Archive for Driver’s Seat

Now with deBlartification

Ezra Dyer grumbles in Car and Driver (August) that cars have too many dysfunctional functions:

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that carmakers indulge the temptation to cram in every feature that might theoretically have a moment of utility over a car’s life span. For example, I just tried Infiniti’s new InTouch system in the Q50S. Several menus down the infotainment rabbit hole, I had the car giving me movie times for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. A disclaimer at the bottom of the screen read, “Screening times displayed are not always up to date.” I suppose this function would be useful, if something happened to your phone — maybe you ran it over? — and you then had to use your car to find uncertain movie times. But in all likelihood, you would never miss this feature if you never had it, leaving your car and your life just a little bit simpler.

I’d take a different approach. The Q50S is already smart enough to detect when you’re drifting out of your lane and nudge the car back into position. With this much brainpower, surely it’s possible to arrange for the car never to even mention stuff like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

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Crush zone

The July Collectible Classic in Automobile is the legendary Alfa Romeo Spider, manufactured from 1966 to 1994, and Kara Snow’s description of her ’74 made my heart melt a little:

The Spider adds a little Italian sophistication to everyday life. Rare are the days one can cruise the sun-dappled country roads of Tuscany or visit Verona for espresso and biscotti at a posh outdoor bistro. Yet I can wrap my head in a diaphanous scarf, don sunglasses and driving gloves, and stomp on the gas pedal with a Prada stiletto, transforming the mean L.A. streets into an Italian daydream. You’ll get no such experience in a Mazda Miata.

If your immediate reaction is “Well, yeah, but the Mazda won’t break during your daydream,” let me go back to the end of the previous paragraph:

[M]ost repairs can be done in the driveway. For instance, I replaced the Spider’s stock Spica fuel-injection system with twin Italian-built Weber carburetors in an afternoon.

For, you see, I have daydreams of my own.

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Just a tad ungrounded

A lot of people undertake DIY projects which, in retrospect, should have been outsourced to someone who knows what the hell she’s doing. I suspect that’s the way this story ends:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why does my solar panel junction box have 3 terminals surly it only needs 2 positive and negative?

He’d really be surly if he encountered four wires.

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How can I make someone else pay?

This is, I am beginning to suspect, the defining question of our time: much of our alleged political discourse asks exactly that and nothing more.

More disturbingly, it extends beyond politics:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Would scraping the bottom of the front bumper due to a steep incline going into a parking lot be covered under a car's original warranty?

This mindset — that there are always pockets to pick — will be the death of us yet.

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You shall not Escape

Once again, Donald Trump is taking advice from the ferret occupying his scalp:

Republican presidential hopeful and billionaire Donald Trump wants to bring the pain via punitive tariffs to Ford for manufacturing vehicles in Mexico.

During his announcement of his 2016 campaign Tuesday, The Detroit News says Trump vowed he would levy a 35 percent tariff on Ford parts and vehicles imported from Mexico if the automaker presses forward with a $2.5 billion investment in the nation, claiming the move would “take away thousands” of jobs from American workers.

Ford, being Ford, shrugged; they’ve heard this sort of noise before. And besides:

Of course, Trump wouldn’t be legally able to punish Ford for building its plants wherever it wanted, let alone single out Ford with his plan without also doing the same to General Motors and FCA (how he would deal with Fiat owning Chrysler would be a whole other round of metaphors and hyperbole altogether).

Now if The Donald comes back and says he can so do this, via executive order — well, he’s cut his own throat, and we will definitely thank him for his quick disappearance from the campaign scene.

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Zett zwei: nein

There will be no Z2 roadster, BMW declares:

The Z2 would have gone toe-to-toe with the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat’s Spyder beginning in 2016, Car reports, but was deemed “inessential” in the face of both booming SUV sales and a sluggish sports car market by chairman Harald Krüger and R&D boss Klaus Fröhlich, a move in line with sales boss Ian Robertson’s belief the sports car market may never recover.

The roadster would have slotted under the Z4, come with a £20,000 ($31,000 USD) starting price tag, and been limited to three- and four-cylinder engine options delivering their power to the front wheels.

