February 27, 2012

Biggest Car Chase

This is a collection of movie car chases spliced together to bring you 11 minutes of gear head bliss.  I still think a real plate glass window shreds the roof of Nicholas Cage's Ferrari.  Also it's weird that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are chasing a Cadillac CTS that is the same model as the one they used to chase a van in Bad Boys II.  Weird, right?  Enjoy!

February 26, 2012

2013 Ford Mustang Commercial

Ford released this ad for the new Mustangs this week on YouTube.  I still enjoy that YouTube is such a big deal that major corporations release advertising there first. I also enjoy that YouTube is in my spell check.  Thank you, Google.

Boss 302 at NAIAS 2012!
My favorite part of the commercial is the Hippie courier's version of the 2013 Mustang being a Boss 302.  I'm still trying to get a hold of a Boss to really see if it's better than a BMW M3. The hard part is that gear heads keep buying them faster than the cars can get to the dealers.  That's a good problem for Ford.  I do have a video of the Shelby GT500 coming soon which you won't want to miss.  That car sounds absolutely great!  This commercial ends with the new GT500.  I also enjoyed Ford adding the pink flash, before the ballerina's Mustang gets dark and angry.  The new taillights look like rocket engines similar to the taillights on the Lexus LF-LC.  Great commercial, great car, and it's always fun to see Tony Gonzalez Chris Gonzalez on TV.  He's still a Chief in my eyes...


February 24, 2012

2012 Kia Optima SX

Your Turbo Powered Camry & Accord Alternative

Base Price: $26,500
As Driven: $31,600
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder Turbo, 274hp
Transmission: 6 speed Shiftable Automatic
Curb Weight: 3,385 lbs.
Wheelbase: 110 in.
MPG Rating: 24 city/ 35 highway

The Optima was redesigned for 2011 and is no longer a bland family sedan.  The Optima’s updated styling and powertrains have put it at a level that outperforms the Camry and the Accord.  The pillars of the family sedan class both have V6 options that don’t produce as much horsepower or mpgs as the Optima’s turbo-charged four cylinder engine. 

                If you’re looking for a family sedan and have become tired with the usual contenders, then it might be time to do a hamster dance.  Don’t buy the Soul, just do the dance.

Interior
                The seats of the SX are leather and the bright highlights are “sport cloth.”  If this was a European import, someone would have been trying to sell “micro-fiber” to us.  90% of the seats are leather and the sport cloth is an accent. 
                The steering column tilts and telescopes.  There are a number of steering wheels that tilt, but the ones that telescope are the ones we love.  If you possess unnaturally long legs like us, then you understand exactly what we’re talking about.  You have to move the seat all the way back to placate your legs, but then your arms are too short to reach the wheel.  Telescoping steering wheels solve this dilemma, making everyone more comfortable. 
                The instruments and gauges were easy to read and navigate.  We were able to reset the mpg meter and trip computers quickly and efficiently.  We wished there was an option for a digital speedometer and that when we set the cruise, there was a digital readout showing the exact speed selected.   We’ve never used two trip computers and have always wondered who does.  Shoot us an extensively long email if you do.
                 The rear seat has a decent amount of legroom, 34.7 inches. That’s 4 less than Camry and 2.5 less than Accord. With the driver’s seat in the position that was comfortable for all of us, there was still space between our knees and the driver’s seat. 
                The headroom in the back is noticeable, like when you notice that the hotel bed doesn’t have as much room as your king bed.  We especially noticed it when we had to sit in the middle with our feet on the hump; there was a neck cramp.  The outside rear seats are recessed and heated, while the middle portion should be reserved for individuals under 5 ft. 

