One of the most profound mysteries of our time is why people don’t like minivans.
The usual explanation is that there is a stigma attached to that body style, one that says, in effect, that one is a grownup. Yet the same person who has enough sense not to wear a tube top or a muscle shirt after the skin isn’t as taut as it once was still thinks that by buying a full-size SUV (to meet the three-row seating requirement of the family and/or members of the baseball or soccer team) they are somehow still bathing in the fountain that Ponce de Leon never found.
The people who buy those full-size SUVs (to say nothing of the midsize SUVs with that structure that is alleged to be a third row) ought to have to spend a couple hours back there and see how effective it is. The word “comfort” doesn’t even apply.
Chrysler introduced the minivan in 1983. This means that it is over 30. Most of the people who ought to be buying minivans are probably in that demographic, too.
Because Chrysler was the pioneer in this space, it is easy to understand that it has unmatched knowledge of the characteristics of what makes a good minivan. Indeed, there is probably tribal knowledge throughout the HQ building in Auburn Hills that is so engrained that it isn’t even conscious. They simply know minivans.
Realize that while Chrysler has gone through all manner of ownership contortions over the years that the minivan has been around, it is the only one of the once-Big Three that still produces the product for the U.S. market.
GM bailed in 2008, after bizarre (the “dust buster” style) and pathetic (the “crossover sport vans,” because consumers could be fooled that their minivans were really something else) attempts.
For Ford it was the Aerostar, the Windstar, then the Freestar. It was the deathstar for the minivans in 2007, the end of the run.
But Chrysler endures and its competitors are now Honda with the Odyssey and Toyota with the Sienna. With those two vying for customers who are sufficiently comfortable with their chronology to opt for automotive utility, you know that Chrysler has had to up its game, not rest on its laurels.
Now this is not to say that Chrysler hasn’t done I what I consider to be some silly things in the minivan space. Like the Town & Country S.
What constitutes the more “sinister” minivan, undoubtedly meant to appeal to the male demographic, the guy who really wants a Charger but has too many payments on his charge card thanks to the kids always needing new shoes, is that there is an abundance of black, inside and out. There are a black chrome grille and a black rear fascia step pad. There are blacked-out headlight bezels and polished 17-in. aluminum wheels with black painted pockets. There are black Torino leather seats with black Ballistic cloth seat inserts and piano black gloss trim appliqués. And there are “S” logos on the seats and even in the instrument cluster.
There is also a “performance suspension,” but unless is running some sort of junior gymkhana in the high school parking lot. . . .
So let’s not get silly with the S. Let’s just say that Chrysler builds seriously fine minivans and the Town & Country is one of them. If you like the look, go for it. If you don’t, there are Touring and Limited models, too.
Maybe if you buy one, people won’t think you’re young. Maybe they’ll think you’re sensible. Perish the thought, eh?
Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC, V6
Horsepower: 283 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and heads
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 121 in.
Length: 202.8 in.
Width: 78.7 in.
Height: 69.9 in.
Curb weight: 4,652 lb.
Passenger volume: 163.5 cu. ft.
Max. cargo volume: 143.8 cu. ft.
Passenger + cargo volume: 195.8
EPA: 17/25 mpg city/highway
This man is obviously quite interested in the length of his lawn, something that many of us will be in the not-too-distant future:
But the point is not the man or the lawn, but the mower.
Actually a Honda HF2620 Lawn Tractor that was reengineered. Reengineered with a custom-made 4130 chromoly chassis. With a fiber-glass deck. With a suspension and wheels from a Honda all-terrain vehicle. With a 1,000-cc engine from a Honda VTR Firestorm motorcycle.
The mower weighs 308 lb.
That said, it does cut grass. There are two electric motors located on the cutter deck that spin a 3-mm cutting cable at 4,000 rpm. Which would make quick work of one’s lawn.
And quick is the point of this mower.
It is the world’s fastest lawnmower according to Guinness. It averaged 116.57 mph in a run last month at the IDIADA Proving Ground in Tarragona, Spain.
