Tag Archives: Toyota
Review – 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: What’s An Optima?

Review – 2011 Kia Optima SX Turbo: What’s An Optima?

 

 

2011 Kia Optima SX TurboIf I asked you what the last generation Kia Optima looked like, you would probably have no idea. You would also probably not be able to tell me one thing about it. In fact, if you were looking at a group of de-badged cars, you probably couldn’t pick one out. That’s a problem. Though, once you see the new Kia Optima, you will have none of these issues. Read More…

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

2011 Detroit Auto Show: The Good, The Great, The Sad

While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.

Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.

But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.

Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.

The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.

I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.

Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.

Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.

But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.

Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.

I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.

While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.

At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.


Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors

Review – 2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD: The CUV Sporting the Most Flair

Kia isn’t known for its style or design. Kia’s biggest claim to fame is its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Well, that was until recently. When Kia hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, suddenly they had style and dare I say, flair.

This new third generation Sportage is so vastly different in almost every way from its predecessors, that it’s amazing that they sport the same name.

The exterior of the new Sportage looks like it fell out of the awesome tree and hit every branch on its way down. Beginning in the front, Sportage sports Kia’s new signature grill, flanked by swept back headlights. The headlights on upper trim models (like this EX) each have a strip of LED eye liner. Chrome trim above the fog lights finishes off the front end.

The sides have sculpting near the bottom of the doors while a character line runs beneath the window sills into the rear tail lights. Door handles and window sills are trimmed in chrome and the roof rails are covered in a with a satin metal-like finish. The side mirrors also feature LED repeaters, which is a nice touch in this class.

Around back the rear is very stylized, with what can only be described as a bubble butt. The rear view almost looks like an alien scowling at you, especially at night. The rear tail lights feature LED lighting.

With the rear window being somewhat small and the large C-pillars being kind of large, it makes for limited rearward visibility. It is clear that style played a larger role than function when it came to the exterior design – the exterior is probably the best looking exterior of any compact CUV on the market currently.

The interior is also stylized, though not to the extent the exterior is. The dash features two different finishes, one smooth and one textured, both are hard and have a low sheen to them.

The center console has a upward slant to it and it rises to meet the dashboard. The climate controls have a shiny piano black finish to them, but it is not distracting. I could imagine this plastic getting scratched easily over time though.

Both front seats were all day comfortable, with terrific seat heaters. Though only the front drivers seat features a cooling function. The front passenger will have to settle for only heat.

As I mentioned on the exterior, visibility is somewhat limited by the rear design. The C-pillars are quite large and the back glass is quite small. Further enhancing the problem are the somewhat large A-pillars in the front. While not as large as some of the competition, they are still large enough to cause some visibility issues. As with the current trend, the belt line on the Sportage is high, so resting your elbow on the window sill while driving is somewhat uncomfortable. The design also cuts into rear seat headroom. Taller passengers will need to sit up front.

Like the exterior, I found the interior to be a huge win. Button placement was all within arms reach and everything was clearly labeled. My only major gripe would be the style over function of some of the design characteristics.

Currently the new Sportage features one engine  2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that pumps out 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet to either the front or all four wheels. The power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission that has manual shift capabilities. The Sportage EX I was in came equipped with all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential. The current powertrain combined with all-wheel drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, and I saw an average of 19 mpg in mixed suburban driving.

As with the new Sorento, I found the ride in the Sportage to be surprisingly stiff. While I can appreciate a stiff ride, over bumpy roads the suspension can feel jittery at times. Also, the steering is light when at parking lots speeds but firms up a little too much once underway.

While I had the Sportage, Minneapolis was whacked with the largest blizzard we have had in over ten years. I drove the Sportage out into the blizzard and must say I was highly impressed. I did not get stuck once. With over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, I drove this Sportage through worse road conditions than almost any owner will ever drive through. The 18″ wheels with Hankook tires where very impressive and the stability control kept everything in line. I did lock the all-wheel drive a few times, though ground clearance did help as well. I am sure the cold and blizzard driving affected my gas mileage.

The EX AWD is currently the top trim model of the Sportage model. This Sportage featured both the Navigation/Premium Audio package as well as the Premium Package with Leather. Combined with these options and destination, the total price on this Sportage was $29,990.

