Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Driving 101: Interacting with Bicyclists

This month, as we continue our ongoing Driving 101 series, I want to focus on interactions with one of the other primary forms of road users, cyclists. Despite being a more vulnerable road user, cyclists are in a rather unique position to be both a benefit and a challenge for drivers. They are a benefit in that the more cyclists there are, the fewer drivers there are clogging up our roads in their individual cars. However, they present a unique challenge in that they tend to travel at average speeds that are less than cars while in motion, but because of their narrow width, have the ability to move in-between other vehicles and catch up when cars are stuck in traffic. As an automotive enthusiast, I want to see more cyclists on the road to help reduce congestion. As a cycling enthusiast, I want to see greater awareness of cyclists and their rights from my fellow drivers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Editorial: I Don't Understand the "Bro" Truck

Image courtesy of OC Weekly
Not long ago, during a power outage, my fiancee and I went to our local Denny's to grab breakfast since we could not cook. Mid way through our meal, a lovely senior couple was seated next to us. As they finished ordering, the husband spotted a jacked up Ford F-150 pick up truck pulling into the parking lot. He watched as the driver slowly climbed out of his car and struggle to extract his child from the rear of the cabin. The husband then turned to me and asked, "son, do you know why people do that to their trucks? It seems pretty stupid." I could only agree with him and laugh, because I too fail to understand the reasoning behind the "bro" truck.

For those of you who do not know what a "bro" truck is, look at the image above. It is quite simple, really: a pick-up truck or heavy duty SUV with a jacked up suspension and huge tires. They look silly, are woefully unstable, and generally give off the image that you are overcompensating for something. Let us also not forget the cost that goes into making your perfectly good pick-up truck or SUV look like a monster truck rally reject. Why do people do it? I honestly cannot tell you why, but here is what I fail to understand about these rolling monstrosities.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Consumer Advice: Finding the Right Tire for Your Car

Finding the right tire for your car should not be a daunting task. Unfortunately, with the plethora of choices available, the average car owner does find tire shopping to be a difficult task, and usually resorts to going to the dealer to get the same tire installed that came with the vehicle, or go to a tire shop and use whatever recommendation they offer. Sure, this is the easy way out, but you also miss out on finding a tire that may suit your needs better and might also cost less money and save you some gas. Still interested? Keep reading for some factors to consider when selecting your own tires, as well as some tips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Events: The New York International Auto Show

The Big Apple put on a good show this year. I drove into town on Friday afternoon and had a nice time catching up with a friend I had not seen in a while. With an early start on Saturday, I got to take advantage of New York's world class public transit system, including the fairly recently installed Citibike bike-sharing service, and arrived at the Javits Center bright and early. Waiting in line, I had a chance to chat with a lovely couple, who also had come down from Boston to attend the auto show, and observe the chaos that was caused by the governor deciding that he wanted to make an appearance. Taking advantage of early entry, I was able to spend some quality time with a number of cars, shoot a lot of photos, and generally enjoy my long day.

Toyota wins the prize for being the most ADD at the show, with not only a huge number of cars, but also all sorts of entertainment options such as racing simulators, distracted driving simulators, fuel cell car ride-alongs, and much much more. GM looses points for figuring out how to get stuck in its own wing away from the rest of the show, making it less crowded, but also less inviting, although their display was quite plentiful. The biggest losers were supercars, which were poorly represented with only one local dealer bringing a few to show. The biggest winners were almost certainly consumers, who got to see just how good cars of gotten in the last decade.

Below, we take a look at a number of the significant vehicles from the show and I offer my thoughts about each. You can also view the full gallery of photos from the show in our Photo Gallery.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Editorial: The Dealership Experience

Though we at East-West Brothers Garage are fans of Tesla's direct-to-consumer sales approach, it does seem like there are many hurdles, like state-level government regulations and dealership lobbyists, to it becoming more common. Plus, it may not be the best fit for purchasing a less expensive, more mainstream car where choices and immediate fulfillment are as important as getting exactly the right set of options. So until things in the industry are truly shaken up, we will continue to rely on traditional brick and mortar car dealerships to sell vehicles to those of us in the general public. This means that the dealership experience is going to continue be very important and will be crucial to your car buying satisfaction and ongoing ownership. Some brands go to great lengths to create as consistent a buying experience as possible no matter which dealership you shop while other brands allow much more flexibility at the dealership level to tailor the experience to the individual buyer. In light of that, I want to share some examples of both good and bad experiences I have personally had with various car dealerships over the years.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest Post: 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium

West Brother's fiancee received a 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium as a replacement rental after two horrible days with the marijuana smell filled 2013 Toyota Camry SE she initially received from Enterprise. What follows is her review of the car. If you too would like to contribute an article, just contact us.

