Cocktail Chatter: January 4, 2013

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. With snow on the ground in most of the U.S. we’ve taken to sipping on an aman snow leopard to keep us warm. It’s a multi-layered drink: the sweetness of Brazilian rum and amaretto, topped with luscious cream and a few drops of rosewater to offset the heavy sweet, then some creative decoration with a little espresso. It takes some time to create and maybe a little practice to get just right, but it is worth every minute and all of the attention you can give it.

Stir 1.5 ounces of Sagatiba Pura Cachaca with a quarter-ounce of amaretto liqueur in a mixing glass with ice. Strain the mixture into a martini glass and layer a half ounce of heavy cream on top. Finish it off with three drops of rose water and an “S” drawn with espresso using the dropper.

AWD for the ADK?: We went up to New York’s Adirondack Mountains last week, and visited a friend who recently bought a Suzuki SX4 hatchback—about a week before the company announced its departure from the U.S. market. While we were there, I noticed that he was hardly alone—the SX4 hatchback seemed to be the official car of the Adirondack region. In a place where snow is frequent, distances are far, and median income is low, an inexpensive, fuel-efficient, all-wheel-drive car is understandably popular. My friend was surprised Suzuki couldn’t make a go of it, and wondered what were the automotive alternatives? In a market where it seems every niche is over-saturated, I actually had a hard time coming up with much of a list. Where are the inexpensive, economical, AWD vehicles?

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

Two-Hundred-Too-Many: I am incredibly relieved that Bentley has released a new Continental GTC Speed that will do 202 mph. The other versions of the drop-top Bentley only manage a pathetic 187 mph or 195 mph, depending on engine, which is barely enough speed to even tussle the occupants’ hair. In launching the 202-mph GT Speed model, Bentley has done a real public service to all the poor, unfortunate people forced to amble along at just 195 mph in a Continental convertible.

Jumpstart Into The New Year: A visiting friend left a navigation device plugged into her car’s power outlet for, uh, six days over the holiday break. Understandably, her Buick’s battery was thoroughly dead when she tried to leave for home on Tuesday (it read just two volts on my multimeter). We tried to jumpstart the car with my Nissan Pathfinder test car, but after more than half an hour of charging, my friend’s car battery still didn’t hold enough juice to crank the engine. Feeling defeated and embarrassed, we gave in and called AAA Michigan; the responding tow truck had a super-heavy-duty jump kit that rejuvenated the Buick in less than five minutes. There’s a simple lesson here: unplug your GPS, phone charger, and any other accessories when parking your car for several days.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Lexus Bows: Lexus seemingly was not having a December to Remember sales event this year, at least in traditional media. Their iconic holiday ads seem to primarily float through the internet /digital world. NPR aired an interesting story about their signature, giant red bows — Lexus will sell it to you for $150 to place atop your four-wheeled gift. Interestingly more consumers “borrow” the bow and return it than buy it, according to Tony Pape, sales manager at McGarth Lexus of Chicago.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

Ugly Duckling: When the current-generation Mercedes-Benz SL550 made its debut a year ago most agreed that the roadster wasn’t pretty. However, I learned while on vacation in South Beach, Florida that pretty and head-turning aren’t the same thing. Few heads turned for the for any Ferrari 458 Italias, Californias, or Rolls-Royce Phantoms that cruised past on Ocean Drive. The 2013 SL550? Heads turned, people stopped in their tracks, and pictures were snapped with camera phones like Justin Bieber was riding shotgun.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Bieber Fever: It was pretty sad that a paparazzo photographer in L.A. lost his life trying to track and shoot Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari 458 Italia. The boy isn’t even 20 and he already has blood on his hands (indirectly).

Tom Hang, Graphic Designer

Unlikely Exotic: I rang in the New Year in Paris. During my short stay there I encountered all sorts of exotic cars from Ferrari, Aston Martin, and other European luxury brands. But I was most surprised to see a black Ram 1500 crew cab pickup parked along Rue de Courcelles while walking to dinner one night. I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo, but the black truck at night wouldn’t have shown up very well anyway. The plates indicated the owner drove it over from Belgium. It may not have been the most expensive vehicle in the city that night, but it sure was the rarest model I saw on the streets of Paris.

