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. Sun, 05 Jul 2015 18:22:25 +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 Really Makes a Car American? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-what-really-makes-a-car-american/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-what-really-makes-a-car-american/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106969 Today is the beginning of the Independence Day holiday in America, which is this beautiful historical moment where we all take a few days off work and light things on fire. It’s also an excellent time to examine precisely what makes a car American. I want to do this because there are a lot of […]

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Today is the beginning of the Independence Day holiday in America, which is this beautiful historical moment where we all take a few days off work and light things on fire. It’s also an excellent time to examine precisely what makes a car American.

I want to do this because there are a lot of Americans out there who will only buy an American car, just like there are a lot of Japanese who will only buy a Japanese car, and a lot of Germans who will only buy a German car, and a lot of South Africans who will only buy cars with bulletproof windows. But in today’s globalized world, what exactly defines a car’s country of origin?

Some would say where the car is manufactured – and that’s reasonable. After all, if a car is built in America, and sold in America by an American car dealership to someone in America, this is a pretty damn American vehicle, correct? You can only get more American if you were to get on a plane and ask personal questions to the stranger sitting next to you, even though they’re obviously trying to read the newspaper.

But wait! There are millions of cars that fit this definition that aren’t made by “American” automakers! The Volkswagen Passat, for example, is built somewhere in the marry-your-cousin hills of East Tennessee by an American factory worker, then shipped to an American dealer by an American truck driver where it’s prepped by an American employee and sold to an American rental car company for use in the commission of an American felony, likely with an American gun.

So is the Passat an American car?

Most people would say no, the Passat is a German car, in the sense that the brand that sells it, Volkswagen, hails from one of those European countries where they smoke cigarettes in corporate offices. Instead, some might say, to be truly American, a car must come from an American brand that has headquarters in America, where they hire many recent Wayne State University graduates to try and figure out whether the Buick Regal should cost $28,936 or $28,934.

The problem with this definition is that many American car companies build their cars in foreign countries. For example: the highly American Chrysler PT Cruiser, which is one of the most American cars of all time based on the total number of elderly owners who enjoy sitting in plastic lawnchairs on their porch, was actually manufactured in Mexico.

This creates a problem when we’re referring to American cars, because – this is an important news bulletin, so pay attention – Mexico isn’t America. Mexico is Mexico. [I thought Texas was Mexico? –MS] It’s an entirely different country, with an entirely different language, and culture, and citizenry, and flavor of Coca-Cola. It is, in fact, a completely different place from the US of A.

So this brings us to another question, which is: Can an American car not be an American car unless it’s made by an American brand and manufactured in America?

If the answer to this is yes, it removes dozens of American cars from our “American car” list. It also removes dozens of foreign cars, even though they often show up near the top of the cars.com “American made” index, which examines just how much of each car actually comes from the United States. Do these cars really deserve to be removed from a listing of American models?

The thing is, it’s just gotten too hard to know for sure. Is a Japanese car really American if the majority of its parts are American and it’s built here? Is an American car not American anymore if it’s built in a foreign country? And most importantly, does anyone really care?

The answer, actually, is a lot of people really care. Many Americans want to buy American, just like many British want to buy British, and many Spanish want to buy Spanish, and blah blah blah. This is why people in Italy buy the Fiat Freemont, thinking it’s an Italian car, even though it’s just a leftover Dodge Journey with a different grille.

And so I ask you, the readers: what exactly makes a car American? What does a car require in order to fit this definition? And in today’s increasingly globalized world, is there even such a thing as a truly “American” car anymore?

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QOTD: What’s the Uncoolest Choice For a 2015 Teenager’s First Vehicle? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-whats-uncoolest-possible-choice-2015-teenagers-first-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-whats-uncoolest-possible-choice-2015-teenagers-first-vehicle/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098633 I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a […]

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I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a cool Corona: my very first car was a 1969 Toyota Corona sedan. A beige Corona sedan, which cost 50 bucks at the corner gas station and had a clattery pushrod four-banger at a time when my peers and I lusted after Detroit muscle cars with tunnel-rammed V8s with Centerline wheels. This was pretty much the uncoolest car possible for a 16-year-old to drive in the East Bay in 1982.

