After months of drooling over a Dodge Charger R/T, I came home with a Soul Red 2014 Mazda6. Waaaah? The Charger is a gas guzzling, rolling tank of Americana, while the Mazda6 is the slightly quirky choice for family sedan buyers. Other than the color, the two have nothing in common. As much as I loved the Charger on paper, and as much as driving the Super Bee made me smile, I had to choose a car that made sense as my single daily driver. Follow the jump to hear how I decided and my first impressions on the car.
SiriusXM has been on a rough ride in the past decade. Despite launching as separate entities, economic factors made it clear that the market could not support both of them. Thus, Sirius and XM decided to merge into one company, and that’s exactly what they did on November 12, 2008. Since then, car manufacturers who were waiting to see who would win the war have jumped in head first. Nearly every car and light truck manufacturer in the United States offers SiriusXM Radio today. I finally gave it a try with the 3-month trial on my 2013 VW Passat, and left unimpressed. That got me thinking, is there a better alternative?
On a recent trip to Asia, I got a ride in my uncle’s new car, a 2013 BMW 528i automatic with Auto Start-Stop technology. In reality, when I got in the car, it didn’t even occur to me that it would have this feature, but it became quickly evident and clearly unacceptable. You see, this car was purchased for ~$130,000 (US dollar equivalent) in a country where an average engineer starts at $10,000-15,000 a year in salary. And yet, when this $130,000 machine came to a stop, it abruptly shuddered to a stop. Then, when my uncle took his foot off the brake, it shuddered when it started up again. Is this technology really worth the embarrassment of driving a BMW that shudders? Not really, and here’s why.
Mileage: 6884 mi
Avg. Fuel Economy: 47.7 mpg (U.S. gallons)
The Passat has been with us for 5 months, and continues to impress with its frugality and road manners. With some more break-in mileage and more time behind the wheel, fuel economy has increased drastically. Whereas the first few tanks of diesel ran about 42-43MPG, more recent tanks have skyrocketed – a hand calculated 52.9MPG on a recent 900 mile trip, achieved on a single tank of diesel. That number would have been higher if the first leg hadn’t included massive headwinds – the stats from the second leg were better and are shown below. A note to fellow TDI owners, though: doing 55-65MPH for 900 miles sure can put you to sleep, so have caffeine on hand!
Pasadena was an uncomfortably humid 90 degrees yesterday. To escape the heat, my wife Wendy and I went for a drive out to Devil’s Punch Bowl. At 4,700 ft of elevation with mountains nearby, my reasoning was that it had to be cooler than our apartment turned greenhouse. Sadly, I was wrong. Wendy grew increasingly unhappy as we drove through endless twisty roads further and further into nowhere. The car kept reporting a steady 97 degrees outside. In the last mile, the Devil gave us some slack and lowered the final temperature to 90 degrees, but still not the 72 we were hoping for. Fortunately you stepped out into this view:
Outside, it was much more pleasant than the temperature suggested. There was a cool desert wind, and at 3PM, the worst was over and things were already starting to cool down. The small visitor center is packed with interesting display of desert snakes, honey ants (they make honey!), scorpions, and explanations of fossils and local fauna. We spent a half hour there listening to a pink and blond haired young man explain the local wildlife. From the visitor center, there is a one mile loop hike with great views of the surrounding area. Even cooler than the views are the small trails out to the actual Devil’s Punch rock formations. Some skinned knees and dusty shoes are all it takes to scale up these bizarro looking things.
Climbing back down was much trickier and more time consuming, but a great workout.
The drive in is gorgeous and reasonable length to do in a single sitting at about 1.5 hours departing from Pasadena. To catch some mountain views on the way out, take a right on Fort Tejon Rd and continue down Big Pine Rd, which will eventually intersect the 2 Highway. Elevation climbed up to 7,000 ft at one point, and temperatures dropped to a very pleasant 69 degrees. If you time your trip well, you’ll catch some gorgeous sunsets and some great photo opportunities.
I spent some time looking at used 2004 cars. Why 2004? No particular reason. Ten years is mostly an arbitrary year. No special models come to mind. On the plus side, prices are great and good examples are new enough to make good daily or weekend drivers.
I hate shopping for clothes. It’s tedious, and you never know what you’ll get. Sometimes you find something that fits, but it’s not on sale. Other times, there’s 70% off, but all the good sizes are long gone. Now if you love shopping, this is all part of the game, part of the hunt. I hate the process, but at worst, you convert that ugly pair of jeans into work pants – no big deal. Cars aren’t as easy going as jeans, and a helluva lot more expensive. Follow the jump for test drive notes for my top choices for my next car.
After months of bad luck with my 2007 Honda Accord, I decided that it was time for a change. I had dealt with the Accord for a while, and it just wasn’t my favorite car. When the clutch refused to disengage 180 miles from home, that was the last straw. Bent rims and tickets are one thing, but a clutch issue could have left an average driver stranded. I limped it home with every trick in the book and started thinking about my next move. I fixed the clutch issue and sold it off fairly quickly for a great price, but I sold it in San Francisco – 400 miles from home! I only had a couple days to come up with a solution or drive our trusty road trip vehicle temporarily. Figuring that driving 20-25MPG trucks and vans would cost me an extra $200 per month, I decided to go take a look at the new VW Passat diesels. I had driven them before, it just came to an issue of price. I managed to haggle them down to a great price, and they got me a vehicle, and the rest of the story still needs to be written. The important question is, how does it drive and compare?
Our long-term 2012 Sonata met the end of its time with us, with an extremely low ~12,500 miles on the clock. The reason was not a mechanical failure or accident, but instead a great deal on another vehicle. Even though our friend traded in the trusty Hyundai, he adamantly defends it as a great car. It had all the power he wanted, looked great, and was reasonably fun to drive. The icing on the cake? There were absolutely no problems with the vehicle, not even a simple rattle or loose trim piece. It performed flawlessly in extreme heat and never skipped a beat.
We would, however, like to remind Hyundai owners that the 2.0 Turbo is an engine that needs more maintenance care than other modern engines. The oil change interval is between 3,000 and 5,000 miles, depending on conditions – a far cry from the 10K intervals that many manufacturers are now preaching. Also, Hyundai would prefer their owners to use 5W-40, which is harder to find. They do explicitly state that 5W-30 is acceptable, but 5W-40 will give the best performance. Given that the direct injection and turbo technologies in this engine demand clean, fresh oil, we would follow their recommendations to a T. Not doing so could result in costly downtime and an even costlier engine replacement. The importance of using the right oil with the right oil change interval was underscored by an email that we received regarding a blown Hyundai 2.0T engine with 41K miles on it. The dealer had been doing oil changes between 7000-8500 miles with 5W-20. This all led to a spun bearing and a new engine in the vehicle. The moral? Be aware of what oil your vehicle calls for, and make sure your dealer is using it!
Fisker Motor’s broke. Bankrupt. All outta the green stuff. It’s a real shame. No, I won’t miss the clever hybrid gasoline-electric range extender powertrain. The performance numbers weren’t stellar (0-60 in 6.3 seconds, 125 MPH top speed), it didn’t have enough range to be a grand tourer (230 miles), and it certainly wasn’t cheap ($100k+). So why do I miss it? Well, just look at it.