Saturday, October 22, 2011

2012 Nissan Leaf - Cool idea. But it still looks like a turd.

Price: A bit steep, even with the government rebate. But then again you aren't paying for gas...
Power: Hard to describe.  It can go freeway speed?
Sex Appeal: If you find a tortoise sexually appealing, then you will be all over this car.

I like electric things.  I spent most of my youth playing with high end remote control electric cars and airplanes so I know first hand the power of the electric motor.  I have also dabbled in go kart racing, both gas and electric, so I know full well what having instant torque means (you go fast, instantly).  All things considered then, I should like this car...but I don't.

Nissan had a huge opportunity here.  They were coming out with the first affordable electric car the world had ever seen.  Being electric, there wer no limitations for this car.  It does not require the same aerodynamics as its gas powered equivalent and there is not a lot stored under the hood of this car, so they could have made it look however they wanted.  Electric cars are affected by wind just like gas cars, so its range is highly dependent on aerodynamics.  Nissan could have gone all out and made this thing incredibly space-aged looking and extended its mediocre 50-mile range to 100 and beyond without having to mess with any of the technology under the hood.

But they didn't.  They made a turd.  It rivals the most ugly car every made (the prius...but more on that some other time), and it only goes 50 miles.  It is a cool idea to have an electric car.  I admit that 99% of my driving per day is less than 50 miles, so 360 days of the year this is all the car I need.  But I really can't get over how dumpy it looks.  Why could they have not made a plastic ferrari and put a dinky electric motor in it? There are a reason fast cars look fast.  They use up so much gas every little bit counts.  I feel that Nissan should have had the same mentality here.  Electric cars can't go very far to begin with without adding thousands of pounds of batteries, so why not focus on that last little bit?

What we are left with is a half assed attempt at taking on the Prius.  They made it look like the Prius, gave it a million miles per gallon, and charge 10k more for that extra amount of smugness you can carry around when you say: "well I drive an ELECTRIC car, what about YOU?"  Is it really so much to ask for a mainstream car thats good for the environment, saves you a butt load of money, and doesn't look like a pile of S***?

I guess so.  I have hopes for the future, but as it stands, the car industry is terrified of doing anything different than the competition.  This car is just a drop in the bucket of what is possible.  Audi just needs to come out with that electric thing they had in I-Robot that Will Smith drove.  Now THAT is what the "future" should look like.  Not a stink bug.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2012 Fiat 500- Back again

Price: Super attractive
Power: What power?
Sex Appeal: It is like driving Zooey Deschanel: cute and quirky and you want it.

Two summers ago I went with my family to the great country of Italy.  It was there that I was blasted with an overwhelming sight: Fiat 500's.  EVERYWHERE.  I would like to explain further this concept of, "everywhere."  One day we were going to lunch and there in the middle of the sidewalk was a small car.  We asked the waitress what that was all about and she simply said: "oh, there is no parking.  People just park on the sidewalk because the parking ticket is less than paying for a parking lot."

That pretty much sums up the mentality of every Italian.

Needless to say my obsession with this cute little thing quickly grew and by the end of our 10 day trip I badly wanted the souped up Abarth Fiat 500(the tuner version soon to be released in the US).  Until that review, I will focus on the base model.  It is cheap (15-18k), gets good gas milage, comes in a manual, and is blessed with plenty of quirky color combinations.  If you are looking for a car with any pep and zip at all, please move on and buy a mini.  As cool as this car is, it has less than 100hp and despite its apparent small size, has the same generous proportions of its rival: Mini.

In the united states, this car is distributed by Chrysler and that bothers me.  I hate chrysler.  They make cheap S*** cars and should be gone (cough THANKS FOR NOTHING OBAMA cough).  Whether Chrysler has any say in how this car is produced and made is unknown to me, but it is definitely something to consider if you want this car.  All I know is that sitting in one felt awful similar to sitting in a PT cruiser(the quintessential cheap S***).

