Lotus Test Track on Google Street View

The google van got a chance to take a trip around the Lotus HQ and test track. There are some great shots of some beautiful cars on the track if you mull around. The parking lot alone is pretty slick but what really takes the cake is the ability to go through the factory and see the cars being built.

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James May riding with Ken Block on Top Gear

I think i would give it all up if i had the promise of producing a show like Top Gear.

Dodge Viper breaks Leguna Seca Track Record

Chrysler is claiming to have set a new lap record at Leguna Seca in a street legal Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR. The previous record was set by a one-off prototype car in 2009 at 1:35.075. According to an in vehicle data recorder the record was set at 1:33.915. (the unofficialy recorded trackside timer put it at 1:33.944). Here’s the video.

2009 Acura TL

09 TL SH-AWD Front

Only last year the Acura TL was one of my favorite cars visually and it was placed at the top of my list for what manufactures should strive for when designing a sedan.  But recently that all changed.  I remember when I first spotted the 2009 Acura TL.  I was driving home from work and I saw one pulling out of the LifeTime Fitness.   It caught my attention so badly I nearly rear ended a VW bug.

“What the fu-gly!”  I blurt out loud and quickly glanced around out of my top down Miata to make sure no one noticed that I was talking to myself.  “What the Heck is that and who was dumb enough to make a sedan that ugly?”  The car pulled out into the lane in front of me and I manage a glimpse at its badging.

“THE TL!.. THE ACURA TL!?”  I screamed.  The shock was over whelming and I couldn’t contain it.   The TL-S was one of the best looking cars in the Acura line-up.  I could feel the very strands of space and time unravelling about me.

“No! What was Acura thinking?”  I noticed a car pull up  next to me as I was screaming to myself.  The girl in the newly arrived Sentra gave me the “he’s a crazy guy driving a Miata” look and proceeded to roll up her window.  I probably shouldn’t talk so loudly to myself.

The trip home was long and arduous and I barely made it.  I was so shook-up that I thought these must be the end of days.  A meteorite was going to fly down and strike me dead.  I mean for goodness sakes, the TL is… is ugly.

Seriously, it is not often that I find a car company visually design a car that is worse looking than the previous model year.  How could they go from this:

2008 Acura TL-S

To this?????


The only rest the eyes have is when they look at the TL from the side and even then you better be looking at it directly so as not to catch an eye full of the hood or the back end.  Oh the back end, I can barely tell if the car is coming or going.  Maybe that is why I don’t like about it, the weird pentagonal shape in the front that says “insert floppy disc here” and it’s carried over to the rear with the “eject disc here” aluminum stylized slot at the bottom of the trunk lid.  The 2008 model only had the pentagon in the front but the grill complimented the car not sucked the life-force out of the innocent by-standards who happen to lock eyes with Medusa.

The bottom line is this, the ’09 TL is great if like getting poked with sharp objects in the eyes or visually injuring the loved ones around you but if you don’t like those things you may want to consider the previous model year.  I’m probably being slightly over dramatic about the looks but come on there is no way the looks are an improvement from the previous year. I can foresee a face lift for the TL in the near future.

Oooh, I didn’t see the interior.  Wow, that’s nice.

All Pictures copyright Honda Motor Corp.

Chevy Volt

Volt Side

“One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.”  Well, the Chevy Volt isn’t really a giant leap but it is a small step in the right direction.  The Volt is a car that can change the way Hybrids are looked at, operate, and change the mindset of the general public.

What makes the Volt Different from other Hybrids?

What makes the Volt unique is its power train; the engine, electric motor, and transmission.  The Volt truly is an electric vehicle first and a gasoline vehicle second.  This idea goes against the grain of all other Hybrids out there.  The 1.4 L gasoline engine is essentially a generator for the batteries not unlike a Honda generator someone might use for camping.  The engine does not supply horsepower or torque directly to the drive wheels, that is all supplied solely by the electric motor.  Traditional hybrids can supply power to the drive wheels by either the gasoline engine or the electric motor.  The operation of the Volt’s gasoline engine can save on fuel economy by operating at the most efficient RPM range while producing optimal power for the batteries to recharge.

So why is it taking so long?

