If you’re buying a new car, it makes sense to test drive it first. So, how easy is it to try the model you want before parting with your cash? Posing as potential buyers, we approached 48 dealers from six big brands to find out how far they’d go to help.
The six brands we chose were Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, and Volkswagen. In each case, we chose a car that was not the standard model, but is available in a specification that fundementally alters the driving experience. The sort of the thing that a test drive is there to discern; things such as automatic gearbox options, adaptive ride control or four-wheel drive versions of cars available with two-wheel drive as standard.
The days of visiting a showroom to learn about a car are pretty much over, due to the amount of information that’s available in magazines and on websites. What you do want from your local dealer, though, is the chance to confirm your opinion before buying with a test drive.
Judging by our experience here, the car industry is doing a pretty poor job of delivering that. In a way, the manufacturers haven’t helped themselves by offering so many possible specs for every model. However, that isn’t an excuse for not having more of the more likely choices available. More worrying still is the dismissive attitude of many sales staff.
We intend to revisit this story in 2014, to find out if the manufacturers’ mainly constructive reaction to it has resulted in any improvement.