Archive for March, 2012
I love me some fast SUVs. Give me heaps of power to go with room and comfort for my family and their gear.
Of course, with many performance SUVs comes the potential for extremely high fuel consumption. Such is the price one must pay for having a stonking V8 engine under the hood.
I can only imagine the challenges facing the people who pick out interior trim for new cars. There’s cost, durability, and, of course, appearance issues—and probably a million other things to take into account, too. And don’t forget that what looks great to some people will look lousy to others.
At the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar introduced what Popular Mechanics called the company’s “first estate car in 90 years, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake.” Translating the Britishisms, that means that Jaguar is considering an XF station wagon. The term estate car conjures up an image of a wood-bodied wagon pulling up in front of a stately home. What is a Sportbrake?
As mentioned in Driven to Distraction: Part 1, the federal government has come out against distracted driving (DD) in general and texting from hand-held phones in particular. Not surprisingly, the Department of Transportation (DOT) seems on the verge of requiring automakers to install “anti-DD” systems that would disable certain phone functions once the vehicle is in motion. I’m not sure what they’re thinking of—perhaps some whizzer “damping field” a la Star Trek—but the technology is doubtless on somebody’s shelf. However, it’s odd that the DOT is okay with voice-activated devices, as various studies have found that drivers are more distracted by phone conversations than by chatting with people in the car—which must be discouraging for all those helpful live operators at OnStar.
With chatter about $5 gas by Memorial Day, maybe it’s time to buy a hybrid.
The question is, are any hybrids affordable?
Here’s the thing about most hybrids: Even though they get better gas mileage, you pay extra for the hybrid technology. Over the lifetime of the hybrid, you may or may not come out ahead financially. Manufacturers can’t do much about the high production cost of a hybrid powertrain, but what’s frustrating is that many hybrid vehicles are unnecessarily expensive.
Of the 28 available 2012 hybrids, three of them have supercharged hybrid engines. The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, and Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid—all priced north of $60,000—are designed more for performance than fuel economy. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid starts at $91,850, and the Infiniti M35h has a $53,700 price tag due largely to its robust 360-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The Lexus LS 600h L is the most expensive hybrid of all at $112,250. The 600h L driver’s only solace is that the car gets slightly better mileage—2 mpg—than the base LS. Woo-hoo!
I’m an absolute sucker for car chases, so of course I sat through all two hours of the season finale of the FOX TV series Alcatraz last night just so I could watch about two and a half minutes of the heavily hyped Mustang-on-Charger action. Ford and FOX teamed up to feature the freshly introduced 2013 Mustang GT in a new-age homage to the classic Steve McQueen chase in the 1968 movie Bullitt. (However, the official press releases and promo materials are careful to never actually mention Bullitt or Steve McQueen—licensing costs or something, I’d imagine. Ford must have already paid a pretty penny for such prominent product placement.)
Many of our editors are known for their pet peeves. Six-foot-six Damon Bell always complains about headroom (though now that he’s a new dad, he has added “degree of difficulty” for child-seat installation). Techno-geek Ed Piotrowski grouses about cumbersome cell-phone linking and Pandora access. Jack Stewart complains when a test car is so large that he has to move boxes of spare parts for his Jaguar E-Type (most of which contain triplicates of any component bearing the name “Lucas”) in order to fit the test car in his garage. Don Sikora II (affectionately known internally as “DS 2.0,” something he may just now be learning) consistently gets the best fuel economy of anyone on the staff and equally consistently gripes about it. Associate Publisher Tom Appel (think middle-aged middle linebacker—replete with shoulder pads) carps about elbowroom. And “Geezer C” (my rap name) famously complains about visibility.
It wasn’t the clear, simple message of this billboard that caught my eye. It was the fact that I spotted it while driving along the I-10 freeway in Phoenix, where the average annual snowfall is roughly zero inches.
If you are under 45 years of age, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never driven a new Datsun. The last Datsun-badged vehicles disappeared from showrooms some time in 1986. Datsun is back.
I just spent a few days commuting in an early-production version of the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser. Though freshened for ’13, the new “Landie” feels very much like the old truck, which is mostly a good thing.
One thing that carries over is a staggering base price, now $78,913. Toss in the few available options and you’re looking at $80,715.
For those unaware, Lexus hawks a version of this same truck. For less than $3,000 more, shoppers can step up to the LX 570, a vehicle with a good amount of chrome and a proper luxury badge—or at least the kind of badge you’d expect to see on an SUV closing in on $100,000.
For many people, stepping up to the LX is a no-brainer. In fact, in 2011, almost exactly twice as many buyers opted for the Lexus over the Toyota.
So, what of the 1,662 people who went with the Land Cruiser? Kudos to them, I say.
Why kudos? I think we can all agree that the magic “Three P” triumvirate of luxury-vehicle appeal is pretty straightforward: performance, poshness, and pomp—not necessarily in that order. Most successful luxury vehicles will satisfy, to some degree, those basic tenets.