Saturday, July 31, 2010

2011 Hyundai Sonata : Edition Limited

seems like Hyundai is in a sort of automotive golden age where it just can’t put a foot wrong. The Genesis sedan and Coupe, and Tucson have been well received in their respective marketplaces, but the ultra competitive mid-size sedan segment is a different kind of monster

The Sonata was going to need some big chops to even be considered against stalwarts like the Camry and Accord. Upon climbing in the Sonata, the first thought was that there was no way this was a sub-$30K vehicle. The Sonata’s interior easily outclasses most of the competition

* Transmission could use some refinement
* 2.4-liter engine is good, but we want the turbo already!
* Steering feel and suspension tuning create an uninvolving experience

Friday, July 30, 2010

2011 Mercedes SL 63 AMG Black Saphir

2011 Indent Design Tuners introduced the Saphir BLACK which is adapted Mercedes SL63 AMG received enhancements for both appearance and performance. With the kit from Design indent makes a lot of options for the appearance of SL63. As has been previously preached Wheelsandmore has also introduced a kit with WheelsandMore SL63. Also RENNtech SL63 Have been Launched.

Actually come to think about it, eventually you might be better to spend a little more and get a real Black. Indent does provide a sports suspension and a new set of wheels designed to look like Black wheels for your car, but you have to blow a pile of money, too. They offer a 11 × 20 inches (front) and 13 × 20-inch (rear) with 275/30 R20 and 325/25 R20 Dunlop tires. The price of this set is € 13,200. organized sports and the speed depends on the suspension will set you back another € 15,550, and then there are spy cameras (900 euros), the lamp driving day (420 euros) and is suitable Saphire Black high-grade steel muffler embellishers (1200 euros).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fast Lanes for Faster Drivers?

Fast Lanes for Faster Drivers?

Is anyone happy with the way our traffic system works? We have what you might call a least common denominator, "one size fits all" licensing system that arguably serves no one well.

Example: Drivers with experience and above-average skill (demonstrated by passing a more difficult driving test, or having successfully earned a certificate from a high-performance driving school such as Bondurant or Skip Barber, etc.) could probably be trusted to drive considerably faster than currently posted maximum lawful speeds of 70-75 mph (which is what speed limits were circa 1970) without endangering themselves or others.

In practice, of course, they already do. But despite their ability to drive faster safely, they're lumped in with the least competent via dumbed-down speed limits that put them in almost constant jeopardy of being radar-trapped into a $150 piece of payin' paper.

On the flip side, marginal and outright incompetent drivers are not treated as such by the system. Jut the opposite. They are often rewarded - or at least, encouraged to think they are "good drivers" by dint of the fact that they don't "speed."

That they often tailgate, wander across the double yellow, blow through red lights - and so on - hardly seems to matter since for the most part, these offenses are not the focus of traffic safety enforcement. "Speeding" is the major no-no, even though driving faster than a number painted on a sign may have no bearing whatever on how safely (or not) you happen to be driving.

Since so little is expected of all drivers, the general level of skill is very low. This almost certainly makes it less safe out there than it ought to be - and easily could be.

But how to reconcile the good drivers with the bad ones - or at least, to not punish the good drivers just because they transgress against laws intended for the benefit of the not-so-good drivers?

A tiered system of licensing - with "fast lanes" on highways set aside for those who have passed more demanding proficiency requirements - could make driving safer and more pleasant for everyone. Such a system exists already in countries like Germany and the results have been hard to argue with: Germany enjoys a generally higher average skill level for its drivers (because getting a license over there is n easy thing, as it is here) and an accident/fatality rate that is better than ours, despite often much faster rates of travel.

In a tiered system, there are two categories of driver's license: The Basic and the Expert (with a Learner's for teenaged/first-time drivers).

In order to get your Basic license, you'd have to pass a written test proving that you know the rules of the road such as what the passing lane is for, who goes first at 4-way stops and so on. In addition to the written part, an actual on-road "road test" would be next - one that actually requires the subject being tested to prove basic competence behind the wheel in real-word driving conditions. The test would take at least 30 minutes and involve driving on secondary roads and highways, merging with traffic, parallel parking and so on.

This alone would result in a major uptick in the ability of the typical American motorist, simply by dint of weeding out the people who haven't yet mastered the skills needed to safely operate a motor vehicle. Currently, most states require nothing more demanding than a few turns around some cones in the DMV parking lot - or a cursory drive around the block. This is outrageous given the responsibility that comes with driving a motor vehicle.

Successful passage of an actual road test in real-world conditions - as is the practice in many European countries - ought to be a mandatory minimum before any person is allowed onto public roads. But of course, it's not. We literally let almost anyone who can insert a key into the ignition switch and pull the lever into "Drive" get a license - and not just a Basic license, but an "open class" license with no restrictions placed on the person whatsoever.

It's interesting that the self-styled "safety advocates" who complain endlessly about "speeding" rarely, if ever, focus on our frighteningly lax driver's licensing procedures. A "speeder" is arguably less dangerous than a person who timidly creeps into fast-moving traffic or constantly wanders across the double yellow in curves or who parks in the far left lane at exactly 55 mph, refusing to yield to faster-moving traffic.

