I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

Car Reviews

The Poor Man’s Hyundai

2014 Hyundai Accent GS Sedan

Let’s say you’re a young person who wants a new car. But, sadly, you’re a high-school drop-out, knocking tin in the construction industry as an air conditioning installer. Or you’re a recent college graduate working at your first office job in the mailroom. Basically, you’re young, and just starting out in life. Unless you have rich, benevolent parents, that means you’re a dirty, poor person.

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Coming Attractions

It’s been an extraordinarily busy week and a half for me. Last weekend was almost completely taken up with going up to Orange County and getting the GTO, while this weekend was taken up with getting the GTO fixed up a little bit, and running errand we missed doing last week. Add in the business of working, teaching my college business class, and doing client-related stuff, it’s been a bear. I have not, however, been completely idle with things for the blog, so here’s a preview of coming attractions for the next week or so.

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The Luxury of Speed

2014 Cadillac CTS-V

Let’s postulate three requirements for the rear-wheel drive car of your dreams. First, you want it to have outstanding performance and handling. Second, you want it to cosset you in luxury, with every imaginable convenience available at your fingertips. Third, and finally, it must be an American car. Not too long ago, the proper response to these requirements would be “Choose any two.” The car that satisfied all three requirements was, quite frankly, imaginary. And, honestly, the car that satisfied the first two requirements was German.

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Not a Luxury Car

2014 Audi S4

Several years ago, Audi went through a bad patch. People were accusing Audis of unintended acceleration. The story was that you’d be plodding along through a school zone at 10 MPH when the Audi you were driving would suddenly accelerate at maximum speed into a gaggle of children. Audi disputed this. Consumers didn’t believe them, most likely because the media hyped the story, a lot. Turns out it was most likely the idiots behind the wheel. It still put a lot of hurt on Audi, and their US sales cratered.

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Unjustly Unloved

2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring Sedan Review

The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry sell well. They aren’t bad cars, either, though they’re inoffensive and boring. Honda and Toyota sell quite a lot of them, too. They’re one of the bread and butter sedans you see on American roads. They aren’t the only choices, though. They may not even be the best choices. Even Toyota now seems to realize this, as this week, one of Toyota’s chiefs told the motoring press that Toyota has decided to start making cars that excite 10 people out of 100, instead of trying not to offend all 100. Still, the Camry is what it is, for now.

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Always buy the KitchenAid

2014 Honda Accord EL-X V6 Sedan

Some cars are appliances. They aren’t exciting and massively powered. They don’t cosset you with sumptuous luxury. You just, you know, drive them, and they take you places. The Honda Accord is one such appliance. But the thing about appliances is that they aren’t all the same. In fact, some of them are quite good. You can buy a mixer from Hamilton Beach, and it’ll be alright, and do what you expect it to do. But, if you want a mixer that will not only do a fantastic job, but can be passed down to your great-grandchildren, you buy a KitchenAid.

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Middle Child

2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS

In certain parts of the country, the way you show your family and friends that you’ve hit the big time is to buy yourself a double-wide mobile home and a Chevy Camaro. In these politically correct times, it’s not polite to mention this stereotype, of course. But it’s so prevalent that it’s hard not to do so. For instance, I couldn’t even avoid it in the first sentence of this review.

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Bland Ambition

2013 Chrysler 200 Touring Review

Chrysler is a brand of cars that I just don’t understand. They only make four models of car, and, really, those cars are just rebadged Dodges. The mechanicals are all the same, and so are the materials used in the interiors. The only difference between the Chrysler and Dodge versions of a car is that the Dodge incorporates exterior styling that makes it look like it wouldn’t mind slitting a few throats if it got bored. Chryslers have softer exterior styling, and look a little less blue-collar than Dodges on the inside.

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The Crushing Disappointment of Quality

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.

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Doctor Hoon

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.

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Italy’s Re-Entry Vehicle

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.

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A Touch of Milano

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.

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