Friday, April 29, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX FWD Tech post #5

Update #5
Current mileage: 15,564

The MDX has become the road trip car of choice. In 2014, it was used to take the whole family to the Monterey Peninsula where we enjoyed an extended Thanksgiving holiday. Last year, we used it to hit up San Diego with our bikes in tow, taking a break from our busy lives to enjoy a weekend biking around Coronado Island. This year, the MDX was called upon to serve as transportation for my wife and me along with our rescue pup on a weekend excursion to the avocado and wine growing town of Fallbrook, CA. I will cover the details of that trip in a separate post, but for this latest update on the MDX, I want to focus on two key aspects: puppy transport and ease of cleaning.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Editorial: Expanding too quickly will damage Uber's brand

Oh where do I begin...

Lately, I have had a number of work trips and getting to the airport at the crack of dawn usually means I need to call an Uber since taxis are far less convenient in the LA area. Up until my most recent trip, I have always had pleasant experiences with my Ubers. The cars have been generally pretty clean, the drivers have always been courteous, and they are usually relatively safe drivers. However, this most recent experience shows what uncontrolled rapid growth can do for quality as it highlighted for me what I had heard about as complaints from others, but never experienced myself.

Upon arrival, the driver struggled to open the trunk of the vehicle they were driving because they could not reach the release lever. Then, they had to be prompted to slide the passenger seat up so that I would actually have enough room to get into the car. The back seat had visible crumbs and the entire vehicle reeked of body odor.

We get on the road and the driver spent the entire drive constantly looking down at his phone, which was kept on the passenger seat instead of mounted up on the dashboard within view. To make things worse, he kept having to pick it up in order to read the screen. Despite this, he still somehow managed to miss the directions guiding him to the appropriate freeway and as a result, took an unnecessary detour that drove up my final cost.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Short Term Test: 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT

I sometimes wonder if there is a target on the back of my car. In the almost six years I have owned my car, it has been rear ended a total of three times. At this rate, the insurance company might start thinking I am trying to scam them or something. The most recent accident happened while shuffling home during rush hour traffic on the southbound 405 freeway. Unfortunately, the damage was pretty bad, which meant that my car would be sitting in a body shop for a few days while I would be driving around in some sort of rental car. And so, after leaving my S2000 at the insurance approved body shop, I was shuttled off to the local Enterprise branch to find out what my $35 per day rental coverage would get me.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX Tech post #5

Update #5
Current Miles: 16,382

In the nearly two and half years that we have had the Acura RLX in our garage, it has seen its fair share of...unforeseen damages. The first time the RLX saw a body shop, the front end of our MDX somehow managed to find the rear end the RLX in an unfortunate incidence of friendly fire. That incident caused quite a significant amount of damage, with the driver's side of the rear bumper pretty much mangled to hell, the trunk lid bent in enough so it could not open, and even some minor frame damage. More recently, the RLX was yet again sent to the body shop when a less than patient driver scraped the car against a wall while backing the car out of a driveway. While not as severe as the first incident, it still caused quite a bit of damage, with giant scrape marks across the passenger side front bumper, minor scrapes on the fender and some minor denting. Both incidents have highlighted how expensive this car is to repair!

The Acura RLX is currently the only car in Acura's lineup that is still entirely assembled in Japan. From my experience with my own car, vehicles that are shipped in from foreign countries and sold in low volumes are generally going to be expensive to repair. There is a reason why the RLX and my S2000 are the most expensive vehicles on our insurance policy! The first accident cost well over $5,000, as the impact from the MDX was apparently hard enough to cause minor structural damage to the RLX, and left the car out of commission for over a week. It also left the car with a strange grinding or crunching noise from the rear of the car at low speeds that has never quite gone away. The second accident was not quite as severe on the damage front, but still ended up costing well over $2,000 to repair. Even though the RLX is essentially a Honda Accord with different skin, I guess body shops will charge a premium for repairing a car with aluminum body panels and a luxury badge.

Thankfully, no other damage has come to the RLX, and mechanically, everything still works perfectly fine. With body and frame damage costing this much to repair, I would hate to imagine how much mechanical or electrical repairs would cost. I have heard that repairing Acura's signature Jewel-Eye(TM) LED headlights cost quite a pretty penny. It seems that Acura may be great at packing technology into their cars for a reasonable price, but when it comes to repairing them, things can get quite pricey.

Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 Honda NC700X DCT

Let's be honest: as much as people drool over supersport bikes, only a small number of people genuinely enjoy them for daily use. They are loud, fold the rider into an uncomfortable position, totally incapable of carrying anything, and produce so much power that one always has to be super attentive to keep from getting into serious trouble. Sure they are an absolute blast to ride through the canyons or on a track, but most riders hardly ever see either of those except for the odd weekend here and there. Honda clearly had this in mind when they developed the NC700X. This is a seriously well thought out urban commuter that is aimed squarely at providing an exceedingly practical motorcycle that is accessible to the masses. In fact, Honda considered that point so clearly that they even offer this bike with what essentially amounts to an automatic transmission. 

Yes,folks, you heard that right. The automatic transmission is creeping its way into full-size motorcycles. This is, thankfully, not the terrible CVTs that you see on scooters, but is instead a computer actuated dual-clutch arrangement that I will talk more about later on in this review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Car Culture in Other Countries: Singapore

As a bit of a car nerd, I have always been interested in car culture in other countries. Unfortunately, my day job prevents me from having much opportunity to travel. The large majority of my exposure to the car culture in other countries has been exclusively through media: whether it is movies, television, or online videos. Singapore is one of those countries that I have always been interested in learning more about, especially when it comes to cars. The things I hear about the types of cars you see on the streets, and about the owners has always had me somewhat curious about what makes car culture in this Pacific Rim city-state so different from the rest of the world. Luckily for me, my best friend's 30th birthday ended up bringing me to Singapore, and I would be able to get a first hand look at the types of cars, the traffic, and the people behind the wheel.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Road Trip: Two-up to GMR

I often take those few days before Thanksgiving off to recharge and this past year was no different. It having been a particularly busy year so I was excited to have a few days to go out and do something I had not done in a while. Since my wife was able to take the time off this year as well, we decided to take a morning and revisit one of my old haunts. Being fall, it was still quite cool in the morning and I knew from experience that the temps would get even colder up in the mountains, so we bundled up and headed out on the Beemer.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Editorial: The problem with automated traffic enforcement

A red light camera cluster in Long Beach, CA
I have a serious hate-hate relationship with the idea of automated traffic enforcement. I hate the fact that safety is abdicated to the all mighty dollar. I hate the fact that despite just about every major independent traffic study demonstrating that automated enforcement actually results in more accidents, municipalities still use automated enforcement because they have adapted their budgets to count upon that stream of revenue. I hate the fact that the very presence of automated enforcement often contributes further to congestion as the presence of signs even hinting at the possibility of cameras makes people drive like their IQs have been cut in half. The truth is that automated enforcement does not work as a traffic calming or driving safety measure. Many municipalities are finally starting to wise up to that fact and some have even started to remove their traffic enforcement cameras when the revenue promised by the companies that install and manage the cameras never actually materializes and additional administrative costs are incurred by people fighting the tickets.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Long Term Test: 2007 Honda S2000 post# 6

Sixth update
Current Miles: 79,431

Not a lot has happened with the S2000 within the last few months. I had to replace the rear tires with a fresh set back in December in anticipation of El NiƱo, as my rear tires were nearly bald. I guess that is the price you pay for driving a rear-wheel drive sports car! Aside from a tire replacement, the S2000 has been running strong. A minor gas pedal squeak has reappeared, but it is nothing a little grease cannot fix. I have also recently discovered that my Pioneer head unit does, in fact, have native Pandora support. Coupled with T-Mobile's unlimited music streaming service, this has saved me on many a long drive.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Editorial: Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Earlier this month, Toyota announced that it was giving the axe to its youth oriented Scion brand in August of this year. What happened? This is supposed to a brand that is marketed towards the millennial generation which, in theory, should have been a very profitable gamble. Scion also prided itself on a very straight forward pricing plan (what you see on the window sticker is what you pay), which also meant that Scion vehicles were generally very well equipped without having to spend all day negotiating with a salesperson. People hate dealing with shady salespeople, so this should have been great, right? I will tell you what happened that led to Scion's demise, or at least what I believe to be the reasoning behind Toyota's decision.