Long-Term Update: 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T


Our buddy has been keeping the long term Sonata busy in the last 4 months. Since our last update, the car has received tinted windows to make the harsh desert sun more bearable. The only other shop time to report in the 5000 mostly commuter miles is a fresh oil change.  One thing our engineer friend noted was that not all Hyundai dealers are aware of the turbo engine’s maintenance requirements.  Some forum posts said dealers were using 5W-20 (Hyundai recommends 5W-40 for best performance, but 5W-30 is also noted as acceptable), others weren’t aware of the proper oil change interval.

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Obscure Maintenance: Spare Tires

Donut spares, like this one from my Accord, aren't reliable over long distances or in adverse weather

Spare tires are such a critical item, especially during road trip season, that it’s a wonder nobody ever talks about them.  Occasionally, a mechanic might ask you to replace a PCV valve, but I’ve never known even the best mechanic or car enthusiast to check the spare tire in a vehicle.  If you care about getting to your final destination in one piece, regardless of what vehicle you drive, you should read and understand this article carefully.

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Caveat Emptor: Vetting MPG claims


When BMW got caught, nobody thought anything of it.  When Hyundai was nailed, people really snapped to attention, mostly because it was on a much larger scale.  Now, Ford is facing the same issue: all three manufacturers have been or are being investigated by the EPA for inflated fuel economy claims.  The core of the problem is that the EPA’s National Vehicle Fuel Economy Laboratory is underfunded.  Low resources means that only 10-15% of fuel economy claims are rated or checked by the EPA itself.  The other 85-90% of vehicle fuel economy ratings are provided by the manufacturer on an honor system.  But lab testing is a touchy subject – even small variations can lead to huge discrepancies.  Hyundai claims a small difference in their test procedure caused their issues, but BMW has stuck by their numbers and will likely appeal for the 2014 model year (laws do not allow them to protest the ruling for the 2013 model).  So how can consumers assure themselves that they are going to get the mileage they expect?

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Stupid Technology: Boxer engines


Subaru has a long reputation of being a quirky, niche vehicle.  Their philosophy is simple, and it consists of AWD and boxer engines in all their vehicles.  The standard AWD has helped crown Subaru as the national car of Colorado, but the boxer engine hasn’t helped to define the brand much.  Boxer engines (ie. horizontally-opposed engines) are simply engines with horizontal cylinders that face away from each other.  This makes them exceptionally low compared to traditional inline and Vee engines that are prevalent in industry.  By concentrating the weight down low, the boxer engine lowers the center of gravity of the car, and is said to improve handling.  However, the boxer engine also has trade-offs that may be acceptable in a Porsche (who also use boxers), but just serve to complicate the life of a Subaru owner.  Read on to find out why I would hate to own one of these!

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Battle Royale: 2013 Honda Accord LX vs. 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6


Years ago, right around the time I got my license, I fortunate enough to be given a car by my parents.  We bought a simple, 99 Honda Accord EX (5 years old at the time), with over 100K miles.  It was a bland as bland gets: 4-cylinder, gold exterior, beige interior, no modifications.  Despite all that, the price was right, it was in great shape, and it was mine.  I thought it would be mine until it crumbled into dust – which might have taken a long time, given that I never had any issues with it.  Well, that was certainly a pipe dream.  I now have a good paying job and an aging 07 Accord nearing the 130K mark.  Although it’s really not that old and hasn’t shown signs of giving up, I don’t have any illusions about keeping it forever.  The newer generation of family sedans have really caught my eye, literally and figuratively.  The obvious solution was to drive some, and see if I was missing much – so that’s exactly what I did.  A 2013 Ford Fusion SE with the 1.6 EcoBoost was my primary interest, with the 2013 Honda Accord LX being tested immediately afterwards for comparison purposes.

