The Truth About Cars » doug demuro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:08:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » doug demuro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: Do You Have To Be Showy To Sell Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053033 I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini. Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It […]

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Porsche-911-GT3-RS-07

I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini.

Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It had slightly different wheels, slightly updated bodywork, and a slightly enlarged wing. That was it. There was no other way you could possibly know you were dealing with a car that could run rings around any Ferrari on the race track.

Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The latest GT3 has huge wheels. Huge inlets and scoops and air intakes and cooling ducts. Major changes to the bodywork that say “Look at me! I’m a GT3!” And a giant rear wing that could – truly and honestly – double as a desk, or a park bench, or the kind of table you use to mount a circular saw and cut wood, plus the occasional finger.

The GT3 RS is even worse. Back when the 997.2 GT3 RS came out, it was already becoming clear that Porsche had diverted from its status as a formerly great purveyor of subtle sports cars. But in case you weren’t sure, they painted the wheels red, stuck an even larger wing on the back, and stuck red “checkered flag” decals down the sides. I can’t even imagine being seen in this car.

It’s not just the 911 that seems to be more ostentatious than ever before. The rest of the Porsche lineup has also embraced the changes: there are now giant wheels where there used to be average-sized ones. There are huge LED running lights on the front. The Panamera is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

But it isn’t just Porsche who’s making these changes. When I was growing up, base-model Mercedes products were really restrained. You had dull, simple wheels, and dull, simple designs, and some of them even had black plastic cladding on the bottom to remind everyone that no, this person didn’t opt for a high-performance version or the most expensive S-Class.

Well, that seems to have changed. In 2015, there is no possible way to distinguish AMG cars from non-AMG cars unless you get a look under the hood. I have especially noticed this on the CLA: I once drove the CLA45 AMG, and I thought it was amazing, so I always get very excited when I see a CLA45 on the roads. Except it’s almost never an actual CLA45. It’s usually just a CLA250, with a bigger bumper, and bigger wheels, and even factory AMG badging as part of some annoying “AMG Sport Package.”

Audi, too, is playing this game. Remember the B5 S4, the early-2000s model that offered only subtle updates — painted rocker panels and different wheels — over the standard model? Today’s Audi “S” and “RS” cars are far different. They’re subtle, but showy. They have huge grilles, and big wheels, and obvious body kits. They’re like the kid who raises his hand in class and casually mentions that his dad is a CEO.

This annoys me, because I’ve always enjoyed the automotive “sleeper.” I once had a Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon painted metallic gold that looked – to the vast majority of observers – like the kind of car your grandfather would buy once he got too old to climb up into SUVs. But to people who knew, it was a monster: 500 horsepower, giant V8, Ferrari-style acceleration. It was one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, largely because no one had any idea what it was capable of.

But in today’s world, we’ve gone the other way. More and more modern cars are offering the look of a fast car without the actual goods to back it up. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And in today’s automotive world, is it really necessary to be showy in order to sell cars?

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Lincoln Is Already Coming Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049449 I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an […]

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MKCExterior3_rdax_646x396

I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an idiot, which, in your minds, appeared to be approximately the same thing.

Well, here we are two years later, and Lincoln is already clawing its way back.

I say this because I recently spent time in the MKC, which is a small luxury crossover designed to rival everyone else’s small luxury crossover: the Mercedes GLK, the Lexus NX, the Acura RDX, the Infiniti QX50, and a wide range of other models with indecipherable acronym names that make heavy use of the letter “X.”

And you know what? The Lincoln MKC is pretty damn good.

Let’s go over the details. It’s starts at $34,000, which makes it cheaper than virtually all its rivals. It gets better mileage than most of them, too. Options include rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, and one of the best infotainment systems in the entire industry. Yes, I know MyFord Touch sucked when it came out, but that was five years ago – and if you haven’t driven a car equipped with it since then, you’re missing out.

You can choose between two engines: a 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 285-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder that offers more power than most rival V6s. There’s a standard backup camera. Standard voice control. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control. Standard keyless access with push-button start. Standard power front seats, which is something that Audi has been trying to figure out for the last two decades. In other words: on paper, this car is a worthy adversary for every single modern compact luxury crossover. It’s not some flag-waving also-ran.

And in practice?

In practice, it’s just as damn good. A few car journalists have knocked Lincoln interiors for offering a little too much cheap plastic, but I think these people need to spend time in other luxury SUVs. The Mercedes GLK interior looks like a factory for plastic. The RDX interior makes it seem like Acura is the largest consumer of plastic buttons outside the Target women’s department. Any objective person would say the MKC fits right in with these rivals.

And then there’s the driving experience. It’s quick. It’s comfortable. It’s plush. No, it’s no sports car, but let’s be honest: the MKC was never going to take down the BMW X3. Lincoln is going after the enormous “I want a luxurious luxury car” segment currently being abandoned by “Let’s Make It Look Crazy” Lexus, and they’re doing a damn good job.

All-New 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

So then we move to Lincoln’s “other” new product: the MKZ. I’ve driven the MKZ. I like the MKZ. I find the MKZ to be one of the most attractive new cars on sale, giant taillight and all. If I were interested in a smooth, comfortable luxury car, I’d find my way over to the Lincoln dealer long before I ever set foot in Lexus of My Hometown. Largely because the Lexus dealer scares me, since it looks like all the SUVs are going to eat my extremities.

Now, I know I’m in the minority when it comes to the MKZ, primarily due to its polarizing exterior styling. But you have to agree that this car, too, looks pretty damn good on paper. Turbo 4-cylinder. Optional V6. Available hybrid model that costs nothing extra and does 40 mpg in combined driving. Cheaper than Lexus, and more equipment. For those of us who don’t think it looks like a beached whale, this is a pretty damn good car.

And I suspect Lincoln will continue coming out with these damn good cars over the next few years. This is, after all, the same company that brought Ford from a football-shaped Taurus with a pushrod engine to a handsome, desirable Fusion in just a decade. They can do it with Lincoln, too.

Now, I’m the first to admit that Lincoln’s turnaround will be a long and bumpy one – especially if they believe their flagship vehicle, the Navigator, can continue in its current form as a warmed-over Expedition with a ten-year-old chassis and a fraction of the features its rivals have.

And then there’s the brand’s name. Cadillac has been turning around for a decade now, and you’d still get a nasty look from any non-car enthusiast if you told them you were buying a Cadillac. “A Cadillac?” they would say. “For you? Or your grandfather?” And then they would laugh and laugh, as they walk out to their cool new BMW or Audi, which aren’t associated with old people, but rather sorority girls from the North Shore of Long Island.

So it’s a long road ahead, but I think Lincoln is going about it the right way: by delivering high-quality products packed with features, loaded with equipment, and equipped with some of the best engines on the market. This process won’t be done in two years, or even five years, but it’s headed in the right direction. Just like I said.

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Automatic Door Locks Simply Shouldn’t Exist http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:19:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046778 I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks. Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those […]

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door_lock

I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks.

Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those manual levers that you’re always twisting and turning and arguing with your passenger about. (“NO HONEY, WE NEED MORE RED!”)

And I think most of us would agree that automatic windows are way better than crank windows. Same with automatic mirrors, and automatic locks, and automatic lights, and an automatic tailgate, and a wide variety of automatic stuff that has replaced our need to really do anything except drive, change the stereo, and speak to our passengers. And if we could get an automatic passenger interaction system, I would probably be pretty excited about that.

But what I absolutely can’t stand is automatic door locks.

Allow me to explain how automatic door locks work. You’re cruising along in your automobile, and you reach a certain speed, and then your doors lock, usually without you noticing it. This is all fine and acceptable, until you go to pick up someone, and they try the handle, and you realize that they’re locked out. Then you have to press the damn button and let them in, when you never really wanted them locked out in the first place.

Here’s an even worse application of automatic locks: my uncle once had a fairly modern vehicle that touted, as a “feature,” an automatic locking system that would lock the doors after the car was turned on for approximately two minutes, regardless of speed. So one time he parked at the dry cleaner, and left the car running in the service drive outside, and went in to drop off his dry cleaning.

Well, after a few minutes, he’s talking to the dry cleaner, he’s standing in line, he’s giving instructions, whatever, and he comes out to his automobile to discover that the doors are locked and the engine is running. The man had locked himself out of a running automobile.

Now, if this sounds like something that absolutely shouldn’t happen, you’re right. And that’s why automatic locks should be abolished in their entirety.

Here’s the thing: if I want my doors to be locked, I personally will lock them myself. I will get in my car, reach over, and press the “lock” button on the door panel. This is a simple action, and I am more than capable, as a human being and a consumer of automobiles, of carrying it out in its entirety.

What I don’t want to happen is the doors start locking and unlocking at random intervals without my knowledge. I don’t want to end up locked out of the car. I don’t want my passengers to end up locked out of the car. I would almost rather have the windows go down at random levels, causing me to quickly react and send them back up like an automotive whack-a-mole game, than have to deal with this crap from the door locks.

This is especially annoying when you’re driving press cars. Allow me to illustrate the situation: you find a nice open spot to take a lovely picture of the latest press car you’ve been given. You pull over. You get out to grab a great image; a lovely shot that will make all the readers excited to learn about your press vehicle du jour. And then you stop. You think. Does this thing have auto locks?

So what you do is, you either leave it running with a window down, or you turn it of off and bring the keys with you. And not once: Every. Single. Time. Because you’re that worried about the potential of the doors automatically locking and blocking you out from returning from your vehicle. You’re that worried about having to call the local PR guy for whatever automaker you’re dealing with, and announcing: “I’ve locked myself out of your press car, and also I’m parked in front of a decaying urban structure that I thought would make a good photo background.”

So I have a piece of advice here for automakers: We like the other automatic features. We like the automatic seats, and the automatic trunk, and the automatic brake lights that pulse really fast when you’re slamming on the brakes. But automatic locking has no business in any of today’s automobiles. Please. Spare us.

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Question Of The Day: What Car Offends You The Most? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:27:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046985 So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat. I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, […]

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Hummer- drive - Picture courtesy AM General

So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, people would roll down their Prius window in traffic, and motion for me to roll down mine, and then berate me for several minutes about how I am a seal-killing gas guzzler, and a baby-destroying Republican, and an environment-ruining asshole, none of which I could hear because my engine is too loud. Then we would start up and drive away and they would win any drag race, because my Hummer is slower than a grandfather who’s learning how to downhill ski.

But that isn’t what happens. What happens is, people give me thumbs-ups. They wave. They smile. They tell me “Cool truck!” The other day some guy in a Chevy Avalanche offered to buy it, though I suspect he would’ve balked at the fact that this giant old piece of crap costs more than thirty grand.

In other words: people actually seem to like this thing.

I think part of it is the fact that I live in Philadelphia. Ultimately, this is something of a working-class city, and people kind of like cool trucks, and cool SUVs, and cool pickups, and they can tell this thing is a little older and a little different. A older, different truck that gets the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I suspect it would be different if I were driving an H2. It’s very obvious to me that people can quickly spot the size and design differences between the original Hummer and the H2, because people are always saying things like: Look man! There’s an original Hummer! Or: Nice Hummer man, that’s the real deal! Whereas people look at an H2 and they assume it’s some guy who’s behind on his alimony payments.

As I result, I think people would probably be a lot more offended if I were driving around in an H2. I don’t think they’d necessarily say anything, of course, because this isn’t Northern California where people in plug-in vehicles feel that it’s their right to verbally harass people in gas guzzlers. But I would notice them glaring at me, disapprovingly, as I took up two lanes at traffic lights.

So today I’m asking you: what vehicle offends you the most? Is it the Hummer H2? Or is there some even more offensive vehicle that you just can’t help but slow down as you drive past in order to see what kind of idiot would buy it?

For me, the answer is twofold. Number one, any previous-generation Chrysler 200 or Dodge Avenger with a dealer plate frame or a bumper sticker. When there’s no plate frame and no bumper stickers, you can sort of assume it’s a rental car, and so you can’t really be too offended at the idea that someone might turn down the Camry, the Accord, a used Hyundai, an old Taurus, a bus pass, etc., in order to buy one of these things. But when there’s evidence that someone actually purchased this vehicle, you have to sit there and, as a car guy, take a little offense that someone would stoop to such a poor automotive decision.

