What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. This week, we’re in the mood for something simple, quick, and classic: a dry martini. Pour three ounces of your favorite gin (we like Bombay Sapphire) into a mixing glass with ice and stir (don’t shake!). Splash a little dry vermouth in a chilled martini glass, swish the vermouth around, and then dump out. Carefully strain the gin into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Can’t See The Roads For The Forest(ers): People poking fun at Automobile‘s home of Ann Arbor, Michigan, often joke that every other car in this town is a Prius. I think it’s more accurate to say that every other car is a Subaru Forester. They are everywhere you look. Nearly all of them seem to be painted red, and at least half have a roof rack for bikes, kayaks, or skis. When I drove a 2014 Forester last weekend, I realized I know two people with older versions and asked if I could take a photo of the trio. Parked alongside one another, the 1999, 2010, and 2014 models show a clear evolution from tall station wagon to upright crossover. Oh, and they are all red.
So, why do Ann Arborites love the Subaru Forester? They appreciate the ground clearance and all-wheel-drive for when it snows in the winter. They appreciate the abundant interior room and practical designs. Above all, I’m told people love the Forester because it is reasonably affordable, comfortable and quiet, and very reliable. Let’s hope the new 2014 model continues that tradition and, eventually, appears on every Ann Arbor street just like the prior generations have.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
A New Love?: If you’ve ever talked to me about cars, there is a good chance that I’ve recently had my heart set on the BMW X1 xDrive28i. It’s essentially an all-wheel drive E91-generation 3 Series with the turbo-four and eight-speed automatic from the current F30 3er and a slightly higher ride height. That combination is important because you receive one of the best powertrain combinations in the business and the weighty feedback that long made BMWs a joy to drive. However, I may have found a new Bimmer to lust after: the upcoming 328d xDrive wagon. In case you don’t have a doctorate in Bavarian nomenclature that breaks down to a 3 Series wagon with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder and all-wheel drive. Yes, BMW is gracing American buyers with an all-wheel drive, diesel wagon. Hopefully, it will drive better than its gas-powered sedan counterpart because, if for no other reason, I want it on principle alone.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Undead Scion: I spotted this Scion xB at lunch this week, a zombie response vehicle, which has me asking a few questions. 1.) How effective are they if they need to park in a handicap zone? 2.) What would be the qualifications to be part of such a response team? 3.) What’s the market like for this?
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
For Sale: One Popemobile: The most shocking news that came out of Vatican City yesterday wasn’t the fact that the new pontiff is the first from the Americas, but rather, that he declined the use of the official papal car, aka the “Popemobile.” For his first journey from the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis instead chose to ride in a bus with the cardinals who elected him as the 266th pope. Is this the end of the Popemobile? It may be too early to tell. But for now, the current Popemobile, a modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class with a specially encased glass case built into the back of the vehicle (which tops out at 160 mph but travels no more than 6 mph), will probably be sitting in the papal garage collecting dust.
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
#F650weekend: Evan McCausland and I will be driving a tow truck this weekend. This will certainly generate questions everywhere we go. Mostly from my friends who assume I’m always driving a sports car. I can’t wait to see how much better or worse a roll-back tow truck is for transporting a car than my usual enclosed trailer. I suspect the fuel economy will be about the same and the tow truck will be slightly easier to maneuver. If you want to see what we’re hauling around, click here.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Goodbye, Fisker: Henrik Fisker resigned yesterday from the struggling carmaker that he founded to make high-styled, plug-in-hybrid luxury cars. His departure likely spells the end of Fisker Automotive, unless the Chinese automaker that already owns Volvo, Zhejiang Geely, decides to take a go at running it, as is rumored. Fisker Automotive’s struggles underscore two things: 1) just how incredibly difficult it is to launch an all-new carmaking enterprise, as history has shown again and again (think Tucker, DeLorean, etc.); and 2) just how important it is to have access to vast sums of capital if you do decide to take the plunge and launch your own car company. Henrik Fisker spent most of his time at the helm of Fisker Automotive traversing the globe selling himself, and his vision, to generate capital. When Department of Energy funding was frozen nearly two years ago, his problems really intensified, and it’s been a struggle to keep the company afloat ever since. Elon Musk of Tesla, on the other hand, was a very wealthy man to start with and clearly had an easier time raising capital for Tesla Motors (there are also fundamental differences between the two companies’ technological, logistical, and production approaches, but that’s another discussion).
