July 31, 2012

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude

                I love Jeeps.  Especially the Wrangler.  My first brand new car was a 2004 Wrangler.  I miss it.  A lot.  *le sigh*

Base Price: $25,545
As Driven: $37,365
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V6, 285 hp
Transmission: 5 Speed Automatic
Curb Weight: 4,075 lbs.
Wheelbase: 116 in.
Cargo Capacity: 46.4 cu. ft./max 86.8 cu. ft.
MPG Rating: 16 city/21 hwy

                I drove the 2011 Wrangler and it disappointed me, even though the ride was much improved compared to my ’04.  The 2012 Unlimited Wrangler is still a comfortable ride and has much more muscle.  The new Pentastar V6 produces 285 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs. of torque.  All of the added horsepower and torque is quickly apparent.  Not only is there more power, but the fuel economy gets better too.

                The 2011 model averaged 15 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway.  The old inline-six engines averaged a measly 13city/17 hwy.  The 2012 model averages 16 in the city and 21 on the highway (2012 numbers from Edmunds.com).  I would have loved to have seen the ‘04 averaging 20 mpg.  I might have kept it...
                All Wranglers come stock with a 6 speed manual transmission.  My test vehicle had the automatic transmission option.  This transmission didn’t “wow” me, but it didn’t disappoint me either. 

                There is a new Altitude package.  This is Jeep’s attempt to make the all models look up to date.  Considering they had to plan this multiple years in advance, they’ve done well.  The Altitude package gets you black rims, black heated leather seats, other black accents, the 7 speaker Infinity stereo, and more black decals/badges.  It looks good, but if you’re one of those people who needs to be out in front of trends, this isn’t the package for you.  Now that the factory is producing this package, tuners and after-market shops will move on to other ways to make their cars stand out.  I hear colored chrome is the next hot thing.

                The Altitude package blacks out the outside and the inside of the Wrangler.  The interior is updated by Fiat/Chrysler.  All of the old Dodge buttons have been thrown out, shredded, melted, and turned into recyclable seats (pure speculation).  The upgraded stereo sounds good and was easy to use.  This particular vehicle didn’t have navigation.  For $37,365, you’d think that would include nav… 
                The seating position is high.  This makes perfect sense while off-road to help with obstacle visibility, but on the highway the height made me feel exposed and top heavy.  I am taller in the Wrangler than I am in my Denali.  I didn’t measure it, but it feels taller (very scientific).
                The road noise in the hard top was unexpected.  It was much lower than I expected.  I assumed I would have trouble hearing my cell phone, but it was a quiet interior.  The rain drops sounded distant and not like they were striking a tin roof.   It was a pleasant surprise.
                The ride in the Unlimited is also nice.  It is acceptable for an off-road vehicle.  The usual bumps and cracks of the road are felt, but not like the upper cuts in the tail bone like past offroaders.  The longer wheelbase has helped with that.
                The four wheel drive system is traditional.  There is a 4-Hi option and a 4-Lo option with a manual lever to choose between the two.  The 4-Hi option can be selected up to 55 mph.  To choose 4-Lo the vehicle must be stopped and in neutral.  The traction control is deactivated in 4-Lo.  I love 4-Lo. 

                My favorite part of a stock Jeep is the off-road capability.  All of the Wranglers are stout off-roaders.  I took my stock ’04 places were guys with aftermarket wheels and lifts couldn’t get to.  I Have pictures to prove it, somewhere…   My driving ability isn’t the difference.  It was all the Wrangler. 

Man, I miss it…

Thank you to Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep for allowing me to borrow one of their vehicles for this test drive.  If you’re interested in a Wrangler, I’d get in quick.  They are having a hard time keeping them on the lot. 

July 16, 2012

Best Car Vid Week EVER!!!

I don't know if any of you noticed, but last week was the best car video week ever!  And it didn't even involve Top Gear...

It all started off on Tuesday, the 9th, with Ken Block's latest DC commercial Gymkhana 5 video.  He shreds San Francisco and then shreds a ferry.  It's pretty awesome all around.  Try to guess my favorite part.  I'll tell you after you watch.  Don't cheat and scroll down now, loser.

My favorite part is the car hurtling through the air over the hills like Bullitt.

On Wednesday, the 10th, came the premiere of Tuned on the Drive Network.  Matt Farah drove John Hennessey's Venom GT.  It's a super car that's based off of a Lotus Exige, but is no longer a Lotus.  I won't go into specifics because that's what the video does and these guys made a bad ass video.  The quality, the sets, the car, Matt's school girl giggle (that's how you know he really likes the car), and the fact that it's Steven Tyler's Venom all add up to a great watch.

