Posts By: BobAsh

By on April 20, 2014

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While JFK was busy capturing the hearts of the German people with his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, the GM engineers at Rüsselsheim were busy at work finishing their next big project – the series of full-size (on European scale) luxury models, called Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. Introduced in February of 1964, the new models were meant to take on Mercedes-Benz, though they shared something in common with contemporary America cars, in that they were really just one car, offered in different equipment levels, and with different engine options. Kapitän was the cheapest, with an inline six under the hood, standard manual transmission and relatively sparse equipment. Its size, equipment and power put it somewhere between American compacts and midsize cars of the time, like a smaller 1964 Chevelle, with a dash of Buick styling.

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By on April 11, 2014

Originally, I wanted to borrow an Octavia RS as the ultimate example of the “nice things you Americans can’t have”. But then I decided not to. I had three reasons. First, the RS, unlike “ordinary” Skodas, isn’t readily available in any shade of brown. Second, I had already tested a diesel, manual wagon recently. And […]

By on March 10, 2014

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Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

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By on March 4, 2014

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When the first pictures of the new Škoda VisionC concept appeared online, it quickly became one of the most popular cars in the “proof that Americans can’t have nice things and Europe is heaven” realm. The sleek “five-door coupe”, or liftback with a swooping roofline bears striking similarity with other VW Group’s sedan-coupes. So it’s only natural that most people started speculating about forthcoming “Octavia Coupe” – something like Passat-based Volkswagen CC, or Audi A5 and A7 “five-door coupes”. The budget, or “value” nature of Škoda brand is against that, but how else to explain a suspiciously production-ready concept like this?

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By on March 3, 2014

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If you follow the Internet, you’ve probably saw a news story about Bugatti offering yet another special edition of the Veyron  to help them get rid of remaining stock. This time, the Veyron Vitesse comes with special paint and  named after someone called “Elisabeth Junek”. And while Veyron special editions are pretty boring stuff, the lady in question is a true heroine, albeit one you’ve likely never heard of. And since she was one of my country’s greatest motoring legends, I feel obliged to tell Best&Brightest more about her.

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By on February 5, 2014

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As a relatively low-profile Czech motoring journo, I couldn’t expect Elon Musk to hand me the keys for a long-term press loaner. Or any other kind of “official” experience with Tesla, as they aren’t even sold officially in our country. But I did manage to get my hand’s on one via a friend’s father is an avid fan of EVs.  As soon as the Nissan Leaf entered the European market, he bought one even if it meant to order it in Spain (about two thousand miles away) and have it trucked here. And when he learned about the Tesla Model S, he placed an early order, which made him one of the first few people in this country to own a Model S (a fully loaded P85 version, no less). Now, there are probably a dozen in Czech Republic. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2014

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Recently, I spent some of my procrastinating time in Facebook discussion with a colleague, motoring journalist here in Czech Republic. He was driving a new Range Rover at the time, and he was raving about how great car it was. But there was one flaw, he said. The car came with the most common engine on our market – the TDV6 diesel. And while it didn’t really lack power and was reasonable refined, even for the luxury car it is, there was one thing it just lacked. A V8. Preferably, of the gasoline-burning kind.

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By on January 15, 2014

Remember the time when you bought sport utility vehicles because you needed them? These were the original “off-roaders”, boxy beasts with live axles, low-range gearboxes, locking diffs and other very masculine stuff that’s perfect for adventures that require a farm tractor to rescue you from the mud. It was also very practical, because it basically […]

By on November 30, 2013

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There isn’t many weirder and more wonderful car in the world than a classic Citroën. Beginning with the “Goddess”, the famous and unique Citroën DS, they combine out-of-the-box technical solutions with quaint but gorgeous design. When the “déesse” arrived in 1955, it looked like something from another galaxy – and drove like that, too. The magnificent SM grand tourer, conceived in cooperation with Maserati added speed and glamour to the formula. And when the big CX replaced the venerable DS, it was still an aerodynamic fastback in a world full of boxy sedans, it still glided over the road like some eerie hovercraft, and with the DIRAVI steering and mushroom brake pedal, it provided a driving experience like nothing else. .

