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Benefits of back-to-back testing

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On the wings of the Automotive Journalist’s Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Test Fest, I was once again reminded of the very important and necessary activity of back-to-back test drives.

As an auto journalist, I’m always asked the same questions. I’ve come to accept them over the years thanks to my profession: “What’s your favourite car?” “Your least favourite?” “How do I do what you do?” and most often, “What should my next car be?” followed up with, “And can you help me make the right choice?”

Well, short of telling a few people precisely what they should buy (my father comes to mind here, and for once he listened and is now the proud owner of a Jetta TDI, but I digress), I usually give a list of 3-4 vehicles based on criteria I’ve been provided with.

Then I tell them to test drive the top three vehicles. On the same day. Back-to-back. One after the other.

To this I usually receive half nods, possibly an eye roll or excuses about how much time it would take or how far apart the dealers are.

To that I say: Make it work. I don’t care how, but make it work. And if you can’t, let us do a bit of the legwork for you.

A few weeks ago, I spent five days driving cars from all walks of vehicular status back-to-back. Categorized by vehicle segment and price, I was meant to score the vehicles I drove. Without driving them back-to-back with their direct competition, I never would have been able to properly score each vehicle. Nuances would have been lost. Small differences would have gone unnoticed. That’s the beauty of the same-day test drive.

Here at Auto123.com we don’t just put together comparison drives because we like the stress of organizing that many vehicles at one time; we do it because we know how difficult same-day testing can be for the average consumer, and we also understand how important they are.

Purchasing a car is no small thing. You’re dropping a great deal of cash on one item, and that item has to last you for at least a few years. Assuming you’re going to use said product every single day, you also have to kind of like it (at least a little), and unless you can truly measure it up against its closest competition, how will you know you’ve made the right decision?

Even spacing out test drives by a few days isn’t always a good idea. Our minds can play some serious tricks on us, especially when emotions come into play. You may have spent years dreaming about owning a MAZDASPEED3, and when you finally drive it you hate the throttle response. A few days later, you drive the Ford Fiesta ST and think to yourself, “Wow, this is a great car!” But then you remember your love of the MAZDASPEED3, and even though the Fiesta ST has much better throttle response and overall driving prowess, you drop your $$$ on the Mazda because your emotions clouded your memories.

While emotions play a key role in vehicle purchases, they can’t be the deciding factor which is where back-to-back testing comes into play, so that little voice of reason can pipe up.

TestFest 2013
Photo: Miranda Lightstone