But back to tiered licenses. After a person acquires their first or Basic license and drives without incident for say two years, he would be eligible for an Expert endorsement (like the current "m" endorsement required to operate a motorcycle in many states). Additional training - such as successful completion of a high-performance driving school - could be the basic requirement for the "expert" endorsement, along with a DMV record free of any record of at-fault accidents or convictions for things that genuinely reflect careless or dangerous driving, such as DWI.

The holder of an Expert endorsement would be allowed to operate his vehicle on dedicated fast lanes with higher maximum speed limits - or even no formal speed limits at all, as on the German Autobahns.

Unsafe? Scary? Not really. The Germans are very strict about their training and licensing requirements - but once an applicant has made the cut, the German authorities leave it up to him to judge what speed is safe. And it works quite well. The accident/fatality rate on the Autobahns - where cars routinely cruise at 100 mph - is lower than it is on our Interstate highways, where it is rarely legal to drive faster than 70 mph.

A tiered licensing system and fast lanes could accomplish several worthwhile things:

* It would give all drivers something to strive for - encouraging the acquisition of a higher level of skill behind the wheel. This would tend to lift the quality of the driving pool in general, which would make the driving environment safer for everyone.

* It would end the revenue-motivated harassment of drivers who are able to safely handle high-speed driving but who are currently subject to being ticketed merely because they happen to be driving faster than a number painted on a sign.

* Police could devote their energies to identifying and weeding out the genuinely dangerous drivers - tailgaters, people who refuse to yield to faster-moving traffic, drunks, the reckless, etc. This would do much to increase highway safety. It would also go a long way toward rebuilding the diminished stature of the highway patrol in the minds of many motorists, who have become very cynical about law enforcement as a result of radar traps and "speed enforcement" in general.

It'd be a pretty cool thing for all concerned - if it could ever be realized.

2011 Hyundai Equus

The Equus is the latest push in Hyundai’s efforts to join the upper echelon of the auto world. Designed as an executive limo and aimed directly at the Lexus LS460 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, it has the looks and content to take the fight to the stalwarts from Germany and Japan. The sedan is loaded with tech and luxury items, including a lane-departure warning system, electronic car suspension, smart cruise control, and a 17-speaker 608W Lexicon stereo. Prices are expected to start around $50K. That is, about $15K less than an LS 460 and a massive $31K less than an S550.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

556 hp and 551lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 6.2l V-8 make the CTS-V wagon the absolute quickest way to get to your nearest grocery store. Magnetic Ride Control, Brembo brakes, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport PS-2 tires, and optional Recaro sport seats guarantee the CTS-V is as at-home on a country backroad as it is at the drag strip. The CTS-V Sport Wagon hits dealerships late in 2010, but get your name on the list now; supplies will be limited. Cadillac expects broader availability in 2011.

2011 Scion tC

With a design inspired by the Toyota ST-86 concept, the Scion tC improves on its already handsome sheetmetal. The interiors have also received a much-needed F5 (refresh), with a new instrument cluster, radio layout, steering wheel, and seats that feature more bolstering. The 5-speed gearboxes are gone, replaced by 6-speed ones for the 2011. No word on pricing just yet, but under $20K could be a safe bet. Toyota expects the tC to be at dealerships and ready for customizations later this fall.

2011 Infiniti QX56

The 2011 QX provides 400hp and 413lb-ft of torque from its direct-injected 5.6l V-8. Customers have the option of rear-wheel drive, or Infiniti’s All-Mode 4WD. The QX is packed full of standard tech, including Infiniti’s hard-drive based navigation, Bose Stereo, USB Connectivity, Intelligent Cruise Control, Frontal Collision Warning, and Intelligent Brake Assist. Rather impressively, Infiniti is offering a majorly improved QX for the same price as last year’s model. The range starts at $56.7K for rear-wheel drive, and $59.8K for four-wheel drive.

Electric Cars of the future

1. BMW Concept ActiveE

As part of something called the Project I, the BMW ActiveE follows the Mini E into the world of creating all-electric versions of the current BMW Group Production models. Essentially, the ActiveE is an electric 1-series coupe. Present in this concept vehicle are the amenities, a BMW customer would want – leather seats, infotainment, and an LCD Display – as well as some new goodies specific to the ActiveE, e.g, Ambient Blue lighting, exterior graphics, enhanced instrument panel, and special light-alloy wheels. Energy is stored in a temperature-regulated lithium-ion battery pack, which takes the place of the fuel tank and the drivetrain on a 1-series. The synchronous electric motor, integrated into the rear axle, provides 170 hp. 184 lb-ft of torque is available right from 0 rev/min. The ActiveE has a range of about 100 miles more>>

2. Volvo Electric C30

The Volvo Electric C30 is pretty much the same thing that it sounds like – a C30 with an EV powertrain. Those of you who find the C30’s unique looks attractive, won’t have anything to complain about the EV translation. A set of unique wheels and a large acreage of decals are the only major changes to the exterior. Volvo designers seem to have done their typical class-leading work on the interior, with a blue gear selector, signature materials, and a minimalist feel throughout. The C30 EV uses Li-ion batteries, housed in the propshaft tunnel and in the cavity, normally occupied by the fuel tank, in conjunction with a front-mounted electric motor. Range is stated maximum of 94 miles with full charge, which takes around eight hours to achieve, from a standard electrical outlet. More>>

