The above picture is a glimpse back in time, myself standing next to my uncle’s C5 Corvette heading to my senior prom. At the time high school was almost over and I would be heading to Drake University in the fall. A fresh start, a new beginning.
Turns out college was a lot like high school, only with more drinking and partying. Same kind of drama, same type of people. In 2008 I was about to graduate into the “real world,” you know, versus the fake world I had been living in. At this point, I thought life would change. Another new beginning.
Well would you look at that, the real world is just like my fake world. Same kind of drama, same type of people. Turns out that real life is just like high school. Sure there’s less drinking and partying than the college version (depending on how you live your life), but what’s really changed? Well, a lot has changed, but so much has stayed the same.
All this made me ask myself, do we ever really graduate from high school? I mean honestly, is it a choice? Even if we try, it feels like others just wont let us leave the school yard.
What do you think? Are we stuck in the school yard for the rest of our lives?
Note – When I started this blog there was a warning that non-automotive stuff might filter in. To date, not much of that has happened. The above is just that, non-automotive life filtering in.
We’ve seen the Chevrolet Corvette fail last April, and that was a sight to behold. We now bring you this Ford Mustang fail. My friend Neal, that lives in Iowa spotted this hot piece of metal sitting outside where else, a Sportsman’s Warehouse in Ankeny, IA. The store apparently sells everything you would need for hunting and other outdoor activities (wonder if there is a gun rack in the trunk). Clearly this Mustang has custom bumpers along with a large lift kit. The hood might be from a Boss, while the rear mud flaps are clearly meant for a F350 dually. The straight pipes coming out the back I am sure pass emissions. One has to wonder, do they take this thing mudding or in the fields? Regardless, if you happen to be near Des Moines, IA anytime soon, keep your eyes peeled for this hot piece of Mustang. The owner may even let you check its undercarriage.
Most boys when they are young dream of two things: hot girls and fast cars. One of those fast cars typically includes the Corvette (though your situation may vary). I distinctly remember when growing up thinking about the Corvette, although it was not until the C6 (6th generation Corvette) introduced in 2005 that my interest was truly piqued. The Corvette has always been somewhat of a performance bargain, and that is still the case to this day. For the 2010 model year the question is simple – is the new Grand Sport Package all that and a slice of pie, or just another trim option not worth the price of entry? Let’s find out.
The first thing you notice about Corvette is that Chevrolet ditched the flip-up headlights (years ago). This gives the car a clean look day or night, and the projector lenses provide crisp cut off lines at night. The front end is low, with a slight plastic lip attached to the front clip (careful when parking!). Directly above the Corvette emblem is an air inlet like those found on Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models. Directly behind the front wheel wells are two gills topped with Grand Sport lettering. The rear quarter panels have a rear brake duct and the door handles are hidden (as with all C6 Corvette’s). The rear features four round taillights and quad exhaust tips poking out from the center of the car. The exterior is aggressive and taught. More then one person noted that the headlights reminded them of those on Ferraris, and I can see how they make that comparison. The Grand Sport hash marks on the front fenders I could go without, but they are not terribly gaudy. The soft top is power operated, however you have one latch inside to release before lowering. The top stows in the rear, eating into trunk space, which is surprisingly still enough for a nice weekend getaway (tested). The rear deck is clean and flat when the top is down. Overall, the exterior is good looking with an aggressive stance.
The interior of this car is such a love-hate drama. I love that it is functional. I hate that is dated. Let’s start with the functional part – with more then enough leg room, the interior is comfortable. The seats are comfortable for everyday driving and the ergonomics are excellent, with switchgear in easy reach and everything laid out nicely. The head up display is terrific day and night. OK, I am done with the good – now the bad. This interior has aged. The plastics are fine but nothing to write home about. The optional leather wrapped dash and door panels do their best to kick things up a notch, and it is an improvement. The electronics are another story. The $1,750 optional navigation system is disc based, not the newer hard drive-based system used in many of the current General Motors cars. You want to listen to your iPhone/iPod? Too bad, there is no USB port.
