The Truth About Cars » Manual The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Manual Want A Ford Fusion 6-Speed Manual? Too Late. Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:37:55 +0000 412x550ximage_2-412x550.jpeg.pagespeed.ic.bR00leczoj

Ford’s confusing strategy of pairing a 6-speed manual 1.6L Ecoboost and a 1.5L Ecoboost automatic on the Fusion just got a bit easier to understand. There’s only one choice now.

Reports say that the three-pedal Fusion is now dead, with the 1.5L engine the sole option for the Fusion’s smaller Ecoboost trim levels. Given what must be an absurdly low take rate, this is hardly surprising.

Last year, Bark M managed to take one for what may be our first Reader Ride Review. It might be the only independent account you’ll ever see of this car.

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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000


Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!


Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.


I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.


 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, and serves as editor-in-chief at After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Manual Wagons Total 0.0956% Of All New Cars On Sale: Cadillac Offers One, BMW Doesn’t Tue, 29 Oct 2013 18:31:17 +0000 Wagons

Juan Barnett of DCAutoGeek has compiled the definitive infographic on our favorite niche segment: manual wagons.  Using inventory from, Barnett found that of 2.4 million new cars current available for sale in America, just 2,336 or 0.09 percent are manual wagons. Subaru, followed by Volkswagen, are the big players in this very small market. BMW is sadly absent from this list, now that the 328i wagon can no longer be had with a stick, but Kia (the Soul is technically a wagon), Scion (ditto their two-box offerings) and Mini still make the cut, according to the government’s definition of a wagon. Who would have thought that Cadillac would replace BMW in these rankings?

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Not An April Fool’s Joke: Rear-Drive, Manual, Diesel Wagon For Sale In North America Mon, 01 Apr 2013 16:15:48 +0000

Want a BMW manual diesel wagon for under $10k? You can buy one right now, on Ebay (via Bring A Trailer), and if you live in Canada, you can legally register it.

One gentleman in Germany is offering a 1997 BMW 325tds wagon with a 5-speed manual for sale. The seller is offering to ship the car to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a major eastern port and a country where the car can be legally registered. The 2.5L diesel engine puts out 141 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, hitting 60 mph in a leisurely 9.9 seconds – between that and the very European cloth seats, I think I’d rather opt for a gasoline powered wagon, if I had my pick.

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Piston Slap: Automatic Decisions, Manual Trannies Tue, 12 Mar 2013 17:16:09 +0000 TTAC commentator hidrotule2001 writes:

Hey Sajeev,

A few months back you helped me sort out a plan of action for my Ford Fiesta transmission problems, and I have another stick-shift quandary I thought you might have some insight on.

My second vehicle is a 2003 Ram 1500 (bare bones work-truck, standard cab, manual everything), which I’ve recently been doing a lot of maintenance on (new plugs, pads, rotors, u-joints, carrier bearing, and a few other things). One issue I haven’t been able to sort out is an odd grinding/squealing I get when the car is in gear at high rpms (3000+) with the clutch peddle fully depressed (on the floor), something akin to what you hear if you come off the clutch with the shifter only part-way into gear.

Everything I can find on forums seems to indicate this is a worn throw-out bearing, but there seem to be a few things that suggest otherwise:
1) it only happens above a certain RPM (3000+), and makes 0 noise if the clutch is put in at lower revs
2) it only happens when in 1st gear, and occasionally in 2nd or 3rd (but much quieter in these cases)

I’ve had two local shops take a look at it, and neither was able to say more than it might be the throw-out bearing, or possibly some other bearing in the transmission, and they wouldn’t be able to say for sure unless they pulled the transmission out. I figure if it’s to the point that the transmission needs to be pulled, I should look at replacing the clutch (since it’s still on it’s first one, with 120k miles), and possibly some other transmission components, but that’s going to set me back a pretty penny (and it seems like throwing parts at a transmission problem is a good way to lighten you wallet quickly). I’ve also noticed that first and second gear are “clingy” and that when I shift back to neutral and/or have the clutch engaged, it takes substantially longer for the RPMs to return to idle than it does in higher gears, on the order of 2 full seconds(I’ve never noticed this in other M/T vehicles I’ve had, or if there was a difference it wasn’t noticeable). I’ve got a video where you can see the difference in time it takes to return to idle, as well as hear the grinding noise, here.  I’ve also found that the problem is worst when the engine is cold, for the first 10-15 minutes of driving after starting.

At the advice of some DodgeForum members I recently took the truck into my local independent shop to have the clutch, throw-out bearing, transmission fluid, and pilot bearing replaced, but my mechanic called back to say he was pretty sure those weren’t the cause of the issue. He’s convinced the issue is coming from something within the trans, possibly the counter shaft bearing, and was hesitant to replace components he didn’t think were causing the issue. His quote for a rebuilt transmission was 1700, with shipping and labor and a new clutch, that would end up around 2700, which is right about what the truck’s worth.

So now the question is, do I…

-Wait things out and see if they get any worse?
-Have the clutch components replaced anyway and see if that improves things?
-Have them pull the trans and hope it’s something easy to replace/fix?
-Look for a used trans and have that installed instead of a rebuilt one?
-Bite the bullet and have a rebuilt trans installed?
-Try my hand at a tranny-pull and see what trouble I can get into?

Thoughts/suggestion/voodoo-cures welcome. Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

You covered all the bases, short of learning how to rebuild gearboxes yourself.  Which is usually the big problem here: nobody knows what the hell is failing until a rebuilder takes it apart and assesses the situation. I consider transmissions (of all types) to be magic boxes of horror that you must never tear apart unless you are ready for a complete rebuild.  Obviously that doesn’t include accessible fail points like the clutch, torque converter, etc that aren’t encased within the gearbox itself.

Maybe you need a new clutch/throwout bearing/pressure plate/pilot bearing, but if your mechanic says no, I revert to my “magic box of horror” tranny theory.

Don’t worry about RPM hanging between gears, that’s part of the engine computer’s tuning. Not sure why it would hang more gears than others, but make sure you are driving the same way (intensity of throttle input, RPM speed before going into neutral, etc) in all gears to see if there actually is a problem. The hang in my Ranger was super annoying in all situations, so an SCT tune cured it…among other things. But I digress.

Back to your mechanic’s recommendation: let the transmission die, don’t change it immediately.  Just make sure you buy a good replacement from a trusted rebuilder.  If your local searches fail, get one from Jasper or a similar national distributor with a good reputation.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Today’s Strangest Manuals Wed, 06 Feb 2013 16:35:55 +0000

The manual transmission is dying.  We know this because other sites constantly run articles about the death of the manual transmission, predicting its final demise sometime in the next few years, weeks, or hours.  Personally, I realized the manual’s future was limited on my last couple of trips to Europe, when I was given an automatic without even requesting it.  On one occasion, I even returned the car without damage.

But while the manual may not be long for this world, there’s still the occasional vehicle that – against all odds, and market research – is offered with three pedals.  Some are listed below, and I hope to hear about many more obscure stick shifts in the comments.  Even if you’re TTAC’s top troll.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

Ferrari has dropped the manual transmission to the chagrin of precisely no one, except a few “purists” who like to heel-toe their 308 on the way to local FCA functions.  However, sometimes said purists strike it rich, presumably from selling their large collections of bright red Ferrari shoes, or sweaty underwear worn – and signed – by Michael Schumacher.

Until recently, Ferrari offered those purists a three-pedal 599 GTB – and their wives could have a stick shift California, too.  That’s no longer true, but there are always one or two manuals on the market.  Just ask the dealers that get stuck with them.

Mercedes C-Class

I mentioned in a previous story that the Mercedes SLK is available with a stick shift.  That kind of makes sense, as the SLK may fit the definition of a sports car for people who have never driven a Porsche, or people who have never ridden in a Porsche, or people who have never seen a Porsche, or people who work for Mercedes.  But through the 2012 model year, you could also get a stick shift C-Class – a baffling fact that can only be attributed to Mercedes accidentally sending a few to the States, then saying “Oh yeah, we meant to do that.”  This can also explain most of Land Rover’s products in the last 20 years.

Porsche Cayenne

In years past, Porsche was a bunch of crazy Germans making weird cars.  Witness the one-off, four-door 928; the 1989 Panamerica concept car, which included Porsche crests in the tire treads (really); and the “maybe today’s the day you die” 930.

