Cocktail Chatter: June 28, 2013

Vehicle reveals, Mercedes-Benzes, and Miatas.

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, we’re keeping our cocktail simple with the Moscow Mule. Combine one and 3/4ths ounce of vodka with a half ounce of lime juice into a highball glass over ice and fill with ginger beer; garnish with a lime wedge. For a classic twist, serve in a copper cup instead of a highball glass.


Matte-Mobile: To date, none of the exterior matte paints I’ve seen on the press cars that cycle through our office has caught my eye. That is, until this Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG with its $3950 custom designo package arrived. It helps that the SLK55 AMG is a relatively handsome — if a bit overdone — canvas to highlight the Magno Alanite Grey paint. What’s unique about this specific matte is that it has a metallic look to it, so it appears three dimensional rather than flat. Stunning.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

It’s a Family Affair: Mature as the global auto industry seems, it’s very much a mom-and-pop operation, even among the major players. Earlier this month, the Porsche-Piech (as in, Ferdinand) family bought back the 10 percent of Volkswagen Group that Qatar Holdings owned, making the family the majority shareholders again. In other words, Porsche-Piech owns VW, which owns Porsche. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that a record seven Ford family members hold prominent jobs at Ford Motor Company.Families rarely hold on to family-owned companies beyond their third generation, The Journal says, while Ford, which issued its first public stock in 1956, is on its fifth generation of nepotism. Thursday, Automotive News reported that Chairman William Clay Ford was buying up more special Class Bstock, essentially doubling his stake, amidst continued criticism by commonshareholders of the family’s Class B voting power. Later Thursday, Reuters ran a story about the Peugeot family contemplating the opposite move. The storysays the Peugeots are willing to give up control of Peugeot-Citroen so the French company can tighten its tie-up with GM’s Opel.

Todd LassaExecutive Editor

Star Light, Star Bright: We’ve talked about the illuminated Mercedes-Benz star logo that the automaker offers as an add-on at its dealerships. However, this week, I got first hand experience with it on a 2014 E350 4Matic wagon. While the execution of the LED-lit three-pointed star is less tacky that the marketing materials made it out to be, it still feels to border on ostentatious to unlock your Mercedes and have the grille badge light up at night.

Donny NordlichtAssociate Web Editor


Mazda3 in Manhattan: This week I went to New York for Mazda’s introduction of the 2014 Mazda3, which is a dramatic and welcome departure from the outgoing, second-generation model. I had an opportunity to speak not only with Derek Jenkins, who heads up Mazda’s design studio in California, but also Julien Montousse, who works for Jenkins and designed the new car’s interior. Whenever I meet automotive designers, I like to find out where they have come from. Have they spent an entire career at one automaker, or did they cut their teeth elsewhere? In the case of these two gentlemen, they both went overseas to launch their design careers, and they both worked for huge multinational automakers before landing at Mazda. Jenkins, a native of Southern California and a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, spent 16 years with Audi and Volkswagen, working in both Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg. Montousse, who’s French, attended Strate Collège in Paris and got his big break when he was recruited by Anne Asensio, the former Renault designer who headed up advanced design for General Motors in the mid-aughts, to come to Detroit. In Motown, Montousse worked on the interiors of both the concept and production Chevy Camaros and also did some very early conceptual work on the cabin of the new Chevy Corvette C7. I find it interesting that Jenkins, the American, went to work for the Germans; while Montousse, the Frenchman, went to work for the Americans; and both have ended up working for the Japanese. But such is the norm for automotive designers, the most polyglot group of people working in the worldwide automotive industry.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Unconventional Off-Roading: One criticism of SUVs has been that their owners never use their off-road capability. That criticism has obviously not reached Land Rover, as our first drive of the new Range Rover Sport included not only the type of extreme mud-bogging and water-crossing that owners are unlikely to attempt but also a bit of highly technical off-roading in the belly of an airplane. Around tight corners and up and down steep ramps set up inside a hollowed-out 747, the Range Rover Sport showed its stuff. The new Sport is unquestionably the best SUV I have ever driven through an airplane. Oh yeah, it’s also pretty good on pavement too.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

Automiatable Magazine:It’s been brought to my attention that we haven’t yet published an edition of “Cocktail Chatter” that doesn’t allude to the Mazda MX-5 Miata. So, without further ado, allow me to continue this fine tradition. Miata, Miata, Miata, Miata. Oh, and two staffers parked their first-generation Miatas side-by-side in our parking lot this morning. There is simply no escaping this car.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

Accidental Spy Shooting:It’s my second week on the job, and one thing I’ve noticed as a first-time Michigan resident are the frequent sightings of unusual metal on the roads around our Ann Arbor office. Here are a few that caught my eye this past week:

McLaren MP4-12C: A striking burnt orange example of this supercar was parked outside of the famous Zingerman’s deli, with a clever license plate that used the University of Michigan “M” as the first letter in “MCLAREN.”

-Camouflaged Ford Transit mule: A huge, high-roof Transit with leopard print-like camouflage was sitting in the parking lot at the train station for some reason.

-Next-generation Audi A3 Sportback: This one surprised me because we won’t be seeing the A3—either in sedan or sportback versions—in the U.S. until the first quarter of 2014 according to Audi.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta mule: Now that Chrysler is basing many of its cars off the Alfa Romeo/Fiat platform, maybe it isn’t such a surprise, but it’s still cool to spot a Euro-market car—and an Alfa Romeo no less—trundling around American roads.

Joey Capparella, Associate Web Editor

Mediumbahn: I finally drove on Germany’s autobahn this week, and I must admit I didn’t drive at some ludicrous triple-digit velocity. While we drove through many de-limited parts of the autobahn network, I never had enough free space to push our Porsche Panamera test cars much past 160 km/h (about 100 mph). The first problem is traffic: not every car on the autobahn exceeds the 130 km/h (80 mph) advisory limit, even on unrestricted portions. The second is variable speed limits, announced by digital signs, which can slow de-limited parts of the autobahn to anywhere from 80-130 km/h (50-75 mph) when there is traffic or weather ahead. A Porsche product planner later confided that the best time to max out cars on the autobahn is in the dead of night, when the variable speed limits are disabled and there are fewer slow-moving cars around. Sounds like a plan for next time.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

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