Cocktail Chatter: January 18, 2013

There's much chatter about the Detroit show 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. This week, in honor of The Dude, and the necessity post-auto show to adopt his measured calm, we’re drinking The Dude’s White Russian. Combine 1.5 ounces of vodka with three ounces of Kahlua in a rocks glass over ice. Top with half and half and enjoy the calm coolness. 

Seventh-Generation Appeal: We were asking around about the reaction to the design of the C7 Corvette, as this car continues the tough look that designer Tom Peters brought to the car with the C6 Corvette. It sometimes looks a little overwrought in brighter colors, although things come together in darker colors. Apparently all the younger designers in GM’s advanced studio in California seem to really like the C7, which is some kind of endorsement since young designers hardly ever like anything. Also, it’s probably fair to say that the design reaction among 30-somethings is most important, since these are the people that Chevrolet really needs to reach. After all, the boomers that have been buying the car lately are bound to die off eventually.

Dazzling Detroit: Smoke, mirrors, and even a magic trick. Dancers, videos with special effects, and showstand models tall enough to make it as shooting forwards in the NBA. Weird chairs at the Ford stand that should have instructions so you know how to sit. These are all things that you will see only at the Detroit auto show, which is always a kind of Las Vegas theater show, only with wheels. Something that could only be heard at the Detroit show: “Hey, let’s get over to the Infiniti booth to see the trapeze act; it’s Cirque du Soleil.”

Michael Jordan, Senior Editor

Favorite Feline: The Jaguar F-Type. For whatever reason, this car didn’t really excite me when I first learned about it. Now that I’ve seen it in person, though, I think I’m in love. This car just might supplant the Porsche Boxster as my favorite new roadster. So, how soon can I drive this Jag?

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor 

Hassle-Free: For those of us who are tired of dealing with car dealership salespeople and jumping through hoops to buy a car can rest easy with Tred, a Seattle-based startup that allows customers to purchase cars online. You pick out a car, they deliver it to your home/office, and you test drive it. The idea’s very similar to Warby Parker’s Home-Try-On program with their glasses. Pretty sweet idea without all the dealership hassle.

Tom Hang, Graphic Designer

Austin Octane: Austin, Texas now has the country’s first and only FIA-Certified, grade-one track, Circuit of the Americas, which just became slightly more accessible to a blessed few. Écurie25, a supercar time-share holder, has announced plans to set up their eighth club in Austin, starting in fall 2013. All it takes is a mere swipe of your American Express Centurion Card for the $2450, one-time joining fee then a monthly charge ranging from $1750 to $10,000, and you are set. Membership covers insurance, maintenance, access to exclusive clubhouses, events, and opportunities around the world. Not to mention the chance to drive over 50 exotic cars including my favorite, the McLaren MP4-12C. Texans’ new-found enthusiasm for motorsports can now go from cruising 6th street, to the
85mph toll road, to Circuit of The Americas in the world’s finest cars!

Safe Sex & C-List Car Porn: Departing the 2013 NAIAS underground lot I caught a glimpse of those autos not invited to the press extravaganza. They were clearly cars in waiting to replace manufactures’ coffee bars from press days for public days, all roped off and hidden away in their own corners. A 2013 Toyota Avalon was the only one wearing the largest condom I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Yes folks, I’m sorry to say, at press days you are spoiled with sweet treats and caffeine at every turn, which then are replaced with latex clad and locked up sedans.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

