Saturday, December 31, 2011

Update: The Kia Sportage lives up to expectations

Kia Sportage
This week I rented a Kia Sportage from Enterprise, and am happy to report that the high expectations I laid out in my post from a few months ago were met! Furthermore, the Kia was overall better than the Nissan Rogue I recently reviewed. Click through for a quick update.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where does the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe fit?

BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe
The 6-Series Gran Coupe is BMW's answer to the growing 4-door coupe segment currently led by the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7. It follows its failed previous attempt to enter the segment, the 5-Series GT, a rather bulbous sportback based on the 5-Series sedan. However, I can't help but question the strength of BMW's new 6-Series entry. Click through for my thoughts.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: What is so roguish about the Nissan Rogue?

Nissan Rogue
I recently drove the Nissan Rogue through Avis and was surprisingly underwhelmed. I was bored by the car's bland exterior styling, bargain basement interior styling, and lawn-mower-sounding engine. This crossover is named "Qashqai" in the rest of the world, which would probably confuse buyers in the US, so it's a good thing Nissan renamed the car "Rogue". However, the name Rogue suggests "maverick", or "different", but instead of seeing a new twist on the small crossover, I saw just another scoop of vanilla. Click through for my review.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Test Drive: Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe vs. CLS63 AMG vs. Audi A7

Mercedes CLS63 AMG
I had the opportunity to test drive 3 of my favorite cars at a local dealership today: the Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe, CLS63 AMG, and the Audi A7 (in that order). In short, what a day... Both Mercedes packed serious punch and growled like no other, causing the beautiful Audi A7 to feel relatively sedate in comparison. I was unable to snap photos of the cars given the salesman's apparent lack of time and patience, so I've chosen some impressive stock photos from the trusty site instead. Lots to cover, so click through for my impressions:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why does GM need GMC and Chevy Trucks?

GMC Yukon
In GM's recent government-forced purge of unnecessary brands (Pontiac, Hummer, Saab, Saturn, not to mention Oldsmobile a few years ago), I am very surprised GMC survived. For as long as I can remember, GMC has been an unimaginative rebadging of Chevy trucks. GM's rationale has always been that it makes sense for volume and distribution: there are Chevy / Cadillac dealers and Buick / GMC dealers. Why not turn Buick / GMC dealers into Chevy / Cadillac dealers? As an aside, I love Buick's new designs, but I still don't see where they fit in the GM product strategy, as they overlap with Chevy's top-of-the-line cars and Cadillac's low-end cars. And GMC trucks barely have any differentiating factors from their Chevy counterparts, yet GM has 2 separate ad campaigns that could easily be consolidated. Recent efforts to retool shared platforms to give GMC an identity have been lukewarm at best (e.g., Terrain). Click through for the rest of the discussion:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

R.I.P.D. movie car chase scenes sighted!

During a trip through downtown Boston a couple weeks ago, I came across a film crew shooting some awesome car chase / car crash scenes and snapped a few pictures. Later I did some more research and found out that the movie was R.I.P.D. (stands for Rest in Peace Department) starring Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, and Jeff Bridges, and is expected to be released in 2013. The plot is evidently about a murdered cop who joins forces with living cops to find his killer. Sounds like a good action movie to me, and anything with a blacked out Porsche Cayenne has to be entertaining. It must be a big-budget film given that a good part of the city was shut down for the weekend. Click through for some more pictures.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can't buy an Opel GT in the US? Convert a Saturn Sky!

Opel Sky??
I recently stumbled upon this well-executed conversion of an ordinary Saturn Sky into an Opel GT. The front logo, rear end, space between the seats, and even the center of the wheels were swapped to the Opel logo. The steering wheel still had the Saturn logo, and the seats were still embroidered with the word "Sky", but no one would be able to tell from afar. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Aston Martins are rare, but an Opel is non-existant in the about exclusive! I always wondered how much money it would cost to convert a Peugeot or Renault to comply with US regulations. Even if it were possible, finding a good mechanic to do repairs would be quite tricky (and expensive). But this Saturn would be quite affordable. Click through for some more shots:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Toyota Prius - the king of hybrids

I recently had a chance to drive the Toyota Prius through Zipcar, and it's not all bad. Here is the review, which I wrote as a guest contributor for RawAutos, an interesting car blog you should also check out. The blog owner, Josh Lewis, is a great writer, has fresh opinions, and is an all-around good guy. So do yourself a favor and check out his blog as well!

