“Like Driveway, we are not producing a show for gearheads but for normal people, who just want to know what’s available, for how much, what the safety features are and how fuel efficient a car is.” – Zack Spencer
Driving Television is a slickly produced, fast-paced car show, designed to help regular folks make a sound decision when making the second biggest purchase of their lives – buying a car.
When Driveway’s lead test driver Zack Spencer is not writing for you here, he’s in front of the camera co-hosting the top-rated, independently produced, Canadian show with Lacey Elliott.
You won’t find me in front of the lens, having looks suited only for print, but recently I spent a day behind the DTV camera, observing Zack and videographer Brian Chow. The action took place in Whistler for the launch of the 2015 Lexus NX.
First up was a presentation about the product, and specifically the technology featured in the compact crossover vehicle. While some journos present yawned occasionally and jotted a few notes, Zack wrote feverishly, asking many questions.
“They sometimes last an hour or longer but these presentations are extremely important to my day’s work,” advises Zack. “The print guys can take the thumb drive with all the info on it and check it at their leisure later. But I need to leave the room with all the facts and have my questions ready to go.”
Minutes later, he’s conducting an interview with Lexus Canada Director Cyril Dimitris, about the importance of this new entry to the fastest growing market segment. The print and online writers have already left for a day on the scenic back roads and a jaunt along the Sea to Sky Highway.
We’re striking out on our own.
“We do up to 30 launches a year and some manufacturers want people to drive up to 400 kilometres. I always say we are either driving or shooting but we’re not doing both so most manufacturers are happy to let us do our own thing.”
Just 15 minutes later, Zack is up Whistler Mountain, doing a standup shot talking knowledgeably to the camera about the NX. Yes, he really was taking notes while many of the rest of us were nodding or slurping the coffee at the Four Seasons Resort.
A steep mountain road outside Pemberton was the perfect spot to show off the car in a beautiful location. Well, it was in the breaks between heavy logging trucks passing by.
The next couple of hours were spent driving up and down the road to capture in car commentary from Zack.
“When we first started (12 years ago) we had to shoot with large TV cameras from the roadside for externals or stuff a camera into the dash to get my remarks while driving,” explains Zack.
But new technology has changed all that. Brian shoots with what looks like a regular digital still camera.
“The old TV cameras would cost about $100,000 but you can now get great DSLR cameras, designed for video, for around $10,000.”
Then there are the tiny $500-plus GoPro video cameras that attach anywhere inside or outside, which Brian controls from an app on his iPhone from the passenger seat! Gone are the days of $1,000 an hour helicopter shoots when a $150 remote controlled drone can achieve the same dramatic aerial video.
Now it’s back to Vancouver to edit a three- to seven-minute segment for the show. Zack explains the program’s mandate: “Like the Driveway section in print, we are not producing a show for gearheads but for normal people, who just want to know what’s available, for how much, what the safety features are and how fuel efficient a car is.”
The show featuring the NX goes to air this Saturday on Global TV across Canada. Check your local listings for times.
What Zack says about the 2015 Lexus NX
Where has the modern station wagon gone?
Nowhere, it’s just called something else – crossover or small SUV.
The edgy design of the NX will turns heads and garner attention but I have come to realize two things about the car business. When a design is rather edgy, it can date quickly. The second is that the initial “bam, look at me” wears off.
The exterior might be an acquired taste but the inside is a refined and practical place to spend time.
Powering around the mountain resort I got my first shot at the all-new 2.0L direct inject turbocharged 4-cylinder that Lexus will use in a number of its vehicles.
With 235hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque this new power plant does a good job once the NX 200t is in motion, it is getting away from a stop that could use a bit more snap. AWD is standard across the lineup but the system is designed to run in front wheel drive as much as possible to help save fuel.
As the small SUV market continues to grow and this new NX certainly is one of the most eye-catching to come along in a while.
NX 200t from $40,950, fuel economy – 10.6/8.4 L/100 km (city/hwy)
NX 220h (hybrid) from $58,850, fuel economy – 7.1/7.7 L/100 km (city/hwy)