And the winner is…
You should have heard The Debate. “Debates”, actually. There were several of them this month, but this one was particularly vociferous and markedly impassioned, with the CAR team split into two clear camps. Lines were drawn in the sand, sleeves rolled up and even the odd finger jabbed in the air.
The subject? Cars naturally, but focused on two distinct models – the new Lexus IS350 and BMW 335i. A little background to the debate requires some insight into our road-test process, which is thus: a press vehicle is delivered to us, it’s then assigned to a CAR writer and he or she makes sure the rest of the team spend at least one day each with said car. We then score it on a CAR evaluation sheet before sitting together and discussing the vehicle’s merits and shortcomings. The originally assigned staffer then goes off and writes the piece. It’s a process evolved over the years by successive CAR teams and we believe it results in the most balanced and fair assessments of a vehicle’s abilities.
The subject of a road test this month is that Lexus (page 94) and, as we do, the story includes a match-up with its nearest rivals. Which is where The Debate arose. Once again, Toyota’s premium sub-brand has launched a new challenger in the compact-executive category, a segment long dominated by the Teutonic Trio. This time, Lexus has a car that genuinely competes on every level. So much so that when it came to deciding whether we would recommend it above similarly powered Germans, the CAR team was split on which vehicle would take it.
It was a discussion that flared up several times over the week, with neither camp willing to back down. There was eventually some consensus and I won’t give the game away here – you’ll need to work for that and flip to the page – but I think The Debate does illustrate a significant point.
Within a motoring niche, there’s often very little that distinguishes contenders. The modern car is a superbly engineered machine and there are not many obviously bad examples out there. That’s a good thing. Yes, it does make our job of providing a considered opinion a tough one, but we do have a pretty good – although often fiery – system in place to make sure we come out with an equitable and balanced verdict.