Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 BMW 335d

d ... What's the "d" stand for? Well, since you asked. It stands for diesel. BMW has finally decided to bring its technology stateside. Somewhere lots of people are rejoicing that they get a decent performing car without suffering at the gas pump. Now, before "you people" start saying well "Diesel gas costs more at the pump." Yes, yes it does. However, you get more miles out of a gallon of diesel gas than you do our of premium gas. When was the last time you got 600 miles to a tank of fuel? So that squashes that argument...

Back to the point at hand... from the exterior, there is no discerning marks that would identify the 335 as a diesel car compared to a 335i. The only difference come to those with detailed eyes when you see a body colored port located in the rear bumper. This port is used to refill the "mystery" fluid that help to keep the diesel fumes from becoming an environmental problem. Every 15,000 miles you need to make a trip to your local BMW dealer and they will refill the container that holds the mystery fluid. Rumor has it that without this fluid, the car will self-destruct... well no it won't, but it will cease to run.

Interior wise little has changed. The only visible change is on the dash here the fuel tank indicator has a diesel indicator over it and the redline is much lower ... at around 4750 RPM. Other than that, the car operates just the same.

Start it up and initially there is a little difference in sound, but soon it settles into a low hum just like any other BMW. Only the most discerning ears will here a difference in tone over a traditional motor. Push the gas pedal and off you go. Like any other car, the power is smooth and effortless. You will see that there is much more torque... 425ft-lbs compared to the 300ft-lbs available from it's cousin. There is a horsepower penalty however, dropping from 300 down to 265. Not really a problem because torque is your friend anyway.

Driving this car, the boat loads of torque is instantly apparent. Ask for more go power and the car obliges. The torque pushes you forward almost making down shifts unnecessary. Highway speeds are easily attained and quite quickly. Once at speed response is almost instant, but from a stop, there is a slight delay while the turbo does what is has to do to build boost. Once you're up to speed though, response is almost instant. The average driver will not know the difference between a diesel and a gasoline powered car. They will notice however when they don't have to go to the gas station nearly as often. And that is a major bonus...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X (10) MR

G R I P!

This car has it... and lots of it. First things first, the EVO is not your standard Mitsubishi Lancer. On the outside, it may look very similar and the interior may be just as bland, but the all the important bits have been not just upgraded... but completely replaced. Gone is the anemic four cylinder in the Lancer and instead it is replaced by a newly designed 2.0 L turbocharged, all-aluminum inline four cylinder engine. Now you may think... ugh, 2.0 L of engine can't do anything worthwhile. Well, let's just say this is 2.0 L of dynamite. This car pumps out a whopping 300hp out of a tiny package. Romp on it from idle and there is some turbo lag, but I understand there is a launch control feature available to solve that problem should you want to smash your brain against the back of your skull. Once moving, you roll on the throttle and a wave of torque propels you forward.

The transmission is new for the year. It is a new sequential semi-automatic six speed Twin Clutch SST twin-clutch transmission. This twin clutch system baffles the mind, but suffice to say, it does what it needs to do. Executes beautiful lightning fast upshifts and flawless downshifts at the flick of the steering column (not wheel) mounted paddles or the console mounted shifter.

Now the business end of the transmission is tied to an all new full-time all-wheel drive system named S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control). This is an advanced version of AWC system used in previous generations. The S-AWC uses torque vectoring technology to send different amount of torque to any wheel at any given time based on what many fancy computers think you are trying to do. The level of perceived grip that this translates to the driver is down right phenomenal. You can push harder through corners and fancy computers send power to the wheels that they need to so you can stay on your desired path. Laws of physics surely can't be broken, but the S-AWC has the ability to bend and even rewrite them at times. It has the ability to tell Sir Isaac Newton to look the other way as you power through corners like a man on a mission. If you aren't careful, you can easily turn the car one direction and have your lunch go the other.

Interior is nothing special... it basically is a slightly upgraded Lancer interior with really nice and supportive seats. Be forewarned though, if you are any bit out of shape, you're going to be too wide for these seats. They are very supportive, but you'll find yourself at the gym much much more to keep your weight down and your backside in check so you can fit comfortably in those seats.

Exterior enhancements included an upgraded front bumper, hood, bigger wheels and brakes, redesigned rear bumper and a much larger boy racer wing. This is the point where I tell you that the boy racer wing is "very" boy racer but some design monkey wasn't thinking when he put the rear spoiler right smack dab in the middle of the rear window. Looking through the back glass you get a great view of the spoiler, but not much else.

At 41,000 this isn't the cheapest pocket rocket on the market. Especially since the interior looks like that of it's 13,000 brother. However, when you drive this car, it's very evident that the extra 30,000 some odd dollars is all spent on the go fast goodies of the engine, transmission and all-wheel drive handling system.

