New Cars | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

Keeping a '92 Volvo 240 Wagon on the Road & Other Automotive & DIY Musings

Lost in the Dashboard


I suppose I’m lucky to have never had to deal with the mess that is current automotive dashboard design. While the 240s climate controls look like they fell out of a strip mall Radio Shack in 1982, at least you can use them by touch when your dash lights are blown. As touch screens take over the dashboard in many new cars, it seems there is rising frustration from drivers being forced to dive deep into menu structures just to adjust their heated seats.

Joe Sharkey in the NY Times relates his recent experience driving a rental Volvo XC60:

The electronic dashboard interface — the controls for everything other than actually making the car go — was baffling. As I drove, I tried to figure out unfathomable symbols and notices, from “Brian’s iPhone,” which for some reason flashed on the dashboard screen whenever I tried in vain to regulate the air-conditioner, to an elaborately designed radio that resisted my efforts to change the channel.

So the guy who passed me on the 105 tapping his horn and waving to signal that my rear windshield wiper remained on, even though it was a sunny day, should know that hip-hop music also was blasting inside my car in maddening synchronization with the wipers that I couldn’t turn off.

The Sad Sack pictured here is enjoying the latest innovation from Apple: a “Digital Dash” that tracks his head and eye movements as he navigates to the closest liquor store. It’s part of a patent application for a giant touch-screen dashboard powered by iOS 7. While the screen will have physical ridges and indentations, it will essentially absorb all physical knobs and switches into its virtual maw. Apple realizes that tactility is important, so they create a cyber solution for a problem they created in the first place.

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Ferrari FF Shooting Break

Does this red reflection on the floor make me look Photoshopped?

Ferrari debuted their FF model this week in Geneva. Top Speed has tons of pics, as well as video of this 4-seat, 4WD, 651 bhp beast. Finally, I can buy a car that seats my family and stows our luggage for trips to South Hampton without embarrassing my wife and kids. Now I guess I just need to get a job.

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Gimme a Break (Brake)?

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Mecedes Benz will be premiering a new shooting brake concept this week in Beijing. Which raises a couple of questions: When does a station wagon turn into a “Brake“? And is it “Brake” or “Break”?

According to the Times,  “the brake body style…in strictest terms is a coupe with a squared-off back.” That slick vehicle pictured above doesn’t look like it started from a  coupe, unless you buy into the Daimler marketing-speak that refers to the base  CLS as a 4 door coupe.

As for the second question, it depends on which side of the English Channel you reside. In England it’s “Brake”, in France it’s “Break”. I’m guessing in the US it’ll be offered in gray, while in the UK it’ll be grey.

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Station Wagon as Rocket Blast


In the wet dream of Bob Lutz, the 2010 Cadillacs are a multi-stage rocket blasting across the salt flats under the watchful eye of the NASAesque GM launch team. The new CTS Sportwagon bursts forth as the first stage in a cycle that ends with a new coupe.

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Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the please to read Chuck Closterman’s “Eating the Dinosaur“. In it he talks of how, as a culture, we’ve come to accept the lies that the advertising media presents us, and the fact that we don’t take things literally. The media business knows this, and presents products to us with the knowledge that we don’t take them seriously. Advertisers moved from presenting their clients products factually to evoking an impression to the subconscious of how a consumer will feel when they buy their product. We’re at a point now where we know it’s all lies, so advertisers can just present any hyperbolic scenario and know that we won’t think they’re presenting truth; it’s just stuff that looks cool blowing up! Therefore, we get a 264hp V6 station wagon being compared to a rocket burning hundreds of gallons of fuel each second to achieve earth orbit.

BONUS: The first few seconds of this Cadillac ad show a woman grinning as she drives a new SRX. I was pleasantly surprised to recognize Paula Merritt, a woman I knew briefly a couple years ago through a friend in Brooklyn. She used to play drums for Grandma’s Boy (now Bad Girlfriend) before moving to LA to further her modeling career. Looks like she’s doing well. Way to go Paula!

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Another Cross-Turd from Honda

acura_zdxIt looks like the Honda Acura Crosstour isn’t the only crossover beast from the east this fall. In April Acura announced the ZDX, a “four door sport coupe”. Huh? From the round rear end I assume they’re referencing the Porsche 928 of yore, but it’s so bulky it doesn’t really add up. Searching for “four-door-coupe” on Wikipedia pulls up the sleek Mercedes CLS, a sedan with a small rear seat and a graceful roofline. But the ZDX looks more like the bulky Infinity FX.

The BS really flies when you hear what the designers think of their achievement.
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Fun with Facebook: Honda Accord Edition

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Honda is developing the Accord “Crosstour” pictured above, and decided to post some teaser images onto Facebook. Mistake. The page got mobbed by station wagon lovers, and others who are tired of rounded-rear “Cross” badged vehicles. Comments were scathing, and many posted images of what they wished it had been, like the 80′s wagon above, or what they thought it was trying to be, like the Pontiac Aztek.  It was enough to make Honda defend itself for not offering a real wagon:

It’s not the European wagon: We’ve seen a lot of comments about the desire for a wagon, but this is neither a wagon nor designed for wagon buyers. We think the Euro wagon is a cool vehicle, too, and we appreciate the feedback… but a version of that wasn’t our intention here. That’s another segment worthy of our consideration, but the Accord Crosstour, built on the larger, Accord platform, is meant to give you the best of two worlds – the versatility of an SUV with the sportiness of a car.

With a sloped rear like that, you’ll have a hard time calling it versatile. Can I fit all my families bikes in there without folding down the rear seat?

After the jump, a collection of choice words from FB users.

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