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THE LA CAR BLOG - APRIL 2004

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Apr 5, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE LA CAR BLOG

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 9 April 30, 2004

Southbound 5 to the Orange Crush Okay, here's one for Angelinos entering the Orange Curtain via the Southbound 5: As you approach the Orange Crush (where the 5 meets the 22 and 57), get in the right-hand lane. It's, by far, the fastest-moving lane. Once the traffic slows down, you can proceed to one of the left lanes.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

Alien spaceship? No, it's the Tarmac Spyder concept car VIII IS NOT ENOUGH April 29, 2004

Mitsubishi Needs More Than the EVO VIII to Stay Alive in the USA Following last week's announcement by controlling shareholder DaimlerChysler that it is withdrawing future financial support to Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, the manufacturer announced that Mitsubishi CEO Rolf Eckrodt has resigned from the company. The development is the latest in a series of set-backs for the ailing automaker, not the least of which is disappointing sales in North America and losing nearly $500 million after approving credit to buyers who didn't repay their loans. 

The predicament is reminiscent of the situation that Nissan found itself in a few years back. Nissan tried several moves to counter its financial difficulties, including some very clever advertising. In the end, it boiled down to one factor: Product. 

Outside of the Lancer Evolution VIII, and to a lesser extent, the torquey Lancer Ralliart, Mitsubishi doesn't give me a compelling reason to buy their vehicles. Their interiors, which (more often than not) look like they're inspired by alien spaceships or ghetto blasters, leave me cold. Why, for instance, they would use three different grain patterns of vinyl plastic, is beyond me. Even the top-of-the-line Galant GTS has some strikingly cheap accents, such as the lack of a trunk lid liner.  

If Mitsubishi is to turn itself around, it needs to go beyond alien spaceships and anime cartoons for inspiration. The EVO VIII is a great car, but it's not enough.   

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 8 April 26, 2004

Southbound 101 to the 110 Freeway Those who work in Hollywood and live in LA know this one: Traveling on the southbound 101, the last three offramps leading up to the 110 allow for through traffic. Take an offramp and zip through the clogged traffic. It'll take you directly to the 110.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 7 April 25, 2004

Southbound Hwy 5, Between the 605 and the 91 This shortcut tip is similar to Physical Graffiti's. Southbound Highway 5, between the 605 and 91, didn't benefit from the freeway expansion that has been completed further south (near Disneyland). Consequently, this is still a bottleneck. It's often shorter to take the longer way - i.e., from the southbound 5, take the 605 south to the 91 south, and then get back on the 5 south. Once you do, you'll be right at the point where the freeway opens up to more lanes.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 6 April 24, 2004

Alternative to Hwy 5 Through East Los Angeles Courtesy of Physical Graffiti: Anyone who's tried to go northbound on the 5 through East Los Angeles in rush-hour traffice knows that it's a bear. This shortcut is physically longer, but it's faster time-wise: While going northbound on the 5, instead of going through East Los Angeles, take the 710 offramp towards Pasadena (northbound). Then take the 10 to Los Angeles and hook back onto the 5 northbound.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 5 April 23, 2004

Chinatown to San Gabriel Valley; San Gabriel Valley to Chinatown  Courtesy of Dim Sum: This is a great shortcut for anyone stuck in downtown Los Angeles in rush-hour traffic, and needs to get the San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, etc.): Take Broadway northbound, through the district of Lincoln Heights. The street will end at Mission. Hang a left at Mission. Mission will turn into Huntington Drive. Huntington Drive will take you through El Sereno, South Pasadena, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia, Monrovia, etc. Pretty scenic too.

Here's a variation of the above route:  If you're in San Gabriel Valley and taking the 10 westbound all the way to Chinatown, conventional wisdom will have you go to the 110 towards Pasadena (northbound) and get off of Stadium Way. It's actually quicker to take the westbound 10 to the northbound 5, and get off at Broadway. Hang a left on Broadway and it'll take you straight through the back door of Chinatown.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 4 April 22, 2004

Northbound 110 to 5 Northbound Courtesy of Curbjumper: Northbound 110 Pasadena Fwy, after the downtown interchange, stay in the rightmost lane to avoid the backlog of cars transitioning to the 5 Northbound which is a single lane on the left. Once you past the 5 Northbound interchange, cut two lanes to the left and stay in the leftmost lane to avoid the merging traffic from the other freeway.

