Sentinel Blogs

Aaron Cole

Managing Editor for the Aurora Sentinel, An Opinion on Everything

Aaron Cole

COLE: Focus now on mental illness and care

Anyone brave enough to say mental illness doesn’t effect everyone now?

There’s no question that the alleged gunman who killed 12 and injured 58 more was severely, very mentally ill. Stockpiling weapons, ammunition and the creation of a circus-like madhouse of booby traps and incendiary devices isn’t “crazy,” it’s mentally ill. The question now is what are we going to do to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

One of the less-reported provisions in the often-hammered Affordable Care Act is that in addition to access to health insurance, everyone needs to have access to affordable mental health care. If anyone disagrees now with the importance of mental health care, and that it should be accessible to everyone all the time, you’re one of the few now.

That’s because we all can see now the hurt, shock and horror that one very sick individual can impose on a town of more than 300,000 people. Denying the right to affordable mental health care doesn’t cut it anymore, and ensuring that people vaccinate themselves against deadly infectious diseases  should be mentioned in the same breath as ensuring that people have a professional to talk to when they’re feeling depressed. Both diseases have very severe consequences for the rest of us now.

Similarly, dismissing the shyness and social discomfort of a few people we talk to everyday won’t do. We all know why it’s important to speak up now. Hundreds of people have had their lives changed forever because too many people perhaps dismissed the actions of a single person as just being “weird.”

We owe it now to each other to talk about mental illness and depression. Depression happens to everyone. Some illnesses, such as schizophrenia, don’t manifest themselves until our early 20s. Others strike much later in life. We need to make sure that anyone who needs help can walk into any hospital in the U.S. and ask for mental care as if their arm was broken.

It’s sad to think that so many Aurora families now are missing pieces because of one very mentally ill man. Demystifying mental illness and removing the social taboo from talking about it may go a long way in helping families in the future.

Its tough enough showing how accessible health care to all people is important for society as a whole, but we should all clearly see now how mental health care is just as important.

And everyone should have it.

Reach Managing Editor Aaron Cole at acole@aurorasentinel.com or at 303-750-7555.

Aaron Cole

COLE: Here’s what Aurora is like

I’ve gotten a lot of calls from media worldwide are asking the same question over and over today: “What’s Aurora like?”

As someone who grew up in this suburb — the last stop east before Kansas City and little brother to Denver to the west — it’s an easy question to answer, this is what Aurora is like:

It’s a city of more than 300,000 people who likely would give everything they had to prevent what happened last night.

It’s a city that has more sunny days than Miami beach but would love to get rid of the black cloud hanging over the city right now.

It’s a city that hears the constant joke, “Well, it is Aurora,” but stopped laughing today.

It’s a city that more character than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, and still has unbelievable flaws.

It’s a city full of common sense, but struggles with senselessness.

It’s a blue-collar city that has done tragedy before and can’t believe it has to do it again.

Aurora isn’t like anywhere else I’ve ever been. That’s why I choose to be here, over and over again.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: Natural Fit Aaron Cole

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: Natural Fit

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is the kind of car you buy when you’re a 25 year old who carries more mountain bikes than responsibility, and your idea of a vacation is turning on the air conditioning in your apartment in July. “Adventure” might not be its middle name — it’s “XV,” the letters, not 15 — but the Crosstrek certainly sounds like an running shoe and requires just as much agility to pronounce it.

From here on out, we’ll just call it the Crosstrek and make it easy on ourselves.

Yes, I know it looks like a taller Impreza, and according to its skeleton, it mostly is. The Crosstrek, however, is two inches wider (track), three inches higher, four inches taller and seats five adults. The idea for the Crosstrek is similar to the idea for the Outback Sport that was discontinued in 2011. According to Subaru spokespeople, the nameplate wasn’t discontinued due to flagging sales, rather it was changed to avoid any confusion with the bigger Legacy-based Outback.

And it shows. Considering that the Outback is getting bigger and more expensive, a natural niche for a less expensive, outdoorsy-type vehicle came along in Subaru’s lineup.

Consider this: The Crosstrek’s ground clearance is 8.7 inches, higher than a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Land Rover LR2 and the distance I can jump.

