I first picked up an issue of R&T at the news stand when I was in the sixth grade. I was always into models, Lego's, drafting and other technical hobbies and the detail sheet in R&T's reviews fascinated me with all the stats and the cutaway drawing of the vehicle- it still looks very similar today, thirteen years later due to the great layout.
The journalists, photographers, artists and editors at Road & Track are leaps & bounds ahead of the staff at MotorTrend or Car&Driver (I subscribe to all three, but if I could have only one it would easily be R&T). They frequently have guest writers and racers help with articles and reviews, which is a plus. And one of the things I like most is very little SUV/Truck coverage.
I have subscribed to Road & Track for three decades. If I could only get one car magazine, this would be the one. It is the least biased, and unlike most car mags, it still has a "test summary" at the end so you can quickly compare with other models from past issues.
If you want to keep up with all the newest models, long-term tests, and a few interesting/educational articles along the way, IMO R&T has the best coverage and most comprehensive articles. Also, it is one of the few remaining magazines to publish slalom results. Motor Trend, for example, publishes their useless "Figure Eight" number. Another plus is that R&T has a wider format than other car mags. This allows wider pages that have bigger pictures, and it sits flatter when you read it. About the only nit I can list is that they're starting to become more like other car magazines and include cutesy/trite expressions/flowery commentary in their articles.
If you are even remotely inclined to purchase just one or two per year at a news stand, just do yourself a favor and subscribe. Even the 'meh' issues you can always pass to co-workers or the lunch room. I always look forward to getting mine in my mailbox. For less than a dollar, it's a great deal.
This is just a great magazine. Great gift! Sure to please. The gift that keeps on giving!
Road and Track is like the tortise and the hare. It doesn't move with lighting speed from trend to trend as some other publications. But its slow and methodical evolution yeilds a contemporary classic. It's format and photography are faultless. The editorials are engaging, particularly Peter Egan's. And no one can match the prowess of technical editor Dennis Semantis. Quite possibly the best automotive magazine in the industry.