The Truth About Cars » Mike Solowiow The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +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 » Mike Solowiow Capsule Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6T Thu, 09 May 2013 12:00:08 +0000 IMG_2586

According to the “Infinite Monkey Theorem”, if you lock three monkeys in a room with typewriters for infinity, eventually they will produce Hamlet. By the same measure, should you lock three engineers in a room for infinity, eventually they will produce the perfect car. Ford has seemingly absorbed this philosophy through their European division, however, as most theorems go, instead of a the perfect car, they produced “Aston Martin Rapide part Deux, the Budget Restrained Sequel”.

The previous generation Euro Ford Mondeo 2.2 TDCi Titanium set up my expectations for the latest Ford Fusion/Mondeo when I flogged it around the Nurburgring in about 9 minutes. Capable, comfortable, attractive, and well screwed together, the Mondeo was the best car to wear the wrong badge. So now comes an even better looking, and supposedly even more capable version to both shores of the Atlantic (according to Ford). So does the Budget Restrained Sequel to the Aston Martin Rapide (or BRSAMR according to my Blackhawk pilot mentor, Lt. Col Mary Bell) match or exceed the high precedent set forth by the engineers in Cologne, Germany? Well, ja und nein.

At first glance, the BRSAMR looks gorgeous. The designers nailed the classic flowing lines coupled with a gigantic grill in near perfect proportions. The grill and headlights assemblies are remarkably well integrated, especially next to the nearly similar sized Taurus: making the Big Bull Barge look dated. Euro creases down the side with a fastback rear complete the effect of looking fast while standing still. But look closer. Ford sweated the details: the creases merge and flow in incredibly complex ways that make nearly every angle interesting to look at, with surprise and delight to behold. For example, the center high-mounted brake light: instead of slapping it inside the rear glass, Ford designers and engineers made a relief in the glass, a unique element for the brakelight that merges into the roof.  It provides a slight spoiler effect for the rear. This is functional, cleans up the air flow, and looks interesting. If they put that much thought into the brake light, that speaks volumes to the rest of the car…hopefully…


But it looks like an Aston Martin rip-off you say. Well…yes, and I welcome it. That’s like complaining Kiera Knightley looks too much like Natalie Portman. We need more beauty in this world, not more Malibus. Yet, the rear spoiler needs more elegant integration and when staring up close, the vertical front grill is massive. While it shall make a great zombie ram (take note Walking Dead producers, ditch Hyundai, you want the Fusion), I wonder how well pedestrians in crowded cities fare when the driver fails to look up while adjusting that MyFord Touch stereo.


Inside, the Fusion delights and surprises almost as much as the outside. I said almost…the dash swoops between the front passengers hiding a cavernous storage hole and elevating the multimedia interface within easy reaching distance of the driver and passenger. But what’s this? Fake wood on the door panels and dash? FAKE WOOD?!? Or is it tortoiseshell a’la Chrysler Sebring circa 2008. I can’t quite tell as the panels are small, and the sparkly element fails like a Twilight vampire. All I could ascertain was it was plastic, and unwelcome. Brushed aluminum, or even silver plastic would have worked wonders here…but I’m paid to criticize, not design, so Ford guys…fix this.

The other ergonomic foible that drove me up batty was the location of the manual shift mode buttons. The Toyota Camry had well placed paddles behind the wheel. The BRSAMR has a rocker switch on the side of the shift lever placed at a bizarre angle, while made of not the stoutest feeling plastic ever. This ergonomic misstep left me awkwardly angling my wrist to the point I left the BRSAMR in ‘Sport,’ hoping the magic transmission angel’s controlled shift logic avoided behaviors of a demon spawn. It wasn’t successful, but managed to remain on the level of annoying street preacher and not Westboro Baptist Church. Yet when pushed, the transmission snapped off shifts and downshifted in corners like a wizard. I guess it likes torture and not sedation. BDSM followers take note.

2013 Ford Fusion SE Interior

I shall now point out that the Fusion SE with the 1.6L turbo comes in manual. But I will only point it out, as the BRSAMR does not need it, nor will it add much to the enjoyment of the car. As I shall now explain, stay with me padawans.

