Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on June 13, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, Image: Toyota

“The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride f***ing with you. F*** pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps.” Recognize that quote? It’s from Pulp Fiction, of course. There’s only so much wisdom you can take out of any Quentin Tarantino movie, but if you’re looking for some, there it is.

Unfortunately for you earnest advice takers out there, the auto business runs on pride. From the websites to the styling studios, from the wash rack to the RenCen, you’ll find insecure, petty, miserable people who allow their perpetually wounded pride to make astoundingly indefensible business decisions on their behalf. Here’s an example: I once worked at a dealership that was pretty much run into the ground by a pair of incompetent, dishonest managers. The owner was despondent and he had pretty much decided to sell the franchise, but at the last moment he changed his mind, took some good advice, and brought in a fellow who was kind of a superstar but also kind of a loose cannon. (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr, Wikimedia Commons

The story goes something like this: A dealership claims to have Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s C6-generation Corvette ZR1 for sale. The Drive publishes a breathless piece on this Corvette. Then Junior happens to notice the post and corrects them.

A print magazine would publish a correction. It’s been suggested that The Drive deep-six the post entirely. What’s the appropriate course of action here, for this and other situations like it?

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By on June 8, 2017

Renault 5, public domain

The late Janet Reno once described herself thusly: “The fact is I’m just an awkward old maid with a very great affection for men.” Similarly, I think of myself as a liberal-arts type with a very great affection for engineering. I’ve designed a few bicycles in my time, and I’ve earned most of my bread by programming in various languages, but I’m not qualified to draw a bridge, create a capacitor, or invent an engine. Those are special and particular disciplines that attract special and particular people. I ain’t one of them.

Nevertheless, even as an outsider it seems plain to me that there are two kinds of automotive engineering: the inventive kind, as practiced by Henry Ford and Colin Chapman, and the iterative kind as practiced by the vast majority of engineers currently working in the business. When Jim Hall put a wing on the Chaparral, he was doing inventive engineering; when the Mercedes F1 team runs through ten thousand CFD calculation sequences to remove crosswind drag by 0.5 percent, that’s iterative engineering.

Inventive engineering gets the headlines, but iterative engineering pays the bills. Which leads me to today’s question, which asks? Can’t we be inventive when it comes to front-wheel drive?

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By on June 6, 2017

What The Truck?

And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
The worst that I can find
And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
But I rely on mine

“Can’t Be Sure” was The Sundays’ brilliant 1989 debut, introducing all of us to the lovely Harriet Wheeler and her ability to sing the most heartbreaking lyrics possible in the voice of a spoiled British child. I took the above stanza to heart the minute I heard it, because it took something that had long animated me and put it into a few simple words. It’s no wonder that the Zen philosophers preach a detachment from desire, because it drives our worst and most selfish behaviors. Virtually every regrettable or repugnant episode in my life has begun with me looking at something (or, more often, someone) and pronouncing, like Henderson The Rain King, “I WANT!”

Yes, desire is a terrible thing — but I rely on mine, as I’ve recently been reminded. You see, I need a full-size pickup. But need is in no way synonymous with desire, so I’m absolutely stuck in the mud trying to figure out what I should do next.

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By on June 2, 2017

2007 Porsche Cayman S, Image: Porsche

I sure have enjoyed my European adventure, although as usual when I’m overseas, much of what I see makes no sense to my adopted-Midwesterner eyes. Here’s an example: Why is it that I see more Porsches out and about in my home town of Powell, Ohio, than I do when I’m visiting Germany? If I am on an Ohio freeway for 20 minutes, I will see a Porsche; if I am on an Ohio freeway for an hour and it is not snowing, chances are that I will see a real Porsche, meaning something with just two doors and an engine behind the driver. There are a half-dozen 911s garaged within a mile of my house of which I am aware, which means that there are probably a lot more of which I am not aware, because general awareness is not my finest personal quality.

You would think the place where they actually build Porsches (some of them anyway) would have a lot more of them than Ohio does, the same way that Ohio has a lot more Honda Accords per capita than you’d find in, say, New Mexico. It is not so. Unless you are in the immediate vicinity of the Nurburgring, Porsches are virtually non-existent on the roads of the Fatherland. Maybe they know something we don’t, or maybe they’re just not buying Caymans and Cayennes at the moment because they are spending all their money on subsidizing all those nice young fellows arriving from parts unknown.

