I wish I had $100 for every time someone told me their rare car was going to shoot up in value. If I did, I would invest it in the stock market, which is something that actually might shoot up in value. Their rare car, of course, will stay behind, largely due to the old adage that just because something’s rare doesn’t mean it’s valuable.
I remember the first time someone told me their car was rare and so it would increase in value. I was in high school, and a classmate of mine had just bought a Jeep Liberty Freedom Edition, or some such bizarre Jeep special edition where they change the wheels and add two-tone seats in an attempt to get people to buy it.
After considerable thought, I have come to a conclusion: sunroofs are weird. I mean, think about it: it’s a hole in the roof of your car, designed to allow you to … what, exactly? Look up at the sky? While you listen to the incessant rattling caused by the fact that there’s a hole in the roof of your car?
Yes, folks, I’m being serious. Today I’m writing about sunroofs. And there’s a reason for this: I have recently come to the realization that sunroofs, unlike virtually any other feature or option available on an automobile today, provoke some seriously strong opinions. Some people like them. Some people hate them. Some people really hate them. I haven’t found anyone who really likes them, except for myself.
When I was a kid, there was a plentiful selection of automobile choices for old people. There were Buicks. There were Cadillacs. There were Lincolns. There were Oldsmobiles. There were even a few Japanese cars that clearly catered to the elderly. “Enlarged Speedometer Font” was an actual option on more than one vehicle when I was younger.
But what about today?
I was driving along the other day, and I found myself behind an Audi A6. A new Audi A6. A brand-new, midsize, luxurious Audi A6 sedan. And I thought to myself: When was the last time I saw one of these things?
This wasn’t always the case. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you saw the Audi A6 everywhere. They had that cool rounded design, and they were the dream of anyone who had an A4, or a 3-Series, or a C-Class. The Audi A6: The car that says you’ve made it — and that you need all-wheel drive.
So what the hell happened after that?
So I got up behind a Dodge Grand Caravan the other day and I started thinking about my youth. This is because, in my youth, the Dodge Grand Caravan was an acceptable vehicle to drive, and not something you were stuck with when Enterprise ran out of full-size sedans.
There are two reasons for this: 1. Back in the day, the Dodge Caravan didn’t really have any competitors, so we didn’t really know that there were better options out there. Honda had the hinged-door Odyssey. Toyota had the weird-ass Previa. It was a mess; more importantly, 2. There were so many different versions of the Dodge Caravan that you were pretty much stuck buying a Dodge Caravan even if you actively avoided buying a Dodge Caravan.
So I’m driving along the other day, and I get up behind this Toyota Sienna that looks like it has a body kit. And not just a body kit, but powder coated wheels, too. This thing looked like your standard airport rental Sienna had been turned over to the people in charge of making Hyundais appealing in their last model year before a redesign.
It turns out that this vehicle is available for order from your local Toyota dealer. It’s called the SE Premium, and Toyota pitches it as a minivan that offers “extra swagger” for your whole family, as if your whole minivan-owning family already has enough swagger to go around, but some extra couldn’t hurt.
The new Mustang is handsome, isn’t it? I was behind one the other day in traffic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it: in the right color, with the right wheels, there’s a good argument to be made that the Mustang is one of the most attractive coupes on the market today. Too bad it’s still just another in a long list of retro designs.
I was thinking about this recently because there has been a lot of retro designs in the last few years — and virtually all of those models are still sporting retro designs. Which leads me to wonder: Has anyone ever actually successfully followed up on a retro design? Has anyone ever created a retro design, and then un-retroized it, and still found success?
In other words: Once you’ve gone retro, is it even possible to go back?
I was driving along the other day and I cozied up behind a Hyundai Equus, which is the finest luxury sedan ever manufactured, assuming that you a) work for Hyundai, or b) are a Korean diplomat. I personally think it is merely OK.
And here’s why I think it’s merely OK: the damn thing starts at $62,500 with shipping. Although I realize that’s a discount compared to a Lexus LS or a BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes S-Class, that’s still an enormous amount of money to pay for a Hyundai. I don’t care if the thing has a Baroque-era fountain in the middle of the back seat and a trunk full of precious metals: sixty-two grand is a lot of cash for a subtle design from an unproven luxury car company.
Most people apparently tend to agree with my point of view, because from what I’ve seen, the Equus sells about as well as tangerine-flavored dog food. Sure, there are a few buyers, but there are always a few buyers for anything, like the Suzuki X-90.