Exterior
                We love the look of the new Optima.  From the side its length starts to look like an A6.  From the front it has an accented black grille with chrome outline.  The Optima also has side vents just in front of the driver and front passenger doors. 
It has Xenon headlamps that are very bright white.  The fog lamps are regular yellow bulbs.  We vote for one way or the other, bright white or regular yellow, not both.  The headlamps say that Kia is trying to fit in with the cool kids, but the fog lamps suggest they can’t quite afford to yet.  This is one of the very few drawbacks that we found on the Optima.
To offset the Xenon blubs at the front, there are LED taillights at the back.  LED’s will last forever and look very modern and stylish right now.  We can’t wait to see how people react to LED’s in 15 years, but they’re futuristic enough that they still might be up to date.
                There are a number of different wheel options with the Optima, but we loved the 18” tires with alloy luxury wheels.  The 8 spokes were the equivalent of the strong silent type.  
                There are six different exterior colors which is the same as the sport model of the Camry and one less than the Accord.  We really liked the color that we test drove, which Kia calls Titanium.

Tech
                The infotainment center was a touch screen and easy to use.  The navigation comes with SiriusXM Traffic, keeping you out of congestion.  The Optima has voice-activated commands similar to the Sync system from Ford.  Kia’s system is called UVO and is powered by Microsoft.  A drawback with the infotainment center is its “one function at a time” approach.  You have to push the button of whatever feature you want to see.  There isn’t an overview screen.
                The front seats have heated and air conditioned seats.  There are two settings each way.  Two for heat and two for cool.  Our test drive used the heated seat the entire time.  30®F and windy demands heated seats.
                With the premium package that gets you the heated seats, you also get power adjustments for the front passenger seat.  Showing that Kia understands that even though you just dropped 30 grand you want the front passenger (probably your wife) to know that you care about their convenience.
                There are two memory settings for driving position, so no more crunching your knees into the steering column after your wife drives your car.  In fact when you turn the Optima off, the driver’s seat moves to the full back position to aid in easier exiting.  That is a feature that should make the passenger behind you a little nervous, since it will now be a race for them to get out before the seat traps them in. 
                The Optima comes with a Smart Key.  As long as it’s in your pocket, the car will unlock or lock on your command.  Kia’s Smart Keys have to be in the vehicle for the car to operate.  You can start the Optima and get out, but unless the key is in the vehicle; it’s not going anywhere.  Already we feel safe in the Optima.
                There are six airbags in the Optima, driver and front passenger, side curtain for everybody, but only side impact for driver and front passenger.  At this point, there should be side impact for the rear passengers too.  It seems like someone’s just trying to save a little money, when clearly the technology already exists. 

Performance
                The Optima comes standard with a 2.4L four cylinder engine, but you can move up the models to a 2.0L four cylinder turbo-charged engine that turns out 274 horsepower.  There are a number of engines with the same displacement, but few of them are getting as many horses as the Optima’s.  Both Honda and Toyota have V6 options for their family sedans and neither makes as much horsepower as Kia’s turbo charged little four banger. Even the Audi A6 base model makes 211 horsepower out of a 2.0L turbo-charged four cylinder, and the Audi uses the more expensive premium fuel.  We’re not sure who Kia paid off to get this kind of magic out of their engine, but it’s definitely worth it.  The 0 to 60 time for the SX is 6.5 seconds, which is quick for a family sedan.  
                The Optima gets around 22 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway.  During our trip with the SX we averaged 30.1mpg.  There is an “Eco” button on the steering wheel.  This button is there to control when the automatic transmission shifts.  With the button engaged the car will be trying to maximize the valves, timing, throttle, and the mpgs.  It is noticeable when you turn off the “Eco” button; the SX gets quick and the mpg numbers take a dive.

                Overall we liked the Optima.  As you come down from the SX model, the suspension becomes less sporty and the powertrain becomes way less powerful.  The price drops accordingly, but the SX was the most entertaining model.  There isn’t an all-wheel drive option, but the front wheel drive should be enough, unless you live in Northern Minnesota.  The cargo volume is acceptable and rear seat room was great.  The Optima is definitely a car to put on your list if you’re in the market for a family sedan.  We still lean towards waiting for the 2013 Ford Fusion, but that’s just us.

