Editorials – Automoblog.net http://www.automoblog.net We Talk Cars. Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:22:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://www.automoblog.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/automoblog-Twitter-profile-60x60.png Editorials – Automoblog.net http://www.automoblog.net 32 32 8746165 Letter From The UK: Influencing & The Art of Selling Cars http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/18/letter-from-the-uk-influencing-the-art-of-selling-cars/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/18/letter-from-the-uk-influencing-the-art-of-selling-cars/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:04:23 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=96222

Gather round and harken unto this tale of woe . . .

A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a brand new Audi A6 saloon to enjoy and discuss for seven days with a view to a review in due course. That’s what I do. That’s why car makers lend me cars; to promote their wares. It’s a win-win situation but it does cost the manufacturers a lot of money. Fortunately, being a small country, the cars can be same day delivered by road. It all adds up, one way and another, to around a thousand of our British Pounds to loan cars to tired old hacks like me.

So it doesn’t help when cars get damaged.

The Story of The A6

The sad story is that the A6 (pictured below) was parked (legally!) in the High Street of the attractive country town of Marlborough. While we were away a bizarre road traffic accident occurred and a vehicle broadsided the A6. When my wife and I came back to the car it was double-take time. This was not how we left it; surrounded by damaged motors, police, and an emergency ambulance.

The long and the short of it is that we were stranded. I phoned the Audi press officer and he sprang into action. Within a couple of hours, the stricken A6 had been lifted, the guilty party taken to the hospital, statements organised with the cops, and we were on our way home thanks to my son-in-law. Audi didn’t stop there though: That same afternoon a replacement car in the form of an A3 cabriolet was delivered to my house. How’s that for service? Insurance aside, how much money this must cost the company I shudder to think.

But I do wonder if this situation can continue for much longer and I blame YouTube.

The Audi A6 prior to the unfortunate accident. Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.

The Rise of The Influencer

It is indisputable that automotive media is changing. Later this year, this writer will be starting to video reviews and I have all the charisma of Elmer Fudd, but what can you do? It seems to me that “YouTuber” and “Influencer” are now proper jobs and the young bucks of motoring are taking advantage.

Mostly they are not trained in any way like we old magazine writers. The kit needed: cameras, a computer, even just a phone, plus a confident air are all that is required to make a low-rent car review.

In general, car manufacturers are very generous to motoring journalists and it is appreciated. We have access to press fleet cars and are invited to events and launches, all, or at least most, expenses paid. Recently, I was asked to attend, with VIP status, a prestigious motor racing event, for example. Very nice. Certainly the work can be demanding at times but you can’t fault the coffee and pastries upon arrival. How long now before this ends?

Car makers now invite these influencers to the same launches and events that the old-time hacks have been going to for decades. What has changed is the speed of production. What used to take maybe a month to get to print now can be online in glorious HD in just a matter of hours, as fresh as new paint. It is leading to tension. Old vs New. Changing Times. Sink or Swim.

Are Influencers Any Good?

Often, no. I have seen some truly terrible videos, purporting to be car reviews. I know how autos work; they clearly don’t. The trick seems to be to stand in a scenic place, the sun setting, pose, and talk a load of trendy nonsense. Self promotion as motoring journalism.

Conversely, there are some great new faces on YouTube promoting cars in a truly professional manner. Is it any wonder that car manufacturers like the idea. Firstly, the influencers come to them. They only need the car for a couple of hours or maybe a day. The effect is instant.

I do sometimes wonder who these online promotions are for though. Often times, young vibrant types are featured, frolicking, with little or no information about the car. Where is the sense in promoting a car to an audience who cannot afford to buy or lease it?

An example; I had the misfortune recently to witness a video of a young lad in skinny blue jeans and with very silly hair, speaking in a foreign language (in fact it was English, but not as we know it Jim) allegedly extolling the virtues of an F-Type Jaguar. I do not know any young people who could afford to buy this car. I can’t afford to buy this car. I do not know any older, financially viable people who would even watch this stuff; so who is it for?

Jaguar F-Type. Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.

Sign of The Times

The plain unvarnished truth is that car companies don’t care. They just want it out there and it is not unreasonable of them to want to do it as cost effectively as possible. Vlogging works, there is no question of that. Many car magazines of old have dispensed with the costs associated with paper and circulation and are now online. That’s how you are reading this; that’s if you’ve gotten this far.

Yet some magazines have healthy circulation. In the UK we have two weekly mags and several monthlies and they are doing alright. It’s my view that as things stand, there is space enough for both the old and new . . . for now.

Older people still like to know about the vehicles themselves. They love the smell of petrol in the morning. Youth though are more influenced by the eco-lobby to whom cars are the work of the Devil. It’s a fact that car ownership among the young folk of Britain is falling. Generally, the car industry is in a state of flux. They want to give the people what they want while at the same time giving governments and the green movement what they demand.

All I want is a beer, a V8, and an open road, but that’s just me. I wouldn’t want to influence you.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/18/letter-from-the-uk-influencing-the-art-of-selling-cars/feed/ 0 96222
New Dodge Durango Package Keeps Departed Era Alive http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/14/new-dodge-durango-package-keeps-departed-era-alive/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/14/new-dodge-durango-package-keeps-departed-era-alive/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 20:06:11 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=96075 The Dodge Durango is one of the most underrated SUVs of our time. I’ve said this before, but “grown ups” who still love performance or muscle cars will find the Durango satisfying to their appetites. The modern day Durango has plenty of room, comfort, and technology for the family, but lots of grunt under the hood. It’s so nicely balanced on the spectrum: there’s luxury and technology, but also aggressive styling and raw power. Lots of raw power. Lots.

House of Power

For example, the 2018 Durango SRT features a 392 (cubic inches) HEMI V8 with 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft. of torque. It hits 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds as certified by the National Hot Rod Association. Trips to the swimming pool, piano recital, and grocery store are now infinitely more exciting. The Dodge Durango laughs at the notion that family vehicles are boring vehicles. And Dodge is continuing to chuckle with the new Rallye Appearance Package for the 2018 Durango GT.

If this were any other SUV, a new appearance package might fly under the radar. New appearance packages sprout up like dandelions on a spring day, and understandably so since they do dress up a given vehicle nicely. Yet, for Dodge, announcements like this go just a bit farther, because they are the only automaker still carrying the muscle car torch. This was evidenced recently by the new Shakedown Package for the mighty Challenger, which gives the iconic car a Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner vibe.

The Dodge Shakedown Challenger mixes design cues from the past and present to create an original Mopar machine. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Light Em’ Up

Again, new packages like this are common, but for Dodge there is distinct purpose when they release one. It goes beyond trying to attract more people to the dealership, or to get the automotive press to talk about it, or to jazz up the front end so it looks pretty at the auto show. Yeah, it may well do all those things, but for Dodge it’s about adding one more layer as they stay true to the unembellished and fervent mantras that are the muscle car culture. The GT resides at the midpoint in the Durango lineup, but it’s no exception. It gets lit by that aforementioned torch just as the Challenger would.

“Many of our customers love the performance look of the Durango R/T and Durango SRT, but are happy with the award-winning Pentastar V6 engine’s 295 horsepower and the excellent fuel efficiency it delivers,” explained Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge/SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. “This new Durango GT Rallye Appearance Package gives those three-row SUV buyers the best of both worlds.”

The Durango GT’s new Rallye Appearance Package adds a performance-inspired hood with a cold air duct and two heat extractors. The front fascia and LED fog lamps have a look that mimics the R/T and SRT models, and it’s available with the popular Brass Monkey Wheels. That’s it. Simple. Simple but effective.

2018 Dodge Durango R/T (left) and 2018 Dodge Durango GT. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Performance & Technology

The Durango GT runs a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that generates 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque, mated to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic. When properly equipped, it can tow 6,200 lbs., a best-in-class figure according to Dodge. The Durango’s list of available features is nearly endless from Blu-ray and DVD players, to premium audio systems and navigation. Inside, driver’s have 85 cubic feet of cargo space and 50 different seating configurations at their disposal.

