Letter From Europe; Thumbs-Up Durango, VW GTI, Terrain; Thumbs-Down Brand Snobbery
Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Snobbery is a funny old business which I have never been able to figure out. I am talking about cars if course.
I have been a member of the local tennis club for over 20 years. As an auto writer
I always watch the everybody is driving. It has become truly predictable. Some members must think that if they turn up in anything other than a Mercedes, BMW or a Porsche they will cancel your membership! Honestly.
They arrive with one little Johnnie in the back of massive SUVs having spent a fortune.
And the crazy thing is that for half the money they could have something quick, practical and good-looking such as the latest Dodge Durango R/T. that 5.7 liter engine with 360 horsepower might be somewhat OTT in Belvedere where the speed limit in mostly 25 mph but for three rows of seats for all the little Johnnies and Janes
It would be perfect for cruising up to Squaw Valley. They could even tow a boat as the Dodge will pull an astonishing 7,400 pounds.
The 8 speed auto was fine, and something few people mention it had the finest cameras at the back I have ever seen in anything on 4 wheels.
So dear tennis members forget the snobbery and instead of automatically going to the nearest BMW dealer, check out the Dodge Durango. It will also be huge fun when ladies do lunch and you casually mention that you are driving a Durango. A what?! I hear the collective cry stopping momentarily munching on their salads.
The same applies to the almost unheard of GMC Terrain, another fine product which is very much under the radar in Marin County. For the uninitiated the Terrain has been in production since 2009 but it has been updated many times.
The one I had for test had the 2.0 liter turbo engine which was adequate rather than stunning. After the Dodge it did feel underpowered but once I got used to it, all was well. I am not sure about the positively bizarre little levers for changing gear. For sure I have never used anything like it but after five minutes it was fine.
In many ways the Terrain is very up to the minute with Apple Carplay, Wifi hotspot and a brilliant surround vision camera. I am not a huge fan of GM’s vibrating safety alert seat system or the lane assist departure warning system but on the other hand when I drive I certainly don’t text or phone.
Clearly many people have discovered the attraction of the Terrain as no fewer than 85 thousand were sold in 2017. At around 25 thousand dollars it is well worth a quick trip to the dealer and at the same time don’t forget that GM are a huge company and should anything go wrong you will find a dealer complete with spare part almost anywhere.
The VW Golf GTI which I had for test just before leaving back to Europe is a legend. The Model T Ford was one as was the Citroen 2CV and of course the Beetle.
Young aspiring couples in Europe almost always started life in the GTI. Made a lot of sense as most of them lived and still live in apartments where parking is at a premium so having a compact car was vital. But in the case of the GTI it was always reliable and quick, in some cases very quick. It still is and the basic package-virtually unchanged - is a winner.
VW have taken a bit of a hammering over Dieselgate but such is the strength of the group that it still goes from strength to strength. Sales are up in the United States and with their Soccer World Cup involvement things can get even better.
Not many people know but the Lamborghini's I have been driving of late in Italy are also part of the VW Group as is Audi. If you throw in Bentley, Bugatti and Skoda plus Seat you will see the strength and depth of the group. Had it been smaller with less money in the bank I am sure it would have gone bust as a result of the scandal.
Priced at around 26 thousand dollars the VW GTI is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. If you are young or at least young at heart take one for a spin and try not to smile.
Clearly it will carry a great deal less the Terrain or the Durango but then, as always it is horses for courses.
Next month I will report on some Italian exotica from Modena and Bologna. Fasten your safety belts!