October 17, 2013

2014 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium

The 2015 Ford Mustang is right around the corner.  Its debut is expected at the 2014 North American International Auto Show.  There are a lot of rumors swirling about it: 4 cylinder turbo engines, smaller, more European, diesel, etc. That last one isn’t a valid rumor, but you do know how rumors get started, right?   I try to avoid rumors and until January I’m only really concerned with the 2014 Ford Mustang.

Paint: Deep Impact Blue
Base Price: $39, 750
As Driven: $43,585
Engine: 5.0L V8, 420 horsepower
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Curb Weight: 3,735 lbs.
MPG Rating: 15 city/ 26 highway

This car has $3,000 dollars of options on it.  The Comfort Group for $650 gets you heated seats and heated side mirrors with the Pony Lamp.  The other one is a rear sensing system, active anti-theft, and wheel locks.  Other than the Pony Lamps I only knew they were on the car because of the sticker.  Now there is one option I loved!  It’s the Brembo Brake package.  This package is pricy at $1700, but worth every penny in my opinion.  It also gets you 19 inch wheels and tires. 

The best feature of any new 5.0L V8 Mustang is the power plant.  The growl from the exhaust combined with the 420 thoroughbreds under the hood and the 390 ft-lbs of twist help to make the 2014 Mustang a very athletic vehicle. 

It’s too heavy to be compared with a running back or wide receiver, but think great pass catching tight ends: explosive off the line, subtle in their routes, and great hands to complete the play.  The Mustang drives like Tony Gonzalez plays; doesn’t matter how many defenders are there, throw it up, he’s got a very good chance to come down with it.  On the street it doesn’t matter who’s around.  The 2014 Mustang GT Convertible Premium is a very athletic sports car.

I test every vehicle as a family vehicle because I have a family and a day job that requires me to use the press vehicles as my daily driver to run my boys to school.  The 2014 Mustang is not marketed or even recommended to be a family vehicle.  Mainly because it isn’t one…  I became drenched standing in the rain waiting for just one son to enter the vehicle and get buckled.  If you’ve got kids, your rides have to have four doors. 

My driving position was useable throughout the week, but not very comfortable at all.  My kids are big for their ages and I was limited on how far I could put the driver’s seat back…  I have a new Fiat 500 Abarth coming in November, so we’ll see how much they grow between now and then.  I don’t blame the Mustang for the seat position limitations.  They’re my kids and my responsibility.  I do think testing the Mustang as a family vehicle is unfair because it isn’t one, but the boys did have a wonderful time when I dropped the hammer.  The torque would throw them back in their car seats and force hoots of glee out of them.  I can’t argue with that!

Overall, I had a blast with this car.  420 horsepower is a lot of fun.  I wish the price was a little lower and to be honest when the 2015’s get here; there should be some great deals on 2014’s!  Definitely scoop one up!  It’s so much fun.  It’s laugh out loud fun!  Not LOL, but actual laugh out loud!

October 10, 2013

Archer Top Gun Video

I don't talk about TV on here ever.  This is a car blog.  We should talk about car things.


This.  Is.  Awesome.

Archer isn't for everyone, but I love it.  The show is inappropriate, hilarious, and I'm still not sure if it's the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, or even the 00's... 

Enjoy this homage to Top Gun. 

It makes me happy to know that someone is in the world making stuff like this.


October 5, 2013

2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

The Italians started out to make a larger 500.  The 500L is the result. 

It looks like a cross between a Citreon DS3 and a MV-1 Van!

They’ve added two more doors, more wheelbase, shaved 50 lbs., and found more cargo space.  They’ve even given it the peppy 1.4L Multiair Turbo engine from the Fiat 500 Abarth.  But it is a car with an identity crisis. 

It can’t decide if it’s a small fuel efficient economy car or if it’s an Italian sports car. 

Small fuel efficient economy cars do not retail at $24,000, which is where my Lounge trim level tester is priced.  If they do, then they’re achieving 35, 40, 50, even 60 mpgs.  The 500L tops out at 33mpg…
But the 500L isn’t a small Italian sports car that sacrifices fuel economy for the rip-roaring fun of high horsepower and loads of twist (torque).  It only makes 160 horsepower, which is an adequate amount of power.  The Ford Focus ST is priced one to two thousand dollars higher, but comes with 252 horsepower or 92 more horses than the 500L. 

The engine for the 500L is the 1.4L Multiair four cylinder turbo-charged engine.  It’s a pretty good little engine.  Most of the torque arrives at 2500rpm with the power showing up at 5500rpm.  I love this engine in the Fiat 500 Abarth.  The 500L isn’t the 500 Abarth, even though the 500L weighs less than the Abarth.

