Category: Capsule Reviews

By on January 29, 2011

In my Nissan Frontier Capsule Review, I briefly mentioned the fact that I’d had a Saab 9-3 prior to said Frontier. Well, as it turned out, I ended up having the Saab after the Frontier, as well. Before I could take possession of said little turbocharged hatchback for the second time and send it back to the lease company where it belonged, however, I had to beg, threaten, and — depending on your definition of the word — perhaps steal.

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By on December 28, 2010

“I have something to tell you, but you cannot, I repeat, must not do anything about it.”

“Is it something I want to hear?”

“Yes, it is. But you have to swear.”

“Okay. I swear. Now tell me.”

“Maro is getting a divorce.” Oh. Maro. I remember you, swinging your legs, your perfect profile and staggeringly voluptuous figure backlit by the sun, and I remember you seated next to me, so long ago, in that little gold Nissan truck. Do you remember me?
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By on December 22, 2010

While at the LA Auto Show in November, TTAC was invited by Volvo to sample the Volvo C30 electric concept car. More a pre-production than concept, the C30 electric will supposedly hit the streets as a 2012 model-year car. So what does the Chinese-Swedish brand, known more for safety than drivetrain innovations, have in store for the electric market? I’m happy to report that the answer is: nothing out of the ordinary.

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By on November 30, 2010

“Hurry up,” the woman at the counter said, “because when you get back they are waiting to take it to the auction.” The odometer read just over forty-nine thousand, eight hundred miles. It would have been temptingly romantic to think of this as a last ride on a trusty horse before it went to the knacker’s, but let’s get real: forty-nine K on an Accord is just getting started. As John Mayer once sang, it might be a quarter-life crisis. Let’s get rolling.

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By on November 18, 2010

We’re coming to the end of KOREA! WEEK! and we still haven’t answered the question: When did Hyundai start becoming a serious player in this market? When did the image change from Deadly Sin to default-choice affordable car? One can go back as far as the second-generation Excel, which cracked the reliability equation while still being rust-prone as all get out. Alternately, perhaps it wasn’t until the arrival of the current Sonata that the brand became worthy of being chosen by the frozen Middle American masses.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and I’d suggest that the car you see above was the true turning point. The first-generation Elantra (Lantra to the Cammy Corrigan crowd) was pleasant enough, but it didn’t even pretend to compete with Civics and Corollas. Hyundai was assumed to know its place, and that place was among the credit criminals, desperately poor, and the hopelessly stupid. Ten years ago, however, the Elantra woke up and decided that nobody was going to put it in a corner.
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By on November 16, 2010

You could look at the accident one of two ways. The first way to look at it was that the backhoe was at fault. It backed out halfway across the northbound exit ramp to Bethel Road from Ohio SR-315, forcing my brother to take too rapid of an avoidance maneuver, spin his pristine Porsche 944, and hit a streetlight, causing said streetlight to fall into the freeway traffic.

The second way to look at it — and, in fairness, I must note that this view was the one espoused by the Columbus Police — was that my brother, Mark, had been traveling at perhaps one hundred miles per hour (“More like one twenty,” he sniffed to me in the aftermath) and that therefore the backhoe operator could have had no reasonable expectation that the red Porsche+Audi would arrive well before he could move back off the road.

Either way, it was time for the punishment car.

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By on November 10, 2010

Why did we have an eleven-year-old, scratch-and-dent, no-maintenance-records, twelve-cylinder Jaguar on our lot? Blame our naive sales manager, who always paid top dollar for trades. In his haste to revolutionize the way people bought and sold luxury cars in Dublin, Ohio, “Steve” tended to ignore the established car-sales playbook. At the time, I thought he was bold; I now realize he was stupid.

It’s famously said that the SCCA road-racing rulebook is “written in blood”. Every rule in the book is a lesson learned from a tragic occurrence. By the same token, every rule in the car-sales biz is written, not in blood, but in red ink. There’s one rule in particular that is written in so much ink that it’s bled through the page, and that is: Don’t take used cars to customer homes for test drives. If you look closely, you will see an asterisk to that rule, added by me, and at the bottom of the metaphorical page, I’ve written: * this goes double for Jags.

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By on November 1, 2010

No story should ever start, as this one does, with “my First Rover Metro.” The implication that there are more Metros to come is all too obvious, and could probably be best categorized as a “cry for help.” In any case, my first Rover Metro was a teal 1995 1.1L Kensington edition, purchased for £60 from a friend in Bishop-Stortford. The Kensington edition meant I got shards of carpet over the door panels, and the kind of pizzazz that only an engineer from Coventry would be able to come up with. The Metro lasted only 19 hours in my hands before a brake failure led to its demise into the back of a yellow Hyundai. My second Rover Metro was a 1997 Tahiti Blue 1.1L Ascot edition*, which meant I got full wheel covers and blue piping in the velour. This only accelerated my descent into the world of English motoring, where I found joy and fulfillment in the death rattle of a Rover K-series engine.

