Supercars are great, but we live in the real world. Here’s the real deal on everyday cars.


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2011 Scion tC: Test Drive

Let me start by saying that this will not be your average car review. In fact, none of the reviews on Up-Shift will be. We’ve always been a group of driving enthusiasts, so the driving experience is always what is most important to us. That’s why I can say that after being let down by my test drive of the first-generation tC, I really wasn’t looking forward to driving the 2011 2nd Gen car. One thing I have learned from my adventures in automotive journalism though, is to never judge too quickly. After just one accumulated hour of driving in the 2011 Scion tC, I was again forced to change my opinions. In fact, looking back on my week with the 2011 model, the negatives were quite few.

The first mistake you would make when approaching the tC is to judge this book by its cover. Ok, you’re thinking it and I’m thinking it, so let’s just come right out and say it: the car is pretty ugly. Many people I showed the car to agree that the styling of the vehicle is simply off.

In my opinion, the original styling of the first generation tC was amazing. The car looked fantastic and all I ever wanted was for there to be a RWD version. For some reason though, 9 times out of 10 when you saw one on the road, it was being driven by a female. My wife even test drove one. Thus the first gen tC’s reputation as being a bit of a “chick car”. It’s understandable, then, that Toyota would make such a huge styling change in an effort to move away from that image and provide a sportier and more masculine-looking vehicle.

The most noteworthy feature that is mentioned repeatedly is the rather flat roofline. It’s such a departure from a typical arched roofline that it stands out like a sore thumb. This also gives the appearance of very long doors. However this is no optical illusion; the doors of the new model are very long indeed. But so are its windows which I was very pleased with thanks to the wide-sweeping field of vision they provide.

While we’re on the subject of visibility, some consideration had to be given to setting the side mirrors. The 2011 tC is the first car I have driven in a while that has a driving position that sits so low. This requires the mirrors to be angled up more than you would with the average car, leaving you with less ground to look at while backing up. It also requires a quick second glance to double check the mirrors before changing lanes. One thing I highly suggest is pulling in to a parking spot that faces a wall. Pulling in to parking spaces is a good way to get to know where the front of your vehicle is and will give you an idea of how far to the sides you can see with your mirrors. This little procedure is probably the quickest way to learn with the tC.

At this point you might get the impression that I’m not a fan of Scion’s new coupe. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the rest of this article will be dedicated to how awesome everything else about this car is and why I say you should definitely put the 2011 tC in your top three if you’re looking for a sporty coupe to put in the driveway.

Again, as an enthusiast that likes a driver-centric ride, I am more focused on what is important to a driver. So, if we’re being realistic, which you know we always are, you’re hardly ever going to take a lawn chair out to your front porch to sit and stare at a car like this. In fact, once you drive the tC, you’ll find every excuse to get behind the wheel. I was actually begged this week to take our other car, an ‘04 Mazda 3, instead of the Scion. I honestly never enjoyed getting out of the car. I very much looked forward to getting into it.

 

When the key is inserted and turned to the on position, you are greeted with a wonderful light show and needle dance which is just an opening act to an impressive headlining concert called starting the engine. A great sound is something that always pushes an enthusiast’s buttons. So, the fairly deep (though slightly constrained) throatiness from the 2.5L V4 says “Hello!” and lets you know right from jump street that your button is in for a lot of pushing.

I’m used to quick and peppy little sport compacts. In fact, I cut my teeth on them. So, I am used to the type of fun and seemingly endless grunt that was delivered by the tC. However, I am also used to having to wring every ounce of performance from small and underpowered low-compression engines. The 2AR-FE equipped tC comes with a 10.4:1 compression ratio. A ratio more commonly found on sport-tuned track cars. The 173lb-ft of this 2.5L gives you its business very early in the rev range, thanks to its much larger displacement. 180hp has no problem keeping this engine responsive at highway speeds. When it comes time to stand and deliver, the tC does so with no questions asked; all while keeping its promise of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

It seemed that for an entire 7 days the tC almost literally begged to be driven, and I didn’t give it an easy go of it. But even though I put the car through its paces every single day, I still ended up with a quarter of a tank of gas left. Let me stress this next statement. I know of no other car for sale right now that can be driven the way I did the tC for an entire week without needing to take a trip to the pump! In today’s world with the explosive growth of gas prices, this factor in and of itself is priceless.

