The Truth About Cars » Question of the Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 28 May 2015 20:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Question of the Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: What Wagon Version of a Non-Wagon Car Would You Actually Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 11:34:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076658 This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive. Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the […]

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Golf SportWagen

This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive.

Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the torque! – I still wouldn’t buy one.

This past week, I’ve been inundated with different versions of a similar question: are there any modern vehicles I’d actually buy? This is opening up Pandora’s Box and finding a can of worms inside.

Proving the Pandora’s Box part of the above metaphor, automotive journalists are weird degenerates and we desire cars that are truly horrible. Case in point: the Crown Victoria. Sajeev’s unending love for one of Ford’s worst creations, powered by the modular 4.6L V8, is proof of his masochistic ways. Also, he lives in Houston, further cementing his devotion to being eternally uncomfortable, whether it be on sitting on a bench seat or sweating in 95 percent humidity. Or both, assuming the Vic’s air conditioning is on the fritz.

The can of worms part is simple. As an automotive journalist, saying you would buy a particular car, truck, or SUV is akin to endorsement. There are literally tons of vehicles I would buy for myself but would never suggest to others. Much like Sajeev’s “beaten spouse” acceptance of the Panther platform in its many guises, I love one of Ford’s other forgotten heroes: the Bronco. Oh, do I love the Bronco. Not even the cool old Broncos upon which ICON does its magic. I (again) want a plastic-adorned Bronco of the ’90s emblazoned with XLT or Eddie Bauer on the side.

However, I won’t tell anyone else to buy a Bronco. They’re thirsty, problem prone, and completely impractical. A two-door SUV with a removable roof (held down with tamper-proof Torx bolts, no less) powered by, not one, but two V8 engines spitting out very similar horsepower figures? Yup, that’s for me. Give me that, please.

That said, if there existed a long-roof version of some of today’s sedan or hatchback offerings, I’d probably switch my tune.

Impreza? They used to do a wagon. And I would buy it, too. With real money. The hatchback? Not a chance.

Focus? You can get it in Europe. Yet, bringing it to North America would put it in competition with the Escape.

Impala? Oh god. This used to exist in the ’60s and whenever I see one I get that feeling. The nostalgia might push me over the edge.

So, B&B, what wagon version of a normal car would you buy with real non-Internet-commenter money?

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QOTD: Would We Still Love Wagons If They Were Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:19:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072610 Every so often, my mind starts to wander to various random automotive related topics. Take, for instance, the Chevy SSR. Here’s a car that makes absolutely no human sense: a half-convertible, half-pickup truck with two seats and a cover over the bed to make sure you can’t transport anything larger than a toilet seat. So […]

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2003 Chevrolet SSR

Every so often, my mind starts to wander to various random automotive related topics. Take, for instance, the Chevy SSR. Here’s a car that makes absolutely no human sense: a half-convertible, half-pickup truck with two seats and a cover over the bed to make sure you can’t transport anything larger than a toilet seat.

So GM develops the SSR, and they bring the thing to market, and it just draws universal laughter. I mean, car enthusiasts, the press, random people on the street. They see this thing and its huge fenders, and its ridiculous size, and its substandard interior, and everyone asks: what the hell was General Motors thinking?

And now, guess what? The damn SSR is still averaging more than $25,000 on AutoTrader. The thing is ten years old, and it’s still bringing half its value, whereas a 10-year-old Chevy TrailBlazer is worth approximately the same money as a yard sale copy of Monopoly with a couple of plastic hotels missing.

So I wonder about how this happened. And then also, sometimes, I wonder about station wagons.

2015 Toyota Auris Touring Sports

As car enthusiasts, we love station wagons. What I mean here is, us car enthusiasts believe that station wagons are the finest way to transport a family, because sedans don’t have enough room, minivans are boring, and SUVs are like road-going versions of Satan.

So we love station wagons, and we think station wagons are really cool, and we always implore people to buy station wagons, and instead they always buy a RAV4.

But I’ve recently started to wonder something: would we still love wagons if they were popular?

A lot of people will immediately say yes. OF COURSE we would still love them if they were popular, some enthusiasts will say. My love for wagons is not based on their POPULARITY!!!! It is because they offer SUV packaging in a cool, car-like package! It has nothing to do with the fact that every suburb-dweller has a RAV4 or a CR-V, whereas only the coolest people among us have wagons!

But I’m not quite so sure.

2015 Subaru Outback

Let’s take, for example, the Subaru Outback. This is a car that’s generally loved by enthusiasts because it has kind of reinvigorated the whole wagon segment. People who weren’t even considering wagons before are suddenly buying the Outback, even though it’s – and I’m putting this mildly here – a little dull.

Indeed, it’s actually a lot dull. If you look at the Outback objectively, here’s what you see: front-based all-wheel drive. A 175-horsepower engine. Nearly 3,900 pounds of curb weight. And a continuously-variable automatic transmission. These are not usually the makings of a car enthusiast car. But we give the Outback a pass, because it’s a wagon, and we love wagons, and blah blah blah.

So then here’s the question: what if everyone had a car that matched these specs?

Yes, consider it: what if the Toyota Venza was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and a CVT, rather than a faux-minivan with SUV marketing? And what if the Honda Crosstour was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and CVT, rather than a strange-looking bug-shaped hatchback. And what if Mitsubishi had any automobile that could possibly manifest itself as a station wagon? Or even a midsize sedan?

In other words: if wagons were everywhere, what would we think? Would we still love them?