Next up: Dim Sum

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 3 April 21, 2004

Northbound 5 (between the 91 and the 605)

During rush hour traffic, this stretch can get really bad. However, you can literally save up to five minutes of drive time if you have the chutzpah to take the shortcut: Stay in the right-hand exit lanes all the way. It will require that you cut across to the lane to your left just before the exit arrives. And you'll have to do this around three times. Of course, a lot of drivers who've been politely waiting their turn stuck in traffic will think you're a putz.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 2 April 20, 2004

This one comes courtesy of LA CAR Feature Editor Harvey Schwartz: 

Westside LA to Hollywood

My favorite shortcut is from my studio/office on the Westside to Hollywood. I take the 10 East off at La Brea, then North on La Brea Avenue, to a right onto Edgewood Place, to left on Highland Avenue, and then to Santa Monica Blvd. or Sunset Blvd. or Hollywood Blvd. It is so good because most of the traffic is cut off. La Brea generally moves well, Highland has very little traffic and the traffic lights are synchronized all the way to Hollywood Blvd. I always take this route. - Harvey Schwartz Next up, the freeway shortcut for those with chutzpah

 - Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

FAVORITE FREEWAY SHORTCUTS April 19, 2004

In Los Angeles, the average speed on the freeways during rush-hour traffic can be less than 10 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, Angelinos have come up with some ingenious ways to cut down on their commute time (albeit often to some infinitesimal degree). During the course of the next few months, the LA CAR Blog will cover our favorite freeway shortcuts in the Greater Los Angeles area. Here's Freeway Shortcut No. 1: Southbound 605 to the Southbound 5  The fastest moving traffic is in the extreme right-hand lane. Stay in it for a long as you can stand, and you'll gain about a 1/4-mile lead over moving immediately into the left-hand lane. The actual time benefit of this maneuver is questionable, but there's probably a fractional psychological benefit here.

Stay tuned for Freeway Shortcut No. 2.

 - Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

THE NEW CAR April 17, 2004

JD Power does many surveys. There's the initial quality index, the dealer satisfaction survey, and, of course, the much publicized customer satisfaction index. JD Power also has one called the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study. The study measures owners' delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles. 

While other surveys focus on quality or reliability, the APEAL study surveys how much owners really like their vehicles. Often times, cars that don't fare well on the quality or reliability surveys do well on the APEAL study (e.g., many BMW and Volkswagen models). Inversely, very reliable cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, don't always do well on the APEAL study. 

Judging from the buzz on the Internet boards, the 2004 Toyota Prius will do well on both types of surveys. Rich Evans in Orlando wrote his own little blog on his experience with acquiring a new Prius. He captured his emotions so perfectly, that I (with his permission) want to share it with LA CAR readers:

