Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I know it's been a long time since I have posted here but whatever.

I've been thinking a lot about something that I write from time to time saying that classic cars are inferior to today's vehicles and the vehicles from recent history.  From a performance standpoint, that's completely true.  Today's cars have the power, they have handling, they even have efficiency.  So, they're better.  However, then I encountered something that changed my mind, somewhat.
I've been playing a game called War Thunder.  Essentially, it's a game where you fly around in pre-WWII, WWII and post WWII airplanes.  It's fun, dogfighting with people even if it isn't real.  It's the first plane game in a long time that I've enjoyed.  The weird thing is that if the game was with modern jets instead of propeller fighters it would be boring.  Despite what the movie Top Gun would want you to believe, modern fighter jets are quite boring.  It's tech versus tech, not person vs person.  Thus I've never enjoyed any fighter jet game.  But, the fighter jets are infinitely better.  They're faster, more manuverable, can take more punishment...  So why in this case is the better performing vehicle less interesting?
My passion for avionics is just about as great as my passion for automobiles.  Perhaps it's my father's fault, he watched a lot of specials about American fighter planes of World War 2 and so I got to know the Mustang, Lightning and Corsair like they were my family.  Of course, one cannot simply look at just one side.  So I got to know the British planes, the Japanese planes, even the German planes.  They were beautiful, designed for their own purposes and in different ways.  There wasn't just one way to do things, so each plane was a bit different.  You could instantly tell what type of plane one was simply by looking at it.  Well, except for the Soviets.  Those communists, they build everything to look the same.  Which brings me to the planes of the Korean war.  At this point in history, designers started to figure out what worked and what didn't.  In fact, only those that knew what they were looking at could tell a MiG-15 and a F-86 Sabre apart if both vehicles were unmarked.  In fact, those that did know what they were looking at would likely only tell because of the armament.
You may understand where I am going with this already, but hear me out.  In the 50s and 60s, there wasn't just one way to do things, nobody knew the 'best' way to make an automobile so designers were willing to try all sorts of different things.  Heck, they even tried to put turbine engines into cars.  Sure, a lot of their ideas were junk.  The boat car for instance, the fore-mentioned turbine car, the Chevrolet Camaro...  But people were still willing to take risks, to build things that weren't guaranteed to sell.  The result was that vehicles were vastly different and sometimes really interesting, but at many times didn't work or sell very well.  Studebaker Avanti.
Fast forward to today.  Automakers have figured out what works and what doesn't.  They have market research, design tools, they can make the perfect vehicle now.  And thus, everything is the same.  Vehicles are only different in the ways they need to be as a result of patents and copyrights.  Everyone is chasing the margins and every vehicle is so close to the other in performance that we can only compare the very miniscule differences between vehicles that are a result of manufacturing mistakes or strides toward perfection that landed in a bog.  This is why people from generations before mine think that everything looks the same these days.  They can't tell the difference between vehicles because there actually is very little difference.  This is hard for a die-hard motorhead like myself to understand because I can tell every difference between vehicles today.  But when I look for differences, I'm looking at tiny design cues: headlight shapes, exhaust positioning, grille shapes...  Very subtle differences that are actually very large to me.  It's becoming increasingly obvious in sports cars and also in economy cars.  The vehicles are built with extremely similar aerodynamics, similar dimensions.  Economy cars are even built with very similar engine displacements and horsepower.  Because we know what 'works' now, and therefore we build everything to 'work'.
But look what building everything to work has done to the music industry.  Studies have shown what 'perfection' is, and therefore everything should be perfect.  But I submit that perfection is actually the lack of perfection.  But really, how do you quantify the lack of perfection?  As we established before, that which is different will not always be good and therefore is a risk.  Businesses don't like risks and auto makers are businesses.  It's hard to ask for things to be different.  But sometimes, a product that's different will hit the market, and it will be special simply because it is different and not because it is good.  Scion FR-S.  I'm not sure where I am going with this, I guess it's to show that I understand why we collect the cars of the 50s and 60s and simply use the cars of today.  It's the same reason that we collect the fighter aircraft of WWII and just use the fighter aircraft of today.  The old ones are art, the new ones are appliances.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I've been trying to figure out why it is that I haven't felt the need to write about these days.  The knee-jerk reaction would be to believe that I am not capable of writing anymore, but I don't think that is the case.  I can write, I just don't have anything to write about.  The vehicles that are coming out don't inspire any enthusiasm.  Even the biggest shills are finding it hard to stand behind the stuff their favored brand is putting out these days.  What's more troubling is that the trend seems to be effecting the market as a whole, not just the enthusiast community.
Everything that I thought would be exciting was just terribly underwhelming.  I was geared up for a big, new war between the midsizers and every single one of them was just a huge snooze fest.  Even my precious Mazda 6, as good as it is, was a snooze fest because it doesn't have a proper engine.  Ford releases the most powerful 15 second Fusion they've ever made.  Seriously, that car should be deep in the 14s.  Chevy gears up to release a RWD sedan and its the second coming of the fleet queen Impala with a giant price tag.  Seriously, I think Toyota could have done a more exciting "SS".  Seig Heil.
What's worse: I think the market is asking for this boring shit.  Getting into driving in the 90s, I feel like I was living during a special era.  People were enthusiastic about cars and modifications, even if they were just a bunch of riced out Honda Civics.  Kids were excited to get their driver's licence.  These days kids could care less.  They've got their iPhone and their Facebook, what do they need a car for?  Furthermore, cars are damn near impossible to modify these days unless you have a really deep pocketbook.  Add to these factors that my generation has traded their enthusiasm for the chance to put large chrome rims on their SUV and you can see why things have gotten so boring.
But it's not all bad, I am told.  We have 500 and 600 horsepower pony cars.  We have the fastest base Corvette the world has ever seen.  The everyman cars aren't really any different than they've always been.  Here's the problem.  I remember a day when the very pedestrian Ford Taurus was the "fastest sedan in America".  I remember the day when GM stuffed a 215 horsepower DOHC V6 into their midsizers.  I remember a day when the Acura Integra and Honda Civic were so high strung that by today's standards they would be considered unstreetable.  I see a bunch of 'MPG' hand wringing and 'good enough' engineering these days and I don't like it.
Perhaps I am getting old enough that I look back on previous decades and remember them as a bygone age when things were 'better'.  When we didn't have to worry about people texting in the car because texting didn't even exist.  When we didn't have to worry about bullying on Facebook because Facebook didn't exist.  When we got our licence so that we could drive to see our friends rather than pretending like Skype was 'seeing our friends'. 
As you can probably guess, I'm not really sure what is causing the problem as I keep jumping around to different topics here, but the main point is that our cars are getting more boring because we want them to be more boring.  We aren't enthusiastic anymore.  Is being enthusiastic too expensive?  Maybe.  Do we just not care anymore?  Maybe.  Do our kids just not care about driving anymore?  Maybe.  I don't really know.  All I know is that things are different than they were 20 years ago.  And that sucks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Random Shorts