Along with having a prodigious stance, the Crosstrek also features a higher spring rate, increased damping, strengthened steel, bigger brakes and bigger cooling hosiery to cope with the inevitable trail you will climb in the taller Impreza. Missing from that roster, though, is a beefier engine to help you climb those trails. The Crosstrek features the same 2.0-liter, horizontal four-cylinder engine found in the Impreza.

Subaru made waves when it announced 18 months ago that its newer edition of the Impreza wouldn’t emulate the current trend toward increasing horsepower in the rest of the automotive industry. Instead, they’d retreat from the gaudy horsepower figures that the rest of the sedan market seems to be so infatuated with.

Here are the Crosstrek’s figures: 148 horsepower, 145 ft.-lbs. of torque and 3,150 lbs. of curb weight. Subaru gleefully announced that the new Impreza shed 150 lbs. over the last generation, but the Crosstrek found it. Acceleration happened at a leisurely pace at sea level and, considering that the engine doesn’t benefit from forced induction, some of that horsepower will likely be sapped in mountain states like ours.

That’s not to say that the Crosstrek suffers from “the itis” in everyday driving. Rather, the Crosstrek’s impressive fuel economy figures may be put to the test when it comes to driving in and around foothills.

And speaking of those horsepower figures, the 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway come into play quite quickly. That’s because among the Crosstrek bests all of its chief competition (the Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman and Hyundai Tuscon) by at least 3 mpg. Two of those three are turbocharged, and the last, the Hyundai, sells out faster than Justin Beiber concerts.

Therefore, the Crosstrek is built to occupy a sweet spot for Subaru: not too big, not too fast and not too expensive. Starting in at a five-spot under $22,000, the Crosstrek is probably the most affordable all-wheel drive compact ‘ute on the market.

Since the Crosstrek starts at the “premium” trim level, it’s tough to talk about standard equipment. Still, the car comes equipped with a standard 6-speaker stereo system, all-wheel drive, roof rails that can carry up to 150 lbs., 5-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Oh, and about those wheels, they’re real and they’re fantastic.

Also, I can’t imagine they’ll stick around long because they make the Crosstrek look like a cross-trainer. So if you’re into the whole urban assault look, better get a Crosstrek soon. The effect of the alloys is magnified 10-fold when paired with what I like to call “Road Cone Orange,” or in Subaru parlance “Tangerine Orange Pearl.”

(Quickly: Both models of the Crosstrek I drove were orange, and that’s actually a color I could live with every day, unlike a lot of other special edition colors).

Along the lines of the cross-trainer, let’s talk a little bit about the interior of the Crosstrek. To put it diplomatically, Subaru has been accused of making cars that are a little too much like a cross-training shoe. That’s to say that you don’t mind being in the car, but you don’t spend a whole lot of time admiring its stunning interior either.

The Crosstrek is a perfectly comfortable place to be, but you won’t be confusing the cloth-equipped premium model with the lobby of the Bellagio any time soon. In fact, my only real gripe with the Crosstrek is that it feels perfectly exactly like an Impreza.

There’s no special plastic to let you know that you’ve paid $1,000 more for the taller, more rugged model. I’m not asking for fatigue-clad seats or a pistol-gripped shifter, folks, but molded plastic in the dash wouldn’t kill anyone, would it?

Despite the fact that the same engine as the Impreza powers the Crosstrek, it’s also geared relatively the same (the CVT is actually manageable, and the first and last gears of the manual have been lengthened a little). That makes the Subaru soft roader very pleasant to drive, especially considering the newer Impreza chassis might be one of the best small car chassis on the market today.

My guess is that the fuel economy and capability will win over the younger set looking to get up a mountain without worrying about how quickly it happens. It doesn’t hurt that the entry price is appealing to 20-somethings who can’t afford to even pay attention.

These kids think they know everything.

Aaron Cole

Desk Jockey: The NYTimes gets even NYTimesier

Let me first preface this entire thing with: I like the New York Times enough to pay too much to have it delivered to my home every weekend.

Having said that, dance critic Alastair Macaulay’s description of the Statue of Liberty from his bedroom window may be more esoteric than poetry written in Sanskrit.

