|Created by||John Davis|
Yolanda Vazquez (past)
Joyce Braga (past)
Elizabeth A. Nardone (past)
Charlotte Nichols (past)
Craig Singhaus (past)
Lisa Barrow (past)
Jennifer Khasnabis (past)
Anquionette Crosby (past)
Jessica Choksey (past)
Henry Kopacz (past)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||40|
|No. of episodes||1,820|
|Executive producer||John Davis|
|Production locations||Owings Mills, Maryland|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Picture format||480i SDTV (1981–2009; seasons 1-28)|
1080i HDTV (2009-present; seasons 29-present)
|Original release||October 15, 1981 –|
MotorWeek is an American news and information program centered around automobiles. The subject matter presented includes tests of cars currently on the market, along with tips on maintenance and previews of cars to come. The program is produced by Maryland Public Television for PBS, and also airs on the Discovery Networks channel MotorTrend.
MotorWeek is hosted by John Davis, who has presided over the program since it premiered on October 15, 1981. Davis created the show for what was originally the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting (now Maryland Public Television) and serves as its executive producer. From its inception until 1988, the program’s main segments emanated from a studio in Owings Mills, Maryland, where production is still based. Since then, all shooting is done outdoors in various locales. The change coincided with the program adding the year to its title, which became MotorWeek ‘88; MotorWeek continued to do this until 1993 when they simply began referring to the show by its normal title again.
Originally airing new, thirty-minute episodes for twenty-six weeks a year, MotorWeek airs new episodes year-round on both PBS and MotorTrend. The show is also syndicated internationally through the American Forces Network.
On September 11, 1993, during the premiere of Season 13 (1993–1994), MotorWeek began syndicating to local stations, and was first syndicated by ITC Entertainment from 1993 to 1998. It has also aired on Speedvision, Speed Channel, Velocity, Velocity by Discovery, the Spanish-language network V-me, and Motor Trend.
Each year, MotorWeek puts more than 150 new cars, trucks, and SUVs to the test, providing consumer-oriented vehicle reviews. Its video Road Test segments focus on performance, technology, practicality and dollar value, and feature MotorWeek's exclusive energy efficient rating system which compares each vehicle’s fuel economy to the best-rated vehicle in its class. The MotorWeek team includes master technician Pat Goss who brings viewers practical advice for keeping cars on the road and out of the shop. Reporters present timely reports on consumer trends, safety issues and the environment, along with innovative, offbeat stories on the automotive world gone extreme. Beginning in 1983, MotorWeek launched its Drivers’ Choice Awards which are among the auto industry’s most prestigious honors. The Drivers’ Choice Awards are unique for their consumer focus and represent the definitive list of best automotive picks in the most popular vehicle categories, including the coveted “Best of the Year” award. They are presented annually during the Chicago Auto Show. Beginning in season 29 (2009–2010), MotorWeek began broadcasting in widescreen 1080i HDTV.
MotorWeek started on October 15, 1981 and is still continuing today. They have over 1,820 episodes with road tests, comparison tests, first impressions, and more. They post older episodes and clips onto YouTube with the Retro Review name. From Season 1-6, they produced 26 episodes each season. Season 7-Present produced 52 episodes each season. Complete episodes are available on PBS by donations.
MotorWeek started a Podcast on September 3, 2008. There is more content on the podcasts to express opinions, new, and upcoming vehicles.
One of the staples of MotorWeek is the Road Test, where the team of testers puts a new car through various conditions to see how it operates.
Over the years, MotorWeek has conducted its basic tests at various venues. In the show’s early years, it used a tarmac at Martin State Airport outside Baltimore that was used for seaplanes. Beginning in 1982, the 75-80 Dragway (or Dragaway) in Frederick, Maryland and continued to use the facility long after its closure to competition. For the show’s fortieth season, they abandoned use of the 75-80 Dragway (as they were the only ones with access to it) and moved the tests to Boonsboro, Maryland’s Mason Dixon Dragway.
In the colder months, the show relocates the testing to Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah, Georgia. MotorWeek has also done tests at the Ford and General Motors proving grounds in the past as well as at several famous racetracks such as Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington, Ohio, and Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.
Each test starts with an overview of the car’s engine and features, as well as other options that are available. This portion is comprehensive, ranging from how much power the engine has to how the interior of the car is set up.
The car is then taken out onto the drag strip. Here, tests are done to measure its zero-to-sixty time, how long it takes to traverse the quarter-mile drag strip, how the car handles a slalom course, how it handles quick turns, and how much distance it takes for the car to come to a complete stop from 60 miles per hour. A test is also done to determine fuel economy ratings against the ones provided by the Environmental Protection Agency; to perform this, the testers use a 100-mile loop that combines city and highway driving and averages their figures. In recent years, the environmental impacts of vehicles (specifically their carbon footprints and their oil usage) are also included in the discussion.
Older episodes also tested a car’s speed at 500 feet to simulate entering a highway as well as its turning diameter.
Once the road test is complete, the car’s hits and misses are revealed as are the reasons why the testers felt a certain way about various issues. The car’s costs to the consumer are revealed at the very end of the segment, including what the vehicle would cost with various option packages.
For many years, MotorWeek has conducted periodic competitive tests to determine what cars, in their opinion, are the top in a certain classification. In recent years these tests have been done in conjunction with cars.com.
For these instances, the team will choose a series of vehicles, usually six, that fit into the category (for example, compact sport utility vehicles). The vehicles, like every other tested by MotorWeek, are supplied by the manufacturers themselves and each must adhere to the set of criteria selected for the competition (for example, transmission type or maximum cost).
After the cars are put through a battery of tests, their performances are graded and the top four performing vehicles in the category are revealed in order from lowest to highest, with specific highlights such as price or fuel mileage noted.
From the show's premiere in 1981 until 1987, MotorWeek's original theme music was composed by Don Barto. Beginning with the Season 7 (1987–88), Mark Roumelis took over as music composer. The unaired pilot also featured music from Mark Roumelis, but it is different than the piece he made for the 1987–1988 season.
When MotorWeek premiered in 1981, the show emanated from a specially designed studio which featured various car related decorations and also had room for a featured automobile to be displayed. Beginning in 1988, the show stopped using the studio and began filming all of the car display segments outdoors.
As mentioned above, MotorWeek conducts most of its testing on a drag strip that was known as the 75-80 Dragway (also Dragaway) in Frederick, Maryland. While the track itself closed for competition in the early 2000s and again in the early 2010s, MotorWeek continues to have access to the drag strip and still conducts road tests there. As of 2020, the 40th season of the program, only the strip and a portion of the starter’s stand remain; the grandstands were removed sometime in 2019.