May 2018 C! Issue 198 Vol. 16

I like to see the reactions we get with the different cars we drive. Interestingly, cars like the Subaru WRX and STi and the Honda Type-R get very passionate reactions. They bring about discussion, and it always seems that they end up having people try to justify why they need one. Which is fine, that’s pretty much exactly what I do myself. But we don’t get those reactions from most luxury or “premium” cars, those tend to have people asking us about price, and they just don’t get the same type of response. Those just-mentioned hot little Japanese cars tap something in the soul, and they do it across a surprisingly wide range of ages. To an extent, certain luxury cars draw out a similar reaction. Audi wagons do it a lot, but just about any good wagon does anyway. Still, though, the Euro estates hit something far narrower in breadth. The Japanese hit the guys who aren’t even really car guys.

Maybe it's accessibility; these cars seem more within reach. Yet the reaction comes also from people who have large German sedans and SUVs in their garage. And the car guys are often afraid to get into the Type-R and drive it because they see it as something that is just about spot on in every way but is also sold out. Which makes it dangerous for your wallet. At least until Honda releases some more, which it says it would do. Maybe. Then watch the rush. It starts behind us.

Onto more normal cars. We tested the Rush you see on the cover recently, an excellent example of the type of vehicle meant to answer the needs of space, technology, versatility and modern reality. It got a lot of attention as we drove it around, and it was really interesting to hear the comments people made as they walked up. Before they got the courage to actually ask the guys photographing the car. The comment most often heard? “Is that a small Fortuner?” This bodes extremely well for Toyota. 

But that vehicle and those similar to it are really an answer to as many needs as possible but without the dilution, we are used to. When we first laid eyes on the Mitsubishi Expander, the action was pretty much “I really need this thing.” They tick all the right boxes, and they come with pedigrees of reliability and value that make us feel happy to take the chance. Now many of the modern cars are built with multi-platform use in mind, meaning that they are less purpose-built from the ground up for one particular use. A lot of consumers and enthusiasts saw this as a negative, meaning there would be less distinction between the vehicle. It is turning out in many ways to be just the opposite. Perhaps because of the efficiencies of shared platforms and the technologies now available and also perhaps because carmakers are going to great lengths to avoid too much similarity, modern cars seem to be showing their uniqueness as much as anything else. Cars with many similar components, systems, and platforms really feel different and behave in different ways. We no longer look just at what will get us from point A to point B; we want more. These new cars give more of what is wanted to a wider range of consumers.