Sweet Mother of Jeebus – watch this Honda Insight crash at close to 200 MPH!

insight

I don’t know how I missed this one when it was posted back in November, but this is one of the craziest motorsport crashes I have ever seen, and it involves a rather unlikely subject.

Around my area, the only people who drive Honda‘s Insight hybrid are nuclear plant employees who are still hanging on to their super high mileage, first generation hybrids. The machine you are about to see is not like those cars. The HASport Hondata Insight is a full on land speed record car, capable of speeds in the range of 200 miles per hour!
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VARAC Celebrates the MG community

hoan

A couple of weeks ago I shared a wonderful video from the folks at VARAC about Gary Allen and his lovely Porsche 911 vintage racer. VARAC is keeping the ball rolling with a new episode that again features Allen and his MGB along with David & Evan Holmes and Dave Good.

I would bet that with the possible exception of the Mini, the MG brand is likely the single most popular brand among vintage racers in North America and for good reason.

Check it out.

World’s Fastest Car Review: Volvo Drive Me

drive me

In this episode, I mess up a guy’s name and even manage to mess up the title of my own video series, while being driven around Gothenburg, Sweden in a Volvo that drives itself.

Part of me thinks I should start scripting these things, while part of my thinks my blunders are kinda fun.

Review: 2014 Scion xD

profileA decade ago Toyota realized they had an image problem on their hands. Despite being one of the largest car companies in the world, in contemporary North America Toyota is viewed as, well, a car for old people. I can’t disagree, as my 76 year old father in-law has owned his faithful Camry for years. Discontent with their image as a car company for older buyers, Toyota created the Scion division in an attempt to distance themselves from staid Toyota. Unlike Lexus, which Toyota sells through exclusive, high end dealers, Toyota and Scion cars sit side by side on the same dealer lot.

The Scion xD is no spring chicken, as it has been sold here in the US since 2008, and 2011 when Scion opened up shop in Canada. Since its introduction in 2008, the xD has received very little attention in terms of updates from Scion. For a brand that was created to appeal to today’s youthful car buyer, the xD’s exterior styling hardly projects that attitude. Yes, the xD is tastefully styled, but in terms of being hip, the car falls flat on its face. With cars like the MINI Cooper, Fiat 500, and even the Kia Rio looking far more interesting to look at, the xD’s toaster oven appearance does it no favors to draw appeal to the savvy young buyer Scion hopes to lure.

overviewThe interior of the xD is stark, and very utilitarian. The driver is faced with a three pod instrument cluster, but only the center one contains any useful information, with a speedo and tach incorporated in one. Acres of black plastic prevail throughout the interior. For a brand created to appeal to younger buyers, the xD offers nothing in terms of style. The driving position is extremely upright, and I was disappointed the steering wheel only tilts up and down, but cannot be moved forward and back. As expected, fit and finish is excellent, and the xD provides an airy cabin with exceptional visibility. The cupholders are a joke. Not even driving the car hard I would take a corner and my water bottle was sent hurling into the passenger side footwell, so you can forget about tooling around town with a latte without it spilling out.  Trunk space is on the small side, and cannot even come close to the Honda Fit. Scion’s only nod to their target buyer is a nice sound system. But with such dark colors, bolt upright seating position and ho hum styling, the xD hardly seems appealing to the young hipsters it wants to attract.

The xD comes in one flavor only, with a 1.8L four cylinder engine rated at 128hp. Buyers have a choice of a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Our test car had the ancient four speed automatic. Acceleration was good, with a 0-60mph time of 8.3 seconds, with a top speed of 120mph. Driving the xD was smooth, and despite the antiquated four speed slush box, was unobtrusive. The ride was comfortable overall. However, buyers in this class want and expect superb fuel economy, and here, the xD falters. With an EPA rating of 27/33 MPG city/highway, the xD is far behind its peers.

rear_3_4The Scion xD comes in one trim model only. Buyers have the option of adding their own personal touches from dealer installed options. Our automatic xD started with a base price of $16,720USD. Standard equipment included LED turn signals, rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, 6.1″ touch screen Pioneer with six speakers, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. Options on our test car included a rear bumper applique, center armrest, BeSpoke premium audio, and 16″ alloy wheels. Including destination charges, our xD rings in at $19,876.

