“First shots of the new merc e-class amg. Outran my 911 easily on the autobahn. Its idle wasn’t a v8. Will blog when I get home. [sent from iPhone]“
I frantically typed these words on my (overly) touch sensitive iPhone whilst parked at the Eifel Tankstelle on the A1 Autobahn. I knew the vehicle following me on the B-258 coming back from the Nürburgring was unusual, simply due to its camouflaged fascia hiding massive brake ducts, and some sporty fender bulges.
200km/h ticked by on the digital speedo and I was still pressed into the sports seats. 230km/h flashed by, and the scenery of autobahn, cars, and trees started to blur. 260km/h rolled by and I started to think “Holy hell!”. At 303km/h I became a laser-guided Autobahn Cruise Missile. I swear I heard sonic booms echo off the Opels I passed. The Porsche and I were melded at this point, a human-machine interface so cohesive it would take three g’s of braking force from the vented discs to separate us. I thought I had found driving Nirvana at this point, but I was wrong.
So the United States finally gets the Nissan Cube, a funky, cool box. From initial impressions, it provides a unique and entertaining driving experience. Meanwhile, here in Western Europe, we get the Nissan Note, a Micra front-ended, Renault Modus-derived piece of crap. To say that I longed for a basic Ford Focus after driving this from Trier all the way to Maastricht, down to Luxembourg, and then back to Trier says a lot. The Note made me angry, so angry in fact that I actually contemplated sabotaging the thing so Sixt Car Rental would replace it. But then I realized they’d probably hand me the keys to yet another sour Note.
Audi and BMW have been at each other’s throats since Audi tried to compete with the 2002 by fitting a juiced up Volkswagen engine into its Fox/80 in 1978 to create the GTI/GTE. Now that BWM has trotted out the 335d to supplicate the masses of Americans clamoring for an oil-burning wunder-mobile just like za Germans drive auf der autobahn, Audi has rumored they might bring over something to tempt image conscious yuppies (who still have a job). After sampling the cheapest of the diesels offered in the A4 platform, I can honestly tell Audi, don’t waste your time.
More than a few members of TTAC’s esteemed B&B have been clamoring for the European specification Ford Focus—ever since Ford decided the original was just fine for the non-discriminating American customer. “If you bring it, they will buy it” our commentariot railed at the Powers That Be. Well, after sampling the latest basic Focus, I can tell you that the Euro Focus sucks just like the American Focus, just not quite as much.
In comparison to the Genesis sedan, the Genesis Coupe has appeared on dealer lots like a Stealth bomber sliding into Whiteman. Either Hyundai thinks their new two-door makes such a strong impression it doesn’t need a huge marketing campaign to jump-start the public imagination, or they blew their wad with the sedan. Whatever Hyundai’s intentions, the Genesis Coupe speaks for itself, surpassing its current competitors in the pony car market. (2010 Ford Mustang test to follow.) If you’re looking for a rear-wheel drive, high powered sporty car at recession friendly pricing, exodus forms on the right.
CarMax prides itself on creating a dealership experience unlike any other. Well, now that Saturn is going Tango Uniform. CarMax emphasizes no haggle pricing, easy financing, and a process that involves only one person. No more having your salesperson go back and forth between you and “Bubba” (or “Cowboy” if you are Dodge). You’re greeted warmly, shown any car you like, and guided through a completely transparent transaction, with nothing hidden. That’s the theory. How does it hold up in practice? In true TTAC tradition, I offer a personal critique of one of our biggest sponsors.
When I was a little boy, my father regaled me with tales of magical creatures that lurked in the Ardennes Forest, the Alps and the high steppes of the Cossack Frontier. Dozens of ‘em. And yet Dad forgot the one about the Magical Depreciation Fairy. You know: the creature that lurks in vast concrete expanses that harbor shining metal dragons that enslave weaker members of our society. I shall now inform the Best and Brightest of the characteristics of the Magical Depreciation Fairy, lest ye fall victim to its devious ways.
M, RS, V, F, AMG. The alpha alphabet represents five manufacturers’ best efforts to create something unique, exciting and memorable from their more prosaic mainstream motors. The resulting “performance tuned” sports sedans are so powerful, so capable, so versatile, that they’re the ground based equivalent of the all-weather fighter jets that battle for control of the skies. While the shibboleth “there’s no such thing as a bad car” applies here, there are always going to be winners and losers. And it’s our job to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Breathe. Remember this when you drive the Cadillac CTS-V. No matter what happens, continue to breathe, lest you fall victim to what us aviators call G-LOCing, or G-Force Loss-of-Consciousness. Steady, rhythmic breaths will help your body cope with the stresses induced by a four-door sedan capable of hurtling your fragile, carbon based body into speeds that challenge the Theory of Relativity. Entering hyperspace, where the gravity wells of passing stars actually start to affect the navigation system of the CTS-V, you might forget this simple fact, pass out, and crash the American built sports sedan that beats its German competitors into submission.
Living in Breckenridge, Colorado, you need some sort of All-Wheel Drive setup. Snow remains the small town’s primary reason to exist. This explains the multitudes of Subarus, Audis, Volvos, and SUVs all equipped with four wheel motivation. Most drive away blissfully unaware of how recent this feature came to market (as little as 27 years ago). In 1980, Audi introduced the first permanently engaged all-wheel drive system in the Audi Quattro. Prior to this, all vehicles had a part-time system where only two wheels were driven most of the time, requiring driver intervention should the going get slippery. Audi changed all this by putting one driveshaft inside the other, saving space and weight and making it possible for a complex, permanently engaged system to function on a small car. Vorsprung durch Technik, baby!
When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.
Trying to eke out the best mileage whilst in a major city proves difficult. Trying to get the best mileage possible while on the Strip in Las Vegas proves downright impossible. No matter, as my car has Oklahoma plates and I’m in the biggest tourist destination in Nevada. So I consign myself to appear confused and lost as I trundle down to the Mandalay Bay for their awesome buffet.
For this section of the trip to make any sense, I must tell you a story, an important story allowing you a view into one of the Air Force’s most hallowed legends. The story of a bourbon whiskey called Jeremiah Weed, a fighter pilot, a young lieutenant, and how it all involves a Porsche Cayenne and a pursuit for hypermileage….