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Comparing the Car Magazines: British Invasion Edition

Posted in auto industry, Car Reviews, Cars, General by Dustin May | September 17th, 2009 | Leave a Reply |

They Write About Cars, We Write About Them!


I’m on a mission. I want to get a subscription to a car magazine, but I don’t know which one to get. I asked friends, but got a different answer from each one. So, I decided to just get an issue or two of each and read them. Then, based on what I read and the subscription price, I would decide on one. So you, my faithful readers, will get to benefit from all of my hard reading.

The British Mags

What would have happened if the Beatles had never broken up? Would they have survived Lennon’s death? What would it be like if they were still touring today? Would they have different personalities, yet be very much the same? Would they have a reality TV show?

Just like a mythical modern day Beatles, the British magazines are in some ways different, and in many ways very much the same.


If our group of British magazines is the Beatles, then Car is Paul McCartney. The most consistently good magazine of the three, Car blends the lovable characteristics of Car and Driver (read our Car and Driver review here) with British wit and humour. In the August 2009 edition, Car had a prolific catalog of first drives followed up by a hit column about Ben Oliver’s father and Fangio. A super-comparison of 200 mph roadsters gets the heart thumping, then keeps the music coming with an article on the Moss McLaren Mercedes. A better rendition than that in Automobile (read our Automobile review here).

Car produces hit after hit. More subdued than the raucousness of Top Gear, but more in your face than Evo, this is a great magazine. An all-around fun read that won’t let you down.

News Stand Price: $10.50 US, $13.95 Canada
Subscription Price: £80 (about $132) Non-EU
Written Pages/Total Pages: 114/178
Market Focus: General automotive

Readability: A – Very well laid out with fantastic photography
Information Value: A – A lot of information is packed into this magazine
Entertainment Value: A – If you can pick up on dry British humor, you’ll enjoy this one

Website: www.carmagazine.co.uk


While Evo isn’t quite the “quiet Beatle”, it is definitely more subdued in demeanor than the others. Like George Harrison, Evo seeks to broaden the racing horizons of it’s readers. An article on the history of Maserati and 1984 Ford RS200 in the April 2009 edition along with the Evo Grand Challenge series provide a car magazine experience closer to that of Road and Track (read our Road and Track review here), and less like those with a general automotive focus.

Don’t discount Evo, though. While Evo isn’t quite as brash or unorthodox as the others, it is a very fun magazine to read – especially if you have a passion for motorsports other than NASCAR. The writers definitely still burn with a passion for cars, and with a focus on supercars and performance cars it would be hard not to. Evo is consistently a good magazine to pick up.

News Stand Price: $10.99 US
Subscription Price: $99 US
Written Pages/Total Pages: 109/178
Market Focus: Supercars, performance cars, and motorsports

Readability: B – Well laid out, except the “Ask the Experts” feature is buried with the advertisements
Information Value: A – There is a lot of information here, but not the same information as the others
Entertainment Value: A- – If you enjoy motorsports and are focused on performance machines, read Evo

Website: www.evo.co.uk

Top Gear

In our Beatles analogy, this magazine would be Ringo Starr. Talented, and occasionally takes the lead, but sometimes it just hangs out in the background making a lot of noise. The July 2009 issue of Top Gear is one of those times where it takes the lead. Packed with hilarious columns by Jeremy Clarkson and others, a plethora of car reviews and comparisons – including a comparison of the Caterham Roadsport 175 and the Caterham Superlight R300 – as well as several articles teasing the then-upcoming Season 13 of Top Gear on TV, it strings together a series of hits and bangs into a loud and fun drum solo. The magazine is packed with goodness.

There’s a problem, though. The issue I read for this article is fantastic. You meet a guy who buys surplus military Land Rovers, then reconditions them for the UK armed forces. The reviews are no-holds barred, and the language colorful. However, Top Gear is not consistent. Like Ringo, Top Gear took the lead this month, but may fade into the background next month.

News Stand Price: $10.99 US
Subscription Price: £92 (about $152) US
Written Pages/Total Pages: 99/258
Market Focus: General automotive

Readability: B – Some sections (i.e. Metal) are too busy in the layout, but the photography is great
Information Value: A – A lot of information is packed into this magazine
Entertainment Value: A+ – Freaking hilarious

Website: www.topgear.com/uk

The Long and Winding Road

So, here we are. Maybe it was right that the Beatles broke up. Maybe three great musicians standing on their own is better than those same three existing as a group. One of those times where the parts are greater than the sum.

Speaking of sums, it will cost you a tidy bit of cash to subscribe to any one of these. In fact, if you have a news stand near you that carries them, it is actually cheaper, in general, to pay the news stand price than to get a subscription. While all of these are great and fun magazines, I’m not sure they warrant a $130 a year commitment when the US magazines are all around $10 a year for a subscription. Like listening to the Beatles music, I may reserve these for a special treat, and not my every day commode material.

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