The Fusion grips, steers and flows with aplomb… for such a large car. The steering feels a bit dead on center, but once past that, the wheel is accurate, well weighted, and precise. Turn into a corner, and the Fusion grips with minimal understeer, while giving decent feedback through the tiller. It’s possible to alter your line mid-corner without much drama, but then, the BRSAMR is heavy. You feel the suspension working overtime like a fat dude at Zumba. Body roll remains limited, but the alacrity in turn transition is just not there. The brakes stop, but the initial travel felt a bit vague as the big car tries to slow down. It makes commuting easier as you can lazily stomp on it with no finesse, but you are not driving a Focus, and you know it.

Ride quality remains good with firm, damped responses, although the optional larger wheels on my tester transmitted surface irregularities a bit more than I liked. Stick with the stock wheels. You aren’t fooling anyone that you are driving an expensive car, and if you are concerned about that, buy an old Lincoln for cheap, and get some 22’s… so you can indeed be ‘different’.

Overall, the Fusion was fun when pushed, but only just. Climbing back into my Audi A4 only compounded this impression. I wouldn’t mind trying to flog the Fusion, but I wouldn’t seek out any twisties just because I could.

Oh yeah, I forgot… the engine. Well, I heard something under the hood, but it was so smooth and quiet, I kinda forgot it was there. So did the acceleration curve. At 170bhp and minimal turbo lag, the engine proves adequate, if not mind blowing acceleration. It keeps the excitement down to levels where a Mormon girlfriend won’t leave you for the guy in the Camry, but won’t leave you trying to outgun the hipster in the diesel Golf.


So what IS the Fusion/Mondeo/BRSAMR? It’s simply the best looking, and nearly the most capable mid/full-sized sedan on the market. The Accord drives better. The KIA/Hyundai twins do the same for a bit cheaper, and the Malibu provides subprime financing fodder. Yet I give the Fusion the nod, as it looks good, drives well for a commuter, and has little things that remind you that cars should have character. Now Ford, make an SHO version…but don’t call it the ‘Rapide’.

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Review: 2010 Renaultsport Clio 200 On The Ring Fri, 04 Mar 2011 07:56:34 +0000

The glare I received from the 997 GT3 RS driver was classical mix of shock and anger. His confused facial expression was not the result of me cutting him off, blocking his driving line, or any other error of vehicular piloting. I simply rocketed past him upon the exit of Aremberg on the Nurburgring due to two factors: I knew the track better, and I was behind the wheel of the second most impressive offering from Renaultsport, the Clio 200 Cup.

Having introduced you to the Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup previously, I felt compelled to educate our American populace on the other French clutter offering that in some ways bests the more powerful and larger hatchback. While the Megane boasts a turbo, 250 more horses, and a limited slip differential, the Clio adds lightness and a bit more nimbleness to the mixture. Think of the Clio as the Jimmy MacElroy to the Chaz Michael Michaels of the Megane (Blades of Glory anyone?). Both are incredibly capable cars in their own right, but just different enough to offer a different driving feel for different driving skills. Favor power and high levels of grip in order to go around the corner fast, get the Megane. Do you want delicate controls, nimbleness, and a feeling of extracting 100% from the car all the time, get the Clio.

Just like the Megane, Renaultsport takes a Clio chassis to their fabrication facility in Dieppe, France. There, they put on the finest suspension to come from a large scale manufacturer, bespoke fender flares (compared to the tacked on plastic ones of the Megane), dual exhaust, a diffuser, and awesome Recaro racing seats (regular Recaro sport buckets are available, but only recommended for those who might be a bit wide in the hips). The Clio comes out looking like Nicole fresh from the gym, cute, perfectly proportioned, and ready for business; an approachable beauty that’s not quite as evocative, or as controversial as the larger Megane.

The interior however never lets you forget you are driving a mainstream hatchback designed to get Papa from market to Marseilles with a minimum of fuss and wear. Soft touch VAG style plastics abound in a well screwed together minimalist symphony of petroleum byproducts. Controls are well laid out with air-con, radio, and all that other stuff that detracts from the driving experience and makes for a boring car review. Look upon the large dials, and the gigantic yellow tachometer reminds you of the Clio’s true purpose, unbridled, but economic fun.

Punch the gas, let the 2.0L four cylinder sing, snick the long lever with the short throws, and embrace your inner Gallic-ness. Carve the corner and corrections to your line are met with instant response with prodigious levels of feedback. Power comes on smoothly as the chassis unloads itself upon the corner exit, and boom goes the dynamite. The Clio never surrenders. It burns the white flag of civility like an angry Maquis. There are more powerful and exotic cars out there, but behind the wheel of a Clio, you dismiss them as toys of those who feel they need to compensate for perceived deficiencies.

