Every year, auto companies, which are usually very serious about their business dealings and protective of their places within the auto industry, step outside their smugness and poke a little fun at themselves and their fanbases. Some Fools Day pranks are outrageous. Renault Sport thought its racing fans might want a personal car to show off their support, so it designed the single seat hatchback, complete with headlights and taillights, bumpers and a cargo compartment.
And a little bit more practical for those who need to take more than one person in their hatchbacks, but still want a racetrack worthy car, is the Audi R8 Avant unveiled by Audi Canada in a Facebook post. It simply noted the 2018 car was finally coming to Canada, and that was the tip-off since a lot of people were aware the car didn’t exist anywhere else. It wasn’t an original idea, however, since German automobile artist Enes Canay in 2011 sketched out an R8 Avant that looked a little more R8ish and a little less Avantish.
Luxury coach tour operator Leger decided to offer its upscale clientele an exclusive opportunity to experience the Formula 1 track experience. The 5-day excursion would take guests to an Formula 1 race weekend, complete with VIP paddock passes and a lapping session … in the bus. All the seatbacks had screens to display the action from a front-bumper camera, so it didn’t matter that you were seated several rows back strapped in with a safety harness and wearing a helmet. Even the sounds were authentic, with the aerodynamically-sound coach powered by a 10-litre V-16 turbodiesel putting out in excess of 1000 hp and 3615 lb-ft of torque.
But racing shouldn’t just be accessible to the world’s elite, which is why Nissan Canada last year announced the Nissan Warrior Trophy, capitalizing on the public acceptance of the Rogue Warrior prototype’s track drive and the fan-support of the inaugural Micra Cup affordable racing series. The idea was to refit the racing-Micras for a year-end festival weekend that would include two races, concluding in a sprint up a mountain in Alberta.
And for pet owners who want to give their charges the thrill they themselves experience strapped into a race car, Lotus introduces Pet Lids — miniature racing helmets ideal for cats. Its design was reportedly influenced by input from cats (which, as any cat owner knows, are very particular about what they wear on their heads and faces) and weighs just 25 grams to not create neck-strain for the wearer. They’re available in a broad palette but the company’s bespoke division will also reportedly work with purchasers for a unique design befitting the wearer’s personality.
Lotus isn’t the only manufacturer trying to appeal to pets this April Fools Day, with BMW allowing dogs to recapture the sheer excitement of hanging their faces out car windows in order to feel the wind with its new dDrive Nappa leather dog basket. A carbon fibre TwinPower Turbo fan recreates the exhilaration of speed right in the family room, while three power modes (ECO PRO, COMFORT and SPORT) allow changes in wind speed to mimic real world driving conditions.
Not so much about catering to pets, but dealing with animals none the less, McLaren announced a new exterior finish to take advantage of one of the best protective and aerodynamic coatings around — feathers. The company’s Feather Wrap is an optional exterior package for the 570GT, adding 10,000 carbon veined artificial feathers affixed by hand in a process that takes 300 hours to complete.
This was one of those Fools Day introductions that many thought was real and encouraged the company to sell them one. The British company famous for its hand-built cars on wooden structures last year showed off sketches for this hot rod, as well as a roadster version it was reportedly going to use for a speed assault on the Bonneville salt flats. Potential customers were reportedly ready to plunk down deposits on this car, but were disappointed when it was revealed to be just a joke … a very cruel joke!
Most times, though, it’s not so much about having a car that can go fast enough, but rather finding a road on which you can go fast enough. Setting speed limits aside, there are still those people who refuse to move from the passing lanes because they feel they are going fast enough. That’s why Lexus developed its Lane Valet technology, which takes advantage of the upcoming autonomous feature of car-to-car communications to not only alert the driver of a slower vehicle ahead that you’re looking to pass, but then actually initiates a lane change in that vehicle, if its driver doesn’t take action.
Sometimes the best way to get somewhere fast is to just get off the highway and find a faster route, and that’s what lead Daimler to create the Smart Forsea, which it planned for a summer 2017 debut in Italy. The car retains the integrity of the new Fortwo convertible, keeping the 90 hp rear engine and using technology to change the rear differential over to power a propeller, when it’s needed. The wheels line up with the undercarriage (known as a hull, in this variation) for smooth sailing, and the company points to previous successes — the Forrail, which took the Fortwo to intercontinental railway travel, and the Forfood, which was the first exclusive restaurant on four wheels.
