The Truth About Cars » Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Slide Rules: A Day At Toyobaru Drift School http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/slide-rules/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/slide-rules/#comments Sat, 21 Sep 2013 17:08:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=524953 Subayotas by night

Subayotas by night

 

Buckle your seatbelts folks; we’re firing up the wayback machine. Last week I had the privilege of attending the Yas Island Drift School with none other than Justin “Wheels” Crenshaw. I have actually known Justin for a few years now, back when he was juggling press loaners and writing for TTAC, while I had no idea this site existed. He helped me with this story, as well as editing it, so hopefully he saved Baruth some stress and the B&B some frustration with my tenuous language skills.

Behold, the Yas Island F1 track and general gearhead amusement park. We arrived for class and set about beating up their Toyota GT-86’s.

Classes are run with two instructors and three students. Ours were from Belgium and Germany.  Neither was young, nor did they wear a flat billed ballcap canted to one side. The German; Mark, was a factory BMW instructor and actually “knew the facility in Greenville quite well.”

We had a quick PowerPoint presentation while the sprinklers started watering the paved course. We learned the methods of inducing a slide; add throttle, downshift, the e-brake, the famous Scandinavian flick, and the one we weren’t privy to at our price point, the “bump” drift; which utilizes pavement irregularities to upset the car’s rear.

The 30 slide presentation went by in a flash; our instructors seemed to have as much interest as we did in classroom time.  To the Toyotas!  Mark demo’d how to turn off the traction control completely (come on! get to something us gearheads don’t know)  However, his following point about the primary slide sensor being your spine intrigued us.  According to Mark it gets input from the seat, which gets input from the rear axle, and so forth. His point being a lot of information is lost in that transition, so you’d better be sensitive to what the car is doing.

booorrriiinngg...when do I get to act like Bo Duke?

booorrriiinngg…when do I get to act like Bo Duke?

The other rules of track driving still apply. Your eyes should look where you want to car to go, slow in fast out, and throttle inputs should be gradual. With that, we hopped into the cars and drove to the site’s skid pad; a plastic coated block of smooth concrete surrounded by sprinklers. Our task was simple; slide to the left of the first cone, then to the right of the second and exit.

Crenshaw executes a surprisingly (and annoyingly) graceful arc around the first cone, catches it and almost does the same with the second before going full 360. I drive the course with the rear wheels slipping but the car remaining somewhat straight, I wanted to catch the slide. Our handheld radios barked instructions; “Let eet slide…more trottel,  more trottel…”

I met Crenshaw at BMWCCAs OKC area autocrosses, and we have shared several track days.  I noticed the road course dynamics we practiced were betraying us and we needed to accept the car going sideways rather than trying to correct it.

My biggest handicap was the habitual nine and three hands on the wheel. Mark would bark into my car “You arh naht turnink, da front wheelz are not moving.” After one failed attempt, he made me move the steering the full range of motion, which forced me to hand over hand the wheel, rather than the normal crossover. My next attempt I used a “flailing” method at the wheel and it kinda worked. Until then I wasn’t moving the wheel and was using slow hands with my slow throttle inputs. This is not how you get a rear end to step out. Finally I caught up to the others’ progression. Learning is fun!

Click here to view the embedded video.

Next was the cone circle exercise. (Yep, it involved drifting around a circle of cones.)  There were two; one clockwise, one counter.  I started on the counter-clockwise side, and if I say so, mastered it quite easily.  After a respite I started on the clockwise side and sucked. What the hell?!

The front tires of any car will go about 37 degrees before a spin, so of course you steer with the throttle, but never use all of it. If you start at full throttle, you have nothing left to modulate. The concept is intuitive, the action is not. Stay ahead of the car, give the throttle inputs before the car needs them, and make them slight.  Again the radio barked;  “Puhmp eet! puhmp eet!”

The next trick was to connect the two circles into a full figure eight. My road racing background still betrayed me. The Belgian instructor chastised me for not using the brakes before entering the corner; “Drifting has nothing to do with speed.”

