Archive for July 10, 2011

‘Tis The Season

Posted: July 10, 2011 in Cars
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Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

Well, at time of writing it nearly is – and at time of reading it probably will be – December. This means many things. The shops will soon be busier, unless you’re more organised than I and got your shopping done in that short period of time after Easter Eggs disappeared and before the Christmas carols started playing.

Some families will begin to plan annual pilgrimages to far off lands to see people they haven’t spoken to all year, while many others will stay home and attend their chosen Mecca’s to continue their bi-annual conversations with a being they’ve never seen. And the eternal lie of the fat guy in a red suit will be perpetuated, taking credit for the hard work of parents who have chosen awesome, yet, entirely inappropriate gifts for their offspring.

It’s at this time that vehicle manufacturers start to get rid of new cars built in the current year at prices slightly higher than a new pair of socks. I have mentioned before that my father sold cars for about thirty years of his life and it is with some pride that I say he was quite successful without losing his integrity. In fact some ten years after he left the ‘game’ he was still being courted by Holden to take over various dealerships. I mention this purely to illustrate the point that I have some inside knowledge of how the car industry operates.

It’s no secret that a vehicle with a year plate of the previous year is far less desirable than one with the current year. It could be a difference of only a few weeks but it normally equals savings of thousands of dollars. If you’re in the market for a new car than there really is no better time to approach a car yard, particularly high volume car manufacturers, eg. Holden, Ford, and yes, even…yawn…Toyota zzzzz….

However, in these times of good deals and good wishes something sinister lurks. Over the next month I would like each of you to walk down the magazine aisle in your local supermarket and look at the cover of every car magazine they sell. It may take you a little while as there are a few available but you should start to notice a common thread. Yes, it’s time for the local and international publications to start handing out their awards for the year.

I flicked through the recent Herald-Sun CarsGuide and noticed the shortlist that they have compiled. I was not surprised to see that the selection was a list of unlikely winners (Peugeot RCZ), banality (Camry Hybrid) and cheap Korean crap (Hyundai i20). If the past years are anything to go by no matter how good a car is as soon as it goes above the level of about $45000 it becomes the spawn of Satan.

Other cars shortlisted for consideration by the Herald-Sun Cars Guide team include the Suzuki Kizashi, the Skoda Superb and eventual winner Volkswagen Polo GTI. Do you see what I mean now about the price limit? With the exception of the Camry and the i20 every other car is a worthy addition to the list. There can be no doubt that the Polo GTI is a worthy winner but can I honestly say that it is the best car released this year? Not a chance.

Bugatti, extremely upset about some American upstart company called SSC, or Shelby Supercars, building a car that was faster than the wonderfully improbable Veyron, built the Veyron SuperSport which tops out a fantastic 431 km/h. Ridiculous? Yes, you bet, but it does all this while keeping you cloistered in perfect comfort. It comes with a stereo, air conditioning, ABS, Sat Nav and every other modern creature comfort available today. In Australia it will cost somewhere north of $2,000,000. I would like to suggest that this car is far better than the Volkswagen Polo GTI. It is ruled out because of its inaccessibility to the proletariat.

This is a load of nonsense and must be redressed as soon as possible. It is unlikely to be done this year, for instance when reading the blurb that accompanied the Hyundai i20 it appears that it was chosen because it now has iPod connectivity which essentially means we are rewarding car companies for installing two metres of wiring and a USB port. It probably costs them about 0.0001 of a cent to install such a thing but for some reason is been haled as a revolution. Why do we support such mediocrity?

While I’m talking about mediocrity I’ve really had a gutful of car ads which still talk about power steering, air conditioning, and a stereo as being ‘features’. It’s nearly 2011, if those things weren’t available as standard I’d be spending my money elsewhere. There are of course exceptions to this rule. As I mentioned in a previous article the wonderful Porsche 911 GT2 RS has none of these things and it costs around $500,000. This car is made almost legal for the road while been a focused track car. In no way is this thing mediocre.

I understand that these publications must write to suit their chosen demographics but it also appears that every magazine have the chosen the same audience. There is an inherent fear that if a magazine thinks outside the box they may get it wrong and held up to ridicule by there rivals. Personally, I would prefer to go out on a limb and be wrong but at the same time putting some distance between myself and the rest of the herd.

It’s easy to be cynical about car awards the same way it’s easy to get cynical about entertainment awards. It’s very easy to imagine car companies delivering their cars to magazine headquarters and the winner is the one with the most money in the boot. At least that’s the way that I’d do it if I owned a car company.

