Sergio Marchionne. Editor-In-Chief's Note: As you have probably figured out, I was not impressed in the least with Marchionne's bombastic performance in his now infamous Automotive News interview. But it did manage to accomplish one worthwhile thing, and that was to strip another layer of veneer off of his carefully constructed persona, exposing him for what he well and truly is - which is a carpetbagging mercenary searching for his next deal. But what he said about Mary Barra, GM's CEO - "I'm not trying to date Mary, for the record, but I tried to get to see her." - was not only completely inappropriate, it was simply unconscionable and unforgivable. He crossed the line, and there's no sugar coating that fact. In considering Marchionne's dreadful faux pas, you have to ask yourself the following question: Would he have deigned to say the same thing if there was a man at the top of General Motors? And the answer is flat-out no. Mary Barra deserves to be treated with a measure of respect, something Marchionne is incapable of giving her because after all, in his mind everyone is beneath him. Marchionne's contemptuous behavior toward Mary Barra says more about who he really is than anything I could ever write. Frickin’ idiot, indeed. -PMD
Editor-In-Chief's Note: Now that Consumer Reports has flaunted its true colors - yet again - it's a relief that the "consumer" magazine's agenda has finally, finally, been exposed for all to see. The continued canonization of everything Tesla by CR, including its latest review, which had them discarding their own rating scale - because, well, you know, the car was so damn good that it broke their own rating scale - is the direct result of the magazine's not-so-closeted agenda. Pop-up consumer come-ons saying “Tesla’s innovation shows we don’t have to compromise. Stand with Consumer Reports as we fight for better cars” were all over CR's website after the review of the P85D, and the magazine's chief auto-tester, Jake Fisher said in an accompanying video, “At Consumer Reports, we believe improving fuel efficiency is a vital initiative.” Wow. Thanks for clarifying that, Jake, because the thought that manufacturers are catering to your every whim and busy currying CR's favor when in fact your testing results are the furthest thing from being objective and unbiased is indeed a noteworthy revelation. I have been appalled at the lemming-like idolatry that the auto manufacturers - and consumers - have reserved for Consumer Reports long before we started this publication. Why? Because I know auto journalists bring to the discussion a set of biases and preconceived notions that color everything they write about or say - me included - and to pretend otherwise is simply ludicrous. And to suggest that CR was made up of a strain of advanced robots where none of those preconceived notions applied was flat-out laughable. But the manufacturers and unfortunately the consumers continued to assign CR with far too much gravitas and influence, because somehow they bought into the contrived reputation that CR was pure and only delved in testing results that were black & white. Well, now we can all let out a giant sigh of relief, because the CR act has been exposed as pure, unmitigated bullshit, x 100. Listen, every single writer covering the auto business has biases, even the staid scribes toiling away for the uptight newspapers and news services have them. Read between the lines and they're easy to see. As for me, I have plenty. As in, you can spend a lot money on exotic, multi-valve engines but for me there's no substitute for a crackling good V8. Want more? There are two cars that define the American sports car aura: The Chevrolet Corvette and the Shelby Cobra. I like early- to mid-70s 911s because you had to take them by the scruff of the neck and will them to go fast. And if you paid attention they delivered a level of driving satisfaction I haven't experienced since. And I liked the fact that if you weren't paying attention they'd bite you in the ass and you'd be going backwards in an instant. Fair enough and a worthy trade-off. I think the original Corvette Sting Ray racer is still, to this day, the most beautiful design of all time. Aerodynamically challenged to be sure, but the most stunning car in person that I've ever seen, or ridden in (and yes, Bill Mitchell was driving it at the time). I think the Golf GTI - and even more so the Golf R - are the two best everyday enthusiast cars built today. The Ford Focus ST and the upcoming RS have a long way to go before I'll be convinced otherwise. I think the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is the most beautiful car on the road today. And I think the Cadillac Ciel and Elmiraj are the two best concepts of the last decade. As for brands and branding, no one does it better than Porsche, with Audi being a close second. And their cars are sublime. In fact, if given one more shot at "a last chance power drive" I'd order a Cayman GT4 and grin about it until I croak. And if it had to be American, no, it wouldn't be a Corvette Z06, it would be a ZL1 Camaro. I could go on, but suffice to say anyone who writes about the car business has countless biases of their own as well. So do the editors of CR. And if they want us all to drive electric cars - preferably anything built by Tesla - then fine, at least we know where they're coming from now. Oh and by the way? They still suck, exposed biases or no. -PMD
