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Will the new Chevy Spark interest?

              

 

You come to expect what you’ll get from a car just by looking at it. When we’re talking small, budget friendly, compact cars we expect small tires, small engines with low output and a rather bare bones interior. The sacrifices mentioned are acceptable to many as a trade off for higher MPG and a lower sticker price. Thing is, not all budget friendly cars meet our expectations. So what are the highs and lows of the Spark?

 

Let’s start with appearance. Chevy has incorporated a range of atypical colors for this compact car. I see this as a smart move. After all, paint is an inexpensive way to add flair to a scaled down vehicle. The vehicle we were loaned was that flamboyant green you see in all the commercials (it’s called Jalapeno). The stubby appearance of the Spark mixed with a loud bright color really does demand attention. So as I cruise around town, heads turn and people smile.  Now are they laughing with me or …. Never mind that. Climb into the Spark and you’ll find that the cockpit is adequate and pretty much on par with what you would expect from a budget friendly car. I was actually surprised that I fit into it so well considering my 48” shoulder span. Head room was also acceptable. That said, I wasn’t actually comfortable. I blame this on the seat and pedal positioning.  The seat feels too tall and the pedals feel too close. So it starts to feel more like you’re driving a John Deere then a Chevy. Obviously a consequence of the short wheelbase.  Even though I don’t find this position relaxing it didn’t cause me any pain or leg cramping. So perhaps it’s a matter a preference or body type.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking through the steering wheel at the dash, you’ll find a simple speedometer nestled dead center with a smaller digital multiscreen to the right displaying RPMs, fuel gauge, gear selection etc. It’s functional enough for those gauges I just mentioned, but when it came to reaching around the wheel to scroll through the other settings, I found its positioned annoying and the buttons too small and awkward. Unlike the controls on the steering wheel. These are well placed and convenient. But, you better memorize them because there is no back lit LED on these controls to help you identify what’s what at night. The entertainment unit is truly the highlight of this car. The new Chevy mylink touch screen radio is both stylish and innovative. The 7” color screen looks so nice it’s almost out of place on this budget car. Bluetooth for your phone calls and music works well and with the proper app installed, you can access your cell phones navigation through the 7” color radio screen. So the source of the navigation is your cell phone, no more expensive CD updates! Now why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I rode around town and through the city the appeal of the little car started to come to light. As I slipped into tight spots and quickly spun the little car around in quick u turns , giving no regard to reverse, it suddenly became a bit more practical. This little crush however was short lived once I entered the highway. As I merged into traffic I gave the throttle the usual 50%…. But nothing’s happening. I go 80% still nothing. 100% I hear something happening up under the hood, but my butt-o-meter isn’t picking up any readings. The 1.2 liter produces a max 84 HP and does 0-60 by… ummm evening? However this doesn’t really put me off. As I mentioned, you understand the trade off of power for fuel efficiency. However, I was not impressed with the MPG either. I averaged about 29 MPG with mixed driving for the week. The engine size and feel led me to believe those numbers would be higher. They do climb to a more respectable 34 combined should you choose a manual gearbox.  Aside from fuel economy, the rest of the ride was surprisingly good. The handling was better then what I expected as was the suspension. The Spark does a good job specifically in the area of absorbing the type of bumps and pot holes you come across on old, well traveled city streets. Giving it another “check mark” as a city commuter car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Spark certainly has an appeal. Along with the pocket friendly price, you also get Swanky colors a great radio, a comfortable cabin and a decent ride. However I would highly recommend that you take the Spark for a long test drive to see if both seating position and acceleration suits you. I would also recommend the manual transmission option. With better MPG and performance it’s a double win.

McLaren Automotive 12C Spider: Rhys Millen vs. Chanelle Sladics

Rhys Millen comes from an amazing heritage of motorsports. Specifically Rally. Who else then to pitch the MP4-12C sideways.

Watch and enjoy.

Lamborghini Launches Veneno – a Racing Prototype and Road-going Super Sports Car as a Tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Automobili Lamborghini

While the only word out of some peoples mouth last night and late into today is Veneno some are simply saying NO! One Facebooker said that it looks like a real life Batmobile and that he would pass. Another Stated that Lamborghinis simply keep getting uglier and uglier.