3. Commuter Cars’ Tango T600

The Tango is a start-up-company-sized take on an all-electric solution for urban warriors. The car’s super-narrow profile can allow for in-traffic maneuvers, otherwise only possible for a motorcycle, with seating for two (front to back), and at least as much cargo space as is required for a briefcase, a six-pack of beer, and probably your longest extension cord. The T600 uses two powerful electric motors to good effect, when it comes to acceleration, powered by the owner’s choice of either Pb-acid or Li-ion battery packs. More>>

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maintaining Your Vehicle Saves Money in Rough Times

Is your transportation situation affected during these hard economic times? With the unemployment rate at record levels and the threat of more layoffs and business closings in store, sales of new vehicles are way down. Even if you are fortunate enough to be employed at the moment, are you willing to assume a new 48 or 60 month car note? Purchasing a new or used vehicle may not be a viable option at this point in time, so properly maintaining the one you have now is the best bet.

Be sure to deal with any larger maintenance problems first. If your car or truck is not as dependable as you need or want it to be, you should consider investing in the maintenance of the engine, power train, transmission, and other mechanical parts. If there are already mechanical problems, you should definitely have these fixed so that they won't trigger more problems and multiply any future repair costs. Also, be sure to abide by the manufacturer's recommendations for preventative maintenance and the schedule by which they should be performed. Preventative maintenance can save you a significant amount of money by catching potentially big problems before they happen.

Maintaining the best appearance of your car or truck requires only an occasional washing and waxing, and the use of a high quality vehicle cover. Car covers and truck covers are particularly helpful when your vehicle does not enjoy the shelter of an enclosed garage. But, even if you have an enclosed garage, car covers and truck covers are useful when you are on vacation, at work, away from home, or in any location where a protective shelter for your vehicle is not available. Truck and car covers protect your vehicle from exposure to harsh weather conditions, including snow, rain, sleet, ice, and the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, all of which can cause considerable damage the appearance of your vehicle over time.

Properly caring for the vehicle that you currently own rather than yearning for a new one will save you a lot of money, especially in these uncertain economic times. You might be surprised to see how long your car or truck stays in good working order when you follow basic steps to maintain it. If you do, it may be quite some time before you will need to worry about your transportation situation again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is Your Old Car a Classic - or Just a Used Car?

Is Your Old Car a Classic - or Just a Used Car?

Is that nicely preserved '88 Buick in your garage a "classic " - or just another old car? The answer depends on who you ask.

Most states won't issue a "classic" (or "antique") vehicle license plate and registration until a vehicle is at least 21 years old. Some old car clubs (such as the Antique Automobile Club of America) consider the passage of 25-30 years the absolute minimum before a car transitions from being an old car to an antique.

The slightly snootier Classic Car Club of America goes even further. This group, which claims to have been the first to use the term "classic car," refuses to acknowledge or accept any car built after the year 1948 - when mass-produced welded and stamped panels began to replace the more time-intensive, bolt-on/partial (or fully) hand-built processes that had been the norm previously.

CCCA regards only the coach-built cars of the 1920s and '30s - V-16 Cadillacs, Bugattis, Auburns, Duesenbergs, Cords, etc. - as worthy, although an occasional exception is made for low-production, historically significant machines built later.

Here's chapter and verse:

"A CCCA Classic is a 'fine' or 'distinctive' automobile, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948. Generally, a Classic was high-priced when new and was built in limited quantities. Other factors, including engine displacement, custom coachwork and luxury accessories, such as power brakes, power clutch, and 'one-shot' or automatic lubrication systems, help determine whether a car is considered to be a Classic."

Of course, this rather restrictive definition is far from accepted by all old car hobbyists - most of whom will never have the wherewithal to afford a Duesenburg SJ or Auburn boat-tail speedster.

Arguably, it's not just a matter of the lowing masses (and lowing, mass-produced vehicles) vs. the elite (and elite, low-production, hand-built vehicles) that defines a "classic" car.

It's about a car having survived its era; and more precisely - by dint of having survived, of its providing us with a three dimensional piece of history via which we can see, touch, hear and experience the past.

Oodles more '55 Chevys were built than '36 Cord 810s. But both are time capsules, each in their own way. The Cord tells us one story, the Chevy another. But both are certainly "classic" - in the sense that we shall not see their like ever again in a new car showroom.

When you do a walk-around of either at a vintage car show, you see things that remind you (or if you were too young, reveal to you) bits and pieces of a long-gone era - of technology and styling and forgotten "firsts" that in many instances were revolutionary when these cars were new.

For example, the Cord's highly unusual (for 1936) front-wheel-drive layout - or the '55 Chevy's compact, high-powered "small block" OHV V-8, versions of which are still in production 60 years later. We see shapes and details etched into the dim recollections of our childhood brought back to life again; faded photographs from a time before our own resurrected in living steel, glass and rubber. The raspberry rip of a Flathead Ford; the burbling staccato of a 16-cylinder Caddy... .

It's a thrilling experience to see (and hear) these machines. And to marvel and remember.

Old cars also bring context and focus, helping us to understand the ongoing evolution of automobiles: Bias-plys to high-speed radials; gravity-feed and carburetors to direct injection. This process does require the passage of time, however.

Each decade that flows by can be likened to a gold prospector's pan being shifted; the gravel washes away, the murky waters finally clear - leaving a few precious nuggets ... if the prospector is fortunate enough.

