Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hallelujah, brother Csabe -- We fondly recall a golden age at Car and Driver when the editors kept a keen eye on the scale and never failed to castigate automakers for letting cars get porky. In particular, we remember them getting on Mazda as the RX-7 put on the pounds over time. Nowadays there's the occasional tsk, tsk about increased avoirdupois, but none of the withering scorn of our reminiscence.

So good on Csabe Csere for issuing a call for lighter cars in this month's Steering Column (not yet online). Not better power-to-weight, but lower weight (or at least a halt to the always-fatter trend).

But, Csere's comparison to the contrary trend in motorcycles, while interesting, is ultimately inapposite. Motorcycles are engines and wheels with a connecting frame and a seat. Engines, even car engines, are getting lighter even as they get more powerful. Motorcycle frames, while obviously critical, involve relatively little material, so wicked light and stiff alloys and composites can be cost effective on a motorcycle. What makes cars fat is also what distinguishes them from motorcycles: big ol' frames, sound deadening, luxury appointments, safety equipment. So, yeah, it's great that motorcycles are getting more powerful, stiffer, and lighter all at the same time. But there's not much of a lesson there for the four-wheel world, other than the benefits of slimming.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what got the Editor-in-Chief of the most influential car magazine to start caring again about weight. We hope he makes it his -- and the magazine's -- cause.