Sunday, January 6, 2008



Below is a letter I sent to Jim Mateja of the Chicago Tribune, certainly one of the best automotive journalists in the nation and, given my love of things automotive, one of my favorite and most frequent correspondents. The letter was sent in response to his review of the Mazda CX-9, but my main point had little to do with that specific (and outstanding, I might add) vehicle:


Hi Jim,

Nice review of the CX-9, which is perhaps the best station wagon (er, sorry, crossover) on the market.

You listed as one of the positives of the CX-9 the “engine upgrade for more zoom.” C’mon, Jim; could you really feel the additional 10 hp (3.8%) or 21 ft.lbs. (8.4%) of torque in the new CX-9? I certainly can’t, and I like to think I’m something of an enthusiast. Most people would have no clue which was the “more powerful” if you put them in last year’s and this year’s CX-9 without telling them which was which.

I am convinced that most of the increase in horsepower we have seen over the last twenty years or so is a product of marketing hype. Witness the elderly couple in the four porthole Lucerne going 55 in the left lane who just had to have eight cylinders. We all know that people don’t need all, or anything like, the power sitting under their hoods. I know: if we all got by on what we needed, we would all be leading a pretty bare-bones existence. (Whether that we be such a bad thing is another issue.) So asking the typical consumer what he needs is unthinkable in modern American society. But how about if people consider what they actually use, or even can use, in the horsepower department? We would have far less powerful, and more fuel efficient vehicles. But then Americans would have to go beyond asking political candidates to “do something” about dependence on foreign oil and actually do something, even an undetectable something, themselves. Perish the thought!

Mark Quinn

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