Cocktail Chatter: December 21, 2012

What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. Apple cider tastes great this time of year, so why not try an apple cider martini? Pour three ounces of bourbon to one-and-a-half ounce apple cider per glass, or 2:1 bourbon to cider. Mix in a shaker over ice. Add the juice of a quarter-lemon, a single clove, and a dash of cinnamon; shake until cold. Pour into a martini glass, careful to strain out the clove. Garnish with a thin slice of apple. Enjoy.

Gym, Tan, Escalade: Thursday night marked the last episode in the final season of my beloved MTV’s Jersey Shore. The cast turned over the key fobs of their two matching Escalades and return to completing GTL in their own rides. I’m curious if Cadillac is thankful to have the three-year PR nightmare over. Which then lead me to wonder what unsuspecting soul might pick one of these from a “preowned” lot. By definition of my Jersey shore peeps, “preowned” means crashed, towed, speeding, and several things I can not type here. If that leather could talk! On a positive note, the cast did raise $1 million-plus for Jersey Shore recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

Rapper’s Delight: Rapper Tyga, an acronym for “Thank You God Always,” stayed true to his name when he praised God (and his seatbelt) after crashing his Lamborghini Aventador several days ago. Tyga, also the proud owner of a garish gold-chrome-wrapped Audi R8, quickly posted a photo of his mess-up on Instagram. In my opinion, he should quit thanking God and start asking for some driving instruction, prompting a name change to Tyba: Thank You Balboni Always.

Chris NelsonRoad Test Editor

My Mileage Did Vary: Last weekend I drove a Ford C-Max Hybrid, a vehicle that’s come under scrutiny for failing to live up to its much-hyped 47/47 mpg rating. I averaged just 31 mpg over the entire weekend, far below the EPA estimate — but that doesn’t tell the full story. After each trip, the C-Max reports your fuel economy for that journey. I often managed more than 50 mpg, with a best of 78 mpg for one particular trip. But other journeys returned 25-30 mpg, lowering the average to 31 mpg overall. In other words: your mileage really does vary depending on how you drive.

Quit Quarreling: News that Infiniti would switch all its model names to Q and QX caused a big uproar from fans, but I think it’s a smart idea. It’s tough to find a new car name that sounds good, isn’t offensive in foreign languages, and won’t lead to a lawsuit. Recall that a Frenchwoman named Zoe sued Renault over its Zoe electric car, and Chinese company Qoros recently sued Kia over its Quoris luxury sedan. And creative names aren’t always a safe choice either: Volkswagen’s Phaeton is named for a mythical Greek character who nearly incinerated the planet. A showroom filled with Infiniti Q and QX badges might be boring, but it’s an easy way for the brand to give itself leeway to add many new models without searching high and low for new names.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

How Much Control Is Too Much?: While at a dinner party earlier this week, my companions and I began discussing the tragedy in Newtown, CT and gun control. The conversation quickly shifted to a discussion about how we should create a licensing system for guns like we have for driving. All of the diners were convinced, despite my contention, that the U.S. has some of the most-stringent requirements to get a driver’s license. Get back to me when 16-year-olds have to pass a moose-avoidance test.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Taking Charge: After spending close to an hour trying to set up my wireless keyboard to my Mac, I have some very choice words for wireless and Bluetooth technology. That’s why I’m not jumping out of my seat after reading that Toyota will join other car manufacturers in offering wireless phone charging in the 2013 Avalon. Call me old school, but give me a phone charger with a cord and I’m good to go. Fewer wires aren’t necessarily better. Maybe Apple should take note, too.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

GM Goes Free: The Treasury Department’s announcement this week that it intends to extricate itself from GM completely and permanently within 15 months prompted this op-ed from Steven Rattner, who served as head of the Obama Administration’s autos task force and oversaw the bankruptcy of both Chrysler and GM. This is the latest effort by Rattner to make sure that the actions of the task force are recorded positively in the history books (he even wrote his own book, “Overhaul,” that described the government rescues of the two automakers). Truth is, I pretty much agree with everything his task force did, even if I don’t agree with his assertion that GM needs the freedom to pay its executives more competitively. I also agree with what one NYT reader from Texas said in the comments section: “Yes, the intervention in GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy process was well-done. Excellently done, in fact. That’s not what most people find offensive about TARP. What is offensive is the bank bailouts that had no strings attached- no regulations, no cleaning up bad practices, no jail time for fraud, no reform of boards and CEOs and shadow banks.”

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Mum’s The Word: This video from Fiat UK is surely the first car ad to talk about defecation or episiotomies. Is that because the Fiat 500L has a face (and body) only a mother could love?

Joe LorioSenior Editor

Infinit(i) Wisdom: I like Infiniti, even when it calls press conferences to unveil new model names. But a quick drive in the JX35 (soon to become QX60) followed by a jaunt in the FX37 (soon to be QX70) is a startling reminder of what Infiniti was and what it could become. It’s not that the JX is bad–it’s actually pretty good for a three-row family crossover–but the FX is in a completely different league from the driver’s perspective. The JX keeps the driving experience smooth and drama-free, leaving sportiness completely out of the equation, the FX growls and pounces. It’s a luxury car with a bad attitude, a coarse and rewarding SUV, a sight to see and to hear. Let’s hope the new G (now the Q50) debuting in Detroit keeps that same joie de vivre.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

One Of These Is Not Like The Other: What do the Ferrari F12 berlinetta, the BMW M6, and the 2013 Lincoln MKZ have in common? They all can come straight from the factory with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which are, um, super sporty. The first two make complete sense, but the tires’ installment on the $40,000 MKZ is quite strange. Some automotive journalists, including our colleagues at Motor Trend, were so surprised to find racetrack-ready rubber on MKZ test cars that they wondered if its makers were trying to pull a fast one in order to get more positive reviews and better performance results. The cars did perform extremely well on the test track, but instead of being more favorable, reviews were a bit preoccupied with said Michelin “cheater” tires.

