December 25 is almost here, but before that can happen, we must clear December 23. What's so special about that day? Why, it's Festivus of course – the secular holiday with roots in the 1960s but made famous by the classic sitcom Seinfeld in 1997. That means it's time for our annual airing of grievances, but before we launch into our well-earned tirades, there's some good news to share.
If you're reading this, congratulations. You made it to Jumanji level 2022, and that means you've survived a never-ending global pandemic, a microchip shortage, an unprecedented disruption of the global supply chain, significant natural disasters, historic levels of political unrest, a social media outage, the US Government admitting it had a secret UFO task force, Daft Punk breaking up, and just when you thought it might be over, BMW drops the Concept XM on us. At this rate, Bruce Willis will rocket into space next year to try and stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth.
But hey, you survived. And 2021 was still better than 2020. Those are two very good reasons to party.
Despite all the doom and gloom, we continue to see strength, optimism, and goodwill every single day thanks to you, Motor1.com readers. We remain humbled to serve you the latest and greatest from the motoring world, seasoned with a dash of wit and baked under the watchful eye of a veteran team that's endured the trials with you. As always, thank you for joining us on the ride.
Now buckle up, because we have a few things to say before the next road trip begins.
Separate interior/exterior debuts for new cars are ridiculous and need to stop.
On April 17, 1964, Ford debuted its new Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, many Ford dealers already had Mustangs in stock, hiding under covers awaiting the official debut. Yes, a car that people could buy as soon as an automaker revealed it … what an amazing idea! And as a result, over 1 million Mustangs sold in just the first two model years.
Now, automakers routinely debut vehicles months and in some cases years before anybody can buy one, and frankly, that’s worthy of a grievance by itself. Now, some companies (we’re looking at you, Hyundai) want to drag the process out even further by debuting a new vehicle in segments. Freaking segments, as in showing just the exterior, then a month later showing the interior, and maybe in a couple more months, we learn about the engine. And then, if there’s any mercy in the world, the vehicle finally goes on sale ... within another six months.
I can only assume there's some obscure study or focus group some automakers bought into that says "you’ll generate more excitement for your new model if you debut it multiple times!" No, you won’t. What you will do is annoy the bejesus out of potential buyers who, in the 21st century, have exceedingly short attention spans. Just ask dealerships if they woo buyers by showing them just the outside of a car on the lot, then tell them to come back next week for the inside and another two weeks before taking a test drive. Sounds ridiculous, right?
-Christopher Smith, Contributing Writer
Electric vehicles will replace gas vehicles, get over it.
I'm tired of hearing the bellyaching of combustion enthusiasts. If you can't read the writing on the wall, here it is in plain sight: electric vehicles will eventually take over the auto industry. This will be achieved by a combination of genuine market demand, enticing incentives, and legislation. It will happen because it has to happen, for the sake of our comfortable existence on the planet. The good news is that EVs are already awesome and getting better fast. Yet die-hard petrolheads continue to argue for the internal combustion engine's superiority. But after each one of their arguments is dismantled, they're left with one, and it's subjective: they sound better.
If that's all you’ve got, EVs will become the industry standard even sooner than we thought.
-John Neff, Editor-at-Large
BMW, your nose is too big.
BMW, I know that the double kidney grilles are an important part of the brand's history. Here's the thing: the current implementation sucks.
The problem started on the M4, and people complained. Then, the huge grilles were on the M3, but maybe there wasn’t enough time to change things after the reaction to the coupe, so we kept our powder dry.
Now with the iX, XM Concept, and other models, this look is clearly a trend. And, it’s a bad one.
So, what's the solution? Go to the automotive equivalent of a plastic surgeon and get a rhinoplasty. Shrink the size of the openings to something that fits with the rest of the vehicle. A bigger product can have larger inlets, but they shouldn't be so massive on smaller offerings like the 3 or 4 Series.
