Future Imperfect?

22 Jun

It’s human nature to be curious about our own future.  We’ve all pondered where life may take us, and we’ve all looked back and wondered “what if something had happened differently.”  If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve probably daydreamed about how your favorite automakers will evolve their products in the future.  However, the future is rarely what we fantasize.  Considering the current line of enthusiast vehicles, let’s try looking backwards for a moment.  What if you could jump into the Doc’s Delorean and go back 10 years.  Armed with your knowledge of next decade, what would happen?
 
A car-guy surrounds himself with car people.  Surely you would take to the local “meets” and internet forums of 2001.  You would prophesize the market in 2011…and you would likely be labelled an automotive heratic, burned (or more appropriately “flamed”) at the virtual stake.  Afterall, 2011 looks VERY different from 2001…
 
Honda fanboys would be in full-force in 2001.  Bolstered by the success of the 1999-2000 SI, They would be looking forward to the next iteration of the SI nameplate.  Like a modern day Nostradamus, you would tell them about the fall of Honda.  You would tell them that the upcoming 2002 SI hatchback was reminiscent of a VW GTI, albeit without the charm.  You’ll remark how the anemic K20 under the hood is from their brand new base model RSX, rather than the vtec screamer in the RSX-S.  You’ll tell them that in 2006, the RSX would be dropped and Honda would install the RSX-S drivetrain in the 2006 Civic SI coupe.  With a limited slip.  For LESS money.  But, it wouldn’t last as the 2012 SI would again become an uninspired bean-counter’s car.  They would say, “well the 2011 S2000 must be awesome, right?”  Nope.  The beloved S2000 is also discontinued in 2009 with very little evolution along the way. In 2011, Honda’s most exciting car will be the V6 accord coupe and that is very disconcerting.  The big “H” from Japan becomes boring and lifeless and the hardcore Honda-files from 2001 won’t believe you.  However, it’s the rise of the “H” from Korea that will REALLY set them off!
 
In 2001, Hyundai is laughable to an automotive enthusiast.  Their sporty car is the Tiburon, but it’s slow and strange looking.  “It takes time,” you’ll say “but in 2008 Hyundai is a contender because of their new model; The Genesis.”  In sedan form, it’s a solid rear-drive luxury sports sedan created in the image of a 5 series BMW.  It’s no slouch either, with nearly 300hp available from the standard V6 or almost 400hp from the optional V8.  You’ll tell them it wins car of the year in 2009, and their jaws will drop.  Furthermore, the sleek ‘n sexy coupe now competes with the legendary Nissan Z-car in both spirit and design.  Enthusiasts may choose from a turbocharged four cylinder, or a big 3.8 liter V6.  Eventually, even the Hyundai Sonata is a promising alternative to the Accord or Camry.  Upon further disbelief, you’ll mention that the Sonata has an optional 274hp turbocharged 4 cylinder motor and MSRP is less than 25 grand.  In 2011, Hyundai is winning hearts and minds, but they aren’t the only ones…
 
Ford.  “Fucked on race day.”  “Fix or repair daily.”  You’ve heard all the acronyms. Their flagship, The Mustang has always been an iconic car, but in 2001 the passion has fizzled a bit.  In fact, Ford’s entire line is…boring.  It’s as if they built cars specifically for Hertz and Enterprise.  However, in 2005 Ford draws inspiration from the past when it develops a modern version of their LeMans winning GT40.  Now dubbed the simply the “GT,” a true American super-car.  Interestingly enough, Honda discontinues the NSX that same year.  Since the introduction of the GT, the Ford line has undergone a dramatic shift.  For example, a V6 Mustang never got much respect, but in 2011 a V6 Mustang has it in spades.  When equipped with the performance package, Mustang gets shorter gears (and a 6-speed manual) firmer suspension, thicker sway bars and a monster 19inch wheel and tire package.  Die-hard American Mustang owners will love the throwback styling and will revel in the fact that the base V6 makes 305hp…nearly 50 more than the V8 GT in 2001.  The V6 is now a real performance car, but nobody in 2001 will believe you.  And it doesn’t stop with the Mustang; Fans of the original SHO may be disappointed in 2001, but you’ll tell them a suitable replacement is coming in 2010.  Aggressive styling and a 365hp twin-turbo V6 is impressive…  In 2001, twin-turbo’s are equipped on the likes of the Audi S4 and the Japan-only Skyline GTR.  Twin Turbo Taurus…it takes time to sink in.  Hell, Ford even the base Focus in 2011 makes nearly the same power as the SVT model from 2001.  Ford ups the ante with the upcoming 247hp turbocharged ST model.  
 

It’s remarkable how much the industry has changed in such a short period of time.  I could go on and on about Porsche’s development of the Cayenne and the equally strange Panamera.  Similarly, Ferrari’s recent FF hatchback has also spurred much debate among the loyalists.  Years ago, such projects would seem like automotive blasphemy.  Where will be 10 years from now?  Considering the current situation, do you look toward 2021 with excitement?  Dread?  Cautious optimisim?  Either way, if we had a window into the future, there is a good chance we simply won’t believe what we see.

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2 Responses to “Future Imperfect?”

  1. jessie palmer June 22, 2011 at 12:06 PM #

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s incredible to think where Honda and Toyota were 10 years ago and what has transpired…lackluster products plagued by recalls.

    • Jonathan June 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

      Thanks very much…

      While Toyota was a leader 10 years ago, their line was still pretty safe and boring. To their credit, they were very profitable…just boring. The 1999+ Celica GTS had potential, but they went 8 years with nothing more than a bit of refresh. Somehow, the Celica and MR2 became girl-cars.

      The Scion line is uninspired as well; very gimmicky. Hopefully the FT86/FR-S joint effort with Subaru is a joy to drive. Maybe, just maybe the commercials won’t be geared towards kids who dress like “Turtle” from Entourage.

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