Today, the crazy is mostly gone from Porsche, with one distinct exception: the manual Cayenne.  Yes, Porsche dealers will still sell you a new stick shift Cayenne, presumably under the condition that you trade it in somewhere else.  At one point, there was even a manual Cayenne GTS – now exclusively available at used car lots who didn’t pay enough attention at auction and thought they were buying an automatic.  Sadly, the three-pedal Panamera and Panamera S sold in Europe aren’t offered in the US.  Because that would be crazy.

Land Rover Discovery

To me, the Series I Land Rover Discovery is famous for two things.  One, when it rained, water would get into the interior dome lights and slosh around under cornering.  This didn’t break the dome lights, primarily because they were never working in the first place.  Number two: the first Disco was, from 1994 to 1996, inexplicably offered with a stick shift.  It was sold alongside the Defender, which also offered a manual, though the two have endured radically different fates.  While Defender owners can still get the original MSRP for their trucks, Disco owners must settle for roadside abandonment.  Manual or automatic, it will probably roll away.

Hummer H3

There’s nothing like the Hummer H3 – a fact other automakers would tell you is very much by design.  It’s blocky, aggressive, and inefficient – but also a rare example of badge engineering gone right, since it’s indistinguishably a Chevrolet Colorado underneath.  For some reason, that also meant it inherited the Colorado’s stick shift, which was offered up until the end in 2010.  Like the manual Cayenne GTS, stick shift Hummer H3s only end up at mistaken used car dealers, who then list it on AutoTrader with a bunch of interior photos angled away from the center console.

Lexus IS250

The first-generation Lexus IS300 offered, in addition to clear tail lights, a stick shift and a station wagon (though never together).  Enthusiasts liked the stick shift IS300, while positive reviews of the IS300 SportCross appeared in dozens of magazines, like Blind World and Blind Monthly.

Unfortunately, the second-gen dropped the wagon in favor of a hardtop convertible meant for divorcees who didn’t quite get a large enough settlement for an SC430.  The stick was relegated to the IS250, which had more power than a pacemaker, but slightly less than a midsize forklift.  Nobody bought it, but boy did it allow Lexus dealers to offer some great lease specials in the weekend newspaper.

Lincoln LS

Stunning, isn’t it?  Yes, you could get a Lincoln LS with a stick shift.  You had to get the V6 model and you probably had to undergo mental competency tests at the Lincoln dealer, which was unaware that a third pedal could be used for anything but the parking brake – but it existed.  Here’s the real kick in the teeth: as everyone knows, the LS shared everything except its handsome styling with the Jaguar S-Type, which uses a retro design to remind customers of a time when Jaguars were even less reliable.  And by “everything” we mean “everything:” yes, you could get a Jaguar S-Type with a manual transmission.

(Dodge) Ram 2500

Chevrolet dropped the manual heavy duty pickup after 2006, pissing off about eleven wealthy ranchers in the process.  Ford did the same after the 2010 model year, further angering another 19 cattle prod wizards.  But Dodge – or rather Ram, at least allegedly – still offers heavy duty models with a stick shift and what can only be described as a gear lever adapted from a walking cane.  A quick glance on AutoTrader reveals the price of these trucks can climb to $60,000, placing a fully-equipped, three-pedal Ram HD behind Porsche among the most expensive sticks on the market.

Hyundai Santa Fe

If nothing else on this list shocks you (really?  You’re not surprised by the Lincoln LS?), then this one should at least raise an eyebrow.  I’m not talking about the first-generation Santa Fe, and this is no soft top Suzuki.  The Hyundai Santa Fe could be paired with a manual transmission up until 2011, when the latest model finally pushed Hyundai to its senses.  Car companies make cars like this to advertise good deals, only to have the customer show up and discover they have to pay more for an automatic.  In other words, stick shift Santa Fe owners: you’re driving a marketing expense.


The BMW X3 could be ordered with a stick shift until 2010.  I’ve always fantasized about owning one, since the manual X3 (and its larger X5 sibling, which was available with three pedals through 2006) is just about the only SUV that is universally car-guy acceptable.  Unfortunately, BMW dealers seem to think a manual transmission is a luxury SUV is something of a godsend, so they’re invariably priced like automatics.  My advice: show up at the dealer and act angry when you “find out” it’s a stick shift.  Then haggle from there.  After all, the guy looking for the stick shift X3 isn’t going to get a discount.

Honda Insight

There’s no stick shift in the current Honda Insight.  That should be obvious, since the current Insight is just a ripoff on the current Prius, and the current Prius only offers a weird shift knob that includes a gear called “B.”

No, it was the first generation Insight that had a manual – originally as its only transmission – long before the CR-Z made underperforming manual hybrids with thin tires cool.  A CVT came later, but the stick stayed around until the Insight died in 2006.  At the same time, Honda offered another surprising manual hybrid: the original Civic Hybrid, which could be had with a stick from 2003 to 2005.

So there you have it: a few of the stranger manuals in recent memory.  I have no doubt TTAC readers will remind me of some that are odder still.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.

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Piston Slap: Honey, If You Do This For Me… Wed, 06 Feb 2013 12:40:39 +0000

TTAC commentator sastexan writes:

Sajeev -

One of my best friends is shopping to replace his Mazdaspeed6 for something a little more utilitarian that can hold his bicycle and gear in the back (frequent triathlete). Here’s the issue – he wants to get another manual shift car, but his wife is pressing for an automatic because she has never learned to drive stick.

And he is worried that he will get tired of this new car and want to donate to her and get rid of her CX-7 (he is seriously anti-SUV), but feels that if he goes automatic, that day will come very quickly. I suggested he find a good driving school and send her (and maybe a friend) to learn how to properly handle a stick shift and have some fun doing it. That could get her excited about the potential and won’t create marital strife of him trying to teach her to drive manual.

First, does the Best and Brightest think this is a good plan, and second, any suggestions for driving schools?

Sajeev answers:

Luckily for your friend’s marriage, he cannot pawn his wife off to a driving school: most teach the basics of car control, not how to drive a stick. You gotta accelerate/steer/stop before you attend, so it’s time to take matters into his own hands. Because everyone has their “must haves” in anything, especially in a life partner. And if there’s marital strife from this…well, perhaps he’s selling the wrong bill of goods.

Like friction modifier to the limited slip axle that is a marriage, your friend must show his wifey the value in driving a manual transmission.  It’s more interesting to drive, for starters. But more importantly, it makes her exponentially cooler than every other woman around him. Am I lying?

What man doesn’t want a woman that’s fun, exciting and maybe a bit more competitive and challenging?

How could you, a gearhead of a man, not go out of your way to excite a woman like that in return?

When sold on this promise, how can she resist? She becomes exciting to her man! She’s an object of desire!  She’s hooked, so he can teach without fear of her losing interest.  Or patience. This is how love should work. If you don’t believe me, ask my special lady friend.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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Piston Slap: Of Power Curves and Turbo Boost… Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:32:47 +0000 Chris writes:


In a couple recent Piston Slap articles you’ve mentioned that when driving car with a manual transmission its most efficient to accelerate with the engine near its torque peak, then cruise in the highest gear possible. This raised two questions in my mind:

1. Does the engine’s torque peak vary based on throttle position? From what I understand, power and torque curves are generated at wide open throttle. But would the torque curve look different at, say, 50% throttle? I’ve heard that exhaust backpressure can affect the torque curve (maybe this is a myth). Could throttle position have the same effect via intake vacuum? Speaking of intake pressure, that leads me to my real question:

2. How does your strategy of accelerating with the engine near its torque peak apply to a turbocharged vehicle? My car has a turbo and according to the manufacturer the torque peak is 2000 rpm. But clearly it’s not always capable of generating max torque at 2000. If I’m loafing along at 1800 rpm and floor the throttle it takes a very laggy second or so for the boost to build and its definitely past 2000 rpm by the time it starts really generating power. I’m thinking there must be a different torque curve for part-throttle acceleration, when the engine is either off-boost or not making full boost. I think this would also apply to an engine like Audi’s supercharged V6, where the supercharger can de-clutch from the engine under low load. Any thoughts on the most efficient way of accelerating in a turbo? Better to accelerate “on boost” at relatively low rpm and relatively wide throttle? Or accelerate with less throttle, keeping it out of the boost (but probably winding the tach up more to avoid moving at a snail’s pace)? Or just forget the whole thing, floor it and enjoy the wild turbo-torque surge?

If these are stupid questions, please disregard. These are just things I ponder while sitting in traffic… Keep up the great work!

