Monday 27th of June, 2005
The Eclipse name is probably the most valuable one to Mitsubishi in the United States - the 1990-94 and 1995-99 generations of Eclipses are still some of my favourite cars, and the high-end power and drivetrain options available did leave its mark in the beginnings of the whole import hot rod craze, as demonstrated by the Fast and Furious. But in 2000, the Eclipse clearly took a turn into a new direction that not even a good sequel to the Fast and Furious could do anything about. Perhaps only the presence of the convertible version kept it from getting completely lost in the jumble of front-wheel-drive coupes in the $20k price range that struggled to find the leftover customers of the horsepower war that started with a certain rally car bearing 6 stars.
The 2006 Eclipse starts off right, with a good price. The sporty GT retails at $23699, and it comes with an enormous 3.8L V6. That's almost twice the displacement of the first 2 generations of Eclipses. Powerplant-wise, we've taken the Eclipse into the 3000GT territory. Intelligent variable-valve timing helps it churn out 263 solid horsepower, propelling the overweight 3500-pound coupe to 60 mph in about 6 seconds. The Eclipse does well at the drag strip compared to other sporty cars in this lower price range, especially after you ignore the ridiculously superior Subaru WRX. I think it's also strategically priced below the $25140 Mustang GT, which could probably also beat the Eclipse at every sort of motorsport event that we know of.
Now what's going to set the 2006 Eclipse apart from the economy rockets like the SRT-4 and the new Cobalt SS is something that Mitsubishi may have learned from Toyota's Scion division. From the pictures I see, they put a lot of thought into making the interior unique, mixing the looks of high-end quality and sportiness. A lot of people will pay the slight premium required to avoid banging around in the interior of a Neon. And if one doesn't find the premium worthwhile on the inside (cause there is still the VW GTI sitting in this price range), perhaps they'll get drawn to the outside. It's a pretty car, with an aggressive hatchback rear end that reminds me of the 350Z. That look hasn't been stolen too much yet, and it sure isn't hurting 350Z sales.
And they avoid banging heads with that 350Z and the RX-8 with, again, pricing - which is a good thing, because even though it may have enough horses to keep up, it's still the wrong-way-drive, and I wonder if the nearly 4000-pound convertible version will end up being a similar experience to driving the Cadillac Seville, handling-wise. But never mind, since the starting price is way less than $25k, I think people who don't care as much will use all the other reasons to take the Eclipse over the other more boring FWD coupes like the RSX, Pontiacs, or the Dodge Stratus.
So the formula looks pretty good: aggressive power plant, good pricing placement, and high-quality and memorable interior and exterior design. Of course, this combination is probably old hat for Nissan, who not only has the 350Z but also threw the 3.5L V6 into the Altima. Good thing for Mitsubishi that the 350Z is a little more high end, and a 2-seater. Otherwise, there might have been no gaps left in the market for them to fill.
By the way, I credit a discussion with Joe last night to many of these thoughts - he mentioned a lot of those cars that I listed as potential competitors to the Eclipse, and it was a much more comprehensive a list than Motor Trend's rough list.
Sunday, 26th of June, 2005
Saturday, 25th of June, 2005
Thursday, 23rd of June, 2005
I liked how the music was all live, and the instrumentation and music was definitely Gypsy-style (included a violin), which fits the "Tzigan" storyline of this year's show. The most impressive acts were the wide variety of gymnastics throughout the evening, as well as the well-trained animal acts.
Wednesday, 15th of June, 2005
Eating is definitely a big deal down here. I went to a shopping mall that is slightly smaller than the St. Louis Galleria, and the food court was way more than twice as big, and had three times as many eateries. Actually, the St. Louis Galleria currently has no food court, cause it's under construction...
Picture - The Bank of America tower
Picture - They use the fancy modern traffic lights at some of the intersections in Dallas.
Picture - The John F. Kennedy memorial downtown, with the Reunion Tower in the background
Picture - They are digging down to build a parking garage in downtown Dallas.
