When you think of motorsports in any capacity, specifically in America, the word “Daytona” will most certainly spring to mind. The place is steeped in history, from the IMSA’s Rolex 24 Hour race in January to being the very birthplace of NASCAR as we know it. Indeed, this beach town on the Atlantic coast is a pilgrimage for any hardcore stock car fan. I may be partial to the road racing in IMSA and IndyCar, but this annual father-son trip is something I always look forward to. Not only do we finally see some cars on track after months of waiting, but it’s also a chance to escape the long Wisconsin winter for a few days. While my co-hosts were off gallivanting at the Chicago Auto Show this past weekend, I was doing some real field work in the bright Florida sunshine. 4 days of track action awaited my dad and me: the Duel Qualifying Races on Thursday, the Gander Outdoor Truck Series season opener on Friday, the Xfinity Series 300-miler (featuring friend of the podcast and future of NASCAR Josh Bilicki) on Saturday, and of course, the one and only Daytona 500 to cap it all off on Sunday. Below is my day by day report of what went down at Daytona 2019.
Thursday – Duel Qualifying Races
Plot twist: We didn’t go to the qualifying races! Gotcha! We have gone plenty of times in the past, but these races have become kind of stale in the past few years. The Daytona 500 is different than any major auto race out there. The Sunday before race day, single car qualifying is held. But the only 2 positions locked into the race at that point are the fastest two drivers. Everyone else is split into 2 qualifying races that are held the Thursday before race day. You want in? You gotta race for it! Exciting concept, right? Yeah! But in reality...The problem is that teams are now allowed to buy full-season “charters” that lock them into every race they show up to. Think of it as an entry fee for all 36 races, paid up front. Another issue is that if you do any damage to your car between qualifying and the race and need to switch to a backup car, you have to start in the back of the field. These rules mean that most of the teams with a starting spot guaranteed by their charter will just ride around to conserve their equipment for Sunday’s big race. A wise decision on their part, but not very entertaining. So this year, my dad and I switched it up and went to a local track for some grassroots dirt track racing instead.
Volusia Speedway Park is about a half hour inland from Daytona, where literally ALL of the alligators live. Every year around the same time as Daytona hosts the beginning of NASCAR’s season, this ½ mile clay oval plays host to the Dirt Car Nationals: 10 days straight of sprint cars, modifieds and dirt late models, all of which boast 700hp engines that can rattle your ribcage and shatter your eardrums. The sprint cars were parked for the night, but we got experience both the late models and modifieds, and the field of cars was MASSIVE. The modified cars were the support class, with 34 participants, and the late models had 52 entries! And these late models were super quick, averaging 95mph in a half mile! That would be quick even if they were on pavement. And at that speed, when they come directly right at your seat with their right rear corner poked out in what can only be described as a controlled spin, it is quite the spectacle to behold.
There was just one problem…we didn’t bring any eye protection. When these cars roar past the grandstand a massive cloud of dust and dirt specs wafts it’s way right into your eyeballs within about 3 seconds. Because we didn’t bring any sort of eye protection, we were both forced to either close our eyes or look away each lap, which means we missed about half of the races. I had never seen these cars on track before and I definitely want to go back, better prepared, so I can make a better overall assessment of the sport.
Friday-Gander Outdoor Truck Series
Friday night gave us our first look at the big 2.5 mile tri-oval that is Daytona International Speedway. No matter how many times I’ve been there before, I’m always taken aback by the enormity of the facility when I first walk through the gates. How big is it? Well, 15 professional sports stadiums could fit in the infield.That doesn’t include the grandstands, the concourses, vendor village or parking. When I eventually pulled my jaw back up to my face I was able to focus on the task at hand: truck racing.
As we talked about on our “Ask Dr. Nick” episode, the truck series is a developmental series that gives top tier NASCAR teams’ young drivers a chance to prove themselves on the national scene prior to getting “called up” to the bigger leagues, racing Chevy Silverados, Ford F-150s or Toyota Tundras. Think AA baseball. Mix in a few veterans in the twilights of their careers and you get a mixed bag of talent and experience…and it showed.
As soon as the green flag dropped, a demolition derby broke out. I didn’t verify the actual number, but I would bet they never finished 10 consecutive green flag laps before someone wrecked. The race had no rhythm, no flow and it was really hard to maintain interest. Alas, half of the laps completed were under caution and only 5 of the 32 starters finished without major damage. There were a few stragglers barely putting around, so total trucks on track totaled maybe 12 at the end. Not fun. As our group left, we all looked at each other and summed it up pretty succinctly, “That sucked.” But, I have to give a hearty congrats to Austin Hill, who navigated through all the wreckage to claim his first career win. First wins are always huge, but they are amplified times a bajillion when that win comes at Daytona. We were just hoping that the next day would give us a better show.
Saturday – Xfinity Series
We didn’t get a better show.
Before I get into the race itself, this was the day when we showed up early to wander through the vendor village. Teams had their merchandise trailers set up, sponsors had their activation tents, bands were playing, and Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet had set up massive booths to peruse. Chevy and Ford had a bunch of trucks and SUVs because that’s all they make anymore. Toyota used the platform that Daytona provides to introduce the new Supra to the masses, and dear GOD is it awful. It’s way worse in person than any pictures could let on. The front looks like some sort of mosquito. They didn’t have any performance figures to share, because they know it’s awful. And the car doesn’t come close to fitting the Xfinity Series body template! The race version is literally a Camry with new decals. Just pitiful…anyway we had a race to go watch, or so we thought.
The Xfinity drivers must’ve seen the race from the previous night and decided, “Well we’re not going to get THAT crazy.” This race had one yellow flag the whole time. Most cars stayed in a single file line from start to finish, just like the qualifying races we thought we avoided by going to the dirt track two nights before. No one did anything. Ever. If someone was brave enough to attempt something as bold as a pass, they were left out of the draft because no one would go with them, and they fell towards the rear of the field. I was really looking forward to the Xfinity race. It is normally the best race of this weekend, and our pal Josh Bilicki was stepping up to some competitive equipment. Unfortunately, this one didn’t live up to the hype.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well Nick, you don’t like it when they crash, and you don’t like it when they don’t crash, so what do you want here?” What I want, is good racing. Good racing doesn’t mean crashes. Action doesn’t mean torn up equipment. I want to see the skill of these drivers as they maneuver and out strategize one another in pursuit of the trophy. They are in this position at the top of the racing world for a reason: they’re damn good! So show me that. Don’t ride around waiting for the end, and don’t turn your vehicle into a battering ram either. Just race somebody. Sunday’s group was bound to deliver, right?
Sunday – Monster Energy Cup – Daytona 500
Finally, the big day was here. The headline act. The Daytona 500! The super bowl of the sport, with the 40 best stock car drivers on the planet competing. And for a vast majority of the race, these guys delivered a great show.
