MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Driving Honda's Clarity Fuel Cell Sedan
Norman Mayersohn impressed by how polished the Clarity is: on the road it was totally glitchless, and under the hood it looked no different from the plastic-swathed engine bays of dozens of current cars.
NY Times 25 Nov 2007
LOS ANGELES — Before hustling off to LAX for my flight home from the auto show last Sunday, I spent a morning driving what may be the most advanced road vehicle on the planet: the Honda FCX Clarity. This fuel-cell-powered car, unveiled in production-ready form at the convention center earlier in the week, will be built in small numbers and leased next summer to retail customers for their everyday use.
The FCX is an astonishing accomplishment on many levels, some of which we’ll soon be reporting on in the newspaper. Not the least of its praiseworthy qualities is the degree of refinement it exhibits. Forget for a moment about the technology of its compact new Honda-developed fuel cell stack and the cleverness of its experimental home refueling system. What really impressed me was how polished it was: on the road it was totally glitchless, and under the hood it looked no different from the plastic-swathed engine bays of dozens of current cars.
This was no escapee from the R&D lab, no geeky engineering student’s senior project. It’s the real thing, fully qualified for showroom duty and its eventual trip to the motor vehicles department for license plates. Anyone who has driven a Toyota Prius will find the controls completely familiar.
Honda will only be leasing the FCXs to hand-picked customers; to qualify they will need to have access to hydrogen refueling. So, sure, the infrastructure is not ready, but the car certainly is. Silent in operation except for a turbinelike whir under acceleration (and the occasional hum of a pump) it asks no special consideration in return for its zero-emissions, carbon-free operation. Driving up into the blackened canyons above Mailbu, it lacked nothing in roadworthiness; on top of that, it is handsome and smartly outfitted.
As a design study, the FCX had been seen at previous auto shows, of course (and an earlier version was reviewed here) so perhaps it wasn’t the brightest star at the L.A. Auto Show. But even with the debuts of significant production and concept vehicles from several automakers, over all the show made fewer headlines than expected.
But no one could complain about the setting. As I drove in from the airport on a warm Tuesday evening before the media previews opened, the final glimmers of a golden sunset reflected off the cluster of buildings that comprise downtown Los Angeles. The thin crescent of a waxing moon hung low in the brilliantly clear sky, the mountains that rim the city’s basin providing an ideal backdrop for the revitalized downtown. The city where I once lived — but where I rarely encountered any areas that felt remotely citylike — was ready for its closeup.
Exiting the tangle of freeways that were either built since I lived here or were known by different names, the scene was back-East familiar: a bustling district of relatively narrow streets lined by mostly older buildings, the sidewalks crowded with people heading home from work. Downtown, while small by New York standards, has a real vitality — and it has some ways to go. A few hours later, after settling into my hotel room, I ventured out for dinner, only to find empty streets and a closed-for-the-night feeling. Without late-night bistros or 24-hour bodegas, this part of the Southern California living experience is not yet big-city livable.
Likewise, the show had a not-quite-mature feel to it. Chrysler, introducing its first production hybrids, the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango S.U.V.’s, put on a presentation that was so rough compared with Detroit’s theatrical productions as to seem like community theater. But more than anything, there was little feeling of urgency. Perhaps here the press scrum was just too comfortable to reveal the all-elbows competitiveness we’re used to suffering in Detroit.
It may be, too, that the layout of the Los Angeles Convention Center is not an ideal location for an auto show. Sprawling like the city itself, it does not enforce an intimacy like that of the older exhibit spaces on the show circuit. A friend who is a devout New Yorker was many years ago transferred to Los Angeles for his job; he told me that he frequently flew to San Francisco for short stays “just for the compression” of the tall buildings, narrow streets and crowded sidewalks.
But if the L.A. Auto Show suffers low compression — like, say, a Daewoo with a broken timing belt — it still has grown in prominence in recent years and it does offer some measures of compensation. Auto journalists leaving here get a breather until mid-January, when the North American International Auto Show convenes in Detroit. Long-range forecasts are iffy, but it’s doubtful that the Michigan weather will be as pleasant as it was here the past few days.
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