Archive for Driver’s Seat

But is it safe?

Under certain conditions I suspect neither one of us would prefer to contemplate, nothing whatsoever is safe. Absent those conditions, and we hope we are, it’s possible to estimate, but watch that methodology:

Which car is safest to drive, you may wonder. How will you find out? You could simply sort the number of fatal crashes by model of car and then compare the totals. The car with the fewest fatalities must be safer.

But is it? By simply sorting and counting fatalities, you have decided to ignore lots of other variables that may play a role, and according to psychology professor Richard Nisbett that means your analysis may be so flawed as to be useless. He uses the car safety study as his own example, pointing out that drivers with unsafe driving habits may gravitate towards certain automobile types and thus skew the results. If all the leadfoots (leadfeet?) suddenly switched to Volvos, that vehicle model’s safety record might be quite different than it is. And if little old ladies started buying Dodge Challengers, their record might improve. Although you might have to select out the ones from Pasadena, at least when they are driving on Colorado Boulevard.

Dean — and Jan, were he still alive — would support that latter premise.

Incidentally, the Pasadena contingent had rivals off to the east, who drove Pontiacs.


Bring your own flux capacitor

Otherwise, it’s almost as it was before:

Thanks to the wonderful-but-flawed low-volume “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act” (H.R. 2675) , it’s now legal for the company that bought all of the old leftover DeLorean parts to start putting them together to make new DMC-12s. And this time it seems like it’ll actually happen, starting early next year.

Stainless-steel body panels? Check. Doors that rise to meet the sky? Check. 2.8-liter Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6? Not a chance:

They’re looking at three possible suppliers, two domestic, one foreign. There’s one favorite though, and the engine that’s the frontrunner is a normally-aspirated V6 making between 300-400 hp.

As opposed to 130 hp from that old European boat anchor. And really, this is to be expected, says the company:

The vehicles must meet current Clean Air Act standards for the model year in which they are produced. The new law allows the low volume vehicle manufacturer to meet the standards by installing an engine and emissions equipment produced by another automaker (GM, Ford, etc.) for a similar EPA-certified vehicle configuration or a create engine that has been granted a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO). This reasonable regulatory reform will also spur innovation, including advances in alternative-fuel and green vehicle technologies.

Said boat anchor wouldn’t come close to meeting contemporary standards, for emissions or for anything else.



Which means, of course, “Don’t Do It Yourself.” If you ask questions like this, you will definitely qualify:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where are the spark plugs located on a 2000 Mustang gt 4.6 motor?

Now what are the chances that a person who can’t find spark plugs on his own will be able to service said plugs?

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Arbitrary levels

Bozi Tatarevic complains about the audio system in the Subaru WRX:

The volume control starts at 0 things and ends at 40 things (take that, Spinal Tap), but it needs to be turned up to 25 things before you can figure out if its playing anything at all. Passing anything over 34 units of thing will cause the speakers to emit horrendous crackly tones.

It would be nice if they standardized these things, but that’s not going to happen.

I have two different audio devices with numerical readouts for volume: the ancient (1999) JBL Harmony, which sits beside my work box, and a brace of Cambridge Soundworks Model 88 radios. The JBL’s volume control runs 0 to 40; typical office volume, with the computer’s sound card set at three-fourths of maximum, is about 25. I’m assuming the 88s will go to 99; the loudest I’ve ever tried was 97, and that was on FM interchannel noise. (Fear of something, either damage or deafness, had set in by then.) Typical radio volume is 35.

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Feature not featured

I have entirely too much reason to trust Jack Baruth on this matter:

Like most cars built in the past 60 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a movable driver’s seat. Like the vast majority of the cars built in the past 30 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a center console. Now pay attention, because this is the important part. In pretty much every car I’ve driven since the day I got my license, ranging from raggedy old Escorts to brand-new Rolls-Royces, there is a small gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. If you are sitting in any of those cars and you are holding your phone, or your keys, or your wallet, or anything else that is less than an inch and a half wide, and you drop that item, it will fall between the seat and the center console. At that point, you will discover that, although the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console easily accommodates a smartphone or, say, an ex-West-Berlin-Police Walther PP pistol in caliber .32 ACP, it does not accommodate the hand of an adult male. Not without scratching and/or cutting it into ribbons.

