Monday, 24 January 2011

USA special: Hummer H2

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a lot of cultural nuances between Europe and America. Some things that are OK to Americans are vulgar to Europeans, and some things that are sophisticated to European are too pompous for Americans.

However, one that is vulgar to Europeans but at the same time getting it absolutely spot on is the Hummer. The civilian Hummer was the brainchild of the greatest American hero of them all, the Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. You don't see many Hummers in the UK, but if you do they are likely to be long and pink, and noramlly full of boozed up 30-something women with the token gay man thrown in, drinking champagne while screaming at passing pedestrians. And they say American tastes are vulgar.

However, the Americans, in this instance, got class, and instead use their Hummers as family cars. They don't hang out the windows, or drink champagne or anything like that. No, in the USA, the Hummer is as civilised as they come.

And the Hummer is perfect. It is big, it is brash, it is brightly coloured and it does stand out. But in a way that suggests that the peasant in the Corsa may wish to get out of the way very quickly, or risk being crushed to death. Of course, everyone knows that wouldn't happen, but the merest hint that the Hummer could crush all oncoming traffic without even stopping for a breather is enough to ensure that your road presence is felt, and the roads remain a breeze to drive along.

Of course, the styling suits every man in the world. The only problem is, after everybody taking you seriously on your way to the all-important business meeting, noone will take you seriously when you step out of it.

So, the Hummer is a fantastic car, but could you drive one without looking like a big kid? No.

Monday, 17 January 2011

US Special: Pontiac Aztek

New car releases are a little bit thin on the ground just now, so I thought rather than leave the blog languishing with no new posts, I would take this opportunity for a series of reviews of some cars I had the fortune and misfortune of seeing on a recent trip to the "Good 'Ol US of A".

You see, the thing is, Americans are simple people. They aren't bothered by sophisticated things like cappucinos, high fashion and decent haircuts. No, they'll make do with the drain water they call coffee, Walmart clothes and mullets. In fairness, it's not everyone in America who is like this, but you just don't see them outside of America.

Similarly, there are certain cars you don't see outside of America. The Pontiac Aztek, for example. Driving in America is very different to Europe; the roads are straight and monotonous, so there's no need for decent steering. The speed limits are ridiculously low, so there's no need for decent brakes or acceleration. There's no shortage of space, so the lanes are 12 feet wide, and 8 of them. Some of the roads are hundreds of miles long before a gentle turn appears, so you may need to stop at a McDonald's or three on the way and therefore there are thousands of them, everywhere, just off the interstate roads.

If you go to shopping malls, you might lose your car in the seas of thousands of identical SUVs. So Pontiac came up with a solution - create a car so ugly that you'll never lose it. That's the only way that such a car could come into existence, through the mind of someone deliberately trying to make an unmistakable, ugly car. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the premise of the whole American car design industry, since there are thousands of other hideous cars available for purchase, although not many as ugly as this. The Pontiac Aztek is a monstrosity, and doesn't even manage to blend in surrounded by what must be the ugliest car market in the world.