Now on with the review...

The Toyota Prius is the world’s best-selling hybrid and one of Toyota’s best selling cars…and all for good reason. It offers awesome fuel economy, a high-quality interior, and tons of trunk space. Having recently driven and reviewed the comparatively downmarket Honda Insight through Zipcar on my blog a few weeks ago, I can conclude that while the Insight is good yet slightly underrated, the Prius is rather deservedly highly rated. While I didn’t intend to make this article a battle royale between Honda and Toyota’s similar-looking 5-door hybrids, one can’t help but draw comparisons. Bottom line – the Prius is more pricey, but the driving experience is also more satisfying. Click through to see the rest of the review:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rolls Royce Phantom Zipcar?! I wish...

I found this beast illegally parked in my Zipcar spot today, and thought, "so this is how Zipcar rewards its customers who return their cars on time..." Then I saw my reserved Prius parked a few spaces down and was brought back to reality. Hey, a guy can dream, right? Click through for a few more snapshots.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Favorite Car Lists #3: Coupes/Convertibles

Mercedes SLS AMG
It has been awhile, but it's time for the third installment of my favorite car lists - this time, coupes and convertibles (basically, anything with 2-3 doors). Click through to see - do you agree with my lists?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why does Suzuki still sell cars in the US?

Suzuki Equator
I like to think that I keep up with the car industry, but I had NO idea Suzuki sold the Equator pickup...let alone the fact that they have been selling the truck since 2009! I have never EVER seen one on the road. This lazy excuse of a Nissan Frontier rebadge is exactly why Suzuki has had trouble gaining traction in the US in the last 20 years. Most of Suzuki's cars have been sourced from other automakers, notably through its partnership with GM/Daewoo. Unless it changes its strategy, I give the Suzuki US brand another 5-10 years before going the way of Isuzu -- that is, extinct. Click through to read why...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Honda Insight review: why does it get such a bad rap?

The car I was driving in my previous post on the Ferrari 458 was the Honda Insight, one of my favorite Zipcars because of its lower hourly cost compared to gas-powered cars. While the Prius is overall a better car than the Insight, there are many things I actually like about the Insight. Contrary to just about every review out there, I actually don't mind driving the Insight. Click through to see my impressions:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Look what I saw...a Ferrari 458 Italia

I probably shouldn't snap pictures while driving, but I was practically parked given the heavy traffic, and this Ferrari 458 Italia was begging to be photographed! Is there anything worse than driving a Ferrari in stop-and-go traffic? Well, maybe driving a Camry...but you get the point. The 458 has been oft described as the most beautiful, technologically advanced Ferrari ever. I like it a lot, but based on looks alone, I would probably get a Lambo Aventador, Lexus LFA, Mercedes SLS AMG, or McLaren MP-4 before I get a 458 (not that I can afford any of them...yet!). I tend to prefer the more calculated, rigid looks of older Ferraris like the 512TR, 348, and 355 as opposed to the more recently flowing designs, but that is just a matter of taste. The 458's engine does sounds thoroughly amazing and lets everyone know you are coming from miles away.