Its affiliation with Chrysler aside, I overall like this car.  I would never get the base model because it is just too plain and underpowered for me.  My suggestion is to wait for the Abarth which is not totally underpowered and adds just enough toughness to this car to make it appeal to the male and female sex equally.

Also, I like the convertible version of this car.  It is not a traditional convertible, but is cool all the same because the top portion just slides back like a set of blinds.  Pretty cool I must say.

If you are in the market for something fuel efficient and cute, this is a great option if you never have to drive on the freeway(it just doesn't have enough power to be safe at speed).  Otherwise, there are plenty of other cars out there that are better (look at a base mini, ford fiesta, etc).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2012 Tesla S - "Affordable" Green Car

Price: Not terrible with tax incentives.  About the price of Comparable BMW or Audi
Power: Lots of power.  Lots and lots and lots of power.  Redefines: "silent, but deadly"
Sex Appeal: It drips sex.  Women will look sexy in it, men will look sexy in it, and it will look very nice parked next to any sports car in the world.  And it has 4 doors.  Not bad, eh?

The world was introduced to Tesla Motors a few years ago with the Tesla roadster.  It looked awful cool, was designed by Lotus, and came in interesting colors like electric blue and orange.  Cool colors and good looking is usually enough to make it a huge seller, right?

Wrong.  Everything about the roadster was cool except for two things: the 110k price tag, and the fact that it makes no noise.  Ok it makes some noise, but its a quiet whine at most.  The heart and soul of the vastly overpriced roadster was an electric motor and hundreds of laptop batteries.  These two caveats handcuffed the roadster to one type of buyer: someone fabulously wealthy who likes new toys and occasionally feels morally superior to others.

Unfortunately, the roadster never really lost its "toy" stigma.  It could only go about 200miles on a charge and it took around 16 hours to fully recharge.

Years later and millions invested by Toyota and private investors and we now have the Tesla S.  No longer is Tesla out of the reach of 99.9% of Americans.  Not only is it cheaper (tops out at 70k before tax rebates), but it has a longer range.  The top of the line model supposedly can go 300 miles, which would satisfy all driving necessities, short of a road trip,  for pretty much everybody.

The charging time is also much better.  With advances in battery technology and a high voltage charger,  the Tesla S will be ready in the morning before you are.  The better battery and faster charging times are, I think, the two biggest selling points for this car.

In a world trying to become more "green," this is the only acceptable effort in my mind.  It doesn't burn gas, it doesn't look like a turd, and it has better performance than most gas powered cars.  In short, it offers a green alternative that doesn't want to make you gouge your eyes out for what you have to drive in order to be a cleaner human.  It is my DEAREST hope that Tesla takes off in the next few years, so that we may look upon the Prius less, and not have to sacrifice all fun in life over a few pounds of carbon dioxide.

Did I mention it is pretty?

Friday, September 30, 2011

2012 Volkswagen Bug - Somehow NOT a Chick Car Anymore

Price: Cheapest is 20k.  Most expensive is 30k.  Not a bad deal at all
Power: Very decent to more than enough.  And (though I dont really care about this), it gets fabulous gas milage
Sex Appeal: It  Everything the previous new bug should have been.  This car should appeal to everyone.

I was scooching along in traffic yesterday when my eyesight was graced with a flash of white.  My mundane thoughts of an impending pastrami sandwich were pulled back to reality by what?  Huge rims? A spoiler? LED headlights? Aggressive wheel arches? A honken stripe that said "TURBO?" What was it?  The answer is all of the above!  Ladies and gentlemen, I saw the new 2012 VW bug, and my goodness, what a beauty!

There was no love in my heart for the "new bug," which crowded our streets for the better part of a decade.  It was big, it broke down a lot, and the cupholder was occupied by an immovable flower pot.  If that doesn't satisfy the definition of fruity, I don't know what does.  The old "new" bug was everything but what it needed to be: a peoples car.