February 5, 2012

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD


A Swedish Alternative to German Engineering.
 
Base Price: $31,300
As Driven: $41,270
Engine: 3.0L 6-cylinder, 300 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic
Curb Weight: 3,812 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
MPG Rating: 18 city/ 26 highway

The interior of the S60 is utilitarian.  There is a spattering of wood surrounding the climate control and near the window controls on the doors.  The design is clean, but isn't as refined as other import sedans.
The speedometer and tachometer each have an information center in the middle.  The gauges are easy to read and the information centers are easy to navigate.  In a short time we were able to find the mpg meter and reset it.  It took at least twenty minutes to find the same meter on the Mini Coupe.
The digital information centers are run with 8 bit graphics.  The graphics felt dated, and not in the good way where you feel nostalgic and warm.  They are the NES graphics compared to other manufacturers’ Xbox 360’s.  The graphics were easy to read, but pixels where blockier than most manufacturers.
The car we drove had Navprep, which means that our car didn’t have navigation, but it is prepped to have it installed as long as you pay more after already dropping 40 grand.
The rear seat legroom is underwhelming.  Last week’s Ford Focus had 33.2 inches of space in the back and the S60 has only 33.5 inches.  If you rear occupants are going to be less than five feet tall for the next three to five years, then the legroom is a moot point.  The Lexus IS350, IS250, & Infiniti G37 are some models that have even less room in the backseat.  The Infiniti is listed at 29.8 inches and the Lexi are at 30.6.

The S60 is a blend of squared off lines and curves, which includes every shape every conceived. 
The overall shape of the S60 hasn’t changed that much.  The square lines from around the taillights on the old models have been smoothed out and given that modern-retro feel.  The front end is swept back adding to the “moving even though it’s stopped” design. 
Our favorite part of the redesigned exterior is the high arching taillights.  They start wide and arch up to emphasize V-O-L-V-O spelled out on the trunk.
There are no forward facing fog lights and that kind of surprises us on a vehicle that has so many safety features.  There are two daytime running lights that are located next to the grille and positioned vertically. 
The R Design comes with an “R-Design” badge on the grill, more plastic molding on the front and rear bumpers, and a lip spoiler on the trunk.
Compared to other sedans in its class, the S60 is a unique looking vehicle.  The S60 looks very different from the 3-series BMW, the C-class Mercedes, and the IS’s of Lexus.  Something to think about before you buy something new for the executive parking lot. 

