December 7, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: The Supercar

Supercar: Audi R8 V10 Spyder


Base Price: $127,700
As Driven: $175,000
Engine: 5.2L V10, 525hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Automated Manual
MPG Rating: 13 city/19 hwy

                There has to be a supercar on the list.  Mainly because it means I have an excuse to go drive a supercar.  Audi R8 has been a stalwart of the supercar segment.  It is one of the more reliable supercars, which isn’t a normal supercar behavior.  Supercars are supposed to be finicky and feel like they’re ready to kill you at any second. 
 

The R8 is comfortable.  My back felt fine when I got out and I had room for my entire 6’4” frame.  The Quattro all-wheel drive helps the R8 to stick in any corner.  The handling mixed with the solid feel of the whole car makes the R8 very comfortable and relaxing; as relaxing as a V10, 525 horsepower car can be.  The Germans really have put a lot of R&D into the power plant and performance.  The breeze between 70mph to 100mph is allegedly intense.  I had perfect weather for my afternoon with the R8 Spyder. 
 

                If you’re buying a supercar, you’re probably buying it to scare the pants off yourself and whatever lady friend is in the passenger seat.  The R8 is a great car for people who are not used to driving this much power.  I love that you could use this as your daily driver.  It isn’t my favorite car to make me defecate in my pants, but it is my favorite supercar to drive a lot.  Any Shelby Cobra could help with the pants defecation.

                Thank you to LMC Truck (www.lmctruck.com) for letting me waste a bunch of premium gas in their R8.

               

                Thank you for making your way through my whole list.  Let the discussion begin!  Let me hear from you and tell me where you disagree or agree.  That’s what a comment section is for! 

December 6, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: SUV

SUV: Audi Q7





Base Price: $46,250
As Driven: $65,000
Engine: 3.0L Supercharged V6, 333hp
Transmission: 8 Speed Shiftable Automatic
MPG Rating: 16 city/22 hwy

                The Audi Q7 is my SUV of choice.  I like the Q7.  It’s fast, fun to drive, feels stuck to the road, and can seat seven.  Those first two apply to most of the cars on this list, but only the Odyssey can match the Q7 for passenger space.

The S-line Q7, my favorite Q7, comes with a supercharged V6 that turns out 333 horsepower.  The mileage isn’t fantastic, but the fun you can have while driving the Q7 outweighs the cost of gas.
 

The ride is smooth.  While on sketchy Ozark Mountain roads, the Q7 takes everything in stride.  I’m not using it as an off-road vehicle because of the low profile tires, but on road it rides great.  It defeats pot holes easily.

Another reason for picking the Q7 is that it will probably be the platform for the Lamborghini Urus.  Audi and Lamborghini are both owned by Volkswagen and VW allows platform sharing.  The Urus is going to be the SUV that will allow Lamborghini to continue to making bat crap crazy cars like the Aventador and the replacement for the Gallardo, hopefully the Sesto Elemento.
 

If the Q7 ends up being the backbone of the Urus, then that is a compromise I’m willing to make to see more Lambos in the world. 

                Thank you to Molle Audi (www.molleaudi.com) for letting me borrow yet another vehicle.  Check out my YouTube videos of the other Audi’s that I’ve reviewed.

December 5, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: Coupe

Coupe: Scion FR-S



Base Price: $24,200
As Driven: $25,700, only radio and destination are up charge.
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder Boxer engine, 200hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
MPG Rating: 22 city/30 hwy

                For what you get, the Scion FR-S is the best priced car on this list.

There is always an argument with petrol heads of driving fast cars slow or slow cars fast.  The FR-S isn’t fast, but it is a blast to drive.  This car has lived up to the hype. 
 

Born out of a partnership of Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S makes drivers feel aggressive and comfortable at the wheel.  They’ve combined Subaru’s four cylinder Boxer engine with the knowledge that Toyota has of rear wheel drive coupes.  If you’re looking for straight line speed, go get a Mustang GT.  If you’re looking for something that will corner, make you laugh like a child, and thrill you; grab an FR-S. 

                The overall impression of the FR-S is a car that anyone can drive hard.  I drive lots of different vehicles, some older, most newer and the FR-S is one of the most fun for the price.  This car has the shortest “get to know you” time.  It felt right the moment I got in.  I was quickly whipping the FR-S through city traffic and searching for the nearest back road.  This car is a blast.  It isn’t fast, but it can move well in traffic.  If you wait a couple more years, there’s bound to be a turbo version.
 