Pricing & Availability

The new Rallye Appearance Package for the Dodge Durango GT is $1,495 and is available now. If you add it to your Durango, do share a picture with us on Twitter.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

Photos & Source: FCA US LLC.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/14/new-dodge-durango-package-keeps-departed-era-alive/feed/ 0 96075
Letter From The UK: Days of Thunder Gone Forever http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/04/letter-from-the-uk-days-of-thunder-gone-forever/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/04/letter-from-the-uk-days-of-thunder-gone-forever/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 16:00:20 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=95769

If ever this writer needed a reason to move lock, stock, and barrel to the United States it is this: In Europe, very soon, the Subaru WRX STI will be no more. Thanks to the mealy-mouthed misery-mongers that dictate our European lives, the good old Scooby Doo (It’s a British thing. Cockney rhyming slang: Scooby Doo/Subaru) with its 2.5-liter boxer engine is finding it harder and harder to meet euro-emissions regulations in its current guise.

My all-time favorite car will no longer be imported here. It will, however, continue to be sold on your side of the pond so don’t be surprised if, like Eddie Murphy, I announce I am Coming To America.

I am bereft. I am so upset by this news that I have turned to poetry for solace and have written this Haiku:

Please stop all the clocks
My Scooby is gone baby, gone
Driving passion done

Never say that Automoblog doesn’t bring you true culture.

The Last Week

Over the years, your correspondent has driven all the versions of this iconic car, brought to the fore via the World Rally Championship in the hands of the late, great Colin McRae. Just recently, I spent a happy week with the last of this legendary line.

Much driving ensued. Vast quantities of fuel were consumed and many miles were covered in typically British weather. The main images show the actual vehicle after a run through some fast country roads (cover photo above and one below). This is a car that can leave you breathless. Not especially powerful, the (relative) lack of horsepower is made up for by a level of grip that laughs in the face of our muddy, broken roads and hairpin corners. I had a wonderful time but now that time has passed.

Soon, America, your time will come. I give you another year at best before you too say goodbye to this fabulous free-spirited samurai of the road. Then you’ll know how it feels to see the essence of automotive passion disappear like lifeblood sucked from the world by the authoritarian vampires of state, only to be replaced by some sterile substitute. True Blood for the road.

Subaru Viziv Concept. Photo: Subaru UK Ltd.

Will Lightning Strike Again?

No. Sorry to be so blunt but I can’t sugarcoat this. Subaru is offering up the Viziv, currently in concept form as an addition to the range and it, like all new vehicles from the Japanese company, will be based on the Subaru Global Platform. I have learned there may be a replacement for the WRX STI based possibly on this car or on the, in Europe at least, rather lacklustre Impreza hatchback.

Whatever comes next, the true horror will be under the hood. I can scarcely bring myself to write this without a wave of nausea sweeping over me, but whichever model is selected to provide the performance version it will be sure to have a smaller engine and could even be – a hybrid!  I know, I know. End of days.

Here’s the evidence: Chris Graham, Managing Director of Subaru UK said: “I’d never think it’s the final, final edition [of the WRX STI]. We don’t yet have any dates from Japan for a relaunch, but I think we could see it as a hybrid.”

And It Gets Worse

That same executive is on record as saying – the heretic – they may also be dropping the manual six-speed gearbox across the brand. All Subaru cars will be driven through an automatic, more than likely the current “Lineartronic” slush box because it is compatible with the “Eyesight” safety system but which, in my opinion, would be hopeless in a performance car. Perhaps this will not be so bad for you as it is for me, as I believe Americans are rumored not to like to drive stick.

No stranger to the thrills of driving, Automoblog feature columnist Geoff Maxted is confronting the end of an era – the loss of the Subaru WRX STI, or “Scooby.” The performance car, which will no longer be available in Europe, is Maxted’s most beloved. Photo: DriveWrite.

Days of Thunder

One of my great loves, on television and never witnessed live alas, is American NASCAR motor racing. We do not really have its like here and this is my point. The sight of hugely powerful, more or less recognisable vehicles thundering around an oval, fender to fender, is to this writer the essence of what we love about cars. No fancy fripperies, no over-regulation, just automotive power and driving skills. In a sense this is what the Subaru WRX STI means to me. Imagine how you would feel if NASCAR was suddenly banned or had the Nissan Leaf as the mandatory race car.

That’s what the loss of the Scooby means to me.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/04/letter-from-the-uk-days-of-thunder-gone-forever/feed/ 0 95769
2019 Mazda CX-3: Sign of The Times? http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/03/2019-mazda-cx-3-sign-of-the-times/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/03/2019-mazda-cx-3-sign-of-the-times/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 03:15:37 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=95712 Mazda recently introduced its updated CX-3 subcompact crossover before journalists at the New York International Auto Show. The CX-3 looks just like the other Mazda CXs, only squashed into a much smaller package. I’m not saying it’s a bad look or that the 2019 CX-3 doesn’t work, it’s just that you can only smush something down so far. Other than that, the new Mazda CX-3 will work out quite well in urban environments.

Minor Upgrades

And that – urban environments – is what this is all about. Although you could nominally take a Mazda CX-3 off-pavement, you wouldn’t confuse it for a Jeep. And besides, 90 percent of CX-3 owners would never do that in the first place. The new CX-3’s interior has undergone a significant revamp with the most notable new bit being the electronic parking brake. Yes, that gives you more room and allows for a significant increase in storage space, but gone will be the joys of handbrake turns in snowy parking lots. Full-leather seating surfaces are now available and redesigned seats provide drivers a more comfortable position.

The SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine is said to be smoother, more efficient, and more refined. Also reduced, according to Mazda, are noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics.

2019 Mazda CX-3 on display at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. Photo: Mazda North American Operations.

Reactive Vs. Proactive

And all this is well and true and fine and good, but it’s another example of how automakers are all SUVs, all the time these days. Car makers have clocked to the fact that people love SUVs, so be it. But car makers will try and do the strangest things to try and accommodate those perceived needs. Automakers are, by and large, reactive organisms. They see a trend and respond to it. It’s hard to think of the times car manufacturers have shifted audience desires in a given direction. The only two I can think of is the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler minivans (both of which were done at the behest of Lee Iacocca, curiously enough). The Mustang started the pony car wars, of which we are still enjoying the fruits of today, and the minivan created the, er, well, it created the minivan.

But so be it. Automakers see that most Americans want an SUV – or something that can be sold as an SUV or a crossover or an “Urban Activity Vehicle” or something else condescending – and come perdition or high water, they’re going to sell it to us. This isn’t a problem. SUVs aren’t like disco music, something that was forced on the people. No, we want our SUVs, and nine times out of ten, we want them for all the wrong reasons.

Fashion Sense

So Mazda will make us a CX-3. A vehicle with limited non-pavement functionality and too small to haul anything practical. And people will buy them, and most of those people will be happy, and who am I to say they are “wrong” in their purchasing choices. People, the same slice of the market, actually, were joyously happy with minivans. Until those same people realized that driving a minivan marked you as a “suburban parent, 2.6 children, dog (small – medium), loves: Local Sports Team.” And the most practical, get-the-job-done conveyance ever devised by 1980s era man had to go.

And I should say that I am not just picking on Mazda here. A number of automakers released new SUVs during the New York International Auto Show; Acura, Lexus, Lincoln, Hyundai, and Maserati among them. It’s all about what is fashionable. Fashion. That’s why people buy SUVs, ultimately. And if the 2019 Mazda CX-3 suits your style, then have at it. It’ll work.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 Mazda CX-3 Gallery

Photos & Source: Mazda North American Operations.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/04/03/2019-mazda-cx-3-sign-of-the-times/feed/ 0 95712
Maserati Levante Trofeo: Not Your “Normal” SUV. Not Even Close. http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/30/maserati-levante-trofeo-not-your-normal-suv-not-even-close/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/30/maserati-levante-trofeo-not-your-normal-suv-not-even-close/#respond Sat, 31 Mar 2018 00:18:47 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=95552 Although they are prime commodities and hot sellers, it’s sometimes easy to dismiss SUVs and crossovers as boring and mundane. Maserati is hoping – if you hold this view – you will reconsider upon meeting the new Levante Trofeo.

