Piston Slap: B-Bodies Shall Master the Road Once More!
The 2017 Ford Escape Titanium EcoBoost 2.0 is Still the Best-driving Small Crossover You Can Buy
Hop out of your 1992 Toyota Camry Wagon in the Costco parking lot and tell me what you see. Plenty of Accords and Altimas and Camrys, I’m assuming. Large numbers of F-150s and Silverados and Rams, maybe even the odd Tacoma here and there. Some minivans and big SUVs.
And legions of small crossovers.
Many of those small crossovers — call them SUVs if you want, it matters not — are downright affordable. Some are powerful. Few are both.
Fewer still are affordable, powerful, and a real joy to drive. The 2017 Ford Escape EcoBoost 2.0 is affordable and powerful. It’s also the best small, affordable, and powerful crossover to drive.
Grip is Overrated, Slide Into Stunt Driving School Instead
Because precision 90 degree slides
At the Willow Springs International Raceway, about 90 minutes north of LA, stunt school owner and veteran stunt driver Rick Seaman describes a maneuver to a group of four students. We are seated around a folding table on the oval infield as he demonstrates using a 1:32 scale Dodge Viper. Nothing in Rick’s demeanor suggests boredom, despite this being at least the 1,000th time he has described this maneuver.
Soon, an instructor emerges from the far end of the track to demonstrate the move in a real car in real time. Sharpie — not sure if that’s his real name — makes the 90-degree slide look easy, several times. Students then strap into their assigned Caprice, each seemingly held together with a roll cage, stickers, and overspray. We line up. Rick calls each car to action one by one.
Piston Slap: What's so Hellabad About Hellaflush?
I had a coworker who had an older Acura NSX that was lowered. He complained about having to buy new tires because they were worn on the inside edge (down to the belts!). He had, what I thought to be, extreme negative camber due to an improper lowering. He said it was supposed to be like that. I have seen other cars running the negative camber and I’ve seen cars that were lowered without. So question, is there a reason to run extreme negative camber or is this just a bad lowering job?
CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F
I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars.
It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed or not picked up at the end of it’s lease. What you can’t find are the keepers.
Toyota imported only a bit over 5,000 of these IS F sports sedans from 2008 thru 2014. The number brought to auction so far in 2015? 35. Annualized, that’s less than a 1.5% turnover rate in a business where anywhere from 20% to 60% of late model vehicles will revisit ‘wholesale heaven’ before getting shucked back into a retail dealership.
After a week and change behind the wheel of this 2014 Lexus IS F, I finally figured out why you see so few of these vehicles at the auctions. It’s the one missing ingredient that nearly every enthusiast publication glosses over when they review any high-end sports car.
The real world ownership experience.
Saturn on the Down Low, a Progress Report
It’s taken a while to get started on the project to make my daily driver Saturn SL1 into a better handling car. I had the parts but it took a few weeks to be able to get the work scheduled at a shop that was willing to install my own components. Now that the work has been done and I’ve been able to drive the car in varying conditions, it’s time for a progress report. The short version is that I’m pleased with the results. For the long version, continue reading after the break.
Piston Slap: Tyre Size Minus 1 or Minus 2?
I have a Gen 7 Toyota Camry V6 and I am getting close to replacement of the factory 225/45/18 low profile tyres. The selection of long wearing low profile all season tyres in 45 series is pretty slim. The four cylinder version of my Camry has 215/55/17 tyres on 7×17 inch rims and the selection of long wearing 55 series touring tyres is much better. My question is, since I am not really a ‘sport driving type’, would it be better for me to find a nice set of wrecking yard alloys and downgrade to the smaller rim/taller sidewall size tyres? Is the difference in performance between 45 series and 55 series noticeable or should I stay with the original low profile tyres.
Finally, Discount Tire seems to really push their ‘tire certificates’, a road hazard protection plan for $20/tyre. Is Road Hazard really necessary on a vehicle equipped with TPMS?
Piston Slap: Run Flat Tires and Parties A, B, C
TTAC commentator WheelMcCoy writes:
With MINIs, fun is directly proportional to repair bills. A couple with a 2009 MINI Cooper S bought an extended warranty which expires in February 2015. They hope to sell their MINI around then, but the run flat tires are worn down to their wear bars. To tide them over for 6 or 7 months, I suggested they buy some good handling low tread wear all season tires (they are in the Northeast) and an air compressor with goo. With normal tires, I’d argue they’d enjoy their MINI even more and might even want keep it after the extended warranty. But they are inclined on getting expensive run-flats to not hurt the resale value. Most likely, they will trade-in rather than sell on their own.
