Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What the Heck Happened?

Well after coming back from the Detroit Auto Show, I got re-assigned from Pickup-Drop-off duty to title running. I now almost exclusively am driving a dedicated title run car. I'll review it, but there's not much to say.

2006 Toyota Camry LE: I'm surprised by the power you can wring out of the inline four VVTi engine. No, it's not crazy fast, but it was clearly designed to have "enough" power for normal traffic. At the same time this "just enough" pervades the rest of the car. The seat is "Just Enough"; not super comfortable, but not really uncomfortable. The steering is "Just Enough"; not an overwhelming effort, but also not super communicative. The interior design and amenities are "Just Enough"; power lower seat, but manual seat back, tilt wheel, but no telescoping. The transmission is "Just Enough"; it shifts OK and is five speeds, but it's slow to respond and never feels like it wants to work with you. It's not bad, It's pushing 200,000 miles of constant use and is going strong, but it's also nothing special. Cars like this make people who don't care about cars.

I THINK this is a picture of the Camry, it's the right color anyways.

So since I don't get to drive lots of diffrent cars anymore, there's not a lot to review.

Oh yea, I also have a job working for the 24 Hours of Lemons now. I'll be working every race east of the Mississippi in 2013! So I guess I'll cover that. As for the Car? It's coming along. Hopefully it will be making its debut at The Cure For Gingervitis, April 19 - 21 at GingerMan Raceway.

It has body panels again!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 Detroit Auto Show

Every year the Northeast Ohio chapter of the BMW Car Club charters a bus and heads up to Detroit for the  North American International Autoshow. If you don't know, that's the fancy name for the Detroit Auto Show, the big one. Having been driving cars regularly now as my day job, the whole jumping in and out of cars has lost a bit of it's luster since I've been in most of these cars, and half of the ones I haven't been in are locked anyways. There were however some things I noticed while walking the big hall surrounded by the sum total of the whole auto industry.

1. The Tail Gunner Seat is alive and well in the Mercedes E class wagon!

Puke bucket sold separately.

You remember it from childhood in your parents 70's and 80's station wagon of choice; the motion sickness, the fact that you were out of your parents sight and reach, and the many faces you made at the drivers behind you. With the rise of the SUV and the dreaded CUV the Tail Gunner has been replaced with the Third Row Bench, which at the best of times could accommodate your average ectomorph child, and more often than not only accommodates those children who lost their legs in the great Child Wars of the early 2000's. 
Saddest GI-Joe ever.
But here in the E-class, leg room is king. Sure there's nowhere to put anything with the seats in use, but really most third row seats leave you little to no space either. More importantly, if a whole generation of kids grows up without experiencing the sheer terror of seeing a semi your dad just cut off slam to a halt less than an inch from the tail gate, then we as a whole will be a weaker people.

2. 19" is becoming the new standard

Want a basic fun car? Want it to be nicer than the bone stock model? Want to have to spend almost $1,000 when it comes time for a new set of tires? Well GOOD NEWS!!! The most common wheel size at the show this year was 19 inches. Yes you too can fear every pothole in style. You too can experience the bone jarring misery of the thin sidewall. And best of all, Car and Driver recently did a test that shows that once you go past 17" you actually start sacrificing performance. Why? Because a giant rim weighs a lot and you really do need some sidewall to help the suspension do its job of absorbing bumps and getting you around corners. The only reason you would go this large is to fit huge brakes in there, which on all the cars I looked at was not the case. But hey,on the plus side people with less money will wait until their tires are EVEN BALDER before replacing them since now it will be much harder for them to afford the tires.

3. BMW continues to imagine niches to fill

Folks who know me, know I'm one of the BMW enthusiast masses. I always had a predilection towards them, even as a little kid before I knew anything about driving. But, folks like me don't fill the pocket books of the family Quandt in Munich. So over the past 15 years BMW has gone from being a small performance sedan company, to becoming a trendy $500 pair of jeans with built in holes kind of STYLE company. 
Is that a store, or a closet? Who can say.

In order to do this they have confabulated such automotive genre as the "Sport Activity Vehicle" the "GT we swear it must be better than a wagon" and whatever the heck the X6 is supposed to be. 
Still explains Nothing.
Now those wacky Bavarians  have gone and entered the final stage of self consumption. I give you, the four door M6 Grand CoupĂ©.
In the fancy, it never looks clean, frost paint no less.
But hang on, you may be saying if you are in fact as insane as I am, "Isn't the M6 already a two door M5? And hey isn't coupe used to typically describe a two door car?" While both of these facts are true, and the exact kinds of rigid comfortable categories many come to expect from a German car manufacturer. These days however, comments like that would brand you as a fashonless troglodyte were you in the association of the current BMW target audience. So luckily now when you go car shopping in between your ski trip to aspen and your beach resort on the island of Anguilla, you don't have to feel the emasculating embarrassment of the filthy poor by being forced to choose between four doors and head room, and two doors and less headroom. And in that way, the world becomes just little bit better place.....

