Letter From Europe From California - 29th annual media days of the Western Automotive Journalists Group
By Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Half Moon Bay CA May 12, 2022; There is an old saying along the lines of “The right crowd and no crowding“ which neatly sums up the tests of 22 vehicles in California’s Half Moon Bay.
For me there two stars of the show-the astonishing Lucid and BMW’s 2022 Competition Convertible.
The Lucid-which I hope to have for a longer test- is clearly the future. All electric currently 170 thou (!) magic carpet is amazing. The comfort, the power, the road holding, the 0-60 acceleration in 3 seconds, the specially developed Pirelli tires, the whole thing is amazing.
Do you need a degree in engineering-maybe not but it would certainly help. You wouldn’t just jump into it and drive. Getting the mirrors into position alone necessitated a great deal of help from the company’s man on the spot-Justin.
He explained with a smile how all the Saudis decided to back the future, the days when oil runs out. Rather than getting back on the camels they put a great deal of money into this and other projects which guarantees the survival of Saudi Arabia. Whatever their motives I love the Lucid.
The other star-BMW’s M4 Competition convertible belongs to the category of the second car all enthusiasts would love to own.
Yes the two kidneys on the front are horrendous but you don’t see them once you are inside the car. The engine is phenomenal as is the acceleration and at the risk of getting into trouble with my friends at Ferrari, Lambo or Maser I would respectfully suggest that you could get the same thrills for a good 150 thou less. On the beach in California it looked very much the part.
Talking to Jeff Schatz of BMW and Scott Brown of Stellantis ( Jeep, Maserati and all that) it was interesting to hear about the demand on their test cars. Calls from so-called influencers are astonishing in their arrogance. “I will put you up on TikTok for 15 seconds and a need a car for 10 days” is not unusual. Brazen is the only PC word that I can think of.
The 2022 Grand Wagoner Serious III 4x4 looked massive from the outside but to my surprise once I was in it felt OK. The ultimate 7 seater with amazing McIntosh speakers everywhere, it is the sort of stuff you see in recording studios. A wonderful V8 engine is not dissimilar to the one daughter and journalist Annabelle has been driving for the last 10 years, the SRT version which does go like smoke.
The alternative is the equally impressive 3.6 liter V6 which generates 290 horsepower and offers better fuel economy. You either have to have a large family or buy it is as chauffeur for the celebs on their way to the Oscars. They would love it. The step that comes out to make getting in and out less ungainly is a nice touch.
Stellantis is relatively unknown in the United States but it embraces Jeep as well as the Maserati Trofeo which comes with a magnificent V8 Ferrari engine. Definitely not for the faint hearted and not designed for trips to Whole Foods, I see it as a Transcontinental Express from Gstaad to Monaco or Stockholm to Milan. Chances are the passengers will have spent as much on their Kiton jackets and Gucci loafers as the price of the car but I see it as that sort of very rapid mode of transport.
The color in the photo? Well, I am sure there are alternatives but this one you would spot in a car park at the polo a mile away.
I expected more from the new and much trumpeted VW ID.4. Having spent many years in Golf GTIs the ID did not handle or ride that well, I would describe it as work in progress. The interior is very modest indeed.
The same can be said for Subaru’s exceedingly modest Solterra. I love the brand, had wonderful trips in just about every car/SUV the company makes but this one I would not touch with a bargepole. The interior in simply awful, depressing and full of cheap materials and as the manual handle to adjust the back of the seat, at 46 thousand dollars is simply unacceptable. Back to the drawing board I would respectfully suggest. Sorry Subie gang this too is work in progress.
The same cannot be said of the ridiculously named but very good Toyota bZ4X Limited FWD. Allegedly identical to the Solterra the interior is chalk and cheese. Just have a look at the two interiors and you will see the difference.
Ford turned up with a Maverick Hybrid but without anyone from the company and also without the Mach One which would have been a smash hit.
Several companies were absent which is a shame as many of them are based in California. They had a captive audience. Pity.
Still, all in all I loved it. Special thanks to WAJ President Brian Douglas, the excellent teams from Page One automotive and my old friends from DriveShop. Well that's it from sunny California this month.