Posts tagged “suv

Guilty Pleasure: Cadillac SRX

Until the CTS Coupe arrived a few years ago, Cadillac products from the late 70’s to present day carried little to no cache with most auto enthusiasts.

You don’t see anybody modifying Cateras, and there’s nothing collectable about an Escalade.

And yet their angular early 00’s crossover known as the SRX has caught my fancy and I dare to say I like it.

My interest was piqued when I realized they could be had with a lovely panoramic sunroof that is almost completely retractable.  With the glass in place, excellent interior lighting and ambiance is created.  But best of all, the window is so massive that once the glass is retracted you’ve effectively got yourself a targa top.

As long as you could resist installing a ski rack, you’d have yourself a very pleasant summer driving experience in this car.

I’m even feeling the styling just a little.  Angular, aggressive, albiet little… like a terrier with a mean streak.

I’m imagining one of these setup like an SRT Grand Cherokee; massive brakes and an even bigger engine roaring out of a center-exit exhaust.  Some ostentatious interior-stitching and it could be great fun to mix it up with Range Rovers other luxury barges peacocking in the drop-off area at ski resorts and beaches alike.

The new bodystyle is even sexier, and I imagine a lot more polished inside.

Maybe I’ll go ahead and pitch this idea to Cadillac and see if I can get my hands on a press loaner…


California To The Cactus Patch (ML Across America Stage 2)

Mercedes ML at Joshua Tree NP

Two nights in L.A. gave us enough time to see some old friends, get a few maps, and hit Sprinkles in 90210.  I also convinced Birdie to do my laundry- it was an easy sell when she realized the alternative was to be trapped in her SUV with my unlaundered ski socks for two weeks.

We made it out of la la land by mid-morning and rode through torrential, seat-heater blasting, latte-fogging-my-window, rain for a couple hours.

It cleared up by the time we hit the desert, and when signs for Joshua Tree National Park made themselves apparent we veered off the highway and headed into the bush.

I didn’t know anything about the ‘Tree, except that they go there in an Entourage episode and there’s a U2 album named after it.

Turns out “the Tree” is a hopelessly inadequate moniker… because of trees, there are a shitload.

The moment you pass into National Park land the scenery goes full Dr. Seuss.  The surface is a patchwork of coarse sand and rocks punctuated by monolithic heaps of smooth stones the size of our Mercedes.  And between those commanding bouldermounds are hundreds of strange little trees that bear resemblance to an inverted cross-section of a human lung.

Thanks to the brochure we acquired in exchange for paying the park’s road toll I was able to identify these as,

wait for it;

Joshua Trees.

Boom, box ticked.

These weird plants aren’t really trees- they’re Yucca Brevifolia, which is a derivative of agave (the stuff you get tequila from).  I’m guessing because they taste as gross as they look, the name “yucca” comes from the reaction of pioneers who tried to eat it.

You’re probably thinking; “Yucca Brevifolia has such a nice ring to it, why change the name to ‘Joshua Tree’”?

The answer to that is decidedly less exciting than I had hoped.  The Mormons, in their infinite desert-crossing wisdom, reckoned the weirdly shaped tree looked like the biblical figure Joshua with his arms outstretched in prayer.  Of course it does.

The only biblical figure I’d ever heard of is Jesus, so I’m gonna have to take the National Park Service’s word for that one.

Semantics aside the park really is spectacular, and even has a few 4WD-only routes for stalwart adventurers.  The ML did fine in loose sand and soldiered down miles of track without a complaint, even with the road tires it was wearing.  In fact, the ride was smooth enough for me to wolf the rest of our Sprinkles cupcake cache while at the helm.

Having popped out at the eastern end of the Tree, we linked up with US-10 again and dropped the hammer across the barren wasteland of southeastern California and western Arizona to the city of Mesa, AZ where my aunt and uncle were staying at their place.

Third night of travel and we had only made it one state over… but we hadn’t broken anything.  Chalk it up to good luck so far.


Sierra Nevada To La La Land (ML Across America Stage 1)

On March 15, 2012 the day had finally arrived for Birdie and I to pack up our rig and push off for Boston.  But since my co-driver had PSIA testing until late afternoon, I made the most of my last day in Mammoth Lakes by getting on the sauce and hitting the slopes.

Uh, not in that order of course.

My roommates and I had returned from the bar the night before and decided we needed to record a music video to a song our new roommate Eli had written.  By the time we were satisfied with a tenth take, the sun was starting to creep up and the lifts would be open in a little over three hours.

The decision to forgo sleep altogether was made when I realized Netflix had Hot Dog available for streaming- just what I needed to get amped for my day on the hill.

With daybreak officially in progress I rallied the crew they same way whoever wakes up first in Apartment Five always did- by yelling incoherently at the fridge and revving the coffee grinder like a Hayabusa.

Lanton and Dominic powered on, Eli was less responsive.

Nevertheless, we were on the hill by 9:00.

Well… at the lodge.  Reviving ourselves with Bloody Marys.

By the time we had finished breakfast Eli was ready to join the living, and we headed straight for the summit.  Despite low visibility at the top, the snow was great if a bit chunky.  We were able to get some great turns in on the steepest stuff I’d hit all season.

