Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Mazda6 Touring

On the second leg of my recent business trip, I arrived late in the day and found myself waiting in line at the rental car counter as several passengers who seem to have never rented a car before inquired about every possible question for every possible scenario known to man. Nearly twenty minutes later, I finally sidle up to the counter and am handed the keys to a surprising selection, the Mazda6. Even though it took my 20 minutes before I was handed the keys, I was in the car and on the road in a matter of minutes. This is why I hate renting in places that do not have Emerald Aisle or its equivalent with other rental companies. Being able to pick my own car and drive away within minutes of exiting the plane is something you don't truly appreciate until you can't do it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Hyundai Sonata SE


Let me start by saying that I cannot understand why rental car companies think Nissan products are acceptable as "upgrades" to reservations. I say that because for this trip, when I arrived at the Avis rental car counter, they cheerily told me that I had received a free upgrade to a Nissan Altima, to which I promptly replied, "Do you have anything else?" What I got was a relatively new Hyundai Sonata, which I promptly accepted. Yes, I have a personal aversion to Nissan products after having a number of not great (read downright awful) experiences with them, but more importantly, I find the quality of Nissan's interiors and the mechanical drone of their CVT transmissions among the most mind-numbingly retched experiences ever conceived by a modern automaker. You know it is bad when I am happy to accept the barely beyond entry level option from a different automaker just to avoid having to suffer in a Nissan. But enough about my disdain for them, and on to the Hyundai Sonata that I spent several hundred miles with.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Titanium

Among mid-size sedans, Ford's Fusion has always been one of our more favored choices. When renting cars, I tend to steer away from any Nissan, Toyota, and Dodge products while Hyundai and Ford tend to find themselves at the top of my list. So on the second leg of our all-Ford weekend (click here to read part one), I was pleased to be able to snag an almost brand new Ford Fusion Titanium for my time in the DC Metro area. Once again, National's Emerald Club program proves why it is my favorite option when renting from an airport. After grabbing the keys and tossing our luggage in the spacious trunk, we headed out for our weekend in our old stomping grounds.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #5

The Focus has been both great, in that it requires little maintenance, but terrible in that it is the car among the many I have owned, that has required the most unscheduled time in the shop. Some of it was the result of other people's inattentiveness, but some of it was the result of issues with the car or associated accessories. Even so, the Focus EV has been a very reliable car by most standards given that the issues that we have experienced with it have not been with the drive motor or high voltage battery, but rather with other minor systems. Let's take a closer look.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX wrap up

It was a long time coming, but after three years, our 2014 Acura RLX has finally been retired. Over the course of the three years we had the RLX, it served us well as a daily commuter, grocery getter, and occasional road trip car. With our folks retired now, keeping around a large luxury sedan, just like keeping around a large SUV, seemed pointless. Most of the RLX's former duties have been taken over by our 2016 Honda Accord Touring, which serves these duties just as well as, if not better than, the RLX. Over the course of the three years though, we've come to learn a lot about Acura's full-sized luxury sedan. Here are some of the things we liked and disliked about our 2014 Acura RLX Tech.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe

It's been three years since I last tested a Honda Civic Si. The last model I tested was the second refresh of the ninth generation Si coupe. Equipped with a K24 2.4 liter four-cylinder, this particular Si felt somewhat neutered compared to the eighth generation Si. For the 10th generation, Honda opted for a beefier version of the 1.5 liter, turbo four-cylinder out of the Civic sedan, coupe, and hatchback. I was originally fairly skeptical when it was announced that Honda would be using this smaller engine since everyone in the enthusiast community was expecting a de-tuned version of the Type-R's 2.0 liter turbo four. Now that I've had the chance to experience the car with the turbo 1.5, do I still think it needs the Type-R's motor? I'll get to that in a bit. Let's start with the rest of the car.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Test Ride: 2017 BMW R1200RS

It has been a while since I had a chance to ride a new motorcycle. Even when I have attended the International Motorcycle Show, the bikes usually have quite a few miles on them. When I rent a bike from a place like Motoquest, the bikes frequently have serious miles. So during my recent hunting online for motorcycles, I came across reviews for a new bike from BMW, the R1200RS. This took the new air and water-cooled flat twin engine from BMW's insanely popular GS adventure bike and places it into a frame that is set up more for sport touring. I absolutely love the torque of the GS flat-twin; this is one of the most iconic engines in motorcycling made better by the addition of water-cooling to create something with more power and ever more reliability. The idea of taking this new, better engine and the ultra-reliable maintenance-free Paralever shaft-drive rear-end and applying it to something more sport touring oriented was certainly very intriguing.

On a day when I needed to be available due to a termite tenting at our house, I finished up dealing with the exterminators and took a little detour before my next appointment to stop by my local BMW dealer to check out this interesting new bike.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Test Drive: 2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost

There is always a moment of nervousness when I get off the plane and am making my way to the rental car center. Even though I am using National, which is one of my favorite rental agencies, the selection of cars available in their Emerald Aisle at various airports is oftentimes a serious toss-up. I could end up with a great car, but I have also been saddled with a few duds from time to time. The day and time of arrival really can make a difference and sometimes, the best time to show up is when there are the fewest cars available because that means a greater likelihood of a free upgrade. As we got off the plane at Logan, I was silently hoping we would score something fun for our time in Boston.

Luckily, it would seem that I was worrying for nothing. When we got to the structure, the selection was gloriously thin, leaving a handful of SUVs, minivans, and, surprisingly, a pick-up truck or two. Tucked away in a corner, hiding behind a column, was a jet black Mustang covertible. I looked over at my wife to see if she was okay with the choice and got a nod of approval. Excellent!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Test Drive: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

As if there weren't enough cars in the mid-size luxury class, a nameplate long forgotten in the US rose from the ashes to once again try and sell their vehicles to a now SUV obsessed American public. Their efforts began with an obscenely overpriced supercar that most people didn't even know existed. Next came their two seat sports car that, while looking and driving exceptionally, made far too many compromises on design and comfort to meet a price point. And so we come to the company's effort to compete in the mainstream mid-sized luxury sedan segment; an overcrowded segment that is unfortunately losing popularity thanks to America's infatuation with crossovers. What company am I speaking of? None other than Alfa Romeo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Product Review: Away Carry-on Luggage

With lots of travel scheduled for this year, I thought it was time to finally invest in a properly sized carry-on bag to avoid the challenges of dealing with checked baggage when flying. The size of the allowed carry-on continues to shrink every few years and the cost of a decent piece of luggage is far more than I honestly care to spend every few years replacing a bag so I dug around the web in search of something that I felt would serve as more than just a bag to carry clothes so that the expenditure would be worth the cost. There are lots of very expensive options with all manners of different features and functionality. Some came with GPS tracking and apps that performed all manners of nearly useless functions while others lacked anything unique at all, making it difficult to justify their high price. It took a lot of searching, but I finally stumbled upon Away, a small company that produces a Goldilocks carry-on bag that was just right for my needs.