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Lord Byron: TTAC jumps on the cross; FR-S fans bring nailguns

If you read TTAC (and chances are if you’re a fan of this site, you do), you’re probably aware that Jack Baruth and his merry band of tag-alongs recently published a multi-part track comparison pitting the Scion FR-S against a Mazda X-5 PRHT and a Genesis 2.0T. You can read the crucial details here if you like (if you don’t, be warned that I’m going to spoil the results after the jump), but what you should really take away from this isn’t their analysis, but the absolutely ridiculous reaction from the online community.

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S:S:L Salutes David E. Davis, Jr.

When the initial rumors of David E. Davis, Jr.’s passing crept up Sunday, I remarked to some colleagues that the inevitable onslaught of Car and Driver nostalgia commentary wouldn’t be far behind. But instead of a long-winded, reflective piece detailing DEDJr.’s career, we’re simply going to take the next few days to revisit some stories that we think Mr. Davis would have appreciated. Godspeed, David. Wherever you are, I’m sure there are no boring cars.

Previous days’ “best of” pieces:

Monday: Over the river and through the cones: The 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour
Tuesday, part one: Supercar Saturday Part One: Running the R8 and Viper against the clock at MSR Houston
Tuesday, part two: Part Two: Supercar Saturday Part Two: Taking it to, um, the streets.
Wednesday: Imaginary Internet Millionaire Track Test: Ferrari F430 v Lotus Elise v Dodge Caliber SRT-4 v Ford Mustang GT500

 

Korean to go, Part II: The Kia Optima, the Hyundai Sonata, and old-fashioned Americana

When I concluded part I of this feature last week, I said that this piece would be about the Sonata and Optima. It will. But for those of you who came looking for a more traditional road test, I must apologize. You won’t find that here. Feel free to ask specific questions about the cars, but for this piece, we’re going down a slightly different path.

If you ask somebody on the street to identify the most “American” car they can think of, you’ll probably get a predictably narrow subset of answers. SUVs and pick-up trucks will probably top the list, with the occasional Corvette or Mustang thrown in for flavor. Some may even identify entire brands–Jeep or Cadillac, for instance. Others may reflect on our heritage of being one of the largest sources of mass-produced goods in the world, and then prattle on endlessly about the Model T.

But they’re all wrong. You see, the above cars may be icons of the American auto industry, but they simply represent what we’re good at. Those are cars of and by Americans, but not for. Anybody can appreciate a well-built truck or a go-anywhere SUV, but for our purposes we must look elsewhere. Indeed, to find a reflection of American culture, you need to look a a segment which, ironically enough, American manufacturers seemed to have virtually abandoned until very recently–a segment so seemingly devoid of character that it has been dominated for nigh on twenty years by the Toyota Camry. Yes, dear reader, the quintessential American car is the mid-sized sedan.

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Lord Byron — VWVortex.com “Gay-Bashing” incident: How a two-time M.A. failed Web 101

What you see above is a craigslist.org ad for a 1997 Jetta VR6, meticulously restored (well, mostly). As the ad states, it’ll do 0-60 in under seven seconds, it’s fully loaded, and it’s a Florida car. And it could be yours for P-Diddy’s pocket lint–just $30,000.00 U.S.

That’s not a typo.

It’s no great revelation that the World Wide Web is an indispensable resource for car shoppers, but sometimes you come across an example of somebody who has failed in every possible way to properly utilize it. When that individual also happens to be the founder, editor and publisher of a multi-platform activist newsletter who holds multiple graduate degrees (including a M.A. in Journalism), well, you have a spectacle in the making. What follows is a step-by-step breakdown of how Stephanie Donald of LGBT-Today went about thoroughly embarrassing herself.

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2011 NAIAS — Business up front, party in the back.

by Carl Modesette. NAIAS Photography by Zerin Dube, Mark Fields photo courtesy of Ford

From 10,000 ft, the glow of Detroit after sunset could be that of just about any other Midwestern city. Altitude and darkness impose a serenity that belies the nocturnal unrest below. Even the vast expanses of unused industrial property and the inch-thick dusting of snow that come into focus right about the time the landing gear drops are anonymous this time of day. The nighttime approach is a stirring equalizer. With the departure of the sun goes any character, and it’s not until you cross over from the too-white lighting of the airport terminal into the dingy glow of sodium-vapor lamps that your senses really have a chance to recalibrate. By the end of your cab ride, reality has set in.