The Final Course

The muscle memory was starting to form and the learning was happening very quickly. Or so we thought.  The final exercise was a full autocross course. A short acceleration to a sweeping left, into a quick right followed by a left. We get a few feet to straighten the car, then a left slide into a box. Our tank of dollars was running low, so we had limited attempts.

my usual view of Crenshaw at the track

my usual view of Crenshaw at the track

My first shot I tried a handbrake induced slide for the entry. Epic freaking fail. The car just stopped. The next two I couldn’t get more than 2 connected slides before a spin, and the last was full up banzai mode, with predictable results. So I replaced all the cones I knocked over and returned the Toyobaru to the starting line.

I was covered in sweat, partially because it was 109 with absurd humidity, and partially because it was hard work. I left with some new skills and the same satisfaction you get after a hard day at the autocross.

Now, if I can just get this damm Toyota Fortuner to stop understeering…

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He only owns one ballcap, the brim is NOT flat and he when he wears it, it rest square on his head. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

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Review: 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-hyundai-genesis-5-0-r-spec-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-hyundai-genesis-5-0-r-spec-take-two/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2011 20:13:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417183 The Japanese are always worried about what the North Koreans have up their sleeve, but if the writing on the wall were legible, they would be more concerned about what’s going on in the south. If the 2009 Hyundai Genesis was a shot across the bow of Lexus and Infiniti, then the Genesis 5.0 R-spec may be a torpedo hit below the water, and speaking of which, even the Germans should take notice. Of course, we heard this before with the likes of the VW Phaeton, however that model tanked, so is the top-line Genesis biting off more than it can chew? Lets find out.

In my mind, the Phaeton was doomed to failure when VW decided to equip their new full-on luxury sedan with a full-sized price tag. Instead of following the same model, Hyundai stayed true to their value roots and created a luxury sedan with a Hyundai-sized price tag with the Genesis 3.8 and 4.6. What could be next from the boffins in Korea? The Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, a value-priced performance luxury sedan of course.

From the outside, the Genesis (in all trims) strikes most of the right cords with luxury shoppers that prefer flowing lines to sharp creases. While previous products from Korea have been more imitation than innovation, the Genesis both deviates from the theme yet clearly draws inspiration from Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Unlike some Kias we could mention, the overall look is distinctive enough (in my mind) that nobody would confuse it for anything else on the road. Neither however, would the casual observer ever confuse it for a Hyundai if it didn’t have the stylized H logo on the trunk. Styling mission accomplished (but like many buyers, I might remove that H badge when I got it home).

Of course, we’re here to talk about the performance part of the equation. The 5.0 R-Spec is an all-new trim in the Genesis family. AMG and M have little to worry about however as the Genesis 5.0 as Hyundai has no intention at present to compete head on with the balls-out performance sedans from Germany. So what is an “R-Spec”? Think Audi S rather than RS. While there is little outside to differentiate the 5.0 from its lesser models, a closer look reveals unique wheels, lower profile rubber, and upgraded brakes. Also new for 2012 are some new headlamps with a distinctive LED accent strip, new bumpers with integrated exhaust (ala the LS460) and new power-folding mirrors. The real change however, is under the hood where an all-new 429HP 376 lb-ft 5.0L direct injection V8 is mated to an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission. While that sentence sounds right at home in a review about a new Mercedes E550 or BMW 550i, the novelty in the room is that we’re talking about a Hyundai. This new engine and new transmission (the rest of the Genesis line-up also receives the 8-speed transmission for 2012) shows just how serious Hyundai is about playing with the big boys. Readers will probably recall Hyundai recently designed an all-new 6-speed transmission, now circular-filed in favor of this new octo-cog-swapper. That’s some serious R&D spending. For those who enjoy gear counting, note that this makes the 5.0 R-Spec one cog ahead of Mercedes.

If we digress for a moment, an open question to our readers from me: how much does the price tag change your perception of a car, all things being the same? Sound out in the comment section below.

On the inside, the Genesis R-Spec wears the same duds as the other Genesis models except that the color selection boils down to black or black: black-on-black dash, black faux wood and black seats with black carpet. The overall monochromatic theme struck me as an odd choice as I found it cheaper looking to my eye than the Genesis 3.8/4.6 models with the two-tone burgundy interior. Cost being a factor, the stitched pleather goodness found carefully sprinkled throughout the interior doesn’t extend to the dashboard top which looks a touch cheap when put right next to the stitched trim. Fortunately the fake wood is kept to a fair minimum and in some ways I don’t know if I mind too much as there are plenty of $100,000 luxury sedans sporting wood stained so dark it looks like plastic.