Here’s another thing that pisses me off: every time I see a heavy-duty pickup in a big city.

A couple of months ago I was driving around Manhattan and I got up behind a guy in a fairly recent Chevrolet Silverado Dually; the kind of truck that’s so wide they have to put those little orange lights above the windshield to remind everyone that it may actually be a city bus.

Driving this thing in Manhattan must’ve been an absolutely nightmare, but here this guy was: cruising down Park Avenue dodging taxis and bicyclists as if he was just another old guy in a Saab 900.

So I used the Carfax app to run the guy’s plate number, and sure enough: this behemoth of an automobile was registered in New York, New York. In other words: this wasn’t some weekender down from the Catskills, taking a break from his usual job of hauling stuff and looking manly. This guy actually possessed this vehicle in New York City. Admittedly, he could’ve lived in Staten Island, but I think that would’ve only been a little less offensive.

So, what say you? Is there any car that makes your jaw drop with disgust when you see it on the street? Is there any car where you really want to walk over, tap on the window, and say: what the hell were you thinking?

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Question Of The Day: Who Gets To Drive Your Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-gets-drive-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-gets-drive-car/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:59:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041881 About a year ago, I posted this video online that showed a wide range of people – friends, acquaintances, strangers, toddlers – driving my Ferrari. And the video caused kind of a sensation, and everyone got kind of excited, but mostly people just thought I was insane. “You let all these people drive your FERRARI?” […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

About a year ago, I posted this video online that showed a wide range of people – friends, acquaintances, strangers, toddlers – driving my Ferrari. And the video caused kind of a sensation, and everyone got kind of excited, but mostly people just thought I was insane.

“You let all these people drive your FERRARI?” people would say, incredulously, as if my used Ferrari had never been driven by anyone before. “What if they crashed it?!”

The people who thought I was especially crazy were the guys on the Ferrari forums. “Never buy Doug DeMuro’s used car,” I would read, from guys who bought their 1983 308 GTSi in 2012. “OTHER PEOPLE have driven it.”

I didn’t think there was very much risk. In fact, I sat in the passenger seat as these people drove my car, and the thing I came away understanding is that everyone is incredibly cautious when they drive someone else’s Ferrari. So while I’m sitting behind the wheel, texting and eating sandwiches, they’re one step away from getting out of the car at a stop light to make sure they stopped the perfect distance behind the crosswalk.

I had a similar experience recently when I purchased a right-hand drive Nissan Skyline GT-R, imported straight from Japan, which makes me JDM Tyte, yo. I’ve already let several people climb behind the wheel, and each were very surprised that a) I allowed them to drive my new car, and b) pushing the turn signal activated the wipers.

But once again, I didn’t really mind. What’s the point of having a fun car if you aren’t going to share it? I know, I know, some people like to look at their cars, and keep them pristine, and polish them, and keep miles off the odometer. But in both cases, these were used cars; cars that have undoubtedly been driven by dozens of people over the years, and not anywhere near as carefully as my friends drive while I keep a watchful eye from the passenger seat.

In fact, I have generally maintained a very liberal policy about driving most of my cars over the years. Once I know you well enough, you’re more than welcome to climb behind the wheel, fire it up, and see just how much fun it is to pretend – for just a moment – that whatever used vehicle I owned that month was your own giant money pit.

Many car enthusiasts, however, do not feel the same way. On the contrary, I’ve noticed that a wide range of car enthusiasts take a No one drives my cars attitude to automobile ownership. So much, in fact, that a lot of enthusiasts refuse to let even their own spouse – a person with access to passwords, and banking information, and the knife drawer – climb behind the wheel of their vehicle, for fear of damage.

The main reason, of course, is that we are all worried someone might drive too hard, or too fast, or too inattentively, and then our pride and joy will be smashed up, and we’ll be left with a tricky insurance situation. What happened? Who was driving? Why was he driving? Why weren’t you driving? And then the claim will be denied, and the car will never be repaired, and life as we know it will cease to exist because you will instead have to drive around in a Toyota product.

And I admit, this is a reasonable point of view, which is why there remains a fairly large divide between car enthusiasts on this issue. And so now I ask you: do you let other people drive your car? If so, who? And under what circumstances? Alone? With you in the passenger seat? Many times? Just once?

It’ll also be helpful here to point out the type of vehicle you drive. I say this because someone who responds that they have a 1964 Lamborghini 350GT and they occasionally let their friends drive it gets a lot more credit than someone who replies that they have a 1994 Corolla and they let anyone drive it, including friends, family, their mailman, the tree trimmer guy, etc.

So, ladies and gentlemen, what are you driving? And what’s your view on letting other people drive it?

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Question Of The Day: What Automaker Will You Never Buy From Again? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automaker-will-never-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automaker-will-never-buy/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030585 I recently wrote a column about how there are those occasional times where you just have to recommend a boring car to someone. Whether it’s for financial reasons, or equipment reasons, or their own brand preconceptions, sometimes it’s just easier to recommend a boring car than to try and convince them that your point of […]

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Volvo240calypse_Part_2-01

I recently wrote a column about how there are those occasional times where you just have to recommend a boring car to someone. Whether it’s for financial reasons, or equipment reasons, or their own brand preconceptions, sometimes it’s just easier to recommend a boring car than to try and convince them that your point of view is correct.

But then, sometimes, there’s an entirely different reason why you can’t recommend certain vehicles: because there are people out there who are convinced that they will never buy from certain automakers ever again.

I’ll give you an example. I have a friend whose mother bought a Volvo 240 in approximately 1989. It may have been 1988, it may have been 1990; who the hell knows, at this point? She probably doesn’t even know anymore, despite the fact that she’s still harboring an intense grudge against Volvo because of this car.

And what’s the reason for the grudge? Apparently, a few years into the car’s life cycle, the engine blew. I’ve never heard any more details than that: the engine blew. Volvo refused to pay for it. The engine blew. What an awful company. The engine blew. These cars are so poorly built!

Now, I’m going to put aside the obvious issue with this — primarily the fact that the Volvo 240 is known for being one of the most robust, sturdy automobiles in human history, and the engine was so pathetically unstressed that it made something like 46 horsepower — and tell you what her reaction was: I AM NEVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER VOLVO AGAIN.

And guess what? She hasn’t.

It’s been 25 years, and she still hasn’t touched another Volvo. She’s owned cars from various other luxury automakers, some of which are probably even worse than the Volvos of today. But she doesn’t even give Volvo a second glance. It is completely lost on her that Volvo of 2015 – which makes hybrid turbo-supercharged engines and a center stack with a huge opening behind it and blue dials and an automated parking system – could possibly be different than the Volvo of 1989, when the big new feature was those three-bar head rests. She swore off Volvo during the Reagan years, and by God, she ain’t goin’ back.

Of course, she isn’t the only one. Talk to just about any car person and you’ll see a wide range of automotive opinions, most of which place Honda and Toyota as the answer to every single question, regardless of the answer; Kia and Hyundai as “second class” automakers that haven’t really “earned their place” in the car industry; and Ford and Chevy as the kind of thing they rent when they’re on vacation. And then there’s always that one brand that they simply will never purchase again.

So today, I ask: what’s your brand? What automaker have you decided to swear off in its entirety? What car company could come out tomorrow with the cure for cancer, and leave you saying: No, thanks. I’ll wait until Subaru has it.

For me, no such brand exists. I mean, oh, sure, I’ve written a lot of negative things about Volkswagen over the years, but I’m not inherently biased against its cars. In fact, I happen to like every single good Volkswagen model, from the GTI 2-door to the GTI 4-door. And despite a series of bad experiences with Mercedes-Benz, I haven’t yet sworn off the luxurious Germans — at least, as long as they keep making the sublime CLA45 AMG.

I haven’t even given up on Land Rover, manufacturer of automobiles that last as long as Boston-area pothole repairs, because by God I just love driving mine. And plus, I love the wild and crazy selection of rental cars that I’m given whenever mine goes into the shop for an overly severe warning light.

But I’m sure that most car enthusiasts have at least one brand they’d never touch — either for reliability reasons, or safety concerns, or because you just don’t like their cars. So today I’m curious: which one is it? And why?

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Question Of The Day: What’s the Next Big Automotive Segment? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whats-next-big-automotive-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whats-next-big-automotive-segment/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025505 Well, folks, I can confidently tell you right now what the hot new segment is: small luxury crossovers. Have you noticed this? These things are now everywhere, commonplace, ubiquitous. As popular as Apple laptops with organic food stickers on a liberal arts campus. Now, you might be thinking that you already knew this, because luxury […]

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GMC_Envoy_XUV_

Well, folks, I can confidently tell you right now what the hot new segment is: small luxury crossovers. Have you noticed this? These things are now everywhere, commonplace, ubiquitous. As popular as Apple laptops with organic food stickers on a liberal arts campus.

Now, you might be thinking that you already knew this, because luxury crossovers have been everywhere for years. The Lexus RX. The BMW X5. The Acura MDX. A bunch of other luxury SUVs with “X” in the name, in order to signify all-terrain capabilities, even though the tire pressure light would come on if you rolled over anything larger than a desk lamp.

But I’m not referring to the uncool, outmoded old guard of luxury SUVs. I’m talking about all the new smaller models, which have somehow popped up without warning entirely within the last two years. There is, for example, the BMW X1. The Buick Encore. The Audi Q3. The Lexus NX. The Mercedes-Benz GLA. All additions to the lineup for their respective automakers. All tiny luxury SUVs. And all on sale within the last 18 months.

And it’s not just happening in the luxury realm. Even mainstream automakers are jumping on the bandwagon of what I am calling subcompact SUVs, with several new models joining this previously undiscovered segment within the last six months. Think about it: the Chevrolet Trax. The Mazda CX-3. The Honda HR-V. The Jeep Renegade. All new compact crossovers, all recently on sale, all part of a hot new segment, and if you’re still driving around in a boring ol’ midsize sedan, well then you just aren’t cool anymore, are you?

Could we have predicted these things coming? Possibly. I mean, SUVs are so hot right now that we should’ve seen the fact that there would soon be SUVs of all sizes, from subcompact to public bus. So this doesn’t surprise me too much, and if you’ve been paying attention, it shouldn’t surprise you, either.

What has always surprised me, however, is the Subaru Outback. Nobody could’ve seen that coming. Here’s a car company that sells a wagon in a country where nobody wants wagons, with standard all-wheel drive that’s unnecessary to half the citizens, and by God they simply raise it up and change the wheels and they’ve carved out a niche that has now lasted for two decades.

The Outback is so popular that nobody else even plays in the segment. It’s the Jeep Wrangler effect, essentially. Companies look at the Outback and the Jeep Wrangler, and they see how easy the concept would be to replicate, so they get in there and they make their own version, and then they learn that the people don’t want their stupid knock-off, they want a Wrangler, dammit, no matter how many windshield wipers Toyota tries put on the thing.

Not all segments are as successful. For example: at some point during the 1990s, Ford thought it would be a good idea to create a two-wheel drive pickup truck with a bed cover and call it a Lincoln. I can only imagine the excitement as this thing was building up to launch. Jac Nasser was probably doing interviews, grinning ear to ear in that way that made his eyebrows contort like a cartoon character’s, telling everyone that Ford had the hot new product. And then the thing came out, and they sold roughly 24 of them, 19 of which went to wives of Lincoln dealers.

General Motors isn’t blameless for bizarre segmentation, either. I will literally never forget the first time I saw a photograph of the GMC Envoy XUV, which was a long-wheelbase version of the GMC Envoy with a retractable-roof cargo area designed to add extra practicality for hauling huge items like grandfather clocks and palm trees. In fact, early press photos showed just that: the driver, apparently an antiques dealer – who could only afford one vehicle for both family and work purposes – hauling around a grandfather clock in his retractable cargo area. Of course, General Motors forgot one issue when designing this car, namely that nobody in the history of the world has ever wanted to haul around a grandfather clock in their midsize SUV.

So my point here is that when it comes to creating new segments, you have winners — like the X1 and the Outback — and you have losers, like the Envoy XUV and the Lincoln Blackwood. So it’s hard to come up with new segments, because sometimes it ends up being a waste of money.

