Today is “The Day” i.e. The Day of Atonement on the Jewish Calendar. There’s no holier day for The Chosen People. It’s also the first live day of coverage for journalists at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the first show of the rambunctious Auto Show Season. How do these fit together?
Since we didn’t win the Kia Canada Photography Contest and Twitter gives a more interactive glimpse of the proceedings anyways, let’s see how the world’s largest and most influential automakers fared in Paris today and what they have to atone for as a result. Even with more guilt-assuaging plug-in hybrids than sexy booth babes, you’d better believe they’re still guilty beyond reproach.
Between the Occupiers, Arab Springers, deposed despots, wobbly Euro, Japanese quake, economic stagflation, and the passing of Steve Jobs, 2011 was rocky like Banff. Still, CarEnvy managed to publish over 70 articles and complete a top-to-bottom site redesign. Not bad for a mostly-one-man-show, eh? In that time, we also reviewed 18 cars, a new record for us. So let’s recap the year that was with CarEnvy’s Best and Worst of 2011 including such categories as Worst Car We Reviewed, Best Interview, Best Press Trip, Worst Movie We Saw, and Best Car We Spotted.
It’s simply overwhelming. There’s too much. How can one person possible stay on top of it all the awesome car videos??
Relax. It’s ok. Just close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. We’ve done the work for you so pop some corn, grab a beer, and enjoy the eight must-see videos for this week. Don’t have the time right now? No worries, you’ve got all week. Bookmark it and come back when you’re ready to bask in the glory of the automobile. Enjoy!
1. Sebastian Thrun on Google’s Driverless Car:
He’s passionate, he’s persuasive, and he’s showing us a glimpse of the future. As long as there are still closed race tracks, count us in!
Faster, hairier, and louder cars are after the jump!
As a fan of CarEnvy.ca, your tastes run into the more eccentric, fun, and obscure realms of automobilia. You’re also very smart with your money. In short, you’re pretty amazing. Almost as amazing as ING Direct spokesman Frederik de Groot, also known as Mr. Save Your Money, seen above.
While your friends are buying the latest and greatest, you’re biding your time until depreciation strangles some poor, unsuspecting dude and leaves you with a bargain-priced gem that is a bit special, rewarding to drive, and easy on the wallet. If you’re looking at driving a brand-new car off the dealer lot, your Canuck Bucks can’t do better than a $15,094 3-door Hyundai Accent. For that tidy sum, you’re treated to roll-up windows, no A/C, a design that’ll look dated by next month, and a lifetime of heartache and woe.
But as you already know, that 15 large will stretch a lot further if you take the time to browse Kijiji and eBay Motors. So let’s pretend that you really do have $15,000 and that you want to make every penny count. What are the best cars you can buy?
1. 1999 Porsche 911
The first of the water-cooled 911s, a blasphemous smudge in the company’s history books, can now be yours for only $13,910! For that kind of money you could either have a Hyundai Accent with roll-up windows or you could have the quintessential rear-engined sports car in your driveway. The history of the 911 stretches back 50 years, which in car lives makes this first water-cooled model like the student entering high school: a little unsure of its identity but growing up fast. Through a series of relentless improvements, the 911 has matured from a terrifyingly charming curiosity into a more civilized instrument for everyday use. This automatic-equipped example will ensure that your daily grind is as uneventful as home room. Sure, this particular example has 143,000 miles (230,000 km), but that just means that it has a vast depth of experience to share with its new owner: you!
But that’s not all, five (5!) more sub-$15k used cars are after the jump!
Getting started is always the toughest part. It’s pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Putting your head down and powering through. Whether it’s starting a new job, a new workout routine, living in a new city, or starting a new business – it’s a (rewarding) grind. Starting something new, especially something challenging, is a long, arduous, and often thankless path. In the car industry – as brands like Saturn, Mercury, and Scion have shown – it’s a whole lot tougher than that. And those brands started under the umbrella of existing organizations with all of their existing resources and knowledge. But how difficult is it to start from scratch?
Currently, there’s a lot of hoopla surrounding Fisker Automotive and its far-too-recently-delivered Karma, and when you look at it on paper, it’s easy to see why. It’s electric (even if it gets terrible mileage), has Henrik Fisker’s peerless seal of approval, and might even come out with a wagon body style. Someday. Maybe. But probably not.
As we’ve seen with Tesla, it’s really incredibly unimaginably stupendously tough to make couture electric cars for only $100,000 and to return a profit while doing so. Especially when you’re a start-up company with no factories, tooling, or even expertise to handle such a monumental task. At $100,000, making a few hundred or even a few thousand cars does not a strong business case make when you don’t have an entire line-up of profit-producing cars to fund your project. Companies like Porsche have bread und butter models like the Cayenne und Panamera to stuff their coffers with cash, allowing them the freedom to develop the most amazing $100,000 car in the world: the 911. Compare this to Tesla’s funding model, which relies entirely on investors injecting cash (private, public [TSLA], and the US government) rather than sales profits.
Let’s get the ball rolling by saying that this is the best sports car I’ve ever driven. Full stop. It’s our new benchmark and we have our good friend Ryan to thank. That’s not to say that Porsche’s mid-engine coupe is perfect, but perfection doesn’t truly exist anyways. There could never be a car that was perfect for everyone, or even just for me. My imagination and optimism will always push me to expect more from cars and the industry that produces them. That’s just the nature of the affliction that has landed me here, writing for you.
But a sports car is a special breed that rests on hallowed ground in the car enthusiast universe. We don’t expect it to do the practical stuff particularly well – but instead ask, nay demand, that it engage us in the driving process and unfurl us from our mortal coils, turning us into driving deities. It’s not just for getting from Point A to Point B, it’s the journey, and all that. The most common approach to this (uniquely First World) problem is the front-engine rear-drive approach. This is the tack taken by the Nissan 350Z that has a permanently reserved space in the underground bunker we use as the CarEnvy Garage. In our 350Z, the engine is in front of the driver and its 290-odd horsepower is sent to the rear wheels. The center of gravity is therefore further towards the nose of the vehicle, lending a more tail-happy handling character. Thankfully for us, the 350Z is very progressive and easily controlled once the rear breaks loose, making for gleaming smiles for the driver and horrified shrieks for the girlfriend in the passenger seat.
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.
“Would you wanna drive my Porsche to this Concours thing tomorrow?”,
came the voice of Des, owner of local detailing shop Auto Details.
I could honestly think of nothing I’d rather do, and I had fortunately declined to play in a friend’s slow pitch tournament that day, but it’s not very becoming to appear too eager. So I channeled by best James Dean impression, played it cool, and agreed to meet Des on Saturday afternoon at his shop in the industrial park tucked in behind Grant MacEwan University.
When I arrived there just before noon, Des was still waxing and polishing his gorgeously preserved 1990 MY 911 with care and attention. This wasn’t your backyard pressure washer once-over; this was attention to detail. You’d expect an owner who owns and operates a detailing shop to make sure that his personal car has flawless paint, and you’d be right. Despite being almost as old as my younger brother, the 4WD Porsche glistened, even in the unforgiving fluorescent lighting of the shop.