The Sportage lands in a crowded market. The new Chevrolet Equinox is very competitive, and the Honda CR-V along with the Toyota RAV4 are both segment leaders. So is the new little Sportage finally ready to sell on more than price? The answer is absolutely. With more style, or flair if you will, than nearly all the competition, this Kia is ready to finally sell on design and features rather than a warranty and low price.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

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

2010 LA Auto Show: The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Mazda Shinari Concept

I had hoped to get this post out last week, but for those that followed my adventures at the LA Auto Show, I was running on four hours of sleep and many cans of Monster Energy drinks. Hence why this post is coming to you a little bit late.

The LA Auto Show is the kick off to the auto show season. Some say it sets the tone for the following auto shows. This year held a ton of promise as the auto industry gets back on to its feet and companies start churning out new product.

Infiniti Essence Concept

Highlights of the show ranged from Mazda Shinari concept car to new Ford Focus sedan and hatchback. Heck I was even excited to see the new Nissan Quest minivan. Yes, you read that correctly. I was excited to see  a new minivan. Hey, in my defense, the teaser shots they leaked out were quite compelling, and I was not let down. The new Quest is quite stunning in my opinion. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Infiniti Essence concept that made its debut a while back. The car is as stunning now as it was when it made its debut.

I was also looking forward to finally seeing the new Dodge Charger in person. Sitting in the new Charger and feeling the materials, I was pleasantly surprised. While not all is fixed, this is a huge leap in the right direction. I look forward to getting to spend more time with that vehicle along with the rest of the revamped Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep line-up.

2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Toyota Corolla

The bad ranged from the “refreshed” Toyota Corolla to the “OMG they built that thing,” Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. The Toyota Corolla is more of a shock and awe. The fact that you can now only get it with a four speed automatic or five speed manual blows my mind. Let me repeat that, four speed automatic. You know, like from the 90’s and early 2000’s. This calls for a “lets party like it’s 1999” statement. Just shameful. Oh and they dropped the more powerful of the two engines. I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention the fact that you can no longer get leather on any Corolla.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Moving along the bad portion of our trip down LA Auto Show lane we reach the “OMG they built that thing” section. We have heard rumors for years about a convertible Nissan Murano. Many outlets have comissioned drawings based upon insider knowledge. Well the time has finally come and Nissan took the sheet off the duckling. Is it ugly? Well, based on the gasp from the crowd, I am not entirely sure. I think the gasp from the crowd was a combination of, again, “OMG they built that thing,” and also a sticker shock when the price was announced at $46,390. I’m sorry, did you just have a slight heart attack? Because I am pretty sure the press at the Nissan press conference did as well. It was made slightly better when I learned later from a PR rep that the price is for the one trim model, which is a LE trim. This will come fully loaded with pretty much no options. Still, that is a pretty penny for this odd duckling.

Overall I would say the tone for the show was upbeat. The industry is clearly fighting to make its way back. Without question a nice foothold has been given, with sales up and profits finally being made, things are looking a little brighter. Here’s looking forward to seeing what is unveiled in Detroit in January.

Introducing the GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid

Behold in all its glory, this very rare, super special GMC Jimmy. Very few of these SuperSport Hybrid Jimmy’s were made, finding one in halfway decent condition, that’s next to impossible. My good friend Mark just happened to stumble upon this fine example driving down the highway here in Minneapolis this week.

Ok fine, you got me. There was no GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid. But, I will say somewhere there is a Toyota Hybrid that is missing a badge of honor, and I bet it wants it back dearly. As for the SuperSport badge, who knows. What a cluster this piece of work is. I must say, the 4X4 decals really do finish off the picture.

Thanks Mark for the tip.

SEMA 2010: The Good, The Bad, The Very Ugly

I’m going to skip right to the chase, the 2010 SEMA show is going on right now. High Gear Media has been obsessively covering the show both on Motor Authority and on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Each year there is some hot stuff and then there is the not so hot stuff. There are many things I eagerly awaited to see this year, one of the higher profile reveals for me was the 2011 Dodge Charger. Mopar Underground was given cart blanche to customize a brand new 2011 Dodge Charger R/T and that lead to the Dodge Charger RedLine. While the paint is a special factory option, the rest of the shiny looking aftermarket bits are not for sale yet.

The ugly is, well very ugly this year. Can’t believe I am saying this, but the world might have actually found the ugliest Toyota Prius. Also, Pontiac is now dead, which means we will not see the Camaro’s cousin known as the Trans Am. So leave it to the aftermarket world to customize a Camaro to look like a Trans Am. The only problem is, it is hideous! Good lord, look at that beak. This was only day one and so much has happened it’ll make your head spin. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings.

