Happy Thanksgiving! Autoblog is thankful for...
On Thanksgiving, we pause and reflect on all the great things that make up daily life – good friends, loving family, a rewarding career, the usual. But as automotive enthusiasts, we’ve got plenty of car-related stuff to be thankful for, many of which are the day to day tasks that make up our awesome jobs as Autoblog staffers.
To that end, and in keeping with our yearly tradition, we bring you a list of the things we’re most thankful for in the automotive space. Click through the slideshow above to read them all.
From all of us at Autoblog, have a happy, relaxing Thanksgiving!
AWD Performance Cars
I grew up in the rainswept Pacific Northwest and now I live in Michigan, which looks somewhat like the ice planet Hoth in the winter. Traction is the name of the game, and controlled sideways antics are hilarious. That’s why I’m thankful for the range of performance AWD systems on (or soon to be on) the market, particularly the rally-inspired ones like the classic Subaru WRX and STI and its future nemesis, the Ford Focus RS (which I can’t wait to drive). Let’s also not forget the wonderful Golf R. Sadly, as Ford steps up to the plate, Mitsubishi – once a giant in this segment – leaves the scene as the Lancer Evolution ends production. It’s bittersweet, sure, but with Ford on the scene it should make Subaru and Volkswagen step up their game. Either way, I’ll be grateful there are choices like this on the market as I’m sending up rooster tails of snow this winter, laughing like a madman.
– Alex Kierstein | Senior Editor
Old School SUVs
I’m thankful for the old school SUVs that are still in production today. Vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes G-Class are among my favorites to test. I love the brash, in-your-face styling, the heavy steering, and the world-conquering off-road capability. I’ve done just enough off-roading to really like it, and doing the Rubicon Trail in a Wrangler is one of my favorite automotive-related adventures. I spent a lucky Labor Day weekend in a G63 AMG, which was awesome. All of the details, like the rectangular taillights, the sounds the doors make when slammed shut, and the tall greenhouse, look and feel like they’re from another time. I only wish the Land Rover Defender was still in US fleets for auto writers to test.
– Greg Migliore | Senior Editor
Driver's Cars And The Companies That Make Them
This is not a rant against autonomous driving (I'm a big fan, actually), it's a rant against complacency. In a world where even stale, mediocre SUVs can have record sales (I'm looking at you, Jeep Patriot and Chevrolet Equinox), you might guess that the car-buying public has given up on driving and just want boxes to haul the latest load of junk from Costco. Based on the current market most people don't give a crap about steering, chassis tuning, or center of gravity. Product planners could just shovel out more and more SUV variants with no regard to subjective dynamic greatness and still move the metal off dealer lots (plenty have already).
So I'm thankful that there are automakers still putting out vehicles for people who care. Do the new Mustang and Camaro need to drive as well as they do? Does Porsche need to keep offering manual transmissions in the face of diminishing take rates? No and no, if you look strictly at profit and sales. But the enchantment of the automobile is more that just personal mobility. It's the way a good car can turn mundane transportation into something more. So thank you to all the people who still get it, the people who know that some of the most important traits of a car don't translate to the balance sheet. Keep fighting the good fight.
– Michael Austin | Editor-in-Chief
The late David E. Davis, Jr. often explained his love for "the art of driving," involving "great cars on great roads." It’s the last part of that phrase that I’ll focus on here – sometimes, it’s the journey, not the vehicle.
I was fortunate to go on a number of truly epic drives this year. I drove the excellent Mazda MX-5 Miata in Spain, and then again up the Pacific Coast Highway in California. I explored gorgeous parts of Norway in the Bentley Continental GT. And just recently, I bombed around the island of Tenerife in the new Porsche 911 Carrera. Yes, these were all on automaker-planned events, but even in my off time I’ve made certain to enjoy driving whenever possible. On road trips, I take the backroads. During my vacation in Germany this summer, I freaking drove on the Nürburgring. Even when commuting in the winter in our long-term Subaru WRX, I took the snowy routes, to get max use of the Symmetrical all-wheel drive and meaty winter tires (slides!).
Great drives aren’t just limited to your chosen car. Find a good road, take in the view, and truly enjoy the fine art of driving.