So what’s the 2015 equivalent to that hooptiefied, unidentifiable, squat little Japanese sedan?
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Naturally, such a car would have to be old enough to be sort of battered and depressing, yet not old enough to be interesting in a nostalgia-inspiring way. These days, I think that would be somewhere in the 1990-2005 range, although vehicles outside that range — say, a salvage-title ex-rental ’08 Chevy Aveo or a 600,000-mile white ’88 Sentra sedan — probably qualify. It can’t be anything with distinctive styling or the slightest hint of sportiness and/or luxury, so we can rule out Saabs, Quad-4-engined GM products, and anything made by any of the Japanese luxury marques. Ideally, it would be something that most teenagers can’t identify at a glance, so that the long-suffering owner must answer the sneering “What is this POS?” question over and over and over. And, of course, it must be a car that you can buy for next to nothing.

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My vote is for the joyless, generic Daewoo Lanos. Any teenager driving a Lanos now is going to be buried beneath a gigantic heap of Korean-GM uncoolness. What’s your choice?


This Korean-market Lanos ad just makes the car even more uncool, by reminding Lanos owners exactly how little their cars resemble a black panther stalking the streets of Seoul.

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QOTD: Why Do Automakers Care So Much About Sales? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100425 I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets. Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda […]

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I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets.

Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda wants to say they’re going to sell 950 million Accords this year because they’re contractually obligated by a higher power to slightly undersell the Camry, that’s fine too. And if Dodge wants to say they’ll sell 100,000 Grand Caravans this year, of which 99,000 are going to Enterprise, and the remaining 1,000 are going to people who don’t know any better, I guess I can accept that.

But I’ve never really understood why automakers set insane volume targets that keep them desperately reaching for sales for the next few decades.

Probably the best example of this is Volkswagen, who announced several years ago that it would sell 800,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018 from its Volkswagen brand alone. This seemed like a totally reasonable goal at the time, because they had just introduced the new Passat, and they would soon be coming out with an SUV, and they were finally starting to understand the US market, and sales were really taking off. Well, last year, they managed 367,000 units, down from 407,000 last year and 438,000 the year before. In other words: 800,000 ain’t gonna happen.

So now Volkswagen is backing off its sales goals, and it looks like an animal retreating from a fight with its tail between its legs. But why did they have to make the goal in the first place? This, I’ll never understand.

I noticed this a lot when I worked in the car world. Automakers were so hell-belt on sales targets and volume goals that they were doing everything they possibly could just to meet these numbers. Fifty fleet sales? A hundred fleet sales? A thousand fleet sales? Turning over employee lease cars more often? Discounted leases? Zero-percent financing? Punching cars as sold the moment they came off the boat? Fortunately, my company never even considered doing most of those – but some automakers weren’t above even that final strategy during the very last weeks of the year.

Here’s what I’ve never understood: it isn’t sales numbers that prove your business is successful. It’s profit. So why the hell are so many automakers targeting sales, and not profit?

The truth is, anyone can sell anything. Pull a random person off the street, put them in a car dealer, and they can sell the entire lot empty in two days if you let them offer their vehicles with a complete disregard for profit. But then the business’s lights won’t stay on, the stock will plummet, the employees will get laid off, etc. etc. etc. It goes on.

From what I understand, Honda seems to be doing it right. My entire life in the business, I’ve been told that the Honda Accord could easily outsell the Toyota Camry, except that Honda refuses to give in to the pressure of profitless, or low-profit, high-volume fleet sales. And this seems to be true: consider every airport rent-a-car station you’ve ever been to, every Enterprise lot, every Budget kiosk. There’s never Honda there. You’re never given a Honda, you never see a Honda in the lot next to you, or the space down the row, or pulling out of the rental car gate. But you do see Toyotas. Honda seems to know these fleet sales are only a way to burnish sales figures, not actually make money. And they’d rather sell those cars to actual consumers at actual dealers who will bring them actual profits.

So I’ve always been curious about this, and now I’m asking you: why the hell does the auto industry focus so severely on sales numbers? Most other industries talk profit: year over year growth, net profits, gross profits, operating income. But in the car industry, we talk sales: overall sales, monthly sales, total sales, with no apparent care in the world whether those sales are making $10,000 per car or $20 per vehicle on a 30-car transaction with Enterprise. Me, I’d rather hear about profits. No, Volkswagen isn’t going to hit its 800,000-car figure. But are its profits increasing? Is it a stable, healthy company? Are they making money? Only then will I be impressed.

