Today was the first full day of the Orange County International Auto Show. Thankfully, I was able to free up my schedule to attend. So, what follows is a whole lot of photos of the show, along with my rather occasionally insightful—but mainly disrespectful—comments. Come for the photos. Stay for the snark. All of the photos are clickable, linked to the full-sized, hi-resolution originals.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review
When you review cars, the good cars are the worst. You see, bad cars allow you to get snarky. You get a chance to gleefully rip years of work by thousands of people into utter shreds. You can reach for colorful metaphors involving the incompetence, ancestry, and probable spiritual destination of everyone involved in the car’s production. You can make fun of the vehicle’s clownish face, and go on for paragraphs about turbo lag, slow shifting, bad suspension, and cheap plastic dashboards.
2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP
At about the same time that Britain was giving us Doctor Who, they also gave us the original Mini. Badly underpowered by today’s standards, it was so responsive and fun that it quickly became the original hot hatch, and began tearing up rally and racing tracks all over Europe. The years have been more or less kind to both British cultural icons. Doctor Who is in its tenth or eleventh incarnation on TV, and Minis are being built again in Old Blighty. Happily, rather than being built by British Leyland communists in the Midlands, the Mini is now built by Germans in Oxfordshire, which means when you go out to start it in the morning…it will.
2013 Jeep Wrangler Review
If you want to talk about the classic, go-anywhere, do-anything American off-roader, the only vehicle to discuss is the Jeep Wrangler. Since World War II, it’s been an American icon, and unlike many American icons, it actually does exactly what it’s supposed to do—like rock climbing on the Rubicon Trail—very well. Roads, dirt roads, or no roads, the Wrangler will still take you there.
2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Review
Italian cars have a bit of a reputation, and it’s both good and bad. The good part of their reputation is that they’re usually pretty, and fun to drive. There’s something that the Italians and their automotive engineers just get about the act of driving, and about how a car should look. The bad part of their reputation is that they don’t get everything else about cars, like, say, reliability. The bad part of that reputation has lingered in the US, because Fiat and Lancia bid goodbye to these shores in the early 1980s after a series of disastrously unreliable cars, followed by Alfa Romeo in the early 1990s.
2013 Dodge Dart Review
Jeremy Clarkson, the host of BBC’s Top Gear, often says that you can’t really call yourself a car person if you’ve never owned an Alfa Romeo. Having been fortunate enough to have had an ‘84 Spider 2000 for a while, I agree fully.
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Review
The Subaru WRX STI has only one real competitor as a rally-bred street car: The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, called the Evo, for short. The Evo is the one bright spot in Mitsubishi’s otherwise sad line-up of mediocre-performing, front-wheel drive, budget cars. The thing is, the STI and Evo people each love their vehicles desperately, and they hate the owners of the opposing vehicles with a passion that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. Much insult and ridicule is exchanged between the two groups.
2013 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid Review
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use less gasoline. Maybe you think all the ice is melting and Johnny Polar Bear will lose his home. Maybe you’re tired of buying gas from Johnny Foreigner. Maybe you just want some extra cash for coke and hookers. On the other hand, you don’t want a Prius, partly because you don’t need to display a smug sense of moral superiority, but mainly because a the Prius is a horribly dull car.
2013 Range Rover Evoque Coupe Review
The full-sized Range Rover is probably, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, the best SUV…in the world. But it’s a big vehicle, with a huge V-8 engine. Luxurious and off-road capable, sure, but big and fuel hungry. But let’s say you want a smaller but still off-road capable SUV and you don’t want to give up luxury and drive around in a shabby Subaru or Nissan? Or even worse, a Land Rover LR2, with its sad, horrible, under-powered V-6. The answer, according to Range Rover, is the Evoque.
2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design Review
Safety. Reliability. Swedish stolidity. That’s what you think of when you think of Volvo. For the most part, that’s what the Swedish automaker wants you to think. The Swedes have a philosophy that permeates their society, called lagom. It describes a state of being just good enough to evoke a sense of comfortable satisfaction. Not too good, so as to be extravagant or showy, and not too bad, as to be obviously flawed or defective.
2014 Jaguar F-Type S Review
It’s been 50 years since Jaguar has produced a proper, purpose-built sports car, in the form of the classic E-Type, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It was, perhaps, the most beautiful thing ever made. Since then, Jaguar has been more about luxury than sport. Sure, Jaguar makes fast luxury cars, and there was the XK, of course, which was amusing, and in the R-spec version, very fast. But it didn’t quite press all the right sports-car buttons, especially in convertible form. The convertible was basically an XK coupe with the top sawzalled off, which meant loss of torsional rigidity and scuttle shake. Since the E-Type, Jags have always been fast, fun, and luxurious, but not truly sporting machines.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport Review
Here’s the thing: whether you buy a Toyota, a Scion, or a Lexus, almost all the cars made by the Toyota Motor Corporation are beige. Bland. Which is sad, because Toyota used to make some cars that tended decidedly towards the red end of the color spectrum. There was the Toyota Celica GTS, the nearly-supercar-fun Supra, and even the entertaining, mid-engined, two-seater MR2. Toyota used to make fun cars, then they just…stopped.
2013 Volkswagen Jetta S Review
From 1945 until 1974, Volkswagen’s tiny Type 1, affectionately known as the “Beetle”, was the very byword for low-cost transportation. With its little 1.3L air-cooled engine, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t very roomy, but it was, by the standards of the day, cheap and economical. It was replaced by the Golf in 1974, a car which is still with us today and, in the GTI model, is still the only car you really need.
2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review
Subaru is a brand that has a lot of stereotypes when it comes to the average owner. There’s the modern, new-age version of hippies, who need a Subaru Outback’s All Wheel Drive to navigate the muddy dirt roads that lead to their dirty, all-organic, locally grown produce communes. The lesbians, treehuggers and PETA enthusiasts figure prominently, too. Basically, Subaru makes cars for outdoorsy communists.
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