Saturday, August 29, 2009

BMW Performance -- Upgrade your 335i or just buy an M3

This is not really a review, at least not yet (unless someone wants to supply us with a DINAN 335i S2). DINAN has long been a tuner of BMWs and up until recently was available and numerous BMW dealerships (as they were DINAN authorized). However, with BMW bringing their own performance products to the table, some BMW dealerships are starting to drop their partnership with DINAN in favor of installing their own performance products.

This story comes from an interesting question found on the internet. Given the choice, would you purchase a DINAN 335i S2 or a original BMW M3. Key arguments against the DINAN 335i S2 is that by the time you put all of the items available from DINAN on a 335, you are within 3-5k of the price of an M3 and you don't get some of the trick items available on the M3. Other claim that buying a DINAN 335i S2 makes you different than the crowd, making you more unique and more of a "sleeper" keeping prying eyes at bay and keeping insurance premiums low (compared to the M3).

So what say you... stop by the link and vote. It will be interesting to see the outcome.

2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 GT Coupe

The first words out of your mouth... "This is a Hyundai?" Looking at the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe, you wonder how a car company has gone from being something that you would be ashamed to see in let alone drive ten years ago to a marvelous masterpiece that manages to out price its competition. Years ago, I would not dare think of bringing a Hyundai to a car show, if I did, it would be parked around the corner out of clear view. Today, I am sitting in a new Hyundai Genesis Coupe and let me say, it is garnering a whole bunch of attention from passers by. The first words out of their mouth... you guessed it, "This is a Hyundai?"

What I am going to talk about today is the new Genesis 3.8 GT Coupe. Price, as equipped, $29,000. It is OK, you can pick your jaw up off the ground. For that price, you get a 3.8L V6 engine pumping out a whopping 306HP which is tied to the rear wheels making this one of the few cars in this segment for this amount of money. You also get such niceties such stability control, automatic climate control, tire pressure monitoring system, heated seats, a sport tuned suspension, keyless entry, bluetooth connectivity, xenon headlights and the list goes on and on. The list rivals that of a car costing thousands more than what we are sitting in.

Sitting in the car you feel well supported by the seats bolsters and comfortable by the way of nice padding. The steering wheel, while small, is easy to grab with an abundance of controls littered all over the front of the wheel and paddle shifters behind for those who opt for the automatic transmission. The guages are nothing fancy, but communicate what the driver needs to know. Interior space for front passengers is ample and even with a 6'3" front seat passenger there is still enough room for an adult in the back seat. They will not be happy about it, but if their compare it to walking, it will be a welcomed place to park their rump for a an hour or so.

Now, when the rubber meets the road you may think that Hyundai short changed the driving experience in a car that is this cheap. Nope, put your foot down and your are planted in your seat by an abundance of torque off the line. Keep your foot down and the engine swing easily through its power band and quickly accelerates to speeds that would easily land yourself in hot water with your local law enforcement. The sound the engine and exhaust make give you a grin from ear to ear and you wonder why other sports cars can not figure out how make noises like this. Power is ample at engine speeds, but the car designed to be a sports car, is quick to down shift if you ask for power to move forward. It is itching to run. Ask for some passing power and it will skip down a gear or two to make sure you get what you want. Things in the rear view mirror will start disappearing quickly if you are not careful.

The handling of the car is nice and smooth. The steering, while a little delayed (one might thing because of the tall tires), points the front of the car where you want to go easily. Push the car and you are greeted with a little bit of understeer which can be countered by less throttle application to bring the front end back, or if you are a daredevil, feeding more power in to rotate the rear of the car with a nice tail out slide if desired. Lift throttle oversteer car also be accomplished easily on demand should you want. The beautiful part about it, is the car is so easy to control in all situations. Almost nothing comes as a surprise and countersteering or balancing is easy to accomplish (if you know what you are doing -- don't try this at home kids). The suspension manages to communicate to the driver what is going on... the harsh conditions are soaked up while the feedback the driver is looking for remains in tact. One downside, which we were unable to figure out was a strange vibration noise apparent at 70-90 mph. As you cross past the 75mph mark this weird vibration would become quite annoying. The noise would slowly go away as the speeds dropped below 65. We are hoping that this noise had something to do with the tires on the car and was not a design flaw. Another car will have to be tested to figure that out.

