Thursday, May 30, 2013

Drawing Board: Acura ILX

As car enthusiasts, we tend to look at a car's features and specifications and wonder what could be done to a car to make it better. Sure, there are some cars out there that do not need much improvement, but there are also cars that have a lot of potential, but are handicapped by poor planning, lack of clear direction, or are simply trying too hard to be too many things to too many people. Starting with this post, we will start a series of "what if" articles, focusing on what changes we would like to see on certain cars that we believe would make the car perform and sell better.

Our first specimen for this series is the Acura ILX.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Civic Si Sedan

MSRP: $22,715
Price as Tested: $24,215

Not too long ago, I reviewed the 2012 Honda Civic Si Sedan. The result of Honda's decision to cut costs on the 9th generation Civic resulted in a slew of criticism regarding its cheapened interior and boring design. Luckily, Honda had already begun work on refreshing the 9th generation Civic before the car even hit the market. The result of the refresh is the 2013 Honda Civic, with a revised interior and an exterior face lift. Are these changes enough to fix the Civic's tarnished reputation? Would I consider buying one now that the car is less boring looking and actually has a decent interior? Continue reading after the jump to find out.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Exclusive: Visiting the Honda/Acura collection

Both my brother and I have been fans of Honda and Acura vehicles for an incredibly long time. Nearly every car we both have owned has been a Honda or Acura product. Our parents are also big fans of Acura vehicles, owning 10 Acura vehicles in the past 22 years. To give you a sense of just how much we are fans, here is a list of all of the different Honda/Acura vehicles we have collectively owned as a family:

1991 Acura Vigor
1998 Acura 3.2 TL
1997 Acura Integra LS 5MT
2002 Acura 3.2 TL
2004 Acura TSX 5AT
2005 Acura RL
1997 Honda Accord LX
2005 Acura MDX
2006 Acura TSX 6MT
2008 Acura TL Type-S 6MT
2008 Acura TL Type-S 5AT
2008 Acura MDX Base
2007 Honda S2000
2011 Acura RL Tech
2011 Honda Fit Sport
2011 Acura MDX Tech
2012 Acura TSX SE 6MT

Suffice it to say, we are loyal customers.

Beginning this year, Acura's social media division began giving tours of the private Honda/Acura car collection in Torrance, CA. In order to become part of the waiting list for tours, fans of the official Acura Facebook page could post a story on the Acura owner's site with the title "My Historic Acura." Being such a huge fan of Honda and Acura products, I jumped on the opportunity as fast as I could. And so, on May 8 of this year, I joined the second group of Honda and Acura enthusiasts in touring this amazing facility.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

News: Chinese Automakers Quietly Build a Detroit Presence

The New York Times recently ran a piece detailing the small, but growing, presence of Chinese automakers in Detroit and the surrounding areas. This foothold in the heartland of the American automotive industry is not necessarily a bad thing as it means the potential revitalization of an area that many Americans had already written off. The Chinese automakers, seeking the expertise of long-time Detroit Three engineers to bolster their technical shortcomings, are taking a very different approach to that taken by their Japanese counterparts some four decades ago. Instead of making a big splash, the Chinese are slipping in under the radar hoping to avoid the backlash and ire that the Japanese faced.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Test Drive: 2011 Chevy Camaro SS 6MT

The modern retro revival theme, originally started with the introduction of the Ford Mustang, was continued when GM brought out the new Chevrolet Camaro. Billled as a true pony car successor to the F-body version that had been so popular during the late 90's before its demise, the new Camaro borrows themes from the classics and gives them a modern interpretation, creating an exciting looking car, powered by the ubiquitous LSX motors shared with the Corvette and several other GM products. The car was an exciting entry when it came out, promising a cool look and great performance to rival the latest Mustang and Challenger. But does the Camaro deliver as a performance car or is it an anachronism dressed up in modern mechanics?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Events: Boston Cars and Coffee May 2013

Cars and Coffee started as a gathering for automotive enthusiasts of all stripes and got its start in Southern California and has since grown to cities all over the country and even internationally. Each area brings a different crowd with different cars: DC had a large number of extensively customized classic performance cars, Irvine tends to draw a serious supercar crowd, and now Boston brings a large selection of AWD performance. I had a chance to drop in on Boston Cars and Coffee at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. Click on any of the photos after the jump to see the full album.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ Limited

MSRP: $25,495
Price as Tested: $27,495

Thanks to a certain Japanese anime called Initial D, I became infatuated with the 1983 to 1987 Toyota Sprinter Trueno, a.k.a the AE86, a.k.a. the "hachi roku." In high school and during my first year of college, I was dead set on finding the American equivalent, the Toyota Corolla GTS, to own as my first car. Of course, as time passed, I realized this would be a lousy investment as the amount of money I would have to spend to make the car drive the way I wanted it to would cost me a fortune. Despite my economic disadvantage at the time, I remained a fan of the AE86.