                Thank you to Molle Toyota (www.molletoyota.com) for allowing me to drive the FR-S when it had only been on their lot for a couple days.

December 4, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: Mnivan

Minivan: Honda Odyssey
 
 
Base Price: $28,375
As Driven: $43,825
Engine: 3.5L V6, 248hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic
MPG Rating: 19 city/28 hwy 

This is my least favorite segment of the auto industry.  I will drive anything before I will purchase a minivan.  That wasn’t hyperbole.
 

The Odyssey, Town & Country, Quest, and Sienna were all considered for the best of the worst.  There is no good solution here for petrol heads, but the Honda Odyssey is probably the one with the least self-hate involved. 

This minivan handles well and has a solid 3.5L V6 power plant. The Odyseey doesn’t feel sporty, but it also doesn’t feel underpowered.  Honda has been known to race Odyssey’s in the One Lap of America competition.  None of the other manufacturers do that with their minivans. 
 

While in the Odyssey, the quiet, calm interior was noticeable.  There was very little road noise and I didn’t have any kids in it, so there was no screaming as well.  I did notice that the overall sound was quieter than I expected, but I’m assuming that’s because every little nook and cranny hadn’t been filled with orange fish-shaped crackers, miscellaneous parts of action figures, circle grain cereal that rhymes with O’s, and raisins.  There are always raisins. 

The backseats were readily accessible. The keyless remote not only has a lock, unlock, and trunk button, but has two buttons for the sliding rear doors.  You can open them while you’re running at the car through the rain with kids in arm.  Handy, but not manly. 
 

Since I’m not a supporter of the minivan, this was a hard pick.  The Odyssey turned out to be the least objectionable option.  That won’t endear me to minivan enthusiasts, but let’s be honest, they are too busy chasing kids to read this.
 

Thank you to Frank Ancona Honda (www.frankanconahonda.com) for letting me punish myself with a minivan.  It almost convinced me that I don’t not like minivans.  Almost.

December 3, 2012

10 Segments in 10 Days: Hatchback

Hatchback: Volkswagen GTI

 
Base Price: $23,995
As Driven: $30,595
Engine: 2.0L Turbo-charged 4-cylinder, 200hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
MPG Rating: 21 city/31 hwy

                My love of small cars also extends to the GTI.  There are few cars, let alone hatchbacks, that can compete with the Volkswagen GTI.  It is competitively priced, has a brilliant 6 speed transmission, and is everywhere.  The 4 door GTI is on my “WANT” list.
 

                The performance of the GTI hasn’t diminished.  The car has gotten heavy over the last couple of generations and VW has tried to alleviate that with their next model, the Mark VII.  The original Golf GTI was a light, fast hatchback.  Modern safety equipment has caused the newer cars to be heavier and VW is addressing that concern.  Supposedly there is even a diesel GTI or a GTD in the works.

The 2012 car makes 200 horsepower out of a 2.0L turbo charged four cylinder engine.  It achieves 21 mpg city and 31 highway.  You can get the GTI with a 6 speed manual or with an automated manual that has paddle shifters.  We can’t be friends if you pick the paddle shifters over the manual.  The 6 Speed manual and clutch in this car are just too good.  I’ve driven three different generations of the GTI and I fall in love again every time I shift.  The transmission puts a smile on my face.  There are few things more fun than working through the gears of a well-built transmission and clutch.
 

                The GTI isn’t going to win many drag races, but it is quick.  It has FWD and makes sense in the crazy winters of the Midwest.  The 4 door version can be a reasonable alternative to some minivans.  Some, not all.

The GTI is attainable.  The price is mid-20’s to low-30’s for a really optioned-out Autobahn version.  It’s hard to find a base priced version.  If you make friends with a VW salesperson, I’d bet they’d let you know when one comes into town.
 

Thank you to Molle Volkswagen (www.mollevwofkansascity.com) for letting me play with their GTI.

*Since this was supposed to go to print, I’ve driven a Ford Focus ST.  The base price ST is $23,700. My opinion was has changed.   I do reserve that right.  More horsepower, great handling, and turbo-blow off noise!  Love it!

December 2, 2012

2013 Ford Escape Titanium



I’ve driven the 2012 Escape and have suggested it as a great buy as the 2013’s are coming to market.  Between the Fusions and Escapes, there are some deals to be had for last year’s models.  The redesigned Escape debuted at the LA Auto Show last year.  I’ve seen them in person at a couple of auto shows and even drove one for 37.1 seconds on Ford’s test track in Dearborn.  It was a time attack and I was supposed to match exactly the lap time of 36.8 seconds.  I was slow…  I was hoping to be fast.   