Phil Floraday, , Senior Web Editor

Over The (Fiscal) Cliff: It’s all about the cliff, baby! Were we going over the edge or not? The upshot: we’re safe for now, but we’re left with two unanswered questions. First, how did it happen that the Senate voted first and the House voted last? Second, will new car sales break 15 million, and by how much? Taking your bets now.

Jean Jennings, President and Editor-in-Chief

iLike It: We called BMW’s iDrive “frustrating, counter-intuitive  goofy, clumsy, silly, PITA (pain in the ass), convoluted, iGnorant, and — worst of all — distracting,” in our January 2005 issue. I was in high school when I read that, and I’ve never dealt with iDrive until now. Today’s system is no longer like the iDrive my editors once hated. After more than 1400 miles and eleven days at the wheel of our Four Seasons BMW 328i, iDrive became second nature. I don’t have a foul thing to say about it. It was my girlfriend’s first time in a Bimmer, and she took to iDrive like a fish to water, an indication of how intuitive it is. Good things do take time. Sometimes they can take most of a decade.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

New Year’s Eve Flambé: What better way to ring in the start of a new year than by setting blaze to roughly a thousand empty, parked cars? Well, if you’re a French youth who’s got an appetite for trouble, then this is the New Year’s Eve tradition for you. French authorities reported that 1,193 vehicles were burned on New Year’s Eve this year, an unfortunate tradition that began in the early 1990s in mostly poor neighborhoods.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Don’t Get Hammered: Those big electronic information signs hanging over the freeway have their own personality, as you might have noticed in Steve Martin’s L.A. Story. While driving from Los Angeles to Phoenix and back over the holidays, the ones in California had this to say: “Report Drunk Drivers. Dial 911.” Meanwhile, those in Arizona had the same intent, but expressed a bit differently: “Drive Hammered. Get Nailed.”

Michael Jordan, Senior Editor

Necessary Napping: We’ve all heard the warning about drinking and driving, especially in the wake of New Year’s Eve. But we don’t often talk about the very real dangers of falling asleep at the wheel. The Centers for Disease Control released a study today that 4.2% of adult drivers (or approximately 1 in 24) reported having fallen asleep while driving sometime in the past 30 days. They go on to cite a NHTSA statistic that 2.5% of all fatal vehicle accidents involve drowsy drivers, and mention other modeling studies that suggest the number could actually be as high as 33% of all fatal crashes.

This brings us back to Automobile Magazine, whose deputy editor, Joe DeMatio, is an aficionado of the afternoon nap. He’s told tales of returning from a lunchtime appointment in Detroit (about 40 miles distant) and having to stop at a rest area to take a nap before finishing the trip. Or being on a press trip and having his driving partner take the wheel for the afternoon stint so he can catch a little shut-eye. We laugh at those stories, but it turns out that what he’s doing is helping to keep the roads safer. Sweet dreams, Joe.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

Crazy Colors: Driving an FR-S wearing a color that Scion calls Hot Lava (you and I call it orange) got me thinking about the contrived and frequently amusing exterior paint color names some automakers invent to impart some excitement to their vehicles. Manufacturers of more expensive cars often attempt to create an air of drama or sophistication with their paint names, while makers of lower priced vehicles often lean more toward playful or downright wacky names—often with equally wacky hues to match. Here are some of the most interesting names I found—some with interesting colors to match. Let us know your favorites.

Bentley Continental: Thunder (dark gray), Hallmark (slightly lighter gray), Granite (um, just gray?)

Chevrolet Spark: Jalapeno (bright green), Lemonade (pale yellow), Techno Pink (light pink, could easily be mistaken for a Mary Kay cosmetics car)

Hyundai Accent: Electrolyte (bright green), Ironman (silver)

Hyundai Veloster: Vitamin C (bright orange)

Kia Soul: Alien (bright green), Molten (red)

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Colima Lime (bright green), Ipanema Sand (tan)

Toyota Prius c: Habanero (day-glo orange)

Jennifer Misaros, Manager Editor, Digital Platforms

Sharing the Market: GM’s market share slipped from 19.2 percent of 12.7 million cars and trucks sold in the U.S. in 2011, to 17.9 percent of 14.4 million in 2012. Meanwhile, Chrysler’s market share is up from 10.5% in ’11 to 11.2% last year. Both companies will be profitable for the year, though.

