Wednesday, August 9, 2006

2006 Ford Freestyle

Upon arriving to pick up said vehicle, I was disappointed to see it was a Ford, even more disappointed to see it was a cross over SUV/Minivan type vehicle and that much more disappointed when it was in that faded Red woman color that Ford offers. I was pretty sure my weekend of driving was going to suck at this point in time.

However, I was pleasantly suprised. After sitting in the vehicle, you can see the typical ford dash and radio controls. Fired it up and off we went. First notable experience... WTF, a vehicle this size has no off the line power?!? Later, I would realize that it utilizes a CVT type of transmission which necessitates limiting torque shock to the transmission to prevent belt slippage. However, once moving, the vehicle has plenty of power... wow, it actually makes it easy to drive as power is readily available. The transmission simulates gears, but when power is required is gives up simulates gearing and just shoots the RPM high where they sit a-la jet turbine status.

Quick accerlations up onramps or massive pushes of the throttle are left with the RPMs high and pulling power to easily pass other vehicles. Impressive power, I will say that. I'm sure having the RPMs sitting that high like a jet turbine would probably freak some people out, but I knowing that the engine is in peak operating mode makes me feel better that the power is there. I was very suprised.

Crusing on the highway is done with aplomb as the ride is smooth, power is available for you to choose your crusing speed, not be aerodynamically limited and the noise level is fairly quiet. The suspension soaks up bumps as required, but road feel is still decent so you can tell you are driving on a certain type of surface... but not down to the fact if you just driven over a painted strip on the road or not.

A major kudos (especially for a vehicle of this type) ... BRAKES! Woo hoo, Ford finally put some decent brakes on this type of car. Jabs on the brakes are left you feeling as if air brakes are deployed from the side and top of the vehicle to help slow it's momentum. Braking is met with some excessive nose dive, but that's expected as the height of the vehicle is on SUV like levels (just with smaller tires). A full panic stop is left you thinking that one of your rear passengers has tossed an anchor out of the rear to help haul you down from speed. It was very impressive to say the least.

The interior was comfortable... but anything more than 60-75 minutes became uncomfortable, not to the point of you needing a rest, just enough to make you figgity. The controls were typical FORD, in the event that they were blah and you really avoided trying to use them if you did have to. Seating was available for 7 however, only 4 of them could be adults with 3 small children sitting on the fold down rear seat in the very rear by the hatch.

Speaking of rear seats by the hatch... while they did fold away into the rear of the vehicle. The fit and finish just seemed to be after thought. While folded down they were far from flush and it happened on more than one occasion that items would slip between the cracks necessitating for you to remove all your cargo, fold the seat up grab you small items and then put everything back to how it was before. That was a royal pain in the arse.

Gas consumption was decent... but nothing to be proud of, and ground clearance while on SUV type levels was more to be compared with minivans that typical SUVs (I guess that's why it's a cross over).

That's all for now... questions are welcomed.

2006 Kia Sportage

As a light SUV, it is a no frills cargo carrying machine... period. When you get inside the light SUV, it's spare interior gives no illusion that it is designed for very minimal. It almost begs you to wonder if the steering wheel and guages were optional with the purchase.

Twist the key and the engine fires to life and idles a bit high at just over 1000rpm. However, power output is great for a light SUV. When you mash the go pedal, it is very reminisent of the old 1980's Ford Mustangs as the front left corner of the SUV lifts up into the air as the chassis twists trying to motion itself forward. Power is abundant all the way up to highway speeds making driving on the highway easy. Steering will get you where you need to go, and the brakes... well, they leave lots to be desired as fade is apparent after the first attempt to haul it back down from those highway speeds. As note on it's highway potential. The SUV seems quite at home on the highway. Crusing at 80-85 is quite comfortable... however, there is a barrier somewhere just north of the 90 marker. It is not an engine power barrier, however, it is an aerodynamic factor. When you find that magic number which varies depending on wind speed and direction, you'll think that the mighty God himself has decided to reach down and try to shake the ever living soul out of you. Seriously at that speed, I was beginning to wonder if a) I was going to travel backwards in time or b) the parts that were bolted down with cheap screws were about to become road side debris.

A marvelous feature of this SUV was the extremely functional air conditioning. It goes from super hot Florida weather to ice cube in mere minutes which is quite a feet. Don't like your passengers? Set the A/C to max cool and point the vents at them... they'll be frosted over in a matter of minutes.

Cargo capacity is quite abundant with the rear seats up. Fold the rear seats down and you have enough cargo capacity to store enough materials to weigh the SUV down to the point where movement would cease to exist.

Overall... for the 15k SUV, it does its job rather well.

2006 Dodge Dakota Extended Cab 5.7L Magnum

It's a truck... plain and simple. Very utlitarian. Interior ammeneties are few and far between, the dash is very functional. Clear and easy to use dials and easy to read instruments.

The seats were very uncomfortable, but I guess when you are looking for a truck, you aren't looking for luxury. The rear cab is essentially a shelf. People can't really fit back there. It will do the job for small packages and the like.

Power is made with a massive 5.7L Magnum V8. Lots and lots of power available. The harder you push the go pedal, the more and more the engine displays it's abundance of torque and it's thirst for fuel. Crusing is easy, and at low RPMs making the most possible out of the fuel in the tank until you ask that magnum engine to motivate the mass forward. The engine and chassis cruise effortlessly at low to mid speeds, but highway speeds are a bit unnerving due to twitchy steering, a ladder like frame and trucklike suspension.