– Steven Ewing | Managing Editor
The New Class Of Sub-Supercars
There used to be a pretty big gulf between high-end sports cars and all-out supercars. At one end you had the Corvettes and Porsche 911s, and at the other your Ferraris and Lamborghinis and such. But these days there's a whole new class of high-performance machinery that's stepped in to bridge the gap. It's a territory that was once the sole domain the Porsche 911 Turbo. But a new breed of sub-supercars began to arrive about a decade ago, and the segment has only grown since. I'm talking about favorites like the Audi R8 and Nissan GT-R, and also newer additions like the McLaren 570S, Mercedes-AMG GT, and the new Acura NSX. Heck, even the BMW i8 if you're into the whole electric thing. Making my living from words like these, I'll still never be able to afford one. But with the holiday season almost upon us, it warms my heart to know that supercars are just a little more within reach than they used to be.
– Noah Joseph | European Editor
Classic Video Games
I just turned 30 a couple weeks ago. But I still treasure the little time at night I get to play video games. This year I'm thankful for the for the 3D versions of Sega's Super Hang-On and Outrun on the Nintendo 3DS. These classic arcade games bring me massive enjoyment when I only have a few minutes to devote to some virtual racing on the couch.
If you're not familiar, Outrun puts the player in a convertible with a blonde in the passenger seat and challenges you to drive through a branching series of stages in a time limit. Super Hang-On ditches the sports car for a motorcycle and has set paths of varying lengths.
These two games aren't as sophisticated as modern racers, but I grew up playing them in arcades and on my parents' Commodore 64. It's great to pop open my 3DS after a long day for a nostalgic run of these near-perfect conversions to modern gaming hardware.
– Chris Bruce | Associate Editor
Finally! This year I got to experience what all the fuss about self-driving cars is all about firsthand in something that sort of looks like the beginning of an autonomous vehicle. I took a ride in a Tesla Model S with Autopilot. It was amazing. It took on the winding roads in northern Michigan without a fuss. And even though our test drive wasn't exactly perfect, you could see and feel where this brilliant and life-saving technology is heading.
Tesla created the ideal real-world test. Tesla drivers tend to be early adopters of technology anyway, and the fleet of vehicles on American roads with Autopilot isn't so small that the risks are minimal. Engineers are also using this public beta test to identify the limitations and flaws in the software, which will make full-on self-driving cars safer and more reliable. Once all car accidents become rare I think we'll all feel a little grateful for these early forays into autonomous driving.
– Erin Marquis | Social Media Manager
Automotive Uncertainty And The Future
I'm thankful for uncertainty – the fact that I have little idea what the car world is going to look like in two years, and absolutely no clue what it will look like in ten.
After the oil embargoes in the 1970s, automotive progress advanced at a comprehensible pace. Then things flipped out around the turn of the millennium – in 2005 we had every reason to believe we'd be driving a Hummer H6 in ten years. On a different historic path was the General Motors EV1 and the sour aftermath of its demise, followed by the Toyota Prius, computing advances, the Internet start-up mentality, governments getting out the big tools to tackle environmental stewardship. Throw in The Great Recession, crowdfunding, and of course Elon Musk, and you’ve got The Great Automotive Leap Forward. Many totems have died to get us here. The topsy-turvy world and pace of technology expanded people's minds and made them believe that any idea can be possible.
If someone said right now that in 2025 I'll be able to buy a $49,999 hydrogen-powered autonomous sports car with an eight-speed manual that gets from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, runs the 'Ring in 6:59, can wade three feet of water, clear 12-inch obstacles, and offers a flying package upgrade, I could honestly say, "That sounds outrageous.” What I couldn't say is, "There's no way that's happening," because technical advances might finally allow some bloke hammering away in a shed in England the ability to build it on his own.
True, that's pretty unlikely. But in 2005 who imagined the third-generation Prius would be live-streaming its unveil from a Las Vegas amphitheater, that we'd still have no new Mazda RX-7, Ferraris would be turbocharged, Local Motors would be printing cars, Morgan would be making a very good three-wheeler, Saab would be dead and the Chinese would own Volvo, or that a hugely anticipated $90,000 electric SUV with doors that open like a bird's – I repeat, a bird’s – would help shock mainstream automakers into serious electric action?
