January 27, 2012: The Editor had to rush off mid-week to get his two dime-sized kidney stones surgically removed. Before he left to catch his seat on the Pain Train, he wrote a review of the Kia Forte Koup SX, uploaded an infographic about the Nurburgring, and reviewed Beverly Rae Kimes’ history of the early years of the American auto industry. Sawyer found Kia’s Forte Koup to be handsome, reasonably quick and roomy, but wonders if it doesn’t demand too many compromises in a rapidly changing market. As for the Nurburgring map, that comes courtesy of our friends at Car Buzz. Not only does it show you the squiggles and curves of a track affectionately referred to as The Green Hell, it gives interesting facts… like how many people, on average, die at the track when it’s open to the public each year. Life and death struggles also were a part of the early years of the automobile industry in America, and Beverly Rae Kimes does a masterful job of recounting this tale. Speaking of tales, tall and otherwise, Al Vinikour makes an impassioned plea to automakers everywhere for digital speedometers as a way to reduce traffic fines.
January 20, 2012: Solyndra. It’s a name that’s likely to go down in history alongside Enron as a case study of corruption. In the case of Solyndra, however, it was government, not private enterprise, that ignored the warning signs and poured millions of taxpayer dollars into a sinking ship in a vain attempt to jump start the green jobs revolution. Unfortunately, Solyndra wasn’t the only “green jobs” debacle from this administration. The latest is the joint EPA/NHTSA-run plan to increase CAFE standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Volubly supported by UAW president Bob King, the mileage standards, it is claimed, will not only cut our dependence on foreign oil, but put money back in car buyers’ pockets and clean the skies. But at what cost? Chris Sawyer takes a look at a Center for Automotive Research study that says the cost of this wishful thinking could decimate the UAW, automakers, and put as many as one million people out of work. On a brighter note, Al Vinikour is back, and no longer ready to run people over with a Craftsman tractor. He takes us behind the scenes with perhaps the most famous car spy photographer in the world in his review of Car Spy, then has filthy fun with license plates — just like his Uncle Barney. Finally, we take a quick look at the twin-turbo technology found on four-cylinder S-Class sedans in Europe. Enjoy the weekend and we will see you next Friday.
January 13, 2012: Friday the thirteenth during a full-moon cycle, the worst possible combination. Except that the weather for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) was unseasonably warm and sunny. After two long (l-o-n-g!) days at the show with “Mr. Tirade” Al Vinikour, Chris Sawyer is about to collapse from sore feet and sheer exhaustion. However, before he heads off to rest, we had him sit down and pound out a report on the highlights of the auto show with the long, awkward name. Everyone was there, even Sears, which introduced its new line of Craftsman CTX Series tractors. With traction control, electronic fuel management, electronic deck height adjustment, cupholders and more, it was more sophisticated than the Chinese cars on display at NAIAS shows past. If the Craftsman tractors had one problem, it was that Al wanted desperately to use them as his personal transport during the show’s press days! Speaking of the irrepressible Al, we’ve given him the week off. After long hours ignoring Sawyer’s instructions at the show, his latest Tirade was so hot it self-combusted. Better to let him rest than give TVD a NC-17 rating. He’s back next week, tanned, rested and ready — just like Nixon in ’68!
January 6, 2012: When is a crossover not a crossover? When it’s a four-door hatchback with a body kit and all-wheel-drive. It would be easy to slap Suzuki for an overly liberal use of the crossover designation or a cynical marketing ploy, but the SX4 acquits itself well is you remember it’s a compact hatchback, not an off-road athlete. Just watch out for the boring interior. Speaking of boring, Chris Sawyer reads a book about a noted engine expert. While that, in itself, might seem boring, the man’s life spanned two World Wars, the introduction of jet propulsion and the development of the Wankel engine. He was there for it all. Unfortunately, this skilled engineer gives us an engineer’s view of his life. Never boring, Al decides to dunk some donuts, but this has nothing to do with sweet, doughy confections.