No. 876
December 7, 2016
 

About The Autoextremist@PeterMDeLorenzo Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of Autoextremist.com.

Follow Autoextremist

 

On The Table


Monday
Nov212016

NOVEMBER 23, 2016

Editor-In-Chief's Note: Congratulations yet again to some in the automotive media for canonizing the new Alfa Romeo SUV - the Stelvio - even though no one has driven it, there is no timetable for its release, and the likelihood of FCA being able to build it with a demonstrable level of consistency when it comes to quality is highly suspect, at best. Nicely done. -PMD

(Volkswagen)
Despite all of its Diesel emissions travails, the VW Group has been pouring huge amounts of R&D money into electrification. The current e-Golf is more than an acceptable entry to that arena. The new 2017 e-Golf is a notable leap forward. With increased battery capacity offering 50 percent more driving range up to 124 miles, and the power and torque increased to 134 horsepower and 214 pound-feet, the new e-Golf will be a solid competitor in the segment. It also has a host of new infotainment, connectivity and driver assist options. The e-Golf will also be the first of the next generation's Golf designs to arrive in this market. Notable exterior changes include new bumpers, front fenders, LED headlights and taillights and new interior décor and seat trim.
(Volkswagen)
(Jaguar images)
Jaguar has unveiled the first genuine XKSS to be built in almost 60 years at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. The stunning XKSS - finished in Sherwood Green paint - has been created by the Jaguar Classic engineering team ahead of the production run of nine cars, which will be delivered to customers across the globe in 2017. Often referred to as the world’s first supercar, the XKSS was originally made by Jaguar as a road-going conversion of the Le Mans-winning D-type, which was built from 1954-1956. In 1957, nine cars earmarked for export to North America were lost in a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory in the British Midlands, meaning just 16 examples of the XKSS were built. Jaguar decided that its Classic division would build the nine "lost" XKSS sports cars for a select group of established collectors and customers. The new one-off XKSS presented in Los Angeles is the summation of 18 months of research and will be used as a blueprint from which the nine continuation cars are built. The nine cars will be completely new, with period chassis numbers from the XKSS chassis log. All cars are now sold at a price in excess of £1million each. The XKSS unveiled in Los Angeles is a period correct continuation, built using a combination of original drawings from Jaguar’s archive and modern technology. Customer vehicles will be hand-built beginning this year, and it is estimated that 10,000 man hours will go into building each of the new XKSS cars.
The Jaguar Classic engineering team scanned several versions of the 1957 XKSS to help build a complete digital image of the car, from the body to chassis, and including all parts required. The body of the XKSS is made from magnesium alloy, as it was in 1957, and because the original styling bucks do not exist, Jaguar Classic produced a new, bespoke styling buck based on the original bodies from the 1950s. The bodies of the nine new cars will be formed on this buck, using a traditional process called hand-wheeling.  Jaguar Classic’s expert engineers worked with the original frames and from there produced CAD to support build of the chassis. In partnership with the Classic team, frame maker Reynolds – famous for their 531 tubing – was briefed to craft bespoke new parts using imperial measurements, rather than metric. The frames are bronze, welded in the same way as the period XKSS chassis tubing.
Inside, the "new original" XKSS features perfect recreations of the original Smiths gauges. Everything from the wood of the steering wheel, to the grain of the leather seats, through to the brass knobs on the XKSS dashboard is precisely as it would have been in 1957. Minor specification changes have been made only to improve driver and passenger safety. The fuel cell, for example, uses robust, modern materials to support throughput of modern fuels.
The continuation cars feature period specification four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes with a Plessey pump, and Dunlop tires with riveted two-piece magnesium alloy wheels. Under the bonnet, the XKSS is supplied with a 262HP 3.4-litre straight six-cylinder Jaguar D-type engine. The engine features completely new cast iron blocks, new cast cylinder heads and three Weber DC03 carburetors. Kev Riches, Jaguar Classic Engineering Manager, said: “The XKSS is one of the most important cars in Jaguar’s history, and we are committed to making the ‘new original’ version absolutely faithful to the period car in every way. From the number, type and position of all the rivets used – there are more than 2,000 in total – to the Smiths gauges on the dashboard, everything is the same as the original cars, because that is the way it should be.”