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SSL Road Test: The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL

by Byron Hurd. Photographs courtesy of Volkswagen. *This article has been corrected. See note above feature list.*

A few months ago, while reading one of my favorite Web comics, I came across a bit of a gem. While commenting on the endless debate between competing game console services Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, Penny Arcade‘s Jerry “Tycho” Holkins wrote something that every auto journalist knows, whether they’ve consciously considered it or not.

“In order to appear reasonable it is sometimes necessary to say things which are untrue.”

Such profundity and brevity rarely coexist.

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Lord Byron: 0-60-0

Unfortunately, the rumors surrounding our friends over at 0-60 Magazine are true. The paper side of the operation has been officially dropped by parent company Harris Publications.

Word from 0-60 staff is that they plan to continue with the magazine’s online operation and blog/news format, which can be found (for the time being, at least) at http://www.0-60mag.com/. Keep an eye there for any announcements or changes.

It’s always a shame when a glossy closes up shop, especially when it’s one of the good ones. If you can get your hands on a back issue or two, I suggest doing so.

Good luck out there, fellas.

Lord Byron — The deeper meaning

by Byron Hurd

The pilot episode of “The Wire” opens with a scene between Baltimore City homicide detective Jimmy McNulty and a young eyewitness sitting on a stoop, overlooking a murder scene. The victim was shot after running away with the pot from a dice game. The witness explains that the victim, “Snot Boogie,” would come to the game every week and let the pot get thick, then pull a snatch and grab. Normally, the other players would chase him down and kick his ass for trying to make off with the cash, but this week somebody got tired of the routine and shot poor Snot Boogie dead. McNulty is puzzled, and asks the witness why they continued to allow Snot Boogie to play if he always ran off with the money. The witness looks at McNulty and then back at the body, then says, matter-of-factly, “You got to. This is America, man.”

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Lord Byron — Big Enough to Fail

Some of my regular readers have been inquiring as to my backlog of reviews. Fear not; they’ll be along shortly. I’m currently dealing with some logistical issues which have repercussions for the release of two of these pieces. Once that shakes out, we should be back to our regularly-scheduled programming. For now, enjoy some Volkswagen.

Friend and fellow SSL regular Jack once called the Volkswagen Phaeton “The best car in the world.” He should know, I suppose, as he had two of them. And it was quite good. In fact, it’s one of few cars I have ever known to be as satisfying from the back seat as it was from the driver’s. It was a wonderful piece of engineering that deserved all of the praise it received.

And now that Volkswagen appears to be back in the “on again” phase of what some of our esteemed colleagues depict as an ongoing deliberation as to the future of the Phaeton in America, I feel it’s appropriate to issue a gentle warning to our friends across the pond:

The Phaeton cannot and will not succeed in the United States.

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Lord Byron — Yes*, it’s got a HEMI

Ray Wert, the Jalop of Jalops over at www.jalopnik.com, recently wrote a piece about the HEMI brand and the upcoming 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For those who aren’t scrutinizing the JGC’s launch on the same level as us know-it-alls, let me catch you up. Essentially, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will no longer have a 5.7L HEMI engine. Instead, it will have a 5.7L OHV MDS V8 with Variable-valve Timing… and an engine cover emblazoned with enormous, embossed “HEMI” branding.

It’s okay if you’re confused, but it boils down to this: Jeep will no longer feature the HEMI branding within its vehicle lineup. The same engine will be branded as a HEMI in other Chrysler Group LLC products (as Jeep Brand Marketing Head Honcho Jim Morrison put it, they’ll be leaving it to “the Dodge and truck guys”), but not in a Jeep.

But why? Mr. Wert proposes that this is green-washing–an effort by Chrysler to minimize the enthusiast value of their vehicles in front of an ever-more-environmentally-focused media. It’s not a poor argument. Just look around at the rest of the industry. Ford’s twin-turbo, 350+ horsepower V6 monster is dubbed “EcoBoost,” for crying out loud. If that’s not green marketing, I don’t know what is. But in the context of Chrysler, I think Wert’s assessment, while not unreasonable, isn’t quite on the mark.

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