My last Rental Review re-ignited one of TTAC’s “third rail” debates, that of compact pickups versus their full-size brethren. For the uninitiated, this topic is only slightly less contentious than discussing the merits of Roe v. Wade on a 1970′s college campus. User krhodes1 commented that when it comes to small trucks versus an equivalently priced full-sizer “Sometimes paying more for less is worth it.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with this sentiment across the board, but I know someone who does when it comes to minivans: my mother.
I started contributing car reviews to TTAC back in 2006. Today’s is my last. But which car should I cover in my final TTAC review?
TTAC readers, this is the one you’ve been waiting for; a fun-to-drive, lightweight, stick-shift sports sedan that doesn’t require a home equity loan to purchase. Now, the question is, will anyone buy it?
Back when I reviewed the Scion FR-S, I wrapped up by saying I’d want to check out the latest Miata before I passed judgment on the bang-per-buck value of the Subuyopet. So, I called up the PR flacks at Mazda: “Hey, remember how I didn’t totally trash the CX-5 I wrote about in July? Yeah, so now the entire Toyo Cork Kogyo organization owes me, which means I need a Daimyo Class ticket on the next flight to Tokyo, a BLACK TUNED MX-5 waiting for me, and an honor guard of eight dekatoras to escort me as I cruise around looking for an Autozam AZ-1 to ship back to Denver.” Disappointingly, what I got was a US-market MX-5 Club Sport dropped off at a shuttle lot at George Bush International in Houston, to which I’d flown Misery Class in order to judge at the fifth annual Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons. I spent three days with a True Red ’13 Miata, mostly shuttling between my hotel in Angleton, Texas, and the race at MSR Houston. Read More >
Deciding what to do with a 662 hp muscle car was hard enough. Deciding what to do with the last pristine nearly new RX-7 in the country is even harder — because you can’t do anything with it, really. You certainly can’t street park it. I left it in an open lot the first night, only to discover that someone had put out their cigarette on the decklid. That was it. I ended up paying prices that would make a Manhattanite blush just so I could leave it in a covered multi-story garage visible from the bedroom window of my condo. Night after night I would stare at the slippery yellow shape under the glow of the cheap halogen lights, like a father staring at his premature baby in the neo-natal unit, checking and re-checking despite the near zero probability of anything bad actually happening.
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand. “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
In search of the compact crossover that best impersonates a hot hatch, we first examined the Volkswagen Tiguan. The Tig proved quick and composed, but expensive and softer than the typical Teuton. For a lower price and sharper handling, no brand holds more promise than Mazda. But focusing intently on driving enthusiasts with limited budgets hasn’t proved profitable. So with its latest products Mazda has been putting eggs in a second basket by also making fuel economy a top priority. The Mazda CX-5 is the first all-new product to emerge from Hiroshima’s new “SKYACTIV” dual focus.
So when Mazda called me up and asked if I’d like to sample a little of their driving heritage in a blatant PR move, I huffily told them that I could not in good conscience be complicit in helping further burnish their brand image as a manufacturer of sporting products. I reminded them that I thought the Mazda2 too slow, the Mazda3 too ugly, the Mazdaspeed3 possessed of worse torque steer than a one-legged unicyclist, the cabin of the MX-5 designed for people with short legs and prehensile elbows, and that they didn’t even build a rotary engine any more, so what was the point?
Naturally, I said all these things in my internal voice during the 3.7 nanosecond pause before, “OohyespleaseWhencanIpickitupHowaboutnow?”
Who’s ready for some yellow journalism? Read More >
The conventions of auto writing require that we come up with at least one labored metaphor for every comparison test, so here goes: You guys remember that movie It Might Get Loud? Obviously, the Scion FR-S is Jack White: deliberately stripped-down and retro, perhaps too self-consciously context-sensitive, adored without reservation by a bunch of people who have never signed a mortgage. The Genesis 2.0t R-Spec is the Edge: a lot of sharp edges and technical brilliance intended to cover up a fundamental deficit of talent.
The Miata? Well…
In our second installment, we take the Scion FR-S to the track, along with the heavier, but more powerful Hyundai Genesis 2.0T and its spiritual antecedent, the Mazda MX-5. Oh, and there are special guests from Japan and America.