I’m kind of thinking no, we wouldn’t. Imagine a world where mom’s driving around in a 4-cylinder Ford wagon with a CVT, and dad’s driving around in a front-wheel drive Chevy wagon, and grandma has a Cadillac wagon, except it isn’t a CTS-V, it’s an Eldorado with a long roof and a 4-speed automatic tuned for a) comfort and b) complete failure at 75,000 miles.

It’s hard to imagine this kind of world would be something we car enthusiasts would appreciate. Therefore, I think the popularity of wagons among car enthusiasts is, in some form, rooted in their lack of popularity among the general public. In other words: if wagons were as popular as SUVs, and everyone drove them, and mom had one, and dad had one, and the guy down the street had one, and our neighbor had a beat-up used one, would we really still wax poetic about the joys of wagonhood?

My money is on no, we wouldn’t. What do you think?

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QOTD: Which Manufacturer Has Most Lost Its Way? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071938 If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to […]

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2015 Buick Encore

If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to screw them upon leaving the bill on the nightstand.

But, in more recent times, Buick has become more of a Chevrolet+. Taut suspensions, journo brown interiors and lukewarm engine choices. Oh, and there’s the Encore, a cute ute powered by one of the roughest, smallest engines you can buy in North America. What gives?

Before people start thinking I’m on a General Motors focused tirade, there are a number of other marques out there as well that have seemingly “lost their way.”

Honda, for instance, used to be a technical powerhouse of gung-ho engineers turning efficiency into fun. Instead, we are given the CR-Z to chew on for years instead of a properly fun hatchback to act as the spiritual successor to the CRX.

Suzuki was another company that lost its appeal with customers as they chased larger and larger models. Sure, the Grand Vitara wasn’t a bad truck and the driving dynamics embodied by the Kizashi were fairly spot on. But, when the Samurai and Sidekick died, Suzuki abandoned the segment they were best known for: rough, tumble, pure off-roaders that were dead simple to own and operate.

Which manufacturer do you think has most lost its way?

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QOTD: Why Do People Display Bumper Stickers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 11:22:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068882 You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker. […]

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Van with bumper stickers Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker.

I’ve always found this a bit odd.

Here’s why: when you really stop and think about what bumper stickers are, at their very core, they are markings that identify the interests of the driver of the car. It’s like getting a tattoo, or wearing a T-shirt with some writing on it. But I’ve often found that bumper stickers go a lot further than any T-shirt that anyone would ever wear.

Case in point: I have never, in my entire life, seen anyone walking around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. I suspect Mitt Romney himself wouldn’t walk around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. He’s too busy wearing plaid button-ups that make him look like a man of the people, even though his haircut costs more than my cell phone.

Likewise, I’ve never seen anyone walking around wearing a T-Shirt that bragged about the quality of the shirt wearer’s honor student. You also don’t really see T-Shirts that say things like “Well behaved women rarely make history,” or “Wag More, Bark Less,” or “COEXIST.” What you see, when it comes to T-Shirts, is a lot of stains that have been there for what looks like several presidential administrations.

So why the hell do we put these things on our cars? Just because we know other people will be behind us in traffic, we feel like it’s necessary to reveal our interests? Are we trying to start some sort of conversation?

The funny thing is, bumper stickers never start a conversation, because nobody notices them. I’ve driven around for several years with a subtle bumper sticker for my alma mater on the back of my car, and nobody has ever said anything to me about it. Not a word. Not a thumbs up. Not a smile. I suppose someone could be back there talking about it with a friend. Is that the goal of my sticker? To inspire random people to discuss it, completely unbeknownst to me?

The reason people don’t notice bumper stickers is because everyone has them. You pull up at every stoplight and you just sort of assume the guy in front of you will have a bumper sticker, so you couldn’t care less what it says. We really only notice bumper stickers if they’re bizarre and unusual, and they say something like “I HATE MEXICANS.” Then we take a picture and post it on Instagram.

The funny thing is that the bumper sticker is a phenomenon entirely limited to North America. You see them in the States, and you see them in Canada, but you can spend an entire week in Europe and not see a bumper sticker aside from the common international oval country code. In Europe, nobody cares where you went to college or who you’re voting for. They only care that you move your tiny, silver diesel hatchback out of the way so they can drive past you in their tiny, silver diesel hatchback.

So I’m a bit mystified, and I’m reaching out to you, the reader, to get your take on bumper stickers. Do you use bumper stickers? Do you understand why other people use them? Do you ever approach people in parking lots because of their bumper stickers?

Of course, I’m not as dense as I seem here. I understand why people use bumper stickers in the first place: they want other people to know that they support the Bears. Or the Cowboys. Or Millard Fillmore Elementary School, home of the Fighting Powdered Wigs. Or maybe they support OK Go. Or the Outer Banks. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Ron Paul. Or Rand Paul. Or Paul Ryan. Or Ryan Seacrest.

But why the hell do you want unknown random humans behind you in traffic to know you feel this way? Do you expect there will be some giant revolt while you’re sitting at a light, and it’ll spread across the country, uniting everyone in their appreciation of the Father John Q. Zilshepper Catholic School Choir? Is that the reason for the bumper sticker?!

And so, I ask you, the reader: What’s the deal with bumper stickers?

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QOTD: What’s Your Automotive Guilty Pleasure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-whats-your-automotive-guilty-pleasure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-whats-your-automotive-guilty-pleasure/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 11:24:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067154 I would never own a brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon. Never. I don’t care if I’m chastised by the inner circle of automotive know-it-alls by denouncing the auto journo unicorn. A brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon is the equivalent of gearhead hipsterdom. I’m not a fan of hipsters. They put way too much […]

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A Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson

I would never own a brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon. Never. I don’t care if I’m chastised by the inner circle of automotive know-it-alls by denouncing the auto journo unicorn. A brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon is the equivalent of gearhead hipsterdom. I’m not a fan of hipsters. They put way too much thought and effort into looking like bums and enjoying things no sensible human could actually enjoy.

