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November 2012 - DrivingScene

Archive | November, 2012

The Professional’s Guide to the LA Auto Show

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The Professional’s Guide to the LA Auto Show

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

The LA Auto Show is upon us boys and girls, and that means a plethora of new cars, booth professionals, and convention B.O. As always, there is too much to take in in one day if you try and see everything. To help you get the most out of this and other auto shows, we’ve created a play-by-play to show you how a media professional navigates this sordid and distracting world. Below you will see what our day looked like. Tread carefully and learn from the best…

6:45 – Alarm goes off with some emo song. God it’s early. I started writing about cars so I wouldn’t have to wake up this early anymore.

7:26 – Out of bed finally. Because $%&@ mornings.

7:50 – Finally on my way with 10 minutes to get to the show

9:00 – Finish with LA traffic and arrive at the convention center an hour late. In style.

9:20 – Eventually found the media center to get my wristband. Why are all convention centers some version of a poorly carpeted labyrinth?

9:22 – In the actual show!

9:23 – First thing I see in the hall is a 2013 Audi S8. Tre sexy and seemingly scowling at the Hyundai stand next door.

9:29 – Cadillac ATS, XTS, and CTS-V Racing Coupe. Love the fact that the center consol design is the same across the Cadillac line-up – it creates a tight lineage and strong brand language. Also, the Racing Coupe just looks devilishly awesome.

9:30 – New Mazda6. Design on the profile looks a little fussy. It is catching and different now, but I have doubts about how it will age. Every automaker is serving breakfast and espresso at their exhibits. God it’s good to be press.

9:32 – Bentley. Another great aspect of being in the media is that all the cars are open and velvet ropes mean nothing. A press pass means you are allowed to do anything everywhere, so obviously I sat my fat ass in some Bentleys. Also, my camera stopped working for some reason. Something always goes wrong or gets left behind when you do big events like this.

9:40 – Toyota Avalon. Outside aesthetics aside, the interior is a weird hodge-podge of upscale switches and shitty plastic. Matched with the ugly steering wheel fitted to this car, and the price premium over a Camry doesn’t seem worth it.

9:45 – Camera working again, I head back to Bentley to grab pics that I know you my reading public demand. These pictures and all others in the gallery at the bottom of this piece.

9:47 – Toyota RAV4. Bunch of press of about this for its launch, and I’ve got to say “blah.” Outside styling is ambitious FOR TOYOTA, but the interior is just another grey plastic fest with nothing new or old but interesting to look at. I’m sure your mother will love it.

9:50 – Scion. Nothing interesting here.

9:51 – TRD. Something interesting here, the freak of nature Sequoia race truck!

9:52 – Just saw Kanye West talking to a TRD rep.

9:52.5 – Totally not Kanye West, just some black dude with short hair and a goatee. Great, now I feel racist.

9:57 – Mini Paceman. Stupid car, but here’s an insider tip: overhead auto show lights suck for taking pictures of shiny metal objects like vehicles. To get your pictures to look somewhat decent, try getting lower or switching sides of the vehicle to get away from the glare spots created by the lights.

9:58 – Subaru Forester and Crosstrek. Those crazy Japanese cut their brand new Forester cabin in half! I always love seeing this expose internals like engines and transfer cases, but Suby has decided to skip all that and just show you what the inside of the cabin looks like – you know, what you could see anyway if you just opened the door… The Crosstrek on display looks great. Inside it is any other Subaru, but outside it looks like it is ready for the zombie apocalypse.

9:59 – I just saw German hipsters walking around hall. Weird.

10:00 – Turns out VW is courting the millennial crowd by giving out thick-frame sunglasses to attendees. Their whole exhibit looks like Williamsburg right now.

10:05 – Chevy Spark EV. Strange looking little car but I actually can’t wait to get behind the wheel. The only EVs I’ve driven so far have been large sedans, and having a micro car propelled by electrons would be interesting.

10:07 – Not to be outdone by Subaru, Chevy also cut its Spark EV in half, then went ahead and cut a Volt into only its drive train.