Looking at the sales numbers of the xD, the car is a dud. And living with the car for a week, I was not sad to see it go. If Toyota is so concerned about its image as an older persons brand to the extent they create a sub-brand like Scion, for Pete’s sake build a youthful car with a statement. With forgettable styling, a depressing interior and non-competitive fuel economy ratings, it’s hardly a surprise the xD is not selling. For a car company that once gave us the MR-2, Celica, and Supra, we know you can surely do better than this.

World’s Fastest Car Review: Enviro Dad and the VW Touareg TDI

enviro vw

It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted an episode of the World’s Fastest Car Review, so I figure I had better get going on some production!

Today’s episode comes to us from Eric Novak, who is also known as the Enviro Dad. His kids are having a tough time figuring out how to say the name of Volkswagen‘s SUV.

Review: BMW 435i xDrive M Sport 6 speed manual

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What is in a name? Apparently a whole lot as Audi and BMW have taught us.

When Audi launched their two door coupe based on the A4 sedan’s underpinnings, they named it the A5 and charged more money for it. Mind you the A5 did look (and still looks) stunning and was significant different enough than the A4 to warrant its price premium.

And so BMW has taken a page out of its rival’s book and re-launched its new 3-series coupe as the 4-series (internally code named the F32).

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In BMW-speak, usually the higher the model number, the higher the amount the customers are willing to pay and the greater the bragging rights. After 5 generations spanning across 38 years, the 3-series coupe is no more.

What this also does is bring the naming scheme in-line with the rest of BMW’s models. Even numbers for the coupes (2, 4, 6, 8-series), and odd numbers for the sedans (3, 5, 7-series).

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But the changes between the 3 and 4-series are more than name badge deep. Indeed they’re more than skin-deep too.

EXTERIOR

My tester was a Black Sapphire Metallic 435i xDrive coupe. In Canada, all 435s come with the M Sport Line package as standard equipment. This includes 19” M sport alloy wheels, the M Aero package with unique front and rear bumpers, high-gloss shadowline trim (replacing all the chrome with gloss black trim), and M badging on the front fenders.

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The end result is a real stunner of a car. Wanting to cast a unique shadow and differentiate the coupe from the sedan in the line-up, BMW lengthened the wheelbase, widened the hips and chopped the top to give the 4-series coupe its own sense of identity.

The 4-series not only sits lower than the 3-series sedan but is also 81mm wider. In case you’re wondering, with its stretched and lowered silhouette, yes it is visibly larger in width and wheelbase than the outgoing 3-series coupe.

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This, together with the BMW-typical short overhangs, long hood and set-back passenger compartment, gives the 4-series a good visual balance. Muscular wheel arches and the wide track give an aggressive stance, with its prominent horizontal lines accentuating the side profile of the body.

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The car’s striking front end with its characteristic BMW design features, such as the double-kidney grille, four round headlights and a large air intake in the lower front bumper, still reminds us about its family ties with the 3-series. This is certainly good company to associate with.

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My 435i tester came with BMW’s Active LED headlamps as part of the $4,900 Premium package. This is a feature that is currently unavailable on the 3-series. They worked as well as advertised although I found that the Acura RLX’s multi-projector LED headlamps casted a wider beam than BMW’s reflector-based system.

As with all new BMWs, the new fender mounted “Air Breathers” are present on the 4-series. BMW claims that they are positioned just slightly rearwards of the front wheel arches to reduce drag.

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INTERIOR

Anyone familiar with BMW’s latest 3-series will be right at home in the 4-series. Aside for the seatbelt presenters, a brilliant idea borrowed from Mercedes-Benz coupes, the 4-series’ interior is a copy and paste job from its sedan sibling.