The last video of the best week ever for car videos is Chris Harris' film of the Pagani Huayra.  Chris travels to super car valley in Italy to drive the latest Pagani, a car that's not even legal in the States. Yet.  The car is gorgeous and has ailerons.  Those are airplane parts on a car. This car is a piece of art.  It's fast and gorgeous, like an amazingly beautiful woman who also happens to be an assassin.  She'd kill us all.  The Huayra won't kill you, but it will definitely try.  I'll let Chris explain the rest.

July 13, 2012

2012 Porsche Cayenne

Base Price: $48,200
As Driven: $66,905, but asking $60,905
Engine: 3.6L V6, 300 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
Curb Weight: 4,398 lbs.
Wheelbase: 114 in.
MPG Rating: 15 city/ 22 hwy

                I drove an earlier generation Cayenne last summer.  By earlier I mean late 90’s-early 2000’s.  It was okay: supple suspension for a smooth ride, the Triptronic automatic transmission with the horrid buttons, and the awkward styling.  All of that added up to the 1st Porsche I had driven that I’d been comfortable in.  This 2012 Cayenne is the second one.
Someday I’ll fit in a 911 and maybe even enjoy it; so far, no go.  If you are a 911 enthusiast and want to change my mind, I’m always open to new experiences.

                The inside feels fantastic.  Leather everywhere is the first impression.  It is literally everywhere.  The cabin is quiet and road noise is an afterthought.
The rear seat has ample legroom.  All 6’4” of me fit in the back seat just fine with the driver’s seat in my driving position.  There are two LATCH systems in the back, but there is enough room to fit an “angsty” teenager between the child seats.  It’s the best an acceptable punishment since they outlawed corporal punishment.  It’s mental and a little physical if the two younger ones get “bitey.”
                Interior features include passenger window sunshades, dual/rear climate control, a sliding and reclining rear seat, and some cargo room.  The cargo space does not lead the segment, but is functional.  AC seats were a welcome option on a day where it was over 90 before 10am.  The seats are 8 way adjustable power seats and also do heated for the winter months.
                There is a cockpit feeling in the driver’s seat.  Everything is at your fingertips.  You have analog and digital gauges.  There is lots of information.  The middle instrument cluster is an analog tachometer with a digital speedometer in the middle.  It is quite nice. 
This car surrounds you with comfort and technology.  It’s like a modded La-Z-Boy, but with a V6, AWD, and an attitude.

                I didn’t want to write anything here.  The Cayenne’s styling can be polarizing.  Some like it, most become sick when they look at it, but I like the updated styling.  The early curves have been shaved down to more angular, racy lines. The front grille looks more menacing now.
                I don’t go for the “911 with a shed on the back” anymore.  Porsche has done a good job of rounding the edges in the back for more of a hatchback look and sharpening up the front end for the sports car look.
Rear visibility is limited by the headrests.

                There is quite a bit of tech in the Cayenne.  This one came equipped with satellite radio (“The Coffee House” was listened too, but wasn’t enjoyed as much), hands-free Bluetooth, and a USB input.
                A CD player is still included and it made me think about how much longer that will be a part of factory cars.  Three years? Five?  It can’t be much longer until we see the Auxiliary input no longer be auxiliary; it will just be “the input.”
                The Navigation was easy to navigate, but I struggled with the volume controls on the steering wheel.  I drive a number of different cars on a fairly routine basis, but I couldn’t turn up the volume from the steering wheel.  This could absolutely be user error, so make sure you ask the dealer how to before you buy one.  Then send me an angry note telling me how much smarter you are; they’ll make me laugh cry.
                I didn’t try to pair my phone, since this particular car is for sale and I didn’t want them to have my address book.  I have some private numbers in there

