous. The RS4's V8 is nothing short of a revelation.
The Dodge's engine is "far from miraculous", while the RS4's engine is "nothing short of a revelation." What makes an engine miraculous? That Lieberman likes it a lot? Is there a difference between being miraculous and being a revelation? If I test drove an SRT-8, how would I come to understand that the engine was far from miraculous, and what qualities would need to be improved to bring it closer? Miraculousness and being of a relevatory nature aren't useful comparison tools for automobile engines, but just a showy way for Lieberman to say that he likes the RS4 engine much better.

In reviewing a product, an expert's goal is (should be) to illustrate features of the product that distinguish it positively and negatively from competing products. This review fails at that task almost completely.
posted by Kwine at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


see also BBC show : Top Gear
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 11:38 AM on November 1, 2006


In reviewing a product, an expert's goal is (should be) to illustrate features of the product that distinguish it positively and negatively from competing products. This review fails at that task almost completely.

What? What are you talking about?

The purpose of writing a product review is for the (poorly-paid) writer to get his hands on something that he would never be able to afford otherwise.

Thus we have high-end travel reviews (really, do people who pay $450 a night for a hotel room read reviews?), high-end car reviews, high-end restraunt reviews (see previous parenthetical comment), etc.

No one will decide whether or not to buy a RS4 because of some review. But it will let some poor journo drive one for a day.
posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2006


Kwine, maybe he calls the RS4 engine miraculous because it gets the same 420hp that the Dodge engine gets but does so with a displacement of only 4.2L while the Dogde requires 6.1L. But then again, I know nothing about cars, so I thought this review was great at conveying a qualitative sense of the car. IMHO that's what a review should do. After all, how can you really quantitatively describe an experience like driving a sportscar?
posted by reformedjerk at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2006


GuyZero, I understand now. Stay tuned for my reviews of ravenous flings with white hot celebrities!
posted by Kwine at 12:00 PM on November 1, 2006


He suggests, but doesn't state outright, that the RS4 engine has a lot more torque than the Dodge.
posted by Malor at 1:10 PM on November 1, 2006


You know, you can write blogs all you want, but when your blog gets you access to cars like this -- that's the kind of blogging I can get behind. Very exciting writing for a very exciting car. Applause, applause.

but really, 11mpg? holy gee.
posted by davejay at 1:10 PM on November 1, 2006


After the apex, the RS4 can blast sideways with such force that you will swear you are piloting violence.

I don't know much for cars, but I love this line.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2006


After all, how can you really quantitatively describe an experience like driving a sportscar?

With numbers: 0-60mph times, 1/4 mile times, slalom times, skidpad metrics, etc.

But the more I explore sportscars, the more I realize that the numbers only tell part of the story. I mean, a modern minivan can beat a classic sportscar (say, Porsche 356 or Jaguar XKE *) in every single performance category, but it's just no fun to drive -- and it's not a sportscar.

Aesthetics count for more than some of us care to admit. (I'm looking at you, 5-years-ago self...)

* If you want a real sportscar magazine, check out Grassroots Motorsports. It's by no means as glamorous as Car & Driver or Automobile, or as colorfully written as TFA, but it does a better job at diving past the marketing and image into what really is important in driving a sporting car in a sporting manner -- alignment settings, tire pressures, the sort of boring stuff that can transform an understeering pig of a car into a joy to drive. FWIW, there's a back issue that includes the minivan vs. 356/XKE test; I couldn't find the article online.
posted by LordSludge at 1:29 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Stay tuned for my reviews of ravenous flings with white hot celebrities!

So, I have this friend who took the "magazine" stream at journalism school. He claims that the entire class in the "broadcast" stream is attractive 20-year-old women who all want to be the next host of "E! Talk Daily". The strategy of becoming a very minor celebrity by simply "reviewing" celebrities is actually pretty popular.

This car review was 807 words. Who here would say no to the opportunity to drive an RS4 for a day in exchange for 807 words?
posted by GuyZero at 1:38 PM on November 1, 2006


These reviews by this guy and Jeremy Clarkson are primarily entertainment. If you want impartial information, Consumer Reports is a good place to start.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:30 PM on November 1, 2006


In reviewing a product, an expert's goal is (should be) to illustrate features of the product that distinguish it positively and negatively from competing products. This review fails at that task almost completely.

Kwine, you must be a hoot at parties. You've described a Consumer Report buyer guide, i.e. car reviews for people who don't care about cars.

The point of this kind of car review is to describe, to other car nuts, the dominant experience of driving the subject. In this, the RS4 review (and others by this author) succeeds with room to spare.

When I hear you conversing with your stamp-collecting friends, I'll be sure to point out that stamps should only be evaluated on their ability to effectively transport a letter.
posted by Tubes at 2:47 PM on November 1, 2006


I caught this thanks to Jalopnik. Check out their coverage in three parts. Similar conclusions, more skantily-clad models.

Also, let me be the first to point out that BMWs are a poor comparison for the RS4. Yes, that gearbox may be *yawn* fancy and the engine makes enough torque to reverse the planetary spin *sigh* but they're all far too ugly to look at with the naked eye. Seriously, you'll get gangrene from the reflection in your rearview at half a mile.
posted by Skorgu at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2006


My god.