I really wish GM would just start selling the Volt right now but thorough testing of the batteries are required.  GM is hoping to get 10 year of battery operation out of the Volt and to ensure they can achieve that testing must be rigorously performed.  The Lithium-ion batteries of the Volt are unique because they can allow the Volt to travel for 40 miles without having the gasoline motor start to recharge them.  In addition the Volt will have a plug-in capability that will allow you to charge it at your house or work.  You could potentially drive this car without ever having to stop at a gas station ever again.

My beef with GM:

What bother’s me most about the Volt is the fact that GM has been publicizing it for two years.  Don’t advertise it until it is almost ready to purchase.  It feels like a bad idea to me on GM’s part.  This car needs to be out now.  It will boost the economy in the U.S. and make sure GM doesn’t go out of business.  The longer GM takes to produce this car the more likely a competitor will come along and take the idea.  The U.S. needs this car.  The world needs this car.  Don’t let Toyota or Honda take this away by allowing them to build a hybrid that is better than the Volt.  Please GM, I don’t want to lose a great car like the Corvette because you went out of business.

Why I like the Volt:

The Volt is a great idea, a car that can save precious resources so I can take my car to the track or allow full gasoline vehicles to only be used for pleasure.  The volt will allow me to travel back and forth from work without using a single drop of gasoline and save my gasoline sports cars for the pleasure drive on the weekend.  Not to mention it doesn’t look like every other hybrid out there (Ahem! Prius, *Cough* Insight) it looks like a car wouldn’t mind being seen in.  Maintenance will be less on an vehicle who barely utilizes a gasoline engine.  Instead of 3,000 mile oil changes it will be 1,000 hours of operation of the gasoline engine or something along those lines.  Electric motors and batteries have no maintenance (unless GM decides to put a cooling system in for the electric motor or have some kind of oil that has to be changed regularly for the bearings in the motor).  Either way the potential is great and GM needs to put more effort into this car and produce it earlier than the 2011 date that they are currently predicting.  GM you’ve taken the step now take the leap and get us the Volt.

Pictures © GM Corp.

What’s the Mustang GT got that the 370Z doesn’t?

2010 Mustang Blue and Red

The economy is playing a big part on the redesigned 2010 Ford Mustang. Not much has changed mechanically for the 2010 Mustang except that they managed to squeeze a few more ponies out from under the hood by using a new intake. I can’t really blame Ford for not trying to redesign the engine, transmission, or suspension; the economy is in trouble and they are in the midst of it. I think it was a smart move on their part but slightly disappointing for the consumers.

But what Ford did change is worth while. The Mustang has been adorned with shiny new sheet metal giving the look of a little more Muscle. Body lines have been reshaped, interior redone, and sound deadening added for comfort. In fact Ford did such and incredible job of quieting down the car they had to add a tube from the intake to the firewall of the car just to get the V-8 sound to the driver.

But is the New Mustang going to be able to compete with its off shore counterparts, mainly the 370Z? The 2010 Mustang GT is  barely under the $28,000, but that is less than the Z, at $29,930. Some might say you get more for your money with the Z, and in a sense you do. The Pony GT is only rated at 315 HP and the Z 332 HP but you can’t count out the Mustang yet, as it has an additional bone crushing 55 ft-lbs of torque. God knows I like torque.

The Mustang is also an incredible base for tuning. The aftermarket is huge and you can tune a regular GT upwards of 400 HP without too much trouble. The Z is a different story. The aftermarket is good but the engine is really at its peak naturally aspirated and to turbocharge the Z is going to be costly if you still want it dependable. So you could get the Z a Turbo Kit have it installed and you would probably be right around $45,000 for the car, parts, and labor. Or you could buy a GT500 for $46,325 and that comes with a warranty and 500 HP.

But horsepower and money aren’t everything. In fact there is two things the Z does better, the transmission (6 speed) and the suspension. The Mustang is still using old technology when it comes to its suspension and the final drive. A solid rear axle is good for a truck but it doesn’t handle as well as independent rear suspension like the Z. Then the transmission is a little irritating as well. If they put a 6-speed in the regular GT and changed the gearing your could potentially get off the line quicker and get better gas mileage. After all, I can get a Civic or any Nissan with a 6-speed Manual. A six speed would be quite a performance option with little effort on Fords part. They already used a 6 speed in previous model years and the GT500.