But wait! The new "new" bug is here to save the day!  It looks completely similar to the old "new" bug, but at the same time it is completely different.  It still has the same headlights, the same wheel arches, the same curved silhouette, but now it is 110% more muscular.  There is no other way to say it, this is now a cool car.  There is definitely a sense of Porsche and Audi DNA in this car (two companies VW now own).

The biggest improvement of this car is that it is once again a people car.  There is something for everyone.  There is a diesel, a generic 5 cylinder motor, the very sexy turbo model, and they call are available for less than 30k.  When it is broken down to a basic form, the new "new" bug is now a two-door sports car.  A simple google search will show pictures of the interior of this car and my oh my, it looks like it was taken out of cars five times the price.

Volkswagen definitely has a next bestseller on their hands.  I like this car so much that there is a definite possibility that the turbo model may be my next car.  It is unique, good looking, and a great value.  Another benefit that this car has is that there are no competitors for it.  It isn't a hatchback so the Mini Cooper is out, and it is too different from the Mustang crowd so I think that many will flock to this new car design and absolutely love it.

I think I am going to go and drive it at the VW dealer know, just for fun.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Mini Countryman - Alert! Identity Crisis!

Price: Decent, mostly because there are not any options on it that can turn it into anything snazzy.
Power: Gutless.  And more gutless.
Sex Appeal: Not sure who would find this sexy.  Its too small to carry a family or any cargo.  It is too big to be cute.  My theory is that only dumpy people who can't make up their mind and have no creativity will buy this.

When I first heard that Mini was making an "SUV," I was aghast.  How could they?  Why would a brand defined by its cute, pint sized cars make anything larger than a matchbox?  The answer lies in motorsport. More specifically, the world rally championship.

History lesson time! What brought Mini to prominence back in the 1960's wasn't its fuel economy.  It wasn't even its cuteness factor.  Mini DOMINATED rally racing.  Even though the original Mini Cooper had about as much power as your average lawn mower, it was so small and light that it could go over dirt roads faster and with more agility than any other car.  Over the years companies like Audi, Subaru, and Mitsubishi got in the game and with the invention of all wheel drive cars, the Mini dropped out of the public eye.  Back in 2002 BMW decided to bring it back.  However, the Mini Cooper and later the Mini Clubman were both just cars.  Motorsport is very specific about engine size, length of wheelbase, etc ad nauseum.

Mini wanted to get back into the sport which defined its origin so it made a car that could compete: the Mini Countryman.  But why, you may ask, did Mini bring this car to the streets where it is a rolling contradiction?  Two reasons really.  First is that they probably though it would be a hot selling item (not really to be explained later, and secondly there is a funny little rule about motorsport which dictates that all race cars must have an on road equivalent.  That is why Toyota's NASCAR car looks like a Camry, and why the monstrous Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Evo exist.

As a car, this thing has issues.  It is too big to be called a Mini and too small to be an SUV.  The picture deceives.  This is not a big car.  I've sat in it and I felt extremely cramped.  The drivers seat is ok but the back seats have just enough knee room for a double amputee.  There is also only two seats in the back. Instead of having a middle seat, there is this weird little bar that goes from the front of the car to the back where there is places to put cup holders and random doo dads.

My biggest problem is that Mini is very lazy. They built a bigger car, but refused to do anything else.  The engine options for this 4000 pound beast are the same as the regular Mini cooper.  So while you have more space, your ability to move that space remains at gutless and slightly more than gutless.  If you have ever driven the turbo Mini Cooper, you would probably agree that it has just enough power.  Having that same motor in a way heavier car is just stupid.  It means you will be driving down the freeway and look to your left and you will see a bicycle rider passing you.

