Few adore their means of conveyance the way I do.
Most people don’t lovingly detail their car’s interior every week, powerwash road salt off their undercarriage all winter, or require maintenance only be completed by themselves or overpriced brand-specific specialists.
That’s because while I treat my cars, trucks, and motorcycles like pets, others chose to treat them like appliances. Even a step further; appliances they hate.
I offer an anonymous “local mom” as an example… and I bet yours is pretty similar; She fastidiously maintains her wardrobe, expresses substantial annoyance when people track mud into her house, and is generally proactive at maintaining her belongings.
But with her car, it’s a completely different story. This mum allows the carpet and surfaces to become absolutely filthy. Shrugs off minor exterior damage. And definitely has no idea what a ”service interval” is.
She glares at her gauges with contempt when they display a warning as simple as “service required” or “low tire pressure”.
Or my personal favorite; “that weird green light in the shape of a skateboard on a train track” -which is an actual quote from someone describing the “Cruise Control” light of a late 90′s Land Rover. To be fair, that light is pretty unintuitive to someone who’s never been on a highway in the UK.
And I don’t mean to be sexist by calling out a mom here, because plenty of dads and dudes are guilty of this as well.
But I digress…
My point being I never understood why perfectly intelligent people treated their cars, often one of the biggest financial commitments in their life, like disposable toys.
That is, until I had to borrow somebody’s 2008 Toyota Camry LE.
How’d I end up in what sounds like a very mild-mannered motorcar you might ask?
It’s pretty standard, really; I crashed my beloved UA6 into my house the other week (don’t worry about it) so I had to leave it somewhere for a minor respray. While getting routine service at Acura of Boston, I asked for a damage appraisal- they wanted $1,000 to set my car back to beautiful.
After I finished crying, I grabbed another two cups of free waiting-room coffee and hauled ass to one of the local car dealers I have a professional relationship with.
He “knew a guy”, obviously, and said I could borrow something out of his inventory while my car was being “meticulously” resprayed by “qualified professionals” behind a tarp in some Metro North back yard. I was a little wary of those quotation marks… but when I was told the price would be “on the house” I threw caution to the wind and figured it couldn’t possibly come back looking worse.
When the time came to grab a loaner, my eyes gravitated toward a 2004 Escalade- in gleaming white with a chrome nosejob and 22′s. Would you be surprised to learn it had found its way onto that lot after being repossessed for the second time?
I wasn’t too keen to imagine the fuel bill on that monster… but I did rather like the idea of throwing a J. Crew sweater over my shoulders and driving it to see my lady in Brooklyn where I could finally realize my #HipsterDreams and be the most ironic person on her block.
But when my associate returned from his office, he had the key to his “regular loaner”; the 08 Camry I described above.
Well, I didn’t really describe it. That’s because there’s not much to describe… exactly why I didn’t like it, and why I now completely understand the general apathy toward autos of the non-car-enthusiast public.
Some people just haven’t driven proper cars!
Cars need personality. Feeling. Characteristics that make you love and hate them. The Camry had none of these.
From the outside, fine, it’s a forgettable design but it’s tidy enough. Inside, it’s beige and baby blue.
Beige. And baby blue. Two colors scientifically proven to make you feel like
a real winner you’re trapped in a dentist office waiting room.
The seats didn’t do much to improve my general outlook on life either. The squishy unpatterned-cloth reminded me of the couch my buddy Jeff used to have in his basement. That analogy applies to both the styling and ability to absorb a human at an alarming rate.
Unlike said couch, at least the Camry didn’t reek of mold and grease from from pizza and bicycles. Ah, childhood.
To the Camry’s further credit, it also started in a timely manner, even propelled itself forward with the transmission in “D” and throttle pedal applied. But driving the car… no, that didn’t even happen. ”Moving” the car would be a more accurate description of the vehicle’s road manners.
Commanding the Camry was like curling. Not pumping iron, I mean that Canadian olympic game everyone loves to love.
You rapidly jiggle your arms and hope you’re able to direct the vehicle where you want it to go. The car then responds with alacrity of an octogenarian and the nimbleness of an ice floe.
Edmunds.com called it “pleasant to drive“. No way. It’s a chore.
If this was the only experience I had ever had with cars, I wouldn’t like them at all. I’d get grumpy and not understand why they demanded more money from me every three-to-five thousand miles. I definitely wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Maybe I’d be traveling the world in search of the coolest laundromats to wash my black t-shirts in.
Is this an editorialized review? Yah. If you can call it a review, call it a review of an experience rather than an automobile. If you want to compare this car’s fuel consumption/safety rating against the others in it’s class go elsewhere. If you’re ready to take the plunge and join the ranks of the road rovers and petrosexuals, get behind the wheel of something else.
Something with character. With personality. What the French call a certain… I don’t know what.