Banned from Motor Troll today for racist commentary so I'm going to write.  I'm having a hard time coming up with any coherant idea that fleshes out entirely so I thought I'd write a few shorts and see if any of them becomes a full idea.

We Are Slowing Down
Before I even start, I'm not talking about the obscene new muscle car wars, although I imagine the next generation will not be faster than the current one.  I'm talking about the cars that I and other people like me are actually in the market for: compacts and midsizers.  I for one saw a Camry running low 14s and a Kia with "270" horsepower and imagined a world where all top end midsize cars would be running low 14s and trapping close to 100.  I imagined that high 200s would be a benchmark for future midsize vehicles.  I imagined that compacts would start coming available with 200 horsepower engines on a regular basis and that every compact would I was wrong.  This generation of midsize and compact cars is at the same speed or worse, slower than the last generation.  That's not a good thing from where I stand and I didn't even think I was asking for anything that unreasonable.  My current car has somewhere around 240 at the crank and I've never felt that it was slow.  But I will say one thing, it will straight up walk other midsize cars out there.  I can't tell you how many Kia Optimas I've put down.  I've got it to a science.  Optimas really like to race, I'm not sure what it is.  There's one white SX-L I've beaten four times.  That's just wrong, I had one of the lowest powered V6 cars in 2004 and I can straight walk every single midsize on the market for 2013 bar the insane Accord Coupe.  In 2004 when I bought the 6, my 1994 Grand Prix was getting destroyed by four cylinder cars that were 10 years newer than it.  I say it indicates a bad trend.

Mazda 6
Yes, I am writing about the new Mazda 6 again.  Reviews have gone out and it turns out that Mazda has developed a pretty darn good vehicle on their own.  It still handles really well, it's beautiful, it has a great interior and even gets great fuel mileage.  It isn't even that slow compared to others on the market.  However, I find myself still unable to get behind it completely.  I am a Mazda 6 fanboy a lot more than I am a Mazda fanboy in general.  In 2004, there was no other Mazda that I would buy except for the 6.  That remains the case, except I still won't buy the current Mazda 6.  I will not go backwards in power, I shouldn't have to.  The car I have isn't that powerful.  Another thing that I find myself being upset about is that even though there's only one engine available, you can still only get the manual transmission in the stripped down model.  WHY!?  I understand that they want to force people to get their Skyactiv automatic but Mazda is supposed to be the enthusiast choice.  Even Honda is offering a manual transmission with the physics breaking Earthdreams motor and Mazda can't be bothered to build a Grand Touring with a manual.  And come on Mazda, the V6 isn't dead yet, Honda and Toyota are still using it.

Honda deserves its own section these days.  I really have to give them a round of applause.  They went from being an automaker that looked like it was headed for the scrap heap to a top-of-the-mountain player by doing relatively little.  And that's what's so shocking.  Civic got completely bombed and then redesigned into the best compact car on the market the following year.  How does that work?  Honda poked the J35 with a stick and suddenly it ignores physics and it's the best V6 on the market and a FWD dead-genre midsize coupe is handing the Camaro its ass.  Honda kicked the sheetmetal of the Accord and suddenly its best in class again with a four cylinder engine that ignores gravity to hand the Ford Ecoboost two liter its ass despite massive horsepower and torque deficits.  How does Honda make it look so easy?  It isn't a Japanese thing because Toyota has been poking the Camry with a stick for several years now and it won't improve.  But Sochiro-san farts at the Accord and it starts winning comparos.  If they released a next generation sports car, people would return to the altar.  Ignore what they are doing with Acura, except for the J35Y4.  I would have babies with that motor.

Ford sucks, period.  Take a Mazda designed turbo engine and choke it with a shit ass transmission.  Fuck you Ford.