Fortunately, it isn’t hard for us to come up with new segments, because we aren’t spending any money. We’re not the head of a car company, and we’re not going to put these ideas into development. But just in case you were… what segment would you add? What do you think will heat up next? What vehicles do you think the auto industry is sorely lacking?

I’m eager to hear your ideas. They can’t be worse than the grandfather clock.

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Sometimes, You Have to Recommend the Boring Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sometimes-recommend-boring-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sometimes-recommend-boring-car/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024105 I’ve recently reached the conclusion that sometimes, for some people, in some situations, the Toyota Corolla is the right car to recommend. I know, I know: this is sacrilege. As automotive enthusiasts, it sometimes seems like our sole purpose on this earth is to steer people away from boring automobiles like the Corolla. Sometimes, when […]

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I’ve recently reached the conclusion that sometimes, for some people, in some situations, the Toyota Corolla is the right car to recommend.

I know, I know: this is sacrilege. As automotive enthusiasts, it sometimes seems like our sole purpose on this earth is to steer people away from boring automobiles like the Corolla. Sometimes, when I’m sitting around with my friends and we’re playing the “Would You Rather” car game, the discussion turns to the Corolla and the question is always something like: Would you rather drive a Toyota Corolla for a year? Or eat a garage door?

And about half the time, you think really hard, and long, and seriously about what it would be like to walk outside every day and get inside a Corolla, for God’s sake, and drive it to work, or school, or whatever, and you get kind of depressed, so you pause for a while and then you say: Is it a single-car garage?

As car enthusiasts, we tend to recommend sportier, more engaging, more exciting alternative choices, such as the Mazda3. But while the Mazda3 is objectively better than the Corolla in a wide number of areas, and subjectively better for most car enthusiasts, some people just won’t have it.

In fact, I recently had someone come to me looking for a compact car, and before I could even get the words “Mazda3” out of my mouth, he was already on some long tirade about how they would “never buy a Mazda again.” Have you ever met anyone like this? It seems that every single person, no matter how much automotive experience they’ve had, has at least one automaker that they will “never buy again.” And they always have some severe reason, like the fact that it broke down when they were going to a job interview, or it left them stranded on the side of the road, or they had an accident and it crumpled like a Snickers wrapper.

Well, as soon as this person launched into his tirade about Mazda, I knew the car had no chance. His mom had a Mazda 626, and it was always breaking down, and it depreciated like crazy, and it never ran right, and it killed his father, and it would sometimes sneak around to sorority houses and peep inside the windows late it night, etc.

So then I recommended the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra, which are two excellent compact cars in the sense that they offer such a wide variety of body styles, and engine options, and trim levels, that I hoped it would be enough to shut my friend up. But I was met with the famous Hyundai-Kia response: “A Hyundai? A Kia? Really?”

It was at this point when I realized, horrified, that I was not being asked to recommend an automobile. I was being asked to confirm this person’s own preconceptions of what car he should get. He wasn’t really coming to me for automotive advice: he was coming to me, a bona fide automotive journalist in the sense that I am sometimes served short ribs at automotive press events, solely to justify his own automotive decision. He wanted a pat on the back from someone who “knows.”

So I gave him exactly what he wanted. “The Toyota Corolla is an excellent car,” I said. And you know what? It really is. It isn’t a fun car, and it isn’t a wildly advanced car, but it’s a great car in a lot of objective ways, like the fact that it can run for weeks, months, years, without ever needing any sort of maintenance including a tire rotation or an oil change or a new battery, because those are the kind of items that Toyota people aren’t really very likely to remember to address anyway.

And you know what he said? “Oh, that’s good to hear. I’ve been thinking about the Corolla.” And then I presume he went to the dealer and bought one, because some expert automotive journalist told him to, when in reality the automotive journalist a) tried to suggest practically anything else, and only capitulated to the Corolla when it became clear there was no other option, and b) is only an “expert” in the sense that he sat through an entire presentation about the Lexus NX at an automaker press event in British Columbia.

And this brings me to my point today, which is that sometimes the best automotive option for someone is the most boring one. Oh, sure, you may know there are better cars on the road, and you may be aware the person is making a mistake, and you might understand that certain vehicles would offer more equipment, and more power, and better gas mileage for less money.

But some people have such dramatic automotive preconceptions that you realize you simply won’t be able to change them. And when someone is dead-set on a boring car from a tried-and-true brand name, there are really only two things you can do: compliment their decision. And never, under any circumstances, accept a ride.

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Question Of The Day: What Is Your Most Hated Feature? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-hated-feature/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-hated-feature/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:29:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1021577 Earlier this week, I wrote a column on an automotive feature I really hate: this incredibly annoying switch, or slider, or dial, or whatever you wish to call it (“The Devil”), and I wrote about how I really wanted to murder everyone associated with the switch and grind them up into tiny pieces. After I […]

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Earlier this week, I wrote a column on an automotive feature I really hate: this incredibly annoying switch, or slider, or dial, or whatever you wish to call it (“The Devil”), and I wrote about how I really wanted to murder everyone associated with the switch and grind them up into tiny pieces.

After I eagerly read your responses to this column, I must say they fell into two distinct categories: one, people whose vehicles also have the switch and either agreed or disagreed with my complaints; and two, people who thought I was making a mountain out of a mole hill. (Or, making ground up body parts out of a switch, as it were.)

This surprised me, because I believe strongly that few automotive enthusiasts can live with a modern automobile without at least one complaint about a feature, or a function, or a switch, or a button, or a lever. And so today I want to know: what’s your complaint?

As you may have guessed, I’m going to start with a few more of my own to get the ball rolling here.

So, just to begin: I have this feature in my SUV where I can unlatch the rear liftgate by pushing a button by the driver’s seat. This is a common feature; many SUVs have it; and I do not find it special or unique or good or bad in any way.

What I DO find particularly unique is what happens after you press the button, and the liftgate has been released. Here’s how it goes down: You push the button and you hear the tailgate release. Then you open your door to get out of the car, in order to grab whatever you want from the tailgate. Then you shut the door, because that’s what you do when you exit a car. And then – I swear this actually happens – the force of shutting your car door is so great, and it rocks the car so much, that the tailgate actually manages to re-latch itself.

This happens every single time I un-latch the tailgate. It doesn’t matter how hard I open or close the doors, either, unless I make a concerted effort to close them so softly that they don’t latch. But either way I’m left with some sort of latch issue, and after a while I realize I really want to kill the latch people, too, and possibly ground them up and feed them to the switch people.

Here’s another annoying feature: I once had the opportunity to drive a 2006ish Maserati Quattroporte. You know: the one that now costs $19,000 and has a transmission that shifts like a small child got ahold of a clutch pedal and a gear lever.

Anyway, the big annoyance of this car was not the transmission (though it was awful) and not the depreciation (though it was awful) and not even the infotainment system, which seemed like it had been designed by an Italian grandmother who had never previously experienced the act of listening to music while simultaneously operating an automobile. No, the big annoyance was actually the fuel door release.

The problem was this: you could only open the fuel door when the car was on. So you’d pull up to the gas station, and you’d turn off the car, and then you’d push the fuel door release button, and you’d think “SON OF A!”, when nothing happened. And then you’d have to restart the car every single time, until you finally remembered that, inexplicably, Maserati had designed the vehicle so you could only open the fuel door when the car was running. So how do you get gas if you’ve run out? Nobody knows. Probably not even the grandmother who designed the infotainment system.

So those are two automotive features that especially annoy me, and now it’s your turn. What little items bother you the most? What features do you think they designed without ever testing in real life?

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This Is the Most Annoying Button in the History of Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/annoying-button-history-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/annoying-button-history-time/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020041 I recently discovered the single most annoying switch in the entire history of the automotive industry. It’s located on my center control stack, and its mere presence infuriates me to the point where I want to murder everyone associated with my vehicle’s creation, ground up their bodies, and turn their bones into indecipherable automotive buttons. […]

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I recently discovered the single most annoying switch in the entire history of the automotive industry. It’s located on my center control stack, and its mere presence infuriates me to the point where I want to murder everyone associated with my vehicle’s creation, ground up their bodies, and turn their bones into indecipherable automotive buttons.

But before I fly to Germany for my killing spree, please allow me to explain the switch in question – and my problems with it. Once I’ve done so, I believe you all will agree that my murderous rampage will legally qualify as justifiable homicide.

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To begin, I should note that the switch that makes me furious is primarily limited to BMW products. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing it in a non-BMW product, presumably because other automakers have at least some modicum of intelligence. “We may make transmissions that last as long as butterfly metamorphosis,” say Chrysler engineers. “But at least we don’t have that stupid switch.”

OK, you’re probably wondering. So what the hell is this switch?

Well, here’s the deal: in my automobile, I have dual-zone automatic climate control. This is a hallmark feature of many upscale and wanna-be upscale vehicles. You set one side to 74. You set the other side side to 69. You press “AUTO.” And then the air blows out at the perfect temperature to create a 74-degree experience on one side, and a 69-degree experience on the other side, and everyone is happy, and you can go back to fighting about normal rich people things, like what to do if you see a member of a minority group walking through your neighborhood.

But that’s not what happens when you have The Switch.

When you have the switch, what happens is, you set one side to whatever temperature you want, and the other side to the other temperature you want, and all seems to be well. But it turns out that this has no effect on the actual air temperature. In order to affect the actual air temperature, you have to change the switch to BLUE or RED, depending on what type of air you want to be released from the vents, even after you’ve already set the temperature.

Now, here’s why this pisses me off: because this DEFEATS THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF AUTOMATIC CLIMATE CONTROL. When I set my climate control in the first place, I’m telling the system exactly what temperature I want. So why is the entire climate control system at the mercy of some all-knowing switch that decides whether to blow hot air or cold air? Newsflash, climate control system: if I choose “84” for the climate control temperature, and it’s 2 degrees outside, I’m going to want HOT AIR, regardless of whether the freaking switch is on blue or red.

To further explain why it pisses me off, allow me to provide you with a real-world example to illustrate my frustration. Say it’s the middle of winter and somehow the switch accidentally gets turned to “BLUE,” which means cold. Here’s what happens: even though I have the temperature set at 75 degrees and automatic, the air that blows out isn’t warm. The air that comes out is cold, because that’s the random orientation of some STUPID SWITCH that completely overrides every single setting in my climate control system.

I should also take this opportunity to mention that the switch is unlit, which means I have no idea what air temperature is going to come out at night.

Now, if this doesn’t sound so bad, allow me to provide you with a different example that I think will drive home the point even further.

Let’s say you lived in some really nice mansion with this really nice bathroom with these really nice towels and you had a really nice tub where you could set the exact temperature of the water. You want 84? Push 84. You want 83? Push 83, and the water comes out just a hair cooler to cater to your delicate sensibilities. Well, guess what? If this tub was built by BMW, and you set it to 83, the damn water would come out ICE FREAKIN COLD unless you also moved some random dial located elsewhere on your tub control pad.

The reason this pisses me off so much is that the climate control system in this vehicle was apparently designed with complex, delicate rich people in mind, except for this switch. You can change it from 69 to 70 if you feel it’s getting too chilly. You can turn on the air, send it to your feet, turn it up, send it to the windshield, turn it down, blast it, lower it, WHATEVER. There are 10 different climate control buttons and four vents. And yet the ENTIRE COMPLEX SYSTEM is at the mercy of this random, 1970s-era temperature changing switch.

Interestingly, the point of this column is not to complain about my climate control switch. This may surprise you, considering I’ve spent the last 850 words doing exactly that, but I actually have a different purpose: my point today is to find out if anyone out there on TTAC has any freaking idea why the hell they would include this switch in the vehicle, considering they already have other buttons that control the temperature. I’ve never been able to figure it out, and I’d love an explanation, and by God I think you people might have it.

But while I’d love to hear an explanation of the switch, don’t even try to justify it. Because then you’ll end up a target for my murderous rampage.