The four wheel drive system is very functional. By default, it is a 2WD truck and changing to 4WD can be done on the fly which is very comforting when you've managed to land yourself axle deep in mud. Tossing it into 4WD will give you the gift of grip and the massive engine will bless you with roster tails of mud which you wear as a badge of pride. With the 4WD active the turning radius is drastically reduced and turning the front wheel to lock leave the front end chattering across any type of solid ground (best for use on slippery surfaces).

Brakes are adequate... nothing special to write home about, but they get the job done. The looks of the truck are basic and will do the job. It is not the prettiest but not the worst either.

2006 Chevy Suburban Z71

What a big ... uh ... vehicle.

First off... this thing is huge... absolutely huge. You almost need binoculars to see the end of it if you are standing at the front. The inside, feels equally as large. Feels as if you could take a leisurely stroll for a few minutes and have dinner with the passengers located in the 3rd row. Of course, you'd want to make sure they are there for with a phone call.

Driving this behemoth takes some getting used to. While driving, feels as if you need to put one of those wide right turn stickers on the tailgate to warn others. U Turns... don't even think about it unless you are on a six lane highway or there is plenty of run off. Which brings us to a slight detour on the off-road ability. The off-road ability works good. In four wheel drive mode, it's unstoppable. And by unstoppable I mean, I couldn't find anything in Florida that could trip it up, curbs, sidewalks, mud holes, swap, gravel ... nothing, no problems. It almost feels at home on the off-road terrain (shame 1% if lucky will be taken off road).

On the highway... it's comfortable, but severely underpowered. Crusing speeds of 60 are capable, but much higher than that and you will find yourself lacking HP. How this beast is supposed to tow anything with the lack of HP is beyond me. Cruising speeds of 80 are possible provided you are travelling light... but be prepared for transmission downshifts should you encounter any sort of hill or overpass. With cargo... the transmission would probably send the RPMs through the roof trying to maintain it's speed and not crawl to a stop.

Brakes are suprisingly good for such a large vehicle. I expected the first panic stop to turn the braking equipment into molten steel followed by spontaneous combution of anything left anywhere near the brake discs/pads. Remarkable, numerous stops from 80+ were promising each time. Granted, fade was noticeable, but not enough to make you worry. All be it, I bet when they brakes do fail... you'll probably just plow through whatever you were trying to avoid anyway with little fanfare as aside from the brakes, I don't see much else slowing this beast.

Now... the best part. Fuel consumption. Considering most of the testing was done on highway miles... this vehicle averaged about 11mpg, I dare not attempt to drive this thing in the city... unless you decide to tow a fuel tanker behind you. Fill ups from empty require you to show two forms of identification and clarification to the gas station that you are indeed good for the money. Makes me want to think that even American Express would have a hard time letting you pump until it's full with this one.

I will say that it is comfortable and made long drives easy. If the gas tank didn't go empty so fast, I would be willing to bet you could drive this thing all day and not be tired. And... the off-road part... love it. Not once did I find myself wondering if I was going to have to climb out the window and wallow through near knee deep water or mud to call a more capable vehicle.

2006 Pontiac Solistice

This car is one of those that I wouldn't wish on anybody. I'll start out with the good points because those will be quick. The car has a great air conditioner. It was a warm 95 degrees out... and the air conditioner was blowing extremely cold. Was very refreshing with the top down for open air motoring.

Now to the bad stuff... this car is absolutely dreadful. The looks, well... that's opinion based. I couldn't stand the way it looked ... it actually annoys me to look at this car. The front looks strange the back looks just as strange. The hood and trunk open in clamshell fashion revealing very very little free space.

This car gives new meaning to the words "pack light." Except for the center compartment that divides the two seats, there is abolutely no room to hold anything in this car. The trunk is consumed by the entire manual retractable hardtop. The engine bay is stuffed with a small underpowered (I'll get to that in a bit) engine. The passenger compartment is the void of all elements you are used to. No nooks, no crannies, no cupholders, no place to store you cellphone. I ended up storing mine in the dash rings that housed the speedometer and tachometers.

The performance of the car is absolutely dreadful. It's good for absolutely nothing except sitting in traffic with that wonderful A/C I mentioned earlier. The engine is anemic to say it lightly. Winding it out under full throttle makes you wonder if the engine is powered by two hamsters on a wheel. To get to sixty miles per hour requires a shift to third gear resulting in horrible acceleration times. Merging onto the highway is downright scary, especially when highwas speeds of the oncoming traffic are in excess of eighty miles per hour. The guages on the dash are far from accurate. Rev matches on the dash were often accomplished before the tachometer has a chance to properly respond. Steering of the car is very good, very firm... but without any power to actually push this car to it's traction limits, it is wasted.

The seating configuation leaves little to be adjusted. The seats only more foreward and backward and there is not a reclining function available. The seats did not move far enough back to comforatbly fit. I often found my knees rubbing on the steering wheel during gear changes and rev matching downshifts. The doorsills are high, giving you the feeling as if you are sitting in a bathtub. The hood is never ending and feels like you are driving a corvette because it goes on forever. The rear, well it's not as long, but it is high. Good thing is if this car had power, you would know it because you literally sit on the back wheels.

Hope this review is helpful to whoever those are looking...