You want to go fast? Then this is probably the best pocket rocket you are going to find for the price. Just be forewarned... you will need to spend some money to upgrade the exhaust because the Mitsubishi engineers did a great job of muffling the exhaust, but left you with the unmuffled sound of the overpowered blender under the hood. Plus... you will need to be prepared to start making three point turns to get in and out of parking spaces because it has the turning radius of a school bus.

It's all a small price to pay for the ability to bend the laws of physics at the flick of your wrist. Plus, with the amount of grip this car has, you can pretty much adjust the earth's rotation as desired. I heard that as a result of this car, too many drivers were going the same direction and the shear level of grip has cause engineers to think we are going to need to add another second to our clocks next year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2009 Cadillac DTS

This is your father's and even his father's Cadillac. It is long and flashy. Open the big door and slide into the big comfortable leather seat and it just swallows you up like a soft pillow. As you get comfortable, you can take note of the wood that covers various points on the dash and console.

Pop that column shifter into drive and float away from the curb as if you are gliding on a cloud of air. Stab the gas pedal though and that cloud of air gets a hurricane like gust behind it, but that's not what this car is about. This car is like riding on Aladdin's carpet. Float over bumps as if they never existed.

Reach down and flip on the heated massaging seat and take pleasure in the multipoint massage system that is now kneading away all your worries. The scenery almost starts to get surreal and blurry as you enjoy the heat which eases your aches and pains as if

*** insert sleeping & snoring noises here ***

Later... wow, it was so soft I fell asleep. Mental note, don't use the heated massaging seats on a long road trip. My grandfather may want one of these though.

2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid

This review will be short because this is basically much akin to the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid reviewed earlier, just cheaper and scaled back some.

The 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid was brought to market this year with economy in mind. People who need large SUVs were tired of getting seven mpg on a regular basis. So GMC tossed some Hybrid technology in to help people cope with ever rising gas prices. The engine in the GMC Yukon is a 6.0L V8 combined with the same two 60kW electric motors found in the Escalade cousin. The horsepower rating is a however considerably down versus the Escalade at only 332hp on tap when demanded. However, as a benefit to less horsepower, you get a whopping 1 or 2 mpg increase ( I think I'll take the extra horsepower instead ).

The exterior of the GMC Yukon is drastically changed versus the Escalade which is almost identical to it's non-hybrid brother. Not counting the almost 13 badges advertising that you are a tree hugger driving a school bus, the changes could easily set you apart to the discerning eye. The front facia is changed on the Hybrid version for better aerodynamic as are the mirrors, side skirts and rear bumper. The roof rack was removed unless requested and the wheels were replaced with lightweight and some what stylish variations. So, these aero improvements are what help to contribute to that increase of 1 or 2 mpg we spoke of earlier.

Inside, you get basically the same dash and layout found in the non-hybrid version of the Yukon except for an added Hybrid feature found on the Escalade which shows exactly what the Hybrid system is doing at any give point in time. Definitely a neat gadget to show your friend so they know you are not messing around about being ecologically friendly. We know you are doing it to save gas, but your friends do not have to know that.

The suspension in the Yukon is slightly rougher than on the Escalade. Hitting bumps on the road seem to send noises and vibrations through the cabin that seem to never end in comparison to the Escalade. However, this vehicle also costs considerably less than the Escalade as well. With added incentives, the price of this vehicle comes down from astronomical to almost affordable putting it very close to the Chevrolet Tahoe which is not nearly as economical on fuel.

If you need a large SUV ... and I mean really need one, not because you feel safer driving a school bus to work. Get the Cadillac Escalade if you can afford it. If you are on a budget... get the GMC Yukon. Don't think that by buying a 9 passenger hybrid to drive only yourself to work is going to make you a better person. If you need the space this is the way to go. If you don't, get something smaller. You'll thank me next time you try to pull into a parking space and you won't have to do a 3 point turn to do it.

2009 Saab Aero 2.0T

Where does the key go? That's the first thing I thought when I got in the car. Then I remembered that those crazy guy who build jets figured it would be neat to put it in the center console instead of up by the ignition. Turn the key at the mighty 2.0L fires to life. Gauges light up and this fighter jet is ready to launch. Move the shifter into Drive and away we go.

Saab Aero #7, you are cleared for departure runway 27.