"I wonder how many of you had something like my experience in getting my first glimpse of a 2004 Prius in real life. I had received an email at 10 am that morning from a dealer that had been recommended a few days earlier by Coastal Dave from the Prius 2G Yahoo Group.  I had been lusting for this car since April 16, 2003. Back then, I was about to buy a HCH.  Being a CPA and a mortgage broker, I was happy to get April 15th behind me, and putting my 1994 Chevy Cavalier out to pasture was high on my list of priorities (in the same way that stopping hammering your thumb with a hammer is a priority after you do this a few times in clumsiness). How appropriate it was that on my first day after all that hard work of tax season I read Toyota's news release about the new generation Prius that was coming.  It seemed to me that this coincidence was aimed at me and my car buying decision, which would have to be altered.  More thumb hammering was called for.  More slobbering on my keyboard as I yearned for the morsels that would sustain me during my prolonged period of Prius chastity.  The lines reminded me visually of the rakish Celica. I had been turned off by the frumpish looking hybrids on the market up until then.  The engineering improvements floored me.  I had to have this car - only this car!  I would wait. As October approached, it became harder.  I was not encouraged to hear of the general excitement building about this car.  I loved reading all the new articles that gave new info about the Prius.  I devoured them all, but I was conflicted.  I didn't want anyone else getting this info about MY CAR.  shhhhhhh. The Cavalier was feeling rejected as any spurned lover would.  It responded predictably.  Now, besides the non-functioning heater, passenger door lock, dome light and intermittent dash lights, the driver's window decided to become non-functional and the passenger side headlight decided it would require me to get out of the car and bang on it each time I wanted it to work.  Would the Prius come to my rescue? Wasn't this penance enough?  Would October 17th (the day the car went on sale) ever arrive? Though I had zoomed and rotated that Prius on the website with more excitement than any mere centerfold and with as much lust, I had not yet seen one live.  October 17 came and went.  None of the local dealers had one I could see feel and touch.  It was as if I were reliving my clumsy adolescence when women were equally unattainable.  Wither thou, my virgin Prius? And then I find this list (Rich is referring to the Prius Yahoo groups). Wonderful!  So much information! Horrible! So much competition for my car!  But thanks to a tip from Coastal Dave [RN - a Yahoo group member and , I call the salesman after his email and he's offering me an unclaimed silver Package 7 right now.  I wanted package 9, but 7 has a solid list of options including all safety features, so after an anguished two minutes of waffling, I say, "I'll take it!"  The car is a 90 minute drive away, but I still have a couple of hours of job tasks that won't wait.  Those two hours were a blur, the final penance I would pay before my wait was over.  I would have my Prius today!  Yet, I still have never even seen one. Driving my fiancée's RAV4 (the Cavalier was to be spared the indignity) at something in excess of the speed limit, I arrived at the Ocala dealership in a state which in another context might be termed pre-orgasmic delight.  Past the phalanx of shuffling salesman, asking for "Action Jackson" Quisenberry.  I'm temporarily distracted in my holy quest.  All these people and cars - so disorienting!  He appears, walking briskly, big smile and outstretched hand.  Okay!  We're getting close now.  "Where's the car?"  He leads me to the door and points. Wow! I could have seen it earlier had I not needed to penetrate the school of hungry salesmen.  YES!  It is beautiful! (although in my imagination, that first glimpse would have been in a meadow with a forest in the background - Blame John 1701a [RN - another Yahoo group member and Prius authority] for that!).  Inside and out, I can't find anything I'm displeased with.  Another hour of business to sign the papers and escape with my quarry. Then my chance to meld with this amazing vehicle. Learning every feature, working them, smiling with the realization that the wait was over, and that it was worth it!  To say you drive this car is so undescriptive, so inaccurate.  Deep in its chips somewhere, beyond the scope of the technical manuals is a spirit and soul that makes this car a joy to interact with.  Thanks, Toyota!   PS. To those on the waiting list for a Prius: You get double credit in penance for reading this.  Painful yes, but guaranteed to shorten your wait!"  - Rich in Orlando LA CAR is happy to report that Rich in Orlando is still in love with his new car.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

The Blob Eliminator might have made that yellow soft top look better.

THE BLOB ELIMINATOR April 12, 2004

Langka Excess Touch-up Paint Remover   Car enthusiasts can be rather obsessive compulsive about their cars. Most people look for the closest parking space to their intended destination. Car nuts look for the space that is least likely to result in a door ding. That usually means parking in the outer reaches of the parking lot. "Hey, it's good exercise to walk," we say to ourselves. 

This explains why getting that first paint chip in an enthusiast's new car takes on the importance of a front page news event. Traditional wisdom calls for touch-up paint, but those little paint bottles invariably end up leaving little globs (or blobs) of paint where there once was a chip. 

Enter Langka Corporation. Back in 1996, they were commissioned by a touch-up paint company to develop a "wipe on; wipe off" process for their touch-up paints. The end product was The Blob Eliminator - a three-step process consisting of (1) cleaning the area, (2) applying your touch-up paint (and allowing it to dry), and (3) wiping off the excess paint, using a plastic card (or smooth cloth-wrapped plastic card) and a generous amount of The Blob Eliminator cream.

On small chips (typically, around 1/8 inch in diameter), The Blob Eliminator leaves a virtually unblemished finish - eliminating both the chip and any excess glob from the touch-up paint. On larger dings (like one-half inch in diameter), the results aren't quite as satisfying, but it's still better than having a ding on the car. Best of all, a 2 ounce bottle goes for $19.95 - a whole lot cheaper than taking it to an auto body shop.   

