Ninety years. That's how long this publication has been road testing cars.
The Autocar was the very first motoring magazine to use a standardised series of tests to deliver a verdict, and over nine decades later, we're still doing it. Things have changed since those early days, of course. Over the next week, we'll be looking at what's changed, and what we can expect from future road tests.
Autocar's early road testers are unfortunately no longer with us, but some of the magazine's more recent alumni have shared their memories to help us celebrate.
“I was a bit surprised to find myself going backwards at 100mph. One moment I was steering the Nissan Maxima gently left onto the wet asphalt apron at the end of Millbrook’s mile straight, the next I was fast reversing towards a steep grass bank, bracing for impact...
“An impact that was thankfully soft. I got right to the top of the 30ft bank, the wipers gave a flick, I breathed a sigh of relief – and then gravity asserted itself and we started back down on the wet grass. The Maxima nosed heavily into a French drain and was stuck but, incredibly, unscathed. The recovery truck driver said as much, before adding ‘we found this on the driver’s seat’ and presenting me with a sizeable turd that was, in fact, part of the soil sample the Maxima’s tailpipes had made on impact and chugged out on the way back down.”
“Tyres tests were an Autocar regular in the early 2000s and as a junior road tester, I was tasked with taking a Ford Transit full of fresh rubber to Michelin’s Ladoux track in the middle of France in preparation.
“Naively/stupidly taking as read Chris Harris’s dubious assertion that I’d easily be able to get there, dump the tyres and get back to Teddington in a day, I set off for France with no spare clothes, no hotel and, this being 2002, no smartphone to book one. By the time I’d arrived, the facility was closed and I spent the night driving back and forth between autoroute toll booths to stay warm.
“Years later as road test ed I made up for it, sending my rookie to deliver the rubber and then flogging the lot to a part-worn tyre dealer three weeks later.”
“It's May 1994. The McLaren F1 Autocar was testing sat before me, V12 ticking as it cooled on a remote Welsh road. At the time, road test supremo Andrew Frankel said the magazine would never run figures on a faster car (he hadn’t anticipated the Bugatti Veyron). The F1’s 627bhp magnificence could reach 100mph in 6.3sec and top out at 240mph, and 25 years ago it cost a staggering £627,000 (we also didn’t anticipate that today you won’t get change from £11 million if you want a good one).