Visually it is not that bad.  The grill looks like a moustache and the body is a tad bulbous, but otherwise it looks like a regular Mini Cooper that found the cookie jar.  What really bothers me though is that half of what makes Mini so attractive (the infinite amounts of decals, paint combinations, stripes etc), is missing from this car.  It comes in boring colors, the Roof is always black, and there are almost no cool visual accouterments that can be put on this thing.  In short, its boring.  Hardly worthy of the Mini brand logo(which was supersized to look normal on the hood of this car, just fyi). 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dodge Charger (2011) - The Big, The Bad, The Ugly

Price: You better be 50cent if you want one that looks halfway decent.
Power: Plenty, but the car weighs as much as the titanic, so you still will get there the same time as a Prius...but with 5000x the gas bill.
Sex Appeal: Definitely sexy, but again at a price too steep to pay.  You also kind of need a fetish for large things if you want to live with the Charger on a day to day basis, because it is a biiiiig car.

The picture for this car is very deceiving.  It looks cool! It is red.  It has shiny rims! It has an air of...menace about it, almost like it is about to growl at you and bite your head off.  Cool, no? Definitely not.  What this picture fails to depict to the viewer is the immense size of this beast.  This car is HUUUUGE! Most people know the old Charger and recognize it as a monstrosity of American engineering.  This car is bigger by several inches and it definitely is noticeable in real life.  Dodge tried to hide the weight gain by putting a Jaguar-esque dimple of plastic all along the side door but it really doesn't do much for this car.

My other huge complaint besides the huge tracts of land that this car inhabits is the price.  American cars are notorious for charging an arm and a leg for every conceivable option.  You want stripes? 1000 bucks. You want rims bigger than tea cup saucers? 5000 bucks.  You want that "special edition" paint job? 3000 bucks.  What starts as a VERY boring and ugly sedan eventually turns into something so sexy any human being would want...for a price.  To put it in perspective, the base price for this car is around 25 thousand dollars.  Not that expensive for a family car that can hold 29.  However, the special edition model that actually looks halfway decent starts at around 45 thousand dollars, before a hefty dealer markup(think on the order of 15 thousand).  What you are left with is a car that costs the same as an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Lexus that has none of the street cred.

I know that the sexiness and appeal goes beyond the price of a car but this thing really doesn't "do it" for me.  If you put it next to one of the original Dodge Chargers (which I love!), it would be so big that you couldn't find the classic muscle car in its shadow.  This car is simply the result of GM thinking that big cars with really sh*** interiors are what people really want, which is definitely not the case.  If they had just shot this car with a shrink ray, put different plastic on the dashboard than is found on a hair-blow dryer, and charged a decent amount of money, the Charger would be a huge success.  However, they didn't. gets the raspberry.

2011 Mercedes C63 AMG -Muscle Car, brought to you by Germany

Price:  A lot.  This is not a cheap car.  Unless you are a lawyer, Dr., or very single and have been saving up for a very long time, don't even think about it.
Power: Ohhhhhhh yaaaaaaaaaaa
Sex Appeal: Screams rich douche back to everyone you drive by, but you will be going so fast that no one will ever know who you are, so its ok!

I was riding my bicycle to school today(UCSD) and had an almost...religious experience as a car lover.  For those you who don't know, in order to bike to UCSD you have to ride up Torrey Pines Hill which is roughly two miles long and rather steep.  I was nearing the top of the hill when I heard what I THOUGHT was thunder.  However, this thunder did not stop.  It keep rumbling and roaring for several minutes until like a flash of quicksilver a C63 AMG flew by me doing probably over 100MPH. It was then I realized that Germans really do know how to make cars.  Not only is the C63 AMG the same price as a Mustang GT500 (after a hefty dealer markup which perplexes me immensely), but it is a better car in every possible way.

The C63 is, I think, gorgeous.  It combines the right amount of German refinement with bulging body work normally reserved for ugly Japanese tuner cars.  If Arnold Schwarzenegger was a car, there is a very good chance this would be him.  The C63 is also one of the best sounding cars I have ever encountered.  The "63" in its name stands for the size of the motor: 6.3 liters. To put that into perspective, that is a bigger motor than is found in pretty much every car, including trucks, muscle cars, super cars, family sedans, vans, and the list goes on.