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. The Wall Street Journal columnist outdid himself over the weekend, with his scathing indictment of Consumer Reports. He opened his column with this: "If, with their own money, Tesla and its customers want to revel in electric cars, that’s wonderful. Nobody should object. But why should taxpayers subsidize their hobby as if some vital public purpose is being served? And why should Consumer Reports prostitute itself in its latest review of the Tesla Model S P85D, calling it basically the best car ever, with a higher-than-possible rating of 103? Prostitute is not too strong a word. Consumer Reports does not give away its content for free. It makes money not from advertising but from its reputation for systematic, unbiased product reviews, which it expects customers to pay for (and Tesla shoppers can certainly afford to pay). Not this time: 'The Ratings of this ground-breaking vehicle are too good to keep to ourselves so we’re sharing them with all our visitors,' says the online version." Jenkins, Jr. goes on to say: "CR is shilling not only for the car but the government policies that subsidize it. Or as CR’s auto testing chief Jake Fisher says in an accompanying video, 'At Consumer Reports, we believe improving fuel efficiency is a vital initiative.' Unfortunately, one product that doesn’t get CR’s withering eye is the public policy of shoveling taxpayer handouts at Tesla, which any close examination would quickly conclude is a case of costs without benefits." We could go on quoting from this editorial but we won't, suffice to say, Jenkins, Jr. gets our (multiple) AE Quote of the Week. We'll let him end things with his closing remarks: "All vehicles come with trade-offs. Some of the vehicles we love most come with quirks that would likely earn them a low rating in a traditionally scrupulous CR review. It’s the taxpayer subsidies that are unjustified, as is CR’s decision to throw away its reputation to propagandize for a public policy that it doesn’t subject to any serious analysis."
Ford is crankin' up its SUV mojo. The latest evidence? The Ford Explorer Platinum edition, which Ford calls, "a well-appointed combination of the performance-minded Explorer Sport and comfort-designed Limited trim level. The full-zoot Explorer Platinum features standard upgrades throughout, including new, multi-adjustable front seats wrapped in Nirvana leather with micro-perforation, an industry-first 500-watt premium Sony® Audio System, smart driver-assist technologies and the now obligatory 3.5-liter EcoBoost®V6 engine. “Platinum is the ultimate expression of refinement,” said Mike Arbaugh, Ford Explorer chief designer. “This is the most upscale, high-quality interior we’ve ever offered on a Ford vehicle in North America.” Ford Explorer Platinum will hit showrooms in September.
Scotland’s historical seat of power, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, will host the 2015 Concours of Elegance on September 4-6, and an impressive array of Bentley models will take center stage. The prestigious, invitation-only event – which showcases 60 of the world’s rarest and most valuable cars – will feature six Bentley models ranging from a 1927 6 ½ Litre Vanden Plas tourer to a 1960 S2 Continental with H.J. Mulliner Fastback coachwork. It was the R-Type (above) that first brought the Continental name into the Bentley lexicon in 1952. With a top speed of 120 mph this was the fastest four-seater in the world at the time. Many of the 208 examples produced were coach built by Mulliner.
The "Blue Train" Bentley (above and below) will be another star of the show. This year marks the 85th anniversary of that most famous Bentley Boy adventure – the Blue Train race. In 1930 Captain Woolf Barnato, Chairman of Bentley Motors, was staying in Cannes when he accepted a wager that not only could he beat the Calais-Mediterranée Express (or "Blue Train") back to Calais, but that he could be at his club in London before the train even reached the English Channel. He was, and the remarkable achievement has resonated with Bentley enthusiasts ever since. The car that was believed to have accomplished the feat was the iconic Gurney Nutting two-door fastback coupe. Though evidence has emerged in recent years to suggest Barnato drove his Mulliner saloon-bodied Speed 6 for the event, it is the coupe that will forever be known as the "Blue Train" car.