Speaking of Porsches, it’s time for Part Two (Electric Boogaloo!) of Ask Jack: Stuttgart Edition.

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By on June 2, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, Image: Garrett Martin

I just had a chance to see the newest version of the Toyota Hilux out on the road. For those of you who don’t waste your time watching Top Gear, the “Hilux” is the newest variant of The Toyota Truck Formerly Known As The Toyota Truck. Once upon a time, Toyota sold the same compact truck all over the world, although there were minor differences like double-walled beds for the American market and so on. With the arrival of the Toyota Tacoma, we Americans got a compact Toyota truck of our very own. But was this a good thing? And should Toyota make the otaku happy by bringing us the global vehicle?

Come to think of it — is there even a difference between the Hilux and the Tacoma?

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By on May 30, 2017

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS, Image: Porsche

Guten Tag, err’body! This week, I have forsaken the bucolic paradise of Powell, Ohio, for the pretty much identical town of Nurburg, Germany. I’m in possession of a very fast and very green British car (you can see more details on my Instagram, if you care) and I’m already breaking the hearts of many a Porsche owner through the long curves and blind hills of The Favorite Race Track Of Everybody Who Has Never Actually Raced Anything.

Although I’m far from the only heretic in attendance — Corvettes are more popular than you would expect, in particular — this place is absolutely rotten with late-model Porsches, most of which have been repulsively festooned with a variety of wings and stickers and doodads. So this seems like a good week for an Ask Jack Double Feature, in which we will consider a pair of Porsche-purchase dilemmata. We will get all of this Weissach-centric silliness out of the way this week, and that way when I’m back in the States a week from today I won’t have to think about Porsches for a nice long time.

Let’s start with Jay, who is wondering: To GTS or not to GTS?

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By on May 26, 2017

I have zero patience with people who make pricing comparisons between new cars and used cars. It is almost always done to show off the supposedly superior financial acumen, automotive knowledge, or enthusiast credentials of the person making the comparison. “I sure feel bad for that single mother emergency-room nurse who just wasted her money […]

By on May 26, 2017

2008 Hyundai Tiburon, Image: Hyundai

It’s that time of the month where I, your humble author, examine the questions that you are asking us via search-engine queries and then attempt to answer those questions to the best of my ability.

Over the past 90 days, 14 of you have searched for tuscani car. You’ve almost certainly seen a Hyundai Tiburon with the domestic-market “T” badge glued on in place of the normal Hyundai oval. A lot of Tiburon people like to do that. Did you know there’s a whole “KDM” movement out there where people try to make their Korean cars look even more Korean? Now you do.

It’s also possible you’re researching the purchase of a loaded “Tuscani Edition” Tiburon. This was a short-lived attempt to capitalize on KDM-focused buyers. To learn more, click on this ancient TTAC review.

So with that burning question answered, we can get to the (not-so-) funny stuff.

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By on May 25, 2017

2014 Honda Accord Coupe Pedals, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

It’s time to refill the hopper on the questions that keep you awake at night. Send them to askjack@calamarco.com. Help me help you. If you’ve sent me a question and you don’t yet have an answer, feel free to send it again or just remind me to look for your email. You would be amazed at the volume of correspondence I get every day, most of it from people who want to learn how to get press cars. Why would you ask me that? Ask a mommyblogger.

With that out of the way, let’s get to a question that, truthfully, should be asked a lot more often than it currently is being asked, both by customers and manufacturers.

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By on May 23, 2017

img_20170520_190001_577

I don’t Netflix and I don’t chill. I live my life in the first person and I take my stories through my own eyeballs so I can turn around and tell them to you. So here is a little story for you, about a girl I happen to know. You can call her a woman, if you like and if it suits your politics. She calls herself a girl.

Once upon a time, this girl was a pilot. She was still a teenager when she soared off into the New Mexico sky on her own for the first time. When she landed, her instructor cut off the tail of her dress shirt. This is a thing, if you did not know. She was tall and blonde and very serious. She grew up to own a few businesses and she became very much her own girl. She was independent. And if she did not always have things her own way, at least she always had the sky waiting for her.