The interior space in the 500L is impressive.  The regular 500’s backseat is a joke.  It will hold two child safety seats, but it is incredibly uncomfortable, even for the driver.  The 500L holds both child seats and has enough room for the driver to fit comfortably.  The driver’s position feels like they’ve used Time Lord technology (“It’s bigger on the inside!”).  The rear seat can also be moved forward to create more cargo capacity.

With its upright posture, the 500L has a sky’s worth of headroom.  The extra space up top does not ruin the handling dynamics.  It does not feel top heavy and handles well around town.

The 500L is a fun little car.  It definitely falls into the “driving slow cars fast” category, which is always more fun than “driving fast cars slow!”  The 1.4L engine was the most fun when the revs were high and I was a gear too low.

I would not shop a Lounge trim level of this car.  It’s just too much money for what you get.  The Pop trim level starts at $19,100. The customer gets the same 1.4L engine and a manual transmission.   I’m much more comfortable with that price range for the 500L.

Overall, I like the 500L.  It’s a good little car around town that has enough room for a family.  It isn’t your solution to that cross-country family road trip, but serves very well as a commuter vehicle.  Definitely shop the Pop trim level and enjoy the Italian styling!

Base Price: $24,195
As Driven: $27,445
Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged 4-cylinder, 160 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed Shiftable Automatic
Wheelbase: 102.8 inches
Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs.
MPG Rating: 24 city/ 33 highway (premium recommended)

Watch the video review!

September 1, 2013

Craigslist Car Finds- '04 Mazda Mazda6 S Wagon

I started making a new show.  It's called Craigslist Car Finds. It's pretty self-explanatory.  I find cars on Craigslist and then make a short video talking about it.

Here's the first one.  Hopefully you enjoy it.  If not, please share how awful it is...  Thank you for watching.

Again, thank you for watching.

August 11, 2013

Chris Harris totally gets me...

I was never a teenage girl, so I never got to experience having a school girl crush...

But now that I'm in my mid-30's, I think I'm starting to understand.

I discovered Chris Harris a couple of years ago while I was looking to fill the void in between Top Gear series.

This is a picture. Please don't try to "play" it!

I like his stuff a lot.  The quick attack missions where they only get 20 minutes with a car to the long term loaners that are with him for up to a year; he uses all of it to make good films.

He recently made a video that spoke right to the petrol head bone in my body.  He did a comparison test of Bat Crap Crazy estate cars; The Audi RS6 Avant and the Mercedes CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake!

I would buy the Merc just so I could say, "Let's take the Shooting Brake today..."  I probably have a better shot at getting a better deal on the Audi, but I'm not ever going to be able to afford either, so this is moot...

Watch the video.  You'll be able to see why I have a "man crush" on Chris.  Good name aside, he's good at what he does.

Subscribe to the /Drive network.  They make other great car videos and someday mine will get better too.  Everyone at /Drive has been working of car videos for close to a decade.  There's a reason they're good.  Enjoy!

Nobody can make good films without a really good editor. Chris has Neil Carey to make it all come together.  Without Neil, there is no Chris.

I need a Neil...

Edmunds Gets Their Audience

Edmunds posted on Facebook a poll asking their readers "Which car do you wish was sold in the States?" 

I clicked the link.  I'm a sucker.

Everything on the list is a hatchback, wagon, a couple of light duty pickup trucks, and a Land Rover Defender. 

It seems a little trite, but Edmunds understands that their readers are petrol head nerds.  And petrol head nerds love hatchbacks, station wagons, niche SUVs and light duty trucks.

I'm a little surprised that no one at Edmunds was able to slip a Brown diesel estate car onto the list...

The petrol heads so far have the Sirocco R in the lead, but I voted for the RS4 Avant.  Again, a little trite on my part, but I love an all-wheel drive, 450 horsepower station wagon!  Enough room for kids, dogs, luggage and a massive V8 that's good in the wet, dry, and even the snow!

Reminders me of a 470 horsepower SUV that I posted recently...

Click the link and go vote yourself!

What is the Best Mid-Life Crisis FAMILY Vehicle? Part 2

I started with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and for Part 2 I've picked another one.

This one is a very special Jeep.  It's the brand new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.

This is a great vehicle, even though it is a little pricey.  My test vehicle came in just a little over $68,000.  

But the Grand Cherokee SRT is worth every penny.  It's powered by a 6.4L Hemi V8 that produces 470 horsepower and 465 ft-lbs. of torque.  The engine is really good, but the best part of the Grand Cherokee SRT is the suspension setup.