As an example of this, consider the now hugely desirable and much-sought-after muscle cars of the mid-late 1960s and early '70s. In their day, they were mostly mass-produced, cheap - and as expendable as an empty beer can. It was not so long ago that one could buy used Shelby GT350 Mustangs, SS Chevelles and big-block Mopars for the cost of a worn-out Corolla today.

It took a quarter-century for an awareness of the significance of these brash and fearsome cars to percolate; for the realization that they represented a unique era in automotive history, never to be repeated, to dawn.

By this time, the few that survived had become something very special indeed.

In the same way, 10 or 20 years from now, a well-preserved '86 Tune Port Injected IROC-Z Camaro may well be morph from redneck lawn sculpture to high-dollar icon of the Reagan Years. Its design and technology will seem quaint - relics of a bygone time. We'll look, we'll reminisce ... and we'll be glad to see one again after all these years.

This process is ongoing - despite the snorts of the CCCA that nothing worth mentioning has happened since 1948.

Brands have come and gone (AMC, Studebaker; Oldsmobile and Pontiac - even Yugo). Makes and models that were once as common as pull-top soda cans have disappeared as completely as the passenger pigeon.

When was the last time you saw a road-worthy Honda CRX? Or Subaru Brat?

Such cars, it is true, may never attain the rarified status of the pre-war coach-builts - or even the muscle cars of the 1960s. But that does not mean the few roadworthy or restorable examples still around aren't interesting to see - or that they have nothing to tell us about their times.

Or worth hanging onto. And that, ultimately, is what a "classic" car is all about.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars

As car makers are increasingly thinking of producing hybrid vehicles, it's time to think if these cars are really going to be the cars of the future? However, 'hybrid' seems to be the latest advancement in the auto world. Hybrid cars are known to enhance mileage figures, and hence are believed to be better than the traditional cars. In this article, let's see if the hybrid technology is really worth the praise.

Hybrid cars come with dual engines: gasoline and electric powered engines. The gasoline motor does not directly power the car. Instead, it charges the electric engine which in turn runs the car. The first of its kind was made in a foreign land. In India, Honda was the first car maker to come up with the technology in its Honda Civic Hybrid.

Many other Indian auto majors have followed suit. Toyota, Tata Motors and Hyundai may soon come up with hybrid engines in their cars in India. With the introduction of the new technology, the international car market has witnessed a major change. However, the feedback has been both positive and negative making it difficult to judge if the introduction of many more hybrid automobiles is viable.

Let us first look at the advantages of hybrids:

• Compare the pollution levels caused by hybrids with that of petrol automobiles. You'll know in a jiffy that the emissions gushing out of petrol vehicles are way higher than their hybrid counterparts.

• Hybrids draw lesser tax than the gasoline-powered automobiles.

• Introduction of hybrids will also reduce dependency on oil which is a fast-depleting natural oil resource.

• Though expensive to buy, hybrids don't need fuel re-fills every now and then, thus saving the fuel expenditure.

• The mileage obtained is much better.

• There is no friction in the engine to damage the spare parts, and hence, no wearing out of these parts.

• Maintenance cost is considerably low.

• Regenerative braking in these vehicles serves as a generator and charger to charge the batteries.

• Tyres of hybrid cars are harder and more inflated as compared to conventional cars.

Time to have a look at the disadvantages of hybrid cars:

• These cars being expensive, arranging money for the initial purchase becomes difficult for the average man.

• Hybrid technology is fairly new and hasn't been tested well. Only time can tell what obstacles may occur while driving.

• Hybrids are lighter than conventional cars, hence making them more prone to accidents. In case of a collision with regular gasoline automobiles, hybrids and their occupants suffer greater damage.

• Heavy storms are capable of blowing off hybrids from the ground.

• Hybrids may be eco-friendly on the road, but produce twice the amount of pollution during the manufacturing process.

• The accelerative power is relatively low.

• Winters or cold weather can influence the working of batteries, thus hampering the hybrid's performance.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mega-Batteries for Your Old Muscle Car

Mega-Batteries for Your Old Muscle Car

There are two battery-related challenges to owning an old muscle car. One, they can be hard to start - especially if the engine is a big V-8 with high compression (which makes it tougher to crank, which places high demand on the battery).

Two, they often sit for weeks (or more), which can be harder on a battery than daily use because it's not being constantly recharged by the car's charging system - which only works when the engine's running.

A solution to both problems could be a high-performance battery like one of the new Optima spiral cell batteries .

These batteries are physically and functionally different from conventional batteries. Each battery contains six spiral cells (instead of plates in line) that wind around a central core; instead of the electrolyte sloshing around between the plates as in a conventional battery, it is held in suspension on absorbent mats that act like a sponge. The design allows more total plate surface area, which results in superior performance in a compact design that is also leak-free and corrosion-free, because there is no flowing electrolyte.

When you hit the ignition key, Optima claims you'll get the "strongest 5 second burst" of power available, which should make starting even the hairiest big block a snap.

I got one (RedTop with 1,000 cold cranking amps) recently for my 455-powered Trans-Am and am a believer. Where the old battery - a conventional plates-in-a-row type - often noticeably strained as it tried to rotate the big V-8 despite having the same exact same CC amps rating, the Optima spins the 455 over as easily as the PR materials claimed, with a near instantaneous start.

Superior hot-start performance - a big issue for muscle car owners - is another plus.