Appreciate your input and any alternatives we haven’t considered.
Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort?
photo courtesy: www.flyinmiata.com
TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes:
So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14’s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and I am happy with the current Vstrom, and last but not least it is an automatic. The OEM suspension seems firm to me but obviously not race ready. Roads in Northeast are usually not-so-new ranging down to horrible. Miata people say its mushy and floaty, those who want to autocross or race.
Supension Truth #4: Once Upon a Bump
A comment several articles ago on quantifying ride evaluation (the ‘ass-o-meter’ as one commenter put it) lodged in my brain. It reminded me that I never expanded on the additional data acquired during this magazine test three summers ago. I’ll do that here, add a few words on the timed track testing and then give you hungry readers some enticing graphs, to balance out my verbose ramblings (wink wink!).
Suspension Truth # 3:What Makes A Car "Fun To Drive"? Factors In Suspension Dynamics
In the last article, we explored what influences a suspension to ‘feel sporty’ vs. actually deliver better performance. A great car rewards us with a sublime driving experience while many (most?) let us down in a various ways. As part of that article, I dove into fairly technical terms without much introduction, so I’m taking a step back to do an overview and define a few terms. Then, I’ll get into the real meat of Suspension Truth and why we’re on The Truth About Cars – more seat-of-the-pants impressions tied to juicy technical details and real-world test data like shock dyno graphs, 3-axis accelerometer results – even raw shock velocity measurements from our Aim EVO system! From here we’ll be able to give metrics for different vehicles and see what we like and what we’d like to improve.
Suspension Truth #2: Sport Suspensions – The Illusion of Performance
Edit: Now with updated graph
So, what the heck does a manufacturer mean when they offer a ‘Sport Suspension’ and is it something you actually want? While I haven’t examined every version available, themes have carried through various makes/models, so what follows are safe generalizations. I even throw in a dyno chart!
Suspension Truth #1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles – The Psychology of Suspension Tuning
Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad. An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back when I had my 1997 Miata, I ordered a set of coilovers from Shaikh, based on his reputation for creating suspension setups with a previously unheard of balance between ride and handling. The Fat Cat coilovers are one of the few products I’ve ever bought that were able to live up to the hype. Over the next few weeks, Shaikh will delve into the science of suspensions, and provide his own analysis of a number of production cars.
What’s your least memorable train ride? Simple question, right? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume all of them. Unless a screenwriter threw you into an adventure film without your consent, it’s what we’d expect. This brings to mind a popular driving metaphor – ‘handles like it’s on rails.’ That’s our ideal in suspension tuning, to be glued to the ground and also as comfortable as possible. Easy when you’ve controlled every degree of freedom as with a train track and groomed earth beneath.
Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS
Smaller grille than CTS, but clearly a Cadillac.
Size and weight are a big part of GM’s DNA. They beat Ford not with a frontal assault on the Model T but by offering a larger, heavier, flashier car. They thought they could do the same to BMW. But, even as the Bavarians packed on the inches and pounds, car buyers “in the know” saw the additional size and weight of Cadillacs as a sign that the General either lacked technical competence or just didn’t “get it.” Well, maybe the “new GM” really is different. With the 2013 Cadillac ATS, the company has pulled out all the stops to directly challenge the BMW 3-Series with a rear-wheel-drive car that is—surprise—a few tenths of an inch smaller and a few pounds lighter. Could the people who tried to sell us the Cimmaron have gotten this one right?
What's Wrong With This Picture: The Ultimate Leaning Machine Edition
I hoped that BMW’s GT concept would be a one-and-done type of experiment, like the X6 or the Two-Mode hybrid drivetrain, selling as badly as it is. No such luck. Auto Motor und Sport has caught a forthcoming 3 Series GT prototype wallowing and leaning its way around a test track in Germany. That’s right, what you’re looking at right there is a 3 series… a nameplate that’s synonymous with sharp handling and a nailed-down ride. And just look at it, leaning on its tip-toes like a dune buggy that’s been developed by a French suspension engineer. Unless of course this isn’t a 3er GT at all, but the planned X4 “SAV”… but then, how is anyone supposed to even tell the difference between the two? One’s a softer, slightly larger, slightly jacked-up fastback 3 series, while the other is… essentially the same thing? Talk about losing the plot…