Cars are a big part of Southern California life and culture. That’s stating the obvious. But how do we know the cars we buy and drive really match the performance promised by manufacturers and dealers in television commercials and showroom sales pitches?

Enter the automobile critic. It’s his or her job to get behind the wheel of new cars  and see if the vehicles match their marketing hype. Does the $200,000 sports car really go from 0 to 60 in under five seconds? How good are the brakes on that vehicle being advertised as family-friendly? And does a new-fangled hybrid car really get the tremendous miles-per-gallon promised by the manufacturer?

KCRW recently got some behind-the-wheel insights into the world of automotive journalism. We were invited by Ed Loh, the editor-in-chief of Motor Trend, to see new cars being driven and put through their paces by the magazine’s editors and drivers.

We met the Motor Trend team at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. That’s where they regularly, and rigorously, tests all kinds of cars, from sleek and snarling exotics that cost more than most people make in a year to easy on the budget economy cars promising practicality over performance.

Buckle up and listen to our story below. You can also see photos of our day with the guys from Motor Trend.

 

 

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Motor Trend writers and drivers gather about once a week at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The venue’s big and empty parking lots on weekday mornings offer the perfect place to safely test speed and handling.

 

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A car during acceleration tests as a Motor Trend cameraman shoots the run for the magazine’s website.

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The cars tested by Motor Trend get weighed and inspected  before they’re driven on the track.

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Cars tested by Motor Trend are outfitted with GPS sensors to provide  precise information about speed and handling. Here Motor Trend staffers  review data from a test drive.

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Motor Trend editor-in-chef Ed Loh walks us through the engine of an Aston Martin Vanquish. He says few magazines can afford to test cars the way Motor Trend does because of the expensive of equipment and driver training.

 

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