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Question Of The Day: Why Are Automakers Still Allowed to Use Combination Turn Signal Brake Lights? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automakers-still-allowed-use-combination-turn-signal-brake-lights/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automakers-still-allowed-use-combination-turn-signal-brake-lights/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:21:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016962 In the past, I’ve written these “Question of the Day” columns with an open-ended question in mind; a question that invites serious participation from you, the highly educated TTAC reader. Well, today, I’m going to try a different approach: I’m just going to tell you what I think, and hope you’ll agree with me. The […]

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In the past, I’ve written these “Question of the Day” columns with an open-ended question in mind; a question that invites serious participation from you, the highly educated TTAC reader. Well, today, I’m going to try a different approach: I’m just going to tell you what I think, and hope you’ll agree with me. The topic is combination turn signal-brake lights, which are the stupidest thing that currently exists in the auto industry.

Yes, folks, that’s right: stupider, even, than the Jeep Compass.

For those of you who aren’t exactly sure what I’m talking about, allow me to explain myself. I’ll use the Chrysler 300 as an example, although it certainly isn’t the only offender.

Here’s what happens: you get behind a Chrysler 300, and it’s slowing down, so the brake lights come on. Suddenly, the driver – who is undoubtedly trying to locate the Uber rider who hailed him – puts on the turn signal to make a sharp right turn. And what happens? The right brake light goes away entirely.

The reason for this is that the Chrysler 300 still uses rear lamps that combine the brake light and the turn signal. So if you’re in a 300 and you have your foot on the brake and your right turn signal on, you only have one working brake light – on the left side – plus the third brake light in the center. On the right, your brake light is blinking. I have no idea if this is a cost-cutting measure or a retro styling cue, but by God it sure reminds me of cars from the 1970s.

This especially came to my attention the other day because we got this big snowstorm here in Philadelphia, and I got up behind a guy in a late-1990s Buick Century who had his hazard lights on. Now, I’m not totally opposed to hazard lights in a severe snowstorm, because they create an extra layer of visibility for other drivers. But there was a problem with this particular hazard light decision. And that problem was? You guessed it: his brake lights were also his turn signals!!!

So this guy is driving down the street in a major snowstorm with his turn signals blinking and absolutely no brake lights at all! And the worst part is, he has done this as a safety precaution! He truly believes he is creating more visibility for himself and his Buick Century. When in reality, nobody behind him has any idea whether he’s accelerating, or slamming on his brakes, or merely confused about which direction he wants to turn.

The interesting thing about all this is that these brake light-turn signal combinations aren’t outlawed. If you’re an automaker, not only does it not matter if your turn signal is orange or red, but it doesn’t even matter if your turn signal reduces the amount of brake light power on the back of your car by one-third. Mind you, this regulatory decision comes to you from a federal government who dictates that a Lotus Elise must have an emergency inside trunk latch, even though its cargo area can barely fit a power drill.

Now, I get why this brake-light-turn-signal combo platter went on in the 1960s and 1970s. It made cars simpler, it made them cheaper, and it made them easier to engineer and build. Plus, back in the 1970s, nobody cared about safety. Back in the 1970s, if you ran out of cereal, you’d just reach into your wall and eat some asbestos. That’s how things were back then.

But in modern times – in a world where every car has a backup camera, and side airbags, and front airbags, and knee airbags, and stability control, and traction control, and a system that will unlock your doors using a signal from space – I must ask how the hell it’s possible that we’re allowing brake-light-turn-signal combinations to run rampant on our society.

And so, today’s question is this: how the hell are these brake-light-turn-signal combinations still legal? Why doesn’t somebody do anything about it? For the love of God, can’t we put a stop to it? And, most importantly: what does asbestos taste like?

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Question Of The Day: What Brand Has The Most Cars You’d Never Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-brand-cars-youd-never-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-brand-cars-youd-never-buy/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:46:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1009570 So I’m driving along the other day, and I get up behind a Saturn Relay. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this vehicle, imagine a minivan with 1992-era styling and a 1994-era interior and 1996-era switchgear, except it inexplicably came out in 2005. Seriously: it was the kind of thing where, when it […]

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So I’m driving along the other day, and I get up behind a Saturn Relay. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this vehicle, imagine a minivan with 1992-era styling and a 1994-era interior and 1996-era switchgear, except it inexplicably came out in 2005. Seriously: it was the kind of thing where, when it debuted, you checked both sides of the van just to make sure General Motors knew everyone was doing dual sliding doors now.

So anyway, as I’m sitting behind the van, I realized something: there isn’t a single Saturn I would buy. Not the awful S-series models, which were great in the 1990s, but have about as much modern relevance as Palm Pilot. Not the L-Series, which came later, and looked worse, and transformed Saturn from a cute, cool, forward-thinking car company into the kind of thing your middle school gym teacher drove. Not the Astra, not the Vue, not the Relay. No Saturn at all.

And then I remembered the Sky. Do you remember the Sky? This was right near the end of Saturn, when General Motors realized that by God, if we’re going to stay out of bankruptcy, we’d better come up with some cars that people will actually buy. So they developed the SSR.

But they also developed the Sky and the Pontiac Solstice, which were these cool little roadsters that had two-seats, and rear-wheel drive, and eventually a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine which made them surprisingly enjoyable on the road. I loved these things, and I especially loved the Sky, which still looks like an exotic sports car when you see it all these years later.

So maybe there are some Saturns I would buy, but by God there aren’t any Mitsubishis. I mean seriously: you have that electric thing shaped like the egg, God only knows what it’s called, but there are a bunch of lowercase “i”s as if it’s an Apple product. You have a couple of SUVs, all of which are indistinguishable from one another. There’s the Mirage, which is generally agreed to be the worst car on sale; equivalent to a laundry basket on wheels, when it comes to driving dynamics. And maybe there’s a sedan or something, I don’t know.

So all this got me thinking: is Mitsubishi the car company whose products I would least like to own? I mean, does Mitsubishi really manufacture the fewest vehicles I would actually purchase for myself? And I thought, and I thought, and I thought, and I briefly considered Dodge until I remembered the Viper, and I thought some more, and I thought, and I thought, and then I remembered I am trying to hit a word count here so I thought thought thought thought some more, and then in the end, I reached the conclusion that by God, yes, Mitsubishi is the brand whose cars I’d least like to own, at least ever since Plymouth came to an end.

And so now I pose the question to you: whose cars would YOU least like to own?

And before you answer, I think a rule clarification is necessary. We aren’t talking about all-time automakers here. You can’t say Edsel, or AMC, or some obscure car brand that only existed in the 1920s and manufactured cars out of satin. I’m talking modern, current, presently existing automakers that make modern, current, presently existing vehicles that comply with at least some of the federal government’s safety regulations.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, the floor is yours: which automaker makes the most cars you’d never buy? Which brand has so few desirable products that you’d never consider one of their vehicles? Which car company is so mediocre that you’d never set foot in their showroom?

And why is it Mitsubishi?

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Question Of The Day: Has Acura Fooled Us All? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:57:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004850 If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…” And then they […]

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2016-Acura-RDX-2

If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…”

And then they dazzle you with all the ways that Acura used to be cool. The Integra. The RSX. The NSX. The Vigor. The Legend Coupe with that cool 6-speed manual transmission and those oversized alloy wheels. Then they tell you about how Acura was so cool that you couldn’t leave an Integra Type-R outside the grocery store for five minutes without some car theft ring stealing it and dumping the stripped shell in a ditch in a part of town where train tracks outnumber living trees.

But now?

Acura is BORING, car enthusiasts say. They’ve lost their direction, their purpose, their progress. Acura is the automotive equivalent to that time Robert Downey, Jr. told his agent that yes, it does seem like a good idea to do that Shaggy Dog movie where I play an evil geneticist who kidnaps a sacred, shape-shifting dog from a Tibetan monastery.

And car enthusiasts may have a point, because Acura is hardly as exciting as it once was Think about it: a brand formerly consumed by manual transmissions and sharp handling has now given way to the torque converter, the ventilated seat, and a dual infotainment setup with more total screen inches than my parents’ living room. So where the hell did they go wrong?

Or… did they?

I say this because I recently discovered that Acura’s two SUVs – inexplicably named the RDX and MDX – are two of today’s best-selling luxury crossovers. And this is no easy feat: in today’s world, everybody sells a luxury SUV. BMW has five of them. So does Mercedes. Lexus is going to create twenty-six luxury SUVs, one for every letter of the alphabet (followed by the letter “X”), each uglier than the last, until finally they come out with the ZX 350, which looks like a desktop fax machine on wheels.

And leading the charge through all this is… Acura? The brand that forgot enthusiasts? The brand that gave up on the fun car?

It isn’t just SUVs where Acura seems to be making a killing. Take, for example, the Acura TL, which is a midsize sedan known for its transmission problems (1999-2003), good looks (2004-2008), and scary-looking beak nose (2009-2013). Well, guess what? The TL is also insanely popular. Seriously: you cannot drive through an HOA-controlled condo complex in the Los Angeles suburbs without seeing at least a dozen TLs, all in various nondescript colors that Acura calls something like Pearl Stormcloud Metallic.

Admittedly, the TL is now dead; replaced instead by a new model called the TLX. But guess what? It has an expanded engine lineup, a wider variety of features, lower pricing, and a normal front end that doesn’t make it look like an automotive killing machine. I’m guessing this won’t lead to fewer sales.

Now, I’m not to say Acura is without faults. We all know about the bizarre ZDX, which cost like fifty grand and had a backseat designed for a headless turtle. And then there’s the ILX, which is little more than a cynical Honda Civic clone with an unfortunate markup. And of course, there’s also the RLX, which is still on sale in the same way that John Glenn is still alive: you have to check the Wikipedia page every few months just to make sure.

But what I’ve noticed is that Acura actually does pretty damn well for being a company that “turned its back” on automotive enthusiasts, and “lost its direction.” So well, in fact, that you have to wonder if “losing its direction” happened precisely on purpose. In fact, you kind of have to wonder if Acura’s direction isn’t really lost at all.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? Is Acura a directionless, formless blob of a luxury car company? Or, by ignoring automotive enthusiasts, have they found a better direction?

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Sports Cars Aren’t Just For Men With a Midlife Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sports-cars-arent-just-men-midlife-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sports-cars-arent-just-men-midlife-crisis/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 21:27:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995258 As some of you know, I recently owned a sports car. It was bright red, and flashy, and lots of fun, and it provided many enjoyable days of ownership, such as a) the day I sold it, and b) the day I mailed the title to the new owner. But there was always one key […]

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As some of you know, I recently owned a sports car. It was bright red, and flashy, and lots of fun, and it provided many enjoyable days of ownership, such as a) the day I sold it, and b) the day I mailed the title to the new owner.

But there was always one key aspect of sports car ownership that bothered me, and that was: the way that other people reacted to it. Allow me to explain what I mean, using this “compare and contrast” between an automotive enthusiast’s reaction and a normal human’s reaction.

Automotive Enthusiast Reaction: OH MAN! This is so cool! This looks like it’s so much fun! How fast does it go? How much power does it have? WHOA IT HAS A GATED SHIFTER! Oh my God I have to take a picture!!

Normal Human Reaction: You’re compensating for something.

The problem, as I see it, is that car enthusiasts love cars, and they love the experience of cars, and they love to drive cars, and they completely understand why someone might spend a huge portion of their disposable income on a depreciating asset that can be rendered completely useless by a screw the size of a nickel.

Whereas normal people – here I am referring to automotive civilians; the kind of people who see a Kia Soul and say: “That is such a cool car!” – don’t get this. They think that anyone who owns a sports car is trying to show off, or trying to compensate, or – and this I my least favorite assumption – going through a midlife crisis.

“See that guy over there in his Porsche,” say automotive civilians.
“Yeah,” comes the reply. “Such a midlife crisis car,” paying no mind to the fact that maybe – just maybe – the Porsche is being driven by someone who appreciates the quality of the handling, or the precision of the shifter, or the leather of the air vents.

And that’s why I’ve decided to devote today’s column to this crucial topic: most automotive enthusiasts don’t buy sports cars because they’re showy, or they’re flashy, or they’re the best things for a midlife crisis. We buy them because they’re fun.

I think the biggest problem here is that normal people simply don’t understand the pleasure one can get from having a fun car. What I mean by this is: for normal people, “the car” is associated with driving to the pet supply place to pick up dog food that looks like rocks. Normal people hate sitting in traffic, and they hate avoiding collisions, and really they’d rather just sit there, in their homes, and watch TV while simultaneously looking for celebrity news on their phones.

