Car Culture

Millennials don't hate Boomer car culture, they just want to do it their way

Passionate car culture is here, it just loos different than it has in the past.

Photo by Getty Imgaes

Discord between generations is nothing new. In the '60s and '70s, peaced-out hippies were busy sticking it to The Man; these days, woke Millennials are thumbing 'OK Boomer' replies to, well, those same hippies who ditched the tie dye and musicals for a dyed tie and cubicles. The cycle will continue until either the fountain of youth is invented or a rogue comet destroys us all.

Plenty of ink has been spilled about Millennials and the car industry, most of reading as more dour than a Michigan winter. If one listened solely to the claptrap, they'd believe everyone under the age of 40 wants to burn their cars. While some so-called futurists are eager to predict the end of the personal automobile, what we saw at this year's auctions in the Arizona desert proved that excitement about automobiles is alive and well with the young'uns ... it simply takes a different form, that's all.

vintage historic classic car The classic nameplates of the past don't hold as much stock with the younger set, who are willing to highlight brands that they grew up revering, like Infiniti and Toyota. Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's not like new cars are nailed to showroom floors. According to the information dorks at Statista, the number of new car registrations in America has never been higher, climbing each year since 1990 save for a dip around the Great Recession. About 17 million new cars have been sold per year for the last five years. As per research group AdColony, 60% of car shoppers have yet to experience Freedom 55 and, more specifically, consumers between 35-54 prefer to buy an SUV (48%) over consumers between 18-34 (37%).

Why? Personal expression, perhaps. Those who are interested in splashing out money on new wheels may be more likely to select something that isn't like every other machine on the road. As well, buying a home and raising a family is also more expensive than ever, so a cheaper option usually manifests itself in something that doesn't take the form of an SUV. A recent study cited by Forbes found that the top three car models most owned by Millennials are Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Honda Civic.

New cars are one thing. But, as anyone who lives within a country mile of an ardent gearhead will tell you, driving and owning a ride from days past is the mark of someone who is truly passionate about cars. In this group, the zealous automotive fires burn white hot.

Ryan ZumMallen, reviews editor at Edmunds and author of the car culture book "Slow Car Fast", rightly pointed out that a good chunk of Millennials aren't kids anymore. "They're grown adults who are ready to leverage their spending power on items that were influencing them in the '80s and '90s." He referenced the Youngtimer's collection at auction house RM Sotheby's, a collection of European and Japanese automobiles from that ear which brought big bucks last year. Those types of cars, ZumMallen explained, would have been shunned at such events just a few short years ago. Now, these auction houses are going through great lengths to attract younger buyers for such machines.

One can also make the case that Millennial auto enthusiasts are not singularly focused on one particular trend or type of vehicle. Their diversity, both in terms of demographic and car choice, is a strength largely unharnessed by previous generations of gearheads. It is this author's opinion that this is juicing values of a variety of collector vehicles - vintage Broncos capable of spinning up dirt in quantities to satisfy the hygiene needs of six Persian cats and Japanese sports cars with retina-detaching performance are but a brace of examples - but perhaps not into the stratosphere the market once saw with the likes of zillion dollar Hemi 'Cudas.

video car YouTube Millennials are transforming the way most of the world thinks about cars using a variety of platforms aside form the traditional car show, like YouTube. Photo by Getty Images/Westend61

A tremendous real-world example? While attending this year's Barrett-Jackson soirée in Scottsdale, we witnessed BMW Lightweights hammering away for prices deep into six-figure territory. These cars, from a collection that belonged to Paul Walker, undoubtedly drew some of their fiduciary strength from an association with a famous car-adjacent actor and his proximity to a certain movie franchise. However, there's an argument to be made that something else - something Millennial - is afoot here as well.

The democratization of speed has reached a zenith in the last couple of years. One can walk into a new car showrooms of several different brands and drive away in a machine with over 700 horsepower. Hellcats, GT500s, and even the scattered Jeep (Jeep!) have placed sky-high levels of grunt into the disgustingly sweaty palms of anyone who can keep up a repayment schedule. Even a V6-equipped Toyota Camry can run to 60 mph from rest in less than six seconds and will, in fact smoke the on-a-retro-pedestal Integra Type R by about two seconds in the quarter mile.

But no one will argue that a Camry provides any semblance of joyful motoring. That's yet another insight into why cars like the E30 3-Series and '90s-era Toyotas and Mazdas are enjoying a renewed fetishization - their ability to provide an exaggerated and less sanitized sense of speed, even though the car itself may be ultimately slower. It also doesn't hurt that, as adults, Millennials have the scratch to spend on cars they simply desired as teenagers. Whether they developed that aspiration through playing Forza on Xbox or watching bracket racing at the local track matters not one whit. We're witnessing one of the greatest shifts in buying power and era of influence the car game has ever seen - and yours truly is glad to be along for the ride.

Discord between the generations? That'll be a reality as long as there are people of different ages on this planet. People with disposable income buying what they like? That, more than ever, seems to be the tie that binds.

