Tag Archives: Acura

Review – 2011 Kia Sorento EX: The Power To Surprise

Kia’s tagline is “The Power To Surprise,” and as of late they have truly been surprising. Revamping an entire vehicle line-upand adding new models all within a very short period of time is no small feat. First there was the new Soul followed by the new Forte, and now they have completely revamped the Sorento.

If you do not remember the last generation Sorento, no one will fault you. It was nothing special, just another body on frame SUV that got lost in the crowd selling on price, not features. Some compared its looks to the first generation Lexus RX300, which some would view as a compliment.

The front of the Sorento features Kia’s new signature grille, flanked by swept-back headlights. In some ways the headlights almost look related to the Acura TL. The honeycomb grille is matched by honeycomb surrounds for the fog lights, which which are placed in the bumper. The way light from the fog lights hits the ground makes them almost act more like driving lights then actual fog lights.

The sides of the Sorento have two sculpting points – one runs the length of the window sills until it flows into the C-pillar. The second sculpting point is low near the bottom of the doors. This brings in the sides to give the Sorento a less slab sided appearance.

The wheels on this particular Sorento were 18-inch alloys which fit nicely within the wheel wells. The side mirrors had LED repeaters while the tail lights continued with the honeycomb look from the front grille. While the front has more design character then the rear, I would say overall the exterior is a huge win.

Like the exterior, the interior is mostly a win. The new corporate steering wheel has buttons for most major functions, and they are strategically placed so your hands do not leave the wheel as often. The dashboard is made of hard plastic, but it looks decent. The interior lighting is ret and the gauges are white and red, which make them very easy on the eyes while driving at night.

The seats were all day comfortable, though the side bolsters on the front seat backs were a bit hard. The rear seat can easily accommodate three people, with a nearly a flat floor for your feet. The rear seats do fold down 60/40, but not completely flat due to the design of the rear seat bottoms.

If I had one major gripe about the interior, it would be the navigation system. The system itself works terrific and the street names are very legible with no jagged fonts. However, the system warning each and every time you turn on the car takes forever to allow you to hit accept and move past the warning screen. I am talking a ridiculously long time. There is standard iPod integration, along with Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the front seat heaters – they worked quite well, although they aren’t the fastest to heat up. Once on, they performed on par with what a Minnesotan would expect.

The only interior trim piece I could really find an issue with was the main center piece of plastic covering the front of the steering wheel. The top cut line was uneven and somewhat jagged. While disappointing, overall I was impressed with the build quality inside the cabin. While hard plastics are used in many places, all touch points such as arm rests and other areas were covered in a leatherette-like material. The interior is, without question, very class competitive.

The Sorento I was in had the base 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 175 horsepower and 169 pound feet to the front wheels. A V-6 and all-wheel drive is optional. The power is put down through a one-choice six-speed automatic with a manual shifting gate to the left. Off the line the Sorento has adequate power, but once up to speed you will need to plan your passes carefully. Highway passing is not a point and shoot decision. I also noticed that the transmission often got confused as to what it should do. When slowing to a stop from about 30 MPH the transmission would sometimes not know when to shift and suddenly make a large clunk as it shifted into a lower gear. It felt like a programming issue, though it could be an issue with this particular Sorento.

I wonder if Kia plans to put the four-cylinder from the new Optima, which puts out 200 hp and 186 lb-ft , into the Sorento as the base engine in the future. The slight bump in power would possibly help the situation with passing power on the highway. The new 2.0-liter turbo that is coming in the Optima would also be a good engine option, since it has more horsepower and torque then the optional V6.

Driving the Sorento was enjoyable for the most part. I averaged 18.8 mpg in the city and 25.2 mpg on the highway. A bit lower then the 21/29 EPA rating. The suspension is a little firm though that didn’t bother me. With that firm suspension came quite a bit of noise over rough surfaces. On the highway more road noise made its way into the cabin then expected, though it was acceptable, just not class leading.

The Sorento I was in was a EX with both the limited package and premium package 1. With a total of $3,750 in options the sticker price on this Sorento EX was $29,340 after destination. That puts it right in the heart of the CUV segment.

