August, 2011 | CarEnvy.ca

Archive for August, 2011

Lexus GS450h: Proving Dad Wrong [Review]

By Peter Dushenski

It’s definitely a Hybrid.

A minor affliction, to be sure, but a blight upon any car enthusiast worth his salt. Hybrids are for eco-weenies and hollow shells of men too insecure not to be seen caring about the environment. They’re for Greenpeace protestors and farmer’s market frequenters. Hybrids are driven by people as an excuse to wrong the world in other ways, like driving really, incredibly slowly or not recycling. The electric motors that eerily propel Hybrids can’t possibly replace the lost displacement. Nothing can. We’ve been taught this by our fathers, who were taught this by their fathers before them.

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Top 5 Banned Car Commercials (Okay, Top 6)

Advertising is powerful. Advertising is pervasive. Advertising is also frequently ignored because it’s absolutely everywhere. Except Sao Paolo, Brazil. But other than that, it’s on buses, benches, billboards, bicycles, and burritos. You’ve never seen a burrito with an ad on it? You need to get out more.

We’ve been inspired by Hyundai’s latest banned ad – seen above, developed by Amsterdam ad agency Fitzroy and only mildly creepy – to compile a list of our all-time favourite banned car commercials. Here are the top 5 (that’s not including the one above!)!

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Carspotting and Bicycling in Berlin, Germany

by Peter Dushenski

It’s amazing to see what people drive when they don’t need to drive.

I’ve spent the past two weeks cycling and taking the S-Bahn everywhere I’ve needed to go in Berlin. It’s been punctual, efficient, healthy, and a fraction of the cost of car ownership. Berlin is no small town. With a population of 4.4 million, the capital city of reunified Germany (arguably the wealthiest country in the world today) covers a huge area, about as much as metro Edmonton. Yet, car ownership is far from a necessity. In this expansive cosmopolitan area, bicycles are not only given priority by automobile drivers, but cyclists are granted their own dedicated lanes in the overwhelming majority of the city, demarcated by a red tinged strip of special pavement three feet wide. The S-Bahn (above ground subway), which complements the U-Bahn (uh, underground subway), works in concert to provide a transportation network that whisks citizens and tourists whenever they are too tired or lazy to walk or cycle. So owning a car isn’t weird – it isn’t awkward – it’s simply a luxury.

As a result of this intricate and inspired alternative transportation network, Berliners make do with only 358 cars per 1000 people compared to an average of 570 per thousand in Germany and very nearly the same density in Canada (although personally owning two cars at home skews this somewhat). An S-Bahn pass for 5 days costs around $35, which is on its own less than the cost of the gas it’d take to travel the same distances we did, with none of the depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and interest payments associated with car ownership.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the obvious financial, logical, and environmental detriment entailed by car ownership, Berliners have nothing less than an eclectic taste in automobilia. Classic French icons mingle with Autobahn Destroyers, which in turn covort with British Bruisers and limited editions galore. The streets of Berlin alone are worth the trip and being on a bicycle is a great way to see them all up close.

Here are my highlights:

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Hydrogen Cars: Power for the Future


Electric cars are being hailed as the future. No, it’s not 1901, but 2011. Over a century ago, gas-powered cars fought for early adopters of horseless carriage technology against electric-powered cars. Yes, what’s old is new again. Except gas won last time. Now, it’s all a bit murky.

Half-upstart/half-vapourware shillers like Tesla and Fisker, as well as old guards like Morgan, are tripping over themselves to electrify your driveway. Despite compromises such as limited range, heavy batteries, and tortuous charge times, car makers (with a little nudge from government regulators) aspire to wean us off petroleum and reduce the carbon emissions from our tailpipes.

And it’s easy to see why. It’s where the money is. Governments are investing in the crucial infrastructure needed to charge the hobbled beasts by installing electric charging points and giving out massive loans to companies who promise to build electric cars in their country. The government has picked a side, which means that you will too.

But there are alternatives, and not just corn-based ethanol – that grotesque shell game that subsidizes American farmers so that they can grow fuel that would otherwise make perfectly good food – but Hydrogen. Yes, it’s a bit combustible (see Hindenburg) and it requires extremely high pressures to be kept stable, but it also allows for refuelling in 5 minutes, a lot less than the 5 hours an electric car currently needs. If Hydrogen received the same kind of government support, it could prove to be a more viable alternative to plug-in electric power. The only way to find out is to invest. Just like these companies are…

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Team O’Neil, Left Foot Braking, Roller Coasters, and the Ford Fiesta

By Peter Dushenski

Rally aspirations don’t really suit the Ford Fiesta.

It’s no Subaru WRX, no Mini Countryman, not even a Citroen DS3. It’s a subcompact bought by teenagers and retirees. For this exact purpose it needs to be fuel efficient, safe, easy to see out of, and logical to operate. It can even have a dose of fun, just to raise it above the pack, but not so much that it overwhelms the Fiesta’s calling card – it’s a small car that feels bigger and more mature than it is. See our earlier review if you don’t believe us.

Rally cars, on the other hand, are AWD, sequentially shifting, turbocharged purveyors of the kind of fizz more commonly found in alka selzer. The Ford Fiesta that you and I can buy is none of these things. But defeat the ABS and TC and the Fiesta gains a cool unflappability on gravel that makes it a shrewd tool for hills, crests, and sweeping forest gaps that define rally courses. Of course, the car alone isn’t enough to conquer the shifty surface. For that, something called “technique” is relied upon.

Which is what brought CarEnvy to New Hampshire and the Team O’Neil Rally Driving School with a bunch, nay, a fleet of seemingly unsuitable Fiestas. The technique du jour? The black art of Left Foot Braking, also known as LFB.

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