For example: there was the time I dropped my phone during World Tour ’08, and the retrieval of same unearthed a wallet belonging to a teenaged girl, which had been hiding in the gap for over two years.

The gap also attracts coins; I think I’ve lost about $30 in change over nine and a half years.

So maybe I should have opted for the most expensive Volkswagen in creation, huh?

In the VW Phaeton, however, there is a thing. It’s a velour-covered molded piece and it fills in the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. It’s made to flex a bit so even though the relationship of the seat to the console changes a bit throughout its range of travel, that piece still prevents anything from falling between the seat and the console. If you drop your phone or your keys or your Walther, it will land on that piece and there it will stay in easy reach of your hand.

This would not seem difficult to replicate in less-costly models, but so far nobody, not even Volkswagen, has seen fit to do so.

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The cervid economy

The upcoming Volvo S90 has a feature I wish had existed, oh, several years ago:

Important for some parts of the country is “Large Animal Detection,” which, unsurprisingly, detects and warns of roadside deer, moose, and other large animals to minimize collisions.

Let’s hope this catches on and is replicated through less expensive makes, so that either I or Robert Stacy McCain will have a chance of getting it.

Note: Title changed since original publication.

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It’s better for the bearings

That’s the story, and they’re sticking to it:

Gluten-Free Mufflers at Mighty Auto

So far as I can tell, this is in Halifax, which proves — well, nothing, really.

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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Spontaneous-combustion engine

Consumer Reports, it appears, is trying its best to sound a bit less Consumer Reports-y. From a February review of the new Volkswagen Jetta with the 1.4-liter turbo four:

Since its 2011 redesign, the Jetta sedan has offered more engines than Spinal Tap had drummers.

This will not encourage people who question VW’s overall reliability, if you know what I mean.

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Optional at extra, extra cost

Is this the most expensive automotive option ever? (Betteridge says no.) Jared Gall reports for Car and Driver (February):

[T]he coolest (and most appalling) thing in the [Bentley] Bentayga interior is the optional Breitling clock set atop the dashboard. It’s available in either white or rose gold, with a face of black or white mother-of-pearl, and studded with eight diamonds. Cost? 150,000 euros, or about $160,000. Only a handful of craftspeople make the clocks, which take three months apiece. That exclusivity guarantees that Bentley will sell the four it can offer every year.

The Bentayga is Bentley’s first-ever sport-utility vehicle; they plan to make 5500 of them each year at a base price of $231,825. Not one of them will actually cost that little, of course.

And if you go searching for this little bauble, you’ll discover that Breitling is also making a watch and a desk clock for Bentley, neither included with your purchase of a new Bentayga.


And you thought it was cold outside

Volkswagen’s little Evade the Emissions stunt has now been hacked and examined, and at least one of the findings is startling:

[Felix] Domke said he graphed the European emissions testing cycle and overlaid those results with the upper and lower limits of the ECU’s “normal mode” and discovered that the mode aligned perfectly with the limits.

He didn’t test differences in engine performance, nor could he say whether the cheat applied to cars in other countries. But Domke pointed to a parameter in the engine’s code that seemingly always initiated its “alternative” exhaust program: the outside temperature would only need to be suitable for life to exist — above -6,357.9 degrees Fahrenheit (-3,550 degrees Celsius).

This condition is available pretty much anywhere in the universe at any imaginable time. Well feigned, Vee Dub.

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You dropped your Q

Infiniti, which has done more to sully the fine art of model naming than any automaker not named Cadillac — it’s probably no coincidence that both Cadillac and Infiniti have had Johan de Nysschen running them, and apparently nobody dares mess with the Johan — has decided that we dumb Americans can’t tell the difference between a front-wheel-drive sedan and a jacked-up AWD pseudo-crossover using exactly the same bodyshell:

Though Infiniti will sell its new Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover as two distinct models elsewhere in the world, the cars will be sold in the U.S. only with the QX30 badge. The cars are already basically identical, and the new naming strategy will help prevent any confusion between the Q30 and QX30 on our shores.

As a result, there will be three versions of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 in the US: Two front-wheel-drive models, matching the Q30 sold overseas; plus one all-wheel-drive version with a higher ride height that aligns with the global QX30.