Kerbal Space Program
And I will end today with something I told myself I wasn't going to do.  I am going to write about a game.  Those who know me have probably heard me gush about Kerbal Space Program at one point or another but I will start from scratch for those who haven't.  KSP is a game about building rockets.  Not futuristic space ships, but modern age rockets.  Sure the physics get hokey sometimes and there are some cheaty things you can do but really this game fulfills a niche that just doesn't even exist out there.  The game is in alpha and the learning curve is unbelievably steep but I find since I've learned how to do stuff that I'm meta-gaming and making up challenges for myself.  And the combinations are endless.  Sure, just making the huge phallic tower and firing engines will get you into space, but where's the fun in that?  Just playing it gives you a real respect for what NASA can accomplish.  Especially when you consider that you're doing everything in a 1/3 - 1/6 scale.  You can run a journey to the moon from rocket up to capsule down in less than a full day game time.  I've gotten it down so that my Apollo-style rocket can do the full Moon trip in less than 30 minutes of me playing with most of the time spent trying to get the lander and command module together again in lunar orbit.  So anyways, I could probably write pages and pages about this game but if you've ever had fantasies of being in charge of flying modern spacecraft, this game is great.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let's Build Vehicles Nobody Wants

Korean auto shows mean that we get news from Korean auto makers.  It is only natural.  Of course, I am always a bit of a skeptic when I hear about something new or exciting coming from Hyundai or Kia.  I mean, that Kia K9 whatever is going to be sold in the United States at some point, yes?  Where’s that Miata competitor?  How far is Hyundai going up market even though they can’t even manage a decent vehicle down market?  I could keep going and going, but I mainly wanted to focus on a couple of news bits: the first is that Kia claims to be working on a competitor to the FR-S and Hyundai claims to be developing a compact pickup truck.  I have chortles.  I have never understood the need of Hyundai and Kia to build vehicles into the niche markets that nobody actually wants but maybe they are feeling a bit empowered by the Veloster, which I see everywhere.

See, I am a firm believer that the FR-S and BRZ were developed as 2+2 coupes instead of two seater convertibles because there is no “affordable, RWD, 2 seater convertible” market.  That niche is actually called “People who want Miatas” and people who want Miatas don’t want vehicles that aren’t Miatas.  There is no market there.  I am also a firm believer that the FR-S development schedule was purposely stalled to wait for the RX-8 to be off the market because that market was “People who want an RX-8”.  Now there is just the market of “People who want an FR-S”.  Why in the world would an automaker want to build a vehicle for that market?  A person who wants an FR-S is not going to buy a Kia copy of the FR-S.  The truth is that the FR-S and BRZ are not some revolutionary vehicle that is sorely needed in the market.  That market has never gone, it is just rarely explored by automakers because in truth nobody actually wants a car like that and only the most die-hard of fanboys actually buy them.  The “Affordable, small sports coupe” market doesn’t exist because every offering for it is not affordable.  Auto makers worry about not being able to actually sell the cars and thus build them in limited quantities and the result is an inflated price.  We are left with a car that is too useless to be a daily driver and too expensive to be a second car and thus only get bought by kids with disposable parental income and the most rabid of brand fanboys.  If there was actually a market for such cars then Mazda would have tried to keep the RX-8 relevant and Honda would have kept the S2000 around.

So why does Kia want to build an FR-S?  Here comes the rage…  Korea HATES Japan and they HATE that they can’t buy the FR-S because they HATE Japan.  It’s the same reason that they built the Genesis Coupe because they HATED the fact that Japan had the Skyline Coupe, they build the Genesis Sedan because they HATED the Lexus GS and they build the Equus because they HATED the Lexus LS.  You’ll notice too that Hyundai compares these vehicles to makes from other countries even though you can tell they directly benchmarked the Lexus.  They want to simply say “We are better than the Japanese.”  So Kia isn’t building their little FR-S copy because they see a market, they’re building it to thumb their nose at the Japanese.  Outside of enthusiast circles you never hear “I wish automakers would make more autocross ready, underpowered, sports coupes”.  So sure, they’ll only sell a few but surely it will sell better than the Genesis!

So that brings us to the compact truck, the market that is so dead that the kings of trucks, Ford, won’t even bother to build one anymore.  But Hyundai wants to build one, why?  Toyota does.  QED.

So the next time you see a Hyundai concept and think, “Why the hell is Hyundai building this?”  Look at Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Mazda and I bet you’ll find a niche vehicle just like it.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