Base Price: $22,470
As Driven: $34,735
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder Turbo, 231hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic
Wheelbase: 105.9 in.
Curb Weight: 3,598 lbs.
MPG Rating: 21 city/ 28 highway

I just spent a week with the 2013 Escape and I was reasonably impressed.  I picked the Mazda CX-5 was my CUV of choice for my 10 Segments in 10 Days, but I hadn’t driven the Escape yet.  My advice is to drive them both and see which one will get you the better deal.
               
Interior:
                The interior of the Escape is suave; great materials that don’t feel cheap.  The seats are a mixture of leather and cloth.  The dash is topped with a durable heavy rubber/plastic that looks rugged and not cheap.  The console and instrument panel are covered in shiny graphite-colored plastic.  The interior lighting’s color is adjustable through the My Ford Touch entertainment system.
                The rear seat isn’t large, but the seats recline and can be moved back & forth to create more cargo room in the trunk.  Two car seats fit well in the back.  Both of my boys were able to watch their after-market DVD players which strap to the headrests.  The 4 year old liked it because the seat back was closer and he could actually touch the buttons on the player.   

                As a large adult, the backseat is not a place where I want to spend a lot of time.  The rear seat room is acceptable, but didn’t blow me away.  It works very well for kids, but if your children are about to become blossoming teenagers it’s going to be a much tighter fit.
Overall, I liked the Escape’s interior materials and fabrics.  A number of the materials, including the seats, are made from either bio-materials or recycled bottles. 

Exterior:
                The redesigned styling of the Escape is an upgrade over the box-like shape of the past.  The 2013 Escape looks great; the best in the segment.  It’s sharp, angular, and rounded in just the right places.  It’s aggressive.  The most aggressive compared with the Terrain, CR-V, Sportage, and Tucson.  I like the looks of the Escape the best.  It does look a little car-ish, compared to larger SUV’s, but I think it looks great for a CUV.

               
            The front end looks like it might need to attend a Rage-aholics Anonymous.  The shape of the nose and front grille share geometric characteristics with the Focus and Fiesta.  There are LED day running lights just under the HID headlamps.
The side of the Escape has a sharp definitive line down the side that attracts the eye.  The lines of the side lead you to a curvy, yet still angular and sharp back end.  

  

Tech:
The 2013 is loaded with tech.  There is Curve Control, which brakes the appropriate wheel when the car feels you’re travelling too fast to make it around the corner.  ABS (Anti-lock brakes), airbags everywhere, and Blind Spot Warning system are just a few of the Escape’s many systems to keep you alive and on the road.
The information center in the instrument cluster is helpful and easy to navigate.  It has a digital readout of the cruise speed set, two trip computers and an overall vehicle health check.  The graphic I left up the most was the representation of the Intelligent 4WD system, so I could see which tires were pushing and when.  

There is Touch Me Ford My Ford Touch.  This system works when you spend a lot of time with it, but it can be irritating to new users or stupid non-intelligent users.  I am repeatedly frustrated by button sensitivity and always have a longing for analog buttons.
There is Active Park Assist as well.  Here's the short video I made using it.  It's a very usable system.  I took three minutes to master and my sister used it successful on her first try experimenting with it.  She was uncomfortable not steering, but trusted the system and achieved her parking space quickly.

 
                “Sweep the leg, Johnny!”  I found myself either mumbling this or shouting it every time I used the leg sweep option to open the back of the Escape.  I’m completely on-board with this kind of tech.  It makes it so much easier to carry a bunch of useless very important items to the car and not drop it all to get the trunk open. 
                There are multiple options to get the back hatch open.  The leg sweep, the button on the center console, and the button on the key fob all open and close the trunk.  The trunk itself even has a button on it that allows you to close it.  This button also allows you to set the opening height for the vertically challenge among us. 
                One low tech piece that I wish was still included was hooks along the top of the cargo area for dry-cleaning.  If you have kids in the backseat and a double stroller in the back, then the only places for your clothes you just paid to have cleaned and is next to the your kid’s sticky fingers or on top of the stroller.  Not a killer flaw, just a quirk.

