Where rubber meets asphalt: Behind the scenes at AAA’s 2022 Car Guide

LOS ANGELES – Are you in the market for a new car? If so, we have information to help you find the best car for your lifestyle.

AAA’s 2022 Car Guide will be out Tuesday online and in select AAA offices. The guide gives drivers an unbiased understanding of the latest automotive technology.

At the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, researchers test cars featured in the annual AAA Car Guide.

Megan McKernan, Group Manager of Automotive Services for the Automobile Club of Southern California, explained what KPRC 2 cameras captured.

“That Mustang Mach E in a little more than nine seconds traversed this course. Not only do we look at that time, but we also look at ease of operation of that vehicle and perception of control,” McKernan said.

Researchers were testing the Mustang Mach E on the slalom, which is one of 12 categories each vehicle is evaluated.

“Fuel economy, visibility, ease of entry and exit, cargo capacity, again it’s looking at the everyday components of a vehicle. One of the studies we conducted here at this facility was our pedestrian study. We were looking at vehicles that are set up with pedestrian detection systems that are supposed to apply the brakes automatically if they detect that pedestrian. What we found with that study was those systems don’t work 100% of the time,” explained McKernan.

In order for a vehicle to be featured in the annual car guide, it must be a hybrid, all-electric, plug-in hybrid or an all-new vehicle for the model year.

McKernan further explained there is a difference between required and recommended when it comes to fuel for a vehicle.

“If it is required, you really should use it. Check your owner’s manual and finding out if it is recommended or required. If you’re driving a pickup truck and you’re towing a trailer and your vehicle says premium recommended, you probably should use premium,” said McKernan.

At AAA’s Automotive Research Center in downtown Los Angeles, researchers test several additional components to a car’s anatomy and impact.

“We were one of the very first emissions labs in California. We have a four-wheel-drive chasey dynamometer. The dynamometer is essentially a treadmill for a vehicle, and that allows us to measure the emissions of the vehicle, if it’s gasoline, for example, or look at the range if it’s an EV,” said McKernan.

Inside the controlled chamber, researchers can manipulate the temperature, which can range from 20 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It really has a dramatic decrease on the range when you go that cold or extremely hot,” McKernan said.

In addition to vehicle evaluations, the Car Guide covers the latest automotive topics for the time we’re traveling in.

“Nobody was buying vehicles when the pandemic started, and so then they waited a year, and everybody wanted to buy them the same time and there’s just not the supply,” reiterated McKernan.

As for the person in the market for a car right now, McKernan said, “If you don’t have to buy a car right now, probably waiting this out until prices subside, is probably the best.”

She added, that she believes the chip shortage that’s made headlines for the past couple of years, will continue to be an issue for vehicle production.


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