With competitors like the new Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Ford Edge and many others, the Sorento can’t be just good enough, it has to be great. There is no question that Kia has good design direction both inside and out. The four-cylinder powertrain is adequate, but I’d probably opt for the V-6. The bottom line, if you are in the market for a CUV to haul the family around, you would be making a large mistake if you didn’t have the Sorento on your list. Turns out Kia’s marketing slogan does work – with its new styling language, the new Sorento really does have the power to surprise.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

Cars & Café – August 7, 2010

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

Another month, another gathering of man and machine.  Of course I speak of Cars & Café, out at the AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen.  This month promised, as usual, to be eventful.  I woke up a little early (4:40 am), as I did poor planning.  I had not washed the 300ZX (note to self: next month wash the 300ZX before the morning of Cars & Café). So, I washed the 300ZX and popped off the T-Tops.

As I was cruising out West to meet up with my buddy in his S2000, I saw black sky in front of me – then lightning  – and then I saw a car come over the hill with windshield wipers on (this was not going well).  I hit the gas and made it to his garage with the 300ZX still clean and dry.  We ended up taking his daily driver and leaving the 300ZX and his S2000 there, as it started pouring down rain right after I pulled into the garage.

Upon arriving, it was clear the rain, which was at this point a nice steady rain coming down, had affecte turn out.  Nooooooooo I cried to the car gods.  Luckily some of the cooler rides still managed to show up.  As I was admiring a nice Ford F150 Lightning, I heard something loud pulling into the complex.

I turn to see a true hard core car guy (you would have to be) driving a Cobra in (remember no top) through the rain.  Two Dodge GLH Turbos sat next to each other, both in ridiculously good condition.  I also counted not one but two Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbos (I drooled a little).  Quite a few Acura NSX’s showed up, along with a Lexus IS-F.

Two BMW’s caught my eyes this month.  One was a early 90’s 540i manual white on black with only 28k on the odometer.  The kicker?  It is for sale and they are asking only $25k!

Someone buy that car or buy me that car!  There was also a mid 80’s M6 in fantastic condition that caught my eye., along with an early 2000’s black Audi S8 that is a regular at Cars & Café.  I just love that car!

So good story,  I am walking by the club house and hear tires squealing like a burn out.  I look around and am quite confused.  Suddenly I realize that the sound is coming from behind this building in the VIP section.  I go running through the crowd, and as I turn the corner I almost fall over.

This Lamborghini Miura owner clearly had put the car in reverse instead of first gear (as best I can tell from the situation).  The car had gone backwards off the cement and onto the pebbles directly below.  Part of  the car definitely was resting on the cement.  The tires were squealing and these two guys were pushing the back of the Miura trying to get it back onto the cement.  Finally after a few minutes they accomplished this task, but not before you could smell the clutch and tires.  It was quite a scene.

Also filed in the – ahem – interesting category, was the Toyota Camry Solara parked in the American muscle section.  Hey at least it was on dubs!  Sitting next to that was a Chrysler 300C.  Not just any Chrysler 300C, but one riding on 24’s – and wait – it gets better.

The person had welded extensions (eyebrows?) onto the leading edge of the hood.  You can still see where the person welded and sanded them.  They were not painted yet (I am assuming they are going to paint them….at least I hope so).  Let’s not forget the white Toyota Yaris hatch with lime green wheels.

Jensen

On the list of awesome cars I would include the RUF 911, Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, and a Jensen that showed up.  The red GMC Typhoon that was for sale earlier this year was on hand, along with two Ford GT’s (they are Cars and Cafe regulars).  A new Lotus Evora made the trip, along with a Ford Mustang Shelby Super Snake.

One of the cleaner Oldsmobile 442’s I’ve seen was on site as well.  Obviously I have already mentioned the two Dodge GLH Turbo’s but I want to just mentioned them again in this section of awesome.  Last but not least was the regular BMW 200ti. It is a work in progress, but hot all the same.

One cool thing was this garage that had a Corvette Z06 in it.  Ok that car was nice but you know those bag chairs you take to soccer games and such?  Well they had one of those. and then they had a ginormous one that was literally super sized.  To get a idea of just how big it was they let me sit in it and I got a picture!

Overall the rain really put a damper on the attendance, or at least it felt that way.  With most of the people clearing out before 10 AM, it had to be one of the shortest Cars & Cafés I have attended yet.  Thankfully, the doughnut holes provided by Imola Motorsports stayed dry in the clubhouse.

Yes they were tasty,and yes I ate some.  Just for the record, doughnut holes always seems to taste better when they are delivered in a BMW M5.  I can not prove that, but that seems to be my experience.  Here’s hoping for a dry Cars & Café next month!

