Archive | February, 2011

Review – 2011 Mazdaspeed3: The Happy Hot Hatch

Sequels are always difficult. Take for instance the first generation Mazdaspeed3. That car had quite a following. When it came time to replace it with a second generation model, there had to be some talk around the water cooler as to how fans would react to the update.

I spent a week with the 2011 Mazdaspeed3 to find out if the smile really does make the car happier, and if they did anything about the torque steer? I guess the main question is, did the second generation Mazdaspeed3 lose any of the charm that made the first one so lovable? Read More…

SOLD – My 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Everyone Wants A Federmobile

On Sunday I posted that my 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was for sale. Within ten minutes of posting this to Facebook my phone started ringing. Two different friends from out of state called inquiring about it. That is before the three people from Craigslist called. All this within two hours.

Everyone wants a Federmobile. The reason? It’s simple, I’m so ridiculously anal retentive about my vehicles. I fix crap that any normal person in their right mind wouldn’t even notice, none the less actually pay to fix.

So what happened? Well the short story is a friend from Michigan bought my Jeep. I am somewhat relieved to know it is going to a good home. I will be meeting them in Chicago sometime in the next few weeks to deliver the Jeep.

So what’s next for me? Frankly I have no clue. Karen (my fiancée) and I are in deep discussion about what will replace my vehicle. Over fifty percent of the vehicles I want just aren’t in the budget. Quite a few of the vehicles just aren’t approved by Karen due to the fact that she thinks I shouldn’t get a car (note actual car not SUV) that gets 13 mpg in the city. Of the vehicles that fit the budget, and I want, dear Karen feels about ninety percent of them are “ugly.” Girl thinks a vehicle like the WRX is ugly….

More to come on this topic as I try to figure out what will be the next Federmobile. Until then, if you see my Jeep wandering the streets of Michigan please do say hi for me. Or better yet, snap a picture and send it to me.

Up For Grabs – My 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

I literally can’t believe the words I am typing. That’s right, my 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee is officially for sale. It is currently posted on Craigslist.

Anyone that knows me, knows how ridiculously anal I am about this thing. When it was purchased, I had new headlights installed, and immediately covered them in a clear shield. Along with the headlights, I also had a new windshield installed. At the time I didn’t own a carpet extractor, so I had the carpets professionally cleaned. Immediately Husky Liners were put in all four floor wells, and in the rear end. All four wheels were replaced with alloys from a Grand Cherokee Limited.

The oil has been changed every 4,000-5,000 miles with Mobile1 full synthetic. The exterior and interior has been detailed once to twice a year and the tires were rotated every 6,000 miles.

I have every receipt for everything done to this Jeep since I bought it with 68,000 miles. The tires are Michelin LTX M+S with more than 2/3 tread remaining. The rear differential was rebuilt at 150,000 miles. Both differentials, transfer case, transmission, and all other fluids were flushed every 30,000 miles, and I always used synthetic fluids. The brakes are slotted in the front with ceramic pads, while the rear rotors are slotted and drilled. All four shocks were replaced recently.

I also installed new HIDs for the low beams within the last few months. The HIDs are running off of a wiring harness connected to the battery. The high beams are Sylvania Silverstar Ultras.

It has an aftermarket cold air intake on it with a K&N filter. I cleaned and recharged the K&N filter yesterday.

The Jeep was just detailed (clayed and waxed) yesterday along with an oil change.

It currently has 172,xxx miles. It has maybe 3 door dings….literally the only thing it needs right now is two new hood struts.

You could say I am emotionally attached to this vehicle. There is no question that it is the best condition 1999 Grand Cherokee on the market, and possibly the best condition used Grand Cherokee of its generation. So spread the word.

Review – 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander GT: Lost In The Sea Of CUVs

Mitsubishi’s marketing is all about being different for a reason. With that in mind, it would make sense that its Outlander CUV would be different than the rest of the competition, now wouldn’t it? I spent a week to find out if the Outlander is truly different, and if so, is there a reason.

Let’s be frank, the exterior of the Outlander GT is a mess, but a hot mess in my eyes. The front clip looks like that of an enlarged Evo, or Lancer if you will. Though, it is slightly less aggressive. When standing directly next to the Outlander GT you’ll be surprised by two things: the huge front overhang residing in front of the wheels, and also the long hood.

Out back, two things stand out to me. The first is the taillights, these also have the downward slanted appearance that the Evo has, though that is where the similarities end. The second is how Japanese, and dare I say, Mitsubishi the rear end looks. Seriously, this rear end screams Mitsubishi to me, but in a very good way. The LED taillights and overall design work. I also love the two-piece tailgate similar in style to the first generation BMW X5. Very handy for loading large cargo into the rear end.