So when normal people see a sports car, what they think is: Here’s someone who bought a cool car just so he could sit in traffic and look cooler than everyone else. They never consider the idea that an automotive enthusiast might seek out enjoyable roads; he or she might drive for recreational purposes; he or she might even appreciate the driving characteristics of the car, rather than the styling. They just think it’s someone else who’s also indifferent about driving, but he or she has a cooler car to do it in.

Unfortunately, this sort of attitude is misguided, and we automotive enthusiasts – here I am referring to the kind of people who get excited when we see a Saab 900 Turbo on its original three-spoke wheels – must change peoples’ minds.

So this is my proposal: the next time you hear someone make a midlife crisis remark, or a “compensating for something” joke, or a “you’re just showing off” assumption, you must take them for a ride in your sports car. And I’m not referring to a quick ride around the block just to show them that it exists, and that it makes noise. You must take them for a spirited, enjoyable ride down the closest excellent roads to demonstrate every single characteristic of the vehicle. And if they’re still not convinced that you purchased your vehicle for pure, driving-focused purposes, then you must insist that they try out a few extra capabilities of your vehicle, namely the seat passenger seat belt latch and the door handle.

Of course, this only applies to sports cars, and not those guys who buy a Super Duty pickup and then decide it isn’t big enough, and it requires a lift kit so large that you could set up a large dental practice underneath the chassis. Those guys are just compensating.

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Would You Buy a Used Rental Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=990522 Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them. Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them […]

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Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them.

Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them from the Houston airport to a suburban office park, where they will give a presentation about something like The Efficacy of Automated Stapler Software to a company with a nondescript name like “RidgeTech” or “The Matheson Group.”

But car enthusiasts see it differently. When a car enthusiast gets inside a rental car, he doesn’t wonder where the lights are, or how to turn on the wipers. Instead, he thinks: How fast can I go before it locks me out of park? And then he tests this, repeatedly, until finally the transmission dies, at which point he goes home and tells his friends that whatever Chrysler he rented is an unreliable piece of shit.

For further proof of how car enthusiasts beat on rental cars, allow me to share my most recent rental car experience. It was in Europe, and I was tremendously excited, because I had rental car insurance. When a customer eagerly opts for rental car insurance, this is a bad sign. If you run a rental car company, and the customer asks “Can I get even MORE rental car insurance?”, you can be pretty sure you will never see the car again with all of its doors attached.

So anyway: I rented something small and pathetic, some French car called the C-Elysee, and it was awful. I mean, truly terrible. It was ugly, it was cheap, it was boring, it was plasticky, and it accelerated at the same rate as melting ice. So I decided that the best thing to do – the best way to really enjoy this car – would be to pull the handbrake in every possible situation, including when stopping at red lights.

Now, it’s been about six months since this trip, so this car has probably found its way into the hands of a real customer by now. A normal person, maybe even a young driver, highly excited to receive her very first car, with absolutely no knowledge that a previous driver drove 37 miles of the French Riviera with the handbrake up “just to see if it would let me.”

But here’s the thing about modern cars: in large part, they can usually take the abuse. I say this because I spent a summer in college working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and I discovered that modern cars are capable of handling just about anything that modern car renters can do to them. Blowout on the highway? No problem. Mud in the trunk? Not a worry. Didn’t realize the parking brake was in the footwell, so you drove around with it engaged all weekend? Who cares!

Indeed, it seems that modern cars are almost manufactured to the lowest common denominator. It’s as if, when an automobile engineer is designing a vehicle, he thinks to himself: what about the guy who tucks in his shirt even though he doesn’t have a belt? And then they add a bunch more screws and nuts and bolts just to make sure even that guy doesn’t break the thing.

And so today’s question is this. We all know how much rental cars can be abused – whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether by car enthusiasts or complete idiots. And yet, we all know how reliable modern cars are: the days of breakdowns and mechanical failures and unexplained noises are generally over, unless you’re driving a Land Rover. So is a used rental car worthy of your consideration? Is it an acceptable possibility? And if not: at what price would you change your mind?

Me, I’d have no problem buying a used rental car, provided it a) passes a thorough mechanical inspection, b) feels perfectly fine on a test drive, and c) is not a Dodge Avenger. What about you?


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This Year’s Definitive Detroit Auto Show Wrap-Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/years-definitive-detroit-auto-show-wrap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/years-definitive-detroit-auto-show-wrap/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985234   As I look back on my career in automotive journalism – which has now officially outlasted an elephant’s gestation period – I am reminded of several important highlights; several moments where I rolled out of bed, crawled over to the mirror, flashed a big smile, and said to myself, using an especially cheery, positive […]

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As I look back on my career in automotive journalism – which has now officially outlasted an elephant’s gestation period – I am reminded of several important highlights; several moments where I rolled out of bed, crawled over to the mirror, flashed a big smile, and said to myself, using an especially cheery, positive tone: If you really work at this, someday you might be able to make $19,000 a year.

One of those moments was the very first column I ever wrote for The Truth About Cars, almost exactly two years ago today, wherein I provided a rather unique perspective on the Detroit Auto Show without actually attending the event. So when Derek asked me to reprise my role as an occasional contributor to TTAC, I did the obvious: I said yes, and then I spent approximately nine minutes getting up to speed on Detroit.

So, without further ado, here is this year’s definitive wrap-up of the Detroit Auto Show, as told by a bona fide Detroit Auto Show expert in the sense that I looked at a few photos from 1,000 miles away.

We’re going to start with Acura, as we always do, because their name is first in the alphabet – a concoction undoubtedly dreamt up by 1980s marketers, who shrewdly realized it was the only way anyone would consider their cars.

Anyway: Acura’s big debut at this year’s Detroit show was the all-new, second-generation NSX. Coincidentally, this has been Acura’s big debut at every auto show since Plymouth announced fuel injection at the 1907 Los Angeles Auto Show, which was hosted on a vacant lot in Northridge. When reached for comment, Acura PR staff said: “Wait until you see the NSX we have in store for New York.”

One major showstopper was Audi, who released the all-new Q7 luxury SUV to the oohs and aahs of eleven journalists who could tell it apart from the old model. To help distinguish it from last year’s Q7, Audi painted the new one bright blue.  “That’s a good idea,” said Acura PR staff, diligently taking notes with the same quill pens they’ve been using since the NSX was first announced.  “In Frankfurt, the NSX will be blue.”

Chevrolet was responsible for two huge debuts, when they rolled out the Bolt Concept – with a 200-mile range – and the all-new Volt, with a 50-mile range and a “range extending” gasoline engine. Rumors are swirling that the next model in the series will offer 80-mile electric capabilities, plus “range extending” feathers. It will be called the Chevrolet Molt.

The all-new Ford GT drew the largest crowds in Detroit, largely because Ford offered free parking validation to any journalist who didn’t complain about its V6 engine.

My personal favorite debut at this year’s Detroit show came from Hyundai, who rolled out a concept pickup truck dubbed the Santa Cruz Truck Concept. According to a Hyundai press release, this truck was designed to serve as a “bold, aggressive reminder that Nissan and Toyota aren’t the only ones who can compete for full-size pickup leftovers.”

It wouldn’t be an auto show without a concept car from Infiniti, who used Detroit to reveal the all-new Q60 Concept – the brand’s seventh concept car in three years.  When asked about this curious strategy, Infiniti PR representatives replied: “We employ a lot of people who worked on the NSX.”

Journalists in attendance were foaming at the mouth to condemn the Lincoln MKX, which is objectively an excellent car that would compete closely with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz if it were wearing literally any other badge, including the Comcast logo.

The strangest vehicle in the entire show was a concept car from Mercedes-Benz dubbed the F015 Luxury In Motion. Features include – all of this is true – “lounge-style” seating with four chairs that face one another, wood flooring, and six display screens mounted on various interior panels.  “With this car, we didn’t want to create a traditional automobile,” said Mercedes-Benz PR representatives, who spent years striving for a master’s degree in communications so they could stand next to the vehicle and ask journalists to remove their shoes before climbing inside.  “We wanted to create a giant slug with wood flooring.”

Nissan heralded the arrival of an all-new Titan, which will be a highly popular choice for Nissan employees interested in moving heavy furniture around greater Nashville.

Tiny automaker Smart debuted a run-out version of its Fortwo city car, inexplicably dubbed the “Flashlight Edition” despite the fact that the car doesn’t have any apparent connection to a flashlight. Other potential names reportedly included the Fortwo Gift Card and the Legal Pad Edition.

After safely watching from the sidelines as the midsize SUV segment gradually expanded over the last 25 years, Volkswagen finally rolled out an SUV concept car at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, a mere two years after they rolled out their last SUV concept car. Industry insiders expect Volkswagen to debut an actual midsize SUV in the second half of 2061, beating the Acura NSX to the market by six months.

So there you go, ladies and gentlemen: everything that mattered at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, as told to you by someone who was nowhere near the place. It’s good to be back.

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Frankfurt Motor Show: A Look Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/frankfurt-motor-show-a-look-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/frankfurt-motor-show-a-look-back/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 17:36:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517673 Well, folks, the time has come: another Frankfurt Motor Show is in the books. Of course, by “Frankfurt Motor Show,” what I really mean is “Frankfurt Motor Show press days.” This is all us journalists care about, and by “us journalists” what I really mean is a bunch of well-paid professional writers and also me. […]

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Well, folks, the time has come: another Frankfurt Motor Show is in the books. Of course, by “Frankfurt Motor Show,” what I really mean is “Frankfurt Motor Show press days.” This is all us journalists care about, and by “us journalists” what I really mean is a bunch of well-paid professional writers and also me.

Anyway: I think we’re all pleased Frankfurt has come and gone successfully. I know I am. And I bet the citizens of Frankfurt feel the same way, since their city can now go back to its usual purpose of serving as an airline hub for Americans traveling to places like Greece.

But for those of you who missed Frankfurt, it’s time to provide a comprehensive, well-written guide to the unveilings at this year’s show. I think Autoblog has it. Instead, I have this:

Aston Martin released an all-new DB9 Centenary Edition with updated wheels and interior parts, eschewing the brand’s usual trend of a) making subtle changes to an existing model, and b) spending the next year trying to convince the automotive press it’s a new vehicle.

Audi used this year’s Frankfurt show to display the new Nanuk Concept, the latest in a series of concept cars intended to remind people Audis weren’t always front-wheel drive lease specials. Unfortunately, the Nanuk is unlikely to see production, largely because it isn’t a front-wheel drive lease special.

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Audi’s other concept, the Sport Quattro, is a plug-in hybrid capable of reaching 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and driving 31 miles on electric power alone. Reached for comment, Elon Musk briefly chuckled before returning to that roadtrip with his kids.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, BMW showed off its all-new i8, which offers two doors, four seats, and styling that BMW fanboys are currently convincing themselves that they like. Pricing will start around $136,000, though electric-only range is limited to just 22 miles. Reached for comment, Elon Musk laughed heartily before noting he would soon take his kids on a roadtrip “to Mars.”

Chevrolet unveiled its updated 2014 Camaro Convertible, which excited the show’s German attendees until Chevrolet announced it wouldn’t be sold as a five-door hatchback with hubcaps and a 1.2-liter turbodiesel engine.

Infiniti showed off its Q30 Concept, keeping to the brand’s strict rule that it must show off at least one concept car with huge wheels and no door handles at every major auto show. In an official press release about the Q30, Infiniti marketing direction Hughes Fabre used the term “premium-ness,” possibly forgetting that a press release can be edited later.

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The Lamborghini Gallardo special editions have now hit critical mass, as the new LP 570-4 Squadra Corse is actually the exact same vehicle as the Gallardo Performante. When reached for comment, Lamborghini officials noted, “Who cares? Rich people are going to buy it anyway.”

The highlight of Land Rover’s booth in Frankfurt was a facelifted Discovery, known in the States as the LR4. The updated Disco garnered a lot of attention from European media, who photographed the “DISCOVERY” badge on the hood, and convention hall staff, who billed Land Rover for oil stains on the carpet.