Can anyone guess what kind of car I am driving? I will only give 2 hints: it is a Zipcar, and it is the polar opposite of a Ferrari 458. Leave a comment with your guess...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Volvo S40 interesting, yet odd car

A few months ago, Volvo announced that the S40 sedan and V50 wagon will soon be discontinued. After I had a chance to flog a Zipcar S40 this weekend, I understand why...sort of. The S40 has a number of lovable quirks, but I don't think it ever found its place amongst the sea of other entry luxury sedans. Click through to see my impressions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ugly door handles can RUIN a car

Door handles, while small and seemingly unnoticeable, are a crucial part of car design. In my opinion, European-style handles (think Mercedes) are most attractive, and have made their way onto most cars by now. However, quite a few car designs have been harmed by ugly door handles, like this BMW Z4. This awkward looking coupe/convertible could've been slightly improved with the handles seen on any other car in BMW's lineup. Click through to see some more examples:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Look what I saw...a 1965 Corvette C2

1965 Corvette C2

What a beauty - I passed this baby-blue 1965 Corvette C2 being transported on the highway...with its top down! Growing up, my favorite sports car was always an early-'90s Corvette - black interior and black exterior. However, as I got older, I discovered cars by Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Mercedes, and I started to lose excitement for the Corvette. Click through for some more snapshots and my thoughts on the Corvette brand.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Ford Fiesta rally experience

I recently participated in the 1-day Ford Fiesta Rally Experience at Team O'Neil Rally School in Dalton, NH. My father accompanied me, and while he did not want to drive, he was able to take some awesome pictures (thanks dad!). I was taught basic rally techniques in both a classroom and track setting. For $569, the 7-hour class for 15 people was an amazing value and more fun than I could ever imagine. Click through to see more.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 10 ugliest SUVs of all time

Pontiac Aztek
SUVs are a relatively modern phenomenon, rising in popularity in the mid-90s and losing steam in the late-00s when gas prices rose. In this short amount of time, we've gotten some great designs (which I will save for a subsequent post) and some scary designs. I want to spend time discussing the latter. I've ranked the top 10 ugliest SUVs, in order of bad to worst. Click through to see:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cars for people who have lots of money, but don't want to show it off

Jeep Grand Cherokee
Ever see a mansion with a car in the driveway that appears to be several tax brackets lower? While some millionaires want to buy a Ferrari, others want to remain in a cloak of anonymity. In many wealthy circles (I can only speculate!) it is a faux pas to drive a flashy car. There are several cars that well-to-doers often buy that allow them to drive comfortably, but without the extra flash. Click through to see the list.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Has-beens: Cars that have lost their cachet

Chrysler PT Cruiser
There are a handful of car models who were once celebrated, but have since lost their luster. These cars usually fit into 2 buckets:
  • Cars that were awesome when they were released, but have since lost their novelty
  • Cars that were awesome in the 50s/60s/70s, but due to cost cutting have become terrible. This is an American phenomenon, since Japanese car makers have not been in the states long enough to establish meaningful brand history.
 I've highlighted a few examples - click through to see.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Look what I saw...a Lexus LFA and Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Two of my favorite sports cars in the same parking lot...what are the chances?! Well actually, I live across the street from a fancy restaurant with a valet service and correspondingly often see fancy cars - I regularly get to see the finest specimens from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes AMG, and Aston Martin, new and old. This pairing of the LFA and DB9, though, was practically screaming out for me to take pictures! Click through to see more pictures and a comparison.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My take on the Honda CR-V...past, present, and future

Honda CR-V Concept
If you read any popular car news blogs, you've probably already come across this picture "leaked" by Honda (probably on purpose) a couple days ago. This is the only picture released so far, so we haven't seen the taillights or interior. In a nutshell, I think this "concept" - which, by the way, will probably be ~95% identical to the eventual showroom model - is a huge improvement over the outgoing model, but the grille bothers me. Click through to read my impressions.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Look what I saw...a 1964 Chevy Impala

1964 Impala

I had the pleasure of seeing this beauty parked on the way to work yesterday. I will not claim to be an authority on 1960s cars, but I certainly appreciate this 1964 Impala. While trying to figure out the year of this car online, I noticed that practically each year in the 1960s, Chevrolet made noticeable tweaks to the headlight and taillight design. This practice of planned obsolescence is exactly the same thing Apple does to its i-products today - by making small, inexpensive changes, models become out of style quickly, making consumers want to buy the latest and greatest to stay in fashion. This practice is much less apparent in the automotive world today because of massive retooling costs and a keen focus on the bottom-line. Car models typically see longer lives today, often lasting 3-7 years. This '64 Impala prompted me to think about Impalas in my lifetime so far (in the last 2 decades), and how relatively unexciting they have been. Click through to see.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I love Zipcar...and the Audi A3

