I still haven't forgiven the Vanderhall Venice
A fun three wheeler that COULD be so much more fun
Back in October of 2020, I spotted a Vanderhall Venice parked on the side of the street. Seeing one last weekend reminded me of a grudge I hold against this car.
"Why?" you may ask. "It looks fantastic!"
That it does. It's a clean and modern take on a three wheeler from the outside. It doesn't feel overly derivative of the Morgan Three Wheeler and others, instead very much blazing its own metaphorical trail in the styling department.
"Then is it that you just don't like three wheelers?"
No. While I don't have a particular affinity for the Polaris Slingshot, I like three wheelers. And I don't have anything against Vanderhall Motor Works either. Founded in 2010 in Provo, Utah, it's a boutique auto maker that actually managed to deliver on its promises for the most part, a rare and admirable thing indeed. They produce interesting vehicles in low volume for high prices and I'm okay with that.
"Then what is it?"
Simple. The reason is most evident from the inside.
See? Only two pedals! But that's the ONLY option available. I'm not a diehard manual proponent but a novel three wheeled weekend car just feels WRONG with a 6 speed torque converter automatic. I understand some people would buy them with one, but they never put a manual in this chassis. The whole point of a car like this is for the raw experience and the car just seems so style over substance.
And if that doesn't get you, this car is front wheel drive! That ought to really take the edge off the driving experience.
Don't get me wrong, their branding and market positioning is admirable, but the powertrain is just so uninspired. Speaking of branding, they sell 8 different versions of the gasoline powered car under two different names.
Their pricing is high but not ludicrous for the base model Venice Blackjack. It's got a 1.4 liter turbo four making 175 horsepower and 185 pound feet of torque, plenty for such a light car and probably too much for the front wheels.
If you're willing to pony up an additional $20,000 for a Carmel GTS, 80% of the base price of the car, you can get an additional 20 horsepower from .1 more liters of displacement. That seems like a pretty rotten deal, doesn't it? That's $10,000 more than the (still FWD) electric Edison2!
So, does this stylish three wheeler have its place in the automotive kingdom? It starts off relatively affordable in the world of boutique auto makers, helped by its simple powertrain, but the whole idea just seems to be so ingenuine.
I see this as a Harley Davidson Trike for people who wouldn't be caught dead on a Harley Davidson Trike. A reasonably fun weekend cruiser that doesn't ask all that much of you. I just don't quite see the appeal here over any number of other two and three wheeled contraptions.