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

FAVORITE ROAD MUSIC - PART 3 April 10, 2004

On The Road Again   If you live in a commuter city, the car you commute in often feels like a mobile, desert island. It's no wonder that good music through a good sound system can play a big role in the quality of the commuting experience. Mitsubishi and Volkswagen know this, so their commercials feature some very good driving music (uncoincidentally, these two car companies also enjoy having the youngest group of buyers in the automotive market). Now the companies offer CDs compiling the music from there commercials.   Are You In? - The Mitsubishi Mix Vol. 1 (Warner Special Products OPCD 1973 Compact Disc)   The Mitsubishi Mix features some catchy rock pieces such as Iggy Pop's Lust For Life (the Galant commercial), Barenaked Ladies' One Week, and T-Rex's 20th Century Boy. Curiously, the Mix is missing Dirty Vegas' catchy Days Go By - the one where the young female passenger is upper-body dancing in the car (maybe it's being saved for Vol. 2). Since Are You In? is available for free at your local Mitsubishi dealer ("while supplies last" as they say), one can't quibble about a missing song.   Street Mix - Music From Volkswagen Commercials (Volume 1) (Universal Music Special Markets 3145609992 Compact Disc)   Volkswagen's Street Mix is more eclectic than Mitsubishi's, with tunes ranging from Nick Drake's Pink Moon (the Cabriolet commercial), to Charles Mingus' straight up II BS, to Master Cylinder's Jung at Heart (the Jetta windshield wiper music) - plus a good mix of techno. Still, there's plenty of pop, including Trio's Da Da Da and Styx's Mr. Roboto. Street Mix is $10, and is available via vw.com.   Nissan 350Z Music (Sony Music Custom Marketing Group A 59937 Compact Disc)   Nissan has also featured some great music in their commercials. Cases in point: The Smithereens' Blood and Roses on their Maxima commercials; and Lenny Kravitz's Fly Away, for their Xterra commercials. This disc, however, is all 350Z. Much of the disc features Five For Fighting's best known songs (e.g., Easy Tonight, Superman, and America Town). The genre is soft rock (textbook desert island music). Hopefully, you can get this disc at Nissan dealer, but this one arrived in a press packet with no explanation.   Satellite Radio:  Sirius Radio and XM Radio   Okay, I digress here. These aren't discs. Truth be told: I'd rather have digital satellite radio than any set of CDs or long playing records on this list. Sonically, satellite radio blows away any commercial analog FM signal on the market. No one can guaranty that XM or Sirius will be around forever, but the initial outlay is mere peanuts for audiophiles (about what one pays for a moderately high-end phono cartridge). The quality of the signal and the vast array of material offered (includes uncensored comedy, just about every musical genre you can think of, kids radio, public radio, sports, news, etc.) is worth the low monthly service fee ($9.99 per month for more established XM service and $12.95 for the totally commercial-free Sirius service). Curiously, I find myself listening to music that I'd otherwise overlook - the sound quality, music selection, and built-in radio data system encourages one to do this. Be sure to choose a direct feed over an RF modulator, if you want the best quality sound. Give me digital satellite radio on the desert island, and I'll be pretty happy.   "Favorite Road Music" also appears in The Sensible Sound (www.sensiblesound.com), and is reprinted here by permission. The Sensible Sound is an audiophile magazine that focuses on affordable equipment reviews. LA CAR's Roy Nakano is a writer for the magazine. Single copies are available at your newsstands for $7.00 (Canada $10.00). A one-year subscription is $29 (www.sensiblesound.com/subscriptions.htm).

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FAVORITE ROAD MUSIC - PART 2 April 9, 2004