For 190 laps, the 40 racers were slicing, dicing, making powerful passes, bouncing around between drafting partners and leaving us all in awe. At some points, varying pit strategies split the field into smaller groups that were pretty spread out, but that didn’t bother me that much because I was curious to see which strategy was going to play out the best. This was a legitimately fun race to watch for multiple different reasons, until lap 191…
With 10 laps to go, everyone’s brains fell out of their skulls. First, a massive 21 car pileup that I’m sure you’ve all seen by now took out over half the field. This resulted in a red flag due to the massive amount of cleanup required. And that was just the beginning…crash after crash, yellow after yellow flag, even one more red flag caused the last 10 laps to last over an hour in real time. By the time the dust settled, there were only 3 cars that hadn’t received some type of damage. Two of them, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, are the two drivers that I hate the most and they ended up finishing 1-2. For sentimental reasons, this was a big moment because both Hamlin and Busch, along with 3rd place finisher Erik Jones, drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, whose president J.D. Gibbs passed away earlier this year at only 49 years old. To have J.D.’s team finish 1-2-3 at Daytona, in the first race since his passing, was a huge deal. But while that’s a great story, I was still pissed that my least favorite drivers did so well and that the end of a really good race turned into such a mess.
While the racing on all 4 days left something to be desired, I have to say that all in all this was a great weekend. I got to spend some quality time with my dad and some friends, I forgot about work for a few days, and I wasn’t freezing my ass off in Chicago with my cohosts! I’ve been back in Wisconsin for less than a week and I already can’t wait to go back.
Hello CEP readers! I’d like to talk, for at least a little while, about road trips. Actually, I’d like to pose a question to you all. I don’t know I have an answer myself. I think I MIGHT, but, with this post, I’d actually like to get some thoughts from all of you! “Now, what is the question?”, I can hear you all asking! Well, here it is: Why do people like road trips so much?
Now, a little background, because I’m sure that question is a little shocking from someone who co-hosts a car podcast... I recently returned from a road trip that went all the way from Southeastern Wisconsin to Central Florida. My family and I have a long history of making this particular pilgrimage. This time, it was just my girlfriend and me. We went from the Milwaukee area to Savannah, Georgia to visit my sister and then to Orlando. This made for a leisurely, 20-some hour trip, spread out from Friday evening through Monday afternoon. Not too bad, right? Except by the sheer luck of deciding to sleep in one day, we missed a lovely bout of freezing FOG (something that I've never even heard of, much less seen) in Indiana. We just missed a large-ish landslide in Kentucky, and a multi-car pileup in South Carolina. This type of luck wasn't unique to the trip down. On the way back up, I miscalculated the distance to one of our stops, and that allowed us another morning of sleeping in, which saved us from a horrendous ice storm that had the interstate looking like a semi-truck graveyard. Truck trailers looking like they had been hit by RPGs with cargo strewn all over the road, 5th wheel campers flipped over and destroyed, etc. And all of this was what we missed by an hour or two. If we had been one day earlier, it would have been widespread flooding we would have had to deal with.
Now, some of that can be attributed to simple bad or good luck (depending on how you look at it), and that's certainly a part of it. However, I am still in search of why the road trip has been idealized so much. On previous podcast episodes, we've made a road trip music playlist. We discussed some dream road trips. The road trip I just went on was a particularly tough one weather-wise. However, there are some features of all road trips that are present, no matter what the weather: In general, most road trips east of the Mississippi go through a fair number of large metropolitan centers. My co-hosts know that I have a particular... fondness... for the Rust Belt Region (northern Indiana, around the tip of Lake Michigan, for those of you not from around here) and Atlanta. The first one is the home of every possible inclement weather and the second one is the Land of Eternal Rush Hour. If the road trip is a means to an end and you're not lucky enough to have the vacation time to go on a journey for the sake of the journey itself, then the road trip is a monotonous affair (if it decides to not be harrowing). 70 mph droning and no real road curvature to be spoken of. Even in my particularly shift-happy WRX, the torque band is wide enough to put it in 6th and leave it there. For hours. So, there's very little joy in the actual act of driving. What else could it be? Could it be the scenery?
Sometimes. Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia. Those can all be quite beautiful to drive through, much less some of the majestic stuff out west... but what do you have to drive through to get there? Indiana and Illinois to the east and every flat state from the Dakotas to Texas if you head west. I dare say that they bring the average scenery enjoyment to a negative number, despite the beauty of where you end up. So, at the very least, the scenery is an inconsistent lure to the road trip. Could it be the food?
Again, sometimes. If you have the time to take the journey for the journey's sake? Then yeah, you can seek out interesting local stuff to eat. However, of the people that I've spoken to about this, most people don't have the time to do that. Most of them feel the need to turn and burn to their destination as quickly as possible. That leaves either fast food or car snacks. As one who has lived that 18-hours-to-Texas-in-one-run life with Nick, I can tell you that a life of fast food, energy drinks, and beef sticks (if Nick doesn't eat them all...) leaves you with an ACTUAL hangover. Even the more sedate run I just completed to and from Florida was so awash in fast food that I felt uncomfortable upon arriving at my destination. My girlfriend was "chickened out" we had eaten so much Southern fast food. So, it's not that.
That only leaves one possibility that I can see: the company. Now, I’ve made road trips with my CEP co-hosts (alone and all together), my family, and my girlfriend. I think, to sound like an old man for a while, the enforced togetherness that a road trip demands is something that we only get, otherwise, when the weather is so cold that we don’t want to go outside and the internet starts to freeze (which I’m sure is what happened a couple weeks ago in Wisconsin). Talking to people, sharing music with people like Andrew talked about in his blog, sharing favorite podcasts or audiobooks with people, having your navigator look up what the weird landmarks on the brown signs are, all the little things that add up to filling 5, 10, 20 hours of road trip time. All of these things let you make connections in an environment that would almost seem cruel if it weren’t framed as a vacation instead of being trapped in a small space for hours on end.
Even when you’re traveling alone, the company is a factor. You get a relatively rare chance to just sit, alone, with yourself. Sure, you may have music on, a podcast playing, or an audiobook narrator droning along in the background. You may also have the good luck of having people who are willing to talk with you on the phone for a little while during your drive. However, it won’t be the whole time, they’ll have other things they’ll need to run off and do. You? You won’t. You’re stuck in the car with just you and your thoughts. And snacks. This environment is where I’ve made some pretty big life choices, like going back to college part time. Again, for some, being alone in a room, without access to various entertainments like video games, movies, social media, even texting, would be seen as torture. But hey! It’s fun! It’s vacation!
So, we’ve established that, barring some special circumstances of the road trip as vacation scenario, being stuck in a car for hours is physically uncomfortable, boring, and potentially quite dangerous. Therefore, my only hypothesis as to why the road trip is something that people seek out is this: The road trip slows down life and gives us the opportunity to accomplish something while not really having anything to do. You do end up arriving at your destination and going on vacation and arriving home at the end. However, while you’ve done this, you don’t have access to any of the normal diversions available to us when we’re not driving. Even the passengers might only have limited access to some of these things, dependent on cellular plans, coverage, etc. So, instead, you get to spend time on things you wouldn’t otherwise. Talking to your friends and loved ones. Getting to know yourself. Big, important, and, often, otherwise neglected things. I think we crave it and often don’t get it. And THAT is why people like road trips so much. What do you think?
While I was driving to our last recording session, I was listening to my 60s playlist and trying to come up with some songs that would be good for a future music-centric podcast episode. It suddenly hit me that with perhaps a handful of exceptions, all 252 songs on that playlist - all 12 hours and 20 minutes of it - are songs that both Tristan and I know from memory. The Beatles, The Turtles, Mel & Tim, The Supremes, Sam Cooke; all the hit makers and the one-hit wonders too. It's not that we just know these songs, we know them well enough to sing harmonies together. In my mind, that's an extraordinarily rare thing for two male friends to do together when they're driving in a car. Toxic masculinity dictates not only that men shouldn't sing, but that men shouldn't sing together, and even IF two men were to sing together, it should never be in harmony. But we did it all the time. On road trips back home from college, singing the songs from Fallout 3 together was how we passed the time, and it was great! What's weird is that I don't sing like that in the car with anybody else, not even with my wife. That's weird, right? I have no idea where other people are on this, who sings with whom in the car, but I certainly am wondering. Maybe I'm the weird one, and everybody out there is just singing with everybody else, like on Carpool Karaoke. And speaking of that...