But those are really my main gripes with car. The interior quality, even the handling, and all around appearance has surpassed previous model years. Besides when you buy a Mustang you get an American icon and while the Z has it’s followers I can’t call it an American Icon.

All Pictures © 2009 Ford Motor Company and Wieck Media Services, Inc.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

I’ve been following General Motors (GM) and the new Transformers movie and I think it is great that car companies want to advertise on movies. As I take a sip of cool, refreshing Coca-Cola, I realize that I don’t mind good product placement now and again.  But I’m not really hoping for anything great from this next movie.  In fact I’m anticipating disappointment.

I liked the first Transformers movie.  It was a fair plot, plenty of humor, lots of action, and a chance to see the new Camaro.  But the Camaro is the exact thing that is bothering me about the new movie.  Apparently GM has decided that some changes needed to be made to the car, though it is still the same color and basic shape, but that doesn’t bother me to much.  What bothers me is this, the Camaro should have been ready to be purchased after the first movie.  Don’t advertise cars that don’t exist.  I want to drive “Bumble-Bee” not wait two years to see one at Barrett Jackson and yet still have to wait till 2010 to get a ride in one.  Could you imagine how much money GM could have made on Camaros with the “Bumble Bee” paint job if the car was ready for the release of the Movie?

This year GM has been showing a bunch of cars at the Chicago auto show that are going to be in the Transformers 2, and guess what?  They don’t exist either.  GM is going to be putting a new Stingray Corvette, the Chevy Beat concept, and the car that really makes me angry, the Volt.  That car doesn’t even have a real sales date, so why advertise it?  I think the Volt is  going to be great but when am I going to be able to drive back an forth from work without using a drop of fuel?  Maybe GM is trying to get interest back into the car, I don’t know.

The whole allure of Transformers growing up to me was  My cousin’s VW bug could be an Autobot, my Dad’s pick-up could be an Autobot,  and the 911 Turbo next to me could be an Autobot.  There is no allure if I don’t get to see it, touch it, and listen to it.

I’m just frustrated.  If you are going to be advertising cars in your movie please, please let them be available for a test drive.  Well I guess I’ll just have to see how everything pans out with the movie and GM.

And here are some cars

The video and all pictures are © GM Corp.

2009 Chevy Cobalt SS

Cobalt SS Coupe

I haven’t been terribly interested in Chevy’s compact car, the Cobalt.  The styling is so reminiscent of a beached whale except the whale has a better tail fin.  But some how, some way, the Cobalt has caught my attention.  At least the SS model has. Looks aren’t everything especially when you have the horsepower and handling to put the Honda Civic Passer-by-er in his place.

What’s caught my eye with the Cobalt SS?  The engine, the power-train, the price and the performance.  The SS is equipped with a dual overhead cam 2.0 liter turbocharged direct injected Ecotec engine capable of  260 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque.  Yeah, that’s not a small number for a compact car.  You get all that and 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.

Cobalt SS Sedan

And just cause you can get there in a hurry doesn’t mean you can’t stop.  Stopping the Cobalt SS are some 12.4″ discs with 4 piston calipers in the front compliments of Brembo and 11.5″ single piston caliper brakes in the rear.  But the SS doesn’t stop there, they tuned the suspension too.

But what is the real world aspect of all this?  Chevy claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds and a car that has .9 Gs of lateral grip.  In other words, the Cobalt SS can keep up the last production model year of the SS Camaro (2002).  And if you’re unsure about all this you can confirm it on the Cobalt’s LCD screen which can display your 1/4 mile times, 0-60 mph times, or lateral Gs. And don’t think the 5.7 second 0-60 time is due to just horsepower because Chevy uses a no lift shift feature of the car.  Which mean you don’t have to lift off of the throttle to shift the gears in the SS just  bury the throttle and ratchet through the gears.

The new SS Cobalt can come in one of two forms; a sedan for the family man and a coupe for the less sensible people like me.  Each with a starting price of $24,095.  So if you can suppress your gag reflex enough to make it past the exterior of the car, your well on your way for getting the most bang for your buck.

