Friday, July 27, 2018

In Memoriam: Sergio Marchionne (June 17, 1952 - July 25, 2018)

News broke this morning that the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Sergio Marchionne, had passed away on Wednesday from complications related to shoulder surgery. Marchionne made his last public appearance on June 26 of this year and took medical leave soon after for shoulder surgery in Zürich, Switzerland. The surgery was for an invasive shoulder sarcoma, which he had kept concealed from his colleagues. On July 21, when the severity of his situation worsened, Marchionne was replaced at FCA, Ferrari, SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) and CNH Industrial. He is survived by his partner, Manuela Battezzato, and his two sons, Alessio and Tyler.

For anyone in the automotive world who isn't already familiar with Marchionne, he was the chairman of Fiat since 2004 and oversaw the acquisition of Chrysler. His blunt and outspoken personality allowed him to turn a dysfunctional Fiat and a bankrupt Chrysler into a successful global giant. Known around the world for his classic wool, black sweaters (much in the way Steve Jobs is known for his black turtlenecks), Marchionne was especially well known in the enthusiast community for bringing us such vehicles as the Charger/Challenger Hellcat and Challenger Demon. Under his guidance, Marchionne also brought us a Hellcat powered Grand Cherokee, and third generation Viper, and various Ferraris, Fiats, and many other successful and amazing vehicles.

Marchionne was always an interesting character. As mentioned, he was always very blunt and outspoken. He was never keen on the idea of autonomous cars or electric cars. When asked if an autonomous Ferrari would ever be a possibility, he said "you'll have to shoot me first!" He also implored people to NOT buy the Fiat 500e electric car as it was built simply to satisfy California regulatory requirements and FCA was losing money on it. Marchionne also reportedly spent a good portion of 2015 on a quest to merge with another large automaker to reduce inefficiencies and lower costs. General Motors was one of the targets of this quest, but that obviously never happened.

It's hard to imagine many other people who would be able to pull off what Marchionne did for the automotive world. His recovery of Fiat, acquisition of Chrysler and the subsequent creation of a global car empire are nothing short of amazing. If there were two faults with him, it was the fact that the man was ruthless and a bit of a workaholic, both of which probably weighed on him towards the end of his tenure. Nonetheless, Marchionne spent 14 years at the helm of Fiat and then FCA, making him one of the longest serving chief executives in the automotive industry.

With Marchionne's passing, one thing is certain: the automotive industry just lost one of its most interesting people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Test Drive: 2017 Nissan Maxima SV

We arrived at Dulles early in the evening on a Friday. The Emerald Aisle selection was slim pickings, especially if we wanted a car with reasonable cargo space that was not a crossover of some kind. The thought occurred to me to ask for something particular, but I eventually settled on the one car in the line-up I had not driven yet, the loan Nissan Maxima. With its legacy of being the 4-door sports car (4DSC as the marketing mavens at Nissan called it back in the day), the current Maxima has an awful lot of history to live up to, especially considering that the last one I drove back in the early 2000s seriously failed to live up to expectations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Road Trip: Lake Arrowhead

She's not a fan of photos...
We don't often get to take our pup out of the local area where we live, so every once in a while, we make the effort to find a place to go that is within driving distance and is pet friendly. Last year, we were out in a more rural part of San Diego county, near the Temecula wine country. This year, we decided to try for a weekend in the mountains of San Bernardino County. Lake Arrowhead, one of several lakes nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, was a place that we frequently visited as kids. I have fond memories of various trips with family so it seemed fitting to do a trip there, though this would be a much nicer and much more outdoorsy trip than the ones of my childhood.