For 2012 the Genesis receives a new 3.8L V6, this time with direct-injection added to the variable valve train party. The new V6 cranks out a very respectable 333HP and 292lb-ft of twist at 6400RPM and 5100RPM respectively. The 4.6L Tau V8 is left unchanged for 2012, which seems like something of a pity since it still doesn’t benefit from direct injection. Of course the big reason for testing the mildly re-worked Genesis for 2012 is because of the new 5.0 R-Spec model, so let’s dive under that hood. The 5.0L V8 serves up 429HP at 6400RPM and 376lb-ft at 5000RPM, very healthy numbers considering it is tuned to run on regular 87 octane gasoline. Joining the new V8 is a sport tuned suspension and lower profile tires on 19-inch wheels. (The observant will note they are not any wider than the 4.6L V8’s rubbers)


Gadgets are an important part of any luxury sedan, and this is one area where Hyundai has left a few gizmos out to keep costs down. Compared to iDrive and Infiniti’s fairly slick touch screen system, Hyundai’s infotainment offering is a touch less functional and less intuitive. When pitted against Mercedes Command or Lexus’ aging system however, the Hyundai infotainment software scores highly for look and feel. Hyundai convinced Lexicon (purveyor of sound systems to Rolls Royce) to create the 528-watt, 17-speaker, 5.1-surround audio system. The stereo sounds great and the subwoofer certainly makes watching movies on the nav screen strangely entertaining, but it is a notch behind the maximum capabilities of the 1,000+ watt systems in the European competition.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infiniti’s M can be had with more nannies than a pack of trust fund babies at the park, this is another area where the Genesis’ price point causes some compromises. The Genesis has lane departure warning but no lane departure prevention, radar cruise control but no blind spot warning system and of course it won’t park itself. Still, the gizmos Hyundai did select are a good balance in my mind. My only complaint about the cruise control system Hyundai used is that it will take you to a crawl but unlike the competition it won’t stop you or hold you at a stop. The integrated collision warning system is also a near miss for me, it’s not adjustable and by default it warns you so late by the time it beeps (faintly) and puts a small red logo in the instrument cluster (where it’s hard to see), it’s too late to do anything about the emergency.  Also on the cutting room floor sits a cooled front passenger seat, heated steering wheel, and auto up/down windows for the rear. While these omissions bothered my esteemed co-worker Michael in his first take, I actually don’t mind as most people drive solo anyway and if I’m buying the car, I care about the driver most (me) and the bargain second. Option packages are a great way to drive up costs, so Hyundai decided to leave well enough alone making the R-Spec come only fully-loaded and in truth 98% of what luxury car buyers usually buy is there, and that’s saying something.

Out on the road the Genesis 5.0’s sport tuned active suspension (by SACHS) provides a ride that is noticeably firmer than the Genesis 4.6 yet is still on the softer side of the Euro competition. If you prefer floating on a cloud, you should opt for the softer riding Genesis 4.6 (or LS460) instead. If however you like corner carving, the BMW 550i is obviously your choice. Yet strangely enough the Genesis provides a good balance between the 550i and the LS460 with impressive BMW-like thrust and grip that’s somewhere between the two and fairly on par with the M56. The Hyundai 8-speed automatic is not as smooth as the ZF 8-speed Audi and BMW employ, but it is fairly similar in feel to the Lexus unit. Yet again the need to keep costs down and options non-existent means unlike the competition there is no AWD Genesis available. Driving purists will of course scoff at my love of four-wheel propulsion, but in the wet the Genesis has trouble applying all 429 ponies.