Review – 2010 GMC Acadia

I will be really up front and honest with you.  When I received the email telling me a 2010 GMC Acadia was coming my way, my first thought was “I will not like this vehicle.”  The main reasoning behind this is because I actually like the current Chevrolet Tahoe (the GMC Yukon is fine but I like the Tahoe styling better) and I could not imagine why I would personally buy this mammoth crossover instead of a Tahoe.  Yes, I’m aware the Acadia starts roughly around $5,540 cheaper than the Tahoe, but pricing never entered my thoughts when making this judgment.  The more interesting thing was, I had just hopped out of a fully loaded Buick Enclave, which rides on the same platform and shares so many parts with the Acadia.  I really enjoyed my time with the Enclave, but it still didn’t sway my opinions about the Acadia.  So what happened?

The Acadia’s exterior is striking.  The headlights are unique and truly good looking.  They really set the front end apart from other crossovers.  The hood has nice sculpting in the center with lines running from the front clip into the hood on either side.  The side profile is less sculpted, but has a bulge towards the bottom of the doors near the rocker panels.  The fenders are somewhat over exaggerated but not overly done.  The rear taillights are stylized with two round turret-looking shapes in each housing.  The Acadia’s exterior is overall, very sharp especially sitting on the optional twenty inch chrome clad wheels.

The Acadia’s interior does have a few design cues shared with the Chevrolet Traverse, though it is worth noting the Acadia came to market before the Traverse.  The center stack and instrument panel are all easy to operate and organized well.  At night the gauges and switchgear all light up GMC red and white. I personally find this easy on the eyes late at night.  The standard fold-flat third row is easy to operate but as a usable seat, the space back there is really meant for a child.  With the third row in seating position, there is still room in the back for bags.  The seats while large and flat were most definitely road trip worthy.

Powertrain options in the Acadia are limited to the 3.6 liter V6 featuring direct injection. Power output is 288 hp and 270 lb-ft to either the front or all four wheels.  The power is handled by a six speed automatic with manual shift capabilities.  I am undecided on this transmissions programming.  It could be the particular Acadia I was in, but the transmission seemed lazy to me.  Shifts were not quick and crisp.  They were delayed and took longer than expected when not pushed hard.  In all-wheel-drive mode, as the tester was equipped, the EPA rated the Acadia at 16/23 miles-per-gallon.  I saw an average of 16.8 mpg in the city and 19.9 mpg cruising at 75 miles-per-hour on the highway.  It is worth noting I averaged 22.8 mpg when cruising at 65 mph.

Rear End With Third Row Seat Up

The Acadia was optioned as a SLT-2 model with a sticker price of $42,185.  The test model also included the following options: technology package, touch screen navigation with rear view camera, rear seat entertainment, power sunroof with second row skylight, heated and cooled front seats with perforated leather surfaces, and red jewel tintcoat.  The total price swelled to $49,740 after destination and the plethora of options!  That’s a lot of money for a non-premium CUV.

A few things that stood out to me while I was in the Acadia:  first, was the heads up display. I like how GMC decided to include this feature with the technology package.  Second, the cooled seats in this Acadia were some of the best I have encountered to date.  They seats cooled very quickly and prompted me to pay attention as the seats made my backside chilly.  Finally, the iPod/iPhone interface on the optional touch-screen radio worked terrific.

So after driving the Acadia for the week, was it good enough to change my original opinions?   I was sure I wasn’t going to like it.  My final opinion on the CUV is I kind of like it and I kind of don’t.  I definitely was impressed at the end of my test.  I liked the Acadia as a vehicle; more than I ever thought I would like it.  With that said, I cannot admit the Acadia would be my top pick for $49,740.  GMC is deep into luxury territory at that price and in reality, the Buick Enclave has a nicer interior.  Looking past GM’s products other vehicles in the same price category as the Acadia include: the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and many others luxury brand CUVs.  For the same price as the Acadia, the Audi Q7 TDI or the Acura MDX might be a better buy in my opinion.  The main problem is not the Acadia, but rather GM’s pricing of the Acadia. This vehicle fits in much better at with a $44,000 price ceiling to be truly competitive.   The bottom line is, if someone was ready to buy an Acadia and asked me if they should, I would say this: if you like it, it is a good vehicle but if selecting a fully loaded one I might be cautious on purchasing.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Review – 2010 Buick Enclave

We have heard time and time again that Buick is in a renaissance.  Some told us that the movement started with the Lucerne.  They were misinformed dearly.  The real renaissance movement began with the Enclave.  Buick debuted the Enclave concept at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2006.  That concept came to reality less then a year later debuting as a production vehicle at the L.A. Auto Show later that year.  So the question is simple: is this every bit the car Buick claims it is?  Lets find out.