Is it just me, or is Carpool Karaoke the single worst talk show idea ever? This is an unbelievably late rant, I know, but the point still stands. This is SO late that I actually had to check and see if the show is still on, and it is, so we're full go. Directly relating to my first point, Carpool Karaoke is a miserably inaccurate portrayal of singing in the car. I'll bet that even if I did own a Land Rover, my celebrity friends would not sing in the car with me. And it's enough with James Corden. Send him back to London, and send his thin concept with him.
A fundamental problem with every list of "Best Driving Songs" is that they all include songs that are objectively terrible. For example, Bat Out Of Hell. That song is awful. There's no excuse for it. It's about dying in a car crash, number one, number two Meatloaf never even rode a cool motorcycle, and number 3 the song has aged exactly as well as bananas on Mercury. Plus, every single person who ever liked that song is dead now, so lets just agree to get rid of it, okay? I'm pretty sure that Meatloaf is dead at this point, too. I think he died on stage while trying to sing the national anthem, I saw it on YouTube. That means we are free to Atari his whole catalogue and the world will be just a tiny bit less miserable than it was before. Let's finally update the list of commonly-accepted good driving songs by burying some of the old ones.
Most driving playlists don't include many songs from after like 1996, if they include any at all. It's like whoever is making these lists, whoever the arbiters of car culture are, they just stopped listening to music when hip-hop became the primary cultural influence in America. Of course, we already know who these people are, and we already know that's exactly what they did. But fuck them, there is some stunningly good driving music that was made after my 8th birthday, gobs and gobs of it, and it needs to be brought to the forefront. Who even WANTS to hear Panama again, I mean besides Nick? I guess my point is that I'm just bored. I'm bored of the same songs, and I want to hear something new.
We’ve known for some time that gas powered vehicles are, at some point, going to meet an end. There’s too much data proving the fact that fossil fuels harm the environment. It's not a debate. Work must be done to determine what the permanent replacement for the modern car will be, and some car makers have already started making those steps. We’ve seen hybrid vehicles around for years, and a few companies, like Tesla, are investing in fully electric products for the road. No, this blog is not going to be another Elon Musk burn session, like you’ve heard so much on our podcast, but I am not stil lnot sold on the electric car idea. This isn’t because I’m against helping the planet, but there are still major unaddressed drawbacks to EV technology, even as the cars hit mass production numbers: The technology is not sensible, and it’s not actually as “clean” as people think. When looked at in a vacuum, a Tesla or other EV is much cleaner than your average car. But when we’re looking at helping the planet, we need to look at a much larger picture than just the exhaust pipe. We need to look at factors like how they’re made, and how the impact on the overall energy grid in your community to know the whole story. In a rare occurrence for us at the CEP team, I’m actually going to cite my sources at the end of this piece, so you can look these facts up yourself if you don’t believe me.
The first main reason why I’m not sold on EV’s is the practicality of the idea, or rather the impracticality. Yes, to a niche market, electric cars work perfectly. If you live in Hidden Hills or don’t do much driving outside of home to work and back, an EV could be all you need. But what if you want to hit the open road? Most families have more than one car, so I guess they could have one EV and one gas powered car or hybrid, but for someone like myself, who lives alone, 2 cars isn’t an option. To use a benchmark, the Tesla Model S has a range of 265 miles (Editor's Note: This is Tesla's advertised range. Real-world tests and owner reports have this number in the area of 175 miles). My 2015 Chevy Colorado Z71 can go almost 500 miles before I need to stop. And when I fill up the Colorado, it takes me about 5 minutes to brim the tank, tops. The BEST you can hope for with an EV is roughly 20 minutes for an 80% charge IF you can find a Level 3 supercharger. And where would you stop? Sure, it’s estimated that there are more than 16,000 charging stations in the U.S. That number actually surprised me to see. It’s quite impressive. But a vast majority are found in and around major metropolitan areas, especially focused in California. I get it, you have to start somewhere, but the charging network is just not feasible at this point in time. By the way, this is compared to over 100,000 gas stations in this country. Now, this isn’t any EV manufacturer’s fault, but the charging network just isn’t robust enough. I’m not telling you NOT to buy an EV, just take this into consideration when you’re making the decision of whether or not you’re going to help ol’ planet number 3.
Which brings me to my next point: the idea that you are doing your part to “save the planet” by purchasing and driving an electric vehicle. Time to blow up that notion…you’re not. Compared head-to-head, our baseline Tesla Model S is much cleaner to drive than my Colorado, I’ll give you that. But saving the planet involves more than just a car-to-car comparison. The idea that more electric cars means less fossil fuel isn’t necessarily true, depending on where you live. To easily debunk this statement, one needs to look at their region/state/community’s power grid. It depends on where you live because some grids use more clean energy than others, but in general, folks with EV’s aren’t saving, but shifting the pollution. No, the car doesn’t hold fossil fuels, but the power plants that generate electrical energy that fuels the cars do, a lot of the time. The pollution is merely shifted from the exhaust pipe to the smoke stack. The power plants that drive the energy grid are the guilty parties in this case. More EV charging stations means more electrical energy is needed, which causes the power plants to produce at a higher rate, sending more noxious gases skyward. Again, this isn’t any manufacturer’s fault. They have no control over this, and as communities make efforts to clean up their grids, the problem will gradually subside. But the state of our energy grids isn’t the only argument against the adoption of EV’s.
As it turns out, it takes much more energy to produce an electric car than it does a “standard” gas powered machine. This is due to the high energy requirements to produce lithium ion for the batteries and the environmentally destructive techniques used to mine for the rare elements that go into every EV and other high-tech battery. These elements are often found in very small quantities in developing countries. It involves moving a lot of earth and, unfortunately, creating a lot of waste. After pouring ammonium sulfate down the shafts to dissolve the soil, bags of muck are taken out and passed though acid baths. What’s left after that is baked in a kiln. What emerges from the kiln are the rare earth metals that are used in the electric vehicles. But here’s the thing: the rare earth metals are only 0.2% of what is mined. Not 2%, zero-point-two percent. The remaining 99.8% of the soil mined, now contaminated, is returned back to the environment from which it came. Oh, and if you’re wondering what powers the rock crushers and kilns at the mines, its large amounts of fossil fuels and human sweat. One more thing about the lithium ion that goes into the batteries of these cars: while not in use, these batteries still drain very slowly and have a life cycle that, when reached, renders the batteries nearly useless. So while the difference is miniscule, EVs do use more energy than advertised. Worse still, none of this begins to broach the even more difficult topic of the human cost of performing intense industrial mining operations in countries who will gladly ignore the high human and health costs in pursuit of corporate money.