Being able to appreciate reviews like this is the payoff I get for putting in the work to understand cars.

It's going to be painful to drive my sickly little Protege tomorrow.
posted by hippugeek at 4:29 PM on November 1, 2006


I like this guy's style. I hadn't heard of him before so thanks for that SharQ. As I read through his reviews though, I have to say, I'll still take Clarkson. Not to take anything away anything from Jonny Lieberman who definitely has the ability to turn a great phrase. But Clarkson is willing to tell us in great gory detail what it is he doesn't like. American car reviewers tend to pussy foot around cars that suck. Clarkson doesn't.
posted by quin at 5:37 PM on November 1, 2006


True. Look at what happens whenever he reviews a Vauxhall... which, as I understand, he's not allowed to do anymore by some sort of a legal agreement between Vauxhall and Top Gear.
posted by clevershark at 6:09 PM on November 1, 2006


Top Gear is a fantastic show, and I'm about as far from a car enthusiast as one can be.
posted by joedan at 6:38 PM on November 1, 2006


I've tried reading TTAC before. The writing style seems frothy and entertaining in short bursts or excerpts, but it gets tired after a couple of pages, and grating after a couple of articles.

Plus I've never understood all the drool that gets spilled over ultra-expensive versions of any given X. I'm sure the zillion-dollar X is a blast, but for the money, well, it frickin' better be. Money is the ultimate building material, after all. But there's nothing terribly impressive about it.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2006


Hey, that was pretty good reading. I'd subscribe to the TTAC RSS feed, but I don't want to really plow through N stories a day just to get to the occasional Jonny Lieberman piece. If anyone knows away to just get a feed of his writing, I'd love to hear it.

As much as I want an Audi, they seem to enjoy spending a lot of time in the shop from what I've heard.

Nah, mine is rarely in the shop, because I've given up on trying to fix all the broken stuff. When your neat-o liquid crystal autodimming mirror breaks, guess what oozes down onto the radio console? Who needs a functional cruise control? Pray your motor mounts stay in one piece, 'cause no mechanic will be able to diagnose the problem for three years. Ah, well, it's got a killer clutch.

It wouldn't bother me too much to spend $80k (or whatever) on a car like this if only it were as reliable as a Nissan or Honda.

Yeah, I wish. Alas, with Asian cars these days, either I can't fit my 6'2" frame in it or they don't do manual shift. Lexus, you suck. I still miss my old Civic sometimes.

"[for car reviews] Consumer Reports is a good place to start."
"my Lancer is paid for"


Ha! Thanks for that. And thanks SharQ for the post. OK, dammit, I'll subscribe to the whole feed ...
posted by intermod at 8:33 PM on November 1, 2006


The point of this kind of car review is to describe, to other car nuts, the dominant experience of driving the subject. In this, the RS4 review (and others by this author) succeeds with room to spare.

Tubes: well said.

In reviewing a product, an expert's goal is (should be) to illustrate features of the product that distinguish it positively and negatively from competing products. This review fails at that task almost completely.

Kwine: I just don't get this. The author wrote in such a way as to evoke the feeling of what it was like to drive the car. It doesn't fail at all; rather it's a tour de force. Do you want to live in a world where great, evocative and clever writing is supplanted by a Consumer Reports dry listing of features and horsepower? Really?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:10 PM on November 1, 2006


This is the Jonny Lieberman of ruthlessreviews.com. He overwrites, but he's a funny guy.
check out the forum also.
posted by joseppi7 at 11:11 PM on November 1, 2006


True. Look at what happens whenever he reviews a Vauxhall... which, as I understand, he's not allowed to do anymore by some sort of a legal agreement between Vauxhall and Top Gear.
clevershark

I don't think this is true - I worked for GME UK (Vauxhall) during the period when Clarkson had nothing good at all to say about Vauxhall and the buzz around a new launch always centred around what Jeremy was going to make of the new car.

The marketing department even had a board on the wall which was pinned with paper copies of Clarkson's latest diatribes.

I remember vaguely that a Japanese car company in the UK had resisted allowing Clarkson to test drive their car before launch day, because of bad reviews, but the people at GME seemed almost gleeful to get another kicking from Top Gear, which is probably the right way to deal with it.
posted by Mr Bismarck at 4:34 AM on November 2, 2006


ernie writes "As much as I want an Audi, they seem to enjoy spending a lot of time in the shop from what I've heard. It wouldn't bother me too much to spend $80k (or whatever) on a car like this if only it were as reliable as a Nissan or Honda."

What the heck is the point of a sportscar you aren't rebuilding $5 at a time?
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2006


Do you want to live in a world where great, evocative and clever writing is supplanted by a Consumer Reports dry listing of features and horsepower?

False dilemma. I want to live in a world in which great, evocative, and clever writing is used to transmit actual useful information about the car in question. I don't think that's too much to ask, and as a long time C&D subscriber, that's generally what I get.

*returns to his stamp collecting, non-hoot-at-parties, non-ravenous-flings-with-celebrities, sad and lonely lifestyle*
posted by Kwine at 8:24 AM on November 2, 2006


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