I was also heavily impressed with the tCs scrub radius. Never heard of a Scrub Radius, huh? If you’re reading a review on this site, you’re a rather serious car enthusiast. So why should you care about it? Well, I won’t bother you with the details, but let’s just describe scrub radius as the amount of friction created on your tires’ contact patch when turning the steering wheel. You see, every tire has a limited amount of grip it can produce because its contact patch is limited. If a car has a high scrub radius it creates a lot of friction instead of traction. So the amount of available grip is basically eaten up, thanks to a poor suspension design. How do you know if you have a high or low scrub radius? Just sit with your vehicle stationary. Take one finger and try to turn the wheel. If you’re having a hard time, you have a high scrub radius. If your wheel turns with very little effort, you’re in a finely-tuned, purpose-built machine, much like the Scion tC.

This also means that the tires can do their job of taking the car around corners with far more grip and a much more confident feel, and any steering adjustments that you make are translated effortlessly. Feedback from the road is more direct and precise, allowing you to feel far more of the road than you could with the previous model or its competitors. This design is coupled with 18×7.5 255/45R18 tires, equipment you would expect to find on much more expensive, high-performance sports cars.

That combination of features, in my opinion, is the biggest reason to suggest to anyone who wants an extremely fun, yet very affordable, sport compact – take a serious look at the Scion tC.

 

The car we tested was equipped with an Alpine Premium HD Radio, iPod Ready CD deck, Bluetooth Hands-free system, Floormats and a Cargo Mat, a super expensive Rear Bumper Appliqué, and an XM Satellite Radio Kit. $1,422 worth of optional equipment as well as the $720 destination charge brought the price to $21,417. Now, one of the rules we set very early on when we established Up Shift is that a great vehicle should deliver a total package for no more than $20K. If you can do without the toys, the base price of $19,275 for the 2011 tC weighs in just under the limit. For only an extra $30 a month in payments though, you can be forgiven wanting to enjoy the finer things in sport compact life.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I really wasn’t looking forward to my week with the 2011 Scion tC. I came away blown away with what Scion has been able to produce. Don’t be surprised if you see the tC again, later this year, as a strong competitor for Up Shift’s Car of The Year.

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2011 Nissan Juke First Drive

I’m starting with a list of the Jukes negative aspects.  For all of you Juke haters it will be annoying, because it’s very short.  To all those who are excited about the Juke, don’t worry.  It’s kind of like pulling off a band-aid.  It’s over before you know it and you can get on with more important things.

First off let’s just state the obvious; it does have a face only a mother could love.  And the rear end is the same way.  No one can argue that.  But for some reason I really like the looks of the Juke, the same way that I love looking at Tilda Swinton…don’t judge.  There’s just something about them both that I find really attractive.

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Second of all, it’s just downright small.  One of the first things I did was jump in the passenger seat.  Not many reviewers think about that side of the car for some reason but I’ve had many opportunities to be in a passenger seat for extended periods so maybe it just stands out to me.  In order for me, a 5’10” AVERAGE SIZED guy…to be comfortable, I had to pull the seat all the way back.  Next stop was the rear seat behind it.  Like Vegas, it’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.  Spending any amount of time behind someone in the passenger seat of the Juke won’t endear you to this car at all.  Kind of makes the 6 large sized cup holders a little pointless.  Now here is why I don’t care about any of that.

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Many reviewers are talking about how the Juke will shake up the Crossover “Segment” when the truth of the matter is that The Juke really isn’t for the long family haul, or even for grocery getting.  In fact Nissan is in effect creating a new segment of Sports Cross.  Think Compact Utility Vehicle.  Throw in the obviously sporty influence added by the turbo and you have yourself a bonafied sports car. Here are the factors to consider.

