What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. One of our favorite mixologists, Fran Adams of the Jer-Ne restaurant + bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, California, returns this week with the Fiesta Cosmo. Pour two ounces of Don Julio Anejo tequila, a half-ounce of Cointreau, and a half-ounce of cranberry juice in a shaker, with ice. Add a squeeze of lime. Swirl and strain. Remember, designate a driver, or save the Fiesta Cosmo for after the end of your drive.
Honda gets artsy: I stumbled upon two very unique pieces of car-related artwork this week — one commissioned by Honda and another involving one of its cars. The first is Honda's new ad campaign involving the Brio, aimed toward younger buyers. The goal with these ads is to contrast the reliability of the car with the unpredictable tastes and choices of their target audience. From a graphic design standpoint, I love the hand drawn and playful typography. Kudos to Honda for thinking outside the box and creating an ad campaign that truly relates to young car buying folks such as myself.
The second project is even more impressive: a hand-engraved 1992 Honda Civic. Self-taught engraver Shawn Lisjack used a Dremel tool with a diamond bit drill to engrave the entire body of the car, estimating that it's taken roughly 5,000 hours of his time. The detail shots of Lisjack's work in the slideshow are mind-blowing. I was pretty pleased with my wood block carving I created a few months ago for a side project, but after seeing this Civic, I don't think I'll be proudly displaying that anymore.
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
Fun fact: as of 4:04 pm EDT on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, there were no less than three Yugo GV hatchbacks up for sale on eBay. The cheapest, a red ’88 GV located in the Bay Area, is a stereotypical beater that, after 15 bids, saw its auction price bumped to $800. The next step up was a white ’86 with 36,922 miles, a $2000 reserve, and no bids as of Wednesday.
The third Yugo, however, is a mind-bender. The taupe ’87 boasts a tri-tone pinstripe, and has only 1800 miles on the odometer, thanks to the fact it was apparently part of the Imperial Palace’s car museum for some time. “Nicest Yugo for sale in America!” shouts the auction listing. That’s not much of a stretch – heck, I think it might be the nicest Yugo ever built by Zastava. Even with six days left in the auction 12 fools – sorry, collectors had bid on the car, and the auction price was a whopping $5500.
I’m watching this auction if for no other reason than to cackle at the outrageous closing price. One request for the new owner: bring it to Monterey/ Carmel this year – it’s already a strong contender to win the Concours d’LeMons…
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Directions: These days, few people offer real directions. Instead, we simply tell someone a street address so they can punch it into Google Maps or a navigation device. But once upon a time people would share long-winded directions based on landmarks, driving distances, and street names. While giving me directions for an upcoming trip to New Jersey, a retired gentleman told me this week to, "Take the jughandle, turn right, go past three schools, turn right at the second traffic light, and then it's about half a mile down the road on the left." I scribbled the convoluted instructions down on a sticky note but, truth be told, I then looked up the exact street address online and will use a Garmin navigation device to route me there. Is that a sign of laziness, or acceptance of the advantages of modern technology?
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Lower Weight, More Seats: I spent last week at the New York Auto Show as a guest of Jaguar Land Rover, which has several significant debuts, starting with the all-new Range Rover Sport. The New York metropolitan area is the biggest market in the world for the Range Rover Sport, Andrew Polsinelli, head of Land Rover North America product planning, tells me, which explains why Land Rover went to the bother and expense of having actor Daniel Craig drive one over the Manhattan Bridge and through the streets of the city and right onto the stage of the launch party JLR was hosting in Chelsea, all of it captured on multiple cameras and streamed live to party-goers and, one presumes, the 11 o'clock nightly news. Indeed, the Range Rover Sport is so popular among a certain slice of very affluent young families (media owner age is in the low 40s, any luxury carmaker's dream), Polsinelli relates that, while they sold nearly 17,000 of them last year in North America, they could easily have sold 2000 or 3000 more, if only production capacity allowed it. This demand was for a vehicle that's been on the market for the better part of a decade. "We literally cannot get enough of them in the U.S.," Polsinelli tells me.
The two most important things about the new Range Rover Sport are what it lost and what it gained. It lost some 800 lb in weight thanks to its all-aluminum construction borrowed from big brother Range Rover (which itself lost about 700 lb in its recent redesign). Now the Sport weighs in at about 5000 lb rather than dangerously close to three full tons. What the Sport gains is an optional third-row seat, what Land Rover wisely calls "5+2" seating, as the way-back row is tiny and intended solely for children. Word was that Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern decreed that, if the new Sport was to be a 3-row vehicle, it would not look like one, and indeed it doesn't. Polsinelli says he expects 25 to 35% of American buyers to opt for the seat. What about those folks who want a bigger third-row seat that can comfortably fit adults, you ask? That's what the Land Rover LR4 (formerly known as the Discovery) across the showroom floor is for.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Wisdom beyond her years: My four-year-old loves looking out our living-room window to see the different new cars that I park in the driveway below. Upon seeing the matte-finished platinum, $228,415 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, she said, "Wow, that's cool!" I told her, "Yeah. It should be, though—it costs as much as ten or eleven of Mommy's Ford Focuses." My clever kid, who's very good with numbers, responded, "Who would buy that?!" I didn't have a very good answer.
The next day, I brought home a silver Volkswagen Beetle TDI convertible. The first thing she said: "Oh, that's cute!"
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Elon, Take More Math Classes: Do yourself a favor for a second: go to Mercedes-Benz's U.S. consumer site and estimate the payment on a 2013 S550 sedan (10 percent down, 60-month loan, 2.95-percent APR). Your answer should be $1549. Do it again with a 36-month lease (10 percent down, 12,000 miles/year): it's $1126.