Braking... now you must be thinking, this has to be where the car falls on its face. No way can a sub $30k car do everything well. You would be wrong. From 70mph, the braking of the car was rock solid. It actually out brakes many cars twice the price. Braking from highway speeds was predictable and balanced. There was no sway from side to side, and the ABS worked as it should stopping the car in a quite respectable distance without any crazy nose dive found in other cars. The tires did squeal as if they were being tortured, but that is expected from an all season tire. Repeated braking I would imagine would be just fine as the pedal showed no signs of fade or sink after a few hard braking attempts. Again, quite a surprise when compared to other cars.

Now, It would not be fair to tell you all the good things about this car and leave out the bad things. You want to know what we think, not being a complete sales pitch to go out and buy one. The downsides are few, but there are some. The throttle on the car is very twitchy. Ask for just a hint of throttle from a stop and you get a bag full. Do not be surprised when you first drive the car that the rear tires chirp on smooth surfaces from over application of throttle. With practice, you can smooth that out, but the throttle is twitchy from a get go. The interior trim items are a little flimsy to the touch. Some of them feel as if they are going to break off in your hands, but we were unable to break them during our testing period. So they are attached well, they just feel flimsy. The door line of the car feels rather high. To accommodate viewing, one may want to raise the seat up so you don't feel as if you are sitting in a bath tub... this is mostly due to the design cues of the car though. Another thing is rearward visibility over your shoulder and through the back glass. The design makes for a rather large C pillar area making sometimes turning into traffic a mission. Plus, with such a raked rear window and high trunk, rearward visibility is a bit interesting. Using you rear mirrors will be key here. Plus, from our chief in charge of design explains that with such a raked rear window combined with no rear wiper, seeing backwards in the rain will be downright impossible as the rain will just sit on the back window. Final complaint, the trunk, while copious, suffers from a high lift over and an extreme small opening. The trunk is large enough to suck up many suitcases, but you would be hard pressed to get them up and over the trunk lift over plus, having them fit through the small opening would be a mission. You are better off carrying the suitcases in the back seat and just sticking all your clothes in the trunk. You can pack the when you get where you are going.

All in all, for the money you are spending. You are going to be hard pressed to find a better car. The value is definitely there, the performance is definitely there and the warranty without a doubt is there. With Hyundai offering a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty (on certain items), it is very likely this car will last for a very long time. These days, Hyundai is really giving the other manufacturers something to think about. Driving a Hyundai these days is no longer something to be ashamed about. I would be happy to stand next to this car and call it my own. Not only does it scream performance, it also screams value... showing others I know what I like and I don not need to spend twice as much to get it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 Porsche Cayman S

Our loyal readers may know that we already reviewed the Porsche Cayman so they may be asking, why are we reviewing it again? Well, the answer is simple... it is a Porsche Cayman... and to top it off, it is an S versus the non-S we drove earlier. What is even better, our Cayman S came equipped with the Porsche flappy paddle gearbox, known as Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK).

From the outside, the Cayman is slightly face lifted over the previous version that we drove. New headlights and front fascia liven up the appearance some. We are not sure if the new looks make the car look any better, but it definitely looks different than it's predecessor so those that know, will know you are driving the newer hotness. The rear also gets revised tail lamps which are bigger and more bulbous. Again, not sure if it enhances the appearance, but it is definitely different. Otherwise, the exterior is little changed from the previous year. It still looks gorgeous in white and almost could double as a piece of art rather than a car. When looking at it, you pray for good weather as driving it in inclement weather would only make a little bit of you die on the inside.