The outside of the Enclave is really stunning.  From the front fenders that flow into the body to the rear fenders, which pick up and flow into the rear taillights— the lines are stunning.  The headlights are unique and look great both during the day and when lit up at night.  The twenty-inch chrome clad wheels were met with more chrome strewn about the exterior, from the door handles to the rear taillight surrounds.  Chrome was all over the exterior of this vehicle.  I did have one person tell me it was a little flashy for their tastes.  I however think it was tastefully done and not overdone in the least bit.  The traditional Buick waterfall grille still resides in the front reminding you that yes, indeed this is a Buick.  Though you might be shocked to find this out by looking around the vehicle.

Inside the stunning looks continue.  Wood is literally everywhere.  Well when we use the term wood we use that generously.  The wood is actually plastic with only the wood on the steering wheel being real mahogany.  With that said, it does not look bad.  The design is aesthetically pleasing and very upscale.  The center stack has an analogue clock at the top.  The climate control set up and the radio/navigation is shared with the other lambda-based vehicles (Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the now dead Saturn Outlook).  The second row seats can be had in either a three-person bench seat or two captains chairs.  This is a no cost option and I personally liked the captain seating option, though it is not quite as practical since you lose a seat.  The third row folds flat and is standard.  This is mainly a space for children though an adult could manage for a quick trip across town.  The dual laminated glass keeps things extremely quite inside even on the highway.  Even with the third row up you still have room for luggage or groceries.  The interior—like the exterior—is definitely tastefully done.

The powertrain is shared with the other lambda vehicles as well.  Equipped with a 3.6 liter direct injection V6 that puts out 288 hp and 270 ft-lb to either the front or all four wheels.  The power is handled by a one-choice six speed automatic transmission, which does have a manual shift capability.  The steering is noticeably boosted and is light to the touch.  This is not a barnburner but it has enough power to get up and merge onto a freeway.  Though I would not suggest racing your next-door neighbors Porsche Cayenne to the country club for pinks, for you will lose.

The Enclave I had was  CXL-2 which is the top trim level.  Equipped with every option other then the all wheel drive the sticker price rang in at $47,355 including destination.  This included such options as the audio system with navigation and DVD, power sunroof with second row skylight and the twenty-inch chrome clad wheels.  The navigation system is the older touch screen unit supplied by Delphi, which is DVD-based rather then hard drive based.  This is a tad slower then the new hard drive based unit supplied by Alpine in the new Cadillacs.  I am hoping this gets upgraded soon.  Also the rear seat entertainment, which as part of the audio system package mentioned earlier, drops down from the roof that puts the screen right in the way of your rear view mirror.  The newer models from GM are using dual flip up monitors on the back of the front seats.  This too hopefully will be upgraded sooner rather then later.  Another feature that was missing was auto up windows.  Only the driver’s window was equipped with the auto up feature.  In this price range that is almost commonplace and a little strange.

One of the biggest downfalls of the lambdas is their weight.  They are almost obese, weighing in at almost 5000 lbs (4780 to be exact).  You can most definitely feel the engine pulling all this weight around.  The EPA rates the fuel mileage at 17/24 for the front wheel drive model I was in.  I did manage to average 17.3 mpg in the city and did not have the chance to truly test the highway rating.  These are fairly decent numbers especially compared to some of the competition.

In this price range you are deep in luxury SUV territory with players such as the Acura MDX and the Lincoln MKT, among others.  The question is simple: is the Enclave a worthy competitor?  I would say it is definitely a vehicle I would recommend, but it will not be for everyone.  The Enclave to me feels bigger then the MDX and is really just a different personality than MKT.  All three are really nice vehicles and the Enclave is definitely class competitive.  While some upgrades are needed as time has passed, the Enclave is still the competitive looker it was when it made its debut.


Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Review – 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo

After my first run in with the SRX I had strong opinions, both good and bad.  The new SRX is a valid contender in this automotive segment and pushes the envelope for Cadillac both in quality and as a class competitive product.  My largest gripe was that the base powertrain is weak and affected the driving experience.  A simple question: would the optional turbo V6 engine fix the driving experience?