*astute readers will recall that both vehicles are technically Rover 100’s, but are always remembered in pop culture as the Metro.

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By on October 23, 2010

Dad! Would you come and check out a car I might want to buy?

Sure Will; what is it?

A Deawoo Leganza.

Oh, Um, Ah, Hm; you’re sure that you might want to buy that?

Yeah; it’s got leather, sunroof, and a great sound system.

What’s wrong with it?

The electric window switches are wackky. I don’t care.

Are you sure that’s all?

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By on October 20, 2010

I’m no attorney, but I’ve read articles posted anonymously on the Internet by people who claim to be attorneys, and therefore I feel confident that my extensive research regarding the statute of limitations for insurance fraud in certain Midwestern states is correct. It’s time to tell a story of minitrucks and maxipayments, of bumbling crime and hilariously apt punishment…

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By on October 19, 2010

Count on Rodney to ruin a fine romance. “I just thought you should know,” he said as I opened up the lockbox to find the keys for our only four-cylinder, five-speed Probe, “that I screwed your up.”

“You screwed me up?” It wouldn’t be the first time; he’d recently driven a new Taurus headfirst into our “JBL: The Sound Of Ford” display while trying to manuever it out of the showroom, approximately four hours before I was scheduled to deliver it to its new owner.

“No, I screwed your up. The girl sitting at your desk. With the hairy forearms.” Come to think of it, her forearms did have a fair amount of remarkably dark hair on them. “She still thinks my name is Cleveland Washington or something like that. We hit it off right in the club bathroom, like I am known to do.” And yes, indeed, Rodney was rather infamous for anonymous tile-surrounded sex. There were five waitresses who worked the late shift at our local Waffle House. Rodney had violated two of them on the women’s sink over the past year and was working a third with all the patience of a champion bass fisherman. “You know what it means when a girl has hairy forearms.”

“I really don’t.” So he told me. Well, I should have realized that.

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By on October 17, 2010

TTAC tested the street version of this car a few years ago: check it out for a classic example of mid-RF-era TTAC reviews, complete with withering attention to interior-quality issues and not-so-gentle comments regarding the unwillingness of the average automaker to purchase a Ford.

At the time, the Focus sold for about fifteen grand. That was for the street car. How much does a racing Focus cost? The answer: One dollar. The answer is also $2500. And $6000. And $25,000. Confused yet?

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By on October 7, 2010

More than a few of you had a simple question (or statement) regarding my Infiniti G20 Capsule Review, namely,

“Why didn’t you check the mileage of the dealer trade?”

The answer is simple: I wasn’t even permitted to call other dealerships, much less arrange trades. At that particular shop, salespeople weren’t even permitted to see the final numbers at deals. We were intended to be “product specialists”, not wheeler-dealers.

In fact, our rather idealistic general manager believed in specifically hiring people with no experience in the industry. His boss, the dealer group manager, had deep roots in the buy-here-pay-here biz. The conflict between these two philosophies occasionally led to trouble…

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By on October 6, 2010


I should have known from the breathless senior in long shorts and fancy jewelry: “AC Propulsion is over there. They won the X-Prize!” I should have known from the Long Curly Hair Middle-Aged Dad with Toddler and Pregnant Hippie Wife. I should have known from the fact that this first day of the national “Drive Electric Tour Sponsored by Nissan Leaf” was in Santa Monica. But I didn’t, and so
color moi tres surpris when the little Leaf driving demo was actually the biggest part of the 2010 Alt Car Expo. Petrolheads beware.

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By on October 5, 2010

Whenever somebody asked me what I did for a living during the summer of 1994, I would tell them “I sell Infinitis”. That was a lie. My actual job was to lease the Infiniti J30 at $399/month to second-tier suburban wanna-bes and a wide variety of credit criminals. That was what paid for our owner’s impressive coke habit, and that was what earned me as much as three thousand dollars per month.

In the interest of strict factual accuracy, I should point out that we did, nominally, sell two other models. The 1994 Q45 was an overpriced brick with a Park Avenue-style facelift. Over the course of six months, we sold two of them, one to a former salesman who was simply in the habit of driving that particular car as a demo, and one to somebody who owned a 1990 example and was only vaguely horrified at the “updates” performed that year. Looking back, I think he used to snort coke with the dealership’s owner. It would explain a lot.

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