This girl met a very bad man. He was bad in the way that men in the movies are bad, that violent, intemperate, dramatic way. And he was also bad in the tiresome little ways that men in real life are bad, the forgetting and the wandering and the way he was too slippery to pin down, like oyster meat under your fork or tongue. And one day she woke up to find herself fuzzy-headed in the hospital, bolted together inside and out, very far from home, stuck with this bad man like Belle in the castle of the Beast.

She wanted to fly home, but there was no way to fly home. There was no more way to fly at all. She was broken in ways that might always keep her from flying. I am sure she thought about giving up. But she put her head down and she worked on unbreaking herself. They say you cannot unbreak yourself, the same way you cannot un-ring a bell. But she unbroke herself.

“If I cannot fly,” she said, “I will race.”

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By on May 18, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI, Image: Subaru

Earlier this week, I fielded a question regarding German hot hatches. A few commenters suggested that I had made a mistake by not recommending the Subaru WRX or STi as an alternative to the Golf R and Focus RS. After all, I’d been perfectly content to recommend a Subaru as an alternative to a Volkswagen just a week before. So why not suggest an STI in place of an RS? Was it the long-dormant Euro-snob in me surfacing unexpectedly, like a Kraken slouching up from dark water to terrify the innocents on shore with its repugnant and vicious countenance? Or had I simply forgotten about the mere existence of the twin turbo compacts?

With regards to the first of these two scenarios, I can only assure the readership I’ve repented of my youthful Euro-snobbery to a degree that would make a post-Room-101 Winston Smith weep over his Victory Gin. With regards to the second scenario, I will only say this: somebody has forgotten about the WRX and STi, and that somebody is the corporate person known as Subaru of America.

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By on May 18, 2017

Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week. Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in […]

By on May 16, 2017

Volkswagen Golf R vs Ford Focus RS

You know what I miss? Besides the second season of Miami Vice, the Atari 800, and a country where grown men didn’t agree to appear in simpering photography sessions commemorating their emasculating engagements to former late-night legends of the Sig Ep house at Ohio State? I miss the days when automakers didn’t field an entry into every single possible automotive segment. I miss that halcyon period where Mercedes-Benz made sedans and Porsche made sports cars and never the twain needed to meet except in the destination garages of their superbly tasteful owners. Back when everybody stuck to their individual knitting, the products were better (for their time, of course) and the brand identities made more sense. I’m reminded of something that my musical idol and harshest critic, Victor Wooten, once said: “Instead of learning other instruments … I take the time that I would spend learning those instruments … and I put that time into learning my instrument, you dig?”

As my future third-wife Este once sang, however, those days are gone. In $THE_CURRENT_YEAR, nearly every manufacturer competes in nearly every segment. Which brings me to this week’s question, submitted by an extremely verbose fellow who needs to choose a German hatchback.

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By on May 12, 2017

Lada Niva Russia 2009. Picture courtesy of AvtoVAZ (aka Lada)

The relationship between the United States and Russia over the past hundred years or so would put any soap-opera romance to shame. Russia was the enemy in the 1930s, then it was an ally, then it was the enemy. When I was a kid in the ’70s, the Soviet Union was absolutely the enemy and we all expected that someday there would be war between the countries. Despite a concerned media effort to paint McCarthy, Nixon, et al as panicked morons swinging at shadows, most of us figured the Soviet Union did, in fact, regularly attempt to interfere in American affairs. (Turns out McCarthy was as right as he was wrong, maybe more so.) Sure, you had the committed leftists who were willing to take a “honeymoon” there, but they were few and far between.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia-US relations enjoyed a thaw. It didn’t last. Now the same political left that excused Stalin’s purges is clutching its pearls over Crimea, while the right-wingers who used to seriously discuss a nuclear-equipped preemptive strike against Moscow see Mr. Putin as a sort of fun-loving, horse-riding fellow who has the guts to drive an F1 car in wet conditions.

This is the sort of stark dichotomy that tends to cause trouble if left untended. Luckily, there’s something that can be done about it.

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Recent Comments

  • DenverMike: Something is definitely lost in translation, and of course BAFO exaggerates. If he had a Prius he’d...
  • NMGOM: Vulpine – – – You are wasting my time. You just don’t get it. Specious argruments...
  • joeaverage: Cue the “that’s not a REAL truck” guys… ;)
  • NMGOM: Why would anyone care about vehicles that aren’t pickup trucks? (^_^) =====================
  • joeaverage: I know those Ramblers like many other cars back then had a torque tube diveshaft. I wonder in a bad rear...

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