The Definitive Top Ten Jeremy Clarkson Utterances

In order, starting with #10 and counting down to #1.

“This is just an ax murderer with headlights.  And I absolutely adore it.” [regarding the Mercedes C63 AMG]

“Unfortunately, on my way over here, I caught a cold.  And when I say cold, I actually mean gangrene.  Of my lungs.” [just before doing a ‘sensible’ review of the Renault Twingo]

“I’VE MENDED SOMETHING!” [upon fixing the light bulb in the rear taillight of a Porsche 944]

“I went on the internet and I found THIS…” [recurring theme during “The News”]

“Sorry, that happens sometimes when I say ‘silicon carbide.’” [His ‘crisis’ moment regarding the brakes and clutch on the Porsche Carrera GT]

“This is a hard job, and I’m not just saying this to win favor with lorry drivers, it’s a hard job.   Change gear, change gear, change gear, check your mirrors, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder, check your mirr—that’s a lot of effort in a day.” [regarding driving big rigs]

“Asking the front wheels of a car to do their normal job of steering while handling more than 170hp is like asking a man to wire a plug while juggling.  Penguins.  While making love.  To a beautiful woman while on fire, on stage…in front of the Queen.  It’s all going to go wrong.” [regarding the Ford Focus RS and front-wheel drive]

“Racing cars which have been converted for road use never really work. It’s like making a hardcore adult film, and then editing it so that it can be shown in British hotels. You just end up with a sort of half hour close up of some bloke’s sweaty face.” (makes said face) [regarding the Maserati MC12]

“The sort of person who would go away for a weekend, with his wife, to a hotel, some romantic place, and then spend the entire night flirting outrageously with the waitress.  And it’s okay because he’s got a Jaaaaaaaag.” [regarding Jaguar owners]

“You see, back in 1994, I was living in London. I got a call one evening from my mum to say that my dad was desperately ill in a hospital in Sheffield and I needed to get there as quickly as possible. I had just taken a chicken out of the oven and I thought, “Well, I’ll take that for my mum because she won’t have eaten,” ran outside, and I had a 928 on test that week. And when I arrived in Sheffield, the chicken was still warm. And my dad was still alive. In fact, he died half an hour later. And the truth is, if I hadn’t been driving a car which could zip quite happily at 170 miles per hour, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to say goodbye to my dad. So, as far as I’m concerned, the 928 is alright.” [during the Patagonia Special, regarding the Porsche 928]

And on that bombshell, it’s time to end.  Thank you very much for [reading] — good night.

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If You Just Wanna Get There

It’s always fun when a stranger strikes up a car-related conversation with you.  Of course, in the Porsche, this happens fairly frequently.  But recently, while traveling for work, my rental car was a 2015 Kia Soul.  One might think, as an enthusiast, that such a car isn’t worth or wouldn’t bring rise to conversation.  The Soul interests the everyday car-buying population, however, as indicated by the young fellow who, passing by as I climbed out, mentioned to me that he was considering buying one.

I didn’t discourage him.  The fact is, if you don’t care in the least about the driving experience, the new Soul is a pretty great car, especially for the price.

The Kia Soul is in its second generation as of 2014.  The newer Soul incorporates a number of improvements over its predecessor, but the two generations are not obviously discernable from the exterior, unless one knows what to look for.  The Soul has never been, nor is it now, notable for its performance – the base engine in the new model is a 1.6L gasoline direct-inject four-cylinder making 130hp, 118lb-ft, and noise at full throttle that won’t inspire anyone to love automobiles.  In a mostly-freeway 292 miles, I observed 28.1 mpg.

The Soul tugs at the road with its front wheels, tiny 205-60/16 Kumhos scrabbling for grip.  The tires are so narrow that the traction control leaps to the driver’s defense frequently, fending off terminal understeer in the event of a mid-corner bump, stone, or patch of dirt.

The doors feel like the front cover of a three-ring binder.  They’re so thin and light that I took extra care with them in the South Dakota wind.  And the rear cargo area is laughably small, especially with the cargo cover installed (who demands those things anyway?).

I’ve stated all the negatives.  Here’s the thing: the Soul delivers the goods in every other category.

We’ll start with the sheetmetal.  The exterior design is striking—you certainly wouldn’t mistake a Soul for anything else, and Kia offers it in colors and exterior packages that take advantage of its angular, yet un-presumptuous boldness.

All of the seats sit at the perfect height off the ground to make for easy entry and exit for the average consumer.  The seat cloth in my rental-spec Soul was black, and the seats’ shape wasn’t anything special, but they were reasonably comfortable and supportive.  Importantly, the seams were stitched together with contrasting yellow thread—a small, inexpensive, but thoughtful touch that makes a shopper or owner smile.

The top of the dash is rendered in the usual black pebbled plastic, but it is not unpleasantly rigid to the touch, and it is formed around the speakers, HVAC, and gauges with enough curves and creases such that it remains inoffensive.  The two dash-top speakers are actually raised vertically above the dash surface, and are presented in a contrasting brushed-aluminum color, another smile-inducing gesture on Kia’s part.