I suspect this is being done, not so much to defuzz the brand image, but to justify even higher prices for the fake-SUV version: if they’re all the “same model,” buyers won’t even flinch at a $15k difference between top and bottom of the line.

And I’d still rather have the QX50, the wagon formerly known as EX35, comparatively lacking in upjacking.

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Getting ahead of ourselves

It was almost too good to be true:

Actually, the phone wasn’t what got me so much as it was the decidedly not-Forties-attired young lady, who more than a little resembles someone I used to want to look at more than I did. (Whatever the heck that means.) So I turned my attention to the background, and eventually hit upon the truth of the matter:

Then again, mobile technology is changing so rapidly that almost anything you can say about them results in an anachronism or two. Karen and Wade Sheeler were available for comment way back in 1990.

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Still needs work

I have never actually had in-dash navigation in a car. Gwendolyn has a place for a nav screen, under a lid on top of the center stack, but it’s my understanding that they didn’t actually get any installed until the following model year, and while it could theoretically be retrofitted, assuming the parts could be found, the price would be somewhere between prohibitive and ridiculous.

And anyway, the concept is apparently a long way from being perfected. In the February Automobile, Ronald Ahrens discusses an issue with the nav system in the new Audi A3 e-tron:

The test car had voice-activated navigation, which worked well for one driver but evidently needed a stronger sarcasm detector for the other.

I figure fixing this will give VW Group something to do while they forget they ever built any diesels.

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Gutless supreme

This “1975 Oldsmobile Donk on 28s Forgiatos” is offered on Craigslist:

1975 Oldsmobile for sale

Seller’s description, unedited:

Runs good music loud has matts competition speakers, was in rides magazine and Marreece Speights from the Nba golden states warrior owned it previously before me any more questions give me a cal

What is a donk, you ask? The person from Urban Dictionary:

Any POS late 80’s or early 90’s American heap (preferably an Impala) that has large enough wheels installed until it resembles (and rides and handles like) a Conestoga wagon. This is done so it sits up high enough so as to be at the same eye level as the Playas with real juice ridin in their Escalades. Adding in a bad candy paint job and Wal-Mart sub box completes the transformation. With no money left over for necessary suspension and brake upgrades, the lifespan is limited to a few drug runs or the first Police chase, whichever occurs first.

Twenty grand, and this donk can be your donk. And hey, he almost spelled “Marreese” correctly. (“Speights” is correct.) But no, it’s not actually a Cutlass; this is the larger Delta 88 Royale, offered with the Olds 350 (175 hp) or the big-block 455 (215), with catalytic converters and mandatory single exhausts. And Forgiato 28s on eBay run about $3000.

(Via Susannah Breslin.)


Maloodicrous speed

GM’s British outpost is importing an Australian ute that looks for all the world like the 2016 El Camino Chevrolet would never, ever build:

Vauxhall Maloo LSA

The press release announcing it reads this way:

Vauxhall only sells one pick up vehicle these days, and while our rivals will wow you with improvements in emissions and fuel economy in a CV’s new model year, our offering — the new Maloo LSA — is more likely to impress with the arrival of its all-new, supercharged 6.2-litre, 536PS V8 engine.

So while it’s possibly not a contender for next year’s MPG Marathon, the Vauxhall Maloo LSA will haul … well, up to 540kgs from standstill to sixty in an unfeasibly short space of time, and do so with the utmost composure, despite the fact that it’s classed as a commercial vehicle (business users can even claim the VAT back from its very reasonable £54,500 on-the-road price).

For 2016, the new LSA engine brings maximum power up from 431PS for the outgoing LS3 V8 to 536PS, and an increase in torque from 570Nm to 671Nm. First seen in the current VXR8 GTS launched last year, the LSA is essentially the same unit fitted to the Camaro ZL1, albeit in a slightly re-tuned form. An Eaton 4-lobe supercharger, stand-alone water-to-air charge-air cooling system and high-flow exhaust system with bi-modal exhaust function turn the Maloo into the fastest production “ute” manufactured in Australia, and the fastest CV available in the UK.

Translations and conversions: CV = “commercial vehicle”; 431PS = 425 hp; 536PS = 528 hp; 570Nm = 420 ft-lb; 671Nm = 495 ft-lb; 540kg = 1190 lb; £54,500 = $81,150.

