The Truth About Cars » Sport Utility Vehicle The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sport Utility Vehicle Question: Will Gigantic SUVs Symbolize Freedom and Rebellion In 20 Years, As 1960s Muscle Cars Do Now? Thu, 06 Sep 2012 14:30:19 +0000 The SUV arms race has been over for a few years now, with four-ton, leather-lined, full-framed trucks no longer appearing to be viable as the middle-class commuter machines they were during the SUV-crazed 1990s and 2000s. Oh, sure, you can still buy the things, but Times Have Changed. If we are to draw a parallel between the Golden Age of the Muscle Car (during which Detroit slapped off-the-shelf luxury-car engines and $27 worth of scoops and graphics on midsize commuter cars and made crazy money) and the Golden Age of the Big-Ass SUV (during which Detroit slapped off-the-shelf pleather and Simu-Wood™ trim and $27 worth of badging on full-sized work-truck chassis and made crazy money), then we are now in the SUV equivalent of about 1976. If so, this means that, in another decade or two, nostalgia for Navigators and Escalades will kick in, just as it did for GTOs and Super Bees in about 1985, and— just as with muscle cars— the love of these absurd luxo-trucks will take on symbolic connotations of past glory, an era before nanny-state killjoys, and so on.
The late 1960s actually sort of sucked, with crime rates more than doubling in less than a decade, cities on fire, increasingly quagmiric conflicts in Southeast Asia, and so on. Some of the music was pretty good, but most of it was insipid schmaltz that made you want to install glasspacks on your Super Cobra Jet 428 Torino just to drown it out. Most of the muscle cars of the era were also pretty bad in real life, requiring slicks, aftermarket engine hop-ups, and a super-talented driver to get anywhere near the advertised acceleration figures (and don’t even try to drive on in stop-and-go traffic). And yet… go to any cruise night or car show full of 1960s muscle cars in the United States and you’ll hear about the greatness that was America before the insurance companies, Ralph Nader, and smog-obsessed Southern California politicians threw a big wet blanket over everybody. That means that owning, say, a ’70 Buick GS is a political statement for many. I predict that we’re going to see the exact same process with big body-on-frame SUVs by about 2022. Or not. What do you think?

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Junkyard Find: 1971 International Harvester Model 1110 Travelall Fri, 09 Dec 2011 14:00:37 +0000 This whole craze with the leather-trimmed luxury trucks, I’m against it. In my opinion, a real passenger truck is a big steel box with rear-wheel-drive, a floor-shift three-speed manual transmission, an AM radio, and a metal dash. Oh yeah, and it has to be built by a farm-equipment manufacturer.
The Travelall was obviously doomed by the time this truck was built. IHC was really struggling to compete with the Detroit Big Three, and the Oil Crisis of 1973 pounded several hundred additional nails into the lid of the Travelall’s coffin.
This truck came standard with a 232-cubic-inch inline-six engine. IHC 304- and 345-cubic-inch V8s were optional equipment in 1971 (and I keep thinking that IHC used AMC 304s, but apparently they only AMC V8 used in the Travelall was the 401; this engine sure looks AMCish. though!).
Somewhat cramped seating for 9, or extremely comfortable (though bouncy) seating for 6. No consoles, DVD players, cup holders, or airbags. Want to be safe? Don’t crash!
The only modern touch I would add to this truck, were I to own one, would be front disc brakes. Imagine the ride down from Donner Pass in summer with nine passengers and 20 cases of beer aboard!

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Review: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid Thu, 14 Jul 2011 16:00:19 +0000
A couple months back, Cadillac gave me a bright red, three-ton, rollin’-on-22s, chrome-drenched, hybrid-electric, $88,140 luxury truck to drive while in Michigan for the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Since that time, the effort of attempting to write a meaningful review for this ridiculous-yet-amazing machine has caused my brain to develop a severe rod knock. Who is supposed to buy this thing? I asked myself. What can you do with it?

My problem with SUVs, particularly super-luxurious SUVs, is that I believe trucks are supposed to be trucks, that is, you should be able to load a truck up with 900 pounds of swamp-water-soaked particle board and a burlap sack of hog innards and not cringe in the slightest at the thought of that nasty stuff contaminating your interior. A truck should have a bench seat in front, covered with cheap cloth or vinyl, and even air conditioning smacks of excess gingerbread. If you want luxury— and, of course, I do— then you should be driving a vast, strip-club-owner-grade sedan with its soft springs groaning under the weight of luxury options so arcane that you’ll be years figuring them all out.

Right. So, this is what we in the hack-writer business call a dilemma. Personally, I couldn’t think of any way that this beast would improve my life in any meaningful way, were I to decide to drop 90 grand on one. The only place I enjoyed driving it was around the paddock during the LeMons race, for reasons that will be made clear soon enough. Still, it’s extreme enough that it must be absolutely perfect for the correct users, but who are they? Rappers and the gangster elite would never in hell buy anything with big HYBRID badges all over the place, edge-city suburbanites will shy away in horror from the twice-as-much-as-the-Yukon price tag, and urban high-tech hipsters wouldn’t be caught dead in an SUV.