I love this transmission.  You’re not much of a car nerd if you shy away from manual transmissions and this transmission is the main reason I wanted to drive this car.  There are not a ton of SUV’s or trucks that are still equipped with a manual.  Jeep is still putting them in the Wranglers, and…  I’m drawing a blank.  Leave a comment if you can think of any factory prepped SUV’s with manual transmissions.
                The 3.6L V6 produces 300 horsepower.  It averages 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.  The base Cayenne isn’t fast, but it also isn’t slow.  It’s quick.  The 0 to 60 time is 7.1 seconds for a 4400 lbs. vehicle.  The horsepower and 0 to 60 time are respectable.
                The performance of this Cayenne brings me back to the “Slow Cars Fast” argument.  I’m definitely on the side of driving slow cars fast instead of fast cars slow.  Because this car isn’t over the top powerful, you’re able to put your foot in it fairly often, enjoy the driving experience, and not get as many tickets as say the S model.
The Cayenne isn’t slow.  You could shred your morning commute in it.  The all-wheel drive system means that it always feels planted.  It also means that you will probably experience some understeer (The wheels are turned, but the car doesn’t) if you get one out on the track.
                The Cayenne does not have any performance issues.  The S models rock a V8, but the V6 has power.  It isn’t throw you back in the seat power, but it will get you home safe every most nights, unless you get T-boned by a Darwin Award winner…  It doesn’t matter what car you’re in at that point.

                The Cayenne isn’t my ultimate LONG road trip vehicle (8 to 20 hour trips).  The Suburban/Yukon XL still heads that list for me.  If it is a weekend trip with a drive time between 2 to 5 hours though, then this is the car.  Did you like that specificity? 
                Family SUVs that seat 4 to 5 are everywhere: CRVs, 4Runners, Highlanders, Explorers, Traverses, Equinoxes, Durango’s, and a whole list of others.  The Cayenne comes with some panache.  It sounds great when you down shift, jumps into action when you ask it to, and then immediately dulls out the bumps when you’re ready to just cruise.
                I loved the Cayenne.  I also loved the last four cars I’ve driven, except the…  Sorry, no spoilers.

I love driving new cars and I’m not yet as jaded as some other automotive writers.  Sorry if things get too positive…  I don’t like putting too many negative vibes out into the world, especially when you’re talking about something that someone created. 

Here's the video review.

Thank you to Aristocrat Motors for letting me borrow the Cayenne.  They did not pay me to write this review.

July 8, 2012

Chris Harris' 325i Rally Car

Because my wife and I have discussed getting a smaller, properly quick car; why not have it be a rally car?

Chris Harris purchased one for around $8,000.  Watch and enjoy. 

None of this dissuaded me from still wanting something small and quick.  It doesn't have to be fast, just quick.

July 2, 2012

Go Further with Ford- 12 Police Interceptor

Ford has turned the new Taurus platform into a Police Interceptor.  It has the EcoBoost 3.5L Twin Turbo V6 that makes 365 horsepower and 422 ft-lbs of torque.  They've also given the car all wheel drive and massive 13.9 inch disc brakes.  There was a little bit of understeer that occurs with all AWD cars, but otherwise this car is brilliant: fast, quick, had a decent growl, a light bar, and great brakes.  You can hear me laugh out loud because I broke late and could have done so even later.  It's not quite a Matt Farah giggle (jump to 2:40), but it's close.

Anyway, here's the video.

July 1, 2012

Go Further with Ford- Focus Electric

Part of our Track Day with Ford included the Focus Electric.  The Electric is a 2013 model, but shares a lot of looks and features with the 2012 Focus models.

I first saw a Focus Electric back in September 2011 at a green event.  It was a preproduction vehicle, but it looked like a Focus with an electric motor where the engine was supposed to be. 

I love the front end of the Focus.  It looks racy, angry, and aggressive.  The Electric has the same aggressive front end.  The wheels of the Electric make it look more tranquil and conservative. The rest of the Electric is as functional as the regular Focuses (or is it Foci...).

The Focus Electric has a range of 100 miles.  The main down side to any EV is the range.  One hundred miles is quite a ways to go on one charge.  I think I could make it through one of my busier work days with a Focus Electric, but it would be close. 

I drive 14.4 miles to my primary job, another 24.2 miles to the second job, and finish with a sprint of 34.7 miles of mostly highway driving.  For those who struggle with Math, that's a total of 73.3 miles.  If Ford's listening and I know you are, I'd love to try and prove that an EV in functional in Kansas City.  It might cause some intense range anxiety and possible irritable bowel syndrome, but I think a 17 mile cushion is enough to get through the day.

Here's the video of Carmen, Seth, and myself rolling around the test track at Ford.  The electric motor did a great job of powering us through the straights, the corners, and the whoops.

The base price for a Focus Electric is just shy of 40 grand.  You would have to be a major proponent of the environment or just be wealthy to drop that on a limited range vehicle.  That is a problem that I would like to have in the future... 

Thank you, Ford, for providing me with this opportunity and allowing me to meet so many other awesome people on the Internet!