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The Elantra N reveal is now virtual after the New York auto show was canceled.

Hyundai

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is no big secret at this point in time, after having been revealed on a global stage and photographed from nearly every angle. The car's North American reveal is changing slightly, however, as auto show cancellations have forced a shift back to virtual events. Hyundai will show off the car for the first time on our shores next week.

The Elantra N follows the Veloster N and N-Line versions of the Tucson and Sonata Hyundai's U.S. lineup. Dubbed "Everyday sports cars," Hyundai's N overhaul brings more power, aggressive bodywork, a special transmission, and overhauled suspension to what would otherwise be fairly ordinary vehicles.


2022 Hyundai Elantra N The Elantra N gets several performance upgrades over the standard car.Hyundai


Hyundai's numbers for the Elantra N paint a dramatic picture. The car's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine will produce 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque, and will send that power to the front wheels through a manual or eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a limited-slip differential. Inside, we'll see more heavily bolstered seats, special N graphics in the infotainment system, and vehicle performance readouts for things like G-forces and lap times.



The Elantra N's debut was scheduled to take place at the New York International Auto Show, which was set to take place later this month. The continued and rapid spread of COVID-19 led to the show's cancellation for the second year in a row, however, so Hyundai pivoted to a virtual reveal for the car on August 19. If you're hoping to see the new car in the flesh (on screen) for the first time on our soil, head to Hyundai's YouTube channel at 12:45 p.m. EST on August 19 to see the event.

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Electric vehicles

Three new EVs we can't wait to see

The F-150 Lightning is just one of several new EVs we'll see soon.

Ford

With all the crazy news coming out of the auto industry this year, it'd be easy to believe that the rollout of new models is slowing to a snail's pace. The pandemic and ongoing microchip shortage have slowed vehicle production, to be sure, but they haven't put the brakes on automakers' push to roll out exciting new electric vehicles. In the next few months alone, we'll see several new electric trucks, cars, and SUVs hit the market, some of which will break new ground and help define their segments. We're on board with this trend 100 percent, and to help you get excited, we've rounded up a few of our favorites.

Here are the three upcoming electric vehicles we're most excited to see.

Ford F-150 Lightning

One of the world's best-selling and most popular vehicles is going electric. The Ford F-150 Lightning is set to arrive in 2022 with a fully electric powertrain, forward-looking technology, and a familiar style that will make any truck lover feel at home. We don't have full details on the truck, but Ford has shared some awe-inspiring performance numbers. The Lightning will offer around 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque, which should push the truck to 60 mph from a standstill in just four seconds. Payload capacity comes in at up to 2,000 pounds, and towing will reach 10,000 pounds for specific configurations.


Ford F-150 Lightning The Lightning will offer impressive capability in a familiar package.Ford


The Lightning's starting price will come in under $40,000, but don't get your hopes up about actually buying one for that amount. Ford says the entry-level Lightning is a commercial truck that will be a stripped-down work-ready vehicle, which likely means features like vinyl seats and far fewer of the desirable tech goodies that you'll want. To get the truck you and your family will want to drive, you'll need to spring for the XLT model, which starts just shy of $53,000. That's quite a bit more, but it is still a somewhat reasonable price to pay for what will surely be a capable electric pickup.

Mercedes-Benz EQS

The S-Class is a unique model in Mercedes-Benz's lineup. The car typically showcases the automaker's latest technologies and design techniques and offers a glimpse of the features that eventually trickle down to the rest of Mercedes' vehicles. Soon, we'll see the EQS, a fully electric flagship sedan that paves the way for the brand's other electrified offerings. The car will have a range of well over 400 miles on a charge, up to 516 horsepower, rear-axle steering, and breathtaking technology.


Mercedes-Benz EQS The EQS will usher in a new electric era at Mercedes.Mercedes-Benz


The EQS is expected to land sometime late in 2021 and will carry a price tag that matches its premium brand name and top-notch feature set. Pricing for the "entry-level" EQS 450+ will come in at around $100,000, while the top EQS 580 4MATIC will land well north of that number. Remember, though, that Mercedes offers a long list of ultra-desirable options for its cars, so you'll likely shell out more than the base price to get the features you want.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

The Hyundai Ioniq name is nothing new, but the way it will be seen in the automaker's lineup will change significantly going forward. Rather than being a model name within the Hyundai catalog, Ioniq will split off and become its own sub-brand, covering a line of electric vehicles of all types. The Ioniq 5 is the first such vehicle and will be offered in single- or dual-motor configurations that generate 225 or 320 horsepower. The car's futuristic design is attractive and features a pixelated look for the front-end, lighting features, and rear. Inside, the vehicle is clean but comforting and offers the features buyers expect in a family crossover.


Hyundai Ioniq 5 The Ioniq 5 is the first in what will be an entire line of new EVs from Hyundai.Hyundai


The Ioniq 5 should go on sale in late 2021 and is expected to cost between $40,000 and $50,000.

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