I am trying my very best to keep my index finger away from the “WANT” button.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Zombie Saab has yet another deal in the works:

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) and the Chinese company Panda New Energy Co., Ltd. have signed a strategic collaboration agreement. According to the agreement, Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles until the end of 2020. In addition, the agreement also includes 100 000 other EV products and services from companies associated to Nevs and its owners. The total value of the agreement is 78 billion RMB.

Hey, it could happen. The first-generation 9-3 (1999-2003) moved 326,370 units. Then again, back then Saab had General Motors calling the shots.

This discussion ensued on Twitter:

That last bit, incidentally, is the sound made when you start up the old two-stroke three-cylinder Saab 93, which is not at all the same car as the 9-3.


Soon: bladeless knives without handles

A proposed California law would require your self-driving car be occupied by your self:

In what is sure to be seen by some as government interference and general misunderstanding of technology, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has released a proposal [pdf] that would require drivers to be present in self-driving vehicles in the state.

Then again, it might be seen by others as simply “Forget it, Jake. It’s California.”

That limits any possibility for parents to send their kids off alone, any delivery services hoping to utilize autonomous vehicles without paying human workers and future designs Uber might have to deploy cars to pick up riders, sans “driver-partners” in California.

It’s also caused some disappointment at Google, which has been testing driverless cars for a couple of years in the state of California.

The measure might be defensible on technological grounds:

[W]e are sure to run into unforeseen scenarios without a unified and open-source driverless car codebase shared by all driverless car manufacturers — something we don’t presently have.

Consider this scenario: a human driven car starts heading the wrong way on the freeway and is barreling toward two autonomous vehicles. The lane is fairly narrow; if one of the cars slows and gets behind the other, they’ll both be fine. But without a shared, open codebase there are no rules to determine which one should slow down. If they both speed up, neither can pass the other. If both slow down, same problem.

There is time to deal with this, I think. Then again, the idea of killing an earlier regulation once it’s no longer needed is something Sacramento doesn’t quite comprehend.

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Accelerate and turn a phrase

The 10Best issue of Car and Driver (January 2016) contains more quotable quotes than usual for some reason, and I agonized over about half a dozen of them before deciding on one to place here. From page 040 (that’s what it says), Aaron Robinson on an automaker with a possibly sketchy future:

Tesla is an American venture building American cars in America, so I can’t understand some of the virulent hatred toward it. Okay, its business plan is fraught, its overhead is too high, and its product is expensive, imperfect, and subsidized by taxpayers. By this definition, it is a standard defense contractor.

I had a really spiffy title picked out for this, too, but its connection was too vague to justify. You’ll see it eventually, though.

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Scalp burn

The argument against the automotive sunroof:

The car has a sunroof. I doubt I will ever use it. After my experience with the [Mitsubishi] Endeavor I am seriously considering disabling it. Actually, the car manufacturers should put in a switch that automatically closes the sunroof if you close the sunshade. What happens is that you’re driving along on a nice sunny day and you want to enjoy the sunshine, so you open the sunroof. After a while you start to get hot, so you close the sunshade, but you forget about the sunroof. Then you decide to go to the carwash and when water starts pouring into the passenger compartment you try and close the sunroof. Due to Murphy’s law, this usually happens just when the big overhead rotary brush is scrubbing the roof. The little wheels and levers that allow the sunroof to slide back and forth are relatively delicate and not up to repelling the big, strong brush, so they break and now the sunroof won’t properly close. The problem is worse with the Endeavor because it is tall enough that you can’t see the sunroof when you are standing next to the car.

Gwendolyn, who has lived in my garage for nine and a half years now, has a sunroof. I have never actually run into this problem myself.

Then again, the reason why I didn’t have one on my previous car is because it reduced headroom substantially: I banged my head on the sunshade during a test run, and wound up buying the same car in a lower trim level so I wouldn’t have to deal with that sort of thing. I don’t have this problem now, because the ceiling is actually recessed a bit, giving me an inch of headroom I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Why this is so, I do not know, unless it’s because they didn’t build any of this model without the sunroof; I’ve never seen one without it.

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Road ending prematurely

Cars in the scrapyard often end up crushed. Some of them end up there because of crushing debt:

According to a recent PEW study [pdf], one out of every nine title loans results in a repossession, with the titled vehicle eventually heading to auction.