The main highlight of the SRX Turbo is larger engine which is funny because the engine in not actually larger because it is a 2.8 liter while the base V6 is a 3.0 liter.  The extra power in the this V6 really comes from the turbo, putting out 300 hp and 295 ft-lb to all four wheels all with max torque coming at 2000 rpm.  The all wheel drive system is the torque vectoring unit from Haldex.  This is the same unit that made its debut in the now dead Saab TurboX a few years back and can transfer up to 90% of the torque to the rear wheels at any given time.  The torque can also be distributed between the wheels side to side.  All of this gets put to the ground through a six speed automatic transmission with manual shift capabilities.  So the question still remains:  does this extra power fix the SRX driving experience?

The answer is yes and no.  Yes, the driving experience is much better.  In fact, leaps and bounds better.  In normal and spirited driving the car does not feel strained like the base 3.0 liter V6.  Even pulling away from a stoplight, you notice the difference.  In normal driving the engine does not feel like it is working hard.  The revs are easily kept under 3ooo rpm’s unless pushed.  When pushed, the engine responds quickly with no noticeable lag.  The turbo is going almost constantly whenever you have your foot on the gas.  Something to note is that you cannot put the needle into the red on the turbo gauge.  Why would you have the red there when you cannot put the needle in that zone?  The first thing people said to me was to put it in the red and I had to respond sadly, “It does not go that high.”

The downside to this engine is the gas mileage.  Rated at 15/22, this engine could definitely be described as thirsty.  I cannot decide what is worse about the mileage;  the fact that it is just terrible for this vehicle class, or that it is coming from the engine putting out the power that this vehicle really needs.  That mileage is no joke either.  I averaged 15.3 mpg during the week and it is worth noting that the gas it is guzzling requires premium.  I did not really stretch the SRX Turbo’s legs so I cannot comment on the highway mileage though I can assume that it matched the EPA rating pretty close to dead on.  Again, that city mileage is really not good and is so bad that it starts to dip into body-on-frame SUV mileage.  For example, the much larger body-on-frame Chevrolet Tahoe is rated at 15 mpg in the city with a V8.  If SRX Turbo engine had direct injection it would post better fuel mileage numbers and would be more competitive.

As mentioned in my previous review of the SRX, the interior styling is very well done. The materials all look and feel great. It uses the center stack from the CTS (minus the tiny climate control screens on each side) and the door handles are uniquely shaped.  These little details help set it apart. That said, the back seat is somewhat short on leg room with a taller driver.  The cargo area has a terrific cargo management system with sliding tie down brackets and there is a decent sized storage cubby below the rear floor that can hold items away from public view.

The styling is terrific.  I am still undecided about the front air dam being so low and whether it makes it look better or worse.  The rear taillights hark back to the “tailfins” on older Cadillac’s and play nicely with the overall design.  The rear diffuser finishes off the rear while integrating the exhaust into the overall design.  The A-pillars in this vehicle are ridiculously huge and they make sight lines a problem in a few instances and the rear window is tiny and makes visibility awkward so the back up camera is definitely useful in a parking lot.  The twenty inch wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely and look great because they are painted aluminum wheels instead of chrome plated.  Another thing that still bugs me is the GM chiclet.  I mentioned this in my original review, and again, I assume the tooling was already set before the decision to ditch this “Mark of Excellence” was made.

The SRX Turbo I had was a premium model with almost all of the bells and whistles.  The rear seat entertainment system package with dual rear screens and wireless headsets with remote adds $1,295 to this package and  I like the way this system is set up with screens in the back of the seats and separate video inputs for each.  The second option was the crystal red tintcoat which will set you back $995.  All said, including destination fees, the total sticker price of this particular SRX Turbo came to $54,475.

I want to take a second to talk about the competition.  The SRX is really going head to head with the Lexus RX. It was developed and bench marked against that vehicle and the marketing pitches it that way.  As I mentioned earlier, the price on this SRX Turbo was close to $55,000 and that is a lot of coin while there are a lot of other great vehicles for that price.  The SRX Turbo starts under $50,000, for that price you can get a nicely equipped Acura MDX or an Ecoboost Lincoln MKT and, while the Ecoboost MKT is a much larger vehicle, it just goes to show the breadth of this segment and price range.

There must be something about the SRX because each time I have had the vehicle we have gotten whacked with lots of snow here in Minneapolis.  The SRX Turbo handled it like a champ plowing through the white stuff with the all wheel drive sending power to the wheels with traction.  It felt weird but sometimes I thought the electronic stability control was slow to kick in.  The front wheel drive SRX handled the snow with its low profile, all season tires better than expected, so this all wheel drive version had absolutely no issues.

