Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Test Drive: 2015 Audi A4 2.0T FWD Multitronic

MSRP: $35,500
As tested price: $39,900

My experience with the Audi A4 in the past has been relatively positive. Thanks to the car rental company, Silvercar, I have gotten to spend extended time with the A4. However, all of the A4s in Silvercar's fleet are equipped with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system. Seeing as how every other mid-size luxury car we have tested thus far have been two wheel drive, it would seem unfair to find a Quattro equipped A4. Besides, testing a front-wheel drive model will help not with just the car's fuel economy, but with its price as the A4 is not exactly the most cost efficient mid-size luxury car.

And thus we run into a problem. Either Audi sells a ton of front-drive only cars, leaving only Quattro models in their inventory, or people only want Quattro cars, thus forcing Audi dealers to minimize the number of front-drive cars in their inventory. The Audi dealer we selected to visit was one of the largest in Southern California, yet they did not have a front-wheel drive A4 equipped as we were expecting. Instead, we had to settle for something close, which did mean the car was missing a few key pieces of equipment we were hoping it would have. Lack of equipment notwithstanding, would the front-wheel drive A4 drive as well as its all-wheel drive counterpart?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX FWD Tech post #3

Update #3
Current mileage: 8,374

The MDX continues to serve us well as the beast of burden. Our family vacation to the Monterey Peninsula in Northern California had five of us in the MDX for an extended drive of over five and a half hours, but we arrived in total comfort with a weekend's worth of luggage in tow. However, despite the long stretches on open highway, the MDX's fuel economy continues to disappoint, averaging a rather paltry 24 mpg over the course of the 330 mile drive that took place largely on flat, open, non traffic-congested roads. Admittedly, our average speeds were frequently around 70 mph and the added weight of five adult passengers plus their luggage are likely contributors to that low number. Of course, the massive fuel tank meant we did not have to fill up again until well into the return leg of that trip, although we probably could have done the entire trip on a single tank of fuel.

Unlike our several previous MDXs, this latest one is not fitted with AWD, which might have been a reasonable excuse for the reduced fuel economy. We opted for the FWD version specifically because there is little need for the extra weight and fuel economy penalty of an AWD system here in sunny Southern California and because the extra performance benefits would hardly be appreciated given that this car is basically a daily driver. Still, while it feels relatively spry for such a large vehicle, there is a torpidity to the way the car responds to changes in direction that was not present in the SH-AWD equipped predecessors. And without any kind of mechanical wizardry to try to make the big beast turn better, it simply lumbers through corners, squealing its tires in protest if pushed even a little outside its comfort zone. This behavior exhibited itself in droves when we pressed the MDX with any fervor through the famed 17-Mile Drive, a series of windy coastal roads lined by enormous homes with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, a two-ton SUV should not be expected to handle like a sports car. As a daily driver, the MDX is absolutely fantastic, delivering a comfortable ride with safe and familiar car-like handling characteristics. Even the much maligned infotainment setup, which I discussed in detail in our recent RLX long-term update, is simple enough to operate on a daily basis without any real frustration. If you want a vehicle that can seat seven passengers in relative comfort but do not want the stigma of driving a minivan, but do not mind the glances of scorn for being in an SUV, the MDX stands out at the top of the heap of available choices.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Test Drive: 2015 Lexus IS250

MSRP: $36,550
As test price: $42,638

The first two generations of the Lexus IS were, at least to me, not exactly terrific cars. If I had to pick between the first and second generation IS, I would take a first generation Lexus IS300 with the five-speed manual. Why? Because inside its tiny body was the 3.0 liter, naturally aspirated inline-six from a Toyota Supra. Performance notwithstanding, the rest of the car was just merely adequate with an incredibly cramped interior. The second generation Lexus IS never really showed up on my radar as the interior space issue was never really fixed and it was quite boring to drive, aside from the insane IS-F.

Lexus clearly wants to make sure that the third generation of the IS more fun to drive as the first generation, but actually has enough interior space and new technology to compete with the rest of the mid-size luxury class. East Brother has already driven a version of the current IS, but I had yet to, so a proper test of this new 2015 model was in order. What I was really hoping to get out of this test drive was to help shed the image that the Lexus IS is this cramped, tiny vehicle that was only fun to drive because it shared a power plant with the Toyota Supra. Let's see if that happened.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Test Drive: 2015 Mercedes Benz C300

MSRP: $38,400
As tested price: $44,905

The Mercedes Benz C-Class is currently the second best selling mid-sized luxury vehicle, behind only the BMW 3-series sedan and 4-series coupe. But just because you are in the top three selling cars in a particular category, does it automatically mean your car is good? Both East Brother and I have driven various forms of the previous generation C-Class sedan, and with the exception of the C63 AMG, all have been pretty unremarkable. 2015 marks a completely new redesign of the C-Class with an new exterior and interior design, new engines, and lots of new tech. Can this all new model make a serious impression on me, unlike the forgettable previous generation?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Event: 2015 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

