Back in ’08, I wrote a brief ode in these pages to the Dutch manufacturer DAF (Van Doorns Automobiel Fabriek), long defunct as a carmaker but still in business making trucks, whose little cars, equipped with the innovative Variomatic continuously variable transmission, were once common sights on the roads of Europe, often in Dutch-tulip hues of red or yellow. After 1975, persuaded that DAF’s transmission technology was way ahead of its time, which it was, and that its access to Renault mechanicals was a valuable asset, as it turned out to be, Volvo wrote a big check and took over the automotive side of the firm. The surviving DAF model, the 66, became the Volvo 66, “the tiniest Volvo ever,” in the words of my colleague Andy Bannister, who wrote an article about it for Techshake.
Question: What did the Shah of Iran, Cheech and Chong, Leonid Brezhnev, and Idi Amin have in common, apart from being wild and crazy guys? Answer: They all owned at least one Citroën SM each (). Good taste isn’t something we associate with these gentlemen, but in this case it emerged, no doubt accidentally: the SM is one beautiful machine, an artifact for the ages. And its beauty is more than skin-deep.
Next time you’re in the Kalahari Desert or the Hindu Kush, check out the cars. Chances are you’ll see two kinds: Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, with maybe the odd Jeep Wrangler or Nissan Patrol lurking in the background. But if the UN peacekeeping forces are anywhere nearby, they’ll be exclusively in Land Cruisers, of which the UN has bought approx. 12,000 copies over the years. Why? That’s easy: Land Cruisers are big and practical and they don’t break down. Go-anywhere durability has been their stock in trade since 1953, when an early-model Land Cruiser scooted up Mount Fuji, setting a record for the first and highest automotive jaunt up Japan’s sacred mountain. “The Land Cruiser,” , “may be the world’s most admired off-roader.”
The Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the best full-sized SUVs. It looks good, it rides well, it offers towing capabilities up to 8,500 lbs., and it can haul up to nine passengers, admittedly at a pinch for a couple of them; or two passengers and a bunch of stuff; or numerous variations on these themes. The first two rows—captain’s chairs in the LT and LTZ, split bench in the base LS—are very comfortable and have as much leg- and head room as most sedans but more wiggle room for shoulders and hips, because the hefty Tahoe is 6 ½ ft. wide. If you fold down the second row of seats and remove the third row (not without some heaving and grunting) the Tahoe boasts almost 109 cu. ft. of cargo space.
The contrast between my previous test vehicle and this one could hardly have been greater. Last week, a mighty GMC Sierra 2500 Crew Cab; this week, a tiny Scion iQ, second smallest automobile on the road (after the Smart Fortwo). It’s a squat amphibian with a stunted body, designed for metropolitan lifestyles, meant to slip easily into half-sized curbside parking spaces and nip between stray shopping carts at your local mart. Japanese sales began in 2008 and European sales the following year, and in both markets it’s doing quite well. Overseas it’s a Toyota, but Stateside, where sales began earlier this year, the Scion brand better suits its bespoke individualism and intended youthful clientele.