The summit had been disappointingly bare for most of this year, and I was pretty stoked to be able to leave Mammoth with at least a taste of what it’s really known for.

Unfortunately the warm weather turned the snow into flypaper by mid-afternoon.  My wax was literally melting again and had about as much glide as 10-grit sandpaper running over an old brick.

With my co-driver still preoccupied with her snowboard-certification test I had a few hours to kill, so I got dragged back to the bar for my last Mai Tais in Mammoth.  A few minutes (hours?) later Birdie showed up; sunglasses on, car keys in hand.

“You ready to go?”

Still in my ski gear I thought back to my apartment, where the rest of my belongings were scattered like… well, not like I was about to move out, that’s for sure.  So I came up with an evasive answer I thought would buy me some time.

“Uh, are you ready?”

“Yes!”

That backfired.

“Aaalright.  Fellas, it’s been real.”

With a salutation to my team I chugged the rest of my beverage, threw two pairs of skis over my shoulders and shuffled to the ML320 that would be my home for the next two weeks.

When we got back to my apartment, Birdie was less than pleased to see that I had yet to initiate the packing process.

“Also, you’re driving to L.A. tonight,” I said as I crammed my ski wax, a few shirts, and two pairs of Calvin Kleins into the last cardboard box I had saved for this occasion.

“Let’s go!”

Six hours later we had made it to the Shannon family’s West L.A. house, where we were greeted by two pint-sized dogs and a massive TV.

This would be our staging area for the 4,000 mile expedition we were looking down the barrel of.

Hope there’s Red Bull in the fridge.


Crossing The Simpson

The Simpson Desert.  Vast, untamed expanse of sand in the middle of the world’s largest island.  Taking three times as long to cross as the Sahara, the French Line across the Simpson is one of the most epic rides to be had in Australia.

It’s the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer of my season with OAT.

And with the floods subsided and my shoulder healed, I was finally getting my shot.

Each morning on the track felt like Christmas… I woke up with a giddy anticipation I hadn’t known since I was a rugrat tearing through wrapping paper.  And with each day I got a little bit better at managing the sand, the dunes, the Simpson.

I was determined to finish the track with my body and bike in as good condition as they had been when I began, keen to prove Mags wrong that I could in fact return one of his vehicles in usable condition.

***

So what’s so great about riding a motorcycle across the desert?

Imagine skiing the best run of your life; lots of speed, deep powder, sweeping turns.  Now imagine that never ending until you release the throttle.

Thanks to the miracle of the internal combustion engine, a motorcycle can ski up the hills as well.  Each kilometers is more fun than the last and after an hour or two in the saddle the balance, engine control and focus just clicks.

It’s a bit difficult to get used to holding the power on constantly, even when you’re slowing down, but a steady spin of the drive wheel is essential to keep yourself from sinking.

When we pulled up for the night, I collapsed into my chair at the fire with the kind of spent-satisfaction you have after a six-hour shag session.

We passed a few other groups of interest along the way.  A group of blokes on Suzuki DR650’s, a big pack of camels, and a team of journalists reviewing 4x4s… including a four wheel drive Mini and a Chinese Great Wall SUV.  Our riders reckoned they were wasting their time and ruining the track, but I was glad to see someone try something different.

***

The west-to-east crossing (which we took) is easier than the other way because the dunes aren’t as steep.  Shaped by the prevailing wind, heading eastbound allows you to enjoy a long run-up up the dune, then a steep drop into the next gully.  The dunes also get bigger as you head east, giving a nice and linear progression of difficulty.

Right up to the boss: Big Red.

Whether you’re on a motorcycle, 4×4, camel, or unicycle, Big Red is one of those “boxes to tick” if you’re off roading in Australia.  Just about thirty kilometers from Birdsville, it’s fairly easy to get to but a proper monolith to behold.

The last time I had seen it was from the passenger seat of the Isuzu, chocking back winces as pain shot through my recently-destroyed AC joint.

Now I was back.  On a bike.  And I wanted revenge.

By the time we reached Big Red the hour was late, shadows were long, and everyone was dying for a beer.

I sensed that Carl and Bruce, having already surmounted Big Red years before, would be content to bypass it and head straight to the pub.  But I knew I’d only be back here once, and I’d be driving the truck.  There was no way I was going to get this close without having a go.

I stabbed the throttle ceremonially.

But I resisted a sandy burnout, and walked up to speed.

I heard Magnus’ voice in my head, like Obi-Wan Kenobi guiding Luke Skywalker out of the Hoth;

“…Up straight, steady application of power…”

I was getting closer and Big Red was growing.

It looked far bigger from the saddle of this bike than the cockpit of our truck.

Hands were starting to sweat as I picked up speed.

50…60…70…

I strangled the horn to scatter the desert pigeons out of my path, the dune was towering over me like a tidal wave and I was experiencing genuine fear.

80…85…

The front wheel hit the dune and I powered-on all the way, yelling into my helmet and leaning as hard as I could against the force of acceleration.

“GIVE IT HELL!”