Sayonara, Suzuki: Thanks to that last-minute bump in sales after its U.S. operations filed for bankruptcy last fall, the full Suzuki line’s 2012 sales exceeded the Chevrolet Volt’s by 1897 units. Porsche outsold Suzuki by 9685 cars, though.

Thing About YouTube Is…: YouTube lets anyone get on TV. This week’s viral video shows an eight-year-old boy playing with his mom’s new iPad. She pranks him by telling him he’s accidentally bought a Ford Mustang with it on eBay, and he starts crying. Notice I haven’t mentioned any names? That’s because I refuse to click on the video and feed this lousy mother’s shameless grab for her 15 minutes of fame.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

BMW It Like Beckham: Our Four Seasons BMW 328i is fast, comfortable, and surprisingly good on the track–but lately it doesn’t seem to understand the concept of legs. The clutch pedal, as road test editor Chris Nelson says, “has about 72 feet of travel,” and the Luxury Line seat’s lower bolsters can get in the way when you actually do extend your leg to push the third pedal. The keyless trunk opener, which relies on sensors to open the trunk lid when you wave your foot under the bumper, doesn’t seem to work when it’s cold or there’s salt on the road (which may dirty the sensors). As a result you’ll look like a crazy person in the Staples parking lot, appearing to kick your own car and then bucking your way out of the parking spot when you gauge the clutch’s engagement point incorrectly.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

A Thin Slice: General Motors’ market share for 2012 slid to just under 18 percent, its lowest since the early 1920s. It also falls short of GM’s projections from its 2009 turnaround plan, when it predicted it would maintain a 20 percent market share through 2012. Now, it’s easy to get overly worked up about these numbers. GM is still selling a lot of cars and making a lot of money. Indeed, the whole point of the restructuring was to cure GM of its dependence on unsustainable sales volumes and market share. Still, the slide is jarring and exposes the company’s shortage of new cars and trucks. Chrysler, in contrast, has turned over its lineup at a furious pace since emerging from bankruptcy, and has been regaining much of the share it lost. GM’s laudable focus on a “fortress balance sheet” won’t save it in the long term if people simply prefer to buy from competitors. GM North America president Mark Reuss promises a product offensive in the next few years, though he adds that the company is no longer in the business of chasing market share. Let’s hope those new cars and trucks finally staunch the bleeding.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

Honda Nails It: I’ve driven and liked several examples of the 2013 Honda Accord sedan but hadn’t been in a coupe until this week, when I drove a blue-on-black model with the 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a CVT. Nice. Very nice. Ergonomics are brilliant. The car feels light and lively. The sightlines are great. The car is stylish enough that you don’t feel like Mr. Everyman driving it. Our example was $31K, but for that money it comes with Bluetooth, a rearview camera, leather, a sunroof, and Honda’s clever new LaneWatch system that projects a wide-view image of the passenger-side area of the car when you engage the right turn signal, to help you see what’s in your blind spot. Honda is not a carmaker that piles on technology willy-nilly, but when it does come up with something, it’s usually pretty cool.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Car companies released their calendar-year 2012 sales results this week. Perhaps the tightest, most passionately fought battle is that between the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. These two pony cars have been duking it out since 1967, and the Mustang has come out on top of the sales race almost every time. But with its narrow, 1396-car victory in 2012 (84,391 cars to 82,995), the Camaro took the crown for the third straight year. Only when the Chevy outsold the Mustang from 1982 through 1985 has the Camaro enjoyed so much relative success. Interestingly, the Dodge Challenger (43,119 sales) had its biggest piece of the overall pony pie (20.5 percent) since its first season—1970—when it accounted for 35 percent (if you include the AMC Javelin). In fact, 2012 was the first year the Challenger ever sold more than half the total of the pony-car segment leader. Perhaps most encouraging is that pony-car sales (not including the Hyundai Genesis coupe, which its maker lumps together with the sedan) have increased every year since 2008.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor