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The Independent Online
These days, you can't talk about motoring media without mentioning the BBC's Top Gear. You've seen the TV, with its appallingly affected presenters; you've read the big-selling magazine; you've listened to the multi-volume series of road-music cassettes; so you'll want to browse the Web site.

In fact, you will - for SuperTest of the month by J Clarkson, if for nothing else. You can have a great time with this, reading out the copy with your own simulation of jaunty Jeremy's bizarre pauses and cadences. As well as the narrative, there are photos and - a great idea, this - a Shockwave simulation in real time of the rev-counter and speedo as the test car accelerates from a standstill, complete with soundtrack. The Porsche Boxster felt almost as quick as the wife's Saab Turbo. There are videos and virtual reality files to download, too, if you have the time (and the right version of Quicktime).

CarChase is the serious buyer's bit. I found the used-car price database useless - it didn't have information on either of the cars I was interested in - but I was deeply impressed by the loan-repayment calculator, which displays instant results as you move on-screen sliders to vary the amount of the loan, the interest rate or the repayment period, and also works backwards, allowing you to play with the repayment and see what purchase price you can afford. Smart.

Like all heavyweight motoring sites, Top Gear has a database of several thousand models, which you can search on various criteria to get a shortlist of candidates. It didn't handle my own specification - fast estate car with four-wheel-drive - very effectively, but once you identify a motor that's of interest you get access to impressive technical data and a worthwhile review.

Top Gear may be big-selling, but apparently Britain's biggest-selling car monthly is the vigorously laddish Max Power. The Max Power Connect site is very entertaining if this is the sort of thing you like. Car reviews are accompanied by guidance on where to get the wide alloys and carbon- fibre body-styling products that you'll need to turn your Peugeot 306 into a babe-stopper. However, the Web links section is stronger on soft porn than on motors.

If this strikes you as politically rather incorrect, console yourself with a visit to "the first free automotive, car and motorsports magazine on the Internet for Women [sic]" - Woman Motorist. Yes, it's American, and it's very, very sensible about cars.

In sharp contrast is Auto Gallery, a Californian site which apparently intends to become "a different kind of automotive magazine", with content that forms "a tribute to the most cherished, exotic and classic driving machines developed over the last 100 years". One day, maybe. At present, what it offers is glamour shots of motors ("Some Ferrari Photos ... A Few Jaguar Pics") arranged sequentially; sheet metal as soft pornn

Chris Gill

Top Gear - http://www.topgear.com/

Max Power Connect - http://www.erack.com/maxweb/

Woman Motorist - http://www.womanmotorist.com/

Auto Gallery - http://www.autogallerymag.com/

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