A comparably equipped Lexus LS460 Sport or Mercedes E550 easily crest $70,000, in this light the Hyundai is a screaming deal and gives up little for the $20,000+ delta in price (other than brand). The fact that you can even mention Hyundai, Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Infiniti and BMW in the same sentence is something to behold. Saying that the Genesis 5.0 is better than the gaggle of luxury people-schlepers is something I just can’t say, but in many areas it is quite possibly just as good and yet I find myself saying a rare thing as I handed the Genesis back: this is a car I would buy myself. And that is where it departs from the VW Phaeton in my mind; the Phaeton is just too expensive for the badge, even for me.

The question we can’t answer here at TTAC is: can Hyundai convince luxury car buyers that they can get most of the same goodies on a $46K Hyundai as a $70K German or Japanese sedan? Even if that hurdle can be jumped, will the brand whores think twice? To those adventurous car shoppers who manage to look beyond brand perception however, they will find a car maker with the best warranty in the industry making reliable cars with a smidgen of style and a ‘whole lotta’ value. What kind of buyer are you? Are you buying that LS460 because it carries a $70,000 price tag, or because you like the way it coddles you? Are you buying the BMW for the roundel or for the 0-60 time? I would posit the Hyundai does all the above minus the badge.

 

 Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Statistics as tested

0-60: 4.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.4 Seconds @ 106 MPH

Fuel Economy: 22.4 MPG over 689 miles

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New or Used: Commuter Ying, Sporty Yang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-commuter-ying-sporty-yang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-commuter-ying-sporty-yang/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2011 18:05:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421888

 

Mark V. writes:

I was wrong, I thought I could drive a 370z touring on a daily basis to work, a 75m round trip on the highway mostly, but I can’t.  Its to loud and its becoming unpleasant to drive.  I don’t want to get a beater for a 2nd car because spending almost 2 hours a day in it would be a major quality of life loss and probably not any more pleasant then my 370z.

I need a commuting yin to my 370′s sporty yang, but I don’t think I can afford the expensive of a 2nd car, technically 3rd if you count the wife’s car.

So I think I’m going to be forced to compromise and get a sports sedan.   Which leads to the question, Should I compromise and if so which sports sedan will hold up to my ~18,000m a year commute, make sitting in the car for 2 hours passable, sporty enough to not make me nervous while hooning, and will cost me around 75k to own and operate for the first 5 years?

Sajeev answers:

I have no clue what is sporty enough for you.  Owning a German sedan sounds great, and kinda like yesterday’s installment of New or Used,who knows how much of a money pit it will be after the warranty runs out. And that’s assuming you can buy a new one, and not give in to the temptation of a heavily depreciated 7-er, 5-er, Audi A6 or A8. Your mileage will probably require an extended warranty too. Maybe a Lexus IS will work.  Maybe a used Infiniti M or G. (M’s depreciate like mad and seem like decent machines) Maybe a Caddy CTS.

I have no idea. Or maybe you should get a Mercury Marauder. Yeah, actually that will work just fine for me. But seriously, start test driving before you get snow’d in!

Steve answers:

The number of the cars that will fit these requirements numbers well into the double figures.

Audi A4. BMW 3-Series. Lexus IS350. Infiniti G37. Anyone here can throw in a long list of good potential fits.

Since your budget is a bit more generous than many, I would consider upsizing a bit. My brother just got the new Audi A6 (really) and considers it to be the ultimate elixir for his PITA Long Island commute. Then there are the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class which have pretty much dominated the mid-level luxury market for eons on end.

You have a lot of options out there. So just take your time. Drive a few… and enjoy your next car.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Review: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-suzuki-kizashi-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-suzuki-kizashi-sport/#comments Wed, 09 Feb 2011 21:15:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=383404

Maybe it was my lukewarm review. Or maybe it was because Suzuki’s most ardent attempt to date to appeal to Americans connected with only 6,138 of them last year. Despite the unintended acceleration media circus, Toyota sold more Camrys in the average week. Whatever the reason, Suzuki revised the Kizashi after just one model year, transforming the two top trim levels into “Sport” models. Substitute a six-speed manual and front-wheel-drive for the previous test’s CVT and all-wheel-drive, and the 2011 Kizashi certainly deserves another look.