As with the other SRX I reviewed, I do like this vehicle.  When you compare it with the direct competitor, the Lexus RX, you see the SRX is a more engaging and dynamic vehicle.  The optional turbo powertrain definitely fixes the anemic feeling but at the large expense of gas mileage and in reality, the bulk of the SRX’s sold will be equipped with the base 3.0 liter V6 and that engine will be fine for those who are more concerned with the gas mileage.  For those who really want to take the SRX to its full potential, you will have to take the hit on the gas mileage and option for the turbo V6.


Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

The Dead 2011 Acura NSX

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX

Many car people knew that Acura was planning on resurrecting the NSX for 2011.  That was the plan until the drop in both the economy and the auto industry.  The car was well into development with what seemed to be a production ready (almost) body and interior.  Spy shots showed a front engine long hood short deck stance.  Rumors were a revised version of SH-AWD was going to send the power to all four wheels.  We also heard that the vehicle would be powered by a 5.5 liter V10 putting out 500-550 hp while using iVTEC.  Reliable sources said an aggressive cylinder deactivation mode would help obtain decent fuel economy.  This was supposed to be a super car to put a halo around Acura.  Similar in concept to the recently debuted Lexus LFA.  In fact, the new NSX would have been competition for the LFA.  No pricing was ever announced or leaked but I would assume the price tag would have been under that of the LFA’s $375,000 price.

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

I for one always like both the first and second generation NSX’s.  It brought something new to the table.  Showing super car manufactures and buyers, that you can have a high performance car that is still reliable.  This was somewhat of a revolutionary concept.  The mid-mount V6 was also unique.  This was not the fastest car.  Nor was it the most expensive car.  It was a unique car from a company that was out to prove themselves.

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

As I mentioned earlier the NSX replacement was in the final stages of preparation for an unveiling.  Sources say the dream is dead and the NSX replacement will not be coming.  While I completely believe this I wish it were not true.  Competition in the marketplace is a good thing.  While I have a feeling the 2011 NSX would be vastly different (front engine and all wheel drive vs mid-engine and rear wheel drive), the reliability attribute would still probably be there.

Below is a video recorded of the 2011 NSX prototype in in final testing stages driving around the Nurburgring.

2010 Honda NSX replacement at the Nürburgring Nordschleife from MrBTG on Vimeo.

Last Generation NSX

Last Generation NSX

Cars & Café – November 7, 2009

Auto MotorPlex

Auto MotorPlex

The first weekend of the month has come and gone and that means Cars & Café.  An opportunity for car guys to come, drool and gawk at each others toys.  The weather was unseasonably warm for November, reaching a high of 57 degrees.  The sun was shining, the people were smiling, and all was well with the world.  Per the name Cars & Café, the cars where there as was the coffee and doughnuts.

Spyker C8

Spyker C8 Spyder

Spyker Logo

Spyker Logo

This month was much nicer weather then October which meant the crowd was about double and the amount of cars were too.  Many notable appearance were made such as the gorgeous Spyker C8 Spyder all the way to the normal Honda S2000.  EuroCars even brought out a ultra rare Noble M400 they currently have for sale.  Kevin Tan, owner of Imola Motorsports, brought out his Acura NSX which is tastefully modified.  Not one, but two, Buick Grand National’s were in attendance. One had aftermarket wheels while the other was quite stock.  Both were gorgeous sights to see in person.  Also notable was the old school Porsche that was absolutely gorgeous.  I will note, my buddy who has the Honda S2000 that we brought to October’s Cars & Café, and our 300ZX, were both sadly already put into storage due to the early cold snap we had.  We both decided to error on the safe side and we were sad we did.

Noble M400

Noble M400

Buick Grand National

Buick Grand National

This month the club house was open to stroll through.  Spacious and luxurious, the clubhouse is a very nice  place  to hang out while grabbing a cup of coffee and a doughnut.  Auto Motorplex is currently nearing completion on another new building that was framed up in October.  They were also obviously prepping to develop more land for more buildings towards the edge of the property.  Until next April 3, 2010 (but who’s counting) when Cars & Café starts another season, we will all unfortunately just have to get out our trickle chargers and car covers, while we go into storage for the winter.