The design is also better able to withstand vibration (another issue for muscle car owners, especially if your car has a lumpy cam) and the battery is completely spill proof. You can even mount the unit on its side, if you wanted to.

An Optima battery is more expensive up front (about 40 percent more than a similarly rated, plate-type premium battery) but in addition to being able to start your car reliably, every time, the Optima will last longer because the spiral cell design is inherently more durable, doesn't shed lead paste (as happens routinely on the plates-in-series suspended in electrolyte fluid in a conventional battery) and can take being "cycled" (discharged and recharged) without losing their ability to hold a charge better than a standard battery. The increased surface area of the spiral-wound cells, meanwhile, also gives faster recharge times.

The Optima batteries are generally more compact than the units they replace, which helps with installation and mounting. In my case ('70s-era Pontiac) getting the battery in and out is now a lot easier - and the unit came with the same factory-type side terminals as the OE battery, so the stock cables bolt right up.

The RedTops are available for pretty much any classic muscle car and are ideal for modified vehicles and hot rods. If you have a lot of aftermarket electronics, Optima's YellowTop line is what you want. In addition to the superior starting power of the RedTops, the YellowTops are designed for maximum cycling (discharge/recharge) capability.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rewing the 2010 MazdaSpeed3

John Z. DeLorean is credited with having invented the muscle car concept - which basically involved taking an affordable/budget-oriented "normal" car, hopping it up with a go-fast engine and selling the thing at a price young people (and the young at heart) could still afford.

John Z's ghost must be working at Mazda these days - because the Speed3 is the most faithful modern-day incarnation of a 1964 GTO Tri Power you'll find.


The MazdaSpeed3 is a hopped-up, high-performance version of Mazda's entry-level, compact-sized hatchback sedan. It features a 263 hp turbocharged and intercooled, direct injection engine and six-speed manual transmission - for a budget-minded base price of $23,340.

Main rivals include the $25,495 Subaru WRX hatchback wagon, the $27,950 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart, the $24,290 VW GTI (sedan) and similar "hot hatches" and wagons.

The 2010 Speed3's bodywork and interior are all new; the underlying suspension and chassis have also been tweaked to be more compliant over potholes and rough roads without compromising all-out handling tenacity.

The 263 hp turbo engine is mostly the same as last year's though.


A lot of bang for the buck. 263 hp through the front wheels! Tony interior and exterior styling; a sharp looker. Hatchback layout adds everyday usefulness.

No coupe or sedan bodystyle available. Clutch take-up can be a bit abrupt. No longer as dominating a presence in its class as it used to be.

Part of what makes the MazdaSpeed3 a modern muscle car is its lowball price; the other part of it is its more-than-you-expected powerplant - a turbocharged, intercooled 2.3 liter four that produces almost exactly as much power as the significantly more expensive Subaru WRX's 2.5 liter engine (265 hp) and substantially more power than the nice but pushing $28k Lancer Ralliart (just 237 hp from its turbo 2.0 liter engine) or the $24k VW GTI sedan (200 hp).

The Speed3's engine is teamed up with a six-speed manual transmission only. An automatic is not offered.

Neither is all-wheel-drive (both the Subaru WRX and the Lancer Ralliart come standard with AWD and are available with automatics; the GTI is FWD and does offer an available - but really expensive - automatic).

The updated 2010 model is about 100 pounds heavier than the '09 Speed3 (3,245 lbs. vs. 3,153 previously), which probably explains the slight but noticeable increase in the car's 0-60 time to about 6.2-6.3 seconds from solidly under six seconds before.

It's still quick, just no longer exceptionally quick compared to what's now available. A six-second-ish 0-60 time is no longer standout.

Published fuel efficiency numbers are the same as before: 18 city, 25 highway. The Speed3's high-performance turbo engine drinks only premium unleaded.

Piloting the Speed3 is a hard-right counterpoint to its chief rivals, the Subaru WRX and Lancer Ralliart. Both cars are quick, fast and superb-handling street machines. The difference is that driving the Mazda is a more involved experience, just as it was back in the day when you were behind the wheel of a V-8 brawler from the Motor City.

Turn off the traction control, grasp the six-speed's shifter. Blip the throttle - and dump the clutch. It's all on you, now. Hang on - and wrestle with the wheel as the front end tries to cope with the power you're putting down.

It is an experience totally unlike what you'd encounter behind the wheel of AWD performance cars like the WRX and Lancer Ralliart. About the same power on tap (in the Soobie, anyhow) but it's modulated through the AWD system instead of dumped through the front wheels like an F-18 going vertical with both afterburners lit.

Putting 263 hp through the front wheels is the kind of thing that would have made John Z. smile.

Mazda does fit the little beast with an electronic torque limiter that dials back some of the Berserker fury, but the experience is still much more raw - and arguably just more fun - than running the more civilized Soobie or the AWD Ralliart all-out.

You take satisfaction in manfully handling the torque steer that sometimes crops up (especially at the moment of a hard 1-2 upshift) ... in keeping it all under control.

And with 60-plus more hp available than the GTI's engine gins up, the Speed3 launches harder and pulls stronger.

Another high point: Despite pretty aggressive suspension tuning and a standard high-performance 18-inch wheel/tire package, the Speed3 is remarkably everyday friendly in terms of its ride quality while also being fully capable, at the drop of a hat, of breathing hard on a WRX - and mauling a less potent (but still stiffer riding) car like the Lancer Ralliart.

