Most Of Us Learned About Monaco From Disney
Who remembers Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo? You know, the movie where they race across Europe, ending up in Monaco? It’s the movie where Herbie yodels to bury the bad guys under rocks.
This movie was probably my first exposure to the twisty, twisty roads they race on in Monaco. You see the little car that could struggle to pass on famous turns like the Grand Hotel Hairpin before finally passing the other guy by driving upside down on the top of a tunnel.
While you have to watch the first Herbie move to understand this one, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo is one of the rare cases where a sequel is on par with or better than the original. Most of the other Herbie films are more of a flop, though.
I do realize that I may be unusual in this, though. Maybe you heard of Monaco’s turns from somewhere else, or never heard of it at all. I’m enough of a fan that I tried to build my own Herbie, and even got the license plate with the right numbers, so I’m probably not the best average person here.
Also, a man named Herbie runs Volkswagen. Where’s my eBeetle, Herb? This is a topic for another article, though.
What Normal People Remember About Monaco
But, back to the road. It’s famous for all sorts of racing, including most recently the Formula E series. Before that, people remembered the Monaco Grand Prix, and even the movie where Iron Man fights with Whiplash during a Formula 1 race (this is the Iron Man film that Elon Musk made a cameo appearance in).
If you’re totally new to learning about these legendary streets that sometimes serve as race tracks and/or movie sets, here’s a highlight reel from a recent Formula E race:
Now, The Nissan Ariya Makes Its Public Debut On These Streets
For its first drive, Nissan chose to take the Nissan Ariya around the same circuit Formula 1 and Formula E drivers take through the city-state. This, of course, gave them some pretty good photo opportunities passing through the iconic hairpins.
“Ariya’s public driving in the streets of Monaco is a great way to witness the capabilities of our e-4ORCE technology. Ariya is the epitome of Nissan’s innovation in electric mobility and this event marks a defining moment in the next chapter of Nissan’s EV journey,” said Arnaud Charpentier, Region Vice President, Product Strategy and Pricing, Nissan AMIEO.
While I’ve been hard on Nissan for its LEAF failures and for the bone-headed decision to make the base Ariya front-wheel drive, it does have a point. When equipped with all-wheel drive, it’s capable of putting up to 100% of the power to the front or rear wheels, which should make it a much better vehicle for taking turns and launching from a dead stop. When the weight shifts to the rear wheels, it can put more of the power to the rear (where it’s getting a better bite) and less to the front (which slips more during a launch).
While still photos are hard to tell speed from, especially when one uses a panning technique to add motion blur, it does look like they took the full race circuit at some actual speed and didn’t grandma their way around the track.
It’s also worth noting that Nissan recently ran its formula E race team through this same track. The team, Nissan e.dams (“dams” stands for Driot Associés Motor Sport, a French racing team with a decades-long history), has been racing in Formula E since 2014. In 2018, they partnered with Nissan. Since partnering with Nissan, they’ve run 76 races, with 17 wins and 37 podiums.
This Could Signal A Change At Nissan
While it’s easy to trot an econobox car out onto a racetrack, it’s a pretty dumb thing to do. People will know that the company is pulling a dumb stunt, and that they’re trying to “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” without actually putting in some racing chops. Some people who know nothing about cars would fall for it, but they probably couldn’t find Monaco on a map or tell you what it’s known for anyway. In other words, you’d better have something decent if that’s the signal you want to send out.
We don’t know yet whether the Ariya is a decent and semi-sporty vehicle. The front-drive version of it will likely basically be a big LEAF, but with a better battery pack and charging capabilities (which is important for normal daily driving). The all-wheel drive version could end up being something special, or it could end up being a bust. Nissan itself, and its history, doesn’t give us many clues because it’s been capable of doing some real kick-ass things and it has also been capable of making some fairly serious errors.
On the kick-ass side, there’s the GTR. It’s not only cool looking and reminiscent of the older GTRs that are only recently starting to become available in the United States, but it’s also a good performer on tracks in its own right. That’s a good example of the company pulling it off.
On the bonehead side, there’s the Nissan CVT transmissions. Many manufacturers have had problems with CVT transmissions, including a particularly bad batch by Ford, but Nissan was particularly stubborn about selling as many of them as possible, even after it knew there were problems. The problems were so bad, and affected so many different vehicles, that some publications thought Nissan was on the verge of death.
If this drive in Monaco is sending out a confident message (and, more importantly, one that’s not based on hubris or delusion), then the Ariya could be a real winner for the company and its future. If Nissan phoned the Ariya in, or worse, it has problems, then it could be very bad for the company and its future. Bombing two EVs in a row won’t inspire the public at a time when the market is switching over.
I’m going to sit at “cautiously optimistic” on this one. I really hope the Ariya is a lot better than the LEAF is, and I hope the all-wheel drive version proves to be a fun and durable vehicle.
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