But, I do have one guilty pleasure: white Broncos. Yes, the Al Cowlings Special. I’ve owned one and would have another in a heartbeat. They’re slow, loud, drink gas like an art degree dropout consumes PBR, and they’re prone to break in the most magnificent of ways possible. They also epitomize the “bigger is better” attitudes of the ’90s, whether said thing was truly better or not.

Yet, there’s nothing you can do to change my mind. My want is irrational and I’m not going to defend it.

There are other cars that, if you like them, will automatically invalidate your automotive equivalent of the man card. Like the Aveo. It’s not because they don’t fit some social norm within our own bubble. It’s because, for a wide variety of reasons, there are better options out there on practically every level for the same price.

So, Best & Brightest, car-centric tropes aside, what is your automotive guilty pleasure?

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QOTD: What Interior Controls Drive You Mad? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-interior-controls-drive-mad/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-interior-controls-drive-mad/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065698 Even in a day of standardized controls and homogeneous design, there are a few oddball controls that – for better or worse – stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Whether it be window switches (door or center console?), seat controls (side, front, or door panel?) or even shifters (lever or knob; column or console?), […]

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2015 Chrysler 200 rotary dial shifter

Even in a day of standardized controls and homogeneous design, there are a few oddball controls that – for better or worse – stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Whether it be window switches (door or center console?), seat controls (side, front, or door panel?) or even shifters (lever or knob; column or console?), today’s cars are still a complex assortment of controls that vary greatly from one make and model to the next.

TTAC commenter MrFixit1599 writes about a recent Chrysler 200 rental:

At a red light, I decide to turn the fan off for the A/C. I didn’t notice a change at the time, but then the light turned green. I attempted to accelerate. The car would not move. I assumed I had forgotten to shift back to S. Turns out, when I went to rotate the knob to turn the fan off for the A/C, I actually rotated the knob for the transmission and put the car in P. As in Park. At an intersection with a green light showing. And me not going anywhere. Just sitting there revving the engine.

Now I am wondering what exactly would happen if you rotate the knob for shifting – into, let’s say R – while cruising at 75 down the interstate. I had a buddy in high school that did that on a column shift GM car of the mid 80’s sort and the transmission literally exploded.

I am sure this comes off as a “GET OFF MY LAWN” type of commentary, but I believe that shifting the transmission should NOT resemble 3 other dials that are in close proximity that get used frequently.

Shifting into R or P while in motion is impossible thanks to shift interlock mechanisms. Doubly so for the newest ZF units at Chrysler as there’s no mechanical connection between the dial and transmission (this is what allows for that cavernous storage space under the center console). But, a design like this is still cause for concern for the unacquainted in a strange rental car. The shift interlock mechanism will only allow you to shift into P or R if the brake is depressed, which it would be if you’re sitting at a red light or in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. Pop it into reverse instead of turning the fan up before driving away and you might end up staring in a YouTube video.

Jaguar Land Rover uses a similar control for their ZF transmissions, except the knob can be pushed down into the console, hiding it away from a grabby child riding shotgun or absent-minded driver. Chrysler? No such luck. (And if we’re being honest, it’ll likely break in your Range Rover just as you get out of warranty.)

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé (2014)

Personally, I don’t mind the Pentastar “Dial-a-Gear” as some call it. At least not as much as the column-mounted idiocy at Mercedes-Benz (and, thanks to a supplier agreement, on the Tesla Model S as well). Driving any other vehicle, I instinctively know the location of the cog swap controller. In a Mercedes? Even after a week, I’m still required to actively think how to shift out of Park and into Reverse or Drive, even so far as almost putting a C400 into Neutral as I tried to wipe the windscreen clean. The C-Class is not a pickup. Why is the shifter on the damn steering column?

So, Best & Brightest, what’s your most hated interior control?

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QOTD: Should Backup Cameras Really Be Mandated? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 10:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1064081 A few months ago, the federal government of the United States – the same federal government who recently forced us all to use energy efficient lightbulbs – announced that backup cameras will soon be mandatory on all new cars. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the era of the backup camera has arrived. In just […]

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2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, backup camera, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes

A few months ago, the federal government of the United States – the same federal government who recently forced us all to use energy efficient lightbulbs – announced that backup cameras will soon be mandatory on all new cars.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the era of the backup camera has arrived. In just a few short model years, you will not be able to buy an automobile in the United States without a backup camera. Everything will have one: Sedans. SUVs. Trucks. Minivans. Even BMW will begrudgingly install standard backup cameras, though doing so may involve removing other standard equipment, such as seats.

So with today’s column, I’ve decided to ask you, the reader, exactly how you feel about the spread of backup cameras in the United States.

Personally, I love it. I think it’s great. I say this because I drive a rather large vehicle, and I am constantly parallel parking it, and what I’ve noticed is that backup cameras ensure that I always a) see the car behind me, and b) have absolutely no idea how close I am to it.

Yes, my backup camera is kind of crappy. What I mean by this is, during the day, you can see approximately 80 percent of what’s behind you, except there are no lines to judge anything by, so you have no idea if you’re parked on the hood of the vehicle behind you, or if you’re four feet away from it. And then at night, it’s even worse: the backup camera is so poorly lit that it looks like the entire thing is filming the center of a trash bag.

So essentially, what I have learned, after two years of owning this vehicle, is that the backup camera is approximately as trustworthy as a James Bond villain who has a scary private island and a gigantic weapon that can destroy Connecticut with the push of a big red button.