Now I’m imagining a Z2M with an inline six and a price tag closer to 50k. But that’s the existing Z4, except for wrong-wheel drive.

And truth be told, I wonder how many people are going to choose the Fiat Spyder over its Japanese cousin. (Then again, Mazda isn’t sending us the new 2, but it will show up as a Scion. It’s all a mess.)

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The price of speed

I was going back through that 60th Anniversary issue of Car and DriverTam’s been reading it as long as I have, and probably with better comprehension — when I lasered in on the data sheet from a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. Some of the important stuff:

Engine: SOHC 12-valve inline-six, 183 cu in (2996 cc)
Power: 220 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 203 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.7 seconds
Quarter mile: 15.9 seconds (no trap speed given)

Damned impressive for the times. I then dialed forward 43 years and change for this data sheet:

Engine: DOHC 24-valve V6, 182 cu in (2988 cc)
Power: 227 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 217 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-60 mph: 8.3 seconds
Quarter mile: 16.4 seconds @ 87 mph

This latter buggy, of course, is my current daily driver, now about to turn Sweet Sixteen. The numbers are not so different, though C/D complained at the time that in their opinion, their tester with 890 miles on the clock was not making full power. Having done zero-to-sixty in the high sevens with a lot more miles, I tend to agree. (This chap did it in 7.1 with the malf light on, which is perhaps more impressive.)

If you’re wondering how much progress had been made in lo, those many years, consider the following. The sticker on the Benz was $8897, or about four Chevrolets of the time; Infiniti asked $31,700 for my car, about two ’00 Chevy Impalas after the usual incentives. And in the decade and a half since my I30 left Japan, those specs have become, well, mundane: today’s V6 Accord will roast my chestnuts without even breathing hard. I conclude that we have some truly marvelous machines to come, assuming the government doesn’t fark things up any worse than they already have.

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Asphalty towers

The folks at Land Rover are seeking to establish the exact number of holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, or something:

Jaguar Land Rover is building an experimental Range Rover which can automatically spot and report potholes. The system is akin to one Volvo and Ericsson have been working on to spot icy patches on roads.

The Jaguar Land Rover system uses the MagneRide suspension already offered on the Evoque and Discovery Sport.

It records the severity of potholes, broken drains and manhole covers, and then writes a letter in green ink to the local council sends this data in real-time via a server to other vehicles and road authorities to help them prioritise repairs.

If it records said irregularities fast enough, it might even be able to tweak the vehicle’s suspension settings before hitting the hole. (A suitably equipped Mercedes-Benz can do this, but it can’t share the information. Yet.) And God forbid they should turn this sort of thing loose on Oklahoma City’s cracked-crockery corridors.

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Maybe they’ll give him a pen

Fiat Chrysler chair Sergio Marchionne is keen to find a merger partner, even if it’s General Motors:

The search, which is coming up blank thus far, is the latest in the CEO’s attempt to find a happy ending for his increasingly desperate romantic tragicomedy film, fearing excess production and duplicate costs in engineering, R&D et al threaten future profitability of the overall industry.

For now, though, FCA’s low profit margins do not make for a good partner with stronger players, while Marchionne’s dealings with GM leave much to be desired. In 2005, he convinced the Detroit automaker to pay $2 billion to not buy Fiat — in hospice care by then — a move which also dissolved a five-year-old partnership to produce engines and transmissions together.

If it’s worth $2 billion not to buy Fiat, what’s it worth not to buy Fiat and Chrysler as a unit?

More recently, Marchionne attempted to woo GM back with an email to CEO Mary Barra suggesting as much. The automaker is transitioning its lineup to global architectures and can build said lineup on a broader scale than FCA. GM is also undergoing an internal consolidation to further boost profits, a plan Barra and others in management won’t allow to be derailed by outside distractions like Marchionne holding up a boombox in front of the RenCen playing Peter Gabriel, hoping GM will say anything but no.

Sooner or later the accountants are going to come for Sergio and ask why he stayed so long with an operation that is clearly not a growth enterprise.

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Well, it wasn’t ME

If you’ve ever suspected that “infotainment” systems for your car were lagging a bit behind the stuff on your desktop or on your phone, your suspicions have just been justified:

This would be amusing if (1) Oldsmobile still existed and (2) they were still building Vista Cruiser wagons.

