WWRD? It Begins

Pilote di inverno
Photo by Randy Stern

Remember "Toonces The Driving Cat?"

You have to admit that was one of Saturday Night Live's most brilliant ideas during the Phil Hartman era. The concept of having a cat that drove the family car even with Victoria Jackson and Steve Martin in it was something else.

You know who else loves to drive? Me! Yet, compared to Toonces, I avoid any cliff as humanly possible.

The point here is a new fun and interactive way to develop crowd-sourced content towards further engagement for V&R. I call it "WWRD?" Translation: What Would Randy Drive?

How this works is simple. Via V&R's social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, I will ask the question for WWRD? submissions. The submissions are compiled and delivered with three vehicles as called out by YOU.

On your end, just give me a vehicle – any car, truck, SUV/crossover, van of any make, model and year. What I do is compile what I know of said vehicle and give you an answer why or why not I would drive it. I'll also explain why.

So far, I've compiled more than enough to kick this thing off. Keep sending in your ideas and I'll put them on here…

2012 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8: There is a story behind this high performance SUV. A couple in North Dakota had been bugging me since my review of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee whether there will be a SRT version of it. They bugged me to ask Chrysler's PR team about while I was at the Chicago Auto Show this year. It debuted in April at the New York Auto Show and went on sale this fall. The couple finally took delivery of their SRT8 last month and it's a stunner!

The first Jeep SRT8s were astounding. They took the stock Grand Cherokee, dropped the ride height, tweaked the suspension and shocks, slapped on high performance tires and so forth. The crowning moment was when SRT's 6.1litre HEMI V8 was dropped under the Grand's hood. The result was something you would never consider going off road in. The first SRT8s were more Track Rated than Trail Rated.

A year since the 2011 Grands hit the showrooms, SRT followed up with the new version of the Track Rated SUV. The formula's the same as before, but the power was upped in the new 6.4litre HEMI V8 with 470HP driving all four wheels. Plus, a Jeep SRT8 driver has the capability to set the type of driving dynamics one needs – out of five options. When you put in tow, you have up to 5,000 pounds to haul behind you. In Track, the Jeep SRT8 tightens up to 11 with maximum grip, minimal roll or drama through the bends. In snow, you get to conquer winter with all of the force in the world.

WOULD RANDY DRIVE IT? Of course I would! I’ve already driven the regular Laredo with the Pentastar V6, but I never drove any Chrysler product with a HEMI – the 5.7litre included. I'm also curious as to how this marriage of Jeep and SRT truly works. As a rule, I never drive another owner’s vehicle – especially one of this caliber. I will have to discover this through another channel.

OPEL/VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SPORT TOURER: If the name is not familiar to you, then perhaps you’ve seen this – from the front, of course – with a different grille, badge. It’s the 2011 Vehicle of the Year – the Buick Regal!

But, before we say that "we've seen this before" – there is a twist. You see, the reader who suggested this is based over on the other side of the Atlantic and specifically mentioned the Sport Tourer – the wagon version of the Insignia. Let's get one thing clear: The Insignia walked on this planet before the Regal arrived at North American (and Chinese) showrooms. They had a big step forward and have their own interpretations of the VOTY. This makes it so intriguing to check out.

Another point to be made is that I happen to like station wagons. I still believe there is still a place for them everywhere in the world – including stateside. Having a wagon means more than enough cargo space to haul stuff. It also excuses one from helping friends move. Yet, a sporty wagon makes the world go by a bit more smoothly, especially when equipped with my favorite GM engine – the 2.0litre ECOTEC turbo. Mind you, this is not the 270HP Regal GS version – it's the same one I reviewed in May. That's good enough! Plus, you can get it with all-wheel drive in Europe. This would be a perfect wagon for Minnesota!

WOULD RANDY DRIVE IT? The reader suggested I consider the 2.0litre Turbo version with front-wheel drive with a manual gearbox. If there is a way to rewire the nerve that cannot coordinate clutch engagements from my left foot, then maybe I would. Otherwise, that's a no. Considering where I live, and my lack of coordination to clutch, my choice of Insignia Sports Tourer would be the Elite 4X4 (apparently not available as a Vauxhall in the UK) with the 2.0litre Turbo and the 6-speed automatic. Plus, I would have to sample it somewhere between Shannon and Berlin. Having never been to Europe, I consider this a challenge – on many, many levels!

Then again, I doubt if we'll see either a Buick Regal wagon or the Adaptive 4X4 system over here under the VOTY's unibody.

SMART FORTWO: This remains a great idea. No one had the gumption to create a city car that sat two, took regular petrol – instead of electricity – to go from one place to another. It was the brainchild of the CEO of company that makes the Swatch watch, who took it to Daimler and pondered whether such a car could be made. They did – two generations worth of smart forTwos.

Prior to USA sale, I had a chance to drive a European-spec pre-production model on their tour. It had plenty of room and some power based on its weight. Yet, I found a few flaws in the braking and gearing. Since the first ones arrived in the USA, I was told that the gearbox and brake mechanism had changed for USA tastes. I have not driven one since.

It has a purpose, mind you. And, it is quite roomy for a fella my size. If I lived in Boston and never had to drive beyond the 128, the smart makes sense.

WOULD RANDY DRIVE IT? In the Twin Cities, there are quite a few of them running around. I know a couple of people who have them and swear by its usefulness. I drove one before, however I would drive one under the condition that it would be used in an appropriate situation. Like, late night sober cabs in Chicago for drunken friends stumbling out of Touche's – yet, only one would ride…

Oh, and the smart now comes in an electrically-charged model.

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