WTF? Strange, Crazy, Amazing, and Downright Stupid Things at SEMA 2018
You can pretty much see anything and everything automotive related at the SEMA show. From pure-bred muscle cars, wild exotics, monster trucks, and full-on race cars. SEMA has something for everyone to love. On the other side of that spectrum, there is a lot that may not be to your taste. From the crazy awesome to the crazy clueless, here you can find a bit of each.
Pops’ Rants: Skoda Just Ruined the "RS" Badge
I really can’t remember when an automaker used the "RS" badge on a car for the first time, but I recall some Porsche and Alpine race cars from the 1950s and 1960s. You shouldn’t expect me to remember this kind of stuff anyway. Ya know, old people tend to forget a lot. Anyway, I specifically remember that RS-badged cars, be them road-legal or race-ready, have always been synonymous with performance. Well, Skoda just ruined that with the Kodiaq vRS.
Hello there! You’re probably asking yourselves where I’ve been lately. Well, it’s none of your business. But since you’re reading this, I just came here to tell you that I told you so! Oh, wait, that’s not very specific. I told you that the Nissan Leaf Nismo would suck. I did that in October 2017, when Nissan launched the concept car. Now it’s July 2018, and we have a production model that looks like the concept but sucks where it matters most.
Pops’ Rants: Your complaints about the new Chevrolet Blazer are invalid
Pops’ Rants: Nurburgring Records You Should Know About
Oh look, we have a new Nurburgring record for seven-seat SUVs. Nope, it’s not a super-fast benchmark set by BMW or Audi, companies that have actual performance seven-seat SUVs, but a boringly slow record set by... wait for it... Skoda. Yes, a company with limited global availability drove a diesel-powered, somewhat performance-oriented SUV on the ’Ring to set a record for a class that no one cares about. And it’s damn slow too at 9:29.84 minutes. I bet SUV enthusiasts will take the showrooms by storm to buy the 236-horsepower Kodiaq RS later this year.
BMW Screwed Up Big Time with the New X5
Hey, look, the brand-new BMW X5 is here! I know, it’s yesterday news, everyone has seen it. Well, I’m not exactly anxious to get up early in the morning so yeah, I’m usually late on the news. But here’s something no one appears to have noticed yet: the SUV’s trunk is now smaller. And not by a little bit, it’s significantly smaller, despite the X5 being slightly bigger.
Pops’ Rants: Tesla Should Change its Name to "Fix It Again Elon"
Last week I wrote a big rant about how the BMW M5 with the Competition Package is an abomination. I take that back. The new Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the supreme abomination. A luxurious, boxy abomination on wheels. And the perfect example of how to be lazy in the design process. Okay, I’m not taking that back actually, I still think that the M5 Competition Package is a useless piece of junk, and you should buy a proper sports car instead, but the Cullinan is my all-time favorite automotive abomination. Until Boeing builds an airplane-shaped SUV that is!
Pops’ Rants: The BMW M5 Competition Package Is a Useless Abomination
The BMW M5 is an abomination. There, I finally said it. If you’re a diehard fan, you can now have an aneurysm, take a deep breath, and continue reading. Or you can yell "you know nothing" and go complain on your crappy BMW forums. Because that’s what true BMW fans do. Either way, the M5 sucks, and I’m going to explain why because it’s way too hot outside to go for a bike ride.
Pops’ Rants: And the Award for the Worst Car Design of 2018 Goes to Mercedes-Maybach
I know we usually hand out awards for the best and worst of the auto industry at the end of the year, but I’m going to start early in 2018 and give Mercedes-Maybach a medal for the worst car design of the year. And the award goes to the Vision Ultimate Luxury, which made its debut among a handful of China-exclusive vehicles at the 2018 Beijing Auto Show. Yes, it’s that ugly!
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Pops’ Rants: GM’s Decision to Fire Johan De Nysschen Might Have Been a Big Mistake
Cadillac just fired president Johan de Nysschen, four years after it brought him in from Infiniti to revive the luxury brand. The news made headlines all over the world and sparked debates on whether the brand will do better without de Nysschen. The consensus seems to be that he made a string of bad decisions and that Steve Carlisle might be the man who will make things right. Well, I disagree.
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Pops’ Rants: Is the BMW M4 Worth it with the M2 Competition around?
Back in 2015, BMW did something really cool for old-school enthusiasts by launching the M2. A spiritual successor to the highly acclaimed 1M Coupe, the M2 is a tad smaller than the M4, and although it misses 60 horsepower and 63 pound-feet, it’s only three-tenths of a second slower to 60 mph and only six seconds slower on the Nurburgring. The M2 is the modern embodiment of the original M3, a status that the M4 will never benefit from. Things have just become a lot more serious for the M2 now, which climbed another step on the performance ladder with the Competition package.