Lexus’s big debut in Frankfurt was the LF-NX, a strangely-shaped SUV concept filled with jagged edges, bizarre holes, and unusual creases. After considerable prodding, Lexus admitted the concept was designed “in about 20 minutes, on a conference call.”

The Mercedes S-Class Plug-In Hybrid really excited a lot of people in attendance, although I couldn’t find any of them. Mercedes didn’t announce pricing, though its 19-mile electric-only range supposedly had Elon Musk “in stitches” before he realized there isn’t a single charging station in all of Utah.

Nissan revealed the all-new X-Trail, which will be sold stateside as the Rogue. Female drivers rejoiced, while male car shoppers thought to themselves: Am I comfortable enough with my sexuality to like this?

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Porsche finally revealed its production-ready 918 Spyder, whose incredible, amazing, and tremendous Nurburgring lap record will stand, unbroken, until Ferrari gets around to it.

Maybe my favorite plug-in hybrid debut was the Range Rover Plug-In Hybrid, which is capable of traveling – I am not joking here – one single mile on electric power alone. Land Rover won’t sell this vehicle in the States, presumably out of fear that it will kill Elon Musk from a laughing-induced heart attack.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was everything that happened in Frankfurt. Admittedly, I left out the Volkswagen Golf. But let’s be honest: you will too, when it comes time to buy your next car.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Volkswagen Needs a New Lineup to Reach Its Goals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volkswagen-needs-a-new-lineup-to-reach-its-goals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volkswagen-needs-a-new-lineup-to-reach-its-goals/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=509857 It’s time to talk about Volkswagen. You know Volkswagen: they make the Jetta, which is possibly today’s most adept compact sedan at churning out lifelong Toyota customers. I bring up Volkswagen because I wrote a column earlier this week about Volvo, and both of those brands share something in common. Is it that they’re the […]

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It’s time to talk about Volkswagen. You know Volkswagen: they make the Jetta, which is possibly today’s most adept compact sedan at churning out lifelong Toyota customers.

I bring up Volkswagen because I wrote a column earlier this week about Volvo, and both of those brands share something in common. Is it that they’re the only car companies that start with “V”? No, not at all. You’re forgetting about Venturi, a sports car maker that somehow went bust despite being located in the global industrial manufacturing powerhouse of Monaco.

No, the thing Volvo and Volkswagen have in common is that both automakers saw a decline in sales last month compared to August 2012. That’s bad news if you’re Volkswagen or Volvo, because the entire rest of the auto industry was up. That’s right: every other brand saw an increase. Even Rolls-Royce had a banner month, eclipsing last August’s total by a whopping five vehicles.

Anyway: the reason I bring this up is that it would seem Volkswagen is in trouble. You see, we already know Volvo is going down. That article a few months ago that said they wouldn’t live to see 2015 proves their demise is imminent, no matter how many LEDs they cram on to the front of the next XC90. So Volvo was down, and we expect them to keep being down until they wither away, leaving people in the Pacific Northwest with nothing to drive. (Don’t worry: they will find a solution that involves hemp.)

But why was Volkswagen down?

Volkswagen, for those of you who don’t know, is the world’s most sales-obsessed corporation. I know this because I’ve read perhaps 4,000 articles about Volkswagen’s obsession with some pie-in-the-sky volume goal for 2018, and I’ve never read a single article that covers any concerns they might have about, oh I don’t know, profitability. In fact, I’ve read so many stories about Volkswagen’s volume goals that you’d think they were punching each article as a retail delivery.

Because of this, I’m going to assume they don’t care about profitability, only volume, which leads me to the point of this column: Volkswagen is desperately in need of a new lineup.

I discovered this on a recent visit to Volkswagen’s website, which I highly recommend visiting if you get excited about the Futura font. Listed there, on Volkswagen’s website, in Futura Light and Future Medium and Futura Bold, is a lineup that does not, under any circumstances, represent a full-line automaker in the United States.

To understand what I mean, let’s turn to SUVs, and let’s turn to Toyota. Toyota sells, at last count, seven different sport-utility vehicles, all of which compete in different segments. I have no idea how Toyota managed to do this. Really, they created micro-segments, skillfully convincing customers that the RAV4, the Highlander, and the Venza are very different cars, purchased by very different people, and you should buy this one because it has the most dealer markup!

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Meanwhile, Volkswagen sells two SUVs. You have the Tiguan, which starts at a reasonable price until you discover it comes standard with a stick shift. Throw some options on and the Tiguan can climb to nearly $40,000, a figure also defined as “roughly 1.5 times what anyone in this segment wants to pay for a car.”

There’s also the Touareg, which starts – starts – at $45,000. Mind you, this is supposed to be Volkswagen’s competitor in the high-volume midsize SUV segment. So how does it compete? Last year, Toyota sold 121,000 Highlanders. Ford sold 128,000 Edges. Chevrolet sold 219,000 Equinoxes. And Volkswagen sold 10,553 Touaregs. Ten thousand five hundred. The Porsche Cayenne, its own sister vehicle, outsold the Touareg by roughly 50 percent.

Things aren’t very different if you turn to VW’s car lineup. Yes, they still sell the Jetta, which competes with glitter for the top spot on the “annual spending by sorority girls” list. And they sell the Passat, which is slowly becoming an acceptable midsize sedan thanks to offers like: Zero percent interest for the rest of your life!

But aside from those two, we have the Golf, which very few people buy; the CC, which even fewer people buy; and the Eos, which – this is entirely true – now starts at $36,000 without any options.

If we go back to Toyota, Volkswagen is missing out in several segments. Scion may not be a force, but it sold 74,000 units last year. The full-size Toyota Avalon accounted for 30,000 sales. And the subcompact Yaris was 31,000. But Volkswagen’s biggest loss to Toyota comes in the world of hybrids. Last year’s Prius sales? 237,000. Last year’s Jetta Hybrid sales? 162. Not thousand. One hundred and sixty two. In fairness, the Jetta Hybrid may not have been on sale the whole year – but I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never actually seen one.

And so, I repeat my point: if Volkswagen plans to hit these crazy volume goals, it’s time to get a new lineup. A few more cars; a few more SUVs. A hybrid. And maybe something made from hemp. After all, someone has to cater to those Pacific Northwest buyers once Volvo leaves.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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I’m Terrified at the Thought of a Redesigned Volvo XC90 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/im-terrified-at-the-thought-of-a-redesigned-volvo-xc90/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/im-terrified-at-the-thought-of-a-redesigned-volvo-xc90/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 16:08:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=507457 I recently saw some teaser images of an all-new, fully-redesigned Volvo XC90. You may have seen them too. If you did, your reaction was probably fairly mild. Maybe you yawned and drank some coffee. Maybe you resumed scratching yourself just out of view of your boss. But me? I was consumed with pure horror. Before […]

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I recently saw some teaser images of an all-new, fully-redesigned Volvo XC90. You may have seen them too. If you did, your reaction was probably fairly mild. Maybe you yawned and drank some coffee. Maybe you resumed scratching yourself just out of view of your boss. But me? I was consumed with pure horror.

Before we cover the reasons behind this, let’s back up a bit.

First, we have to talk about the pictures themselves. What does the phrase “teaser image” mean to you? A couple of blurred photos of a car? A few images of some body panels? The kind of picture a slutty co-worker texts you late at night?

Not this time. In this case, Volvo released a photo of the XC90’s illuminated headlights, with the entire rest of the car shrouded in darkness. You can’t see anything. And yet every single major automotive news outlet picked up this story, proving once again that automaker PR is the easiest job on earth: release a photo of some headlights, create a major buzz. I often think Ferrari could tweet a picture of their latest model’s valve stem and end up on the front page of Automotive News.

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Anyway: the reason for all the secrecy is because Volvo isn’t quite ready to show us the new XC90 yet. In fact, they won’t even bring it to the Frankfurt Auto Show, preferring instead to show off a bizarre concept car that looks like an Audi A5 with tailfins.

And to me, that’s just fine.

You see, I don’t want a new XC90. That’s because I like the current one just fine. In fact, it’s better than just fine: it’s perfect. And now, we must cover that statement with a little background.

The current XC90 came out for model year 2003. Think about that. In the fall of 2002 – some 11 years ago, just as President Bush was settling into office and all major airlines were rushing to declare bankruptcy – Volvo debuted the XC90. As I recall, it was met with virtually unanimous praise for its handsome styling, its crash safety engineering, and the fact that Connecticut soccer moms could finally ditch their station wagons.

And now, here we are, 11 years later. President Bush is settling into retirement. And the airlines were able to pull themselves out of bankruptcy, presumably by charging fees for checked baggage, carry-on baggage, and customers who think about baggage. But the Volvo XC90 is still here, just as it was then, soldiering on with only minor updates.

To give you an idea how unusual that is, some perspective. One: the XC90 is now the second-oldest car on the market. It loses out only to the Mercedes G-Class, which was the vehicle of choice for the smaller dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous Period. And two, here are some cars that came out after the XC90 made its debut:

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But the interesting thing about the XC90 isn’t its longevity. It’s that, after ten years, it still looks great. Seriously: the XC90 looks like the kind of car that would look tremendous if it came out tomorrow. The lines are flowing and gorgeous. That Volvo shoulder crease is perfectly placed. And most rivals look far more ungainly, or at least have a D-pillar the size of a travel trailer.

For those of you doubting my love of the XC90, I’d like to point out that the market agrees with me. Last year, the XC90’s eleventh year on sale without a full redesign, Volvo sold nearly 10,000 units – a figure on par with the Audi Q7, the Lexus GX and the Infiniti FX, and well above the Land Rover LR4, the Range Rover, and the Infiniti EX.

And it’s not heavily incentivized, either. A quick check on Volvo’s website pulls up a lease offer that doesn’t seem tremendously enticing. They rarely offer low-interest financing, and they never provide cash back. That means people are spending big money to buy new XC90s, even though it’s basically the same car you can find used on Craigslist for six grand.

So my worry here is that Volvo will take this car – an icon of the private school dropoff lane – and ruin it. Admittedly, that hasn’t been happening lately in the world of Volvo design. The new S60, for instance, is a marked improvement over the last one, which was itself a beautiful car. And the latest S80 transitioned perfectly from a boring sedan driven by professors to a boring sedan driven by professors who have the option of specifying a refrigerator in the back.

But it’s hard to update an icon, even with the most talented designers in the world. And so I say: Be careful, Volvo. Connecticut soccer moms are watching.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Answers: Missing Automotive Details http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/answers-missing-automotive-details/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/answers-missing-automotive-details/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502425 Gather ‘round, everyone, because it’s now time for the third installment of my recent “Question of the Day” spurt. Today, I’m listing the answers to my pressing and highly important question, “What automotive details are you missing?” In my original post, I named a few missed details – all brilliant – and asked you to […]

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Gather ‘round, everyone, because it’s now time for the third installment of my recent “Question of the Day” spurt. Today, I’m listing the answers to my pressing and highly important question, “What automotive details are you missing?” In my original post, I named a few missed details – all brilliant – and asked you to provide your opinion on some others. These are the posts I felt were most deserving of inclusion here. (In other words, these are the posts I most agreed with.)

Automatic Up Windows – davefromcalgary

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I’ve never understood why automakers are willing to include windows and a sunroof that open automatically, but they can’t make the very same windows and sunroof close automatically. User davefromcalgary – a man named Mark who lives in the Des Plaines, Illinois, area – feels the same way. This is a missing detail that you notice a lot, especially if you spend a lot of time going through drive-thrus.

Split Rear Hatches – meefer

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Here’s a feature we all should have. In most SUVs or hatchbacks, you can’t really do much sitting once you’ve opened the tailgate. That’s a shame. The reason for this is that most tailgates are one-piece units that pop up in their entirety, meaning you’d have to slink down to the bumper height if you want to sit down when the tailgate is open.

This isn’t the case in a few cars, such as the Range Rover and the Honda Element. More automakers should adopt this design, or at least consider adopting this design before ultimately banishing it for being too expensive. It’s the thought that counts.

Rain Gutters – drtwofish

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In my Range Rover, the window switches are mounted so close to the exterior of the vehicle that they may as well be on the wing mirror. The result is that when you put down the window and there’s even the slightest bit of rain, or even the residue of rain, the water sloshes down on the window switches and you have to deal with whatever happens when rain gets inside a Land Rover window switch. (In other words: complete vehicle shutdown.)