Location, Location, Location: As anyone who’s worked in real estate knows, it’s all about location, location, location. Which is why, at the Detroit auto show, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW hold on tight to their prime spots just inside the main sets of entrance doors from the Cobo Hall lobby.  And it’s why General Motors wisely moved Cadillac this year from the main GM stand in the northwest corner of Cobo to the south end, right in the thick of the other luxury automakers. Cadillac’s neighbors are now Jaguar, Land Rover, Ferrari, Volvo, and Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW are within eyesight. That was GM’s wise move. Their unwise move, but perhaps the price they had to pay with show management for the Cadillac real estate, was to allow Nissan to edge onto their turf with a dramatic new show stand that effectively renders the Chevy displays invisible and turns the entire GM stand into an auto-show ghetto. Lexus and Toyota, although relegated to the very back of the hall, rejiggered their sizable acreage this year, creating an especially attractive, new Lexus environment. I’d have to say that the biggest winner in the Cobo Hall real estate wars, though, is the Ford Motor Company. Its vast space is open and inviting, well organized, clearly defined from neighboring competitors, and leads ultimately to the stunning Lincoln space on the far north wall, providing visitors a natural progression through the company’s nameplate and brands.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Bling, Bling: From daytime running lights running up the hood of the Cadillac ATS to detailed engravings in the headlamps of the new Corvette and Ford Transit, car bling was on full display at the Detroit auto show this past week. One design feature that caught my attention is the black-tinted tail lights on the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. As the Chrysler chief designer Ralph Gilles quipped, the lamps are “kind of like death,” adding that the vehicle “can pretty much be sinister if you want it to.” I just hope that this dark and goth-like phase is something the three-year-old Grand Cherokee will grow out of once it reaches college.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Winners And Losers?: Almost every automaker wants to increase its market share and sell more cars — Volkswagen, Lincoln, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, to name a few. But I have a simple question: where will all these new car sales come from? Either automakers expect many more people to buy more cars, or other automakers will see sales fall when, say, an Audi owner swaps his car for an Infiniti. It’s all very well gunning to double your annual sales by 2015 or 2020, but those gains will almost certainly come at the expense of another company’s sales. Notice we haven’t heard of any automakers planning to half their volume by 2015 or 2020?

Low-Caliber Driving: To the driver of the black Dodge Caliber on I-94: if you’re doing 60 mph in the left lane of a three-lane highway, don’t act offended and make rude gestures when other drivers pass you at the 70-mph speed limit. That’s just inconsiderate.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Strange And Beautiful: Mercedes-Benz recently premiered a video featuring Chicago-bred supermodel Karlie Kross and its new CLA-Class. In “Mind of Its Own,” Kross is driving the entry-level four-door on the twisties of Tejon Ranch in California. She stops the car when she comes upon a white horse, and things get bizarre. The plethora of eye candy in this artsy short makes it worth watching. Karlie Kross, the CLA, and empty roads—it doesn’t get much better than that.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

The Waiting Game: As my colleagues were watching the first big press conferences at the 2013 Detroit show Monday morning, Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was addressing journalists in a roundtable interview in a conference room nearby. He won’t bring Alfa Romeo back to this market until he’s sure it’s ready. That means quality and reliability must be up to snuff, of course, but also, the product must be right. That includes an announced two-seat roadster off the next Mazda Miata platform, and a BMW 3 Series-sized sport sedan sharing a platform with the coming rear-drive SRT Barracuda.

A few hours after Marchionne, in a roundtable interview behind the Chevrolet display, GM’s president for North America, Mark Reuss, said essentially the same thing about diesels. The company needs to demonstrate to American consumers that it can build a quality, reliable turbo-diesel and must do this carefully before it unleashes them here in high volume. So the Chevy Cruze diesel goes on sale here in small numbers this year, and if it works, we could see them proliferate at GM, including possibly V-8 diesels in Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will have to show a lot of patience before we can buy GM diesels in volume or any new Alfas here in the U.S.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

Three Hits And A Miss: The EyesOnDesign awards, chosen by a group of auto designers, went to the Cadillac ELR for best production car, and the Nissan Resonance and Ford Atlas in a tie for best concept. But word is that the car the designers were most critical of was the new Lexus IS.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

Boyhood Memories: Every year I attend the Detroit auto show, my first step into Cobo Hall evokes a memory from when I was 13. As a Hanukkah present, my father agreed to bring me to frigid Detroit in early January for the North American International Auto Show – the Holy Grail of auto shows. Stepping through the glass doors below the boxy façade always brings back a rush of images: eating dinner at the revolving restaurant atop the GM Renaissance Center, being overwhelmed by the sheer size of Cobo and all of the new metal contained inside, and of going for a factory tour of GM’s Flint truck plant. Those thoughts remind me why I work in the auto industry, and remind me to never forget my love of cars.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Gearing Up: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is ditching its old slate of transmissions and replacing them both with a new eight-speed automatic. It’s not a moment too soon, either: you’ll remember that our experiences with our Four Seasons 2011 Grand Cherokee were nearly perfect except for the fact the transmission didn’t have enough gears. Also add to the mix a new diesel engine with a bladder-busting 700-plus-mile range and I’m excited and pleased all over again.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor 