The reading and dome lights are white LEDs, which are bright, clear, and will last forever.  The lights accentuate a comfortable and spacious interior.  The HID headlamps really light up the road with a wide spread bright white light. 
The stereo in the Escape is noisy, but the good kind.  I actually turned the volume all the way up.  It didn’t say “11,” but it definitely sounded like it.  The Sirius/XM Death Metal that was flowing through the 10 Sony speakers and dual-channel subwoofer was loud.  It made me want to like Death Metal.  I don’t. 

Performance:
                The Escape came with the 2.0L Turbo four-cylinder engine.  The 2.0L EcoBoost makes 231hp at 5,500 rpms and 270 ft-lbs. at 3,000 rpms.  The torque was the first thing I noticed about the driving dynamics of the Escape.  After a light would flash green and I’d smoothly apply the accelerator, then the torque and Intelligent 4WD would chime in and my boys would be squealing in the back.  Most of the squealing was with glee.  Most. 
                The brakes are great.  I stomped them once because that’s what you do in a large SUV.  Stomp them, and let the ABS grind you to a halt.  Anyway, as a car pulled out in front of me I hammered the brakes and the cabin of the Escape turned into a slow-mo Michael Bay movie.  There were things in the car that I didn’t know were there.  They were floating by me in the air.
                This was the first press car that I couldn’t make the week on one tank of gas.  First that tells us that I need to drive the press cars more, but there’s a rule about paying bills and taxes first…   I don’t know.  I wasn’t really listening.  Second, the Escape averages 21 mpg in the city and even with my combined highway and city driving for the week; I had a hard time getting it over 21.  Part of the problem is 21 city mpgs.
                The other part of the problem is how much fun it is to accelerate the Escape to the speed limit.  The Intelligent 4WD and the torque really move this little CUV.  It’s solid, firm, and the acceleration is smooth and robust.  It will punch you in the kidneys if you’re not paying attention when you mat it.  All of those factors add up to okay mpgs.  My suggestion is to buy the 1.6L EcoBoost engine that makes 173hp and gets slightly better mpgs for less money (6 grand less base price).

                Overall, I really like the Escape.  I don’t love it though.  There were quirks that I couldn’t get past.  The $30,000 price tag and the lack of dry cleaning hangers in the trunk kept frustrating me.  The power and feel of acceleration is great for a CUV.  I love the way the steering feels.  The mileage was acceptable, but not great.  The 1.6L EcoBoost could be a better option if you’re looking for economy.  The S, SE, and SEL are all competitively priced trim levels of the Escape.  I really like the Escape in the bottom three trim levels.  The Titanium is up there.  Thirty-four grand for a CUV is a lot.

10 Segments in 10 Days: CUV

CUV: Mazda CX-5
 


Base Price: $20,695
As Driven: $30,415
Engine: 2.0L 4 cylinder, 155hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic
MPG Rating: 25 city/31 hwy

                This isn’t my least favorite segment, but it’s a close second.  My main objection to the CUV is that this category can feel numb, have paralytic styling, handling that leaves a lot to be desired and so-so fuel economy with underwhelming power. Mazda has tried to correct all of these issues in one car.  A mountain of a task, but one they’ve summited well. 
 

                The CX-5 comes with SkyActiv Technology.  This is Mazda’s engine program that increases the compression ratios, upgrades the fuel injection, uses a specifically designed transmission, and some Hogwart’s tricks to be more efficient and increase horsepower.  The 2.0L four cylinder engine produces 155 horsepower and achieves 25 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. 

                The CX-5 accelerates nicely.  That being said, if you mat the accelerator, then it feels laggy and not fast.  Ordinary, everyday driving in this car is smooth and likeable.  If you have to do any aggressive driving, it handles well, but the power won’t be able to keep up.
 

                I don’t want to own a CUV, but I can see the appeal of all-wheel drive, seating for five, and cargo capacity.  It is a great new family vehicle.  It handles well enough that “roll overs” aren’t a concern and has enough room for a double stroller.  This is cheaper than most minivans, which could make it a welcome option to a lot of guys who thought they were destined for a box of hate on wheels.
 

                Thank you to Tumminia Mazda (www.tumminiamazda.com) for letting me borrow the award winning CX-5.

December 1, 2012

Forza Horizons

The last video game system I bought was a Playstation 2 in the fall of 2003.  I bought it with my first paycheck after college.  Between NCAA 2004 Football, Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, and MLB '06 The Show I've had a lot of fun with it, but...  The games are getting dated.  MLB '06 has Scott Elarton as a starting pitcher for the Royals and NCAA 2004 Football has Darren Sproles in the backfield for K-State.