I finally figured out the perfect Escalade Platinum Hybrid buyers, but we’ll get my much-less-relevant driving impressions out of the way first. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid rides like a lumber truck, no doubt thanks to the blinged-out 22″ wheels and low-profile tires exacerbating the already bumpy ride of a big body-on-frame truck chassis.

Man, but those wheels do look beautiful. It goes without saying that you’re not going to be doing anything approaching serious off-roading in your Escalade Platinum Hybrid, and these wheels ensure that you’ll want to keep pavement beneath you at all times. I took the big Cad for a brief jaunt in the muddy grass of the Gingerman Raceway paddock and the slippy-slidy experience did not inspire confidence. You want to go off-road, get an FJ40 Land Cruiser or IHC Scout, right?

The six-liter Vortec V8 was very quiet; in fact, the noise level inside the cab was library-hushed just about all the time, including when parked next to the front straight at Gingerman with Cherry Bomb-equipped RX-7s blaring past. However, the electric motor made weird, distant whining and howling noises, both under acceleration and under regenerative braking. Several times, I found myself looking around for the emergency vehicles running their sirens.

The computer that runs the control center suffers from a slow CPU, kludgy code, or both. The response time for user input could be as much as several seconds. Using the navigation system made me feel like ramming a cinderblock through the screen. Come on, GM, the future moves fast!

The interior was pretty comfy, but some sort of strange bending of space-time was taking place that made several feet in each dimension disappear when you made the transition from massive exterior to not-so-massive interior. The inside of this truck feels cramped, giving the sense that it has about the same interior space as an early Camry. I suspect that this truck is so quiet inside because the side and roof panels are about a foot thick and filled with spray-in insulation.

But what about the fuel economy, you ask. Is it really possible to get decent mileage out of a 6,120-pound, 332-horsepower vehicle with the aerodynamics of a convenience store?

I drove 301.8 miles, mostly highway but also a fair amount of cruising around the Gingerman facilities as well as jaunts to the night life in bustling South Haven. I made no attempt to keep speeds down to gas-sipping levels, and I did a fair amount of pedal-to-floor acceleration. GM claims 20 city/23 highway mileage.

16.711 gallons, meaning I got just a hair over 18 miles per gallon. Considering that the much more slippery, lighter, and less powerful Mercury Grand Marquis doesn’t do a whole lot better in mixed city/highway driving, that’s very impressive.

So, in summary: If I had 90 grand to spend on a vehicle, this thing would be at or near the bottom of my shopping list (a much more sensible Lamborghini Espada would be at or near the top). I didn’t like much of anything about the Escalade Platinum Hybrid… but then who cares what an SUV-hating curmudgeon like me thinks? Let’s take a look at this truck from the point of view of its optimal purchaser, shall we?

Yes, now I’m working for Popular Warlord Magazine! From the point of view of your suitcases-of-Benjamins-brandishing Third World and/or Former Soviet Republic warlord, the 2011 Escalade Platinum Hybrid is the greatest motor vehicle in history!
Background image source for magazine cover: English Russia

Whether you’re a militia leader in the Horn of Africa, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur in the Bolivian rainforest, or a deal-maker in the Caspian oil fields, you know that the days when a self-respecting warlord could climb behind the wheel of a grimy Toyota Hilux are long past. Today’s more urbane warlord needs presence; yes, your Kalashnikov-brandishing entourage can still follow behind you in their Toyotas, but you need to roll into town in a vehicle that shows you’ve arrived.

We’ll start with the interior, since that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time as your driver takes you to meetings, nightclubs, and so on. Some have said that the Escalade Platinum is a bit cramped inside, but we at Popular Warlord Magazine disagree; once you come to terms with the fact that today’s warlord needs only two or three personal bodyguards traveling with him in the vehicle— yes, the wild days when the warlord himself had to carry an assault rifle on his person are behind us— and that those bodyguards will be armed with pistols instead of RPGs and tripod-mounted machine guns, you can see that this truck has room for you, your muscle, and your 19-year-old Ukrainian-supermodel mistress.

It really won’t do your sophisticated image any good if you have to haul a load of jerry-cans in your travels— your Armani suits shouldn’t be exposed to gasoline— and so the hybrid powertrain of this truck will give you the extended range you need to go from say, Addis Ababa to your secret landing strip in the desert without refueling.

You’ll want the little people to know the caliber of warlord they’re dealing with from the very first glance at your vehicle, and the massive Cadillac emblems will let them know that you’re not to be trifled with.

The four-wheel-drive system and vast torque reserves mean that the Escalade Platinum Hybrid should do just fine on the rough dirt roads in your area of influence; you’ll need to get in the Land Rover or the Hilux in order to leave the road, but for everyday post-Soviet potholes the Escalade performs admirably.

