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2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Highline: The Best Kind Of Devil

by Peter Dushenski @carenvy

The Devil is Christianity’s disincentive manifest.

For followers of the infinitely compassionate Jesus, lusting after your neighbour’s new Cayman S is punished with an eternity of soot and sweat in your eyes. It’s that severe. For followers of Gautama Buddha, the shadowy tempter Mara provides a similar embodiment of evil action. He’s also not very nice. Judaism and Hinduism lack such a manifestation of poor behaviour, perhaps because they both prefer to trade in intangibles, but the notion of the Devil has now permeated global culture. Transcending boundaries, Satan, Lucifer, and The Prince of Darkness are synonyms for the absolute pinnacle of perversion.

If you’ve ever watched Top Gear, you were probably appalled when Jeremy, James, and Richard referred to diesel as the “Devil’s Fuel”. Could they have been talking about the same torquey elixir that motivates our trailer-pulling trucks up the steepest of slopes? Wasn’t diesel a fun way of being efficient? Not for European folk, it seems. For them, regardless of religious background, diesel is the devil.

Ironically, we Canadians hold it in the highest of regards. Our finest and most capable trucks, plastered with iconic nameplates like “Cummins”, “PowerStroke”, and “Duramax”, all swill the stuff. And that’s just the domestics, the German companies that sell diesels here can’t import them fast enough. Mercedes Canada could stop selling their gas-powered SUVs tomorrow and their salesmen wouldn’t even notice. And we all have a friend with a diesel-powered Golf or Jetta who drove cross-country on 3 tanks, making the kind of history he won’t shut up about.

Jean jacket-wearing Canucks look at the efficiency figures, feel the rich kick of torque, and book summer flights to Europe just for the chance to see the bloody things. Compared to granola-pounding Prii, diesel cars offer an unmatched sense of Eurochicness and pump-hopping pride. Surprise, surprise, we can’t get enough!

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2012 VW Beetle 2.5L Premiere: Mortality, Progress and Impermanence [Review]

by Peter Dushenski

“ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ”

Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said that change alone is unchanging. Roughly, his quote above translates to: “You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you”. But even if this is quite an old idea, it sounds circular to say that nothing is forever except the fact that nothing is forever. It sounds so obvious, no?

Well, no. It’s actually quite deep.

This thought is partially echoed in Hindu philosophy, which speaks of earthly impermanence, but Hinduism takes it a step beyond the plausible by manufacturing transcendent constructs that supersede our knowable universe and it is these constructs that are believed to be impermanent. This is not to decry Hinduism, or any organized religion, for these are the most useful and valuable institutions yet created by man. Ironically, they also seem to be the most lasting. It makes for a great story, a beautifully illustrated allegory, but it also results in concepts such as the Soul. No, not the Kia Soul, although I’m still waiting to hear back from Kia Canada’s PR people as to the validity of this perfectly reasonable connection, but rather the human Soul. It’s a troubling concept, the Soul, but an understandably appealing one as well.

Buddhist philosophy counters its more widely adopted relatives with the concept that nothing is exempt from the unending sea of change, and that there is no permanent and fixed reality of any sort. Buddhism also adopts the notion of re-birth, but, and this is the important part, once enlightenment is achieved, even that comes to an end. The concept of a constant flux is also in line with our contemporary understanding of biological science. We know that every cell in our body is constantly changing – proteins are being transported, DNA is being synthesized, energy is being produced – there is nothing static at this fundamental level of life.

So if there is no impermanence at the most basic level, it’s implausible that impermanence should be an emergent function of more complex beings such as ourselves. If anything, as we see with banks and governments, larger and more complex structures are in fact more fragile and more vulnerable to changing environments. Just as are we, the beings that trillions of individual cells conspire to shape. If each cell is always changing then so are we. Besides, are we not different than we were yesterday? Have we not grown and changed in the past five years? We’ll all sheepishly admit that, yes, we’ve changed, but unless really pressed, it’s convenient, perhaps even natural, to forget this. By default, we feel adrift in a constant and ceaseless stream of nowness – we feel as if there is something intrinsic and unchanging at our cores – something that is constant while everything around us shifts, swirls, and swings.

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Compact Crossover Challenge: Is It Tired In Here Or Is It Just Me? [Comparison Test]

by Peter Dushenski

Wallpaper paste. Golf. Grass growing. Curling. Watching somebody play videogames. Country music. Baseball. And of course compact crossovers.

You wouldn’t wish any of these exceedingly dry pursuits upon the fatherless punk who picked on you in junior high, much less voluntarily choose to have a conversation about them, and yet, auto manufacturers seem to talk of nothing else. “If it’s not a compact crossover, it won’t sell”, their sharply dressed marketers likely say to their in-office baristas between creative thinking sessions, “and I would know”. Which they do, right?

Customers want economical high-seated hatchbacks, and even if they don’t, it’s remarkably easy to convince them that they do. Most of our lives demand nothing more than a Fiat 500 but wily manufacturers don’t stay in business by producing what people need, merely what they’re willing to pay for. In the year 2012, no manufacturer, from the most luxurious to the most mainstream, can think of a better way to rake in dollar bills than the small raised wagon also known as the compact crossover. Land Rover now has the Evoque, Porsche’s Macan is in the pipeline, and the Ford Escape has been the best selling SUV of any kind for the last 8 years in Canada. We’ve all been convinced that the compact crossover is the panacea for modern life.

