The focus of our Reviews
The focus of Driving Feel is to find used cars that are lots of fun to drive, regardless of price. There are tons of magazines, printed and online, that review all of the new cars out there. But many, if not most, driving and car enthusiasts cannot afford the latest iteration of “great drivers car”. But there are so many other, depreciated, and much more affordable used cars out there that are truly fun to drive. There are very few things that can rival the joy one finds from driving a well balanced car through some twisty roads on a Sunday Afternoon. The sound of the exhaust echoing off the canyon walls, the feel of the steering wheel as you carve around your favorite hairpin turn. All done safely and legally… and it should be done affordably.
There are many more “seasoned” drivers who can afford the latest in exotic sports cars, but if our love and passion is to be passed down from generation to generation, it needs to be within the reach of the young driver. They need to be shown the proper way to heel-toe, how to safely enjoy the thrills of sporting driving, because if we do not, the passionate cars will go away. Replaced by automatic driving vehicles that haul us around like public transportation. There is nothing wrong with that, but its those simple driving pleasures that keep us going here at DF, and we do not want those passions to die.
How we Test
Our vehicle reviews are based on the above stated focus, they are not focused on abusing the cars to get the last tenth of a second in acceleration time in the quarter mile, but rather they are based on how the car feels, how fun are they to drive, and how would they score on the Sunday Drive through the mountains test. As such, we focus a lot on the handling and feel of the car and not on the ultimate acceleration. As a part of that, we wanted to include a road course track as a part of every review we do and it should not be focused on a long and high performance road course, but rather a shorter course with the types of turns one might find on a country road. We of course do the standard battery of tests for acceleration and braking, but we do not abusively punish the cars trying to get “everything” out of them, but rather we drive them like they were designed to be driven, but also not going overboard, much like you would do if you owned the car.
All of the measurements are doing using the industry standard VBox data recorder and the video footage of the road course laps are done with a Video VBox and GOPro’s when we feel creative.
Each test includes the following:
- Acceleration: Our acceleration tests include a 0-60mph test which tests the ability for a car to launch as well as maintain initial acceleration, kind of a stop light to stop light acceleration test. But because launching a car is difficult, we include the 5-60mph acceleration times as this takes the launch out of the picture and is probably a more accurate representation of vehicle performance. We also include the results of the 1/4 mile only because everyone wants to see it.
- Handling: The handling of a car can be difficult to measure as it involves so many different aspects of the car. For our measured tests, we include a 200 ft skid pad to measure the sustained max lateral acceleration averaged over a full 360 degree rotation. We do this going both clockwise and counter clockwise and then average those two scores. We also note the handling balance of the car in terms of under or oversteer and by how much. This typically is pretty boring as most car manufacturers design their car setups with understeer as this is the safer alternative. We decided against using a slalom course but elected instead to go with a timed lap for the road course to display the dynamic handling abilities of the car in a more real world scenario.
- Efficiency: We are not overly concerned about efficiency, but with the continued rising price of gas, we thought we should include a measure MPG number for our 120 mile drive over to the road course.
- Braking: We measure the braking distance from 60-0 mph and with a modern car with anti-lock braking system (ABS), this is purely just a panic stop; get to 60+ MPH and stomp on the brakes until the car stops. For older cars with no ABS, it takes a little bit more skill trying to brake as hard as possible without locking up the brakes. We do the brake tests both directions and average the distance.
- Overall Performance: We feel that the best measure of overall performance is done on a road course which is why we had to include it as part of our testing procedure. The track we use is based in Helena Montana and is a 1.2 mile road course that is fairly short and sweet. It has some tight turns and some higher speed turns and some more technical areas as well. The track is used by several law enforcement agencies for training as well as an occasional SCCA event. It may not be as fancy as many of the very high-end and expensive tracks out there, but it serves our purposes great.
How we Score
We grade, subjectively, a number of various elements as they relate to the “driving feel” of a car. These are all graded on a score of 1-10 and include the following:
- Steering Feel: How the steering as a whole feels when driving the car.
- Steering Wheel: An overall score for the steering wheel, this may include things such as the shape of the wheel itself, how does it feel in your hand, how does it look.
- Steering Weight: How heavy is the steering weighted. Typically if the weight is too light it is difficult to precisely control the car and to know what is going on, but if it is too heavy, it can be too burdensome. We look for the perfect balance.
- Steering Feedback: What information is being transmitted from the wheels to the drivers hands. Cars that give lots of feedback are easier to control at the limits and will typically score high.
- Pedal Arrangement: How well are the pedal’s arranged, especially when it comes to a manual transmission. Are they perfectly aligned for heel-toeing, are they mounted to high or low, is the area to cramped, etc.
- Shift Feel: For manual transmission cars, how is the shift mechanism? Is it precise, does each shift ‘snick’ into place, is there tons of slop, etc. For Automatic transmissions it refers to the manual shifting mechanism for when you are driving for fun. Easy of use, quickness of shifts, etc.
- Sound: How does the car sound? Does the sound of the car driving by stir your soul or leave you wondering if it was electric powered? The sound from inside the cabin weighs equally as important as well.
- Ride Performance: Many car enthusiasts prefer a car that rides with some extra stiffness as it allows them to feel the road through the seat of their pants. This is what this score reflects.
- Ride Comfort: For the other side of the ride coin, many drivers, even enthusiasts, prefer that the ride be compliant and smooth without harshness. This score reflects how comfortable the ride is.
- Driver Ergonomics: This score is a direct reflection on how well the engineers treat the driver. At Driving Feel we only care about the driver for our scores and if the car can accommodate the driver perfectly, it will score high.
- Seats: The seats are a critical part of the performance car experience. Wonderfully seats that are a work of art to look at, a joy to sit in, and hold the driver firmly in place, will score great.
The Driving Feel Scores
Each of our vehicle reviews include three different final scores as well as the individual scores. These scores combine the individual scores using our own formula to come up with an overall DF score. These three different scores are explained here:
- DF Score (Standard): This is the overall score we awarded the car for its overall driving feel, or pleasure. It takes into account all of the steering scores, pedal and shifting score, the sound, performance ride, and the seats. Typically these are the areas the matter when a driver is out on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the drive.
- DF Score (Performance): Of course, there are those enthusiasts that base their car loving and buying decision based on the performance of the car, price is no object. This score takes into account all the steering categories, pedals, shifting and seats and then also takes into account how well the car performed on the road course versus what we defined as the baseline for a lap time around our 1.2 mile road course. So if the car was faster around the track than the baseline, then the score will be adjusted up, if it was slower, the score will be adjusted down.
- DF Score (Value): Unfortunately, we all cannot afford to buy whatever car we want and price becomes an important factor in our buying decisions. As such, this score takes into account all of our individual scores from all categories and then adjusts that score based on the available purchase price of the car versus our baseline price. If the car is cheaper than the baseline, then this score will be adjusted up, if it is more expensive, then the score is adjusted down.
In extreme cases, the performance and value DF scores could exceed 10, though this should be fairly rare.