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Question of the Day: Ralph Nader, Angel or Demon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-ralph-nader-angel-demon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-ralph-nader-angel-demon/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096817 It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader! First of all, we’re going to add the requirement that you don’t get to talk about the contents of […]

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It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader!
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First of all, we’re going to add the requirement that you don’t get to talk about the contents of Unsafe At Any Speed unless you’ve read the damn book first (if you do, you’ll find that the book has just one short chapter about the Corvair, sales of which were already in the toilet when the book came out in 1965 — mostly thanks to the American car-buying public’s preference for a more traditional compact Chevy). Second of all, this is about Ralph Nader as his activities relate to the automotive industry, so if you’re pissed off about those 97,421 Nader votes in Florida in 2000, too bad — you’ll need to tamp down your rage over Bush’s win and stick to car-related discussion here.

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Nader — who likely would have have languished in obscurity had General Motors not attempted to smear him (in classic clumsy GM fashion) with all manner of Nixonian dirty tricks — pointed out many of Detroit’s shady practices in his book, including odometers set to read fast (to get cars out of warranty more quickly), and made the case that only government regulation could fix the problems of dangerous vehicles and janky consumer-ripoff business practices. Now we have plenty of such regulation on vehicles and a gigantic bureaucracy devoted to the subject. So, overall, do you think the revolution that Nader started was a net win or loss when it comes to what we drive today? Feel free to deliver table-pounding tirades and withering jeremiads, but keep in mind that anybody making personal attacks on other commenters — even those you know to be dangerously wrong — will be impaled on a ’59 Cadillac fin and banned, not necessarily in that order.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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QOTD: Why Do People Shame You For Having More Car Than You “Need”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095665 As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after […]

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Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after all, overkill.

Right?

Well, I don’t really think so. When people assail me for having “too big” of a vehicle, they’re often referring to its length. So I ran the numbers, and I discovered that my Range Rover – at 194.9 inches in length – stands merely 3.5 inches longer than the current Honda Accord, which is 191.4 inches long. Think about that for a second: the big ol’, heavy, baby-killing, jungle-tackling Range Rover is actually only a USB stick longer than a Honda Accord. In other words, these people have been fooled by marketing that has them convinced the Range Rover is this gargantuan off-road beast, when actually it’s a normal ol’ suburban family hauler.

So then the discussion turns to power – but my Range Rover has only 300 horses, which is just 30 more than a Honda Accord V6. And then I get the inevitable question: well why do you NEED an SUV?

I used to get this question when I had a sports car, too. Certain people – and I’m not going to name names here, but it was my pretentious friends in college and graduate school – would see me in a sports car and ask me why I needed such an impractical, inefficient vehicle. “You could’ve spent way less money and gotten something more efficient,” they would tell me.

The worst example came when I had a Porsche 911 as a company car. Anyone who knows anything about cars knows the 911 is pretty efficient, as sports cars go. It has a small six-cylinder, and not a huge V8. It’s fairly light in weight. And it doesn’t have all that much power. At the time I had mine, the Porsche 911 fuel economy rating was 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

So I posted a photo of this car somewhere on Facebook, and one of my friends replied with a comment along the lines of: Ewww, why would you get such a gas guzzler?

Now, we know the 911 isn’t a gas guzzler, so the very idea of the comment made me laugh. But what was even more disturbing was the fact that the person who posted it drove a Jeep Liberty. Not a Liberty Diesel. Not one of those fuel-efficient Jeep Compasses with a 4-cylinder and a Dodge Caliber chassis and the loudest CVT known to man. No, no. Dude drove a V6-powered Jeep Liberty that probably got 11 miles per gallon in the city on the rare days when it wasn’t having transmission problems.

And yet he was attacking me for having an inefficient gas guzzler.

I suspect the reason people do this is because they’re jealous. You can’t overtly walk up to someone and say to them: I hate you because you drive a Range Rover. So what they do is, they come up with some other reason to hate you, like your vehicle’s size, or its fuel economy, or its horsepower, or whatever. “Oh,” these people say. “I didn’t know you wanted to kill endangered species.” And then they stare at you and wait for your response, so they can see just how much their comment hurt your ego.

The funny thing is, these people have nothing to be jealous about. My Range Rover cost as much as a well-equipped Honda Civic, and it breaks down all the time. This is not an especially special vehicle. But they see the badge, and they become all offended, and then they break into the “Why do you need so much car?” routine.

So today I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon – and if so, what you think the person’s motivations were. I’m also curious how you handle it. Do you defend the car? Apologize for it? Correct the person? Punch them in the face? I need ideas, because nobody seems to believe the whole “only three inches longer than an Accord” thing. Maybe what I need is a tape measure.