But it’s still a very dull class brilliantly disguised as an interesting one, so I assembled two of these supposedly useful devices, both priced around C$37,000, for a comparison test that might actually make sense; unlike, say, a test designed to find the best 6.2L vehicle for owling (Camaro vs Raptor), or the best fwd 4-banger for very small parking spots (iQ vs Explorer). After a week with Honda’s redesigned 2012 CR-V and 12 days with Volkswagen’s redesigned 2012 Tiguan, not to mention several brow-furrowing days trying to determine which one is better to drive/live with/own, this is the painfully boring truth:

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Top 5 Banned Car Commercials (Okay, Top 6)

Advertising is powerful. Advertising is pervasive. Advertising is also frequently ignored because it’s absolutely everywhere. Except Sao Paolo, Brazil. But other than that, it’s on buses, benches, billboards, bicycles, and burritos. You’ve never seen a burrito with an ad on it? You need to get out more.

We’ve been inspired by Hyundai’s latest banned ad – seen above, developed by Amsterdam ad agency Fitzroy and only mildly creepy – to compile a list of our all-time favourite banned car commercials. Here are the top 5 (that’s not including the one above!)!

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Carspotting and Bicycling in Berlin, Germany

by Peter Dushenski

It’s amazing to see what people drive when they don’t need to drive.

I’ve spent the past two weeks cycling and taking the S-Bahn everywhere I’ve needed to go in Berlin. It’s been punctual, efficient, healthy, and a fraction of the cost of car ownership. Berlin is no small town. With a population of 4.4 million, the capital city of reunified Germany (arguably the wealthiest country in the world today) covers a huge area, about as much as metro Edmonton. Yet, car ownership is far from a necessity. In this expansive cosmopolitan area, bicycles are not only given priority by automobile drivers, but cyclists are granted their own dedicated lanes in the overwhelming majority of the city, demarcated by a red tinged strip of special pavement three feet wide. The S-Bahn (above ground subway), which complements the U-Bahn (uh, underground subway), works in concert to provide a transportation network that whisks citizens and tourists whenever they are too tired or lazy to walk or cycle. So owning a car isn’t weird – it isn’t awkward – it’s simply a luxury.

As a result of this intricate and inspired alternative transportation network, Berliners make do with only 358 cars per 1000 people compared to an average of 570 per thousand in Germany and very nearly the same density in Canada (although personally owning two cars at home skews this somewhat). An S-Bahn pass for 5 days costs around $35, which is on its own less than the cost of the gas it’d take to travel the same distances we did, with none of the depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and interest payments associated with car ownership.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the obvious financial, logical, and environmental detriment entailed by car ownership, Berliners have nothing less than an eclectic taste in automobilia. Classic French icons mingle with Autobahn Destroyers, which in turn covort with British Bruisers and limited editions galore. The streets of Berlin alone are worth the trip and being on a bicycle is a great way to see them all up close.

Here are my highlights:

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Down The VW Rabbit Hole

by Tom Sedens (wildsau.ca)

This is a VW Rabbit adventure story.

It’s not so much about VWs, or Rabbits, or adventures specifically.  It’s about a particular Rabbit.  And how it helped carve indelible memories into my life’s storyboard throughout the two years I owned it.

Let me start at the beginning.

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Cars That Shouldn’t Have Ski Racks, But We’re Glad They Do

Ski racks, and vehicles generally used to attack the slopes, are usually thought to be vans, SUVs, or even a sedan. Far too infrequently, it must be said, are sports cars relied upon to ferry skiers to snowy peaks.

What inspired all this? A Swedish pro skier named Jon Olsson, who drives a Murcielago 670-4 SV year-round. With a ski rack on it. He is also sponsored by Red Bull, J. Lindeberg, and a bank, among others. You kind of have to hate him for taking all the cool and leaving us keyboard jockeys with none, but at the same time you just want to be him.

The ski-rack-on-sports-car collection is below for your Friday afternoon enjoyment.

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Tangential Treatise #5: The Jason Castriota Virus Is A Full-Blown Pandemic

Above is a Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) of the Jason Castriota Virus, also known as JCV.

We have something of a Jason Castriota Virus (JCV) problem on our hands. With the over-wrought media flap that was the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic still fresh in our minds, it appears that we have conquered one viral scare only to face another.

H1N1 was feared to be as deadly and contagious as the 1918 Spanish Flu, that which claimed more lives than the preceding Great War. Interestingly, the Spanish Flu was so named because Spain’s King Alfonso XIII was the highest profile patient and Spain received significant news coverage of the disease, not because it originated in Spain. The Spanish Flu is hypothesized to have originated in either Kansas, China, or France, although the exact source is not definitively known, whereas the exact source of H1N1 is a Mexican pig.

On the other hand, the exact source of JCV is Cambiano, Italy, home of fabled design house Pininfarina. Unlike the misnomered Spanish Flu, JCV suffers from no such incertitude of nomenclature – there is no doubt that Jason Castriota, during his tenure at Pininfarina, was directly responsible for the current crop of infectious taillight designs spreading from west to east, culminating in the current pandemic.

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