The GTI's ride quality is probably the best of them all - but there's that 63 hp deficit... .

The FWD Speed3 will suck in the snow, of course - an area where the AWD-equipped WRX and Lancer Ralliart have a clear advantage.


The Speed3 only comes one way - 5-door hatchback wagon, six-speed manual. The WRX, meanwhile, is available as both a sedan and a hatch. The GTI comes as a sedan or coupe. And you can order an automatic with either car.

What you're looking for will determine whether these facts are Speed3 positives - or negatives.

Utility-wise, it's hard to argue with the Speed3's hatchback wagon layout; you get a decent amount of interior space (43 cubic feet of total cargo capacity with the back seats down; 17 with them up) and with it, everyday usability. I was able to pick up a set of two fairly large bedroom end tables and carry them home in the Speed3; it also handled two large bales of animal bedding and a couple of big bags of cat food, too.

Styling-wise, of course, some people just don't like the hatch/wagon look - in which case, the sedan-available Soobie (or the coupe and sedan available VW) have an ace up their sleeves.

The Lancer Sportback Ralliart is more wagon-like, but like the Speed3, it's a take-it-or-leave-it bodystyle - with no other choices available.

It's a similar deal with the Speed3's take-it-or-leave it six-speed manual - and the FWD-only layout. Some (the hardcore gearhead types) will like the lack of an available automatic transmission. It adds to the car's macho aura - and it also helps keep the price reasonable (automatics can add $1,000 or more to the price of a car).

On the other hand, AWD makes a car (especially a powerful car equipped with aggressive, high-performance tires) a bit more manageable in the rain and at least somewhat feasible in the snow - which matters to people who live in areas where it rains (or snows) a lot.

Same with the stickshift; tons of fun - when you can drive the thing. Not so much fun when you're stuck bumping and grinding along in rush-hour traffic jams. The Speed3's clutch is also a little bit stiff, with "take-up" that can be abrupt - at least until you get used to it.

That's the subjective stuff. Objectively, the Mazda is beautifully finished, to an extent that belies its almost-econo-car MSRP. The GTI is its equal here, but again, there's that 63 hp deficit... .

The revised interior of the '10 Speed3 features an in-dash GPS system (replacing the previous pop-up unit) and there's now a turbo boost gauge in between the tach and speedo that registers to 15 psi.

However, it's an LED bar graph unit; arguably an analog gauge would be better. Bar-graph readouts can be jumpy and probably aren't as accurate. Also, you're limited to the max readout of 15 psi; a gauge would leave room for the inevitable mods that turbo'd cars like the Speed3 usually receive.

The revised exterior styling - with Mazda's new "big mouth" look - features a more subtle, molded-into-the-hood scoop that ducts outside air to the intercooler. It's racy but not kiddie; the absence of a gigantic wing on the trunk and IMSA-replica bodykit make this car an adult-friendly ride.

Another nice touch for 2010 is the elimination of the previous multiple trim packages (Sport, Touring, etc.) The '10 comes in just one well-equipped trim - Sport - which includes the 18 inch rims and summer/performance tires, leather interior trim, climate control, cruise and power everything, six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth wireless.

The big ticket option is a Tech Package that bundles in-dash GPS, Bose surround sound stereo and keyless push-button ignition.

Mazdas (all of them) seem to sweat quality from every pore. You can root around the entire thing in a vain search for an obvious cheap-out. Parts not immediately visible to the driver (and prospective buyer taking his first look) are as polished and carefully put together as the stuff that's in line of sight. Climb in the back seats and notice how nothing seems lower-rent than it is up front. Open the hatch and observe the level of detail given the fitment of panels, cubbies, carpet and trim.

Then go back and look at that sticker price: Just over $23k ... for all this.

ABS, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact air bags and head/curtain air bags are all included.

For the $23k-ish Mazda asks for the steroidal little Speed3, it's still nothing short of awesome. Somewhere, John Z. is smiling.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reviewing the 2010 Infiniti G37 convertible

Reviewing the 2010 Infiniti G37 convertible

Glacier Blue metallic was just the right color for the G37 retractable hardtop convertible that got dropped off in my driveway for evaluation one day before we got pummeled by two feet of early December snow. Rear wheel drive, summer tires - and a drop-top roof. It's the equivalent of taking a rubber knife to a gunfight.

But I managed to get one good day's drive in before the G was entombed for the duration.


The G37 is a mid-sized luxury-performance sport sedan/coupe/retractable hardtop coupe. The retractable hardtop convertible was introduced to the lineup in the summer of '09. Prices start at $43,850 for the base rear-drive version with automatic transmission and run to $43,900 for the Sport version with six-speed manual transmission.


In addition to the new three-piece retractable hardtop, the G37 retractable hardtop has slightly different exterior bodywork (compared with the coupe) and there are some subtle changes to the rear track/suspension. The optional GPS navigation system now has DVD playback capability - and there's an updated gauge cluster, center stack and console.

All-wheel-drive will reportedly be offered later in 2010 (it's already available with the G37 coupe and sedan).