I recently broke down and bought a new system...  An XBox 360.  It came with Kinnect and a couple of games.  Nothing special, but then someone gifted me Forza Horizons.


I don't have a ton of time to play video games, but when I do this is the game for me!  Barn finds, rally stages, supercars, classics, AWD, RWD, and FWD.  It's great!  You win a Raptor ten minutes in!

I really have enjoyed playing it.  I laughed out loud when I read this piece from Jalopnik.  Really witty and dead on for game play! 


It's so funny.  I'm off to put my kids down for a nap and maybe shred some rubber.  Laters.

Why Formula 1? Cuz Kimi.



This is not a carefully sculpted diatribe about the benefits of Formula 1.  Until the series finally came back to the States a couple weeks ago in Austin, most Americans could not name one Formula 1 driver.  Maybe Talladega Nights helped people hear Formula Un.  But now it's back.

I like motorsports.  I prefer Global Rally Cross or NASCAR because of the contact and wrecks, except the gap jump wrecks, those terrify me.  I think we’re attracted to motorsports because the drivers are a collection of boys who haven’t grown up.  They spent their youths playing with cars, and now as adults they’re getting to do the same thing.  Plus they get paid handsomely…

Who wouldn’t want to avoid their day job?  The cubicle, the work site, and the collection of 100 pre-teens that they deal with 5 days a week (that one is me specific).  I think we are envious of race drivers.  I know I am.

There are many types of athletes: those that work so amazingly hard to become mediocre at the professional level, those that work hard to become brilliant, & those that drink, party, gallivant and are still other-worldly.
Kimi Raikkonen is in the last category.  Kimi doesn’t have to train like all the other drivers.  He can spend the entire night before a race out partyinsg, show up the next day, and glide to a win.  He’s that good. 
Kimi at 2012 USGP

There’s a mythology to Kimi. 

He began racing F1 at 21.  I was 20 and still trying to get a serious girlfriend.  Kimi was racing at 200mph all over the world. 

Before his first ever F1 race, he was found asleep under a table in the pit box about 30 minutes before.  I get it.  I’d be a nervous wreck, literally crapping my pants (TMI?)… 

He’s a man of few words.  Stoic is what he is.  If you set him up with a question that can be answered with a yes or no, then that’s what you’re going to get; one word, yes or no. 

Kimi won the world championship in 2007.  In 2010-2011, he left F1.  He went off to race World Rally Championship.  WRC doesn’t go as fast as F1, but it brings into the mix gravel, trees, dust, jumps, and brilliant crashes.  There are literally hours of WRC crash videos on YouTube.  Not to be outdone, but here's another driver I like rolling his car 7.75 times.  The best part is their reactions.

Kimi broke his wrist right before he started racing this last season. It wasn't the first time.  He talked about it on Top Gear.  He’s quoted as saying it was “the smallest and slowest crash I’ve ever had…”  It was on a snowmobile.  What else do you do in Finland in the winter?

Kimi might be part super hero.  The Finns have always been robots of the race course.  Whether it’s WRC or F1, there’s normally a Finn near the top.  Kimi kept that tradition going this year driving Lotus to 3rd in the Constructors Championship.  His teammate at Lotus is a Frenchman who seems to crash brilliantly just about every race.  So the main reason Lotus is in 3rd is because Kimi put the team on his back and got them there (I think there’s a Marshawn Lynch reference there. NSFW!).

Kimi pulled out a win at Abu Dhabi this year.  Somehow his team forgot he’d been in the position before.  This year’s win is now famous for Kimi’s terse responses on the team radio. 

“LeavemealoneIknowwhatImdoing.” “YesyesyesImdoingallofthat. Youdonthavetoremindmeeverysecond.”  I love it.  The second part of the video is his post-race interview with David Coulthard, F1 play by play man for the BBC.  “People thought I didn’t give a shit because I didn’t smile enough last time.”  You can’t script this.  It’s great.



Yes, Sebastian Vettel just won his 3rd World Championship, but Kimi’s the one I root for.  Mainly because I know he doesn’t give a shit care if I do or not.

The F1 season is over for now, but I’m going to make the effort to get to Austin for next year’s race.

P.S. If you attended this year’s race in Austin, thank you.  The turnout was so fantastic that we should have F1 in the States for a while.