4. Porsches may be dangerous animals shaped like cars

This one is pretty self evident. You can't go inside them at a show, they try to only have as few of them as possible in one space, and some of them are in zoo like cages.
Please don't tap on the glass.
I always had a feeling these cars were trying to kill me when I drove them, I just had no idea it was true!

5. Ferrari has probably lost the point

For most of my life, seeing a Ferrari in person has always been kind of a special experience. They seem to exist in front of the foreground, they seem more real than the rest of reality around them. They are just built different; their paint is just a bit smoother and more brilliant than other cars, their window glass seems to have a slight internal luminosity, the body panels are precisely aligned in a way that your brain notices even if you can't quite put your finger on why. And oh that body; they look beautiful in photographs, all sensual curves and reflective contour lines no mater where the light hits it, but in person it's like how people in the older parts of the Bible must have felt when they saw angels (which happened a lot back then apparently.) It's goodness physically personified, seeing one just lifts your heavy mortal spirit, even for a moment. 

At least that's how it used to feel, right up until the new California:
And it just starts going downhill from there. The 458, the FF, things started looking, wrong. And then, this showed up at Detroit:
The new Toyota Supra Concept car?
It's the new F12berlinetta (yes its spelled that way with no space, I don't know why.) This is a car built by an aerodynamics computer, not a soul. It's a work of artifice, not of art. The glass is now dull, the curves now only a work of pure aerodynamic function. It looks like the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ's older, homelier sister. 
Hi boys, I just love Videogames, Beer, and Hot Sexy Chicks, tee-hee!
The Lexus LFA (the last one ever, also at the show, and you were even permitted to touch it with your filthy proletariat hands) has more feeling and soul than the F12berlinetta, and the LFA is a heartless robot. 
Bede,bede,be, I was designed by a committee,  bede, bede, be. 
Ferrari would point out how much the car borrows from the design of the Formula 1 car that really, every Ferrari buyer is subsidizing when they buy a Ferrari. And while that's cute and all, sacrificing beauty for performance, that would imply that the Ferrari Formula 1 car was, you know, a winner.
O Hai.

6. We are currently in a new golden age of automobiles

Aside from the Smart car space (why does it still live?) there were no genuinely crappy cars. Having grown up coming out of the malaise era of crappy, crappy american luxo-rubbish and cheap imports, now may be one of the bets times to be driving cars. From Kia to Jaguar, Chevy to Mercedes there is now a pervasive feeling of quality, sturdiness, and value virtually across the board. Granted yes now a cheap car is closer to $20,000 than it is to $10,000, but what you can get in in the $20,000 range would be a near supercar compared to the cars of even most of the 90's. Cars now on average all last well into the mid-100,000 mile range, (hell the Hyundai now has a 20 year, 200,000 mile power-train warranty!!!) And never has so little fuel given so much power; zero to 60 in under 10 seconds AND 30MPG is a fairly common thing these days. Just the fact that for $30,000 you can buy a car with over 400 Horsepower (that's less than $75/ horespower!) means it's a really great time to be driving. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week of January 14th.


  • 2000 Dodge Durango: Firm and very truck like. You can tell this model is sitting on a truck frame.
  • 2005 Toyota Sienna: It's nice, but very heavy, you feel every pound of power door and entertainment system.
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS4: Great Build. Good Price. If the ATS is built this well Audi should be worried.


  • 2000 Ford F-350 V10: Not sure if V10 really adds more to this truck than the big V8 does.
  • 2009 Chevy Silverado 1500: Base truck is very trucky.


  • 2001 Honda Odyssey: This drives just like a bigger CRV or Element. Build is about on par too.


  • 2008 Chevy Impala LT: If you think you want a Camry you may want to look at one of these. By '08 these are just about equal. Chevy moving up, and Toyota moving down.
  • 2007 BMW X5 4.8i: The Ultimate Driving Machine......'s Fat Cousin.


  • 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser: Drive is OK. Not a lot of power, but it doesn't drive clunky.
  • 2004 GMC Envoy SLT V8: A Trailblazer by any other name would drive as averagely. But nice seats. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week of January 7th


  • 2010 Ram 1500:  New interior is leaps and bounds better than the old truck. Otherwise it's a truck.
  • 2005 Volvo XC90 AWD: Drives ok. Comfortable, but from the inside it feels Bigger outside.
  • 2010 Lexus ES 350: If your first priority in buying a car is how nice the interior is, this is your car.


