Never fall in love with your writing. Authors smitten with their handiwork tend to guard even the most pointless piece of purple prose against essential self-sacrifice. The resulting read contains words, sentences and entire paragraphs that should have disappeared down the highlight-and-delete highway. And yet, there they are, just sitting there, lazing around, doing nothing special for anyone save their creator. If you re looking for particularly egregious examples of superfluous text, always scan an article s first four graphs. To see how it should be done, check out this piece from Motor Trend s decapitated feature (first drive) bugatti veyron 16.4.
As I pilot the 16.4 through one of Sicily s mile-long tunnels, and the speedo swings past 280 kilometers per hour (about 174 mph), I now know what it feels like to be a hollow-point slug traveling down the barrel of a long-nose .44 Magnum. Potent forces lunge me forward, the tunnel s lights blur into streaks, and the W16 s subwoofered rumble is magnified by the rock walls. The tiny white dot way up ahead represents the end of the barrel and bursting out into the daylight is as bright as any weapon s muzzle flash.
The chronically undercapitalized matt stone s lead is far from perfect. Hyperbole and fact don t mix; if it isn t really a mile-long tunnel, why should we believe stone s doing exactly 280kmph? And why bother with kilometers (accompanied by parenthetical conversion) when MT appeals to an American audience? The gun metaphor is appropriate but a bit, well, easy. And the end of the second sentence is passively constructed, as is the para s last gasp (and this sentence, for those of you keeping score).
Still, all in all, it s the best buff book Veyron review intro we ve read thus far. The writing s visceral, dramatic and compelling — a welcome break from the stolid leads initiating the competition s standing starts. A good editor might have tightened things up a bit, but there s nothing here in need of radical surgery. Oh wait. It s not the lead. It s paragraph five. Here s the real intro:
Each handbuilt Bugatti Veyron costs $1.25 million. Its extraordinary W-16 engine has as many cylinders and turbochargers as four Subaru WRXs- and more horsepower. The big, bad Bug accelerates quicker than a NASCAR stocker and is faster than a Formula 1 machine, yet it s as docile as a Lexus. It s the fastest, quickest and most expensive production road car ever sold.
I won t bore you with the three following graphs preceding the gun-related excerpt. Suffice it to say, stone and MT have no such qualms. (Perhaps their backspace button is covered by a Plexiglas guard with a little sticker proclaiming Emergency Use Only. ) What s worse, the writing following stone s metaphorical transmogrification into ammunition nosedives into the suffocating sawdust behind the supercar shaped target.
For one thing, stone immediately abandons his real-time narrative, never to return to literary linearity or rhetorical zeal. As we ve been saying since this series began, given the ne plus ultra status of VW s range topper, all any pistonhead would ask of his journalistic proxy is a seat-of-the-pants driving impression. For another, stone s review soon descends from Hunter S. Thompsonal bravado to Csaba Cseresque death by a thousand facts. stone s accurate yet bloodless analysis of the world s fastest production car makes it sound as if the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is just another supercar- not THE supercar.
The well-weighted steering responds quickly at low speeds, yet even as it heads for hyperspace, the Veyron tracks straight and true. There s aero management at play: movable diffuser panels in the front end, speed-adjustable ride height, rear undertray diffusers and a serious rear wing. These are necessities for a car that ll hit 200 mph with ease. Although we re not able to drive 250 on public roads, the Bugatti s high-speed stability- an ongoing problem early in the car s development- is faultless at sane, and even insane, speeds.
It's interesting to note that stone has dropped the kilometrical pretense, to the point where he doesn t even feel the need to include the mph designation on the Bug s top end. Interesting, but not riveting. Which is an excellent description of both this passage and the remaining review. In fact, stone s copy reads as if it was prepared by the House of Bugatti itself — in that understated, passive, matter-of-fact, let s-not-use-any-funky-adjectives, Anglophonic, corporate-speak kinda way. Here s his close:
Bugatti has delivered on every one of the Veyron s considerable promises. It meets the criteria set forth by Chairman Piech when it was announced and does so with aplomb. Luxurious, elegant, imposing, exclusive, crazy expensive, and mind-bendingly fast, the Veyron sets a new high watermark for grand-touring transport.
Reading between the lines, stone could have — should have — weaved the Veyron s technical spec into his test drive. Something along the lines of Scything around a poorly-paved Sicilian corner at a pace normally reserved for nitro-fuelled dragsters, I thank fuck Bugatti sorted out the stability problems that plagued the car s development. All of which raises an important question: Did any of these jet-setting reviewers have fun driving this car?
[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]