10 Things My Dad Taught Me About Driving

When I was a kid, the high school I attended offered “Driver’s Ed.” It was mandatory in my school if you wanted to get a license. You learned a little here and there, but the real learning came from the practice time you got with “any licensed driver.” In my case, that was my father. He took on the job because of his love of cars, not his love for me. But he did teach me a few things.

Fast forward to today. The geniuses who run our state governments have decided to eliminate driver’s ed. Perhaps this is why everyone around me drives like a maniac. I’m just saying….

So here are some basic, simple tips my father taught me. Maybe they would be worth passing down to your kids. They have served me well.

1. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. (Yeah like anyone does this these days.)

2. Keep your hands at the three and nine O’clock positions. It’s easier to turn the wheel over that way.

3. Sitting closer to the steering wheel gives you more control over it.

4. Don’t ride the clutch. You’ll wear it out and you can actually shift better by NOT riding it.

5. Let your engine warm up a few minutes before you gun it. While this is less important given the technology in modern engines, it still holds true to some degree – more so in performance cars.

6. Never assume that an apparently aggressive driver was trying to run you over. Just assume he/she is an idiot and let it pass.

7. If you’re on a long trip, pull off the road, get out of the car and stretch your legs once per hour. Even if you only spend two minutes out of the car, it will keep you fresh.

8. Don’t assume that other drivers understand or respect right of ways. They don’t. So yield even when you don’t have to. It’s going to cost you less time than explaining to a cop why that fool ran into you.

9. When you’re the lead car at an intersection stopped for a red light, count to two when the light changes to green before you leave the intersection. This gives the red-light runners at the same corner to get out of the intersection before you get into it.

10. Speed at the track, not on the road. Don’t ever race on public streets. It’s dangerous for you, your car, the public and not as much fun as racing on a surface designed for racing.

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Help Me Understand The Short Supply Business Model Used By Luxury Automakers

Is it really, really, really that hard for Mercedes Benz to make 400 or even 600 SLS roadsters next year instead of the planned 199? Is it really because they can’t make them or is it because some marketing “genius” decided that building fewer will artificially inflate demand and price?

I am betting it’s the latter. And Benz isn’t the only company that employs this strategy. My title on this post refers to luxury brands – and they are most often the companies using this trick. But even US auto makers use it when it comes to their top models. Try to buy a simple Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca. Most markets got very few and in my town, some of the dealers bought the cars they did get for their sons. Those that are available are selling for more than MSRP.

So what it seems like to me is – this business model depends on the rest of us to succeed. What would happen if we said, we’re not going to play? What would happen if nobody bought the SLS roadster because they know it’s a trick?

The notion that the only way the auto makers can sell their low-end models is to make their high-end models so hard to find and so expensive that they are out of reach seems silly to me. Call me crazy but if you have a nice car, and everyone wants it, wouldn’t it be better for you to make it widely available so you could – wait for it – wait for it – SELL MORE?

And if you have models that are dogs – stop making them. Make the cars we want. Don’t play hard to get. It’s transparent. We can see right through it. I refuse to support it.

I saw Harley Davidson Motorcycles do this years ago and as a result stopped buying their bikes. I remember when Mazda did this with the Miata. They were actually getting better than sticker for these cars. A year or two later they couldn’t give them away.

In this day and age when the younger market seems to be the target for most auto makers, the rules have changed. The young ones are all about transparency, organic approaches and honesty. This faux inventory shortage thing may not work as well on them as it did on generations past.

It’s a cheap trick and one that needs to end. Come on manufacturers, just make good cars and make plenty of them and we’ll buy them. Deal? Yeah I know, I’m wasting my breath. But I had to try.

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Jaguar XK Quick Drive – Quick Review

Refined – Race Car Lineage For A Price

Yep I am a Corvette guy. No two ways about it. But my daily driver is a lovely, luxurious 2011 Jaguar XJL. So I have a soft spot in my heart for all Jags. I haven’t driven a Jaguar sports car for decades and decided it was time to remedy that situation. I worked my way into a 2012 Jaguar XK for a whole day and I must say, I am so very glad I did.

When you slide into the seat of the XK you can’t help but be reminded of the great E-Type cars or the brilliant XKE. Truth be told, the XK is from the same lines but today’s cars are so much nicer than those of yesteryear that I would prefer the new ones hands-down.

My tester was a well-equipped, up-level XK. Now had it been the XKR-S – well you might not have heard from me for a while. That is a track car and once I get on the track it’s hard for me to get off. But the standard XK is plenty sports car for most of us, so for this test, I stuck with the XK model.

The XK is a very affordable sports car as European cars go. The base car starts at $84,500 MSRP – add $6,000 for the convertible.

