Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on August 23, 2016

MegaSquirt EFI

We were standing trackside and talking about the new Acura NSX. My brother had just driven it to the overall win at the first-ever SCCA Targa event. It would have been nice if the NSX he’d been driving had also been a Targa; I believe they were called the NSX-T back in the day. No such luck. The new NSX does not (yet) come in Targa form. What can you do. We all have to face our own share of disappointment. Each worm to his taste, as the proverb says — some worms prefer to eat nettles.

My brother was off somewhere doing something so I was talking to a couple of occasional TTAC readers. They admitted that they skip my stuff and focus on the good solid tangible sales data from Tim Cain. I did not love them for this. But I discussed the NSX with them nonetheless, and at one point somebody said something along the lines of, “It’s a great car, but how are you going to fix something that complicated 20 years from now, without factory or dealer support?” And that was the sentence that triggered my Matrix moment, a mind spinning down a rabbit hole into a deja-vu past.

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By on August 19, 2016

Monterey Historics, Image: Tim Hill via Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Don’t look now, but it’s starting. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, often called the “Monterey Historics” by those in the know and simply “Monterey” by people who maintain a sort of willful, deliberate ignorance of anything else happening at Laguna Seca for the rest of the year, will be casting its usual ghoulish pall over the world of automotive enthusiasm this weekend.

Founded by Steve Earle (the non-famous Steve Earle, mind you, not the fellow who once said that thing about Townes and Dylan) four decades ago, the event was quasi-hijacked away from its founder a few years back and now exists primarily as a way for rich guys to show off their cars and for mass-market manufacturers like Cadillac to spend money blathering about their heritage to a bunch of people who hold them in utter and complete contempt. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2016

I’ve long since given up on the idea that it’s possible to have a truly unbiased review of an automobile — or anything else, for that matter. Nevertheless, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the service of that, I’m going to say up front that I completely despise […]

By on August 16, 2016

2007 Honda Element EX, Image: American Honda

“About twice a week, I’ll come out to the parking lot and see that somebody’s left a note asking to buy it,” Peter said, chuckling. “But the only reason I’d sell it would be to get a newer one. And the prices on those are even crazier. So I’ll keep it. Forever. It’s my car for life, no matter what else I buy or own or whatever.”

A devoted ultra-marathoner and trail-runner who thought nothing of running 30 kilometers on Saturday and then doing it again on Sunday, Peter was the photographer assigned to me on a recent project for another media outlet. He was (obviously) hugely fit, extremely disciplined, and very much in love with his car.

But what kind of car could inspire that kind of affection from a guy like Peter, to say nothing of all the parking-lot stalkers who keep trying to buy his car? Is it a Boss 302? A 458 Speciale? A pristine MkIV Toyota Supra Turbo? I’m afraid not. The belle of Peter’s ball is a homely little box of a car that, when it was new, rarely left a showroom without the assistance of a massive trade allowance, a flatbed tow truck, or possibly both.

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By on August 12, 2016

All-New 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

“I do see people buying Chevy trucks all the time, but I call them victims, not customers. That’s different than what I’m trying to do.” Thus spake Scott Adams, known to most of us as the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. As someone who has made his living as a commercial UNIX sysadmin, I’m not much of a “Dilbert” reader, for approximately the same reason that Jodie Foster probably doesn’t read The International Journal Of Pinball Table Collectors. There’s only so much trauma that anybody should be forced to relive.

I do, however, read Mr. Adams’ blog, mostly because I’m fascinated by his particular approach to understanding the current Presidential election. In a pair of recent posts, he has taken a break from discussing the “Master Persuader” strategy to complain about the process of buying a new truck from a Chevrolet (or Ford) dealership. Mr. Adams describes himself as a “certified genius,” but as you will see below, the old dealership chestnut that “buyers are liars” applies to even those of us who find the WAIS-IV to be a trivial challenge.