When Toyota announced the spiritual successor to the AE86, the FT86, I was pretty stoked. In conjunction with Fuji Heavy Industries, the owners of Subaru, Toyota created the Toyota GT 86, better known as the Scion FR-S here in the states. Subaru also produced its own version of the car called the BRZ. Besides some interior differences and minor suspension tweaking, all three versions of the car are basically the same. Here, I test drive the Subaru BRZ to see if it lives up to the AE86's legacy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Test Drive: Tesla Model S Performance

I freely admit, I am a fan of the Tesla Model S. Since the very first photos of the concept were released, I was smitten and started thinking about all the possible ways I could score a test drive. Of course, the problem up until recently was that one had to pretty much be a member of the automotive press or pony up the $5,000 deposit and wait for their turn in line in order to even have the opportunity. We were fortunate enough to get the chance to preview the Model S earlier this year that offered hands-on quality time with the car, but no test drives were available. Luckily, things have changed. In the last few weeks, with the recent positive news coming from Tesla, an influx of product availability means that the test drive policy is getting less restrictive and genuinely interested parties are finally able to experience the cars on public roads. So when Tesla store in Natick called me back to schedule a test drive, I jumped at the chance.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Editorial: Florida to Introduce New "Road Rage" Law

In March, my brother posted an article about a woman who was ticketed for driving two miles per hour under the speed limit in the far left lane (read that post here). The problem was not the fact that the woman was driving two under, but that she was holding up traffic in the passing lane. Many accidents and bouts of road rage are caused by drivers who lack any sort of lane discipline. In an effort to hopefully curb road rage and decrease the number of accidents cause by slow drivers hogging the left lane, Florida state House and Senate have passed a bill that would fine drivers $60 for driving 10 miles per hour under the speed limit in the left lane on a highway with two or more lanes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Test Drives: 2013 Hot Hatch Comparison

During the last few weekends in March, we tested five hot hatchbacks currently available in the market. Those reviews can be read by clicking on the following links:

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth
2013 Subaru WRX 5-Door
2013 Mini Cooper S
2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn Edition
2013 Ford Focus ST

What is a hot hatchback? Many people have variations on the definition of what makes a hot hatchback, but to us, it is pretty simple. It should be a hatchback with ample cargo space like its more pedestrian counterpart, but with a sport tuned suspension, more powerful engine through turbo charging or increased displacement, and the right amount of exterior modification to help it look sporty and differentiate itself from its more basic sibling. A hot hatchback should be a car that you can drive everyday to work or the grocery store, but should also be capable of handling spirited driving sessions, or even a track day or two. So we rounded up some of the most popular hot hatches on the market to see which one best meets that definition.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST

See how the Focus ST performed against its competitors in our Hot Hatch Comparison.

MSRP: $23,700
Price as Tested: $28,120

Since its introduction to the US market, the Ford Focus has generally been associated with rental car fleets and cheap transportation. The fact that the US market Focus could never match the quality of its European counterpart did not help Ford shed the Focus' economically minded image. In an attempt to spice things up a bit during the first generation Focus' lifespan, Ford introduced the SVT Focus, equipped with Ford's 2.0 liter "Zetec" inline four. The car was a decent performer, even beating rivals from Honda and Volkswagen in a Car and Driver comparison. Unfortunately, when the second generation Focus was introduced, the SVT Focus was laid to rest, and Ford decided that making market specific Focus (Foci?) was a good thing. Not only was the European version of the Focus widely considered to be superior, but the Europeans got the hot versions of the Focus such as the ST and the RS. Sagging sales, general criticism of the second generation, and an interest in saving money prompted Ford to go back to using a global platform for the third generation of the Focus. For the 2013 model year, the US market sees the return of a hot version of the Focus with the all new Focus ST.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Long Term Test: 2007 BMW K1200S post #1

Update: Click here to read post #2.

I have been riding for a few years now, having gotten my start with an easy to ride and manageable Kawasaki Ninja 650R. That bike served me well, having taken me on numerous trips, daily commutes, and fun rides around the DC area. However, one of the things that it never did all that well is provide pillion accommodations for a long ride. Learning to ride, I had always wanted to have my wife ride with me so that we could share some memories together. Knowing that I would only be able to keep one bike, I began looking at various sport-touring options that would provide more comfortable pillion accommodations but still offer plenty of fun and sport for my solo rides, which would probably still make up the bulk of my riding. Additionally, I wanted something that would be able to mount a fair amount of luggage for longer trips while requiring minimal maintenance between services.

To satisfy these criteria, I began my search looking at mainly larger bikes specifically designed for sport touring and carrying luggage. The bikes were all shaft-driven, longer wheelbase, and weighing anywhere from 450 to 590 lbs. All had lockable luggage options from the factory and could accommodate a top box with minimal modification or additional parts. Ideally, the bikes should also have some cold weather equipment included from the factory, such as heated hand grips or heated seats. Most importantly, the bike should still be fun to ride. The bikes that quickly found their way to the top of my dossier included at least one new bike, the Honda VFR1200 that was being discounted heavily at the time, as well as several used bikes, including the Kawasaki Concours and Yamaha FJR. What did not originally make my original list was the BMW K1200S.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobhan Edition DSG

See how the Volkswagen GTI performed against its competitors in our Hot Hatch Comparison.

MSRP: $24,795
Price as Tested: $33,100

The Mk. I Volkswagen Golf GTI is widely considered to be the very first hot hatchback in automotive history. Since its introduction in 1974, the Golf GTI has gone on to spawn five more generations. 2013 marks the final year of the current Golf GTI, the Mk. VI. The version I test drove here is the most expensive model available for the GTI, the Autobahn edition, equipped with Volkswagen's six-speed DSG twin clutch transmission. The Autobahn edition comes standard with leather seats, bi-xenon HID headlamps, and basically every available option for the GTI, along with Autobahn exclusive 18" wheels. The Mk. VI GTI has been around for a while, but is it competitive with the new batch of hot hatches on the market? Does it live up to its Mk. I roots?