Sean - I am in absolute agreement with you. The more I actually race at a track (1/4 mile in this case) - the more I see that magazine and other reviewer times are not always so and definitely not consistent.
I have done a lot of magazine testing over the years. From Sport Compact Car, to Modified, to Road and Track, Car and Driver, and Motor Trend Magazine. Some of the best, most detailed testing I did, was with Sport Compact Car Magazine. Josh Jacquot, Dave Coleman, and Scott Oldham. Dave is at Mazda and MotoIQ, Josh and Scott are at Edmunds.
Doing all the testing, I learned a lot. Some places will take just the best time. Some will need to back it up with another pass. Some take the average of several passes. Some days are good, some are bad, for both driver and car. The advantage that AWD has, is that it is much more consistent than most RWD or FWD cars. Easier to get mostly right.