Car Talk: (non) Electric Dreams

The future of motoring is electrification as they keep telling us. Divorcing fossil fuels and driving off into the sunset with a younger, hotter model by the name of Electricity is inevitable. It’s a snowball that has been gathering pace and growing in size for many years now and there will be no stopping it’s progress. Change and progress are inevitable after all and with environmental and health-related concerns in the driving seat(s), it is going to happen.

But if you are like me and a petrolhead in love with cars and the art of driving, then this change isn’t just disheartening; it’s distressing. A future of humming about in washing machines with automatic transmissions and self-driving systems is an awful one in my opinion. If you’re the type of person who views a car as an A-B appliance in the same category as your dishwasher or fridge then you won’t see the big deal. If you’re the kind of person who wants cars gone right now in order to save the planet then you may be tutting at my ignorant, selfish viewpoint in disgust. However, I’m not here to please either of you or try to make you see my viewpoint.

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Against all of my expectations, Ford has shifted loads of Mustangs here in the UK since offering official right-hand drive models and most of them are the full-fat 5.0 V8. It makes me happy. [image: autoweek.com]
I am going to miss the combustion engine and my unwavering admiration for how it works. I am going to miss the sheer pleasure of hooning around in the Sunday afternoon sunshine with bends to master and straights to abuse. I’m going to miss the satisfaction of working a manual gearbox and getting those shifts spot-on. But I think we will have these pleasures for some time to come yet. Here in the UK for example, the infrastructure and capacity to generate enough electricity to charge all of these cars is woefully lacking so I cannot see a complete shift to electric in the timeframe that the government and eco warriors are pushing for. We can’t even maintain the road surfaces due to budget cuts for fuck’s sake. The idea of charging cables snaking across the pavement on streets of terraced houses without off-road parking is also ludicrous.

Then there is the question of what will happen to the big fuel companies and how the global economy will be impacted by their falling profts. Sure, they can charge us for electricity but there won’t be the same profit available to them as with dino-juice unless they try to get away with making electricity as expensive as petrol currently is. If that happens then we will charge at home as much as possible…until smart electric meters start charging us a higher rate to charge cars despite that electricity being the same energy which powers your kettle and costs you far less to do so.

There’s a lot to think about and a lot of unaddressed issues in a field that is over-reaching and pushing for too much, too quickly. Climate change experts say that we need to hit this as hard as possible but I think it’s more of a case of us being behind in pursuing green technology. After all, we could have had hydrogen cars on the road a long time ago if not for the fuel barons paying to make inventions disappear.

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Faster than the previous FN2 model and beastly to behold but the FK2 Type-R was arguably castrated by being forced to go turbo and thus losing a lot of the drama. [image: wardsauto.com]
But none of this concerns me as much as the fact that when all of this does happen, we will lose the very soul of motoring and those special elements that make cars more than just transport for some of us. The engine and exhaust sounds that differentiate different cars for example. I’m talking about…

  • The raw, metallic growl of an BMW E46 M3
  • The burbling, two fingers to sublety that is the boxer engine in a Subaru Impreza
  • The building shriek of Honda’s naturally-aspirated V-TEC equipped engines as the revs head to silly 9k redlines
  • The angry, pissed-off snarly, crackly-bangy Mercedes C63 AMG
  • Bulging, steroidal American muscle power and the roar of an honest V8
  • The scream of a highly-strung V10 in the back of fighter jet-like supercar exotica

So, as I have already said, change is inevitable but in this case, I feel that it’s change well worth resisting for as long as possible. I’m talking the kind of iron wall resistance that embodies the essence of a Spartan warrior…or Robert Mugabe (too soon?). I get the reasons for the change and I genuinely can’t put together a credible counter-case but even so, I am reserving my right to burn fuel and enjoy REAL cars, not dishwater-dull washing machines on wheels.

I even find myself appreciating dodgy modified rides and the underground street racing scene these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m firmly against the roadmen and their dangerous driving that can kill others but this shady corner of motoring is at least enjoying real cars and car culture.

The next generation of motoring however will have no soul so let’s make sure we enjoy what we have to the max before the do-gooders take away our hobby.