Mini is noted for its April Fools pranks, starting the trend followed by many today some 15 years back with a Scooter whose design fit so perfectly into the brand that many auto publications were taken in. Last year, it went the trend-follower route one better with a Hipster version of its Cooper, done up to appeal to those with fear of missing out on trends. Among the features were Instagram filtered windows, stone-wash denim upholstery, twin cassette players and a fixed gear drivetrain like the in-demand fixed-pedal bikes.
For some, creating a shooting brake is not such a stretch, as Porsche showed earlier this spring when it introduced a Sport Turismo variant of its Panamera sedan. The car was mostly aimed at the North American market movement toward wagons, and the company apparently decided to jump in with both feet by designing a “Woodie” version exclusively for the US and Canada, with designers reportedly drawing inspiration from the film National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Nothing says trendy like the recent trend to let smiley or frowny faces convey our emotions to those we are texting or writing emails to. It’s a simple way to convey our emotions while driving, too, as manufacturers such as MG discovered when it designed its state-of-the-art MG Inter-Car Emoji (MICE) technology, which allows drivers to speak their feelings to other drivers, like the beautiful blonde in the Ferrari or the left-lane hog, and have those emotions translated into emojis that are then displayed on the car’s windshield.
Honda also committed to the emoji conveyance trend, though it put the most often used emojis front and centre on the steering wheel, translating a driver’s emotions into catchy horn sounds to provide the perfect sound track to suit any situation encountered on the road — like the sound-effects on The Price is Right, you can cat-call, get angry or cackle with laughter at the push of a button. You can even warn dogs you’re approaching (without disturbing humans).
Audi started the automotive emoticon trend last year in Japan, when it introduced LED dot-matrix headlights and taillights that would convey the driver’s condition and mood to other road users. The car monitors the driver’s health and alertness using sensors on the steering wheel and seat cushions, then translates that state of health into code and sends it to the front and rear light displays, showing a happy face when the driver is alert and in good health, and changing it to a “dull face” when the driver is tired or not well. The taillights can also convey thanks to other drivers, such as when another driver yields to let you merge in.
It’s not just automobile makers who use April Fools Day to explore oddly-useful road aids; motorcycle maker Triumph introduced a steering wheel for its bikes, presumably to make it easier for drivers who’ve always wanted to ride but couldn’t grasp the steering nuances. Triumph’s HandleWheel allows drivers to quickly adopt to motorcycle throttle, clutching and braking without losing the steering control they’re accustomed to. It is initially only available in the UK, but the company promises to make a version for countries where they ride on the other side of the road.
Some manufacturers choose Fools Day as a way of exploring alternative propulsion sources. Such was the case with Opel, which last year introduced the world’s first kinetic car. Taking a page from popular children’s toys, Opel equipped an Adam subcompact hatchback with a wind-up mechanism the driver would use to power the car, radio, etc. Just 15 minutes of winding the Adam C (the C stands for clockwork) would return a 200-km range.
Honda also took the opportunity to delve deeper into the latest connectivity technology and integrating a dating app into some of its vehicles’ onboard systems. The H-Swipe uses the common Tinder method of accepting or rejecting potential partners (geo-located by the vehicle’s GPS to provide the closest candidates), allowing the driver to swipe right to like an image and swipe left to reject one. The difference is that individually controlled wipers swipe away the images that are projected on the windshield in a Head-Up display. For safety, the app only works when the car is stopped.
When it comes time to test drive a vehicle, you don’t have to drag along your family members. Skoda is offering a full-service Rent-A-Family program where family stand-ins are provided for test drives. Potential buyers can go online to choose the cars they want to test drive, and then choose the family members that will be provided, including a motion-sick dog, at the dealership. Stand-in family members are encouraged to ask “are we there yet?” every five minutes, but must be returned at the end of the test drive.
After you’ve chosen all the features, test driven the vehicles, added some bells and whistles, it’s time to take delivery of your new vehicle. Hyundai is planning to take a page from the Amazon delivery manual by using drones to deliver your new vehicle directly to your driveway. After ordering a vehicle online, a buyer can take delivery within two hours, if the configured vehicle is available in the dealer’s lot. The drones are hydrogen fuelled to reduce the service’s carbon footprint, and use an ultra-accurate GPS to pinpoint the delivery address,
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