Before reading my review on the Ford Fusion Titanium, you must understand a few things about my experience with cars. I have always been partial to Honda due to their reliability, practicality, and resale value, therefore I never considered an American car as an option. I am also definitely NOT a car enthusiast and will roll my eyes at my fiance when his gaze wanders away from me to a car (at least it’s not another woman). Then, I came across the Ford Fusion Titanium after a minor car accident. While my car was in the shop, I was given a black Ford Fusion Titanium by Enterprise to get around town. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Sentra SV

So after getting my S2000 back from the body shop for just a little over a week, some idiot adjusting his seat at a stop light stepped on the gas and rear ended my car. With my S2000 back in the body shop, I yet again needed a rental car to get me to and from work. Luckily, the local Enterprise by my residence was not going to charge me an arm and a leg to rent a car for two days (compared to the locations near LAX), so I went ahead and rented a car from there. Boy was I in for a horrible time.

As of late, Nissan has gotten into the game of building dull, boring, lifeless vehicles, but try to pass them off as fun and exciting in their television advertisements. Frankly, the only two Nissan branded vehicles that seem like they would actually be any fun to drive are the GT-R and the 370Z, one of which is a super car, and the other a sports car. What happened to building a people mover that is actually still fun and engaging to drive? Unfortunately, Nissan had thrown the formula for building a fun and engaging sedan out the window a long time ago.

If my original review of the Nissan Versa Note SV a few months back was any indication, I should have went into the test drive of the 2014 Nissan Sentra SV with very low expectations. And although I already went into the Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot with my expectations near rock bottom, I can honestly say that a new low bar has been set.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drawing Board: BMW M7

Alpina's B7, the closest thing to a M7 you can get
at this time (image courtesy of
BMW's M division makes some pretty amazing vehicles, and they do make some questionable ones too. Cars like the M3 and M5 are consistently lauded for their incredible performance while vehicles like the X5M and X6M make people scratch their heads and wonder "why?" In all the years the M division has been creating monster machines though, BMW has never taken it upon themselves to create a super version of the full-sized 7-series sedan. As it stands right now, Mercedes Benz and their S63 (soon to be S65) AMG, and Audi's S8 have no competition from BMW. While you could compare the S63 AMG and Audi S8 to vehicles from Rolls Royce and Bentley, would it not be more interesting if t were the German big three slugging it out?

"But guys, there's the Alpina B7!" Yes, the Alpina B7 could be considered BMW's super luxury barge, but it is not built by BMW or its M division, but rather by Alpina (a separate company that builds their own cars based off of BMW's vehicles). Enter the BMW M7. This would be BMW's super luxury barge built by their own in-house tuning arm to take on the Mercedes S63 AMG. While the car does not actually exist, and is questionable whether it ever will, its non-existence allows us to imagine what the car would be like. BMW claims there is no market for such a car, and that buyers wanting a performance version of the 7-series would just buy the V12 equipped 760Li. We believe the Mercedes S63 AMG and Audi S8 prove otherwise.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Test Drive: 2014 Mazda3 S 5-door Grand Touring

Mazda has been on a roll, lately (aside from the recall involving the spiders). The Mazda6 is a stunning piece of rolling art and is easily among the most attractive sedans available to the general public in the market today. The latest generation of SkyActiv engines and transmissions have been a huge hit among consumers and the automotive press, who have praised the mix of power, smoothness, and fuel economy. With the 25th anniversary of the Miata coming up, it seems that Mazda is on the verge of being a serious competitor, if not for consumer's wallets, at least for their hearts and minds.

As a former Miata owner, I have a particular place in my heart for the little automaker that could. The Mazdaspeed3 has made my shortlist a couple of times for its combination of oh-shit-that's-a-lot-of-torque-steer power, hoon friendly handling, and surprising practicality. Each time, it was vetoed for the atrocious fuel economy, but it made it to the final round every time. The regular Mazda3, however, has gotten to benefit from the halo of its wild sibling and my general impressions of it have always been that it is a solid driver's car, if not exactly top of class in terms of its interior accouterments. Still, it is a bread and butter car for Mazda, so this latest redesign really needed to do something to capture more wallet share from the competition. Will its sleek new looks and loads of widgets do the trick?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Innovation: Drones for cyclists

Image courtesy of Frog Design
Group rides are an integral part of cycling and many cyclists enjoy the group ride both for the camaraderie as well as the challenge. Having a group of people to chase can help heighten the adrenaline rush and can really improve mental focus around training. The only problem is that group rides can often be difficult to arrange, since coordinating schedules can be a pain, making sure riders are of the appropriate level is not always possible, and sometimes, you just want to enjoy the solitude of a solo ride, but still want the thrill of the chase.

