Cocktail Chatter: February 15, 2013

Chatter about Valentine's Day dominated our conversations this week.

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. They week we’re drinking something that has earned the name of Nelson/Zenlea Special around our office, if only because few of us can stomach the thought of a Pickle Back. The gross-sounding drink comes courtesy of Alley Bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan (which is where you can find our esteemed road test and associate editors most weekend nights), and starts with a shot of Jameson whiskey. Chase that shot with a secondary shot of pickle juice from Southeast Michigan’s The Brinery, a local vegetable fermenter. Nelson and Zenlea swear by it, even if much of the office swears to never have one.

A Zoom-Zoom Garage: After spending last weekend at the wheel of the 2014 Mazda 6, I realized I could be very happy with a garage filled with Mazda vehicles. For starters I’d have the 6 as an everyday car that is incredibly stylish, remarkably good to drive, and still reasonably comfortable and practical. Next I’d pick a CX-5 crossover, given that our Four Seasons example has proven that utilitarian vehicles can still be fun on twisty roads. Finally, I’d cap the garage with an MX-5 Miata — because how many times have we pegged the roadster as one of the most enjoyable sports cars on sale today? It’s easy for me to think of three different, affordable Mazda vehicles I’d be happy to own on a day-to-day basis, and that’s not the case with most automakers.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Midsize en Rouge: Road test editor Chris Nelson commented to me this week that “our parking lot has been looking quite red lately.” I think it’s only appropriate, given that Valentine’s Day was on Thursday. Four of the cars in our fleet at the moment all wear vibrant shades of red ranging from romantic to ravishing. Behold the cayenne red Four Seasons 2013 Nissan Altima, the soul red 2014 Mazda 6, the sparkling ruby 2013 Hyundai Sonata, and the crystal red 2013 Buick Regal GS.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Not So Fond Farewell: The Ferrari Enzo’s successor will be revealed in a couple of weeks at the Geneva Motor Show. So what do you so with your old one? When spoiled people do bad things to good cars, sometimes the answer is to take it off road.

Touch and Go Tailgates: There is a new trend in stolen parts, specifically in Texas and California, are pickup truck tailgates. It takes less than 30 seconds for a thief to snatch a pickup tailgate, and replacement costs can amount to $1,000 or more. The Ford F-150 is the most popular target and Houston being the city it occurs in most.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

Go Away, St. Valentine (For a While): Here’s the problem with Valentine’s Day: it’s in February. Sure, for most people, it’s enough to go out for dinner and a movie on February 14th, but it’s often too cold and snowy for any of us gearheads to do anything both romantic and automotive. That’s why I propose that car guys postpone Valentine’s Day for five months—on July 14th, men and women who love cars can pull the covers off their prized possessions and take their sweeties out for a romantic occasion. There’s no road salt or ice to worry about, no Valentine’s Day restaurant reservation nonsense, and it’ll be warm enough to pop the top on your convertible. Because what’s more romantic than a drive with your significant other in a two-seat convertible?

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

High Caliber Design: Why do women love the Dodge Caliber? I’ve yet to meet a girl who doesn’t adore it. I call it creased and cost-cut; they call it cute. This always perplexed me, but it never bothered me until the other day. Chauffeuring my girlfriend around Ann Arbor in our Four Seasons Dart, I pulled up next to its porky predecessor. “Hey, do like that car?” I ask. “Yeah, it’s cute,” she says. “Do you like it better than the Dart?” “It’s better looking, sure,” she says. The anger welling up inside of me, I want to tell her off, tell her that she’s wrong, but then my conscience says, “You don’t think the Dart is handsome either, Chris.” So I’ve stopped worrying about why women love the Dodge Caliber and started worrying why Dodge can’t build something that looks like a neo-Neon.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

A Sticky Situation: The dreaded traffic jam is a fixture of everyday life for many Americans, but for those unfortunate people on Highway 10 in Phoenix on Wednesday, it was a stickier situation than usual. Literally. Early in the morning, a semi-truck hit the guardrail and overturned dumping french vanilla coffee creamer over more than 150 feet of asphalt. There were no injuries reported, but for those that had chosen not to pick up their morning joe prior to entering the highway—it closed the road for about 12 hours—it was french-vanilla flavored torture.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