Want to use an auxiliary in? Nope not available. You pretty much need a radio transmitter to play such advanced devices. I realize that those things aren’t what this car is about….but come on, it is 2010!
I cannot decide if I am being too picky or unrealistic but I will say on a road trip down to Iowa I pretty much just settled for XM radio since I was not going to obviously listen to my iPhone. I would like to note that for 2011 I have heard the Corvette will get both an auxiliary port and USB port.
Just want to warn you, the center tunnel seems to get nice and warm, which you will notice if you rest your leg against it. Oh, and those comfy seats? They are comfy, but in no way up for what this car is capable of on a track.
So while comfy for everyday driving and highway trips, the interior is overall just fine, but it is definitely aging.
It is truly amazing how quickly any negatives I just previously stated fade away once you push the start button. The pushrod V-8 comes to life with a nice raspy burble. The 6.2 liter LS3 V8 pushes 436 horsepower and 428 pound feet (with optional exhaust), while six-piston brake calipers up front clamp down on cross-drilled rotors. The brakes shed speed off quickly. That power was put down (you sitting down?) through a six-speed automatic transmission. I will state that more Corvettes then you want to believe are actually sold with automatic transmissions.
A sad but true fact. Do not worry too much because we have paddle shifters (that might be out of a Malibu). I will say this, while I would personally never buy a Corvette with an automatic transmission, it behaved better then expected. It did what I wanted it to do 95% of the time. Still, I would skip that pesky $1,250 option. One option I would not skip is the $1,195 for that optional exhaust. Dual mode exhaust combined with a drop top is a combination for pure awesome.
The exhaust note is tame and deep when you mash the go pedal, until about 3,300 RPM and then the baffles open up and it sounds like the devil. You can not help but grin like an idiot. That is just it, while driving this car it hard not to smile. By the way, how many cars with 436 hp do you know of that are rated at 15/25 mpg? Try that in a Ferrari! In the city I averaged 15.4 mpg with plenty of spirited driving. On the highway trip down to Iowa I averaged 24.1 with the cruise control set at 77. That is nothing short of impressive!
The current Corvette has been on the market since 2005. That is over 5 model years, and we probably will not see the next Corvette (C7) until 2012 at the earliest (probably later then that). The first question is, does the Corvette still compete on the same level as it used too? It has certainly aged, yet it can still keep up with the best of them.
The base price is hard to argue with too, though the Grand Sport model I was in had a sticker price of $75,740. That is close to a brand new Z06. Part of that problem was the $16,210 in options. You could pare that down easily and still have a great performing car. I would say without a doubt the Corvette Grand Sport optioned lightly might be a better value then the base Corvette in many regards. So yes, it is all that and a slice of pie – just be careful on those options
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors
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.
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!
This week we continue with the new segment called car spotting. Justin spotted a 1980 Corvette Indy Pace Car, Detomasso Pantera, 1960s jaguar e type convertible, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, possibally a Pagoni Zonda. Tony & I lead boring lives the last few weeks in comparison to Justin, thus we spotted nothing exciting.
Next came our main topic which was discussing features we would like to see in all cars. (Link)
Episode 31 starts with introducing this weeks guest Jeremy Sally from Cheers and Gears. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Lincoln MKT I was in for the 4th of July weekend, along with the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport I was in the past week. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
General Motors just announced the new Corvette build experience. This is a program where customers can option to hand build an engine that will later find its way into their shiny new Corvette Z06 or ZR1. The cost for the “do it yourself option” is $5,800. These engines are hand built in the Wixom plant in Michigan. Above is a time lapse video of a ZR1 engine being made.
The question many people ask me is if there is a replacement for displacement. I have had this discussion at length multiple times recently. With all the new CAFE requirements and the public’s demand for better fuel economy, some people are worried about fun cars.