10:08 – Chevy Tru1405S and Code130R. WTF is this?!?!??!? These look great. Make more of these please! These two concepts first bowed at the Detroit auto show earlier this year as examples of possible future “sporting” Chevrolets. Please do make these, they look fantastic in the flesh.

10:10 – Talk to Andrew Lipman with Audi Communications regarding their show line-up and why they brought such a big diesel push to LA. Oh, and confirmed our invitation to Audi’s sweet roof-top party in Hollywood later that night. I love my job.

10:20 – Acura NSX. Just as stunning in person, and the roof only reaches waist-high. This is one low-slung technical tour de force.

10:24 – Volvo C30 Polestar Edition. Looks properly good, smells awful inside. I suppose this is the price for exclusivity.

10:30 – Lexus LS F Sport, LF-CC, , LF-LC, LFA Nurburgring Edition. The LS F Sport is just blah in person, and doesn’t carry nearly the gravitas of an M5’s exterior. The LF-CC Concept really feels like Aston Martin with its tight sheet metal skin seemingly stretched over the car’s frame. The LF-LC Concept is the better looker of the two, but that’s like comparing swimsuit models. Finally, the LFA Nurburgring is, of course, quite tasty. I prefer the original car’s lack of wing for street-use, but if I was headed to the track I can think of few better steeds.

10:35 – Infiniti LE Concept. Very ungainly in person. Hopefully the large rump on this car doesn’t accurately signal future design language choices.

10:37 – Jeremy Scott Smart. So some fashion designer made himself a Smart with wings on the back. Makes sense to me.

10:38 – Just saw either Angus MacKenzie or a white trash David Bowie, not really sure which but I’d enjoy a conversation with either.

10:41 – SLS AMG, SLS AMG Black, Ener-G-Force. Nothing big or new with the SLS, but it is still a striking automobile. The SLS Black has been the real talk of town this show, but it’s hard to tell why. I don’t think it looks that drastically different (compared to say the difference between the C63 and C63 Black), and driving dynamics don’t enter into it because 1) the SLS drives like an ancient muscle car anyway and 2) you can count the amount of these that will ever be on a track on one hand. The Ener-G-Force is a stupid name for a great looking concept. Like with all the best concepts, almost none of this design will ever make it onto the next G-Wagen.

10:47 – BMW i8 Roadster, i3. Dubstep is playing in the background at the BMW stand, because of course it is. The i8 roadster looks fantastic in person, until you get closer and start to notice just how much matte plastic is on the exterior of this car. Far from revolutionary, in fact Saturn used plastic for it’s bodies in the 90’s. The i3 is just a stone’s throw from being a Smart, so no major points here. Both the i cars have very interesting and genuinely design features, I just hope they eventually make it to market intact.

10:59 – Lunch break! Time to eat my sad, bruised apple be glad I’m not paying extortion-level prices for the concession’s food.

11:10 – Back to it, you’re not reading this to hear how my lunch was.

11:12 – Saleen S7 still gorgeous all these years later but the interior is pretty dismal.

11:15 – Morgan 3-wheeler. The one word that ran through my mind when I saw this oddity is “cute.” If you’re looking for as far a left-field transportation choice as you can get, this is it.

11:17 – Lotus Evora. Apparently there’s a technique for getting in and out of this low-slung rocket. Open the door and back into the door frame with your ass facing your unfortunate passenger. Place your right foot into the cabin then plop down un-gracefully into the bucket seat. Now bring your left foot up and into the car trying not the scuff the side-plate which for some reason is leather instead of metal. Even on the show car this leather portion was already showing marks, so good luck keeping it looking clean once you own it.

11:23 – Aston Martin. Galpin Motors brought a full selection of Aston Martins to the show, all apparently from one owner’s collection. Ranging from a James Bond Goldfinger DB5 to the slightly less but still incredibly exclusive Dragon 88 edition (which is only supposed to be in China…).