This would also be our first long distance drive in the Bolt so we took some extra precautions, charging up the Bolt's battery to full for the first time since we got the car. Google Maps showed our driving distance as about 100 miles with around 6,500 feet of climbing in the last 20 miles. We also spent some time to make sure we knew where the charging locations were along our route in case we needed to top off on the way back. My rough calculations indicated that we had plenty of range on the battery to make it to the top of the mountain, but it never hurts to be prepared. Of course, we needed not have worried as the Bolt performed admirably.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Test Drive: 2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T

I'll be the first to admit that we're a bit late to the party when it comes to reviewing the all new, 10th generation Accord. The car with the 1.5 liter turbo four cylinder has been out since late last year, and the 2.0 liter engine version has been around since about February. As the owner of a 2016 Accord Touring V6 though, I still felt it was relevant to review this car, as East Brother and I are considering it as a potential replacement for our current Accord. So how does it stack up to our current Accord?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Editorial: Ford Phasing Out Small Cars and Sedans Except Mustang and Focus Active

Image courtesy of IMCDb.org
It's been some time since we've posted anything, but after reading that Ford announced it will be axing nearly all of its small cars and sedans in favor of CUVs and SUVs, something needs to be said. If you haven't seen or heard the news yet, check out this article from Autoblog:

https://www.autoblog.com/2018/04/25/ford-cancels-all-cars-mustang-focus-active/

Or this one from Jalopnik:

https://jalopnik.com/ford-will-phase-out-all-its-small-cars-in-north-america-1825544784

This is a HUGE mistake. Not everyone wants a tall and ponderous CUV or SUV. There are those of us that still prefer the stable, low center of gravity offered by a traditional sedan, coupe or wagon. People constantly argue the reason for getting a CUV or SUV is because of growing family needs or space needs. Wagons are perfect for that purpose! Unless you find yourself driving over large, irregular obstacles on a normal basis, what need do you have for a lifted vehicle? Are you an actual off-road enthusiast? Do you actually use the bed of your pick-up to haul things on a daily basis? Go nuts! Buy all the big vehicles you want! The rest of us will do just fine with regular sedans, coupes, and wagons.

Another issue is the fuel consumption equation. The cost of gasoline in the United States is lower than in most other developed nations, and we seem to take this fact for granted. As the supply of petroleum becomes lower and lower, and the price of gasoline steadily rises, consumers who jumped on the SUV bandwagon are going to regret their decision. Unfortunately for these people, trying to get rid of their inefficient SUV or CUV will be difficult since no one will want them anymore. So why do we do this to ourselves? Who knows...

The CUV/SUV apocalypse is upon us, and Ford has chosen to herald the demise of the small car. If FCA and GM jump on the bandwagon along with Ford, then we know we're doomed.

At least the Mustang will still remain.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Product Review: Anker Roav Dashcam A1

Ah...dash cams...an often unlimited source of entertainment, but also a Godsend when the inevitable accident occurs. There are all sorts of different types of dash cams available now. You have ones that replace your review mirror, ones you mount directly to you windshield, even ones with back-up camera capability. I've been driving my S2000 for quite some time without a dashcam, but the fear of getting hit while I'm on the road now that I'm driving my S2000 a little more often again prompted me to get a dashcam. The S2000, being a small car with a low and wide windshield meant finding a dash cam that would be low profile enough to not eat up too much real-estate and become a distraction. Thanks to after Christmas sales, I had plenty of options to choose from.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Happy 2018 and Happy 5 Years!

OK, so it is a little late for a "Happy 2018" post, but I decided to intentionally wait until this day because January 21st marks the fifth year that my brother and began actively working on this blog. I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has been following us, and that has been reading our blog regularly. I know that we both haven't been posting as regularly as we did in the past, but we're both trying to work around our personal schedules to try and bring you more content. Thanks again for continuing to follow us through our wheeled adventures, and thanks for being patient while we write (and  maybe even film) more material to post. Until then, here's to a better year for all in 2018!

(And here's a pic of my washed and waxed S2000 to celebrate!)