Now: is this a reflection of how the actual hardware works, or did this guy format that USB stick on a Vista machine back in the Pleistocene era?

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Somewhere between Bel Air and Fairlane

One day in the early 1990s, I was standing in a shopping-mall parking lot, failing to get Deirdre, my ’84 Mercury Cougar, started. As I glared at the vast underhood space only marginally filled by the crummy Ford Essex V6 of the era — “central fuel injection” (meaning they stuck a single injector in the same old carburetor-era intake) and a pathetic 120 hp — a couple of Chevrolet fans yelled a few mocking phrases at me. I shrugged and went back to persuading Deirdre to stir, which she eventually did.

So I’m at least somewhat sensitive to this issue:

As a child, I was told that it was impolite to mention religion or politics at the dinner table, because such discussions tended to elicit irreconcilable differences between guests who would otherwise be perfectly compatible. Many years later, as an itinerant observer of the Midwestern street racing scene, I learned that there was a dinner topic that combined the worst aspects of religiosity and partisanship in its prospective combatants, and that topic was known to all and sundry as “Ford vs. Chevy.” It’s the third rail of car-guy discourse, and you’ll touch it at your peril. People take this stuff seriously; the bowtie and the blue oval were common tattoos back in the days before every size-12 Millennial female womens-studies graduate and her bewildered, low-testosterone life partner routinely got full ink sleeves as a way to ensure that they were exactly as different as everyone else.

Did you ever notice that all those non-conformists look alike?

For what it’s worth, while I was married, we bought one car: a Chevrolet. Once we split up, she became an ardent Ford fan. (Drives a Five Hundred these days.) Me, I’m in some overwrought Nissan. And for the benefit of any Coke vs. Pepsi warriors: I have five liters (about 302 cubic inches) of Royal Crown Cola in the fridge.

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Flexless

I once described a zoning ordinance in Tulsa as “a plastic latch: it’s there, and it makes a satisfying click sound, but sooner or later you know it’s going to break.”

Nine years later, the plastic latch that opens and closes the sunglasses case on Gwendolyn’s headliner broke. It wasn’t fixable, of course, but amazingly, the entire case was available through Nissan’s parts bazaar for under $100, though not much under $100. The whole thing is held down by two bolts, or at least two things that look like bolts, but which have wide, shallow heads turnable by no tool I own: I’d have to hope Bruce Banner was in a bad mood, and then borrow his Allen wrench. “Screw this,” said I, and had the dealer deal with it at the next oil change.

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Shifting alliances

Ezra Dyer reports on the 120th Anniversary of Car and Driver (July 2075):

What I didn’t see coming were the changes on the business side. When LamborJeepie merged with Yama-Tesla, we got the best of each company’s expertise: tractors, sports cars, energy drinks, Wranglers (the jeans), bazookas, pet food. I think they also produce Two and a Half Mole Men. Point is, you can’t just be a car company these days. Synergize, Diversify, Qualificate. The global economy goes nonstop, 23/7, and has ever since that mass Hellcat burnout altered the earth’s orbit and messed up the calendar.

Heck, even a mere three Hellcats can liquefy vast quantities of rubber in no time at all.

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Disclosure of the month

Bark M., reviewing the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for Jalopnik, admits to the following:

Full Disclosure: Hyundai provided me with airfare to Orange County, two nights at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, California, and more Pinot Noir than I would have previously considered possible to consume within 48 hours. I also took a bottle opener from the mini bar, which I assume somebody else ended up paying for.

Man, they’ll charge you (or someone) for even breathing into the mini bar.

(Via Bark’s older brother.)

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Dick comes first

This has been out for a month or so, and I’m surprised I didn’t catch it. In the June issue of Automobile, there’s a drive of the new Porsche Cayman GT4, and buried in the article is this paragraph:

Andreas Preuninger, who as head of Porsche’s GT division led development of the GT4, sums up the message conveyed by his latest brainchild: “To us, it simply is a highly desirable sports car. But don’t let this desirability make you think that every Dick, Tom and Harry can hop in and take it to the limit just like that.”