Destination Detroit: Detroit is the center of the American car industry, but the city’s annual auto show, which opens to the public on Saturday, is truly international in scope. This was brought home to me on Tuesday evening when I went to dinner with three friends who had traveled here from Amsterdam to attend the show on their own dime. Detroit is not exactly a tourist mecca, especially in January, so it speaks to the appeal of the NAIAS that it attracts visitors from around the world. It was only five years ago that the Detroit show seemed to be on life support, but with the resurgence of the auto industry in the United States and the improvements being made to the Cobo Center venue, the Detroit show appears to have regained much of the vitality it enjoyed in the ’90s and early ’00s. As for my Dutch friends, this is their third visit to the NAIAS, and they’re already making plans for next year.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

Mind Your Gs and Qs: There was an uproar when Infiniti announced its new naming strategy late last year. Based on the response from pundits (including many Automobile staffers) you’d be forgiven for thinking Infiniti lost all name recognition. I’ll admit I’m still confused by the Q/QX only naming strategy, but our Q50 article became more popular than the Corvette Stingray. We can complain about alphabet soup naming conventions all we want, but when a hot new product comes out, it’ll get attention regardless of its name.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

Road Rage No More: We’ve all been there — minding your own business on the road when suddenly another driver does something so infuriating that you find yourself flailing about in your car barking expletives. Road rage is a serious problem that can raise blood pressure, cause ulcers, and just plain ruin your day. But there is a way to alleviate the frustration without going to a therapist or releasing it on the road: go to the Anger Room and break stuff.

The Anger Room is an aptly named Dallas, TX business that offers ‘therapy sessions’ in three flavors—I need a Break, Lash Out, and Total Demolition—that allow customers to choose their weapon and take their anger out on a roomful of furniture, electronics, mannequins. Nothing is off limits. A brilliant, satisfying solution to a widespread problem on American roads. The only question is when is the Anger Room expanding?

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

Building Calm: How to decompress from the hectic pace and workload of the Detroit auto show? Build a model car. That’s what I did, anyways, snapping together a little motorized 1/32 Mercedes-Benz Unimog every night once I returned home from the show. This is a fun kit: it is four-wheel-drive, surprisingly well-detailed (given it’s essentially a kid’s toy), can be assembled and operational in less than 15 minutes, and costs but $10. Painting, however, can take much, much longer, as I accidentally discovered — the olive hue used here took a full 48 hours to dry.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

So Crazy It Just Might Work: We’ve had our fun pillorying Volkswagen Group’s hubristic plan to sell one meeellion cars for year in the United States by 2018. But it’s starting to look like the plan will become a reality. The Group’s U.S. sales shot up thirty percent to 615,281 vehicles in 2012. That includes a five hundred percent uptick for the Passat. Yes, that would be the U.S.-Passat that all us “experts” didn’t like at first. Most impressive—and this is the last number, I promise—is the near two hundred percent increase this represents over the year 2007, when the industry moved more than 16 million vehicles (compared to 14.4 million, today). All of this provides context for the American-built, three-row crossover VW unveiled as a “study” at the Detroit auto show. That thing is going to sell gangbusters. So too, will the Passat powered by the turbo four-cylinder now being built in Mexico.  Maybe the new Monopoly token should be a miniature bust of Ferdinand Piëch.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

Conversation Cut Short: Ola Kallenius, the young head of M-B’s uber hot AMG performance division, was hanging with MBNA’s top marketing exec Bernie Glazier at the Book Cadillac hotel last Saturday night for M-B’s exclusive preview of M-B’s soon to be launched $30,000 CLA four-door coupe. But AMG was all they wanted to talk about.

AMG had a “great 2012 and 2013 is going to be better,” said Kallenius. Glazier was positively luminous describing the AMG line up to come: “The E63 is getting 4matic for the first time. This car will kick ass. The horsepower goes up to 550 from 518 and with standard all-wheel drive, it will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. It will be the first AMG sedan with AWD.

“That’s the future of AMG–all-wheel drive. It comes on the E-class in April, in the S-class in the fall, and will be standard in the CLA when it arrives this September.”

And then Karmin burst onto the stage in full song and dance, and everyone stopped talking.

Jean JenningsPresident and Editor-In-Chief

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