When you sit in the Juke, regardless of what seat you’re in including the back, the first thing you notice is how firm yet comfortable they are.  Most cars are one or the other, super stiff because there maid of cardboard and fabric or ultra soft like sofa seats for a luxury ride.  The Juke brings a mix of both and support you with side bolsters meant to keep you centered in the seat.  Hmm…why would you need something to keep you in the middle of your seat?

After asking if there were any really nice country roads near my drive location I came across Ball Rd. which I believe was named after the set of equipment you need to drive on it.  In that environment the Juke lets you know exactly why Nissan built it.

In any one of the corners that day all you had to do was feed in just a little bit of the accelerator and the car actually hunkers a bit closer to the road and turns into the corner confidently.  A bit too confidently.  Also, because of how quickly the turbo spools you can easily find yourself going a lot faster than you want or intend to.  Any decent application of break actually starts to cause the Juke to very slowly yet very deliberately over-steer.  Normally any over-steer in passenger cars us tuned out by a manufacturer but for the Juke to be allowed this characteristic and for it to be as predictable as it was is superb.

This is all thanks to Nissans Torque Vectoring AWD or AWD-V.  Thru use of Wheel Speed sensors, Steering Angle sensors, Accelerator sensors, Yaw Rate sensor, a 4WD Controller and Compact Read Drive unit that acts as a differential the AWD-V is capable of going from a 50/0 front rear torque split to an almost infinite number of combinations between all wheels.  In a corner the outside rear wheel gets more torque to keep it planted which is what causes the car to hunker down and pull strongly thru a corner.

Add this technology to a turbo inline 4-cylinder that produces 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque and you have a very fun car indeed.  All while getting 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  Unfortunately I was having way too much fun with the Juke to realize those figures.

While back roads are fun, you aren’t really going to be on them all day.  Most of us have to put up with other drivers making a nasty thing called traffic.  And I have to admit, me and the Juke both share something in common when it comes to traffic.  We both hate it.  I dislike most drivers because most are pretty clueless about how to do it.  The Juke can’t stand it because it wants to start developing boost at 2,000 RPM.  It delivers full boost around 3,300k.  While in traffic you actually have to remind yourself to let off the gas pedal while driving the Juke.  It has more than enough juice on tap to get you moving but wants to keep it flowing well past when you no longer need it.  Great for passing and clearing intersections, not so much in light to light or stop and go traffic.

Then there are typical Nissan electronics to consider.  For whatever reason, it’s actually possible to turn off the car while it’s “in gear”.  I inadvertently did so when I finished my drive.  Please don’t do this and leave the car free to move about.

However I was impressed with one electrical feature.

It’s the silliest thing, but I can’t get over the way the words that tell you what button is what on the climate control actually changes to other words when switching from Climate Display to “D-Mode”.  They look like little tinted LCD screens that go from deep and rich amber to a glowing frosty white…in a button.  Nothing more than a flourish or a trinket, but one that I simply couldn’t get enough of.  I must have pressed those buttons some 20 times.

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There was one button though that I got absolutely annoyed with pushing over and over and over again.

In today’s “connected” world, hands-free technology is becoming more and more important.  So the Bluetooth connectivity in the Juke is especially important to take a look at.  Now I must say that when I got my phone paired up and established on a call me and my caller had nothing but praise for the experience.  Voices did not have to be raised to hear each other and the Juke gives almost no road noise to speak of.  On the other hand, you have to get to that point before you can enjoy it.

After pressing the hands-free activation button you are presented with menu options that help you get familiar with the system.  Then you press the activation button again and speak your command.  Then sit thru another list, press the activation button again and speak another command.  This repeats every time you decide to use the system.  Quite frankly if IM going to have to speak all of my commands anyway I would much rather avoid having to press a button every time I do it.  Much like the hands-free system I enjoyed in the Mitsubishi Outlander I enjoyed in November.