Sajeev answers:

This is a fantastic question that I am totally not qualified to answer…but that hasn’t stopped me before, and it hasn’t stopped you lovely people from reading, so let’s do this thang!

Point #1: Yes, throttle position will affect the torque peak. Because an engine is basically just an air pump, if you have less throttle you have less air, less fuel and therefore less power.  Thankfully, with the advent of electronic fuel injection there are multiple mappings: older systems have a full and a part throttle program, and newer systems probably have several.  So I betcha you can maximize an engine’s efficiency at just about any throttle opening. Every application is a little different, and many are tuned to maximize performance with a computer reflash from an aftermarket programmer.

As a rule of thumb, and I’m ready to get slammed by engineers for saying this, backpressure (or a lack thereof) does indeed affect the torque output of an engine.  More importantly: backpressure isn’t a good thing, finding the ideal exhaust velocity to minimize backpressure while keeping the speed “slow” enough to not hurt torque output is crucial.  That’s why, in the past 10-15 years, we see far higher quality exhaust systems in all OEM applications: no crush bends in the tubes, cast iron manifolds that are shaped more like aftermarket tubular headers, and mufflers/catalytic converters that aren’t a significant restriction.**

Point #2: turbocharged motors are just like point #1 when it comes to power in part throttle applications. And every boosted application out there is different. Once again, and even more so, tuning makes ALL the difference in the world.  Because the turbo is a muffler/restrictor in the exhaust system, you want as little restriction behind it to ensure maximum efficiency: hence why the Dodge SRT-4 is muffler-less from the factory.

My gut feeling is that with any modern car, turbo or not, you need to give it more gas to cut through the slop of electronic throttle control/torque management to get into your torque peak quicker.  Spend less time accelerating and more time cruising, with traffic conditions in mind of course. That doesn’t mean you run wide-open throttle, either. There’s a happy medium out there, somewhere.

Off to you, Best and Brightest: I’m ready, I’m wearing my flame suit.

**Grab a catalytic converter from the 1970s-early 1990s. They neck down, restrict air flow, etc far more than the goodies I see today in cut-away diagrams at the auto shows.  We have come a long way, baby.




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QOTD: The Year’s Most Important Stories Thu, 13 Dec 2012 18:35:28 +0000

As the year comes to a close and we choose our most reviled cars of the year, it’s also worth reflecting on the most compelling narratives of the year.

At TTAC, we pride ourselves on covering stories that other outlets overlook. Whether it’s territorial disputes in China, overcapacity in Europe, a manufacturing boom in Africa or implosion in Australia, we do our best to deliver compelling content to you, the readers, and we’re always amused and intrigued by your comments. But our news judgement and yours don’t always align.

The floor is open to what mattered most to you. We’re cognizant of the fact that not everyone likes low-cost cars or Chinese sub-brands, so let us know what kept you reading this year.

Personally, low-cost cars and the proliferation of modular platform kits are most interesting to me right now.

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Super Piston Slap: NVH = Killing You With Kindness? Tue, 04 Dec 2012 19:20:30 +0000

While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness.  That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden.  Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in my 2011 Ford Ranger…well it was thrust upon me.  And it can happen to you, too.

There was a time when you could simply unscrew the factory shift knob on any basic machine (cough, 2011 Ford Ranger) and replace it with whatever the heck you liked.  Something with a little more style than stock. Or something with more heft, giving a nicer quality feel in your hands. I had a solid 8-ball shifter remaining from the T-56 swap in my Fox Cougar, and I certainly thought it would look choice on the truck. So I began pulling the factory part off. Oh man, what a mistake THAT was…

So apparently the shift knob isn’t a normal “twist and spin-off the threads” type of deal. The forums mentioned a way to pull really, really hard to pop it off the threads, and I’ve seen that done elsewhere on other vehicles…so I gave it a shot. While those scratches weren’t from my teeth, they sure felt like it. No dice.

I wound up ripping off the rubber knob skin with my Leatherman tool, then attacking the hard plastic covering with a ball-peen hammer.  I was left with this metal hunk, and the remnants of the plastic covering wedged between the shift lever and the shift knob.  How many vibration quelling layers are there to this thing? 

Back to the top photo. I wised up and did what others suggested: remove the shifter assembly.  Which is another multi-layer, sleeved, affair with NVH reducing content. But with one bolt, I made it all go away.  But was I gonna try to remove the factory knob on my workbench?  I already mangled the damn thing up pretty badly, and the scratches could be present when I install the 8-ball knob. So I punted on 4th down. I called in my kicker, eBay motors, and got what I really wanted instead. Sure it cost me a few too many dollars, but…well…

BAM SON!  What you see here is the chrome lever from the Ranger FX4 Level II, the aforementioned 8-ball knob, and the faux-leather boot from a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 Notchback. (Yes, I had to add the Notchback part, as that makes it cooler).  All this stuff together makes for a far superior design, deserving to be standard issue on ALL Rangers of the U-shift-it variety. Aside from the slick chrome plating (mixed feelings with all this black plastic) and the unbelievably better ergonomics of the FX4 lever, this part has very little NVH interference. To wit:

  • Huge, thick, air tight(ish) noise quelling rubber boot? Gone.
  • Multi-layer Knob sporting chintzy plastic and rubber covers?  Nope.
  • Sleeved shift lever with some rubbery stuff sandwiched between them?  History.

Now remember I said that the stock stuff can kill you with kindness? That doesn’t mean you want to be physically abused: word has it that the Hurst replacement is a bit over the top for most folks, even if the price is nice.  So the Ranger FX4 part has the right look and feel, and it’s a fantastic piece of OEM engineering. I can now shift without my elbow ever leaving the armrest.  The notchy engagement is now faster, and you can feel the notches instead of just wondering WTF is wrong with the gearbox. Vibrations through the shift knob are minimal, but present. Hammer the throttle in first gear and the lever emits a gearbox whine that–with my modified air filter housing and 2010 Mustang GT muffler–gives the DOHC Duratec Ranger a Pre War British sports car’s demeanor.

You can’t help but smile a little as you twist up the little Duratec Ranger through redline in the first three gears.  OR A LOT. This is just so frickin’ cool. And it’s so damn hard to find this anywhere in the world of new vehicles sold in North America.

My point? Just about any vehicle can be de-wronged, fixed to your liking. Don’t be killed by kindness, you need not be a victim any longer!

]]> 39 Capsule Review: 2013 Corvette 427 Tue, 04 Sep 2012 12:30:47 +0000
Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens.

The astronauts, of course, all drove Corvettes. GM gave a white ’62 to first-flyer Alan Shepard upon his return to Earth, then a Florida dealership provided subsequent one-year leasing deals to put astronauts behind the wheel of the latest models – clever PR for sure, and yet it seemed a perfect fit. While the very first ‘Vettes were more Piper Cub than Bell X-1, those that would be piloted by the likes of Gus Grissom and Alan Bean had the Right Stuff; the fastest and best machines America could produce.

Sixty years after GM built the first Corvette (and about fifty-six since they got the recipe right), here we are with an explorer on Mars, and it’s a robot with a sarcastic twitter feed. Heroes are scarce; the cult of celebrity now shines a spotlight on the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid. And as for the Corvette?

This convertible is the final sortie for the C6 ‘Vette; in production since 2005, the sixth-gen Corvette is now almost entirely overshadowed by the strong-selling Camaro. Rumors about the C7 flit about the internet at the speed of conjecture, but if you’d check the click-count, I’d warrant more attention is drawn by war-correspondence on the battle between the ludicrously powerful supercharged pony cars.

Still, there’s no denying the old girl’s a stunner. It’s not really a Z06 convertible, more a Grand Sport with extra add-ons like carbon-fibre body panels. Still, between the enormous alloys and serving-platter brakes, power bulge of the hood (also carbon-fibre), and those twin grey-blue stripes on the ethereal-white body, you can tell this car is something special: a tarmac speedboat.

It is, per expectation, as plastic as Heidi Montag’s left breast. Prodding the rear bumper lightly makes for some alarming flex. There’s little sense that this car is precision-engineered or built to last.

But then, these are the rules of Corvette-dom. ‘Vettes are a big Chevy V8 up front, rear-wheel-drive out back, flimsy body in-between and a woeful interior on the inside. Speaking of which…

It does not do to complain about the inside of a C6 Corvette overmuch. Everything you’ve heard about for the past eight years is true – the navigation system is dated, the quality of the materials seems unequal to the price-tag, and there are a whole host of minor annoyances. The top, for instance, has a manual latch that’s a bit fiddly and the power-folding mechanism balked several times.