Baby, You Can Drive My Car: Sure, Valentine’s Day may have come and passed, but if you’re using the weekend to celebrate with your special someone (and you still haven’t gotten them a V-Day present) here’s a last minute gift idea for the car lover in your life. The best part about this “Car Lover’s Guide to Valentine’s Day” list is the suggestions for accompanying songs to go with each car activity, things like to help research a new-car purchase while listening to The Beatles’ “Drive My Car.” And if you’re spending this Valentine’s Day solo, you can still partake in these car care activities on your own, but I’d recommend substituting individual songs on the list with any heartbreak-related Taylor Swift track.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Toasting a Title: This weekend marks the return of big-time NHRA drag racing, in the form of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Winternationals in summery Pomona, California. As defending Pro Stock champion, driver Allen Johnson finds himself in a new role: the guy everyone will be gunning for. The fifty-three-year-old Mopar driver earned his title—the first for Dodge in Pro Stock since 1994—after seventeen long years of competing in the class, winning seven races last year, including the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway as well as the season finale at Pomona in November. Ten years ago, I worked with Allen and his gracious parents (father Roy is the teams’ engine builder and mother Revonda is usually trackside as well), so I take great pleasure in offering a digital toast to another fantastic season for these wonderful, humble, hard-working people. Check out Allen’s heartfelt speech from the 2012 NHRA awards banquet, and you’ll raise your glass, too.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Cost of Doing Business: GM spun its fiscal year 2012 results on Thursday by saying it was the third consecutive year the automaker earned a net profit. Cynics quickly noted that ‘12’s net income of $4.86 billion was 36 percent lower than the fiscal ’11 results. Another soaking in Europe accounts for just part of that drop, and GM had slightly lower gross revenues as it sold more cars and trucks. I think we’re seeing the effects of money GM has spent on all the new products it plans to introduce this year, from the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra to the Corvette Stingray and Cadillac ELR. Product investment takes money, and at least GM appears to be spending it in the right places.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor 

Cabin Fever: I haven’t driven a car in a warm climate since I tested the Volkswagen Beetle convertible in Los Angeles last November, and even that day was pretty chilly. I haven’t had the temperature dial on a car in the blue zone for months. Instead, I’ve been searching frantically for seat-heater buttons in every press car I get into. This weekend, I get a little relief, as I’m flying to San Francisco for the long Presidents Day weekend. I won’t be driving a convertible—instead, I’m in a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport—and it’s not going to be beach weather, but it might actually be in the 60s, and I’m packing my sunblock. California, here I come.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Sweet Show Chicago: At the risk of sounding like I’m getting kickbacks from the Chicago board of tourism, I simply don’t understand why more automakers don’t unveil new cars at the Chicago auto show. Beyond the fact that it has a great venue in the McCormick Place (four times the exhibiting space of Detroit’s Cobo Hall) and, of course, a bustling city where people really care about cars, this auto show seems perfect for those automakers who struggle to get attention at the Detroit show. I’m talking about the Infinitis, GMCs, and Acuras of the world. Did you know there was a new MDX prototype at Detroit? Neither did I—I was too busy hustling from one reveal to the next along with a herd of sweaty auto journalists. In contrast, at the Chicago auto show, I had all the time in the world to sit with Chevrolet engineer Gary Altman and learn about the Cruze diesel (280 lb-ft of torque with overboost!). Although Detroit should always be the premiere American show—the Corvette couldn’t have rightfully debuted anywhere else—there’s a lot more room to stretch out in Chicago.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

International Dateline Dilemma: Chevrolet had high hopes of launching its new, Holden-built SS performance sedan at this weekend’s Daytona 500 race — fitting, given its latest NASCAR racers purportedly resemble the production car’s figure. Problem was, the cat was let out of the bag by another GM division. Holden — GM’s Australian wing — decided last weekend was the perfect time to unveil its new VF Commodore sedan, which serves as the basis for the new Chevy SS. Better yet, it followed up by showing a “conceptual” performance model later in the week, and confirmed that particular would be sold in America as the Chevy SS.

For what it’s worth, you’ll have your first look at the “actual” Chevrolet SS tomorrow, but it really seems as if Chevy’s (Days of) thunder was stolen.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

Big Brother is Watching: An asteroid hits Russia and an Olympic athlete is charged with murder, and yet today I’m most interested in the back and forth between Elon Musk of Tesla and John Broder of the New York Times. Long story short: journalist attempts to drive up the East Coast in a Model S using Tesla Supercharging stations. Temperature is cold and it (unsurprisingly) affects range. At some point, car runs out of charge. After looking at data logs, Tesla disputes journalist’s story and Musk tweets and posts a blog about it. Journalist replies. Point by point rebuttals with minutiae about how tires sizes might have affected indicated speed and how hard it is to find a charging station at night in a strange parking lot. Hundreds of reader comments weighing in on the efficacy of electric cars and how you can’t trust the media. And none of the dispute would have been played out in public had the Tesla S not been equipped with a data-retrieval system. It’s one more indication that Big Brother is no longer just a fictional conceit — and that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Elon Musk.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

EcoBoost or EcoDiesel?: I applaud Ram’s decision to offer the 1500 pickup with a diesel engine, but I’m not sure it’s going to be as successful as some pundits have predicted. A Cummins under the hood of a Ram has always resulted in sales. A VM Motori engine doesn’t have the cult-like following of a Cummins and it fails to produce as much horsepower as Ford’s V-6 EcoBoost (though both produce 420 lb-ft of torque.) It will all boil down to pricing and fuel economy, and neither has been announced. Until we know how long it will take to break even with the diesel engine’s increased cost, it’s tough to say how viable customers will find the option. Before downsized and turbocharged gas engines were mainstream, a diesel half-ton made all the sense in the world. Now that diesel emissions regulations are so strict and the fuel price so volatile, it seems EcoBoost may be the best solution for half-ton trucks that are used for commuting and occasional towing duty.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor


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