Archive for Driver’s Seat

One does not simply slide into two-doors

Doug DeMuro argues that there should be sporty coupes, but no other coupes:

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and — if you ask the Germans — the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

So Honda’s built a sandbox that no one else wants to play in. How is this a problem? This way, says DeMuro:

[B]asically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I think I’ve had back-seat passengers four times in the last decade.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

A Nissan Z overlooks Central Park like any living Democrat resembles Adlai Stevenson: “You wish.”

But the proper response came from Bark M.:

Here’s a gauntlet throwdown for Doug:

Pick any track east of the Mississippi. I will show up with a V6 Accord coupe. You show up with a BRZ or V6 Mustang/Camaro. I will challenge you to a time trial.

Game?

I would kill, or at least injure badly, to see that.

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Porcine on the dotted line

Sy Montgomery writes in The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood:

I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional, and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.

And contrary to auto-journalist mythology, they do not understeer.

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Bimmer bummer

One practically guaranteed source of Schadenfreude is the nimrod who decides to pony up for an aged Teutonic sled without giving the slightest consideration to what it’s going to cost him to maintain it.

Which, in this particular case, is several times the purchase price:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I have a 2001 BMW 740I timing chain broke where can i get her fixed cheap real cheap?

Oh, it gets better:

At the end of April I paid $1500 for her 3 days later her timing chain snapped what am I to do

Fifteen hundred for a 7-series? The guy dumping it knew the engine was about to grenade, and, well, as George Hull once noted, buyers for old BMWs are born at the rate of sixty per hour.

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Wheeled of dreams

The late guitar-picker Jerry Reed once did the math:

Well, I figured it up, and over a period of time
This four thousand-dollar car of mine
Cost fourteen thousand dollars and ninety-nine cents.

For that matter, I’ve done the math myself, and I conclude that you need to be damned sure what you’re buying before you write the check.

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Tell no one

Wednesday’s Question of the Day at TTAC was “What’s your automotive guilty pleasure?” Taking “guilty pleasure” to mean “Yes, I enjoyed it, and yes, I know it sucks,” I figure I can probably reveal mine, which I did rather like, and which by almost any definition sucked out loud.

Nineteen eighty-one. The last thing the world needs is an alternative Chevette, right? But in that year I got some seat time in an Isuzu I-Mark, the Japanese flavor of the global GM T-body, and it was loads more fun than my one Chevette experience a few years later. For one thing, Isuzu’s assembly seemed a tad less slipshod, and nothing felt like it was ready to fall off. Then again, the I-Mark, fitted with Isuzu’s 1.8-liter diesel four with all of 51 ponies, probably couldn’t get up enough speed to shake anything loose, although it did idle like a Keurig stuffed with Legos. As is my wont with underpowered cars, I drove the living whee out of it for the day I had it, and while there were a couple of anxious moments on the Broadway Distention, geez, when aren’t there anxious moments on the Broadway Distention? The shifter snickety-snicked nearly as well as the five-speed in my Toyota Celica, and I spent about twenty seconds in the back seat just to see if it was possible to spend twenty seconds in the back seat, which it wasn’t in the Celica unless you represented the Lollipop Guild.

Buick had been selling these cars for a couple of years as Opels, to make up for the real Opels that the General wasn’t bringing in anymore; I suspected at the time that Isuzu had been instructed to make them a bit more plush, or a bit less unplush, than the Chevys would be. Nothing came of this experience, of course, and I was still driving the Celica a dozen years later, but to this day there are times when I slide into my Large Automobile and remember what it was like behind the wheel of a smaller one.

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Ruse the day

Some years back, Italy enacted a mandatory seat-belt law, bringing them into compliance with European Union dicta. However, it was a grudging compliance at best:

What is now racing off the shelves however, is a fake seat belt buckle, no belt, which placates the vehicle’s alarm system. The company selling these gadgets notes on its website, “an alarm is useful because it reminds us to wear an accessory that most likely, in case of collision, will save lives. But if we care little about our lives and don’t mind flying through the windshield, we can purchase a Null Seat Belt. Once inserted, the alarm will stop bothering us and allow us to die in peace’.”

