Saturday, October 22, 2011

2012 Nissan Leaf - Cool idea. But it still looks like a turd.

Price: A bit steep, even with the government rebate. But then again you aren't paying for gas...
Power: Hard to describe.  It can go freeway speed?
Sex Appeal: If you find a tortoise sexually appealing, then you will be all over this car.

I like electric things.  I spent most of my youth playing with high end remote control electric cars and airplanes so I know first hand the power of the electric motor.  I have also dabbled in go kart racing, both gas and electric, so I know full well what having instant torque means (you go fast, instantly).  All things considered then, I should like this car...but I don't.

Nissan had a huge opportunity here.  They were coming out with the first affordable electric car the world had ever seen.  Being electric, there wer no limitations for this car.  It does not require the same aerodynamics as its gas powered equivalent and there is not a lot stored under the hood of this car, so they could have made it look however they wanted.  Electric cars are affected by wind just like gas cars, so its range is highly dependent on aerodynamics.  Nissan could have gone all out and made this thing incredibly space-aged looking and extended its mediocre 50-mile range to 100 and beyond without having to mess with any of the technology under the hood.

But they didn't.  They made a turd.  It rivals the most ugly car every made (the prius...but more on that some other time), and it only goes 50 miles.  It is a cool idea to have an electric car.  I admit that 99% of my driving per day is less than 50 miles, so 360 days of the year this is all the car I need.  But I really can't get over how dumpy it looks.  Why could they have not made a plastic ferrari and put a dinky electric motor in it? There are a reason fast cars look fast.  They use up so much gas every little bit counts.  I feel that Nissan should have had the same mentality here.  Electric cars can't go very far to begin with without adding thousands of pounds of batteries, so why not focus on that last little bit?

What we are left with is a half assed attempt at taking on the Prius.  They made it look like the Prius, gave it a million miles per gallon, and charge 10k more for that extra amount of smugness you can carry around when you say: "well I drive an ELECTRIC car, what about YOU?"  Is it really so much to ask for a mainstream car thats good for the environment, saves you a butt load of money, and doesn't look like a pile of S***?

I guess so.  I have hopes for the future, but as it stands, the car industry is terrified of doing anything different than the competition.  This car is just a drop in the bucket of what is possible.  Audi just needs to come out with that electric thing they had in I-Robot that Will Smith drove.  Now THAT is what the "future" should look like.  Not a stink bug.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2012 Fiat 500- Back again

Price: Super attractive
Power: What power?
Sex Appeal: It is like driving Zooey Deschanel: cute and quirky and you want it.

Two summers ago I went with my family to the great country of Italy.  It was there that I was blasted with an overwhelming sight: Fiat 500's.  EVERYWHERE.  I would like to explain further this concept of, "everywhere."  One day we were going to lunch and there in the middle of the sidewalk was a small car.  We asked the waitress what that was all about and she simply said: "oh, there is no parking.  People just park on the sidewalk because the parking ticket is less than paying for a parking lot."

That pretty much sums up the mentality of every Italian.

Needless to say my obsession with this cute little thing quickly grew and by the end of our 10 day trip I badly wanted the souped up Abarth Fiat 500(the tuner version soon to be released in the US).  Until that review, I will focus on the base model.  It is cheap (15-18k), gets good gas milage, comes in a manual, and is blessed with plenty of quirky color combinations.  If you are looking for a car with any pep and zip at all, please move on and buy a mini.  As cool as this car is, it has less than 100hp and despite its apparent small size, has the same generous proportions of its rival: Mini.

In the united states, this car is distributed by Chrysler and that bothers me.  I hate chrysler.  They make cheap S*** cars and should be gone (cough THANKS FOR NOTHING OBAMA cough).  Whether Chrysler has any say in how this car is produced and made is unknown to me, but it is definitely something to consider if you want this car.  All I know is that sitting in one felt awful similar to sitting in a PT cruiser(the quintessential cheap S***).

Its affiliation with Chrysler aside, I overall like this car.  I would never get the base model because it is just too plain and underpowered for me.  My suggestion is to wait for the Abarth which is not totally underpowered and adds just enough toughness to this car to make it appeal to the male and female sex equally.

Also, I like the convertible version of this car.  It is not a traditional convertible, but is cool all the same because the top portion just slides back like a set of blinds.  Pretty cool I must say.

If you are in the market for something fuel efficient and cute, this is a great option if you never have to drive on the freeway(it just doesn't have enough power to be safe at speed).  Otherwise, there are plenty of other cars out there that are better (look at a base mini, ford fiesta, etc).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2012 Tesla S - "Affordable" Green Car

Price: Not terrible with tax incentives.  About the price of Comparable BMW or Audi
Power: Lots of power.  Lots and lots and lots of power.  Redefines: "silent, but deadly"
Sex Appeal: It drips sex.  Women will look sexy in it, men will look sexy in it, and it will look very nice parked next to any sports car in the world.  And it has 4 doors.  Not bad, eh?

The world was introduced to Tesla Motors a few years ago with the Tesla roadster.  It looked awful cool, was designed by Lotus, and came in interesting colors like electric blue and orange.  Cool colors and good looking is usually enough to make it a huge seller, right?

Wrong.  Everything about the roadster was cool except for two things: the 110k price tag, and the fact that it makes no noise.  Ok it makes some noise, but its a quiet whine at most.  The heart and soul of the vastly overpriced roadster was an electric motor and hundreds of laptop batteries.  These two caveats handcuffed the roadster to one type of buyer: someone fabulously wealthy who likes new toys and occasionally feels morally superior to others.

Unfortunately, the roadster never really lost its "toy" stigma.  It could only go about 200miles on a charge and it took around 16 hours to fully recharge.

Years later and millions invested by Toyota and private investors and we now have the Tesla S.  No longer is Tesla out of the reach of 99.9% of Americans.  Not only is it cheaper (tops out at 70k before tax rebates), but it has a longer range.  The top of the line model supposedly can go 300 miles, which would satisfy all driving necessities, short of a road trip,  for pretty much everybody.

The charging time is also much better.  With advances in battery technology and a high voltage charger,  the Tesla S will be ready in the morning before you are.  The better battery and faster charging times are, I think, the two biggest selling points for this car.

In a world trying to become more "green," this is the only acceptable effort in my mind.  It doesn't burn gas, it doesn't look like a turd, and it has better performance than most gas powered cars.  In short, it offers a green alternative that doesn't want to make you gouge your eyes out for what you have to drive in order to be a cleaner human.  It is my DEAREST hope that Tesla takes off in the next few years, so that we may look upon the Prius less, and not have to sacrifice all fun in life over a few pounds of carbon dioxide.

Did I mention it is pretty?