I don’t write this to slam folks trying to do their part to make the world a better place. As much as my cohosts and I say that we are “out” on Tesla, we are actually “out” on Elon Musk. We can’t stand that bastard. But what his company has done is actually very forward-thinking. They’ve accomplished much more with the EV concept than anyone else to this point. And I’ll mention again that EV producers have nothing to do with any of the topics I mentioned above. They are merely operating the best they can in this environment, just like we are. The point I’m trying to make is that electric vehicles are probably not the answer we are looking for. Yes, we need to make a positive change and use cleaner energy to help our environment. Electric vehicles could be a decent start, but lack of infrastructure to support them and the high energy needed to produce them make them a stop-gap at best. Maybe the answer to clean transportation lies in hydrogen powered vehicles, maybe it’s solar. Or maybe we just need to change our mindset when it comes to the cars we currently drive. Think about it: how many people do you know have a 3 year lease on their car, and will trade it in long before the end of its usable life? Even the worst modern cars can easily run longer than that with the most basic maintenance. Most cars can go long over 100,000 miles before you should even think of trading them in for a newer model. But society’s need for the “newest” and “best” has led to us viewing cars and trucks, items that cost well into 5 figures, as disposable. If we were to keep our vehicles until the actual end of their usable lives, we could make a big dent in the overall pollution of the Earth. As of right now, there isn’t a singular clear answer at the moment. I’ll leave that debate to the people way smarter than me. All I know is, while they are positive step forward, I’m not convinced that electric vehicles are the long term solution that we need.
“How Green Is A Tesla, Really?” – Will Oremus – www.slate.com
“Tesla’s Electric Cars Aren’t As Green As You Might Think” – Lizzie Wade – www.wired.com
The long-announced day has finally come. The "wait" is over, and the moment has arrived. Finally, after what seemed like 4 entire decades, the new Toyota Supra has finally been "revealed". And the only real thing that can be conclusively said about it is that Toyota killed the meme. They killed the Supra entirely, and now it is dead.
At its core, the word meme simply refers to a piece of culture that passes from person to person via a non-genetic vector. Those little internet pictures are memes, lines you and your friends quote from TV shows are memes, and idioms are memes. Car culture is full of memes, and indeed this is yet another part of the culture that I resist because it gives us pretty much only bad and annoying stuff like jokes about minivan drivers and really, really dumb t-shirts. But every now and then there is a car that passes through this zone of annoyance to become a meme itself. The Toyota Supra was one such car, and it used to be a pretty good meme, too. And hold on to your socks, because if you can believe it, this was a car we got in America all the way back to the first generation. Wild stuff!
Originally, the Supra was just a top-tier trim option for the 1979 Toyota Celica, offering features like power windows, power locks, and automatic climate control. In 1982 the redesigned Celica Supra appeared on lots with a performance trim and a luxury trim called the L. You could get your Supra L with velour, so...take that I guess. Finally, in 1986, the Supra split from the Celica and became its own car. While the Celica went FWD, the Supra stayed RWD and became a performance-focused car with an adjustable suspension and a limited slip differential backing up the turbo inline 6 engine. Interestingly enough, Toyota launched their American luxury arm Lexus in 1989, and I think there's a strong case to be made that the Supra pioneered Lexus' entire segment, but that's for another day.
And so we arrive at the meme machine, the Gen 4 Toyota Supra, which launched in 1993. I mean, remember this?
Remember Paul Walker racing that guy in the Ferrari? Remember the paint job and the green underglow? Yes, you do. This scene is one of the most famous from the first Fast movie. Aside from the movie reference, every inch of the Gen 4 Supra is iconic in modern car culture, from the headlights to the taillights, to the spoiler, to the stock wheels and the targa top. But perhaps no bit of this car is as iconic or as mythologized as the engine, or rather, one possible engine. The 2JZ-GTE. Car people are so weird, because I didn't even have to look that designation up to get it right. Aahh the 2JZ-GTE, what a legend it is.
You see, the thing about this engine, seen primarily in the Supra RZ, is that it is massively over-engineered, and therefore incredibly tunable. It's a 3.0L inline 6, strapped with 2 sequential turbochargers and mated (preferably and hopefully) to a 6 speed manual gearbox. From the factory, this engine produced 320HP and 315ft/lbs, with the turbo boost kicking in as early as 1800 RPM. That's some pretty sharp performance, but I doubt it took tuners more than 5 minutes to realize that with some very basic part swaps like bigger injectors, the Supra was capable of pushing 450HP. A tune and a few more serious part swaps later to account for things like the clutch and the boost controller, and 550HP was right there. Gearbox replacement and bigger turbos will sit these cars at 700HP. And with a skilled and determined tuner working the parts, the stock 2JT-GTE engine is capable of producing over 1000HP - reliably. There are some 2JZ engines out there now sitting at 1500 or 1600HP, which is pure insanity. The very youngest 2JZ engines are 12 years old. That's an incredible feat of engineering, and it has deservedly formed its own subculture. Just go to Google and search 2JZ. Its all right there at your fingertips, the entire culture, and all of that stems directly from the Gen 4 Supra, this one car. A 10 second car, Dom? How about a 6 second car?
But all of this is over now. Supras are cancelled, and Toyota is to blame. They made it not fun anymore. Quite obviously, the red car in the cover picture is the brand new 2020 Toyota Supra. It looks...fine. I actually think it looks like a modern interpretation of the Gen 4 Supra, with the main problem being that the 1993 design doesn't translate well. But what I need to show you is this, something called the FT-1 that Toyota announced way back in 2014.
It's the same car. It's the same damned car. Sure, try to talk to me about the microscopic design changes and whatever, but it won't make a difference. Toyota introduced the new Supra in 2014, then spent the past 2 entire years doing that stupid camo-wrapped pre-launch garbage, and then they introduced the laughable NASCAR version, and now after all of that, they want me to be excited about their badge-engineered BMW Z4. And BMW even screwed them out of the good engine! The Z4 makes more power! I'm probably too late on this, but no. We need to say NO to Toyota.
The Gen 5 Supra is exactly what happens to memes when corporations get a hold on them. They strangle the fun and the life right out of the meme by being clueless idiots about what people enjoyed in the first place. Wendy's, I'm death-staring directly at you. I'm about to share a link so we're all on the same page, but only click on it if you have absolutely nothing to live for anymore and are not nursing or pregnant. This commercial is exactly like if the Deepwater Horizon did Chernobyl. It's just so bad, and the Supra is the same. There's no joy in this car, there's no exuberance or excitement. Maybe there WAS, years and years ago, but not anymore. This new Supra will be exactly like the BRZ triplets - there will be wild praise at first, and then people will settle down and realize they just got taken by a business and that the car...kinda sucks. There won't be any massive tuning potential hidden away in this new Supra, its got a BMW engine! Its gonna be all high strung and high-maintenance. I'll even say that I don't think the new Supra is going to have much of a cultural impact at all. I mean, there is already this kind of talk going on about the car, and I gotta tell you, Toyota: If forum junkies are breaking down the logo font of your new halo car like three days after it gets announced, then you have fucked up in a very real way. You took too long. You tweeted out pictures of the "unrevealed" Supra every other day for like 18 months. WE GOT IT ALREADY. Total market saturation, and the car isn't even OUT for another 9 months or so.
So RIP Toyota Supra. You were great, but now you're dead. I'll miss you, and thousands and thousands of other people will also miss you when they finally realize that you are indeed dead and never coming back-
Wait. I just saw something. I just saw it, you guys. I just saw it. We are through the looking glass here, people. The price tag for the new Supra will START at $50,000, and this launch pushed prices for all older Supras into the ionosphere, with some Gen 4s passing well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even as high as half a million. Oh my god. Could it be? Could Toyota be memeing on all of us? Is it possible the this whole thing is just so that Toyota salespeople can look at each and every one of us and drop the bomb?