Massive Undertaking.

Our drive time this week has us in the 2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD. Not to be confused with the previous generation, the new Acadia is 700 pounds lighter and trimmer overall, and the overall dynamic improvement is noticeable right from the start. Make no mistake, this is still a big SUV, but the lighter-weight and well-executed, more responsive chassis is a huge plus. Though not a crossover guy per se (That's an understatement. See "Crossover Hell" from last week -WG), I certainly can appreciate the tremendous effort that went into the Denali, and GM's True Believers are to be commended for not only the huge reduction in mass - and all the positives that come with that - but for the significant upgrade in dynamic sophistication. This is a very impressive driving machine. But not all is well in Acadia Land. Though the cabin is comfortable and the driver controls are well thought out, I found the "Cocoa/Shale" interior to be absolutely dismal. I'm sure GM designers were aiming for a level of sophistication, but the colors used came off as being uninspired and blandtastic. And it's simply inexcusable and certainly not worthy of a $52,000 SUV wearing the "Denali" moniker. So, if you're considering one, avoid that interior colorization like the plague and order it in black. Yes, I get it, we're living in a crossover/SUV world after all whether I happen to like it or not, and if you're commencing a search for a luxury SUV, the GMC Acadia Denali is a good place to start. -PMD
2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD: $52,285 ($46,920 Base Price; Crimson Red Tintcoat, $495; Cocoa/Shale Interior; 3.6L DOHC V6 with direct injection and VVT; 310HP @ 6600 rpm, 271 lbs-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm; All-Wheel Drive; Six-speed automatic transmission; McPherson strut suspension with continuous control, front; Five-link independent rear suspension with continuous damping control; Four-wheel ventilated anti-lock disc brakes with power assist; 20" polished aluminum wheels; Heated and ventilated front leather seats; Heated outboard rear seats; 8-way power seat adjuster, driver and front passenger seats; Power lumbar, driver seat; Power lumbar, front passenger seat; Driver memory package; Power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated; Power outside heated mirrors; Power hands free rear liftgate; AM/FM stereo with 8" color diagonal display; Apple CarPlay capability by Apple, Android Auto capability provided by Google (both available with compatible smartphones); XM Radio + service subscription sold separately by SiriusXM after three months; Universal home remote; OnStar Basic with Navigation; 4G LTE WI-FI Hotspot with limited data trial; Intellibeam HID headlamps; LED daytime running lamps; Dual Skyscape sunroof, $1,400; Technology Package - Adaptive cruise control with full speed front automatic braking; Automatic collision preparation, Surround vision system - $1,345; Continuously variable real time damping chassis, $1,200; Destination Charge, $925)
Adherence to Brand Image.
As I've stated on numerous occasions, the "Professional Grade" ad theme that GMC uses is simply nonsensical and should have been put out to pasture years ago. Perhaps GMC operatives are aware that it's inappropriate, because they seem to be downplaying it every chance they can. In case the powers that be need to be reminded, GMC as a brand is a maker of luxury pickup trucks, crossovers and SUVs, and it has managed to carve out a nice niche for itself in the market despite the piss-poor advertising. But word of mouth can only take you so far in this business, and as soon as GMC operatives come up with a new advertising approach, I will be glad to evaluate how well it adheres to the image for the brand. -PMD

Editor-In-Chief's Note: Dave Guyette is our Northwest Correspondent and even though we haven't heard from him much of late, we're pleased to post this latest note from him about a day trip he took in September. In a Lotus. Enjoy. -PMD

For one day, my life was better than yours.

By Dave Guyette

Portland. Today, I drove a 2009 Lotus Exige S, on a day trip to Hood River. It was an outing that I had been planning for weeks.

My good friend, Brian, is the proud owner of this vehicle. He's had it for almost a couple of years now, but finds that it no longer suits his needs. He's going to trade it back in, for a brand-new BMW M2. Turns out, this model won't be available until next spring, so he has to suffer with the Lotus for a few more months.

It is, in a way, a burden. It's not easy to run errands. At only 45 inches high, you've got to contort yourself down and across a 6" door sill to get into the thing. Getting out can be more torturous, as you must use the upper body to lift yourself out. Surprisingly, I found that the only 'handle' one can use to help, is one of the cutout ventilation holes in the upper seat back.  Just reach behind, and use it to push yourself up.  These barriers to ingress/egress only encourage you to stay seated as long as possible, which rewards you in ways I'll explain.