11:27 – Lincoln. This troubled automaker is in the middle of trying to turn itself around. To showcase both great deeds in the past and where they are headed, Lincoln brought a collection of their historic cars. The interesting part, though, was in a security-blocked room in the back of the stand where there sat a MKZ and large letters reading “This is Lincoln Now.” Very interesting.

11:35 – Ford Focus ST. We’ve been seeing this little trouble-maker hit all the global shows, and we can’t wait to get your hands on it and toss it around some canyon roads.

11:40 – Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. For the 10th anniversary of the Rubicon badge, Jeep has rolled out this latest and greatest example for the adoring masses. There is no doubt that this Wrangler will have mountain goat levels of mountain climbing ability.

11:42 – Nissan GT-R. So this is the 2013 flavor of Nissan’s world-beater. I’ve never been in a GT-R before, and I couldn’t believe how ugly the interior was. It looks and feels like a Nissan, and that is not a compliment. Why would I want a 370Z-level interior in my $100K sports car? And it’s not just looks, the car does not feel as “tight” or well-engineered as the Europeans it is attempting to dethrone. Closing the door results in an ugly and tinny clank where a Porsche or Ferrari gives you a confident thump of low-tolerance machining and craftsmanship. You’ve always been able to hot-rod simple rides enough to beat the exotics, but it is the full package that is worth the price of entry into Maranello or Stuttgart. Rant over.

11:47 – Nissan DeltaWing. Why is this not the current car for Indy, or even F1? I want to see a fleet of these technological wonders battling it out and swapping paint. Bold technological steps are always feared when they are introduced, but hopefully sooner rather than later the powers that be will adopt some version of this design.

11:53 – Honda EV-STER. I’m calling it now, total vaporware. Although this little roadster looks like an able replacement for the S2000, here on the show floor it looks like Honda has just plopped it down and left if to rot. There are no booth professionals drawing crowds over, there is no literature explaining the concept. Nothing. This is a very bad sign for a concept car, and one that signals that the development is dead in the water.

11:55 – SRT Viper. Papa is back, and he looks like he’s learned a thing or two while on vacation. This viper looks more grown-up and well executed than any previous example, and even appears to be better executed than the recent Corvettes. SRT is really swinging for the fences with this one, but it looks like it’s worked.

11:57 – Fiat 500 Abarth. Nothing major or new here, although Fiat did debut the “convertible” version. The Abarth is the next car we want to test here at DrivingScene, so we’ll have more in depth experience coming soon.

12:00 – Porsche 904 Carrera GTS, Boxster. The first thing you see once you find Porsche’s hidden pavillion at the convention center is an absolutely beeeeeeautiful 904 Carrera GTS. Of course the vehicle is in mint condition, and it’s easy to see the similarities between this classic sports coupe and the other low-slung cars here like the NSX and Evora. Next to this classic metal, Porsche has placed their new Boxster. Now that the money-changers have allowed the Boxster to have its own doors (rather than sharing them with the 911), this car finally has it’s own look. Porsche also has a big unveil planned for 5 minutes from now, and the stage is absolutely swamped.

12:05 – Porsche unveils the brand new Cayman. They promise the new car is now lighter, more powerful, and more fuel efficient than before. Pegged to come in at $52,600 and available in April. Because it’s Porsche, the Cayman looks exactly like Boxster with the exception of the side intakes that have been borrowed from the turbo.

12:35 – Stole a Porsche cookie on my way out and I head home.

That’s how it’s done. See everything you want to see, skip everything else. Get into any car that interests you, but don’t waste time talking to the booth professionals. if you want to painlessly cruise through shows, do like us. You’ll escape with your sanity and plenty of good auto experiences.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

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Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Would you trade a four-course meal for a Slim-Fast shake? Seeing an epic movie for reading the Cliff Notes? Partying with friends for Skyping with them? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you take the those same watered-down routes and choose the Prius over a torquey and delicious diesel. Millions have. The car above is what they should have chosen.

