Jason H. Harper

Living with All-Electric Nissan Leaf, Cold and All

By Jason H. Harper, Bloomberg News, April 21

The Nissan Leaf is the stuff of science fiction. An actual, no-kidding, all-electric car, costing less than $35,000 and aimed at regular consumers.

Yet Nissan opted to wrap this revolutionary ride in excitement-repelling protoplasm. It’s the stuff of Amazing Stories magazine, if you’d take out the cyborgs and time travel, and replaced “amazing” with “sort of interesting.” “Back to the Future” without the flux capacitor, Comic-Con without costumes.

The arrival of a mass-produced electric vehicle (EV), sans gas tank or tail pipes, should feel momentous. You’re not spewing bad stuff into the sky. (The same can’t be said about energy production itself, but still.) Continue reading…

Ferrari FF, Meet World. World, Ferrari’s First-Ever AWD

Bloomberg — April 6, 2011

Ferrari keeps its secrets better than a Cold War spy agency. No one saw the radically-shaped, two-door, four-seat Ferrari Four coming.

It broke cover in late January, along with the news that it would be the company’s first-ever all-wheel-drive.

Two months later, I’m tucked behind the wheel of the $300,000 FF, testing its V-12-powered moves deep in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy. Talk about a happy turn of events.

Painted a luminous blue, my Ferrari is tackling a series of thickly stacked switchbacks, white snow spilling onto the asphalt on both sides. Continue reading…

Holy Hotness, Batman! The Original Batmobile

BLOOMBERG March 24, 2011

Bat front! The original 1960s Batmobile

This is every kid’s dream. I’m sitting in the Batmobile, a gonzo fantasy car with parachutes and fins so big they look like wings.

I’ve arrived at a custom-car garage in North Hollywood to meet two automotive legends — the original car from the 1960s Batman TV show (“Pow!” “Zap!” “Kaboom!”) and its creator, 85-year-old George Barris.

I’ve even been promised a drive in the Caped Crusader’s cruiser…if only it will stop raining. Continue reading…

Surprise! Renewed 2011 Ford Explorer is…Good!

BLOOMBERG March 17, 2011

What a difference a year makes. Just take a look at a 2010 Ford Explorer parked next to a totally redesigned 2011 model.

The one to the left is dingy, broken-down, a half-rusted tailpipe sticking out. Body panels don’t align and the sad faux- wood plastic on the dash is peeling off. This example is a rental, but still. Tragic.

On the right is the newly invigorated Explorer, sheathed in curving metal and black glass. Wider, curvier, sophisticated. The digital controls on the interior look as if they could operate the space shuttle. Continue reading…