A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Seventh heaven for Volkswagen Golf
The Germans have been playing Golf since 1974 and they've just decided to go for another round. Revealed in Berlin this week is the latest generation of Volkswagen's small hatchback (intermittently dubbed the Rabbit over here), and it's more except where it's less.
Volkswagen has been playing a winning hand of late. Sales are up despite picky critics panning some of their contenting decisions. The Jetta in particular seemed to stump the pundits: it's a much cheaper-feeling car than in the past, but is also a much cheaper car - in these wonky economic times, turns out that's what the Volks want in their Wagens.
With the Golf, VW isn't cutting corners (although we'll wait to give the interior a going-over in person). Instead, they're cutting weight; shaving pounds off everything from the seats to the air-con. Overall, there's a savings of 100 kilograms over the old model. Not too shabby.
The old Golf owed much of its charm to its light weight and it's good to see a return to those roots. However, unlike the hatchbacks of yore which owed much of their safety rating to trying to dart around the accident, this new car boasts so much ultra-high-strength steel, you may be tempted to drive into a tree just to see what happens. Please refrain from doing so.
Engines may change as well, with North Americans finally seeing some of the microscopic turbo-charged powerplants that have been available for years in Europe. TDI diesel options will be on the table, as per usual, and the enthusiast community awaits the arrival of the next GTi with bated breath and sideways baseball hats.
Survey says: Smarter cars yes please, but I'll drive myself
Ford has just announced the results of a survey they commissioned, exploring the attitudes of the public towards driver assists like lane-departure warnings and so forth. While I'd be inclined to take the figures with a double heaping of organic sea salt, given that only 2,500 people were questioned, and that a manufacturer paid for the survey (leading questions?), the results are quite interesting.
While most drivers seemed cool on the idea of self-driving cars (something about letting a robot do the steering doesn't appeal to anyone who's seen 2001: A Space Odyssey), they sure seemed to like the idea of driver assists. Respondents admitted to driving while tired, occasionally using mobile phones, fiddling with the stereo; all the little distractions of everyday driving.
As such, almost 90 per cent seemed to want aids to keep their car in the lane and out of trouble. The survey would seem to indicate drivers want technology like rearward-facing cameras to help with backing-out of parking spaces, blind-spot monitors instead of shoulder checking, automatic braking systems and collision warning alarms to help stop you (literally) from crashing.
While Ford was quick to point out that the new Fusion will have all this stuff, and while I'm personally happy that some of the Weavin' Stevens I share the road with will have electronic
aids, the question is: with all this help, when do we stop being drivers, and start being passengers?
Apple makes white cars cool? (no it doesn't)
According to Fortune magazine, white is the coolest colour for cars these days. While silver might have been the favourite of designers in the past, they now stampede for the clean, crisp lines that a white car provides.
The article continues by postulating that Apple is responsible for the shift in colour desirability. Where white was once the colour of appliances, now it's valuable. Poppycock.
While white is desperately pretty on some vehicles (Toyota 2000GT? Volvo P1800?), it's really just a safe choice. A nice, safe, somewhat dull choice for the appliance the modern car is turning into.
Still, hope springs eternal: ever seen the rainbow of models lined up at your local dealership? Even though white seems to be the new beige, it looks like more people are embracing a bit of colour in their driving lives. Health Canada fiery over smoking racing suit
One day, I plan on driving in the Targa Newfoundland. It's a dream I've had for a while, and I certainly hope I have somewhat better luck than Mr. Zahir Rana, who drove his bright-yellow Ferrari Enzo off the road and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Mr. Rana, that is not what is supposed to be meant by "screeching in." Better luck next time.
While the Ferrari was dried out and shipped off to have even more horsepower injected under the hood (as that was clearly the problem), further ill-luck followed Rana as his vintage racing suit was emblazoned with Marlboro sponsorship. Motor racing has long been associated with vice; one needs only think of liveries like the John Player's Special Lotuses, or the Martini Porsches.
Either way, Health Canada doesn't mind burnouts, but takes a very dim view of smoking in racing. There is an absolute prohibition on tobacco product advertising in racing and Health Canada thinks the vintage race suit broke the rules.
Well, that's a bit humourless and somewhat narrow-minded. Who would have suspected such a thing from one of our best-loved bureaucracies?
Watch this space for all the week's best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to email@example.com.