Monday, December 30, 2013

Editorial: What John Krafcik's depature means for Hyundai

Image courtesy of Automobile Magazine
If you have not heard the news already, a big shake-up is taking place in the automotive world - John Krafcik, the leader of Hyundai's operations in the US and considered one of the more visionary leaders among major automakers, is stepping down come January 1. Krafcik's tenure at Hyundai saw the Korean automaker go from selling mediocre cars that competed by selling for a lot less to a truly global automaker that now produces cars that are not only competitive, but downright world-class and in some cases, are class-leading. This kind of total image shift is something that few automakers have managed successfully and fewer still have managed so effortlessly as Hyundai has with Krafcik at the helm.

Krafcik has overseen the launch of the wildly popular Sonata and the transition of the Genesis sedan from a home market only vehicle to a truly global product. A completely redesigned Elantra has made huge waves in the compact car market by showing the world that cheap does not mean you cannot have a little style. And the funky Veloster redefined the subcompact segment with its unconventional looks and door arrangement. To be fair, it hasn't been all favorable. In fact, Hyundai just recently settled with owners of various models for overstating EPA fuel economy figures that most drivers found unattainable.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT

For our final test drive of the year, I opted to select a car from a brand that is near and dear to my heart. As a long time owner of Acura cars, my 2012 TSX being the fifth Acura I have personally owned, I have always followed the brand closely and frequently return to them when I am seeking a starting point when searching for a new car. Therefore, you can imagine my disappointment when the initial version of the 4th generation Acura TL was released, the prominent beak overshadowing all other design aspects of the car, which carried a muscular profile that nobody cared about because of that grille. For 2012, Acura made a course correction and toned down the styling of the TL for its mid-model year change, resulting in a rather more conventional, but significantly more handsome version of the now signature Acura look. It had been a while since I had taken the 4th generation TL out for a spin and I had yet to drive the 6-speed manual transmission version with Acura's utterly brilliant super handling all wheel drive (SH-AWD) system.

It is hard not to draw comparisons of this car with the 3rd generation TL Type-S that I owned back in 2008. That car had the strongest motor in the TL line-up at the time, putting out a claimed 286-hp to the front wheels and, if you had the manual transmission (which of course I did), a limited slip differential. That car is still, to me, the one that got away and I regret ever agreeing to sell it. Despite being FWD, it handled surprisingly well and was extraordinarily well balanced between comfort, performance, luxury, reliability, and cost. Coming into my test of the 2014 TL, I was expecting Acura to deliver once again on this formula, given its past success, but I would leave feeling more than a little let down.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays from East-West Brothers Garage!

To start, thank you to all of those readers who have continued to support our efforts to bring you a balanced look at how cars, motorcycles, and bicycles are a part of our transportation landscape. We hope everyone has a safe and fun filled holiday season and is able to enjoy some time with (or away from, if that's your thing) family.

For Christmas this year, we take a look back at some of our favorite vehicular gifts that we have received over the years whether they are gifts given to us by others, ourselves, or even just surprises we have encountered over the years. Here is what we enjoyed the most.

West Brother's Favorites

I think the best gift I have gotten for my car over the years I have owned it has to be a brand new soft top for $100, including installation. When I bought my car nearly four years ago, there was a small hole developing near the soft top support beam on the right side of the car. What started as a tiny tear eventually turned into a three inch long gash that only got bigger each time I opened the top. I was able to mitigate the tearing with a vinyl repair patch, but it looked ugly. After some digging around on the internet, I found a recall  for the soft top that addressed the very tear that plagued my car's soft top. I brought my car into my local Honda dealer along with the recall. Since my car's warranty had already expired, I was expecting a repair total of at least $1000. However, due to my family's long time Acura loyalty, Honda approved the repair for only $100. Naturally, I was ecstatic. My car now has a brand new top and looks better than ever!

East Brother's Favorites

My favorite gifts to myself frequently are two-wheel related and usually in the form of rental time on a motorcycle as my own bike is stashed away on the East Coast while I am out in gloriously sunny Southern California for the holidays. In the past, that has been the GSX-R 750 that I rode around some of the best roads in the Angeles National Forest as well as a Ducati Monster that I took to visit my alma mater while I in the area. This year, time simply does not permit me to rent a motorcycle, but I will be getting some time with the excellent Brammo electric motorcycles soon.