First Drive Review: 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

If you read Red's last post, you already know there is one big problem with the new Mazda 6; its lack of a more powerful engine than its base 184 hp 2.5 liter Skyactiv-G four cylinder.  And really, that's about the worst thing you'll read in this review.  Mazda appears to have moved past their habit of creating more problems by fixing others, and has fixed everything about the 6 except for that one, glaring issue.
Don't get me wrong, the 2.5 Skyactiv is a fantastic base engine.  It's relatively smooth and quiet, and makes good torque for a four; 34 lb/ft of torque better than the flat four in Subaru, Toyota, and Scion's FT-FR-GT-BRZ-II-S-86.  And, unlike that car, Mazda has resisted the urge to boost the throttle input on stepoff, which would give the driver a false sense of power that isn't there.  In fact, the throttle itself is clearly a place Mazda put forth a lot of effort, taking a few pages from VW's book and improving upon the design.  Like a VW, the pedal is floor mounted. Also like a VW, there is a detent at the end of the pedal's travel.  Most people who buy a new 6 will probably never know that they have only experienced 90% of the engine's power.  For those of us who care about such things, however, Mazda's new throttle system is pretty cool.  Stomp all the way down on the pedal and the the 6's voice changes.  The intake snarl turns from an upset house cat, to a furious wolverine whose young are threatened.  Toggling back and forth between 100% and 90% makes the sound difference very evident.
Helping make the best use out of the average power is the six speed Skyactiv Drive automatic transmission.  It's not a dual clutch or anything fancy, it's a slushbox with some tricks up its sleeve.  Most automatics slip the torque converter about 50% of the time for smooth operation.  The Skyactiv drive locks up about 80% of the time.  It actually feels like a dual clutch gearbox, without the bucking.  Shifts are smooth and accurate, and the shift paddles respond quickly and efficiently.  When coming to a stop, the transmission shifts into neutral to further save gas, and has the added bonus of cutting down vibration.  Let your foot off the brake and it goes right back into gear.  The typical midsize buyer will never notice.
Mazda has succeeded in making a car that will appeal to both enthusiasts and non enthusiasts alike.  When driving around town, the 6 is remarkably quiet and smooth, with little to no indication that this is a car that likes to play.  The suspension is taut but not overly so.  The rest of the Japanese auto makers could learn a thing or two about ride-handling balance from Mazda here.  There's a sort of Germanic planted feeling mixed with an athletic Japanese lightness to the way it pours itself down the road.  It responds to changes in direction as if its muscles are tensed and ready to go, though steering feel is a bit lacking.  Mazda's Electro-Hydraulic Power Assisted Steering (EHPAS) is one of the best electric systems in the business, but it still can't quite match the feel of a sorted fully hydraulic unit.  Still though, it responds with enough urgency to make up for it, and the steering wheel's diameter is sportingly small.
As I said before, the 2.5 Skyactiv is a good engine.  The Mazda 6 deserves a great engine, however.  The chassis is solid and sporty, the steering is sharp, the responses deliberate.  In my humble opinion, a V6 would not improve this car, nor would a turbocharged four cylinder.  What it really needs, is an engine with a little more grit and soul; something a bit higher strung.  With Honda giving the Civic Si a bigger engine and lower redline, the market is sadly devoid of high revving, naturally aspirated engines.  Such an engine would elevate the 6 from greatness to best-ness.  With a more aggressive cylinder head and valvetrain, it's not unreasonable to expect 220 hp and an 8000 rpm redline, without the added complexity of a turbo, or the added weight of a V6.  That is the kind of engine the 6 deserves.  Unfortunately, What Mazda has done, is put running shoes on a gazelle.  The engine is just at odds with what is otherwise a perfect midsize sedan.
Still though, I'd rather deal with a lack of power, than a host of other foibles.  For that, I applaud Mazda.  Unlike Suzuki, Mitsubishi, and, to a lesser extent, Subaru, who all seem to be struggling with a changing market, Mazda is not sacrificing their identity to stay relevant.  Rather, they are defining and refining it.  As an enthusiast, I look forward to seeing Mazda mature and settle into their niche.  Stay tuned.

Tesla’s Government Fueled Innovation Is What Electric Cars Need

I want to talk about the Tesla Model S today.  First, I think it is a great car and the amount of controversy it is creating is only a testament to how good it really is.  Is it heavily subsidized?  Yes, it is, but it needs to be.  It is a good investment for our government to be making because it is the best path for the government to achieve it’s goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.  But the Model S brings up another very good question: why is it that a Silicon Valley start-up company can build such a good electric vehicle when highly funded automotive corporations seem to be still spinning their wheels, pardon the pun, with hybrids and plug-ins that can barely travel forty miles on batteries alone.

I won’t go into too much detail about the technical specifications of the Tesla Model S but they are quite astounding.  I will focus on the highest end of the spectrum since the vehicle is available with three different batteries and two motor choices.  The top model of Tesla Model S comes with an 85 kw/h battery that can provide a range of 265 miles before recharging but also is available with a 443 horsepower motor.  So unlike the “eco” offerings of other manufacturers, the Tesla offers performance on top of using no fuel.  It is quick to say the least, returning a 4.0 second run to 60 and a 12.4 second run in the quarter mile.  For a massive, nearly 5,000 pound sedan, these numbers are nothing short of astounding.  Of course, getting those astounding numbers costs cash, $105,000 in cash, but the Tesla offers luxury and performance that buyers purchasing that much car would expect.  If that is too much, the Model S can be had for as little as $58,000 but with a penalty in range and performance.

So it offers great numbers on paper, but it’s expensive.  But how expensive is it really?  If we look at the closest mass market competitor, the Nissan Leaf, we can see that in reality the full electric offerings from major are nearly the same in price.  The Leaf comes out to around $37,000 before tacking on options and offers a third of the power and a third of the range of a base Tesla S.  Ford’s Focus EV sells for $40,000 and can’t offer the range or power either.  So the question exists, is it worth the extra money to not have to drive a toaster with a motor?

The picture starts to paint itself more completely when one considers that history has shown that the major automakers don’t want electric vehicles to catch on.  They want them to be viewed as the expensive counterpart to gas powered vehicles that cannot travel outside the city because the alternative is that electric powered cars could overpower the gas powered market.  So when a major automaker releases an electric only version of their volume sellers, the vehicle perpetuates all of the worst stereotypes about electric cars.  Let’s have a look at Ford’s Ecoboost engine line.  The goal is to offer high, instant torque with high fuel economy.  This is supposedly what the market is begging for.  You know what else offers good economy with high, instant torque?  Electric motors.  In fact, the economy is higher and the torque is more instant.  The electric motor is what the market is begging for.  So instead of spending all that R&D to develop a turbo engine with all the same characteristics of an electric car, why not put that effort into better batteries?  With better battery technology, all but the cars sold to purists would become electric, in other words, every single volume seller.  If someone could get 300 horsepower and still be able to travel nearly 300 miles before having to recharge for a reasonable price, why would they ever want to buy a gasoline powered car again?

Do I want electric cars?  Frankly, yes I do and I think that Tesla and companies like it are the answer.  We cannot rely on our existing major companies as they would effectively shoot themselves in their own foot to do it.  Competition is always good in the market and I think that adding electric cars to the mix would have a side effect of actually bring gasoline prices down.  Supply would remain the same while demand would go down.  I personally would use an electric vehicle as a daily driver.  I never go on single trips longer than a couple hundred miles.  But I will not be punished for having one.  I want 250 horsepower and 200 miles.  The tech exists, it just needs to get affordable.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Feel For the Mazda 6

Being the owner of a 2004 Mazda 6, I always await the next generation release for the car hoping that they'll improve on the the formula that I believe they got so right for the first generation.  Sadly for the last generation, they fixed the one thing that was wrong with the car and added a whole bunch of other wrong things to the car.  Don't get me wrong, I still liked the fat 6.  It was a bruiser as the testbed for the Duratec 37 that would later go into the Mustang.  But they took away the manual and mostly all of the car's agility.  So I wasn't a buyer.

