Tag: Editorial

By on March 31, 2017

Project Cars on Craigslist

I was still in my 20s, browsing my local library’s jazz catalog with what I hoped was an open mind, when I found Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America” tucked between Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea. I had a vague idea of who Scott-Heron was from my years in school, so I snagged it, put the CD in my Fox on the way home, and I was … struck dumb. This was something new for me, both musically and politically. In the years since, I’ve often thought that if God truly loved me he would have given me Gil Scott-Heron’s steady baritone instead of my over-modulated tenor.

In the years that followed, I persevered as a fan of Scott-Heron through the man’s ups and downs. Shortly before his death, he stunned me and everybody else again with I’m New Here, a heartfelt but judiciously studied effort that was aimed with laser precision at rap fans and the regular-at-Yoshi’s crowd alike. In that album’s title track, Scott-Heron gathers up what is left of his voice and growls, “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / you can always turn around.” It was a knowingly ironic statement from a man who could clearly foresee his imminent death from AIDS-related complications, but it was also a final benediction, a last bit of weary advice from a man who had long viewed himself as a prophet without honor in his own community.

That phrase — “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / you can always turn around” — has weighed heavily on me lately, for any number of reasons. I have a few friends, some more dear to me than others, who would benefit mightily from a serious application of that advice. But since this is at least nominally a blog about cars, let’s talk about what it means to our four-wheeled decisions, instead of how it might apply to relationships that should have been dropped in the Marianas Trench years ago.

Yes, let’s do that.

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By on May 2, 2016

North Korea (Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

Like two brothers who really, really, really can’t get along (I can’t stress enough how much they don’t get along) no matter how hard they supposedly try, the Koreas have a hot/cold relationship, to put it mildly.

One moment, the brothers are manufacturing trinkets together in Kaesong Industrial Region, a special administrative region in the DPRK. The next, the North is threatening to bomb everyone and the South shuts off the water and electricity service (literally) to its brother’s apartment.

But what if the Koreas unified; became whole again? Mike Rutherford of AutoExpress thinks it would be a car-building paradise, with Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, and SsangYong best poised to take advantage of low-cost Northern labor and cheap, cheap land.

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By on December 17, 2015

93342autosport-b

The email had all the stopping power of a fart at an office Christmas party.

“TEAM JAPSPEED DRIFT TEAM TO RETURN TO AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL”

“Were they returning from 1943?” I wondered. How could any team be named “Jap” anything in 2015?

As it turns out, there are a lot of automotive-related companies and events with the prefix Jap. JapFest, JapAuto, JapSpeed. JustJap. Uh, huh.

I mean, “Jap” is still a bad word, right?

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By on October 27, 2015

1984 Saturn Concept CarIn a 1992 op-ed that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I expounded on the predictions of the MIT-based authors of “The Machine That Changed the World”, and lean production. I cited that book, and Consumer Reports’ glowing review of the Saturn as evidence that real competition could make the U.S. auto industry great once again. Subsequently, I bought a Saturn, which ultimately proved inferior in durability to the car I had shopped it against, the Integra. Looking back more than two decades, how have we succeeded, and how have we failed, and how did the MIT authors’ predictions hold up?


Few experts would have predicted that an all new American car could have matched the first year reliability of the Toyotas and Hondas, the best of the Japanese. Yet General Motors’ Saturn did just that, according to the April Consumer Reports.

On top of that, the car has all the practical appeal of the old Volkswagen Beetle. The plastic body panels are built to take parking lot abuse without denting or scratching. But damaged panels can be replaced easily and inexpensively. How many people does it take to change a headlight on a Saturn? Just one, and it’s as easy as changing a lightbulb.

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By on September 23, 2015

tdiengine

Volkswagen broke the law.

Scratch that. Volkswagen knowingly went out of their way to break the law, did as much as they could to cover up that fact, and only admitted to wrongdoing when the evidence was so heavy that the German giant couldn’t stand under the weight of its own conspiracy.

Nearly 11 million vehicles worldwide — of which 482,000 made their way to the United States — were fitted with a “defeat device” which used a different engine map when being tested for emissions. That device allowed the Volkswagen TDIs to pass sniffer tests on a dyno, but on-road evaluations by the International Council on Clean Transportation showed the four-cylinder diesels were emitting up to 40 times the allowable nitrogen oxides in the real world.

A few things are going to happen. None of it will be pretty. Nobody is going to walk away from this without oily blowback on their faces.

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By on August 13, 2015

saab-900 the real thing

So I’m driving along the other day and I notice a badge on the tailgate of the latest Lincoln Navigator that says “EcoBoost.”

That’s right, folks: the giant, bold, shout-out-loud Lincoln Navigator is now using an EcoBoost engine. The V-8 is gone. The big, brawny, “look at me” V-8 rumble has disappeared. Lincoln has now dropped that stuff in favor of turbocharging.