While it is true things need to change to achieve better gas mileage numbers, that does not mean the fun will end. New technologies are making different things possible for this new age. The use of direct injection and forced induction will likely play a large role in the future of the combustion engine Many automakers are already downsizing their engines and starting to implement these technologies.
Ford is utilizing twin-turbo charging in combination with direct injection to create more power from smaller displacement engines. They are calling this technology EcoBoost. Using two turbos spooling up at different times, it reduces the old problem of turbo lag. Achieving maximum torque under 2000 rpm’s is one benefit from using this set up. Even better is that the torque curve is flat! Ford is getting 365 horsepower and 355 pound feet of torque out of a EcoBoost V-6 displacing only 3.5 liters! The engine could undoubtedly handle more boost and produce much higher numbers than that, but long term durability would be called into question at some point. Some theorize that the 3.5 liter EcoBoost could have an output of 450+ hp and 450+ ft-lb.
2010 Audi S4 Supercharged 3.0 liter V6
I mentioned earlier that many companies are downsizing the displacement of their engines. Ford’s EcoBoost powerplant is just the beginning. In the 2010 Audi S4, a supercharged V6 is used. This replaces the 4.2 liter V8 found in the previous generation S4. Many worried about the hp and torque ratings of the car when the smaller displacement engine was announced. The fact is, the 2010 S4 with its supercharged V6 has more torque and only slightly less hp than the V-8. The gas mileage has improved greatly and the driving dynamics are still intact. The only real loss was the deep burble from the throaty V-8. Problem was, that V-8 was thirsty.
Mercedes has also announced they will start downsizing their engines and will begin to offer more forced induction on future models. Mercedes’ performance arm AMG will be following suit with downsizing and forced induction as well. BMW has already started this with the latest M models, which utilize twin-turbo V8’s instead of naturally aspirated V10’s.
2009 Chevrolet Corvette LS3 6.2L V8
All this talk about forced induction is great. Downsizing is definitely going to play a role in the future. However, that is not to say you can’t get decent gas mileage out of a big, naturally-aspirated engine. A base model Chevrolet Corvette is rated at 26 mpg on the highway. That is 26 mpg from a 6.2 liter V-8, producing 430 hp! That isn’t terrible – in fact that is down right great! No direct injection, no turbos, no superchargers – just good old American muscle. The 2010 Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 achieves 25 mpg on the highway. Again, naturally aspirated, with no forced induction.
Back to the original question, is there a replacement for displacement? It really can be answered either way. Yes, you can get the power of a naturally aspirated V-10 out of a blown V-8, or V8 power from a technology-infused blown V-6. And now, we are just starting to see V-6 power from inline 4’s with direction injection and turbos. What you do lose when you try replacing displacement is the sound and feel of the engine. A turbo V-6 just doesn’t have the same rumble when you start it up. Everyone’s opinion will differ on this topic. In the end, mine is that you can replace the power of a larger displacement motor and even get some better characteristics, but in the end you can not replace the feel and experience of a larger, naturally-aspirated engine. It will always be different, but not necessarily worse.
I have read all the brochures and online materials, I have seen all the pictures – and the reality is none of that does the Fisker Karma justice. I could sit here and list all of its specifications, but I won’t. Mainly because that is not what this post is about. Many of you have not had the opportunity (yet) to see the Fisker Karma in person. When you do, you will remember it. The lines and curves on this car are just gorgeous.
Lets back up a minute. What the heck is a Fisker and what is the Karma? Funny you should ask. Fisker Automotive is a new car brand founded by Henrik Fisker, who is also the current CEO (funny how that works). He was previously known for being the design director for Aston Martin and the president and CEO of BMW’s Designworks USA. Maybe that does not mean much to you, but it equates to this: he is responsible for cars such as the BMW Z8 (one hot piece of metal), Aston Martin DB9 and the V8 Vantage (also both hot pieces of metal). Needless to say, he has a sense of style when it comes to designing a car.