Kevin Tan's Acura NSX
Kevin Tan’s Acura NSX

Gorgeous Porsche

Gorgeous Porsche

Review- 2010 Buick LaCrosse

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2010 Buick LaCrosse

I have heard the “New GM” say over and over again that any product launch can not be just a launch, it has to be a success.  The new LaCrosse for Buick is no exception, and in fact, this is the car that is helping to “reinvent” the Buick brand.  The Enclave that debuted two years ago went in the reinvention direction, it was however, less reinvention and more a new segment for the brand.  The Enclave was the vehicle that started generating younger foot traffic into Buick showrooms.  That is a good start, and this new LaCrosse looks to keep that momentum going.  So how is the car?  Well this is not your grandpa’s Buick.

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The last generation LaCrosse was a curvy affair that had four headlights and the bland styling of white bread.  Buick has set its sights upon some new comers and some industry leaders ranging from the new Lincoln MKZ and Acura TL to the recently updated Lexus ES350 and let’s not forget the aging, and not gracefully I might add, Toyota Avalon.  These are the “main competitors” in GM’s view.  The list makes sense to me, although I believe, the main direct competitor is the Lexus ES350.  The advertising is poking at Lexus and the Buick is actually better looking.

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The exterior design of the new LaCrosse has a very strong sweep spear line down the side.  The character line goes continuously from the headlights all the way down the side to the tail lights, creating a long and flowing line that helps to give the sides character.  This, along with curves toward the bottom of the doors, keep the car from appearing slab sided.  The front has a new modernized interpretation on the Buick waterfall grille.  Following the current trend, this car has a high belt line and the result is down right good looking.  No yawn inducing smoothed out jelly bean here.  The bland styling from the previous generation LaCrosse has been kicked to the curb for LED tail lights and that bold character line down the side.  With dual exhaust and finishers, the whole outside screams “I have style”.

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Everyone that got in the interior commented on how nice the Lexus was.  That is until I told them it was the new Buick.  It took their breath away.  Once you get past that you are in a Buick, you have to stop yourself because suddenly you want to admit you like this Buick.  It is ok, someday it will be the cool thing, and this is the big first step toward that day.  The interior was designed with input from the Chinese division within GM.  Why would they do that you ask?  The answer is because Buick is a smash hit over in China, so they decided to have the market where Buick sells best design the interior.  Lets just say, bravo.  The gauge cluster looks great, probably one of the best in any GM vehicle.  The whole entire dash is covered in soft material which is how it should be.  The bottom, by your knees and where the glove box is, continues to be made of hard plastic.  It does look good, and you will rarely touch it.  The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes to help find the perfect driving position.

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The car I had was a top tier CXS model with no additional options other then special paint for $195.  The sticker price was $33,960.  Equipped with an auxiliary jack and a USB port you could listen to your music from your iPhone or iPod through the Harmon Kardon branded sound system which sounded great.  I would even venture to say it rivals the Mark Levinson sound system in the Lexus ES350.  The wheels were 18″ with chrome plating.  I really liked the CXS standard heated steering wheel.

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The car comes with three different engines.  The top shelf CXS I had came with a one choice 3.6 liter V6 featuring direct injection putting out 280 hp and 259 lb-ft to the front wheels.  Rated at 17/27 mpg, the car averaged 21.5 mpg with a mix of city/highway driving.  If you step down one trim level to the CXL you can get all wheel drive as a option, but you can not get the 3.6 V6, you have one choice, a 3.0 liter with 255 hp and 217 lb-ft.  The base CX model comes in front wheel drive with the 3.0 V6 standard though a 2.4 liter four cylinder with 182 hp and 172 lb-ft is optional.  I was surprised with how well the torque steer was in check with front wheel drive and the larger 3.6 liter V6.

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So it seems all cheers here right?  Buick hit a home run with no flaws.  Well not exactly.  The car uses old goose neck hinges for the trunk which significantly eat into the trunk room.  Though the arms are covered so they can not crush luggage, that does not stop them from eating trunk space in a large way.  Yes the Lexus ES350 uses them too, but that is not an excuse.  Also, the seat tracks in the front have a very open design that, in theory, could easily devour a long evening gown while moving back or forth.  Also, as I have mentioned, I am not a huge fan of this high belt line trend.  Sure I am being nit picky I will admit that, but they did that good of a job.  My biggest complaint is simple.  You can not see the rear end when backing up.  This thing needs a back up camera stat!  The only way to get the back up camera is to have the optional navigation package.  When the back up camera is standard on the GMC Terrain, which has a base price less then this CXS, something is not right.