All in all the all new 2011 Nissan Juke is a joy to drive, screams individuality and surprises you at every turn…depending on how deep your foot is in the accelerator.  I have to be honest when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My love of cars over the years has been greatly refined and there are a few essentials I need in order to enjoy my driving experience.  Because of that I am a very picky person that is really hard to please when it comes to cars.  To be honest, with the Juke, I had to use two hands to count how many times I thought about sitting down at a table with a sales rep when I got back.

So do yourself a favor.  Go drive the Nissan Juke yesterday.  But please leave your checkbook as this is a very hard one to resist.

Visit the guys at for more information on how you can test drive the Nissan Juke and enjoy pictures from our test drive below.

First Drive: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander

Having researched a few impressions of the Outlander earlier in the week I honestly wasn’t looking forward to driving it.  This however is a true case of “believe half of what you see, and some or none of what you hear”.  I absolutely loved the Mitsubishi Outlander.

Let’s get right down to it.  I don’t know what the other reviewers are talking about.  Sure with the 4 cylinder in the ES and SE trim levels you won’t be winning any drag competitions at the local street races but of course that’s not what this car is meant for.  As far as meat and potatoes driving goes, the Outlander comes with a lot of side items.

The first thing that struck me was the standard magnesium-alloy paddle-shifters.  Seriously, paddle shifters on a crossover SUV?  Tip-tronic and sport-tronic semi-sequential gearboxes of the past could at best only aspire to be sloppy.  But the technology is now over a decade old and in many mass produced passenger cars.  Yet this is the first I’ve ever experienced one attached to a CVT Transmission; another new piece of technology that has come a long way in the last few years.

As I got in and looked around the canvas that Mitsubishi prepared I could tell that while simple and stylish were key design features for the dash of the Outlander, quality materials were not.  Then I made the mistake of adjusting the seat.  I say that because even the seat rails were noise and almost squeaked “cheap” as they moved.  Once locked in place though, they dramatically changed the tune of the 2010 Outlander for the better.

As I adjusted the mirrors, tilted the steering wheel and locked in DC 101 for my trip, I couldn’t help but notice that everything else had a nice solid feel to it.  While you may adjust a seat once or twice a year depending on how many drivers are in your family, the regularly used components of my test vehicle felt like they were more than up to handling daily abuse.  Looking at the information display between the Tachometer and Speedometer you get the feeling that you are in a large European sedan instead of an American SUV because the readout is exactly the same as more expensive VW’s and Audis.  The 4 cylinder did make a bit of noise after starting but settled in seconds after the car came to life.  From there the improvements continued.

As I moved the car to leave the parking lot I could tell that the ride was very solid and firm.  While those seat rails may have sounded cheap, again, when they locked into place they did a great job of tying the seat into the rest of the vehicle.

Pulling out into a very wide open area free of traffic I was able to allow the Outlander to come up to speed at leisure.  I wanted to get a good sense of the sluggishness many others have reported.  To be fair the Outlander does take its time to accelerate in the 4 cylinder trim due to the 168 HP it produces.  The XLS and GT packages come with a 3.0 liter 6 cylinder to solve that issue but truth be told, you really don’t needed it.  After deciding to see what the Outlander was made of I gave it a little stick and it woke up quite nicely.  The CVT transmission definitely is something to get used to as it will choose a RPM to maintain as it delivers performance based on gas pedal position.  I honestly feel that this is where the sluggish rumor comes from, because while joining the highway I was presented with a very different animal all together.

While merging I found that only having 4 cylinders could never be described as a problem with this SUV.  The CVT was very responsive, dropped several ratios and gave everything the little engine that could had.  I actually felt a slight kick in the pants from that 168 HP.  Any other time you are cruising along and are only trying to accelerate at a very mild rate the CVT only changes a little to bring your speed up.  But when it comes to the issue of passing out of necessity, simply put your foot down and it knows you mean business.  Even in the sport-tronic shift mode.