Pops’ Rants: Bugatti Is Trying Way Too Hard with the Chiron
The Bugatti Veyron was a really cool car. When it arrived back in 2005, it had never-before-seen power, a crazy engine, and the highest top speed of a production car. But it had one big issue compared to the other extreme supercars on the market and the ones that followed: it wasn’t suited for track performance. At more than 4,000 pounds, it was way too heavy, and the way it was built prevented it from becoming a part-time track car. Bugatti did launch a Super Sport model with more power and better handling, but the purpose of that vehicle was to set a new world speed record. The Veyron was replaced with the Chiron after ten years on the market, but sadly Bugatti did not change its strategy. If we ignore all the new tech and the revised drivetrain components, the Chiron is just a beefed-up Veyron that still sucks on the race track.
Pops’ Rants: Yup, Ferrari Can No Longer Be Trusted
Like many business relationships, that between carmakers and customers should be one of trust and respect. Automakers should make sure that they deliver a solid product as they cash the check, while customers should use the cars accordingly. Unfortunately, recent events prove that car companies can’t be trusted. Volkswagen was caught cheating on their emission tests for diesel cars, while many other brands have admitted to lying about MPG figures for some vehicles. Mercedes and BMW have been accused of testing dirty diesel engines on monkies, and some reports claim that they used human volunteers as well. Now, it turns out that Ferrari can’t be trusted either. Ferrari! An automaker that asks between hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars for its cars and has strict rules for potential customers.
I’m not saying that Ferrari should stick to the rules more than any other automaker out there, but it’s massively ironic that Maranello cheated its clients. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, it has been revealed that Ferrari allowed its dealers to roll back odometers on used cars in the U.S., a move that inflates prices for used models artificially.
Pops’ Rants: All This Hype about Tesla Outselling German Luxury Cars in Europe Is Misleading
Tesla has been offering mass-production electric cars for six years now, and it’s safe to say that Elon Musk’s company is doing great. Sure, the Model X came a bit late and Tesla is still struggling to put the Model 3 on the assembly line, but the carmaker’s EVs are becoming increasingly popular, especially in Europe.
Norway continues to be Tesla’s second largest market after the U.S., where the Model S actually climbed atop the all-popular Volkswagen Golf. More recently, the Model S also began outselling German luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series in Europe for the very first time. It’s a big deal, and I can understand why most outlets are going crazy about it, but all this talk about Tesla ripping the Germans to shreds is misleading.
For starters, this has happened before in the U.S. I know, the U.S. is Tesla’s home turf, and it’s easier to sell cars here rather than export them to Europe, but it’s a valid precedent. Second, and what everyone seems to be missing, the Model S is not a competitor for the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8. It’s actually more the size of theE-Class, 5 Series, and Audi A6, something Elon Musk himself stressed a while back. Here’s why this is important.
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Pops’ Rants: The Chicago Auto Show Is Proof that Lamborghini Is Schizophrenic
Remember how Lamborghini staged an U.S. debut for the Urus at the Museum of Contemporary Art and then ditched the Detroit Auto Show, leaving just a Huracan at the Cobo Center? And how the Italian firm thought that the SUV was too special for the first major auto show of 2018? You probably do, but Lambo apparently forgot all about it, as the Urus is now on display at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s just sitting alone in the corner waiting for visitors that are there for mundane cars they can buy. Makes a lot of sense, right?
Why Are Automakers Getting Away with Cheating Devices and Gassing People?
There’s something terribly wrong with the auto industry today! And reading this week’s news is enough to notice it. Assuming you’re a sane person that is! While the folks over at Jalopnik uncovered how Goodyear hid evidence of a tire that caused at least nine deaths over nearly 20 years, other outlets are reporting how certain German carmakers paid scientists to gas monkeys and humans with toxic diesel fumes. Yeah, I know, it sounds like an overinflated conspiracy theory, but it’s all true, unfortunately.
Goodyear, one of the world’s most biggest tire manufacturers, is now under scrutiny for an issue that dates back to the early 2000s and is linked to more than 40 lawsuits and at least nine deaths. In short, the brand approved the G159, a tire designed in the mid-1990s for lower-speed delivery vehicles, for motorhome use. Motorhomes usually run at higher speeds than the said tire can handle, which resulted in numerous crashes and deaths. On top of that, it turns out that Goodyear managed to keep complaints and claim data sealed from auto safety regulators for all these years. It’s only now, in 2018, that a proper investigation was launched. Check out Jalopnik’s story for the full details.
Then we have all the big media outlets reporting about German scientists having gassed human volunteers with toxic diesel fumes in tests funded by big car manufacturers. Commissioned by the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), these tests were backed by Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. In the U.S., then monkeys were gassed with exhaust fumes from a VW Beetle in 2014 by the U.S.-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.