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QOTD: Does Anyone Ever Leave a Note After Hitting a Parked Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-anyone-ever-leave-note-hit-parked-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-anyone-ever-leave-note-hit-parked-car/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1090881 I’ve lived in urban areas for most of my life. When you do that, your street-parked vehicles will get hit. You walk up to the car and the fender is mashed in or the bumper is bent… and there’s no note left by the perpetrator. In my experience — and I’d say that in my […]

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I’ve lived in urban areas for most of my life. When you do that, your street-parked vehicles will get hit. You walk up to the car and the fender is mashed in or the bumper is bent… and there’s no note left by the perpetrator. In my experience — and I’d say that in my 34 years of driving, I’ve had parked cars hit and damaged enough to notice (some of my cars hid damage very well) at least 25 times. Not once has anyone ever left a note taking responsibility for the damage. I hear that this note-leaving phenomenon has been known to happen, but such a thing falls into the urban-legend category for me. How about you?
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Most of my experiences with parked cars getting bent up took place in that car-killing city, San Francisco, where I lived off and on for a few years in the 1990s. Still, the streets of Denver (where I live now) are rough on parked cars; in a six-month period, my wife’s Outback got sideswiped, my ’92 Civic got its left front fender squished, and my ’66 Dodge A100 had its front bumper snagged and bent beyond repair. If you count my Lexus LS400 getting a dented fender while parked at Shadow Government World Headquarters, that’s four of my vehicles damaged while parked in 2015, and no notes left.

So, have you ever left a note on a car that you hit? Have you ever received such a note?

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QOTD: What’s the Most Cynical Rebadge of All Time? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1091393 Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives. Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some […]

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2001 Toyota Voltz - Tokyo Motor Show 2011

Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives.

Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some point, Toyota decided it liked the Vibe better (as we all did), so it snatched up some Vibes, converted them to right-hand drive, and sold them in Japan as the Toyota Voltz.

That’s right. The Vibe and Matrix were twins, but Toyota took the Pontiac version and sold it in Japan with a Toyota badge. They didn’t even change the Pontiac front grille – or the Pontiac emblem template, which remained on all the Toyotas when they sold them in Japan.

This is a pretty cynical rebadge. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near as cynical as some of the awful, inappropriate, horrible rebadges that have been forced on us over the years. So today I’m asking you: what’s the very worst rebadge you can think of?

16 - 2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

There are some obvious answers here – like practically everything that came out of America in the ’70s and ’80s. So many different cars were literally just the exact same vehicle with different badges and – sometimes, but not always – different wheels, sold together under a different brand name just to try and convince as many possible people they were different vehicles. Don’t like the Oldsmobile Achieva? Here, try the Pontiac Grand Am!

If you go back through the long history of rebadging, you’ll find it very hard to name one that’s the absolute worst example – but a few attempts come to mind. There was, for example, the Chrysler “LH” cars, which included not just the Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision, but three different Chrysler versions – the New Yorker, the LHS, and the Concorde – all based on the same platform.

chrysler-lhs-06 (photo courtsey: motorstown.com)

That was a bad time in Chrysler’s history, and they paid dearly for it later when the bankruptcy regulators came in and Chrysler told them, “Sorry, the reason we went bankrupt is because we have two platforms, one engine, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.”

2009 Suzuki Equator

Although rebadges don’t happen as much anymore, there have still been some real whoppers in the last few years. Does anyone remember the Suzuki Equator, which was literally just a Nissan Frontier with a Suzuki badge inexplicably placed in front? How about the Volkswagen Routan, which was a mediocre minivan rebadged by an even more mediocre automaker and sold through its mediocre dealers? And then there’s the Nissan NV200, rebadged as the Chevy City Express, and sold to contractors whose cousin is the sales manager at Todd Johnson Chevy-GMC in suburban Fresno.

Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

We also can’t forget some of the weakest 1990s rebadges. Remember the Honda Passport, which they tried to pawn off as a “Honda SUV” in the same vein as the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder? Remember the luxurious Acura SLX, which was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper? And then, do you remember what Isuzu got in return for these rebadges? The Oasis minivan, which was based on the original Honda Odyssey, with four opening doors, four cylinders, and zero interested buyers.

2013 Subaru BRZ. Photo courtesy Subaru.

I personally think the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are pretty stupid rebadges, too. The automotive community has spent the last two years debating which of these two cars is better, and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell them apart. C’mon, Subaru and Toyota. The least you could do is change the freakin’ wheels.

