In order to show visiting US Air Force Academy cadets the wonders of Europe, I ditched my Carrera, whose back seats are merely a nice gesture, for a lumbering Mercedes-Benz GLK. After four hours of driving the speed limited Autoroutes, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, to throngs of drunk rugby fans celebrating the USAP win that day. Leaving the Mardi Gras spectacle we wandered around the veritable maze of streets that constitute the Seventh Arrondissement. Dodging rugby hooligans whose intentions seemed suspect (as some of us were wearing the opposing team colors), I never expected to stumble upon something so beautiful, so elegant, so alien as a 1955 Bentley S1 Fastback Mulliner parked on a curb in a hidden away section of Paris.
I realized I was airborne when my steering inputs had no effect on the direction of my Carrera. At the point the ass-engine configured rocketship started its atmospheric re-entry, several things went through my mind. If the rear-end breaks loose, do I keep my foot down? What happens if I lose it? Am I going to crash? When the rear tires made contact with terra-nurburg, and I was able to counter steer in a brilliant fashion (what really happened was Porsche Active Stability Management once again made me a driving god), all thoughts of impaling my Porker into the Armco ceased,. Once again, I was driving the dream and having the time of my life on the most legendary driving circuit in the world, the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
I love the way the Volkswagen CC looks. It’s a perfectly proportioned pastiche of everything I admire about BMW, Mercedes and Audi design. The CC is as handsome as the priced-to-fail Phaeton, only more so. Inside, the seats alone are worth the price of admission: firm yet endlessly supportive. The CC’s toy count is high, the price affordable. And, yet, something’s missing. Other than reliability. It’s that vital mojo that makes the Jaguar XF such a joy to behold, and the Mercedes-Benz CLS the ultimate boulevardier. Let’s call it . . . an automatic gearbox.
“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.