Editor's Note: This week our "Quick Take" has us in the 2015 BMW 228i xDrive Coupe. First off, my last real BMW experience was more than three decades ago with my awesome 2002. So, depending on your perspective, that's either a good thing or a bad thing when it comes time to drive something from the current BMW lineup. I kinda tuned BMW out in recent years, along about the time the crossovers started showing up. Always liked the M cars and the 7 Series with its big ol' V8 (because I like big), but that was about it. So now we have the 2 Series, which replaces the 1 Series and completes the "Series" naming sequence from one through eight! Because I hadn't done a lot of reading on what's what with BMW, I stepped into the 228i with a truly blank slate state of mind. And I immediately warmed up to this coupe. Not surprisingly, I found it to be remarkably similar to the Golf R we drove a few weeks back. There is a real focus and sense of purpose - i.e., good old-fashioned driving enjoyment - to both of these cars that is truly refreshing. (Of course, the real apples to apples comparison here would be between the M235i xDrive and the Golf R, but with an MSRP of more than 10 grand over that of the VW, I would be hard-pressed to choose the BMW on the basis of price alone). But like the Golf R, the 228i excels at a no-fuss, almost retro German feel. Especially inside. I absolutely love the gauges - they are just that - gauges - there is no additional help from a digital display for monitoring speed or distance or mpg - you actually have to read the gauge to see your speed, imagine that! And it is thankfully free from "warning chime overload" - a syndrome that is really starting to wear on me. I am not a coupe person - I need doors - the more the better. And I also need power seats. I was really surprised that they weren't standard on the 228i. I did manage to stuff this car to the brim during my weekly errands, but it just wasn't easy - I don't like having to think about what I can and can't buy because it may or may not fit in my car. So, this can't be my daily driver. But a fun second car? Sure. A blast on the highway? Definitely. This BMW has that "drive it all day flat out and it won't give up" feel that is so appealing about German luxury automobiles. The 228i is squarely in 3 Series territory price-wise, which would make me choose the bigger car, but it's tough to beat the purity of the driving experience offered by this well thought out coupe. -WG
2015 BMW 228i xDrive Coupe: $41,375 ($33,900 Base Price; Sparkling Brown Metallic, $550; Oyster Dakota Leather, $1,450; 2.0-liter, Direct-injected, BMW M TwinPower Turbo, 16-valve, 4-cylinder with variable valve control (Double-VANOS and Valvetronic), 240HP and 255lbs-ft of torque; 8-speed sport automatic gearbox; xDrive all-wheel-drive system; Driving Dynamics control with ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ settings; Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying and Brake Stand-by features with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC); 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS); Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC); Halogen free-form front foglights; Chrome-line exterior trim; SensaTec upholstery; Silver matte trim; 60/40 split-folding rear seats; 3-spoke, leather-wrapped, multi-function sport steering wheel; USB audio connection and hands-free Bluetooth including Audio Streaming; iDrive system with 6.5-inch full color flat screen display, Controller and six programmable memory buttons; AM/FM/CD/MP3 player HiFi sound system with HD radio; Cruise control; Automatic climate control; Rain-sensing windshield wipers with adjustable speed and automatic headlight control; Sport Line - 18" light alloy double-spoke wheels, Door mirror caps in black, Sport seats, Brushed aluminum trim, Highlight trim finishers in coral, Anthracite headliner - $2,200; Driver Assistance Package - Rear-view camera, Park Distance Control - $950; Heated front seats, $500; Harman Kardon premium sound, $875; Destination charge, $950.
Adherence to Brand Image: Do we need a 2 Series BMW? For those who are looking for all things BMW in a tasteful, compact coupe package - definitely yes. The 228i is a hell of a lot of fun. It just feels right, and at the end of the day that's really what the driving experience should be about. -WG Editor-In-Chief's Note: The BMW faithful - at least the people who still care about the authenticity of the brand - should be pleased with the 228. I concur with WG, it just feels right and it is bright and lively to drive. So for the BMW purists clinging to what's left of the brand, the 228i resonates nicely. -PMD