Tuesday, May 19, 2020

West Brother's Top 5 Sport Sedans of All Time

For as long as our blog has been around, I can't believe we've never done a Top 5 or Top 10 listing. Why not start now? Let's begin with a vehicle class near and dear to my heart: the luxury sport sedan. My brother and I have driven quite a few sport sedans over the years, and have both owned at least one in our driving careers. So what are my top five luxury sport sedans?

Let's start by first defining what I classify as a sport sedan. Of course we have the classic definition of a sedan: four doors, standard trunk. The vehicle should have some kind of upgraded engine, suspension components, and anything that makes it capable of hanging with dedicated sports cars in a similar price range. This doesn't mean I'm going to be writing a list full of cars like the M3 or the CTS-V. I classify those cars as Super Sedans; a sedan that will decimate most sports cars of equal price. Plus, I've driven less than five super sedans so far, so that wouldn't make for much of a list. What do you say we get started?

#5 - Infiniti G37S

Back when I was in college, the Infiniti G37S was THE sport sedan to have. The second generation of Infiniti's G sedan was also my first real foray into sport sedans. Having not had much experience with sport sedans at that time, I went purely off looks and power figures. Sleek and stylish looks along with its 3.7 liter VQ37 V6 making 330 horsepower made it the car that I wanted right out of college. When I finally graduated back in 2008 and entered the workforce, I made it a point to go and take a look at the car that all my college buddies raved about.

I will say that the looks, power, and performance was exactly what everyone had talked about. This thing was quick and it looked the part too. But despite its fast looks and matching performance, the interior left quite a bit to be desired. This was supposed to be an Infiniti; Nissan's luxury and performance arm. What happened to the luxury part of the equation? Sadly, 12 years and a naming scheme later, it appears Infiniti still can't really handle the luxury part of what Nissan wants it to be (you can read my first post of our long term Infiniti QX50 here to see what I mean).

#4 - Cadillac CTS V-Sport

This car isn't what some of you think it is. It is definitely not to be confused with the Corvette powered CTS-V. That thing is what I define as a super sedan, and feels like you're driving a freaking sledge hammer (in a good way). This is one (big) step down from the CTS-V. It's essentially the equivalent of BMW's M-Sport line or Lexus' F-Sport line, just with added performance instead of a bunch of lame cosmetic stuff.

I got a chance to test drive the CTS V-Sport back in 2016 during the LA Auto Show. I was lucky enough to get into the car early in the morning so I didn't have to worry about the horrors of Downtown Los Angeles traffic. Aside from being one of the absolute best looking sport sedans on the market at the time, the CTS V-Sport had the grunt to go with it. Powered by a 3.6 liter twin-turbo V6 making 420 horsepower, this thing could absolutely haul ass. Magnetic shocks meant if you needed the car to handle, it could do it, but if you needed it to be comfortable, it could do that too. And the best part? Unlike the CTS-V super sedan, which definitely tries its hardest to look the part, the CTS V-Sport was far more subtle in its looks. This was a definite sleeper. The phrase, "not your granddaddy's Caddy" definitely comes to mind.

Unfortunately, and this was an issue across Cadillac's entire lineup at the time, the interior was...not great. Yes, it basically suffered the same issue was the G37S above, but unlike Infiniti, Cadillac knew what its brand identity (or at least what it wanted to be) was. It made no qualms about being available at car rental lots across America. So despite having an interior that left much to be desired, I still have to rank this car above the Infiniti simply just because Cadillac understands where it is in the market.

#3 - Alfa Romeo Giulia 

I honestly never though I would ever get to drive anything Italian in America that wasn't a Fiat. Getting the opportunity to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini is unlikely given I'm not a member of the automotive press, and I don't know anyone that owns one. I did get the chance to test drive the Maserati Ghibli at some point, but I was very unimpressed. Enter Alfa Romeo. Alfa's first two cars in the US market were the 8C super car and 4C sports car, both of which were basically out of my reach. In an effort to win the US market back, Alfa decided to launch itself into the compact luxury sport sedan market. Boy was it quite the interesting effort.