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This means that buyers will find an interior that is well laid out and relatively logical.  It’s high quality, understated, and business-like, especially when trimmed in black plastic/leather/vinyl. It’s certainly an interior that befits the 4-series’ demeanor as a gentleman’s coupe.

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Personally, I found the black on black a tad boring and would’ve opted for the Coral Red Dakota leather instead.

BMW fans will be extra enamored with the M sport package as it also includes a different steering wheel design (aptly named the “Heritage” wheel) which recalls the old steering wheel designs from 3-series coupes of yesteryear.

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This being my 4th BMW press car now, I found the iDrive system easy-to-use and logical once you get hang of the various icons. Fortunately, BMW includes tool tip bubbles that pop-up to remind you what the various icons represent.

My car was equipped with the optional 600 watt harmon kardon Logic 7 surround sound system; something that I’ve been longing to test with my own ears.

In short, get it if you’re an audiophile. It’s worth it. Switching between a hk-equipped vehicle versus one without is like switching between high-def TV and normal definition TV. Once you have it you won’t want to go back.

To my delight, my car also was equipped with BMW’s 6-speed manual gearbox. With its sumptuous soft top grain leather, the gearshift knob not only felt expensive but the shaft was also positioned at just the right height.

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Slip into the front seats and you’ll find that they’re 9mm lower than in the 3-series. And in fact, the 4-series gets the crown for having the lowest centre of gravity in the current BMW vehicle lineup.

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I found the 8-way adjustable sports seats with lumbar support more comfortable than the regular seats in the 320i and 328d that I had previously driven.

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The rear seats are acceptable for average-sized adults and are actually pretty decent for a coupe. A small tray in the middle of the rear seats means that rear seating is strictly for two only.

Fold down the backseats and you’ll find that the 4-series has surprisingly good cargo capacity. The opening in the bulkhead separating the cabin from the trunk is even large enough to accommodate a flatscreen TV’s box.

SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

I’ll be honest. If you’re looking for a BMW coupe that has the edginess of previous BMWs, you might be a bit disappointed. Look to BMW’s upcoming M4 or the M235i perhaps if you’re looking for something more raw.

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Earlier, I used the words “gentleman’s coupe” to describe the 435i and I meant that as a compliment. Despite the ultra efficient electric power steering sapping away much of the road feel, handling is precise, capable, and responsive without being jarring.

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The body is relatively flat even in hard cornering and xDrive proactively sorts out the traction at each corner to ensure that the vehicle holds to its intended line as much as possible.

Despite being on run-flat winter tires and 18” wheels, the 435i impressed me with how it gobbled up the undulating pavement on Highway 1 while still staying settled and secure.

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The 3.0L 300hp twin turbo inline-6 cylinder engine is creamy smooth regardless of what gear you’re in. Thanks to a combination of clever throttle pedal logic and engine management, there is virtually no turbo lag and every nudge of the throttle greets you with forward thrust that is sure to add a smile to your face.

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This is one coupe that you can drive from Vancouver to PEI and back without so much as breaking a sweat.

BMW Canada rates the 435i xDrive’s fuel consumption as 10.5L/100 kms in the city, and 7L/100 kms on the highway. Using a mix of EcoPro, Normal, and Sport mode and mostly city driving, I averaged 11.4L/100 kms. Much better than expected.

Despite not having the M performance exhaust, if you listen really carefully (with the windows down), you can hear the exhaust pop and crackle upon throttle lift in 1st and 2nd gear. I can only imagine how much more intoxicating the exhaust note would sound with the aforementioned dealer-installed system.

As for the 6-speed manual, it is easy to row and the gear ratios seem perfect. Throws are short and the clutch engagement point was shockingly easy to judge. I was expecting a heavy German clutch pedal but what I received was a manual transmission that was easier to get used to than that in a 2014 Toyota Corolla S!

