A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird
U.K. man overdoes the air freshener, explodes car
Ever got into a friend’s car that was absolutely reeking of air freshener? You know the kind, with an old growth forest of those smelly trees hanging off the rearview mirror, and a persistent fug of Febreeze doing essentially nothing to disguise that the seat cushions are thoroughly impregnated with dog flatulence.
One such fellow, in Halifax, West Yorkshire, decided that his Seat Leon was so smelly that nothing but a concentrated blast of air freshener would to the trick. Apparently, the man was a smoker, which may have been the issue.
Having successfully filled the cabin of his hatchback with what must have been a barely-breathable atmosphere, our intrepid freshener-fan reclined and lit a cigarette. Well, he shouldn't have.
The car promptly exploded, blowing out windows and doors, and even damaging nearby businesses. It's safe to laugh, by the way, because the driver was miraculously unharmed.
Land Rover buys Bowler
No, not a hat. It'd be a pretty slow news week for that to make headlines.
Instead, we're talking about Bowler the aftermarket tuning company that makes some of the fiercest Land Rover products out there. Examples include the Wildcar, which is essentially the original Defender turned into a near-indestructible rally car.
Bowler's been around for more than three decades, but like many aftermarket companies, finances have been shaky. Particularly in the current economic uncertainty in Britain, it was beginning to look like Land Rover fans were going to need to doff their hats as Bowler was hung up on the peg for a last time.
Instead, Jaguar Land Rover has given every company member a job, and is currently figuring out how to slot Bowler-tuned vehicles into their lineup. Both Range Rover and Land Rover have been pushing into tarmac performance hard with their SVO creations, so there's certainly room for a tougher, more off-roady Land Rover that's still got performance chops.
Think of a well-bred Ford Raptor or Jeep Rubicon, and there you have it. Simply pop on a Bowler, and head off into the wild unknown, like Poirot on methamphetamines.
BMW says its customers want enormous grilles
In a previous column on pedestrian safety, I pointed out how ridiculous most cars look these days, with huge, aggressive grilles that supply far more air than is actually need for cooling. Most of them are just for show, and the show is horrendous.
However, at least according to BMW, the trend is unlikely to change. Speaking to Autocar magazine in the U.K., BMW VP Peter Heinrich said that the brand's customers are “not afraid of vehicles with strong characters. They are looking for it. So, we have decided to focus even more on strong characters and bold designs.”
By that, Heinrich meant that BMW's most recent concept, which looks like a cross between a mole-rat and a hair-dryer, was probably going to signal the look of the next BMW 4 Series and possibly 3 Series.
If you grew up liking BMW, this obsession with grilles is a shame. The brand's styling was arguably at its best when the cars were a little more subtle, like the E39 M5 of the early 2000s. BMWs were friendly, and likable, and you could walk down to the garage in the morning and not scream involuntarily when you saw them. Sadly, not any more.
Honda shows off customized S2000
At the Tokyo Auto Salon, scheduled for February, Honda will be showing off a S2000 prototype. Wait. Didn't they stop making that thing years ago?
They did! But that doesn't mean Honda fans don't still love the S2000. In many ways, Honda's little two-seat roadster was the best thing they ever made, with a sky-high redline for its four-cylinder engine, and sharp handling. Later models got a bit more torque for ease of driving, but both editions are great.
Honda doesn't currently have anything like the S2000, either on sale or in the works. However, by way of paying tribute to the 20th anniversary of the car, they're bringing an accessorized version to the Tokyo Auto Salon. Painted grand prix white and fitted with red seats, this S2000 looks great, and is a far cry from the occasionally overwrought tuner stuff you can get from some Japanese marques. It even has reasonably-sized 17-inch wheels.
A sports car is never going to be a hot-seller, and in this market, Honda's probably better off focusing their R&D budget on crossovers and EVs. However, I wouldn't say no to a new S2000 if they kept it small, snappy, and light.
Car2Go is Car 2 Gone
Share Now, the company that formerly operated as Car2Go, has announced that they're shutting down North American operations as of Feb. 29 of next year. The move will no doubt frustrate many Vancouverites who've grown to depend on the service.
The company cites rising costs and a lack of infrastructure for EV sharing as major stumbling blocks to the viability of car sharing. They plan to still operate in 18 European cities.
In our market, this does leave a gap for others such as EVO or Modo to expand into. Further, with the arrival of ride-hailing/sharing services like Lyft, getting around the Lower Mainland shouldn't get too much harder.
Still, Car2Go will be missed. It was pretty much the only application where the Smart car actually started to make sense.
Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.