Drawbacks? I really can't think of any except for the fact that it doesn't have a manual.  I like manuals and I feel that every hardcore car should posses one.  But other than that this car is everything a man could ever want.  It can carry a family, a bike, yourself, some coffee, small dogs, and it will always be parked right in front of any restaurant by the valet, since they tend to show off the really nice cars(which this definitely falls under).

Friday, September 23, 2011

BMW 135i (2010) - Listen to that Growl!

Price: Reasonable to OMG, REALLY??? (Thanks goes out to BMW for making floor mats a 200 dollar extra)
Power: Enough, to way more than enough, to "honey I think I just s*** my pants"
Sex appeal: It's a chick car.  Always will be a chick car.  Dudes can just go cry about it in their bigger and more expensive 3-series.

I like this car but I must admit it took me a while to come to that realization.  When it first came out in the United States a few years ago, I had to weep a little because at first glance it looked like another EPIC failure brought to us by BMW's former(THANK GOD) chief designer, Chris Bangle.  Thankfully, however, the character lines along the top and bottom of the side paneling and door were smoothed out after about a year and it now proudly doesn't quite look as much like a bathtub as it used to.  The front end still bothers me a BIT since I like it when the bumper doesn't look like its glued on and is about to fall off(if you look closely at the picture, there is a weird line going off the top of the headlight straight toward the front left wheel).  This is of minor concern to me as BMW does this with pretty much all their cars now and, as a whole, the rest of the car looks splendid.

This pint-sized BMW comes as both a hardtop and a convertible.  It is one of the few that I would say GET THE SOFT TOP.  There are many reasons why you should never get a convertible but this car: A)looks better as a convertible(a rare feat),  B) the hardtop is still pretty ugly, so if you want to look like you have any taste at all besides your Louis Vuitton monetary holder, stay away, and C) you get to listen to the muscular, testosterone infused sound of the 135i turbocharged inline six motor.  For those of you who are not fanatics, it basically means the sun will be in your face, the wind in your hair, women will look right at home, and if you even look at the accelerator, you will blast off faster than anything less than a Porsche.

That brings me to my last point, this is a chick car.  I'm a dude, I've driven one, and all that did was confirm the fact I can't have one.  It sounds incredibly manly but if you look around while in one, you see a dozen 128i convertibles around you(the not-as-well-endowed counterpart), all of which are being driven by women.  No matter how fast you go, that dude in the Ford Mustang GT will totally judge you, and you will shrink behind the steering wheel as far as you can(about 1/8 of an inch) in an attempt to squeak: "This car is manly!"   Ya right.

There is hope though.  BMW released the 1-series M a while back and if you are rolling in the dough, that is a very manly car.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ford Fiesta (2011-?) - It's GREEN!

Price: Reasonable
Power: Enough for its size
Sex Appeal: For the male drivers, ladies will love your cute style.  For the female drivers, men will love your style and fashion.

I first came across this car watching Top Gear UK.  Had I not watched their review of this car I would probably not be so fanatical as I am.  (If you haven't seen it, you can watch it on youtube)  However, having seen that footage and since I am a HUGE fan of ostentatious colors, I think everyone should drive a green Ford Fiesta.  I mean look at it! This thing can be anything you want it to be: cute, cuddly, manly, sexy, feminine, you name it.

I base most of my biased opinions on whether or not I would drive it, and if I were in the market,  I would totally get a greeeen Ford Fiesta.  There is not a crowd this car doesn't appeal to.  It is fuel efficient so the tree hugging fruit cakes should love it, it has sizable interior room and storage capacity so it can easily replace that useless SUV in your driveway, it weighs as much as a fat dog so it should at least be reasonably fun to drive, and did I mention it's green?  You should have no problems smiling like an idiot every time you hop in and zoom off.