Sunday, February 22, 2009

One's affections are not logical

This weekend, I got a chance to fire up the Falcon, and in the process of doing so had to jockey the rest of the fleet around in the driveway. 

Sounds simple, you say, but the problem is the Volvo has been a bit off lately. Seems ever since we had the brand new ($500) radiator put in by the local garage, the throttle has been a bit sticky, especially in the cold weather. That means when you start it, it just might be stuck full open, roaring to life as never before. Further attempts have shown it to rev very high when you merely tap the pedal, or get stuck full on, even if it starts out OK. 

So it was with some trepidation that I approched the Volvo with key in hand. But on this relatively warm weekend, it started up OK, and proceeded to just be a bit revvy, not really sticking but going a bit beyond what I expected. I warmed it up, and got the car moved out onto the street where I can park it while toying with the wagon.

While I fully enjoyed taking out the Falcon, I also seem to have rekindled a long lost affection for the Volvo. The solid feel of the door. The rolling brick shit house drive quality, apparent even when just re-parking the car. 

So maybe we will keep the old Volvo. A while longer. Sure is cheaper than buying Mr. Domestic Partner a new ride. At this point, the throttle cable has been fixed for $32, and the car successfully delivered us and friends on an outing of some 75 miles. She rolled over to 250,000 miles enroute. I even filled it up with "something in the middle." 

Yes, the old girl is back in the good graces again. 

(the Volvo in that picture is not our car, but a reasonable facsimile. No, we dont have those funny plates here in MA. And the wipers on our headlights are more out of joint than those in the picture. I don't think I have a picture of our car. I have pictures of the Falcon and the MINI though. Maybe I will get the camera out this weekend.)

2010 Mazda3: I'm Cryin'...

Well, that is too bad. I had seen some pictures of the 2010 Mazda3 5 door, and was not too worried. But more and better pictures have shown up on the Mazda site, and it is a bit worrisome. Is there any way to only buy the back 2/3 of the car? That part is working, but not much of the front is working at all.

First there is the big smiley faced grill, which is really mostly the bumper in disguise. Disgusting. Then there are the side grills, fashioned to look like air intakes for the brakes or some such thing. Well, they look fake. Sorry.

Not only are there some ridges that run up the hood just inboard of the headlights, but there are big shoulder ridges around the wheels. Seems they borrowed those from the new beetle. One or the other of these ridges might have worked, but to try to get both in there makes a mountain out what was a pretty nice mole hill. 

Moving further back, things settle down, but there is that ridge that starts on the driver door, down low, and ends in a kick-up. It kinda mimics the smiley-grill, but brings to mind the Toyota Matrix. Not in a good way either. This car should never remind you of a Toyota Matrix.

Oh well. There are enough of the original model of the Mazda3 out there so that one should be able to find a clean low mile example for some time to come. Until they fix this one, that is what I will plan on doing when the Volvo finally bites the dust.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A New Era of Malaise Mobiles?

Everyone has fond memories of mid- to late-'70's domestic cars. These over sized and over wrought barges were ugly when new, and are ugly still. Case in point:
Anything with stacked rectangular headlights, opera windows, half vinyl roofs, or painted in colors like "jade" or "burgundy-fire". These things often started out as fairly well designed cars that through both regulation and economic factors, kept getting stuff added on, like big bumpers, and gigantic grills made to emulate Mercedes.

Well, the automakers face severe challenges, with limited resources to develop new product, and will certainly beforced to clamp ever more "features" onto existing designs. What do you see as the Malaise Mobiles of the new century? 

Here are my suggestions:
The GM crossovers. These just dont do enough to get people out of their current SUV and into something alot more efficient. They look better than the lumpy older SUVs, but there will be no money to improve them, so look for them becoming dated, added to with more techy veneer and flash.

Ford 500/Taurus: They are simply too big, boring and non-descript. The new design tries to breathe life into the car, but it falls short looking rather gimicky. Same old car with new stuff bolted on, the perfect malaise recipe.

Chrysler: In general, Chrysler. It seems unlikely they will have anything new to offer for a while, and will have to tweak existing product for a while. A long while.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wagons, Wagons, Wagons!

Well, I just cant hide my excitement. The Detroit Auto show brought us no less than 4 new wagons and/or hatches to drool over. Sure, most were announced before hand, but seems like enough are on the horizon to keep things exciting.
Probably the most beautiful is the Audi Sportback. Not only does it look great from the side and rear, but they finally worked out something with that grill to make it look almost OK. 
Cadillac is still moving forward with the wagon 
version of the CTS. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I am glad to see it come along.

Another high-end mark, Lincoln got into the mix with its C concept. Looking more like a Renault than the usual FoMoCo offering, it is something that suggests luxury and aggressive futuristic design can go together. Love to see this on the market.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chevy was showing off the tiny Spark, which looks a bit more fun than a Fit. Ford is just brought out the rather humongo Flex, which comes with a supersized serving of MINI-envy. I am waiting for a Focus wagon type variation, or at least a low-rider Edge. Chrysler might end up as the American marketing and distribution arm for Fiat, bringing a whole range of Alpha Romeos and Fiats, including the new 500. All in all, not a bad outlook. 

Except for that whole economy thing...

Mitsu Hatcheroo

Well, it is time to get back to the blog, and what better way than to celebrate a new 4 door hatch coming our way from Mitsubishi. Now I generally like the looks of this thing, but the work out of the hatch seems a bit klunky, as you can plainly see the 4-door sedan that existed before the new addition out back. No wagonish cargo area window, no sir. But a window, or a larger hatch would have helped work out the huge space between the rear door and the hatch. 

My only other complaint concerns the inverted Audi grill. It looked bad on Audi, and it looks pretty bad here too. No one or thing should have such a big mouth. It really could have been nice with the bumper extending across the front, and a small thin grill set above it to visually connect the headlights. Under the bumper could have been a second air intake roughly the size of what's there and you could call it a day. Drop in a discreet Mitsu logo and go home. And ditch the hood scoopy things too.
Probably the better looking car along these lines is the Lexus IS300 SportCross from 2002.