Happy New Year, CEP fans! It's been a long time since I've had the pleasure of writing for you. Well, I have some bad news. I'm back. In the vein of the "New Year, New Me" craze that happens for about two weeks every year, I’d like to talk about re-birth.
First, though, let me set the stage:
Any of you who are friends and follow my personal Instagram account or its limited bleed-over to Facebook or Twitter may have seen a photo I posted last night. I took a picture of my car and threw a few hashtags on there. The last one being one related to a group of people at my place of employment. Everyone in the group drives performance Subarus of one kind or another. Slowly, it has turned into a bit of a thing. Conversations in the cubicles, joking discussions of reserved parking spots, etc. Then, it began spreading to others in the office that don’t share our predilection for 6 stars on the front of their cars. It grew to include the 4 rings, the blue oval, Das Auto (does anyone even get that anymore?), and, yes, the occasional BMW owner. We went there. We’re going to need a new hashtag. Then, ideas started getting thrown about for group weekend drives, etc.
To me, that sounds a lot like “Car Culture”.
After our other posts on that subject, you can tell we have a pretty mixed bag of feelings regarding “Car Culture”. My father wrote an excellent guest blog as a rebuttal to Andrew’s claims that car culture is dying. He ended it with the sincere sentiment that perhaps people like your esteemed hosts for the CEP will keep car culture alive. After purchasing a car that other people actually want to talk with you about, I have found out that… we don’t have to. The organic community that is forming at my place of work is a perfect testimony to that. It spread from a bunch of people who all drive the same cars to people who drive the same manufacturer of cars to other “enthusiast” cars and so on. There’s no sense of a “car show” or even a cars and coffee. There’s no exclusive brand loyalty. There’s no posturing. There’s no one “type of person”. It ranges from IT guys, to accountants, to project managers, to engineers everywhere from their mid-twenties to near retirement. We all love the cars we drive and we love to talk about them with other people who “get it”. The cars in this group range from an Audi S5 down to my WRX stopping at every ST, STI, and M car in or around this group. Yet, common ground and conversation can be had on more than just a grudging basis. Eagerly even.
The difference between this car culture and the car culture that we have discussed in the past is words that I’d like to put in the middle to refine it slightly. This isn’t car “collecting” culture like Andrew was, for the most part, discussing in his blog post. It’s car “driving” culture. Car “owning” culture. Car “loving” culture. Car culture is now a “lifestyle” (despite the cringe-worthiness of that word). Daily drivers will reign. The economy is… better, but it’s not the economy of Duesenbergs, it’s not the economy of finned Cadillacs, and it’s certainly not the economy of the Countache. Collectors cars are expenses people don’t choose to afford all that often anymore. People need to find deep relationships with the car they just drive every day. This isn’t true for everyone. Cars that are an easy choice abound. But in people that choose a WRX over an Impreza? A Veloster Turbo or R-Spec over a regular Kia Forte? The GTI over the Golf? Even luxury car buyers that throw R, S, F, IPL, M, or AMG on their badges. We can even include those who buy a crossover or SUV that actually USE them to live their dreams.
This is what car culture is destined to be as it is reborn from the ashes of Suspenders Rick: people who LOVE their cars. All of them. Might some people sneer? Probably. Definitely Suspenders Rick would. However, like it or not, it’s the future. Hey, guy who polished up the daily driver 350z! Stop trying to fit in with Suspenders Rick! I’m looking at you guy in the Outback with the rooftop tent, about 6 tons of gear in the back, and mud on it! Guy who bought the new Camaro! Yes, you! Turn the CarPlay music down and listen to me! To modify a line from Mosing Motorcars, let’s drive ourselves happy! Then we’ll know that car culture can take the quotes off and be alive and well. Again. Despite Suspenders Rick.
Happy New Year, CEP listeners! I hope you and yours had a fantastic holiday season. I know I did, and as the clock wound down on 2018, I took the chance to look back on the year that was. We all get reflective at this point in the year, so that’s going to be the theme of this blog: a 2018 year review. I’m going to be sharing my nominations for the best of the year, from both road and track. Now, we did a year in review for one of our last episodes, but we never did any “award” nominations. I have created fake awards and will present my winners in the coming paragraphs, and the beauty of doing this blog is that my opinions won’t get “tainted” by my co-hosts. Let’s begin with the best on the road…
BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR
There’s no question that this has to be Ford deciding to cut production of all cars except the Mustang. While the data does show that trucks, SUVs and crossovers lead the way in sales, there is always going to be a place for cars. Ford even said it themselves, stating that cars are “commoditized.” Well the word commodity, while normally used to describe raw materials, basically means something that sells all the time. This move was clearly a quick cash grab attempt by the company, executed with only investors in mind. Those investors are now pissed, because they’ve watched stock prices go from roughly $11/share at the time of the announcement in April down to $7.65/share on New Year’s Eve.
DIPSHIT OF THE YEAR
While this title could very easily be bestowed upon the entire board at Ford, the real winner is Elon Musk. If you don’t know why, call the SEC or check Twitter.
BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
I have to nominate the Hyundai-Kia group for this award. If you want to talk about a value purchase, look no further. These folks pack ALL the amenities into their vehicles, along with a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty into truly good looking vehicles that consistently match the competition in horsepower and beat them in fuel mileage, satisfaction ratings and “stuff.” What this company has done in the past 5 years is truly impressive.
BEST NAMEPLATE REVIVAL
It seems like everyone has been eating their ‘Member Berries lately, and automakers are no different. Ford has brought back the GT and the Ranger, with the Bronco coming soon. Honda has relaunched the NSX, and General Motors announced the return of the Blazer a few years after reviving the Camaro. For 2018, I have to pick BMW and their 8 Series as the best. Originally produced from 1990-1999, the 8 Series is back from its 20-year slumber and comes packed with 523hp, a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds and a road-limited top speed of 155mph. Oh, and they launched an M8 GTE spec race car to boot, which won twice in its debut season.
MOST POINTLESS CAR
Despite all of the ragging on GM lately, I genuinely am a lifelong fan. So it pains me to say this, but the most pointless car of 2018 is the Yenko Camaro, built by the Specialty Vehicle Engineering custom shop. Customers can get this car in one of two “stages.” Stage I comes with 835hp, and if that for whatever reason isn’t enough, you can buy a Stage II version with 1,000hp. Costs are $90,000 and $130,000, respectively. Ok…but why? You can say that this is a track day car (as SVE does, it isn't even road-legal in CA), but you can also spend roughly $25,000 LESS on a ZL1 Camaro which consistently laps track days quicker than Aventadors, 458 Italias and AMG GTs, so don’t you dare give me that argument.
Well, those are all the fake awards I could think up for the road. Time to shift gears here (pun intended, take that, Andrew!) and hand out some imaginary hardware to their track-dwelling counterparts…
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR/BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
The only winner taking home 2 awards this year is Robert Wickens. When it was announced that Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports was signing Wickens to be James Hinchcliffe’s IndyCar teammate in 2018, I thought they were nuts. While he had some success in the junior open wheel ranks, he had spent the last half-decade racing in DTM, a German sports car series. No one really knew what to expect, but then I found out that Hinchcliffe actually took a pay cut so the team could afford to sign him! Why? He quickly answered that question by qualifying on pole for his very first start, and he was leading the race with 2 laps to go, until an aggressive pass attempt by Alexander Rossi sent him into the wall. In his 2nd career race, his first EVER race on an oval, he finished 2nd at Phoenix. He came home a respectable 9th in his Indy 500 debut. He quickly racked up 4 podium finishes, led 187 total laps and was in contention for the point championship until Pocono.