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By on August 9, 2016

Hyundai Tucson, Image: Hyundai

Here’s something to depress our older readers: There is an entire generation of drivers that has never known a world without Lexus. Note that I did not say “Lexus and Infiniti.” The majority of American drivers probably have no idea Infiniti exists.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I was there at the start, working for a BMW dealer, and I can tell you that many people on the retail side of the business thought that Infiniti would prove to be just as successful as Lexus. Maybe more successful. All of the momentum seemed to be on Nissan’s side: They had the near-legendary Nissan Primera as Infiniti’s entry-level car, beloved of autowriters and cognoscenti everywhere. Toyota had a Camry with frameless windows. Infiniti had the mighty, dream-crushing Q45, which was as fast as a V12 Bimmer and styled from nose to tail in an original, tasteful, fake-wood-free fashion. Toyota had a store-brand copy of the S-Class.

It didn’t turn out that way, of course. We now live in a Lexus world. The brand is so strong that other brands, like Cadillac, obtain the bulk of their sales volume selling knockoff versions of the RX350. I don’t have access to hard numbers, but I would suspect that Lexus dealers are more profitable, per unit sold, than any other franchise south of, say, Porsche.

And where is Infiniti? Nowhere. Lost. Sinking. The reasons for the brand’s failure are too numerous to consider in a single article. But I’m going to discuss what I think might be the most important reason here, because it doesn’t just apply to Nissan’s boutique brand and it continues to affect everyone from Honda to Hyundai.

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By on August 5, 2016

Lotus Evora 400, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

If you want to truly understand how the sausage of “automotive journalism” is made, there are two articles that you absolutely must read. The first is fun: it’s by Neal Pollack and it talks about the outrageous excesses of Mercedes PR’s “Pied Piper.” The second is long and occasionally tedious: it’s called “Taking Readers For A Ride” and it was written for American Journalism Review by a fellow named Frank Greve with material assistance from … yours truly.

Most people know by now that the majority of new-car press introductions are absurdly sybaritic affairs, featuring five-star hotels, unlimited room service, outrageous gifts, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Why does Subaru have to introduce the XV Crosstrek in Iceland? The simple answer is that they didn’t … but they knew that the broke-ass journalists who used the trip as a vacation (and, in at least one case, a hookup) would treasure the trip for the rest of their lives.

This sort of thing distorts autowriting to a degree that is borderline insane. But if you listen to the PR people and their apologists in the media, they will tell you that there is just no other way to do it. Wrong answer. It’s possible to do a press intro on the cheap — and it’s also possible to make that intro the best one of all time.

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By on August 3, 2016

20160802_085218

“Why,” the artist formerly known as Danger Girl snarled, waving a few stapled pages in the face of the frightened-looking, weasel-faced service advisor, “is there a balance payable on this?”

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By on July 28, 2016

passatr36

Is there anybody left in this country who gives a single damn about Volkswagen? If so… why?

This is a company that has spent the past 40 years treating their American customer base with the kind of contemptuous disdain that most of us associate with the wait staff at Le Bernardin. The thousand injuries of Wolfsburg we have borne as best we could — from the Westmoreland Rabbits to the 8-valve Mk2 GTI to every single aspect of the Phaeton ownership experience — but when the company ventured upon insult to the very air we breathe, that should have been enough for all of us to abandon the brand permanently.

The problem is that some of us just can’t let go. Maybe it’s misplaced loyalty. Maybe it’s dim memories of the Corrado VR6. Maybe it’s just a certain delight in the way that Volkswagens feel when you’re driving them. Whatever the reason, there’s still some goodwill left in the United States on which the company can capitalize. One of the ideas being floated is a “hot Passat”, or at least a slightly sportier Passat. Our own Steph Willems made the case earlier in the week that such a car would be a waste of time.

I disagree, and I’ll tell you why.

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By on July 26, 2016

Just slightly over twenty-nine months since taking delivery of my 2014 Accord V6 Coupe 6MT and I’m already out of warranty. That’s not strictly true; there’s still powertrain coverage until the 50,000-mile mark. Certain items, like seatbelts and airbags and catalytic converters, will be replaced on Honda’s time for the rest of this decade, if […]

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