More Supercar Insanity: Venom, Quimera and Tuatara

2011 Hennessey Venom

There is no end to the madness of supercars, those sometimes gorgeous, sometimes grotesque, hyperpowered exotics that exist only to trigger the fantasies of car fanatics. Buyers are the very, very few with piles of money. Those without drool and exercise their daydreams while driving Focus SVTs (if they’re lucky) to work.

It’s the latter group that I’m concerned about. These are the guys who think Ken Block is really something else, who think it’s cool to drop a Corvette engine in a redesigned Lotus (the Venom, above) and charge close to a million dollars for it, who burble about the Veyron’s speed record.

Car flacks encourage this sort of response with their unending applause. Regurgitating John Hennessey’s comments (founder and president of the company producing the Venom), one self-effacing writer said, “With 1,200HP on tap from the twin-turbocharged, Corvette-sourced V8 and a Veyron-humbling 0-200 km/h (0-125 mph) time of 7.0 seconds flat, we wouldn’t dare ask for more.”

There is a lot of negative comment out on the Web regarding Hennessey and the Venom cars.

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Saab Could Reach the End of the Road Soon

Saab 900

Saab has been on life support for too long.

If General Motors had just refused to sell the ailing brand and sent it off into the sunset along with Pontiac and Hummer, we would have been spared to witness this long-drawn-out suffocating death.

Instead, as we all know, Saab was purchased by Spyker Cars, which intended to return the company to glory. That hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, as the company has struggled to pay its workers, pay its suppliers, develop new product and even produce its current lineup of vehicles. Now, finally, the Saab story may be nearing its inevitable end.

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Chrysler Prices Drop, Along with Consumer Satisfaction

Chrysler, Auburn Hills

With demand slowing, the economic outlook grim and the worst customer satisfaction score ever, Chrysler cut some prices on key 2012 models. Among the cars affected (and the reductions) are: the Dodge Journey ($1,200), the Chrysler 200 ($250) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee ($3,220).

The company also announced a new “no payment for 90 days” offer and a bunch of rebates and cash incentives on their cars.

The biggest bomb thrown at the company has to be the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which put Chrysler, along with Mazda, at the bottom for the industry.

The worst scores in the industry go to Chrysler, despite small-to-modest gains for its Dodge (+1%) and Jeep (+3%) product lines. At 79 [ranking], both nameplates tie Mazda (-1%)—the weakest Japanese offering—while the Chrysler brand itself suffers a second consecutive 5% slump to 76.

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Could Michele Bachmann Deliver on Promise of Gas Under $2.00/Gallon?

It’s either a sign of a desperate candidate, proof that some people don’t understand how fuel is priced or a simple ploy to win votes.

Whatever her intent, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has said she would bring back sub-$2/gallon fuel if elected. According to Politico she said:

The day that the president became president, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.

The average price today is $3.57 and slowly falling, thanks in part to the events unfolding in Libya. Of course, if “the president” wasn’t the president gas would still be under two bucks since he’s obviously the sole reason gas prices spiked. He must have failed to understand the “set gas prices” responsibility in the presidential job description; or maybe there’s more to gas prices than who is president.

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Will Earth Have More Cars Than People?

traffic jam

Does the U.S. need more cars?

Maybe it’s time to put a hold on the production of new cars for a while.

According to WardsAuto.com, the number of operational vehicles worldwide passed the 1 billion mark in 2010. And with around 60-70 million new cars selling every year, it will take only 15-20 years to double that amount.

While the odds are slim of actually getting to the point where cars outnumber the almost 7 billion people on Earth, it’s alarming that humanity has the need for over a billion carbon-emitting, fuel-drinking machines to satisfy our transport needs. According to some quick Wiki research, there are about 5 billion people on Earth over the age of 15, which would give an approximate car-to-driver ratio of 1 to 5. By that logic it would seem the current supply of vehicles is about in line with the world’s need.

However, since many developed countries, especially the U.S., consist of people who hoard as many cars as they can, ratios in specific countries tell a much different story.