Technically the tires aren’t cheaters, but they are misleading of the new Lincoln’s driving impressions, since reportedly less than one percent of MKZs are likely to wear them out of the factory. Read Donny Nordlicht’s review to learn how the MKZ behaves on its regular Michelin tires. Check out our March issue for Joe Lorio’s impressions of an MKZ on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. And no, none of us here are Automobile Magazine really believe that a Lincoln MKZ needs Ferrari tires.

Rusty BlackwellCopy Editor

Math Is Your Friend: On the way to work this morning, I saw that the price of regular gas had dipped below $3 a gallon ($2.99) for the first time in more than a year. A gallon of diesel, on the other hand, was going for $3.96. That huge price differential makes it seem like buying a diesel-powered car just isn’t worth it. But even with a $1-per-gallon price gap, cost per mile might still work out in the diesel’s favor. Say you’re driving Volkswagen Golf TDI with a combined rating of 34 mpg. At $3.96 per gallon, your fuel cost is $0.116 per mile. At $2.99 per gallon, fuel for a gasoline-engined Golf with a 26 mpg combined rating works out to an almost identical at $0.115 per mile. Or you could skip the math altogether and buy an electric car.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

But The Canadians Are So Nice: On the same day GM said it would buy back 200 million shares of its own stock from the U.S. Treasury (at a $400-million premium), GM also announced it will move assembly of the Chevrolet Camaro from Oshawa, Ontario, to Lansing, Michigan for the all-new ’15 model. The all-American musclecar will be built there with the Cadillac ATS and the next CTS; all three will share the new Alpha platform. Why not Canada? The Canadian Auto Workers did not adapt the two-tier wage structure to which the United Auto Workers capitulated. Also, Michigan just became a right-to-work state, which will have further downward pressure on UAW wages. The good news though, is that the U.S. is becoming a manufacturing powerhouse again. Even Apple plans to assemble computers here, again.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

ILX Ills: When I first drove our Four Seasons Acura ILX 2.4, I fell in love. The powertrain was so perfect I glossed over the car’s glaring faults. Now that I’m more familiar with the ILX, I can’t believe how poorly it rides. The front suspension is wonderfully comfortable and composed, but the back axle feels like a primitive torsion beam. I even crawled under the car to make sure our ILX was indeed equipped with the promised multilink suspension (it is). Now I’m annoyed each time I hit a bump in the road, which only happens about 50,000 times on my daily commute. It isn’t right that a Volkswagen GTI feels more luxurious and composed in the real world than an Acura.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

No Spreadsheets Here: “Genichi Genbutsu” is a big part of Toyota’s corporate culture. It means “go and see,” which led RAV4 chief engineer Yoshikazu Saeki to go and visit the U.S.and see more than 250 people during the planning process for the fourth-generation of the compact crossover. Pretty impressive. Not as simple as filling boxes in a spreadsheet, is it?

Lots of people miss the V-6 in the old RAV4, but I remember how horrible it was to drive in traffic, bad throttle response combined with soft suspension, and the thing wouldn’t creep along in traffic at all. The new four-cylinder is much better, and the engineers have worked hard on the transmission shift schedule and the lock-up characteristics of the transmission’s torque converter to deliver unexpected refinement in this market segment.

Michael Jordan, Senior Editor

Patience Isn’t Infinite At Infiniti. Infiniti has been following a “Japanese BMW” strategy for about a decade now. It’s reached the point where some of its products, namely the G37 and M37/56 sedans, are more focused driving machines than their German counterparts. And yet, Infiniti still struggles to sell half as many vehicles as the big boys—BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. This has to unnerve Nissan/Infiniti executives. We saw the first big hint of their impatience with the introduction of the JX35 crossover, a Pathfinder reskin that breaks from the performance path. The new naming scheme announced this week (CliffsNotes version: lots of Qs) is another indication Infiniti’s desire to do something—anything—to change the status quo. Infiniti president Johan de Nysschen says the new scheme was needed to prepare for a large brand expansion. The enthusiast in me hopes these include more fun-to-drive, rear-wheel-drive performance machines. The realist in me fears the “Japanese BMW” era at Infiniti may be on the wane.

David ZenleaAssociate Editor

G-Love: The highlight of this week? Undoubtedly, it was spending two days behind the wheel of a posh 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550. I’d spent several days with a G63 AMG earlier this year, but apart from a short (and brutal) trek off-road, I’d not had much chance to drive the “base” G550. I might be crazy, but I think I like the G550 more. Yes, it’s less powerful than the wild AMG-spec model, but the G550 is still incredibly quick, and emits glorious, muscle car-esque noise at full trot.

Better yet, it’s a bit better off-road — the taller profile tires are a little better suited for venturing off the beaten track, while its front bumper — which is devoid of the AMG’s wild air intakes — allows for a little greater approach angle. Which comes in handy, for instance, if you wanted to tackle the steep grassy knoll behind your neighborhood shopping center. Not that I’d know anything about that, of course.

I’ve always had a soft spot for G-wagens, so I was quite happy to learn my wife fell in love with the beast after a few trips around town. She was surprised to see how cheap used 5- to 7-year-old G can be purchased for, and started mulling a used G550 for her next purchase — but then reality sank in once she saw the fuel economy numbers. Even with this twin-turbocharged, “downsized” 4.4-liter V-8, the EPA estimates annual fuel costs at somewhere close to $10,300. Achtung!

Evan McCauslandAssociate Web Editor

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