The Cayman S features a 3.4L direct injection flat six cylinder engine producing 320hp (as opposed to the 2.9-litre engine in the standard Cayman delivering 265 hp). One of the complaints with the previous car was that the while the handling was everything you would expect from a Porsche, the power was not up to par. Well, the Cayman S fixes that in the right way. Where you had to really push the Cayman to get it moving, the Cayman S moves with grace and efficiency. Push the go pedal and you are off. Engine response is snappy and it pulling power is greatly improved. It is not too much power, but it is the added power the car needed. However, with the added power, there is a noise penalty associated with the car. Driving sedately with yield no difference in noise, but bury your foot and you are pleased with a nice engine growl which unfortunately gets taken over by an annoying engine noise after 5000 rpm. Winding through the RPM is a emotional rollercoaster. As you plant your foot, and the RPM swings up, you start to smile more and more as the growl warms the soul, but as the RPMs get near redline your happiness is and hearing are swallowed up by the engine noise which is located right behind you. We suppose that it side effect of having a mid-engine car, if Porsche is listening, some more sound padding back there would not be a bad thing.

Being that this is a Porsche, handling was superb. Think of where you want to go, let you hands deliver those instructions to the steering wheel and the car answers with extreme scalpel like precision. Those with fists made of ham need not apply. This machine requires a person who knows where they want to go, not one that will be flailing around behind the wheel. The suspension is setup to be smooth yet firm. The perfect balance of yin and yang. Being that it is a Porsche, we darned not push the limits of adhesion due to our lack of available facilities to really see what it could do... but we have no doubt it would excel just as a Porsche should. Smooth yet have the ability to tear up tenacious amount of tarmac if required with its available grip.

As one would expect, the Porsche Cayman S came with some impressive anchors on all four corners. Colorful red calipers behind typical Porsche wheels definitely will make your car buddies jealous. We would expect that this car with such nice looking brakes would stop just as quickly as its older cousin. We however where slightly disenchanted to find that braking distance for this car were longer than the previous car. We believe however this was due to worn equipment on the car. Every other Porsche that has been tested have had brakes equivalent to hitting a brick wall on demand. So we will overlook this one's slightly poor performance.

We will skip the interior because... well, it is the same as the previous Cayman. Small, low to the ground and extremely purposeful with leather and carbon fiber adorning nearly every visual eye piece. It's beyond nice, that's all your really need to know.

Now, revisting the Porsche PDK. Some of you may remember we were graced with a 911 equipped with the PDK and while fun, it still had some downsides that we were less than thrilled with. Well, the Porsche engineers read our feedback and they heard and tried to address our concerns best they could. One of the biggest complaints with the previous iteration was that the low speed crawling assistant was far too peppy and far to fast to be considered a low speed assistant. Parking lot maneuvers would often lead you to riding the brake to keep it from rolling too fast. It would creep too fast for comfort. Thanks to some enhanced software, the crawling speed has been greatly reduced and now crawling through parking lots or really slow traffic are accomplished with ease and without having to ride the brakes.

The PDK is also more advanced when it comes to on/off throttle response. The jumpiness attributed to the harsh clutch activation is all gone at all speeds and especially starting from a stop. Transition to throttle is now nearly perfect provided the car has the fraction of a second to be in the right gear. From the outside and from the inside you can give people the impression you are an accomplished drivers without lunging and head bobbing.

Unfortunately however, there are some mistakes with the latest iteration as well. With this version, we noticed that gear changes at full throttle and redline have been slowed down some. So full throttle shifts while smooth leaves some power on the table that can not be extracted. Full throttle redline shifts are effortless, but no chirp of tires can be accomplished. We also noticed that the Cayman S did not come with a launch control feature. So massive acceleration can only be achieved by smashing the gas pedal through the floor board. There is a momentary pause in acceleration though as the RPMs skyrocket and then the clutch engaged... then it is bye bye birdie.

The Cayman S is a great car... it does everything well and we believe it is a great addition to the Porsche lineup. It gives you that perfect roadster feeling with the security of a roof over your head. Price starts at $60,000... but after equipping it with options you can easily surpass $100,000. When you are flipping through that Porsche Exclusive option book... make sure you check those addition boxes sparingly.