But we know all this. We’ve had these shortcomings outlined to us time and time again until they’ve become gospel. Corvettes are fast, but they’re tacky. They’re uncouth. Someday the C7 might correct the short-comings, but the C6 just doesn’t measure up to European standard. Right?

Somehow, sitting in the 427, none of these “truths” seem to matter. Just as it looks from the exterior, the inside feels like that of a cigarette boat. Yes, the seats are more comfortable than well-bolstered, but this is a street-car, not a track-special coupe.

Already feeling preconceptions melting away, I push in the clutch and press the afterthought of a rectangular start button. Two minutes later, any thoughts of what a Corvette might be is left far behind in a cloud of burnt hydrocarbons as the 427 demonstrates, unequivocally, what it is.

This is a wonderful car. Absolutely wonderful. Not only is it immensely powerful, with the Z06′s seven-litre mill providing 505hp, but there is also little-to-nothing separating you from the experience.

Sure, all that power is harnessed by wide, sticky Michelin Pilot sports, and the balanced chassis is suspended on the hyper-adaptable and ICP-baffling Magnetic Ride Control suspension, but the 427 is anything but buttoned-down. Apply full throttle in second gear, feel the chassis yaw and hear the change-over as the exhaust baffles snap open at three thousand rpm and the ‘Vette roars its battle-cry.

An ’80s-style heads-up display starts rolling over green-lit numbers at a ridiculous pace. If you’re used to miles-per, you’ll think you’ve switched over to metric. If you’re used to metric, you’ll think you’re looking at a hundredths and tenths on a stop-watch.

The 427 roars down the on-ramp with the unstoppable thrust of a Saturn V. Without a roof, there’s nothing to muffle the thunder of that uncorked LS7; come off the loud pedal and the resulting crump-crump sounds like the echo of far-off artillery. If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.

Everything that was missing from my experience with the 911 can be found here. The ‘Vette has none of the finesse of the niner, and considerably less practicality. But it’s more honest somehow; analog, not digital – an F-14, not a flight simulator.

It’s unfair to call it crude; you’d not use the same epithet for a sledgehammer or a SPAS-12. The Corvette is simple, brutal, visceral and vital in a way other sports cars have forgotten how to be.

At the end of its production run, it’s just a funny plastic car with a gargantuan heart of pure aluminum. I love every single thing about it.

A 1967 427 Stingray once driven by Neil Armstrong is for sale on eBay right now, with bids rumoured to be in the quarter-million range. Ghoulishly, the car did not previously meet reserve when listed originally, but now is almost certain to reach a higher number with his passing.
It’s a battered old thing, clapped-out and badly treated, with hacked-up fender flares and a patina of abandon. Still something special though; something worth preserving.

It’s hard to imagine a modern astronaut behind the wheel of the modern 427. Not that slipping the bonds of Earth takes much less courage than it used to, but there’s less of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants air about it.

These days something like an autonomous car might be more appropriate. Or, given the successful flight of SpaceX (one step closer to Weyland-Yutani), perhaps a Model S?

No, this is not a car for today’s scientist-explorers. Instead, it’s a link back in time, an appropriate flag-bearer to mark the 60th anniversary of an exceptional automobile.

Its replacement, the C7, will no doubt be a refinement in many ways: proper seats, improved in-car amenities, better electronics, reduced fuel-consumption, probably faster as well.

Tough to say, though, whether actually any better than this, the last hurrah for the sixth-gen Corvette.

Because it’s a God-damn rocketship.

]]> 91
Off-track Excursion – 2013 Ford Mustang GT Take Two Fri, 15 Jun 2012 13:00:30 +0000
You can read Jack Baruth’s extremely thorough track-test of the 2013 Mustang V8 here.

All right stop, collaborate and listen:
The Mustang’s back in a brand-new edition,
Recaros, grab a hold of me tightly -
Flow through the corners daily and nightly
“Will it ever stop?” Yo, I think so,
It’s got grabby pads and brakes by Brembo.
To the extreme: a drag car that can handle,
Light ‘em up, stage, then wax a chump like a candle.

Right, I think that got all the Vanilla Ice out of my system. Let’s drive this damn thing.

It’s brony week at TTAC and things are looking good for Ford with Back Jaruth Jack Baruth Beardy McShinyshirt calling the ‘Stang, “the best, most thoroughly realized product Ford makes.”

Oh, Ford makes this thing? Well that’s weird: why there aren’t any dang Ford badges on it? I’ve got a galloping steed up front, “5.0” on the flanks and a big ol’ GT belt-buckle out back so that the guy in the 3-series knows that at least he didn’t get smoked by a V6.

Welp, there ain’t no bow-ties on a ‘Vette neither. The Mustang is a brand all to itself, which is exactly why it has such a clear feeling of identity. This latest edition obviously has the blood of its sixties ancestors pounding in its veins, although I can’t say I’m in love with the tweaked front end. It looks like Moose thinking about something sad.

This car is American, inside and out. Frankly, I love it. The materials aren’t luxuriant – dear me, no – the pebbled dash is textured like the backside of a vulcanized rhinocerous and why does chrome-look plastic even exist? Why? Matte-black would do just fine.

The steering wheel is leather everywhere you don’t touch it and plastic at the 9- and 3- o’clock positions. And the retro-look speedometer is useless with metric markings, but serve me right for living in an igloo.

Ignore all that. The Recaro seats fit perfectly, the cabin is clean and simple and spartan and it feels really well put-together. You get the feeling that the person (well, robot, I suppose) that screwed all the plastic bits down watched the car go out the factory door with a satisfied nod. Made in America, and that’s a good thing.

I suppose I should mention something about the on-board infotainment entermation. The optional Shaker Pro system is incredibly loud and comes with an after-thought trunk-mounted subwoofer that looks like a metastasizing desktop PC. If you play Motörhead through it at high-volume, all vegans within a five-mile radius spontaneously combust. Fun!

But then, the glorious V8 soundtrack is about half the reason to buy a GT over the V6 in the first place; why cover it up? Save your money for an aftermarket exhaust. Or, just put the window down.

Overall, the inside of the Mustang’s a bit like a pair of jeans. Not useless skinny jeans nor saggy-crotched baggy jeans nor hyper-expensive ass-framing euro-denim. Just jeans. The kind you wear when you’re going to fix something or hammer nails into stuff. “Getting-shit-done” pants.

Yeah, that’s it. The inside of the Mustang feels like a place where you Get. Shit. Done.

This is the ranch, where I keep my four hundred and twenty horses. They’d like to run to 7500rpm. Too bad the fuel cut hauls on the bridle at 7K.

The Coyote loves to rev. Point that big nose down the on-ramp, stomp on the throttle and don’t forget to shift – there’s no top-end dead zone to remind you. 1-2 from a roll-out around town is giggle-inducing; 2-3-4, you shut up and pay attention.

As a sort of sauerkraut sorbet to whet my palate pre-Stang, I spent a few days behind the wheel of six-speed M3. Let me just put this out there: while the ‘Stang’s Chinese-sourced 6-speed may be inferior to the Boss Tremec option (deferring to the opinion of my colleagues here), it’s better than the Bimmer’s. And, dare I say it, I like the Mustang’s engine better too.
And then there’s the cornering…

Whoever designed the Mustang’s traction control was either a genius, or a red-neck, or a redneck genius. Mishandle the ‘Stang, yank at the wheel and stomp on the go-pedal and the back-end riverdances about like Michael Flatley, pulling back just before it falls right off the stage.

Sure you can disable it for the track, but on the street it’s less hand-slapping e-nanny and more Master P: shake dat ass – but watch yo’self! Stickier tires would not go amiss though.

This car had the glass roof, high-mounted weight which should theoretically affect the handling like a lead cycling helmet. That and the soft-ish suspension might have track-addicts hunting down the Boss instead – or heading for the aftermarket. As a street car though, you’ll be having too much fun to care.

There’s a caveat. For all the talk of muscle-car-turned-sports-car, the Mustang is a big machine. With an upright seating position and long front-end, it’s like being in a canoe (albeit a canoe with twin Mercury outboards) compared to the “sit-in” kayak hip-pivot feel of something like a MX-5. Not disconcerting, but something to get used to if you’re stepping out of anything lighter than 3000 pounds.

And then there’s the fuel economy which is not… good. If you’ve got a commute, and you’re on the fence about the V6, be aware that you won’t get any pleasant surprises from the V8.