And I suggest that it’s a lot less intrusive than the horrid Automatic Belts inflicted on US customers back in the 1980s. At least modern-day airbags leave you alone when they’re not exploding in your face.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Low-information drivers

I spar with such on Yahoo! Answers on a regular basis, so I know they exist. I did not know, however, that they were now writing actual ad copy. Chevrolet is running a print ad with the heading “Our Range Just Exceeded Your Expectations,” and the text contains this howler:

Cruze boasts 46 MPG highway and can take you 717 highway miles on a single tank of gas with an available diesel engine.

I’ll accept that 717 figure — Car and Driver once got 747 miles on a single tank on a Cruze — but absolutely no gas was involved, and if you dump so much as half a liter of gasoline in that diesel mill you’re going to be buying a whole lot of engine parts. I expect one of those Y!A losers to attempt to replicate these results, and then to whine about the consequences.

(Seen on the inside back cover of InStyle, 6-15, with the charming Mindy Kaling in spaghetti straps on the front.)

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Just say Charge It

The infrastructure of tomorrow — okay, the day after tomorrow — is here today:

Says Tesla: “Tesla Superchargers provide 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.”

If there’s another set just this side of the Red River, there’s your 170-mile fillup. And there is: it’s in Ardmore, outside the Interurban Classic Grille.

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Riding talky

Not that you were wondering, exactly, but since I seldom have passengers, this may be your one and only chance to find out what I’m thinking while I’m driving home.

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No-wheel drive

The Topic That Never Goes Away comes around again:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is the Subaru XV Crosstrek a manly car?

And then he violates the First Rule of Holes (“quit digging”):

hey guys, i’m just a typical engineering student in college and ive been wanting to buy a car for some time, Ive thought of getting the Subaru XV since its loaded with tons of features like all wheel drive of course and nice rims lol.

Would this attract me hoards of girls as opposed to the Forester (lesbian stigma), what personality would you like I have if I drive one of these. Let me know, thanks :)

I know exactly one XV Crosstrek owner: a woman of rare beauty and prodigious talent. (And, of course, with a prior commitment.)

I note purely in passing that sniggering about Subarus and lesbians once got an automotive editor fired.

And it’s “hordes,” not “hoards,” though I suspect this “typical engineering student” will have his best chance with “whoreds.”

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An easier ramble

America’s most successful early compact car was the Nash Rambler, though most of us remember it in purely audio terms:

In a case of being at the right place at the right time, Tam got a shot of a perfectly lovely ’54 Custom and noted parenthetically:

Such cool lines! (Although I read that in ’55 they added cutouts for the front wheels and reduced the turning circle by six feet.)

Which is true, at least for the Ramblers; the senior Nashes retained the skirted look up front, and were still tedious in tight spots. (According to legend, that look was Nash president George Mason’s idea; when Mason died in the fall of 1954, the company moved as quickly as it could to banish it.) Still, the big Nashes had less of it in 1955, and even less in 1956 — though the ’56 Hudsons, based on the Nash bodyshell, had properly opened wheel cutouts, probably because American Motors, the surviving company following the Hudson/Nash merger, would just as soon you didn’t notice that both cars were built on a shared shell.

Fans of automotive progress should note that the ’54 Rambler had a turning circle of 42 feet; a 2001 Chevy Tahoe, seemingly about twice its size, could turn in 39 feet. (My own ride does 35.4 on the stock wheel/tire combo.)

And after both Nash and Hudson names were retired for 1958, the Rambler continued, under the name “Rambler American,” on the same platform through 1962, and got its only real redesign for ’63; it was replaced by AMC’s Hornet — a name Hudson had used during its postwar glory days — in 1970.

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Home of the Whopping

Apparently the magic number is 16 miles per gallon. From the individual vehicle profiles in the Consumer Reports 2015 Auto Issue:

Chevrolet Suburban: “Beyond that, it’s pretty much your tried and true Suburban, with a 5.3-liter V8, six-speed automatic, and fuel economy that improved to a whopping 16 mpg.”

