When Csaba Csere left Car & Driver last month, John Owens, Popular Photography's Editor-in-Chief, became the buff book's interim boss. We've just been leaked his rough draft "Editor's Column." One word describes it: Horrifying.
We've had a number of reservations about Hachette's choice to put a non-car guy at the helm of Car & Driver, their august money-maker. Now we have only one — and it's this rough draft of his first Editor's Column (called the "Steering Column" under Csere) we've procured by way of all sorts of nefarious means (Ed.- it was anonymously e-mailed to us). Frankly, we've seen better copy coming from our interns than this loathsome attempt at a listicle of "FIVE CARS THAT SHOULD BE STARS." We've kept editorializing to a minimum below because this piece of hackneyed and schmaltzy dreck speaks for itself.
File Name: EditorColumn4.doc
Date Due: Jan 15
Date Submitted: Jan 8
Assigned Count: 950-975 words; 5600-5700 characters
Actual Count: 810 words as submitted
[TITLE] THE GREAT UNDER-RATED
[BLURB] FIVE CARS THAT SHOULD BE STARS.
SUGGESTED CALLOUT ????
When the topic is iron, aluminum, and sheetmetal, the know-it-alls are like talking dolls. Pull the string, and they're yammering about the all-stars. BMW, Mercedes, Por-sche, Zs, blah, blah, blah. Thanks, but it's all been said before. So I'll pass on this conver-sation and concentrate on emptying the nut bowl.
What would be interesting is to hear someone stand up for Hyundai, or heaven forbid, Pontiac. Because to do that, you'd really have to know cars.
Interestingly, those very names jumped to the top when the talk in the Car and Driver offices recently turned to under-rated cars. Vehicles we know and love that haven't caught on with car-buyers the way we be-lieve they should.
"What's under-rated? Anything Korean or American," quipped Mike Dushane, Executive Editor of CarandDriver.com.
As you can see by our list of overlooked gems, there's truth in that. Though each one isn't a hard-core enthusiast car, each de-serves more respect.
Pontiac G8 GT
This Aussie import has nothing left to prove. Yet where's the love?
It beat the Dodge Charger R/T in our shootout (June 2008). With the optional 6.0-liter V-8, it's a rocket off the line (0-60 in 5.2 sec). A braking champ, too, with stop-ping power that rivals a tailhook on the flight deck. Inside are the best seats of any GM car.
"And It drives like an old BMW," says Associate Editor Tony Quiroga.
A backhanded compliment?
Not at all," insists G8 fan Quiroga. "That's better than 99% of the cars on the road."
Okay, its radio is so awful that the INS should deport it for crimes against ears, but the G8 remains one helluva deal, selling in the $30k range set up the way a serious driver would want.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Here in the crossover class, the Nissan Murano casts a big shadow. The Nissan did, after all, outscore the Santa Fee and all other contenders in our crossover shootout last year (June 2008).
We like the stiffness and snap of the Murano's handling, but we all have neighbors who prefer a cushy, luxe-car ride, and for them, the Santa Fe is the way to go. It also will save them a few bucks over the Murano (granted in the $32k Limited AWD dress, only a few). Another practical consideration: unlike the Murano, the Santa Fe can be fitted with third- row seats.
Perhaps the Santa Fe will get closer to the spotlight thanks to the widespread praise for Hyundai's new Lexus-challenging sedan, the Genesis. Or, more than likely, this refined but decidedly unglamorous family-hauler will end of up in the shadow of its sexy new sister.
Infinity M45 Sport
How can you whoop a BMW (550i), a Mercedes (E550), and a Lexus (GS450h), yet still not achieve top-of-mind greatness? Dunno, but the M45's done it. Granted, the whooping took place in our November 2006 issue, but the fundamentals that brought the M45 to victory remain: good looks, lots of performance, and more than those other mar-ques give you for 50 grand. Its 0-60, 0-100, and 0-130 times are (at 5.9, 14.5, and 28.4 sec, respectively) the slowest of its peer group. Its braking and steering, however, are enviable. And let's not forget the theme of the $50k bargain.
"You get a V-8 for a V-6 price," says Quiroga. "In fact, with today's 5-Series, you'd only get an inline six for that money."
"This one flies under the radar," says Ex-ecutive Editor Mark Gillies, "but it's a terri-fic little people-mover.
Six people in all, along with assorted soc-cer balls, hockey skates, or paraphernalia for a Wicken sacrifice.
"Dirt cheap," comes a chorus from the Tech Department. Especially when com-pared with the larger Nissan Quest ($18k vs. $27k, base).
"And it's available with a manual trans-mission," adds Erik Johnson, website Senior Editor. "It's the only vehicle with sliding doors that has that option."
Add to that a spunky, 2.3-liter inline-4, and you've got (oxymoron alert!) a car-enthusiast's minivan.
Ford Fusion SE
Okay, it finished third in this month's shootout against the Mazda 6i and Honda Accord EX-L ("Hidden Talents," page xxx). But as Contributing Editor Barry Winfield says in the article, "Even if we had 10 cars in this comparo, the Fusion would still be in the top three." Surprising for the progeny of Detroit? Not for those of us who've been looking closely.
"The chassis, the drivetrain, they're all very sound," says shootout writer Tony Swan. "And terrific quality." Fit, finish, en-gineering. Take that, American-car skeptics.
The suspension isn't enthusiast taut, but it's great for those craving transportation that's comfortable, low-cost ($tk), and fuel-miserly (24 mpg in our winding-road test runs). It's far from perfect (Swan hates the chrome), but the latest version of the Fusion is an exceptional mid-sized car. Turn to the shootout for all the details.
Look Hachette, can we talk over here at camera three for a moment? OK, we know you needed someone to run the show because daddy went off to war, and we couldn't leave little Mark in charge of the family and the family farm. For god's sake, he's not even
tall old enough to reach the pedals of the tractor! So we know you had to put someone in charge.
But seriously, did you have to put the town's crazy drama teacher in the master bedroom? Because now that daddy's not coming back, he thinks he's daddy and he's putting on a small-town version of "Starlight Express." Next thing you know, he starts imagining he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, the house is his, and he's sending Mark off to boarding school so he can have the rest of the kids playing dress up in his "special" plays. We just can't have that. Next time, if you're not going to immediately find mommy a new daddy who's capable, can you at least leave someone to babysit who's not going to start crapping in the kitchen sink? We mean, come on, we'll loan you an intern if you need someone. OK, thanks. Now go back to media moguling or something.