But I pay for my own gas when I’m evaluating a car, and I begrudged the V8 not a single drop. Sure it did a pretty thorough job of processing petrochemicals into noise and shimmy, but I expected it to.

There are basically just two kinds of cars in the world. There are those that you climb into after a long day’s labour and suddenly you find yourself half-way home on autopilot, living out the Talking Head’s “Once in a Lifetime”.

Then there are those cars that straighten out the workday slouch and quicken your step as you walk towards them in the empty parkade. You’ve put in extra hours to make the bigger payment and the nine-to-fivers are already gone for the day.

Rush hour has tailed out, the roads are quiet and you pause before you crank the starter to mute the radio and drop both windows. The Coyote barks, hollow echoes bouncing off the concrete. Dinner’s in the fridge, kids already in bed – no need to drive straight home.

Yo. Word to your mother.

Ford Canada provided the car tested and insurance.

]]> 59
Mrs. McAleer Rows Her Own. Wed, 06 Jun 2012 17:06:46 +0000

As noted in a triumvirate of TTAC reviews, the Scion iQ is a fun little box that’s hobbled by a somewhat crappy CVT transmission – though, it should be noted, not to the “’Tis but a scratch” extent that the SMART is de-limbed by its godawful gearbox. The above text message was received from my wife after she drove one briefly.

Naturally, after telling her how disappointed I was in her total lack of ethics, I felt rather pleased. When I met Katie, she was a dedicated cyclist and transit-taker who hadn’t bothered to get her driver’s license until her early twenties. With a series of Acura mid-sizers rotating through Dad’s driveway, she regarded the car as either an appliance or a necessary evil.

And then, along come I with my idiotic fervour for the things. Sure, I gave up my first car for the engagement ring, but when we got married I bought a Ford Escort GT with a 5-speed and set out to teach my new wife how to drive it.

It wasn’t easy. There were frustrations and setbacks, tantrums and whining and sometimes I thought the tears would never stop coming.

She wasn’t that thrilled about it either.

I toyed briefly with the idea of pitching this article with a more instructional bent: “How to teach your spouse to drive stick.” But that opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms about the sexual politics of driving, perhaps a topic for another time.

What’s more, it’s not like I could get you past the first step anyway. I did have strong and persuasive arguments about the necessity of learning to drive a manual car – what if there was an emergency, like if I accidentally tripped and accidentally repeatedly fell on some beer and it accidentally repeatedly spilled into my mouth and I accidentally repeatedly swallowed it and became accidentally incapable of driving, accidentally? Very. Convincing.

But, like so many things in a successful marriage, convincing was less important than compromising. I would attempt to reduce the amount of commuting I did by car, and she would, in turn, endeavour to learn to work a clutch and a five-speed.

As we’ve covered, driving a manual transmission is not manly. It’s not always more efficient. In most cases though, it is more fun.

Certainly, it made the little Escort somewhat enjoyable. 1991 and newer ‘Scort GTs are fairly interesting cars to drive as they’ve got a Mazda BP powerplant and decently nippy handling characteristics. Add a stick and burlap-based interior fabrics and you’ve got the makings of a Great Little Beater(tm).

It’s important to have a car you don’t really care about for any kind of instruction. Gears will be ground. Starter motors will be durability tested with repeated stalling. You will be participating in the dance known as the “bunny-hop”. Acrid clouds of clutch smoke will hang over the proceedings.

The Escort was as ideally suited to this sort of abuse as a Labrador Retriever is to a toddler’s ear-pulling. The 1.8L engine had modest power, but reasonable torque off the line, the clutch engagement was forgiving and the shifter had fairly wide-spaced gears.

Better yet, we had a ideal setting to learn in. The Gulf Islands off the coast of B.C. are sparsely populated in the off-season and we used to spend a fair bit of time on Galiano Island, where we were married.

Without worrying about traffic holding up traffic, and with plenty of rolling hills to provide challenges once the basics were mastered, it provided as low-stress environment as you could hope for.

One trick I learned that might be of use is to actually get out of the car and coach while walking beside it. In the same way that it becomes strangely difficult to parallel-park when someone’s sitting in the car with you, removing the audience seems to help things go more smoothly.

My wife has three degrees, including a Medical Doctorate. She’s an accomplished musician and chorister and has sung at Carnegie Hall. She’s also a surprisingly fast long-distance trail-runner. Currently, she spends her time as a palliative care physician, balancing an encyclopaedia of medications with exacting fineness, freeing her patients to reclaim the balance of their lives from either pain or opiate fog; caring for the dying and their families with empathy and grace.

In light of these achievements it is colossally stupid of me to be overly proud of her ability to operate an anachronistic automotive control system. Oh baby, work that steering-wheel mounted manual spark advance.

But I am proud of her, and I must confess to always bumping up my admiration of any person when I learn that they drive a stick. Competence is just plain cool.

And, miracle of miracles, now she actually prefers self-rowers! What’s more, having been somewhat spoiled by the generous horsepower of our daily-driver WRX, she’s the first to turn up her nose at a press car for being too dull.

Picking up an Acura for review, the Honda rep urged me to sign out the new CR-V: “I know you’ve driven it already, but let your wife drive it. She’ll really enjoy it!” Not even close.

A modern car will do a lot for you. It’ll tell you if people are in your bind-spots, figure out how to stop you if you just slam on the brakes, keep you on the road with stability control and take the guesswork out of highway-driving with radar-guided cruise-control. Some will even handle the parking for you, and it won’t be too long before some are taking on at least a portion of the actual driving duties.

Every electronic nanny, every helpful gizmo or warning-light whatsit is one more step away from being a driver and one step closer to becoming a passenger. Introducing a stick-shift into the equation pushes the sliding scale back a little bit. It makes a dull car interesting. It can make someone who doesn’t care about cars understand why you do.

I always knew I’d teach my kids how to drive stick. My father taught me at a very young age, putting our Land Rover into low-range and letting me trundle around the back-forty at a walking pace.

We’re just a few months away from finding out whether our first will be a boy or a girl: it’ll be years and years before we get to the point where that particular lesson needs to be taught. But, when the time comes, it’s not a lesson I’ll be teaching alone.

]]> 48
2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon Coming Here: Will We See A Diesel Stick-Shift? Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:26 +0000

Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains.

We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d and 330d. A 335i is conspicuously absent, but with two torquey oil-burners, who cares? The 320d, with 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque returns 52 mpg. A 330d with 250 horsepower and 358 lb-ft of torque will also be offered, but BMW is being coy, stating that American spec models will be announced at a later date.

What will be offered is xDrive all-wheel drive, all the usual overwrought F30 3-Series gadgets, and a power tailgate similar to the 2013 Ford Escape, that can be opened be sweeping your foot underneath the rear bumper. And no, we’re not sure if the diesels will get a stick shift. The 328i will surely get a 6-speed manual as well as the 8-speed T1000 Cyborg Automatic.

133serieswagon01 133serieswagon02 133serieswagon03 133serieswagon04 133serieswagon05 133serieswagon06 133serieswagon07 133serieswagon08 133serieswagon09 133serieswagon10 133serieswagon11 133serieswagon12 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 133serieswagon14 133serieswagon15 133serieswagon16 133serieswagon17 133serieswagon18 133serieswagon19 133serieswagon20 133serieswagon21 133serieswagon22 133serieswagon23 133serieswagon24 133serieswagon25 133serieswagon26 133serieswagon27 133serieswagon28 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 89
Pre-Production Review: 2013 Scion FR-S Wed, 09 May 2012 13:00:49 +0000

Scion has had a sordid past. Originally, Scion was Toyota’s solution to a lack of 18-25 year old shoppers. Over the past 9 years however Scion has lost their way and lost their youth. Their median buyer just turned 42. The tC coupe, which started out as a car for college kids, now has a median buyer of around 30. Scion claims the FR-S is a halo car – to me, that means the FR-S will be bought by older drivers (who can actually afford it), attracting younger buyers to their showrooms. Despite being out of the target demographic, Scion flew me to Vegas to sample the FR-S’s sexy lines to find out.

The rear-drive layout, boxer engine and low center of gravity all play out in the car’s distinctive exterior. Toyota claims it was meant to pay homage to classic Toyotas of the past, but if Porsche and Lotus were charged with penning a Scion, this is what it would look like. Our time with the FR-S was limited to a 100 mile drive and about 6 hours of SCCA style autocross and road course track time in a pre-production FR-S. Jack will be flogging a production FR-S on track sometime this summer, assuming the stars align.

