Archive for October 2011
Voodoo Blue is a paint scheme so intense my 87 year-old grandmother noticed it through her screen door at night on a street with no street lamps.
“My goodness, what is that?” she marveled, peering out towards the 2011 Scion xB parked at the curb.
Grandma was raised just outside of New Orleans. She paused at the name of the color:
“…I like it. It’s VERY blue!”
Her reaction to the XB proved to be more foreboding than could have been anticipated. When it arrived in front of my apartment several days earlier it was immediately apparent Scion hadn’t sent a usual XB to review for the week.
What they delivered was a limited production xB Release Series 8.0 (xb RS) equipped with a four-piece Kenstyle body kit, sun roof, blue-accented upholstery, low-profile tires, 18inch wheels and exclusive Voodoo Blue paint that possessed an almost supernatural intrigue.
As I signed the loan agreement a heavily medicated street person stopped dead in his tracks and stared breathlessly at the xB as if trying to decide whether he was having a particularly good morning or if other people could see Voodoo Blue as well.
“What’s that color?!” he demanded.
When I told him he shook his head and continued down the street.
“Well it’s too blue for me!” he yelled over his shoulder.
Later in the parking lot of my day job I took a moment to take a sip of coffee before heading in to work.
A sea of hands clamored against the tinted driver's window trying to get inside. Before the fear of zombie could set in the fingers parted to reveal two of my coworkers’twenty-something year-old faces.
Curious. When I had shown them pictures of the xB earlier they hadn’t liked its smoothed-out body lines as much as the chic boxier look of the previous model years. Their general consensus seemed to be the xB was losing its edgy cool factor year by year as its ‘hip young thing’ curb-appeal washed into the mainstream.
And yet here were two fashionable young professionals banging on the windows to get a closer look at the new xB as if it were a boarded-up mall chalk full of human brains.
Once inside and after asking what the color was they set to work inspecting the next most important thing our target demographic looks for in a new car: The audio system.
Scion is hip to this groove. The xB comes standard with a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with iPod interface, auxiliary audio jack, RCA output to accommodate even more speakers and a customizable head unit display. The serious audiophile can upgrade to an Alpine system with a touchscreen interface, “media expander” that improves digital music quality and a knob that mimics the controls on an iPod.
Our xB was equipped with the latter. An iPod materialized from someone’s pocket and soon bass music was thumping off the walls of our office. It was decided we didn’t need to be at work for another ten minutes and it would be harder to attract a noise complaint while moving.
Cruising around the block the truth came out that none of us had ever been in an xB previously and in turn had formed several egregiously misinformed views of the car. Specifically the xB was not in fact a cramped little sweat-box hardly large enough to transport hipsters with dangerously skinny legs and even skinnier black jeans to techno clubs.
Despite what the exterior might imply the xB actually has more maximum cargo space than most of the competition in its class and even a handful of midsize SUVs. Passenger space is startlingly ample as well, especially in the rear seats where there’s room for a pair of well-fed six-foot tall men or a half dozen malnourished hipster kids.
After work I drove the xB to a mall and left it in a particularly dark parking garage below the building. On the way out the face of an elderly Haitian toll booth operator lit up at the sight of the xB.
“New car?” he asked.
I said it was. He asked what the color was called. When I told him he paused and ran his eyes over it once more:
“Voodoo Blue…Very nice.”
Of all the sports and muscle cars at Run to the Sun, the first car on my drive list was the 2012 Fiat 500 convertible. The sound of Nelson Muntz’s laugh echoed faintly off the doors of the Mercedes Benz CLS63.
2012 FIAT 500 CONVERTIBLE
During its original 18-year run, the Fiat 500 established itself as an iconic pioneer of the affordable small car genre alongside the likes of the Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper.
The new Fiat 500 is burdened with the monumental task of filling its own tiny shoes and reintroducing the Fiat brand to North America.
Now that Fiat owns Chrysler, the stakes are high for the 500 to successfully represent a much needed small car position in Chrysler’s lineup.