However, when the Kodo Mazda 6 started showing it's face, I was again intrigued.  The car definitely appeared to be regaining it's agility, but again Mazda can't fix the problems of the last generation without creating a bunch of new problems.  Notably, Mazda doesn't have a premium engine to put in the 6 due to their split with Ford.  I'm not unlike Mazda in that way, every time I fix something that is going wrong in my life I seem to create a bunch of new problems.  So sometimes, you just have to do what makes you able to move forward in your life even if it creates problems.  So that's what Mazda has done with the new 6.

Obviously the sheet metal is absolutely gorgeous.  While Nagare was universally stupid looking on every car that wore it, Kodo is the polar opposite.  Every vehicle that wears it has class leading looks.  Another issue that Mazda has addressed is the universal criticism of the fuel economy of Mazdas.  Skyactiv has changed the rules, the engine seems to get class leading MPG in every vehicle it goes into.  For example, the Skyactiv 2.5 in the Mazda 6 returns 26/38 (one less with a manual) with 185 horsepower.  No hybrid, no turbo.  For comparison, the Fusion returns 23/36 with it's 1.6 liter turbo engine that makes 12 less horsepower.  Problem Fusion?  The Accord that makes the same power but has a motorboat transmission only returns a single MPG higher in the city.  This is great for Mazda's mainstream appeal but for those of us that buy Mazdas, we don't care about MPGs.  So basically, Mazda has a great base engine here and has built a car that should easily compete with everything else in class and these cars are being sold as "i" models which would indicate that Mazda plans a higher end model.  But at this point, that higher end model is probably going to be a diesel with even less horsepower.

While being underpowered is not a sin for a Mazda, in this case it's just too underpowered.  The 6 needs a premium engine.  In the days of the Ford partnership they could leverage Ford equipment to fill the holes in their lineup, but these days that option isn't available.  So at this point all Mazda has is a four cylinder that may not even drag the car to 60 in under 8 seconds and a diesel that will probably be even slower.  It isn't a good position to be in, especially with Honda and Toyota's V6 engines being stronger than ever.

But Mazda is going in the right direction.  We have a great looking car with great handling and superior fuel economy and you can even still get a manual in the most base car.  Maybe a Skyactiv V6 is in the works, but probably not.  Some of us even dream that they might pick up an Alfa V6 from their co-op with Fiat but that's probably a longer shot than licencing another V6 from Ford.  The lack of a decent engine puts the Mazda 6 on the list of disappointing "almost there" releases in the past couple of years, and that's a shame.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hyundai is Building a Veyron Killer!

Concept image of Hyundai's new Veyron Killer.

A new Hyundai concept car climbs ever high up the ladder of expensive vehicles.  However, it is not a Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes or even a BMW that Hyundai plans to compete with.  This time Hyundai plans to build a comparable vehicle to none other then the Bugatti Veyron.  Hyundai execs announced that the company has begun development on a two seat sports car that will have no less then 1000 horsepower, have All Wheel Drive, have a top speed over 250 miles per hour and cost less then the $1 million plus cost of the Veyron.  Hyundai had no sketches or actual equipment to show us but power is planned to come from a 16-cylinder engine developed by Hyundai and the body is expected to possibly resemble the Genesis Coupe but be built on a 'completely unique and all new platform'.
An artist’s rendering has been captured of Hyundai's concept Veyron killer (see below).  Sporting looks relatively similar to the Veyron, it seems that Hyundai is taking their usual 'Music Industry' approach to design and expanding on the winning formula developed by Bugatti.  Further details on the engine from Hyundai execs show the concept using an unspecified displacement 16-cylinder engine that has 6 turbochargers and at this time is churning out 1600 horsepower.  Hyundai expects the concept to be very close to the expected production version.  Hyundai has also released a name for this concept: skrrkkkll.  The name is meant to 'make the consumer think' about what they are looking for in a madly stupefying vehicle.  When asked for comment, Volkswagen head Ferdinand Piech asked us to follow him into the restroom where he promptly pooped into the toilet nearly cracking the porcelain.  We continue to wait with baited breath for more details on this thrilling concept from Hyundai.
I want it to be known that I am FIRST to break this massive story.  My source is legitimate!  My brother's friend's cousin's sister's dog's brother's mother's father's aunt's uncle's neighbor's cat's hamster's egg's brother's chicken's mother's grandfather's aunt's friend said that this is completely legit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