And after that, maybe the car finds a new home, but maybe not:

One vehicle, a 1995 Chevrolet Blazer, currently shows 271,285 miles. Pulling up its history, we see it shows up at auction in December 2011 with 199,683 miles, then it’s sold with a lien attached in February 2013. Since it had almost 200,000 miles at the time, it is highly unlikely any traditional lending institution would have written a loan for it, meaning this loan was almost certainly processed by a subprime lender. The February sale comes during one of the bigger months for subprime and “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers as many potential customers are receiving tax returns that can give them enough money for a down payment on a new-to-them car.

The Blazer’s owner was immediately in the hole since they were likely taking out a loan with an annual percentage rate of 30 percent for a vehicle that was only worth its weight in scrap. We see three more liens reported on the vehicle with the last one hitting in October of this year. The vehicle’s owner could have taken out multiple title loans or refinanced his loan, the last one being too expensive to cover. Since the vehicle was not worth more than $300 or $400, they would have only been able to get a loan for $150 or so, which would have cost them double or triple the original amount once interest was added. The owner may have been in a tight situation or the car could have broken down, making default a more affordable proposition. Due to the mileage and condition, [the] next stop for this Blazer is likely a salvage yard.

Five will get you ten the guy who bought this Blazer in 2013 went scurrying to Yahoo! Answers to see if there was a chance he could plunge himself further into debt to get himself something newer. Not that it matters what anyone actually told him. (I started suggesting that people start pricing bus passes, a practice some would dub cruel and insensitive.)

Most of the other cars I checked on the run list followed a similar path where they spent a few years in the mainstream market before ending up at a subprime dealer. Some of them experience accidents that should leave them with a branded title, but there are loopholes that allow the title to be washed. Others live a long life with their first owners before reaching the subprime market. The second and third owners of these vehicles are usually underwater as soon as they buy the vehicle and the title loans just put them further into debt.

That Blazer, says the intrepid reporter, was “not worth more than $300 or $400.” What would a BHPH dealer have sold it for? I’m guessing $1999.


Manny, Moe, Jack and Carl

Feared investor Carl Icahn has offered $863 million for the Pep Boys auto-parts chain:

Icahn’s offer Tuesday of $15.50 per share is higher than Bridgestone’s offer of $15 per share in October for the chain of 800 stores. The Japanese tire giant offered to buy the chain to add to its 2,200 stores including Tires Plus, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works to make one of the largest parts, tire and service chains in the U.S.

Before placing his bid, Icahn had acquired a 12-percent stake in Pep Boys. This is his second try at the whole ball of wax; he’d previously offered $13.50 a share.

Pep Boys has given Bridgestone until 5 pm Eastern on Friday to top this bid, or Icahn prevails.

(Title swiped from Fark.)

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Oh, sure, blame the booze

Several bad choices seem to have affected this outcome:

A naked man accused of driving 110 mph across Alligator Alley with three female passengers was arrested Saturday afternoon on a DUI charge, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

Around 3 p.m., authorities began receiving calls of a Cadillac driving recklessly, on and off the road, near the middle of Alligator Alley, according to an arrest report. About 10 minutes later, an FHP trooper spotted the car as it traveled west toward the Naples area.

First problem: if you’re at the wheel and your clothing is somewhere else, your first order of business is to avoid attracting the attention of the police. Driving 110 in a 70 zone does not meet this standard.

The trooper stopped the car. He noticed the driver had no shirt on and an open 12-pack of Corona beer between the driver’s seat and the front passenger seat, reports said. He asked the driver, Noe Dejesus, 33, to step out of the car.

When Dejesus opened the door, the trooper saw he was naked, reports said.

Dejesus smelled of alcohol, slurred his speech and had bloodshot eyes, reports said. When he stepped out of the vehicle to put his pants on, he stumbled and nearly fell. Inside the car the trooper found several empty or nearly empty beer bottles and a nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal whiskey.

Second problem: if you absolutely, positively have to drive while half in the bag, you definitely don’t want to be toting around a large quantity of empty containers. It just looks bad.

Still, what I want to know is how this guy managed to get three female passengers, something I’ve never done even when clothed and/or sober.

