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Video: How Consumer Reports tests cars

Video: How Consumer Reports tests cars

What’s it like coming to work at an office that has a 327-acre automotive test facility pictured just outside your window? We’ll, it’s pretty cool.

We have the largest and most sophisticated independent automobile testing center devoted to the consumer interest anywhere in the world. Situated in rural Connecticut, the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center is where our automotive engineers, technicians, and support staff put all our cars through their paces.

We’re very proud of the fact that we buy, anonymously, all the cars we test—about 80 per year. We all drive them to and from work, on vacation, running carpools, etc. All our test cars cover thousands of miles before the overall test score is determined.

Formal testing is done at the track and on surrounding public roads. The evaluation regimen consists of more than 50 individual tests. Some are objective, instrumented track tests using state-of-the-art electronic gear that yield empirical findings. Some are subjective evaluations—jury tests done by the experienced engineering staff.

Visit our car model pages for complete test results, Ratings, road tests, and videos.

Here’s a look at some of our tests:

Each car is timed for 0 to 30 mph, 60 mph, and quarter-mile runs. We attach an optical road-scanning device hooked to a data-logging computer, which creates precise records of time, speed, and distance.

We push all of our test cars to the limits on our track during our avoidance maneuver and a series of cornering assessments around a handling course. The avoidance maneuver is a “path-following test” in which the driver pilots the car down a lane marked off by traffic cones with a quick left-right-left sequence. That simulates swerving to avoid an obstacle in the road, then returning to the original lane to avoid oncoming traffic. The car threads through the course, without throttle or brakes, at ever-higher speeds until it can’t get through without hitting any cones.

These tests are done from 60 mph to zero on wet and dry pavement. We also judge brake-pedal modulation.

Controls and displays
We look at every car’s controls and displays, judging how easy it is to see, reach, and use them. We learn a lot from the months of living with the cars and driving them every day.

Driving position
Staff members of different sizes judge how easy it is to get comfortably situated behind the steering wheel, gauging whether they can see out well and reach all controls and pedals without straining or developing premature fatigue.

Fuel economy
We perform our own fuel-economy tests, independent of the government’s often-quoted EPA figures and the manufacturers’ claims. Using a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line, we run three separate circuits. One is on a public highway at a steady 65 mph. That circuit is run in both directions to counteract any wind effect. A second is a stop-and-go simulated city-driving test done at our track.

We also examine a car’s fit and finish, assess ride comfort, test headlight performance, and measure noise levels and trunk space. In all, we perform among the most exhaustive series of automotive testing anywhere. And to make this possible, we rely on your contributions and subscriptions to fund what we do. That’s right, we work for you, the consumer—not industry, nor advertisers.

Watch the video below for more highlights of our car testing program.

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