BMW and Toyota Getting Together Is Logical

U mad?  Probably.  You've probably heard that Toyota and BMW are working together to maybe make a hybrid Supra and now it appears that they are going to make a Z4 based on the FR-S.  Enthusiasts are raging pretty hard.  Not quite infinity suns, but it's getting pretty close.  People generally think this is a bad thing and are mad at BMW for even considering it.  But the truth is, BMW wants this and it is a good thing for them.  They've wanted to be Toyota as bad as Toyota has wanted to be them and now they both have the chance to be each other.
At first glance, it would seem that BMW and Toyota getting together to make products is a complete disaster and a total sellout for BMW.  The "Ultimate Driving Machine" getting in bed with the leading producer of automotive appliances in the world.  But when you look at it from a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense.  The housing crash and subsequent destruction of the middle class took a lot of income from the target market for BMWs.  Rich people don't buy BMWs, upper-middle class people buy BMWs and when the upper-middle class can't afford the product anymore, something must be done.  So over the past few years BMW has slowly and carefully been moving down market.  It's a good move considering that their down market competitors like Cadillac and Infiniti are starting to make products that actually step on and maybe even over the mighty 3-series.  So BMW has been focusing their vehicles more towards comfort and gizmos more than the driving experience because the driving experience might win comparos at Car & Driver and MotorTrend but it doesn't sell anymore.  They've also been offering incredibly cheap lease deals, especially on the 3-series.  But they still have the old German car stigma that says that it will spend more time in the shop than it does on the road.  No matter what they do, they will have this stigma forever just like Hyundai will always be an economy car company that copies other cars and sells them at a discount.
But what if BMW was working with a company that was touted as the most reliable on the planet?  That might change things in the eye of the consumer.  BMW doesn't need any of Toyota's tech (except maybe the hybrid system), their engines or their chassis.  They need Toyota's image.  They need the image of reliability.  It's such a genius idea I wouldn't be surprised if Volkswagen AG was raging so hard they ripped all the papers on their desks and threw them around like confetti for not thinking of it first.  Now BMW can claim that you can have the badge and the reliability.  PROFIT!
But what's in this for Toyota?  Not a whole lot to be honest.  Toyota's current chassis and engines do everything they need to do and when it comes to N/A engines, Toyota is probably doing better than BMW at this point.  I know, shocking right?  Toyota doesn't need BMW diesels because hybrids sell better in most every market besides Europe.  BMW chassis are good for driving but bad for the appliance like feel that Toyota buyers have come to expect and Toyota has even shown that deep down they do still know how to build a sports car, kind of.  But nobody truly believes that Toyota knows what they're doing and that's why the whole F-Sport BS that Toyota is pulling with Lexus is just a joke.
Which brings me to what Toyota needs from BMW.  They don't need tech, chassis or engines.  They need BMW's image.  They need to be considered as better driver's cars.  What better way to make your F-Sport badges suddenly ooze credibility then a little German engineering from the company that supposedly builds the Ultimate Driving Machines.  Now Lexus can claim relability and sportyness!  PROFIT!

So when it comes right down to it, these companies were made for each other.  They complete each other.  This is a match made in heaven.  And for those who think this is BMW selling out?  Bitch please, BMW sold out decades ago.  Problem?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Kübler-Ross Model: Mazda

ABSTRACT:  Party one (1) (heretofore referred to as "Mazda," or "The Subject,") and party two (2) (heretofore referred to simply as "Ford,") concluded a romantic relationship last year.  The purpose of this study is to examine Mazda's reaction, specifically in reference to the Kübler-Ross Model of the Five Stages Of Grief.  We will examine Mazda's denial ("I'll be just fine without Ford"), anger ("Goddammit you sonofabitch, I'll do what I want!"), bargaining ("please, I'll do anything! Just don't take away my Duratec!"), depression (heavy alcohol consumption accompanied by repeated Taylor Swift music), and acceptance ("Skyactiv's the limit!").


STAGE ONE: DENIAL:  In the initial stages following the incident, The Subject displayed "Trophy Wife Syndrome", frequenting cosmetic surgeons specializing in botox.  This resulted in an unnatural grin from "fender to fender."  Subject then named its own face "Nagare."  This strange behavior lead the research team to believe drug use was involved, but no evidence of such has been found.

STAGE TWO: ANGER:  Subject began heavily drinking race fuel and acting erratically, including the rejection of its own love child (named "Tribute"), and racing every weekend.  Subject then displayed homoerotic behavior, racing with Playboy as a sponsor.  Tribute has since displayed rejection syndrome, its throttle getting stuck wide open.  Tribute has been recalled and, at this point, no one has been hurt.

STAGE THREE: BARGAINING:  Apparently feeling remorse over the rejection of tribute, The Subject begged for Ford to allow the continuing use of genetic material from Ford's horse (named "Mustang").  Displaying even more bizarre behavior, Subject named the bastard child with horse parts "CX-9." Despite this, CX-9 has overcome its odd upbringing and become quite mature and strong.  Mazda continues heavy alcohol consumption.

STAGE FOUR: DEPRESSION:  Alcohol consumption reaches critical levels.  Subject shows strong affinity toward country music, particularly that of Taylor Swift.  Subject's botox smile inverts whenever Ms. Swift's "Never Getting Back Together" starts playing.  This causes inordinate amounts of drool, as subject's face (Nagare) is rigid due to unhealthy amounts of botox.

STAGE FIVE: ACCEPTANCE:  The Subject begins mumbling nonsense, such as "Kodo", and apparently intentionally misspelling words, such as "Skyactiv."  Subject dons what appears to be a lab coat and locks itself in a lab for days at a time, emerging only to shout "Zoom-Zoom, bitches!" at passers by.  Despite this behavior, subject shows signs of recovery.  Weeks later, new products emerge from said lab, showing no signs of Ford heritage.

CONCLUSION:  Subject showed all signs of the Kübler-Ross Model, recovering in a normal fashion.  This study shows a strength of The Subject, and we hypothesize that The Subject will have a bright future.  We will continue monitoring their progress.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Impressions From the Portland Auto Show

Yesterday I went to the Portland Auto Show.  It was a big year this year, there were a lot of big time releases that I was getting my first chance to see in the flesh and I was able to reinforce some of my opinions while blowing some of my opinions completely out of the water.