Personally, I think they should both be tested for some sort of mental defect. I think the car is hotter than a hot thing on a hot day. But don’t take my word for it. You be the judge.

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Naming it after one of the fastest bulls in bullfighting history which became popular in 1914 when he fatally wounded the famous torero José Sánchez Rodríguez during the bullfight, the Veneno seem intent on doing the same to everything in its path. And is more than capable of doing so.

Boasting 750 hp, the Veneno accelerates from 0 to just over 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and the top speed for this street-legal racing car stands at 220 mph.

Key Features:

A 6.5 liter twelve-cylinder , an extremely fast-shifting 7-speed ISR transmission with 5 driving modes and permanent all-wheel drive, a racing chassis with pushrod suspension and horizontal spring/damper units. The complete chassis is produced as a CFRP monocoque, as is the outer skin. The inside, features innovative, Lamborghini-patented materials such as Forged Composite and CarbonSkin.

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At three million Euros plus tax – and all three units have already been sold.

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Inside the McLaren P1

The McLaren P1™ has a clear goal: to be the best driver’s car in the world on road and track. For this reason, the cabin of the McLaren P1™ is fully focused on the driver, and is clear from clutter and distraction as these first images show. Read more

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BMW Teams up with Toyota to create a Midsize Sports Car

That’s right, Toyota and BMW are coming together to create a mid-size sports vehicle by the end of 2013. Unfortunately those are all of the details we have at this time. But the possibilities of what could come from these two giants are truly exciting.

Consider – BMW makes some of the most exhilarating cars that money can buy. For decades the 3 series has been the benchmark in the compact sports car class. They sound great, look great and the engines are rock solid. However, their transmissions have had their fair share of bad press. The same can be said of their fuel pumps, regulators, thermostats etc.  They tend to fail prematurely on the BMW and even with a warranty, chronic issues are annoying. Another area that needs attention is the cockpit. While ergonomically sound the cabins layout looks rather dated. Especially when compared  to Mercedes and Audi (BMW’s main rivals). 2nd hand ownership is also a sour note, for most consumers fear that expensive repair looming around the next corner.

Toyota’s, on the other hand, are known as some of the strongest built cars on the road today.  Thousands of  loyal followers attest to their reliability and good resale value every year. The advancements made throughout the Lexus line up are both physically and visually stunning.  Cool tech with a sophisticated layout is something we’ve come to expect from Lexus. But! Toyota’s are not known as a pure drivers car. Even in the “F” series, the sound is synthetic, the steering feel is electronic and the acceleration is flat. They’re moving in the right direction but can’t seem to nail it the way BMW has.
Now, imagine an interactive gauge cluster similar to the LFA, with a tech package taken from the GS but with the  suspension and chassis of the 3 series. Now throw in a collaborative effort on the engine giving it Toyota reliability coupled with BMWs tuning. Now your’e starting to get the picture.

2012 Scion FR-S

I have just sold my Single Turbo, 325HP 93 Mazda RX-7. I have also owned two AE86 Corolla GT-S cars, and even preferred driving the GT-S’s. Call me crazy, but I did.

Tore one down to the bare uni-body, scrubbed and oiled it. Wire wheeled every bolt and nut and oiled them. Cleaned every part and reassembled the entire car. Without any left-over bits either. I’ve drifted them in competition. Completed two engine rebuilds between them. In fact the Corolla GT-S taught me how to drift and handle a Rear Wheel Drive car. With my car history, the FR-S had a HUGE wheelbase to fill with me. This review was personal.

You can’t possibly imagine and how excited I was when I got the email that I would be getting the 2012 Scion FR-S. I was very interested to see how this car handled, how it stacked up with what I knew and had experienced from the vehicle that originally held the torch that this car now had the task of carrying.

Scion FR-S The very first thing that impressed me about the FR-S was its height. Much like Scion Vice President Jack Hollis here, the new FR-S sits below my chest at a mere 48.19 inches tall! This was a good indication of things to come. In fact there are many clues and cues that let you know what you’re about to get yourself into.