The Kizashi’s sheetmetal hasn’t changed, so the exterior styling remains much less distinctive than the car’s name suggests it ought to be. That said, the “Sport” tweaks—a tasteful body kit, thinner-spoked wheels—highlight the car’s tight, athletic proportions and make its exterior almost memorable. I remain thankful that the then-new corporate front end introduced with the 2007 XL7 went no further than that SUV. Still, something about this car should mark it as a Suzuki, aside from the oversized S on the grille.

For a car priced in the mid-20s, the Kizashi continues to have an exceedingly well-appointed interior. Luxuriously upholstered door panels, a woven headliner, switchgear that’s a cut or two above the mid-20s norm, compartment lids that open with a dampened glide, and thorough red backlighting all contribute to a look and feel suitable to a car costing at least $10,000 more. Once the benchmark, the latest Volkswagen sedan interiors aren’t even close. The “Sport” revisions include a mildly restyled steering wheel and white stitching on the black leather seats. The latter serves to lighten up the almost overwhelmingly black interior. Would red stitching have been sportier, or at this point too much of a cliché?

Suzuki similarly aims to impress with the Kizashi’s features list, and generally succeeds. Especially nice to see at a $26,000 price: three-stage heated leather power front seats, memory for the driver’s seat, a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, keyless access and ignition, rain-sensing wipers, and rear air vents.

Even before this year’s “Sport” revisions, Suzuki pitched the Kizashi as a driver’s car. The firm-yet-comfortable front buckets fit the bill, with side bolsters that (for once) actually provide even better lateral support than their appearance suggests they will. Size-wise, the Kizashi falls between a compact and a midsize, but this didn’t dissuade Suzuki from fitting seats a little larger than most these days, further contributing to the car’s premium feel.

The not-quite-midsize dimensions translate to a rear seat that is just large enough for the average adult. Those six-feet and up will wish for a true midsize. Kids, on the other hand, will wish for a lower beltline. In the Kizashi they struggle to see out. The driver fares a bit better, though the cowl is a bit high, the A-pillars are on the thick side, and the wheel must to tilted up a notch to avoid obstructing the classic white-on-black instruments.

When paired with the six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive, the Kizashi’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine kicks out another 5 horsepower, for a total of 185 at 6,500 rpm, and must motivate about 240 fewer pounds, for a total around 3,250. So with a manual transmission the Kizashi is significantly quicker, and feels it. There’s not much power below the 4,000 rpm torque peak (where 170 foot-pounds can be found), so downshifts are a must for brisk acceleration. But in this powertrain the four sounds and feels smoother, with a pleasant zing, so winding it out is a joy. Even though the manual shifter is easily the least refined part of the car, with a clunky, sometimes even balky action, it’s far more enjoyable than the paddle-shiftable CVT.

Still missing, though much less missed with the stick: a more powerful optional engine.

The EPA rates the manual for 20 MPG city and 29 highway, compared to 23/30 with the CVT. The trip computer was wildly optimistic, reporting high 20s and low 30s in the suburbs and 42.6 on one trip, averaging 55 miles-per-hour with a single complete stop. I used a little over half of the 16.6-gallon tank in 176 miles, so the EPA numbers are probably about right.

Last year I suggested that the Kizashi’s chassis needed another round of tuning. With the “Sport,” it got it. Though the changes aren’t dramatic, the revised car handles more sharply and precisely, if still not quite as intuitively as the best sport sedans. Feedback through the steering wheel is subtle, but it’s there. The steering in a Buick Regal turbo (driven while I had the Kizashi) feels light and numb in comparison. The occasional float noted at highway speeds last year is gone, and the “Sport” generally feels more tied down. Better damping than anything from Korea contributes to very good body control when the pavement diverges from level and smooth. With the possible exception of the first-generation Acura TSX, no Japanese sedan has felt more European. The more I drove the Kizashi Sport SLS, the more I liked it.

One mild reservation: the Dunlop SP Sport 7000s might be rated “all-season” tires, but their traction on snow is marginal. The stability control system doesn’t jump in too soon, and when it does operates unobtrusively. Turn it off and the Kizashi remains easy to control even on slick surfaces.

Even with the “Sport” tuning, the Kizashi’s ride remains quiet and polished. Though it can feel a little bumpy in casual driving on some roads, the motions are restrained and vertical rather than poorly controlled and head-tossing. Push the car more aggressively, and the tuning feels spot-on. Highly effective insulation often makes the car seem like it’s going 20 miles-per-hour slower than it actually is. Though this impacts driving enjoyment a bit, it’s a big plus on the highway.