Inside, Scion opted for snazzy faux-suede instead of the coarse fabric of the base Subaru BRZ (the BRZ is available with  leather/faux-suede seating in the Limited model). Scion also swapped out the silver dash trim for something that looks like it might be imitating carbon fiber but is actually a motif based on the letter “T.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like all Scion models, the standard radio is a Pioneer unit with standard Bluetooth and iPod/USB interfaces. Instead of bringing Toyota’s Entune system to the Scion brand, Pioneer was engaged to bring their “App Radio” into what appears to be its first OEM use. Unlike traditional nav systems, the “BeSpoke” system (as Scion is calling it) is essentially just an iPhone app. The app runs solely on your phone and the head unit merely controls the app and displays the video generated by the phone. This means an iPhone is required for it work (Android phones are not supported.) It also means navigating eats up your data plan and you must be in a cellular service area for it to work. The system is expected to cost under $90 and since it’s an App on your phone, it’s never out of date. Much like iDrive, BeSpoke will also offer Facebook, Twitter and internet radio integration.

Under the lies the fruit of the Subaru/Toyota marriage: a 2.0L direct-injection boxer engine. Although it’s based on Subaru’s Impreza engine, it has been re-engineered to incorporate Toyota’s “D4S” direct-injection tech. The addition of GDI boosts power by 52HP to 200HP. Since the engine is naturally aspirated, the torque improvement is a more modest 6lb-ft bringing the total 151 at a lofty 6,600 RPM, while peak horsepower comes in at seven grand. Despite the online rumors, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis indicated there will be no turbo FR-S.

Since the FR-S is intended to be “baby’s first track car,” Scion’s event was held at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada. Out on the track, the FR-S isn’t as slow as an early Miata, but it’s not especially quick either. However, the low center of gravity and light curb weight make the FR-S fairly adept in the corners, whether you’re on track or on an autocross course. The lack of torque is the one major blight, whether on or off track. This deficiency was made more obvious by my trip landing in the middle of a week with Hyundai’s 2013 Genesis 2.0T which delivers more power at far more accessible RPMs, despite its porkier stature.

Unlike most “sporty” RWD cars, the FR-S is tuned toward neutral/oversteer characteristics. When combined with the standard Michelin Primacy HP tires, the FR-S is far more tail happy on the track than the V6 Mustang or Genesis 2.0T. The lively handling is undoubtedly more fun, but inexperienced drivers beware:  getting sideways can be hazardous to your health, not to mention your insurance premiums. Without empirical numbers, I cannot say if the FR-S will out-handle the Genesis 2.0T on the track, however the Genesis feels more composed and less likely to kill you, thanks to a chassis tuned towards understeer and staggered 225/245 series tires (front/rear.) Contrary to the web-rumors, the FR-S is not shod with “Prius tires” as we would know them. The Primacy HP is a “grand touring summer tire” with “lower rolling resistance” tech added. The tire is used on certain Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 models and a JDM market only Prius “with performance pack.” Still, the tire isn’t as “grippy” as the FR-S deserves, so buyers should plan on swapping them for stickier rubber ASAP.

Scion’s “single-price with dealer installed options” philosophy continues. Starting at $24,930, the only options are: $1,100 for the automatic transmission, around $900 for the BeSpoke radio and a variety of wheels, spoilers and other appearance accessories. That’s about $1,295 less than the BRZ, although the gap narrows to almost nothing when you add the BRZ’s standard navigation system and HID headlamps. The nicer standard upholstery, more controlled pricing and a plethora of manufacturer supported (and warrantied) accessories make the FR-S a compelling choice vs the BRZ, but speed daemons will want to drive past the Scion dealer and test drive the Genesis 2.oT. If you want an FR-S, be prepared to wait as Scion expects supplies to be somewhat limited starting June 1st.

 Scion flew me out to Vegas, put me up in a smoky casino and provided the vehicle, insurance, gasoline, track time and admission to the state park for the photography.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

Fuel Economy: 22MPG average over mixed roads (track time not included)


2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Scion logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, FR-S logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Boxer Engine Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats and dash, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, 2.0L boxer engine, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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2013 Honda Accord Gets Sport Model, CVT For 4-Cylinders, 6-Speed Manual For Certain Trims Tue, 08 May 2012 15:41:36 +0000

A leaked spec sheet (from Temple of VTEC)  for the 2013 Honda Accord shows that manuals aren’t dead yet, but CVTs are also in – at least for 4 cylinder models.

The CVT will replace Honda’s automatic transmission for 4-cylinder Accords, while V6 cars will retain the option of a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The 6-speed manual will be offered on all 4-cylinder sedans save for the EX-L. V6 sedans will be available only with the automatic, while 4-cylinder and V6 coupes can be had with the stick shift. Those who want a two pedal coupe can choose from a 4-cylinder and a CVT or a V6 with the automatic.

Also available for 2013 is a “Sport” trim level on the sedan, which will ostensibly compete with the Toyota Camry SE. The Sport will be available with either a manual or CVT gearbox. V6 models have a cryptically named “TRG” package – perhaps it stands for “Touring”?

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Piston Slap: Always Trust, But Verify Mon, 05 Mar 2012 12:35:11 +0000


Patrick writes:

Okay, I have a question. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule, or only perform demand maintenance?

Of course I love buying cars where the previous owners were diligent and could prove it. I do a hybrid, I change fluids regularly but do the rest as demand (with exceptions.) Timing belts on interference engines an example of an exception.

Sajeev answers:

As much as I’d like to say you always–without question–follow the owner’s manual, Toyota and VW/Audi ruined that delusional notion with their engine sludging problems a few years back. It doesn’t matter if its your significant other, ex-significant other, someone you wish was your significant other, mother, co-workers, best friend, or the dude that bags up your grocery: always trust, but verify.

The people behind the words in your owner’s manual have the best intentions, but nobody knows how every subsystem in every powertrain fares after 3-10 years of use.  It’s completely impossible to know without never-happening powertrain changes (i.e. Panther Love) so I shall say it again: always trust, but verify.

So let’s pretend that you, dear reader, actually give a crap about your ride. But you don’t have the time/money/interest to ship fluid samples off to see when exactly your oil, coolant or brake fluid isn’t 100% functional. So perhaps you should flush out the brake system on every 2nd brake job, just because you live in an area of high humidity and you feel the pedal in your car is too spongy. I mean, the mechanic is already working in front of every bleeder valve: why not spend a few more bucks for another bottle of brake fluid? Or change transmission fluid annually because you tow a lot of heavy things in your line of work. Sounds fair.

I often do an oil change when it smells a little smoky and has 8-10,000 miles on it. Or just do whatever the dash light says, as it considers your driving habits.  I have yet to hear that a maintenance minder came on when it was too late: they err on being conservative.

Your “Hybrid” notion can be a good choice, as long as it doesn’t justify something ludicrous like the 3000-mile oil change on damn near any car running modern oil.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Perhaps “trust but verify” is a dark way to live your life. But maybe it’s the best way to believe in yourself, making yourself accountable for the actions around you. Because we do have control over many aspects of our lives, whether we choose to exercise control is always a delicate balancing act of time/money/interest.

Example: I recently spent a ton of bread getting the Terrazzo floors in my new home wet sanded, chemically cleaned and then epoxy-coated like a race garage.  Turns out they couldn’t get the stains out, for a fairly good reason. Instead of getting pissy and demanding a lower price, I paid them and was on my merry way. I had no interest in fighting that battle. But I did trust them, and they let me down. I had no way to verify their process/conclusion at the time, so I gave up. I got bigger fish to fry.

And perhaps you do too.  So maybe you should just read the manual and listen to your dashboard.


Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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New or Used: Wagon + Stick = Trouble? Fri, 13 Jan 2012 13:32:43 +0000  

Aaron writes:

Hi! I’ll try to be concise.

I have a 2003 A4 manual sedan with 78K. I wanted a wagon but couldn’t find one and was in a hurry for wheels. Well, now I found one: 2003, manual, 107K. It’s at a dealer lot. Plus it’s got some desirable performance modifications, including exhaust.

The question: what will the dealer think of a trade? If my mechanic likes it i wouldn’t object to a straight trade, maybe even a (very) little cash from me if the timing belt is new. But are wagons with sticks and rumbly exhaust desirable? What’s it worth relative to mine? It seems like the similarity of the cars (same drivetrain, options, etc) should make this comparison location- and current market- independent.