Chevrolet Tahoe: “Beyond that, fuel economy from the 5.3-liter V8 and six-speed automatic, improves to a whopping 16 mpg.”

GMC Yukon/Yukon XL: “Beyond that, fuel economy from the 5.3-liter V8 and six-speed automatic improves to a whopping 16 mpg, but the combination doesn’t feel particularly energetic.”

Beyond that, these trucks are more alike than different, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen CR test a thesaurus.

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G outclassed

I have had absolutely no seat time in the Mercedes-Benz G-class, the Geländewagen, which was to the Axis what the Land Rover was to the Allies¹, so I can’t verify any of this description personally, but damn if it doesn’t sound plausible:

If you’ve ever driven a G-wagen (and I did), it’ll cure your taste for them permanently, knockoff or not.

Imagine the crazy taxi from Roger Rabbit, only three times as tall, with a blown AMG motor, and that’s what you have here. It’s a 536-hp clown-car with a suspension made of Slinkys and pool noodles. The Edmund Fitzgerald was more stable — right before it sank.

I see one of these occasionally at the Homeland on May at Britton, and once I caught a glimpse of the driver walking away. I came this close [gestures] to falling into a rack of grocery carts.

¹ Not really.

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Erase that MK

Lincoln has one vehicle with an actual name: the ancient Navigator SUV. The rest of the line is MKthis and MKthat with neither rhyme nor reason. This is about to change, says Ford President of the Americas (now that’s a title) Joe Hinrichs:

“I know MKX and C and Z and T. I’ve studied them very well. I know them well, but we also understand the issue. It’s, frankly, where the auto industry — the premium industry — has gone, if you look at all the nameplates. But another way Lincoln could distinguish itself is to leverage its heritage. So I’ll leave it at that.”

The MKS replacement (I think), previewed as the Continental Concept at the New York Auto Show, will be called Continental, definitely a heritage name.

And there may be one other factor at work:

[W]hile sales of the MK models are down 7.2 percent thus far in 2015, sales of the Navigator — the sole bearer of a proper name in Lincoln’s lineup — have climbed 84 percent over the same period, though part of that could be attributed to lower prices at the pump fueling renewed overall demand for trucks and SUVs, as well.

What’s the only Cadillac you recognize on sight? Right: the Escalade. I can’t believe those nitwits are going to call something “CT6″ when there’s a dire shortage of Fleetwoods.

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Motto trend

Newly installed TTAC editor-in-chief Mark Stevenson, about whom I said something partially unkind on Twitter t’other day, has come up with an interesting Question of the Day: “What’s the worst automaker slogan?”

So many of them were so utterly awful that in the first 24 hours over 100 comments were posted, all of them text. However, the absolute worst, in the opinion of yours truly, requires actual sound effects:

Worse yet, way out in the sticks evoked by this noise, actual dealers were few and far between.

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Scoobyus minimus

Most of the chatter about Hillary Clinton’s van trip has been about Chipotle and burritos and such, with hardly any attention paid to the Mystery Machine itself. Ronnie Schreiber has determined that it’s an Explorer Van, a conversion done on an existing Chevrolet chassis, and that it’s not exactly opulent:

While some of Mrs. Clinton’s critics have described the van as luxurious, and Explorer Van’s sales manager described it to me as a “loaded Limited SE model,” he also said that most of its products are used as family vehicles, not executive limousines.

A fully equipped Chevrolet-based Explorer Van runs about $66,000. You can configure your own Explorer Van and check out the standard features and options here. Considering how many of America’s moms are carpooling kids to school in $40-50K Lexus RXes and Audi Q5s, Hillary’s van hardly seems extravagant. She’s traveling comfortably I’m sure, but I’ve reviewed Audis and Jaguars that were more luxurious and exclusive.

Equipment? Meh:

Yes, it does have a decent sized flatscreen television, but it’s not anything close to sybaritic luxury. The seats are leather upholstered, but the second row has standard captain’s chairs and not the airliner first class style seats with footrests like you’d see in the back of long wheelbase luxury cars in China, the new Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach, or in a Japanese domestic market executive van like the Toyota Alphard.