In summary, the staff of Popular Warlord gives the 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid our highest Warlord Rides rating. For the cost of a couple of fat envelopes of cash, you can equip your compound with several of these fine luxury trucks.

OK, so the warlord (or strongman, if you prefer that term) is the Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s ideal buyer, but there’s another person who can get some good value from this truck: the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court Justice! Yes, in addition to writing for Popular Warlord, I’m also moonlighting at…

LeMons Judge Magazine! Yes, the publication for the discerning corrupt race official. Let’s see how this big red truck fares at LJM, shall we?

Judge Sam and myself rolled into the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis determined to make a proper judgely impression on the rabble, and the Escalade certainly accomplished that. Why, three different racers told us words to the effect of “I could have bought one of these— I have enough cash in hand, you betcha— but I decided that the Tahoe/Yukon was just a better truck.” Yes, they’re a bunch of pathetic slobs, just trying to impress the LeMons Supreme Court with their alleged fat bankrolls… but still, their naked envy at the sight of this $90K machine was gratifying.

Judge Sam, as my cousin (yes, the LeMons Supreme Court firmly supports nepotism in all its forms) and the son of the legendary Dirty Duck, had an instant appreciation for the inherent pimp-grade superiority of this machine, and I had to agree with him.

We think this truck looks much better with the proper emblem on the grille.

So, this truck scores huge in the “impress the worm-like racers” category, but we ran into a serious flaw right away: the Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system lacks sufficient boom. Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s On It” hardly rattled windows a mere 50 feet away, and Dorrough’s “Ice Cream Paint Job?” Forget it. Even the Fiat 500′s stereo cranked out more decibels. Come on, Cadillac, the LeMons Supreme Court needs bass!

You see, a true Judgemobile does more than just cruise around the paddock cranking inspirational tunes. A proper Judgemobile must project its music at sufficient volume for such audio-centric penalties as the Macho Man and the Joe Arpaio Chain Gang. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s sound system was just adequate for the Macho Man, as seen here.

However, one aspect of Judgemobile duty at which this truck excelled was the level of comfort provided by the climate-control system. We expect any GM vehicle to produce frigid and/or scalding air on command, and the Escalade Platinum Hybrid delivered and then some, even when temperatures dropped into the 20s and stinging snow howled through the paddock, borne on 60 MPH winds. Those poor freezing miscreants doing the Macho Man made the LeMons Supreme Court feel that much more comfortable inside the truck.

I would have preferred a slightly more La-Z-Boy-ish driver’s seat, but the comfort level was very good for two judges bloated from free bribe booze and Midwestern meat products.

For the West Virginia Homestead penalty, in which miscreants must put their car up on jackstands, remove the wheels, and eat salty snacks while sitting on lawn furniture, the Escalade provided both a pleasant contrast to the racers’ hoopty-ass wheels and a comfortable place for the LeMons Supreme Court to get out of the cold.

Can you see the envy in this Tahoe driver’s eyes?

Speaking of envy, check out this haul of bribes for the LeMons Supreme Court! We’re forced to admit that the storage capacity in the cargo area was somewhat limited, given the size of the truck. This was due to the not-very-useful folding third-row seats. We recommend that the LeMons Judge Edition™ of the Escalade go with a third-row-delete feature, to make more room for cases of beer.

Of course, the second row of seats serve as bribe-booze storage when you’ve got only two judges in the Judgemobile, so this truck should be able to fit the gifts of even the most generous racers.

The automatic fold-out running boards were handy for climbing up into the truck, but judge robes had a tendency to get caught on them.

What’s the verdict on this Judgemobile from the reviewers here at LeMons Judge Magazine? We’re going to give the Escalade Platinum Hybrid a respectable three-gavel rating; not quite up there with the five-gavel Doorless Wheel-Shedding Amazon and Monster Smokescreen Caprice Wagon, but definitely a proper Judgemobile all the same.

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Adventures In Badge Engineering: Mercury and Oldsmobile SUVs! Mon, 21 Mar 2011 15:00:44 +0000
As Detroit was skipping a decade or two of car R&D by concentrating on packing increasing numbers of 128-ouncer-ready cup holders and faux-wood trim into big trucks, it became necessary to make it clear to the targeted buyer demographics that these trucks really weren’t, you know, trucks. In fact, they were more about protection from street crime and potholes than anything else, which is where slapping Mercury badges on the Explorer and Oldsmobile badges on the Blazer came in.

Who better to show off the Blazer’s— wait, make that the Bravada’s— civilized nature than Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter? Right! Sure, the good ol’ Olds 98 got better mileage, was much more comfortable, and smoothed out bumpy roads better than any truck, but so what?

By 2002, focus groups had made it clear that residents of suburban Fear Enclaves felt that sport utility vehicles somehow shielded them from the depredations of urban criminals, and so this ad for the Ford Explorer Mercury Mountaineer features the reassuring voice uttering the words “more security” as sirens wail in the background. Those sirens are for the hapless victim who was foolish enough to bring a Grand Marquis to a combat zone!

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