Cocktail Chatter: May 17, 2013

What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. This week we’re drinking the Red Lion, which comes from the Café Royal hotel in London. Combine one ounce of Sipsmith dry gin with an ounce of Grand Marnier, half an ounce of orange juice, and half an ounce of lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with lemon juice and sugar.

Special Delivery: Lambo offers taxi services with the Aventador for the Bologna airport to celebrate its 50th anniversary until May 19th. Makes you wonder what they’ll be using the $400,000+ supercar for next. Fire truck? Delivering mail?

Why? Because they simply can.

Tom Hang, Graphic Designer

Tank on Empty, Whipping My Momma’s…Verano: The relationship between cars and rap music has been around, well, as long as rap music. Rick Ross liked Maybachs so much he named his record label after it; Kanye West and Paul Wall used the Oldsmobile Aurora to pick up chicks (and a Grammy nod) with “Drive Slow.”

This time around, however, the music isn’t alluding to the cars: it’s actually about them. District Drive is a hip-hop trio supposedly made of UAW-card-carrying GM line workers, who rap about the General’s many products. My favorite line, about the 2014 Impala: “three point six if you can handle the pow-ah / later eAssist if you need to go farth-ah.” If you were wondering when someone was going to rap about mild hybrids and production schedules, the answer is “now.”

It would be easy to make fun of District Drive, but in all honesty, the music is good. Not just novelty good, but actually good–the kind of stuff you’d expect from indie rap super-group Little Brother, only with more references to Buick Veranos. I’m impressed.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

Bow-tie from the Rising Sun: I was at the dentist for some fillings when word arrived that Chevrolet would badge-engineer Nissan’s small NV200 van to sell in the U.S. I thought I was having an adverse reaction to the Novocain, especially when I saw the photo of an NV200 with a Cobalt-esque grille insert. Nope. It’s real, and heading to a Chevy dealer near you in a year or so.

The move is weird, but it makes some sense. Ever since GM killed off the aging M/L vans – better known as the Astro/Safari – commercial customers have hounded GM for a compact cargo van (GM tried to please them with a cargo van body for the Colorado chassis cab, which didn’t exactly work). Ford’s Transit Connect has proven a compact, fuel-efficient, European van design can resonate with fleet customers.

But why Nissan? Why not PSA Peugeot-Citroen, which has a corporate partnership with GM? Simple. Nissan has a small van that’s already federalized and legal for sale here in North America. PSA does not. Further, GM already has a van relationship with Nissan’s corporate parent, Renault, that dates back to the late 1980s. In Europe, the Renault Traffic and Master are rebadged and sold as the Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro and Movano (and the Nissan Primastar and NV400), respectively.

The only other partner could have been Fiat, given that the Doblo is already sold by Opel and Vauxhall dealers in Europe as the Combo. Although the Doblo is being homologated for North America so Chrysler’s Ram Trucks brand has a small van of its own, it’s unlikely Fiat/Chrysler would be keen to shoot itself in the foot by giving one of its biggest rivals a foothold in a growing market.

The Nissan deal gives GM a product that fills a growing gap in its fleet portfolio, and with little development, infrastructure, or tooling work on its part. I suspect the NV200 van could fare better in North America as a Chevrolet , given Chevy’s commercial dealer network is larger than Nissan’s, and fleet buyers already purchasing class 2-5 trucks or large vans from Chevrolet frequently try and stick with a single brand.

Now if only they’d revive the Astro nameplate…

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

The Cadillac of Custom Bars: For those who like their classic American metal served cold, a beach front house in Bonita Springs, Florida—ironically the location of our parent company’s corporate headquarters—has a functioning bar made out of a 1959 Cadillac. It was painted gloss pink and its back seat and gas tank were removed to make room for beer taps. It also has an 8-car garage to house the vehicles that are street worthy. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, the house is currently on the market for $8.85 million.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

Upper Limits: This week I towed a 30,000 pound trailer with a 2013 Ram 3500. It wasn’t nearly as thrilling as I had expected because our limited test drive didn’t include any substantial grades. The Ram 3500 is completely unphazed by that trailer. I asked the engineer in the passenger seat where the upper limit for tow ratings might be and he just laughed saying 30,000 pounds isn’t anywhere close to the truck’s full potential. How long before your neighbor’s dually can tow as much as a big rig? Just don’t forget to collect your CDL if you want to try this at home.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor 

Visual Feedback: I’d like to highlight two comments that our witty web readers recently left on stories I wrote. When I wrote that the 2013 Honda Civic received five starts in NHTSA crash testing, a user added, “Unfortunately, the Civic scores only 1 star for styling.” And on an update about our Four Seasons 2013 Dodge Dart, somebody else wrote, “I downloaded jpegs of this car for when I just can’t get to sleep.” [sic]

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

High-Octane Pinot Noir: How did I miss this connection? I’ve been a fan of Robert Talbott neckties and cufflinks, which are often offered with automotive themes, for years, and I’ve seen a brand of California wines called Talbott many times, but I never realized that they are a one-and-the-same family-owned operation based in Monterey, California. I found out this week when Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca announced that Robert Talbott will be the official apparel and wine sponsor for all motorsports events held at Laguna Seca that are produced by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, or SCRAMP. From the press release: “As the official wine sponsor of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Robert Talbott will provide its signature Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to all corporate and individual hospitality suites and chalets. The company will also have a branded wine booth and host wine tastings in the ‘Experience Monterey’ Pavilion at all raceway events.” Pour me a glass of pinot, would ya?