With metallic paint, floormats, and satellite radio, the Kizashi Sport SLS lists for $26,049. (If you can do without heated leather seats and a few other features, you can save $1,800 with the Sport GTS.) The new Jetta GLI will cost about the same as the Sport SLS, but while it will be quicker it looks and feels like a much cheaper car. An Acura TSX is much closer in terms of size, materials, features, and performance—and lists for $4,421 more than the Suzuki. Adjust for remaining feature differences, and according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool the non-premium-branded car’s advantage actually increases, to over $5,000. Add in the Suzuki’s 7/100 powertrain warranty that, unlike Hyundai’s, is transferable, and the car is clearly a very good value.

“Kizashi” means “something great is coming.” With the “Sport” revisions, greatness might still not have arrived, but it’s certainly closer. The Suzuki’s exterior and interior dimensions resemble those of the B5 Volkswagen Passat and the first-generation Acura TSX, both of which appealed to people who wanted enough room for adults in the back seat without the bulk of a truly midsize sedan. The Kizashi’s features, materials, seats, ride, and overall refinement are all those of a much more expensive car, and not those of a compact sedan. The engine isn’t any more powerful this year, but (as is often the case) the manual transmission is worth about 50 horsepower in terms of driving enjoyment. The “Sport” tweaks subtly yet significantly upgrade the exterior appearance and the handling. Add it all up and, in Sport SLS trim with a manual transmission, the 2011 Kizashi is definitely worthy of consideration by enthusiasts searching for the attributes of a European sport sedan without a European price.

Suzuki provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Kizashi Sport front Kizashi Sport front seats Kizashi Sport side Kizashi Sport trunk Kizashi Sport front quarter Kizashi Sport rear quarter high Kizashi Sport rear quarter low Kizashi Sport side less salt 2010 Kizashi front quarter comparison Kizashi Sport engine Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Cadillac in Kizashi Kizashi Sport IP side Kizashi Sport rear seat Kizashi Sport IP front ]]>
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Review: 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-tesla-roadster-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-tesla-roadster-sport/#comments Wed, 28 Jul 2010 17:51:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361745

There’s a great playground in Berkeley, near the Rose Garden, that has a two-story tall twisted and banked concrete slide down the side of a hill, of the sort that cities would never build again in our modern liability-freaked danger-averse era. Blissfully unaware of this, the local kids use torn-up cardboard boxes to reduce their friction and go even faster. While I watched, one kid went sailing off the end, landing flat on his back. He stood up and did a high-five with one of his friends, grinning from ear to ear. “That was hella cool!”

What happens when that kid becomes a 38-year old tenured CS professor? He goes and test drives a Tesla Roadster Sport. We were on a family vacation to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I stopped by the Tesla mothership in Menlo Park, on a whim, to check out their gear in person. On the Friday I arrived, my friendly salesman, Ernie, evinced a pained look when I said that the Roadster wouldn’t really work for me but that I was quite interested in the Model S. Sorry, they didn’t even have the pretty mockup yet, but hopefully they would, some few months to come. I asked if I could test drive a Roadster, regardless. “You know it will handle differently from the Model S, right?” Indeed.

I made an appointment and came back on Sunday afternoon. Ernie photocopied my license and had me sign a one page waiver (notable element: I will not race the car) and then tossed me the keys and said to have it back in 30-45 minutes. No chaperone. (Cue music: Yello’s “Oh Yeah” from Ferris Buhler’s Day Off.)

Okay, what’s a Tesla like in the flesh? The hardest thing about a Tesla is getting in and out. I’m 5’10″, and with the seat all the way back, I only just fit. The seat adjustments and mirrors are all manual, but at least it has power windows. The cockpit is quite cramped, without much spare room for your legs next to the wide shelf of the car frame. I did my drive with the top off (again, a manual process that can only be done standing up). The massive B-pillars probably keep you quite safe in the event of a rollover, but they also create massive blind spots that force you to be extra super careful when you change lanes. Mustn’t hurt the precious.

