Shenanigans! Muscle Car Comparisons More Marketing Than Comparo

OK, we're calling bullshit on the muscle car "comparisons" being run by everyone from MotorTrend to Popular Mechanics. Sorry, but it ain't a real comparison until you've run 'em in one place at one time.

We always thought a comparison was just that — all the cars equipped as equally as possible, with the same driver, tested in the same place, at the same time and with the same environmental conditions. Especially in a segment like Muscle Cars, where it's all about the numbers. The problem with all of these "comparisons" is none of the outlets actually tested the new 2010 Chevy Camaro alongside the 2010 Ford Mustang alongside the 2009 Dodge Challenger in the same place and at the same time for all of their testing.

Some are up front about it in the text of their reviews. Popular Mechanics, for one, says clearly:

"...this test was unlike most of our comparisons. It was a logistical puzzle that involved testing a Camaro SS in Detroit and running numbers on the Mustang GT and Challenger R/T in California. Timing was so tight, and the Camaro SS was in such high demand, we had less than three short hours to gather all three manual transmission cars together in the same place at the same time. So we were unable to compare the real-world fuel economy of the three or perform our usual handling tests. But we did manage to test the more expensive Dodge Challenger SRT8 in Michigan too, just to see if Dodge's quickest could take on the Camaro."

Edmunds does too, even going so far as to blame GM for being draconian in access to the cars:

"Unfortunately, nobody told GM. No production examples of the 2010 Chevy Camaro SS exist yet, and these circumstances dictated that our driving time was split between two preproduction cars: a red 2SS we tested at GM's Milford Proving Grounds to provide all the go-fast numbers, and an identically equipped but silver 2SS we evaluated on the streets of Southern California (pictures of both are included).

Unlike the Camaro, the Challenger and the Mustang were put through our battery of tests at our usual facility in SoCal, but as you can see from the photos, we spent the better part of a foggy cool day north of San Diego driving all three cars back-to-back."

Then there's Motor Trend. They're not entirely clear on what went on with their vehicles...saying on page one of their clickgasmic ten page story:

"So...we proudly present our exclusive, first-ever, side-by-side-by-side comparison of the new Chevrolet Camaro SS, the Dodge Challenger R/T, and the Ford Mustang GT. All the numbers, all our driving impressions...just one winner."

But MT doesn't explain in detail that there's something a bit off in normal testing procedures until page three:

"We gathered all three players together in the lightly traveled, serpentine hill country east of San Diego. Armed with a full battery of track numbers, courtesy of an instrumented test conducted just three hours earlier in Detroit and beamed to us via BlackBerry and iPhone by technical director Frank Markus, our comparo team — editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie, senior editor Ed Loh, and yours truly — strapped in, kicked the spurs into our pony trio, and galloped into the twisties."

Even then, they don't actually say that the 'stang and Challenger weren't track-tested in Detroit with the Camaro. To be fair, MT, like the rest of the comparo-crazy mainstreamers, did get a chance to drive all three of the vehicles back-to-back-to-back in sunny SoCal, so we don't draw into question the road impressions. But it's a far cry to make the leap from road impressions all at once and with the same driver for car-to-car photo sessions to doing instrumented testing in the same place and at the same time — something every muscle car-crazed enthusiast wants to see more than any other story.

But these discrepancies aren't stopping all of them from marketing the hell out of their stories as actual comparisons despite the fact it's basically just a run-down of close-to-approximate instrumented tests — a story no different than the one we ran last week. So we really got to hand it to the "mainstream media" — they've learned from us blogs, sensationalizing a story that, basically, we'd already beaten them to the punch on. Mazel Tov guys, y'all are learning. Look at you, we're so proud you're becoming all grown up!

But the really funny thing is we were once told by a certain buff book editor (Cough! Cough! Dutch. Cough! Cough! AutoEveryOtherWeek. Cough! ) that the reason print media was better than internet auto media was print media had their "asses properly calibrated to review cars." The comment was perplexing to us and initially we thought it meant something about print media having the ability to ingest larger quantities of free food at press events to better simulate real American rear ends. But that didn't make sense. Now what we think he meant was that print media's more experienced (re: much older) than internet media. While I may disagree with that assertion as there are quite a few internet-only media with more years of experience and seat time in their niche areas than almost anyone in print (Example: Mike Levine at PickupTrucks.com). I have to say, after reading through these "comparisons," I'm now a little worried about who now has their asses appropriately calibrated to be doing comparisons. At least not the type of comparisons real muscle car enthusiasts are looking for — a test that equalizes as much as possible by putting all three 'merican muscle cars in the same place, at the same time and with the same driver. But we guess this just means there's still one more exclusive out there to be had on the new Camaro. We'll be interested to see which publication gets it first.

Photo Credit: Popular Mechanics