Cocktail Chatter: April 12, 2013
Electric politics, Maserati sales, and old Isuzus.
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. With the arrival of warmer weather in most of the country, we're celebrating the spring-like weather with associate web editor Donny Nordlicht's favorite drink: the sky-blue-colored Aviation. Combine two ounces of gin with half an ounce each of lemon juice and maraschino liqueur and a quarter ounce of crème de violette in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.
Not Gonna Happen: You might scoff if I told you I expected to earn eight times my current salary by 2015. Even if I told you I was starting two extra jobs, you would probably think it overly optimistic to expect to increase my salary by such a large amount in just two years. Imagine my skepticism, then, when Maserati says it will sell 50,000 cars worldwide by 2015. For reference, the Italian brand delivered just 6307 new cars in all of 2012, an eighth of what it plans to shift by mid-decade.
Maserati believes it can octuple its annual sales volume by adding the Ghibli (aka a baby Quattroporte) and the Levante SUV to the just-released Quattroporte. But given that the Ghibli doesn't go on sale until later this year, and the Levante might not reach showrooms until next year or later, it's hard to believe Maserati can pick up 43,693 extra sales so quickly. Even once the Ghibli and Levante launch, is there really such a large market for Italian luxury cars? Only if hordes of buyers ditch their Audis, BMWs, Jaguars, and Mercedes-Benzes for the new Maseratis -- and that isn't likely to happen on such a short timetable.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Racing Roadtrip: Between last weekend's final rounds of NCAA basketball, what could have been better than putting 750 miles on a 2014 Mazda CX-5? As long as I had one to sample, I decided to dash from Southern California to St. George, Utah, and pick up a rug stored for me there. I left before Sunday's dawn. In the next 370 miles I found the CX-5 to be the friendliest and most agreeable creature since Snowy the terrier in The Adventures of Tintin. Mine was the Touring model equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder that growled playfully when started and proved to have plenty of midrange while barreling up mountainsides. Meanwhile, the vehicle's solidity and composure yielded delights in every mile.
Supplemental entertainment came from listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain. This touching novel by Garth Stein made the hours vanish. I found myself quibbling with canine narrator Enzo's ranking of Steve McQueen among his very favorite actors but cheering on when, with gastric revenge in mind, he accepted a bottled pepper from the story's villain and defiled an area of rich Berber carpeting. The narration ended too soon--just as I'd cleared Sin City on the return leg. I-15 was clogged with traffic from the casinos and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which had hosted the NHRA. If John Force was in our midst, he was often going 3 mph rather than 300 mph. But the CX-5 was still a delight.
Ronald Ahrens, Contributor
Small World: I'd never driven a 65-series AMG model before, so when handed the keys to a matte grey Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG on Tuesday, I made sure to chronicle the occasion in photos. The next day, I stumbled on the Twitter and Instagram accounts for one Michael Kubler. (@F1Mike28). Kubler works at AMG in Affalterbach, Germany, where he hand-builds engines -- V-12 engines, to be exact. I turned to the photos, and sure enough -- Kubler had built the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-liter twelve-cylinder I fell in love with the night prior.
Go figure. Thank you, Michael, for building one of the most amazing engines I've ever had the opportunity to sample in a road-going automobile.
A night with the CL65 was amazing, but it wasn't the high point of the week. That might go to finally having the chance to drive a friend's 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS, one of roughly 1402 imported to North America before Isuzu stopped building cars outright. Pity all Isuzu's car products didn't boast the RS' turbocharged 16-valve four-banger or its rear-biased AWD system.
As a lover of quirky cars, I'm glad this Impulse still exists -- but I'm happier yet that there are still people who care for and about cars like this. I can't help but feel that many self-professed "car guys" can't appreciate cars outside of a few select "exotic" or "premiere" brands. Pity, because there are so many other interesting -- and, gasp, enjoyable cars -- in the automotive spectrum. Ignore, dismiss, or crush them, and you're destroying history. Need proof? Of those 1402 Impuse RS models shipped to North America, no more than 150 are still on the road today.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Getting Kinky: I recently noticed a trend in recent automotive design: the front window kink. This is a little dip in the daylight opening just aft of the A-pillar, often near to the side-view mirror. I first noticed it on the 2014 Cherokee, and began noticing it on the current Toyota Camry and 2014 Highlander, and on the outgoing Kia Forte, among others. Although I generally find the detail to look out of place in every application, if it means the end of slab-sided designs and gun-slit windows, I'll take it.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Patrolling in Style: The 5-0 in Dubai just got an upgrade to its fleet — a major upgrade. The Dubai Police recently added a $450,000 Lamborghini Aventador to cruise the streets for crooks. Sure, it's fast (0 to 60 mph in three seconds), but the article raises the question of practicality: how does one fit a suspect into the backseat?