- West Brother

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back at 2017

2017 has admittedly been a somewhat slow year for us. With lots going on in our personal lives, it's been hard to post regularly. Still, 2017 was still an eventful year for us in automotive terms. As East Brother is currently on vacation, I will share some of my favorite automotive moments from 2017.

Cadillac Truth + Dare 

Earlier this year, East Brother and I attended an event put on by Cadillac called the "Truth + Dare" driving event. It was an event put on to highlight some of the technological and performance aspects of Cadillac's newest crop of vehicles. This wasn't something we covered here on the blog, but ended up on our own personal Instagram accounts instead. Still, despite the coverage, we had a blast at the event. The highlights being getting to floor both an ATS-V and CTS-V down a 1/8 mile course, and getting to flog some cars through a small autocross course.


Instagram

Speaking of Instagram, we finally have an Instagram account! I know, it only took us a few years to hop on the bandwagon. You can find us @eastwestbrothers.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

2017 marked the year Alfa Romeo was serious about returning to the mainstream American auto market with the Giulia mid-size luxury/sport sedan. East Brother and I managed to snag a test drive a few months after it hit the market at our local Rusnak Fiat/Maserati/Alfa Romeo dealership. While we both walked away impressed with how the car drove and looked, the interior was well below our expectations of a car costing north of $50k (as equipped). Of course, there was also Alfa's "legendary" reliability issues constantly nagging us in the back of our minds. 
A few months ago though, I had noticed that the dealer had vanished. Considering that at the time of testing, the Giulia was probably only doing about 2,000 units per month, it was really no surprise that Rusnak decided to abandon ship. It's a fantastic car, and I really want to like it and recommend it to people, but the reliability issue and company longevity issue really makes it hard to like and recommend. Damn shame too because it's such a fantastic driving and gorgeous looking car. 

East Brother's Chevy Bolt

East Brother acquired a new vehicle this year with a new Chevy Bolt EV. I was never a huge fan of his Ford Focus EV, but the Bolt, despite looking funny, impressed me with its performance and level of technology. Funny how we now have two cars in our fleet in a shade of  "pull me over" blue. I think we've agreed to stick with the theme and possibly get our next car in a similar shade of blue.

Vehicle Retirements

2017 also marks the year we sent two of our long term cars back to their respective manufacturers: our 2014 Acura RLX and 2014 Ford Focus EV. You can read about our respective final thoughts on both of these vehicles here and here.   
I hope that 2018 proves to be an even more exciting year for us. 

Stay safe everyone, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Hyundai Elantra SEL

A few months ago, I wrote about how crowded the mid-size luxury sedan class was when I reviewed the Alfa Romeo Giulia. If you really want to talk about "overcrowded," take a look at the compact sedan class. Every single large volume manufacturer has a competing vehicle in this class (except for Chrysler, who abandoned that market - Ed.), so the number of choices can be...overwhelming, to say the least. There are a few standouts in this class though: the VW Golf, the Honda Civic, the Mazda 3, and the Ford Focus, to name a few. Hyundai's Elantra usually ranks relatively well when compared to other compact sedans, but just doesn't seem to sell quite as well. Heading out to Baltimore during Veteran's day weekend, I needed a rental car, and decided on an Elantra, as it was the most appealing vehicle available at National's "Emerald Aisle" lot at Baltimore/Washington International. Let's see if I can figure out why the Elantra ranks well in reviews, but lags its competition in sales.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric wrap-up

One of our first pictures of the Ford Focus Electric
After three years and over 24k miles of service, it is finally time to bid farewell to our daily driven Ford Focus Electric. This was the first electric car that my wife and I have owned and was the start of what will likely be a legacy of electric car ownership going forward. While it was not a perfect car, the Focus Electric has quite a few charming characteristics that made it a fantastic daily driver and with a little bit of forethought, it became a perfect vehicle for how we live our lives. The ownership experience was largely a positive one, but also not without a few flaws. However, for a first generation electric vehicle, it served us well during its three years in our garage.