All Images © GM Corp.

2010 and 2009 Ford Flex

2010 Flex Profile

If you bought the 2009 Ford Flex, I’m sorry to tell you that you may have missed out on a better Flex.  I could write some cheesy thing about how Ford is “Flex”ing its muscles with the 2010 Flex but I won’t.  Ford is allowing a new option to be installed on the all-wheel-drive versions of its retro styled box….  Twin Turbos.

That’s right, twin – &%$@#  – turbos!  The EcoBoost engine will bump the standard 3.5L V-6 from 262 hp to a earth stopping 355 horsepower.  That is nearly a 100 horsepower increase!  This is the part where someone is suppose to mumble under their breath about how the fuel economy will suck…  Well the fuel economy drops from 19/24 (City/Highway) for the standard flex to 18/22.  That’s not that bad at all for 355 freaking horsepower!

Let me put into perspective.  The new Nissan 370Z has 332 HP, gets 18/26 miles per gallon.  So the Flex gets the same mpg in the city, 4 less mpg on the highway due in part from aerodynamics like a refrigerator and overall large size, hauls 7 people, has all-wheel-drive, and has an additional 23 HP.  Though the flex isn’t going to be winning any runs down the quarter mile against a 370Z, I would still think it will give it a run for its money.

I’ve driven the 2009 Flex,  it is more than functional and it looks good too.  The handling is much like driving a large front wheel drive car like a Camry station wagon, thanks part to a transversely mounted front wheel drive engine.  And believe me the 3.5L was no slouch of an engine either, it got the job done.  There was only one downfall of the 2009 Flex, both my wife and I felt it was a little over priced for what you got.  Looks are important but it did feel like you were paying a premium for them with the Flex.

Though the pricing hasn’t been released for the EcoBoost option of the Flex, I will imagine it will be right around the $35k mark. Which will put it in a similar price range to a fully loaded Nissan 370Z.  Tough choice if I do say so myself.  If your a family man you’d have to go with the flex but at least you’ll get to “Flex” your muscles when some punk in a lowered Corolla and a coffee can for a muffle challenges you off the line… Like me.

Pictures © 2009 Ford Motor Company and Wieck Media Services, Inc

Honda S2000

Multi S2000s

Time to pay homage.  Honda announced last week, this is the last year of the S2000 roadster; a brilliant car that ran a 10 year stretch.  I for one am sad to see such a keen car be removed from Honda’s dependable but fairly boring line-up.  That’s not to say that Honda is a bad company but the only other sporting oriented car they have is the Civic SI.

The S2000 roadster is almost a perfect combination of sport, handling and fun.  It is a tribute to the company to pull 237 HP out of a 2.2L engine without forced induction and still maintain dependability.  If you’ve ever driven one you know.

I had the privileged of driving a 2002 s2000 with the 2.0L f20c engine with 240 horsepower (all stock just smaller displacement than the later model S2000).  It wasn’t too spectacular below 5,500 rpm but when it hit the VTEC it was like a kick in crotch.  You were instantly shoved back into the seat and the engine reved and didn’t stop till the tachometer needle wrapped around to 9,000 rpm. But the engine didn’t just make the car great, it handled well too and had the proper look of a great roadster.

So why is Honda stopping the production?  Well, the original production was only going to be limited for Honda’s 50th anniversary but due to high demand Honda extended the production.  So it was over due to end, I guess.

With the S2000 no longer in the line-up, it makes me wonder what Honda is going to do to fill the Roadster/Sports Car segment of its automotive market.  They might pull the same thing as Toyota and forget altogether about the group of people who actually like to drive sports cars and roadsters.

Enough bashing Toyota, this article is about Honda and if I have anything to suggest to them, it is this:  Do you Honda remember the brilliant Prelude?  Do you remember the S2000?  Have you looked at what your rivals are putting out, the G37 or better yet the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.  Honda, you should reintroduce, nay, reinvent the Prelude.  Make it rear wheel drive…

And why can’t they? They  have all the engineer into the s2000 suspension and drive train just make a new Prelude body and be done.  I’m going to miss the S2000 and I can’t wait to see how Honda fills the new void in my life.

All images courtesy and copyright of Honda.