So I'm not saying that that hydrogen sports car is going to happen. But I'm not saying it isn't. As Dozer said to Neo in The Matrix, "Damn. It's a very exciting time."
– Jonathon Ramsey | Associate Editor
It might sound crazy, but I’m thankful for auto shows. From the days of trekking through snow and ice to Cobo Hall in Detroit with my dad for the North American International Auto Show, to now, covering them from Frankfurt to LA with the Autoblog team.
My relationship with auto shows has no doubt changed. I no longer try to collect as many car brochures as I can. But the awe and excitement remains. I love the extravagant reveals, the cars, and even the crowds. These days I love the great video coverage we get at auto shows, too.
– Eddie Sabatini | Producer
The Rise Of The Heated Steering Wheel
I was in Los Angeles last week for the auto show. It was lovely, with sunny skies and 70-plus-degree temperatures. Then, the day after I got home to Detroit, the metro area got over a foot of snow in some places. It was bitterly cold, with temperatures in the 20s and blistering wind chills. And I just didn’t care.
Heated seats are great, but especially after standing outside digging out your car, the increasing availability of heated steering wheel is a godsend. I get that this sounds like an extravagance to those of you lucky enough to live in a place where the temp doesn’t drop below 50 degrees, but to be honest, screw you. Here in the north, where we don’t see the sun between November and March, a heated steering wheel is a must-have feature.
The best thing, though, is that heated steering wheels are getting more and more common. Aside from the subcompact segment, you can score a heated wheel across the industry. This, friends, is a very good thing, and if you live within the reach of Old Man Winter is something to be thankful for.
– Brandon Turkus | Associate Editor
Continued EV Development
It's taken quite a while, but I'm thankful that we're finally getting close to fixing the problem that Charles Kettering dropped on the world about 100 years ago. As the story goes, at the beginning of the automotive industry, there were three main powertrains, each of which made up about a third of sales: liquid fuels (gas and diesel), battery electric, and steam. They all had their advantages at the time, but EVs were favored by many because of their quiet cruising ability and ease of use. Sadly, for our collective CO2 impact, once gas engines could be started without a giant hand crank, they managed to overwhelm electric and steam vehicles. EVs are still the better car, but fossil fuel vehicles have now had a century's worth of research and development to make us ignore this fact. Still, there are many in the auto industry who are working hard to remind the average buyer what makes EVs so amazing. So, for both the environment and because it gives me something interesting to do every day, I'm thankful for continued electric vehicle research.
– Sebastian Blanco | Editor-in-Chief, AutoblogGreen
Starting with Audi’s autonomous jaunt from the Bay Area to CES, followed by Delphi’s cross-country autonomous trip and then Tesla Motors release of Autopilot software, the past 11 months have included amazing progress toward a self-driving future. It’d be easy to dismiss much autonomous news as hype – and in some cases, rightfully so – but these three accomplishments are tangible deliveries and glimpses into what the future holds.
I’m thankful this technology holds the promise to alter the way we get around, eliminate traffic deaths as an accepted consequence of our transportation system and hand back hours of wasted time to drivers otherwise atrophying in rush-hour traffic.
While some of the bigger changes are still years down the road, this frenetic stretch of developments will someday be remembered as the collective moment the future came into focus, when traditional and tech converged and a new era began. It’s been great fun to cover these developments – even just try to keep pace with them – and I’m thankful for those opportunities.
– Pete Bigelow | Associate Editor
It may not be a car, but since we cover “everything on wheels,” I’m thankful for the Swagway. It’s loads of fun and proves we are living in the future. Closer to home, it also has the potential to take Autoblog’s video production to the next level. I imagine us using it to produce dolly shots, without the tracks and rigs that we would normally need, and rivaling anything coming out of Hollywood. We haven’t used it for any video productions just yet – we’re still mastering the art of not falling. Our training on the Swagway is still underway. It is the coolest thing on two wheels since the razor scooter, and I call that an improvement to be thankful for.
– Mylencia Gillenwaters | Associate Producer