It is setup to have a top speed of 130 mph.
Could it be that they have too much time on their hands?
This is Chris Svensson:
He grew up in the U.K., in Sunderland. He said that even as a little kid, his goal was to work at Ford. His dad worked there. There were Fords in the garage. His first car was a Ford.
He also, he explained, happened to be a good artist.
So one thing led to another, and Svensson, having gotten degrees in Design from Coventry University and the Royal Academy of Art, joined Ford in 1992. In Germany.
He’s been with Ford ever since.
In June 2010, Svensson was named design director of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, based in Melbourne, Australia.
Ford moved him to Dearborn in 2013, as exterior design director, The Americas. (“The Americas” means North and South America for Ford.)
This past January, Svennson was named Design Director, The Americas.
Seems like Svensson’s childhood objective is paying off.
Svensson, on this episode of “Autoline After Hours,” talks with Chris Paukert of Autoblog, and co-hosts John McElroy and me about a variety of products, ranging from the way that design/engineering/manufacturing are integrated to how technology—from sensors to alternative powertrains—are having an effect on how cars are designed.
And Paukert, McElroy and I discuss a variety of issues, from GM’s continuing recall and reputation problems to hybrids and diesels.
[If you are reading this on April 14, you may be interested to know that Svensson is setting off today from Dearborn to New York City in a 1965 Mustang—built, he points out in 1964, so it is of the original year—that he’s had restored, driving along the original route that was taken by Ford 50 years ago for the Mustang, a car that, Svensson points out, is one of the few nameplates with uninterrupted production for 50 years (the other? The Porsche 911).]
This, obviously, is not a car, truck or other motorized vehicle:
It is actually two pastries, the “chou DS” and the “chou-colat croustillant” created by Philippe Conticini, a Michelin-starred chef (back when he was at Petrossian) who is presently the co-founder and head pastry chef at Pâitisserie des Rêves in Paris.
Conticini created them for Citroën, specifically for DS World Paris, which is, to put it baldly, a car dealership in the chichi part of Paris. The “DS” relates to the DS car model.
More to the point, the pastries were created for Easter. So if you can go to 33 rue François tomorrow (April 12), or next Saturday, April 19, you will be able to taste (and buy) these automotive inspired confections at the facility’s pastry bar.
(Said Julien Faux, director of DS World Paris, of Conticini and his choux, “We are delighted and proud to welcome a world-famous pastry chef to DS World Paris. His expertise and creativity echo the DS world and models, targeting customers looking for forthright choices on styling, sensations and refinement.” And I’ll bet you thought those customers were just looking for a new car.)
This is the Lexus LF-NX concept vehicle that the company debuted at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show:
That somewhat scary-looking vehicle is a compact crossover, powered by a hybrid.
The spindle grille design, which has been implemented on all Lexus vehicles of late, is taken to an extreme, but then again, concepts often have extreme characteristics. Come to think of it, as the number of concepts overall is diminishing, as they are being replaced by designs that are just this side of being production-ready, the overall aggressiveness of the LF-NX is actually a good thing.
The September premiere of the LF-NX was followed in November’s unveiling of the LF-NX Turbo concept at the Tokyo Motor Show:
While its predecessor has a hybrid, this version has a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. This is the first turbocharged engine under the hood of a Lexus. But it seems as though given the development of the cylinder head integrated exhaust manifold and twins-scroll turbocharger, this could be conceptually real.
And there is a size given to the LF-NX Turbo: 182.7-in. long, 73.6-in. wide, 63.8-in. high, and with a 106.3-in. wheelbase. Compare those numbers with the real Lexus RX: length, 187.8 in.; width, 74.2 in.; height, 66.3 in.; wheelbase, 107.9 in.
The diamond shapes, sharp cutlines, and angles are all there in geometric abundance.
Later this month at the 2014 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, Lexus will unveil the real NX on April 20. At this point, all they’ve revealed is this:
Here’s guessing that while the spindle grille will remain with a capacious maw, the press-brake angularity will give way to some crisp creases but not the Lego Mindstorms overall approach.