Favorite Music to Cruise the Autobahn:  Autobahn, by Kraftwerk (EMI Electrola CDP 564-7 46153 2 Compact Disc)   Okay, there's no Autobahn in this country. But there are freeways and highways, and once in a while you can actually get some speed going on them. Today, a lot of people are into the electronic sounds of techno music, but its lineage can be traced back to this 1974 album. The album leads with the title track, which starts out with the slam of a car door and the turn of the ignition. From there, it's a 22-minute journey that, at times, sounds like the Beach Boys singing in German and playing synthesizer music. The last six minutes of the title track will test the capabilities of your mobile sound system. The rest of the album compliments the title track well, but all of it sounds best on smooth, fast roads.       Favorite Music to Play on a Mark Levinson Sound System: Use Your Illusions, Volumes I & II, by Guns N' Roses (Geffen GEFD-2441S & 24420 Compact Discs)   One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Mark Levinson system in the Lexus SC430 is that you can turn the volume up all the way and there is no discernable distortion. Only one other factory sound system I know of can accomplish this feat, and it was the Nakamichi system fitted on premium versions of older Lexus automobiles. On lesser systems, this vintage GNR set sounds pretty pedestrian. On the ML system, however, it blossoms. If you can get through the entire album without hearing any distortion, you have one helluva system. If you can't, you still have some of the best GNR music around.   Favorite Road Rage Recording:  The Marshall Mathers LP, by Eminem (Aftermath Ent./Interscope Records 069490629-2 Compact Disc)   There's nothing like a fresh cup of Eminem to wake you up in the morning. As you pull out of your driveway, take a sip of "The Marshall Mathers LP." You don't even need a cupholder. Parents of young children seem to hate Eminem, but critics say this was the best rock album of Y2K. There is an emotional rawness in this album that reminds me of X's "Los Angeles" or, even more, John Lennon's first solo effort, "Plastic Ono Band." Critics point to the European pop chart hit "Stan" as an example of Eminem's outstanding craft. However, the real road rage cut to hear is "The Way I Am," which seems to combine Lennon's "Mother," "I Found Out," and "Isolation," all into one potent cup of caffeine. The sound quality of this album is pretty good, too.   Favorite Pyrotechnics Recording: Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd, by (who else) Pink Floyd (Capitol Compact Disc 2 CD CDP 7243 5 36111 2 5)   At first blush, putting together a best-of Pink Floyd album seems like heresy. After all, "The Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall" are albums to be enjoyed in their entirety. This two-disc CD collection is not even in chronological order. Moreover, whoever edited this collection had the huzpe to start some songs even before the previous selection ends. Songs are grouped by waves of contrast - e.g., fast-slow, high-low, old-new. Strange, but this arrangement works - particularly in the car. According to Rolling Stone, this collection received the individual band members' full involvement. The pyrotechnics that Pink Floyd albums are known for are all here - and with the high fidelity sound quality that audiophiles expect from this group.    Favorite Material Girl Recordings: The Immaculate Collection (Sire/Warner Bros. 9 26440-2 Compact Disc) and GHV2 (Maverick/Warner Bros.; 9 48000-2 Compact Disc), by Madonna   A problem with many greatest hits collections that that the music tends to all sound the same. Not so with Madonna's "Immaculate Collection" and her latest, "GHV2." The songs are as varied as her look from year-to-year. These collections seem particularly well-suited for mobile audio, with their squeaky-clean sound quality, outstanding separation, and dynamics. Moreover, the songs themselves hold up quite well, despite the age of her earliest works. Madonna used something similar to Carver's Sonic Hologram generator to enhance the sound of "Immaculate," and "GHV2" (a collection of Madonna's hits from 1992-2001) benefits from the latest production technology - a byproduct of the artist's perfectionist bent.    Favorite Way to Know Which Way The Wind Blows:  8:30, by Weather Report (Columbia/Legacy CK 57665 Compact Disc)   When Miles Davis performed and released Joseph Zawinul's composition "In A Silent Way," jazz was forever transformed. The electronic jazz sound that Zawinul pioneered with Davis took a quantum leap forward when Zawinul teamed up with co-Davis band member Wayne Shorter to create Weather Report. The height of the group's sound (always better sounding live than in the studio) was captured in the 1979 live album "8:30." Here, Zawinul and Shorter play with their strongest line-up, which at that time featured bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius and drummer Peter Erskine. This album has all the favorites, including an exemplary version of "Birdland." Also featured is a performance of "In A Silent Way," which sounds closer to Zawinul's solo album than it does to the more well-known Miles Davis version. IMHO, this is Weather Report's best album, and one of the best for playing on a twisting road and going through the gears.   Favorite Recording to Cruise The Coast: The Köln Concert, by Keith Jarrett (ECM 1064/65 78118-21064-2 Compact Disc)   The scenic drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles along coastal Highway One is a long one. With the right music, however, the hours are shortened considerably. Keith Jarrett's masterful "The Köln Concert" still does a better job at this than any recording I know. This record captured Jarrett at the height of his improvisational popularity. The piece is a lengthy but cohesive solo piano work. It fits together so well, it's hard to believe that he made it all up while he was playing it. The critics have called it one of the best jazz works of the post-60s era. Early CDs had edited out key portions of the performance, but this recent version has all the music.   Favorite Recording in Rush-Hour Traffic: Top Gun - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Special Expanded Edition (Columbia/Legacy CK 6555-4 Compact Disc)   What I want to hear while cruising the coast is a whole lot different than what I want to hear in rush-hour traffic. Top Gun has been a perennial favorite among car enthusiasts, and it remains the recording of choice for the rush-hour freeway venue. The CD's first cut, "Danger Zone" seems particularly appropriate for rush-hour traffic. I put the Tiptronic transmission into manual mode for Top Gun. It keeps me alert and quick on my feet. The 1999 re-release has five additional songs, and the recording quality exceed the original. Your vehicle's sound system must be able to reproduce the full frequency range to enjoy this one at its fullest.   Favorite Classical Recording for Driving: Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3, performed by the London Sinfonietta, David Zinman conducting, Dawn Upshaw soprano (Electra Nonesuch 9 79282-2 Compact Disc)   I have difficulty listening to most classical music in the car. The music demands a silent, captivated listening experience, and there are simply very few venues available on the road that can deliver that kind of environment. One exception has been minimalist classical music. Minimalism allows me to enjoy the music and still concentrate on the road. Among my favorites is the 1991 Electra Nonesuch recording of the London Sinfonietta's performance of Kenryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3. Composed in 1979, the work is about a World War II concentration camp in Poland - specifically, a mother's grief over the loss of her son to a camp. Although the piece is steeped in minimalism, it is by no means light music (as can be expected, given the content of the music). Notwithstanding the sadness and pain in the subject matter, this work is hauntingly beautiful and ultimately (with Dawn Upshaw's vocal accompaniment) uplifting.    - Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FAVORITE ROAD MUSIC - PART 1 April 8, 2004

