Right off the bat note this, folks, this is not a best car or driver’s car award, not a car comparison or recommendation (or condemnation) discussion, but just a short talk to make two things clear, to draw the line between two categories of, ugh, cars? automobiles? OK, automobiles will suffice for now – man-made self-propelled machines. They’re all automobiles. Both of these groups that have emerged serve basically one Purpose, for which both of them are very good at albeit differently – transportation. Mobility.
Car or Equipment, what are you driving, is our subject on Your Right of Way! today. Each does what it has to do (what it was made to do) best but in its own way.
Again, do note that this is not a hierarchically ordered arrangement of vehicles but just a listing, especially as each automobile came to mind. I haven’t directed this at any particular manufacturer. In fact, every manufacturer has car and equipment alike. Like I said, each one is built for its Purpose. You just need to know which is which and that should help you decide which you really want as you go shopping.
To my left are Toyota Echo, Yaris, Prius, Nissan Leaf, Rogue, Chevrolet Volt, Aveo, Kia Picanto, Honda Fit, Hyundai Getz, Toyota Sienna, BMW i3, Mini Cooper S, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Toyota Sequoia, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota FJ Cruiser. And so on.
To my right are Toyota Avalon, Solara, Honda Accord, Acura MDX, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Chevrolet Camaro, Corvette, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, E63 S AMG, BMW X6, M6, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Cayman, Panamera, Audi R8, Volkswagen Passat CC, Tesla Model S. And so on.
You couldn’t line up all vehicles in a categorization like this, but this listing pretty much gives us the entire picture (hopefully) plus the discussion to follow. If you drive a vehicle or want a vehicle that falls into the group to my left, what you drive or want to drive is not a car. What you drive or want to drive is equipment. A piece of equipment. However, if what you are driving now or are contemplating driving falls into the group to my right, that’s a car! Fair enough?
Why is this differentiation of any essence? Two things.
One, this will infuse a modicum of Modesty in you if you’re driving equipment and you admired the things I’m about to show you are the forte of car, respecting your limitations. Limitations? I mean, tarmac Modesty. Limitation is hardly a word equipment learns!
Two, this should make you look deeper at how much Practicality (Capability follows closely) and Functionality you could demand of a particular piece of equipment. If you were to conclude on a piece of equipment as car you would demand less and get a less Functional equipment. Needless to say you may not overstretch a car as far as these two key factors of Practicality and Functionality are concerned. Like I said earlier, each has its place. I could add a third important element that is peculiar to the sub-compact “cars” (cars may be permitted now for ease of reference) namely Efficiency (or Economy), engines of superb fuel Economy. It’s one big reason most of us buy equipment as private “car” anyway. And why they’re Excellent for taxi. Nothing without a Purpose!
Now let’s look at at least five metrics that make a car, while simultaneously contrasting it with equipment.
Number one is Performance. And I mean sporting Performance. This is not necessarily in the high horsepower orders, like in the supercars, rally cars, grand tourers, or even heavy-duty pieces of equipment, such as the bulldozers and cranes, but a decent amount of power to match the dynamism of the chassis is definitely what we’re talking about here. Such power, in horsepower reckoning must be no less than 250, with torque no less than 250 pound-feet. Now this may come from a four-banger or a V6, or higher. With this kind of modest (I say modest because I’m coming from an enthusiast world) Performance, acceleration from launch to 100 kilometers per hour should happen in less than 6 seconds, with the quarter mile (or 400 meters) covered in less than 15 seconds, if the highway at the time may permit speed in excess of 140 kph resulting from such sprightliness. You may not always push that far, but you may, and knowing you could is plenty of excitement with what you have got.
It brings us to Handling. The nimbleness and agility of a car are fun. Yes, but they’re also Safety built in. On everyday city driving or highway sometimes, you may not enter corners with anymore speed than you fear can make you drift, or go out of control, but any bit of body roll (peculiar with equipment) is bad for your Safety at any corner. Plus that extra difficulty to turn a corner that you will feel traveling through your arms to your cerebellum, and upsetting it, except you slow way down to do so. A city is made of tight spaces, and it can be fun to maneuver these. A car is built lighter, with wider tracks, low center of gravity, low overall height, a little stiffer suspension (but just soft enough for cabin comfort and ride) (or as in modern cases, Adaptive air, automatic leveling suspension), more contact patch tires, wider rims, more critically damped shock absorbers, etc without boring you with the details of engineering. There’s more.