It is a large vehicle weighing in at 5150 lbs., but it does not handle like a five thousand pound monster.  The suspension and 295 width tires make the SRT feel like it handles like a large sport sedan.

I had it out on a slalom course with some local officers and we were all very impressed with its ability to turn in and rotate through the corners.  Its agility and the big horsepower numbers make the SRT a lot of fun.

I didn't want to give the Grand Cherokee back.  The interior was roomy with plenty of cargo space.  The UConnect system and one of the largest touch screen interfaces for media really make it a user friendly interior.

Watch the videos I made with the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT.  There's an overall look at why it's the best mid-life crisis family vehicle, a starts and revs video, and a launch control video.  Good stuff.  Enjoy!

Thank you for watching!

August 6, 2013

Ford is bringing CNG to a 1/2 Ton

Ford announced that they are going to be equipping half ton F-150's with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel systems.

I have some experience with CNG vehicles.  I drove a Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG for a week last year and liked it a lot.

Ford has a total of 8 commercial vehicles available with gaseous fuel systems.  That is the most of any major manufacturer.  

The tank will be located in the bed directly behind the cab.

The CNG fuel filler is located up on the side of the cover for the tank.  This is different than the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty which had its CNG filler located in the same door as the gasoline tank.  It was a good idea, but difficult to use on a chilly, windy day.

The cost of filling up with CNG is very affordable.  I filled both tanks of the Ram that I drove last year for $24...  Yes, that was filling both tanks.  That is a quarter of the price that I pay to fill my Denali.

Ford is equipping the 2014 F-150 with a 3.7L V6.  This engine will come with hardened valves, valve seats, pistons, and rings that will allow it to run on either natural gas or gasoline through two different fuel systems.  Ford is claiming a 750 mile range.  That range is estimated using the fuel in the 26 gallon gasoline tank and the 15.7 gallon CNG tank.  There is also a 36 gallon gasoline tank offered as an option.

I really like CNG fuel costs.  Most of the natural gas that is used in the US is produced locally.  The natural gas is cheap and better for the environment.

One of my favorite radio commercials of all time is, "Oklahoma Petroleum.  We've got gas!"  They are one of many producers of natural gas in the US.

I don't run a fleet of vehicles, but I do wish I did...  Fuel cost is always a concern and CNG is another helpful alternative.  As more CNG vehicles hit the road, then more CNG fuel stations will start appearing on the map.

Right now there is only one station in Kansas City... 

August 5, 2013

What do you think about (insert car name here)?

I recieved a text message from a friend this morning asking me what I thought about a lineup of cars.  I called my friend back instead of texting.

I love this question.  One hundred sixty characters is not enough room to answer, "What do you think about (insert car name here)?"

The important questions:
1.What is the car's main purpose?

2. How much are you willing to spend?

3. Is there a brand that you like more than others?

4. Sedan, Coupe, CUV, SUV, or Truck?

5. Does it need to be front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or all wheel drive?

6.Are mpg's going to be very important, kind of important, or what does mpg mean?

There are more questions that I end up asking, but those listed above are the standard set.

The worst is when people purchase a car and then ask you about what you think.  They are not genuinely interested in what you have to say.  At that point they just want you to validate their purchase... 

All of today's questions and answers centered around Ford.  Basically my finally answer came down to the Escape or the Explorer.  Engine size, drivetrain, type of vehicle, number of seats, and cargo room got us down to these two models.

If price matters, I voted Escape.

 If price doesn't matter, I voted Explorer.
2014 Ford Explorer on the Test Track in Dearborn, MI
Both are very good cars.  I really like both, but I also suggested an Audi Q5.

Actually, I suggested a CTS-V Wagon, but since the car is for Grandma, we should probably avoid the 556 horsepower station wagon...

I do love it, though...
Grocery getter, my ass...
I'm always willing to throw my opinions in on any vehicle purchase and I'm not offended if you completely ignore my advice.  It's your money.  Buy what you want!  :)

July 18, 2013

What is the Best Mid-Life Crisis Family Vehicle? Part 1

I'm 32 years old.

In the eyes of my day job co-workers, I'm older than dirt.  My co-workers are 11 to 13 years old(I teach middle school.)...  In the real world (because as we all know, middle school is not the "real world.") I'm not old at all.

My oldest son is starting Kindergarten this year and my youngest is two.  Both are still in child safety seats.  Now that Kid 1.0 is headed into the school system, I'm starting to feel my age.

I'm been teaching for a decade, writing about cars for two years, and I'm still searching for that dream job.

