Cocktail Chatter: December 28, 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. Since this is our final Cocktail Chatter before January 1, why don’t we ring in 2013 a little early with a celebratory, champagne-based French 75. A classic New York cocktail popularized by the Stork Club, a favorite haunt of 1930s movie stars. The French 75 is simple: combine one ounce of your favorite gin with a half-ounce each of simple syrup and lemon juice with ice in a cocktail shaker; shake until chilled and strain into a champagne flute. Finish by filling the glass with Brut champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Don’t Get Stuck: I seem to be one of the first here to have sampled our Four Seasons Subaru BRZ on snow tires and in the snow. Southeastern Michigan was socked with a good 4-5 inches of the frozen precipitation last night, which made yesterday’s commute home a bit interesting, especially since these particular tires don’t seem to do that well in deeper snow. One corner I encounter just before my house was amusing — you approach the 90-degree bend on an uphill grade, and immediately encounter another uphill grade as you exit. The only way for the low-slung BRZ to get through was to carry momentum — which meant tucking the nose towards the apex, goosing the throttle, and sliding through and up the hill. Quite fun, as the BRZ is rather balanced and linear when sliding laterally through snow, but I’m sure my neighbors are all the more convinced I’m a madman.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

S’no Stopping Us: Leave the snowmobile on the trailer — all aboard the Volkswagen Snowareg!

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

Body-on-Fiasco: My annual Christmas pilgrimage to Philadelphia was a little different this year: instead of driving both ways, I flew in and took delivery of my new ride, a five-speed-manual 1995 Nissan Pathfinder. I’ve now driven the 1995, 2012, and 2013 Pathfinders, and it’s pretty easy to see the similarities and differences; that is, the similarities between the ’95 and ’12 and the differences with the ’13. The ’13 takes away all of the earlier models’ firm ride and cramped cabin, and butch looks and replaces them with a smoother (albeit more boring) exterior design, a plusher cabin, and more supple ride. Seeing that Pathfinder sales were up 250 percent last month, one school of thought has definitely won here—the crossover one.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

Plowing Pains: Much of the country received its first real wallop of snow this week, and everyone is remembering the perils of driving in the snow and the pains of snow plowing. An article about Michigan’s reduction in public services funding caught my eye because it sums up my constant complaining about the lack of clear roadways – the state (and many others) just doesn’t have the cash. There’s not much that can be done for this season in respects to government funding, but I hope everyone has a good set of snow tires and drives extra carefully out there.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Christmas Cards: I enjoyed seeing all the Christmas Instagram postings from carmakers on December 24th and 25th. Cadillac presented both vintage and new car pictures, BMW had a great shot of a red 6 Series coupe in blinding white snow, Mercedes pulled a gorgeous 1952 300SL coupe calendar picture out of its archive, Audi carved the front half of a Q7 out of a block of snow, and Jaguar teased us with a sexy shot of the new F-Type roadster in a particularly pretty streetscape. Audi gets my prize for most clever posting, though, with a picture of one of its R18 Le Mans race cars on a snow-covered rooftop, pointing at a chimney, with the headline “How It Really Happens in 24 Hours.”

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Sleepy Cat: Over the Christmas weekend I drove a 2013 Jaguar XF, but whereas most Jaguars have big V-8 engines, this one had a 2.0-liter turbo-four. The engine has lots of torque and a slick eight-speed automatic transmission ensures the car is no slouch. Sadly, though, there’s no drama with this engine. I expect a glamorous Jaguar to roar, leap, and pounce its way up on-ramps. But this turbo engine wheezes, pauses as the transmission changes gear, and then provides more acceleration. Sure, you can save a bit of fuel by picking the four-cylinder engine, and Jag says an XF so equipped will still hit 60 mph in a respectable 7.5 seconds — but there’s no replacement for the emotion and ferocity of a roaring V-8.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Happy Festivus: The New York Times Sunday Magazine’s cover story on Jerry Seinfeld reminded me just how much of a car guy the man behind “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is. With the profile’s author in the passenger seat, Seinfeld wheels his Mexico Blue ’98 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S out of a tight Manhattan garage space. Later, he compares the way he perfects stand-up routines with the sound of the door latch on his ’57 Porsche Speedster. Watching TV, Seinfeld makes fun of Shaquille O’Neal calling a LaCrosse “stylish” in a Buick commercial. “Stylish?” Seinfeld tells the TV. “With your sweater-vest on?” He’s right – Buick still has some work to do on its image. Have you seen how Peyton Manning is dressed while driving that Verano?