The sides are somewhat slab sided, but it works. The chrome trim that runs along window sills follows the glass up the C-pillar ending at the top. It is a nice touch, and helps finish the look.

When I said the exterior is a mess I meant it. The front is Evo with its big gaping mouth. The front clip ends up kind of looking tacked on. In reality the look works for me, but for many it won’t.


The interior was upgraded in 2010 with much nicer materials. The dash, along with the top of the door panels is covered in leather-like material. The Outlander features dual glove boxes. This allows you store all your stuff in an organized manner. The rear seats slide fore and aft, which is nice for adjusting leg room.

If you need to carry seven people the Outlander can handle the task. Though you’d have to truly hate the two people in the third row. That, or they need to be kids that pretty much have no legs. The third row folds out of the floor and is pretty sad. The headrests are either plastic or cardboard that is wrapped in cloth. Without question it is the sorriest third row I have ever seen.

The front seats are comfortable, but offer little in the way of bolstering. They are somewhat flatter than I expected. They feature a nice design in the center sections. Suede and leather trim the sides. I found it very odd that at $30k the seats were not power operated, but rather manually adjustable.

One thing that really made it hard to get comfortable was the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. In reality, at $30k in this class, a steering wheel that does not telescope is borderline unacceptable.

The powertrain in the Outlander GT is a 3.0-liter V6 that puts 230-horsepower and 215 lb-ft to all four wheels. The power is routed through a six-speed Sportronic transmission. You do have manual shift control both through the shifter as well as the metal paddle shifters that are mounted to the steering column. These are the same paddle shifters that are featured in the Evo.

The Outlander GT is no rocket, and in fact the V-6 produces somewhat disappointing numbers on paper. Driving the Outlander, you feel as if it has more power than it actually does. The engine and transmission definitely work together to make the most of the power. Above 3,500 RPM the engine almost sounds downright snarly. While you wont be racing to the soccer game, you’ll get there without having to worry about passing power.

A four cylinder model is available as well, though I’m not sure you would want it. The four cylinder all-wheel drive model is rated at 22/27 mpg while the V6 all-wheel drive model is rated at 19/25. You lose 3 mpg in the city and 2 on the highway for power that would be sorely missed. I saw an average of 19.5 mpg in mixed urban and suburban highway driving.

The GT features Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. This is the same system that is used in the Evo. It features an active front differential and three drive mode selections: tarmac, snow, and lock. Obviously the tarmac is for dry roads, snow is for snowy roads and lock is for locking the all-wheel drive system.

Due to the snowy roads here in Minnesota, I left the S-AWC in snow mode. It distributed power quickly when going around slick corners, and front to back launching from a stop light. Just like the Evo, the Outlander has the same S-AWC graph in the information display that shows you where the power is being distributed in relation to the wheels. It is highly impressive in the Evo and no less so in the Outlander GT.

Overall the Outlander GT was a nice CUV to drive. It wasn’t the ride or handling that really stood out to me for this CUV. It was the S-AWC system. It was so controlled over the slick roads that I almost forgot that this was a crossover with all-wheel drive.

At $30,275 after destination, the Outlander GT is not a bargain. The pricing has it right in the heart of the CUV market. While it may not be as conventional and mass market as the competition, it is definitely competitive. The Outlander is definitely different, but I’m ok with different. It will not be for everyone styling wise, but you can’t argue that some of the features are well thought out. Add to that what might be a contender for one of the best-in class all-wheel drive systems, and the Outlander is probably a vehicle that is overlooked too often in the big sea of CUVs.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi

Video: Take Apart And Rebuild A Jeep In Four Minutes

I know what you are thinking, you don’t think anyone could take apart, and rebuild a Jeep in four minutes. The below video proves otherwise. This is nothing but impressive, and also very cool.

[YouTube via Arthur Vogel, Willow Automotive]

What Car Is That? February 15 Edition

What’s wrong with the image above? This image accompanied this article yesterday in the WCF Courier. Clearly someone doesn’t know what a Dodge Charger is. Wonder how many people that actually read the article noticed the mistake.

Thanks for the heads up Elliott.

2011 Chicago Auto Show: The Good, The Great, The WTF

February brings with it a few things each year, my birthday, cold winter nights, and the Chicago Auto Show. Last week I experienced two of these three events.