After I reviewed a Mazda that’s no longer being made, I decided that perhaps my next Mazda review ought to involve a vehicle that’s actually available for purchase. We’ve experienced Jack Baruth’s impressions of throwing the CX-5 around Laguna Seca and Brendan McAleer’s extensive review of the optioned-up CX-5 Grand Touring, and now I’m going to share my experience of putting the base CX-5 Sport through the meat-grinder of a weekend enforcing discipline at a far-from-civilization 24 Hours of LeMons race. Read More >
Way back in December, I flew out into LAX to meet up with fellow 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court Justice Jonny Lieberman, so that we could jump into a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and drive it to the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 race 450 miles to the north. I’d been hearing all about the magical basement full of crazy Japanese-market cars beneath Mazda USA headquarters in Irvine, so I talked Mazda engineer and superstar LeMons racer Dave Coleman into giving me the tour. But how to get from LAX to my destination many miles behind the Orange Curtain? “Coleman!” I barked, “Get me an RX-8 press car, pronto!” So, he did. Now, six months later, here comes your Better Late Than Never Review of a car that, regrettably, is no longer being built. Read More >
Mazda makes fun cars. Too few car buyers care. Mazda has been losing buckets of money. What to do? Mazda is betting that a focus on fuel economy without going hybrid will reverse their fortunes without costing them a fortune. To deliver big mpg gains, and further enhance the driving experience as well, the folks in Hiroshima have creatively re-engineered conventional engines, transmissions, suspensions, and body structures, with an emphasis on light weight and improved efficiency. But talk is cheap. Do Mazda’s “SKYACTIV” innovations actually deliver?
LAGUNA SECA – It’s called the Corkscrew, and for good reason. Perhaps the single most famous piece of racetrack topography in North America, this left-right two-punch combo can unsettle an unsorted chassis just as fast as the steep 18% gradient can unsettle a novice driver’s stomach. Jack Baruth was here in the same car. I’ll try not to embarrass, nor soil myself.
As I enter the throwaway left-hander, I’m mentally muttering under my breath, “Aim for the third tree, the third tree.” Bris-ing the apex of Turn 8, it’s blue sky time, and I’m hard on the throttle, fully committed. Perfect. Both right wheels just kiss the curb with a faint rumble, and it’s through the right-hand sweeper fast and- wait. Too fast.
Rookie move: lift.
It happens fast. Off track. Rotating left. Into the dirt. Sliding. The tire wall rushing closer. I have time for just one thought… Read More >
Driving my old 993 to work at 5:30 this morning, listening to the blat of the Billy Boat exhaust competing with Corinne Bailey Rae’s sublime second album for my attention, I had a pair of random thoughts. First thought: I will never own a Ferrari, and that’s okay. This represents a sort of satori for me, because I’d always planned on buying a nice 575 or, resale and sense of aesthetics permitting, one of those awkward 612 Scags, after my all Porsches were paid off. The titles for said Porkers have been in my file cabinet for years now, but there’s no Memorandum Title for a long-nosed Italian next to them.
Second thought: I really, really, liked that CX-5 I drove two weeks ago.
I wonder if those two thoughts are related?
Regardless, something about the way I value and enjoy automobiles has changed. My desire to own the flashiest and sexiest whip I can (not quite) afford has been cauterized by endless exposure to “Cars and Coffee”, YouTube videos, and braying-donkey print-journos Facebook-bragging about selling their souls in exchange for temporary access to the transportation enjoyed daily by their betters. My notions of “fast” have been shattered by cars like Switzer’s thousand-horsepower GT-Rs and 997 Turbos. Fatherhood and occasional forays into performing music have given me new respect for something which can be parked on the street without concern. Racing in spec classes has led me to respect the rider, not the mount. The seemingly irrevocable decline of the American economy makes me wonder if it isn’t possible to consume a bit less and enjoy a bit more.
If the Ferrari 575 was the embodiment of my thirty-something philosophy — fast, brash, pedigreed, aggressive to a fault — then the Mazda CX-5 might just be my fortysomething philosophy embodied. It’s one of the few truly great cars I’ve driven since entering this business. How can a “cute-ute” with modest power and zero curb appeal be great?
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Read More >