Huh? Usually Tom gets top billing.

And now it dawns on me why I didn’t notice this before: Preuninger works for Porsche, home of the ass-engined Nazi slot car, and getting things seemingly out of order is what they do best. Twisting around an old English idiom is nothing to these guys.

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The Sino-Swedish sedan

Remember when “Made in Japan” was synonymous with “complete and utter crap”? There are now people in these United States who bewail the loss of Japanese-sourced Camrys and Accords, which were supposedly “better” than the cars built by those same companies Stateside.

For a brief period after Japanese ascendancy, South Korean cars were dismissed as the worst kind of shoddily assembled crap. That doesn’t happen anymore: Daewoo has been subsumed by General Motors, Hyundai/Kia have proven themselves in the American market, and we simply haven’t heard from the rest.

So now it’s China’s night in the barrel, and the first circulation of the upcoming fecal cyclone is on the radar:

Volvo Car started exporting S60 sedans built in China to the United States last week as part of its plan to expand sales and market share globally.

The vehicles, which are produced at Volvo’s plant in the southwest China city of Chengdu, will be transported to Shanghai for shipment to the U.S.

The S60 will arrive at dealership showrooms in the United States in about two months, Volvo said. The company did not indicate how many vehicles it intends to export.

Volvo’s parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China, has been calling the shots for five years now, and this is not a new S60: it’s the same one Volvo has been building in Sweden, in Belgium, and even in Malaysia fercrissake. I suspect that none of Volvo’s American customers will notice the difference. Some of their avowed non-customers, however, are already up in arms at the announcement. An example:

When you have situations like with Takata, a company that’s from a culture where shipping crap-that-will-kill-people should be a problem, and it ends up happening anyway and is subsequently covered up, I’d be pretty leery of buying a product originating in a place where the existing corporate culture is absolutely renowned for viewing basic competence in construction as an afterthought. No matter how much Volvo tries to make sure it’s not a problem, I’m not quite ready to stake my family’s life on their having figured it out.

Takata, of course, is Japanese, so this translates to “If I can’t trust Japan, I sure as hell ain’t gonna trust China.” Not everyone, however, is quite so adamant:

There is nothing magical about Chinese assembly. Either it will be carefully managed and will work fine, or it will be sloppily managed and turn out a lot of defective products. We’ve seen plenty of examples of both in China, as well as in America (was a 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood a shining example of assembly quality?). Actually, I’d expect this first batch of Volvos to be impeccably assembled, because Volvo will have something to prove.

And at least it’s coming over under an established brand name. Geely hasn’t tried to sell any of its own designs in the States, and probably won’t for a while, although I suspect some hipper-than-thou Americans would queue up to buy London taxis — which vehicle Geely also owns. Then again, this incident alone could keep Geely-branded cars at bay for another couple of years at least.

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Q-ette

Gwendolyn went in for a spa day this week, and the dealership sent me off in a Q40, which nobody admits but everybody knows is the old G37 with a new badge. (I said something to this effect while signing out the car, and got a stare worthy of Fluttershy.) At least it’s familiar, always a useful trait in a borrowed car, and there’s a “3.7” emblem in front of the doors, just in case you didn’t catch on.

Then again, this wasn’t the stripper G they usually relegate to loaner duty: this one had the full nav package, which I looked at just long enough to realize that our street grid, or Nissan’s graphic representation of it anyway, appears to have been designed by Piet Mondrian on Quaaludes. Otherwise, it’s the same tried-and-true machine, which is undoubtedly why Infiniti kept it around even after its replacement, the Q50, was introduced: at under $40k, it’s a decent price leader.

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Cheesy suspension parts

Perhaps even dangerously cheesy:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How much deos it to fix a 2004 Nissan queso axle?

Truth be told, I would be surprised if the garage in fact has any cheese at all.

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Is this not what you asked for?

I mean, that’s what you said, isn’t it?

I swear, these boys are so damn finicky.

This generation of Hijet seems like a shrunken Toyota Previa: rear-wheel drive, engine somewhere in the middle. It could also be had as a panel van, a pickup truck, or as a bare chassis on which you’d install your own box.

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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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