The first thing that greeted me as I walked through the door was the elegant, sexy and very high class 2014 Mazda 6.  Where I entered was unintentional, but there she was; the car I came to the show for.  It was so good in person.  It looks and feels like the first gen on the inside with the material quality of the second gen.  In other words: it was good.  I had the chance to talk with the owner of a 2003 Mazda 6 V6 who was seeing it for the first time with me.  He asked me what my complaint about it was.  I told him "No V6".  "Amen brother" was his response.  We both agreed that it wasn't really worth our purchase without a V6, especially since we were both over 100,000 miles on our cars with little to no problems.  Verdict: Great interior, great exterior, Y U no V6?  We also took a very close look at the CX-5, now available with 2.5 liter Skyactiv and after viewing the rest of the options available at the show concluded that it is simply the best deal you can get on a CUV.

The next area of note was Ford, the most disappointing stop of the show.  First, Ford couldn't be bothered to bring a Fusion to the show that wasn't a hybrid so I didn't even bother.  At least four people I talked to said that the Fusion was great from every angle except the front.  Fish face was unliked.  At one point, I convinced my brother to troll with me and we got ahold of the MyFord Touch tester car which was a Taurus with the Ecoboost four.  After multiple attempts to actually get the car to boot, we finally had it up and running.  The thing I noticed first is that most attempts to hit something with my finger on the screen was difficult at best and most buttons required at least two attempts to hit.  But it did not break.  We successfully paired my brother's phone to the Taurus and managed to use Bluetooth to blast "I'm Sexy and I Know It" out the speakers of the Taurus.  Compared to CUE, it had similar functionality but was definitely slower and the touch boxes were difficult to find.  I almost felt like I was pushing around the screen buttons rather than right on them.  The Recaros in the Focus ST were unforgiving and I ended up sitting on the bolsters rather than in them.  The clutch had a great feel as did the shifter however.  My brother removed the engine cover from the Focus engine to reveal that, in fact, Ecoboost is MZR.  The engine appears identical to the engine in the Mazdaspeed 3.  Escape was EXTREMELY cheap looking and the 1.6 was returning lower EPA estimates than the 2.5 CX-5 for $6,000 more.  Yes, that's a 1.6T Escape for $38,000.  NOPE!  Verdict: Ford was a joke while (even though I didn't talk about them) Lincoln had a great showing.

Cadillac.  I'm sure people that know me are expecting something completely different than what is about to be written.  Cadillac blew me away.  CUE made Lexus, Infiniti, Hyundai and even BMW in car systems seem cheap and last generation.  It was fantastic.  Great haptic feedback.  Easy to push buttons.  The digital dash in the XTS was completely mindblowing.  I so want one.  The whole XTS was just fantastic.  It was huge everywhere it was supposed to be huge and it was littered with easy to use technology.  The only gripe I have is that the steering wheel buttons had to be pressed before I could understand what they were for.  ATS.  I've been trolling this car hard but Cadillac really tried to make this a vehicle that wasn't for Grandpa.  The price tag is still for Grandpa; it isn't cheap.  The inside of the car is a great place to be however unless you sit in the rear seats.  It definitely did not feel bloated like many other Cadillacs did.  CTS Coupe is still ugly and compared to ATS and XTS, CTS is started to feel very dated.  Verdict: Cadillac is improved and was better than the refreshed Lexus at the show.  Still mainstream and not attracting the attention of the Douche market.  I used the phrase "ATS still isn't as fast as the Douche Rocket (335)" out loud.

Some shorts.  Hyundai is so damn dated.  Equus and Genesis are a freaking joke.  Equus was actually carrying a Hyundai badge now but they just look like old Mercedes.  I broke their infotainment system.  Lexus cars were all cramped and every single car had an "F".  Even the CT200h.  The styling is more appealing in person.  Drove the Subaru Crosstrek.  It felt like a Toyota.  Drove the FR-S.  It was much better than expected but still felt like an economy car.  All the kids wanted to drive it but none of them wanted to buy it.  Audi, what does "T" even mean?!  Overall I was impressed with the things I expected to hate and hated the things I expected to impress me.  Interesting show.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Direct Injection Turbo Sucks

I realize that my current opinion is not the popular one but I think that the current batch of direct injection turbo engines are an atrocity and I cannot wait for naturally aspirated engines to return.  Sure, they might look good on paper, but they all went "oppa Hyundai style".  They return sub-standard performance, sub-standard MPGs and wheezy, narrow powerbands.  They promised to be the next generation of engine but they were ruined just like hybrids because the automakers tried to make the turbo engines feel like they weren't turbo engines.

Of course, my primary target for this criticism is Ford's Ecoboost line of four cylinder engines.  The Ecoboost V6 is an exception because they started with a Duratec engine and ended up with a motor that could actually make power past 6,000 RPM.  The Ecoboost fours are a different question.  It used to be that only trucks would make maximum power at 5,000 RPM but now we have a 1.6 liter that tops out at that RPM.  That is just wrong.  A tiny motor like that should be able to rev to insane levels.  But when you're trying to make diesel like torque with zero turbo lag, you get a diesel like narrow powerband.  "But it makes it's peak torque at 2,000 RPM!"  Whatever!  You realize that your powerband is the same size as VTAK Honda boy who doesn't VTEC until 4,000 RPM and revs to 7,000 right?  Is that a "narrow powerband"?  Is that bad?  The really sad thing is that Honda boy probably gets better gas mileage too.  It's no surprise to me that Ford is having issues with people meeting their MPG estimates.  The key to making good MPGs in a turbo engine is to stay out of boost and Ford has designed an engine that boosts instantly.  "But it has no lag!"  The turbo lag is what used to help people stay out of boost.  It's not a bad thing, it's part of the charm of turbo engines.  Ford has designed an engine that is no better than the old 2.3 they put in the turbo Thunderbirds.