So I’ve clearly devoted several long minutes to thinking about this issue, and now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most cynical rebadges of all time? What can you not believe they actually thought the consumer would put up with?

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QOTD: It’s 1977 and You’re The Bandit. Do You Buy a Trans Am… or Something Else? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-1977-youre-bandit-buy-trans-something-else/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-1977-youre-bandit-buy-trans-something-else/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1087041 We had a 1970s movie-car QOTD last week, and that was so much fun we’re doing it again! So, here we go: in the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit, when Big Enos challenges The Bandit to fetch 400 cases of that Colorado Kool-Aid, a wad of cash of unspecified thickness gets handed over for […]

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QOTD - Instead of Trans Am Bandit Choice - 610px

We had a 1970s movie-car QOTD last week, and that was so much fun we’re doing it again! So, here we go: in the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit, when Big Enos challenges The Bandit to fetch 400 cases of that Colorado Kool-Aid, a wad of cash of unspecified thickness gets handed over for expenses, including a “speedy car.” As we all know, The Bandit headed straight to the nearest Pontiac showroom and bought himself a brand-new 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In the film, that car seemed to be the fastest imaginable motor vehicle (thanks to the magic of engine swaps, stunt drivers, and special effects). In reality, however, the ’77 Trans Am was kind of a bloated Malaise Era slug, and The Bandit probably had a lot of better escape-the-smokeys car choices available.

So, in his shoes and with a ’77 Trans Am-sized stack of C-notes, what car would you have bought for that run to Texarkana and back?

Now, the list price of a 1977 Firebird Trans Am was $5,456, but the Bandit’s car had the $556 Hurst Hatch option, the $1,143 Y82 Special Edition option package, the $195 factory CB radio (which itself required one of a number of costly factory sound-system options), and no doubt lots of other price-inflating extras (you think The Bandit and his perfectly groomed mustache would have gone without air conditioning – 442 bucks – in that climate?) we must assume would come in any fully loaded 1977 Detroit car. It’s safe to say you’d be looking at something around $8,000 by the time the dust settled. That gives us a baseline to work with. For the purposes of this exercise we’ll toss in an extra thousand dollars and say you can pick any brand-new, 1977 model-year, street-legal-in-the-United-States car or truck that costs under $9000 (about 35 grand in 2015 bucks). If you don’t have the Standard Catalog or equivalent, you’ll need to at least make an effort to look up ’77 MSRPs online, or just make quasi-plausible guesses. Obviously, the best choice would be to buy something like a cheap used 240Z or Corvette and then spend all the leftover money on aftermarket hop-up goodies, but this option is not allowed here. Likewise, there will be no dealer-installed NASCAR race motors, “brand-new” rally-prepped cars, or other loophole-exploiting workarounds. Available-to-the-general-public, right-off-the-showroom floor, bone-stock 1977 four-wheeled vehicles only!

QOTD - Instead of Trans Am Bandit Choice - Warlock 610px

If the film had been made in 1978, I’d probably go for the Dodge Lil’ Red Express pickup, which was the fastest Detroit production vehicle that year and fully loaded with genuine Burt Reynolds-grade redneck badassness. However, we’re stuck in 1977, which means you could still get the nearly-a-Lil’-Red-Express ’77 Warlock pickup. I’m not sure what the list price for the Warlock package was, but the ’77 D100 Sweptline half-ton started at a mere $4,737, which means you’d have plenty of money left over to get the 170-horsepower four-barrel 360 (sorry, no factory big-block in the D100 that year), floor-shift four-speed transmission, heavy-duty everything, and a CB radio.

QOTD - Instead of Trans Am Bandit Choice - RX4 610px

Of course, The Bandit would have been pretty quick (by 1977 standards) in a cop-grade Dodge Aspen with 4-speed and every available performance option, and the ’77 Chevy Nova with a similar setup would have been decent in a car chase. But Burt Reynolds was known to drive fast in imports in his films, so we shouldn’t overlook such options. Sadly, the Citroën SM he drove in The Longest Yard was a $13,500 car and not even available in 1977… but what about something like the Mazda RX-4? Imagine The Bandit with Wankel power! The ’77 Datsun 280Z had great handling, proper disco styling, and a not-too-shabby-in-1977 149 horses. Or the Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce, with 110 Italian ponies in a 2,455-pound package and an $8,795 price tag? Il Bandito in an Alfa would have driven circles around those ponderous Pontiac cop cars! The Porsche 911 was, of course, way out of Der Bandit’s price range, but the nimble BMW 320i could be had for a hair under 8 grand.