The new LaCrosse certainly is not your grandpa’s Buick anymore.  This cars main target are the people shopping for a Lexus ES350.  It hits that target while being a better value, having more character, and is overall better looking.  Certainly a few things I mentioned could use tweaking, but overall this is a nice execution on General Motors part.  Buick’s new marketing slogan is “The new class of world class”, and for the first time this brand has a car that is world class.

EuroCars Oktober Fest

2This Saturday EuroCars will be hosting their annual OktoberFest.  They have a few rare cars among their already nice inventory.  Notable cars that will be in the showroom include a Noble M400, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, a tricked out Acura NSX, and an Audi S8 and a Porsche 911 C4S.  Along with these they also carry other European (and Japanese) makes and models that will be on hand and for sale.  More then just cars, this event will have authentic German food, beer, and other assorted beverages.  They will be giving away Minnesota Vikings tickets and car detailing packages during the event.  Attendance is free and I think it will be a good time for all.  Bring the family and take a stroll through the showroom while eating some great food and meeting new people.

Review- 2010 Audi S4

2010 Audi S4

2010 Audi S4

First a confession. When I first got wind that Audi would be using a supercharged V6 in the next generation S4 instead of the throaty 4.2 V8, I was nervous. I was wrong. The S4 took the year off in 2009 while Audi launched the new A4 on the new B8 platform. The B8 platform moves the front axle farther forward making for a better weight distribution and a shorter front over hang. The new S4 is larger and faster then the previous generation all while being more fuel efficient.

As with all Audi’s, the interior of this new S4 is gorgeous. The materials are soft touch and are executed well. The S4 I drove while not fully loaded had some nice options including the navigation package, genuine silk nappa leather, Bang & Olufsen sound system, carbon atlas interior and sprint blue pearl effect paint. The Bang & Olufsen sound system is well worth the $850. The stereo had two SD card slots to play music off of. The space used for the SD card slots could be utilized for something more worth while like buttons for radio presets. Instead you have to go through menus using the MMI interface to get to the presets, this is somewhat cumbersome. That said, the third generation MMI system is more user friendly and better to use then previous generations. The navigation system is hard drive based which means it will move faster through menus without lag and also allows you to load your personal music on a portion of the hard drive. The genuine silk nappa leather seats that were two tone black and silver. The sport seats hug your body in all the right places and are bolstered well. S4 badges are strewn about the cabin tastefully to remind you, that you are indeed in something special.

The new supercharged V6 has 7 less HP then the old V8, but puts out 22 Lb-Ft more torque. Making the new 2010 S4 faster 0-60. The 2010 S4 has a supercharged V6 pumping out 333 HP, and 325 Lb-Ft through the legendary Quattro all wheel drive system. The Quattro system in the S4 has a 40/60 split front to rear power ratio. Optional is a new sport differential in the back which can vary torque from side to side in the rear. This helps with under steer and over steer when going through corners by pushing the power to the outside rear wheel. In operation, the sport differential works similarly to the system in the Acura’s with SH-AWD. The car I test drove had the standard 6 speed manual transmission. A 7 speed dual clutch transmission called Sport-tronic is optional. With the 6 speed manual 60 comes in at 4.9 seconds. Also available is Audi’s Drive Select package which allows the driver to customize the steering, suspension, and acceleration characteristics. The S4 I drove was not equipped with Drive Select so I could not give feedback on this option. The gas milage has improved with the new engine going from 13/19 in the previous generation S4 to 18/27 in the new S4.

The waters run deep in this vehicle segment and the new S4 is bringing its A-game for sure. It is no secret that the arch nemesis of the S4 is BMW’s 335i which is now available with all wheel drive as the 335i xDrive. We also can not forget the other German crosstown rival, the Mercedes C350. Both of the main competitors are less expensive, which people will ask then how is the S4 a true competitor. You have to look at the whole picture. While yes cross town rivals are less expensive they are also less powerful. Which begs the question are they really a better value? If you are paying more for the Audi and getting more then really it is a fair game. The price difference between the BMW 335i xDrive and the S4 is around $2,000 which in this price bracket is not a huge difference.

The new S4 is not perfect though the few items of question are easily forgotten once you start driving. When you look at the competition the S4 is definitely king of the hill. The new S4 starts with a base price of $45,900 before destination, while the one I drove with select options had a sticker price of $52,050. The main item to take away from this, is the new S4 is leaps and bounds better then the previous generation. Everything from the chassis to the interior is new and improved, it shows. The car truly spoke to me. It fit in all the right places and truly is a drivers car. I will leave you with this, it is rare I will walk out of a car and say “WOW I truly connected with that car”.