Passages like:

I often visit the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which is less than 10 minutes from my place.

dot the well-written story printed two days ago, but I’m wondering why in the hell it’s there in the first place. It’s like NPR and the NYTimes got together to make the most boring story baby ever spilled into newsprint.

Perhaps that’s a little recherche even for you, NYTimes.

#FASTFRIDAY: What happens when it (almost) all goes wrong? Aaron Cole

#FASTFRIDAY: What happens when it (almost) all goes wrong?

Watch champion driver and all-around badass Mark Higgins save a Subaru going 150 mph. The near crash happened almost this time last year at the Isle of Man TT race.

Flying around the small British island, setting a record in an Impreza STI was the order of the day, but things got a little hairy flying around one of the corners.

Goes to show that if you look where you want the car to go, chances are, it’ll probably go there.

Have a good weekend everyone!

2012 Audi A8L: Subtle seduction Aaron Cole

2012 Audi A8L: Subtle seduction

I fall in love with everything I see because I’m stupid.

No one felt about Betamax like I did. Remember Crystal Clear Pepsi? I cried for 17 days.

Fool me into love once, shame on you. Fool me twice, call yourself a former girlfriend.

The 2012 Audi A8L isn’t your typical lover — if I can call it one. (And I will.)

The 4,500 lbs. of German steel, aluminum, leather and mahogany is so cold, calculating and comforting simultaneously, it could only be a former flame.

Swaddle yourself in the Valetta leather hides and kick on the optional driver and passenger massage feature to unwind away in morning traffic. Get too comfortable and the driver alert systems like lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring will open-palm slap you into paying attention to the road again.

How’s that for a two-faced date? Oh, wait ’til you see the bill.

For the A8L, you’ll pay $84,700 for the privilege of taking this one to dinner. Our test car was $92,175. Oh, and if you’re looking to set yourself apart from the rest of the Federal Heights riff raff, you can opt for the W12 model that’s a stupefying $133,000 to start.

At that pace you better find someone new, and I don’t care if he’s good to you.

Here’s the good news: For your hard-earned money, you do get quite a bit of kit.

To start, the A8 is nonpareil in Audi’s lineup. The flagship sedan sets the tone for the rest of the lineup and has since its introduction in 1994. Most of the new tech and styles you’ll find in the higher-volume, lower-priced sedans like the A6 and A4 begin life in the A8.

Have you been blinded by high-intensity discharge headlights recently? Thank the A8 from a decade ago. Heated steering wheel sound nice? Yup, 10 years on that too. Tiptronic transmission? Puh-lease, that was back in the Clinton administration.

In the A8, you’re driving Diana Ross — even if the rest of the world are Supremes.

And this year is no different.

Wi-Fi comes direct from the factory for up to eight users. (Eight?! What is this? A clown car?) Voice-search powered by Google is available, as is Google Earth-powered navigation.

Also standard on A8 and A8L models are powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that cranks a symphonic 372 horsepower and 328 ft.-lbs. of torque at all four wheels (that’s Audi’s Quattro system). Although those figures aren’t overwhelming, it’s enough to power the car from 0-60 in fewer than 6 seconds.

That behemoth lump of German internal combustion is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that aims to convert the engine’s horsepower and torque into whatever you please, thanks to more options this side of Wall Street.

Audi’s goal of specifically fitting each A8 to its owner is achieved by making everything in the car completely variable.

How does your engine feel? Dynamic? Confortable? Auto? How about your transmission? Is it sporty? Cruising?

The good news: the Audi A8L fits better than a glove. The bad news: You practically sew the seams yourself.

These are really small niggles when compared to the magnificent metal you get to pilot. But the A8L and the A8 vary in one important respect: the A8 is driven, the A8L is driven by someone else.

Our test version, the A8L, is cast from the same mold as the Mercedes S-class, BMW 7-series, Jaguar XJL and AMC Gremlin — prestige at every turn.

To be sure, the A8L’s back seat is spacious, and when fitted with the executive rear-seat package with goodies like heat, ventilation and massage, it’s sinfully delicious.