I am writing to you today from Los Angeles, California, which is currently 65 degrees Fahrenheit (also known as 1.4 million degrees Celsius) and home to approximately 800 Mercedes G-Wagens per square mile (6.7 million G-Wagens per square kilometer).
I have been driving around Los Angeles for about a day and a half now, and I have very much appreciated all the unique cars I’ve seen. For example, I have already seen: The new Scion iM. The new Smart car. An early 2000s Toyota RAV4 EV. Bright red and bright green examples of Porsche Cayenne GTS. And the new Toyota Prius, which I personally like, even though the vast majority of car enthusiasts believe it to be Satan in hybrid hatchback form.
But the main automotive event going on right now in Los Angeles is not on the streets. It’s inside, at the Notorious B.I.G. Convention Center, where the Los Angeles Auto Show is currently underway. I watched this auto show with great interest, because many exciting new cars were revealed, and then quickly forgotten about moments later when the next exciting new car was revealed.
And so, today, I ask the question that is on the mind of virtually everyone, from automotive PR directors to automotive PR directors’ assistants: Why the hell are we still doing the whole auto show thing?
I recently got up behind a Smart car in traffic the other day, and I realized something: Smart has managed to do what very few other brands can boast about. They’ve successfully redesigned a car that sells primarily based on its style.
Now, you might think this is a bit of an unusual point, because you probably don’t think the Smart Fortwo is a very stylish car.
In fact, you probably think it looks like a shopping cart with alloy wheels. But hear me out, here, because I think one of the biggest challenges automakers face is redesigning stylish cars. And I think the good folks over at Smart deserve some credit for doing it right.
I was driving around the other day, and I got passed by a mid-2000s Mercedes M-Class. If your brain doesn’t immediately pull up an image of this particular M-Class, I’m not sure how to describe it to you. Just think of a dull SUV with a Mercedes badge on the front.
I remember when this particular M-Class came out, back in 2006, because it was panned for including a column shifter. A lot of automotive journalists — and, frankly, vehicle owners — laughed at the idea that a modern luxury brand would use a column shifter, the mark of the full-size pickup in the 1980s.
“And now Mercedes is using one?” they would say. “Mercedes?! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!”
Then the journalists laughed and laughed, while Mercedes was simultaneously developing autonomous cars that would one day render these journalists useless.
I was driving along the other day and I realized something: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is currently the most popular vehicle in North America.
Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration. For instance, I am told that the bicycle is quite popular. But on a list of today’s most popular vehicles, the Highlander Hybrid is right up there with the bicycle, and the wheelchair, and that Ford pickup that sells more units in an afternoon than Ferrari sells globally in an entire calendar year.
It is very obvious to see why the Highlander Hybrid is so popular. For one thing, it’s a normal family SUV with three-row seating, which is incredibly hot right now; so hot that I am quite certain it is not actually possible to rear children in today’s society without a three-row SUV. If you showed up at a child’s birthday party in a Toyota Camry, and you had forgotten to dress your child, and you had brought the wrong child, and your child was vomiting all over everything in sight, people would not call attention to your child-related issues. They would ask: Why don’t you have a three-row SUV?
I recently had the chance to test out the “new” Volkswagen Passat, which is so new that the designers were explaining to a whole group of journalists how the position of the rear reflectors has changed compared to the outgoing model.
Actually, I kind of like the new Passat. It was impressive in a lot of ways, right down to the new touchscreen, which finally sees Volkswagen catching up to some of the technology and features rival models have been using for roughly five years. As I was driving it, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I like a good touchscreen.
What I don’t like is a knob.
It seems that these are our only choices in today’s infotainment world: a touchscreen or a knob. Some cars have touchscreens. Some cars have knobs. And given that basically every new car has an infotainment system, this is an important choice. Do you want to control your screen by touching it, like a smartphone? Or by moving around a controller located on the center console, like a computer?
During the summer of 2007, I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and it was my job to drive the cars between locations. This was an excellent job when I was approximately 17, because a) I got to drive all these cool cars, and b) what the hell else was I going to do? Read?
Back then, I remember that the very coolest car we had in our fleet was the Buick Enclave. This may seem odd to those of you out there reading this, but it was true: the Enclave was very cool. Not only had it just come out, but it was a luxury car, and by God it wasn’t some stupid General Motors fake attempt at a luxury car. It was an actual, decent, legitimately good luxury car. It was among the first signs of a “new” General Motors.
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- Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
- Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
- Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
- Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
- Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.