As far as bicycling gifts go, this year my wife has graduated to her first road bike after many decades of riding various cobbled together hybrids. She has only taken a single ride on it so far, but loves the fact that it is significantly lighter than the bike she rides on a daily basis. For me, I got my Shogun 300 bike all fixed up and picked up a new pair of pedals for it along with a new pair of mountain bike shoes that look a lot like regular sneakers to allow me to get around town without looking like a total bike nerd. Looking forward to taking advantage of the warmer climate to get in some extra training miles before I am once again stuck on the indoor trainer back home on the East Coast.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Drawing Board: 2015 Acura TLX

Image courtesy of Motor Authority
With Acura TSX production ending in December 2013, the ILX taking up position as Acura's entry level sedan, and the current generation of the TL ending its run, Acura needs a sedan to slot into the position left empty by the TSX and TL. Enter the all new Acura TLX. This is the car that Acura is setting up to compete against rivals such as the Lexus IS, Mercedes C-class, BMW 3-series, and Audi A4. The TL and TSX have, in their own ways, been excellent cars and we here at East-West Brothers Garage certainly hope the TLX will combine the best ingredients of both for a truly amazing sport sedan.

With the announcement that Acura will be debuting the TLX prototype at next month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, that got us wondering what the TLX will include.  In their press release, Acura has stated that the TLX will introduce two all new powertrains to the Acura lineup. This does not necessarily mean the TLX will only have two powertrains to choose from. We are expecting Acura to introduce multiple trims for the TLX, with a healthy number of powertrain options. Here is what we would like to see as those trim and powertrain options.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Honda CR-Z

As I have oft-stated, I am not a fan of hybrids. I always feel like they are too compromised, especially when it comes to performance and driving dynamics. Considering that many gasoline powered cars have reached a point where they are able to achieve extremely good fuel economy, some which rival the economy of the hybrids, the loss of performance that comes with the hybrid simply does not seem justified. However, as a fan of alternative fuel vehicles, I was intrigued when a few years back, Honda introduced a concept 2-door hybrid in a tiny package. The CR-Z, which carried a silhouette reminiscent of the sporty and hilariously fun CRX of the late 80s and early 90s, had the potential to deliver on its promise of making a hybrid that was fun to drive, easy on the wallet, and practical too. The specs were far from encouraging, however, with the combined output noticeably anemic in comparison to other sporty subcompacts in the segment, most notably the funky looking Veloster, but the bantam weight 2-seater had a lot going for it in the way of instantly available torque from its electric motor. Would the CR-Z be the one to change my long-standing critical stance on hybrids?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Road Trip: Seattle to Portland

Upon touching down at SEATAC, my preconceptions about Seattle seemed like they were going to be shattered. The sun shone brightly in the sky and a warm breeze ran through my hair as I exited the terminal. Clouds were visible on the horizon, but none were dark enough to indicate rain. Hopping on the rental car shuttle, I was looking forward to my first trip ever to Seattle, keeping my fingers crossed that I would be able to find a suitable vehicle to accompany me for the trip. My stay was to be brief - a client meeting that afternoon, some time on my own, capped off with a drive from Seattle to Portland, OR where I would be staying for the night. All in all, the trip would be two solid days of hours spent on the road, although luckily I would be able to connect with a friendly face in Portland for lunch before departing from PDX on a flight home.

Arriving at the rental car facility, I skipped the counter (thank you National Car Rental for your Emerald Aisle program) and headed straight down to the cars to scout out my options. Having just recently driven a Ford Fusion, I decided to skip those, which eliminated about a dozen cars. Next car I came across was a Dodge Stratus - pass! Behind me, the horde of people that had been on the rental car shuttle with me had started to make their way down to the cars and I knew I would have to pick soon or be stuck with the dregs. Continuing down the aisle, I finally came across a wine red Hyundai Sonata. Winner! I quickly placed my luggage in the trunk and got settled in, seat adjusted, phone synced, and ready to go.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Long Term Test: 2011 Acura RL Tech Wrap-up