Or, just bring Chris Bangle back. The Bangle Butt was bad, but the current look is worse.
-Chris Bruce, Contributing Writer
"I hate it" analysis, hot takes, and Car Twitter.
Automobiles are the most complex, mass-market manufactured goods that humans have yet come up with. They are the products of brilliant individual creativity and almost unthinkable coordination between groups of highly specialized technicians and disciplines.
They are also, of course, fodder for anyone with a wifi signal and a Twitter account to pass judgment on. Fine.
But as the years pass and I become increasingly interested in keeping hooligans off my lawn, the balance of what I care about seems to be tilting from hilarious Social Media personalities to the people putting in the work to create and build vehicles that are innovative in appearance and action.
So, after some 12 seconds of deep and meaningful observation have passed after the latest new vehicle photos are beamed online, to read someone (even someone I work with) dash off a quick "burn it with fire"-themed tweet I feel, well, I feel robbed.
I get it, Bruce, you don’t love the new BMW grille treatments. But can we see the XM in production form, on a road somewhere, in motion and in context, before we call it a flop? Can we ask why big nostrils and imposing grilles have become a trend across the industry before we write them off? (Also, can we stop making Chris Bangle jokes? It’s 2021…)
In short: let’s slow down, have a longer look, a longer think, and, god forbid, stay positive.
-Seyth Miersma, Editor-in-Chief
Stop trying to reinvent the shifter.
If you’re under a certain age (or just an internet meme buff), you’ll probably remember Brenda Song referring to her BMW 6 Series convertible’s gearshift as a "prindle" in an episode of The Suite Life on Disney Channel – leading to one of the greatest examples of over-acting in history courtesy of her scene partner Phil Lewis. If that scene were filmed today, however, the show’s writers would have a hard time working a new BMW shift selector into the script. "Rindsim P" just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.
The future of obscure 2000s TV references isn’t the only thing at stake as shift buttons, toggles, and rotary dials become more common than traditional PRNDL levers. Many of these new devices to swap between park, reverse, and drive are needlessly complicated, and figuring out the position of the not-a-shifter shifter isn’t always easy at a glance. In reinventing the gearshift, automakers have attempted to solve problems that never existed in the first place, ironically creating new ones in the process.
Just about every premium automobile, from the Lexus NX and Genesis G80 to the Porsche 911 Carrera and BMW M3, has an unconventional gear selector, and although some are more logical to use than others, each requires a bit more thought and concentration than a "prindle," making low-speed parking maneuvers and daily driving that little bit more frustrating. What used to be a muscle memory response on a conventional shifter has become a frustrating, overly conscious decision.
Don’t even get me started on Tesla’s new, completely automated gearshift protocol. Supposedly, the car’s sensors and stereo cameras can predict whether the driver wants forward or reverse movement, but the system isn’t completely foolproof, so the driver sometimes has to override the car using either the screen or a physical selector in the console – again creating a pain point instead of easing a burden.
One final point: These shifters aren’t just inconvenient, they can also be dangerous. Many of the first iterations of the toggle, boat-throttle, and rotary gear selectors didn’t have an auto-park feature, and owners would sometimes leave their cars in neutral after shutting off the engine. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a voluntary recall for just such an issue on some of its 2014 and 2015 models, rolling out a software update that puts the vehicle in park automatically if the driver gets out without doing it first. The automaker also replaced those confusing shift selectors with more conventional PRND levers for 2016.
My advice to automakers is to leave well enough alone and give us back the prindles that we learned on (and chuckled at back in 2005). It wasn’t broke and didn’t need fixing, something that can’t be said of today’s over-complicated gear selectors.
-Brett T. Evans, Senior Editor
We need electric station wagons!
2022 is just around the corner which means it’s been almost a decade since we saw the first proper production electric vehicle. The Tesla Model S was the pioneer that changed the game for every player on the market but there’s still no company building an electric station wagon. The only exception is the MG5 but it’s a vehicle that is not available in North America and Europe.