A couple of months ago, I learned of Brian's long-term plan to part ways with this machine. While lamenting these difficult life choices we face, I suggested that we make good use of the time we still have. I was between jobs, and he didn't have anything else better to do, so... a day trip up the Gorge was set in motion.

Brian drove up Thursday morning at 11. By then, the west coast's Marine Layer had lifted and what looked like rain turned 180 degrees into a bright sunny day. I was only expecting to ride along and supply music, so I was surprised when he said: "you wanna drive?"

Hell yeah.

"Is the Pope... Catholic?" I replied. (I'm old enough to remember when the word 'Italian' would suffice.)

Brian took us politely out of town, following the I-84 corridor. His frustration with unheard-of-traffic-on-a-Thursday (really? hey everybody, stop moving to Portland!) grew.  

"You know of any back roads to get us there? This car really shines in the corners."

Fortunately, that request came after we blew by the Troutdale exit, otherwise we might've taken a trip back in time when there was no interstate. And we'd have been following cars on 20mph switchbacks for hours. Not what I signed up for.

Instead, Brian offered to go up and down the ramps, like a taxi driver trying to improve position in a traffic jam. We compromised: we took the next turnoff, which happened to be a seven-mile historic drive through the falls. Brian pulled to the side of the road and I got my first turn behind the wheel.

It is at this moment that I get all the disclaimers: the wheel takes a fair amount of effort, the clutch is heavy, you can't really see straight out the back (as there is no center rearview mirror) so blind spots can be a problem, the driver's seat doesn't always latch into position correctly, and most importantly, this thing has a tendency to stall out in first if you don't keep the engine happy. If that happens, just put it in neutral and push the 'engine start' button on the side.

Great. Now you tell me. Just as I'm trying to pull away in front of the tourist center of Multnomouth Falls. How foolish would I look, if, right in front of vacationing families, the engine music suddenly stops, and everybody's head turns? Yeah, looks of fright on the children's faces, disapproving smirks from the fathers, and outright derisive laughter from the moms. Notgonnahappen, I resolved. I can do this. I knew how to drive a stick, as I learned on a 1939 Ford 9N tractor : Three forward speeds, no synchromesh gears... a double-clutching nightmare. 

It's been a few years since I've been on the farm, but the Lotus brought all those memories back, and as it turned out, in a good way. The no-power-assist steering did take an effort, but not nearly as much as that tractor, and I felt just as connected to the ground. The clutch was heavy, and perhaps just as heavy as the Ford, but again, I enjoyed the feel. The brake, by contrast, was super-delicate, perhaps because the brakes were meant to stop you from speeds much higher than I started out with. The throttle was Goldilocks: not too heavy, not too soft. Just right to rest your foot, and if you squeezed down just a bit, would rock your world in a heartbeat. I pulled smartly away from the tourists, and headed down the road. Since I was still on the historic two-lane, I only shifted once.

The shift linkage on this car took me a while to get used to. It has six forward speeds and although it is tractable, I doubt is as forgiving as the linkage on, say, a Mazda Miata, in which you can take a standing start in third gear. Besides, I figured if I skipped any gears, I'd be missing out on the fun.  It is known that this model Lotus does not have the smoothest linkage, but Brian had installed an aftermarket package that, in his mechanics's word, was a 'significant' improvement.

I thanked him, as I used third, and later, fourth, to merge with the interstate. Because you only have side mirrors, there are blind spots that can concern you. But given *this* car's acceleration, it doesn't matter. There is literally no problem your right foot cannot solve. And, to be fair, the view from the front is panoramic; it sweeps back almost three quarters of the way, compelling you to look ahead. Your life, your future, all of it, is in front of you. Go get it. There is nothing else worth watching.