But the truth is that the 1.6 doesn't rustle my jimmies.  I was never going to buy such an engine anyways.  Sub 200 horsepower is so 90s.  It's the 2.0 turbo engine that upsets me because it was supposed to be the engine that replaces the V6 and is allegedly better.  It's so much better that the Fusion can't even break out of the 15s with it.  In other words, it's pathetic.  I can outrun a Fusion with my first generation Duratec that only has intake VVT.  Saying it's equally fast to the fat, AWD Fusion Sport with horrid Ford automatic from the last generation is a cop out.  It should have been a LOT faster than the old Duratec, especially considering that the Fusion is a smaller, more expensive car.  Basically we've given up displacement and added more moving parts for no additional performance.  "But MPGs!"  Bitch please, nobody wants MPGs in the top of the line engine.  It's made even worse by the fact that GM already has a better 2.0T because they just added direct injection to the old Cobalt SS motor.  Ford just got left.  Good thing that the new Malibu is a dynamic disaster or people would have given zero fucks about the Fusion.  It's bad enough that Honda just made the Accord look like a Lexus and a Hyundai, hopped up the motors and walked past the Fusion.  Yes, Honda boys, oppa Hyundai style.

So is this the future then?  Do we all want diesels so much that automakers are going out of their way to make gasoline engines have diesel powerbands?  What's next, are we going to start compression firing gasoline?  Ugh.  Wake me when the second round of the 80s is over.


I said to myself this weekend that I was going to start writing here again, but to do that I needed to face what caused me to not want to write here anymore.  Part of it was that I didn't have the urge to write anymore.  I guess it was the wrong mindset or I was just in a bad part of my life or whatever but I've decided to change that.  I want people to read my junk again, which also meant that I needed to face what made people decide to stop reading the blog. 

Part of that was that I think my writing just wasn't that interesting to people.  I kept writing about video games and I don't think people found that topic particularly popular.  But additionally, I think too much of the focus of the blog was on the character of RedChocobo.  Sure, RedChocobo is what brought so many people to the blog initially because he was popular.  But when he decided to blow up and be a little drama queen, it hurt traffic to the blog.  But RedChocobo is in a good place right now.  He can troll as much as he wants however he wants with no expectations.  So that leaves myself in a good place to write freely about cars.

So here I am, Matthew Berg, to write about whatever.  You can expect a redesign during a week and possibly even a new name after I've had some time to talk it over with my partner in crime, Topheezy.  What you can not expect this time will be guess blogs and other such.  I want to get back to what this blog began as and what it was meant to be.  Kinda...

So upcoming later today: Why I hate direct injection turbo!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Have We Become Desensitized?

You always hear of people complaining that video games cause normal, non-violent folks into killers.  Like average Joe gamer is sitting there eating his cheerios, playing Doom, then he just snaps and shoots up a hot dog stand.
While Joe's frank tirade is a scary thought, there is a much darker problem: limited edition games.
Two decades ago, you could go to Target and say "I would like to purchase Super Mario World," and the employee would sell you just that for $40.  While that seemed expensive at the time, we were still paying for piece of hardware from an industry that was still in its adolescence.  We were paying for a silicone circuit board covered in hard plastic, neither of which are cheap to manufacture.
Today, you go into Target and ask for the latest Halo or Call of duty (providing you've made it through the gauntlet of challenges explained later in this post), and you already know that you're going to be in this game for $60.  And for what? A DVD in a flimsy plastic box.  DVDs are stupid cheap to manufacture, and every DVD box is the same.  So because of the economies of scale, you're paying 60 bones for something that cost probably less than $1 to manufacture.
Obviously, it's what's actually on the disc that you're really paying for.  So what does $60 get you today?  Well as our very own red bird explained in his latest post, you're paying for an incomplete game.  You're paying for about 60% of it.  Most likely, the store in which you bought the game had the $60 version in with the sea of games in the regular games section.  But before you set foot in that section, you see a display slightly larger than the Eiffel Tower, shamelessly displaying only the $100 Limited Ultimate Mega Super Lucky Collectors Edition, and the $400 Mega Super Limited Unlimited Ultimate Sacred Collectors Gift Set. You try to go to the regular games section, but just as you walk past the display, you get pelted with eggs, and a dwarf throws the Collectors Edition game at you, while peppering you with paintballs.  At this point, most gamers give up and fork over the Benjamin and go home with the Limited Edition.
Continue on, and you are faced with a wizard of unspeakable power who proclaims with a thunderous "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" and throws the Gift Set at your head.  Dodging this with an action roll, you remember that the wizard needs food, badly.  As you come out of the roll, throw a sleeve of rice cakes at this wizard.  He will disappear.  If you forget one step here, you end up spending every last Rupee you have on the Gift Set and go home with a large box of things that will later find their homes at various thrift stores.
If you manage to pass this second test, you are faced with the pitfall of the Special Super Mega - you get the idea - Controller.  This controller operates exactly like your six-year-old white controller, but it has skulls on it!  Right when the wizard disappeared, so did the floor between you and the games section.  Here, you must know the proper spelling of "Jehovah" in Greek.  Speak the letters aloud and a light will come on overhead and make you sneeze.  As you sneeze, the mist of saliva will land on an invisible bridge over the pit between you and the games section.  careful crossing this bridge, as arrows will shoot up at you from below.  At this point, most people end up going home with the $100 game, the $400 Gift Set, the $60 Sculltroller, and a puncture wound or two.
If you have successfully made it past this gauntlet, you are one of the few and proud who can go home without paying ridiculous amounts of money.  But you still know in the back of your mind that you could have gotten that treasure chest with the keychain, bobblehead, die cast spaceship, and certificate of authenticity that proves that you spent way too much cash.  Oh, and don't forget the special avatar item that shows the rest of those on the interwebz that you're a bad ass high roller and sprung for the Limited Edition.  Dumb ass.