No Fixed Abode: Farewell to the Transparent Dream

Just short of ten years ago, I clambered out of a claustrophobia-inducing Lufthansa coach seat in Frankfurt, grabbed my luggage, and headed for the parking garage. I had paid for my own flight — which did not surprise me in the slightest, because I was a cycling journalist at the time, not an automotive one. After a brief disagreement with my wife concerning the likely German phrase for “parking garage,” we found the right building, then the right floor, and finally the right spot. Occupying the spot was a Volkswagen Phaeton not entirely unlike the two that I’d left in my driveway at home. It was a short-wheelbase model with a VR6 and a specification too modest to ever cross the Atlantic, but the relative familiarity of the car and the controls made it slightly easier for me to get used to driving in Germany.

As we headed east and the evening fell in the windshield ahead, the perfect order and strident prosperity of what I’d grown up calling “West Germany” gradually faded, replaced by open fields, small towns, and abandoned concrete cube housing sprouting a decade’s worth of weeds. We were on our way to Dresden — to the ruined cathedral, to the cobblestones, to what Sandra, my bright-red-haired guide, called “the Saxon temperament.” We were headed to Die Gläserne Manufaktur. The Transparent Factory.

Read more
Public Transit Electric Avenue Certifiably Not "Awesome"

“I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but EVs are great,” John Beltz Snyder boldly writes in the opening sentence of Autoblog’s “ More research shows why EVs are awesome” article.

For more than 15 years, when not writing about cars, I’ve worked in the public transportation sector. With the exception of the two years I spent as an automotive test engineer, I’ve worked on bus and rail projects in engineering and managerial roles.

Mr. Synder, Autoblog’s resident electric-car guru, states a study published by the Indian Institute of Science shows how much money electric buses save over conventional diesel buses. He continues, in a somewhat non sequitur way, to claim that “switching to an EV is about as big of a difference a single individual can make without giving up driving altogether.”

Needless to say, the Autoblog article, and the study it referenced, is of great interest to me. Unfortunately, it misses the benchmark of the cavalierly claimed awesomeness.

Read more
Reader Ride Review: Toyota Matrix XR (Six-Speed Conversion)

It was the winter of my friend’s discontent. The unsupported bearing shaft in his five-speed Toyota Matrix had failed. It was a common problem, since the five-speed was a deliberate customer punishment with unintended consequences on Toyota’s part. The only difference between the five-speed and six-speed transmissions in those cars was the presence or absence of the actual sixth cog. If you got a five-speed Matrix, you got the shaft (instead of the cog). What was Chris to do?

He asked me (and all of you) that question back in November, receiving about a hundred different responses. What he chose to do in the end was to replace the failed five-speed with a junkyard six-speed from a Matrix XRS. Then he drove it to central Ohio so I could check it out.

Read more
How To Become An Automotive Journalist (The Right Way)

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted with the title “ Why Are We Given A New Car To Drive Each Week? And How? GCBC’s Background, Ethics, And Methods Explained” on GoodCarBadCar on March 28, 2016. I asked Tim if we could repost it here because, whether he knows it or not, he’s one of the very few people in this business you should aspire to be if you want to become an automotive journalist. It is reposted here with his permission and for your education. —MS]

Of the 6200+ posts on GoodCarBadCar, only 3 percent are car reviews. In February 2016, for example, we published five reviews on GCBC plus 66 other articles, not to mention another eight submissions at The Truth About Cars and six more at Autofocus.ca.

Yet it is with increasing frequency that the people with whom I have personal contact — whether in conversation at visiting hours for a funeral, in emails from long-time readers, when questioned by soon-to-be car buyers — clearly believe that the bulk of my work revolves around driving fast cars down twisty roads.

It doesn’t.

Read more
Piston Slap: A Suspension Rebuild to Save the B5 Passat Wagon?

Peter writes:

Sajeev,

My daily driver is a 2004 Volkswagen Passat Wagon 1.8T M/T, purchased new, now with 147,000 miles on the clock. Despite the legends about the poor reliability of this vehicle, it’s been good to me. (By this point, they had worked out both the sludge and coil pack problems.)

My concern is its handling: when this vehicle was released, it pretty much took all the COTY awards … Car and Driver, Edmunds, even Consumer Reports had it as their top pick for years until the coil pack problems became clear. The reviews for the thing all talked about how great it handled.

Read more
"THAT IS AWESOOOOOOOOOO…!!!"

There are longer minivan jumps you could watch, even some with explosions, but no flying family hauler can match the poise and grace of this 1980s Toyota Tarago.

Somewhere in rural Australia — possibly near a dingo — this sturdy conveyance not only survived its flight seemingly unscathed, it probably stopped off for a case of Fosters after the jump before driving a pack of blonde teens home.