  • 2010 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T: Power is much better in two wheel drive with the 2.0 Turbo engine. It drives well, but it's just too high.
  • 2004 Honda Element: Great cargo box, not so great to put people in the back what with no roll down windows or anything. Honda makes better trucks than cars these days.
  • 2010 Jaguar XF: Forget the ES 350, you want a GREAT interior get the XF, Huge slabs of real wood, leather everywhere, and it's damn fun to drive to boot. Look at one of these before buying a German.
  • 2005 AUDI A4 Cabrio 1.8T: Lots of cowl shudder, Engine is ok, but this is still just a slightly nicer Passat. 
  • 2003 GMC Sonoma: It's little, It's a Pickup, um.....yea.


  • 2004 BMW 530i Sport 6spd: At over 100,000 miles this car still drives like a dream. This may be a perfect car. It's a shame the new 5er isn't as fun to drive as this.
  • 2011 Toyota Prius: This car is just flat out cool and compitent. No it's not sporty, or cushy, but man this is what Toyota used to be about. 
  • 2005 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 5spd: Great power with the 2.5 Inline-5. Exhaust tone is strange but not raspy. Cruising on the freeway at 3000 rpm however the exhaust note gets tiresome.
  • 2009 Toyota RAV-4 Sport: Lots of power but for no good reason. 
  • 2011 Toyota Prius: As cool as the instrument display is, I still don't like it in the middle of the dash so far away.
  • 2008 Chevy Impala: It's an average car for an average american. At this point i's basically on par with the Camry. Not sure who that's damming to more.


  • 2007 Kia Sedona LX: It's an ok minivan, no frills or fancy entertainment systems, but it will move 7 people around with minimal bitching.
  • 2006 Mazda 3 2.3: Zoom-Zoom! Fun and dynamic with lots of power for cheap! Also Mazda understands you pull BACK to Upshift!
  • 2011 Ford F250 Powerstroke Slam-Eagle: Every once in a while you come across somebodies  custom labor of love. Be it the bitchin van with the wizard fighting a robot dragon painted on the side and a built in water bed, or a Mustang tuned to an inch of it's life for the 1/4 mile, or in this case, a low profile towing rig pickup that has no pretension of being used anywhere the tarmac ends. All trucks for towing should be low like this. Drives great, and you don't need a drop hitch. 

That's as tall as you ever need to tow stuff.

Oh yea and wicked custom paint work UNDER the clear-coat helps too. 
This guy alone adds 200 pounds of towing capacity!
  • 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder: It's nice to be reminded of what cars used to feel like all low to the ground and sporty. Sure this one had no power steering, but I needed the upper body workout.


  • 2004 Toyota 4-Runner V8: Taller and less solid feeling than the old blocky 4-Runner. Very thirsty. Still love the big, mitten workable climate controls though!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Week of December 31st

Well to my surprise there was actually work to do New Years Eve. So that's good.


  • 2010 Mazda CX-9 AWD: Great dynamic feel. AWD system is un-obtrusive and really solid. I'm really starting to take a like to this thing. I hate CUV's, but this is fun to drive. If I suddenly discovered I had 3-4 illegitimate children, this is the vehicle I'd buy.
  •  2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup Edition: More visual bark than performance bite. It's just a TDi version of the Jetta GLI with a big goofy front clip. It's still VW nice, but "Cup Edition" Just looks a bit silly.
Looks like the race car, If you squint.....


Office Chair Jousting, Yea, it's a thing!


  • 2002 Chevy Silverado 1500 w/20" Rims: Yea, somebody did this, and yea then we bought it. Ride was smoother than I expected, but braking was poor with the big heavy rims.
  • 2000 Ford Windstar: Has a very solid feel. Conveys strength and protection. Doesn't necessarily deliver mind you....
  • 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE: These cars continue to impress, Great CVT, Great Engine, but steering is a bit light.
  • 2007 Dodge Nitro SLT 4x4: Even tighter than it's sibling Jeep. No shoulder or foot room. It's like they designed this thing to not be used.


  • 2009 Toyota Venza: Neat styling for a tall wagon CUV. Drives well and has good power. Really feels like it was designed by the group that did the Prius.
  • 2003 Honda Pilot: Smart storage layout, doesn't drive too tippy. This doesn't have that fake "Truck-ey" feeling many of these kinds of cars do.
  • 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE: Smooth, comfortable, with great interior design and trim. The back light (the rear window) has distortion dead center. 
  • 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE: You just don't need the V6 with the Nissan CVT. Save the money.


  • 2009 Saturn Outlook: Build quality and design is on par with VW/Audi. You can defiantly tell that the latter saturns were pulled out of the European arm of GM.
  • 2007 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro: Engine has nowhere near the pull of the BMW 2.0 Turbo. Chassis is tight and fun to drive, like a sharper VW Passat. Not a whole lot of knee room though. But, I love the hard click of the buttons in the Audi.
  • 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser: It drives like a really top heavy Neon, which it is. The Retro interior has a good novelty factor, but overall it kinda looks like it was trying too hard. I will say though, Chryslers cheap interior materials don't seem so bad in the retro style.