All of which would cost somewhere in six figures American. So if Mrs C is not exactly dead broke, she’s not living especially high on the hog while she’s on the road, which perhaps will reflect favorably on her: said Schreiber, “The fact that she’s a return customer for Explorer Vans humanizes her in my eyes, even if I may have some skepticism about political road trips.” The fancy stuff comes later.

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Chopping down the shade tree

Your average automaker would much rather you visit the dealer for your service needs instead of doing it yourself. (Said automaker is kind of a skinflint when reimbursing the dealer for warranty work, but that’s another issue.) Imagine their delight if they could force the issue:

Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles.

In comments filed with a federal agency that will determine whether tinkering with a car constitutes a copyright violation, OEMs and their main lobbying organization say cars have become too complex and dangerous for consumers and third parties to handle.

Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

The dispute arises from a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that no one thought could apply to vehicles when it was signed into law in 1998. But now, in an era where cars are rolling computing platforms, the U.S. Copyright Office is examining whether provisions of the law that protect intellectual property should prohibit people from modifying and tuning their cars.

Of course. Everyone thought the DMCA was all about people pirating movies and such — until all sorts of unrelated oxen were subjected to governmental gore. The one thing you can always be sure of with intellectual property: the word that matters is not “intellectual.”

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Sticking point

Manual transmissions used to be promoted as ways to save gas. In these days of smarter and stingier automatics, perhaps they should be promoted as ways to save your ass:

A South Carolina kidnapper — wanted in Horry County on child cruelty charges — grabbed a woman at gunpoint, put her in the trunk of her car, but then could not drive because he didn’t know how to shift a manual transmission, officials say.

The 53-year-old woman managed to escape from the trunk early Tuesday after using a latch inside and then flagged down authorities.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 27-year-old Demetric Jerod Nelson, a Sumter man accused of kidnapping and robbing the woman at gunpoint early Tuesday morning, officials with the sheriff’s office said.

This sounds like a pretty good argument for the Ford Focus RS, a variation on the staid compact that sports well over 300 hp — and which, when it arrives next year, will come only with a stick.

Addendum, 23 April: Joe Sherlock reports:

Up until 1988, my plastics manufacturing company had only one forklift truck, a 1955 Hyster, which had a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Several of our younger employees could not drive it because they didn’t know how to work the clutch and shift levers. We referred to them as Automatic Babies.

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Progress of a sort

One TTAC feature I’ve always liked is “Junkyard Find,” and the most recent resident of Rustic Estates is a 1993 Subaru Justy, by any reasonable reckoning a horrible crapmobile, but the standards for horrible crapmobiles are much higher these days:

[B]ad as the Justy 2WD was, it was a car. That meant that it beat the hell out of public transportation, and it meant that a working stiff could afford a shiny new commuter (with warranty) on a modest salary. I mention this because I’m still getting shit for having written that the ’14 Mitsubishi Mirage was perfectly tolerable by Miserable Econobox standards, while John Pearley Huffman believes it is worse than taking the bus (Jason Torchinsky, one of the only writers to agree with me that the Mirage wasn’t so bad, tore Mr. Huffman a new one over that). Terrible little entry-level econoboxes today are so much better than their counterparts 20 years ago that everybody who reviews one today should be forced to spend a week in a ’93 Justy prior to driving the new car.

I quote, for the sake of illustration, a Yahoo! Answers questioner:

Does anybody here have a Mitsubishi Mirage? A 2015 model? Is it nice, do you like it? Would you recommend it to someone?

Update: I no longer listen to Consumer Reports reviews on cars. The reason why is because they would make all kinds of nasty reviews of certain car models and I would ride or drive said cars after reading those reviews and I would just scratch my head wondering why CR disliked these cars so much. They were all excellent vehicles. I have also found that some cars that CR recommended I ended up not liking after I got to ride/drive them. The Mirage is an excellent choice for the States.

Perhaps the most reasonable answer given:

The Mirage is arguably the least-recommended vehicle of all the ’15s, though this is due more to obvious cheapness than to actual failures. If you can live with its limitations (noisy and slowish) it’s not an unreasonable choice at its bargain-basement price.