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Thanks to the 3.0L I-6 engine’s wide torque band (300 ft-lbs from 1300-5000 rpms), the car has plenty of get up and go even if you’re in too low of a gear.

Amusingly, BMW has also found a way to transform the 4-series’ start-stop system as a driver aid. If you happen to stall the car, the start-stop system will immediately restart the engine again (provided the clutch pedal is depressed). The system works so imperceptibly that I had to purposely stall the car to confirm that it actually performed I suspected!

WRAP-UP

BMW promised something special when it came time to replace their popular 3-series coupe and they didn’t disappoint. The 435i xDrive M Sport was an exceedingly easy car for me to like.

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It looks head-turning great, has tremendous acceleration, handles well but yet is comfortable enough to drive on a day-to-day basis.

With the safety and security of BMW’s latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system and well-calibrated stability and traction control systems, gone are the days where owners had to store their BMW coupes in their garages till the groundhog said so.

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This is truly a coupe that you can drive all year round in Canada without difficulty and surely one that will appeal equally to driving enthusiasts, BMW fans, or those simply in the market for a sport luxury coupe.

Whether you choose the 6 speed manual (as tested) or the excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox, the 435i is a car that shines beyond its nomenclature and bragging rights.

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Personally, I can’t wait to see what the M4 brings to the table as it certainly has big shoes to fill. In the meantime, the 435i will do. It will do just fine!

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Throttle off oversteer in action!

gg_minihi

Back in the early days of front wheel drive race cars, there were those who felt that front drivers couldn’t be as fast as a rear wheel drive race car. Those were usually the guys who also said that a fwd car couldn’t be driven sideways. The first feeling is somewhat true, otherwise we would have fwd Formula 1 cars by now, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be fast. The second part is utter nonsense as anyone who has ever pedaled a front wheel drive rally car will tell you.

To drive a front wheel drive race car fast, one MUST learn the art of managing the loud pedal and using throttle off oversteer to one’s benefit. Not sure what TOO is? Think about all the stories you have heard about early Porsche 911′s swapping ends at speed when the throttle is released at the wrong time. A front wheel drive car behaves exactly the same way, except that it is more controllable and actually makes a car faster through the corner. Also, unlike a 911, most TOO incidents in FWD cars can be controlled by the application of FULL THROTTLE.
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The anatomy of a NASCAR punt

gg_carnage-5

After I posted the above image the other day, someone suggested that this sequence was just waiting to be turned into an animated gif. A bit of poking about and it would seem that I have taught myself how to create one. So, here you have it: DJ Kennington getting into the back of Stefan Rzadzinksi in the closing stages of the first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race of 2014.

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It wouldn’t be NASCAR without a bit of carnage

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Earlier this week, I told you about our man Russ Bond’s adventure in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. While Russ made it out more or less unscathed, others were not so lucky.

In the first third of the race, the track went full course yellow when the #22 of Scott Steckly got into the tires, ending his race. I was shooting from the top of turn 4 and could see the clean up efforts taking place in 3, when suddenly the #59 of Ryan Klutt appeared with its back end caved in. When Steckly’s car came by on a flatbed, the front end was all messed up. Coincidence? I haven’t spoken to either driver, so I’m not sure.

Not long after the race went to green flag again, Ryan’s Dad Peter’s #42 lost its hood somewhere. This is not the first time I have shot photos of Peter without his hood.
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Russ Bond has a great first NASCAR race!

gg_rustye

Regular readers will recognize Russ Bond from our World’s Fastest Car Review series. He is also the host of the Two Minute Test Drive at the wildly successful Motoring TV. What you might not know is that Bond has been part of The Garage Blog family since before TGB was even thought of. Russ and I were guest hosts on a radio show called Guy’s Garage, a show which steered me towards a second career in automotive media. It’s hard to believe that was 13 years ago!

Collectively, we’ve done some pretty cool stuff over those years, but I’ve gotta say that Rustye entering his first ever NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race might be the coolest.
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