Fast Cars, Faster Quips - AF Musings About The 20th WAJ Test Days
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By Andrew Frankl
Eurpean Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Driving the fastest car on the road presents certain hazards; like being passed by every Prius between San Francisco and Monterrey; like watching policeman drooling at the opportunity to stop a Cadillac CTS V, a 140 miles per hour flagship from rapidly recovering General Motors. Old friend Bob Lutz may have been involved with the Volt but I am certain he had a hand in this car. I can see cigar chomping Bob grinning from ear to ear while zapping around one of GM's test tracks.
For the uninitiated I should explain that WAJ (Western Auto Journalists) is a collection of auto writers from the Bay Area. We are doing our best to keep out wannabes who have a blog read by his wife and Mother in Law. This he feels entitles him to a week's loan of a Rolls Royce, you get the picture.
Anyway, there we were in Monterrey driving around in the latest cars and SUVs. I deliberately did not write hurtling around as the local cops were everywhere.
Interesting point of discussion came up with regards to Honda's best-selling CRV. They now have a gizmo on the dashboard which shows you incoming text messages. Should you be reading these while driving? Should you be able to answer by pressing a button on your steering wheel? There are apparently 7 set answers such as I am on my way home or gone shopping. (Ouch). Honda's excuse is that this is preferable to drivers using their mobile phones and with this I have to agree. They readily admit that the CRV was designed with young Mums in mind which is fair enough. I just think that with three kids and a big dog plus a week's shopping it will be somewhat underpowered.
Underpowered is not a word I would use for the Mercedes SLS. Somewhat claustrophobic with the top up, glorious with it down. Very Beach Boys, very Route 1. It has Big Sur written all over it . Could be too powerful in the wrong hands, luckily I am used to driving cars with 500 plus horsepower.
Audi were brave to bring along two R8-s, amazing machines, close relatives of Lamborghini which is hardly a surprise as VW owns both of them. Much to my regret Porsche were absent this year which is a shame as their current crop of cars is just amazing. I cannot blame Ferrari for staying away, with a 2 year waiting list they really and truly don't need us.
It was fascinating to drive an electric BMW, old friend David Butchko was telling me that the Germans are getting greener by the minute. Apparently when people order their electric Minis the first thing they ask is where the electricity is coming from! Brown coal from what was East Germany- forget it! Well done is all I can say.
Nissan's GTR was massive fun, once more great care is needed as it is not for the fainthearted. It was great to have the company's hugely popular Tim Gallagher with us. He is one of the stalwarts, the original good guys just like Scott Brown of Chrysler.
His company's product is a great deal better than of late which shows in the sales figures. I am not completely sold on the 200 but am really looking forward to driving the Dart.
Coming back to the 6.2 V8 550 horsepower is one of the meanest looking automobiles I've ever driven in my life, other drivers literally moved over when they saw it coming, even at 75 miles per hour.
You don't have to go crazy in it to enjoy although it would have been great to have a blast somewhere in Germany or on a test track. On the road it is civilized, easy to drive, easy to enjoy. Yes, you will be lucky to get 18 miles per gallon but then if you will be drinking Krug with your date will you be really that concerned about fuel consumption. Call it selfish, call it mean, just call it. You will love it.
One word about our group, the Western Automotive Journalists, we've had ups and down over the years but now, in 2012 we are under what you might call new management and it shows.