QOTD - Instead of Trans Am Bandit Choice - TR7 - 610px

So many sub-$9,000 cars to choose from in 1977! So, what’s your choice?

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QOTD: Why Don’t We Like Hatchbacks? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085193 So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models. No, I’m kidding. It […]

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CGsR6E4UQAETEd2

So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models.

No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that ugly. Also not very ugly was its twin, the Pontiac Vibe, which was essentially the Geo Prizm of the modern era. What I mean by this is, it’s got Toyota running gear, and Toyota gas mileage, and Toyota reliability, but it’s two grand cheaper on Craigslist because everyone thinks it’s a Pontiac.

Now, these were, by all accounts, excellent cars. I mean, sure, they were dull. And they drove like economy cars. And they didn’t really have many features beyond power windows and a CD player. But in the early 2000s, this was about all you could want from a new automobile that cost like fifteen grand.

And yet people didn’t want it. The Matrix and Vibe went through one redesign together where they sort of lost the character of their shapes. And then, that was it: the cars were gone, Pontiac was gone, and Toyota sort of gave up on the hatchback game except the Yaris, which is a car that makes it seem kind of like Toyota gave up on the automobile game.

So what the hell happened?

Well, what happened is, they were hatchbacks. I say this because Toyota also sold a sedan version of the Matrix at the time, and it did very well. You may have heard of it, because it’s called the Corolla.

And, of course, people bought the Corolla in droves. Tens of zillions of people wake up every day with nothing better to do than buy a Corolla. They’re like zombie people, all heading to the Toyota dealer to get their Corolla fix. “MUST BUY COROLLA,” they say, walking in with blank personal checks in hand. “MUST NOT BUY MATRIX.”

So this is a major phenomenon, but I’m kind of curious why.

By all reasonable measures, the Matrix is probably a slightly better car. The thing is basically a Corolla in every conceivable way, except it’s got a lot more cargo room. So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?

Well, a lot of people, it seems, because in case you haven’t checked recently, hatchbacks don’t really sell all that well. I mean, yeah, sure, there are a few that seem to do pretty well, like the Honda Fit, and the Mazda3, and the Aston Martin DB9. But what I’ve noticed, generally, is that for every hatchback an automaker sells, they sell like fifty zillion sedans.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case in many places overseas. What happens overseas is, people buy hatchbacks in ridiculous numbers. “I’m running to the store,” an overseas woman might say to her husband. “Do you need me to get anything?” And he will reply: “Yes, a hatchback!” And then she will buy something like an Open Corsa 0.9 diesel, for which she will pay $8,399, plus tax of $112,470. Of course, all of this would take place in a foreign language, because that’s what they speak overseas.

But in North America, we’ve never really endeared to the hatchback. [Speak for yourself, U.S.A. -Canada/Mexico]

I think part of the reason may be because we are really concerned about privacy. This whole Edward Snowden thing went down, and Americans have suddenly gone into hyper privacy mode, to the point where people next to me in on a plane even try to hide their iPhone screens when I glance over to read their text messages.

And sedans are masters of privacy. This is because they have an enclosed box in the back where you can put your things, whereas hatchbacks have all these windows that kind of say: Here are my things! And this is where I have put them!

But is that the reason why we’ve eschewed the hatchback for the sedan? Simply due to privacy? We’ve given up on those sweet hatchback lines, and all that sweet hatchback interior room, and the sweet hatchback carrying capabilities, due to something that can be solved with a cargo cover?

I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think hatchbacks aren’t popular in North America? [Again? This is an American problem! -Canada/Mexico] Have you ever been rebuffed when you suggested a hatchback to someone? And if so, what the hell was the person’s reasoning? Aside, of course, from being a member of the Corolla-buying zombie club.

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QOTD: What Body Style Needs to Make a Comeback? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-what-body-style-needs-to-make-a-comeback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-what-body-style-needs-to-make-a-comeback/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 11:23:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1083337 This is the 1999 Buick Cielo Concept and its incredibly similar in form and function to the Soarer Aerocabin we featured yesterday. As a hardtop convertible that retains its roof rails, the Cielo (which isn’t brown, unfortunately) isn’t the only car – or even the only Buick – to leverage this concept. A year later, Buick built the Regal […]

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1999 Buick Cielo Concept

This is the 1999 Buick Cielo Concept and its incredibly similar in form and function to the Soarer Aerocabin we featured yesterday. As a hardtop convertible that retains its roof rails, the Cielo (which isn’t brown, unfortunately) isn’t the only car – or even the only Buick – to leverage this concept.