Now, the biggest disappointment of the year is not Robert Wickens himself. As you just read, he was far from that. The biggest disappointment of 2018 is the devastating accident that kept us from knowing how his 2018 rookie campaign would have finished. Wickens was racing with former champ Ryan Hunter-Reay when the two cars touched, and the rookie went airborne into the catch fence at nearly 200mph, shredding his car into pieces. At this point, the question isn’t if he can get back into a race car, but rather, will he be able to walk again. He’s already shown via social media that he can stay upbeat through a very trying recovery process. Hope to see you back at the track soon, Robert!
DRIVER OF THE YEAR
You’d probably think I’m going to pick Scott Dixon here, as my favorite driver just put a 5th notch into his IndyCar championship belt…but he’s not my choice for 2018. This year, I have to pick another new 5-time champ, Lewis Hamilton. The best F1 driver of this generation just keeps getting better. Yes, F1 is largely dependent on the team’s budget. Yes, a lot of drivers could hop into a Mercedes F1 car and perform very well. But despite the inherent advantage of racing for the sport’s best team, Lewis went above and beyond this year. In 21 races, he matched his career highs with 11 wins and 17 podiums. His AVERAGE finish was 2.6! Compare that to his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who drove in the exact same equipment: 0 wins, 8 podiums. Need I say more?
TEAM OF THE YEAR
I’m going stateside for this award, and passing out my imaginary hardware to NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing. The 4-car outfit dominated the NASCAR schedule this year, winning 12 of the 36 races on the calendar and scoring a combined 39 top fives, 84 top tens and 9 pole positions. Not bad for the team’s first Danica-less season, huh?
While not the team of the year, another NASCAR team needs to be recognized: Hattori Racing Enterprises, from the NASCAR truck series. Founded by former Japanese racing star Shigeaki Hattori, this admirable group competed against tall odds this year. The team was on such a tight budget, they literally didn’t know if they would make it to the track on a week-to-week basis. But in the midst of all the “Will-I-Have-A-Job-Tomorrow” distractions and last minute sponsorship deals, the team kept their heads down and delivered a slew of quality performances. Hot shoe driver Brett Moffitt actually won 6 races and the series championship! Despite the accomplishment, they still don’t have plans for the upcoming season due to budget/sponsorship issues. Hopefully, some good news comes quick because the defending champs have proven that they deserve a shot to defend their title.
LUCKY BREAK OF 2018
If you haven’t seen the accident from this year’s Macau GP, involving German teenager Sophia Floersch…Well, take my word for it, it was nasty. Sophia suffered a catastrophic failure right before a heavy braking zone. While everyone else was breaking for the near-hairpin turn, Sophia slid onto the scene backwards at 170mph, launched over another car and into a photographer’s stand on the outside of the catch fence. She escaped with moderate injuries, required back surgery, and has already stated her intent to be ready to race next season. She gets the Lucky Break award for avoiding what could have been the worst accident in racing this year.
That should just about do it…what an epic year 2018 has been, and not just in the world of cars and racing, but for us here at The Check Engine Podcast as well. While we’ve all had some great personal and professional milestones this year, the fact that we still have a podcast to look forward to is the best news we could’ve hoped for, and it’s because of all of you who take time to listen, comment, like, share, and read.. Please, get back to me on this piece. Do you agree with my choices for these fake accolades? Do you have your own imaginary awards to hand out? Tell us, via our socials or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wish you all the best in 2019, and ask you to stay tuned because another awesome year of The Check Engine Podcast is right around the corner!
This might not seem like a car blog topic. But it is, you'll see.
Like a lot of people, I'm getting rid of my Facebook account. I'm finally deleting all my content for all the usual reasons: Its unsafe, Facebook is unreliable and untrustworthy, and they've proven they don't care about their users even the smallest amount. Obviously, for the sake of this podcast, I can't fully delete my personal account, but I am going through and deleting every post, like, and comment I can, and then hiding the rest. This also means deleting all my pictures and videos, and wouldn't you know it - even though we only started this podcast last year, and even though I never really considered cars an interest of mine until maybe the last 5 years, I had a LOT of stuff about cars on my Facebook, and I want to share it here so it doesn't get completely lost to time, and as a benefit, I get to do a Facebook rant. Win/win.
I joined Facebook in 2006, back in the days when you still had to have a college email address to do so. At the time, it was a real milestone in social media. I remember getting my information packet from UW Stevens Point, digging through to my email address, and immediately using it to set up a Facebook account. I was excited to do it! Facebook was basic back then. The status box was prefaced by the word "is", so every post read "Andrew Tully is:____" and you put your status in the blank. There were these odd boxes around the website with quotes from Top Gun as placeholders for other content. Wow do I sound old talking about this.
In the past 13 years, I posted a lot on Facebook. My best guess is somewhere in the area of 10,000 status updates, and several thousand more comments, likes, posts, and none of that includes posting albums or private messages or pokes. There's a reason my generation is so attached to Facebook, and its a simple one: Facebook gave us an unparalleled power to share our lives with the people we chose to share it with, a power never before seen in all of human history. How could we NOT fall in love with that? Looking back through the people I had added as a friend back in '06, it was more impactful than looking back through any picture book. I could see, right there, what Jillian from English 150 posted on my wall, I remember exactly the class she was talking about. No idea what happened to her, I must have unfriended her years ago, no idea why. On my Facebook timeline I could watch the decay and eventual death of friendships from high school, which was...interesting. Its one thing to have nostalgia for the old days, its quite another to have an exact record of how and when I grew apart from Justin. The very first direct contact I had with my wife was a Facebook message. Without Facebook, none of that would have been possible. Without Facebook, I might not be married. How about that?
Facebook even became a necessity for me at some point, an accidental cloud storage. I lost the hard drive that had all of my photos from before I got a smartphone, including my semester abroad. Fortunately, the best pictures from my trip to the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show did get uploaded, so I have those. Here's a gallery of what I saw there that year - and yes, all of these photos were taken with a point-and-shoot camera and manually uploaded to Facebook later. What a world it was!
This is a snapshot of automotive history! Volvos in the Ford booth, the Alfa 8C and Brera, the chrome R8, the Lamborghini Reventon, the BMW i8, electric concepts that are now in full production, the return of the Mercedes gullwing, I was there in person to see them all in their infancy. This show was nothing like I had ever seen before, and I've never seen its like since - BMW installed a full track inside their show booth, and they had their electric cars driving on it while the keynote on the i8 was happening. Audi brought their full RS lineup and a few race cars, along with the debut of the first-gen eTron. Mercedes brought Brabus and Maybach into their own display, and added a two-story, translucent, LED-lit centerpiece to top it all off. Again, without Facebook, all of these pictures would be completely lost.
