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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Test Drive: 2014 Lexus GS350

Regular readers know that Lexus is not exactly my favorite brand. Honestly the only thing that enticed me to even give the 4th generation GS a look was the presence of some insane lease deals that had the GS costing less than comparable cars in the class. Even the slow-selling Acura RLX could not be had as well-equipped for as little cash. So wanting to see if there was some sort of horrible disfigurement or problem that would justify the low price, aside from the low fuel economy and predator grille. I headed to my local Lexus dealer to see if I could scrounge up some quality time with this mid-size contender.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Events: Rusnak Auto Group Driver's Challenge

When the invite arrived in my inbox, I could scarcely contain my excitement. It has been a while since I have had the chance to attend one of these events that offers the opportunity to drive a variety of different manufacturer's products back to back. I reached out to my brother and we quickly got ourselves signed up to participate, opting for a group that would allow us to have plenty of fun while driving a selection of cars that gave us plenty to chat about.

On the day of the event, we hopped into West Brother's S2000 and headed up to Santa Anita Race Track (that's horse racing, for those not familiar with the LA area), which has an enormous parking lot that was not only housing this event for Rusnak, but also the homecoming dances for several local high schools. We checked-in and promptly jumped into line, just in time to be regaled by the sound of the dealership porters running a lap before they put away the cars from the last group on the small, but well-designed, track.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Test Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG

What do you think when you hear the phrase "mid-sized super sedan?" Most people would think of cars like the BMW M3, the Audi RS4, and the Mercedez Benz C63 AMG. Why only those three cars? If there is one thing the big three German car manufacturers do right, it is mid-sized super sedans. Personally, I have always wanted to drive and possibly own one of these three super sedans. Lucky for me, the opportunity to drive one for a full day on my birthday gave me the chance to tick one more item off my bucket list.

East Brother showed up to my apartment the morning of my birthday with a very loud surprise. As I approached my own car, I saw a silver, 2014 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG was parked behind my S2000. Naturally, this was a huge surprise, as the German "hot rod" (as I like to call it) has been a car I have been wanting to drive for a long time. As I approached, East Brother began revving the engine of this beast, confirming my nickname for the car to be completely accurate. The C63's 6.2 liter V8 sounds a lot like the big V8s you find packed into American muscle cars. Listening to that car's engine and exhaust note sent a chill up my spine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Long Term Test: 2012 Acura TSX Special Edition post #4

Fourth update
Mileage: 20,760

Not long after East Brother returned to the west coast, I proposed and experiment: trade cars for a week to see how we would get along with each other's cars. I figured this would be an interesting experiment to try considering the only similarities between my S2000 and his TSX SE are that they were both built by Honda in Japan, and have a six-speed manual transmission. Besides those two similarities, the Honda S2000 and Acura TSX are two completely different machines, built for different purposes.

I went into this experiment knowing things would be very different, so I figured nothing was going to surprise me. Just as expected, there was more space, the cabin was quieter, and the suspension was more compliant. In typical Honda fashion, the transmission was excellent, with a fantastic solid feeling from the shift lever. The lighter clutch took a little to get used to, but again, it was something I expected. So far, it sounds like everything I had expected from transitioning from a two seat roadster to a sedan.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Editorial: Making the DMV experience less painful

For once, a slogan that is actually true
(image courtesyof
In the last few weeks, I have had occasion to visit the CA DMV twice. Usually, the very thought of visiting the DMV makes me want to curl up into the fetal position and babble uncontrollably. It is so bad, I look for every possible way to avoid having to do it, taking care of as many things as I possibly can ahead of time so as to minimize my time spent in the wretched place.

My experience in VA, for instance, was standing outside behind at least 100 people on a swampy, muggy late summer morning, fully an hour and a half before the DMV opened, just to make sure that I could get out of there before noon. In DC, at least the location was indoors, but despite arriving an hour before opening time, there were already at least 100 people in line in front of me and it still took over three hours to finish a few simple procedures. By far the worse experience was in MA, where I not only ended up spending an entire afternoon at the DMV, but was forced to go twice because each visit to the DMV can only include three transactions, a limit that was met by my need to get a new license, title a vehicle, and then register that vehicle. Given all of these rather miserable experiences, it should be no surprise that I was not exactly looking forward to paying the CA DMV a visit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Guest Post: Discovering a mountain biking gem on the California coast

Our regular guest contributor, Christine T., shares with us her discovery of a gem of a riding spot for mountain bikers along Southern California's coastal hills. The collection of trails offers tremendous variety for riders of all skill levels and offers up an opportunity to see some of CA's most gorgeous scenery, especially at sunset.

With over 600 feet of elevation to bomb down Del Cerro attracts all types of riders from hard tails to double crown 29’ers. Technically, the area where the riding takes place is Portuguese Bend Reserve and links with Forrestal Nature Reserve. Trails range from wide, lazy fire roads with moderate climbs to loose, technical downhills. Although the park is open to bikers, hikers, and equestrians, not all trails are open to everyone, and no trail is unidirectional. On the upside almost all trails have great visibility, making on coming traffic a minimal issue.

My first introduction to Del Cerro was a sunset [unplanned] evening ride around Forrestal Nature Reserve. Being that I was visiting, my friends had to bring all the gear, and it took a little bit before we started pedaling. We started from the neighborhood just below Ladera Linda Community Center and hiked our bikes up some stairs to the start of Fossil Trail. From there we did a quick warm up loop through Red Tail Trail to Cactus Trail and back to Fossil Trail, a relatively easy cross country loop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

News: Tom Magliozzi, long-time host of NPR's CarTalk, passed away this week

Image courtesy of WBUR.
This week, the automotive and radio worlds lost a great voice. Tom Magliozzi, half of the pair that makes up the Tappet Brothers of NPR's CarTalk radio program, passed away from complications from Alzheimer's disease. As a long-time fan of the show, my weekend morning routine often consisted of making my breakfast while listening to Tom and his brother Ray cackle and tease each other through some hilarious calls, helping listeners along the way to solve many automotive conundrums, or at the very least, get a good laugh out of the crazy questions. Tom's passing is truly a loss to public radio listeners and the automotive world, but also the cycling world. In fact, Tom has always been a major supporter of cycling, stating in a 2002 interview that he does not even own a car and prefers his bicycle and public transportation to get around the Boston suburb that he calls home.

Our condolences go out to the Magliozzi family, in particular to Tom's brother, and co-host on CarTalk, Ray. Hopefully Tom's legacy can continue to live on in the form of the ongoing presence of re-edited versions of CarTalk on NPR's weekend radio line-up.

Tom Magliozzi, thank you for the many hours of laughter and education you brought to your listeners. You will be missed!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Editorial: Will the New EPA Regulations Kill the Horsepower Wars?

Image courtesy of Dodge
With new cars supposed to achieve an average MPG of 34.5 by 2016, you would think that car manufacturers would have shifted their focus to squeezing every last MPG out of their new cars. However, cars like Dodge's all new Charger and Challenger Hellcat only prove that the horsepower wars are alive and well. For an avid car fanatic, like myself, knowing that car manufacturers still care about trying to squeeze every last drop of power out of their cars is always great news. It is even more exciting knowing that cars like the Hellcat duo are making their insane horsepower numbers without the help of electric motors or fancy alternative fuel systems. But with 2016 looming ever closer, how much longer can the horsepower wars keep going?