Car companies pay good money for third-party consultants to come in and tell them how to fine-tune their products. Well, stop it, car companies, because I’ll tell you what you need to do—and for free. I’ll be an armchair quarterback and tell you what you should’ve done, in case you haven’t figured it out yet. Then you can take all that money you’re spending on consultants and invest it in things I care about, like torque and subwoofers. Here, then, is a brand-by-brand breakdown of problems and how to solve them.
Bugatti: Volkswagen’s highest-end nameplate has been building the Veyron since 2005 but still hasn’t sold all 450 cars it plans to make. My solution is for VW to go back in time and build the same car, but at Crewe and with a Bentley badge. Or in Sant’Agata with a Lamborghini badge. Voilà! All the Veyrons would be sold. Lamborghini moved $30 million worth of cars by restyling twenty Murciélagos—I imagine they’d have made hay with the Fastest Car in the Galaxy.
The issue is that there’s always a whiff of wariness when a long-dead brand is resurrected with no continuous link to its past. See: Maybach. See: Spyker. See: Bugatti. I can name my kid Abraham Lincoln, but it doesn’t mean he’s gonna grow a beard and wear a top hat, although if he lives in certain sections of Brooklyn, he just might.
Honda: Hire a guy with a mullet. This guy will assist Honda’s genius-level engineers in understanding the concerns of the common folk. Consider, for instance, the fact that the new Acura MDX has ten fewer horsepower than the old one. I asked a Honda person why they didn’t just give the 2014 a few horsepower more than the previous model, and he said, “But this one’s faster.” Yes, true. However, mouth-breathers like me will still look at the horsepower and say, “Why they ain’t make it more strong-like? I’m gonna go buy me one o’ them Infinitoids instead.”
On a related note, I also got a look at a crash-test video in which the new MDX hit an offset barrier at 40 mph. The car’s safety cage is so strong that when the front suspension was crushed into the firewall, the left-front wheel split in half and went flying like a plastic hubcap. It was so cool. If Honda had a guy with a mullet running things, that would’ve been Acura’s Super Bowl commercial. “Acura: Made of steel that’ll snap a wheel.” Yeehaw!
Subaru: Break the 305-hp barrier. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the WRX’s raunchier sibling, the WRX STI. But ten years is a long time to stand pat without a tangible power upgrade. Years ago, I attended a standing-mile event where a modified STI—gigantic intercooler looming behind the air dam, ferocious thumping exhaust note—clocked 140 mph in the mile. Which is exactly the speed I got from the stock Dodge Magnum SRT8 that I brought. I know straight-line speed isn’t the STI’s specialty, but it surely pains the gold-wheel loyalists that the latest and greatest Fuji Heavy Industries rally rocket will get dusted at the drag strip by an eight-year-old American station wagon (not to mention many of the contemporary cars vying for that $35,000 performance-machine outlay—Mustangs and Camaros and used Audi S4s). Perhaps Porsche’s recent announcement that it’s planning a flat four with 400 or so horsepower will light a fire under Subaru. I hope so, because it sure doesn’t look like Mitsubishi’s going to do it. Which brings me to . . .
Mitsubishi: Bring back the tailgate on the Outlander. Also, build a real three-row crossover and overhaul the Evo and introduce a competitive mid-size sedan. I have more ideas, but let’s start with those.
Look, I’m rooting for Mitsubishi. I liked the second-generation Outlander enough that I bought a new one in 2008. But when I needed a vehicle with a useful third row, Mitsubishi had nothing else to offer. And even the Outlander has gone in the wrong direction—the new Outlander GT disguises its legitimately entertaining chassis beneath a body that’s gone supergeneric (and, yes, ditched the drop-down tailgate that was otherwise seen only on upmarket machines like BMWs and Land Rovers).
Maybe Mitsubishi needs to jump-start some enthusiasm by bringing over a vehicle or two that it sells elsewhere. I, for one, am raising my hand for a Shogun SWB Barbarian mini-ute. It has a manual transmission and a four-cylinder diesel that displaces an utterly barbaric 3.2 liters. There’s another Shogun model called the Warrior. See, Mitsubishi? You know how to build cool stuff. Just sell it here.
Hyundai: Decimate the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Equus will be a player—it’s the same theory as starting a fight with the baddest guy in prison. Lexus did it with the LS400, a car that rivaled the S-class but cost much less money. The Equus has half of that equation nailed. To become the next Lexus, the Equus needs to not only benchmark the Europeans but to leapfrog them. No idea is too crazy. If you’re ever gonna fast-track the project on the hologram chauffeur, the time is now.
Scion: Get wacky. The tC is available with a solar-illuminated shift knob. I want more where that came from. Transparent doors. Chain-mail headliners. A horn that sounds like laser guns. Lay it on me. It’s fine to use Toyota parts, but borrow from the forklift division while you’re at it. No, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s the point.
Volvo: Reprogram the S60’s audio system so that it shuts down the instant you open the door and not two seconds later. If, hypothetically speaking, you were rocking out to Starship’s “We Built This City (on Rock ’n’ Roll),” that’s of no concern to the other people in the library parking lot.
Chrysler: Stop being embarrassed by Dodge. Once upon a time, the Viper wore a Dodge logo and Dodge Rams roamed the earth. Now Dodge is treated like the Cousin Eddie of the family, and I don’t like it. You’re telling me that a Hemi Charger is a Dodge but a faster Hemi Charger is an SRT? That’s like saying, “Here’s some tasty pie. And here’s another slice that’s even tastier. Now it’s prime rib.”
Plus, Dodge always had the best model names—Rampage, Demon, Raider. Hey, that last one gives me an idea. Maybe it’s time Dodge and Mitsubishi collaborated on another SUV. “Dodge Barbarian” has a nice ring to it.
Lamborghini moved $30 million worth of cars by restyling twenty Murciélagos—I imagine they’d have made hay with the fastest car in the galaxy.