Saturday, 30th of October, 2004
Friday, 29th of October, 2004
Thursday, 28th of October, 2004
Add $1200 to the Scion xA and you get an Scion xB, which has even more room and standard traction control. It's not much heavier, 2395 pounds, but now you're talking about a 64.6-inch tall car, which is even taller than a Subaru Outback.
Now let's get to what I did drive today - the MINI Cooper S. I've driven the base Cooper with the sport suspension package, and they are two very different cars.
|Base Cooper w/ Sport Suspension Package||2005 Cooper S|
|Problematic lack of power, worse than most family sedans||Plenty of power all over the rev band. The variable red-line is cool. It's not WRX-fast, but not bad.|
|Very amazing handling, especially for run-flat tires||The added weight of the S, plus all the goodies (big sunroof, etc.) are apparent, it definitely doesn't handle as well|
|5-speed Transmission/clutch takes some getting used to - clutch gives little feedback, and the shifter gives even less||6-speed is a significant improvement, shifts are much more precise and provides good feedback|
|Having the speedometer where the radio is supposed to go probably takes getting used to.||They've put it back to where it belongs.|
For 2005, they've added a "baffle" in the exhaust somewhere, as a non-performance enhancement to the sound of the engine. Really, it just pops and cracks the way my Cavalier did at 160k miles when the cat converter was ready to die. Hmmm. And for this tiny car, it's also cab-forward city. Forget being able to see the traffic lights while sitting at the intersection without bending over and looking through the windshield that seems 4 feet away.
As for the amazing handling that MINI is trying to sing through advertising, it's there, kinda. It weighs 2678 pounds, but I've driven 3000-pound sedans that handle better. Though the advantages of the extremely short wheelbase in car control are apparent, no doubt. Let's not even start on the 3400-pound Cooper convertible. The experience of driving a base Cooper convertible with an automatic transmission must be a flashback to the Geo Metro LSi convertible.
And of course, if you want one, you have to wait. Apparently MINI of St. Louis has all of them accounted for until January. If you live somewhere else, it's probably worse. The wait in Denver is supposedly 1.5 years. That'll give you plenty of time to come up with the $20k to pay for one.
Monday, 25th of October, 2004
Thursday, 21st of October, 2004
Sunday, 17th of October, 2004
Saturday, 9th of October, 2004
Pontiac GTO (6-speed) - Not as fast as a Subaru STi, but gobs of torque and easy to induce oversteer
Chevrolet C6 Corvette (6-speed) - Crazy-fast in straight-line acceleration, we're talking tunnel-vision territory. The interior is fantastic, many steps up for Chevrolet. The one I was in had the DVD navigation system, very comfortable power seats, a useful heads-up display, and just overall a better attention to detail so you don't wonder why you paid $42,000 for a hunk of plastic.
Honda Accord Sedan - Handling was a lot better than I expected - since it has the same weight as my Legacy I expected it to perform similarly to how my car does on all-seasons, but I was surprised - not too much understeer to be annoying.
Chevrolet Malibu Maxx - This car has a good transmission. This car had the smoothest torque converter I drove all day, and the little buttons that let you manually select gears responds among the fastest I've ever driven. GM does what they're good at doing to make this car unique - lots of toys. Traction control is standard! I turned it off so I have no idea how well it works. There is a separate radio for the rear seats, heated and powered front seats, and two nice glass pieces in the roof for the rear passengers. Having XM Radio and Onstar available will make this car stand out next to established competitors like the Honda Accord. Handling-wise, the extra 500 pounds makes it suffer next to the Accord, but it was impressive given the weight issue.
Saturn ION Redline (5-speed) - Smooth power delivery for a 2.0-liter turbo engine, and 1st gear runs out very very quickly. The 6450 rpm redline didn't help. But with the rest of the course in 2nd gear, there was plenty of power down low in the 3k rpm range. Handling was very good - It felt much lighter than the 2933-lb car it is. But as for as ergonomics go, can I say, cab forward? Gee, it looks like I'm looking through a pair of binoculars to drive, and then rear-view mirror seems like it consumes the space that I need the most for forward vision. It has great Recaro seats, but the rest of the car definitelly feels like the weird Saturn ION that it is.
Saab 9-2X Aero - This WRX-clone gives people to experience what it's like to have an automatic transmission strapped to a WRX. Don't subject yourself to such torture, please. The automatic-transmission is awful. First, it takes forever to downshift. Then, when it finally does it, you have to wait out the turbo lag too.
Saab 9-5 Aero wagon - Let's try a real Saab - oh boy is it quirky. I know about the ignition being by the gear selector but it's still just really weird. Then you have this gigantic air vents sitting there looking like it's ready to blow you out the rear hatch. Pop it into drive, mash the throttle, and it does go flying. Nothing about the whole experience seems to indicate that it weighs 3730 pounds. There's gobs of torque that allow the tiny 2.3-liter engine to feel adequately matched, and there's no turbo lag.
Acura TL - Oh wow this car is fast, in every direction. Off-the line is just plain in a different class compared to all the other "luxury" cars there. The brake-pedal feel is distinctly different, and reminds me of the German luxury sedans.
Saturn VUE V6 AWD - I didn't expect this Saturn SUV to be as peppy as it was - 250hp is nice for this 3600-lb cute-ute. Still feels like a boat of a vehicle to drive - 4 inches in extra width over my Legacy feels like a lot on a vehicle.
Hummer H2 - I didn't think I'd spend time to wait in a line to take the H2 "off-road" up and down this 45-degree incline and decline over a mound of dirt, but when I saw there was no line, I gave it a shot. I've never been off-roading before, it looks like a unique experience. As I went up the incline, my gut told me there was something wrong with taking a 6400-pound top-heavy vehicle up a ramp at a 45-degree incline, but there was an assistant in the passenger seat to reassure me I wasn't going to break anything. I get to the top, and then before I know it I'm on my way down. Woah - I'm rapidly accelerating down this slippery dirt pile now, and it looks like I'm going to go crashing into the pavement. I instinctively mash the big middle pedal, and it responds with a nice massage telling me there's no grip to do anything about slowing down, and I kinda brace myself for a hard landing onto the pavement, but the H2's suspension ate up the impact without scraping anything. I guess I've been conditioned too far the wrong way with my ground-clearance-challenged Subaru. I really enjoyed the opportunity to "off-road" that big thing, almost as much as flogging the C6 Corvette around.
Thursday, 7th of October, 2004
Wednesday, 6th of October, 2004
Monday, 4th of October, 2004
First, though, I needed new rear brake rotors. My rear brake pads and rotors were worn down to nothing. I like the new rotors, they're pretty...
This provided for an interesting opportunity to throw the old rotors to throw onto the brake lathe and cut up some home-made spacers. Turned out to be much more space than I needed, about 6mm, the there's still enough thread on the studs left too when it's on. But now we have to deal with something else - rubbing on the outside against the fender, when the wheel goes up in there.
Sunday, 3rd of October, 2004
Saturday, 2nd of October, 2004
Picture - The ventilation ducts in the printmaking shop at WU look really cool at night with the lights off.
I've never noticed that some people's thumbs can hyperextend like Joe's - though those of us there seem to agree that is a little bit more than normal.