Brilliant retractable hardtop; 370Z levels of power/performance/handling (same basic engine/drivetrain and a similar chassis layout) with more space inside (four seats vs. the 370Z's two). Supermodel good looks with the top up or down. Costs a lot less than a BMW 335i soft-top convertible ($50,700). Stronger standard V-6 than the just-launched retractable hardtop Lexus IS350C (306 hp) and has a manual transmission - which you can't get in the automatic-only Lexus.


Brilliant retractable hardtop adds about $9k to base price vs. G37 hardtop coupe. Also adds nearly 500 pounds of curb weight.

As helpless in the snow as a supermodel in an evening dress and high heels.


The G's standard 3.7 liter V-6 engine is basically the same as the 3.7 liter V-6 used in the Nissan 370Z sports car - with posted horsepower (325) just slightly down from the Z-car's rated output (332 hp).

Another similarity the G shares with its Z-car cousin is the availability of a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

The big difference, drivetrain-wise, is that the G37 can be ordered with a full-time all-wheel-drive system (the Z-car is rear-drive only).

Adding the retractable hardtop - and the extra chassis bracing needed to maintain the structural rigidity of the body - also added some 460 pounds to the car's curb weight, bulking it up to 4,095 lbs. vs. 3,633 for the G37 coupe. The extra poundage subtracts some performance as well as some fuel economy. The G37 retractable hardtop clears 60 mph in about six seconds flat with rear-wheel-drive and six-speed stick - which is about half a second slower than the coupe. Gas mileage drops slightly from the coupe's 18 city, 26 highway to 17 city, 25 highway.

AWD will likely add about another 200 pounds.


If you test drive the hardtop coupe and retractable hardtop convertible back to back - with the roof up, for the convertible - it's hard to tell the difference between the two, despite the retractable hardtop's considerably higher curb weight. The hardtop coupe is quicker, of course - but that quarter to half-second difference is something you need a stopwatch to notice. And when you factor in such things as driver reaction time/ability (for stickshift versions) it's pretty much a wash.

The 3.7 liter V-6 has power to spare - and easily copes with the G's two-ton curb weight. Same with the handling.

On a track - or if you're driving like you would if you were on a track - the retractable hardtop's additional bulk will cause you to lose a step relative to the hardtop coupe. But we are talking fractions of a second's difference, like winning (or losing) the Kentucky Derby by a nose. Both versions have grip thresholds that will satisfy all but the truly maniacal (and high-skilled). Though it's a high-performance two-door, the relatively long wheelbase (112.2 inches) imparts a less darty feel than its short-wheelbase (100.4 inch) Z-car cousin, but with similar steering precision and overall balance. This probably means the average driver will be able to drive the G more aggressively with a higher confidence level than the more expert-oriented Z-car. Take two average drivers, give one a G and the other a Z and it'll be a pretty even race.

But the really impressive thing about the retractable hardtop is how little you notice it is a retractable hardtop - when the top is up. It's just as quiet, just as secure-felling as the coupe. If you have access to a series of railroad ties or "Belgian blocks," you can abuse the car and summon forth some rooftop and A-pillar movement. But again, it's something that's all-but-unnoticeable on the street, in real-world driving.

The car's big functional limitation is the same limitation that applies to all low-slung sporty rear-wheel-drive cars equipped with high-performance tires: It sucks in the snow. And don't think all-wheel-drive will help much. In a car like the G, all-wheel-drive is intended mainly to improve handling on dry and wet roads. Snow is a no-go. The car still sits low, it still has tires that have no business leaving the driveway when the flakes begin to fall. Bum a ride.


The retractable hardtop's body is slightly different here and there relative to the coupe - but as with the extra weight, it's something you notice more on paper than in real life. For example, the retractable hardtop is about 1/4 inch longer overall. It's not something you can tell by just looking. Overall, the lines are very similar - and it's easy to mistake the retractable hardtop for the standard coupe - until the top goes down.

That process takes less than 30 seconds - with the works disappearing gracefully into a storage area behind the rear seats. Of course, all that stuff doesn't actually disappear. It ends up folding into the trunk/cargo area - leaving only about 5 cubic feet of capacity vs. 7.4 for the hardtop coupe. But, again, this is a fact of life with any retractable hardtop (and most soft-top convertibles, too).

The main thing I'd worry about is what happens when, down the road (and after the warranty expires) something goes wrong with the hugely complex (and thus, expensive) retractable hardtop mechanism. The rich people who buy a car like this new probably don't worry about it since they're rich - and besides, they don't keep cars longer than five or six years anyhow. The second owner may feel differently... .

As a two-plus-two, the G37 has a set of small but at least conceivably usable rear seats - maybe not for people (a low roofline and minimal legroom ensure that) but for the stuff that you'd otherwise have to leave behind if all you had available was the trunk.


It is becoming more and more difficult to objectively distinguish between what are considered "entry luxury" cars (with opening prices in the mid-high $30k range) and full-on "luxury" cars - as far as the look and feel of the materials, the features in the car and so on. Increasingly, the chief differentiator is price rather than content. The "luxury" cars simply cost more than the "entry luxury" cars. That's ok, I guess, if you're paying more just so you can say you own a more expensive car than Bob next door has. But if you blind-tested a car like the G37 against something that cost another $20k more, it'd be a real challenge to tell which car carried the higher price tag, just by what you get. Stuff like the G's standard self-healing paint (it's flexible enough that minor scratches are gradually absorbed), Bose Open Air sound system with headrest mounted speakers that modulates the sound output to compensate for outside noise, adaptive climate control that adjust fan speed in relation to top position and vehicle speed, Intelligent Cruise Control that maintains your set speed even on downhill grades, radar-based automatic braking, heated and cooled front seats, hard-drive GPS navigation - the proverbial "works."