Like every other show, this one had some great new metal. But it also had some things just make you sad. In all reality, there were not too many major reveals at this years Chicago Auto Show. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good show, it was just somewhat slow. Let’s dive in.

First up is my favorite new car from the show, the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8. Jalopnik wrote, “this car looks like an asshole. But the type of asshole you want in your driveway.” I must agree with them. It literally looks menancing. To my eyes, the front looks as if a new 2011 Charger and a 2011 Evo mated. Regardless the entire package is a win. I want one of these, bad.

The 2012 Charger SRT8 features a 6.4-Liter V-8 that is good for 465-horsepower and 465 lb-ft. The power is channeled to the rear wheels through a one choice five-speed automatic transmission. Dodge says this set up is good for a 0-60 run in less than 5 seconds, and a quarter mile run that is deep in the 12’s.

I asked Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles about pricing and his response was, “The Charger SRT8 will be under $50k…” We should see the new Charger SRT8 hit dealerships late this summer or early this fall. Did I mention I want one of these?

Next up is another high octane thrill ride, the new 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Featuring a 6.2 -Liter supercharged V-8, this pony car has 550-horsepower sent to the rear wheels. It was shown with a six-speed short-throw manual transmission. The ZL1 features a different front clip, hood, and body kit than the regular Camaro. Along with unique forged alloy wheels, and flat bottom steering wheel. Suede inserts are available for the interior. The Camaro ZL1 is a 2012 model and will be in dealerships early next year. Start saving your pennies now kids.

Volkswagen unveiled the new 2012 Jetta GLI with the 2.0-Liter turbo four-cylinder. This will be the Jetta model that has fully independent rear suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Volkswagen has switched the dashboard to a soft touch material, and it features a Panasonic Fender branded sound system. I must say, the sound system sounded great even when cranked up. Volkswagen and crew made a big deal about how there was no distortion even when cranked to max volume. The GLI will be in dealerships later this year.

Hyundai unveiled the Genesis Sedan R-Spec which features the new 5.0-Liter Tau V-8. This engine is good for 429-horsepower, and is mated to a new in-house built eight-speed automatic transmission. Yes, Hyundai developed its own eight-speed automatic transmission. The exterior of the Genesis sedan has received a slight refresh with a grille that has some Equus in it, and the headlights now have some Sonata/Elantra in them. The rear end looks like the current generation Genesis sedan mated with the Infiniti M. It looks terrific.

Cadillac had a CTS-V Wagon Black Diamond Edition sitting on the show floor. Nick Twork from Cadillac dared me to kiss it…the above picture is the result of this conversation.

I ran into my friend Lightning McQueen on the show floor. He gave me a moment of his time for a photo op.

Now for some WTF. Lexus had a customized RX 450h that had to be the absolute ugliest Lexus RX I have ever seen. It was lowered on airbags, and had some ridiculous camber going on with the wheels. It was painted in some ugly color with murdered out glass. The body kit was something out of a horror show. I asked the Lexus booth people about it, and they kind of cringed. I decided that was enough and left the Lexus booth.

Oh Toyota, you used to try. Toyota had a 2012 Matrix sitting on the show floor. It had a large window sticker on the front windshield proudly stating “The New 2011 Matrix.” I’m not sure if they know this but, it sure looks a lot like the 2010 Matrix. On one of the side windows a large sticker said “Prototype.” The paper next to the Matrix went on about how it now features a four-speed automatic. I at this point walked away disgusted, and went to sit in the new 2012 Ford Focus sitting 20 feet from me.

Overall it was a mixed bag. Most of the major reveals were great, though there weren’t a ton of them. Here’s looking forward to the New York Auto Show in April.

RoAB #69 – The ‘Alternative’ Episode

This week I had the honor to be a guest on the best second best darn auto podcast on the interwebs, called The RoundAbout Show (RoAB). While I’ve been a guest on the RoAB show before, it is always an interesting experience, in a good way of course.

This weeks theme was “alternative,” as in alternative to a much more obvious and salacious alternative. Hey, it’s not my description. Regardless, we had a ton of fun.

This weeks topics included:

Next up something they call “the blind spot.”  This week featured a discussion about how microbeads could power our hydrogen future.

Next we move into the garage which was quite full. We talked about the 2012 Ford Focus, 2011 Scion tC, 2011 Buick Regal, 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo SE, and the 2012 Nissan NV.

Last but not least we cover highway hearsay. This is where we discuss random things we’ve seen on the road during the past week.

I want to thank Jeffrey RossMichelle Naranjo, Steven EwingEric TrytkoCraig Cole and Ben Sanders for having me on the show.


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