This problem isn’t the case on cars that have rain gutters, as drtwofish brilliantly points out. Sadly, I don’t think anyone is doing this anymore. It’s a great detail and it’s sorely missed, likely in the name of style.

Turn Signal Lane Changer – ezeolla

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This is a great feature that’s very much missed on cars that don’t have it. Here’s how it works: you want to make a lane change on the highway, but you don’t want to devote any part of your attention to holding down the turn signal lever so people can see where you plan to go. The solution is the “lane changer,” which provides three quick flashes with the slight push of the signal stalk. This feature is sorely missed in vehicles that don’t have it, which is way too many.

Speed Limits on Navigation Systems – jacob_coulter

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I’ve driven cars with this feature and it’s absolutely awesome. Imagine cruising down the road and you realize that you have absolutely no idea what the speed limit is. So you glance down and… there it is! Then you can immediately slow down, or maybe speed up. It doesn’t matter. The point is there’s a clear indication, right there in the gauge cluster, that helps you with this highly important matter. After all, isn’t the speed limit just as important as, say, your battery voltage?

Cornering Lights – most TTAC users

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Automakers, if you’re listening, here’s an easy one: put cornering lights on your vehicles. A few brands already have them, but it seems like a lot of people want them back. This surprises me, as I find them to be rather unhelpful, not unlike memory seating for the passenger side. But people seem to like them.

For those who don’t know, cornering lights activate with the turn signals at low speeds to illuminate the curb you’re about to run over. These days, they’re mostly used on Nissan products.

Vent Windows – most TTAC users

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Here’s another topic suggested by an inordinate amount of the TTAC populace. Another explanation for those who don’t know: vent windows are at the very base and front of a car’s driver and passenger windows. They were common in the past because they could blow some amount of air into the cabin, but not a huge amount of air.

Apparently, people want these to come back. Surely, they were discontinued when mirrors needed to be powered, then heated, then include turn signals, which requires the amount of wiring in a wing mirror to be roughly equal to the amount of wiring in Jamaica.

And so there you have it, folks: today’s missing automotive details. Are you listening, automakers? We don’t have very complex demands. We just want some rain gutters, vent windows, and windows that go up automatically. Is that too much to ask?

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Answers: The Best Automotive Details http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/answers-the-best-automotive-details/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/answers-the-best-automotive-details/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 17:26:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499226 A few weeks ago, I asked everyone for their opinions on which items make up the best automotive details. Well, you guys weren’t shy. We got 266 different responses, and while not all of them contained details, many included dozens. Some guy (user Wheeljack) even responded with something like two full pages of details solely […]

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A few weeks ago, I asked everyone for their opinions on which items make up the best automotive details. Well, you guys weren’t shy. We got 266 different responses, and while not all of them contained details, many included dozens. Some guy (user Wheeljack) even responded with something like two full pages of details solely from the Merkur Scorpio. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes the TTAC community so great.

Anyway, I went through the list and picked out a few of my favorites from your suggestions. Here goes:

Holden Commodore Very Low Fuel Warning – APaGttH

No, APaGttH has not warned me that I’m low on fuel. Instead, he has revealed possibly the greatest automotive detail ever for a driver like me. I’m referring to the Holden Commodore’s dual-stage fuel reminders: one for low, and one for very low. This is brilliant engineering, although I do have one quibble: Let’s be completely honest. If you know a “very low” light is going to be coming on soon, wouldn’t you start to ignore the “low” light? I know I would. And that’s why I have AAA.

Nissan Around View – LeeK

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One of the coolest modern features in existence is a Nissan system dubbed “Around View.” Here’s how it works: there are four cameras mounted on all four sides of the vehicle. When you’re backing up, you can activate the cameras to get a top-down view of the spot you’re entering. In other words, you can see both sides, the front, and the back. This is perfect for tight parking spots, but it’s even better for nasty curbs. Goodbye, curb rash!!

Buick Regal GS Gauges – kjb911

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We all love the Buick Regal GS. I mean, I certainly love it, and if you don’t then I must ask: What do you hate more, the awesome styling or the loads of well-priced horsepower? (You would answer: “the front-wheel drive,” which is why these posts aren’t Q&A sessions.)

Anyway: the Regal GS has a neat touch suggested by kjb911. When you push the “GS” button, the gauges actually change colors to let you know that it’s time to do some serious driving. Now that is the kind of unnecessary money spending that once catapulted Mercedes to the top of the luxury car world. (Mercedes fell to the bottom when they were sitting around a poorly ventilated conference room in Stuttgart and someone said: I bet it would be cheaper to build cars in Alabama!)

Volkswagen CC Rearview Camera – dmw

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I admit to being totally smitten with this one. Apparently, if you have a rearview camera in your Volkswagen CC like dmw does, it activates by popping out from under the Volkswagen logo on the trunk. One minute, the Volkswagen logo is sitting there like normal, minding its own business; the next, it’s slightly tilted upwards and you can see if you’re about to back over a flowerbed.

This detail, by the way, should also be filed under: “Reasons why you’d never want to own a Volkswagen CC out of warranty.”

Mercedes R-Class Bottle Opener – tatracitroensaab

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This is awesome. The R-Class has two center-mounted cupholders just like virtually every other car on the market, except for my old Lotus Elise which didn’t have two center-mounted anything. But here’s the R-Class trick: pull out the divider between the cupholders, flip it over, and – tada! – it’s a bottle opener. You have to assume the Germans have used this to open every single bottle of beer Gerolsteiner Mineral Water they could find.

BMW Glovebox Flashlight – Car Ramrod

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I know this isn’t unique to BMW, but it’s a good idea that definitely deserves mentioning. For years, BMWs had a small flashlight in the glovebox that was hooked up to a charger powered, presumably, by the engine. The result was there was always a flashlight around if you need it. This is especially helpful for BMW drivers since they’re far more prone to slashed tires after pissing off someone on the street.

Toyota 4Runner Rear Window – all people in other SUVs

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A few folks suggested this, and I can’t believe I forgot it in the original post. For those who aren’t aware, here’s the deal: the 4Runner’s rear window rolls down. Not the side windows for the rear seats (OK, they roll down too). I mean the rear window, behind the cargo area.

Why is this cool? Dozens of reasons. Dogs love it. People who want ventilation love it. But most importantly, it’s cool just because it’s sort of a 4Runner insider thing – and while Toyota could’ve done away with it each time they redesign the 4Runner, they never have. This requires extra engineering for the rear wiper and the tailgate, but they do it anyway.

Mazda Oscillating Vents – deanst

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The pinnacle of Mazda luxury came when they debuted oscillating vents. A lot of people will tell you the Volkswagen Phaeton pioneered this brilliance, but – in modern times, at least – Mazda was the technology leader. With the press of the “swing” button, the vents would swivel back and forth while the air was on, sending heat or cold air to all parts of the cabin.

Chrysler Audio Buttons – Wodehouse

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Through all of Chrysler’s well-documented early-2000s-to-now low points, and there have been many, the brand did one thing absolutely right: audio buttons. Hidden on the back of most Chrysler steering wheels are buttons that control the track, the radio station, the volume, and the stereo mode.

They’re unlabeled, which pisses off car journalists who aren’t familiar with the design. But if you actually own a Chrysler, they become your best friend. Not only do you never have to remove your hand from the wheel to change any audio setting, but they allow Chrysler to leave the rest of the wheel clean and simple. And, unfortunately, full of cheap plastic.

There are many more suggestions to cover, but not enough time – or space – to cover them all! Thanks to everyone who participated and, as always, feel free to suggest more in the space below.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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The Cross-Country CTS-V Wagon Roadtrip Starts Tomorrow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/the-cross-country-cts-v-wagon-roadtrip-starts-tomorrow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/the-cross-country-cts-v-wagon-roadtrip-starts-tomorrow/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 16:19:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498675 Different cars serve different purposes. Of course, you already know this. You know, for example, that people buy compact cars for fuel economy. People buy minivans to haul other people. And people buy Acuras because they’re confused. So why do people buy station wagons? For practicality, of course. People buy wagons so they can pack […]

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Different cars serve different purposes. Of course, you already know this. You know, for example, that people buy compact cars for fuel economy. People buy minivans to haul other people. And people buy Acuras because they’re confused.

So why do people buy station wagons? For practicality, of course. People buy wagons so they can pack up all their belongings, load them inside the cargo area, and hand the keys to a car transporter who makes constant runs between Greenwich, Connecticut, and Palm Beach.

Of course, here I am thinking of the Mercedes E-Class wagon, a vehicle that’s owned by many esteemed wealthy people, all of whom are still mad at Bernie Madoff. But this behavior isn’t true of all wagons. Some people, after all, purchase their wagons to drive. And I happen to be one of those people.

And that’s why I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go on a cross-country, 5,500-mile roadtrip through 17 states with my station wagon. I’ve decided to devote the remainder of this post to a Q&A session that covers what I can only assume are the questions that you, dear reader, might ask. Here goes:

Q: Are you nuts?

A: Yeah.

Q: Why the hell are you doing this?

A: Because it’s fun! Remember when people used to take roadtrips? It’s a lost art, sort of like those people who churn their own butter. I’m not much of a churner, so I decided to do this instead.

There are two other big reasons. One is that I want to go to this year’s Monterey Car Week and the various Pebble Beach automotive events. And two, my East Coast-born girlfriend wants to see the West. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than by driving to Pebble Beach through the West in the single least-efficient automobile I have ever owned?

Q: Fine, but I want to see pictures. Can I see pictures?

A: I don’t know, can you? (Don’t you hate when people say this? Whenever someone says this to me, I want to condemn them to a life of churning butter.)

The real answer is: yes, you can see pictures. The easiest way will be to follow me on Twitter, where I will be posting constant updates from the road.

Q: Twitter? What am I, a nine-year-old girl?

A: Yeah, I know. Telling people to “follow me on Twitter” is the single most embarrassing thing I have ever done, so if you don’t do it, I won’t be offended in the slightest. With that said, Triple-A follows me on Twitter, though this is probably because, as a Land Rover owner, I am their biggest client.

If you don’t want to go on Twitter, I will also be photo-dumping as often as possible on my website, PlaysWithCars.com. And I’ll try to post the occasional update here, though you might have to hold out until I get back. After all, what was supposed to be a romantic summer roadtrip has quickly turned into a large-scale automotive event. Like usual.

Q: Are you going to do burnouts in all 17 states?

A: Probably.

Q: What are you bringing with you?

A: Funny you should ask! We will be bringing luggage, more luggage, and (since my girlfriend is coming) even more luggage. We also have extra tires, largely because I don’t want to get stuck calling a tow truck in rural Nevada, where the preferred method of towing involves a lifted Chevy pickup and a fraying rope.

Q: How much is Cadillac paying you for all this free publicity?

A: I know, right? Cadillac, if you’re reading this, can you send me an unsold 2009 DTS? We all know you have them sitting around somewhere.

Q: Will you be stopping anywhere?

A: Yes.

Q: Uh, where?

A: Well, for one thing, we’ll be stopping every 45 minutes or so for fuel. After all, the car can’t even break 18 miles per gallon on the highway, and its fuel tank is roughly the size of a regulation softball. So if you live in any county along the route, be on the lookout for a Cadillac station wagon filled with tires, luggage, and two people who are thinking: Maybe we didn’t need to see the West so badly after all.

We’ll also be stopping at all the major sights. Big Sur. Yosemite. Death Valley. The Grand Canyon. The Gateway Arch. The place in Aspen where John Denver was arrested for driving under the influence after he wrecked his Porsche. The place in Aspen where John Denver was arrested again for driving under the influence, but because driving under the influence is so widely accepted in Aspen, his punishment was that he had to play a concert.

So, basically, we’re seeing all the important sights.

Q: Well, this sounds like fun.