I’m going to take the car for an inspection tomorrow, and offers may be made thereafter.

Steve Answers:

It depends on the condition and the history.

On the surface you would assume that a wagon with a stick would be a less desirable vehicle. But when it comes to a sporty oriented vehicle, there are plenty of buyers willing to row their own gears and go for the ‘unpopular’ body style.

Unfortunately for you Audi wagons aren’t popular. Just expensive.

When it comes to premium brands like Audi, I always look at condition first. Why? Because when it comes to picky buyers the condition is what sells it. I can convince a buyer to move from a station wagon to a sedan if that vehicle comes with something that most others do not.

Dealer records. A clean car with a perfect history. You may chuckle at all these dealer derived cliches, but the ease of sale and extra cash these models bring is very real in the retail marketplace.

Which brings me to the prior owner for this wagon. Do you know him yet? Do you plan on getting to know him? A thorough inspection will always uncover a few things. But the most important question to consider is, “Why did the guy get rid of his vehicle?”

I would strongly suggest that you try to get in touch with the prior owner and weigh it all in. Many dealers will tell you what you want to hear. But the prior owner can tell you what you need to know.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Steve covered all the dealer angles of this, except for one: modified cars are death for resale and a nightmare on floorplan costs on a normal dealership.  This car is excellent fodder for a specialty tuner/hot rod shop, because they have an appreciation and the patience to wait for the right buyer. I am sure this car is awesome, it sounds like it’d certainly ring my bell. But I will play devil’s advocate for one reason: personal experience.

Even a Hot-Rod Lincoln fanatic like myself was a little put off when a supposedly “mint, granny driven” Lincoln Mark VIII at a local Hyundai lot actually had Flowmaster mufflers upon closer inspection.  Very few grannies want to hear the rumble of “flowbastards” in their ride, no matter how sweet it may sound on a 4-cam Ford V8. It seemed like a proper granny car that was bastardized by a second owner. My gut suggested I didn’t want to be the third owner of such a machine.  Which isn’t totally relevant to your situation, but there’s more.

The mufflers made the other minor flaws (interior trim abuse) a little more worrisome. The Mark VIII I wound up owning was truly stock, had a bona-fide service history (with recent repairs on typical fail points) but had cosmetic issues the flowmaster-Mark did not have…even then, I bought it. I modded it to my tastes and was much happier. And almost 10 years later, I have no regrets. Zero.

So when you combine these things:

  • Station Wagon
  • Old Audi, no warranty (i.e. this isn’t a cash cow like a CamCord, Tacoma, etc)
  • Stick shift
  • Modifications, including a “louder than stock” exhaust

You wind up with a vehicle that’s very hard to shift off a car lot. Odds are you are one of the few people interested in this vehicle.  But, if the car is as cool as you make it sound, the dealer might have you by the short hairs. That is, if you showed any interest in the modifications.

For your sake, I hope you frowned upon those modifications. I also hope the mods don’t imply that the car was abused: many a modified Audi is driven hard, making for a powertrain that’s frightfully expensive proposition to keep running. Clutches, axle shafts, transaxles, you name it! If you haven’t already, be a regular on the forums and get good with tools and service manuals.

My advice? Unless you are totally amazed by how it sits, get a stock one and modify it later.


Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Review: 2011 Ford Mustang V6 Take Two Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:23:38 +0000

My brother wasn’t the most adventurous member of the family. When we were kids he was always whining: “mommy I don’t wanna go in the hot air balloon”, “mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony”. These memories came flooding back when I stepped out of a cute, light little Fiat 500 and into the high-beltline V6 Mustang. As the Mustang pulled up, my first thought was: mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony. My problem with the Mustang V6 wasn’t the car itself, it was the driver: me. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid my Mustang was killed by the Mustang II. Maybe it was because the last 5.0 was really just a weak-sauce 4.9. Before I even got behind the wheel, I was asking myself: what is the point of the pony car? Is it just to look cool? Deliver easy burnouts? Why not buy something else? The new V6 ‘stang is headlined as the holy grail of RWD car shopping; 300+ HP, 30+ MPG or as I like to say: all the hoon, half the gas. Because of the hype I had to see for myself if the V6 pony car is the perfect RWD companion, or should if $22,000-32,000 would be better spent on something else. Let’s find out.

From the outside, the Mustang checks all the right boxes for me: it’s big, it’s bold, it’s brash. The same could be said of the Camaro, except that somehow the Chevy’s form ends up being a tad cartoonish for my tastes. The Camaro reminds me of that kid in high school that tried too hard to be cool and ended just up being weird instead. The Challenger is as true to the old muscle car form as any, and is perhaps my favorite style-wise in this segment. The 370Z’s simple lines are in many ways the most conservative in the segment, and the Hyundai Genesis being fairly unique among coupes. Of course style is very much a matter of personal taste, and the Mustang’s look may not be to your liking. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Let’s talk engines. While the Mustang’s design has historically evolved slowly over time with evolution not revolution describing the chassis and drivetrain changes, 2011 is different. While last year’s Mustang received the same 210HP 4.0L V6 and 4.6L “modular” V8 (that trace their history back to 1968 and 1991 respectively), the 2011 model year brings not one, but two new engines to the plate. While the power-hungry in the crowd will gravitate towards the new 5.0L “Coyote” engine with its 412 or 444 horses (GT vs Boss 302), the 305HP 3.7L V6 is what we’re here to talk about.

Ford’s 3.7L engine is a member of Ford’s new V6 family introduced in 2006. This family includes the 3.5L engine in the Ford Edge and the 3.5L twin-turbo direct-injected V6 in the Taurus SHO. For Mustang duty, Ford opted to fit the 3.7L variant with dual variable valve timing, skipping over turbos and direct injection no doubt to keep costs low, the V6 ‘stang starts at $22,310 after all. This means Ford’s new V6, like those from Japan, needs to rev to produce the advertised numbers. For someone that’s driven Ford’s previous generation pony cars, this high-revving nature takes some adjusting to get used to.

The exhaust note of the new Mustang doesn’t sound like other high-revving V6s like the 3.7L from Nissan which is like a siren call enticing you to rev the nuts off the engine. Instead, the Mustang reminds me of a mid-90s Pontiac with an exhaust tuned to highlight a low burble. Noise aside, there’s no arguing with the numbers, the new V6 produces 305HP at a lofty 6,500RPM (up a whopping 46%, or 95HP from the old 4.0L V6). Because the V6 isn’t force-fed, the torque gain is a more modest 15% increase to 280lb-ft at 4,250RPM.

While many reviews bemoan the high-revving needs of the V6 compared to the V8-packing GT, the numbers match up against the competition favorably with the Genesis 3.8 sporting 306HP @ 6300RPM and 266lb-ft at 4,700RPM, the 370Z packing 332 at 7,000RPM and 270lb-ft at a very lofty 5,200RPM and of course the Camaro V6 at 312HP at 6,500RPM and 278b-ft at 5,100RPM. Combine this with recent reports that Ford is underrating the V6’s power output and the blue oval’s latest baby-pony is certainly running with the “string”.

If the numbers make you leery, I can assure you that V6-burnouts are extremely easy and quite satisfying. Easy and satisfying are the two words that frequently came to mind when engaged in shenanigans I would normally never admit to engaging in. Suffice it to say the new V6 is far livelier than ever before, and while you do need to keep the revs up to keep the fun going, doing so is a cinch. Instead of spending money on a new independent rear suspension, Ford chose to fit the Mustang with a set of features that are just about worth the trade-off. First among them is the slick new 6-speed manual transmission, the same as GT buyers get. Shifts are incredibly short and the feel is almost up to BMW standards. Base V6 buyers also get true dual exhaust, a limited slip rear diff, side-impact airbags for when your sideways shenanigans end up in a tree and the usual assortment of power windows and locks. Ford didn’t just fiddle with options, they also stiffened the chassis and tweaked almost every aspect of the suspension.

When the going gets twisty, he base V6 Mustang can end up feeling like it’s writing checks its brakes and suspension just can’t cash (something that could never be said of the old V6). Fortunately Ford offers a solution to this problem in the form of the $1,995 “V6 Performance Package” which buys you GT brakes, GT suspension, sway bar, strut tower brace, performance rear axle, and 19-inch summer rubber. If you are buying the V6 mustang for any reason other than price, this option is an absolute must-have and the only reason a gear-head should buy the base V6 would be if you plan on modding your pony extensively.