Leaving the highway there was a need to pass a slower vehicle in order to take the exit.  With just a tap of the left shift paddle I feel the CVT actually responds quicker than a regular automatic in my opinion when downshifting to deliver the desired power.  In the exiting lane you can simply brake to your desired speed and continue to downshift as needed and again, the CVT is right there in the range you need to merge back into traffic.  This was really building up my appetite for the Outlander Sport.

It was time to stop to take a few notes.  As I noted, I noticed, a little face on one of the buttons on the steering wheel.  Leave it to a time like this for my ADD to flare up, but I’m glad it did.  A quick press revealed that it was for hands-free Bluetooth activation.  The Bluetooth system the Outlander is equipped with is quite impressive.  Before I describe why im overjoyed with it let me tell you that I am by and far NOT a technology buff.  In fact I am usually one of the last people to adopt any type of new technology or system.  But its Bluetooth, it can’t be that hard Jon.  Well I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.  Interacting with the systems voice command it was easy to setup a new connection, have my phone sync and voice dial a call.

On the down side my listener did complain of a fair bit of road noise while I was in motion, remarking that it sounded as if I were driving with the windows down even though they were fully up.  But as far as buy or no buy complaints about a cars features goes, it really isn’t one to hold against the Outlander.

I really did go into this test drive seeing nothing but the pretty face of a revised front end chasing the popularity of the Lancer Evolution and didn’t plan on enjoying myself at all.  I am happy though that I and other reviews we’re proven wrong.  Which doesn’t happen very often, but it did today.  While there are many other reasons to check out the new Outlander, there are a handful of really big selling points that prove the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the Crossover SUVs to buy.

One a rather serious engine that gives you performance when you need it and can be sensible every other time and deliver 23 city-MPG and 28 highway.  Solid build quality with a confident and firm ride.  Advanced technology that is up to speed with more advanced competitors.  Above all a price that won’t leave your wallet and spouse asking…”What were you thinking?!”  In fact if you drive by your local Mitsubishi dealer without experiencing the Outlander for yourself, you can think of me asking you now…What are you thinking?!”

A big thanks to the staff at Hagerstown’s Younger Mitsubishi for a fun ride.  To check out the 2010 Outlander for yourself just give them a call and schedule a test drive.  You can find all of their information here:  www.youngermitsubishi.com

2010 Nissan GT-R vs 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: GT-R for the win!

After posting the anticipation one Up Shift writer has for 2012 Nissan GT-R that will debut at the LA Auto Show this year it wasn’t long before a Corvette fan had a few words to say.  And much like the Corvette his points were massively loud and didn’t get anywhere quick.

Now before you start sharpening your sticks allow me to make a few points.

I decided to go to website of Motor Trend, whom every good enthusiast knows, loves some American iron.  What I found is that there are some differences that are very small and some very between the two.  But it’s the extremes, the biggest and the smallest that made up my mind.

I’m not going to jump on the displacement soap box because it’s a pointless debate in this comparison.  What the two power-plants produce however is not.  The GT-R gives you 485HP 153 less than the ZR1’s dumbfounding 638HP.  The GT-R will only give you 430lb-ft of torque, 174 less than the 604 lb-ft of the ZR1.   At 3,814lbs the GT-R has the curb weight of a beached whale some 490lbs heavier than the 3,324lb ZR1.  Some of that extra weight comes from the fact that the GT-R has a gas tank that is 1.5 gallons bigger.

Then there the suspension dimensions.  Don’t worry, I won’t make you put your thinking cap on.  In fact it’s pretty simple to understand.  The GT-R has a slightly longer wheelbase and a narrower track width in both the front and rear compared to the ZR1.  It’s taller as well.  So flat cornering should be thrown out the window next to the lower and wider Corvette.