Find it and trust me- you’ll never go back to driving that rolling dentist’s office.
…and hundreds of ancillary questions popped into my head when I saw this 1985 Toyota Corolla, in what appears to be damn good condition, sitting on an auction lot with less than fifty thousand miles on the clock.
Yes, it started and ran just fine. Though the engine block was coated in a thick layer of oil, indicative of a blown head gasket (at least at one point).
Would you believe it sold for about $1,500? Hopefully to a museum owner. Otherwise somebody is going to quickly realize how annoying it is to have a car for which nobody can supply tires.
At the end of last fall, I was lucky enough to get some seat time in one of those pokey little Toyotas everyone got so excited about when they arrived on the public stage twelve months ago.
Why didn’t I write it up then, like a real journalist? I think that question just answered itself.
At any rate being a real enthusiast at least, I was not short on excitement to have a go at the helm of an FR-S.
A Boston-based nightlife event operator named Ed had taken delivery of one of the few RWD Scions to be sold in New England, and was kind enough to show me around it one night outside his office.
I’m going to make the claim that this car looks much nicer in person than it does in photos. Long nose (relatively speaking), squat rear fenders, and a sly expression in the headlights makes for a pretty appealing appearance on your screen here. In reality, all those great features are there… and the whole package looks a lot less cartoon-like. In a sedate color like a dark silver or blue, I could imagine one of these sneaking through the city relatively undetected.
The rear quarters and taillight section (not pictured, obviously) remind me a bit of a new Z4 hardtop, while the long-nose (keep in mind, I say that “relatively” speaking) I’d like to think pays homage to the Toyota 2000GT.
On second thought, that comparison feels like a reach. What kind of family resemblance are you seeing here?
The inside of this car is tiny. After getting used to the stateroom spaciousness of my TL’s interior, climbing into a coupe of any kind can feel a bit claustrophobic. But wedging oneself behind the little wheel of an FR-S would make a Civic feel like a flagship.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s all part of the experience. Some people like little.
It’s hard to argue with the gauge setup. From a performance-standpoint, centermount tach is huge (literally). The focus on engine speed with the speedo tucked below like an afterthought lets you pretend you’re playing Gran Turismo as soon as you crank the ignition.
Or, as many of my internet-using automotive accomplices would eloquently put it:
The rest of the interior is typical Scion construction quality; you get what you pay for in this department.
And of course… The Drive
Now was the chance to figure out if all the drama insinuated by that full-moon tachometer was for real or if this was an xA in a Tiburon’s clothing.
Being on public roads, in somebody’s brand-new personal car, there was only so much “testing” I was able to accomplish. And I can’t contain the disappointment I experienced when I put my left foot down for a clutch, only to be met with a giant brake pedal.
Powering up and powering on the engine didn’t yield the kind of voracious roar I had been spoiled by spending a few summer days in a friend’s DB9, but it did remind me how fuel efficient this vehicle must be.
Nonetheless, I can report that the little machine can indeed go zero-to-the-speed-limit in fairly short order, and is delightfully willing to navigate between parking lot lampposts at significantly stronger clip than most cars over two meters in length.
Could this ATX four-banger catch my six-speed TL on an on-ramp merge? No. Could it beat me on a gymkhana course? Probably. Could it beat my full-size sedan in a race around the isles and obstacles of a Toys “R” Us store? For sure.
Then what’s the verdict on this little rascal? Clarkson loved it. The forum following is cult-like. I was almost able to get over my phobia of all-motors-modern enough to enjoy it. But like almost everything in the “affordable sport” market- I can’t really make the case for a new one of these over a well-used M3. And secondhand, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t been thrashed.
But for the lucky few who are able to pick one up from a careful owner in the next couple years, this will be a reasonable motor. Perhaps even collectable, if anyone can keep theirs clean enough.
The “triple black” look ( known more iniquitously as “murdered out”) remains popular across the entire demographic range here in L.A. Cruising Culver City yesterday I spotted two Toyotas, on opposite ends of the brand’s lineup, sporting the ever-intimidating black paint/black rims/black interior formerly reserved for the only the most gangsta-asses of, well, another part of town.
This FJ Cruiser caught my attention first, with that sweet hood-covering bull bar. It was also sporting some light armor on the rear and an always awesome roof access ladder. Naturally, I sprinted across four lanes of traffic to have a look.
The hood protection apparatus, while cool looking, appeared to be on a hinge (for engine access) and therefore pretty much useless. What’s the point of one-inch steel bars if they’re going to be secured by a five-millimeter flex point? You know that thing’s going to snap the first time an elephant sits on it.
I would have gone with a drop-in style link, and held it in with a few massive cotter pins or shackle links but whaddo I know.
At least the smashed roof lights indicate that this guy’s been doing some real off-roading. Or he just tried to park in the Trader Joe’s garage on Washington Street, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because I don’t care what the haters say- this is a sick looking rig.