I have only the greatest admiration for Henrik Fisker and the team of people who bravely launched Fisker Automotive against incredible odds. As Fisker has been quoted as saying, starting your own car company is akin to “running over fire while people are whipping you.” Henrik Fisker will still go into the history books as a pioneer in the production of alternative-fuel automobiles, and the Karma, Automobile Magazine‘s 2012 Design of the Year, will always be known as an incredibly good-looking car. Fisker also proved the maxim that good design will always capture the public’s attention, and good design will help lead the public to new technologies.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Fake Fun: A Pepsi ad posted on Tuesday has created quite a stir this week. By Thursday afternoon, the spot — featuring the poorly disguised four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon “test driving” a used Chevy Camaro and scaring the bejesus out of the “salesman” — had already been watched 7.2 million times. That the car is presented as a 2009 model (which never existed) with the interior of a 2013 Camaro doesn’t bother me. That the video has been outed as probably completely staged doesn’t bother me. What bothers me — as someone who doesn’t really care about NASCAR but is a fan of Jeff Gordon the person, whom I’ve met on several occasions — is that Gordon didn’t do his own stunt driving. At least the driver, Brad Noffsinger, is a former NASCAR racer, albeit one that pretty much no one has ever heard of. Still, I found the advertisement quite amusing and passable as real on the first casual viewing. (In fact, so did Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, whose tweet about the video first informed me of its existence.)
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
F1 Season!: My favorite sport returns this weekend, now on the nascent NBC Sports network instead of Speed Channel. It’s off to a quick start, with the Australian Grand Prix this Sunday and Malaysia the next. If pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona, Spain, is any indication, Sebastian Vettel will have a tough time getting a championship four-peat in his Red Bull Renault RB9. Lewis Hamilton has been fastest in pre-season practice; proving he did, indeed, know what he was doing when he left McLaren for Mercedes. Teammate Nico Rosberg was fast, too, and the Ferrari F138s of Fernando Alonzo and Felipe Massa showed far more promise than their cars from last season. Considering what Alonso did with an easily outclassed chassis and engine last year, I predict he’s the F1 driver to watch again in ’13, though the BBC quoted him saying that Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, and Red Bull are all in the hunt. I hope Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen wins a few races this season, just so we can watch him get interviewed.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
Zoom-Zoom (Zoom): I want to shout out the staff of Scott Mazda in Allentown, PA for helping my parents as they purchased their 2014 Mazda CX-5 Sport. It could have been a disaster, but the buying process with Scott was (I’m told) completely painless, and the Meteor Gray Mica crossover is finally part of the Timmins family. Now there’s only one thing left to do: let me drive it.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Free Karma: Henrik Fisker is a free agent. Here are five companies that should seriously consider snatching him up:
- Band-Aid: Why is the butterfly bandage Band-Aid’s most exciting design? Fisker could probably do something about that.
- Toyota: Why is the Prius c Toyota’s most exciting design? Someone, anyone, should really do something about that. Now, please.
- Walmart: I hate Walmart, but maybe I’d hate it less if it were prettier. Probably not, though.
- Apple: If Apple makes an iCar, it needs to look as good as the iPhone.
- Tesla: Tesla filed a lawsuit against Fisker Automotive and lost, so there’s some bad blood here. Tesla sought Henrik’s help with design aesthetics for the Model S, though, and that worked out pretty well.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
No Need for Flo: Much like the Progressive’s Snapshot—put to the test by our own Ezra Dyer, click here to read his column —a company called Automatic has come out with a device, called the Link, that plugs into your car’s onboard diagnostic port and collects information on your driving habits. Not exactly riveting stuff but what’s interesting about this device is that instead of the results being analyzed by your insurance company to possibly get you a discount for being a safe driver, the information that the Link collects is sent to your iPhone and viewed using their free app. Its primary objective is to help its user reduce fuel consumption—it can only be used with vehicles that burn gasoline, not diesel—but it can also retrieve and translate diagnostic codes when your check engine light illuminates, tell you where your car is parked, and call 911 if it senses that you’ve been in an accident. What’s most interesting about the Link is it doesn’t discriminate against older vehicles: it works on most vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1996.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms
F-650 Fun: Phil beat me to the punch here in Cocktail Chatter, but I managed to beat him to the wheel of the F-650. I took the behemoth home last night and returned to work the next morning with a new appreciation for those who regularly use and work with these things.
I drove my normal route home last night but found myself concerned and contemplating things I never thought of before, and asking myself a million questions each minute. Does this particular township allow large trucks to pass through it? Am I under the newly-enforced spring weight restrictions on these back roads? Is this slick LED light bar going to clear that Oak branch overhanging the road? Is the moron stranded in the claptrap vintage Ram D50 on I-94 going to flag me down for a lift? Is he going to flip me the bird as I drive past him? Is all this a little frightening? Is this all totally awesome?
Want to keep tabs on our weekend adventure? Look for the #F650weekend to pop up on both Instagram and Twitter, and a full recap of our mad-dash hauling adventures early next week.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor