Sunday, March 10, 2013

Vehicle Design Bloat and Southern Pecan

I spend a fair amount of time on the road; at least an hour each day. I want to talk about something I've noticed in the vehicles people own; as a trend, newer models are bigger.

Newish JK Unlimited vs 70s-era CJ-5  Photo from
The above photo is a little unfair since the newer model on the left has the stretched wheelbase with an extra set of doors and a generous lift kit, but it's undeniably true that the proportions of the basic Jeep have increased with each generation. When I was younger, I feel like the Ford Ranger was the standard truck size. Now an F-150 is the benchmark with F-250 and -350s common and the Ranger discontinued. Newer Honda Civics are the similar to old Accords. New Accords are bigger still and if you can find a Fit, you'd see it was designed to fill the niche that the Civic has abdicated; clearly it hasn't sold super well.

Original Mustang GT500 vs 2010 GT500  Photo from
There will always be markets for small (Mini, Smart) and big (Hummer, farm trucks) vehicles, but it seems to me that the bell curve has move to the right. What may be causing this? I'm not an engineer or a designer, but I have my suspicions. The first is emissions regulation; older engines were simpler and smaller, but ran far dirtier. Second is safety, both through regulation and competition. Crumple zones, better impact dispersion, and airbags everywhere keep us safer, but all of it adds up to thicker designs. And lastly, we have us, the users. We want more; more seating, more horsepower, more cargo room, more everything. Then the manufacturers give us what we demand; can you imagine a new model with less than the previous generation? Some time ago it was popular for editorial essays to decry how little cars have improved in fuel consumption over the last 25 years or so. They'd blame it on the global oil market, or public will, or special interests, but think it's just not an apples-to-apples comparison. Our tendency to buy larger vehicles on average is hidden in these rate comparisons. As models increase in size, there's more steel to move and more cargo and passenger space that is filled more often. This increased inertia to overcome is literally more work for engines which will bring fuel economy down any way you slice it.

Yesterday Sarah and I went to the Salt Lick west of Austin for lunch and I don't want to duplicate her review so check it out. I just want to say a) everything was delicious and b) it turned out to be the only meal we had that day. I had beer and pretzels while watching a movie that evening, but both of us just didn't feel like eating a full meal again. Sometimes a meal will be filling but not last, but the Salt Lick is definitely stick-to-your-ribs food.

The Salt Lick is BYOB but you can also go next door to their wine cellar and bottle shop for some Texas-grown libations. I don't usually have beer with lunch and we still had a bit of a drive to get home, but I imagine I would have really enjoyed Southern Pecan there.

There's a lot going on with this label; I'm not sure how they prefer it to be read.
Lazy Magnolia
 Mississippi's Brewery
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
Southern Pecan
The Original Nut Brown Ale
I'm glad I didn't have to spit all that out in a noisy bar. They claim it's "the first beer in the world made with whole, roasted pecans" and they won a Bronze medal at the 2006 world beer cup. Bravo! I think the pecan flavor goes well with a balanced (moderately malty) brown ale. I would get this again and I'll keep an eye out for other pecan-infused brews.

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