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Pebble Beach 2011 Preview

Cadillac Ciel Cabrio concept

The Concours d’Elegance with its magnificent old cars won’t open to the public until Sunday, but the constant hyping of Pebble Beach and all its secondary events in the press has already caused some of us to gag.

The worst offenders are the automakers who increasingly use PB to introduce new models, which this year are as boring and predictable as you can get. For example, the Lexus GS 350 and the grotesque Infiniti JX crossover.

The concepts, however, are a different story. Cadillac’s Ciel (above) is wonderful, in its grossly Cadillac way, and we hope it gets built.

But Pebble Beach is really about the Concours and the setting. I have never been to these events, but did do the 17-mile drive years ago and spent a little time in the area, which is simply gorgeous.

So instead of more hype, let’s look at photos of some great cars that I’ll bet you’ve never seen before. These come from Sports Car Digest and cover yesterday’s Tour d’Elegance. The photographer is Tim Scott.

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Five Cars Worth Waiting For

2012 Hyundai Veloster

One of the worst feelings in the world is spending big money on an item, then waking up the next morning to see that a new and improved version will soon be released.

It’s happened to me with computers, cameras and iPods. Just last month, for example, I finally caved and bought an iPhone4, only to read that the iPhone5 could come out next month. Of course it will – that’s just my luck.

Many people buy a new car, then find out later that if they had waited 6 months to a year, a better replacement would arrive. Nailing down exact release dates of future models is no easy task, but for car buyers who aren’t in a hurry, keeping one eye on what’s in the automotive pipeline could really pay off.

In the coming months, some pretty sweet rides will show up  at dealers across the country. Start making room in your garage now for one these:

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Burnt Benzes in Berlin; Unrepaired Cars Here

Burnt Benz

We haven’t had real protests in this country since the Vietnam War days. Other countries are much quicker to take their political discontents to the streets. In Berlin, symbols of Fat Cat wealth—mostly Mercedes, BMWs and Audis—have been going up in flames.

This year alone, some 138 have been burnt, double last year’s number. In the 2009 recession, 221 cars were cooked. The stink of burning rubber is prominent, as the arsonists try to send a strong message “against capitalism, globalization and gentrification.” But authorities don’t have a clear answer as to their motives.

One wonders whether the riots in England are related. There, the mob’s targets seemed to be shops, buses and the police, though some cars were burnt. Germany’s economy, once Europe’s leader, has had virtually no growth this year, and unemployment, particularly among the youth, is rampant.

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Cars Coming Soon: Inexpensive Small Cars Getting Fun… Mostly

2012 Toyota Yaris

“Yaris. It’s a Car.”

That’s either the best tagline ever or a terrific parody used to describe the ultimate appliance-mobile. Truth be told, it might be both. The tagline is used by Toyota on social networks to introduce the world to the new 2012 Toyota Yaris. To give you an idea of just how “exciting” this car is, the biggest technology upgrade from last year is a single-arm windshield wiper with washer jets aimed to either side of the big blade.

Yeah, the new Yaris is just that dull. Or just that perfect, depending on who you ask.

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Lotus Moving Upmarket: the Evora GTE Concept

Lotus Evora GTE concept

Lotus has had considerable success with its Evora GTE, the racing version of the Evora road car. Now the company is making a good thing better by, more or less, combining the two in a GTE concept that will show at Pebble Beach tonight (see press release).

The concept car has a tweaked V6 producing 420 hp and a sequential AMT gearbox. This far outdoes the present Evora S—no slouch at 345 hp and 4.6 seconds to 60 mph—presently Lotus’s top road car.

But it’s the handling that always has distinguished Lotus from the pack, though some have complained not so much about a lack of power but its “loose, vague gearshift.” Even so,

the Evora feels lighter on its feet than a Porsche Cayman S and it fidgets far less than a Nissan GT-R. The Lotus’s steering also has a lovely oily, linear feel and perfect weighting.

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