Something this moderate-sounding simply had to be downvoted, and of course it was.

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Base of the learning curve

Jack Baruth reveals how he learned how to ride a motorcycle:

You probably don’t remember this, but Simon and Simon is basically a TV show about what would happen if Bark M. and I opened a private detective agency. The older brother is an unrefined boor who waves a .44 Magnum around and drives a Dodge Power Wagon — that would be me, of course. The younger brother is very suave and handsome and doesn’t like to get his hands dirty.

In one episode, they’re chasing a bad guy who hops on a motorcycle and rides away. There are two Harleys sitting around so the brothers jump on. Now, of course the younger Simon has no idea how to operate a Harley so the older brother yells, as he’s riding off in pursuit,

“There’s nothing to it! First is down, the other four are up!”

This matters because Jack has a six-year-old:

I wanted a motorcycle for pretty much every moment of my childhood, but my Brooklyn-born father was no more going to get me a dirt bike than he was going to take me to the Grand Ole Opry. It goes without saying that nobody in my entire extended family has ever owned a motorcycle, except for me, the official White Trash Baruth.

50cc motorcycles are very fast and the neck of a just-turned-six-year-old child is fragile and that, to me, is a bad and dangerous combination.

But if he doesn’t learn about motorcycles from me, he’ll do what I did when he’s a teenager — he’ll find a bike to ride and I won’t know about it or have any way to make sure he’s riding safely.

Said six-year-old now has a 24-volt electric dirt bike — and his neck is intact.

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Oh, citrus

There are lights of various colors on Gwendolyn’s instrument panel, but the color I fear most is orange: the Low Fuel light is orange, the Service Engine Soon light is orange, and the light I saw yesterday for the first time is orange. I explained this thinking to Trini, and she identified the indicator: “You’re low on wiper fluid.”

I hit the lever to spritz the glass. “No, I’m not.”

The working theory, at least for now, is that a particularly bad pavement discontinuity — pothole season in Oklahoma City runs from April 1 through March 31 — had jarred the pertinent sensor. And the light turned off some time in the next half mile. I did, however, pop the hood when I got home, and the fluid level was about an inch below the top, which should have been insignificant considering the fluid reservoir is half a foot tall.

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Notice to upside-down drivers

The Texas DMV is looking out for your right not to be offended:

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is revoking the personalized license plate issued to a Houston man, because it has now been deemed offensive.

“I had it for more than three years without any problem,” Safer Hassan said.

Hassan recently received an official letter from the state that said his Texas plate, “370H55V,” would be canceled within 30 days.

Believe me, Texas takes inversions of this sort very, very seriously.

(Via Fark.)

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When airbags aren’t enough

If a long motor trip is on the agenda, I will try to drive as much of it as I possibly can before giving up the wheel: for somewhere around half a century I have been susceptible to untimely bouts of carsickness. (As though any bouts of carsickness are timely, doncha know.) It didn’t occur to me, though, that occupying the driver’s seat in one of those newfangled autonomous autos might be comparably pukulating:

The excitement over self-driving cars might be vomit-inducing. No, really. Researchers at University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute polled 3,200 people across the world and discovered that between 6 and 12 percent of adults will get motion sickness from riding in autonomous [vehicles].

A lot seems to depend on what those folks are doing when they’re not actually driving:

“Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles,” [Dr Michael] Sivak said. “The reason is that the three main factors contributing to motion sickness — conflict between vestibular (balance) and visual inputs, inability to anticipate the direction of motion and lack of control over the direction of motion — are elevated in self-driving vehicles.

“However, the frequency and severity of motion sickness is influenced by the activity that one would be involved in instead of driving.”

The U-M report found that more than 60 percent of Americans would watch the road, talk on the phone or sleep while riding in a self-driving vehicle — activities that would not necessarily lead to motion sickness.

Unfortunately, I can barf in my sleep.