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At least HAL has a job

Assuming, of course, that General Motors can build this particular structure:

General Motors this month filed a patent application for a navigation system that can gauge how effective it is in frustrating guiding drivers based on their eye movements and how well those drivers follow directions.

The patent application filed Dec. 3 details a navigation system that watches “visual focus, the driver vocalizations and the driver emotions, along with vehicle system parameters from a data bus … to evaluate driver satisfaction with navigation guidance and determine driver behavior.”

Ideally, this should improve the performance of the nav system. But what’s more likely to happen is this:

The patent application also details a location-based “promotional offers for businesses near a destination or route of the driver,” to offer you a cookie at a nearby Arby’s to forget that it ever got you lost in the first place.

You do this to me, OnStar, and you’ll get more than eye movements, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

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Remorse code

What can we learn from the results of a hotly-hyped automotive Ownership Satisfaction Survey? If you ask me, there are a lot of things we’re assuming that we probably ought not to assume, and there are a lot of people who simply can’t get no satisfaction.


Floor it, mate

Australia was allocated 4,000 units of the 2016 Ford Mustang, not one of them has yet arrived Down Under, and yet every last one of them is spoken for:

Well, if anyone thought Australians would be angry with Ford for killing the Falcon and shutting down local production, this story will probably serve as proof to the contrary. Customers in Australia have bought up the country’s entire allotment of Ford Mustangs.

And are they buying the EcoBoost four-cylinder? The V-6, maybe? Don’t be silly. We’re talking Australia here:

According to Australia’s Car Advice, 80 percent of the cars, which won’t begin deliveries until next month, have deposits attached, while consumers are leaning overwhelmingly towards the 5.0-liter V8 GT model. It accounts for 86 percent of the entire allotment.

There’s something heartening about that.


The lure of the older woman

As it turns out, older cars — and we do, after all, tend to name our cars after women, or at least I do — may have the same sort of pull on us as does the woman of a certain age:

I’ve been married to my [Citroën] SM for nearly eight years, with an initial purchase price of $20,000. She had 52,000 miles. I’ve spent approximately $8,000 on maintenance, and $14,000 on an engine rebuild. She runs perfectly. So, for $42,000, with approximately $1,000 per year for maintenance, I have finally found the perfect long-term relationship with a gorgeous French woman. A woman about whom I know virtually everything necessary to keep her happy, who is always ready to go to dinner or on vacation. OK, maybe not always, and maybe not far, but such relationships aren’t supposed to be easy, and long-term relationships less so.

If fourteen grand sounds high for an engine rebuild, well, this engine comes from Maserati, with whom Citroën was in a marriage of inconvenience when the SM was developed. So the elegant French lady has more than a trace of Italian fire, and already I’m thinking, um, fairly suggestive thoughts.

That said, Gwendolyn, my Japanese ice princess, cost me $12,400 nine years ago. She had 88,000 miles. I’ve spent about $12,000 on maintenance and repairs. So for a hair less than $25,000, I have a worthy travel companion, albeit one who never, ever shows her feelings. The respect is there, but nothing beyond that. Still, were I to draw up a map for a nice long 4,000-mile road trip, I’d have no qualms, no worries about something horrible happening along the way.

Then again:

I’m happy, and so is she. True love is out there, waiting, from Alfa, Porsche, Tatra and dozens of other parents whose older models are still waiting to meet the right person, but the hour is drawing near.

At this stage of my development, I question my ability to sustain my end of the commitment.

And there’s this observation from Jack Baruth: “For the record, dating a flesh and blood woman older than yourself is a fate worse than death.” At 40ish, he can say that. At 60ish, I can’t. (The Citroën SM is in its middle forties.)

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Fewer occupants, more miles

The automated-automobile utopia some are expecting may turn out to be the exact opposite:

A suburban father rides his driverless car to work, maybe dropping his daughter off at school. But rather than park the car downtown, he simply tells it to drive back home to his house in the suburbs. During the day, it runs some other errands for his family. At 3 pm, it goes to the school to bring his daughter home or chauffeur her to after-school activities. Then it’s time for it to drive back into the city to pick up Dad from work. But then, on a lark, Dad decides to go shopping at a downtown department store after work, so he tells his car to just circle the block for an hour while he shops, before finally hailing it to go home.