Not even the instruments. Your ears discern the optimal shift points from the Toyota-sourced inline four straining with the whine of a single-screw supercharger, mounted directly behind. If I could ask for a rearview mirror, I'd make it a small one; just so I could take a look back, and watch the intake plenum vibrate as I demand more air. Otherwise, I'm just waiting, feeling for the point of diminishing returns before I kick it up a gear and pass that annoying delivery truck in my lane.  When I do get around to looking, I noticed that I've wound this thing up to over 7000 rpm, and I've already pierced the 100mph mark. I'm in the passing lane, and I won't go back. I can't. I still have two higher gears left to try. Red-line isn't for another 2000 revolutions.  Raw power overwhelms me and I can no longer speak in complete sentences.

The steering is light now, and I'm thankful there is no power-assist between me and the road. This model is optimized for the track, and I'm thankful. You feel every bump of the tarmac, but the seat that will contain you. I've traveled this road before at lesser speed, in my 5 series BMW. I recalled taking the same downhill sweeping left months ago, having to compensate for the wallow of a two-ton luxury sedan. My co-pilot wondered aloud why I take it so slow today. The mass of this car is less than half of that whale, and exhibits zero deflection in the suspension. Try as you might, you can't shake it off a line. 

Of all its qualities, this was the biggest adjustment I had with the Lotus. Yes, it would be a nice ride in the switchbacks of the old logging roads to Mt. Hood. Yes, it would scare me to death.

A traffic sign on I-84 says: "slower traffic keep right". For the Lotus, that means "everybody else". I felt genuinely sorry for an Audi A6; he thought he could keep up with me. I settled in for a cruise in sixth gear, to enjoy the view. In a regular car, you might feel like you're going 45 mph. In this car, it's completely relaxed... at 90.

I passed convoys with minimal interruption, except for that one BMW 3 series who thought he was going fast enough. I have to say, I have found these folks to be the most annoyingly *entitled* drivers on the road. Just because BMW defied the laws of physics to give you an 'X-series' vehicle, "capable" of going anywhere at speed, does NOT change the fact that you are driving an over glorified wood-paneled station wagon on platform shoes. Or 'crossover'. Whatever. Can I remind you to not forget about other traffic?  Some of us, for example, are driving a track racer.  Unless we are in a parade somewhere, you should NOT be the lead car.

I don't have time to argue with this idiot. I have places to go, and a quick downshift to 5th puts 'Mr. Pole Position' in my rearview mirror. If I had one. I don't like passing on the inside; I think it is rude and dangerous.  It also attracts the attention of the state police. But, in this case, better for me to swerve than cause an SUV rollover.  The cops themselves took the day off, and even if they were present, would only be a threat if they were ahead of me. At these speeds, no way they could sneak up from behind. In fact, as we approached our destination, I did slow down for a suspicious-looking  Ford Crown Victoria in front.

I eventually parked in front of Pfreim Brewery in Hood River, the best tap house/restaurant in town. A drive like that deserves lunch and a good beer. Afterwords, Brian took the wheel again and we boomed out of town on the infamous Fruit Loop. Our first stop on this 'Sunday drive' was the Mt Hood Winery

Back in the Midwest, a 'Sunday drive' led you past rolling hills and cow pastures to a 'supper club' where you could feast on generous portions of Prime Rib for $10.99/plate. And it was on Sunday afternoon, after church services. Out here, on the West Coast? There's no church, no difference between Thursday and Sunday, and the end of a 'Sunday drive' is a winery. No, there's no Prime Rib, but we can get that from Monday-Wednesday at any local food cart. 

Good wine makes everything better, and local folks know these wines are worth a try. The tasting room is known for its panoramic view of Mt. Hood... and its port wine. Our entrance into the parking lot did not go unnoticed. You do get attention from the ladies when you open the doors, and it is best to practice your egress routine so as to not look like a helpless circus monkey. You want to look like Fred Astaire as you get out, or at least like a member of the Blue Man Group. Either way, you don't want to move like one of a dozen clowns exiting an overstuffed VW Beetle.  The fairer sex is watching, and you don't want to spoil your advantage: odds are, the most exotic ride they've seen all week was a Mercedes... or a Subaru. By all means, you don't want to look unapproachable. Clowns scare people these days.

Because Brian was the designated driver, I enjoyed a wine tasting and grabbed a bottle of port on the way out.