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

To See Or Not To See: Visibility is really starting to be an issue with modern cars. Vehicle pillars have been getting thicker and door sills have been rising over the last few years, mostly in response to tougher crash standards. This is news to my mom, with whom I spent some of the holiday week car shopping. She’s looking to replace her 2009 Subaru Outback, a veritable rolling fishbowl for all its glass. We went to look at a Mazda CX-5, which I figured would be a slam-dunk for her due to its size, fuel economy, driving dynamics, and value. Nope. She didn’t even get to a test drive. She climbed in, craned her neck as if pulling out of a parking spot and had seen enough–or not enough. The same bulky C-pillar issue eliminated the new Outback, the new Ford Fusion, and a slew of other recently updated vehicles. This week we may have finally found a winner: the 2013 Honda Accord. She likes the way it drives and how easy all the cabin controls are to operate, but the big glass area really seems to be the selling point. I don’t think she’s alone. The ability to see out of cars, something we’ve always taken for granted, has become a unique feature.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

Good Mileage, Bad Steering: I’ve been driving a BMW X5 xDrive35d from L.A. to Phoenix. (AZ state motto: “Whatever time zone you’re coming from, we’re not part of it.”). The BMW diesel has a great cruising range; the EPA estimates it at 446 miles. How many fuel stations will we pass? All of them. However, I hate the steering effort calibration. How heavy is it? Go out in the garage and yank on the steering wheel of whatever you got parked out there. Make sure the engine isn’t running. This X5 is better than that, but not by much.

Michael Jordan, Senior Editor

Apocalypse Ready: Of course I didn’t really want the Mayan Apocalypse to happen on December 21, 2012. I must admit, though, that I felt fairly good about my family’s chances for survival, given that I had the keys to a mountain-smashing, zombie-killing, house-hauling, meteor-nullifying 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550. Lovingly known as the G-wagen, this thing is 5600 pounds of pure all-weather, all-road capability that’s been updated for 2013 but feels as wonderfully backdated as its 1979 conception date suggests. From my standpoint, one of the best parts about the Mayans “getting it wrong” is that I didn’t have to scrounge for gasoline to satiate this beast’s 13-mpg (or worse) appetite and thirty-gallon tank. Happy New Year, indeed.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

What The Q Are They Thinking: As the luxury market becomes more crowded, the marketing guys seem to be losing their minds. BMW renames the 3 Series coupe the 4 Series. Why, you might ask? Why, perhaps so it can charge more money.

And in the greatest confuscation since Datsun changed its name to Nissan, Nissan’s near-luxury division Infiniti is renaming all of its cars Q, beginning when it pulls the wraps off new G in Detroit next month. Confused? Quite rightly. the new G will be badged Q50. As the next cars are rolled out, they, too, will become Q-ships–the M will be the Q70 and the G37 coupe and convertible will be called Q60. Acckk! Hate it! So, to tell them apart, the smaller the number, the lesser the car. All the crossovers and utes will henceforth become QX whatevers, and I imagine that renaming the hugely popular JX will give their dealers absolute fits. I’m sure it sounds rational to the brainiacs in charge. But is it? This move is coming from recent Audi emigre, Johan de Nysschen, a man with no confidence dilemma. How long will it take for the dust to clear, do you think?

Jean Jennings, President and Editor-in-Chief

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