Live in Los Angeles long enough, and sooner or later you'll spend an inordinate amount of time on the road. LA is a car town, and many people end up hearing more music on the sound systems of their cars than they do in their homes. I've been fortunate enough to get my hands on vehicles with some the finest audio systems sold in this country. The hardware brand names will sound familiar to home audiophiles: Mark Levinson, Nakamichi, MB Quart, Harman Kardon, Infinity, Boston Acoustics, JBL. Good mobile audio reaches for some of the same criteria that one finds at home: Low coloration, accurate imaging, full frequency extension, and wide dynamic range. The driving experience, however, has little similarly to the living room sofa. One must concentrate on the road, and the music serves a subordinate role to the drive. Still, music is important to the quality of the drive, and (in the next few days) I'll be listing some of my favorite for serving that function.  - Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

 

What's the difference between a BMW and a porcupine?

ARE BMW DRIVERS A-HOLES? April 7, 2004

If you drive a BMW, it's pretty easy to develop a superiority complex. Let's face it, BMW redefined the sport sedan category with the 2002 back in the 1960s. BMW sport sedans seem to win just about every Car and Driver magazine comparison test. They've become a status symbol for the young, upwardly mobile professional. They are, after all, the Ultimate Driving Machines.

Given this backdrop, it's no wonder that some BMW drivers think they own the road. LA CAR resident road runner Spinning Blue Propeller posed the question on AutoWeek's Combustion Chamber as well as on Bimmerfest, one of the most popular BMW bulletin boards on the Internet: Are BMW drivers A-holes?

Bimmerfest's VanF says, "Before I was a BMW owner, I remember teaching my then teenage son to drive. We were on an interstate and a BMW passed us going very fast and cut in front of us as he passed us. My then teenage son said, 'Dad, those BMW drivers think they own the road.' I said 'No, that's not true son - they know they own the road!" Confesses VanF, "I find when I am in my BMW, I do not truly break traffic laws, but I do bend the hell out of them!" 

Petra from the Combustion Chamber testifies: "Just this very afternoon, a Silver M3 pulled out near me in what was clearly a traffic violation, and proceeded to pass me at a tremendous pace shortly before stopping hurriedly so as not to miss the gas station he was headed to. Something inside me said at that moment, 'Do people think that, just because they have 330 horsepower, they can drive dangerously?'" Adds Petra, "Now that I think about it, I must come to the conclusion that not all M3 drivers are pricks, such as this one. But the BMW brand does seem to almost magnetically attract all types of pricks, jackasses and abusers of public roads, does it not?"

Bimmerfest's Jimmy325 confesses, "A lot of BMW owner's that I know are a-hole drivers. I am one too. I've driven with several as well. I try to take my a-hole-ness to the track in a more contained and safe-er (relatively speaking) environment. Nothing wrong with being an a-hole when not endangering other traffic on the road. Heeee."

