The Right Pedal

Friday, February 23, 2007

Passat, you tease

My car started making a noise, one which I refer to as the "thousand-dollar squeak." It seems to recur every year or so, and it costs about $1,000 to fix. I'm getting tired of it (the thousand-dollar part, not the squeak), so I might just ignore it and see what happens.

Of course, whenever something is slightly less-than-perfect in my car (or any other part of my life) I start thinking about buying a new vehicle. The new VW Passat has crept up to the top of my list... only to tumble down to the very bottom, leaving me emotionally battered. Let me explain...

I want a car that is big and German. So far, the Passat qualifies. I also want heated leather or vinyl seats. (Cat hair sticks to cloth seats like glue... except when it unsticks all over my clothes. And unheated leather/vinyl will freeze my tuchus.) The Passat continues to qualify.

I also want a reliable car. And this is when the foam starts hitting the fuel tank: the Passat's reliability is a Columbia-scale disaster. But wait! Consumer Reports says that NASA was only in charge of the standard 4-cylinder engine; the optional V6 is actually quite dependable. Whew....

Hold on a sec, is that an o-ring cracking? The V6 starts at $30,000? And heated seats are another $1,000 extra???

And the good engine only comes with an automatic? What the hell kind of German car is this?

To add insult to injury, VW is about to offer a special edition Passat with heated seats and sunroof for under $27,000. That would be perfect, but it's only available with the 4-cylinder engine (the one made from birds' nests and nitroglycerine). And it's only availale with the automatic; a manual would've been about $1,000 cheaper, and more reliable, too.

So, fooey on you, VW product planners. The company that once boasted of fahrvergnugen no longer deigns to offer a V6 + stick shift sedan... let alone at a People's Car price.

Mercedes on TrimSpa

I love the W140 S-class. It's big, fast, big, and really, really big. It's the most imposing car to come aus Deutschland since the 770k, which was available only to certain Very Bad Men. (Note the flag on the front fender.)

Critics attacked the W140's portliness, and I must agree that the car looks a bit bloated. A car should always be "longer, lower, wider" than its predecessor, and the W140 is indeed longer and wider... but not lower. Big is beautiful, but not when it makes the car look like a Conehead. Bruno Sacco, the designer of the W140, and many other glorious mercs, said exactly that: his only regret from his design career is that the W140 is 4 inches too tall (though to be fair, he did not compare his creation to a Conehead).

Herr Sacco's comment granted me a license to fool around with MS Paint and see if I could improve upon his W140. My results are below. The photochopped W140 is on the left, the actual version is on the right. I just squashed the greenhouse down about 20% (roughly 4 inches). The surgery was obviously performed with a blunt knife, but I think the patient looks better. The rest of the car could use a little squashing too, but my conscience can live with only so much screwing off at work. Yes, even when a Mercedes is involved.