Thursday, September 24, 2015

John Brown's Body-by-Fisher: Returning to Antietam in the 2015 Lincoln Navigator, Part I.

They are misfit and strange in our new day, 
In Sixty-One they were not quite so strange,
Before the Fords, before the day of the Fords. 

Stephen Vincent BenÄ—t, John Brown’s Body, 1927

Abraham Lincoln said “the best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” Of course, that's only true until it stops coming at all. Then -- if you’re anything like Lincoln the Emancipator -- you belong to the ages.

What then of Lincoln the Navigator – Ford Motor’s Columbiad of an SUV? Reports are mixed. Some say that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is intent on having the truck-based four-by join the Lincoln Town Car in belonging to the ages; while others hold that it's only this generation Navigator (around since 2007) that's about disappear into the annuls of automotive history.

Both reflect the trouble the Navigator has had in drawing buyers away from Cadillac Escalades and Land Rover Range Rover Sports. Left to wallow in the back channels of uncool truckdom, the Kentucky-built Lincoln must now chart a new course if it’s to sailor on.

Oh captain, my captain: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Beast of the Borealis: The 2014 Toyota Tundra LTD CrewMax 4X4

In frosted northern kingdoms, 

Past the  jackpines' ragged reign,

The tundra rolls 'neath blazing stars,

Way up the line from Maine.

While here in Maryland -- the Tundra rolls onto the drive. It gleams in the dew-laden air. Alerted by the gravel crunching under its 18-inch Michelins, squirrels dart from its path. Still the Toyota rumbles onward. Its immense presence draws near. Electronically-controlled four-wheel discs bring it to a halt. Its 5.7-liter V8 idles.

From the safety of nearby trees, the squirrels watch as I circumnavigate the thing. They note its newly enlarged and integrated headlights, fashionably straight body creases and 5.5-foot bed. 

The critters return to their bullet-headed pursuits while I, bearer of the reviewer's burden, pause to blink at the Tundra's massive front end. The grille rises menacingly, its tiers of chrome bars disappearing into the maw of an integrated, yet hood-mounted, air-scoop. The effect is ghastly -- yet I cannot turn away.

 MechaToyota: The 2014 Tundra LTD CrewMax 4x4

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fusion. Ford Fusion: From Somewhere on the Bosporus to a Soviet Dead Drop in an Energi SE

While you only live twice, James Bond has had many incarnations. Together, these have upheld Queen, Country and Film Franchise for more than a half-century. It's been a long run -- and one requiring much in the way of automotive hardware. That's how Bonds from Sean Connery onward have come to drive around in everything from AMC Matadors to ZAZ 965s.

Still, the essential Bond-mobile is -- and will remain -- the Aston Martin DB5.

The DB5 is cool -- and judging from its subtle bonnet bump, 007 sits at the banjo-spoked wheel of one in the above photo. With jaw firmly set, he glares at evildoers pursuing him in their Citroen Traction Avant. Not that Her Majesty's suave Cold-War paladin has anything to fear, for after negotiating a tire-squealing series of curves, his Aston will likely squirt a viscous, MI-5-developed fluid onto the roadbed, thereby causing the Traction to lose traction and plunge headlong into the Bosporus, or wherever.

The 2014 Ford Fusion. Photo: Neil Hayward
Odds are better than in baccarat that if Bond were to find himself chased down that same road by cyberterrorists in a new Ford Fusion -- things would be different.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Aging of the Dawn of Aquarius: From Baltimore to Woodstock in a 2013 Volkswagen Turbo Convertible

Say nothing!
Whatever you do, don't mention the war. I did once, but I think I got away with it. Fortunately, Volkswagen is more circumspect. Despite the 2013 Beetle Turbo Convertible having been inspired by VW’s 1949 Type 1, the company draws the line at mentioning the war – or even the decade in which it was fought – in its retro line-up.  

This means that while buyers can get their new VW cabrios done up in '70s, ‘60s, and even 1950s fashion, any trim-level suggesting a German staff car as pursued by P-47s down a forest road in the Ardennes is verboten. 

Overrunning countryside, postwar style: The 1949 Type 1

Of course, imposing retro designs on a car that began as one tends to confuse things. Truth to tell, the Beetle and its fastback forebears have always been retro. Even the ‘49 model that served as our test car’s design buck was barely distinguishable from its 1935 prototype; and if that weren't enough, both models' deco-era lines did the hustle into disco-era times as a result of VW’s mid-century antipathy toward cosmetic model-year changeovers. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

We To Buffalo Roam: The 2013 Lexus IS350 AWD

To Allen P. Spaulding, Jr.

I have a theory that the truth is never told from the 
nine-to-five hours.

-- Hunter S. Thompson

If at all.

-- Anonymous

We were approaching Big Flats on the Southern Tier Expressway when the Adderall kicked in. At least I think it was the Adderall. Couldn’t have been the Prilosec. Either way, I remember turning to my sometime Caribbean songwriting collaborator Dr. Beefalo and saying “History is hard to know with all the hired bullshit” when there was this tremendous roar all around us. This was followed by the night sky pulsing in time with the Klezmer version of “People are Strange” on the radio. “As your sometime Caribbean collaborator,” Beefalo shouted while peering skyward, “I advise applying as much speed as needed to reach escape velocity in case of a problem.” “Good thought,” I hollered back, Florshiems pressed to the floorboards. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 2013 Jeep Compass Goes West

For all you crazy kids out there, “gone west” is an old expression denoting someone’s disappearance -- or death. Fair to assume it arose back when there was a real western frontier to escape into rather than the scrub behind some BJ’s Wholesale loading dock. Frederick Jackson Turner liked the saying -- and Kerouac bandied it about -- but lately it's gone west itself. Still, old expressions don't really die, they just show up in old movies. Thus, "went west" joins such cinematic chestnuts as Natty Bumppo's recalling the time “since Hector was a pup” in The Last of the Mohicans, and some beatnik’s bongo-backed adviso to “split the scene” in the demimonde thriller, Stakeout on Dope Street.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fashion it Again, Tony: The 2012 Fiat 500c

The new Fiat 500 is a solid update of the late-Fifties Fiat Cinquecento -- that 18-year exercise in mouse-eyed adorability that once served Americans as a source of low-cost transport, and -- in the case of its larger sibling, the Fiat 600 -- ruinous fan-belt consumption.

As one delivered intact through the 1960s in a rosso 600, I ought to know. Wherever this little runabout ran about, it left behind bits of fan-belt like so many mouse droppings. Thus, I couldn't get my kicks on 66 or anywhere else along the vast Aquarian Plane unless equipped with new belts with which to repair the Fiat's 633-cc motor. This parts-changing ritual yielded nothing in the way of sublime insight. It wasn't Zen and the Art of Incline-four Maintenance or anything like that. In fact, it shred knuckles like the belts they labored to replace. Still, it was a small price to pay for a car that your standard hippie gamine could just hug to death.

The Fiat 600