Kickback Q&A: Why do we review expensive cars?

Q: Last week's column about the $132,135 Porsche Panamera: Are many people interested in a car that they cannot afford and will never buy? I wish you would write about cars that are affordable.

— J.F.

A: We only test new, redesigned or significantly refreshed vehicles for a particular model year. We try to balance our coverage between aspirational and accessible vehicles, but this summer has included some sick sports cars and six-figure luxury models. We recently reviewed and raved about the 2017 Honda Civic Si, which costs $24,000.

Q: I enjoyed your article that said, "at just under $24,000, the 2017 Honda Civic Si might be the best value on the market.” Could be, but I suggest there's a better value: the Mazda3. It doesn't have the same kind of power but it looks as good, handles just as well, and also has a great six-speed manual transmission. And it's $6,000 cheaper.

— P.S.

A: Love the Mazda3, preferably the hatch. But here’s our review of the 2017 sedan. The tester in Grand Touring trim with a six-speed manual was $26,045. The Civic Si is its own trim level, for all intents and purposes, so I would argue a more direct comparison is the 3 GT, though the 3 is a tad nicer. The base 3 in Sport trim is around $17,000, as you point out. You have an argument — they are both great values.

Q: I enjoyed your article in Sunday's Rides section (on semi-automated driving). I only wish all cars had the ability to correct some lack of common sense issues among drivers, such as:

1. Windshield wipers that start automatically when any kind of precipitation is detected, from rain to snow and fog — or ash. (I know a tiny percentage of cars have a variation of this feature.)

2. Headlights that are deployed automatically with changes in the auto vision detection, whether the issue is fog, rain, a tunnel or an eclipse.

3. Slow and prepare to stop the car when a yellow-to-red light is detected ahead, and slow and prepare to stop the car when a stop, road work, or yield sign is detected. This would require detectors in the signs.

4. Automatically alert the driver and make the person move to allow emergency vehicles to pass. This would be based on the siren sound, since the driver may have on earbuds or have the media volume up too loud to hear the siren or is simply not paying attention.

5. Automatically alert the driver to no-parking zones — again detectors in signs.

6. Detect distraction on the part of the driver, if he/she is looking down or other behavior that shows the person is not paying attention to the road and traffic.

7. With input through a weather app, prevent drivers from driving into floodwaters! Or going out into a storm; including tornadoes when the official warnings are issued.

I know … a lot to ask. But as stupidity continues to spread across the U.S., automating some functions may be necessary.

— C.B.

A: Surprisingly, technology such as (1) rain-sensing wipers, (2) automatic headlights and (7) weather alerts are already here on luxury models and upper trim levels. The problem is every automaker has a different, confusing name. Standardizing the name of the systems would really help everyone.

I would worry about driver freakout if the system were to overtake the driver without consent, as in the case of Nos. 3 and 4.

Love the no-parking zone alert, especially in Chicago. The parking app Spothero has a pretty good overview on how to understand Chicago parking restrictions. Probably easier to never drive in Chicago again.

Cadillac uses a variation of No. 6 in its Super Cruise system. Other manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, issue an audible alert with a coffee icon if the onboard computer detects erratic driving based on your driving history. Glad to hear you’re ahead of the curve of what automakers are developing and what drivers need!

Got questions? We might have answers. Got comments? We might publish them. Thanks for reading and writing in.

rduffer@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @DufferRobert

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
21°