Out on the road, the live rear axle works flawlessly on smooth roads but broken pavement unsettles things in a way you don’t experience in more expensive chassis setups like the 370Z or Infiniti G coupé. Still, the Camaro with its crashy ride is far worse, and the Dodge is just too soft and heavy for performance aspirations. The unsettled feel on mountain roads I frequent, combined with the numb electric power steering meant it took a few days to really start pushing the limits of the car, which are actually fairly high despite the less-than-polished road manners. Without access to a slalom or skid-pad I can’t speak absolute numbers, but the horizontal grip is quite possibly the best among the V6 competition. It’s the feel that sells the Mustang short, and makes it feel like your car is secretly plotting to kill you in some spectacularly diabolical fashion. Mind you, the Dodge Challenger V6 has absolutely nothing up its sleeve, neither does the Hyundai Genesis, and that makes them rather boring in comparison. The Camaro on the other hand just feels like it’s going to kill you in some sloppy un-planned affair that will end up in the tabloids.

Inside, the mustang shows off Ford’s recent attention to interior quality with suitably squishy dash bits, optional real aluminum trim, and all the modernity you expect in a car from the 21st century wrapped in a suitably retro wrapper. While I find the lack of a telescoping steering column a fairly large omission (especially due to the reclined seating position) taller drivers are likely to be fine, short drivers, not so much. At 6-feet tall, the Mustang’s high belt-line and far-away steering wheel position made me feel like I was driving my dad’s Oldsmobile when I was a kid, not the feeling I look for in a car. Fortunately for the gadget lover, a retro wrapper doesn’t mean old-school electronics. Well, OK, so the Mustang is “stuck” with the old SYNC navigation system for the moment. Personally however, I call that a good thing as it is far, far more responsive than the MyTouch system that has been receiving fairly bad press lately for sluggishness and frequent system crashes.

The only downside to the older SYNC system is the lack of a second USB port, no internet connectivity and a few differences in the voice command system, all of which I wager 99% of buyers will never miss. As always with SYNC, voice commanding your iPod or USB device, the navigation system or radio is just a button press away, the best thing since sliced bread and without real competition from anyone. Once Hyundai brings the new UVO system to the Genesis, the Korean coupé will give the Mustang a run for its money, but that’s later. Also on offer is an up-level Shaker audio system on which “Ice Ice Baby” sounds particularly bitchin, dual zone climate control, and an interesting gimmick in the form of “My Color”. MyColor allows the driver to select from a pre-defined selection of colors for the gauge cluster, or you can create your own “custom” colors by entering R G B values in the on-screen menu. Check out the video below for more.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Of course, comparisons are essential when you see a V6 Camaro or Challenger in the Starbucks parking lot. In this three-way-shootout the Mustang shines. The Dodge can be almost dismissed early due to the 600lb heavier curb weight and much larger proportions. (Due to the added heft, the V6 Mustang is more comparable to the V8 Challenger R/T.) The Camaro is a close contender and you could be forgiven for buying a Camaro because you like the look, you would however be buying the slower vehicle as the V6 Mustang is quicker (with the right manual driver of course). If however you see an Infiniti G Coupe or Nissan Z in the parking lot, just stare at your latte and get in your ‘Stang without making eye contact; they will beat you at the stop-light-races every time.

Perhaps the most appropriate comparison of all however is to the “other” Mustang, the GT. It goes without saying that Ford’s new 5.0L V8 sounds better, delivers more torque, more horsepower, faster 0-60 times and some totally rad 5.0L badges. (I know, I’m a child of the 70s, so sue me.) Pricing and fuel economy are the real reasons you would shop the V6 over the GT. The V6 starts at $22,310 which is about what you’d pay for something like a Chrysler 200 and $7,000 less than a base Mustang GT. Adjusting for feature content (aside from the fire breathing V8), the V6 still enjoys a $5,000 lower starting point. For me, the $695 reverse sensing system is an absolute must because of the poor rearward visibility. The $1995 performance package is a no-brainer since it basically gives you GT brakes, suspension, rear diff, etc.  This brings my personal realistic base price to a still reasonable $25,000. Stepping up to the “Premium” V6 (as our tester was equipped) gets you the snazzier instrument cluster with MyColor lighting, better looking 17-inch wheels (which are replaced by the performance package), the up-level Shaker audio system, SYNC, Satellite radio and an auto dimming rear-view mirror for a fairly hefty $4,000 over the base V6. If, however you would like things like heated power seats, dual-zone climate control and navigation, you have to start with the Premium trim. Our tester was an essentially fully loaded V6 premium (manual transmission) that rang in a $32,320, or the same price as a GT with only a few options.

I think we all agree we live in the muscle car renaissance. This new generation of muscle car delivers the brash style we Americans seem to crave and six-cylinder engines that would easily dust the majority of “muscle cars” from the last 20 years. However, this is 2011 and not 1991, and the rest of the automotive landscape has changed as well. In this light the V6 is not a high-performance muscle car; that would be the GT. It is however a blast to drive, a fairly good value, and more than enough pony for most shoppers, including perhaps that brother of mine.


Ford Provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas

Statistics as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 5.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 102.0 MPH

Fuel Economy: 25.2 MPG over 689 miles

IMG_3692 IMG_3693 IMG_3694 IMG_3695 IMG_3696 IMG_3697 IMG_3698 IMG_3699 IMG_3700 IMG_3701 IMG_3702 IMG_3703 IMG_3704 IMG_3705 IMG_3706 IMG_3707 IMG_3708 IMG_3709 IMG_3710 IMG_3713 IMG_3714 IMG_3715 IMG_3716 IMG_3717 IMG_3718 IMG_3719 IMG_3720 IMG_3721 IMG_3722 IMG_3723 IMG_3724 IMG_3725 IMG_3726 IMG_3727 IMG_3728 IMG_3729 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 94
Piston Slap: Service The Spectra Or Show It The Door? Wed, 06 Jan 2010 15:48:10 +0000 Spectralogy? (courtesy:wikimedia)

TTAC Commentator osnofla writes:

I have a 2000 Kia Spectra GS manual with about 97k miles on it and lately it’s been doing something really weird. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the clutch. When I upshift the engagement is very rough, especially below 3k rpm. It kind of lunges forward and stops and forward again then finally picks up roughly around 3k rpm and the rest of rev range is smooth. On top of this there is also the matter of the tightening the belt for the power steering because it squeals at full-lock and fixing the brakes because I’m pretty sure the rotors are warped and need new pads and shoes.

So actually my question is whether I should actually fix these things since — and I’m going out on limb here — the repairs probably cost more than the car is worth. I’m in grad school and will be for the next year. As a result, I have very little money to go out and get another car, though my parents said they could help me out if I really need it. I’m not really attached to this car at all even though I learned how to drive with it. I just don’t see that many options for my tastes: I like manny tranny wagons and hatchbacks. Should I use my parents money while I still can?

Sajeev Replies:

Oh, so you are one of the 500 people in this country that like wagons with clutches? Nice. Since you’re in grad school, better stick with a cheap sedan with a stick until you have the cash reserves for something more to your liking.  A cheap sedan like a Kia Spectra.

Here’s why: the Kia will net $1000 on a trade-in, if you’re lucky. That’s provided the dealership makes a healthy profit on the car you bought.  Or keep your fingers crossed, hoping that someone buys it on Craigslist for $1500.  I don’t like either scenario.

The car probably needs $500 (quick guess) worth of work to fix the shifting issue.  It’s possible you need a new clutch, or the clutch’s hydraulic system is out of adjustment. Parts will be cheap, labor will not.  Brake pads/rotors can be $100-150; odds are you need a cheap brake job with the cheapest parts.  The power steering belt squeal is not an adjustment: a new serpentine belt ($25) is a likely candidate because I suspect yours is original and glazed like a doughnut.  All of this is normal used car stuff, and you shouldn’t be afraid to get them sorted.

I am more concerned about this Kia’s timing belt: another expense we haven’t considered.  Still, if I were you, I’d find a good non-franchise mechanic who runs a clean shop, has fair labor rates, and bite the bullet: get your parent’s help to get the car serviced. I suspect any alternative vehicle in your price range won’t be much better than your current ride.

My point: a big repair bill (for normal wear parts) sets a car straight for several years. By then your advanced degree can buy you a sweet wagon with a 6-speed stick.  And don’t forget the little people who got you there, ya hear?

(Send your queries to

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