Up until now you would think that I was making a case for the mighty domestic, but you would be wrong.  You see there are many ways to approach the whole idea of building a car and, to use a bit of hyperbole, the ZR1 comes from what I would call the Cave Man school of thought.  It walks heavy and carries a very large club.  But the GT-R is, in the opinion of many automotive journalists, is simply a phenomenon of engineering.  That’s why the GT-R manages 2 miles per gallon more on the highway.

But if you remember I told you this was all about the extreme differences.  In all honesty, they are the ones that matter the most as well.  The number I came across that was the smallest difference between the GT-R and ZR1 was their respective lap times on the Nurburgring.  7:26.7 and 7:26.4.

Side Note:  Rumors put a very nice compound of rubber on the ZR1 for that lap which some questioned but GM says it is OEM stock equipment, and we will honor that claim.  However its also been documented that the engineers in charge of prepping the GT-R for its laps said that the car should not have been run because of maintenance that had not been conducted on the transmission and displayed failures after the lap, though no failures could be recorded during the lap.

That having been said the GT-R was not able to beat the ZR1 that day.  Instead it had to settle for 3 tenths of a second behind the GT-R.  Now try balancing that against the other extreme.  The largest difference between the GT-R Premium, as tested, was its price at $83,040.  The ZR1’s price $106,880.  A $23,840 wallet crippling price jump for just .03 seconds on the score board.

Now I’ve seen a lot of people spend a lot of money to get more speed and more power.  Now I haven’t had the chance yet to drive a ZR1 and I think we can all agree you don’t really have to understand that 600+HP would be a blast of a drive and that the car should handle like a dream.  But you would have to be pretty desperate or out of your mind to spend almost $24K for what looks like the same outcome.

First Drive: Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport

img_8285 You know…I just can’t do it.  I tried to write a smart- funny article about the Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport.  Honestly though, the car simply doesn’t need it.

Would I buy one?  No.  It’s far too expensive and the level of fit and finish is just too much for me.  But it does tick every single box on the opposite side of the Up-Shift equation.

The Up Shift guys have always loved raw feedback, knife edge handling that makes driving seem almost telepathic.  That “push and pull” at the base of your spine or twitch of the steering from every pebble you drive over.  There really is so much going on under the skin of this car that it’s difficult to convey the science behind it all.  And that’s coming from a guy who has some mechanical engineering experience.

So it’s very difficult this.  There is a large difference between watching a balding fat man scream “Say hello to the world of broad band motoring” and actually experiencing that kind of performance.  So difficult in fact that I decided to simply ask Shaun Philips, Tesla Motors rep. for the Mid Atlantic region, how he would described it.  “It really is a rather bizarre experience.”  ?!  Not exactly what I was expecting but it does sum up quite well what happened next.

After a brief walk around and introduction of the info systems, which really should have its own tutorial, we were almost ready for our drive.  Shaun then tells me, “If we get the feeling that whoever is test driving won’t push it, we ask if they mind us driving.  Otherwise they won’t get a good feel for what the car can do.”  “Oh”, Shaun shares, “We have had one guy hurt his neck while testing the torque the car has.”

One of the classic components of a truly great sports car is lightness.  This becomes even more important when you’re talking about electric cars.  The first thing I noticed was the manually adjustable mirrors, which meant I had to ask Shaun to set the passenger side for me.

Making the sharp left turn to leave the parking lot was easier said than done.  Another lightness trick the Tesla Roadster has up its sleeve is a manual steering rack, which happens to be exactly what you want if you’re looking for the most direct road feedback possible.  When you have to park or maneuver at low speeds though, it will be a work out you won’t forget.  A small price to pay for sharp razor like handling though.

Shaun instructs me as we pull out of the lot, “Just hold this speed for a bit, then tap it to the floor and let back off.”

I comply, and almost lose my lunch. img_8371

It becomes immediately apparent that the 2.5 Roadster does not like to wait.  By the time my foot had fully depressed the pedal the car knew I was in a hurry and delivered all 295lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels like Thor’s hammer had just hit the rear end.  It feels as if the car really would leave you behind if you weren’t strapped in.  In fact, the forces on you are so strong I think the only way you could keep your foot on the floor is if you eased the power in.