Less than thirty minutes later I spotted this Prius rocking the same kickass color scheme.
To be honest, I was so surprised/pleased to see aftermarket wheels on a Prius that I almost glossed over the fact that the badges and interior had been soaked in sinister pitch-black paint.
It’s pretty tough to stand out amongst the horde of Prii running around California, but I think this dude’s got it dialed in pretty nicely. He even paid for his parking space! Good on ya, mate.
I would make a comment about how the Prius is really the perfect drive-by assault vehicle, its silent operation ideal for a sneak attack, but posting that kind of shit on the internet will get you straight shot… so I’ll just leave it for you to infer.
I laughed out loud when I saw the concept of the Aston Martin Cygnet.
No way could this thing be real- it looked like something you’d see in a Photoshop thread on a Smart Car forum.
But when I heard the car was actually going into production I broke down and became a full-fledged, pants-peeing ROFL machine.
It looks ridiculous. Aston’s marketing plan is basically “we’re bringing sexy to the super-efficient.” But instead of coming up with a new style that would make a small car look nice, they borrowed a Toyota iQ and slapped a mini version of their DB headlamps, tail lamps, and trademark shark-mouth grille on.
I have no idea what Aston Martin was thinking. This looks like Jay-Z’s gaudy golf car, not the smart little runabout James Bond uses to go buy condoms from the 24 hour CVS when his “real” Aston is too much trouble to drive.
Don’t get me wrong- I still believe the oxymoron of “tiny opulence” can be torn down. Land Rover’s proving that with their Evoque mini-SUV.
The difference there is that LR invented a totally new look for their little baby Rover, and it was designed to be small from the beginning so the style “works.” The Aston is a farce.
The Top Gear trio are with me as well — Clarkson and company expressed universal distaste for the pokey little thing on a recent episode of the show.
I think Aston should have gone the other way, and built the SUV they threatened enthusiasts with awhile back. Cough Cough.
But then again, that thing wouldn’t have brought down the company’s average carbon emissions would it? Ahh, we’re on to you Aston Martin.
So in case you give a shit: This rolling caricature is going to cost around $50,000, and will be built at the same Warwickshire temple from which beauties like DBS’s, DB9′s and the Vanquish were born.
And when I say the Cygnet will be “built”, I mean somebody from Aston will run to the Toyota dealer, buy an iQ, swap the bumpers and stick some carbon fiber over the cup holders.
The car will available only for purchase by current Aston Martin owners at first. This way they can hang on to exclusivity for a bit longer… but I have a feeling they won’t have anybody waiting in line anytime soon.
Matt Weaver of Bootleg Racing is down for the cause and was kind enough to slap some RoadRoving.com livery on his Toyota Corolla rally car known as “Gurple” …which I’m guessing refers to paint, looking especially green/purple in this camera phone picture.
It’s no Evo, but in the capable hands of Mr. Weaver this little commuter car has been making some serious tracks at Rally Cross events all over New England for some time now.
Weaver’s next event is Wakefield, RI on September 26th, 2010.
Recently the car was graced with a new engine (up to 1.8 liters from 1.6) and since RoadRoving decals add 20 HP, I’m sure he’ll kick more ass than ever.
Good luck Bootleg!
The debate rages on about whether or not hybrid cars are “better” for the environment than, say, a 1984 Honda Civic (of course, the answer is that they are not).
But the fact remains that some people would just rather have a new car- and can actually afford it.
When first introduced in the 1990′s hybrids like the original Honda Insight were laughed off as goofy and nerdy, an unfortunate stigma that tended to plague their drivers as well.
I mean, come on- gasoline was $0.99 a gallon and the new Suburban just came out.
Once environmentalism came into fashion, the “hybrid movement” had another shot and the cars manifested themselves in the shapes we’re more familiar with today:
So it’s a little more “practical”, but it’s still reserved for people confident enough to ride around in a jellybean/shuttlecraft/dorkmobile.
Before you start commenting that Toyota “couldn’t keep Priui on their lots” and they “sold out quickly” I will say yes that’s true, but you’ve got to consider that these cars were produced in quite limited numbers for the first few years of their lives. Something to do with the government not having enough cash to award all those “green” rebates.
In the last few years, a new hybrid market emerged: high-end luxury. Now that Green is the new Gucci, the sex appeal of a Range Rover is just a little dented thanks to its bigfoot-sized carbon footprint.
So Lexus introduces the 460h, and later its RX and GX series hybrid vehicles.
Not to be left behind their Japanese rivals… Mercedes Benz cooks up the S400 Hybrid:
This thing takes the “green” concept a step further with interior parts made of recycled fibers and all that crap.
Plus, it’s an F-ing S Class. This car is decidedly awesome.
Well now that rich people ride around in hybrids… the rest of us start wanting them too.
