Cocktail Chatter: March 1, 2013
What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. Since many of you, like us, have probably been putting in orders for Girl Scout cookies, we’re drinking something called the Dirty Girl Scout this week. It’s one shot of vodka, Kahlua, white crème de menthe, and baileys combined together over ice, and tastes just like a grown-up (read: alcoholic) thin mint.
A Face Only A Mother Could Love: Hours after last week’s Cocktail Chatter went live on our site, Jeep published the first formal images of the 2014 Cherokee, which will ultimately replace the outgoing Liberty. I didn’t have a single car-related conversation that weekend that didn’t hinge back to the new crossover, which wasn’t supposed to formally debut until the New York auto show in late March.
Most initial reactions started with a “What the…” and was followed between “that’s wild” and “that’s ugly.” I don’t blame the public for the initial recoil — this vehicle is a shocking departure from the Liberty. I had a chance to look at an early prototype in person back in December, and struggled to find words to describe it. In person, everything aft of the A-pillars isn’t bad, and is reminiscent of the larger 2014 Grand Cherokee. From the A-pillars forward…well, that might take some getting used to, as it’s unlike any Jeep we’ve seen to date. At the time, my best approximation was “a cross between a Compass and the Warthog assault vehicle from Halo.”
A Chrysler representative brought up the design at lunch the other day, suggesting it’s hard to “evolve” Jeep’s design language, which echoes Twitter cries from other Chrysler staffers that the Cherokee “shifts the paradigm” of Jeep’s design. I’m okay with that, I suppose, but the brand has done little to test the waters until this point. Look at Jeep’s recent concepts, like the Mighty FC, the J12/ NuKaizer. All essentially abide by the brand’s present design studio, or dip into the archives for a retro look that tugs at the heart strings. Even the 2008 Renegade concept, which suggested employing a car-based, electric-powered platform for a two-passenger, dune buggy-esque vehicle, still retained Jeep’s traditional face with seven-slot grille and round headlamps. Nothing exactly prepared us for something like this.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Texting Without Driving: A survey by Zipcar, which obviously has a vested interest in this topic, reveals that 65 percent of Millennials say going without their phone or computer would be a greater hardship than going without their car. The survey of 1015 adults aged 18 to 34 also found that 47 percent would rather “spend time with their friends online” than driving to meet them in real life. How times have changed: when I was in high school and college, we of course used cellphones and instant messaging to communicate, but the goal was usually to arrange a real-life get-together. If these survey results are accurate, I fear we’re losing a generation of potential car buyers and enthusiasts to the virtual world of smartphones and Facebook.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Stealth Shooters: High-speed chase sequences are often shot from helicopters, RC controlled drone type choppers, and heavily modified cars to catch the action, but not be seen in any of the action/reflections. Chase Car Inc. is probably one of the best outfitters and I love their latest: a Porsche Panamera Turbo!
Gym Buddies: Notable change of scenery at my gym. On occasion my workout times overlap with the one and only Bob Lutz. This week I noticed he is no longer driving his CTS-V Wagon, but a new ATS.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
The Edsel of Designers?: A friend at Ford Motor Company this week told me that Roy Brown has died. A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Brown was credited for the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept, which became the TV “Batman” car. Brown is best known as the chief designer of the 1958 and ’59 Edsel lineup. Ford didn’t sack Brown for creating an “Oldsmobile sucking a lemon,” to recall one of the kinder descriptions of his design. He was “exiled to Dagenham,” according to simoncars.co.uk, which credits him with the Ford Cortina Mark I and the Zephyr-Zodiac Mark III. He returned to the U.S. to design the Econoline van and a Thunderbird, according to the British site. Though Brown began his career working for Bill Mitchell (he worked on the stillborn 1941 LaSalle’s design), and though he sold original Edsel artwork at edsel.com late in life from his home in Brooklyn, Michigan, Brown never became a “name,” or celebrity designer. He doesn’t get blame for designing a car whose name became synonymous with epic failure, nor do enthusiasts whisper his name with Jim Clark’s when they see a green-on-white Lotus Cortina. That’s a good thing. FoMoCo had all but pulled the plug on Edsel before it launched in the fall of ’57, and anyway, no one designer ever deserves credit for any single car or truck, good or bad. I never met Brown, though he lived a long, and, I hope, a good life. He was 96.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
You’ll Have To Pay That Ticket Eventually: Some people just refuse to go down without a fight, even if it’s over unpaid traffic tickets. An Australian man was recently caught after falsely reporting that his car was stolen 21 times since 2000. Each time that he “found” the car after it had been “stolen,” it coincided with a traffic fine he received at the same time, probably claiming that the infraction occurred while the car was gone. And he would’ve gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling Australian courts.