The car I’ve been given for a week is the VW Jetta TDI, and let’s not muck about –  it’s fantastic. You name it and I love it – and you will too. Trunk? Several ladies-of-the-night enormous. Backseat? Comfy as a best Western Hotel and without the bedbugs. Volkswagen should be paying me for this review because I frickin’ love this car.

Show me another vehicle that so deftly combines comfort, luxury, style, speed, AND fuel economy. You do that and I’m sure I’ll love that car too. And this isn’t just me, people have been lining up at dealerships  to step inside the leather wrapped interior and partake this Jetta’s pavement crushing torque.

On the road the TDI is like any other Jetta – planted and quiet. Add in the bonus of the 2.0 litre’s 236 lb-ft of torque to get you on your way and you’re left with a very capable machine. The horsepower figure of 140 may seem small by today’s standards, but you have to remember that horsepower’s important at freeway speeds – torque is king for getting your fat ass from 0 to 60. The steering is a little more numb than I like, but that’s true of 90% of modern cars I drive. Like every VW, the 6-speed manual is crisp and rewarding with every gear change. What’s it like driving a diesel? Total non issue here. It goes when I want it to go, stops when things get risky, turns sharply, and even rewards with little tire-chirps when you’re a bit too heavy-footed. The TDI engine is known for its lagginess down low, but this never pops up if you just equip the car with the manual transmission I have here. Having driven the automatic, trust me that row-your-own is the way to go on the TDI.

I’ll leave exterior judgments to the eye of the beholder; I found the curves and creases rather catching in the flesh. The Toffee Brown Metallic my car was delivered in may sound 80’s-esque, but in reality it gifted the Jetta some maturity that would be missed in your garden-variety silver. Overall the proportions are good and I never spied any awkward angles on the car.

Inside you’re greeted with that familiar VW cabin quality – great swaths of soft leather and upscale switches. You want negatives? Well the shift-boot frame was already broken on my car and the major let down with the interior is the hard plastic that covers all but the frequent touch points.

The back seats offer an enormous amount of room for your passengers/kids/hostages. The layout and grouping of the switches is fairly intuitive and I was able to figure everything out – including the unlabeled auxiliary music source feature – in my first two days without ever reading the manual. Overall it’s a classic VW interior, and you’re reminded why they are ranked as one of the best at this.

Somehow Wolfsburg has been able to package this lovely engine, good looks, and reasonably solid interior for $23K. I never did wrap my head around that low price. I’ve paid almost as much for a used car and the thought that I could’ve had this instead is staggering to me. Unluckily for me to TDI wasn’t on offer then. Lucky for you it is now. This is the kind of car you’ll love equally from day one to day 1,001. Given the fact that previous Jettas have aesthetically aged well, held strong resell values (although it’s too early to tell what the diesel engine will do for that) and the strong aftermarket support available – run don’t walk and get yourself a test drive. I mean unless you really wanted that Prius.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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Vinny App Will Tell You The Wholesale Price For Your Vehicle

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Vinny App Will Tell You The Wholesale Price For Your Vehicle

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

A new app in the iTunes store promises to give you the upper hand the next time you plan on selling or buying a car. Vinny wants to be “your buddy in the used car business” by removing the information gap between consumers and dealers. The app was created by a team who recently had trouble buying a used car, and decided to fix the problem for themselves and others.

The process goes like this: You scan the VIN barcode in the driver’s door frame with Vinny and the app pulls up the wholesale price (within 5%) allowing you to “negotiate with confidence.” Vinny claims to be on the side of consumer and promises to never sell user data. On top of the free wholesale price, Vinny will also let you purchase a vehicle history report while within the app. Their goal is to replace the CARFAX and Kelly Blue Books of the world by remaining consumer-centric rather than dealer focused.

Best of all? It’s free. Download it, give it whirl, and tell us what you think in the comments below. Even if you’re not planning on selling your current vehicle, you can at least know exactly what it’s worth the next time someone calls it a piece of junk.