But not all backup cameras are this bad. On the contrary, I’ve driven many modern vehicles with state-of-the-art backup cameras, and what I’ve noticed is that they are getting better and better and better with every passing model year. They have lines that tell you what direction you’re going. They have little green, yellow, and red symbols to show you how far away from everything you are. And the backup camera that hooks to Chrysler’s Uconnect system is so large that it looks like your entire reversing process is being broadcast on the jumbotron at a Lakers game.

So the whole backup camera thing has developed very well, which is why I’m kind of excited about it.

But there are some flaws to the backup camera. Cost is one. When the federal government mandates these things go on vehicles, it does not mandate that the vehicle prices stay the same. So the automakers take full advantage of this by installing a “standard” backup camera, and then jacking up the price of each vehicle by $1,100, even though it costs them the same amount of money to make a backup camera as it does for you and I to buy a Sharpie six-pack at Office Depot.

The same thing happened when airbags were mandated. Do you remember that? It was 1995, and you could buy a new Ford Aspire for like $2,100, including shipping, not including body panels. Well, here we are, 20 years and a lot of government-mandated safety features later, and now the cheapest Ford is like $12,000. I personally blame the government for this, because I think if it weren’t for annoying unnecessary “extras” like stability control, and ABS, and traction control, and seat belts, we could probably have a Fiesta for like eight grand. And we wouldn’t even need a Fiesta ST, because the new seat belt-less Fiesta would be so damn lightweight.

The other issue with the backup camera is complexity. Namely, the camera so eagerly mandated by the government; the one that works so well right now; the one that lets you see the world, will fail in approximately seven years, leaving you to question whether you should fix it or just look over your shoulder like your ancestors in years past. If you don’t fix it, this will come up at trial when you back over someone’s beloved pet zebra.

“He had a backup camera in his car,” people will say. “But it broke and he DIDN’T FIX IT!” And then the newspapers will call you zebrakiller, and you’ll have to resign in disgrace and walk out of the courtroom with your jacket over your head.

So we can see there are benefits and drawbacks to backup cameras, but I personally am all for it, because I have no other choice. What about you?

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QOTD: Are Car Enthusiasts Ahead of or Behind the Market? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-enthusiasts-behind-ahead-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-enthusiasts-behind-ahead-market/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062618 The latest sales numbers from April are a tale of two cars: one with a bodystyle we praise and another sporting a shape we denounce without impunity – the VW Golf SportWagen and Porsche Macan. The long-roof Golf took nine days on average to find a buyer. The Macan is at 11 days. Brown manual diesel all-wheel […]

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2015-Volkswagen-Golf-Sportwagen

The latest sales numbers from April are a tale of two cars: one with a bodystyle we praise and another sporting a shape we denounce without impunity – the VW Golf SportWagen and Porsche Macan.

The long-roof Golf took nine days on average to find a buyer. The Macan is at 11 days.

Brown manual diesel all-wheel drive wagon it is not, yet the SportWagen does check most of the boxes typically associated with the practical car enthusiast set. You get space without having to pay the drag penalty associated with SUVs and their large frontal area. Also, for those looking for some performance, nothing delivers torque like diesel (unless you go electric, which is a discussion for another day).

porsche-macan-2013-la-auto-show-11

Which brings us to the Macan. Granted, the smaller Porsche-UV is exceptionally good, even if you do lose out on a considerable amount of cargo space compared to its platform mate, the Audi Q5. But, the Macan is still the antithesis of typical car enthusiast thinking: a high-riding utility vehicle that can’t go off-road sporting a badge from a “sportscar” company when, in fact, it has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the range. It’s also expensive, equipped horribly on the lower end of the price scale, and about as ‘aspirational’ as one can get.

So, that begs the question: are car enthusiasts ahead of the curve or behind it? Is the Golf SportWagen a case of the rest of the market finally “getting it” or just an odd blip in a typically silver SUV-filled market?

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QOTD: At What Age Should You Let Your Kid Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-age-let-kid-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-age-let-kid-drive/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 12:26:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062026 Max Verstappen. He’s the youngest competitor to ever pilot a Formula 1 car around a track. At the age of 17, the young Dutchman would likely have a restricted driving licence in many countries. But, here he is, racing wheel to wheel with World Champions as he waves his FIA Super Licence in the air. Sexist […]

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Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen. He’s the youngest competitor to ever pilot a Formula 1 car around a track. At the age of 17, the young Dutchman would likely have a restricted driving licence in many countries. But, here he is, racing wheel to wheel with World Champions as he waves his FIA Super Licence in the air.

Sexist comments about women being too scared to drive in competitive racing aside, Verstappen has made a phenomenal debut in the top rung of motorsports. That should be expected. He’s been driving karts since the age of four and a half. He’s also likely been driving road cars long before he could do so legally, something a lot of us car folk probably have in common.

When I was just a sprout, my father would sometimes take me with him to work. This included long drives down logging roads to check out a stand of trees before cultivation. Being in the forestry industry takes you far away from the nearest threat of flashing cherries. It was here, at the age of eight, I was finally allowed to drive a life-sized car without sitting on someone’s lap.

That very brief experience was limited to learning how to operate a clutch without stalling, shift without grinding and also keep my eyes on the road while simultaneously performing all these other new actions my brain was attempting to comprehend. It also planted the seed for my love of driving. (Thanks Dad.)

But, if a parent did that nowadays, they’d likely get a stern talking to from the police by way of the local Helicopter Mom Association (a.k.a. PTA). Hell, you can’t even leave your child in a park unattended anymore because God forbid someone will repeatedly stab Timmy with a prison shank carved out of iPods or some other such nonsense. Put Timmy behind the wheel? Nuclear winter.