Audi A3 Zipcar
Fun fact about me - I live in the city and do not actually own a car. Instead, I am a faithful Zipcar subscriber, which allows me to drive about 15 different cars whenever I want. Zipcar pays for gas, cleans the cars on regular basis, and repairs the cars as necessary. Each car has its own parking space in a secure area. In many ways, Zipcar allows for more fun, less hassle, and significantly fewer costs than owning a car in the city. I know I sound like a Zipcar commercial, but it's true!

You may have seen a few Zipcars on the road - they are not the typical bland cars you'll find at Hertz or Avis (such as Toyota Corollas, Dodge Avengers, and Chevy Impalas). Instead, among the cars you will find are the BMW 3-Series, Volvo S40, Mini Cooper Convertible, VW Golf, and my personal favorite, the Audi A3.

I love everything about the A3, and I feel that the little sport-hatch doesn't get the attention it deserves. Recently I drove the A3 on a long trip involving a good mix of highway and twisty mountain roads; click through to see my impressions.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three reasons why I would not buy a 2011 Infiniti

As I go through the current Infiniti lineup, my grievances really boil down to 3 categories:

1) The weird "podium-style" dashboard
2) The fact that each car has a near-identical Nissan counterpart, either as a US or JDM model
3) Disappointing exterior styling compared to competition

I can't comment on the ride, acceleration, braking, etc., as I have not driven any of Infiniti's current cars, but that is not the point of this post. From reading popular auto mags, most reviewers draw the same conclusion anyway: Infinitis produce decent performance, but are either on par with or slightly worse than European competitors. When was the last time you saw an Infiniti win a car comparo? I can't even remember.

Click through to see my explanation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Japanese cars even a non-JDM-enthusiast can appreciate

As you can probably tell so far, I am not a huge Japanese car enthusiast. I don't hate Japanese cars, but for a variety of reasons, European cars excite me more. IMHO, European cars are more elegantly designed and appeal more to the senses than Japanese cars. Yes, Toyotas and Hondas will certainly be more reliable and perhaps technologically sound than their German and Italian counterparts, but Camrys and Accords do not excite car enthusiasts as much as Passats and S40s - plain and simple.

That being said, there are a handful of Japanese cars that do excite me. I'm limiting the list to vehicles under $100k, and sold some time within the last 25 years (1986-2011). I'm also leaving out some of the obvious ones like the Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Evo, Mazda Miata, because they are too overexposed. I'd much rather write about some of the unlikely favorites. Click through to see which ones made the cut:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Follow-up: Not all red plastic is pointless...

Dodge Charger
I wanted to add a caviat to my previous post: excessive red plastic can be done tastefully. The examples are few and far between. The new Dodge Charger is the best example, but click through to see a couple others.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pointless red plastic

I passed the '11 Accord on the way from work yesterday and I realized Honda added unattractive red taillight extensions on the trunk itself. I think they are for reflective safety purposes, but they just don't look good. I wanted to point out some other examples of excessive red glass in recent history:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No, fake air vents don't make your Taurus look better

I pass this gussied-up Taurus every day on my way to work, and it really bothers me. It looks to be a 2000-03 model, and it sports the champagne color ever popular with rental companies, fleets, and mid-1990s suburbia. The chrome alloy wheels and red brake calipers do look expensive (read: overpriced), but are totally mismatched on a car this bland. But the real problem with this car are the aftermarket air vents and V8 logo. Both are a bit crooked and appear to have been affixed at home using crazy glue.

