Friday, April 22, 2011

An Open Letter to the Driver Doing 45 MPH in the Left Lane With Their High Beams On.

Hi, it’s you again. I pass at least two of your kind a day going the other way, and I’ll always get stuck behind one of you at least once a day. If it wasn’t for auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, I might react with some road rage, but for now my hostilities will be put into words.

Your kind knows no ethnic boundaries. You are never always a male or female, and never of one faith. Age is also irrelevant, as is type of car or social status.  But it seems that you all are under the impression that no matter what time of day or night it is, high beams are a good idea. And why not?  Nothing says “I’ve arrived” like serving up a whole dish of blinding HID goodness to your fellow motorists who still use that tungsten based  method of illumination.  Maybe you think that bright blue icon on your dash means your headlights are on, and no one ever told you differently (I call it a blue comet looking thing). Who cares right? You aren’t the one being blinded by oncoming traffic. I bet you feel smug and safe in your car on the parkway, knowing that everyone sees you. They might not see the pedestrian, road hazard or disabled car on the road because they are blinded but hey, that’s not your problem, right?

But why are you in the left hand lane doing well below the speed limit? its called the passing lane.  I get that some people are a bit slower, and some like to drive with their brights on, but why both? Are you really that unaware of your surroundings and the rules of the road that this seems like a good idea? I wish one of your kind would go on the record to tell me what you are thinking as you cruise along, creating a wake of traffic and disgruntled drivers behind you. I really am at a loss for words what can be going through the minds of these people.

Your cousin, the no-lights-on-at-night person?  He called and wants to know that he appreciates your enthusiasm, but he will remain in the top spot of most unaware driver on the road most likely to annoy and /or kill others.

So, on behalf of the commuters of Metro NY, Long Island and NJ, I beg of you, that driver doing 45 in the left lane with your brights on, to at least move over to the right. If you cant move over to the right due to some other reason, try pushing or pulling the column stalk on you car, and realize that with the amount of streetlights and light pollution we have, you barely need headlights much less high beams.

And if someone gets behind you and starts flashing their high beams, realize how annoying it is, move over, and check to see if that little blue comet-looking icon in your dash is on.

NY thanks you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To celebrate the new Beetle, I made an internet top 10 list

Yesterday Vdub dropped the 2012 Beetle. The fresh redesign and powertrain will no doubt attract many new buyers, but will it help to shake the stigma of being considered a “chick car”? Certainly it’s not a death knell for any brand, but unless an automobile is wildly successful, you can count out 50% of your buyers, and that’s a big problem for any manufacturer. But really, what do you expect when you put a flower vase in the dash?  There are even rumblings of a type R package which should further help to shake the powder-puff image of the car a bit.

Surely it’s the question that’s keeps designers and automarketers up at night - How can I keep my car loved by both sexes? Some, like Mercury embraced the estrogen. Minivan and family friendly SUV marketing is certainly aimed at women, but more as a practical utility for families.

So what is the biggest chick car of all time? Below is my top 10 list of the most feminine “chick cars” and why.

  1. Acura RSX -  how did this happen? How did the replacement to the venerable Integra become a popular sweet 16 present? A combination of small motor, cutesie compact styling and no sport trim models available led to this once great coupe to become the Civic of the upper middle class teen.

  2. Toyota RAV 4 -   While the recent redesign looks nothing like its original body, the car must have a hard time shaking the image of its first generation as a cute little purple SUV. And where is everyone getting the airbrushed rear spare tire covers?

  3. Chevy Beretta – This one is a curveball, I know. It seems growing up I knew so many girls that drove this car despite its obviously masculine name.  And the odd part -  every single one was purple.

  4. Chrysler PT Cruiser -  you can drop the top. Throw in a turbocharged motor, it's still gonna be a damn ugly Neon. Speaking of that…

  5. Dodge Neon – through multiple generations, the Neon has represented cheap transportation for those who just don’t care about cars. So what if the paint peeled off after the first winter? It only adds to the charm of this cute lil’ bugger with its big round headlights. Oh, and the SRT-4? Still a chick car.

  6. V6 Mustang -  I don’t care if the fuel efficiency is amazing. I don’t care that its kicking nearly 300 ponies. I don’t care if its RWD. The bottom line is that as long as a V8 model exists as a proper muscle car, the V6 will always be the feminine choice. This is especially true of the convertible models.

  7. VW Jetta -  While the Beetle gets knocked, lets face it, VW sells far more Jettas. Its another perennial favorite of car of the co-ed.

  8. BMW 325i -  I’m gonna take some crap for this one, I know it. Its not only a chick car, its also a favorite ride of douchbags across the northeast.  Yeah, it handles, yeah, its got some cojones, but its still small, and screams “my banker daddy bought this for me after I totaled my Mustang.” But once you bump up the displacement to the 328 or a 5 Series, it’s a totally different car for a different buyer.

  9. Mazda Miata -  The folks over at Mazda were so fed up with the stigma surrounding their extremely capable roadster, they actually changed the name to the MX-5. It really is a shame, but when give a tiny car such a feminine name, what do you expect to happen? That’s, and the thing was tiny. I’m not a big guy, but I tried to drive one once and could barely fit.

