Thursday, December 31, 2015

Long Term Test: 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited post #5

Fifth update
Current mileage: 39,578

The Sonata just narrowly escaped being replaced. My in-laws, who daily drive the car, has seriously begun looking for possible replacements, spurred by one of those things that I consider an automotive pet peeve. The Sonata, like many of its competitors of the same generation, offers electric seat adjustment, but no seat memory. It seems like a minor thing, but when multiple drivers of different heights and body shapes share a single car, the driving positions can be equally dramatically different.

With manual seat adjustment, shifting between two driving positions is surprisingly easy because one can simply count the detentes in the various adjusters. That does not work quite so well with electric seats because there is an infinite range of adjustability between the two extremes. Also, it is often the case that electric seat adjusters offer substantially greater numbers it adjustments. That means tweaking the seat to fund just the right seating position to be truly comfortable can take quite a bit of finesse and patience. Without seat memory systems, it can become a hassle to relocate that exact position that was perfect. I know it sounds trivial, but as someone who has done solidly 8 hours behind the wheel without a stop, I can honestly attest to the virtues of a truly find-tuned seat position.
And so, because of this single shortcoming, the Sonata found itself on the chopping block. The car, which has been otherwise reliable and comfortable, was to be retired because the seats lacked a much desired, but not needed position. Funny how such a trivial detail can have such a major impact on a large financial decision.

Fortunately for the Sonata, its record allowed for cooler heads to prevail and it was eventually decided that a replacement was unnecessary at the moment, though I suspect this stay off execution will be short-lived. It is only a matter of time before some other reason crops up that places the Sonata's tenure in jeopardy. Such is the fickle nature of the automotive consumer these days.

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As the final article to run here on East-West Brothers Garage for 2015, we hope you have enjoyed our content from this past year and wish you a Happy New Year. For 2016, we are looking at scaling back our publication schedule to focus on the depth and quality of content and hope you will continue to offer us your feedback.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Editorial: All I want for Christmas...

It seems almost cliche to write a wish list for this time of year, but given that this is the first Christmas I am spending in my newly adopted home town of Long Beach, I thought it appropriate to share a few things that I would like to see happen in coming months. Most of this is borne of experiences since moving here in February, much of it slightly harrowing to say the least. I certainly do not expect any of this to change on its own and am working to participate in the civic process to try to help improve things, but it takes more than one person, even one organization, to really effect the kinds of change necessary to make things better.

So, all I want for Christmas is:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Product Review: Kuat Sherpa and Torklift Central EcoHitch

As an avid cyclist, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right way to travel with my bike. When it is just me, throwing the bike in the back of the car and packing a light day bag is not an issue. However, add in my wife, her bike, her stuff, our dog, and our dog's stuff, things start to get a bit crowded pretty quick. With the Focus, there is adequate space for one person, but definitely not enough for two plus the dog, which means we needed to look for a suitable solution to carry the bikes on the outside of the bike. Having experienced a trunk mounted solution during our cross country road trip, I was not particularly keen on going that route in part because it is not the easiest to put on and take off on short notice. I knew I still did not want a roof mounted solution because of the fuel economy penalty, especially given the already limited range of the EV.

After doing some research, I decided that the best solution was going to be a hitch-mounted rack. Going that route offered all manners of platform options, which was an absolute must because of my carbon fiber bike, but presented the minor hurdle that the Focus EV is not offered with a hitch. More research and digging around on the web resulted in the discovery of a few aftermarket solutions that bolted right on, would not affect the warranty, and could be easily removed before turning the car in at the end of the lease.

A few months worth of research resulted in my decision to go with the EcoHitch from Torklift Central in combination with the Kuat Sherpa hitch mount rack.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #3

Update #3
Current mileage: 7,523
Average MPGe: 114

A big part of EV ownership, especially of one if these first generation cars, is a need for planning ahead. Some people feel that is a huge limitation as they want the freedom to just jump in their car and drive anytime they want. I freely admit that I am still one of those people at heart, but a super busy schedule lately in conjunction with a number of personal obligations means I get to do that less and less. Add to that the fact that being in Southern California means I have the flexibility to hop on my motorcycle any time to satisfy my wanderlust and on warmer days, I can always take my bicycles out as well. Luckily for us, since my wife and I share a car, we are always planning our car use anyway, which means we are planning things out well in advance anyhow. That is not to say that we have not run into some slightly hairy situations.

Of course, our lifestyle and choice of residency location allows us to take full advantage of an EV. In the 13 months we have owned the car, we have encountered only one trip that we could not complete in the EV, and it was a longer road trip where we brought our bicycles along. Otherwise, getting around town has largely been problem free, although not totally range anxiety free. There has been one incident where we were holding our breath, hoping not to run out of juice. Luckily, we made it, if just barely. Fortunately, the public charging network in Southern California is quite good and relatively plentiful, so sometimes if a top-off is needed, it is usually possible to find a place to plug in for a bit. Some of the chargers are not in the most fun places, but that's when a good old-fashioned nap is the best choice.

During these first 13 months, the little silver hatch has already suffered some indignities to its pristine condition. Traveling anywhere away from home means things like door dings are inevitable, Aside from that, though, there was one incident that was the result of an inattentive driver rear-ending the car on the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic and another involving a low retaining wall. The resulting damage in both incidents was rather surprisingly pricey to fix. Fortunately, everything is fully repaired and there seem to be no ill effects resulting from the incidents.

In the meantime, the car continues to drive well and I am still regularly surprised by how dramatic a difference it is going from the EV into a regular car. The low-end torque and nearly silent travel are definitely going to be hard to give up to go back to gasoline. That and the 114 mpg equivalent.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Editorial: Craigslist is both a godsend and a curse

I suspect most people are familiar with Craigslist, the web bulletin board where one can get everything from a new job to a blow job. It is the digital swap meet where people can buy and trade just about anything for mostly free. I am a long-time user of Craigslist and frequently peruse the cars for sale and have used it to buy and sell a number of different things over the years. Anytime we move to a new city, Craigslist is always our first stop for apartment hunting. In many ways, some of my most treasured possessions have been discovered on Craigslist. Both of my current bicycles were acquired through hunting around on Craigslist. The Shogun is one of my best purchases ever and the nearly brand new condition Orbea Orca a close second. Both of my wife's bikes were Craiglist purchases also and we have been extremely happy with those as well. But when it comes to selling things on Craigslist, the experience is certainly not anywhere as pleasant.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Test Drive: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

When the Mazda Miata was first introduced back in 1989, it was a small, light weight roadster that was easy to toss around. What it lacked in horsepower, it easily made up in handling shenanigans. But just as with all cars these days, the Miata grew in size and weight with each successive generation. The first generation car weighed a svelte 2,070 lbs. By the time the third generation car rolled around in the mid 2000s, the car had ballooned to 2,542 lbs. With only 170 horsepower under the hood, the third generation Miata was probably the least "Miata" like to date.

Looking to put some of the light weight tossable fun back into the Miata's DNA, Mazda worked hard to slash weight from the new, fourth generation model. The result is an over 300 lbs. weight loss to the tune of 2,200 lbs. While not quite as light as the first generation Miata, this put its weight under even the second generation car. With a 500 lb. weight advantage over my own S2000, I went into this test drive expecting to have a ton of fun tossing the thing around.