Brian wanted to hit one of his favorite wineries next, so we short-circuited the fruit loop and made a new route. We weren't exactly sure where to go, so we cheated, and pulled up google maps on my phone. You know how google maps updates your position on the grid as you travel? Well, we were going so fast, we were outrunning the GPS update. We missed a couple of turnoffs because google maps couldn't keep up. A first-world problem.

Eventually we made it to Hood River Winery, for another tasting, and for me, a bottle of late-harvest Riesling. Brian liked their wines so much he grabbed nearly a case, and we had a box to carry back home. The Lotus has a trunk, elegantly designed, located aft of the engine compartment. It is big enough to carry a few bottles of wine, and might even hold two bags of golf clubs. But not both, so there are sacrifices to be made. You are either golfing... or wine tasting. Another first-world problem.

The next sacrifice was to leave this paradise and return home. On the way, I got one last drive. Brian pulled off at a 'lookout point' outside of town; a place only large enough for a boat ramp, a trail head, and parking for five vehicles. Once again, when you open the doors, you attract attention, this time from ladies more accustomed to spying Ford Broncos in the local REI. Sorry, can't stay and talk. We've got to return to Portland by 5:00, and we've only got a half hour. Not enough time to both flirt and beat the rush-hour traffic. Alas. More first-world problems.

I pull away and once again enjoy the challenge merging into interstate traffic, this time a bit thicker, given the hour. Still, right foot solves everything, and within 40 yards, we are at speed. But enjoyment was fleeting. For all the power, torque, and handling the Lotus could provide, I could not cut through this congestion. For only the second time that day, I was forced to use the brakes, and keep the car in first gear. Brian knows this is not a commuter vehicle. That's probably why he 'let' me drive it into town; a fair price to pay for such a joyride.

It did give me time to reflect:

Lotus was founded by the late Colin Chapman, the British innovator who put the engine behind the driver, moved the center of gravity as close to the ground as possible, kept unsprung weight low, and made sure the car stayed planted no matter what road conditions were. I'd say the Lotus Exige S lives up to that legacy. Driving instructors at the Portland International Raceway (PIR) say that this car owns the track. The best times come from excellent handling, not from top speed in a straight line.

Everything else is just gravy, some of which you may not like. The fuel tank holds only nine gallons of premium jet-fuel, just enough for a round trip from Portland to Hood River. The car exhibits more than its share of shakes from body parts that may/may not fasten together correctly. Of course sound deadening materials to hide these faults may not exist either. The A/C is binary: it is either all on or completely off, but ambient comfort is only an afterthought. Your attention is focused elsewhere. 

This model comes with a premium six-speaker Alpine sound system which seems about as useful as a third tit on wild boar. It can't be heard much above 3000 rpm, as the only sound worth hearing emanates from the engine bay.  The kind of music to spin is simple: some male vocalist with lots of solo electric guitar. You won't always hear the vocals, but the high chords of the guitar might compliment the cacophony of the engine.

If you were to buy this car, I highly recommend installing the aftermarket shift linkage package. You want to shift with confidence... and you don't want to double-clutch.

They say that clothes make the man, but I believe that it is the car that does it. That's one reason I never criticize a man's truck. What does this car say about you? You have a singular focus: the efficiency of traveling from point A to point B... at speed. You are Spartan in your requirements, but not at the sacrifice of quality. There are few vehicles that can deliver and although you could alternatively choose the Alpha 4C , you'd be accused of having an enlarged prostate. Not so with the Lotus, as long as you don't stall out in first gear.  You want a car to attract the ladies in Portlandia? Roll up in a Morgan Plus4.  Otherwise, I'd take the Lotus. At about $70,000 used, you don't have to rob a *big* bank to afford one.

Many thanks to Brian, whose generosity is only exceeded by his humility. For the day, I had such an adrenaline rush I will not soon forget.

 

 

 

No free hunting trips to Wales. No bought-and-paid-for content "acceptable" to the auto manufacturers. No PR puff pieces lauding a convicted hack and his mediocre automotive career. No wishy-washy reviews. Just the bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high-octane truth about anything and everything to do with the car business. From the cars themselves, to the companies and the people who design, build and market them, Autoextremist.com is everything you wanted to read about the business of cars. We say the things that the others don't have the balls to say, and we do it with a relentless ferocity and an uncanny accuracy that still resonate throughout the industry.