The automotive Golden Age, a phrase that's been repeated ad nauseum since a time when British roadsters clashed with American muscle for sales on the showroom floor, has taken on a whole new meaning in the past few years. Today, an affordable, practical hatchback can roll off the assembly line with over 250 horsepower and beat both those cars in the twisties, the quarter mile, and at the pump. With performance so readily available to the average consumer, what's there to complain about?
Think back about ten years ago. Things were beautiful back then. Car companies were big and plentiful; NASA was mapping Mars; Tiger Woods was known for his superb golfing instead of his superb pimping. Above all, the pinnacle of automotive excellence was the F1 inspired Ferrari Enzo which sported one carbon fiber body, four carbon brakes, six semi-automatic gears, twelve cylinders, and 650 horsepower. It was the perfect time for the Enzo because people still had 401Ks to pay for the $660,000 supercar.
V12? $660,000? 650 horsepower? What's the big deal? All of these specs can be found in the super and hypercars of today. Yes, that's true but that last number can be found in something a little less spectacular, the 2013 Mustang GT500. As you'd expect, this Mustang, as with all Mustangs, is a car for the blue collar masses. It doesn't live in the glorified realm of a Ferrari or the pampered extravagance of a Concours D'elegance. Its $55,000 price tag will be mocked at the country club while its 12 second quarter mile will be bench raced against the blueprinted, ported and polished LS1 powered Chevelle that belongs to the boys that bellied up to the bar for a shot and a beer.
That's all well and good. It's what this GT500 was built for, blazing through the quarter mile with a great hole shot thanks to that solid rear axle. The problem arises when the buyer is more concerned about Miley Cyrus than quarter miles. Put another way, what will happen when Joe Schmoe off the street hands over the cash for all that power without knowing how to handle it?
Now, power isn't a bad thing! It's just worrisome to know that the median American income is around $46,000 and stretching payments on a $55,000 car for 5 years isn't a far fetched idea for this consumer driven country. The price of this car almost guarantees that there will be buyers who just looked at how much horsepower they could get for how little money. That kind of thinking interlaced with crowned, potholes, and gravel strewn real world roads can only result in more than a few GT500s in a ditch... next to a FR-S.
Yes! I said it! God's gift to the enthusiast community will end up abused, crashed, and broken on more than one occasion, even if it has 450 (!) less horsepower than the above mentioned GT500.
For the very few that don't know, the Scion FR-S is the car that brings Toyota back into the sports car game. It doesn't overwhelm with power or technological wizardry but charms with a rear wheel drive layout, perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a low center of gravity, and sport tuned suspension. And therein lies the problem.
There are very few sub-$25,000 cars that sport rear wheel drive. The Mazda Miata is the most likely rival at the track. While that car has less power and is mocked by many as belonging to a hairdresser, it's known by enthusiasts for its poise and precision. That ability to fly under the radar of the general population is what has allowed it to be an easy choice for cheap thrills specifically by the enthusiast crowd.
Meanwhile, Scion has decided to release commercials that look like this.
The ingenious people at Toyota have decided to show everyone what drifting is. Think of all the teenagers and young, stupid 20-somethings who bought a Scion tC because its cool factor was determined by the fact that it's a coupe and it's cheap. Now think of what car would be the perfect upgrade for them. A Honda Accord coupe? Nope. A FR-S, the car that race car driver Randy Pobst said doesn't inspire confidence? Sadly, yes. Maybe the mainstream deserves more credit than this. Maybe they can handle a lightweight rear wheel drive coupe. Than again, that mainstream population is the same group of people who thought the BMW 1-series was front wheel drive... and that's without a drifting commercial.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
Apparently, there's some race called the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend in France. To get everyone amped up for it, here's Hollywood's stylized take on the legendary race. I hear this Steve McQueen fellow is pretty cool too.