“It’s proof that when you play with the elements you end up in a storm,” explained Tim Kuniskis, Chief Executive Officer, Maserati. “In the case of the Trofeo, the engineers and designers in Modena knew the driveline parameters were more than able to cope with additional power, and they also knew that Maserati had access to the finest engines on earth.”

Granted, it’s highly subjective (and infinitely debatable) at which automaker actually has the finest engines, but I understand where the passion is coming from. In fact, the Ghibli is one of my favorite cars. I absolutely adore it. I actually love all Italian cars, Maserati no exception. When I see a Maserati I get excited and the Levante Trofeo gets me excited – not Ghibli excited, but excited. Does Maserati have the finest engines on the planet? I don’t know. Maybe. But they do have, in the Levante Trofeo, one of the most powerful engines in the Italian manufacturer’s history.

Power & Performance

What we are discussing is the Levante Trofeo’s 3.8-liter Twin Turbo plant, developed in tandem with the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive System. The new engine brings with it new hardware: crankcase, crankshaft assembly, oil pump, auxiliary belt, and wiring layout – all new and enhanced in the interest of performance. The turbo flow was increased, the cylinder heads redesigned, and the pistons and connecting rods strengthened to help achieve maximum power. Even the hood is new with special vents to increase cooling.

Add it all up and the Levante Trofeo hits 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of 186. Between 2,250 and 5,000 rpm, a healthy 538 lb-ft. of torque is available with a max horsepower of 590. And like all Maserati gasoline engines, this latest creation is assembled by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.

Photo: Maserati S.p.A.

Essential Foundations

The Levante Trofeo’s 50:50 weight balance, low center of gravity, and overall chassis design help handle the high power levels. The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension went through extensive tuning in the interest of keeping the vehicle balanced further. Maserati’s Integrated Vehicle Control system is included for the first time in a Levante to increase stability and performance.

Walk Around

It’s easy to see how the Trofeo sits at the top-of-the-line for the Levante. The font is fashioned with Full Matrix LED headlights, a unique grille with double vertical bars, and a lower honeycomb fascia. Moving to the side, the painted brake calipers (they come in multiple colors) and 22-inch wheels really stand out, and the “Saetta” Trofeo logos are a nice touch. The wheels, by the way, come in both polished and matte finishes. Your choice.

Maserati makes note of the side air intakes defined by “two aerodynamic wings” for a sense of “further stability.” In a similar fashion, the Trofeo is fitted with carbon fiber side bezel blades and a carbon fiber splitter.

The seats have a full-grain “Pieno Fiore” natural leather, available in black, red, and tan, all with contrast stitching and a “Trofeo” logo on the headrests. Pieno Fiore is renowned for its natural feel and soft character – it’s ideally suited for a vehicle of this class. Music lovers will appreciate the standard 1,280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system. I would recommend smooth jazz, but it’s your Levante, so it’s your pick on the music.

Photo: Maserati S.p.A.

Availability & In Person

Production begins this summer at Maserati’s plant in Mirafiori (Turin), Italy. The Levante Trofeo is initially intended for overseas export markets, including the United States and Canada. In the meantime, the Levante Trofeo Launch Edition can be seen at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

Photos & Source: Maserati S.p.A.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/30/maserati-levante-trofeo-not-your-normal-suv-not-even-close/feed/ 0 95552
Letter From The UK: The British Pothole Crisis http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/21/letter-from-the-uk-the-british-pothole-crisis/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/21/letter-from-the-uk-the-british-pothole-crisis/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 02:57:07 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=95066

As drivers we are admonished by our leaders to do better and be mindful of all the road safety rules and regulations. Commit a minor misdemeanour, however innocently or accidentally, and a camera has your number or a policeman pulls you over and your billfold is suddenly, painfully, lighter. That’s how it works here on the British Isles and I daresay it is the same in the USA.

Big Promises

Successive UK governments (motto: If you can’t fight, wear a big hat) have made road safety a top priority. This is as it should be but, like a boasting bully, they scarcely ever follow through when it comes to supporting the automotive infrastructure. In short, we are supposed to drive better but we have to do it on increasingly inferior roads.

In the UK, road maintenance is carried out by two different agencies. Local or regional town and country councils must maintain the minor roads and The Highways Agency must maintain the arterial routes, motorways, and expressways.

Friends, it just ain’t happening.

A Bit Of History

When cars were invented, it didn’t take long for governments to realise there was money in it for them. As vehicles improved the requirement of better roads became greater and it is the driver who paid. Our motoring taxes work like this: A substantial amount of the cost of a gallon of fuel is made up of not one, but two, taxes. When we buy a new car, part of the cost is tax. When we insure it there is tax to pay, and every year thereafter we have to pay another tax known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

The name changes from time to time but, historically, VED has always been known as “Road Tax.” The motorist who pays expects that money to be used to maintain the roads. These days, the government don’t see it that way and trouser the cash to spend on diversity training or lavish lunches in both our Houses of Parliament.

The result is that drivers pay more and get less. Sound familiar?

Pothole Crisis

The number one gripe among British drivers is the pothole. We have more holes in our roads than the moon has craters. Driving on the surface of the moon is a luxury we can only dream of. Thanks to literally decades of under-investment, some of our roads aren’t much better than Peruvian goat tracks. In fact, goats steer clear. The backlog of repairs runs into the many BILLIONS of our British Pounds and we have passed the point of no return.

Sure, the “authorities” will tell you that every year a couple of million potholes are repaired. This is largely true but it is money wasted because the repairs are often so inferior that as soon as there’s a frost or heavy rain, the repair material pops out again to form more dangerous gravel on the side of the road. Potholes are like those hardy weeds that grow in your yard; those things just keep on coming back.

The solution is clear to all except those who have their heads buried ostrich-like in the sand. Every year more and more cars appear on our roads. Wear and tear of surfaces is inevitable. This is why a full and comprehensive road programme is required. Instead of patching, remake. Instead of repairing, renew.

We, the motorists of Britain, are not holding our breath.

Winter conditions can have an adverse impact on a nation’s roadways. For example, in the State of Michigan, a significant portion of the MDOT’s annual maintenance budget is dedicated to pothole repair – over 8 million alone in fiscal year 2017. According to MDOT, potholes are caused when moisture seeps into the pavement, then freezes, expands and thaws, creating a gap in the pavement. Photo: Mircea Ploscar.

Road Casualties

This writer has no figures as to how many accidents are caused by potholes; that it happens though is certainly true. Potholes that are severe can at best blowout tires and at worst damage suspension. That’s an accident waiting to happen right there. The aftermath of road crashes costs the UK economy in excess of £15.6 billion every year. Where do you think that money could be better spent?

It doesn’t stop there. Our current driving test is, to be fair, pretty comprehensive, but more could be done. That we could help reduce new driver risk in the first six months of solo driving is a priority, and one of the aspects that pertains is pothole awareness. A new driver will not know what to expect when a wheel drops into a chasm until it’s too late.

And Finally

When a car is damaged by a pothole we may choose to claim it on our auto insurance. Insurers don’t like customers claiming; they take it personally. Thus some motorists accept the financial hit and pay up themselves, then try and claim back the money from the organisation responsible for the road maintenance.

It is possible; you can make a claim and win, but it’s a Stygian hell of malevolence that awaits. There is nothing more labyrinthine and sloth-like than a local government department. Yet, how else can a taxpayer penalise the people he pays to do a job if not through litigation? Otherwise it’s all just highway robbery.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

Cover Photo: Jacob Ode.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/21/letter-from-the-uk-the-british-pothole-crisis/feed/ 0 95066
Range Rover SV Coupe: The Perfect Fit That’s Way Too Over The Top http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/19/range-rover-sv-coupe-the-perfect-fit-thats-way-too-over-the-top/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/19/range-rover-sv-coupe-the-perfect-fit-thats-way-too-over-the-top/#respond Mon, 19 Mar 2018 23:24:31 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=94942 Range Rover has just released their latest model, the SV Coupe. Yes, indeed it is a coupe version of their full-size luxury SUV. My first thought was, “why on Earth would anyone make a two-door version of an SUV?” And then of course I realized the all-too-obvious answer: Money. If Range Rover went to all this trouble to make it, they must know there’s enough people out there willing to buy it.