The driving feel of the Clio alone justifies purchasing one, however, it comes with a secret bonus. It’s astonishingly cheap. Costing on the British market a mere £17,500, it undercuts the Volkswagen GTI by nearly £7500, while offering a better driving experience. The next VAG product down, the Polo GTI costs about the same, yet delivers less horsepower, and feels stilted and sedate by comparison.
The benefits continue with fuel economy averaging at 35mpg in the combined cycle and 18mpg on the Nurburgring itself. Insurance levels remain in the sane zone, and parts are no more expensive than if you were driving Papa’s 1.4 Diesel. For example, brake pads on my 911 Carrera S were over £500 for a set capable for the stresses of the ‘Ring. The Clio’s however cost just £50 or so from Pagid.

Quick, fun, inexpensive, reliable, economic, and stylish, the Clio seems to have all the things a petrolhead could ever want. Yet to our American readers, it will never reach the shores of the land of the free. Pity really… yet, you do have a chance to fly your flag of Lorraine, and experience one of the finest Euro rockets on the market. Several companies in my little village of Nurburg rent these finely tuned beasts for a paltry sum of €500 a day or so, with insurance, and the opportunity to experience the true intention of Renaultsport.

You do not need an M3 or a GT3, you only need Nicole, some bravery, and a credit card. And for our British, French, German, and other Euro readers… buy one already!

(To avoid unnecessary rehash of VAT, purchase power and Big Mac rates, I left the currencies alone. Frankly, I’m flummoxed why an American jet-jockey would even think in pounds other than the ones that denote  bombs. ED)

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TTAC Desert-to-Burning-Desert Eco-Challenge, Days 5, 6, 7: Leaving Las Vegas Tue, 03 Feb 2009 16:31:54 +0000

When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.

I’ve combined the last few days into a single blog post; I didn’t drive much. Saying that, my personal CO2 levels soared during my stay, as I ascended Frenchman (Sunrise) Mountain. Looking at, and then leaving, the smog choked valley, I headed for Colorado’s ski resorts, resuming TTAC’s one-man, one-car Eco-Challenge.  And quite the challenge it is: mountains are to hypermiling what smog pumps are to 70s muscle cars.

Driving north on I-15 towards St. George, Utah, I surmounted and plumbed several familiar passes and canyons. To preserve precious dino juice, I couldn’t deploy my usual technique: mash the throttle to maintain my speed. I had a planet to save, dammit! Well, a pocketbook to protect. And a blog to write. So I followed a simple formula: slow up, coast down.

Local conditions prevented successful implementation. Driving the little Jetta at 60mph in heavy traffic—all of whom were busy ignoring a 75mph speed limit—proved downright dangerous. My law-abiding ways forced all manner of vehicles, from Toyota Corollas to full tractor trailers, to swerve, merge or otherwise move around me. Common sense and TDI torques (just kidding) prevailed.

Upon reaching St. George, I finally replaced the tire I punctured in Kingman, Arizona. I’m not brave (or foolhardy) enough to tempt crossing the San Rafael Swell without a spare; driving 120 miles without a plan B sounds like a fool’s errand to me.

The stretch from I-15 to the I-70 junction was pretty, and pretty mundane. The blast east on the I-70 towards Grand Junction (my stop for the night) was equally uneventful, if more aesthetically intimidating. Bathed in the salmon-colored glow of winter’s setting sun, the snow-topped Rockies are awesome—in the original “standing mute before God” sense of the word (as opposed to “Wow! That’s an awesome sweater!).

My fuel mileage was not quite as spectacular. The mountain driving, higher speeds and a tank of totally bogus diesel torpedoed my mileage figures for this leg of the trip. In fact, I “achieved” the worst mileage to date.

513 miles for this leg of the trip

13.1 gallons of diesel consumed

39mpg average

2 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drunk

1 new Bridgestone Weatherforce tire

1 new pet peeve (matching my speed whilst 5 feet behind me, at night, in a SUV, causing lights to shine in my eyes no matter how fast or slow I go. I hate you Mr. Toyota Sequoia Driver, yes, you, in the blue one on I-70!)

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