Current Miles: 16,640

December 14, 2013 marks the final day our Forged Silver Metallic, 2011 Acura RL Tech spent with our family. This RL, the second one we have owned, has served us well for the last three years. Besides a very minor paint quality issue I noticed when we picked up the car (which was fixed under warranty), the car has been trouble free. What surprised me most was the fact that the transmission did not suffer any issues and was not recalled for any problems. It is an odd thing to be surprised about, but considering Honda's history on rolling out new transmissions, the fact that there were no problems left me a touch amazed. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Audi S4 Premium Plus 6MT

Some people look for pure speed when buying a car. Others look for nothing but total luxury and comfort. Others still want nothing but the ultimate driving experience. But what if you could find a car that combines all of these traits. Imagine a car that offers excellent power combined with superb handling and wrapped in a high quality leather-swathed package with room for 4 adults and their luggage. Even better if it comes available with a manual transmission. There are only a small handful of cars that fit such an exacting and rigorous set of criteria and the current generation Audi S4 is precisely one such car.

In the past, Audi's A4 platform offered many of the desired traits, but was too small to comfortably seat 4 adults for anything longer than a run to the local pub or organic grocer. The up-rated S4 models, which sported everything from turbo-charged six cylinders up to a high-revving V8, heaped on mountains of power and improved the handling, but could never address the fact that the backseats were nearly useless for anyone larger than a preteen. However, with the introduction of this latest platform, Audi took the extra measure to stretch the wheelbase enough to offer what is finally usable legroom for rear seat passengers. Add to that a typically Audi interior layout, the all new supercharged V6 motor, and, of course, the latest version of Audi's ubiquitous Quattro AWD system and what you have is one of the most balanced cars available on the market.

But, is it good enough to justify its nearly $60k pricetag?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

News: Nissan Leaf Owner Arrested for Charging Car Without Asking

Image courtesy of Accuracy in Media
With more and more electric cars hitting the roads, public charging stations are popping up almost as fast as the cars are being sold. However, with only about 6,800 public charging stations available in the United States, charging your electric car away from home is not always an easy proposition.

Such was the case for Nissan Leaf owner Kaveh Kamooneh. Kamooneh plugged his Nissan Leaf to an external outlet at a Chamblee, GA middle school where his son was taking part in a sporting event. After charging his car for only five minutes, a police officer approached and asked whether Kamooneh had permission from the school to be using the outlet. Kamooneh noted that there were no school staff around at the time, and the officer accused him of stealing. Kamooneh was arrested at his home 11 days later, and was forced to spend a night in county jail. How much electricity did Kamooneh actually steal? Reports claim a paltry five cents. According to a Chamblee police sergeant though, the amount did not matter. The sergeant claims that the fact Kamooneh was stealing was what mattered.

Because there is not an abundance of electric car charging stations across the nation, there may come a time in an electric car owner's life where they will need to charge their car at a stranger's home, a store, or, in Kamooneh's case, a school. Until the infrastructure for public charging stations can be beefed up, it would seem there needs to be some sort of social protocol regarding charging an electric vehicle outside of a public charging station.

So I ask you, dear readers: what do you think the social protocol for charging an electric vehicle with someone's electricity should be? Should we really treat this any differently than someone plugging their iPhone into a public outlet for a quick boost? Do you think an electric car owner should be able to just walk up to an outlet in a public area and plug their car in without permission? Is that really an offense that someone deserves spending a night in jail for, especially for such a minuscule amount?  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Read the original news article here: Nissan Leaf owner arrested for taking 5 cents of energy without asking

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Long Term Test: 2007 BMW K1200S post #2

Second update
Current miles: 23,065

With just over 23,000 miles, the K1200S has been nearly flawless. The power is still utterly intoxicating, offering speed on demand anytime I want it. The versatility is amazing, as I have used the big Beemer for everything from canyon carving in the mountains of New Hampshire to picking up groceries from at the Chinese grocery store in Downtown Boston to day tripping down to Cape Cod for whale watching. In every situation, the bike proves that it is capable of everything I have to throw at it and I continue to explore the limits of its usability. As I ride pretty much year-round, it has experienced temperatures ranging from well down into the low 30s all the way up to well into the high 90s. No matter what the temperature, the bike is comfortable and offers a sense of stability and security that my much smaller Kawasaki Ninja 650R was unable to provide.