But why do we need an EV wagon? It’s very simple - not everyone loves SUVs. There’s a good portion of the market that still needs a practical vehicle but the utility mania just doesn’t fit their lives. A traditional station wagon is usually more practical, more efficient, more affordable, and (arguably) better-looking than an equivalent SUV. Is it really that difficult to make an electric estate as good as an electric crossover?
Sure, there’s probably not a huge demand for electric wagons worldwide. But consumers around the world are still buying at least 1.5 million wagons each year with Europe remaining the segment’s biggest market. Or, to put it this way, if BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi are still producing conventional wagons with combustion engines, including high-performance versions such as the RS6 and the upcoming M5 Touring, there must be a working business case there, right?
You could say the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo is an all-electric wagon. That’s probably true but it’s an expensive performance vehicle that only a few can afford. We need the VW Beetle of the electric wagons - or, at least, the VW Passat. And Volkswagen could actually be the automaker to look at with hope - with the technology already available, it probably won’t take tons of money and resources for the Wolfsburg company to make an electric alternative to the Passat Variant. Pretty please!
-Angel Sergeev, Contributing Writer
Make automatic headlights standard equipment.
While this might seem like a frivolous request, it saddens me to say automatic headlights are a necessity and therefore should be standard on all cars. I keep seeing ignorant people driving without their lights on during the late hours, without thinking they pose a real risk on the road. While in some parts of the world – such as the European Union since 2011 – daytime running lights are mandatory, the legislation only refers to front DRLs.
That means even if a car is 10 years old or newer, it’s still hard to see it at night while you’re driving behind it. Making automatic headlights standard would solve this problem as the taillights would also come on. Surely installing a light sensor that would trigger the lights wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for a manufacturer considering even the cheapest smartphones have one.
We understand that car companies are trying to save every penny and secure the funds necessary to build their future all-electric portfolios, but safety comes first. For this reason, perhaps automatic headlights should be mandated by law as was the case in the EU a decade ago when automakers were forced to install them even on their most basic cars.
-Adrian Padeanu, News Editor
Automatic headlights counterpoint: They should just be on all the time.
My colleague Adrian has it absolutely right. It seems like every third or fourth driver in my area (suburban Los Angeles) doesn’t understand that their vehicle’s daytime running lights are all but useless at night, given they’re not usually as bright as headlights and they don’t activate the taillights at all.
To that end, I wonder why the headlamps and taillights aren’t just tied to the ignition switch, illuminating any time the engine is running. There are rare occasions when bright modern headlights aren’t welcome – a drive-in movie or well-lit urban area come to mind – in which case, it would be easier and safer to have a “Lights Off” setting in the rare situations that they’re unwarranted. But the default should be headlights and taillights on.
Such a solution would preclude the need for a dimmer or light sensor, cutting costs as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but all I see are benefits, without any drawbacks whatsoever.
-Brett T. Evans, Senior Editor
Too many modern performance cars aren’t fun on public roads.
Let me be clear: this isn't some old-man take railing against cars that are overly powerful. My problem is that a number of modern performance cars have gotten so capable, so precise, and so focused on turning lap times that they aren't even fun to drive on public roads anymore.
Take for example the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, a vehicle that I spent time driving both on the street and on the track at VIR. It has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 668 horsepower and 659 pound-feet, paired to a six-speed manual transmission, and is capable of hitting 60 in a blistering 3.4 seconds. Should be a recipe for success, right?
On the track, yes, this car is absolutely phenomenal. The Caddy can turn insanely quick lap times and will blast down long straights with unbelievable amounts of speed. But on public roads, the CT5-V Blackwing doesn't feel fun – I'd rather drive a far less powerful, way cheaper Hyundai Veloster N. It's simply too much car for too little road; you're only using a quarter of what the CT5 can actually do in most cases, and that’s not what this car was made for.
