US v European car technology

Page 1 of 3  
Never mind the brands, comment on the priciple: http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12529-1794313,00.html
DAS
Ford Mustang By Jeremy Clarkson
Bite the Bullitt, buy the fantasy
The new Pontiac Solstice is America's first attempt at making a sports car in more than 50 years. And not since David Beckham's wayward penalty kick against Portugal have we seen anything go so wide of the mark. It is comically awful. And that sets a question. How come America's massive car industry can't make what is basically beans on toast? A light, zesty, pine-fresh car with an engine at the front, a simple foldaway roof in the middle and rear-wheel drive at the back? Lotus can make a sports car using nothing but a melted-down bathtub and the engine from a Rover. Alfa Romeo can make a sports car using steel so thin you can read through it, and an engine that won't start. Then there was Triumph, which made a sports car even though its entire workforce was outside the factory warming its hands around a brazier and chanting.
So what's America's problem? Well, here in Europe early cars were expensive coach-built luxury goods for the tweedy and well-off. It wasn't until the 1940s that cars for the common man came to France, Germany and Britain, and it wasn't until the 1950s that they came to Italy. They haven't arrived in Spain even today.
As a result we still have an innate sense that a car is something you save up for, something a bit decadent and exciting. Whereas in America the everyman Model T Ford came quickly after the introduction of internal combustion so there was never a chance for cars to earn that upmarket cachet. As a result, they've always seen the car as a tool: nothing more than an alternative to the horse.
In Europe we talk about style and how fast a car accelerates. In America they talk about how many horse boxes their trucks can pull and how much torque the engine produces.
If you do encounter someone over there who's fond of performance cars they're only really interested in how much g can be generated in the bends, whereas here those of a petrolhead disposition don't care at all about grip, only what happens when it's lost and the car is sliding. Then you are into the world of handling. A world where nothing but skill keeps you out of the hedge.
There's more, too. From day one American motor sport was all about sponsorship, which is why the oval raceway was developed. It meant the whole crowd could see all the sponsors' names all the time. The cars never zoomed off into a wood.
Here, they did. Motor racing was a rich man's game, held far from hoi polloi on airfield perimeter roads. And on twisty tracks like this, grip was nowhere near as important as decent handling.
Add all this together and you start to understand why we have Lotus, Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin. And they have the Ford F-150 Lightning pick-up truck: 0-60mph in a millionth of a second. Enough space in the back for a dead bear. And on a challenging road about as much fun as a wasabi enema
Add all this together and you start to understand why we have Lotus, Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin. And they have the Ford F-150 Lightning pick-up truck: 0-60mph in a millionth of a second. Enough space in the back for a dead bear. And on a challenging road about as much fun as a wasabi enema.
They also have the Ford Mustang and last week that's what I was using to cruise up the 101 from Monterey to San Francisco. The sun was shining, 104.3 the Hippo was massaging my ear bones with soothing West Coast sounds and, like everyone else, I was doing a steady 65mph, my heart beating in slow monotonous harmony with the big V8.
This new version has been styled to resemble the original from 1965, and that's a good thing. Less satisfactory is the news that it's also been engineered to resemble the original with all sorts of technology that in Europe would have been considered old fashioned by Edward Longshanks.
There's no complex double-stage turbocharging here; no elegantly machined swirl chamber to extract the best possible power and economy from the smallest possible engine. It's a 4.6 litre V8 with just one camshaft, three valves per cylinder and the sort of power output the average European would expect from a juicer.
The platform for the new Mustang comes from a Jaguar S-type. But then the Americans take it back in time by fitting a solid rear axle such as you'd find on a Silver Cross pram, and a Panhard rod, dismissed by Newcomen as being "a bit too last year".
So what's it like to drive? Well, the previous day I'd taken it on a hard lap of the extraordinarily beautiful Laguna Seca raceway, which, because it's the curliest track in North America, is regarded by racing drivers all over the world as one of the greats. Mansell. Villeneuve. Even Top Gear's Stig go all misty eyed at the mention of it.
And frankly it was more than a match for Ford's big daft horse. Its brakes were cooked by turn six; the final slow corner completely overwhelmed the live rear axle; and through the fearsome Corkscrew, which twists down a gradient so steep you can't even walk up it, I'm afraid Mr Ed was about as pin sharp as a punt gun. I damn nearly soiled myself.
Is it fast? Well, you get 300bhp, which is about 200bhp less than BMW gets from a similarly sized engine. But nevertheless it will get from 0-60mph in 5sec and reach a top speed of 150. That's not bad for an ox cart. But by European standards this car is rubbish. Its engine has wasteful, unused capacity that turns fuel into nothing, it couldn't get from one end of a country lane to the other without running out of brakes and it handles like a newborn donkey.
There's more, too. It's got a gruff engine note, its interior has the panache of an Afghan's cave and . . . and . . . and I can't go on. You see, I'm running through all this car's bad points but I'm afraid my mind is consumed by the bit where I was doing 65mph on the 101, listening to some Eagles on 104.3.
And then by the subsequent memory of grumbling along the waterfront in San Francisco itself, the city setting for Bullitt, the film that etched the Mustang for all time on the petrolhead's radar.
You see, I kept thinking I'm in a Mustang in San Francisco on a glorious September afternoon. And I liked that a lot. I liked it so much that I became consumed with the notion of maybe taking a small part of the experience home with me.
The numbers look good. Because the Mustang is made from pig iron and lava it is extraordinarily cheap: $25,000. And £13,800 for 300bhp is tempting. Even if you factor in the cost of shipping, changing the lights and paying Mr Blair some tax, it'll still only be £22,000.
For that you could have a Golf GTI, which, alongside Ford's canoe looks like the Starship Enterprise. It's more practical, easier to run, and around Laguna Seca undoubtedly it'd be a whole lot more competent. Whenever I drive a GTI I'm always full of admiration for its abilities, but when I was driving that Mustang I liked it. And that's sort of more important.
Of course, the American way means they'll never be able to build a sports car. It explains why the Pontiac Solstice is so dire. But the simplistic, covered wagon approach doesn't really matter on a car like the Mustang, not when you're doing 65mph in the sunshine and the Doobies are serenading you with Long Train Running. Not when it means you get a car this handsome for 13 grand.
The only worry is that if I did buy a Mustang, I'd get the car over here and on a wet November night realise that, actually, what I wanted to bring home was San Francisco.
The Mustang, then, is a great car in America. But here you're better off with a Golf.
VITAL STATISTICS
Model Ford Mustang 4.6 litre Engine 4600cc V8 Power 300bhp @ 5750rpm Torque 320lb ft @ 4500rpm Transmission 5 speed manual Fuel 18/23mpg urban/extra urban CO2 N/A Acceleration 0-60mph: 5 sec Top speed 143mph Price $25,225 (not sold in UK) Rating 3/5 Verdict Horrid but very loveable
--
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for posting this article. Its the (typical) arrogant Euro point of view, but certainly fun to read.
Jeremy doesn't seem to realize that here in the US of A, driving is basically different. Reliabilty, and long distance driving are far more important here than in Europe. And yes, there are many folks here that appreciate exotic engines and good handling. Go to one of the many Brit car shows like the one held in Palo Alto earlier in the month. Lots of exotics there (cars and people).
BTW, we'll be happy to sell you our new Mustangs and Corvettes, but we'll keep San Francisco! ;-)
Steve
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You forget that he was testing something called a *sports car*. If he was testing luxo barges you would have a point. And what makes you think that a Golf GTi would be any less acceptable on a long drive? Or any less reliable for that matter?
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A Mazda MX-5 or a Honda S2000 is a sports car. The Mustang is a sporty 2-door sedan. And as far as luxobarges are concerned, does the Mustang not share the platform of the Jag-you-are S-type (or is it the X-type)? So maybe one's expectations should be reduced accordingly.
Speaking of which, I note that the term "platform" has replaced "chassis" ever since unibody construction became all the rage. But what is a "platform," exactly? Isn't it just a more glam- orous term for the floorpan, i.e., the foundation upon which the rest of the car is built? Sounds like a chassis to me. Should it really matter that it's made of sheetmetal rather than box girders, if it fulfills the same function?
And why do the car magazines, or at least the American ones, call torsion bars "twist beams" nowadays? What's up with that? Is it because in this postliterate age, nobody knows what "torsion" means anymore? Much like the way venereal diseases are called "*sexually transmitted* diseases" now because hardly anybody is educated enough to know that Venus was the goddess of love, and to make the appropriate connection to the old in-out? Maybe we should go back to the old terms (and stop that silliness of using the term "archi- tecture" in an automotive context while we're at it).
Grumble.
Geoff
--
"Many of the same people who cry 'No blood for oil!' also want higher
gas-mileage standards for cars. But higher mileage standards have
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
writes:

Loosely, the S type, which is a family saloon but with a properly tuned rear end, not the live rear beam axle for goodness' sake.

They are talking down to their readers. However you cannot underestimate the intelligence of the typical reader so maybe they are correct.
Huw
Is it

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
[the Mustang]

The new Mustang has a live axle because the original Mustang did. According to what I've read in the car magazines, it works quite well, with little or no axle tramp. The upcoming Cobra version will have IRS for those who want it.
Meanwhile, Ford believes that the standard car will have a strong "retro" appeal, being updated sufficiently to appeal to potential buyers while not putting off the staunch Mustang traditionalists. Since Ford is in business to make money, not to commit corporate suicide by producing things that nobody would want, I'm inclined to believe that they know what they're doing in this respect.
[platforms and twist beams]

My, what a dark view of the world you seem to have. Everything and everyone is interpreted in the worst possible way.
A magazine's talking down to its readers doesn't strike me as a very sane business plan. A more likely explanation is that "twist beam" began as a sort of car-guy hipster logo, caught on and became mainsteam, and that "platform" was originally used for marketing reasons, in order to distinguish between unibody and body-on-frame construction. But that's just speculation; I'd be receptive to other theories.
Geoff
--
"Many of the same people who cry 'No blood for oil!' also want higher
gas-mileage standards for cars. But higher mileage standards have
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
writes:

Not at all. You brought this subject up and I agree with you and present a possible answer as to why it should be.