Picture - A cool looking building with a reflection of the Bank of America Tower in it.
Picture - The bottom of the Bank of America tower
Picture - Interstate 35E north-bound approaching Commerce Blvd.
Picture - North Dallas Tollway north-bound before Mockingbird Lane, another one of Texas's excellent below-grade highways.
Picture - Some of the pretty office developments along the North Dallas Tollway.
Picture - Some more tall office buildings near the North Dallas Tollway and I-635.
Picture - Part of the interchange of the North Dallas Tollway north-bound and I-635.
I've driven around enough now to make an assessment of Dallas driving skills - I complain a lot about St. Louis driving. First of all, speed limits in Dallas point to more evidence that St. Louis speed limits are set way low. Equivalent roads in Dallas are always 5-10 mph higher than St. Louis. Furthermore, people speed there like limits aren't even posted or enforced - minimum 10-over, 15-over is pretty normal. Actually, half of the roads really don't have posted speed limits, and the police there seem to be preoccupied with more important things than speeding. Dallas does seem to have a city budget problem, I heard it on the radio, and the police officers I did see are driving around in old Chevy Caprices.
Turn signal usage is sparse enough to be bothersome, but it was only after I got back into St. Louis did I realize that it's still better than St. Louis. However, as an overall rule, drivers are much more attentive than St. Louis, since the roads and interchanges are significantly more complex than what we get here, and everyone's driving faster. Driving in Dallas still has a bit of idiocy though, but not as aggravating as St. Louis.
Tuesday, 14th of June 2005
I got to pick a "mid-size" car to drive around for 3 days and the Malibu Maxx got my attention and choice. After all, it is a hatchback - but the first thing I noticed was the lack of a hatch handle or key hole to open this 5th door - the only way was with the remote's trunk key or the trunk release inside the car - a direct carry-over from the Malibu sedan. So it's a hatchback, but you have to open it like a sedan trunk.
Ergonomics in the Malibu are great - the seat has power height adjustment and a telescoping steering wheel. All the points the Malibu gets for these items are ruined by the fact that there is way too much of a height difference between the brake and accelerator. And yes, I tried playing with the height-adjustable pedals and that didn't fix anything. Maybe someone just needs to not over-fill the brake system with brake fluid?
Another quick discovery once I got on the highway is that the center rear-view mirror stretches the image. I wondered why the Tahoe behind me looked like a semi truck, and the Diamante looked like a Lancer (also evidence of some consistent designing on Mitubishi's part). I don't quite understand why the image is all stretched like that, but I do know that it's somewhat unsafe - it completely ruined my perception of how far a car was away from me.
What is safe, though, is the position of the seats. I have never sat in a car and been so far away from the door - this is the vehicle to be in when you get a side impact. Squeezing the front captain chairs towards the center does reduce the space between them, obviously, and so I feel like I'm about as cozy with the front passenger seat as if I were driving a Neon.
And of course, GM packs a bunch of toys like it usually does - it seems like they went into their Tahoe and Cadillac electronics bin and pulled every single trick that they had. Automatic headlights are cool, as well as a little computer that is built into the car's audio system that gives data like fuel economy, estimated range, and average speed (a new one that I haven't even seen on the Tahoe). I like having kind of a "data center" in the middle of the car like that. Now that does place some limitations on upgrading the audio, seeing as it's a very customized piece of the car - and it is a pretty average audio system. Audiophiles might find the complexity of upgrading the audio a negative point in the Malibu. Though the radio does stay on until you open the door, which is another GM toy. The "p-type" function that we find in GM radios these days didn't work for me, but maybe that's just something radio stations still need to adopt.
Oh, and the data center also reports the outside temperature, which consistently read 8 degrees higher than the actual temperature the whole time. (I know it wasn't 91 degrees at night in Dallas.) Speaking of temperatures, I didn't like every time you turn on the car the A/C resets itself to being off and the vent opens even if you left it on recirc when you last drove it. One thing I did get used to is that once I turned recirc on, the A/C automatically kicks on. Confused yet? Yeah, at first it seems like it has a mind of its own.
What I did like about the A/C controls is that you can variably adjust how much air is coming through the upper vs. floor vents vs. defrost vents. Every other car I've seen it's either pick 1 or 2 vents, but no adjustment of the ratio. I also like the GM trick of having a removable rubber lining in the cupholders, making it easier to clean up messes in them.
One thing I did find myself reaching over to grab every time I parked the car was the non-existent parking brake lever. Yes, you get the truck-like pedal on the left instead.
So enough playing with big cars - I went over to the Dallas SpeedZone, which I have always viewed as one of the top attractions of Dallas. I get there to find that they have changed the Grand Prix's track a little bit, but the idea is still the same - autocross in a go-kart. After about 6 runs I did get my time down to 43 seconds, so I was satisfied.
Then I found out Tuesdays they have unlimited arcades for $10! I've come to the conclusion that Sega GT is the best arcade game ever. The graphics are great, the tracks and interesting, and you sit in your little "simulator" car that banks hard left and right when you turn it. It's almost as thrilling as go-karting! I hopped in and played for over 2 hours with my $10 wristband. One of the most fun things I've ever done.
Friday, 10th of June, 2005
Ladue Horton Watkins High School won a Grammy Award.
Well, not quite, but the school was recognized by the Grammy Foundation as a Grammy Signature School for 2005.
"We don't get the cool little trophy, although we would have liked that - and to have made an acceptance speech," said music teacher Rick Dammers, who led the application process to become a Grammy Signature School.
But alas, instead of hobnobbing with who's-who's of the music industry at a big, televised awards show, "We get a certificate and $2,000 grant," Dammers said.
Ladue was one of 42 high schools nationwide that were selected for the honor, which is presented by 7UP, for making an outstanding commitment to music education during the 2004-05 school year. Ladue is the only Missouri high school to receive the recognition.
The Grammy Foundation mailed notification to more than 20,000 public high schools requesting information about each school's music program. Applications were completed and submitted online. After the applications were scored, finalists were identified and asked to submit additional documentation such as recordings of school concerts, sample concert programs and repertoire, which was then reviewed by an independent screening committee to determine which schools merited Signature School status. Grants ranged from $2,000 to $25,000.
Despite missing out on the glamour and celebrity that is the Grammy Awards, Dammers said being named a Signature School is a good deal.
"The best part is that it's a neat way to recognize the kids and my colleagues," Dammer said.
The recognition goes to the students whose musical contributions were part of the application process, as well as to the district's music department team of Michael Faris, Dammers, Tom Lowery and Jim Waechter.
Dammer said while the award was given to the high school, it is really a districtwide recognition because students began learning and performing in the elementary and middle schools.
"Ladue schools' music program has been recognized regularly for its quality by many local and regional organizations, but recognition by such a prestigious group as the Grammy Foundation truly highlights the exceptional accomplishments of our students and faculty," said Ladue Superintendent David Benson.
Dammer said, "The kids are excited. They're going around saying, ‘We won a Grammy.'"
The Grammy Foundation, established in 1989, works in partnership with The Recording Academy to bring national attention to issues such as the value of music and arts education and works toward preserving its heritage and encouraging its future.
You can contact Kate Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, 5th of June, 2005
After messing with it on spare time this weekend, I finally got the motor and transmission mounts replaced. Got under there to remove the transmission mount, only to discover one stud had already broken off of it! No wonder there was so much shaking around down there.
I ran into some real problems getting the engine back down and onto the crossbar so that the studs lined up with the holes. I finally figured out that with the engine lifted up at that angle the intercooler was shoved up against the firewall, forcing the engine forward an inch. So I had to take off the intercooler to get the engine lined up, and then reassemble everything.
Friday, 3rd of June, 2005