This is really easy and obvious behavior for a driverless car owner. It reduces the number of cars someone needs to own, and reduces pressure on inner city parking, but would cause an explosive growth in vehicle trips, and thus in congestion (not to mention emissions and other impacts). Just the commute behavior doubles car volumes, because the car now makes a two-way trip for each direction of the commute, instead of just one. And if everyone shopping downtown has a car circling the block waiting for them, well, that level of congestion will far exceed what’s generated by cars circling for parking today. It could pretty well shut down the city.

This, of course, is consistent with the Law of Unintended Consequences. Since this is obvious enough for even bureaucrats to understand, expect there to be a bevy of regulations heaped onto future autobots, followed by some other nightmare scenario they failed to anticipate.

(Via Treehugger.)

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Sometimes stroked, always bored

P. J. O’Rourke once noted that pickup trucks tended to have eight cylinders, which was too many, or four cylinders, which was not enough. This would seems to be an argument for six cylinders, a happy medium if you will, but actual cars, as distinguished from trucks, to the extent that you can distinguish them from trucks (curse you, crossovers), seem to be migrating to four-bangers, a phenomenon which, to Jack Baruth, is just this side of hellish:

As a design, the inline-four is both banal and inadequate. The intake hangs off one side and the exhaust off the other, so when you open the hood it looks unbalanced and cheap. ​Enlarged to modern two-liter-plus proportions, this lack of balance makes it want to shake itself to death. At idle it rattles; at full revs it moans. Instead of the dual-megaphone mufflers associated with powerful V8s, the most efficient four-cylinder exhaust is a massive coffee can hanging off one side of the bumper.

Defending the fart can? Horrors!

Yet the unloved inline-four plows on. It’s cheap to make, cheap to modify. It fits in everything from a small motorcycle to a 5-Series BMW. It can be turbocharged to serve as a poor replacement for a more colorful six. This strategy, employed by the high-end German manufacturers and the Koreans alike, makes it easier to pass CO2-related regulations. So what if the resulting concoction sounds like a paint shaker? You muffle it to death and then play a fake engine sound through the stereo. Nobody knows the difference.

I am told that a hybrid system with an inline four is destined for the BMW 7-series, which just seems wrong for a car that can also be had with a V-12 fercrissake.

And fake engine noises, say I, are an abomination unto the Lord: if He had wanted us to waste our audio systems on such things He would have made AM the dominant form of radio.


Every time you buy a car that has something besides the ubiquitous inline-four, you are striking a blow for automotive character. You’re making a statement that you want steak, not Spam.

In my life I have owned six cars with a total of thirty cylinders: a straight six, two V-6s, and three inline fours. Then again, the budget doesn’t permit me to eat a whole hell of a lot of steak.

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The Kremlin Town Car

That’s not the name, but that’s definitely the idea:

The Russian government plans to launch production of new limousines and premium cars in 2017 as part of the Cortege project at NAMI, the country’s central automobile and engine R&D institute in Moscow.

The RR33 billion ($500 million) project envisions production of 30,000 vehicles a year.

Development will not necessarily be entirely in-house:

The project may involve the participation of global automakers such as Porsche, which may provide engines for the new vehicles. Global manufacturers also may contribute design expertise.

As one might expect, these cars are not designed to worship at the altar of Fuel Economy:

NAMI staff have completed the design of a single platform for the Cortege limousines and cars. The vehicles will have four different types of gasoline engines, the most powerful of which is a 7.0L V-12 generating 800-850 hp.

What, no diesels? And we know where that V-12 is going:

NAMI director Maxim Nagaitsev says the limousine to be built for [President Vladimir] Putin will be the world’s largest passenger vehicle.

Cadillac had better get to work on an escalated Escalade.

(Via Ed Niedermeyer.)

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Clear that lot

Because you can’t spell “sales gimmick” without GMC:

GMC Sierra sale ad from mid-November 2015

I like that. A deal on models “in stock the longest,” although it’s limited to the oldest 10% on the lot. Still, that could be a hell of a lot of trucks in pickup-crazed areas like, well, the United States of America, with the notable exception of San Francisco, which has no GMC dealers.

This ad, incidentally, was found on Equestria Daily. Ponyville, I’m sure, has no GMC dealers.

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