It was all over in seconds… I was standing on the top, heart still racing at full throttle, stomach still at the bottom of the hill, and the bike idling calmly as though nothing had happened.

I allowed myself a fist pump and shut the bike down to avoid overheating.

After some photos it was time to hit the bar.  An easy descent and a fun 30 kilometers later we were riding out of the sunset and pulling up once again at the famous Birdsville Pub, where people with names like “Wizard” tell you about the time they crossed the Simpson in a nitrogen-powered rickshaw.

But no matter how tall the tales get in that bar, I knew I had made it across and that’s all I needed.

In a couple months time I’ll be back… on twice as many wheels, which will be ten times as hard.  I can only hope for as much success as the desert allows.

Click here to see the “Best Of” photo album.


“Ultra-Massive SUV” Market Collapsing Under its Own Ugliness?

2011-infiniti-qx56-xl

Believe it or not the FishFace option would cost EXTRA, if it were real.

Well hippies, looks like you’ve won the battle against the SUV.

Despite the Brit’s attempts to save the market by releasing a beautiful lightweight Range Rover this year, the Too-Big-For-Anyone SUV segment has finally destroyed itself with what might be the ugliest car that costs over $50,000 the world has ever seen.

I’m referring of course to the latest incarnation of the Infiniti QX56.

No prom queen in its debut, the gargantuan Nissan Armada-based luxury barge appealed to people who have no taste and lots of money.  Sadly, this formula worked great here in America.

Few people know the QX56 was originally built because Infiniti VP Mark Igo lost a game of beer pong to Lexus CEO Jack Mickle at the annual Fake Luxury Brand Convention in Santa Barbara.

Then when he sold a bunch of them, he decided to make the second generation even uglier just to be a dick.

Look at the tint on those trailer windows… not even horses can stand the sight of this thing.  Did some 5-year-old slap those AutoZone side vents on?

 


Automotive Etiquette: Get Those “Family Stickers” Off Your Window

a-family

If you’re one of the millions of Americans trapped in the halcyon hell of suburbia, you’ve probably seen those limp-wristed family caricature sticker on one car too many.

I don’t believe in using a word that describes someones sexual orientation as a derogatory term, but these things are just downright faggy.

As if Sequoias, LR4s, Expeditions and (aptly named) Suburbans aren’t doing enough to ruin our world by burning all the gasoline people like us could be using in cool cars… now they’re making us learn the names, favorite sports, and relative sizes of every person who regularly inhabits these rolling roadblocks.

Have you ever wondered what the person in front of you in traffic was named?

No.  You’re perfectly content to call them “asshole.”

So why would you give the angry tailgater behind you the option to yell personalized obscenities?

I thought driving my mum’s Honda Odyssey was embarrassing… but if she was rocking a sticker that identified me as “BOOGERS” I think I’d be better off taking the bus.  THE BUS.

And for all you hard-working executive dads out there, good luck banging your hooker in that sweet anonymity you once enjoyed when everyone sees the family lineup as you pull out of Motel 6.

That’s what I thought.

Go get a razor and scrape that thing off.  If there’s glue reside left over, how about a nice “Yankees Suck” sticker to cover it up?


I Love It: Honda Accord Crosstour

Accord Crosstour

I know it’s not that new, but after finally getting around to giving the Honda Accord Crosstour a closer inspection I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s awesome.

I was skeptical when I first saw the weirdly animated commercials for this car, and my general aversion to the “crossover” genre made me want to disregard it altogether.  But after stumbling across a 360-view on Honda’s website, I decided it warranted my attention.

Hit it from the back, 'cause that's her best angle

It’s the least SUV-ish of any crossover I’ve seen, which I think is why I like it.

It’s more likely that people will mistake it for a Porsche Panamera than a Nissan Murano, and I don’t need to tell you that’s a good thing.

I feel like it manages to be a station/estate wagon while tricking you into thinking it might be a hot hatch.

I also think the grille is a bit too big for its body, but nobody’s perfect.  Actually… I have a suspicion I’m not the only one with that idea because Honda.com offers a downloadable picture of every angle of the thing, except head-on.

Without actually climbing inside it’s hard to say how much extra cargo space is actually offered by that back-bulge, but if nothing else rear passengers will benefit from a nice upgrade in headroom.

I don't like wood (fake or real) in cars, but besides that the dash is pretty consistent with the new Honda look- nice.

Gas mileage isn’t great in town (18 MPG) but gets quite a bit nicer once you get it up to a canter on the highway (27 MPG).

The biggest drawback of the Crosstour is its price.  Honda.com lists it starting at just below $30,000, but once you option up it approaches $40,000.

I could see that for the Acura incarnation (which is real, and called the ZDX), but forty grand for a Honda is pretty steep.

Here's the Acura version. I like that too...

For the record, the lowest trim level of the Acura ZDX starts at $45,000 and the best one starts at $56,000.

Whoa, that’s… too much money.

But the Crosstour could be an alternative for people in the market for a Subaru Forester, Nissan Rouge, Mitsubishi Outlander (maybe) or some other small SUV who need room for a dog and kids but don’t want to be seen in a full-blown truck based personnel carrier.

If the style’s not… your style… the ride might be redeeming, so give it a look.


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