Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Test Drive: 2015 Chrysler 200S

Let's be honest, the last generation Chrysler 200 was just plain. Plain awful. It really had no redeeming qualities as the interior was a dreadful place to be and it was so boring to drive, I was surprised that I managed to complete that trip without ending up in a ditch somewhere after falling asleep at the wheel. Luckily, the folks at the new, post-Fiat acquisition, Chrysler saw fit to replace the soporific old 200 with a brand new sedan that not only looks fantastic inside and out, but they also built it on a brand new chassis and added some new drivetrains that should help the 200 finally be a genuine competitor in the crowded mid-size segment.

From when I first laid eyes on the car at the New York International Auto Show earlier this year, I knew that I had to find the chance to take one for a spin. During a recent trip to the DC area, I had the opportunity to pick up a relatively new (just over 2500 miles on the clock) Chrysler 200 as my ride for a weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Editorial: Shouldn't Supercars and Hypercars Come With a Mandatory Training Course?

Image courtesy of Motor Authority
By now, I am sure most of you have heard about the guy who wrecked his shiny, new McLaren P1 within 24 hours of bringing it home. If you have not, I have linked the article for you after the jump.

Now that you are caught up, let me first clarify by saying that I really do not care if you have the money to afford a million dollar hypercar. If you can, good for you. But just because you have the money to own one, does it mean you are automatically qualified to drive it?

Hypercars, and even less powerful supercars, have far more horsepower than the average driver should ever be comfortable with on public streets. One stupid mistake, like the 27-year-old P1 driver made, and you could end up wrecking your extremely expensive car. To prevent these sorts of costly and potentially life threatening mistakes, supercar and hypercar manufacturers should enforce, or encourage at an absolute minimum, some kind of driver training program that must be taken before the buyer can take delivery of their new car, especially if this is the first car that the buyer has purchased from that particular brand.

New supercar and hypercar owners would greatly benefit from learning about their brand new toy. Learning the limits of what your new car is actually capable of in a controlled environment means less chance of endangering other drivers and yourself while on public roads. It also means less chance of damaging your new vehicle to the point of total loss. If a driver cannot take the course seriously, then the keys should not be turned over until a certified instructor deems the driver ready to take delivery of their new vehicle. It seems harsh, but I think having a mandatory course like this would also help weed out super and hypercar owners who do not take driving seriously in general. After all, driving is a privilege, not a right.

I guess it would just be easier if everyone had to take such a course, would it not?


Friday, December 12, 2014

News: Improving road safety through technology

Image courtesy of Extremetech.com
In the past year, we have seen announcements of research into a large number of different new technologies intended to make our roadways safer for all users. Everything from car-to-car communications, which would allow vehicles on the road to be able to talk to each other to help avoid accidents, to pedestrian safety technology, with improved capability to recognize pedestrian and cyclists to avoid crashes, to self driving cars. All of this technology is intended to help drivers avoid crashes with each other as well as other road users.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Long Term Test: 2012 Acura TSX Special Edition Wrap-up

Final update
Final mileage: 20,760

Last week, we said hello to a brand new member of our long-term fleet and this week, we say good-bye to another. The second generation of the TSX got a rough start, being one of the first members of Acura's fleet to receive the much maligned "beak" treatment, but after a few mild adjustments as part of a mid-model cycle refresh, the TSX looked a bit refreshed and less clunky, though still far from stunning. In selecting the TSX, I was looking for a balanced small mid-size sedan with good performance, excellent comfort, and lots of practicality. Plus, by requiring a manual transmission and a manageable monthly payment, it limited the pool of potential candidates and the availability of cars made that list even shorter. Over the course of our nearly 1,000 days with the car, my wife and I used it as our daily driver, but really the TSX was primarily a serious road trip car as we ended up mostly using our bicycles around town.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #1

So the time has come to reveal the newest addition to our long-term fleet. This car is taking the place of the TSX in my personal garage and is to be the primary car for me and my wife over the next few years. While the TSX served us well during our cross-country trip, the lease on it was coming up and the cost of having to register it in California was going to be fairly high, which put us in the odd spot of deciding what would be the most cost effective thing to do: replace the car or just pay for the registration for a few brief months. In the end, we examined a fairly broad variety of cars and developed a set of criteria that had to be met. Fuel economy/environmental friendliness was made the top criteria followed by practicality, technology, and value. A set of four finalists was lined up and we ranked each car. The outcome shocked me, to say the least...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Game Review: Grid 2