Perfect Fit

In a lot of ways, a Range Rover is the Perfect SUV. Since 99.9% of SUV buyers will never take theirs off-road, and since they are mainly used as a way to convince others of their superiority when compared to all other mobility options, what better vehicle choice than a full-zoot Range Rover? Sure, you could go with that Bentley thing, but isn’t that a little on the ostentatious side, old sport? The new Lamborghini what-zit? Come-come now. That’s an Italian car. No, the Range Rover is it.

Range Rover SV Coupe (European Model). Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.

Extensive & Personalized

And sure, you do get a lot, even with this demonstrably lame Range Rover SV Coupe. For one thing, it’s a limited-run piece. They are only making about a thousand of them. And, it’s a two-door, indeed the world’s first full-size luxury SUV Coupe. And since it’s a Rangey, and limited in numbers, they thoroughly went over all the appointments one will find within. Range Rover says there are “beautifully curated interiors” that “set new standards for materials and craftsmanship, with extensive personalization options for SV Coupe clients.” Curated. They really used that word.

Interior Treatments

The whole interior design option palette is right out of a Savile Row tailor. SV Coupe buyers (Range Rover refers to them as “clients” obviously since “buyer” is so nouveau riche and low class) can choose from any of four front-to-rear contrast interior selections. Rover (can I just use the single name?) calls them “colorways,” and I have no idea why. If the front-to-rear fade is a little too avant garde for you sir, there is also a range of single-tone interior colors from which to choose.

Of course, whichever you choose, they will be complemented by your choice of three elegant wood veneers, including a first for Range Rover, the Nautica veneer. Nautica veneer seeks to sensitively balance heritage and craftsmanship with new technology by fusing walnut and sycamore together. Obviously, this Nautica stuff might be too much for some buyers. Best to play it safe.

And if the interior is that dolled up, you can rest assured the exterior is just as affected. There are new optional exterior paint finishes named Liquesence (no, really) that join the “suite” (ugh) of available paint options. And yes, the paint names are as equally conceited and senseless: Constellation, Parallax, and Obsidian, along with Ethereal, Flux, Valloire, and Desire.

Power & Performance

On the upside of the balance sheet we find the engine. The SV Coupe is the fastest-ever, full-size Range Rover, so there’s that. This brick on wheels tops out at 165 mph, which is impressive given its shape. That top speed comes by way of a lovingly overpowered V8 plant: 557 horsepower worth of a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 powertrain lies beneath the big flat-ish hood. And that is, in case you’re wondering, the most powerful engine currently offered on the full-size Range Rover.

So you can blow your own horn about that tidbit too. This means the SV Coupe can hasten from zero to 60 mph in a scant five seconds. Pretty good for a truck that tips the scales at slightly more than the HMS Ark Royal.

Interesting References

And here’s an odd bit that jumped out at me from the company’s press release: “Noble Chrome metal side vents with Brunel Metallic mesh and Satin Indus Silver metal surrounds complement frameless doors with Power Close functionality and Bright Chrome embellished body color door handles.”

Brunel Metallic mesh? Is that a reference to Isambard Kingdom Brunel? They make no mention as to why they call some of the brightwork that, but it is a nice flourish and it’s probably a reference to one of the most interesting and oddest people England produced in the 19th century. And yeah, I’m including Jack The Ripper in that list.

Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.

Pricing & Availability

The SV Coupe will be hand-built at Range Rover’s SVO Technical Center in Warwickshire, UK, their in-house custom department. There will be no more than 999 examples available worldwide and they will start at $295,000 in the United States. $295,000! Cor’ Blimey!!

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Jaguar Land Rover.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/19/range-rover-sv-coupe-the-perfect-fit-thats-way-too-over-the-top/feed/ 0 94942
The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Has History But Is The C37 Enough? http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/17/the-alfa-romeo-sauber-f1-team-has-history-but-is-the-c37-enough/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/17/the-alfa-romeo-sauber-f1-team-has-history-but-is-the-c37-enough/#respond Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:00:22 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=94924 Our hopes are beautiful, our realities might be less so. Here it is, the Alfa Romeo Sauber C37 grand prix racer for the upcoming season. The attention to aero detail is self-evident throughout the car, the hybrid powerplant is the latest spec Ferrari, and the drivers are young and hungry with something to prove.

Hard Truths

Look: Everybody wants to win, and especially at this level of competition, but desire does not equal results. So it’s best to get the hard realities out of the way right up front: Sauber is not going to win this year. And they most likely won’t win next year. As good as the organization is (and it is very good) they are in the sharpest of sharp ends of competition. The difference between the front row of the grid and the back can be less than two seconds. And when that’s the fine gradations you’re trying to work your way through, the struggle is fierce.

Best of the Best

The team, based in beautiful Hinwil, Switzerland, has all the right ingredients. They have one of the best wind tunnels in the world. And I don’t mean in the racing world, I mean in the entire world. It’s a full-on rolling road, with a movable wall setup and a test area big enough to fit two full size race cars, side by side or line astern. They have a computer rendering farm for running CFD calculations the size of something from the Pixar studios. The team is run by a squad of Swiss/French technocrats that should be monitoring anonymous crypto-banking concerns and/or working on Exocet missiles. And, as anyone with eyes can see, they now have sponsorship, with glorious branding, from Alfa-Romeo.

At the moment, this is not a full, factory-backed deal from Alfa, just a branding and marketing arrangement, but if things pick up, there’s no real reason to prevent Alfa from plunging more deeply into F1.

The Alfa Romeo P2 Gran Premio lead the team to the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Returning Legacy

This comeback restores the name of Alfa Romeo to the top of the racing world. And, although they haven’t been a force in top-line racing recently, you don’t have to be much of a historian to know they have a top-flight resume. Featured on the engine cover of the Sauber C37 is the Quadrifoglio, the legendary badge that has appeared on Alfa Romeo’s top performance cars since 1923. The four leaf clover is to Alfas what that prancing horse on a yellow shield is to Ferrari: This is the car that means business. Ever since Ugo Sivocci (one of my favorite Ugos) won the Targa Florio in 1923 with a Quadrifoglio on the hood of his Alfa Romeo RL, good luck has followed Alfas.

Lucky Charm

The symbol was on Brilli Peri’s “P2” when he triumphed in the first “Motor Racing World Championship” at Monza in 1925, gaining the first of Alfa Rome’s five World Titles, and garnering the Turin company its first, and most lasting nickname: “Il Primo Automobili Campione del Mundo” or “First Automobile Champion Of The World.” Ever since, Alfa has made its marque with some of the greatest drivers in all of history. Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio, Piero Taruffi, Luigi Fagioli, Mario Andretti, Louis Chiron, Antonio Ascari, Alberto Ascari, Achille Varzi, Nino Vaccarella, and of course, the greatest of all time Tazio Nuvolari.

Alfa Romeo has an incredible credence of history behind it, and now all that weight is focused on Sauber for 2018.

“Our target ahead of 2018 is clear: We have to catch up with the field and to continue improving our performance during the course of the season. We have put lots of energy and commitment into the development of the C37,” explained Frédéric Vasseur, Sauber Team Principal. “The return of Alfa Romeo to Formula 1 sets another milestone in the team’s history, and I am proud that such a historical brand has chosen us for their return to the sport. We are eager to start the 2018 season as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.”

That is, of course, saying a lot, demanding a lot, and expecting a lot.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team pilots Charles Leclerc (left) and Marcus Ericsson. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Eye Sores

The C37, of course, looks different to last year’s C36. There were whole rafts of new technical regulations that have now affected all the cars in ways big and small. The most obvious is that repugnant halo safety structure that surrounds the cockpit. Everybody has to use it, so everybody has to suffer the aesthetic malady of driving or watching a car that looks like it has part of a colossal flip-flop attached to it.