The Karma is the first car from Fisker Automotive. With demo cars arriving at the end of the year, production should (if it stays on track) start in the very beginning of next year. The car will be built overseas in Finland initially. In fact, it will be built in the same factory as some Porsche’s and other vehicles. In 2012 production will move to the Wilmington Assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware. This plant was recently purchased by Fisker from General Motors. With the plant already up to date with tooling and a local trainable workforce, it is an ideal location. The plant was previously producing the Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and Opel GT.
One last thing before we get to the actual Karma – If you have not seen pictures I will tell you that this the car is a saloon. It will fit two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, but getting in and out of the rear seat isn’t exactly graceful. Another car is coming in 2012 from Fisker, and it will be a more mainstream, higher volume vehicle. Currently the project is code named Nina and it will be a midsize sedan. I was informed it will be about the size of the BMW 5 Series, but with much more usable interior space (read really practical). The Nina should come in somewhere around $45-48k. Also coming sometime between the 2012 Nina and 2011 Karma is the Karma Sunset. The Karma Sunset is essentially a convertible version of the Karma, featuring a retractable hard top.
Upon seeing the Karma in person, I really was stunned. Yes, from the front it looks somewhat like the Joker from Batman. It still looks great though. Some of the design cues from the front translate to the rear and interior. This gives the car an overall cohesive design. Each rear fender has a “fuel” door. On the passenger side is the gasoline, while on the driver side is the plug-in for the rechargeable lithium ion battery pack. The front headlights feature LED running lights, while the rear tail lights are also LED. The roof features a full length solar panel to help charge the car and provide cooling for the interior cabin while the car is parked. I remember the early 2000’s Audi A8s had this as an option on their sunroof. The wheels are 22 inches (!) and are made from a lightweight alloy. The brakes are the same Brembo setup used in the Cadillac CTS-V. The door handles have a electronic push pad under each handle that you merely push and the door opens. This is similar in concept to the Chevrolet Corvette and new Cadillac CTS Coupe. As you can see in pictures, the exterior is just gorgeous. Some might say breathtaking. I do suppose some could say it is controversial but I am in the “it is definitely gorgeous camp.”
Ok, I can understand how someone might be mixed on the exterior of this car, but the interior is simply stunning. This is a whole new take on luxury. This interior feels so different from all the other luxury sedans out there. When I think of high end luxury cars (we are not talking small volume cars like the Rolls Royce Phantom), I think of cars like the Audi A8, Lexus LS 460 and many others. This car is completely different inside. To be honest, when I got inside of the Karma I felt like I had just stepped inside one of the older Chris Craft boats. With rich thick leather and real wood, the interior just felt so natural and polished, yet elegant. Keep in mind this was a pre pre-production car. The 10.2″ center touch screen, which controls most of the cars functions (A/C, Radio, etc) was stuck in a black loading screen (I’m guessing the software was not ready) and the car could not turn on, though the gauges were lit up and the windshield wipers worked (I checked). Oh something to note, the engine in the Karma is being sourced from GM – though that is not the only thing. I noticed both the turn signal/cruise control stalk and the windshield wiper control stalk were both parts bin GM. In fact, I am 99% sure they are the very same stalks in the Cadillac STS. Whether these are the exact stalks found in the production sedan is yet to be seen. Also, the rear view mirror is GM sourced too. The gear shift level (if you could call it that) has a button on the left that I assume starts the car due to it’s power symbol and the lack of any other power button on the console or near the steering wheel. The right hand part of the gear shift level is actually a switch that gets flipped into different positions to select your gear (PRND). Down the center of the interior is the battery pack, but it is packaged beautifully behind glass and leather. The front seats are downright sporty, comfy and are terrific. The rear is awkward to get in and out of, but once in the car, the seats are comfortable. Leg room is acceptable but not amazing. The roof line does cut into rear headroom. Overall, the interior is stunning.