All (or most) of these are the Compromises equipment makes for the sake of Practicality. Honorable trade-offs, we must say? So, right here we have what makes equipment different than car – a very stiff (or short-travel) suspension cannot carry load, and vans, buses, and full-size SUVs need to carry load. Functionality, that’s what they are made for!
As Performance and Handling have gone together to make a car, you will hear expressions such as “constant driving bliss,” “addictive smoothness and acceleration,” “makes you smile,” “such precise steering,” “pointed steering feel that is connected to the road,” “driver feels at home at the cockpit,” “fluid through corners,” and, what if you can think of more if what you’ve been driving is a car? At the other end, you’re hearing someone saying, “it’s difficult to pull this thing around the corner,” “a lot of torque steer,” “understeer,” “I am working to drive this thing,” “somewhat unstable,” but all of that they can tolerate because it’s either they’re saving 50 percent of fuel each trip, or they’re able to carry 8 passengers on a single trip with all their baggage packed onboard, with two or three bicycles over on top, and ready to tow if need arises.
As far as Comfort and Convenience are concerned the difference between what is generous or what is meager and insufficient is how manufacturers rationalize on your needs and demands. Kia engineers believe the only two reasons you’re going to want to drive a Picanto are Efficiency and Economy. Famous two treated as one. Picanto these Excellent! Should you ask for more Comfort you’ll be disappointed. The basic will do. Convenience, why how long do you want to spend in that thing? Luxury? How much did you pay? Livability? Is it a Cadenza? Excellent car, the Cadenza! Handling? How many corners would you turn from one mall to another and to your home; and if it had to be a Red Cab, why 80 kilometers per hour is best for those high mileage numbers we talked about!
However, if you were to drive a car – an Avalon or a Panamera – you would not tolerate such compromises, would you? You would want soft materials, leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats, lumbar supports and seat bolsters, wood accents, headrest pillows, reclining seats, knee room, foot room, four-zone climate control, digital and satellite radio, HD/DVD entertainment, cup holders everywhere, park assist with parking distance sensors, sensors everything, auto-dimming rear-view and wing mirrors, illuminated driver and passenger sides vanity mirrors, cigar lighter front, middle, and rear, every bit of Comfort/Convenience features automakers can imagine or if they asked for feedback from you. Feedback is golden.
Livability is what Safety, Comfort and Convenience propose for a car. When you explore the changes Ford has made on the Explorer, Toyota on the Highlander, Volkswagen on the Touareg, Nissan on the Pathfinder, Mercedes-Benz on the ML-Class, the direction has been toward a carlike experience for the driver and occupants and they have done great job, each for each. SUVs that do well as car. Of course, the more Livability you ask for the less Utility and Capability you get, these latter being the forte of equipment. It’s the sacrifice we make for pleasantness. All the same a family car deserves a decent amount of Livability! A few automakers have done a super-sweet job at combining these into one car, and if you did some research on what to ask for in an SUV and yet what a car should be you’ll very well congratulate, how bold am I, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Range Rover (Supercharged or Sport HSE), Lexus GX, Toyota Prado, Honda Pilot. Mercedes-Benz G-wagon. And so on. A family car is an important part of a family!
And the last metric, which is sometimes most important, because it appeals to emotions and acceptance, and it’s first to the sight, is Aesthetics – how great (the extreme is sexy) does it look? How great is that? A car spends time on Form. Equipment on Function. Yes, most times a great car blends the two. A great equipment does so too. But, when it’s ugly?
One styling feature that has come to be an automotive Design mainstay is often called tumble home. Automakers push the body of a car slightly away from the shoulders and make the greenhouse slope inward toward the center line or roof pinnacle. This feature both gives the impression of and increase interior space. But it also makes the difference between a finer car and a, ugh, a not so fine one. Compare the third/fourth generation Toyota Avalon and the second generation with more vertical pillars.
Which looks better? Even if you may say Design is subjective, obviously the third generation looks so good, so better. Now, that’s a car! Tumble home can make the difference between a car and equipment. Another classic example is the Nissan NV3500 Passenger van – an excellent piece of equipment that fills a family need for space, Safety, and security. But, as it does that it sacrifices Aesthetics (even Aerodynamics). Aerodynamics can mean shrunk roof and wider belt line and those make for good-looking cars. How much can we say?
So, a car is beautiful on Purpose. Equipment, on the other hand, if it gets there, gets there by luck. Eventfully. It’s about Goals and what each category emphasizes. Or how upscale or emotive do you want a Jeep Wrangler to look? A Humvee? But, you won’t take your Camry to ford deep waters, would you?
So, folks, car or equipment, what are you driving? What do you want to drive? What do you want to live with?