  10. Chrysler Sebring / the modern K car – the mixture of a small motor, bland, non aggressive styling and a convertable option is a formula for instant chick car success.

Honorable mentions -  Nissan Altima, every Saturn ever made, Honda Civic, Chrysler LeBaron, Toyota Celica, Mitsubishi Eclipse

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Week for Commuting

I do not claim any religious affiliation, But I love Passover. It took me 50 minutes to get to work today. Thats a new record. Every year it's like metro NY roads have half of their normal volume.  Even the CBX was smooth sailing today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wow, that’s a lot of cops

“Operation Hang Up” is in full force right now. If you hadn’t noticed, all major roads are flooded with State troopers looking to give out summons to cell phone users and texters. Last night I counted four units on the Clearview southbound alone. NJ is getting in on it too, with a ramped up police presence on the turnpike. On my way up to Albany this weekend, there were more speedtraps than I have ever seen on both 87 and 84.

This is all part of NY states four day assault on cell phone use, which I totally support. The program is concentrating on the thruway, where last year more than 8000 tickets were issued. The average fine for cell phone use is $160.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Tale of Three Rentals...

There’s a good reason you haven’t seen a post in a while. I have been on the road. A lot. Over the past month I have spent time in Austin, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, and that’s just to start.

But where there’s a challenge there is opportunity, and this was a great time to throw down my Super-Gold-Enterprise-Plus-Elite Platinum Card to rent some cars. I had different transportation needs at all of these locations, and drove a variety of new vehicles that each had their own personalities.

First, I don’t want to shill for the brand, but there’s a reason I usually go with Enterprise. They usually give me a choice of vehicles if they have them, and the lines are reasonable. Anyone who has sat at a Hertz counter in LAX knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The other reason is the Chevy Tahoe. It’s one of my favorite go-anywhere, do anything trucks that I usually rent when I am doing event and location work, and they are the only rental house that always has them in stock.

Austin and the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder - SXSW was going strong, and the city of Austin was sold out of rental cars weeks in advance. There were no full size SUV’s, so I was told I would get a Traverse instead of my usual Tahoe. Not my first choice, but it probably could get the job done. The girl at the counter in Bergstrom airport asked me if I wanted to try one of the new Pathfinders. You already know I’m a Nissan junkie, and it was hard to pass up. So they threw me the keys to a brand new 2011 Pathfinder in white, which would be my companion for the next 7 days. From downtown gridlock, parking garages, sitting in traffic on I-35 to the backroads of round rock, this truck was a solid performer. The power was always adequate from the VQ 4.0 V6, yet it wasn’t enough to get me into any serious trouble. I logged about 600 miles on this car, and overall it was a great experience.

I got this truck for its utility abilities. I had to lug around at any given time both a large assortment of personnel and gear. Fitting everything from multiple large Pelican cases to eight foot long steadicam rails were no problem for this truck, and I could haul up to seven people with third row seating that folded down.

The ride height was confidently high, and steering felt a bit more refined than pathfinders of the past on the Frontier truck platform. Yet I still knew it was a truck, a dated body on frame monster, but it behaved with manners more like a Murano than a very off-road capable SUV. The controls were all where they should have been, and the backup camera as a standard feature was both a welcome and helpful feature. The only complaint I had with the truck was few squeaks that should never be present in a car with 1500 miles on the odo.

[caption id="attachment_341" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="At the pump in Round Rock with the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder"][/caption]

Seattle and the Kia Soul - This rental was more out of curiosity than anything. The choices were a Cruze, Versa or a Soul. I must admit, the hamster-plagued advertising got to me, and I was intrigued to try one of these funny looking Korean “urban crossovers”. Its 2.0 liter four banger was good for 142 horsies, and it had some pep to it, probably because it weighed so little. While it won’t be seen on a track anytime soon because of its extreme body roll, it just seemed to be a little zippy and fun. Also curious is the exhaust note, which seems much larger than this car, and makes you feel liker it’s more of aggressive. I would even venture to guess that they took a page of Fords playbook and that it’s piped in the cabin.

The interior was what you might expect from a Kia Rio, with a hint of trim added for its youthful demographic target. One this I really did like about it though was the visibility. You feel like you can see everything on the road in this car and there are no real blind spots.


Atlanta and the Mazda 3 – I didn’t know they still made cars without keyless entry devices, but Mazda proved me wrong. While I didn’t look under the hood, I assume our model came with the most basic 2.0 liter motor. This car defines the essence of a sports car attitude stuck in an economy car body. The ride was firm, turn-in was eager. The suspension was tight and the steering gave you confidence. Every button and control was exactly where it should be to make for a positive driving experience. The best part about it was that the car came standard with a manu-matic shifter, which unlike everyone else, depressing down upshifts, and up downshifts. To most people this might be annoying, but to anyone that drives a standard transmission, it makes a world of difference. Also, as a by product of years of racing games, I for one enjoy the blue and red gauges and interior.

The only issue I had was the power –I wish it was there. It seemed rather inadequate, but I would love to give a Mazda 6, or a model with a bigger motor a spin.