Wednesday's New York Times included a 32-page advertising insert on "The Future of Cars," in which the writers (who aren't on the Times staff) predicted a lot more of what we already have. "Barring some incredible technological breakthrough that no one expects," they wrote in the introduction, "50 years form now most people are still going to drive vehicles powered by internal combustion engines running on gasoline."
The future of car names isn't looking too exciting, either. Raise your hand if you can identify the parent brands from their model monikers: S40 2.4i M, GS 450h, LR2, RDX, QX56, 325xi, E350, RX350.1
Alphabet/number names like these are codes for "luxury"; only downmarket cars stick with old-school name-names. Or new-school, like the Toyota Yaris, which comes with a highly suspicious etymology but is nevertheless fun to say (and from the looks of it, to drive, too.)
A few model names in the ad supplement stand out:
The Lamborghini Murciélago isn't really new; it was introduced in 2001 and got a new engine in 2005 and roadster styling in 2006. The name is wonderful: exotic, unexpected, and confounding unless you speak Spanish (the Castilian rendition would be moor-thee-EL-ah-go). Murciélago means "bat,"and the car's opened doors do indeed resemble bat wings. And I have no doubt that this baby goes like a murciélago out of el infierno. Unfortunately, Lamborghini feels the need to qualify Murciélago with "LP640"--as in 640 horsepower. Hmmph! I think I'll spend my $350,000 elsewhere.
The original Lotus Exige was introduced in 2000 as the coupe version of the Elise. The Times ad supplement calls both cars "oddly named," and I agree ... but in a good way. "Exige" (pronounced ex-SEEJ) is French for "demand" or "insist," which sounds so much better--and faster--en français.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to name a car the Genesis, but that's what Hyundai has done with its new mid-size luxury sedan, which will sell for between $30,000 and $45,000. Does the car have rich Corinthian leather? Will its advertising jingle be called Song of Songs? Hyundai isn't saying. I can't help thinking, though, that "Exodus" would be a more appropriate for a car in which to get away. Looking forward to the turbocharged Deuteronomy and the peppy little Habakkuk ragtop.
Then there's the Buick Enclave, a new SUV billed by its manufacturer as a "the finest luxury crossover ever." Enclave really sums up the spirit of SUV-dom, doesn't it? The dictionary definition is "a distinctly bounded area enclosed within a larger unit"; the derivation is Latin inclavare, "to shut in or lock up." Gated "communities" and Baghdad's Green Zone spring to mind unbidden. Get the tinted windows, the on-board DVD player, and the supersized cup holders, and you're ready to move right in. And, as they say, own the road.
Photo: 2002 Lamborghini Murciélago, from Dragtimes.
1S40 2.4i M = Volvo; GS 450h = Lexus; LR2 = Land Rover; RDX = Acura; QX56 = Infiniti; 325xi = BMW; E350 = Mercedes-Benz; RX350 = Lexus.