The Right Pedal

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A widow

First: we are fine.

I saw a dead man. His guts popped out of his belly, glistening dark red. His leg was flayed open, and I could see the moist yellow fat of his calves. His neck twisted his head down low, as if he were trying to hear the ground whispering. But his torso arched away and bent in two places.

His death was quick and gruesome, but I could barely understand that. His life stopped—I comprehend that—but in a way so alien that it’s almost meaningless to me.

His wife sat in the car, touching an oozing gash that showed her skull. I gave Michelle my shirt, and she made a compress to stanch the blood. The wife kept asking about him: where is he, where’s my husband? She couldn’t see through the shattered windshield. But her husband’s corpse was close by, harshly lit by the headlights that were his guides only two minutes ago.

Someone covered his body with a flannel shirt.

Where is he, where’s my husband?

You’re a widow now. You were from Georgia or Florida, here on vacation, your trunk full of luggage. Now your little SUV is facing the wrong way on I-93, the trunk has popped open, your face is covered in blood, and very soon someone will tell you that you’re a widow. I’m glad someone else took care of you in those minutes before the ambulance came, because I don’t know what words to say.

We had lots of company, but little help. Maybe a dozen people had stopped. And someone in this milling, buzzing group drove the other car, the one nose-down in a ditch, the one that made contact with the little SUV that used to contain a husband and wife but now contains only a widow and some luggage.

I wonder about him. Did he hit them? How would he answer the question, where’s my husband? I don’t know what he might say. I didn’t see which car hit the other. I saw tail lights wiggle, fly across the highway, a dead man, a widow.

Some more things happened, but they don’t matter.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tipping point alert!

I just saw a headline from WardsAuto, a car industry newspaper:

"Powertrain Forecast: HEVs Fade; Diesels, DIG Take Over"

(HEV = Hybrid Electric Vehicle, such as the Prius and its cronies. DIG = Direct Injection Gasoline, a spiffy new kind of gas engine.)

This is the first time I've seen anyone forecast (even long-term) the death of hybrids... so basically, I'm just wagging my finger and saying "I told you so!"

Hybrids are gonna hit a wall...

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Diesels are coming! THE DIESELS ARE COMING!!!

Dear Honda:

Thank you.


It seems that Honda has cracked the code; in three years, they expect to sell Diesel engines as clean as gasoline engines. They developed a new kind of catalytic converter that transforms nitrogen oxide emissions into nitrogen. No urea additives needed, either. They say that they'll probably license the technology, too.

And... that's it. I bet that in 15 years, all of you will be driving Diesel-powered cars.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bring back retro!

Did any of you tell Chrysler that you want a car that looks like a bloated turtle? One of you must've, because it sure wasn't me. I refuse to believe that the geniuses who created the 300 would intentionally design a humpbacked barfpile like the new Sebring.

Even if you can't avoid making a bulbous sedan with an overbite (pretty common for family cars these days), there's no need to jumble it up with bizarre lines and creases. Look at the cuts and panels above the rear wheel: even a six-year-old wouldn't draw a car so fugly.

I guess Chrysler designers aren't geniuses. The 300 was a copy of old designs, and that's all they're good for. Sad.

By the way, here's the Ford Fusion, one of the best-looking family sedans for sale today:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Et tu, BMW?

BMW has long poo-poohed fuel economy concerns—for which it deserves our profound respect. BMWs are driven by people who can afford a bigger fuel bill than your typical Camry driver. There is no hybrid BMW 5-series, and I hope there never is. Hybrid systems add complexity without improving the driving experience, the raison d’etre of BMWs. Financially, hybrids are utter nonsense. And with today’s emissions technologies, which are frankly amazing—there are Volvos which leave the air CLEANER after they drive through it—the gasoline engine is perfectly acceptable from an ecological view.

But BMW has offended me yet again. They just announced plans to sell a hydrogen-powered 7-series. It will be an eco-weenie version of their autobahn-busting luxo-bomb. It will be based on the 760Li, normally powered by a 438 hp engine that slings this two-ton pebble to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. (For those of you who don’t obsess over such stats, that’s WICKED FAST.)

The hydrogen-filled zeppelin version, by contrast, wheezes out 260 hp and ambles to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds. If grandma in her Chevy Impala guns her engine at a stoplight, you’d better show some restraint… unless you want to eat her dust and swallow your pride. And I hope you’re excited about seeing the tail lights of every minivan in town, ‘cause lots of them can smoke this Bimmer, too.

Did I mention that it will cost $120,000?

I know this is supposed to be a first step toward the hydrogen economy, blah blah blah. But what if BMW had spent those millions of dollars on the less-lofty, less-sexy goal of making Diesel-powered cars that could pass US emissions regulations? I don’t know—do I look like a psychic??? But I’ll go out on a limb and say that we’d probably be driving clean, efficient, powerful Diesel Bimmers right now. That’s a lot more appealing than this ultra-rare, ultra-lame Hindenburg.

You may have noticed that I said BMW offended me “yet again.” Here’s a brief list of the ways I’ve been personally maddened. (Emphasis on “personally”—I haven’t driven an iDrive car, so they get a pass on that one.)

1. Bangle.
2. Unsupportive seats in the 3-series
3. Bangle.
4. Ugly hood seams
5. Bangle.
6. Stiff accelerator pedals in the 3-series
7. Bangle.
8. Incompetent service at BMW Gallery of Norwell
9. I feel like I’m forgetting one more… oh yeah: Bangle.