At this point I’m sure Shaun can read minds.  He encourages, “When we get up here to a straight, just ease it to the floor and watch the speed build.”  I could tell that this would be no ordinary test drive.

What you get is no surprise, there’s a similar push into the seat but this time it comes on gradually and you’re able to maintain consciousness enough to drive the car as its picking up speed.  Until you realize an incredible noise coming from just behind your ear.

Because of the Roadster’s one gear transmission and compact electric engine, weighing a ridiculously scant 115 lbs and with just one moving part, they both sing together with a seductive whine that sounds exactly like a fighter jet taking off!  In fact the Blue Angles Aerobatic team drove the same car and said that it’s the closest thing to the FA-18 fighter that they have ever felt on 4 wheels.  A true endorsement if there ever was one.

The $129K price tag of the Roadster Sport we drove was starting to make sense.  Where it really shines though is when you’re looking at it, not as a driver but, as an owner.  Sure you can find a 911 GT3, Lamborghini Murcielago or even a Ferrari 360 Modena for a similar price in your back pocket right now if you looked.  Question is though, how often does a 911 owner enjoy getting a bill for a clutch adjustment?  How much was the last regularly, and “required”, Lambo service?  How about that $5K Ferrari brake job?  When you start to look at the numbers everything starts to make a frightening amount of sense.

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I’m sure the maintenance on the Tesla Roadster isn’t cheap either, you say?  To some degree you would be right.  Replacement batteries, for instance, retail for about $12K a pop.  But that’s not an expense you’re going to have to worry about for the first 7 or more years of ownership because the 6,831 cells within each battery pack have less than a 1 in 1 million fail Rate.  In fact nothing on the Tesla Roadster gets touched as part of routine maintenance until the 2 year mark, when Tesla suggests changing the brake fluid.  Regardless of outside air temp or how hard you drive the car the battery coolant is constantly working to keep the batteries at room temperature.  Even then the coolant doesn’t need to be replaced until the 4 year mark, but that’s it!  Which means that the only cost out of your pockets is going to be to replace tires, which you’re sure to run through if you like a spirited romp here and there.  “So when all is said and done,” Shaun promises, “your maintenance cost ends up being less than that of a Toyota.”  The average cost from dead to fully charged is just $3 to $5 as opposed to the $30 fill up I have for the family Sentra every week.  Which, if you think about it, means that this car will have paid for itself over 5160 fill ups…or 99 years…  It’s even estimated that an owner may never have to replace his brake pads.  This, however, leads to Jon Gandy’s Tesla Roadster dislike #1.  Well, not really a dislike.  Just something that takes a bit of getting used to.

The engineers of the Roadster 2.5 have done a fantastic job of using regenerative braking to recharge the batteries which helps achieve the cars full 245 mile range.  However, it does so by greatly reducing your speed anytime you’re not accelerating or holding the car at a constant speed and the effect is quite strong.  In a gas powered car this effect is known as engine braking.  In the Tesla Roadster it’s more like deploying a parachute.  A bit exaggerated, yes.  But very close to accurate.

On the positive side this does mean that the only time you really need to use the brakes in this car is in an emergency situation or when coming to a complete stop.  “I’ve gotten so used to that now that I can have people point out a spot in the distance and I know exactly when to take my foot off the accelerator pedal so that I’m almost at a stand-still when we get there.”, boasted Shaun.  Ultimately this means that every bit of energy that the engineers could possibly recover, is making its way back into the batteries.  If used properly it’s a very effective tool.  In fact after just a few minutes of driving it started to become more like second nature.

It was now time to take a few minutes to appreciate the styling changes made to the 2.5 model.  Styling is the most major change to the car since the 1.5 model was updated to the 2.0 and I’ll tell you, it’s had an unbelievable effect.