As other reviewers have pointed out, there’s remarkably little drama in driving a Tesla. When you take your foot off the brake, you get a little bit of forward thrust, not unlike our boring rental Toyota Camry. However, when you’re cruising and you lift all the way off the gas, you get significant back-force from the power regeneration. In practice, in daily driving, you only need the brake for emergency maneuvers, and for holding the car at a red light. Even when driving down a steep hill, you don’t need the brake. I kept expecting it to lug the engine or otherwise misbehave, but there is no engine to lug, so it just slowed down gracefully. Very cool. (The brake lights come on automatically when you fully lift the throttle, as well they should.)

So how does it feel to drive a Tesla? Allow me digress to the first time I drove a Porsche 911 Turbo, the 993-variant, the last of the air-cooled classics without electronic nannies to keep you from killing yourself. I was merging onto a freeway and gave it what seemed like the right amount of gas to get up to speed and pull in. And it was exactly the right amount of gas, until the turbo finished spooling up and sent me blasting forward toward the unforgiving rear end of a semi. Brake!

In the Tesla, there’s zero lag. Not even the smallest bit. In a normal car, the only way you can get close to this experience is to have the engine already howling along high in its RPM power band right before you drop the hammer. With the Tesla, it’s always there, all the time. No drama, no engine growl. You see your opening. Stomp. Sqeeee! Lightspeed. (Yes, the sound is more akin to the capacitors in a big camera strobe charging up than any normal automotive sound. This is no bad thing.) And don’t forget that the Tesla had only one gear and that electric motors have essentially flat torque curves. That means you have the same staggering torque off the line as you have at 80mph. (I initially torque thought I’d write this torque review using the word “torque” about once every five words. Torque. Tesla’s got torque.)

I plotted a route on the freeway then up the 84 to Skyline Blvd. Traffic was generally too thick for me to be too much of a hoon, but there were moments, like when the slow Prius pulled over to let me pass. Stomp. Sqeeeee! Brake. Turn. Sqeeeee! Brake. Traffic. Grrr.

The ride was quiet and tight. The unpowered steering required some effort in the twisties, but was never objectionable. The suspension travel is very short, and small road bumps made the car thud loud enough that I wondered if I broke anything (I didn’t). This car works well on the nice smooth roads in and around my test drive (thank you, California tax payers!), but I imagine it would be far less fun with the potholes and poorly-maintained steets of Houston where I live. One of my coworkers drives an Exige, so at least it’s ostensibly possible. Hmm.

Geek factor: I attended a talk at Stanford in 2007 when the Tesla guys were going on, at length, about issues like environmental impact relative to different charging models (i.e., whether you’ve just gotten yourself a “longer tailpipe” or whether you’ve truly done something worthwhile for the environment). Through all of that, all I could think was “yeah, but what’s it like to drive?” Now I know: it’s hella cool.

The author is, indeed, a tenured faculty member at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Behold the power of academic freedom. Tesla furnished the Roadster Sport for the author’s test driving. The author does not currently own any Tesla stock and does not have any Tesla car on order. Yet.

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Geneva Gallery: Mitsubishi ASX/2011 Outlander Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/geneva-gallery-mitsubishi-asx2011-outlander-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/geneva-gallery-mitsubishi-asx2011-outlander-sport/#comments Thu, 04 Mar 2010 16:03:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347640 Mitsubishi’s ASX represents the brand’s move towards on-road crossovers, a move inspired by research showing that buyers of its Outlander big brother cross-shopped D-segment sedans rather than midsized SUV/CUVs. The C-segment ASX will be called the RVR in Japan and the Outlander Sport in the US market. And though the ASX’s front-end is allegedly inspired by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry F2 fighter, it looks remarkably similar to BMW’s recently-launched C-segment crossover, the X1. Which kind of makes sense, considering the F2 is actually just a modified F-16. Imitation is the most commercially viable form of flattery.

mitsuasx mitsuasx1 mitsuasx3 mitsuasx4 mitsuasx5 mitsuasx6 mitsuasx7 mitsuasx8 Mitsubishi ASX/Outlander Sport (photos by Martin Schwoerer) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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