Commentary: What Remains on the Automotive Bucket List

WOI 2011 26
This…for starters. Photo by Randy Stern

Yeah, I made a big deal about my so-called "accomplishment." I drove two BMWs – big deal! Blah, blah, blah….

It may not seem like a big deal to you. You are used to other auto writers jumping into expensive machinery to drive them around for an evaluation worth 750 or more words. Some are more equal in their love (or, perhaps, chauvinism) than others when they have to forge an opinion based on some time behind the wheel of a premium-branded (and, preferably German) automobile. Some even kvetch about the experience because they drank the wrong juice.

My colleagues are tasked to do these things not because it is a job. We understand that you want to know what we think about a certain vehicle. Some of you would applaud our conclusions, while others would like a debate in a back alley outside of our favorite watering hole.

Over the past eleven years, I gnawed my way to get to the point where I can discuss these vehicles with a degree of experiential competency. Getting two BMWs and an Audi under my belt was a step towards that goal. Yet, there are still other brands I have yet to drive – for this profession or ever.

Hard to believe, but this fact is very true. You might be surprised as to what I have not driven yet.

For example, there is one brand left in the highly competitive upmarket segment – Jaguar. I loved Jags when I was a kid. It was bliss, mind you. After all, what do you tell a 9-year-old how awful these pieces of art were in terms build quality under British Leyland's management and the fact that certain engines and components tend to fail though their owners "lovingly cared" for their cars.

Today's Jaguars are eons better than the past. This was the message I got whenever I am near one. They still have an allure of high style and class combined with high technology and a new approach towards achieving the same cache of luxury dating back to my youth. I may be closer to getting behind the wheel of a Jag than I think.

Another brand never driven is Porsche. Because of my neurologically imposed clutch foot coordination, I shied away from any Porsche because of the imposition of the third pedal on the left. I also absorbed many critiques of how Porsches drive compared to other sports cars of its ilk. Of course, what did I know about driving dynamics – even ten years ago?

Porsche actually has grown out of just offering the 911 and some other co-developed car with the Volkswagen Group. The PDK transmission became the answer for my left foot's gimpiness. The Cayenne and Panamera offers up additional choices for me to experience, despite the purists' call against them. The next time I attend a drive event and Porsche is present – I will make sure to drive one.

Other brands that fall into this category of "brands I have yet to drive" include others in the level of pricing stratosphere that would cause someone to investigate me for some reason or another. Those brands just happen to be Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Fisker, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, and Tesla. I imagine I will encounter them at some point in my professional career.

This void in my automotive coverage is not limited to entire brands. Certain models also elude me, such as the Chevrolet Corvette. You would think I would have at least one 'Vette under my belt after over three decades of licensed driving. I am afraid that is not the case. One was offered to me last year, but I declined due to that evil third pedal that remains kryptonite to my left foot

Why have not I driven any of these brands and models? There are reasons why I have not done so. Mainly, I respect these brands to let them wait so long to be experienced. Coming from pretty humble roots, even living in Los Angeles, being exposed to these brands was one thing. Most folks may have never seen a Ferrari or Lamborghini up close and personal. However, I felt inside that I was unworthy of driving these fine automobiles, even around the block. Years later, I felt a professional obligation to cover these brands for you. My fear and resistance has been breaking down with every drive of a premium product.

To approach these machines, I have to understand that these remaining yet-to-be-experienced brands are not just mere tools for transportation. Jaguars still reside in an air of luxury though refocused on a modern interpretation of Sir William Lyons' original mission under Tata's ownership. Land Rover/Range Rover continues to build upon a heritage that opened up vast tracks worldwide while offering a premium experience of competent off-roading. Fisker and Tesla are on the cutting edge of sustainable transportation. Porsche, Corvette and Ferrari still rule the track, while Bentley and Rolls-Royce are the penultimate word on global prestige.

Someday, I will be able to drive one of these fine automobiles for the purpose of publication. The operative word here is "someday." Could be soon. You may never know…

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