Curiously, the A8L isn’t fitted with seatback tray tables like you’d find on finer Maybachs, Jaguars and Southwest airline flights. Just where exactly am I supposed to set my Ferragamo organizer and sheepskin billfold? Pffft.

Factoid: The Audi A8L is actually the car preferred by higher-ups in China. I have a feeling I know exactly why, let me tell you.

First, there’s enough room to fit the Chinese Olympic gymnastic team in the back seat.

Second, and more curiously, even though the car is ri-donk-ulous in every respect, it fades seamlessly into traffic.

The Audi A8L isn’t quite “new money” anymore, in the way that others are. It just rolls along pavement, satisfying an audience of only one along the way: you. On one hand, it’s hard to buy class. In another hand, it’s hard to feel special in a car that costs so much.

Is it perfect? No. But love isn’t either.

For my money, a little more pomp and pageantry would have been nice.

To that end, I guess that’s what the uber-expensive W12 is made for. When big is better, blindingly fast is best.

Then again, you can’t hurry love.

Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He knows he’s wrong, but he’d like to hear it from you. Reach him at aaron.m.cole@gmail.com.

#FastFriday: Watch American muscle blitz the German 'ring Aaron Cole

#FastFriday: Watch American muscle blitz the German ‘ring

That’s a Corvette ZL1 trashing the Nurburgring record at 7:19:63 — a couple years ago.

To be fair, it’s not the production record, but it is the fastest lapping car you could theoretically walk onto a dealer’s lot and buy today. The Viper ACR does it a few seconds faster, but good luck getting your hands on one today.

Still, watching GM’s driver whip the old ‘Vette around is worth the time.

U-S-A!

Have a good weekend.

What's the world's most expensive car to you? Aaron Cole

What’s the world’s most expensive car to you?

A few days ago, this ultra-rare 1962 Ferrari GTO built for and signed by Stirling Moss just sold for $35 million in a private sale making it the most expensive car in the history of everything.

The previous record, according to Automobile Magazine here, was probably for a 1936 Type 57SC Bugatti Atlantic that sold for around $30 million to $34 million.

This one is $35 million better and for good reason, it’s a Ferrari. UK host Chris Evans bought a similar 1962 GTO for $18 million (which I think was James Garner’s or Steve McQueen’s, I don’t remember) a few years ago, but the Moss connection makes this one so cool.

The question is now, what do you think the most expensive car in the world should be? Living or dead?

Bugatti Type 41 Kellner Coupe? Model T No. 1? Beetle No. 1?

Or Alfa Romeo Giulia T22 Carrozzata Zagato? Because if length of name determined price, this thing would be over right now.

#FastFriday: Watch Travis Pastrana run up Mt. Washington faster than anyone else Aaron Cole

#FastFriday: Watch Travis Pastrana run up Mt. Washington faster than anyone else

That’s Travis Pastrana owning Mt. Washington.

The story behind the record-setting run is a little bit of myth and a little bit of fact, but from what I heard it was fairly quick. Like, that was the first run he made up the mountain that day, and Travis had only seen the road — half covered in fog — once the day before.

In roughly 7 minutes, you get why Travis Pastrana is so damn good in everything he races — he’s cooler than an Eskimo’s ice box. Bounding up a mountain at insane speeds doesn’t faze him — at all, and that’s what makes good drivers great.

Also, you get to hear pace notes from a pro, Marshall Clarke.

Happy Friday.

#FastFriday: Walter Röhrl wins the 1980s, world at rally Aaron Cole

#FastFriday: Walter Röhrl wins the 1980s, world at rally

Umlauts are for two things: Mötorhead and Walter Röhrl.

The unbelievable rally driver from the vaunted Group B days puts on a clinic from this classic rally footage.

Equally as amazing his Walter’s skills are the amount of access rally fans were given back then. A massive wreck in Portugal (?) ended all that with fans being cordoned off further away from the action. Just to see the old Audis in action is a reminder of how great those Quattros were. Walter brought his S1 to Pikes Peak, which is amazing footage in itself.

As a bonus, apparently Bootsy Collins composed the soundtrack to this footage.

Happy Friday!