Foot goes to the floor and response is much like that of a fighter jet. You start to roll forward while the power starts to come on and the finally the big turbine spins to life and away you go roaring down the street. As you reach maximum boost the turbo system starts to vent the excess which is clearly audible from the passenger compartment with the top down. Acceleration starts slowly but builds quickly once spinning. Unfortunately, that turbo lag is almost always there whenever you try to gain speed. You have to factor it into your driving style. Want to pass a car? Go full throttle, wait for the turbo to do it's thing, then pull out into the opposing lane. Pull out too early and the guy in front of you and behind you will think you are some drunk guy until you actually start moving towards the horizon.

Interior is comfortable for two, slightly tight for four. It seemed as if the rear passengers were sitting higher than the front passengers who took an almost fighter like position with almost naturally puts them in a more laid back position while the rear passengers are placed further back and up to be assaulted by the gail force winds over the low windshield. The dash does the job giving you all the information you need albeit with a fairly interesting boost guage to let you know whenever the turbo is actually doing something. Plus, it also has a nice little red area following the guage which I'm guessing is when you should start to look for the Eject handle should the needle start to enter that area.

Handling for this car is ... well, it looks pretty. However, combine front wheel drive with no roof for stability and suspension designed to be soft for all those passengers and convertible top machinery and you aren't going to win any contests. Sharp turns I guess aren't a requirement in these jets. I suppose they are more used to the wide turns that take a few miles. The suspension is soft, but it can easily be upset due to the lack of rigidity with the missing roof.

So... it's a great car to look at, nice car to drive if you want to be seen... but not a sports car. Saab could've done better, but I guess those guys used to build jets and there is a reason they aren't building them anymore. They want to retire with something soft and pretty.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

For those that are feeling environmentally conscious but still want to lumber around in their thunderous SUVs, Cadillac has something for you. They have brought hybrid technology to the king of the hill. The Cadillac Escalade is new for 2009. it is powered by the same 6.0L V8 engine found in its non-hybrid cousin. However, to supplement its output, Cadillac has outfitted it with two 60kW motors to help get you moving.

If you look in the engine bay, you will see a variety of orange colored wires indicating something you should not be messing with. Touching or cutting one of those will probably be the most electrifying part of your day. Strangely enough, even though the hybrid system has equipped the Escalade with a heap load of batteries under the chassis for added power, it still retains a battery in the engine bay. You would think that the battery in the engine bay would be not necessary considering the massive power station used to drive the rest of the vehicle.

Power in this monster is much improved. Those two 60kW motors snap to 'go' when you romp on the gas pedal. It propels the massive SUV to highway speeds in what seems like record speed for a vehicle of this size. Under full acceleration, the engine is pumping out 430+ hp combined with electrical assistance from the two electric motors making for a startling acceleration experience. But, that's not what this is about. This is about maximizing fuel economy. If you are gentle on the gas pedal, you can motive the beast from a stop using nothing but battery power up to about 20-25 mph before the engine kicks in to help bring you up to speed.

Transition from battery power to engine power is nearly seemless unless you are looking for it. If you are watching for it, you will feel a slight shudder as the motor turns on/off based on need. Now, as you are coming to a stop, if you are watchful of your surroundings, you can maximize your coasting time without using the brakes. While coasting, the vehicle goes into charging mode using the rotation of the rear tires as generators to charge up the juice in the batteries. If you are good with this procedure of easy starts and coasting to a stop... you will notice that this monster will turn in an impressive 20mpg city and 21mpg highway. Not bad considering it's size and it's retained ability to pull 6000lbs of stuff trailing behind.

Interior of the Escalade has changed very little from it's solely gasoline powered cousin. Upgrades include a dial on the dash board to help the driver keep an eye on 'efficiency'. A dial swings right or left letting you know you are doing something wrong. If the dial is in the 12 o'clock dial, you're making the most use of the hybrid technology. Too far to the right and you're too hard on the gas, too hard to the left and you're using the brakes too much. It's a game to see how well you can keep it straight up or away from straight up based on your financial situation and stock in the gas companies. The screen inside is also upgraded with a hybrid technology screen which diagrams exactly what is going on with the system at all times. It will impress your passengers should want to know what is happening and why it sounds like this vehicle is an oversized golf cart.

One of the nice features... when running on battery power. This oversized behemoth sounds like a mice at Christmas time. It's super quiet and all you can hear is the quiet hum of the AC compressor. Basically you get the ability to sneak up behind people in the parking lot and scare them as the engine turns on.

Added bonuses! As of today, I do believe in certain states, if you have a hybrid vehicle, you can drive in the high occupancy lane with only on person in the car. Plus I do believe if you qualify for all the necessary refunds, you can get up to $13,500 back in tax incentives for being more 'green'. As a side effect for this, certain states require you to put a special hybrid sticker on the vehicle. That means it will be covered by no less than 13 decals indicating to the world you are driving a hybrid vehicle.