Racing In Red

The less obvious, more subtle changes are aerodynamic-related. Check out the engine air inlet details: scoops within scoops within scoops. The tail is tightly tucked-in and the rear wing end-plates look like cheese graters designed by a psychopath. The specificity on the front wing and barge-boards is equally Baroque.

And now all of this is put in the hands of the young, up-and-coming Charles Leclerc and the journeyman racer Marcus Ericsson, and painted a glorious deep red and bright white. It could use more red. But that’s just me.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/17/the-alfa-romeo-sauber-f1-team-has-history-but-is-the-c37-enough/feed/ 0 94924
Letter From The UK: Do We Even Need Our Cars? http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/07/letter-from-the-uk-do-we-even-need-our-cars/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/07/letter-from-the-uk-do-we-even-need-our-cars/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 14:07:53 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=94174

Great Britain is a small country. In area it is smaller than some of the individual United States. Unlike the vast America continent, it is pretty straightforward to get around and, in the past, we have gloried in a transport system that could get you anywhere you wanted to go.

Public Transport In The UK

What did the ancient Romans do for us? Well, for a start, they developed a network of cobbled roads that criss-crossed the country. Even today we use those same roads except that now they exist as usually two-lane blacktops. Over the centuries we built on that.

Unlike America, where the establishment of the first transcontinental railway was a brave and complex engineering marvel, the UK, upon the invention of the railway engine, quickly established a rail network that went everywhere. No town was too small not to have a branch line and a bus service. As the Victorians of the 19th century built and established roads, and subsequently developed the vehicles to use them, we luxuriated in a State-owned public transport system that was second to none.

And in typical British fashion we proceeded to ruin it.

Us Versus Them

The 20th century brought with it a mighty rise in power of the various Trade Unions, and workers demanded more and more rights and money. Standing against them was a management class steeped in Victorian values: The result was a stalemate and decades of industrial strike action from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. We, the travellers, got used to it and carried on.

Because of this, the public transport infrastructure went rapidly downhill thanks to a combination of inept bosses, antiquated buses and rolling stock, dirty stations and terminals, and staff who could not give a damn. Like a man who is given a gun but has no idea how to use it, we shot ourselves in the foot. Repeatedly.

Then along came The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, more than 6,800 organizations provide public transportation in the United States. In 2016, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on average. Research shows public transportation saves the U.S. 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.


Our Prime Minister in the 1980’s decided what was needed was for the transport services to be sold off to the highest bidders. It would, she declared, encourage competition and thus cheaper prices. That didn’t work either. As soon as private money got their greedy mitts on the system, unprofitable rail lines and bus services were axed and the prices went up. Now we have a transport system targetted at working commuters, albeit with the latest vehicles, that many people simply cannot afford to use or cannot access because they live in the country or outlying areas.

What we needed was . . .

The Motor Car

We have a thriving car industry that spans the globe. No matter that Britain’s antiquated road system is riddled with potholes and in desperate need of investment, we still prefer to travel by car. The convenience of the automobile is unquestioned. Door-to-door; it doesn’t get any better than that. Cars are safer and more economical than ever. That’s a fact; but there’s a downside.

They are subject to taxation when we buy them, when we put them on the road, when we fill them with fuel, and when we insure them. The motorist is the UK government’s cash cow. Running a car today is a very expensive business here in broken Britain and by-and-large it has to be questioned whether we need the things at all. This writer loves to drive but it would be nice to be transported once in a while, especially when I see trains flash by as I sit in yet another traffic jam.

Certainly, people, the young especially, living in urban areas, are foreswearing the auto in favour of public transport. In and around our towns and cities, public transport is plentiful and, although quite pricey, is still cheaper than car ownership, backed up by services from Uber and the like. I can see their point.

Uber passengers share a ride in India. Photo: Uber

Crossing The Country

The trouble is, I like to travel around and see new places. I once did an experiment. I calculated the cost and logistics of travelling between two places three hundred miles apart. Even pre-booking tickets for my wife and myself well in advance, the trip would have cost me three times the fuel and ancillary expenses had we travelled in our car. The car goes from door-to-door, public transport would have involved three train changes and a bus trip in both directions.

I think I’ve just answered my own question.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/03/07/letter-from-the-uk-do-we-even-need-our-cars/feed/ 0 94174
Letter From The UK: Brexit Britain: Is The Dust Settling? http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/21/letter-from-the-uk-brexit-britain-is-the-dust-settling/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/21/letter-from-the-uk-brexit-britain-is-the-dust-settling/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 23:00:53 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=93512

When you look at British politics, or indeed politics almost anywhere in the world, you can see division through adherence to outmoded ideology, and petulant antagonistic disagreement on how to achieve exactly the same ends. All countries want the same thing: they want to be successful economically, safe, secure, and at peace. Who can possibly have a problem with that? Politicians, that’s who.

Brexit Disagreement

For months now, the deal for Britain’s exit from the European Union has seemed to be in a state of limbo. Like swans swimming, everything appears calm on the surface but under the water there is furious paddling.

Now, the European Union is run on a day-to-day basis by unelected bureaucrats. They are a pretty obnoxious bunch and the most odious of all is their chief negotiator in the Brexit talks, a certain Michel Barnier. In a speech the other week, he laid down some extra penalty clauses targeted at the so-called “transition” period when Britain leaves the Union. This caused a major argument. The good news is that he overstepped the mark and was slapped down by senior politicians from various countries.

This brief fracas could be the single one thing that changes everything because, essentially, both sides ultimately want the same thing.

Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union. Photo: DG EMPL.

Visit To Germany

The economic powerhouse that is the German nation is at the heart of the EU and its Chancellor, the formidable Angela Merkel, has always wanted to be the boss of us all, hence her enthusiasm for the Union. That said, her own dissatisfied countrymen gave her a bit of a kicking at their recent elections, and she is now clinging onto power by means of a coalition with another political party that she otherwise despises.

Meanwhile, enter – stage left – the British Prime Minister, the conflicted Theresa May, whose “wait-and-see” attitude to Brexit has infuriated everyone. She too has finally seen fit to shape up before she is booted out and arrived for a meeting with Frau Merkel, where we saw, for the first time, a softening of European attitudes. This is because something that we ordinary folk have always known has suddenly appeared to dawn on both official sides of the Brexit negotiations: economic success cuts both ways.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May. Photo: Policy Exchange.

Importance of The German Car Industry

If Germany herself is the most successful powerhouse of the European continent, so the German car industry is the single most important component of that success. Look at the list: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche. Impressive huh? These are some of the biggest, most successful car makers in the world and they are not happy.

All the talk so far has been about how badly the UK will fare when we leave the Union, especially if there is a failure to agree on trading terms (or a “hard” Brexit as it is being called). What the EU negotiators failed to realise when they played hardball at the negotiating table is that trade is a two-way street. The German car industry will suffer hugely in terms of exports. There is already talk of job losses and a slow down in production because those brands sell so well in Great Britain. Also, around a fifth of all componentry used in German car construction is made in the UK. In short, if we have to suffer the consequences of a failure to agree, so will they.

At the aforementioned meeting, Angela Merkel was thus much more conciliatory. I would suggest that behind this sudden softening of attitude are some strong words from high-ranking car industry bigwigs. Sort it out, in other words. The time for silly political wrangling and dogmatic posturing has passed. Politicians know that economics is all, and that is what ultimately will drive a mutually beneficial Brexit.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

Theresa May photo via Policy Exchange.

Michel Barnier photo via DG EMPL.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/21/letter-from-the-uk-brexit-britain-is-the-dust-settling/feed/ 0 93512
Letter From The UK: Travelling In Great Britain http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/07/letter-from-the-uk-travelling-in-great-britain/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/07/letter-from-the-uk-travelling-in-great-britain/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:30:46 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=92797

One of the few benefits of living in the UK is that, being a relatively small island nation, nothing is that far away. At a push, a healthy alert driver could go end to end in well under twenty-four hours. This means our diverse and varied countryside, regions, historic towns, and teeming cities are pretty much accessible to all. If you like to travel and see places and things, then it’s all here in a neat package tied up with string.