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
Party Time: Every winter I take a pilgrimage to northern Michigan—”Up North”—for a guys’ weekend. I’ve driven some excellent large people haulers from Automobile Magazine‘s Four Seasons fleet, such as a Chrysler Town & Country, a GMC Acadia, and an Infiniti QX56. This year there was one obvious choice from our current fleet—the Infiniti JX35. It’s not as flashy or as powerful as the QX56 (let alone the BMW 650i xDrive convertible or the Audi R8 that I’ve piloted in the past, forsaking carpooling and road-trip camaraderie), but the JX definitely fit the bill for an all-wheel-drive, winter-tired vehicle with enough space for four people and lots of weekend gear, as well as a third row of seats available for short jaunts away from the weekend rental house. Prior to departure, however, I had no idea that the JX35′s underfloor storage compartment (approximately a two-foot-by-one-foot rectangle) was the ideal place to store a still-cooling breakfast casserole for the four-hour trek north without risking it being flattened by the assorted beer cases, poker-chip cases, duffel bags, boots, ice skates, hockey sticks, skis, and ski poles that also filled the Infiniti’s spacious cargo area. On a previous weekend, I learned that the same underfloor compartment can hold two growlers of beer. Somebody at Nissan knows how to party!
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Mo’ Nismo: Nissan will increase the visibility of its in-house tuner by adding more Nismo-badged models to its lineup. The Nismo 370Z will stick around, the slightly tweaked Nismo Juke just debuted at the Chicago auto show, and Nissan promises a more potent Nismo GT-R in the next twelve months. The automaker says it will debut about one new Nismo a year until 2017, so that leaves room for about three more cars and a lot of speculation. I don’t know what Nissan will Nismofy, but I do know what it should.
2015: Could Nismofy: 370Z Roadster – It’s the last sports car in Nissan’s range without Nismofication, so why not? Should Nismofy: Frontier — The Microraptor existed in the dinosaur world. The Nismo Frontier (AKA MicroRaptor) should exist in the automotive world.
2016: Could Nismofy: Sentra — The wussy, 130-hp mini-Altima could use a pinch of “SE-R” flavor. Should Nismofy: Leaf — Last year the EV completed the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak Hill Climb in less than 15 minutes. The Nismo production car needs an RC racer-like carbon-fiber body.
2017: Could Nismofy: Versa Note — It doesn’t make sense, it wouldn’t make sense, but it could happen. Should Nismofy: Quest — The Dodge Grand Caravan R/T will have enjoyed an unchallenged rule for far too long, and the Nismo Quest will rise up for battle. (Please note that both will be 7-passenger crossovers by now. Obviously.)
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
Shoot for the Moon: There has been a trend in recent months of used car listings getting a little spice. I think it started with a teal Pontiac Grand Am, but this expertly produced video for a 2004 Saturn Ion takes the cake. The car is currently up for sale in Dallas, Texas, and owner Brad Holt is asking $7500 for the car. Our colleagues at IntelliChoice say it’s worth closer to $6000, so Holt’s asking price might be a little steep.