Ford provides the Fusion hybrid, Toyota releases a Camry hybrid.
Decidedly less exciting than a new S-Class… you can Google you own images for those if you’re that interested.
And no I didn’t forget about the SUV hybrid market. I just think it’s stupid.
Ford Escape: too small to carry a lot or tow anything and definitely not going off-road, so why deal with poor aerodynamics?
Chevy Tahoe/Escalade Hybrid: It’s sad when automakers can brag about 20 MPG. If you need a vehicle this big, get a diesel.
So let’s recap.
Ten years after the original Insight rolled out, we’ve got a pretty dynamic family of hybrid cars on the market for all four of the major car-buying demographics:
Nerds: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight
Rich People: Lexus LS460h, GX…h, RX…h
Normal People: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid (and I think the Ford Escape hybrid snuck over here from the SUV category).
SUVs (also applicable to Rich People): Chevy Tahoe Hybrid/Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
But in the next year or two, the forerunners of hybrid cars are promising two new models to appeal to the most important demographic of all: Cool Kids.
You know, the people that marketing companies everywhere want you to be- the Facebook using, vintage sunglass-wearing, music-loving party people that are in catalogs.
These people need cars like the Lexus CT200h and Honda CR-Z.
The “hot hatch” category is finally getting back to its MPG-friendly roots with this pair of tiny-yet-heterosexual cars that I wouldn’t mind owning.
Once thought of as just a teaser concept, I’m now pretty sure the CR-Z is for real. The picture above is from Honda’s official website.
These cars are pretty cool, but don’t get your hopes up about neck-snapping performance.
Despite what the world’s ricers and eurotrash will have you believe, you’ve got to remember to take “hot hatch” performance with a grain of salt.
I’m afraid you will get crushed by creepy old guys in Mustangs at a stoplight in one of these.
But you’ve got to remember you’re getting 30+ MPG, you don’t have to rebuild your carburetor every Sunday, and your girlfriend won’t complain about the omnipresent smell of gasoline when you take her places.
And if you can’t afford one… try an 88 CRX.
In the next stage of its world-takeover scheme, internet superbrand Google has set up “RechargeIT.org” an electric-car initiative that puts- you guessed it- electric cars in the hands of their employees to use as commuter vehicles.
They’ve got a large garage of plug-in electric hybrids called the “GFleet” made up of Toyota Priui and Ford Escapes, some with full-plug in technology, and few gas-burning cars too for the sake of comparison.
It seems like the experiment was pretty straightforward- see how much fuel/CO2, cute baby whales they could save by swapping SUVs for plug-in hybrids.
The test results are pretty much exactly what you would expect, the plug-ins used a lot less gas than the Ford Expedition they were comparing it to. Google chose not to publish the chart of how many more times the guy driving the SUV got laid during the experiment.
But it’s not these results that make RechargeIT.org significant.
This initiative is the first of a non-automaker corporation throwing serious money and research into revamping the American automotive infrastructure.
And if other companies want to be as cool as Google, which I bet a few will, we might see further adaptations of the technology with private funding.
The worlds governments are trying their best to save our planet and solve the petrol problem, but sometimes a little “private funding” is what a movement needs to really get its feet off the ground and start making headway.
When large corporations in America and worldwide start contributing to the solution to the problem of “our current transportation system is not sustainable” situation, I’m sure we’ll see results faster than if it were left for Uncle Sam to deal with all by himself.
If you’re ambitious and want to learn more/waste a little more time, check out some of the links above or watch Google’s goofy promotional video:
Alright, what’s the deal.
The “sticking gas pedal” situation was sketchy… and still misunderstood by many. Then there was that dude who ran from the cops in his Prius and claimed the car “wouldn’t stop accelerating.”
The other day the Lexus GX460 was called out for being “too easy to roll over.”
Now, the Toyota Sienna minivan is being recalled because some kind of tire tread wear issue?
This is getting crazy.
Toyota is an awesome automaker that has made the rambunctious Celica All-Trac Turbo, the iconic Mark IV Supra, the FJ40 Land Cruiser which arouses me in a totally non-weird way and of course all those limp-wristed hybrids you NPR listeners and San Francisco residents love so dearly… did we forget about all that already?
I feel like there’s something weird going on here.
How could a company that is renowned for reliability suddenly start churning out cars that… suck.
Has the automotive world got it’s head up it’s butt or did the dudes in charge of Awesomeness Synergy get transferred from one organization to another?
I think we’ve got to get down like old bastards in The Crucible and “touch the bottom of this swamp” before Toyota’s good name is tarnished beyond repair.
Who knows, maybe they are having some kind of company-wide meltdown that’s ruining their decades of hard work. But I say we show an old friend some love and make a second pass at these accusations before we start writing Toyota off as a significant automaker.
Stay savvy, Road Rovers.