And yet I’m still here.

With that in mind, what age should a tyke be put behind the wheel – you know, for safety?

 

 

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QOTD: Why Do You Hate Automatic Climate Control? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 10:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060610 I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air. As I […]

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This Giulietta had the optional automatic climate control, which did an admirable job.

I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air.

As I was reading through the comments section of this column, I was delighted to find that most of you agreed with me: automatic locking, bad. Regular locking, good. But I also noticed something else: most of you don’t like automatic climate control. Poor little ol’ automatic climate control, just doing its best to make your automotive experience a little more temperate. Most of you hate it. Why is that?

Personally, I love automatic climate control, and I’ve recently realized maybe half of the people who hate it simply have no idea how it works. So allow me to educate you. Here’s what happens: you set it to 72. You push “AUTO”. It then blows out whatever air is necessary to reach 72. On a hot day, it’ll blow cold air. On a cold day, it’ll blow hot air. And once it’s at 72, it stops blowing until it gets down to, say, 71, at which point it’ll blow more hot air. Just to maintain that perfect air temperature equilibrium in your life.

My girlfriend doesn’t seem to understand this. The way she thinks it works is this: you get in the car, you turn it to 85 degrees, and THEN you push “AUTO”. After several minutes, she’ll look down and wonder why the hell the car is so hot. Well, here’s why: the automatic climate control is going to blow warm air until it reaches 85 damn degrees! So then she turns it down, and she adjusts the air speed, thereby defeating the entire purpose of automatic climate control.

The thing is, automatic climate control actually works quite well when you use it properly. In my daily driver, I set it to 72 – or, if I’m feeling like I want a slightly cooler experience, 71 –and I push “AUTO”. Then the thing just blows air out for a while until I’m nice and relaxed, cruising along at precisely the temperature I wanted. Admittedly, sometimes it blows the wrong air temperature for several minutes, but I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that I drive a Land Rover, and I’m lucky the damn thing starts in the first place.

Now, where I admit automatic climate control goes a little wrong is when it becomes dual-zone automatic climate control. Here’s what I mean: the driver sets his side to 57 degrees. The passenger sets his side to 84 degrees. You know what happens? The temperature ends up being somewhere in the lukewarm 70-ish degree range throughout the entire cabin. This is because dual-zone automatic climate control is a myth: there is only one zone, and it’s called “inside the car.” As long as there’s no partition between the seats, air from the passenger side will reach the driver, and vice versa.

And then you have an even bigger lie with this new fad called “quad zone climate control.” Have you heard of this? A wide range of new luxury cars have climate control for four zones: the driver, the passenger, and both rear passengers individually. Apparently they do not realize that air blowing on the driver will likely find its way into the back and will also blow on the rear passengers, and the third-row passengers, and basically every person involved with the vehicle who has a beating heart, unless you’ve placed a family pet on the roof, Mitt Romney style.

So my point here is this: when done right – with one single zone – automatic climate control is a very good thing, and I’m very curious to find out why you don’t like it. When done wrong – with two zones, or three, or four – it can be a bit of a gimmick. In that situation, and only in that situation, I feel like it’s bad. Really bad. Not bad as central locking, of course. But worse than, say, finding your street blocked by volcanic lava. So why don’t you agree?

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QOTD: What Car Would You Never Buy For No Other Reason Than “Because”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-never-buy-no-reason/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-never-buy-no-reason/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:27:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057938 Cadillac clickbait? Maybe. But, that’s not what I’m aiming for. One of our Facebook likers said he’d never buy an ATS and “can’t even give you a good reason why not.” Interesting. I have a few cars like that, too. On the incredibly exotic end of the automotive spectrum, I would never buy a McLaren. […]

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Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 7.15.01 AM

Cadillac clickbait? Maybe. But, that’s not what I’m aiming for.

One of our Facebook likers said he’d never buy an ATS and “can’t even give you a good reason why not.” Interesting. I have a few cars like that, too.

On the incredibly exotic end of the automotive spectrum, I would never buy a McLaren. Sure, they are wonders of automotive advancement and when I got to ride shotgun in the MP4-12C I was ecstatic. The performance is immense. The feeling of acceleration and handling is mind boggling. And, no matter how much money I may have in the future, I would absolutely never buy one and I’m not sure why.

Coming back down to Earth, I would never buy a Chevrolet or GMC full-size truck. They’re capable, quiet, and at least the Sierra is handsome (the Silverado looks too much like a Michael Bay-era Transformer for my liking). And no matter how much money GM put on the hood or how many options I could get for free or money I could save over an equivalent Ford or Ram, I’d never have a full-size pickup from GM. I can’t tell you why because I don’t really know.

So, Best & Brightest, what perfectly good car on the market today would you never buy “just because”?

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QOTD: What’s The Best Car For Learning Auto Mechanics? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-best-car-learning-auto-mechanics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-best-car-learning-auto-mechanics/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 11:17:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056858 With the proliferation of technology in newer cars, getting a grasp on the basics is a good plan before tackling anything else. Older cars provide just that. But, what car is best for learning the basics of auto mechanics? I’m not going to lie and say I’m gifted with a wrench, because I’m not. Give me […]

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mechanic house call

With the proliferation of technology in newer cars, getting a grasp on the basics is a good plan before tackling anything else. Older cars provide just that. But, what car is best for learning the basics of auto mechanics?

I’m not going to lie and say I’m gifted with a wrench, because I’m not. Give me a mechanical problem to solve and my mind spins like a 20 G centrifuge. That’s not to say I can’t handle the basics, though: oil, brakes, and other simple wear items are fairly easy to learn when you own a clunker. But, if there’s a sound coming from the engine itself, I’m absolutely clueless.