Facebook also allowed me to chronicle the daily adventures of my life, at work, at school and otherwise. Cool cars, ugly cars, road trips, I tried to share everything I could. I guess, now that I can see all the data I ever uploaded compressed into one zip file, I've seen a lot of weird car stuff through the years. Here are some select highlights:
I was able to share these images and more with the people I liked and/or knew; the simple power of daily updates. All of these pictures mean something, just as every single picture, video, like, or status update on Facebook does. These are a text, they tell a story, they each have context and a place in a narrative. They carry emotional weight. They mean something to me, and I want them to mean something to other people, some of whom saw these moments alongside me. As an end user, all I ever wanted from Facebook was to be able to share the moments I deemed important with whomever I chose to share them with. But Facebook, solely in the pursuit of money, squandered any and all goodwill I could possibly have for them by giving corporations wanton access to my data, and your data, and everyone's data - even the stuff we chose to hide by using Facebook's own tools. That is nothing less than a full betrayal.
And I was a Facebook defender for a few years too! Let employers FIND my page, then we can talk about if I'm worried. I used Ad Blockers, because I'm not an idiot. I know how to spot fake news and sponsored content, if my English degree is good for anything, at least its good for that. With every leak that came out, I became more concerned, of course, but as a modern technology user, I'm willing to overlook some pretty outrageous abuses in order to keep using platforms that I like. But now, its been revealed that Facebook had deals with several other massive companies in order to share Facebook user data without limitations. Deleted content, hidden content, private messages, stuff marked "Only Me" - if those companies wanted access to it, they could have it. Facebook never even bothered to try and stop them. All in pursuit of a little more money. Just another million on the company valuation. Just one more stack on Zucc's net worth.
All I can say now, after looking through all the data I've ever put up on Facebook, is that this really sucks. It really fucking sucks. I liked Facebook, that's all it was. I liked that I could put my voice out there for the people I know to hear and see, anytime, anywhere. I liked to be able to crack jokes with my friends across the globe. I liked to be able to connect at any moment with the few people I genuinely consider friends, and all Facebook ever did was take advantage of those likes so that they could earn money. It was all a joke to them, the whole time. We were the idiots.
Deleting and hiding all those posts, from my engagement and wedding to the little jokes Tristan and I used to post on each other's walls while we were literally in the same room, made me extremely sad. That whole part of my life, all those little moments of accessibility that I chose to give my friends are now gone forever. They were hard to delete, because I liked them. And as I got back to the year 2006, and as I saw all those old names and interactions, those pokes and messages, I suddenly remembered a song that I hadn't thought about in years. The song is a memory too, back from my high school days playing PS2 in basements. The days of first cars and those college acceptance packets. It all circles back.
Last week, the new and very dumb electric vehicle startup Rivian announced their new vehicles called (presumably) SUV and Truck. They are respectively an electric SUV and an electric truck, and of course Rivian immediately starts off with the hilarious statistics: 400+ miles on one charge, incredible off-road capability, a "wading" depth of 3 feet, on and on and on. Each and every one of these "specifications" has an asterisk after it. Because every single number on the page is a projection, a wish list, a fantasy. Yet, for $1,000 very real dollars, you can preorder these vehicles, which may or may not ever exist and may or may not offer the performance advertised on this website that's so poorly coded they couldn't be dicked to put a single metadata tag in their HTML: A bit of website optimization so remedial, every single pre-built website creation platform on the internet has offered it for over a decade. Hey, at least these guys are promising full refunds upon request. I'm sure we'll see how that turns out before the 2020 production state date, no month given.
Now, the cost. A Rivian is predicted to cost at least $61,500...AFTER the $7,500 federal tax credit, which may or may not be around by the time these trucks may or may not actually start production, and Rivian will start with the most expensive trucks first, the ones that will cost probably double that $61,500 price tag - are you starting to see a problem here? These Rivian trucks and indeed pretty much every single EV are not for you. They aren't for me. They aren't for my wife. They aren't for Tristan, or Nick, or their partners, or our parents, or for fully 95% of the people any of us know. They aren't for any of us. Companies like Rivian and Tesla don't want to make EVs, that's just their angle. They don't give a shit about the environment or the future or The Children™. They care about money. And more than that, they care about making all of the money in one single transaction to the exclusion of all else, especially what the consumer needs or wants. This isn't unique to automotive manufacturers. This type of capitalism is endemic right now. It's the way most companies do business, and its a cancer, blah blah blah you've heard me talk about this before. But Rivian's announcement sealed it for me. I'm now sure that EVs are the equivalent of the Juicero: They're a scam for Silicon Valley-types who want to make a quick buck off investors and preorder donkeys. If the product fails? Who gives a shit. If the company goes under? What company, I got my buyout already. Just look at how Elon Musk comports himself in public. Right now he's doing some wild shit on Twitter, solid bet, and Elon has far too much money to be on social media at all. But the thing is doesn't and indeed couldn't give a fuck what happens to Tesla or EVs in general. It doesn't matter to him, because he got his money and his zealots already, and so he just does whatever he wants to do that second.
Yes, I can hear you out there, you BUT WHAT ABOUT-ists. Here's the But What About: If we look at the American automotive market, these are all of the EVs for sale nationwide right now: BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq EV, Nissan Leaf. That's it. 4 cars. You think you're finally gonna start the EV revolution with 3 subcompacts and a liftback? No you are not. Oh, by the way, the average price of these cars is $35,580 after the tax credit, with the Hyundai being the cheapest, and the corncob-sized i3 being the most expensive. For all the talk about EVs being the future, for all the dick-wagging and shit talking Elon Musk does every single day, there are only 4 EVs you can actually buy in all 50 states. Remember! You still can't buy Teslas in 28 states, and every other EV in production is only available in certain areas. Can you think of a solution for everyone isn't even available to the majority of people? Me neither.
Thus the Juicero comparison. Tesla, Rivian, Porsche, Audi, Fisker, and all the other manufacturers making EVs that cost $50,000+ are making the automotive equivalent of internet-connected juice machines, and the other EVs on the market don'e count because they either aren't available or they aren't practical. They're all expensive toys with little to no true function and decent marketing. Nobody asked for this. Nobody needs this. Because even if you can get an EV in your area, you probably can't charge it. Even if you can charge it, it doesn't go nearly as far as the company told you it would. Even if you're okay with low range, the inaccessibility of charging networks, and assuming you can get the car you want where you live, you've already made so many compromises that I believe its fair to say that what you're buying is not the same thing as what you've been sold, and that's without even addressing those foolish enough to preorder. Because EVs aren't for you. Even though they should be.
I believe that traditional internal combustion engines need to be phased out. I know global warming is real. As I'm writing this, it's December 10th and there is not one flake of snow on the ground in southeastern Wisconsin. It did not used to be like this, even in my short lifetime. But as much as I know that things need to change, I know that electric vehicles are not the future. They're an illusion, or in the best possible scenario, EVs are a stepping-stone that will move the world away from the ICE, and into some other technology that is viable. And I test this hypothesis by looking at the reality of EVs right now: If these manufacturers truly believed their own hype, if they honestly thought that EVs were so important to the future of the planet that human life as we know it would be entirely wiped out without them, is THIS how they would go about making this sea-change? In dribs and drabs? In limited markets? At prices nobody can afford? With impractical ranges and charging times? With all development focused on unreliable and blatantly dishonest tech startups? Without Toyota, the manufacturer who single-handedly mainstreamed electric hybrid tech twenty years ago? In body styles that nobody likes? With technology creep that makes Phillip K. Dick construct his own grave-rolling-over machine? With no realistic or foreseeable partnerships to ensure immediate charging station proliferation across the world? I'm supposed to believe this is the fucking endgame? No! Of course it isn't!