Of course, as with any high performance vehicle purchased pre-owned, it has not been entirely without issue. Last fall, the battery started to struggle to provide sufficient amperage to overcome the resistance in the wiring, leading to challenges starting the bike when the engine was hot. That created a few embarrassing moments at gas stops when I had to push start the bike in order to get it going and on more than one occasion, had to jump-start it to get it running. Luckily, a swap of the battery from the older and less efficient lead-acid variety to the new
AGM model used on current BMW motorcycles more than cured the issue. I have also taken to pulling the battery and storing it on a trickle charger anytime I expect to be unable to use the bike at least once every 2 weeks. The battery issue also created a minor problem with the electronically adjustable suspension, causing the damping setting to get stuck. Luckily, it was stuck in SPORT mode so I was still able to really enjoy the ride, though I do admit that I missed the other damping options on some of the longer trips.

In July, when I had the bike's inspection brought up to date, the mechanic doing the inspection notified me of a few items that needed to be addressed in the near future if the bike was to remain safe on the road. This is what prompted my detour to MAX BMW during the Kancamagus Highway trip. While I did not get the service performed that day, I did collect enough information to feel confident that these were the guys I wanted to use when it came time to have the service done.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Cadillac CTS AWD V6 Luxury

To say that the CTS is an important car for Cadillac is a bit of an understatement. The last generation CTS became the bread and butter car in Cadillac's line-up and was one of the early signs of a struggle for life from a then disintegrating GM. This 3rd generation car needed to do a number of things for Cadillac: one, grow the CTS to properly compete with the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class; two, continue to expand and improve Cadillac's reputation for performance as established by the recently introduced ATS; three, demonstrate that Cadillac has been listening to its customers and fix the issues of the previous generation cars. With its recent string of successes in the form of the ATS, Impala, and Corvette, GM approached the redesign with great care and what has resulted is honestly a genuine piece of art. But as good as it looks, can it really go toe-to-toe with the established German competitors?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Road Trip: The Kancamagus and Sawyer Highways

The morning was cool, water droplets still littered the lawn and the previous night's rain had yet to fully evaporate, leaving the pavement slightly damp to the touch. Nonetheless, I grabbed my gear and mounted up, the K1200S purring along smoothly as I hit the highway, headed towards NH. As I rode, the temperatures began to rise and the roads had dried off, allowing me to open up the big Beemer's motor and really stretch its legs. Settling into a rhythm, music playing through the speakers in my helmet, I cleared my mind as the lane markers flashed by beneath me.

With one slightly extended detour to check out MAX BMW while I was in the area, I arrived in the tiny hamlet of Conway, NH right around noon. The holiday on Thursday meant a lot of people had taken this Friday off and the roads were crowded with all manners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Not having taken that into consideration when I left home that morning, both the bike and I were running on fumes by the time I pulled into town. Luckily, the main stretch in Conway offered both a place to grab some gas for the bike and some refreshments for me. Getting out of the mid-day heat, I camped out at the Sweet Maple Cafe for a bit to have lunch and do some work on the laptop I had been lugging around with me all morning.

The bike fully fueled, my bloodstream coursing with caffeine, I stepped out into the hot afternoon sun and saddled up for an afternoon playing in the mountains of central New Hampshire.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Events: 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show

Image courtesy of
Every year during Thanksgiving weekend, auto manufacturers gather at the Los Angeles Convention Center to show off their new and existing wares. Though the Los Angeles Auto Show is not the largest auto show of the year, it still gets its fair share of world debuts. This year, 29 cars made their world debut at the LA Auto Show, with over 50 cars, including the world debuts and concept cars, making their first appearance at the LA Auto Show. The North American International Auto Show (which takes place in Detroit, Michigan) is the largest in the US and this year the LA Auto Show cemented its place as the 2nd largest auto show in what is easily one of the largest automotive markets in the country.

This year, I found the most exciting debut to be the Jaguar F-Type Coupe. East Brother test drove the F-Type V6S Convertible not too long ago, and really enjoyed it. The sounds of the engine, the excellent interior, and the overall feel of the car are definitely worth an experience. Now, with the F-Type available in coupe form, Jaguar fans in parts of the country with lousy weather can now too enjoy the amazing F-Type without having to worry about the elements destroying the soft top.

While the F-Type coupe was definitely one of my favorites, click on the link below to view the rest of the highlights of the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, including the world debut of the Subaru WRX, Acura's RLX SH-AWD, and many more.

2013 Los Angeles Auto Show Highlights