But for now, let’s focus on the redheaded step-child of the Citroën family, the XM. Introduced in 1989, it’s currently in the lowest part of the depreciation curve, loved only by hardcore Citroën enthusiasts. Because of the Citroën’s terrible reputation for reliability, especially when it comes to the unique hydropneumatic suspension, the average examples can be had for €1,000-1,500. And with the proliferation of large hatchbacks in 1980s and 1990s, it doesn’t even look that strange. It’s still unconventional, and it’s the kind of design you love more the more you look at it, but for average person, it’s just an old car.

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By on November 11, 2013

  Some time ago, I ranted on these pages about European methods of testing fuel mileage (and thus also CO2 emissions), and the way they give unfair advantage to downsized turbocharged engines, compared to good old N/A units. So it’s quite convenient that for my first TTAC European review, I got a Škoda Rapid, powered […]

By on October 17, 2013

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With yet another Ferrari 250 GTO selling for record sums, the world has its eyes focused on the funny little microcosm that can be described as“blue chip cars”.  Investors are looking at high-profile classic cars as a potentially lucrative asset class, a way to diversify their portfolios in a world where interest rates are zero and the only investment offering decent returns are securitized car loans. Others think that it’s just another bubble, reminiscent of the million-dollar Hemi ‘Cudas that were crossing the blocks at Barret Jackson in the good old days before the Great Financial Crisis.

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By on October 4, 2013

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While Americans are still asking whether it’s even wise to buy small turbocharged engines instead of larger naturally aspirated ones, we in Europe are slowly losing our ability to even choose a car without a turbocharged engine. Volkswagen has recently announced that it is going turbo only – but in our market, the transition is nearly complete. Except for base engines in Polo supermini and Up! city car, basically everything else has a turbo slapped on it – and it looks much the same with other VAG brands. Others are following closely – Ford eliminated most of its naturally aspirated engines, except for the base 1.6 in Focus and small engines in Fiesta. Renault is coming with new tiny turbo plants to replace small four cylinder NA motors – and is even introducing them to its low-cost brand Dacia. PSA, Fiat, Opel and others are heading this direction as well.

But, why is that? Is it that Europeans are more forward thinking, more interested in economy an environment than polar bear killing ‘murricans with their massive V6s and V8s? Is it the European driving style and road network, requiring smaller and lighter cars?

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By on September 30, 2013

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My name is Vojta and I drive a conversion van. And, yes, I do that in Europe. And no, I have never offered anyone free candy. Actually, no one even expects me to do so, as pedophiles in Europe don’t drive big vans. Or at least people don’t think they do.
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By on September 19, 2013

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Malaise era. Supposedly the time when cars were the worst, and especially the American ones. Compared to the glory days of the 1960s, when the gas was cheap, horsepower plentiful and cars the most beautiful ever, the 1970s are considered to be dark ages. Emission-strangled engines with pathetic power-to-weight ratio, huge and hideous bumpers, as well as floaty suspensions with not even a pretention of “sportiness” or “handling”, traits so popular with modern car enthusiasts.

But, was it really that bad? I had a chance to find out.

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By on September 1, 2013

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Most legendary cars achieved their status thanks to unique ideas, original design, character (whatever may that be) or joy they bring to their owners and drivers. So, is it even possible for a pragmatic, coldly efficient and mostly derivative car to become a legend?

When the first Lexus, called LS400, was introduced in 1989, it certainly wasn’t the most original car on the market. In fact, it not only looked a lot like a W126 Mercedes S-class of the time, it was even named similarly (remove the L and the car would fit right into the naming system Mercedes started using a few years later). And it was no coincidence – the LS400 was a result of Toyota brass’ decision to move their business upmarket. The Voluntary Restraint Agreement between the United States and Japan limited the number of Japanese cars that could enter the country, making it a smart idea to charge more for each of them and clear more profit. The LS400 might have been a bit of a loss leader at $35,000 for a base model that nobody ever saw in dealerships, but it paved the way for hugely profitable successors and showroom companions like the ES300 and RX300.

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