The best advice I’d give to anyone about to buy a new car is to completely ignore any magazine awards and do things the old fashioned way. Work out how much you can spend, check out the cars in the price range and then test drive them. Take whatever you normally carry in your car and throw it all in and see if it fits. Pull the interior apart and put it back together and have the idiot with the grin answer your questions. No matter what advances in technology we make, sometimes the old ways are best.

This article first appeared in the December 2011 issue of The King’s Tribune

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And The Loser Is….

Posted: July 10, 2011 in Cars
Tags: ,

BMW X1

The old adage is true; you can’t please all of the people all of the time. This past month I have been lambasted, mostly with good nature, by friends over my selection of what I considered to be Car of the Year, the Bugatti Veyron SuperSport.

Questions have been asked. Questions such as,

“How the hell can you choose a car that costs more than $2million?”

“There’s only going to be five made. Are you insane?”

“Don’t you think accessibility is the key component to choosing Car of the Year?”

The answers of course are:

Easily. Quite possibly. No.

You see, as I stated in the December issue, the Car of the Year awards have been usurped by the affordable and banal. This award should be a celebration of all that’s automotive; it should not be given to humdrum boxes from Korea. The Hyundai i20, for example, won Green Car of The Year. How? I don’t know. The i20 doesn’t have the best fuel economy, the Ford Fiesta Econetic does and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is still the most environmentally sound vehicle, at least with a view to using recycled materials in its construction. It would appear that Hyundai executives have dumped a truckload of money on the judges and this was the only award on offer.

Continuing, this article is a little different. This is the Yang to last articles’ Yin. It offers balance. You see, you can’t have a winner without a loser, otherwise how do you judge the excellence of the winner? This article is all about the loser and, while there were a few, let’s consider the only possible grand winner, or loser, or…whatever. I have a distaste for all (automotive) things Korean but it’s not one of them, it could be a Toyota (which I hate more) but it’s not. My choice may surprise you. My choice of Worst Car of the Year is in fact European. Not just European though, German and not just German, BMW German.

Usually BMW are considered one of the best kinds of automotive Germans. The M3 and M5 still remain at the pinnacle of car design and the M Divisions updated Z4 will provide you with all the thrills you’ll ever need. Recently, however, BMW have spent far too much time chasing the American dollar. The American dollar is, or should I say was, extremely lucrative and that particular market is important for all car companies that consider themselves global. Sometimes though, when you chase the American dollar what you end up selling is your soul.

For example, Porsche chased the American dollar and we ended up with the Cayenne. How does a sports car company end up making a 4WD? It is possibly one of the most capable 4WD vehicles that money can buy and it’s been a massive success in every market it’s entered. However I don’t know that it fits with Ferdinand Porsche’s original concept behind his cars.

Now, back to BMW. I have been dreading this vehicle. I have been awaiting it for some years now. It is perhaps the most useless, needless, ridiculous, unfortunately inevitable motor vehicle ever made. Sports Utility Vehicle’s, or SUV’s, which I despise with every fibre of my being, are extremely successful. Just look on the road next time you are driving. They’re everywhere. The BMW X5 was one of the first and is one of the most successful. BMW were always going to milk the formula for every penny and of course there was going to be an X3. As soon as the 1-series entered the market it was apparent there was going to be an X1 as well. Now the prophecy has been fulfilled.

Jeremy Clarkson once said of the X3 and I quote,

“If, one day, it turns out you are mad and by mad I mean you wake up and think you are an onion, this is the vehicle for you.”

In the case of the X1 that onion has been chopped, diced and sautéed for about an hour. Until recently I had only seen it in magazines and newspapers and couldn’t get my head around it then. Now, I have seen it and I want to grab the driver by the shoulders and shake them until their bloody head falls off.

First off, it is small. About the same size as a Mazda 3 which sounds okay, if you have a Mazda 3. Secondly, it has the ground clearance of a pregnant Earthworm. No towing boats up mountain roads for those owners although it still has its token 4WD system, for some reason. I recently had the opportunity to watch a young couple attempt to put their child’s pram in, what BMW laughingly call, the boot. I sat their discreetly for some minutes as they attempted all manner of positions before giving up, placing the pram wheels in the “boot” and stowing the rest of the pram on the back seat.

I now have to wonder whether they bought the pram first or the stupid ridiculous BMW badge. Let’s face it, that’s what the majority of people will buy. It just so happens that this badge has the automotive equivalent of a wart growing out of it. Either way, do people even check their requirements before making purchases anymore? If you feel the need to buy a status symbol, I don’t know, buy one of those small, stupid dogs and a handbag.

But, in the end, if you really must have one of these awful, dreadful and pointless motor vehicles then, for god sakes send me a message on Twitter. Make sure that message has your address and I will be around, every morning. To slap you. Hard. Until that need goes away. It’s the least I can do.

This article was first published in the February 2011 edition of The King’s Tribune