God’s Country

The UK contrasts hugely with the USA. This writer is regularly astonished by the sights and sounds of inland America. Watching news or movies and seeing empty highways winding through deep, dark forests or running straight as an arrow across wide open plains is awesome. We, with our tiny lanes and byways, can barely comprehend the sheer vastness of the American continent.

We hear tales of American families who drive many, many miles just to get to a McDonald’s. I can walk to mine. Also a Costa, a Burger King, and an Asda/Walmart. That’s the difference between our two nations; but one thing that we can certainly agree on is that it is always best to go on our travels in a good car. For me that means Subaru.

Fear Of European Travel?

As you’ve read often in my Letters, the UK is leaving the European Union and it is all getting very fractious and, frankly, a bit stupid. One alleged “expert” says that we Brits are these days choosing to take our vacations (or “staycations” as they insist on calling them) in the UK because we fear the consequences of Brexit when it comes to visiting Europe.

This is of course arrant nonsense and demonstrates quite clearly how people will say anything to cause division and fear over what is essentially merely a political mess much like the USA is currently experiencing. Politicians eh? Can’t live with them; can’t put them all on a one-way rocket to Mars.

History shows that – Shock! – well before the EU existed, Britons took holidays in Europe. How can it be any different? This is what happens when the lunatics take over the asylum. How happy we would be if politicians and their mouthpieces just left us all alone.

Automoblog Feature Columnist Geoff Maxted on a scenic drive through the British countryside. Those in the United States should consider traveling abroad more often. A May 2017 study by NBC News found that traveling abroad can enhance creativity and lower the risk of depression. Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.

To Cornwall In An Outback

But enough of all this grumbling; let’s go on a road trip.

Cornwall is the nearest British county to America. Stand on the lofty mainland eminence of Land’s End and the next stop is the USA. Like many regions, Cornwall has its own identity. It even has its own language that just a few years ago was remembered and spoken by just a few, but is now being learned and spoken by new generations. There is even a band of enthusiasts working for an independent Cornwall. This would be like Florida ceding from the Union.

It is a beautiful county with mixed countryside from the lush green of the South to the rugged moorlands of the North. Surfing is a way of life with Fistral beach at Newquay being the centre of the universe as far as UK surfers are concerned. The Outback below is pictured there.

As an example of UK travel, from my home I can reach Cornwall in under three hours yet the weather is generally milder, and the renowned light beloved of artists and photographers alike is clear and bright, like a child’s eyes. It is a place to relax and unwind; I know, I used to live there.

About The Outback

Subaru offers a small range of cars and I like all of them. The Outback as driven here has a punchy and strong 2.5-liter flat-four “Boxer” petrol engine. It’s a big and roomy four-wheel drive car and very comfortable on the road. It eats long distances, driving through a “Lineartronic” CVT gearbox with ideal ratios for big journeys.

Our car was fitted with Subaru’s Eyesight safety technology and let me tell you it works! We have our fair share of idiots on the road too. The car has all the latest safety technology and all the usual infotainment suspects but, unlike some manufacturers, Subaru does not make a big deal out of it. The dashboard is plain, almost austere, but the seats are big and there’s plenty of family space. This car is all about the business of driving and travelling backed up by Subaru’s legendary symmetrical four-wheel drive.

Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.

In Padstow

And talking of legends: The scenic coastal town of Padstow, nestling on the banks of the River Camel tidal estuary, is the base for the now global enterprise that is Chef Rick Stein. This is the place he established his first restaurant, still thriving, and where his quayside premises serve that most traditional of British meals, fish and chips.

Often embellished with brown vinegar and salt (honest, it works) this is the traditional British take away meal. When push comes to shove you can keep your oriental cuisine or meat patties in a bun and feed me this. Armies march on this stuff and Rick Stein’s is just about as good as it gets.

So remember: The UK is still worth a visit but instead of going to our capital city London, currently run by a buffoon and where you will pay a king’s ransom for a hotel room, why not instead tour around the country. Car hire is reasonably inexpensive and, getting back to my original point, nowhere is very far away. When all is said and done and despite the best efforts of successive governments, the UK remains a great country. Best seen from a Subaru.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.

From NBC News: 5 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Traveling Abroad.

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/02/07/letter-from-the-uk-travelling-in-great-britain/feed/ 0 92797
Letter From The UK: Winning Over The Electric Car Skeptics http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/24/letter-from-the-uk-winning-over-the-electric-car-skeptics/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/24/letter-from-the-uk-winning-over-the-electric-car-skeptics/#comments Wed, 24 Jan 2018 20:30:00 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=92347

The citizens of Great Britain are, to say the least, a skeptical lot. Tell them white is white and they will question how many shades of gray that includes. Tell them their borders are safe from invasion and watch the barricades appear in the streets like scenes from Les Miserables. Offer them a fair choice and they will ask what the catch is. Not that they’re all like that of course; some of them are true cynics.

Slow & Steady

Thus, when they are told electric vehicles are The New Big Automotive Thing, the best reaction you will get from them is “we’ll see,” possibly with an added snort of derision. In short, the take up of electric cars has been slow for all the reasons we now know, including range anxiety and the lack of fast-charging.

It is a fact, however, that the rate of purchase for electric cars is increasing, albeit slowly. Some of the cars are very good indeed and really quite fun, but unless your driving is confined to a local area or short journeys generally, they just don’t measure up. Under no circumstances will we Brits undertake a long trip and be content to sit in a car park for an hour or more just to get a battery boost.

Sales of EVs are not helped by the charging issue. They simply do not top up quickly enough even if you are lucky to find an unoccupied charger or one not broken down, and there’s a lot of those. This really is a scenario where the cart has been put before the horse and it has had a detrimental effect on sales, no matter how otherwise excellent the cars are.

Powering The Future

So that problem continues to be ongoing. It does appear there is a slow improvement although the vacillations of politicians continually hold the entrepreneurial go-getting spirit back. They want us in electric cars and then fail to aid the process. Where have we heard that before?

Fortunately, the automotive industry persists. 2018 is likely to bring many new automotive innovations to the fore along with some striking new electric and hybrid cars (thankfully, for the old school road warrior, also a couple of V8 road monsters like the new Bentley Bentayga V8. Boom! Get this dust in your batteries Mr. Electric).

At the recent global CES (Consumer Technology Association) conference, some technological advances were presented by car makers. Hyundai is introducing a fuel cell vehicle with autonomous features, for example, and Kia was featuring a new, all-electric concept that demonstrated the brand’s future. There is, however, one new development, years in the planning, that is likely to change the electric car market, and also possibly change the mind of UK car buyers, even cynics like me.

At CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hyundai revealed the Nexo, an entirely new fuel cell EV, complete with an array of advanced driver assistance systems to expand on for automated driving. Hyundai called it the “technological flagship” of their growing eco-vehicle portfolio. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

In-Wheel Power

Electric hub motors within the wheels are really here. It’s the coming thing and it seems rightly inevitable this is the way forward for pure electric drive. It is entirely true the concept is not new, but that it is now proven to work is the point. A British-based company (Hurrah! Ain’t dead yet World!) has spent the last eight years designing and developing a unique and very versatile in-wheel electric drive system for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric light-duty vehicles. The system can, they say, improve vehicle fuel economy, add torque, increase power, and improve the handling of both new and, crucially, existing vehicles. This indicates no absolute need to necessarily develop brand new models to fit the technology.

I’ll Let Jennifer Aniston Take Over (Joke for TV addicts)

Here’s the science bit: This fully-integrated, direct-drive solution combines in-wheel motors with an integrated inverter, control electronics, and software – no separate large, heavy, and costly inverter is required. Each motor fits easily in the unused space behind a conventional 18 to 24-inch wheel that can, cleverly, use the original equipment wheel bearing. The system, I have learned, reduces part count, complexity, and cost. There is no need to integrate traditional drivetrain components such as external gearing, transmissions, driveshafts, axles, and differentials.

The developer says each motor can produce 81kW, equivalent to 109 bhp, and thus presumably, a basic two-wheel-drive electric car could conceivably produce peak power of 218 bhp and a huge woosh of torque. Put that in your toy city car millennials!

But Does It really Work?

Yes, is the short answer. It has been tested successfully in a Volkswagen Golf although not without issues it has to be said. With the extra weight in the wheels, the vehicle’s drive dynamics change. To counter this, the suspension of the test car was tuned by an independent vehicle dynamics expert. This was shown to work and the additional unsprung weight was handled successfully. The test car was made to handle as well as a standard model. The effect on tire wear was not mentioned and I do wonder about that.

As with any automotive advance, I have doubts it will be plain sailing, but this does seem, to me, to be a worthwhile new development in the advancement of the electric car. The potential for simplified drivetrains and some real enthusiast levels of performance, with both two and four-wheel drive vehicles, is clear.

Sure, it’s expensive right now, but once rolling as it were, further development and economies of scale will solve that problem. With the much-vaunted advances from Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his henchmen at Tesla, and elsewhere in battery and charging technology, it may well mean the electric car will soon make sense for all drivers. If that’s the case you can count me in.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/24/letter-from-the-uk-winning-over-the-electric-car-skeptics/feed/ 1 92347
Letter From The UK: An Autonomous Fairy Story http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/10/letter-from-the-uk-an-autonomous-fairy-story/ http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/10/letter-from-the-uk-an-autonomous-fairy-story/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 13:39:43 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=91611

Between these very virtual pages you will find dissent. Some esteemed colleagues are looking toward a bright new autonomous future, forged in the white heat of automotive technology. Others, like road knights of old, prefer the six-speed stick shift on the floor and two human eyes on the road ahead. I am firmly in the old-school group. Fortunately, in this regard at least, I am a couple of thousand miles away from the heart of Automoblog and the futurists can’t get to me.

Survey Says

Right now the autonomous lobby has the floor. With all the recent announcements – including one every five minutes from Elon Musk (who I firmly believe is actually Ernst Stavro Blofeld in disguise) about the massive investments in driverless cars, it is nice to know there is one company that, in a way, sides with me. Mazda.

This is an auto outfit that plays by its own rules. They make some good cars and they don’t seem to be swayed by trends particularly. The Japanese car giant believes that driving is an ability people want to keep. As any gearhead will tell you, it is a skill that can be fun as well as functional, and many motorists don’t want to lose it and find themselves in a convoy of conveyances all chattering away to each other and getting nowhere fast.

A survey across the European Union commissioned by Mazda has shown quite clearly a very large majority of drivers still want to drive themselves, even with self-driving technology available. In fact, a scant 29 percent actively welcome the arrival of autonomous vehicles. This flies in the face of all that we are told. I’m not paranoid (although I am pretty sure they are on my case) but it indicates to me a sense that, in order to gain total control over the roads, governments would rather like us to believe that this technology will save us from ourselves.

Photo: Mazda North American Operations.

Safety First

Many think as I do that auto technology should act, at best, as an aid to safety, available when needed to avoid accidents but with the driver in control of the driving process. This keeps the exhilaration of the act and retains the freedom of the road. Much of this technology is already here and available on our cars anyway. Subaru’s “Eyesight” for example, is brilliant. Most of us have no objection to an extension of this if it saves lives. What gets to folk is the “hands off” approach we are being encouraged to accept. I truly doubt experienced drivers will readily relinquish control to this level.

One surprising aspect of the Mazda survey is how there is no evidence of greater support for self-driving cars in any younger age demographic across Europe generally. For research purposes, the age groups were split: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 to 44. No group stood out in favor, when it is usual for youth to be more readily accepting of new technology. What does that tell you? Driving is about much more than just getting from A to B. There is danger that simply going for a drive, like Frank Zappa cruising for burgers just for the hell of it, could become a forgotten pleasure.

Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

What Does The Future Portend?

Of course, I am maybe getting a little ahead of events. Although there is a powerfully global and by-and-large well-meaning lobby for the drive to driverless, it seems to me the reality of it is still a long way off. Sure, there are public road tests underway but I can’t see it coming to fruition in this decade. There are just too many variables on our roads, and the one thing autonomous technology does not have that we puny humans still possess is that sixth sense; that sixth sense that all is not well. Any practised driver will tell you this.

It is even possible to envisage a scenario whereby car manufacturers will quit the research while they’re ahead on the basis that, ultimately, it simply won’t be worth their while. Mazda clearly isn’t sure. I wonder.

In the official, authoritarian world that dislikes the idea of driving for pleasure and debases the role of the car in our family lives, the question has to be asked of autonomous, or indeed any other technology: just because they can, have they stopped to think whether they should?

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

http://www.automoblog.net/2018/01/10/letter-from-the-uk-an-autonomous-fairy-story/feed/ 0 91611
Separating From Social Media In 2018 http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/30/separating-social-media-2018/ http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/30/separating-social-media-2018/#respond Sat, 30 Dec 2017 19:26:24 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=90995 In the age of social media, more and more are posting about their travel adventures. Perhaps you have noticed this too? Or maybe you are among those posting about travel? A 2015 Adweek article by Kimberlee Morrison notes that 76 percent of users upload their vacation photos to social networks. Morrison also points out how those planning a vacation will often like or follow pages related to their upcoming travel.

Furloughs & Woes

A March 2017 Forbes feature by Jimmy Rohampton suggests Millennials look to social media to not only plan their vacation, but what to actually do when they arrive. Rohampton cites Morrison’s article, saying Millennials often dream about traveling while on social media. This could be looked at in two ways, the simplest being, as Rohampton mentions, that Millennials are not accustomed to living in a time without the internet. If they want to vacation, they use the internet to research popular spots, book flights, reserve hotel rooms, and so on.

The other side is as presented in the Ford 2018 Trends Report, where nearly half of the respondents between 18 and 29 say social media makes them doubt themselves. That finding appears under the report’s “Mending the Mind” category, which also reveals 65 percent of those 18 to 29 feel more stressed today than a year ago. Could the constant social media streams be a factor? And could that depression manifest itself through escape fantasies disguised as seemingly harmless travel plans?

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression globally. On average, more women are affected than men.

Proper Considerations

We look hard at Millennials here, but any generational cohort can fall into this; consider today’s travel postings on social media yesterday’s columns on the topic in the newspaper. As a Generation Xer, I can relate, although I tend to gravitate toward music to let my stress go, but things like this are relative. If I cranked up Lithium, Sirius XM 34, to show my rebellious nature, I’m hardly different than someone in the Swing Era who spent their evenings in the company of Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman. The thought of dancing to those loud orchestras in a fine suit with a beautiful dame!? Jackleg degenerates the whole of them!

But seriously, members of my generation are on social media too. And if Millennials are fantasizing about travel when using social media, than it’s likely other generational cohorts are too. Given that we know the link between social media and depression, are we surfing through, looking at photos of the beach and wishing that were somehow our own reality? Or photos of other people and wishing we were them? If the answer is yes, it might be time for a social media break in 2018 with, of all things, a vacation. A vacation from social media.

Generational Megaphones

My only personal social media presence is through Facebook. That is to say was through Facebook. Like many, I enjoyed keeping up with my my friends, seeing who was getting engaged, or who was expecting a child, or which car they were going to tinker with next. Through Facebook, I could keep with with them as they lived their lives.

Then the darker side.

As one photographer friend of mine puts it, everything bad in this world is given a microphone through social media. Don’t fit in at school and are different? Now the world is closing in, one heartless comment at a time. Struggling to make ends meet and fighting to stay afloat? One swipe down the news feed and it’s like everyone’s grass is infinitely greener, even if they overly polish that white picket fence to convince others it’s really white. Don’t subscribe to a certain religious, cultural, or political viewpoint? Well. Look out.

Historic Theaters & Shopping Bins

My breakup with social media has taken some time, admittedly. The wheels began turning in late 2016 when I attended a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. About halfway through Chris Janson’s set, I realized my face was buried in Snapchat the entire time. I was at the greatest venue in country music, but spending more time looking at my phone sending pictures than enjoying the concert. The thing is, most everyone else in there my age was doing the same thing. It was only the older country fans who were watching the stage, their hands devoid of any cellular device.