I’ve owned two vehicles in particular that have taught me much more than I’d ever thought I’d know. One was a 2000 Honda Civic this author admits to lowering during his formative douchebag years. The second, and on the completely opposite end of the size spectrum, was my 1995 Ford Bronco. It was a big, beast of a truck. If you were looking for a particular part attached to your Bronco and couldn’t find it, you were probably having a diabetic eye stroke. Everything was massive.

So, Best & Brightest, what vehicles in your life have taught you (or maybe the ones around you) the most about automotive mechanics?

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QOTD: What’s the Best “Bang For Your Buck” Vehicle on Sale Right Now? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-best-bang-buck-vehicle-sale-right-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-best-bang-buck-vehicle-sale-right-now/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:14:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055601 “What’s the best car right now?” This question is the bane of existence for any automotive journalist. Not only is there no answer for this particular line of questioning, the inquirer is also looking for validation on their decision to buy a Honda Civic. Then you’re required to explain “it’s about your needs” and the best car is probably […]

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The Caravan on Main Street

“What’s the best car right now?”

This question is the bane of existence for any automotive journalist. Not only is there no answer for this particular line of questioning, the inquirer is also looking for validation on their decision to buy a Honda Civic. Then you’re required to explain “it’s about your needs” and the best car is probably one costing more than the inquirer can afford. However, if your need is to have a really annoying CVT wedged in a cramped two-door coupe that can only be driven by those under 5’10” when equipped with the optional sunroof – well, they’ve hit the nail on the head.

But, what about best value for money vehicles on the market?

Everyone can argue about value and they typically do. Yesterday was a good example of that with the “garbage can full of pistons” X-Type. Even if you can pick one up for $3,000 or less, you’re committing to a lifetime of possible expensive issues dependant on its level of care from the five previous owners who’ve cut and run. You’re typically better off in the long run with a Toyota Corolla with twice the mileage costing twice as much. There’s something to be said for ease of maintenance and a trouble-free mind whenever you pull onto the freeway.

But, when it comes to best value – at least in my eyes – you can’t beat the Dodge Grand Caravan.

It’ll seat seven people in relative comfort and comes with “tailgate seating” for those times at the beach or while actually tailgating. Take out the seats and it can be used as a plywood transportation mobile or makeshift roadside tent if you have a blow up mattress. You can option all sorts of nifty storage solutions: Stow-and-Go, fold-flat seats, etc. Oh, and the base model? 283-hp V6 engine for under $20,000 if you play your cards right while haggling. Catch a Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram dealer on a bad month while the mothership is throwing cash at these things and you can score one for under $17,000.

What say you, Best & Brightest? What’s your pick for best value vehicle on sale right now?

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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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QOTD: How Would You Rename All The Lincolns? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-rename-lincolns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-rename-lincolns/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:31:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051921 Continental. Zepher. Coronation. Lincoln has some great names in its history – much better than the MK-add-a-letter-here nomenclature of today. Actually, if your model naming scheme is best described as nomenclature, you’re probably doing it wrong. I won’t bore you with the Lincoln history you already know. Wikipedia can do that for me. I just want to talk […]

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Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 7.06.36 AM

Continental. Zepher. Coronation. Lincoln has some great names in its history – much better than the MK-add-a-letter-here nomenclature of today. Actually, if your model naming scheme is best described as nomenclature, you’re probably doing it wrong.

I won’t bore you with the Lincoln history you already know. Wikipedia can do that for me. I just want to talk about names, anyway.

Yesterday, the news Lincoln may use proper model names was met with great joy amongst the Best & Brightest. And for good reason. The Continental has always been gorgeous in the most American way possible. It’s a massive barge of freedom; as much as 2.85 Imperial tons of freedom in the ’60s. That’s a lot of freedom.

But, what about every other model in the current Lincoln lineup? What other names from Lincoln’s past (or future…*dun dun dun*) could be used to rename its current set of cars and SUVs?

Also, don’t bother renaming the MKT. We’ll just assume it’s dead so this process is easier on all of us.

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QOTD: Are Chinese Car Designs Getting Worse? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-chinese-car-designs-getting-worse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-chinese-car-designs-getting-worse/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:09:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050705 The 2015 Shanghai Auto Show is coming to a close – finally. I love cars but Chinese designs are still the worst. It seems nearly all vehicles offered up in Shanghai this year (and most years before it) fall into two camps: horribly obvious knock-off or super-cheapo plasticy concept. Case in point – the Jiangling Yuhu. Let’s ignore for […]

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Jiangling Yuhu

The 2015 Shanghai Auto Show is coming to a close – finally. I love cars but Chinese designs are still the worst.

It seems nearly all vehicles offered up in Shanghai this year (and most years before it) fall into two camps: horribly obvious knock-off or super-cheapo plasticy concept.

Case in point – the Jiangling Yuhu.

Let’s ignore for a moment the truck’s name is pronounced similarly to the grossest drink on earth. Let’s also ignore it’s what “doves of the roost” in Old West saloons would shout to capture the attention of new cowboys in town. Instead, take it in for what it is.

There’s not a single part of the Yuhu that shouts, “Hey! I’m built with quality! People care about my craftsmanship!” Even the grille looks like a series of tow hooks; at least when you inevitably need one and it breaks, there will be many others from which to choose.

That’s the good part, though. Concept vehicles are allowed to be bonkers. We don’t put them under too much scrutiny. But, unlike the rest of the world, knock-offs get a free pass in China, too.

I know. This isn’t new. The Chinese have been knocking off literally every consumer good since the dawn of time in order to make a profit. Yet, when you roll out three brand new SUVs, all of which are obvious Xeroxes of quite iconic vehicles, you just need to give your head a shake.

