[Editor's note: This piece was originally published in February 2009, and like so much of TTAC's content, it's timeless enough to deserve another moment on the front page. Enjoy!]
Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. Who said the British don’t do hyperbole? As a quiet car connoisseur, I’d have to say a Clinton-era Cadillac provided the quietest ride I’d ever experienced; if the time was one of peace and prosperity, then so was the car. Nowadays, automakers are telling us that their cars are quiet, or at least quieter than ever before. I’m not buying it. A number of recent drives have been notable for their aural uncouthness. So I set out to find the truth about automotive sonic signatures. Has nostalgia dimmed my memory (if not my hearing)? Is progress on the noise suppression front been less impressive than industry propaganda would have you believe?
Now that the worst part of the global economic crisis is over, investors are fired up for any investment opportunity that looks good and doesn’t smell funny. Especially in the alternative-energy field. Some ventures make sense while others are based on a rather exotic logic. Better Place, for instance: its institutional investors say it’s “the only EV + infrastructure play”, and therefore something you’d better not miss. I’d just say it requires weird financial reasoning to justify electric filling stations stocked with expensive exchange batteries.
Earlier this week, I was at Mindset Holding’s press conference in Switzerland, where they announced they had received 75 million Swiss Francs of financing from a US fund, GEM Group, with another 108 millions optional. Mindset will be using this money to produce its exotic electric sports coupe — the one I thought was fantastically forward-looking when I witnessed it last year.
Is this madness? After all, Mindset in 2012 will be competing with Tesla’s Model S, the Fisker Karma, and numerous electrified or hybridized German and Japanese luxury cars. Who’d spend 100,000 Francs on a Swiss made electric three-seater?
Editor’s Note: On Monday, TTAC’s Martin Schwoerer wrote about a planned record-breaking non-stop run of 600 KMs, from Munich to Berlin, with a car that was equipped with a “revolutionary” electric battery system. Something smells funny, he said, and vowed to donate 100 Euros in case the drive was completed. Well, it was. So, how does it feel to have pie on your face?
How about Vegetarians Against the klan? Or maybe the Tugg Speedman Foundation? No, there are probably better organisations to give my money to. Guess I’ll ask the Best & Brightest… (Read More…)
We live in annoyingly ideological times, in which people get worked up about gay marriage, Christopher Bangle, or what religion their neighbor belongs to. This is foreign to me. If it works for you, then go for it, I always say. You like some wheels, you buy ‘em; if you don’t, don’t.
So, it’s hard for me to understand what the fuss is about the Chevrolet Volt. It’s just a car, for Pete’s sake! On the other hand, I am a notorious gearhead and can appreciate the importance of what seems to be a totally new automotive concept. It’s new, but does it point toward the future? Let’s discuss it.
You know that something is a fad when A) it’s bubbling on the stock market or when B) snake-oil salesmen tout the newest revolution, and regular folks actually start believing them.We’re not quite there yet with “A)”, but check out what I call an exhibit for “B)”. (Read More…)
As in the case of the proverbial hare and tortoise, when you set two unlikely opponents against each other, you get some entertaining results — and you might even prove a point. That’s what Germany’s AutoBild (print edition, March 5) tried to do when it tested the assumption that power = speed.
This is the news from the Lake Wobegon car show, where all the vehicles look beautiful, all the engines are low-emission, and all automotive managers are above average. No wait, this is Geneva, probably the world’s most important car show. The rest of the opening sentence is true, though – at least, that’s what public relations would have you believe. (Read More…)
At the Geneva car show, this year’s bon mot among the journos is: there are two kinds of auto companies, those with problems and those that will have problems in the future. That’s one of the many reasons to take interest in the latest crop of concept cars: today’s concept could just be tomorrow’s catastrophe. Look past the bright lights and posed displays, and you can see visions of designers gone mad, branding gone astray, and a complete lack of any managerial imagination. Luckily, not all is dark on the horizon… (Read More…)
TTAC has reported on VW’s plans to become the global number one. Looking at Toyota’s current quality problems, one could be excused for thinking that there just might be some substance to Wolfsburg’s plans. After all, Toyota’s days of glory seem to be over, while VW is on a roll, with sales growing and quality improving. Right?
People buy cars they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. That’s why hardly anybody in Europe is buying the Chevrolet Cruze, which has been on sale over here since last summer. It’s an affordable car that you might need but you won’t want, and which won’t impress anybody [...]
The Toyota Aygo, which is the (in-all-but-styling) identical twin of the Citroen C1, is a fine little car, and when I tested it in 2007, I found most everything about it likeable. Packaging, finish, styling, handling, pleasure of driving: the Aygo/C1 turned out to be a thoroughly modern and enjoyable car for a bare-bones price. [...]
I’m anything but a Trekkie, but a recent drive in the Tesla Roadster made me think of the Starship Enterprise. To be more precise, the Enterprise a second after warp speed has been deployed. Imagine for a moment that your brain is Captain Kirk and the “gas” pedal is Scotty. When Scotty receives the warp [...]
Even frugal cars need to be desirable. Most electric vehicles are anything but. Right now, EVs are slow, ugly, cheap, and not good to drive. In contrast, the Tazzari Zero from Imola, Italy, wants to be a “wanna have”: great to drive, good to sit in and easy on the eyes. Here’s the data: cast-aluminum, glued frame, central motor, RWD, low center of gravity, Li-Ion Fe batteries. A two-seater that is a bit longer, but lower than a Smart. Weighing just 545 kg (1202 lb), 150 N·m of torque and 15 kW engine power would seem to go a long way. The top speed is 56 mph and it has a range of 88 miles. Gorgeous looks (if you ask me), with a dose of NSU TT attain the right balance of aggressive and cute.
Car manufacturers are toast! At least, that’s what members of the Electric Vehicle (EV) religion believe. A car maker’s core business is engines—but engines are over, they say. It’s 1910 all over again, and internal-combustion cars are going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. But I say: Wrong! The electric Twingo I drove proves that there is more to making a good drive than just getting the propulsion stuff right.
As previously reported, the Th!ink EV was a disappointment: feckless, lightweight-feeling, stiff-legged, wobbly. A real let-down when you consider that it was specifically designed for the requirements of electric power. So it was with some skepticism that I took the helm of a Renault Twingo that MES-DEA (a Swiss company) had turned into an EV.