A year later, Buick built the Regal Cielo Concept, applying the same technical idea to a production sedan.

“This is a translation of the most significant feature of the Cielo concept car directly into a potential production application,” said Mark D. Hines, Regal brand manager at the time. “Although Regal Cielo is technically a concept car, it is clearly a vehicle which can be built.”

Like the Regal GNX concept of the same year, the Regal Cielo never did see production.

2000 Buick Regal Cielo Concept

The idea of a convertible car that retains its roof rails when the roof panels are down hasn’t been entirely abandoned – it’s only disappeared on bigger coupes and sedans.

Switching our focus to Fiat, the 500C makes use of this roof rail concept, though the panel itself is made of fabric instead of metal, probably due to the fact the diminutive hatchback lacks any modicum of trunk space.

500c6

With the number of glass panoramic roofs on factory vehicles in the market today, a case might be made for replacing these fabric or metal panels with something a bit more transparent.

Best & Brightest, what body style do you think should make an encore appearance? My vote goes to a return of what I call the “private convertible” seen above.

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QOTD: If Two-Lane Blacktop Were Made Today, What Two Cars Would Star? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-of-the-day-if-two-lane-blacktop-were-made-today-what-two-cars-would-star/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-of-the-day-if-two-lane-blacktop-were-made-today-what-two-cars-would-star/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1080521 During April, the management of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver allowed me to select and introduce four car movies, and the final one was the 1971 road-trip classic, Two-Lane Blacktop. In the bar before the film rolled (and during my introduction in the theater, and in the parking lot afterward), a debate raged, triggered […]

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QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars-Both

During April, the management of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver allowed me to select and introduce four car movies, and the final one was the 1971 road-trip classic, Two-Lane Blacktop. In the bar before the film rolled (and during my introduction in the theater, and in the parking lot afterward), a debate raged, triggered by a question I’d dropped: What are the 2015 equivalents to the full-race 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door and brand-new 1970 Pontiac GTO that starred in the film?

In order to answer this question, you need to fast-forward through 44 years’ worth of cultural evolution of the characters portrayed in the film by Warren Oates, James Taylor, and Dennis Wilson (simply finding the lineal descendents of the cars — what, the ’15 Impala and whatever replaced the performance-oriented mid-sized Pontiacs in GM’s lineup after Pontiac’s demise? — just seems inadequate for the depth of this movie). What would the 21st-century counterparts to The Driver, The Mechanic, and GTO drive?
QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars-Chevy

The 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door sedan was, when new, one of the cheapest “real” Detroit cars you could buy. The list price for the six-cylinder was just $1,685, a mere $190 more than the miserably toy-like 1955 Volkswagen Beetle and its 36-horse engine. Sure, the ’55 Ford Mainline Business Coupe listed at just $1,606 and the ’55 Plymouth Plaza Business Coupe for $1,614, and real-world resale values on such stripped-down, 16-year-old bottom-of-the-line transportation appliances were low, low, low, but the Chevy had the most available (and cheap) aftermarket speed parts and the easiest big-block engine-swap potential in 1971. On top of all that, the ’55 Chevy had built up a fair amount of cool by 1971, especially compared to its same-era counterparts, so that factor needs to be placed on the scale as well.

QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars-Brochure

So, for Wilson and Taylor’s ’55 Chevy (which was also Bob Falfa’s car in American Grafitti), we need an older lightweight car that’s considered somewhat cool, has plentiful aftermarket speed-parts support, is very popular among 21st-century drag racers (particularly the outlaw street-racer variety), can be obtained fairly cheaply, and is extremely quick when set up properly. I think the third-gen GM F-body and any sort of Fox Ford qualify, but my personal choice for this car is the 1992-1995 Honda Civic hatchback. Yes, I’m biased, but so many 19-year-olds have tried to buy (or steal) my EG Civic since I’ve owned it, and I’ve watched so many sketchy-looking EGs with gigantic turbos run 10- or 11-second quarter-mile passes (and nuke their engines in spectacular fashion attempting to do so) that I think this car has become the ’55 Chevy of our time (actual ’55 Chevrolets, even four-door examples, have been priced out of reach of mere mortals for quite some time now). Your opinion probably differs, especially if you suffer from DSM Delusional Disorder.

QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars- GTO Brochure

As for the 1970 GTO (not a Judge, in spite of its 455 engine and yellow paint) driven by Warren Oates’ character (named, simply, “GTO”), we need a brand-new car that’s a fairly expensive sporty model with lots of power, a halfway-decent checklist of luxury options, and – most important of all – the sort of flashiness preferred by a more-money-than-sense California weirdo, trapped in a rapid downward spiral with a trunk full of booze and pills and launched on a pointless cross-country drive. Infiniti Q60? BMW 3 Series? Having reviewed the Chevy SS, I think it almost qualifies as the 2015 counterpart to GTO’s GTO, but it ends up being a little bit too stodgy for a guy who shrieks “COLOR ME GONE, BABY!” at some bemused hitchhiker as he stomps on the gas. I’m going with the Cadillac CTS-V here, partly because it’s an appropriately show-offy GM product with a monster V8 under the hood and partly because you’d have (in Dennis Wilson’s words) a “real street-sweeper here if you put a little work into it.” In stock form, the CTS-V couldn’t hope to out-drag-race a car set up and operated by the 2015 equivalent of The Mechanic and The Driver (though it would have the advantage in a New Mexico-to-Washington DC highway race, just as a new GTO would over a stripped-down big-block ’55 Chevy with drag-race gears in 1971), but the street-sweeper potential is just about limitless.

TwoLaneBlacktop-800x450

So, what are your choices for these two cars? I suggest not looking at inflation-adjusted values for new ’70 GTOs and 15-year-old ’55 Chevrolets when making your comparisons, because you’ll just get depressed.

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QOTD: Should We All Be Driving Around With Dash Cams? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 10:49:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1077874 So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner. For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along […]

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So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner.

For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along in Anytown, USA, next to a mall, and a couple of shops, and some charming angled parking spots, and some nicely maintained grass. And in the next second, he goes through a green light and hits a person in a Mitsubishi Eclipse who has run the red light coming the other direction.

Now, any idiot can see what happened here. In one lane, you have the driver with the dash cam, who’s cruising along at a normal rate of speed like a normal person, abiding the law and doing everything by the book. And in the other lane, you have someone who chose to spend their hard-earned money on a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

So there’s a big crash, and the dash cam guy hits the Eclipse, and so does the car next to the dash cam guy, and then the Eclipse takes out a large number of power lines and other road peripherals before finally coming to a complete stop.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: in the video description, the guy who uploaded it claims the Eclipse driver tried to say her light was green. Yes, that’s right: the woman enters an intersection at full tilt, takes out two cars coming perpendicular to her, and then she tries to say that she had the green light.

Obviously, her argument is idiotic – but one major reason why it’s easy to disprove her is because the guy with the dash cam had, well, a dash cam. So presumably when she was sitting there, staring over her damaged Eclipse, angry at the world for hurting such a precious ball of 4-cylinder joy, pissed off at the other drivers for running their red light, he says to her: “Bad news.” And then he plays back the tape of her blowing the red light as if she was Al Cowlings in the O.J. chase.

And this leads me to today’s question, which is: should we all just be driving with dash cams?

I say this because a) our society is rather litigious, and b) it can be tremendously hard to assign fault at the scene of an accident if you weren’t there to witness it. Say you’re a cop and you show up at an accident where one car has a damaged front end and another car has a damaged rear end. Rear end damage guy says he got hit from behind, while front end damage guy says the other person backed into him. Who do you believe?

It’s the same deal with traffic lights. Two cars enter an intersection, and they collide. Which one is at fault? Who ran the light? How do you assign fault? The answer is: it’s really hard. So you do the best you can, and maybe you make a mistake, and the driver who was ACTUALLY at fault gets off scot-free and sues the driver who WASN’T at fault for a sum of money roughly equal to the annual operating budget of Delaware.

If we were driving with dash cams, these problems would be a thing of the past. And indeed, that’s what they do in Russia. People are so worried about fraud, everyone has a dash cam. Now it’s installed in everything by default, so the fraud is over, and now there’s a record of virtually every accident in Russia, including the ones involving farm animals.

So I’ve started to wonder more and more if this sort of thing should maybe be applied to us here in good ol’ North America. No, we don’t have the same level of fraud as they do in Russia. But by God, we probably have about the same level of accidents. And wouldn’t it be nice, in an accident, to be able to look at the law enforcement officer on the scene and say, “Sorry, officer, I have it on tape”? Keep in mind that your other option is to be entirely at his mercy after he interviews everyone at the scene as if they were equals, even if they’re driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

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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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