WAJ Test Days In Carmel Valley CA - Tough Duty But Someone Has To Do It
Letter from Carmel Valley
by Andrew Frankl
Senior Editor And European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Carmel Valley CA August 2, 2019; WAJ-the Western Automotive Journalists group has a great tradition of holding excellent events at least once a year and 2019 was no exception.
Instead of hurtling around aimlessly at a nearby track and wrecking tires on cars belonging to someone else-namely the manufacturers- this year the event was a more civilized affair.
The venue was Quail Lodge, an excellent establishment . Across the road Range Rover have a facility where they teach owners how to drive under difficult circumstances. Although many owners only drive from shops to home or to the yacht club, but there might be the odd occasion where they could get stuck on their way to the chalet in Aspen in which case their off-road instruction will come in very handy indeed.
I had a go, didn’t hit anything and while it was scary it was also educational.
To get me there I had a brand spanking new Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL which certainly delivered me in fine style.
For 49 thousand dollars I found it good value. It had a great deal of room for five people and tons of room for luggage. It came with a 3.6 liter engine which was adequate rather than stunning.
The fuel consumption was also OK rather than stunning. I came home on Highway 1 at 50 miles per hour and still couldn’t get better than 22 miles per hour. Not bad but nothing to write home about.
Having said that sitting up high in total comfort it was a very pleasant journey home. The radio was all right while the map was excellent. The A/C was fine and so was the ride. Apple CarPlay worked well. All in all a well-built SUV with an amazing amount of room.
Don’t expect a rocket and don’t expect stunning fuel consumption but an honest to goodness SUV where prices start at only 30 thousand and you do get an awful lot of metal for your money. Yes, it is pretty basic at that price but at 30 grand it is exceptional value and a fraction of the cost of other German SUVs.
I also had a chance to drive Ford’s Explorer which was not for sale. Clearly a prototype and a very good one too. It has a first class 3.0L Ecoboost V6 engine with a 10 speed auto gearbox.
Just shows what Ford can do when they put their minds to it. Wish they had done it years ago when their cars were still doing fine. The head honchos and their product planners completely lost their way and had it not been for the F-150 range the company would be bust by now. There is a new guy in town by the name of Jim Hackett, maybe he can save the day. Certainly working with VW on future products is a very good idea.
In the meantime this Explorer ST looks good goes like smoke and I am sure it will sell in very large numbers. It has everything from a 360 degree camera to side-wind stabilization.
Wish I had all these gizmos on the Ford Transit in which I raced across in Cannonball with much missed friend John Hitchins whose son still works for the company. There was so much buzz around the company in the 60-s and 70-s. They had Walter Hayes, the visionary PR man who had Mr Ford’s ear hence the Cosworth engine, the Lotus Cortina and much much more. And the company made tons of money as well!
Just saying but it's a shame that the local Ford PR guy is so unhelpful and unpleasant. Ford needs all the help it can get, this guy is everything a PR man should not be. Come back John Clinard, we love you!
I went for a ride in the new Genesis 70, one very serious automobile. The Genesis 70 in which old friend Ed Barrett took me for a ride was pretty amazing, looks pretty docile until it gets going.
The WAJ day was very different from its previous iteration. There was no race track-thank God- which I always considered a total waste of time. This rather civilized affair at Quail Lodge was just the ticket. Plenty of roads, beautiful scenery and a chance to talk to representatives of the manufacturers. I hope it will be same format again next year.
On a personal front I wasn’t sure if colleagues would spend money on my new book-Frankly Frankl- so I just took 10 copies with me. All sold in 10 minutes. Luckily I have a few left which are available on Amazon.
The highlight of the weekend has to be the visit to USS Hornet, an amazing aircraft carrier which is now a museum. The astronauts were fished out of the Pacific Ocean by the crew and the ship, is full of memorabilia. A must see if you are near SF.