                City Safety is a feature to eliminate auto collisions at low speeds.  Volvo has done the research and 75% of vehicle accidents happen at or under 19 mph.  They don’t quote the study, they just present the number.  City Safety uses infrared laser radar to detect objects in front of you.  The owner's manual in the S60 states the City Safety will brake the car to prevent you from hitting the slower or stopped object in front of you.  We tried it out under Volvo supervision.  At a crawl we approached some pylons and were rewarded with auto braking to a complete stop.  During a higher speed approach, the system engaged more quickly due to more speed equals more stopping distance, but we still stopped before touching the pylons.  The manual does also state that if the difference between your car’s speed and the object in front of you is greater than 9 mph, that City Safety won’t be able to prevent a collision, but should be able to lessen the effects.  That has to be lawyer’s language because we approached the pylons over 9mph and stopped before hitting it.
BLIS is a system to alert you of a car being in your blind spot.  There is a camera attached underneath both side view mirrors.  We’ve experienced systems like this on Audis, Fords, and now Volvos.  We can’t give you a definitive assessment on whose system is best.  All three systems were tested in different conditions.   The day we had the Volvo was by far the worst weather day and it was also the system that performed the worst.  It gave false readings throughout the test.  Even on a two lane road, with nothing to be in the blind spots, the system would light up to indicate a vehicle there.  The Volvo representative explained the system was probably detecting raindrops, but we never saw any the size of a Kia Rio!
There is a button near the gearshift that allows us to fold the rear headrests forward to improve rear visibility.  We liked the idea of being able to do this at the touch of a button.  Annoying teenagers in the back will learn quickly to not lip off to their parents.  To teens it will appear that their parents are slapping them in the back of the head with their minds!  P.S. Parents, please don’t show them this button.  “With great power comes great responsibility,” and we just don’t see teens being able to handle this power.
While the S60 has no forward facing fog lamps, it does have a rear fog lamp.  There is a single light on the left side of the trunk.  It is located under the proper brake light.  There is a button on the dash near the headlight switch that can turn on the rear fog lamp during rain, fog, snow, or just plain night driving.  We found ourselves behind a Mercedes that had a similar light and it was quite useful in seeing the car on the rain soaked roads.
There is push button start/stop, but it’s a $550 option on all S60 models.  One security issue that we found is if the car is running and you take the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) out of the vehicle, the S60 will still function.  We were told that once it’s running, the PCC does not have to be in the vehicle to operate it.  There will be a warning light and noise to let you know that the PCC is not in the vehicle, but the car will operate as normal.  That means that you can’t leave it running unlocked on cold winter mornings.  You can still start it and exit, but make sure you lock the doors.  With the PCC in your pocket, the vehicle will unlock when you are ready to finally hit the road.  Please do not donate your S60 to any car thieves. 

The performance is where the S60 becomes noticeable.  The turbo-charged six cylinder engine turns out 300 horsepower and the R Design model turns out 325 hp.  The turbo kicks in around 2,500 rpms helping the AWD to jump off the line.  The S60 has an excellent thrust to weight ratio, so that all 300 hp feels like you are sitting on a mountain of power.  The 0 to 60 time is listed at 5.9 seconds which is similar to other AWD sedans.
Coupled with the all-wheel drive system, the engine was able to hurl this Volvo around every corner we encountered.  It was impressive, and not just impressive for a Volvo, but impressive for any car.  Most AWD systems tend to bunch and lurch as the steering wheel is turned to the extreme.  The S60’s turning radius is tight and there was no shimmy or lurch from the steering.  The AWD drive is actually FWD 95% of the time and then when needed it adds in the 5% of rear wheels.
Our day with the S60 was overshadowed by unlikely February thunderstorms.  There was no wheel spin and we only felt the computers step in twice to help control the vehicle.  Standard on all S60 models is Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC).  This keeps the S60 on the road.  If your speed and the tightness of the corner don’t match up, the DSTC will apply the brakes correctly to keep you on the road.  There are always extreme situations that the system can’t anticipate, but if you’re driving that extreme the DSTC should be off.  This is a system similar to the Curve Control that we encountered with the new Explorer.  It might even have been something that Ford peeked at while they owned Volvo.
We averaged 22.6 mpg on our trip with the S60.  The expected highway mpg of 26 has to be firm to make the S60 a good financial decision.  If that number dips one or two mpgs, then the S60 is not a good consumer product.  One saving grace is that the S60 uses regular unleaded fuel.  Most luxury sedans in its class use premium.  Doing some very simple and probably wrong calculations the regular unleaded will save you around $8 a tank.  That’s a burrito per tank.  We really like, nay, love burritos.

The good news is that the S60 has performed very well since its redesign for 2011.  The customer satisfaction numbers are up along with reliability numbers according to a major consumer reporting firm.  Volvo is rated as the 10th most reliable brand in country, higher than Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.  Add together the reliability, the fuel savings, the 300 hp, the all-wheel drive, & the looks.  All of that adds up to a premium sedan that appears to be worth every penny.  Or at least 4,127,000 pennies before taxes.

February 1, 2012

2013 SRT Viper

Seems to be a day of teases.  Lambo's possible SUV to debut in March, Tesla's SUV tease, and today's release of the 2013 SRT Viper picture.


Sleep in fear...