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Your moment of crypto-Zen

Here we have a question that is not related to the supplemental material — and the supplemental material itself is utterly inscrutable:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: metal or fiberglass

It’s like this, or maybe it isn’t:

i want a older newer truck

No, you don’t. They’re pretty ugly, and they tend to be a little big for your needs.

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Apocalypse may be imminent

What we have here is a sport-utility vehicle. From MG. Yes, that MG, kinda sorta:

MG CS concept

SAIC, the Chinese automaker which has owned MG for the past decade, showed off this concept at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2013, and now it appears they’re going to build it:

[The MG CS is] set to debut just after the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016 and will be MG’s first ever entrant into the hotly-contested small SUV segment dominated by the Nissan Qashqai.

It’ll measure up to compete against the larger offerings in the segment like the Kia Sportage and Honda CR-V, and more than likely be offered with a 2.0-litre diesel and a 1.8-litre petrol with two- or four-wheel drive.

Of course, we don’t get the Qashqai here either, ostensibly because Nissan thinks it’s too small for the US market, though I suspect Nissan doesn’t want to have to teach us how to pronounce it. (Hyundai is “HYOON-dye” everywhere but in the States, where we’re considered too dumb to handle Korean names.)

If you’re asking “But where are the sports cars?” here’s your answer, or at least an answer:

MG’s new focus on SUVs has come at the cost of a new MG two-seater roadster. Since the demise of the MG TF in 2010, fans have been crying out for a new sports car harking back to the MGA, MGB, MGF and TF. [MG] told us that a new sports car would arrive in the future, but not for the next five years at least as the brand concentrates on more profitable sectors like the SUV market.

That TF, of course, is nothing like this TF, except for minor details like having four wheels.

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That empty feeling

If you drive an electric vehicle, you may have had flashes of range anxiety: “Do I have enough juice left to get home?” It may not have occurred to you that drivers with gas-powered vehicles sometimes suffer from that same syndrome:

I have really bad Quarter Tank Paranoia. If I am driving a vehicle and the gas gauge shows even a hair below a quarter of a tank of gas I cannot — CANNOT, you understand — continue without seeking out the nearest gas station and filling up. Never mind that I know at that point that it can go another 100 miles or even more; it’s down to a quarter tank so I must buy gas immediately.

My own QTP is not quite so bad, though the moment the horrid orange Low Fuel light goes on, I go into conniptions. It’s happened twice on the World Tours, once in the Bronx, once in west Texas. And I honestly don’t know how much range I have left once it appears. On that Texas run, it had been on for nearly 35 miles when I got to the farthest-east gas station in El Paso, and the tank was refilled with a hair over 14 gallons. Supposedly this tank holds 18.5 gallons (70 liters), so I presumably had at least four gallons of premium left, which would carry me, at the very least, 75 more miles. I was unwilling to trust the signaling mechanism enough to test that presumption.

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Running on vapor

The Elio Motors three-wheeler, to borrow an old phrase, is the car of the future, and it always will be. I mentioned the little ultra-econobox last year, and quoted its ship date as “next spring.” It’s not going to happen in the next eighty days, guys.

Still, Paul Elio is thinking from a place where you can’t even see the box, and his scheme for financing sales of the carlet is crazy enough that it might actually work:

To encourage sales, Elio said the company has a plan to make the Elio trike extra affordable called “Let Your Gas Savings Make Your Payments.” Under this plan, when you buy an Elio, you drive away with a special credit card in your pocket. You use this card every time you gas up and then Elio charges you triple what you paid at the pump. So, if your gas costs $10 (remember, this is an 84 mpg car, so you’re not paying a lot at the pump), then your total cost to Elio will be $30. The extra $20 is applied to your loan payment. “As long as you drove into the dealership with something that was 27 mpg or less, your monthly fuel bill will go down,” Elio said. “Three times 27 is 81 and we get 84. So, you got a brand-new vehicle under warranty that’s fun to drive and you don’t have a car payment and you’re guaranteed to spend less on gas.”

Still, even at Elio’s rock-bottom (and possibly unattainable) price of $6800, it would take over ten years to pay off the note at $84 a month, after which time the vehicle will be neither brand new or (presumably) under warranty.

