Ask Jack: Theories of Evolution

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack theories of evolution

My longtime readers know I suffer from a particular fascination with New Orleans, although it’s been six years since I rolled through the city’s streets in a Nissan Cube. You can’t have a NOLA obsession without having a NOLA-music obsession, and you can’t have that without being aware of John Boutte. His rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come” isn’t better than Mr. Cooke’s — it’s just different, and heartfelt.

Change comes to all of us. When I wrote that Cube review, I was the absentee parent of a toddler, living with a stripper, and consuming a bottle of Ketel One pretty much every week. I had a lot of, ah, short-term romantic partners. It was not sustainable. There had to be a change.

That idea — of making changes because we need to, or just want to — is central to this week’s episode of Ask Jack.


Max writes:

I’ve been daily driving a 2015 Mitsubishi Evo for the last few years, bought new, and have forty-some-odd thousand miles on it in all weather conditions and a four thousand mile jaunt across the US. The car has been spectacular and a thrill to drive, even with it’s stick-in-the-mud five-speed and plastic-laden squeaky interior. But the massive turbo lag, short gearing, and singular purpose of the construction has me reconsidering how much longer I want to drive this.

I’m a one car type of guy, and that’s what makes the most sense right now, and I prefer to buy something a bit more upscale, (not hard to achieve), manual transmission, and American after years of buying imports.

Hate me, but I really enjoy the look and apparent performance of the Cadillac ATS-V, but the absolute apocalyptic depreciation in the first few years buying new is giving me significant pause.

The other option is to just go the Hellcat widebody route and get a powerful comfortable highway cruiser that I may not be able to throw into corners with reckless abandon (knowing AWD trickery will save me), but will be a much more enjoyable and fun everyday car.

Lastly, the Corvette Grand Sport definitely intrigues me. But my fear is that I will just get into the same situation as the Evo after a year or so and get annoyed at living with it day to day.

This will be a car I would likely drive across the country again in the next year or so.

Alright. Sounds like Max is ready to make a change. Just as importantly, he’s financially prepared to make a change. Let’s rank his prospective cars in order of their merit.

At the top of the pop charts, we have the Corvette Grand Sport, which is the best version of the best American car in history. Even my brother likes it. On a racetrack, it’s a subtle sledgehammer. On the street, it’s got a thumping stereo and an oddly calming ride quality. If you can afford a Grand Sport, you should own it. Simple as that. Don’t worry about getting annoyed by it. This is not a Mitsubishi Evo. The only real annoyances are the low seating position and the long nose. If you can deal with those, then you are golden.

Next up would be that widebody Hellcat, a charming if imperfect take on the power cruiser. Not since Yamaha released the original V-Max has there been such a thoroughly masculine roadgoing proposition. I think it looks like a million bucks despite being based on a decade-old rental car. With that said, the interior is a bit dismal for the price and the visibility will never not annoy you. It’s harder to “hoon” the Hellcat on the public roads than it would be to misbehave in the Vette because the forces involved are so much higher. It’s like launching an F-111 from a carrier instead of an F-16. All the mistakes will be bigger.

Last is the ATS-V. This one you might want to buy used. Here’s a nice one with under a thousand miles for at least twelve grand off sticker. In fact, the Internet is full of low-mileage ATS-Vs as low as forty grand. I’m afraid there are some reasons for that. The engine is strong but laggy and far from charming. The interior is cheap and not cheerful. Only the handling requires no explanation or excuses. I have to say, though, I’d rather have this platform underneath a Camaro ZL1 1LE, which is a rocketship.

I think the Corvette is the clear winner here, with the Hellcat a sentimental favorite. With that said, a low-mileage ATS-V for $40k is a lot of car. Spending that much money at a BMW dealership gets you a four-cylinder slug. Let’s not dismiss it out of hand. I’ve advised Max via email to drive a Grand Sport at his earliest convenience. Were I a betting man, I would say that a change is gonna come, and that change is going to wear a crossed-flag badge.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Mar 07, 2018

    Has anyone put a tune on an ATS-V ? As I learn about performance GM, I read more and more about the need to do a transmission tune to allow you, not the computer or GM engineers, to drive the car. My CTS is a different beast with just a trans tune.....and turning down the Torque Management

  • Orange260z Orange260z on Apr 15, 2018

    I guess I'd go the opposite order from Jack 0 ATS-V, Hellcat, then the GS. To me, the GS is way too "LOOK AT ME!!!!!" to me a daily driver (yes, the caps and exclamation marks are there because it really screams the message). No disagreement that the Vette is a great car, but IMHO it's way too showy for an only car. The Caddy is subtle, yet gets the job done. Now if the OP was looking for a fun second car, I would totally agree with Jack....

  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.
  • DungBeetle62 When you're in one of these, you life in a state of constant low-level nervous about 90% of the time. But that other 10% kinda makes up for it.
  • Garrett Instead of foisting this problem on the car companies and the people who buy cars, make those who possess liquor licenses and those who purchase alcohol take on the economic cost of this problem.
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