Cars of the Future: What's Next, and How Do We Get There? Page 2

January 20, 2010
2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

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The more things change...

Truth be known, that period during the mid-'70s still stands out as having ushered in some of the biggest shifts in the history of automotive technology and safety, moving from very limited emission controls to fairly stringent ones, from mechanical carburetors to more efficient computerized electronic fuel injection (NASCAR not included), from chrome trim front and rear to actual protective bumpers, from virtually no Japanese cars to full ranges of small, efficient, well-built people-movers from Toyota and Datsun (Nissan), with Honda well on its way.

But it also stands out as having offered up some of the worst beasts we've ever had thrown at us. Lest we forget the 165-hp 1975 Chevrolet Corvette? Or those pillars of efficiency, the Pontiac Parisienne and Ford Elite? How about Detroit's answer to radical downsizing--the Ford Pinto, the Chevy Vega, and the lamentable end-of-an-era Cadillac Cimarron? Of course, that was a very tough time for the American car industry (did I mention, ouch?).

It was a time of frantic trial and error, experimentation, a Band-Aid or two. And we were the guinea pigs.

Which leads to the real issue here. We're in another period of huge, wrenching change. The trials are on. And gearheads and ordinary drivers are once again stuck in the cage, with the shaken look on our faces and thought-bubbles above our heads reading, "What do I do when my current ride starts giving up the ghost? Should I be looking for Konis and sway bars for the Prius? Is it going to cost $80,000 or more for good, clean fun?"

My dilemma (if you can properly call it a dilemma): my 2002 BMW M3 has 105,000 miles on the odometer. Yes, its running great after the swapping in of some new shocks, bushings, plus a few odds and ends like window regulators and switches. With the standard 5,000-mile synthetic-oil changes, I'm guessing it will continue to charge on. But for how many miles? Click and Clack say high mileage now means 200,000 miles. But 100,000+ miles does not a newborn make.

And I really do want to be true to my conscience through good deeds as well as righteous words. So I look around and ask, 'What would I replace the E46 with that will give me the same four-seater utility and kick-in-the-butt pleasure, but isn't going to have the entire Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs blowing kisses my way? Should I ask the good folks at the UN Climate Conference?"

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