Air vents aren't supposed to protrude from a car - doesn't that defeat their aerodynamic purpose? And this Taurus is not a SHO (they didn't even offer one on this body style), so affixing a V8 logo is ridiculous. The V8 was only offered on late-90s SHOs anyway - today, a V6 is offered.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Favorite Car Lists #2: SUVs

Time for the second installment of my favorite car lists - this time, sport utility vehicles. Keep in mind that the vehicles listed are assumed to be well-equipped (not base) models. Click through to see the lists - do you agree?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Look what I saw...a 1980 Ferrari 308 GTSi

This weekend I saw this head-turner sitting in Columbus Circle, NYC. The 308 is one of my favorite Ferraris (although I am more partial to the GTB coupe than the pictured GTS targa). The "i" was added to the end of the GTS and GTB monikers in 1980 due to the introduction of fuel injection in response to higher fuel economy requirements coming out of the crisis period in the late 1970s. In every other respect, the GTSi was largely the same as the previous year's GTS, aside from small nuances, such as alloy wheel design, leather seat stitching, and a slightly rearranged dashboard.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The 5 best and worst corporate-wide redesigns

Every so often, automakers decide to overhaul their entire line with a recognizable "look". I wanted to highlight some of the winners and losers in recent times (click through):

Friday, July 1, 2011

Boring, forgotten car clones

All car manufacturers reuse parts, designs, chassis, wheels, door handles, etc., across different models and brands. In fact, that is the only way large automakers are able to justify the large upfront R&D costs necessary to create a new car. However, as we all know, sometimes car makers get lazy and 2 different models look nearly identical (Ford Crown Vic / Mercury Grand Marquis, for example). Sometimes automakers push the envelope too far, and create a knockoff so irrelevant that consumers have no recollection of it. I wanted to highlight some notable recent examples:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I wouldn't test drive a Lincoln for $50

Front of promotional material

At the New York Auto Show last month, I was approached by a Lincoln saleswoman who offered me the chance to earn $50 simply by visiting my local Lincoln dealer and test driving any car. Sounds like a no brainer, right? I did not mind putting my name on their mailing list - the worst thing that could happen is I would get some promotional material in the mail. The $50 offer expired in 1 month. I received this reminder in the mail (click through to see more):

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Give it a chance: Kia Sportage

Besides the Jeep Patriot, the Kia Sportage is the cheapest crossover/SUV on the market today. For a number of reasons, the Jeep Patriot (as well as its more unattractive sister the Jeep Compass) is not very competitive in the segment, although Fiat has improved the interiors as of late).

Despite being the cheapest SUV, the Kia Sportage is surprisingly very attractive, in my opinion. However, every time I mention the car to friends and people I know looking for a small crossover, they instantly dismiss me, in large part because the Kia brand is still not considered cool in America. People think back to the early 90s when the Sportage, Spectra, Sephia, and Rio were in fact horrible cars to drive. I have never driven this car, so my review is based on exterior and interior design, driving reviews I've read in major car mags, and common business sense (remember, Hyundai/Kia's warranty is still the best in the US!). Click through for more:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Favorite Car Lists #1: Sedans

Anyway, to start things off and provide some background on my predisposed tastes and biases, here are some car lists. Today I'm covering sedans, and will do sports cars and SUVs in subsequent posts. Click through for my choices - do you agree / disagree?

Inaugural post - welcome!

Hello all - my name is Bill, and I am a life-long car enthusiast. Having followed the automotive industry on a daily basis online, in magazines, and on the streets, I thought it's about time that I start contributing my thoughts to the discourse. This blog is going to be decidedly opinionated and biased (but that's what blogging is for, right?). If you disagree with me, please tell me - I love a friendly car debate ;)

I plan to write a combination of car reviews, responses to current recent news articles, and my thoughts on cars in general. I hope to gain followers and start some dialogue on this site.

The title of this blog, "you are what you drive" is IMHO a large reason why I'm interested in cars - I don't simply view cars as a way to get from point A to B, but rather as a very deep expression of one's inner-most identity. Car culture is exciting to me, and you can learn a lot about someone by the car they drive, its color, options, wheels, etc.