Flew to Paris from San Francisco yesterday and today Sammy and I met our custom-painted Amarok and took her for a spin off road. She looks terrific, and handles the really steep angles with ease. We are the only VW Gazelles who did not train on the sand dunes in Morocco early last month so - all we can do is listen and learn. Navigation training is in a day and then all the Gazelles congregate at the Trocadero...sleep over under the Eiffel Tower and then - we are off! Ferme la porte d'entree!!!!
This is one of the coolest 3-wheeler designs I have seen so far. Designed by Heikki Juvonen to sit between a bike and a car to augment family transportation options the driver sits inside the thrd wheel. The possibilities for that innovation in packaging are huge. Read more about the car, the designer and the competition here.
I've just returned from the Detroit Auto show press preview dragging a couple of Scion touks, a Fiat espresso cup, a Tesla Roadster Hot Wheels car and a bunch of exciting interviews and photos with me. The show was far quieter than my 2008 deput where the Dodge Ram unveil involved thousands of steers cowboy'd down the main city drag, but what it lacked in rock n roll spend it somewhat recovered with innovation. On Electric Avenue I drove the Chevvy Volt and the Mercedes F-Cell B Class. I am particularly excited about the F-Cell because this is user-friendly and doable hydrogen power in use, and the F-Cell B Class is about to drive around the world, including 3 stops across Australia, to prove it. Unlike most of the electric cars the B Class is all about looking "normal": it starts with a key not a button, it shifts with a shifter rather than computer controls, and it brakes with a hand brake rather than yet another button. Acceleration is immediate and effective, and the backing of Mercedes best in class safety makes me a happy camper.
Merc's SLS in Devo-Fluro yellow is what truly makes me an uber happy camper tho. The yellow matt paintwork emphasises the jagged slashes of the air intakes and side vents and the whole thing just oozes coolth. And its electric.....
Meanwhile I dont want to gush on about Mercedes but their Star Bar was the ultimate place for good coffee and free breakfast lunch and afternoon tea. I cornered chief Interior Designer Hartmut Zinkwitz over an espresso to get more info on Merc's plans to take their interiors in the realm of curvy but I think I scared him - not so their Head of Safety who had a great no-holds barred chat about how our highways would be safer at 130km/hr than 80.
SMART is doing an air-bag-equipped city scooter which looks good, and Venturi had a cool electric "buggy" concept which the designer said was "a sportscar at the sixe of the American user" ie supersized.
OK the results of the Drive COTY are online and generally they accord with my grand plan. Generally. I abstained from voting on the Large Car segment because I didnt find either contestant particularly inspiring and because I was holding a candle for the Holden SS-V which I wanted to compare as a "Big Car" rather than "performance Under $60k) - the SS-V is actually slightly longer than the Omega wagon in the "Big Car" class. But it was not to be.
The other surprise for me was the overall winner. Whilst I had voted the VW Polo for sheer chutzpah-for-cash I thought the Kia Sportage was sneaking through as the ultimate value proposition.
But the other winner was the location. Flowerdale, about 80 minutes north of Melbourne, is wildlife central. A koala bear walked across the road in front of me - the first Koala I have seen on all fours. No camera at hand I have had to poach a pic from online....but for some strange reason my koala with particularly chunky hind legs and particularly long gangly front ones, reminded me of a transformer from Star Wars. It had been a long day.....
OK so now comparing the two I dont see the similarity.....but the abundance of wildlife in this region of Victoria - wombats on the porch of Flowerdale Estate, echidnas and turtles by the roadside, wallabies in the paddocks - has made me determined to bring my kids back for some Aussie marsupial imersion. Did I mentioned the platypus?