F1: 2013 was a great game. It can be a bit tedious due to the realism and simulation-like quality of the game play. As I am always looking for another great racing game to play, I wanted to go back to something more arcade like; something I can just pick up and play without having to decide what tires to use or how much fuel to put in my car. Lucky for me, another Humble Bundle came out with some games that looked interesting to me. Among these games was Grid 2. I had recently played the first Grid in an arcade and found it to be fun and easy to pick up. I figured Grid 2 should be just as entertaining.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Drawing Board: Acura Integra/RSX

Image courtesy of Car Domain
A rumor out of the SEMA Show in Las Vegas says that Honda could be working on a successor to the much loved Acura Integra and RSX. During the Acura panel at SEMA, head design honcho, Dave Marek, kept bringing up the Acura Integra of the 90s. No one is completely sure what to make of this, but if Honda really is working on an Integra/RSX successor, they are going to have their work cut out for them.

When the ILX made its debut two years ago, Honda and Acura fans had thought that it was going to be the second coming of the Integra sedan: an affordable and practical Acura with an injection of sportiness and luxury. Unfortunately, the only version of the ILX that could even be remotely considered related to the Integra is the 2.4 liter equipped "performance" model. While the performance of this particular variant was decent, it only came with the six-speed manual and its overall packaging was not enough to differentiate it from a Civic Si. As sales numbers have shown, the ILX was far from a success and Acura needed to fix it. At this year's Los Angeles Auto Show, Acura introduced the all new, refreshed 2016 ILX that fixed the biggest issue with the car: the engine that everyone wanted was now actually equipped with an automatic (the TLX's eight-speed DCT technically). With all the new technology stuffed into the ILX though, it is still missing a coupe version to truly make it a successor to the Integra.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Product Review: Thule Raceway 9003 Platform Bike Rack

As a cyclist, one of my biggest conundrums has always been figuring out the right way to carry my bikes when I want to travel with them. Last year, when we traveled to Vermont and Cape Cod, there were so many amazing places that my wife and I could have gone riding, but we did not because we did not have a suitable rack and renting bikes when we got there would have been challenging since we were always staying in somewhat out of the way places. When it came time to make our cross-country trip, I resolved to make sure that we could bring along our two blue vintage bikes so that we could use them as a means of exploring the cities along our route. Given the distance to be traveled, I wanted to pick something that was going to be able to hold two bikes we great stability while still being portable enough to remove quickly if needed so that the trunk could be accessed. A means of locking was also important because both bikes carry a great deal of sentimental value.

After extensive research, I decided to go with the Thule Raceway 9003 Platform. This trunk mounted rack had the added benefit of platforms for the bikes' wheels to rest on and the general consensus seemed to indicate that platforms were desirable if one was going to be traveling long distances. The Thule seemed to meet all of the requirements I had set and, aside from being a bit hefty, would likely work well during our long journey.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Events: 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

2014 marks the first year in a while that East Brother and I were able to attend the Los Angeles Auto Show together. With two people at the show, we were able to cover much more of the cars and test drives that I ever was able to do on my own. We arrived at 9am, right as the doors opened. East Brother went in to cover the new cars while I started on the various test drive events. Here are some highlights from this year's Los Angeles Auto Show.




Friday, November 21, 2014

Long Term Test: 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited post #3

Third update
Current mileage: 27,476

The Sonata has continued to be bulletproof from a reliability perspective. Little more than basic oil changes and tire rotations have been required to keep the Sonata on the road. However, what continues to be a disappointment is the fuel efficiency. While Hyundai's problems with their reported EPA fuel economy are well documented, our fuel economy problems are a combination of location and excessive exuberance with the throttle. Going up hills has the car swilling fuel like a drunk at an all-you-can-drink happy hour. The Sonata's 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 motor is a gem and delivers solid performance, but at the expense of fuel efficiency. Luckily, it uses regular instead of premium, but even with gas prices falling, the need for constant fill-ups is surprising.

On whole, there is much to like about the Sonata, but also much to be disappointed with, especially given how long it has been in our fleet. In less than two years, the car has managed to rack up an impressive amount of squeaks and rattles, which would be even more audible if not for all of the road noise. Open the expansive panorama moon roof and the buffeting was so bad that I could not hear myself think. Even when everything is buttoned up properly, the body torques and flexes, generating so many strange sounds, I am beginning to wonder if something is off on the body structure. Even rental cars I have driven with many more miles do not seem to make this much racket. While initial quality and reliability has improved dramatically, Hyundai may still have a long way to go to match longevity of the Toyotas and Hondas of the world.