The infotainment system is the star of the Soul’s interior.  Instead of being overly flashy or screen-intensive, it makes brilliant use of a small monochrome (red text, black background) center screen and a simple, intuitive button layout.  There are a few menus accessible via the “Tune” knob, but an owner wouldn’t make frequent use of them (the only reason I did was to reset the clock for the recent switch to daylight savings time).  The Soul also features easily accessible USB and AUX ports, satellite radio, and Bluetooth.  All of these were, again, simple and intuitive to operate, and the whole center stack is eye-pleasing with a premium feel.  The speakers weren’t praiseworthy, but Kia offers a fix for that with an optional Infinity Audio system.

The steering wheel includes tuning and cruise control functions, governed by glossy buttons that give a feeling of solidity and positive feedback.  The wheel itself looks solid and upscale.  The steering itself is light, only mildly vague, and appropriate for a vehicle of this class.

Astoundingly, despite the three-ring-binder-style doors mentioned earlier, the Soul was incredibly quiet inside as long as I wasn’t caning the engine, demanding more power.  Kia is keen to point out their improvements to the interior noise level over the first-gen Soul, and I’m certain they are not exaggerating.  The solace of the cabin was no-kidding impressive; even more so if one considers the low price.

The reason the cargo area is so small is that there’s a comfortable amount of space in the second row.  Looking back from the driver’s seat, I was surprised how far away the rear seats seemed.  I didn’t think to try putting them down, but Kia’s website shows that they split-fold 60/40 to an almost-flat position.  The Soul’s boxy shape, combined with a flat floor, promises quite a bit of interior cargo capacity (61.3 cubic feet, to be exact).

So, Kia has a winner with the Soul.  It’s racked up a fair number of awards and comparison-test wins, as well as sold very respectably.  After driving one for a week, I can understand its appeal.  If I were the editor, next to “cheap and cheerful” in the car dictionary, there would be a picture of the Kia Soul.

Additionally, the Soul was among the first of the mini-crossover vehicles to reach the consumer, granting Kia a head start in the hottest segment in the market right now.  While other manufacturers are rushing to get their mini-utes to dealerships (Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Honda HR-V, myriad others), Kia is a generation ahead with a refined product that’s hard to beat.  If you’re buying this type of vehicle, you’re not interested in driving dynamics, so why bother?  The Soul bulls-eyes everything this category needs, and happily ignores everything it doesn’t.

I’ve a coworker who used to drive a 996 cabriolet.  He needed something a little cheaper to run, and traded the Porsche in on a Kia Soul.  And now, I kinda understand why.

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Is it green? … Yes. Very.

The One(s) That Got Away

Get a bunch of car folks together, and they can swap these stories all day—stories about the cars they’ve wanted that they couldn’t quite obtain, for any of a thousand reasons. I’ve seen this phenomenon, witnessed it, taken part in it myself on previous occasions. My story for today isn’t any more special than anyone else’s. But it’s still my story, and the other day it gained considerable, measureable economic poignancy, so I’ll share it here.

I was clicking about the /DRIVE channel on YouTube, and stumbled upon a video where Mike Spinelli filmed himself sitting in his swanky Manhattan Car Club, as he is wont to do. Joining him were a leader of said club as well as a VP of Hagerty Specialty Insurance. The fellas were discussing/forecasting what cars are ready to leap up in value and become collector’s items.

Nothing they said is much of a surprise for anyone who’s been following the market. 356 prices are absurd, air-cooled 911s are absurd, and Toyota FJ40s are truly, madly, deeply absurd. The near-mythical cars from the Japanese “Golden Age” of the early- to mid-90’s are, the fellas agreed, probably about to spike: the NSX, the 3000GT VR4, the 300ZX Twin Turbo, the Supra.

When I saw the Hagerty VP though, I thought to myself, hey, I’ve not been to the Hagerty webpage. Let’s check that out. And while perusing their listings, I stumbled across their year-by-year valuation of the 1993 Porsche 911 Carrera RS America.

That took me back to late 2010, when I was still mourning the loss of my 2003 Audi RS6. I was feeling the pangs of not owning a performance car, and searching high and low online for a suitable replacement. Suddenly, there it was: a not-unusually-worn RS America, on eBay Motors, for some unfathomably affordable price–I don’t recall exactly, but it was very, very attainable. Low-$30k range, maybe $31,500 or so, my memory insists. I was instantly out of my chair, knocking things over, searching desperately for a phone.

A voice on the other end answers the distant ringing! “I’m calling about a 964 RS America on eBay?” I say, trying not to sound too desperate or hopeful, and failing.

“It’s been sold,” says the voice, not without some anguish of its own. And, to make those dreadful words sting significantly more, he added, “but I kind of wish I’d asked for more money–I keep getting calls about it.”

Well of course he kept getting calls about it! An air-cooled, lightweight, special-edition 911? I’m not a smart man, as the guy says in the movie, but I know what a 911 that will appreciate in value is.

I was right, as the Hagerty chart proves. It’s essentially impossible to get an “RSA” now for less than seventy grand, and the super-clean ones are up in the ionosphere at nearly $170,000. So yeah, I’d say that one got away. Real, real far away.

I bet the remorse is significantly greater for the guy on the other end of the phone, though.

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