I just think they are dumbing down. Just like Ford are doing with their cars. In America, apparently dumbing down sells. In Europe sohistication and design and performance sells better. Ford tried dumbing down with the last Escort and it nearly killed them off. The later Focus and Mondeo cars are genuinely good cars and have rescued their reputation in a market full of excellent cars. That does not stop the BMW 3 from outselling the Mondeo in recent times.
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
says...

In America, it started with the Media all fighting to get a chunk of the biggest market by playing to the lowest common denominator.

Whoa. We can sit here and laugh at the general stupidity of the average American who has succumbed to the mind rotting drivel force fed to him by an immoral and corrupt media machine but perhaps we would do better to stop, look and take stock of the situation.
Our weather presenters don't show pressure charts anymore. BBC's horizon program now does fancy graphics instead of science. We run like lemmings to buy the cheapest, then spend hours whining and moaning at the lack of quality or the poor service. I could go on, but it seems fairly obvious to me that we are on the very same road as the yanks. It's just that they found it first and got a head start.
--
Alan LeHun

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

We are at a slight variance here because I think today's European cars are better designed and better built than ever before. There is even a commendable amount of design innovation and product differentiation making a comeback. Yes we want cheaper cars but the success of the premium brands at the expense of mass builders and the reaction of innovative quality products from the mass shows that quality and innovation has the upper hand over price.
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Mercedes might be a 'premium' brand in some countries but you're not suggesting it is anything other than a "mass builder"? One million Merc-branded cars p.a....
Same for BMW, e.g.
DAS
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
--
"Huw" <hedydd[nospam]@tiscali.co.uk> wrote in message
news: snipped-for-privacy@individual.net...
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yes indeed. This is proven by the fact that the 'premium' BMW3 outsells the 'mass' Ford Mondeo here. Despite their premium status both Mercdes and BMW are very much mass market premium builders. This seems not to be widely appreciated in some geographic areas.
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
So it's just image. You were contrasting: "premium brands at the expense of mass builders".
You did not really mean that, then. More like "premium image at the expense of little image" or similar. One could also bring the word "price" into it.
DAS
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
--
"Huw" <hedydd[nospam]@tiscali.co.uk> wrote in message
news: snipped-for-privacy@individual.net...
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I think you misunderstand. 'Premium' and 'mass' market cars are not mutually exclusive. Both Mercedes and BMW are seen as premium quality vehicles by customers while being obviously produced in massive numbers. They are able to exploit their premium quality image to sell their vehicles at a premium price. They sell in greater volume than many 'ordinary' mass market cars despite their premium price. This proves that very many people do not have the price as the main criteria when choosing a car. They may have any number of other priorities but price does not over-ride.
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yes, agreed, but you implied the mutual exclusivity. It's pretty clear: "premium brands at the expense of mass builders".
BTW, the singular of "criteria" is "criterion".
DAS
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
--
"Huw" <hedydd[nospam]@tiscali.co.uk> wrote in message
news: snipped-for-privacy@individual.net...
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

But I also said "Yes indeed. This is proven by the fact that the 'premium' BMW3 outsells the 'mass' Ford Mondeo here." which indicates that the 3 actually sells more volume.

You don't say. I do believe that you may have a career the in the teaching profession in front of you. Unless you are already one. Perhaps an examiner of exam papers? English as a second language perhaps?
Huw
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I am also Hon Sec of the SPCA, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Apostrophes.
:-) DAS
--
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

attention. Premium brand doesn't mean not mass production. Lexus is another good example...
Marty
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@u1.netgate.net (Geoff Miller) wrote:

May I add? A 4-door car with a low roofline (e.g. CLS-class) is *not* a coupé. For that matter, just because a car has only two doors doesn't make it a coupé; 2-door cars with back seats once were called "2+2" precisely because they were not coupés.
--/<eith
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
And I thought that was just marketing hype to pretend that there was room for people at the back, to make the car more appealing.
;-) DAS
--
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I've driven cross-country (>1k miles) in a 96 GTI. A miserable experience. Lots of road noise. Fair handling. Rock-hard seats. Cramped interior. (I'm a modest 6'1" tall.) Typical VW. It's fine for short and moderate drives, but nothing more than a couple of hours and it's too tiring.
My old, recently-deceased, 91 Camry is one of the best I've been in for long distance. Same with my current 97 E320. My wife's 97 Camry is so-so. Not bad, but not great.
Collin KC8TKA E320/97
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.