Beijing BJ20

The first of Beijing Auto’s SUVs – the BJ20 – cribs its side profile from the recently discontinued Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Beijing BJ40L

While only sporting a five-slot grille and square headlights, the rest of Beijing Auto’s BJ40 design is straight out of the Jeep Wrangler playbook.

Beijing BJ80

And the biggest of the BJs is this painfully obvious Gelandewagen knock-off … right down to the paint colour.

[Images source: CarNewsChina.com]

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QOTD: What’s The Worst Automaker Slogan? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-worst-automaker-slogan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-whats-worst-automaker-slogan/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049841 Cadillac’s Dare Greatly might be getting some flack as of late for its seemingly deep-but-surfacy language. But, it’s far from the most egregious use of the English language to move some metal. Oh, the Japanese – they have their own unique talents with our mother tongue. Whether it’s model names (Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard, anyone?) or some of […]

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Mitsubishi Drive @ earth

Cadillac’s Dare Greatly might be getting some flack as of late for its seemingly deep-but-surfacy language. But, it’s far from the most egregious use of the English language to move some metal.

Oh, the Japanese – they have their own unique talents with our mother tongue. Whether it’s model names (Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard, anyone?) or some of the amazing ads from the ’80s featuring Hollywood’s greatest stars, Japanese automotive marketing has always seemed quirkily entertaining when viewed from a Western perspective.

But, one tagline in particular – Drive @ earth from Mitsubishi – actually makes me mad.

It’s not solely because the tagline is bad (though it is), but because they still use it after all these years. When it comes to current slogans, Drive @ earth really, really doesn’t mean a single thing, which might be quite apt in the case of Mitsubishi.

What say you, Best & Brightest? What’s the worst automaker slogan being used right now?

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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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Chart Of The Day: The Future Of The Auto Industry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-future-auto-industry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-future-auto-industry/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:21:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039473 Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas thinks that this chart represents the future of the auto industry, where we one day move into autonomous, shared transportation. I’m not discounting the idea of the self-driving car. I think it will arrive at some point in the intermediate future, with far less capabilities than we may expect, but […]

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Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas thinks that this chart represents the future of the auto industry, where we one day move into autonomous, shared transportation.

I’m not discounting the idea of the self-driving car. I think it will arrive at some point in the intermediate future, with far less capabilities than we may expect, but at much lower cost. The notion of self-driving, shared-ownership vehicles is a fantastical notion held by childless coastal elites who are utterly disconnected from the reality of the other 300 million Americans who must deal with children, elderly relatives, poor weather, long driving distances and a general aversion to anything that deviates from private vehicle ownership.

This is not likely to change, and it’s further compounded by the myriad regulations governing the automobile, which cannot be undo with the wave of a magic wand (or campaign donations). Adam Jonas is also notorious for making highly hyperbolic predictions about Tesla’s share price. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a way to gin up business for Morgan Stanley when it comes time to underwrite some car sharing IPOs. And lastly, tuning out anything with the word “disruption” in it is a pretty solid heuristic.

Tell me why I’m wrong.

 

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QOTD: What Foreign Cars Should Be Sold In North America? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-foreign-cars-sold-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-foreign-cars-sold-north-america/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 17:31:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038473 I recently returned from a week-long visit to Europe, the world leader in diesel hatchbacks and cigarettes. There, as I always do when I arrive in Europe, I came face to face with a stark reality: there are still human beings driving around in Peugeots. And in fact, I was one of them. I visited […]

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1024px-Peugeot_308_CC_e-HDi_FAP_110_STOP_&_START_Active_(Facelift)_–_Frontansicht,_10._September_2011,_Düsseldorf

I recently returned from a week-long visit to Europe, the world leader in diesel hatchbacks and cigarettes. There, as I always do when I arrive in Europe, I came face to face with a stark reality: there are still human beings driving around in Peugeots.

And in fact, I was one of them. I visited the tiny island nation of Malta, a former British colony located somewhere between Sicily and Africa, and I rented a Peugeot 308CC. Although I cannot be sure, I believe this stands for either “Coupe Convertible” or “Chimpanzee Cerebellum.”

Anyway, this ended up being a gigantic mistake on Malta, because it turns out that the entire place is no larger than a bathroom trash can, whereas the 308CC is a bit Colossally Corpulent. Not by American standards, of course; the 308CC isn’t even large enough to be seen by the naked eye of people who are driving Escalades and G-Wagens. They would have to use a telescope; the same one that prevents them from running over the poors.

But by Maltese standards this thing was huge, and I quickly regretted my decision. I especially regretted my decision when I began driving the vehicle on Malta’s UK-style, right-hand drive streets. Imagine it: there I am, shifting with my left hand for the first time ever, and at the same time trying to pilot a boat of a bad-visibility convertible down streets that were barely large enough for one single subcompact Ford Ka. It was such a bad situation that the woman at the Avis counter said – I am not kidding here – that the vehicle’s rental insurance policy covers everything “except the mirrors.”

And then, after a while, I realized something: although this car sucks for Malta, it would be great in North America.

Think about it: the 308CC gets excellent fuel economy – or at least the diesel-powered one I drove did. I know this because they gave it to me with half a tank and told me to return it with half a tank, but instead I drove it around Malta for three days and returned it with a quarter tank because I believe, after exhaustive study, that the entire country does not possess a single gas station.

It’s also got a lot of cool features, like an infotainment system, and automatic windshield wipers, and an iPod hookup, and a power-operated top, and a scary-looking lion logo on the steering wheel, and some very cool Peugeot Center Caps, one of which I stole.