Read more
NYIAS: Contrary To The Axiom, Boring, Not Sexy, Is What Sells

The auto show press conference is a strange phenomenon. More often than not, it’s an executive from a foreign land, reading what is likely his third or fourth language from an obvious teleprompter, getting ready to introduce a car that we’ve all already seen at a “preveal” party. He’s typically using words like “social media,” “lifestyle,” and “aspirational,” all to describe a car that will likely sell less than twenty thousand units — if it even makes it to market.

The speeches are full of safe, non-threatening language, and normally take place in front of screens that rotate stock photos of happy multicultural families enjoying life on sunny, non-homogeneous days. The music is more Wagner than Bach, with thunderous bass and drums booming through speaker systems that even The Darkness might look at and say, “That’s a bit excessive.” And then, finally, a wall lifts and a car appears through a screen of smoke to thunderous applause from a press corps that can’t wait to rewrite the embargo materials already in their collective inbox.

So when Masahiro Moro, President and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, calmly stood next to his gorgeous new creation last week, with little fanfare or adulation, and said these words in while standing front of a black wall, accompanied only by the silence of the room, I believe he did it purposefully. Here’s what he said:

“Other companies have become quite successful by not caring if their cars are boring or not.”

Mic drop. And you know what? Moro-san is absolutely right.

Read more
Cadillac (and Its Resale Values) Still Haunted by Troubling Past

The lowly Cimarron might be be a distant, nightmare-fuel memory, but Cadillac’s current sales strategy is still being impacted by a history of not measuring up to European rivals.

The luxury automaker’s newest offerings — the CT6 sedan and XT5 crossover — have been saddled with so-so resale values by residual forecaster ALG, according to Automotive News, making it more difficult for Cadillac to offer competitive lease rates.

Read more
True to His Word, Chip Perry is Revamping TrueCar

TrueCar, the prolific third-party car shopping site, is changing the way it does business in the hopes of mending dealer relations and reversing the company’s flagging fortunes.

When TrueCar president and CEO Chip Perry took the helm of the site last December, his stated goal was to make amends with ornery partners and bring the company out of a period of turmoil.

Read more
Was This Vehicular Assault Malicious, Negligent, Or Both? (Video)

It’s every biker’s nightmare: an anonymous Honda runs you off the road then departs the scene at high speed. But was it malice aforethought, or simply a very painful lesson about what happens when you linger in a car’s blind spot?

Read more
TTAC News Round-up: Nissan Needs a Faster Pipe, Creeping Autonomy, and Mercedes Goes Gaga Over AMG

Nissan’s product pipeline has all the flow of a crusted-over faucet, and that’s not good for business.

That, automation is insidiously infiltrating cars all around you, Mercedes-Benz goes all in on AMG, Jaguar teases China with something special, and foreigners flee the Russian automotive landscape … after the break!

Read more
2016 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 AWD Review - Go Long, China

It’s been somewhat challenging in the recent past to keep up with all the model name changes at Infiniti, but such is the case in the automotive luxury marketplace. One year real names are the ultimate fashion statement; the next it’s letters and numbers.

Infiniti seems to have taken this into consideration with naming its 2016 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 AWD.

Read more
2016 McLaren 675LT Review - Appreciation of an Extraordinary Automobile

The rich are different. They have nicer things. – Leonard Schreiber, DVM

I try to avoid superlatives unless the object of said superlatives is, well, truly superlative. In this case, however, they may be applied without reservation. The McLaren 675LT is an extraordinary car, with performance capabilities exceeded by fewer than a handful of very limited production vehicles. Perhaps what makes it most extraordinary, though, is just how well it performs as an ordinary car.

Read more
Junkyard Find: 1986 Buick Somerset Custom

Because General Motors felt that the world — or at least Michigan and maybe Wisconsin — needed a small, affordable personal luxury coupé with a digital instrument cluster, rackety pushrod four-cylinder engine, and a name that started life as the designation for an early-’80s Regal trim package, the 1985-87 Buick Somerset, sibling to the N-Body Pontiac Grand Am, was born. I have an unexplainable fascination with The General’s attempts to compete with high-end German sporty luxury in the 1980s and 1990s, so I was drawn to this California Somerset like a personal-injury attorney scenting an Accord driver with Takata airbag fragments embedded in his flesh.

Read more
Don't Worry, Dyson's Got This Electric Car Thing in the Bag

The maker of all things that blow is apparently sucking up some government cash to build an electric car.

Britain’s The Guardian is reporting that Dyson is receiving a public subsidy from the British government to develop an EV, a project that will no doubt draw from the company’s depth of knowledge regarding small electric motors.

Read more
  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.