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
Give Me Affectation: The Automobile Magazine staff is still arguing over the Camaro Z/28's bare-bones interior. To some of us, the lack of a radio and optional air-conditioning delete says, "serious sports car." Others in this office have, not wrongly, pointed out that such savings cannot possibly make much of a difference in a 3800-pound, 500-hp car and thus amount to little more than pointless posturing.
This got me thinking: how much of what we love about sports cars is mere affectation? It's easy to make fun of huge spoilers and fake carbon fiber, but how about the manual transmission? It's almost always slower than a modern dual-clutch automatic, a fact Porsche drove home by kicking the stick-shift out of its hardcore 911 GT3. But while we're talking about Porsche, what's the point anymore of the left-hand ignition? Drivers don't run to their cars at the starting line anymore, and most expensive passenger cars have keyless fobs anyway.
Angry yet? You should be. Race cars are meant to go as fast as possible, and thus must mercilessly dispense with outmoded technology and conventions. But sports cars are not race cars. Sports cars are meant to evoke emotion. So, give me a stick-shift. Give me thousands of gauges that I don't really need (so long as the important ones are in my direct line of sight). Don't give me A/C. I'll sweat it out with a grin on my face.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
Rough Day: I'm having a rough day, as you can see by this picture. I'm in northeastern Spain driving the new Jaguar F-Type roadster, which goes on sale this spring starting at $69,000. The model pictured here is the F-Type S, which has a 375-hp version of Jaguar's supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that's good for a 4.8-second 0-to-60-mph time and a top speed of 171 mph. It starts at $81,000, while the F-Type V8 S, with 488 hp, will cost $92,000. Jaguar points out that each model of the F-Type is about 25% cheaper than comparable Porsche 911 models. The automaker has high hopes for the F-Type and expects about half of worldwide sales to come from the United States. I'm not allowed to share my driving impressions of the F-Type just yet; check back at Automobilemag.com on Tuesday evening, April 17, when the embargo lifts, for my story.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Right Road, Wrong Car: I sampled the 2014 Kia Cadenza this week. The drive route was fantastic leaving the Presidio in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and continuing up the lovely Pacific Coast Highway. Although the big sedan handled the tight road better than I had expected, I kept wishing I were on this exact route in my 1992 Miata. Even the Cadenza's 293 hp was far too much for the slow-moving dump trucks and sedans on the road. My little Miata would have been perfect. Sadly it was 2000 miles away in my garage. Oh well, it looks like Spring might finally be coming to Michigan and I'll soon be able to enjoy my little roadster on a more regular basis.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
****tail Chatter: Somebody painted one whale of a willy on the Nürburgring this past weekend. No one has taken responsibility for the novelty-sized phallus, but I'd like to virtually high-five the mystery vandal here and now. Well done, bud(s).
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
Charlie Horse: I like the Fiat 500 Abarth but because it's probably the craziest car you can buy for $25,000. It has a relatively small engine, it makes a lot of noise, and it's a handful on the track without being outwardly deadly.
While I'm not sure adding an automatic transmission to the Abarth is a good idea--the softer Turbo model is a much better model for a two-pedal setup--I'm sure it should earn a few sales with people who like crazy cars but never learned how to use a clutch. But to say that these tweaks will help the Abarth appeal to more women is suspect. I'm not saying that Fiat North America president Tim Kuniskis is misogynist, but maybe a little shortsighted: the Abarth might not appeal to women as much because it's marketed either by a topless/blatantly flirtatious Catrinel Menghia or by Charlie Sheen and his questionable ethics. Perhaps it's time to consider making your Abarth ads a tad more feminist, before retooling your factories?
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
The Politics of Green Cars: Fisker has laid off 75 percent of its workforce with the remaining employees apparently sticking around just to sell off assets and take the company through bankruptcy. Tesla's Elon Musk appeared before the Texas state legislature this week to argue against the need for franchising his dealerships. Musk, whose Tesla Model S is our 2013 Automobile of the Year, also won a ruling in New York Supreme Court case that allows him to continue selling cars in company owned dealerships (kind of like Apple stores). Judge Raymond J. Elliott III ruled that dealers can't use the Franchised Dealer Act to sue competitors, and their attempt to do so proves Tesla has value in the open market. Tesla also is paying off its Department of Energy loans ahead of schedule. Fisker, obviously, is not, and we'll end up about $192 million short thanks to Henrik Fisker's ill-conceived business plan and poorly built cars. One might say the DOE under President Obama isn't picking winners and losers; it's picking both. That hasn't prevented the Fox News juggernaut from confusing Tesla and Fisker. In a "report" that mentioned Fisker, Bill O'Reilly says "Tesla had $523 million in losses…" not true. And Musk said this week he's "hurt" that former vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin lumped Tesla in with Fisker. Don't you wonder how easily O'Reilly and Palin get this confused?
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor