Sunday, April 24, 2005

This Guy is Good

Dan Neil, he of the brutal Mercury Montego smackdown, is amazing.

He manages to make freeways sound cool:

In a lifetime behind the wheel, some of my best moments have been driving in Los Angeles late at night, when the freeways are empty and virtually unpatrolled. The multitudes are gone, and the emotional memory is like the feeling you get when you go into the office late at night—it's silent and brightly lit—and you sense that mysterious energy of absence.

On late-night freeways—the city a bed of embers—you can sail along and enjoy the view. At places where high viaducts crisscross, such as the interchange at the I-15 and I-10 in Ontario, you can't see the bridges in the dark, and the few cars appear to be flying in stately progress across the sky.

My favorite stretches are the escalades of the HOV lanes, like the one at the interchange of the I-110 and the I-105 heading toward LAX—a single-lane viaduct that rises (how high? 100 feet, 1,000 feet?) into the night. The city lights look gorgeous, like the glowing spall on a welder's floor, and for that brief moment there is a sort of reckoning. This is why I live here.

Here he is also on the wasted potential of John Delorean:

DeLorean was one of the rare Detroit auto executives who — along with futurists such as Buckminster Fuller and Norman Bel Geddes — saw the automobile as part of a progressive vision of the world, where transportation was framed by social and environmental imperatives. Ironically, it is these very imperatives — and the threat of $3 per gallon gasoline — that are playing havoc with American automakers now.

What a shame. DeLorean enters history not as a visionary but as an arrogant, amoral hipster, a victim of his own toxic vanity.

On the sexiness of a Mercedes:

... the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 will forever be known as the "Cialis" 500 — which sounds like a NASCAR event and, come to think of it, probably is.

I wonder if this is art or accident. This is car design in a highly aroused state. Described as a four-door "coupe" and essentially a re-skin of the E500, the CLS500 is an unbelievably sexy sedan — sleek and wide, dangerous and exclusive — that, with an arched beltline paying out from the tops of the front wheel wells, looks as tensed as Artemus' bow. The sheet metal cavorts nose-to-tail in glowing rhythms that converge at the knife-edge deck lid like that of the CL coupes. This car threatens the gorgeous Maserati Quattroporte on my current "if-I-could-have-any-car" list.

Where the E-class and even S-class designs dutifully preserve optimum sightlines and trunk space, the CLS500 is profligate. The car's "greenhouse" — that glassy part above the fuselage — is narrow and swept rearward, elongating the hood and shortening the trunk to enhance the visual cues of a luxury coupe (the central window pillar is blacked out). The execution is flawless: prowling, predatory, concupiscent.

On the missed opportunity of the Buick LaCrosse:

As long as there have been high school proms and students with no dates to attend them, parents have reassured their awkward/chubby/ mouth-breathing adolescents that it's what is on the inside that counts. I myself was full of inner beauty, though that beauty was trapped in a sebaceous mutant with glasses as thick as lighthouse lenses.

I would counsel and console the Buick LaCrosse in similar fashion. It's all right, honey. Don't cry. If customers don't see what a wonderful car you are, well, it's their loss.

I would also go around the house discreetly covering all the mirrors.

And on the pathetic state of GM, in a supposed review of the Pontiac G6 that turned into a corporate critique so harsh that GM pulled all their advertising from the LA Times.

The company's multiplicity of divisions and models is turning into a circular firing squad. How can four nearly identical minivans — one each for Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and Saturn — be anything but a waste of resources? Ditto the Four Horsemen of Suburbia, the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X. How does the Pontiac Montana minivan square with Pontiac as the "Excitement" division? Why, exactly, is GMC on this Earth?

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