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.