Some of this stuff you have to buy in a package - which not only bumps up the price but also forces you to buy some items you may not especially want in order to get the things you do. But there's no finding fault with the state-of-the-artness, opulence or put-togetherness of the G.

Convertible-specific safety upgrades include pop-up rollbars (they deploy if sensors detect a possibly imminent rollover) and a wind deflector to mute buffeting at high road speeds. The rest - ABS, traction and stability control, a full complement of air bags - are givens for a car in this class.


A perfect ride for Pacific Coast Highway - but not the hot ticket for the Appalachian mountains in the middle of a bad winter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tips to avoid making your car a virtual oven

Tips to avoid making your car a virtual oven

When the temperature rises outside, the combination of extreme heat, direct sunlight and closed windows can turn a parked car into a virtual oven with dashboard temperatures reaching up to about 192 defrees F.

Recent tests, conducted for Auto Expressions, found that on an 89-degree F day, air trapped inside your vehicle can heat up within minutes. In a parked car without a sunshade, the dashboard heats up to 192 degrees F, high enough to cook a chicken and the steering wheel tops out at 191 degrees F, high enough to grill a hamburger.

In the same extreme conditions, a car using an accordion-style sunshade in the windshield was able to keep the cars interior an average of 43 degrees F cooler.

Sunshades reflect sunrays by blocking the sunlight coming through the windshield, helping to reduce the heat and block 99 percent of damaging UV rays. Additionally, the use of a sunshade helps protect a car's interior, preventing possible fading, cracking or discoloration.

"Using a sunshade and other sun-protection products in your vehicle are simple and effective ways to help keep you and your car cooler," said Laurie Stevens, director of marketing for Auto Expressions accessories. "It's vital that drivers take extra precautionary steps to help protect themselves, their passengers and their vehicle from the sun's damaging rays."

Tips to Help Beat the Summer Heat:

- Park in the shade whenever possible.
- Use a sunshade to help reduce the heat buildup.
- Use a fabric-based steering wheel cover to help protect your hands.
- Open doors and let the air circulate in the car for a few minutes before getting into the car.
- Set your air conditioner to "regular or fresh air" before switching to "maximum."

How to Reduce Car Damage

- Use a sunshade to help reduce heat and sun-damage in your vehicle.
- Protect steering wheels, dashboard and seats with covers.
- Wash your vehicle regularly and use a wax with a UV absorber.
- Maintain vinyl and leather interiors with a UV absorbent cleaner/protectant.
- Have your cabin air filter and air-conditioning systems serviced annually.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Super Sedans of 2010

Eric Peters

2010 may or may not prove be a good year for the car industry - but it's a great year for high-end sedans. Just for openers -

* 2010 Porsche Panamera (base price $89,800)

In 2003, Porsche took the bold - and at the time, hugely controversial - step of adding a four-wheel-drive SUV (the Cayenne) to its previously sports car-only model lineup. Purists gasped, but Porsche felt it had to broaden its appeal, that some buyers needed more than two doors as much as they wanted access to the prestige and elite performance capabilities that come with the keys to a Porsche.

* 2010 Aston Martin Rapide (Base price $197,850)

The last four-door Aston Martin was the 1976-1991 Lagonda - a striking car that was acutely angular and provocatively futuristic. It featured the first-ever LED digital dash as well as a computer controlled engine management system.

* 2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid (base price $110,350)

People who buy six figure cars probably don't care that much about fuel economy - but Mercedes-Benz (like all other automakers) is well aware how much the government cares about the fuel efficiency of the cars it builds.

* 2010 Jaguar XJ (Base price $71,650)

How do you update an icon without losing the iconic look - and the buyers who revere the icon?
The first toe in the proverbial water was last year's XF - which replaced the very traditional-looking "Old School" S-Type mid-sized sedan. It was a n extremely risky move. Would Jaguar purists object - and abandon the marque? And even more importantly, would Lexus, BMW and Mercedes buyers like the new XF enough to cross shop? The Motor Gods smiled upon Jaguar. Current Jaguar owners did not curl their lips at the XF's sportier, younger-looking (but still "Jaguar") silhouette. And potential prospects who hadn't even considered a Jag in years were showing definite interest.

*2010 BMW 335D (Base price $43,900)

American drivers who have never been to Europe have no clue how far diesel engine technology has advanced since the '70s and '80s - the last time a significant number of diesel-powered passenger cars were available over here. Memories linger of feeble acceleration, horrendous clatter and ugly black clouds of soot pouring out of the tailpipe. Only a few diehards were willing to accept these drawbacks in return for the higher fuel efficiency and superior durability of diesel power. Understandably so.

See the USA This Summer

Whether you're taking an educational trip with your family or just looking for a peaceful getaway, ArcaMax's United States Travel Guide will give you great ideas for fun ways to spend your summer.

If you're looking for a different location, thinking ahead to later this year, or just looking for quick and easy travel tips, start reading the ArcaMax Travel ezine. You can also submit your own photos to the photo gallery and see other reader pictures. Vote on your favorites, and encourage your friends and family to vote to make yours the most popular of the month!

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