The 385-horse V8 that Jaguar installs in the XK isn’t going to set world records, but it will certainly throw you back in your seat. The XK is a sports car with a more gentlemanly temperament. It’s not too torquey, but has plenty of smooth, honest power when you want it. The automatic six-speed transmission is smooth, and when the sport mode is engaged, very responsive. You also have the option to use paddle shifters (Right upshifts, and the left downshifts) if you want more control of the shift points.

Handling is dynamic, solid, reliable and performance-oriented. The built-in traction control works well, but doesn’t steal the driving experience from you.

The interior is top-quality. You have your choice of leathers and wood trims. All the luxury of my big XJL is available in the much smaller XK – including air conditioned seats, top-quality audio system, etc. But the cabin is a touch small. As a horizontally challenged person I don’t quite fit. I have no idea why Jaguar made the XK interior so small. Another inch here or there could have made it much more comfortable to drive. That said, most sports cars are too small for me. It’s not a deal breaker, but I wish it were just a tiny bit wider.

The rest of the driving experience is wonderful. There is good visibility. The seat bolsters are adjustable so if you want more support, you’ve got it. Mirrors are well-placed and provide plenty of information.

The trunk is an odd-shaped affair. This XK is technically more of a “sport back” than a car with a trunk. You can’t put much back there but then again, it is a sports car.

The biggest waste of space on the XK is the rear seat. Perhaps your small dog would ride back there comfortably, but no human I’ve ever met could sit in the back of this car for 15 minutes and say it was enjoyable. I don’t know why car manufacturers insist on placing back seats in cars like this. I’m told it satisfies insurance requirements. I’d like the option of paying more to get more leg room. If I owned the XK I’d take it to a custom shop and have the back seat removed. That additional space could either be used to give the driver a little more leg room or the whole car more cargo capacity.

Conclusion:

The XK is all about class and performance. I wasn’t prepared to like it as much as I do but boy – do I like it. Jaguar has managed to hit just about every key point in this car you can want in a sports car. The balance between power and comfort is great. Luxury abounds – especially when compared to American sports cars, yet handling doesn’t suffer. There’s plenty of power. The car corners well. The curb-appeal is simply off the charts, and the base model is competitively priced. If you’re looking at Porsche 911 or similar cars, be sure to test drive the XK too. You might be surprised how much you like the refined yet sporty ride.

Highly recommended.

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10 Tiny Bits of Automotive News – September 26, 2011

1. When you think Ferrari do you think snow? Well you should. Ferrari has announced a new snow driving school in conjunction with it’s new model the FF. Oh and it’s only $11,300!

2. The self-appointed do-gooders at the so-called Parents Television Council have decided that the new TV drama “The Playboy Club” – which shows no nudity and is broadcast on NBC, is pornography. The right wing organization has used this excuse to go after Chrysler for advertising on the show. Yawn.

3. The AARP Foundation announced a three-year, $12.6 million grant from Toyota to support the Foundation’s initiatives to reduce isolation and promote driver safety among older Americans.

4. Remember the flying cars in the old Disney theme park? Apparently they are starting to actually show up. “Roadable aircraft” sales are up. Within the next year more than 10 companies will be selling such vehicles in North America and Europe.

5. OnStar is apparently taking customer service training from NetFlix and this week made a move that appeared to anger the vast majority of its customers. The company changed its privacy policy and now has the legal authority to sell information about OnStar customers’ driving habits to insurance companies, police, etc. Smooth move ExLax!

6. Reports are beginning to surface saying that the re-designed Corvette (the long awaited C7) will take its bow in 2013. GM says it wants to appeal to younger buyers. But hey – it’s us old farts who have the cash!

7. Fortune Magazine is reporting that Hyundai cars are selling so well, dealers in the USA can’t get enough inventory. Hyundai says that demand is outstripping availability. The cars that are available are selling for close to sticker price.

8. Ouch – that’s gotta hurt. Troubled auto maker Saab had to undergo the indignity of having their Saab Auto Museum seized by creditors – along with 109 Saab cars in the museum.

9. Chevrolet will provide Andretti Autosport entries with its new IndyCar V-6 racing engine for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.

Michael recorded the most Chevrolet wins in a season when he scored eight victories on the way to winning the 1991 CART/PPG IndyCar World Series championship. Mario earned Chevrolet’s first Indy car victory at Long Beach in 1987.

10. In the on-again / off-again / on-again / off-again now on-again sage of Saab – a Swedish court granted Saab protection from creditors while it awaits Chinese investment. The company bankruptcy is designed to allow room for the company to grow via a $336 million dollar investment by Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile and Pangda.

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