 

Car Talk: The 2019 Toyota Supra is just a fake

Is that a harsh statement to make? A blunt assessment perhaps? Well I don’t particularly care. Remember which blog you’re reading here. After all, I am petrolhead amongst other things and a big lover of Japanese metal at that. The A80 (1993-2002) Supra from Toyota is the car I’ve always lusted for the most but good luck acquiring a nice condition manual car here in the UK without some good money in the bank. I’m not the only lover of Toyota’s winged beast either and fans have been eagerly anticipating the A90 follow-up for eons. We’ve had to make do with countless rumours, concepts and prototypes in the meantime, none of which ever amounted to anything concrete.

Until now.

Except…the car is just a fucking BMW with a Toyota shell on top of it. Now I’m not knocking BMW as they make some fantastic cars and you’d better believe that several have made it onto my wishlist over the years. You will be getting a well-engineered product for sure but it’s not Japanese, not a Toyota and certainly not a real Supra.

It’s like an attractive German lady wearing a kimono and playing at being Japanese. The European facial features and German accent are impossible to conceal however.

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[image: carmagazine.co.uk]
The Supra exists on a BMW platform. It has a BMW interior with that instantly recognisable steering wheel shape/design and large tablet-like screen. Even the HUD and menus look the same as you’d find on a BMW’s. The biggest sin is reserved for the engine bay however as Toyota have again borrowed from BMW, using their 2.0 turbo’d four cylinder or a turbo’d 3.0 straight-six. There’s no manual ‘box option either. The BEST part? Probably the Supra badge on the rump that uses the same font as its predecessor’s. That’s a pretty crappy realisation.

It’s a Supra in name only as far as I’m concerned. A generation of car lovers has grown up on the likes of Gran Turismo and The Fast and the Furious, eagerly awaiting the day when Toyota release a new Supra for their generation to buy and enjoy. This is, in my opinion, a sorry excuse for a final product but it’s not really Toyota’s fault.

Y’see, the market has changed since the 90’s and early 2000’s. Estate cars, saloons, coupes and sports cars have all been killed off by the rampant SUV disease. All that consumers appear to aspire to these days are big, blobby, artless crossovers that foster a superiority complex with their jacked-up driving positions. Ugly, nondescript boxes that all look the same (regardless of manufacturer) and are leased on popular PCP finance deals. Add to this the growing number of drivers that have no interest in cars and treat them as mere appliances and you hardly have an ideal environment for sports cars.

You can’t blame Toyota for supplying what people are buying. It’s business after all. So it’s a miracle that the 2019 Supra exists at all and if it wasn’t down to Toyota president, Akio Toyoda and his love for sports cars, then nobody else would have forced the project through to production. The cost was grave though and meant that money needed to be saved hence the collaboration with BMW and use of their engines. Even so, the Supra is still unlikely to turn a profit for the company (from what I’ve read at least).

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Welcome to the new BMW Z4…sorry, I meant SUPRA. [image: carmagazine.co.uk]
So we have to be thankful that we are even at this stage then. But who is going to buy it? Show-offs and trendy types possibly or buyers who genuinely don’t realise that they are buying a BMW Z4 in drag. Not everybody looks into these things after all and your local Toyota dealer is unlikely to tell you that it’s a BMW you’re buying. Many will doubtlessly buy it for the name or to be different to the M-car crowd which is irony on a gourmet scale.

I can’t see true JDM diehards salivating over this though because there’s no way you can drive this thing and continue to profess a love for Japanese cars. Go back to the 90’s and if you were to choose something from Toyota’s sports car range – be it the Supra, Celica or MR2 – then you KNEW that you were buying a car that was designed and engineered by Toyota with a Toyota-built engine under the bonnet. You could legitimately pin your colours to a flag. If the A90 Supra at least had a 3JZ engine and a bespoke interior then we’d be talking.

In summary, it’s good to see the Supra name back again and the BMW DNA means that buyers WILL get a good car. I have no doubt that it will drive well and perform stonkingly too. To deny this would be pretty moronic. However, if you want an authentic Japanese designed and built sportscar that does the legacy of the country’s 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s output proud then this isn’t it. The sad truth is that we may NEVER see such a thing again if boring shit like the Qashqai and CH-R continue to bring home the bacon.