The EUGT was dissolved in 2016, and it remains unclear whether the carmakers were aware of monkeys and humans being gassed, or at least that’s what many reports claim. Be that as it may —, and I must say I have strong doubts that VW, BMW, and Daimler were unaware of what happened behind closed doors — it’s still a sick thing to do in the name of science. And the big problem is that the carmakers will get away with it.
Nope, the New Mercedes G-Class Isn’t Cool. It’s Just Stupid
I’m old enough to remember when the Mercedes G-Class was originally introduced back in 1979. It was heavily based on its military counterpart, it was heavy and underpowered, and it was far from luxurious. But it became an instant hit, and I loved it. And it remained one of my favorite SUVs for decades. The boxy hauler was significantly revised in 1990, and it remained largely unchanged since then, despite technology and drivetrain upgrades. Almost three decades later and Mercedes launched the third-generation G-Class. And the Germans almost ruined it.
Here’s Why the Volkswagen Jetta Is a Big Mess Design-Wise
Volkswagen just unveiled a brand-new Jetta at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show and it’s a good example of how automakers should design interiors for compact cars. Brands that want to move upmarket should take notes. On the other hand, the sedan’s exterior design is a complete mess. For three reasons.
Remember how BMW brought the i8 Roadster, a facelifted i8 with the roof chopped off, at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show and called it "new?" Well, it’s happening again. It’s been a little more than a month and BMW unveiled the "new" i8 Coupe at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. The same car they first introduced in 2014, but with revised headlamps and taillights, a bit more horsepower, and a marginally improved range. BMW is either shameless and pathetic or is simply using the i8 to troll us at every auto show throughout the year (don’t forget about those "special-edition" models with "custom" paintjobs).
Pops’ Rants: Karma Just Kicked Elon Musk in the Nuts
Another day, another carrot. I just dropped by to tell you that I love karma. Nope, not the Fisker Karma. That karma. The principle that Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering. It’s the concept that keeps all life in a perfect balance. And the same concept made Elon Musk look pretty dumb after Hyundai launched the Nexo hydrogen fuel cell SUV at the Consumer Electronics Show. Yup, gotta love karma!
Pops’ Rants: The Automotive Sausage Fest Is Real!
And how are you folks doing in the new year? Any new year resolutions for 2018? Nah, don’t bother, I don’t care. It’s not like these resolutions last more than a few weeks anyway. But hey, since we’re allowed to make wishes I’m gonna blow the candles and say it: I wish automakers would stop making all their cars look the same. I hate the corporate look strategy. I used to only hate Audi for doing it, but this thing spread like the Black Plague in recent years. Mercedes is also doing the "same sausage, different lengths" thing and BMW is very close to implementing it across the range. It will be complete once the 6 Series is phased out. It’s a sausage fest I’m telling you, and it just got worse!
Pops’ Rants: Dear Lincoln and BMW, Please Stop Being So Pathetic
Man, this has been a rough week. Automotive-wise. The Los Angeles Auto Show sucked on so many levels. I haven’t seen so many crossovers in one place since the Soccer Mom Annual Meeting. Oh wait, that doesn’t sound right. Give me a minute here... Since the... uhm... wait, I got it... since the... Ah, screw it, I’m not in a mood for jokes. It just sucks! Then there’s the Urus, which isn’t a real Lamborghini and everyone gets excited as if they just launched the second-generation Miura. Do millennials even know what a Miura is? But the worst thing about this year’s L.A. show is that some automakers were set to remind me that press releases have more bullshit than a dairy farm.
Stop calling mild facelifts "brand-new," you half-baked hippies! You’re not fooling anyone.
Yeah, they’re at it again. Especially Lincoln and BMW. The American brand, which is struggling to stay afloat these days, just launched a mid-cycle facelift for the MKC with a new front grille. That’s it, a new grille! And they call it "new" with a "commanding new design." Hello?! It’s a new grille, not a new car. Now repeat after me: a new grille doesn’t make the entire car new. But wait, there’s more. Lincoln also introduced the Nautilus, a brand-new SUV according to the company’s PR division. Except it’s not new. It’s the MKX with a new grille and a new name. Hey, I like the fact that you’re using actual names now Lincoln, but it’s not a brand-new car! I can’t change my name and pretend I’m a new person. Okay, I can actually do that, but I may be spending my final years in a nuthouse. And trust me, the nuthouse isn’t good for business; there’s no room for a car production line in there.
But Lincoln isn’t the only company pretending customers are stupid. BMW also called the facelifted i8 new. Sure, the Roadster version is new indeed, but the coupe is identical to the car launched in 2014, save for the wheels, mildly revised headlamps and taillights, and the 12 extra horsepower. This is the most pathetic facelift I’ve seen in years. It’s not a new car, just a BRAND-NEW way to be lazy and pathetic! Go home BMW; you’re drunk!