And sure, it isn’t fast, but let’s be honest here: the kind of people interested in a convertible that has a lot of features and gets good gas mileage don’t really care about performance. You could give these people a 308 CC and strap in the same engine that powers a paper airplane (air) and they would still be happy.

But here I was driving it around Malta, a dusty island nation where the largest vehicle is a 1980s Toyota pickup that appears to have run over an entire flock of sheep, in this vehicle that simply didn’t belong there. It belonged in North America.

And that’s when I started thinking: what other vehicles belong in North America?

One obvious answer is the Volkswagen Amarok, which is this midsize pickup truck that appears to be roughly the same level of “large” and “competent” as the Chevrolet Colorado. I saw a well-equipped Amarok in Istanbul, a land of no pickup trucks, and couldn’t help but wonder why this vehicle isn’t also sold in America, a land where one brand sells more of one truck in four months than Volkswagen sells overall vehicles in the entire year.

Of course, the Amarok would have to be tuned up a bit if they wanted to sell it in America, since the base-level one has only 120 horsepower. This makes it roughly as fast as volcanic lava.

Another good contender: the Audi A5 Sportback. Have you heard of this thing? Imagine, if you will, a four-door version of the Audi A5, with a hatchback like the A7. Now, I fully admit that the segmentation of the luxury car world has grown to a point where things have gotten ridiculous, but Audi has largely stayed away from that stuff. And why? BMW would sell a Gran Coupe version of a tennis shoe, so why shouldn’t Audi?

And here’s the crazy part: although BMW’s proliferation of Gran Turismos and Gran Coupes has been only within the last year or two, Audi started selling the A5 Sportback in 2009! In other words: they created a cool new segment five years ago, and then they let BMW take all the glory.

But these are just a few examples, so now I’m posing the question to you: what cars should be sold in North America? And some guidance: avoid obvious answers of cars you want to see in North America, like some high-performance sports car or a crazy hot hatch. Focus instead on vehicles that would actually do well; vehicles that actually have a purpose; vehicles that would actually find success on our great continent. Like the Curious Coyote.

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Question Of The Day: What Car Should I Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-car-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-car-buy/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:12:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033649 Reader Brian writes to us with a question about what car to buy next. Since he’s from the Big Apple, we’ll run this on the eve of the NY Auto Show. Hello, I’m not sure if i’m contacting through the right medium here. I’m a long time avid reader of this blog and thank you […]

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2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

Reader Brian writes to us with a question about what car to buy next. Since he’s from the Big Apple, we’ll run this on the eve of the NY Auto Show.

Hello,

I’m not sure if i’m contacting through the right medium here. I’m a long time avid reader of this blog and thank you for all the content that has been put out. I’ve learned a lot about the automotive industry just from this site alone. Today i’m writing to you all with a question regarding what car i should get with a budget of approximately $15K-$17K (About what my car is worth at the moment). I currently have a 2010 Miata GT, PRHT, 6sp Manual and live in the NYC area. I’ve had it for a few years now and love the way it drives, but its starting to wear me down in terms of comfort and practicality. I just want something that is more comfortable and practical but still learns more towards the sporty side. I’ve been looking at everything from a 2010 G37X, 2011 Mustang V6 Premium, to a Fiesta/Focus ST. What do you guys think? What’s your personal opinions on those cars? Any input would be excellent! Looking forward to your response(s).

Have at 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: How Will Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Bill Affect Subaru? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:40:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030561 The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru? Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto […]

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Subaru Indiana - Picture courtesy mibz.com

The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru?

Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto maker is expanding their plant to help meet growing demand for their cars in the United States, as the car buying public grows increasingly receptive to the brand’s AWD-centric lineup of cars and SUVs.

But one of Subaru’s core constituencies has been the LGBT community. Jokes about their likelihood of owning a Subaru have become commonplace – and resulted in the downfall of our former EIC. Businesses like Salesforce.com have decided to boycott the state, while the NCAA, which hosts the Final Four in Indianapolis, has expressed its concerns over the bill.

I’ll be curious to see how Subaru responds to the bill. It’s reasonable to expect that a good portion of their customers beyond the LGBT community will be unhappy with it as well.

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Question Of The Day: How Would You Reform CAFE? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-reform-cafe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-reform-cafe/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:54:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029337 In response to today’s editorial on the CAFE overview, reader jmo proposed a novel solution to the very idea of regulating fuel economy. Jmo writes: “We don’t need to scrap CAFE” Sure we do and replace it with a $2/gallon gas tax. To hell you say, abolish both. But, between CAFE and fracking we’ve really […]

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Gas Prices Circa December 2014

In response to today’s editorial on the CAFE overview, reader jmo proposed a novel solution to the very idea of regulating fuel economy.

Jmo writes:

“We don’t need to scrap CAFE”

Sure we do and replace it with a $2/gallon gas tax.

To hell you say, abolish both. But, between CAFE and fracking we’ve really put the screws to Iran, Venezuela and Russia. I’m all for the free market but we also have geopolitical enemies that need to be dealt with and low oil prices are far more productive than wars at keeping our enemies in check.

I like the idea of a gas tax in place of CAFE. Let the people buying the gas guzzlers take the hit, rather than punish the consumers with vehicles that designed around a deeply flawed set of regulations. In countries where gasoline taxes are higher, consumers tend to gravitate towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

Unless you’re Canada, where the Ford F-Series, Ram 1500 and GM full-size trucks still dominate the sales charts. Canadian consumers do tend to shy away from thirstier passenger cars, but they love their pickups, and are willing to shell out at the pump in exchange for the chance to drive one.

Let’s hear your thoughts or alternative suggestions below

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