Its very simple: EVs need to be cheaper, they need to be better, and they need to be fun. In short, EVs need to be cars first, and electric second. Hyundai got it right when they priced the Ioniq EV at under $30,000. They got it right when they gave all of their EVs lifetime battery warranties. They got it right when they made their EV look and drive like a regular car. But that's just one single brand trying to set an example that I don't think caught on. If EVs are the real future, then we should all be able to go and buy one that fits our actual lives right now, for only slightly more than a gas-powered vehicle, with next-to-zero compromises on the ability of the vehicle. But we can't. Not a single person can buy that EV right now, because that EV doesn't exist. Most of us have 4 choices, and the sales numbers say nobody really wants any of them. Manufacturers see that EVs are just toys for the rich, and so they option them accordingly with self-driving hardware, all the newest accident avoidance tech, heated and cooled seats, and cruelty-free Georgian vegan cat leather and shit like that, which only inflates the already-high prices so that regular people can't buy them. It's about the money, not the future.
And so we're back at the beginning, with Rivian and Tesla and all the brands like them which are only playing at manufacturing cars while selling it all as some kind of miracle solution. It's snake oil with batteries. Rivian, no matter what they end up actually producing, will only ever produce toys for the extravagantly wealthy. The Rivian SUV and Truck will only ever exist on Top Gear, and in the pages of Automobile, and on the internet where they will do some kind of off-road mountaineering race against, like, a Humvee, a Ford Raptor, a Land Rover Discovery, and a pack donkey. They aren't real products, and they aren't real solutions. I've said on the podcast that I want my next car to be some kid of hybrid or electric car, and that's still true, but I'm not going to compromise what I want in a car in order to get it, and you shouldn't either. We should all wait until EVs are good to actually buy them, and that point still seems a very long way off. From now on, let's all agree: The companies have to meet us where we are, because we refuse to meet them at their current idiotic level. For me, the first company to make a hybrid or electric hot hatch that's fun to drive gets my money. Fight for it.
Guest Blogger Megan
Hello CEP fans! Andrew’s wife here. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and write a blog post for you all.
I got a new car the day before Thanksgiving and man, is it fun.
When I began thinking about what my next car should be (thanks to all the helpful suggestions from Andrew), I eventually narrowed it down to the 2018 Jeep Renegade Limited and the 2019 Hyundai Kona Limited. Actually, it was the 2018 Kona, but we’ll get to that later. I’ve had my eye on the Kona since they first came out in 2018 and Andrew showed me the green one. We have a good relationship with one of the salespeople at the local Hyundai dealership, so I’ve driven the Kona at least a couple of times and knew that I really liked it.
I had no experience with Jeeps yet, though, so we went to the Jeep dealership closest to our house to get some information about the Renegade. Everything about that dealership was garbage. I know Andrew has mentioned this already on a previous podcast, but the salesperson was awful. We’ve had great experiences with female car saleswomen, so it has nothing to do with gender at all, but she really made the entire visit feel so uncomfortable. Or, between her and the sales manager who painfully caned his way over and back to his office at what seemed like point furthest away from where we were sitting, the whole thing was very uncomfortable.
She sat us down and asked what I was looking for in the car, what I wanted it do to, etc. The basic initial discussion. The Renegade and the Kona I was looking at came with almost exactly the same features – heated seats, Apple CarPlay, AWD, they both came in bright green, and the two are roughly the same price. The main difference is that the Renegade can tow, and the Kona is significantly faster. A full 3.2 SECONDS faster from 0-60. Knowing my personality and how I drive, it should have been a no-brainer: GET THE FAST CAR, YOU IDIOT. But no – there was something so cute and alluring about that damn Renegade. Maybe it's the X-shaped reverse lights, maybe it's the fake dirt that replaces the redline in the speedometer, but it just has personality, and I liked that.
But the Jeep salesperson couldn’t tell us the differences between the different trims (Limited, Trailhawk, Latitude, etc), and she just kept telling us that any package can be put on any car. Not helpful. I wanted to know what each one comes with standard, not what I can put on it. And then, after telling her I was looking at the 2018 Altitudes or Latitudes only (because of the CarPlay and the engine), she put me in a 2017 Limited model to test drive. I never even got to see or feel the car I actually wanted. And then the sales manager came over. Neither one could make eye contact well, and both of them kept looking at chest level. I understand there was writing on my shirt, but glance at it once and move on. And then he had the audacity to make a comment on it? Come on, man. Just tell me about the fucking car already.
Of course, the next thing they always try to do is push you to talk numbers. I was literally just there to test drive the car and get a sense of how it drove, how I felt in it, and if it would be a good fit for my lifestyle, which is what I told her from the beginning. They had the car that met everything I wanted on the lot (even though they didn't bother to pull it up for me), and it was in the exact color I wanted, but I wasn’t ready to buy, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy from them, the garbage people. I spent the next few months thinking about but the Kona and the Renegade, and the Renegade kept drawing me in, even with that terrible dealership experience. The Renegade looked so much more fun. It looked super sporty. Plus, it was a Jeep! Everyone should have a Jeep phase, right? But two weeks ago, I was really honest with myself and paid attention to the way I was driving my own car and it was clear: the Kona was the right choice. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to tow anything, but having the faster car was more important (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is not what happened. I kept telling her to go drive the Kona again before she went with the Renegade, because I knew the speed would get her).
So, that Saturday morning we got up to get some groceries and suddenly we found ourselves at the Hyundai dealership. Doing some research over the last couple of weeks, I knew there were no green 2018 Konas to be found in the area, and I had to have that green. Had to. I even expanded the search radius to 500 miles and there were STILL none available. But if you looked at the 2019s, there were several available, and even though they were a little bit more than the 2018s, you got a few extra features.
We took a 2019 out, I loved it, and we drove the Kona straight to a different Jeep dealer where we know a salesperson who doesn't suck at their job. We drove them back to back, and the Jeep just wasn’t as fun. In fact, it wasn't any fun. Something had changed. It wasn’t as fast, it felt too big, and it just didn’t seem to fit me anymore. So we went back to the Hyundai dealership, told the salesperson that the Kona won, and she started to throw out some numbers. Suddenly, it was a real possibility that I was going to get this car! We talked about what my trade-in was worth, what my financing options were, and then they tossed out a leasing option. Knowing literally nothing about how leasing a car works, they went through all of the details. It’s surprisingly easy to lease a car, if you didn't know. Almost weirdly easy, compared to how much more intense it is when you buy the car.
The thing was, the dealership still had to get me my green Kona. They sent us home in a black one, and said they'd call as soon as they got the green one. The car came in Tuesday night, I was able to go in Wednesday morning and sign all the papers and pick it up, and then we immediately drove to Nebraska to spend Thanksgiving with Andrew's brother and his family. On that trip, I really got a chance to break it the Kona and spend some quality time with it. It rides well on the freeway, even on the appalling roads of Iowa. It gets good gas mileage, it can fit a Black Friday sound system impuse-buy inside it along with luggage and a big cooler, and the best part is that the Hyundai Kona is a quick car. You can get the jump on almost anyone in this car with the Sport Mode and AWD Lock on, and as it turns out, that won my heart. After driving almost 1,200 miles round trip, I can say I definitely love this car, and it was the right choice for me. I would even say that if you're looking at a small SUV, you have to drive a Kona, because you might just fall in love with it too.