While I appreciate Tesla Motors' flashy announcement this week that it'll start leasing the Model S, the announcement that a Model S is now "as low as $500/month" is, well, wrong. Such a number isn't your lease payment but rather your calculated cost of ownership, which includes items like time saved not going to the gas station, tax credits, and depreciation. You're still going to pay $1252/month for that 85-kWh Model S, no matter how much less you feel like you're paying.
The fact of the matter is this: the Model S, with its $0 down payment (covered by the aforementioned tax credit), is cheaper to lease/finance than the Mercedes, no matter which way you slice it. The gimmickry and headline-pandering are completely unnecessary.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Know Before You Tow: The subject of trailer towing came up this morning because I brought my enclosed trailer to work so a friend could borrow it for the weekend. I pull trailers on a fairly regular basis (I own two) but a surprising number of my colleagues have never even attempted to hook up a trailer. Here's a quick lesson for anyone thinking of adding a boat or camper to their collection as the weather warms up: Slow down, most trailer tires are only rated to 65 mph. If your trailer has electric brakes, be sure your tow vehicle has a trailer brake controller installed. If the trailer has no brakes, be sure you have extra following distance and be prepared for everyone else on the road to cut you off as they exit the highway. You're also going to want to triple-check that the trailer's coupler is securely locked to the hitch ball and the safety chains are secured to the hitch. Losing a trailer is no fun. Finally, make sure the lights work. There's nothing more frustrating (or potentially dangerous) than following someone without working lights.
That's just a quick primer on the subject. Variables are infinite when it comes to trailering and each tow vehicle will react a bit differently. Be sure to take it easy until you are fully confident in the abilities of yourself and your rig. Or maybe skip the trailer altogether and just use a tow truck.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Midsize Madness, Redux: Big news in the March car sales figures released Tuesday is not that the Nissan Altima outsold the Toyota Camry by 100 units, but that the Ford Fusion, fourth-place in the segment behind the Honda Accord, is catching up. Each of those four models topped 30,000 sales last month, with about 6000 units separating the number-one Altima from the number-four Fusion. The number-five Chevrolet Malibu was well behind at 18,000-plus units. Is Japanese-brand dominance of the midsize market over? Not yet, but I think the domestic manufacturers have effectively leveled the playing field. Fewer and fewer consumers are making such national origin distinctions.
My Hovercraft is Full of Eels: I don’t golf, but a video of Bubba Watson’s hovercraft golf kart, almost makes me want to take it up. Almost. Even if it was just a day-late April Fools joke.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
Premium Performer: There’s a 2013 Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar in my driveway, so I’m pretty happy as only someone with an opportunity to drive a small high-performance 250-hp car can be, especially since it’s also trimmed with the meticulous good taste that the Swedes summon up at their best moments. Of course, I’m also down a bit because the Volvo C30 has been to its last round-up, as the car has ceased production, and these 250 limited-production Polestars are some of the last C30s in the country. It’s kind of a shame that the C30 never found its audience, as it arrived just as the recession began, so its price tag seemed too breathtaking for a small car. Even so, this remains the kind of premium small car that we’ll see in the future, as nothing has been spared in either its specification (multi-link rear suspension, etc., etc.) or comfort and convenience (4-passenger seating, etc., etc.). Much like the Polestar-built, 400-hp Volvo C30s raced so successfully in the SCCA World Challenge by K-Pak (and now for sale; $290,000 takes both), the C30 was so unexpected and so different that no one could believe it existed. You might be able to find a C30 Polestar on the lot of a Volvo dealer somewhere ($32,445 for a plain one, and $35,545 for a fully optioned one). Kind of reminds us of the Volkswagen R32, which also arrived ahead of its time.
We spent last week roaring around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in DesertCenter. It’s a great track, with lots of long, long double-apex corners and two ess combinations with lots of elevation changes. It’s also pretty much one of the most remote trace tracks in America, located about 90-minutes east of Palm Springs. It’s in the middle of the vast cat box that is the Mojave Desert, built on top of the airfield that General Patton’s troops used while training in this area for the invasion of North Africa in World War II. You would think that such a location would make the track a ghost town, but the place is so busy that a second companion track is soon to begin construction. This is more evidence that huge numbers of Americans are racing fast cars around tracks all across the country, only no one knows about it. Check out views of Chuckwalla in this Firestone commercial that includes an SUV sliding dead-solid sideways like Parnelli Jones at Ascot .
Michael Jordan, Senior Editor
Xcessive: Turn the BMW X4 into a napalm-drenched pile of aluminum and steel. Destroy it, BMW, lest it destroy you first. The X4 isn’t ugly—it seems to wear its X6-ish sheet metal better than big brother—and I imagine it will be a comfortable cruiser. No, BMW, eradicate the X4 from your ever-bloating crossover lineup (entire lineup, really) because you should. You’ll have: X1, X3, X4, X5, and X6. Before you know it, you’ll be building an X2 to go up against the two-door Evoque. Then you’ll try breathing life into your stillborn X7. You’ll call it brand expansion. I’ll call it brand dilution.
Christopher Nelson, Road Test Editor
What the…? Take a look at recent car sales figures, and you’ll see that American carmakers are doing pretty well. Take a look at Bloomberg Business Week’s latest cover, and you’d think they were – literally – flying off the showroom floors.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
What are you talking about over cocktails this week? Let us know in the comments section.