Lexus: the pursuit of irony


I want to be the first bike blogger to jump on this story. The twilight blogging world is all over it, evidently, but the bike world has been slow to catch up on this amazing development.

Evidently, Robert Patterson of some sort of Vampire/Warewolf mashup movie series bought a bike while he was working in Louisiana on the latest installment of said V/W film. This is big news, resulting in articles with titles like, “Robert Pattinson buys a $1,000 bike at a Louisiana bike shop – he wants to go off-roading on set!” Here’s some choice excerpts:

So what went into picking one of the finest bikes available? According to the manager, Rob “wanted something for off-road, as well as on the road.”

Twilight Saga superstar Robert Pattinson recently purchased a very expensive bicycle.

Robert apparently dropped by the store on a very quiet Sunday afternoon.

Here’s the bike he bought:

So, $1,000 makes for a very expensive bicycle?

I wonder if he noticed its lack of gears and thought he was getting a fixie?

In other news….

Lexus recently wrapped up an ad campaign that perfectly illustrates the stupidity of car advertising.

According to the New York Times, these billboards were placed in 26 cities along various highways, with each billboard disparaging the adjacent highway. e.g.: “Overqualified for the 101,” “Overqualified for I-35,” etc. Somehow, we never saw “Overqualified for the 6-10 Connector” here in RI. For decades, automotive TV ads have shown cars driving through windy, mountain roads, or over lush, green hills, and occasionally through city streets strangely devoid of traffic. Of course, 99% of your miles will be spent on city streets or overcrowded highways. This billboard finally tells the truth: You will not enjoy driving this car if you drive it the same places you are currently driving.

Much attention has been paid to the SUV explosion of the 90’s and 00’s. Essentially, many people bought off-road vehicles that they then drove only on city streets. These vehicles also happened to be gigantic and thus capable of carrying  7 people and all of their stuff – which their owners did about once or twice per year. Admittedly, this trend has been somewhat reversed. However, less attention has been paid to the fact that along with gigantic, off-road vehicles, American are now driving the equivalent of race cars on public highways. The Lexus IS 350 featured in the billboard is advertised as being capable of going from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds and features paddle shifters – allowing the driver to change gears without reaching down to a stick shift. A decade ago, paddle shifters were only available on Porsches and Ferraris. A decade before that, they were only available on F1 race cars.* These days, you can get them on a Honda Fit. I thought I might do a little research on performance numbers for various cars 20 to 40 years ago compared to performance today. I went to the Car and Driver website and stumbled upon this gem instead:

1971 De Tomaso Pantera

Could there be a more perfect representative of the 1970s mid-engined sports car craze than the Pantera?

When it debuted, we felt the Pantera was a match for any other sports car in its class. Nowadays, it may not be able to keep pace with a Porsche Cayman (or even a Honda Odyssey) on a track, but it’s still a damn fine car to drive, with precise steering, crisp turn-in, and that rumbling V-8 singing soulful Motown music.

That’s right, today’s minivan has all the performance of a 1971 mid-engined sports car.

Okay, my sense of journalistic integrity won’t let that sentence stand. The Odyssey has a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds, while the Pantera could do it in 5.5 seconds. However, the Odyssey has a top speed of 120 and a 248 horsepower engine.  The Pantera could hit 160 from its 310 hp engine.

All right, I’m comparing apples and oranges, so let’s put some actual apples together. In this case, the Honda Civic will be our apples

1991 Honda Civic: 1.4 Liter, 4 cylinder engine producing 97 horsepower. 31 MPG city, 35 MPG highway. 2,252 pounds

2011 Honda Civic: 1.8 Liter, 4 cylinder engine producing 140 horsepower. 25 MPG city, 36 MPG highway. 2,687 pounds

Much of that added weight came in the form of various safety features and the rest of it is because the car is significantly larger than it was in 1991. The horsepower to engine displacement ratio is significantly higher in the 2011 model, and yet the fuel efficiency is barely improved for highway driving and markedly worse for city driving.

A reporter for this NY Times story about the Lexus billboards spent most of her time discussing the billboards’ grammatical faux-pas with regards to use of the definite article for highways such as “the 580.” However, she did get this choice quote from a Lexus spokeswoman:

“With its available F Sport-tuned suspension and race-inspired paddle shifters, the IS allows for incredible handling,” she wrote in an e-mail, adding, “In the IS, the only thing that may limit your exhilarating drive is the road you are on.”

So, you’d better move further out into the country so you’ll have the chance to enjoy some of that performance for a few minutes before you get to the interstate and start slogging through traffic on the way to work. Just hope that no one else moves near you or else you’ll have to deal with the traffic and then move further out again.

Back to the Honda Fit with paddle shifters – the dang things have been showing up all over the place lately. As mentioned previously, it all started with Formula 1 race cars:

they're tucked away back there, I promise

Then moved on to high-end sports cars like this Ferrari:

crabon fibre!

Next up, luxuy sports grand tourers (or whatever you want to call a BMW M3)

The humble econo-box Honda Fit.

You never know where these ridiculous “race-inspired” things will show up next.

Like on a road bike. One that costs just a little more than a movie star’s impulse buy.

* Okay, so the paddle shifters started showing up in F1 cars in 1994-95, not 1990, close enough.


One response to “Lexus: the pursuit of irony

  1. I’m a geek who likes to experiment. It’d be pretty easy to put the deraileur under computer control. Sensing the chain position though, that’s another matter entirely. But you could solve it optically, or use a pot to sense the movement of the chain.

    So a geek could modify a basic bike to do strange things too.

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