2015 marks the first year that East Brother and I were able to attend the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It is an event that we have both been trying to find the opportunity to go in person to for a number of years now. With East Brother's return to California and a concerted effort to free up the Sunday in both of our schedules, we finally made it to the Grand Prix on April 19th, which also just so happens to be the main event: the Long Beach Grand Prix Indy Car race.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Long Beach Grand Prix, it is sort of like the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix in that the race is basically constructed using public roadways everyone drives [Editor's note: And rides bicycles on!] on every day. Every year, for a few days in April, the City of Long Beach closes down the roads near Shoreline Village to facilitate the transformation of city streets into a race track and brings in the spectacle that is an Indy Car race to the city that houses one of the largest ports in North America.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Test Drive: 2015.5 Volvo S60 T5 Drive-E

 MSRP: $39,600
 As tested price: $41,270

A few months ago, East Brother and I attended the "Rusnak Driver's Challenge" held by the Rusnak Auto Group. Out of all the cars there, we had the most fun driving the Volvo S60 R-design. To me, this meant that Volvo is indeed capable of building cars that are more than just safe and conservative. The S60 R-design was an absolute hoot to drive! It did get me thinking about the rest of the S60 line-up though. If the S60 R-design was so much fun, then the more basic models should not be too bad either, right? I decided to head into the local Volvo dealer to find out if my theory was correct.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Test Drive: 2015 Cadillac ATS 2.5

MSRP: $33,215
As Tested Price: $41,200

Avid readers of our blog will remember that the Cadillac ATS is another vehicle that we have test driven in the past. That one was equipped with Cadillac's then all-new 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine. This time around though, we wanted to find out how well the ATS' base engine, a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated inline-four would perform in this car. During our first time around, both East Brother and I thought that the ATS was a decent vehicle that needed some polish before we felt it could really compete in the mid-sized luxury big leagues. With three model years under its belt, has Cadillac managed to finesse the ATS enough for it to go head-to-head with the likes of mid-sized players from BMW and Mercedes Benz?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

Image courtesy of Forbes
Furious 7 is but only one of the movies I had been waiting eagerly to watch this year. Having seen every previous installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise, I was excited for Furious 7, especially with how it was supposed to tie in with the third entry of the franchise, Tokyo Drift. However, with Paul Walker's unfortunate passing, Furious 7 was going to be delayed in order to give the cast and crew time to mourn, as well as figure out a way to give Paul a proper send off. With its release date pushed back a year, Furious 7 finally came out last week, and I decided to go watch it with some friends last week. Does this latest entry live up to the excitement promised by its predecessors?

Author's note: This review of Furious 7 will contain some spoilers of the latest entry into the Fast and Furious franchise, as well as some possible spoilers of previous entries. If you have not seen Fast 7 or any of the previous films, and dislike having movies spoiled, click out now and enjoy one of our many other articles. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Test Drive: 2015 BMW 328i

This entry marks the beginning of our mid-size luxury sedan comparison. We have opted to look at what should essentially be the volume seller versions of all the 4-cylinder, automatic transmission equipped mid-sized luxury sedans on the market and offer our thoughts on each before wrapping up with a serious look at how they compare against each other. As much as possible, we spec'ed each car as close to a strict set of requirements as possible, requiring no more than 250 hp from a four-cylinder engine for maximum fuel economy, an automatic transmission, navigation, seat heaters, and leather seats. The goal was to approach this as though we were a real buyer looking for a specific setup of car to see what we would really pay if actually shopping today.

Base MSRP: $32,950
MSRP as Tested: $50,000

BMW's latest version of its 3-series sedan, dubbed the F30, is a car that we have reviewed before. However, the previous car we tested came equipped with the "M Sport" package as well as a six-speed manual. Being enthusiasts, this is normally the type of car we would go for, but not everyone is an enthusiast that wants a sporty suspension and a manual transmission. What if we just want a nice, mid-sized luxury sedan that would shuttle us from point A to point B without having to worry about a stiff suspension setup or rowing our own gears? And so we set off to the local BMW dealer in search of such a 328i, and came across this particular model equipped with the "sport line" package.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Game Review: Euro Truck Simulator 2

Well hey ya'll. I dun usually write no stuff on them fancy computin' machines, but mah friends at the East-West Bruthers Gahrage axed me to write a review fo this fancy truck trainin' program. A little background first. Mah names Billy Bob, I hail from Kentucky, and I drive big rigs for a livin'. Recently, a truckin' company from the UK noticed mah skills on the road, and hired me to go drivin' in London. Now I dunno bout no drivin in London. Don't them British people drive on the wrong side of the road? Anyway, they sends me this fancy trainin' program and told me to get workin' on learnin' me some rules of the European roads.