Critics’ Notebook: Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S

The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S may be an aggressive, sculpted, phallic two seat sports car, but despite multiple tries I’m still not that into it. (Please don’t pillory me.) Sure, it’s a raucous and outrageous piece of machinery, and it's not that I dislike bruisers—though believe me, this thing is a bruiser almost in the Viper mold—it’s just that I prefer just about every other vehicle in the category over this one. That includes cars like the Porsche 911 and event the Chevrolet Corvette; those cars have a solid identity and know what they’re supposed to do, even if that mission is “provide enhancement for emasculated orthodontists.”

The GT, despite its name, is not a Grand Tourer. It’s far too stiff, and loud, and—despite its comely bubble butt, by far its best asset—relatively scant in the cargo department. Also, hard seats, which put a severe limit on the grandness of one’s tour, unless one has extra padding back there from overeating on said tour, in which case one is also shit out of luck because the seats are also narrow. Over-ample hindquarters are not a problem I deal with, personally, but if you’re cross-shopping this vehicle, it might be. Rich and gluttonous pair like Riesling and swordfish.

Above all these complaints is the way the thing looks. I understand the desire to place the engine behind the axle, but really, why so much nose? I felt like I was driving a 737 from atop the commode in the back of coach. (Though this cabin did smell much better.) This is one of the rare vehicles that looks better in photos than it does in real life.

Some cars you want to fuck. Some you want to marry. I don’t even really want to date the GT-S. If it’s your type, please, have at it.

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Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S
Price (as tested): $130,825 ($154,400)
Powertrain: 4.0 Liter twin-turbo V-8, 503 hp / 479 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.0 seconds
Top speed: 193 m.p.h.
Appearance: Schnozzy

Classics Department: Persol 714 Sunglasses

The name "Persol" sounds so sexy, no? But translated from the Italian it’s actually an incredibly pragmatic name: “per il sol,” or “for the sun." Italians make everything sound better.

In truth the brand was born not for sunbathing but "per la guerra". In 1917, when WWI aces on both sides needed eye protection, Torino-based Berry Opticians was ready to supply them. The company manufactured custom-made goggles with rubber gaskets to prevent the intrusion of flying debris and smoke. After the Great War the aviators' so-called “protection glasses” became popular with daredevils of all sorts—especially drivers.

That success among the motoring masses fueled the inventiveness of Berry Opticians founder Giuseppe Ratti, who had by the 1930s pioneered two great inventions that remain features of modern Persols.

The first was the Meflecto sprung hinge at the temple that allowed the shades to be worn for hours without exerting too much pressure on your skull—very helpful for long distances behind the wheel. Ratti also invented the Persol Victor Flex, a flexible, three-notch nose bridge that allowed the glasses to conform comfortably to a range of faces. All these extra hinge points allowed the eventual creation, in the 1960s, of iconic actor Steve McQueen’s favorites, the folding 714s. These get four “arrows,” the name for the metal inserts within the cotton acetate frame material that reinforce the frames at their hingepoints. (The arrows have also become a kind of shorthand for the Persol craftsmanship.) Bend the temples inward at the center of each arm, fold the arms where they attach to the lenses, and then fold the frames at the center of the bridge and voila: you can neatly tuck the origami glasses into a shell case that fits nicely in a shirt pocket.

McQueen was a Persol fan long before he and the brand were “seen” together in the 1968 flick The Thomas Crown Affair, a sexy and stylish heist thriller co-starring Faye Dunaway that proved a marketing coup for Persol. McQueen, an accomplished race car driver (who at one point nearly gave up acting to race full-time) dug the shades and Persol’s other protective eyewear, and had a huge collection of their high quality glasses. Some of those pieces were auctioned, after the actor’s death in 1980, for five-figure sums.

McQueen’s favorite was apparently the folding 714 in light Havana with blue lenses, and as with seemingly everything McQueen touched, those shades have since become a signifier of effortless cool.

In 1995 Persol was sold to the massive optics conglomerate Luxottica, but they’re still made in Italy and continue to hew to a fairly clean iconography and topflight build quality. If you're looking for a new set of sunglasses for the approaching summer, you could do worse than ask yourself: What Would Steve McQueen Wear?

Sidecar-Riding St. Bernards Are The Best Thing About SXSW

There's plenty of neat things to see at this year's massive SxSW Festival in Austin, Texas. An early version of Key & Peele's wonderfully NSFW film Keanu, Keynote addresses by both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, performances by Ryan Adams and The Avett Brothers, among many, many others. But, cool as they are, all those events pale in comparison to the St. Bernards riding around the festival in motorcycle sidecars, saving people from the curse of a dead cell phone battery.

For the second year in a row, Mophie is teaming up with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation to provide emergency recharges to folks with dying mobile devices. This year, however, they're also getting help from Indian Motorcycles, who outfitted some bikes with Big Dog-worthy sidecars for the pups to ride around in. Indian is also donating a custom Scout Sixty motorcycle to the cause, should you feel like helping out dogs in need/riding around on a battery pack-branded bike.

Mophie's St. Bernards will be cruising March 11–13. If you're at SxSW and need a quick boost, you can try to summon them by tweeting @mophie with your location, a picture of your dying phone or tablet, and the hashtag #mophierescue. Or, if you just want to play with enormous, lovable dogs, you can swing by Mophie's biker-themed "Bad To The Bone Bar" and hang out with St. Bernards. There will be puppies.