Monday, October 27, 2008

Miami International Auto Show Nov. 7 - 16th 2008

We will be present at the Miami International Autoshow bringing back all the news and footage we will carry. Stay tuned for more information.

Monday, October 6, 2008

2009 Mini Cooper S

The MINI has come a long way. Many of you may remember that the initial release of the MINI was welcomed with warm arms and words of praise, but those words of praise started to disappear quickly when daily driveability was affected by normal wear and tear and high ambient temperatures and heat soak. The 2009 MINI Cooper S goes a long way to rectify those problems, but make some more. Evolution I suppose has it's ups and downs.

First, the turbocharged four cylinder engine is words better than it's previous supercharged older brother. Before sloppy and poor throttle response lead to awkward slow speed driving and a lack of umph at anything below 4000rpm due to the supercharger using up more power than it's making. The new turbocharged motor does away with all of that. Throttle response is greatly improved and torque from slow engine speeds is readily available now. You no longer have to wind it out to make it go.

Handling is still superb, pushes in the wheels to the corners is a receipe for go kart like handling and nimbleness on a scale to which other cars barely make it to the halfway mark. The suspension is firm, maybe too firm for some, but for the enthusiast it's just right. You feel the road and you know exactly what is going on. Bodyroll is not excessive, but enough to let you know you are pushing your limits. The handling is fairly neutral with a hint of understeer when you get in over your head. Oversteer is available though if you know what you are doing and wish to rotate the car through a corner with lift throttle oversteer.

Unfortunately, the MINI is still front wheel drive, but due to some advanced suspension geometry, putting all that power down results in minimal torque steer. The traction control does a wonderful job pushing power to the other side to help balance your intended direction when too much power tries to find it's way out of one tire. However, the tight packaging of the engine and front wheel driving configuration leave lots of room for the rear of the car and passengers without awkward driveshafts taking up valuable floor space.

The interior of the car is where evolution goes a bit in the wrong direction. Everything on the interior gets bigger. The center mounted speedometer is now a good 20-25% larger than the previous generation making it awkwardly huge. There is no hiding how fast you are going from your passengers... or for that matter, the people behind or next to you that can see through your windows. I'd be willing to bet satellites from space could see this large speedometer if they wanted to.

Toggle switches remain the way of doing business in the cabin, but an awkwardly places knob on the speedometer and one below often confuse people as to which one to turn to adjust the volume knob. Best to just remove the knob and use the buttons on the steering wheel anyway. This way your passenger can't interfere with your musical selection.

For a resonable price, a MINI can be yours with all the bells and whistles of a much more expensive car. Dare I say it ... it's a premium priced vehicle in a MINI package and a MINI price.

Friday, October 3, 2008

2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

If the only thing you want out of a car is a convertible and the ability to seat four, then this car is for you. If it is one thing I can say about this car, it is large and capacity for four is definitely possible. If you value anything else in life, survival, value for money spent, a good driving experience, the ability to feel like you aren't driving a blender without a top... run somewhere else.

Upon first look... the car hides its size well. From the outside, it looks decent sized, but when you sit on the interior, you get a true grasp for how limosine like this car is. The front feels like the hood on a Corvette... it ends in a different area code. The rear of the car feels like you are pulling around well... another car. The front leg room was spacious as was the shoulder room, but the head room was a little crampt. The rear room isn't meant for large adults for long trips, but children or short people would be comfortable back there provided the person in front of them was not a basketball player and they had uh... knees.

Our test car was equipped with the 2.4 liter four cylinder. If you are into fuel conservation, this is the engine for you. If you like getting where you are going... skip it and go for the six cylinder. The four cylinder was economical on gas, has to work really hard at highway speeds negating any savings in gas because it is always dropping down to the lowest gear to accelerate spinning the motor at high speeds and well... sucking up gas.

As with all convertible... the lack of a roof for rigidity plays a huge part on the driving experience and with this car it is no different. The smallest of bumps will upset the chassis and large bumps will make you almost seasick because of the rotational chassis twisting forces. Feels as if you are sitting in the middle of a ladder while people on either end twist in different directions. This is a car to definitely be seen in, not drive and in this case, that's not a good thing. Wind noise from the convertible top is horrible. The radio sometimes has a hardtime overpowering the noise at highway speeds.

However, putting the top down (while a long process) makes many of these problems go away as you are greated with endless headroom and the wind in your hair. Wind noise up front isn't bad, but wind noise for the rear passengers can make having a conversation almost impossible. In all reality, if they are in the back seat, you probably don't want to hear what they have to say anyway... that's why you put them back there.

For it being a cheap four seat convertible... it definitely does the job. However, I would much rather pay more for a car to do that or skip the convertible option all together. Cheap and convertible should not be in the same sentence together.