Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Double Life

I often happen upon thoughts that, while inane, do not chance to be about cars (yes, hard to believe, but true). While I've wanted to blog about them, this just didn't seem the appropriate forum. Well, I've now been honored with an invitation to blog on The Original Frozen Banana Stand. This is a small group of my soccer-playing buddies who happen to have as much inanity rolling around in their heads as I. For those of you who don't get the reference, suffice to say they're a bit obsessed with the show Arrested Development. 

I haven't yet contributed, but I'm looking forward to finally having an outlet for the non-automotive randomness that I regularly ponder. Check it out.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Attn: Europhiles

A while ago, I posted about my grand plan for Mercury, and subsequently a bit about the American auto market, to explain why this seemingly obvious course of action hasn't yet been undertaken. As I mentioned, GM is taking this route with Saturn, and the outcome is anything but certain. Here's an interesting column from the Wall Street Journal about the new Astra, and why a quintessentially European small car may have trouble winning over American consumers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Movie Magic

I just finished watching Away From Her, which was quite a good movie. There was one part, however, which drove me nuts. I'm sure that it's only me--and maybe a handful of car-obsessed people--but during the scenes in which Grant was "driving" his F-150, without fail the steering wheel would be cocked in a completely random direction while the scenery passed straight back. 
I'll give the movie industry credit, the scenery now looks completely real as it passes beyond the windows. My mom, who couldn't give a half a damn about cars, noticed nothing. But the steering wheel issue was really distracting to me. C'mon people, is it really that hard to get that right? It also strikes me as odd that a decent actor, which the guy playing Grant most certainly was, wouldn't protest that something was wrong as he's sitting there doing an entire scene with the wheel cocked a full 270 degrees. I thought actors were supposed to interact with their environment as if it's reality. Hasn't this guy ever driven a car before? Is something not askew when the Ford oval is sideways while you're casually talking to your passenger?

Okay, so by this point, most readers are thinking, "Get a life, dude." But when you consider that studios are always looking to put that extra touch of realism into their productions, this is such as easy way. Hmm, I wonder if it's cause the movie was made by Canadians...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Knight Rider: A Bit Much

I'm watching the Knight Rider movie right now, and we're in the process of the first chase scene. If you watched it, you may have noticed that every fuckin car is a Ford product. I might've been a bit more excited about that when I was helping make Ford ads, but come on, it's complete overkill. They even used Volvos, Mazdas and Land Rovers. 

Ooh, they just used the nanotechnology to change the look of the car on the fly!

Anyway, one final note: in the interior of the car, they have racing seats, but apparently they needed to find ones that lacked headrests. You know...for rear angle passenger shots. It makes the interior look slightly lame.

Okay, back to the show for me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Takin' on the big boys

Well, yesterday I sold my GTI, which leaves me with just the R32 to enjoy. Okay, well, "just" doesn't really enter into it. The car is a blast, and sexy to boot. But don't take my word for it. Car and Driver's March issue has a comparo of this sweetest of VWs with the new versions of the Evo GSR and STI. 

Now, I understand that when it comes to performance, the R32 is not quite in the same league as those Japanese ralliers, so as I eagerly turned the pages to find the article, I braced myself for a 3rd-place finish. Not today, my good friends! The V Dub dropped a deuce in C/D, and the car that was shat upon was the Subaru WRX STI. I think readers woulda cried bloody murder had the R32 finished on top, so I can accept its runner-up status. And although the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR may have finished first, the article states that "two of our three-guy test crew admitted the R32 is the car they'd buy of this group." I call this a solid victory for the underdog here. 

Unfortunately Car and Driver is pretty slow about posting their latest articles online--obviously a strategy to maintain print circulation--so I can't link to it yet. I'll get that posted as soon as I can. But suffice to say, they loved all the things about it that I do (and that I loved about my GTI). The refinement and beautiful interior make it the luxury car of the group, while that exhaust note was characterized as "Porsche-like". An in fact, the performance that C/D was able to wring out of the car was surprisingly competitive. With a 0-60 run of 5.4 seconds, it was less than a second behind the best-in-test Evo, and over a second faster than my GTI (6.5 sec is the only published number I've been able to find for the GTI VR6). This, despite being around 550 lbs. heavier than the latter. 

As I was sifting through the performance tables that C/D so obligingly provides, I noticed a piece of data that exemplifies why I so love the R32, and VW's VR6 engine that prompted me to buy it. It perfectly illustrates the advantage of having a V6 engine so well packaged as to be able to fit in a small car. There's an oft-overlooked column in the tables that lists top gear acceleration, which is particularly relevant when it comes to day-to-day, around-town driving. In top gear (6th for the VW and Subi, 5th for the Mitsu) the last-place STI requires 11.9 seconds to go from 30-50 mph. The first place Evo takes 9.0 seconds to do the deed. But the R32's 3.2L VR6 engine blows those turbo fours out of the water. It needs just 3.2 seconds--quite fitting. 

Consider that the Tesla roadster tested in the same issue needs 2.3 seconds to do this. This is a car renowned for its instant torque due to its electric motor, so it's striking that the R32's performance in this regard is so much closer to the Tesla's than to its competition possessing 290 to 300 lb-ft of torque from their 4-cylinder turbo gas engines. It's pretty simple when you see that the R32's peak torque is available at 2500 rpm, while the turbos need to spool to 4000 or 4400 rpm to achieve greatness. 

Conclusion: My car rocks.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My Legacy

Ford ran an ad during the Super Bowl in which the F-150 was flung around on a centrifuge by its tow hooks. I beamed with pride. This was precisely the kind of research that I did when I was working at the ad agency, and in fact, I researched this very claim. It's a shame they had to wait until I was gone for almost a year, not to mention until near the end of the current F-150's lifecycle, to start running sweet ads for it. But, that's the nature of ad planning and budgeting.

You can check out that ad, as well as a few others for which I did some research, at Ford's website.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Audi SUS?

Autoblog just posted this spy pic of an A4 allroad test mule:

At the end of the article John Neff proclaims that the AB crew is pining for a sedan version (the real one will be a wagon, like the A6 allroad). Why? Don't they remember how lame the Subaru Outback SUS was? Why don't they just get themselves a ridiculous BMW X6? To me, the sedan version would make a pretty dumb production car.