One California based company believes that it may have found the perfect solution. The "Cyclodrone" concept from Frog Design is a pair of drones that can be programmed to follow a pre-determined route and offer linking to your mobile device for control and tracking, but will also carry cameras to allow recording of the ride. The drones will remain a preset distance away from the rider and provide for greater visibility of the approaching cyclist for other road users in the form of lights mounted on its body.

The concept itself is intriguing and, while it lacks the social aspects of group riding, does seem like it has the potential to offer the fitness benefits. If paired with some of the available fitness tracking programs or even an interval timer, a rider could easily pre-program a full interval workout along a predetermined route, allowing them to optimize their training efforts and be able to do it whenever fits best into their schedule. The ability to record the ride will also help in analysis of pedal stroke for efficiency and for identifying any behaviors that need correcting to improve form. Of course, a major drawback might be how long the batteries would be able to last as many longer rides can go for well beyond the battery life of most remote drones available to consumers today.

Obviously, for the casual or recreational rider, this is likely far too expensive and far too impractical a tool to really get much use, but for those who are serious about training, there seems to be potential in such an innovative approach and it could add some real flexibility to the training regimen. I could also see this being fun for motorcyclists as being able to capture video of a ride from several different angles would be a pretty unique way to improve cornering form as well.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Editorial: Why do Americans have so much hate for cyclists?

I know better than to read comments on the Internet, but sometimes, I just cannot help myself. I try (I really do) to ignore the hate filled diatribes that permeate the likes of Youtube video comments about cyclists and every effort is made to not even glance at the comments that follow any article that discusses cycling in cities. What is it about cyclists that sparks such vitriol among so many people? Drivers hate us and want to run us over. Pedestrians hate us and want drivers to run us over. Police officers often presume fault when a cyclist is involved in a collision. Even our justice system is stacked against cyclists as killing someone riding a bike is frequently deemed an accident and most cases result in little to no punishment. Why has one group come to draw so much disdain from everyone else?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Brand Profile: Acura

This post marks the start of our brand profile series of articles. Each post takes an in-depth look at a single brand that sells vehicles in the US market and shares not only some of the history of the brand's vehicles, but also the brand's current standing through the lenses of enthusiasts. We start with a brand that is near and dear to our hearts and, as they recently reminded us for April Fools, alphabetically first. Our family has owned 16 Acura cars since 1992 with everything ranging from the smallest 2-door Integra to the 7-passenger MDX. Our relationship with the brand has long been based on the value proposition of excellent, well-equipped cars for significantly less than the competition. However, as the years have progressed, our own impression of the brand have also changed.

In March of 1986, Acura sprung forth from the minds of Honda's executives and became the first Japanese luxury marque to be introduced in North America. Acura started with two vehicles: the Legend sedan, and the Integra, which was available as both a five-door and three-door hatchback. Eventually, that grew into a full line-up of cars and a few SUVs. Over time, the brand evolved from a distinct premium brand into what felt increasingly like upscale Honda vehicles, especially as the engines and platforms were shared across the two brands.

Image courtesy of Drive to Five

Always taking a different approach to engineering than their competitors, Acura focused on cars that were fun to drive, even if they did not fit the definition of a traditional performance car. The Acura Integra, a small front wheel drive hatchback that also spawned a sedan, quickly gained a following among the tuner crowd for its easy tunability and surprisingly capable chassis right out of the box. The Legend, especially the second generation coupe, showed that a luxury car did not have to give up any driving dynamics to coddle its passengers in total comfort. To demonstrate just how capable their cars were, they also introduced the world to the NSX, the first all-aluminum supercar that could be daily driven with the reliability and ease of repair of a Honda Accord.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE BEST CAR EVER! 2013 Toyota Camry SE

Look at that sexy sexy
Have you ever driven a car that makes you think, "This is the best car I have ever driven in my life, yo!" Well, I've got two words and two letters for you: TOYOTA, CAMRY, S, E. Boom! This car is so awesome, they should have added an X and Y to the end of the name and called it the Camry SEXY.

I have to admit, when my fiancee first brought this car back from the Enterprise lot, I thought, "nah, bro, this car is gonna be whack." After spending a few hours with it though, I'm all like, "dude...this car makes me feel super mellow." So here's my review of the 2013 Toyota Camry SE(XY).