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Practical? No Chance. Bizarre? Absolutely: I may be in the minority, but I’ve never once felt the desire to microwave a pizza while cruising down the interstate on the way home from work. For those that are more adventurous (and hungry) than me, there’s a solution for you: the 12-Volt Oven and Pizza Maker. This appliance, along with nine other in-car accessories, makes up this list of “10 silly car gadgets you have to see to believe.” Some things on this rundown are actually pretty useful, such as a water bowl for your pet that fits into the car’s upholder, complete with lid and splash guard. But then there are things like the 8.5-inch-long eyelashes, dubbed CarLashes, which adhere above your car headlights and offer the option for extra “crystal eyeliner.” All I can do is shake my head and take a long, hard look at society as a whole.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Give Me the Wheel: One of my friends complained on Facebook this week about how people are terrible at driving at to “send in the robots.” A lively debate ensued in the comments about which would yield safer roads: self-driving cars guided by computers or extensive driver training. While I agree that autonomous vehicles could reduce unforeseen traffic incidents and can be “fixed” if a glitch causes an accident, I worry about how often we have to reset or deal with buggy technology. Call me a luddite, but I trust properly trained humans behind the wheel over computers at this point.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

One Long Road Trip: Think you’re committed, persistent, and/or quirky? Chances are pretty good that Brendan Edgerton has got you beat. This week, the Australian passed through the Ann Arbor area as part of his quest to see all forty-seven remaining Tucker automobiles. In 300 days. Behind the right-hand-drive wheel of a 1989 Holden Commodore that he purchased for AUS$150. And painted to match the Bluesmobile. Which he frequently uses as a stage for himself or his new friends to “bonnet” surf. Best of luck, mate.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

BKU1 ZHCAAAFhZR 300x224 imageS-Wonderful: Mercedes-Benz’s extravaganza to unveil the 2014 S-Class Wednesday night easily is the glitziest car premier I’ve ever attended. The automaker built a single-use auditorium at EADS’s Airbus factory in Hamburg and rented the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. A German television news hostess deftly stretched an “interview” with Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche as thunderstorms delayed off-loading the star car from an A320 transporter, and when the skies cleared sufficiently, the backdrop to the auditorium opened up to reveal The Stig doing donuts in an SLS AMG Formula 1 safety car in front of a new double-decker A380. Then the full Mercedes lineup appeared, all in white to escort in two wet W222 S-Classes as fireworks flared and lightning sparked in the background. Alicia Keys stepped out of a charcoal gray S-Class and then the party begun. Top that, BMW, Audi, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Maserati, Cadillac, and Lexus.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

Two-Wheeled Envy: I love machines with engines and tires, whatever form they happen to be in. Cars are best, then motorcycles. See, I have a sickness, diagnosed by senior editor Michael Jordan, called “Young Man Disease.” At the age of 24, death doesn’t scare me. The idea that I could be having more fun doing something else at any given time, though, does scare me.

So, I enjoy jumping out of planes. And sliding cars around parking lots. And going to concerts with mosh pits. And dating redheads, which Jordan says is the most serious sign of “Young Man Disease.” It shouldn’t surprise then that when I’m in the automatically quad-cooled, massaging seat of whatever expensive press car I have, I can’t help but stare, gawk, and drool at the guys and gals riding two-grand bikes right in front of me. Sure, I’ve whet my appetite with a stretched Honda Ruckus to tool around on, as well as a 1975 Honda CB750 patiently waiting in my garage for a front brake caliper, but I’ve never really joined the motorcycle world. This feels like the summer for submersion.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

Testing Tesla: It’s been all good news for Tesla lately. With recent top testing results from Consumer Reports, good financial results, and a soaring share price, the company has become a favorite of Wall Street. Now, however, Tesla’s sales model – in which it runs “retail galleries” where buyers can check out a Tesla before ordering one online – is being challenged. A bill in North Carolina would make it illegal for a manufacturer to sell a vehicle in the state without using a brick-and-mortar dealership. (The bill passed unanimously in the state senate but has not yet been voted on in the house.) Whether or not the bill passes, we don’t see it keeping Tesla down for long. Everyone knows that the more difficult it is to procure a desirable object, the more desirable that object becomes. Elon Musk couldn’t have written a better script himself.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor 

2014 Chevrolet Impala Fake Stitching 300x225 imageJust Give Me Some Truth: My latest pet peeve is fake interior stitching. Some, like the new Chevrolet Impala (pictured), have actual stitches that don’t actually hold anything together—that is, they suture two sides of one slab of plastic. Other cars, including some Fords and Toyotas, don’t even bother with the thread but rather feature a fossil of a handcrafted panel. Who decided this looks good? Here’s the thing, I’m not asking any of these mainstream automakers to provide real stitching; I’d actually tend to agree with the accountants at General Motors, Ford, and Toyota who decided it might be a bit costly to hire hundreds of tailors to cut and stitch materials for thousands of family sedans. Only, don’t try to fake it. Just as a really nice cloth seat almost always looks nicer than cheap leather, a simply turned out interior panel with no decoration would have looked more impressive than one that tries and fails to look like a Bentley.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

By Donny Nordlicht