I'd like to think that this is my Professional Mid-Life Crisis.  The one where I switch jobs, careers, nationalities, etc.  I probably won't switch nationalities; being American is pretty boss.  I'm definitely too old to say, "boss," but also too lazy to change it...

The Professional Mid-Life Crisis got me thinking about the best Mid-Life Crisis family vehicles.

If someone is in their 30's and had two young kids, what would they drive?

This is Part 1 in that series.  Here's my choice.

I don't know how many of these I can pull off.  I plan to pick vehicles for Mid-Life Crises in the age groups: 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. 

I'm assuming that the hypothetically consumers are car people.  At least car people who have the same sensibilities as me when it comes to cars.

These are my opinions and I reserve the right to change all of them. 

Thanks for watching!  Cheers.

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth

I’m never going to forget this car.

Base Price: $22,000
As Driven: $26,200
Engine: 1.4L Turbo 4-cylinder, 160hp
Transmission: 5 Speed Manual
Curb Weight: 2533 lbs.
MPG Rating: 28 city/ 34 highway
Crooked Finger Scale: 5 out of 5

The first reason is that a Dodge Dart had to have a small electrical hiccup for me to be able to even drive the 500 Abarth. 

The second reason is that Kid 2.0 (my youngest) decided to do something amazing in this car.

But let’s talk about the car first…

It’s small, Italian, loud, and has red seats.

 I think the red seats are very sexy.  They are not always comfortable, but neither is sex…  There was just enough room to fit both child safety seats in the back.  The boys did not have their usual “neutral zone” between them, but they behaved well and it wasn’t an issue.

It is Italian being that it’s a Fiat.  Fiat as a brand does not have the best reputation in the US.  The last time they were here all the cars rusted, didn’t work, or just fell apart.  I’ve driven two 500’s since they’ve come back to the States and had no issues with either car.  The 500 is a car that’s been around since 2007 in Europe and Fiat seems to have shed its unreliable reputation over there. 

The 500 is a small car weighing in at 2,400 pounds.  The small stature allows you to zip the Abarth in and out of traffic with relative ease.  You don’t have to worry about checking your blind spot because you are sitting directly in the blind spot.  The back of the car is just behind your back. 

The 500 is powered by a 1.4L turbo-charged 4 cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower.  The power numbers are not overly eye popping for this car.  But the car does not weigh that much, so the power makes the 500 Abarth pretty quick.  It isn’t fast and I would not like to drive it at track speeds.  Seventy miles per hour on the Interstate is fast enough for this short wheelbase car. 

There was a weird moment in this car.  While accelerating, I noticed that it sounded a little funny…   This is unusual in the Abarth because the car sounds great!  I’m definitely a fan of the exhaust.  Turns out that Kid 2.0 was mimicking the sound of the exhaust behind me.  I realized it as I started going through the gears (#savethemanuals).  At the time Kid 2.0 was still pretty little like a year and a half.  He could communicate his needs, but he wasn’t quite old enough you really tell you what he likes.  This was one of the first moments when car guys have that connection. 

Just like the moment the summer before when Kid 1.0 was riding in a go kart for the first time and grinning so big that his face exploded.  We did go back to the karts this summer and took Kid 2.0 with us.  Both boys had an amazing time.  Kid 1.0 was not overly thrilled at first, but came out the last couple of times doing the sign language and saying, “More!” 

As for installing the child safety seats, the Fiat 500 Abarth rates 5 out of 5 on the Crooked Finger scale.  It’s a “scientific scale” that measures how messed up and crooked your fingers are after installing child safety seats.  The higher the number the more messed up.  I had some nicks in the skin and a number of irritated areas on my fingers after installing and uninstalling the seats.  It the 500’s defense; Fiat does not advertise it as a family car.

Overall, I really liked the 500 Abarth.  It’s not a four person family car, but can fake it in a pinch.  Because of my day job work schedule, I have to test the cars throughout the week, which means that both boys’ car seats have to fit in the back of the tester.  I was very worried about the 500 Abarth being able to accomplish this task.  They both fit; barely.  I was not in the most comfortable seating position when they were both in the car, but I wasn’t uncomfortable either.  It worked.

“Thank you” to the Fiat 500 Abarth for bringing me closer to one of my sons. I now know that Kid 2.0 is a budding petrolhead and will gently encourage him down that road.  I’m not going to drag him kicking and screaming, just nudge him a bit!  Kid 1.0 and I will always be able to talk about animals, the rain forest, and when we’re going to Africa.  Yes, the five year old has already asked when we’re going… 

I wonder if I can get a press car in Africa…  Land Rover, are you reading this?