The power will come from a battery pack with a 50 mile range. Beyond that 50 mile range, the 2.0 liter turbo range extender engine kicks in and produces 260 horsepower. This motor is sourced from GM and is the same engine used in the Saturn Sky Redline and the Pontiac Solstice GXP. The total range between the battery and the gasoline engine is 300 miles. You can forget range anxiety – this is a series hybrid just like the upcoming Chevrolet Volt. That means the gas engine is in no way driving the wheels. Rather, the engine is connected to the battery which powers the two electric motors connected to the rear wheels. We will get into all the technical stuff in another post some other time.
The cars sticker price before tax rebates is $89,000 and change. I know there is a government tax rebate and certain states (I think Minnesota does) also has tax rebates on qualifying vehicles. The dealership here, which is the one and only one for the state of Minnesota has pre-sold and took deposits for 3 Karmas. I was told varying numbers for how many total cars the dealership has pre-sold, but the most common number I heard was 17. Not bad at all.
So what are my final initial impressions? Well, I can not wait to get my hands on a production model. Considering I did not get to drive or start this one, and the infotainment system did not work, I cannot give a full impression post. I can say it does not feel “kit car” in anyway. The interior is just ridiculous (in an amazingly good way). The exterior I love, but some will not. This is for sure a legitimate automobile with a company that I frankly hope succeeds in many ways. As for the Karma, I’ll see you soon!
Another month means another gathering for Cars & Café out at the AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen. As I woke up at 5:50 am to get ready and then hop into the 300ZX, I looked out the window to see rain coming down. I instantly decided taking the 300ZX was not happening – not this month.
By no means did this mean I was not going, rather I just did not feel like taking the 300ZX out in the rain. I went back to bed, because the reality is if you do not plan on showing a car, getting to the AutoMotorPlex ridiculously early is not a huge deal. After getting a little more sleep, I found myself pulling into the event at 9 am. Things were already hopping. There was a line of cars still flowing into the complex, although a few Porsches were actually leaving. As I was walking down the hill, a Carver County Sheriff pulled in and asked if he could show his car (jokingly of course). Gotta love the panther cars!
The fact that the weather was not amazing did not stop car lovers and onlookers alike from flowing in and filling up the AutoMotorPlex. In fact, certain cars ended up being turned away to park at the top of the hill due to the sections filling up. Notably missing (at least I did not see it) was the Scion XB with the taped on LED strips to the headlights. I also did not see the 240SX with the zip tied body kit. That was all fine because the first thing I saw was a black BMW Z8 and I just love that car. The license plate on the Z8 read HOUSPMT, and while I did not meet the owner the car was in great condition.
Other notable cars included a terrific looking Saab 900 (I assume a Turbo but it was debadged and the hood was not open). I was really digging the car – until I saw the rear which has what can only be described as – you know those aftermarket lights that can go on trucks, with four squircles to make it look similar to a Corvette? Yeah, those! Anyways, they were um …well ugly compared to the traditional taillights or even some other aftermarket options. The rest of the car, I lust after. A very nice R Design Volvo C30 was in attendance with the license plate BORK. That is just classic. I really loved the Audi GT Coupe with great blue paint. A very nice black 300ZX Twin Turbo was there – and while it may be fast its not Uncs Z (that story is coming someday).
A 1964 Volkswagen 1800 convertible was being shown and it was just classic. A true Michelle Naranjo vehicle if I have ever seen one – she probably dreams of it now that I sent her a picture of it. Another cool car I had yet to see in the flesh was a Shelby GT500 Super Snake. Blue with a black and white interior the car was just gorgeous. Other cool appearances included the VW Bus that been at all three Cars & Café’s so far this year. I spoke with the owner and he mentioned a new paint job would be coming towards the of the summer. Sad, because I actually dig the current look.
Overall, the turnout was great. Even though it rained the lot was packed. Good times, donuts, coffee and great people – all with a common passion. Maybe next month we will get sunshine instead of clouds and rain. Until next month, heres to good motoring and safe driving.