Letter From Europe; Driving in WAJ's Santa Rosa
From Anderew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
At very short notice Page One’s boss Melissa Taylor and Drive Shop’s boss Aaron Hansen put together an auto journalist's test day in Santa Rosa, about an hour North of the Golden Gate Bridge. There is a saying along the lines of the right crowd and no crowding and that is exactly what we had.
Senior execs from Toyota, Genesis, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda and others walked us through their wares.
First up, 2024 Acura Integra Type S was every schoolboy’s dream, stick shift, awesome engine, the works. Definitely not a car for the mother-in-law!
This baby has 320 horsepower from a 2 liter turbo charged engine. Goes like smoke, one of few cars where you smile as soon as you get in and the smile will only disappear when you switch off the engine. The company called it a 4 seater, would suggest 2 plus 2.
For the back roads of Main County an absolute blessing. It is also blessed with a 50 thou sticker price, if you can afford it is a must.
The 2023 Genesis was absolutely breath taking.
I have not seen a finish on a car this side of 150 thou. The company people told me that EV was definitely the future, half the journalists present disagreed. Hybrid is what many of them, me included would have chosen.
Mazda’s 2024 CX-90 PHEV I did not care for, stuck me as a big lump. I should add that my cousins in Canada have three Mazda's between them and that the Miata is still the most fun anyone could have in for wheel. So there is zero anti-Mazda bias, I just didn’t care for the CX-90.
For someone known for driving Ferrari's and Lamborghini's you might be surprised to read that I loved the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium. Has the Prius come a long way or what?! Superb finish, modern dash, comfort, all mod cons. Not a brain they used to be but wow! What a pleasant surprise.
The other surprise completely blew my socks off.
It looked innocent enough, it had 2024 AMG EQEX4 written on the back and I suppose I should have known.
Many years ago when I applied for a job at FORZA magazine my very first article was entitled: “I am glad I didn’t have breakfast”..it was referring to a lap of Ferrari's test in the passenger seat next to Gerhard Berger. Well, I am certainly delighted that I skipped breakfast in Santa Rosa as I most definitely would have seen it again once I floored the Merc. Luckily I don’t have dentures either as these would have hit the windscreen without a shadow of doubt.
We are asking Ferrari Purosange type acceleration from the 2024 Mercedes AMG EQE4, it has to be experienced to be appreciated. It is supremely comfortable when you drive it gently, it will set you back over100 thousand dollars.
Another Mercedes which will also set you back over 100 grand is the AMG43 SL.
Two beautiful seats with room in the back for two tiny infants, it surprised me with a 4 cylinder engine. Some people complain about paying over 100 grand for 4 cylinders but I think 99 percent would be satisfied with the power. I was.
As for the interior and the various gizmos I’’ve designed a little test. My neighbor Mel is known to my regular readers as a rare 90 at 90 person referring to the speed and his age is my go to guy for senior impressions of certain cars I test.
This time I also invited his Son, a senior executive at Apple and his grandson a recent university graduate to a challenge.
This would be a simple challenge, open the car, put on your safety belt, start the engine, open the roof and find 91.1 FM, the Bay Area’s jazz station. Grandpa Mel was the judge with a stopwatch and I suppose the result was predictable: the young tiger did all this in 1 minute 30 seconds, his Father n 3 minutes.
The object of the exercise was simple-to illustrate that modern cars are a lot more complicated than they were a while back. It truly helps if you try and fathom out all the gizmos. But more to the point let’s imagine that you rent an expensive cars from someone like Sixt and you end up with this SL in the draft, underground car park..You can imagine the rest.
But coming back to the test in Santa Rosa
I had a chance to drive a Kia EV6 GT AWD. I liked it so much I persuaded Page One to let me take it home for a week. EV it might be, delightful it is. Quick, responsive, comfortable, very highly recommended.
The Lexus RZ was oozing luxury and it was pretty quick too.
I salute Toyota for having the odd EV or two but sticking to hybrids and giving people a chance to avoid charge rage.
In case you don’t know what that is, imagine four EV charging stations, two broken and 4-6 people waiting.
In England it is even worse. So my advice is think about EVs by all means, especially ones such as the delightful KIA EV6 but if you are thinking of driving to Sun Valley or LA from San Francisco hybrids is still the answer.
Well that's it for this month from "electrifying" California, have a happy and safe Autumn.