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Car Year 2002 - A Look Back

Our European Bureau Chief looks back on 2002

The last thing you, our faithful readers  need during the holiday season is a long, boring article about the rear suspension setting of some obscure automobile so let me make it brief. The choices are all mine so if you disagree please don’t blame anyone but yours sincerely. Here we go.


 The car I would pick if I had to have just one: Volvo V70 XC AWD. Sorry about all these silly letters but essentially what we are talking about is Volvo’s cross country, all-wheel drive station wagon/estate car. It may not be cheap but at around 35 thousand dollars-without some of the unnecessary  extras- it is quick, economical, pleasant to drive, safe with tons of room for people and luggage, equally at home in the mountains and by the sea, just one sensible automobile. Volvo have successfully resisted cost-cutting by filling the car up with cheap and nasty bits and bobs from Ford Motor Company’s parts bin and stuck to their tried and tested components from Sweden. Long may it continue or should I say long may they be allowed to do so.


  Dream car of the year: Mercedes SL. At a –don’t laugh-relatively cheap-for a dream car- 90 thousand dollars this is just about perfect for the over 50s. Comfortable, quick, beautiful to look at with that amazing folding hard-top, it is just fabulous. No wonder the waiting list stretches from one end of

Rodeo Drive
to the other.


 Surprise of the year: Mercedes E class. I had to get to Los Angeles in a hurry and with the 3.2 liter engine the new “E” got me there in 5 hours flat on one tank of fuel. Bearing in mind that I averaged 80 miles per hour I found this quite outstanding. Only problem-the rock hard seat, otherwise a great car at a sensible price.


  Drive of the year: a quick dash round middle England in Mr. Bond’s Vanquish. Not for the faint-hearted.


  Thrill of the year: a somewhat related to the above: meeting Halle Berry at the premier of the new Bond film. Shame she could only afford half a dress. Yeah, right. My knees are still trembling.


Disappointment of the year: BMW’s ridiculous iDrive system. What possessed that great company to do such a thing is completely beyond my comprehension. As I pointed out in Bimmer Magazine it looks as though the bits one cannot see were designed by the A team and the interior by the reserves. I hear that the forthcoming 5 series will be a lot more sensible as a result of all the negative press the company had received over the 7.


Delight of the year: the amazing comeback by Nissan. After being down in the dumps they came back with the much-awaited Z and also the award-winning Infiniti G35. Astonishing what Carlos Ghosn managed to achieve in just three years.


Surprise of the year: the new Mazda 6. Inexpensive, fun to drive, clearly designed by real enthusiasts. Welcome back!

Driver of the year: Michael Schumacher. Yes, he had a great car and a great engine but to keep it on the island lap after lap, race after race is just incredible. Well over 1000 racing miles without a single mistake, no wonder he walked away with the Formula One Championship.


Racing car of the year:  Ferrari’s F1.  All credit to Paolo Martinelli for the design of the engine and to Rory Byrne for the chassis.


Person of the year: a tough one this. Let me name several and you take your pick. Bob Lutz for breathing life into GM, Carlos Ghosn for reviving Nissan, Luca di Montezemolo for Ferrari’s astonishing success and Jurgen Schrempp’s team for stopping the hemorrhage at Chrysler. I would love to name my old mate Nick Scheele from Ford but I think he would be the first to admit that they have a long way to go.


Most welcome sustenance of the year: hot food and stiff drinks courtesy of GM in freezing Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics. Thank you Marcia and Dawn.


Most exciting prospect for 2003: to drive the Ferrari Enzo. When I’ve asked Schumacher about this he suggested extreme caution. If there is one person who knows what he is talking about it has to be the champ.


Finally may I wish all our readers safe and happy motoring into the New Year.