Or is it? Holt’s ad has production values well beyond the average Craigslist ad or YouTube video. That’s because Holt has his own video production company that has worked for the likes of Speed, MTV, and The Food Network. He also has spunk – in an interview with Dallas’ D Magazine, he says that buying his old Saturn is “like owning a piece of HISTORY. Especially since Saturn the company actually IS history.” While I may not be in the market for a 2004 Ion, this kind of plucky fun takes the sting out of buying a used car, even if the price does include the cost of video production.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Road, Rage: When flipping through Michigan’s manual on driving, I found this wonderful passage: “When two or more lanes of traffic are moving in the same direction, passing other vehicles in either lane is allowed.” To the scores of Ann Arbor-area drivers who clog the left lane of Interstate 94 doing 71 mph (in a 70-mph zone) while the right lane is completely empty, please remember to check your passenger’s side wing mirror often—I intend to use this statute to its fullest (and safest) extent.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Popemo-benz: With the departure of Pope Benedict XVI this week from the Papal office—something that hasn’t happened in 600 years prior to death—there’s been a lot of talk about how life will change for the former pontiff. While there are a long list of things that he’ll have to relinquish now that he’s retired, including his robe, ring, red shoes, and twitter account, the most interesting thing, at least from a secular/automotive point of view, is the so-called Popemobile. Although numerous carmakers have built papal transportation over the years—mostly for visits to countries abroad—Mercedes-Benz has been the official automotive sponsor of the papal office since 1930. Here are some pictures of the original Popemobile—a Nürburg 460 powered by an inline eight-cylinder engine that had a total displacement of 4622 cc—and the current car—a heavily reinforced Mercedes-Benz M-Class with its own hydraulic lift and oxygen system, only presented to Pope Benedict XVI a couple months ago.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms
Only the Swiss: On Sunday, I’ll board a plane at Detroit Metro airport and fly to Europe for the Geneva Motor Show, my favorite show on the annual circuit. Geneva is the only show that’s held in a neutral country without its own automotive industry, so no single country dominates the proceedings, although it’s certainly Euro-centric. As I like to tell people, the Geneva show is the most civilized of them all, partly because the Swiss are so organized, partly because there’s an incredibly rich selection of high-end metal on the floor of the Palexpo exhibition center, and partly because of the dominant French culture, which means great food and hospitality wherever you turn. Stroll the streets of this lakeside city (or run along the lakeshore as I like to do), and you’ll see an incredible array of prestige cars, invariably sparkling clean, with hardly an SUV in sight.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Sick 6×6: Just as I think the G-Class couldn’t look any weirder than Mansory’s latest onslaught of aftermarket parts, Mercedes itself releases a 6×6 G63. That’s right, six driven wheels and two rear axles. There’s even a little cargo bed. I struggle to think of a situation that would leave a regular G63 stranded, but the 6×6 offers FIVE locking differentials. If you think it’s expensive now, wait until demand skyrockets after the Zombie Apocalypse.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Corvettes on Parade: We’re away to the Petersen Automotive museum in Los Angeles tomorrow for the big gala that celebrates the public debut of the car on the West Coast. On Saturday, you can show up and see a couple hundred Corvettes that have assembled for the occasion, then tour the museum and see the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Also on display will be: 1953 EX-122, the first Corvette shown to the public; 1956 SR2, the Sebring race car; 1959 Corvette Italia with Scaglietti bodywork; 1960 CERV I, the first mid-engine Corvette concept; 1964 Corvette Stingray built for the World’s Fair; a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, famous for its racing success; and a 1968 Corvette raced at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Watch the Lane: I just spent a week with a 2013 Honda Accord EX, and Honda LaneWatch is so good that it might make even L.A. drivers use their turn signals more often. When you engage the right-side indicator, the display screen in the instrument panel’s center stack gives you an 80-degree look down the side of your car into the blind spot. It also gives you three lines to estimate the distance between you and any car/truck/bicycle. LaneWatch’s camera doesn’t have the range of simple sensor-based go/no-go systems, but the visual image is really helpful. Of course, all you get on the left side is a funky Euro-style angled mirror surface, which is almost as good as the paste-on spot mirrors that you used to get from Pep Boys auto supply. I’ve given up hope that L.A. drivers will ever again turn their heads to check the blind spot before changing lanes, so this technology seems like a better deal to me than nothing at all.
Michael Jordan, Senior Editor