– Adam Kaslikowski


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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Webster’s dictionary defines the worst way to start any piece of writing as quoting Webster’s dictionary. What’s the best way? Science has yet to tell us. Just one more thing those pompous scientists have failed us on. Others include decent pop music, microwave meals that don’t suck, and a way to get great gas mileage without having to be inside a Prius.

The lab coats at the Volkswagen Group are actually coming along on that last one. The TDI engine has owned the diesel passenger car market here in the states for years now, mostly being led by the TDI Jetta – which has been killing the sales charts. But what if the lovely VW is not enough for your bourgeoisie tastes? How will you know if Audi’s entry into diesel locomotion can satisfy you? That’s why I’m here friend.

The A3 TDI takes all that diesel goodness – great fuel economy, buckets of torque – and wraps it in the svelte A3 silhouette. The A3 has always been a handsome car, and having an oil burner upfront does nothing to change that. The long hood and short rump hint at a sporting character that is not altogether absent. The large chrome grill is well suited for mowing down bugs and the proletariat alike. The LED running lights may no longer be unique, but I still think Audi has some of the best executed.

Inside the cabin you’re greeted by a sea of black leather. I hope monochrome and drab are two of your style points, because the A3 interior is not what anyone would call adventuresome. Despite it’s one-note appearance, because it’s an Audi you know everything is screwed and bolted together with a ruthless efficiency. Don’t expect any squeaks or rattles out of this cabin for sometime to come.

The gauges are bright and modern; I especially enjoyed watching the thin needles sweeping across the digits when illuminated at night. The HVAC controls are logically laid out, and the stereo had no problem destroying my eardrums. Despite the car’s small exterior footprint, it capably handled large and oddly shaped loads (there’s a porn joke in there somewhere everywhere), including  my bicycle. I’m glad it’s good at hauling cargo, because it is less well suited for handling passengers. The rear seats offer only enough room to accommodate short trips or gawky teenagers. Despite the four doors, I used this car as more of a two-door wagon.

And what of driving the A3 TDI you ask? Well that depends on how well socially adjusted you are. If you vote, pay your taxes, and don’t have homicidal thoughts at grocery checkout lines, then the A3 TDI will probably do you just fine. If none of those things are true – and thus you are like me – you will find the turbo lag utterly infuriating. Not just infuriating, but also dangerous. 0 – 2500 RPM produces nothing – I mean nothing  – in terms of forward progress. This makes jetting from light to light an awkward process, and jumping out into oncoming traffic a treacherous one. You might get used to the lag and be able to time your maneuvers out correctly, but over my week with the car I was never able to get used to it.

Drive the A3 like a spinster librarian and it is quite good. Get the TDI up and moving and it is quite good. It is just from 0 to 30 mph when the trouble lies. Is it enough to ruin his car? Maybe, maybe not. Look at your driving style now and ask yourself how often you got your right foot planted into the carpet when the lights turn green.

In the end this is a compromise car. Luxury inside and out, huge cargo capacity, and a pretty decent canyon carver. Day-to-day driving is a little worse off. Depending on how you drive, you’ll either feel ensconced in luxury and smugness from your MPG numbers, or trapped inside a post modern German prison. For your sake, I hope you drive more rationally than me.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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“Long Way Round” Now Streaming On Hulu

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“Long Way Round” Now Streaming On Hulu

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

I’ve just wasted an entire Sunday, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s epic motorcycle adventure is now streaming for free on Hulu. Wait, don’t go! I’ve embedded the series below so you don’t have to go anywhere.

For those unfamiliar with the title, Long Way Round chronicles the pair of English gentlemen as they ride a pair of BMW GS motorcycles from London to New York – the hard way. From Europe to Central Asia and Russia, over the Bering Strait and through North America. It is (obviously) a huge journey with many ups and downs along way. The best part is that you don’t even have to be into bikes to enjoy the series.

So go on the, click the link. Just make sure you clear your schedule before you do because you’ll be here for a while. Enjoy.


– Adam Kaslikowski

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