At that point in time, I was more concerned with what my friends thought of my stellar seats. I pictured telling my grandchildren one day, “I had the best seats in the house but didn’t really see Janson perform Buy Me A Boat or any other song.” When people asked me how the show went, I felt slightly wrong telling them it was awesome, since I spent half of it on Snapchat. Imagine telling those on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in 1969 their Bic lighters were about to be replaced by something called an Android. Imagine the responses you might get. “Here, watch Jefferson Airplane and Joe Cocker through this handheld screen.”

Another critical moment came on a recent “Christmas shopping date” that involved Meijer and Hot Wheels cars. Random, I know. You know you’re from Michigan when you take her to Meijer to look at Hot Wheels. The date was a blast and we ended up digging through a bin with hundreds of Hot Wheels inside. Literally hundreds. A treasure trove of goodness. People passed by with their carts, looking at us like we were crazy, but you haven’t seen anything until you see a Michigan girl dig through a bin of toy cars with nicely manicured nails.

We found a Corvette Z06, Pontiac Firebird, Ford Raptor, and a Dodge Charger. I posted a picture of our impressive horsepower finds on my Facebook page and almost immediately regretted it. Even though it was a run to Meijer, something us Michiganders do on the daily, a level of intimacy was lost. When we are tempted to broadcast everything on social media, it can leave few memories for ourselves.

Making The Cut

But Carl, you need social media to be successful and to network and to find jobs. No you don’t. People were successful long before the digital age. Entire industrial empires from Ford to Boeing to Standard Oil were built before computers. Automoblog, like many other publications, has the usual social media channels for marketing and promotion, but I do not run them. We have a dedicated staff member responsible for our social media. Despite holding a partnership here and our Detroit desk, I don’t know the password to our Instagram account. I don’t want to.

Here at home, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is the highest paid player in the National Football League and he has not a single social media account. Jennifer Lawrence, star of the popular Hunger Games series, tells People “if you ever see a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that says it’s me, it most certainly is not.” Actress Kate Winselt believes social media forces young women to mold themselves into something they are not so they will be accepted. Perhaps this is partly why the World Health Organization finds depression is more common in women?

What continues to alarm is how we may be looking through our feeds to escape our circumstances; that is worrisome. And like many others, I have fallen victim to that too. But not anymore. In 2018, my resolve is to not live through a social media lens. If I travel, I will focus simply on the beauty of the scenery rather than trying to upload photos of it. Sould I see a show, I will enjoy the music rather than a trying to post a quick video to my story. If I go on a date (let’s hope), I will have the freedom to enjoy that intimacy, without worrying how many “likes” I get.

“I like having privacy,” Stafford told ESPN Staff Writer Michael Rothstein in August. “I like having a personal life.”

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

Via Adweek: Social Media and Travel Go Hand in Hand.

Via Forbes: Does Social Media Make Millennials Want To Travel More?

Via ESPN: Meet the Matthew Stafford known only by his inner circle.

Via People: 15 Celebs Who Are Really, Really Not Into Social Media.

http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/30/separating-social-media-2018/feed/ 0 90995
2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon: The Miles Davis & Bob Marley Kind of Cool http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/29/2018-mercedes-amg-e63-s-wagon-the-miles-davis-bob-marley-kind-of-cool/ http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/29/2018-mercedes-amg-e63-s-wagon-the-miles-davis-bob-marley-kind-of-cool/#respond Fri, 29 Dec 2017 19:33:15 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=91095 You remember that guy in high school that somehow ended up with his grandparent’s station wagon? And how he would swear up and down that it was “cool.” And people would point and laugh, or perhaps his friends would try and point out that “wagons just aren’t cool, man.” There is no way a Chevy Impala wagon or Ford Country Squire, with those genuine plastic fake wood grain walnut veneer side panels, is Right or Cool. I mean, you could have Miles Davis driving one with Bob Marley sitting in the passenger seat rolling up spliffs the size of a dachshund puppy with Coltrane jamming on the megawatt stereo, and even that wouldn’t make a wagon cool.

Try as you might to fix it up – mags and tires, a loud exhaust, fiddling with the engine – Chevy Impala wagons or Ford Country Squires are never going to be as cool as the JV quarterback’s El Camino or the prom king’s Z28. But suppose they were? Suppose someone like, oh, Mercedes-Benz let their skunkworks crew at AMG loose on an E-Class wagon that a well-to-do Dortmund hausfrau would drive? Would that be cool? Let me just put it this way: It would be so cool, you could keep a side of beef in it for a week.

Hot V Power

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon is as practical as a wagon can be. Tons of modern connectivity and high-tech goodies, 35 cubic feet of trunk space in the way back, a 40:20:40 split rear seat, and a price tag of $106,950 (gasp!). But this thing could haul you and the fam on a Griswold-style vacation, so who cares? This thing can haul your butt from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and max out at 180 mph. The 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon can even lap the Nürburgring in 7:45.19

So bear with me as we put aside all that practicality, connectivity, comfort, convenience and such to dwell ‘neath the hood for a nice long while, and gaze lovingly at that monster of an engine. It’s a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo plant, with twin-scroll turbos nestled inside the V, known in Mercedes-Benz speak as “hot inside V.” Said mill puts out 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft. of torque. They say the “AMG V8 sound might not be family-friendly,” and all I could think was “in your family maybe.”

And the rest of the drivetrain is just as impressive.

Photo: MBUSA.

Traction Jackson

The engine is coupled to a AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed transmission, using a wet clutch in place of a torque converter; from there it’s the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system that puts power to der Bahn through all four tires. The 4MATIC+ system has fully-variable torque distribution between the front and rear axles. And, given the digital nannies between your right foot and the pavement, all you have to do is mash the loud pedal and this thing Goes with a capital “G” under all road conditions: dry, wet, or snow-covered. Mercedes-Benz says the transition from rear-wheel to all-wheel drive and back again is seamless. The front to rear split is controlled by an electromechanically regulated coupling, connecting the permanently-driven rear axle variably to the front axle, so you can go from traction-oriented all-wheel drive to pure rear-wheel drive.

Mercedes-Benz says without a hint of irony: “It is still possible to drift thanks to fully variable torque distribution.” Mercedes-Benz, the most buttoned-down and conservative of the automakers, from a country not exactly known for producing people like Flavor-Flav, makes a car that can drift on purpose. Indeed there is a Drift mode waiting for you at the touch of (several) buttons.

Photo: MBUSA.

Braking & Suspension Tech

The ride is governed by an all-new AMG multi-chamber air suspension, set up with continuously variable damping for remarkably high levels of camber stability and steering precision. The air spring stiffness can be adjusted over a wide range to improve comfort and handling, while reducing roll and pitching. Adaptive damping comes in three selectable modes: Comfort, Sport, and Sport+.

The rear differential is an electronically controlled limited-slip deal for more bite out of curves. You can also select from five AMG programs: Comfort, Sport, Sport +, RACE, and Individual to monkey with essential parameters like engine response, transmission, suspension, steering, stability control, and various all-wheel-drive settings.

Wanna stop? The 2018 Mercedes AMG E63 S Wagon whoas up with internally ventilated and perforated 15.4-inch compound front brake discs, with six-piston fixed calipers. The rear uses 14.2-inch discs and single-piston floating calipers. The AMG Carbon Ceramic Composite Braking System is optional and expensive, but it will stop you hard enough to detach a retina. In other words, it’s worth every penny.

Cool Factor

So is the Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S Wagon cool? You bet it’s cool, and no Miles Davis or Bob Marley with dachshund-puppy-sized spliffs needed. Plus, the interior looks like a Bond villain’s lair. I’ll still keep the Coltrane though.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format

Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S Wagon Gallery

Photos & Source: MBUSA.

http://www.automoblog.net/2017/12/29/2018-mercedes-amg-e63-s-wagon-the-miles-davis-bob-marley-kind-of-cool/feed/ 0 91095