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 – 2011 Ford Fiesta: A Win For America

Anyone that has been on the internet lately has probably heard of the Fiesta Movement.  The car’s unique marketing has definitely stirred interest into a vehicle that has not been in the American market for quite a while.  This small vehicle is a hit in Europe and many Americans have been requesting the vehicle.  With the car finally here, the question is how much was lost in translation?  Is the American Fiesta as good as the European version?

Exterior

The exterior has not changed much from the European model.  Gone are the normal fog lights and projector headlights.  Instead, you have LED light pipes where the fog lights would normally go.  The sedan version of the Fiesta also wears a chrome three bar grille instead of painted insert.  The hatch back does not have the chrome three bar grille rather it sports a painted insert that is closer to the European models look.  I think they are the same size and you could swap the painted insert in place of the chrome three bar setup if you wanted to.  Personally, I like the look of the painted insert better.  From the front fender to the rear quarter panel, a strong character line runs down the side of the car.  While the headlights are up swept and unique, the tail lights wrap around the sides and are a basic non-offensive oval shape.  The overall sedan is better looking then I thought it would be.  Much better then the comparable Toyota Yaris.

Interior

The interior of the Fiesta is really close to the European counterpart.  The gauges look very European while the radio controls are supposed to remind you of a cell phone.  While I am not sure of that, there are definitely a lot of buttons in a tiny space.  I found it easy to operate and the interface was clean.  The small 4-inch display glowed red and was easy to read in all lighting conditions.  The Microsoft SYNC system operated as advertised, and was really quite handy.  One thing that is different from the European model is the climate control.  No automatic climate control is offered, though it was extremely warm while the Fiesta was here and it always kept the interior nice and chilly.  The seats were comfortable, with adequate side bolstering. I did find the seat bottoms a bit flat when driving on a road trip.  The graining on all plastics was very nice and the seat fabric felt like great quality material.  With a soft touch pad for the top half of the dash, if it doesn’t feel quality it certainly looks the part.  Rear seat legroom is somewhat short, but if you are under six feet tall you will be OK.  I am not sure an adult would enjoy a road trip back there, but it is doable.  The steering wheel was the perfect size and the electric power steering had great feedback and on-center feel.  At night the Fiesta I was in had “mood lighting” with seven different color options.  My girlfriend settled on a color resembling teal for the week.  If you find it distracting the lighting, can be turned off.  Overall the interior is a huge win.  Everything from ergonomics to style, the Fiesta fits the bill and then some.

Powertrain

The Fiesta comes standard with a 1.6 liter four cylinder engine pushing out 120 horsepower and 112 pound feet to the front wheels.  That power goes through the standard five-speed manual or optional six-speed dual clutch dubbed PowerShift.  Off the line ,the Fiesta is no rocket.  In fact, it almost seems a little sluggish.  Once you get revs a little higher the car starts to feel faster then it really is.  Driving the car I always seemed to have a stupid grin on my face, even though I was not going that fast.  The Fiesta I had was equipped with the five-speed manual.  Personally, I liked the gearbox.  It was fun with clean shifts.  Though on the highway I will admit at times I longed for a sixth gear.  Not because of engine drone or anything like that (engine and wind noise was in check), but because the car probably would have gotten better mileage.  The five speed manual is rated at 29/38 while the six speed dual clutch is rated at 30/40 (with SFE package, 20/38 without SFE package).  I averaged 29.9 mpg in the city during the week, which was good considering I was definitely not trying to get the best mileage.  On the highway I managed to average only 34.5 mpg.  It is worth noting I had the cruise control set at 77 mph on the highway trip.  I can only assume going slower and or having another gear would have significantly increased that average.

So how much of the car was lost in translation?  Frankly, not a ton.  In fact some of the technical changes when coming across the pond made the car better.  For instance, the addition of knee airbags gave the people up front more leg room.  The car is a blast to drive and many people commented on how fun the car was.  Everyone seemed to the like it.  An Audi A6 owner commented on how great the car looked, both outside and inside.  This car is a huge value and a win for America.  If you look at the direct competition such as the Toyota Yaris, the Fiesta almost puts it to shame.  The Fiesta SE I had was somewhat optioned with the Rapid Spec 203A package (nowhere near loaded) and had a sticker price of $15,990.  That is without a question a value.  I definitely would take the Fiesta over the Toyota Yaris.  The Honda Fit has many tricks of its own, so it really depends on what your uses will be.  With the Mazda2 coming, the Fiesta has a ton of competition in this segment.  In the end, it has the goods to fight off the competition.

Photography- Alex Bellus

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Ford