And this isn't limited exclusively to ultra-high-performance cars like the CT5-V Blackwing, either. I felt the same way when driving the BMW M3 Competition and Volkswagen Golf R. While both cars were technically great, showing off their impressive specs and figures on paper, they offered fewer thrills on the road than either of their predecessors.
Bottom line is, manufacturers need to stop worrying about lap times and instead make sure that their cars are engaging on public roads first and foremost.
-Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Subscriptions aren’t ownership.
There is plenty to complain about with automakers embedding subscriptions into the driving experience. Shelling out $10 or $20 or $200 a month to access features once built into a car’s initial price is outrageous. But there’s a bigger issue with them that’s going unnoticed, and it has to do with ownership or the lack of it.
Subscribing to something rarely means owning it, and if automakers are going to charge $40,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 for vehicles that require a monthly fee to operate features already installed in the vehicle – heated seats, remote start, rear-wheel steering, navigation, then what are people actually buying if they don’t own access to the software to most of their vehicle’s hardware they just bought?
Access to these features isn’t controlled by who owns the vehicle – it’s controlled by the automaker that offers the subscription. That makes selling your Mercedes with heated seats a bit harder when heated seats aren’t yours to sell. If you buy a car with the hardware for heated seats but don’t purchase the monthly license to access the software that operates them, then do you even own the heated seats in the first place?
Why spend $50,000 not to own BMW’s heated seats when you can pay $20,000 not to own VW’s?
-Anthony Alaniz, Contributing Writer
It’s time for Duesenberg to come back and kick Bugatti’s ass.
For the record, I’m not anti-French, or anti-Italian, or anti-German, or anti-anything in the automotive world, aside from an irrational hatred for the Pontiac Grand Am. However, we Americans are way overdue in bringing back the pinnacle of unabashed luxury and performance in motoring. For a fleeting moment in the first half of the 20th century, Duesenberg was the global standard for such things. And I’m so tired of waiting for its revival that I just might start a GoFundMe campaign and do it my own damn self.
There’s nothing wrong with Bugatti. The Chiron looks great, and the Divo is even better. The engineering required to build a reliable sixteen-cylinder engine pumping out 1,500 horsepower is something for the record books, and Bugatti is rightfully in there already. But friends, we’re entering a new automotive era with electric power, and it will make the Chiron’s fuel-burning powerplant look like a matchstick in a bonfire. And while the Chiron looks great, it’s not remotely as elegant and fantastically extravagant as an old SJ with its miles-long bonnet, narrow windscreen, and chrome galore.
Forget about Tesla and Lucid with their boring design language. Rimac gets closer, but there’s still too much hyper in that hypercar’s ambiance. California-based upstart Hyperion is closer still, but the XP-1 is just wild for the sake of being wild. We need DUESENBERG – a five-seater sedan-coupe longer than a full-size crew-cab pickup, adorned with chrome and fitted with its own sushi bar (and a chef) at the back because that's what real luxury is. 2,500 horsepower from electric motors front and rear will silently send it to 280 mph, and if you really must go beyond 300 mph, that's what the 19-foot two-seater Speedster version is for.
Unparalleled luxury and performance from America. It can happen. It must happen. Who’s with me?
-Christopher Smith, Contributing Writer
Owning a car is not a prerequisite to being a car enthusiast.
If you listen to Motor1.com’s Rambling About Cars podcast (and you should, every week), then you’ve heard this before. Anyone can be a car enthusiast, even if you don’t own a car.
Do you put hours into sim racing? Welcome to the club. Do you meticulously detail a model of an obscure Japanese sports coupe from the 1980s? Come on in. Do you collect brochures of vintage vehicles? You’re in too.
What I’m trying to say is that you can own the most boring vehicle in the entire world and hate driving it. But, if there’s something about automobiles that excites you, then nothing is stopping you from being an enthusiast.
-Chris Bruce, Contributing Writer