If you’re a subscriber to one of the mass circulation gearhead mags you’ve probably noted that they’re going a lot easier on your long suffering mail carriers backs these days. I get a couple as freebies and am a paid subscriber to a few more like Motorcycle Consumer News, and most all of them are gettin’ thinner, especially the ad portions. And while I don’t miss the ads, they pay the freight… Despite what the online edition of whatever paper you read claims, typically advertisers provide far more revenue than subscribers.

And then there’s this thing called the internet, where any idiot, even this one, can set up there own blog or even website and fanboy or grrrl to the highest bidder. Being retired I don’t worry about making money here, but if I were an underemployed gearhead writer I’d probably be looking for a big manufacturer to sponsor this site and keep me fed and sheltered, and maybe even take under the table $$$ to pimp their products. That explains a lot of whats wrong with online gearhead journalism today, as glorified fanboys and a few girls will whore out their .com to the highest bidder. Heck, some of them are the media equivalent of “crack whores”, wafting praise on the newest car, bike, or whatever in hopes of getting invited to the maker’s next press intro/thrash and bash…

That’s quite a letdown from the days of relatively (C&D did pull an issue in the 70s when Porsche complained) unbiased gearhead journalism. When you’ve got a few million dollars of subscription revenue in the bank you can afford to hire great writers, rent track time for objective road testing, and invest in expensive test gear. And with hundreds of thousands of readers, the dead tree gearhead press could stand up to the manufacturers and be objective, and we benefited: it’s nice to be able to show a blowhard Harley owner just how pathetically his bike performs in unbiased objective road tests. Same with the “good old days” 60s supercar addict whose “euphoric recall” prevents him from admitting that his fave 60s supercar is slower in a straight line than a 21st century hot hatch.

The downshot of this is that the gearhead mags are cranking out less road tests, being as track time and test gear is pretty hard to pay for when your subscription and ad revenue is in freefall. Much of the online gearhead journalists are trying to pay the rent, so track time and instrumentation is only a dream for them. And with the power of print motojournalism waning, they become putty for the manufacturers PR people to play with…

And thus, two months after Ford turned loose their ultra hot hatch 350 HP 4 wheel drive Focus RS on the press, I still can’t find an instrumented road test of the car. I suspect Ford made everyone sign an agreement not to do instrumented testing, leaving us to believe Ford’s performance claims. Why? Probably because VW’s competing ultra hot hatch, the 300 HP 4WD Golf R, is a known quantity that several mags have track verified can do 13 second quarter miles and corner at bordering on a G. As long as Ford can keep anyone from publicly revealing quarter mile times, Ford can bask in the myth that it’s 50 extra HP will make their Focus RS superior to the Golf R.

That’ll work for awhile… nonprofits like Consumer Reports and government funded entities like BBC’s Top Gear aren’t so easily manipulated by the manufacturers. Top Gear hasn’t revealed quarter mile times for the Focus RS, but they did drop a little video of a drag race between the Focus RS, Golf R, and Mercedes ultra hot sedan. Looks like the Focus RS and Golf R were evenly matched, while the Mercedes blew ’em both away by a couple lengths. How? The Mercedes is really in a whole different and bigger class and might lose it’s lead in the corners, and the Golf R had an automatic while the Focus RS suffered with a 6 speed manual.

Wha… Yup, the mags that have tested the Golf R in both manual and automated manual (DSG) transmission form found the automatic a bit faster, and the time slips posted in online VW forums agree. The Focus RS’s 50 extra horses simply get interrupted too many times by gearshifts to have any advantage over the Golf R’s 300 consistently delivered horses. Maybe that’s why Ford doesn’t want any road tests results of their new baby gettin’ out, ‘specially since they don’t offer an automatic in the Golf RS…

So enjoy the limelight while you can, Ford… ’til you actually get some Foci RSs built and in owners hands and they take them to the strip. Until that shoe drops, unscrupulous Ford dealers are enjoying “additional dealer markup” on them. Meanwhile, my local VW dealer has two Golf Rs lingering on the lot, and the last Golf R they stocked lingered on that lot for two years. And while going home from the dealer with what looks like your neighbors $20k econobox after getting little change back from $40k could be painful, both these cars will show their rears to sports cars costing twice as much… And thanks to our struggling dead tree gearhead press for giving us the numbers to prove it!

 

 

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