A: Doesn’t it? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go prepare for the trip. In other words: I have to get gas.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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QOTD: What Automotive Details Are You Missing? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-automotive-details-are-you-missing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-automotive-details-are-you-missing/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:40:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498536 OK, folks: time for one last question of the day (for now, anyway). As you know, we’ve covered the best automotive details and the worst automotive details, both of which garnered well over 200 comments. Interestingly, the “worst” thread got about 100 more comments than the “best” thread, proving that we TTACers are a “glass […]

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OK, folks: time for one last question of the day (for now, anyway). As you know, we’ve covered the best automotive details and the worst automotive details, both of which garnered well over 200 comments. Interestingly, the “worst” thread got about 100 more comments than the “best” thread, proving that we TTACers are a “glass is half empty” kind of crowd.

With that knowledge in mind, I’ve decided to ask one more pressing question: what automotive details are you missing? In other words: you’re driving down the road and you think to yourself: Why the hell doesn’t it have that? And then you get even more upset when someone tells you that the latest subcompact General Motors vehicle does have that, and it’s standard.

These can be from your own car, a friend’s car, or the industry as whole. And with that in mind, let’s get started:

Convertible Top Open/Close With Key Fob

At Porsche, I discovered that all European convertible models have a feature that allows the convertible top to open and close with the press of a key fob button. Hold down the unlock button in your 911 Cabriolet, for example, and the windows and top all go down. Seems brilliant, right?

Except that feature isn’t offered in the States, presumably for liability reasons. You know: because an American will place a baby on the roof of a convertible, press the button, then sue the automaker for $25 million, which will turn into $95 million once the jurors start crying.

Sliding Doors

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If you’ve been to Europe, chances are you’ve seen the Peugeot 1007, which was recently voted the coolest car ever in a scientific poll taken on the Peugeot 1007 Facebook group.

I love the 1007 because it’s unique in one very important way: it features sliding doors, and it isn’t a minivan. The doors aren’t for the rear passengers, you see, but for the front seats. This allows you to park virtually anywhere and get out of your car, making it the exact opposite of the Ford GT.

Swiveling Headlights

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I know, I know, a few luxury cars have this. And that means in about 10 years, all cars will have it. But to me, that moment couldn’t come soon enough. I think swiveling headlights are one of the greatest things currently offered: they save your neck in dark corners, and they seem to shine exactly where you want them to.

Rear-Facing Third-Row Seats

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I used to own a car with rear-facing third-row seats, which qualifies me as to be an expert on the hotly contested issue of: Should cars have rear-facing third row seats?

The answer is, of course: yes they should. Because let’s be honest: rear-facing third-row seats pretty much always lead to a happy childhood. Also, for those who believe they aren’t safe, here’s a thought: in a rear-end collision, wouldn’t you rather have your legs get hit than the back of your head? I thought so.

Hands-Free Texting

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If you’re like me, you view texting as a necessary evil with which we, as a society, are forced to cope. And if you’re like me, you probably send the occasional text message at a traffic light. Well, guess what? Most people are not like me. Most people are texting at all hours of the day and night, including while driving down the street, the highway, the alley, and, occasionally, the sidewalk.

I recently read a study on texting that said around 60 percent of 13-to-25-year-olds consider it the preferred method of communication. And since texting is so easy to distract us from driving, this is something that automakers will need to integrate better in the coming years. Voice controls? Mind controls? I don’t know. But something.

So, TTAC, what details are you missing? And don’t worry: I promise we’ll have “answers of the day” posts coming soon.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Is It OK To Choose A Weird Car Color? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/is-it-ok-to-choose-a-weird-car-color/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/is-it-ok-to-choose-a-weird-car-color/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 18:40:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498460 I was recently driving down a street in my neighborhood and I saw, parked on the street, like everything was completely normal, a late-model Ford F-150 painted bright yellow. Bright. Yellow. Since I live in an embarrassingly upscale neighborhood, the kind of neighborhood where people hold functions in their backyards, I can only assume this […]

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I was recently driving down a street in my neighborhood and I saw, parked on the street, like everything was completely normal, a late-model Ford F-150 painted bright yellow. Bright. Yellow.

Since I live in an embarrassingly upscale neighborhood, the kind of neighborhood where people hold functions in their backyards, I can only assume this was towed away immediately. But it got me thinking: Why would Ford make this color?

Here’s what I mean. We all know the most popular car colors are silver, white, and black. In fact, I personally own three vehicles, and they’re all painted silver, despite a long search that involved, in each case, guidelines that strictly included the parameter: I do not want silver. (Actually, this isn’t entirely true. For my Nissan Cube, the parameter was: I do not want a Nissan Cube.)

With that knowledge in mind, why would Ford intentionally make it more difficult for their dealers to sell a car by painting it bright yellow? Think about it. Pretend you’re Ford. You live in Michigan. The roads are awful. The only way you can make a left turn is by first making a right turn. The average home costs as much as a pack of Milk Duds. Are you in this mindset?

OK, so you’re Ford, which means you want to sell as many cars as possible, because you’re paying those union workers either way. Shouldn’t you paint every single vehicle silver, black, or white, under the theory that they’ll appeal to the greatest number of buyers?

The answer to this question is obvious: no, you shouldn’t. Undoubtedly, color distribution is a bell curve, just like most things in life. That means for every 50 people who walk into a dealer and say “Please give me silver!” there are at least a few stragglers who actually arrived at Chrysler dealers in 2003 and said: “Oh, I just have to have that PT Cruiser with the wood on the sides!” Interestingly, those people are still around today, and so are all of their cats.

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But this begs an entirely different question, which is: Why would someone want to subject themselves to a weird color? Now pretend you’re the guy who has the yellow F-150. You’re manly. You’re signs on the windshield that said: “BUY ONE, TAKE AS MANY TWO-DOOR FOCUSES AS YOU WANT!” and you chose … yellow.

You have to be pretty secure with yourself to make this decision. You have to be OK with the fact that women will talk about you behind your back and say things like: Oh, I really liked Jim, but he picked me up for our date in a yellow pickup truck! And then they will giggle and get their nails done because this, I have learned from the media, is what women do.

More importantly, you have to be pretty financially secure to choose a yellow pickup. Because when it comes time to sell, you’re going to be screwed. You’ll be up against a thousand other trucks on AutoTrader.com, all of which are white, or silver, or black, or some other color that will not repel women but rather will make women want to climb inside and announce: Let’s go back to my place. (This is how truck people think.) So you’ll have to price your truck way less than everyone else, and beg potential buyers just to come check it out. Right?

Wrong.

I recently did some searching on AutoTrader and discovered that mileage, model year, and trim level are really the only things that determine asking price. Color is a distant 90th place, right after things like cigarette lighter placement and whether the clock is set properly. And while I don’t have selling price data, I have to assume these dealers have some idea what they’re doing when they set these prices.

You’d think this article would end there, with me suggesting that everyone should go buy a car in whatever color they want, because I’ve spent eleven minutes researching the topic and there’s clearly no downside to owning a pink Honda Pilot.

But it doesn’t quite end there. That’s because there’s still one group of cars where color matters. I am referring, of course, to the fickle world of luxury automobiles, which includes a lot of high-end brands and, occasionally, Acura. These people care about color. These people won’t buy pink. Or green. Or yellow. Or basically any color except for various shades of bluish gray and silverish black and whitish beige, all of which have names like Desert Sea Silver Metallic that were invented by marketing staffers who have never actually seen the color in person.

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That’s proven if you check out used luxury car listings on AutoTrader. As an example, I’ll turn to the Range Rover, which was recently voted the finest car ever made in a poll that included everyone in my home office. This is approximately how 2006 Range Rover pricing works:

Black: $25,000
Silver: $25,000
White: $25,000
Red: Will consider trades for an Oldsmobile Alero

And so, ladies and gentlemen, it turns out that color does matter – but only if you’re looking for a luxury car. If you want a non-luxury model, go ahead and do whatever you want. Unless, of course, that involves a PT Cruiser with wood paneling. Those have a four cat minimum.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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QOTD: What Are The Worst Automotive Details? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-are-the-worst-automotive-details/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-are-the-worst-automotive-details/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:30:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497880 It’s time to devote yet another column to automotive details. The sharp-minded among us may be annoyed by this, since I already covered this subject last week. But this time, things are different. This time, it’s negative. And negative sells. I know that because I live in Atlanta, home of CNN, who drives around in […]

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It’s time to devote yet another column to automotive details. The sharp-minded among us may be annoyed by this, since I already covered this subject last week. But this time, things are different. This time, it’s negative. And negative sells. I know that because I live in Atlanta, home of CNN, who drives around in large panel trucks with huge printed signs on each side that say: “HAVE YOU SEEN SOMETHING BLOODY? TWEET US!”

Anyway: negative automotive details. I’ve got a few suggestions and, as always, I’m asking for your help to uncover more. For those of you curious as to why I’ve done so many question-and-answer posts lately, I promise there is a reason, namely that I’m going out of town in two weeks and I want to compile all the answers into a few posts that you can read while I’m gone. But also it’s because I love reading the responses, to the point where I was up last time until 2 a.m. Googling “BMW glovebox flashlight.”

Here are my nominations for some of the worst automotive details, based on a few of the cars I’ve owned. Feel free to share yours.

Range Rover Parking Sensors

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It’s hard for me to believe that any single thing is more infuriating than the parking sensors on my Range Rover. (Re-reading this sentence, it sounds like someone who might say: “I just can’t get the temperature of my spa quite right.”) Seriously, though: I often think that I would gladly come home and discover that a burglar entered my home, stole all of my clothes, then let in a two-year-old child who drew all over the walls in Sharpie, all if it meant I no longer had to deal with my Range Rover parking sensors.

This is the problem. I’m backing into a parking space, so the sensors automatically activate. That’s great. They start beeping. Beep. Beep. Beep. Perfect. Then I get closer. Beep beep. Beep beep. Then I get super close. Beeeeeeeep. Exactly what I want to hear. So I stop parking and place the vehicle in park. And what happens next? You guessed it: Beeeeeeeep! Once the sensor goes on, it does not turn off, even if the vehicle is no longer in gear. So you’re parked and maybe you’re waiting for someone, and you just sit there listening to Beeeeeeep! And yes, you can manually turn off the sensor, but then you must manually turn it back on again when you’re trying to leave.

If you happen to know the person who designed these sensors, kindly provide me with their address so I can dispatch a crew of clothes-stealing burglars and creative, marker-wielding two-year-olds.

Mercedes Next Track Steering Wheel

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Owning a Mercedes is an unusual decision that I strongly recommend you only make if you can stomach a) tremendous depreciation, or b) substantial maintenance costs. In fact, it’s often both of those things, and never neither.

The detail that upset me most about Mercedes ownership, however, was none of that. It was the lack of a steering wheel ‘next track’ button.

Allow me to explain. The steering wheel of most Mercedes models, like any luxury car, is covered with buttons. On my 2007 E-Class, the total number was eight, just to be precise. But this is where the anger comes in: of those eight buttons, not one controlled the next stereo track! Instead, we had volume, phone, and four buttons for the “driver information center,” which you use approximately once a month when people ask: What kinda mileage duzzis thing get?

Gated Automatic Transmissions

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I will never in my life understand why gated automatic transmissions exist. One of you out there in readerland probably has a completely valid explanation that makes perfect sense in your mind, but trust me: you’ve never had to explain it to an elderly person in the hot sun.

I once worked at a large rental car agency, and we had to deliver a car to an elderly driver after her previous rental, a Dodge Avenger, broke down. (Shocking, right?) So we brought her a Suzuki Forenza, which has a gated automatic shifter, and I spent the next 30 minutes attempting to explain how it works. Unfortunately, I was at a loss for words when she asked why it works that way. I still am.

Cadillac CTS Foot-Mounted Parking Brake

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Before I got my current CTS-V Wagon, I had a CTS-V sedan, which was a fairly decent car in many ways – except for one glaring detail. No, I’m not talking about the plastic center stack, which derived its material from a Playskool toy. I am instead referring to the foot-mounted parking brake.

You’re probably thinking: What’s the big deal? A lot of cars have foot-mounted parking brakes! And that’s very true. The difference, however, is that most of those cars don’t have manual transmissions. The CTS-V did. That meant there were four pedals in the driver footwell, and the one you never wanted to press was directly next to the one you had to press each time you changed gear.

So, folks, what are your worst automotive details? It’s Friday night and my girlfriend is out of town, which can only mean one thing: 2 a.m. automotive Googling. Bring it on.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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