Mgorgel of Bimmerfest also confides, "Well I have some friends that would qualify as a-holes. One friend has a new 745Li and he uses the 405 as his private racing track, doing 100 mph and passing left and right flashing his lights (while driving with his fogs on). The other has a 2002 M3, and his average mph does not come under 70 mph. I drive very fast at times and pass left and right too, but I will always let the guy in the 5-Series go in front of me :-)"

Of course, BMW doesn't not have a monopoly on A-holes, and most are probably very courteous drivers. Several on the boards pointed to SUV drivers as being just as bad or worse. Bimmerfest's Bten laments that he drives an SUV that happens to be a BMW. "Guess I (really) am one." 

But, which came first? The chicken or the egg? Bimmerfest's 1RADBMR wants to point out, "I definitely drive more aggressively, but I blame it on the car. Those who can, do...yada...yada...yada. Otherwise, I'm a really, really nice guy." - Roy Nakano

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Volkswagen wants $95,000 for the W12 Phaeton. Bicaji's sells it for $50.

WHEN YOU CAN'T AFFORD THE REAL THING April 5, 2004

The Volkswagen Phaeton is one of the nicest cars that LA CAR staff have had the pleasure to sit in. It's one of the few sedans that truly can be called a work of art - particularly the interior. The fit and finish of the metal, wood, and leather that make up the interior is unmatched in its class. 

I'd like to own one, but for the fact that I don't have $65,000 in loose change (the W12 version is even more expensive, at $95,000). So, I did the next best thing. I picked up a 1:18 scale model of the Phaeton at Bicaji's Model Collection store in the Westfield Shoppingtown Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia, CA. Their 1:18 Phaeton is also a work of art, and also has a very impressive interior - right down to the soft-to-the-touch grey carpeting. 

The model car collection at Bicaji's is breathtaking. Historic race cars, import tuners, exotic sports cars, lowriders, concept cars - you name it; chances are, they have it. According to store manager Bill Tran, their most popular models are the pimped out Cadillac Escalades and like vehicles that grace the covers of DUB magazine (I picked up one of those too). 

Bicaji's is located at 400 South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia. You might want to call them to see if they have the car of your dreams (626-445-4566). Or, check out their website at www.bicaji.com

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

LA CAR's long-term Prius at the South Coast AQMD facility.

HYBRIDS & CALIFORNIA'S HOV LANES April 4, 2004

This tip comes courtesy of Sev MacPete of the Yahoo Toyota-Prius group: "Everyone in California who supports hybrid vehicle use of the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes by driver only-occupied vehicles should comment on the legislation before April 12, when Assembly Bill 2628 will be discussed in the Transportation Committee.  It is easy to do by going to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/legcomment and entering Assembly and Bill Number 2628.  Check off support and add a comment if you like."

The Bill, introduced by California State Assembly Member Fran Pavley (principal coauthor, Assembly Member George Nakano), will amend the state's vehicle code to allow owners of certain hybrid vehicles to travel on the carpool lanes even without a carpool. State law already allows CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and pure electric cars that meet the Federal government's ILEV (Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle) standards (you must acquire an AB71 decal from your local Department of Motor Vehicles office before you can actually travel in single-occupant mode). AB2628 proposes to extend this privilege to vehicles that (1) meet the state's advanced technology partial zero-emission vehicle (AT PZEV) standard for pollutant emissions, and (2) have an EPA highway rating of 45 miles per gallon or higher or are gas/electric hybrid vehicles produced during the 2004 model year (or newer) and carry a combined EPA rating of 45 mpg.    

Under this bill, three hybrid vehicles will qualify for single-occupant HOV lane status: The 2004 Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Insight. What's the rationale? It's partly an incentive to wean Californians off of their high SUV (or other high carb vehicle) diet, and over to low emissions, high-fuel economy hybrids. It's also partly to encourage manufacturers to build such vehicles. 

There's one catch to this bill: The DMV won't start issuing HOV decals to hybrid owners until the Federal government acts to approve the use of HOV lanes by single-occupant hybrid vehicles. The green light for that is currently riding on the energy bill now being debated in Congress. AB 2628 will put California in a standby mode: Once the Feds act on it, the state's DMV workers will be ready to issue those decals. In the meantime, you can take Sev's advice and go to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/legcomment

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE April 3, 2004

That was LA CAR's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, it became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's spirit - much like a journal. Now, the diary goes daily. LA CAR has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With the blog, we give you a reason to come back virtually every day, as we will be posting new blog entries virtually every day or two (well, there will be occasional vacation breaks).

So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to the latest blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey into the cars and culture of Southern California.  

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor To go to the current blog, click the LA CAR Blog link on the homepage.  

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