The Giulia, by and far, is THE best sport sedan I have driven to date. Fast, responsive 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder, incredible handling, and looks to die for. Even the interior, while not great, was still better than what some other luxury manufacturers were working with. So why, despite calling it the best sport sedan I've driven, is it not in the number one spot? Reliability. There's an old joke among car enthusiasts that unless you've owned an Alfa Romeo, you aren't a true enthusiast. This is because Alfa Romeos are notorious for breaking down and just having issues. It's probably one of the reasons why the company left the American market the first time. With its re-introduction to the American market, you'd think that Alfa would work on the reliability. If you did think that, you're oh so very wrong. I guess being unreliable is just an Italian automobile trait because the Giulia, despite the heaps of praise from automotive press, just keeps falling apart. Reports of car after car after car going into dealers for warranty repairs, automotive press having cars simply stop running during testing, all were bringing back bad memories of the Alfa of old. The most notable breakdown occurred when an automotive magazine, I forget which one, was testing the high performance Giulia Quadrifoglio against the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG. Early into the track test, the Giulia just straight up stopped working and went into limp mode. If I remember correctly, Alfa sent a replacement car and even the replacement gave up at some point. The BMW and Mercedes performed all the tests flawlessly.

As I said in my review of the Giulia, I love the way the car performs and looks, and if money were no object, I'd get a Giulia. The problem though is that I'd much rather have a car that I can actually drive instead of one that will spend most of its life sitting in a dealer service bay waiting to have warranty repairs performed. 

#2 - Acura TL Type-S

We're definitely a bit Honda biased here, and I recognize it. So you thought a Honda or Acura would be in first place, right? Well you thought wrong! But that's not to see the third generation Acura TL Type-S is bad. Oh no, in fact, it's a fantastic car. Just that something else was a little bit more fantastic.

In 2008, both East Brother and I actually had TL Type-S'. His was a silver one with the six-speed manual, and mine was a white one with the five-speed auto. The third gen TL Type-S was an absolute fantastic looking car, was extremely quick, and handled like a dream, all despite being front-wheel drive. 286 horsepower (though rumor had it that it was probably closer to 300) from a 3.5 liter V6 being routed solely to the front wheels would usually spell trouble. Yet some how, the TL Type-S could keep up with the best in its class. I remember from an old Road & Track article comparing the TL Type-S against the Lexus IS350 and Infiniti G35S, the TL wasn't the fastest on paper, but actually beat both the Lexus and the Infiniti on track. Even the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya, test drove the TL as was incredibly impressed.

In short, the third gen TL Type-S is an absolute amazing car. If I could find one with a six-speed manual today, I'd probably try and buy it. There is, however, one sport sedan that left a bigger impression on me...

#1 - Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

...and yes, it's a Volvo. Back in 2016, East Brother and I attended an event held by the Rusnak Auto Group that featured performance cars from all of the luxury brands in its dealer group. In the sport sedan segment, there was one car that not a lot of people touched, purely because of its badge. In a group with other makes like BMW, Maserati, and Porsche, most non-enthusiasts probably wouldn't even bat an eyelash at the Volvo. Boy were these people missing out. In the sport sedan group, the S60 T6 R-Design was easily the best handling, the best looking, and the quickest of the group. Around the short test track setup by the event organizers, the Volvo hauled ass. Its 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six didn't make the most power, but its AWD system definitely utilized its power the best. To this day, I still remember how big the grin on my face was after getting out of that car.

The funny thing is, I still want a Volvo. I've always been a big fan of the V60 Polestar, and despite lacking a manual transmission, would still love to get my hands on one. There's just something about having a fast wagon that could blow the doors off of a lot of sports cars that really gets me going.

And these are my Top 5 Sport Sedans of all time. My brother may have a different list of his own, so don't take this list as our joint opinion. Let me know what your top five sport sedans of all time are in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Long Term Test: 2007 Honda S2000 Post #9 (Happy Anniversary!)