Luckily the 500 is just that: small. Besides the Smart Fortwo, it’s the smallest car sold in the United States.
At six-feet tall with provocatively broad shoulders, I expected to be pretzeled clownishly into the 500 during our leg of the drive together. Instead the interior room was surprisingly ample; while six inches shorter and two inches narrower than a Mini Cooper, the 500 is four inches taller allowing the driver’s seat to be elevated to increase legroom and visibility.
During my short time with the 500 I was impressed with the handling and cute as a button styling. Factor in 30city/38hwy fuel economy with the manual and there’s a lot to like about Fiat’s newest ‘lil darling. Let’s just hope that reliability proves to be less reminiscent of the original than the rest of the car.
CAMARO SS CONVERTIBLE
There’s not much to say about the 2012 Camaro SS that hasn’t already been said. In most performance comparison tests it comes in a close second to the new Mustang 5.0 and beats the 2011 Dodge Challenger hands down.
Perhaps the biggest gripe amongst critics and consumers alike is that the Camaro’s low-slung roof line makes the cabin feel like you’re being slowly crushed in a trash compactor; visibility is horrible from the driver’s seat.
Throwing the top down on the 2012 Camaro SS convertible relieves the claustrophobia and as one of GM’s reps put it, “Makes it feel like a whole new car.”
To help prove his point we dropped the top at 7:30 in the morning on the second sunny day of the event and sped past locals trapped in the doldrums of the morning commute on I-5 South.
With the nothing but blue sky overhead and open air above the doors, weaving through traffic with 426hp to play with was definitely more enjoyable.
CADILLAC CTS-V COUPE
For those that haven’t heard, the Cadillac’s CTS-V is a beast with a pedigree. For starters, it’s powered by a 556hp detuned version of the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the Corvette ZR1. To keep it classy the power is channeled through a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension system tuned at the Nurburing.
The result is a car that goes from zero to 60mph in a hair over four seconds and can hang with the likes of the BMW M series and Mercedes-Benz AMG lineup. Keeping in mind the CTS-V starts at a relative bargain price of $63K, there’s a strong case to be made that it just might be the most exciting car to come out of Detroit since the inception of the muscle car.
Somewhere in the Farmer Joe country of Marysville, Washington I found myself behind the wheel of the CTS-V on a depressingly boring leg of the route that trudged along 35mph stretches of two-lane roads.
When a ninety degree turn presented itself unexpectedly I dropped into second gear entering the turn and pressed the gas to the floor heading into the curve.
There was a split moment of under steer before the traction control kicked in and slingshot us out the other end with enough lateral acceleration to crack an egg on the inside of the driver’s side door.
If you’re allergic to grinning this car might kill you.
HONDA CIVIC SI COUPE
There’s something special about railing the hell out of a little car with more power than it needs and still getting fuel economy in the upper twenties to low thirties. With a 2.4L four-banger making 201hp and 170lb-ft, limited-slip front differential and sport-tuned suspension, no other car I drove at the event better defined its own market segment than the Civic SI coupe.
Furthermore, it was more fun than any other car on the list, even the V8-powered beasts that made more than twice the horsepower.
The reason for this is simple. On Skagit Highway South, the Lotus Evora S screamed past a three car clump of our procession towards open road. The Audi A7, Mazda RX-8 and Mustang Boss 302 followed suit driving as hard as the backcountry road would allow, but they were barely beginning to draw on their real potential.
With the V-Tech wound up to her sweet spot I managed to keep up with the pack but had to drive the Civic flat out to do so. It was exciting and it wasn’t easy.
The Civic SI is a car you can experience at its limit without having to take it to the track - 200hp at redline is always more fun than 600hp sluffing around town.
Speaking of which, a gentleman from Toyota was nice enough to lend me a 2012 Scion XB and TC for week loans shortly after Run to the Sun concluded.
Inspired by the youth culture brand and its saucy image, I was introduced to street racing culture, automotive escapism and the strangely seductive power of “Voodoo Blue”.
PART 1: http://tinyurl.com/3jdf4t4