“The new Roadster 2.5 reflects the future of Tesla design language”, Says Shaun.

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Don’t get me wrong, for a new manufacturer with something to prove the original Roadster’s styling was amazing.  But it kind of reminded me of the cute “girl next door” of supercars.  You know, a bit chubby and adorable.  Whereas there was no shortage of more mature, sophisticated options elsewhere.  Well well well, apparently the little Roadster next door has been drinking e-milk and has shredded all the baby fat in favor of a smoking hot contender of a body.  Though I have to admit, the vents just behind B pillar, the indented sidesteps, the side vents on the front fascia and the lines from the front to rear fenders do make the Roadster look like the love child of a Ferrari 430 Scuderia and ZR1 Corvette.  But you know what, thats not at all something to complain about.

Looking back on the entire experience there was really only one true flaw.  The biggest one of all, having to park it.  Getting out of the Tesla Roadster 2.5 is probably the saddest thing I’ve had to do this month.  I look forward to stepping into and out of a lot of very nice vehicles.  Yet this is just one of those moments you look at and know that, for the rest of your life, it’s going to be near impossible to replicate.

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Check out all of the pictures of the Test Drive here:

First Drive: 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

Our Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport Test Drive.

60 Photos

Insane In The Membrane – The boys at Caparo have absolutly lost it, and I want to be first in line.

Who knew the engineers at Caparo had so much in common with Cypress Hill. Obviously someone there was partaking in a little of the Herbals (What…I hear tea time is very popular with the British) because its obvious that more than one person decided it would be a great idea to produce a race version of the Caparo T1. I can see the press release film starting a little something like this.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”, its a period of financial war, rebel F1 teams striking from the hidden FOTA headquarters, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to Caparos ultimate weapon, the T1 Race Extreme. An outrageously fast vehicle with enough power to destroy your internal organs – at first sight.

If your like me, your a Top Gear fan and are well aware that Jeremy Clarkson once reviewed Caparo’s existing T1. The only thing I regret about that is that he had to wear a helmet which means we couldn’t see the T1 make his jowls flap in the hurricane force wind it’s more than capable to generate across his face. Just think back to their test of the Ariel Adam. Trust me its worth another look for that reason alone.

What else could you possibly expect from a vehicle that weighs in at just over 1200 Lbs. The original car was powered by an all aluminum, fuel injected V8 developed by Caparo themselves that produces 575 bhb per which Clarkson tells is is twice as much horse power per tonne than a Bughatti Veyron. In Caparo’s world it was perfectly acceptable to add the option of an upgrade designed to deliver 620 bhp at over 10,000 rpm? Civility…scoff. While some of the best engineered vehicles struggle to generate over 1G in cornering loads the T1 Race Extreme has no such concerns. It completely eclipses such figures as it can produce up to 3.5G in cornering load alone. Up to 4G in braking. Enjoy doing over 200 MPH, well here you go, knock yourself out, as the Race Extreme will do 208 mph. Have fun giving yourself whiplash as you go from 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds. If your spinal cord manages to survive you may even be able to experience the climb to the 100mph mark in 5.8 seconds total.

If you think that’s insane, take a look at the list of parts and features that allow the Race Extreme to create those figures. Fully adjustable suspension and aerodynamic packs, ultra light 6 pot front and 4 pot rear mono-block billet machined aluminum calipers with titanium pistons, and 355mm x 35mm ceramic discs and pads set up. It also comes complete with an upgraded electronic package that contains a fully tunable ECU so you can try your hand at tuning your own Indy Car engine and the six speed sequential gear box. The above features together with the fully adjustable traction control of the Caparo T1 Race Extreme provide an absolutely ludicrous track experience.

 Caparo T1 Race Extreme                    Caparo T1 Race Extreme                    Caparo T1 Race Extreme

Like what you see? Tell us! And check out more of the ultimate in engineering on the Caparo T1 please visit www.caparo-t1.com.