Current Miles: 93,800

Happy 10th Anniversary to my beloved S2000! I know I joke about this a lot, but this is the longest, most stable, and least expensive relationship I have ever been in. A little bit of background on my S2000:

The Honda S2000 had always been a dream car of mine. I didn't really think about the prospect of owning one until my senior year of college, during which I was actually more focused on saving money to buy a new eighth generation Honda Civic Si. After graduating and starting work in 2008, I saved every penny I could to put a down payment on a Civic Si. I finally reached my goal around the beginning of 2010, when I started actively looking at getting a new 2010 Civic Si Sedan. After looking for a while though, I started to notice the price on used Honda S2000s. For the same amount of money each month, I could get myself into my dream car. My thought process was basically, "I'm in my early twenties, I live on my own, I'm not going to be starting a family with my girlfriend any time soon, and this is a dream car...why the hell not?" After a bit of searching, I found the beautiful Laguna Blue Pearl 2007 Honda S2000 you see here at Santa Monica Honda, being sold as a certified pre-owned vehicle. When I arrived, Santa Monica Honda also had a Berlina Black 2007 S2000 in their showroom, but I immediately drawn to the blue. And so, in May of 2010, I went home with my S2000 with 38,900 miles on the clock. Funny how I still ended up with a Civic Si years later anyway.

Since owning the S2000, I've driven it nearly 55,000 miles, gone through two job changes, moved three times, and went through a long and failed relationship. Yet, despite all of this, the S2000 has always been there for me. Sure, I've had a few minor issues with it along the way. The clutch master cylinder has given out twice since owning it (first time my local Honda dealer replaced it, the second time East Brother and I did the work ourselves). The soft top tore on both the passenger and driver side at the joints (which was thankfully replaced for a mere $100 thanks to an existing service bulletin regarding the top). I had to replace the original wheels with a set of Enkei RPF1 after an idiot decided he needed gas and nearly t-boned me, causing me to dodge and bounce off a curb. About six months ago, my alternator began suffering from the common issue of a bad rectifier in the alternator (causing my dash to flicker uncontrollably), so I purchased a refurbished alternator and replaced it myself. I have also unfortunately been involved in three minor accidents, two of which involved me getting rear ended and one of which a careless senior couple side swiped my car in a parking lot. Still, despite all of this, the car is still there and in great running shape. 

A couple of minor changes have also occurred since my last update. I purchased two interior items from a small company specializing in S2000 interior accessories called Modifry. One was a built in phone mount and the other was a built in cup holder (because, let's face it, you can't really call the space behind the gear lever "cup holders"). These items integrate very well into the S2000 and almost look straight out of the factory. The cup holder is nice as I'm now actually able to have somewhere to put a drink when I take the S2000 out and not have to worry about it getting in the way of my arm when I go to change gears. The phone mount is especially nice since I use Android Auto a lot and having my phone at an angle where it's in my peripheral vision is very handy.   

Since obtaining my 2020 Civic Si, the S2000 has gone back to weekend only duties. I decided that since the S2000 is becoming more rare and the price of the car is still slowly climbing back up, I might as well keep the mileage as low as I can. With what has been going on in the world as of late, keeping the miles low has definitely become a non-issue. I have, unfortunately, not driven the S2000 in about two months now. I definitely miss driving it, but the only reason I leave my house now is to get supplies, and the Si is frankly much more practical for that job. But, once we are allowed to leave our houses and go enjoy life again, the first thing I will do is drop the top on the S2000 and take it out for a nice, long drive.

Future plans for the S2000? I've been saying this for a while now, but the only immediate plans I
have for the S2000 are to get a CT Engineering cold air intake and a GReddy Supreme SP exhaust for the car. After getting the FlashPro for the Civic, I've decided that I might get another one for the S2000 as well. I have no immediate plans to lower the car (I scrape enough driveways at stock height) or do anything quite so drastic with it. If money were no object (which it is, unfortunately. I'm trying to save to buy a house in Los Angeles County...if you live here, you know what I'm talking about), I would definitely turn the S2000 into a track ready project car. CT Engineering supercharger, coilovers, Brembo big brake kit, a Seibon carbon fiber hard top, and the list goes on.

For now, I'm more than content with how the S2000 is, and I hope to enjoy it for another 10 years.