It quickly became obvious that a low center of gravity was a necessity for the engineering team. This is also made clear under the hood. To make a long story short, there is basically next to nothing there. While there are engine covers and a few fluid reservoirs it’s easy to see the size of the boxer or flat-4 cylinder engine which is quite small. Smaller still – the transmission. It’s very easily visible as it disappears back and underneath the car. Once inside more there are more indicators of its potential.

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The seats are far more firm than you would expect a reclining unit to be but they excel at doing the job of holding you snuggly in place. Once in place it’s a must to adjust the seating for a good pedal travel and comfortably working the steering wheel. Which took some getting used to. With your feet straight out in front of you the pedals are orientated just to the right of center. A trait found on some very impressive Its then that you notice the seats seem to be made of almost nothing. Now I’ve driven some pretty cheap cars in my time, most my own personal vehicles. But even newer quality econo-boxes like the Mazda2 have a more substantial feel to their seat.

Adjusting mirrors and playing with buttons makes it clear that all of the interior plastics were quite Spartan in substance. In ANY other car, this would be the point at which I would start to dread the idea of spending time with a test vehicle. In the FR-S however my attention to these light-weight details only served to raise my expectations and work the butterflies in my stomach into frenzy. Seeing so many different things done to save weight did a lot to work up my apatite to turn the key.

The Starter is very loud. No clue why either. Several times though I actually wondered if something was wrong with it.

Just pulling away from its parking space revealed yet another clue to the treat I was in store for. Given all that was done to save weight in this car it had been given the convenience of Power steering which managed to transmit a great amount of resistance and feedback thru to the steering wheel. It would be a while, though, before I had the courage to disengage the VSC and Traction Control.

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The throw on this transmission also seems a lot longer than it needs to be, but the shift leaver sits very low. This requires a small amount of wrist action to navigate the gears. And no matter what impression you get from this picture there is absolutely NO leg room in the back buckets while the front passengers are comfortably seated. There are reportedly only one or two booster seats that fit back there and just one infant car carrier manages to do the trick. Truth-be-told though you’re not buying the FR-S to transport the children back and forth to daycare; basically making those points quite moot.

In fact the only complaint that everyone I talked to could put to me was that “it needs more cowbell”!(READ: Power) Well I can smugly report that there are now drivers of one Lotus Evora, two Lotus Elise, one Cayman S and a Lamborghini Gallardo who will tell you the opposite. Anyone who makes that statement are, not only completely wrong but, simply need to have a ride along on-track with someone who is experienced in maintaining momentum. Enough about that though. You’ll have to wait for a later post where I release the details of everything that happened that day. scion_frs_015

That having been said the handling of the FR-S isn’t as magical as all the other reviews would have you believe. Even without traction control it has its under-steering moments if you drive like a hoon. On the other hand when driven well the experience will be a lot better than you expect and very rewarding for any driving enthusiast.

The thing is, you see, the FR-S is very difficult to not drive quickly. Believe me I tried. Desperately! After just a few miles of sensible journalistic driving, somehow my brain would laps into a very familiar and comfortable spot as I realized the grin on my face was actually from ear to ear.

scion_frs_2013_032 Breaks are good…very good! I know a whole family of dear that will attest to that. On the way back home after a night out with the wife we decided to take the long way home. This road has a very short and tight S-Turn with an over 10 foot elevation change. Once on the other end said family decided to relocate to the other side of the road. In a benevolent effort of assistance the breaks made short work of next 60’ or so bringing the FR-S to a complete stop. With just one pump of the ABS no less.

After my time with the FR-S was said and done I had had several conversations with the wife about our next car purchase. The experience is still fresh in my mind. The FR-S does seem to be a return to the pure driving enthusiast’s sports-car. And we can only hope that other automakers are taking a few notes.

2012 KIA Optima SX T-GDI

I have no one to blame but myself.

Truth is I can’t give you an awesomely detailed review of what it’s like to own and drive the 2012 Kia Optima SX T-GDI…which is a very long name. I was able to get two good driving days out of the car though. Read more

Tesla – So Quiet They Snuck Up On The Entire Industry

Its funny that I would learn about the Tesla Model X from a website that was also clueless about its existence until just recently. Read more