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Stupid Technology: Adaptive Cruise Control


When Honda introduced the new 2013 Accord, it quietly introduced a luxury technology to mainstream car buyers.  That technology is called Adaptive Cruise Control, and the 2013 is the first time that a bread-and-butter family sedan will offer this technology.  However, don’t go looking on Honda’s website for any information on Adaptive Cruise Control, because they barely even mention it or what it does, and they won’t even offer it in Canada.  Essentially, the driver can set cruise control at a particular speed – let’s say 70MPH.  Sensors (usually radar or laser) on the front of the car then looks for any obstructions, like slower moving vehicle.  The sensor automatically communicates with the drivetrain to slow down if necessary, then speed back up when the driver changes lanes.  Why wouldn’t a carmaker promote this technology if they’re the only ones to have it in a particular segment – especially in the hotly contested, low profit segment that the Accord competes in?

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Obscure Maintenance: Brake and Power Steering fluid

One of the first things that car owners ignore when gas prices start to climb are maintenance items that they don’t often hear about.  Besides for oil and brakes, what else is there to do on a car that still runs great, right?  Well, here is a little wake-up call for car owners of all kinds: the brake fluid and power steering fluid in your car is totally filthy, and if you don’t change them, they could cost you thousands down the road.  I have no idea how this even happens, considering that the brake and power steering systems should be sealed with limited moving parts, so there shouldn’t be a whole ton of wear.  But, if you still are not a believer, take a look after the jump to see exactly what I found in my all-highway-miles 2007 Accord.

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Review: 2012 Honda Civic EX-L Coupe


Honda engineers have been working overtime lately as a punishment for slacking off in the last few years.  Lackluster reviews of the new 2012 Honda Civic brought them a much deserved black eye.  The entire bash-fest was capped off by Consumer Reports pulling the Recommended rating from the Civic, due to it no longer keeping pace with the segment leaders.  Yet, as recently as August 2012, the new Civic was selling like hot cakes, with 60% more sold year-to-date than the hot Hyundai Elantra.  How bad could the car really be?  Could they really fool that many consumers?  There was only one way to find out – get behind the wheel of a 2012 EX-L Coupe with the 5-speed auto.

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Tribute: 9/11 Rolling Memorial


Another year passes as the world carries on, forgetting about that fateful day in 2001 when thousands lost their lives and the United States was changed forever.  As folks in The Big Apple and other cities in the USA hustle to make money and progress, it’s good to know that someone in the heartland still remembers and honors the people who died that day.  We’re talking about John Holmgren of Shafer, MN, who put together the beautiful Rolling Memorial you see above.  One day, while listening to the radio, Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?” came on.  The song urges the listener to remember what they felt on 9/11, and how we vowed to stand up and bring justice to those who perpetrated these attacks.  John Holgren thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to do a 9/11 truck?”  The rest is history.   The name of every person who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 is present on the truck, along with a mural of the World Trade Center towers and the Statue of Liberty.

John and his wife Amy wanted to drive the truck to Ground Zero and around the NY/DC/PA area to show the big-city folks that small-town America still cares and will always remember.  We don’t know if that ever happened, but recently, Road Scholar America picked up the Rolling Memorial as a way to bring awareness to 9/11 charities.  The tractor was replaced and given a facelift, and the trailer continues to carry freight around the USA.  We wish John and Amy well in their travels, and salute them for spending over $40,000 of their own hard-earned money to honor those who died that day.

See more at Road Scholar Charities (there is music on the site, so you might want to turn your speakers down).

A big thank you to those who have fought and died for this great nation.  We will never forget the sacrifices you’ve made.

Review: 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T


Since the beginning of this blog, we’ve always been advocates of the Korean automakers. Regular readers may have noticed though, that our reviews seldom include Korean products. We hope to remedy that, starting with this stunning 2012 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T. This particular example was actually purchased by a good friend who had previously owned and loved a string of Honda products. When their quality started going downhill, he started looking to other manufacturers. Did he make a good choice?

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