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Questionable titling

And if anyone knows about questionable titles, c’est moi, n’est-ce pas?

Motor Trend’s Big Test in the May ’15 issue covers five luxury compact crossovers, and it’s titled “Diversity Report”: “Mucking around autodom’s hippest segment with the most colorful crew in town.”

Excuse me while I pull out my “Yeah, right” specs. All five of these not-quite cars have 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and by “2.0-liter” we mean — well, the smallest mill of the bunch is 1969cc. The others? One each at 1997 and 1998, and two at 1999, though the latter are basically the same engine (from Ford) with different fitments and tunings.

Perhaps more to the point, how can you call this bunch “diverse” if four of them are white? The Bimmer is perhaps explainable — an X3 in any color other than white or black costs $550 extra — but surely Land Rover, Volvo and Lexus could have come up with something else. The one, um, vehicle of color is the Lincoln, which is a spiffy blue, and it appears that Ford has seen fit to tone down the whale-baleen grille.

Oh, a sixth automaker was invited: Audi, which had no Q5 with that size engine. Instead, they sent a Q5 with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six. It was faster than all the fours, the humonogous torque standing in for the extra horsepower the diesel doesn’t have. However, it was mutely conformist in one regard: it, too, was white.

Disclosure: I drive a white car, from none of these manufacturers.

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Fugmobile

The May Automobile Magazine has a Robert Cumberford article purporting to name the 25 greatest automotive designers. I’m not at all quarreling with his selections — hey, at least he found a place for Erwin Komenda — but this bit jumped out at me:

England is the home of the most extreme styling variations in the automotive world. For every magnificent Jaguar XK-E hit, there are three or four equivalents to the Lea-Francis Lynx.

I suspect the “XK-E” reference to be an editorial judgment on behalf of us Americans, since everywhere else in the world this car was simply called the E-Type, and Cumberford obviously knows that. More perplexing is the Lynx, a 1960 model which I had never seen in the flesh sheetmetal, not even in a photograph.

And apparently there’s a very good reason for that:

1960 Lea-Francis Lynx

Sorry, no eye-bleach dispenser. This vehicle, to say the least, was not a success:

Despite the high hopes of both staff and management, the somewhat unique styling of the Lynx failed to impress the car-buying public, and no orders were received. Three Lynx roadsters were built before Lea-Francis abandoned the project. It was unquestionably a very expensive project for the struggling factory, and doubtless contributed to the eventual closure of the factory.

Although it should be noted that all three cars survive today, indicating that the model wasn’t entirely unloved.

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Very shiny indeed

The General Motors FastLane blog has a feature this month on the first batch of female auto designers in Detroit, hired by GM Chief of Design Harley Earl. In 1958, Earl put together something called “The Spring Fashion Festival of Women Designed Cars,” which featured some of the ideas these women had, which may or may not have been scheduled for production:

The female designers from the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick staffs modified two vehicles from each brand to demonstrate the female point of view. Vehicles displayed included six convertibles, a station wagon and three hardtops.

Not a sedan in the bunch. Then again, who remembers sedans from this era?

Along with stunningly detailed interiors and custom hardware, the designers proposed ideas that would lead to improved safety, including retractable seat belts and open door warning lights. The women also focused heavily on storage in the vehicles, and included a variety of compartments for umbrellas, maps, cameras and even picnic supplies.

In 1958, only one automaker had standard seat belts: Saab. And they were lap belts only; the three-point belt we see today was installed in every ’59 Volvo. GM and the rest of Detroit caught on eventually.

Just on the basis of sheer frippery, this might be my favorite of the bunch, designed by, and photographed with, Marjory Ford Pohlman:

1958 Buick Special Tampico

… the Buick Special Tampico convertible with an alabaster exterior and accents of flaming orange. The compartment between the bucket seats featured space for binoculars and a camera.

Obviously anticipating my needs half a century down the road. What’s more, no one does citrus-y interiors anymore, and besides, this is a ’58 Buick, which weighed something like 4000 lb, and about 400 lb of that was chrome.

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