It would be one thing if it were the MKZ, which is a midsize sedan that looks sort of like a woman’s shoe turned upside down. That thing is turbocharged, and nobody really seems to care. It’s just another car, in a sea of cars, looking to eek out the best possible fuel economy.

But the Navigator! The giant, truck-like Navigator. Lincoln’s answer to the Cadillac Escalade, even though it debuted before there was a Cadillac Escalade. The huge flagship model of the Lincoln lineup; something Lincoln drivers across the world aspire to own, from airport limousine drivers to Lincoln dealership owner spouses. It’s now turbocharged.

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By on July 8, 2015

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (9 of 13)

We just had a fight.

Scratch that. We were still having a fight. This was just the tense calm between volleys of verbal mortar fire. I won’t even tell you what we were fighting about. The subject was so stupid it would make my girlfriend and I both look like utter idiots — like those times when you shout at a character in a TV show to grow up and “just say you’re sorry already!”

Instead of doing what any rational human would do, I figured my only chance of peace was to escape the waves of relationship-drama ordnance. I grabbed the keys to this week’s Charger along with my vaporizer and fled the front line to regroup and regain my sanity.

(Read More…)

By on July 7, 2015

The Gulf Of Mexico Dead Zone... absolutely caused by ethanol corn production (courtesy: Wired)

Last week’s news of BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with federal and state governments brought to close the second act of one of the worst environmental tragedies of all time. There’s no promise that the third act won’t drag out for decades and ultimately end in heartbreak either.

BP’s structured settlement means the oil producer will pay roughly $1 billion each year over the next two decades to state and local governments impacted by the 3.9 million barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Of course, there’s no amount of money that could assuage the grief from families of the 11 workers killed in the spill.

But the settlement doesn’t address the hundreds of individual or class action lawsuits, or many of the claims made against BP by local business owners and people since the 2010 spill. Some of those civil cases are still in court, some on appeal, and many are years away from a meaningful conclusion.

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By on May 14, 2015

gcoverland

“When I see a Range Rover on the street, my blood boils, because we should be able to do a thing like that,” quoth the great Sergio, “And we will.” Say what you like about the leadership Chrysler has had since the days of the AMC/Renault Alliance, but with this comment about the need for a grander Cherokee, if you will, the maximum leader of FCA has shown that he understands the Jeep brand, and its role in America, less than any of his predecessors.

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By on May 1, 2015

ONELESSPRIUS_1_400

I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.

Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.

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By on March 13, 2015

2011-audi-r8-42-spyder-shifter-photo-416617-s-1280x782

One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars.

This kind of mindset is what leads to the exchange outlined in Automobile Magazine, where one writer discusses the lack of a manual transmission in the 2016 Audi R8.

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By on March 10, 2015

photo-9-450x309

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the introduction of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and its larger minivan sibling, the Gran Tourer. I was in the midst of preparing an editorial on the introduction of the Gran Tourer, a front-wheel drive minivan based on the Mini-derived UKL platform, when I saw news that the X1, my current favorite BMW, is going to be based on UKL as well. Apparently, it will also look “more like an X car.” When the current X1 dies, it will mark the end of an era for BMW.

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By on March 9, 2015

Obligatory XKCD

You’d think that, after all these years, I’d have a tougher skin for people who say stupid things on the Internet. And I’m pretty good about that, but now that I own a Tesla, it strangely gets under my skin when people write ill-informed drivel about the car. Here at TTAC, we’re all about well-informed drivel. It’s a subtle distinction, but we’re proud of it. Anyway, here’s a bit of unfortunately typical writing, found on a random Internet chat board (not TTAC, because the B&B would never stoop to this). All grammar and spelling have been left untouched.

Tesla interior is junk far away from luxury. BMW 335i has better interior design, and 550i in whole different league. Road noise, cheap panels, flimsy speaker grille, seat comfort, ceiling height, sound quality (premium sound!!) all materials that tesla uses belong to 20$K Honda. So rest of money goes into battery price.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

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By on December 17, 2014

B4_2CEmIAAAqnOV

The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world.

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By on April 8, 2014

holden-plant

In the span of 24 hours, Australia inked two free trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea. Even though Holden, Ford and Toyota had already committed to ending auto manufacturing in Australia, it’s hard not to see the agreements as the last nail in the coffin of Australia’s once strong auto industry.

(Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • Russycle: Love that headline: “Company executives talked candidly with journalists and community...
  • BigOldChryslers: There’s almost no hood so any decently sized engine up front would probably compromise legroom...
  • I_like_stuff: ““It’s a lot of bluster. They’ll come up with a tweak and declare victory,” said Mark Zandi,...
  • pprj: However, the Variable Cylinder Management turns off 2 cylinders at the first opportunity and, voila,...
  • Russycle: Yeah, skip the turbo, inject the I-6, call it good.

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