Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dispatch drives the 2008 Taurus, and it doesn't completely blow

So I went on that Chicago trip and the dowdy Ford Fusion we thought we booked just happened to morph into a spanking new Taurus. I was delighted with the swap however, as this is a car that has been in the news recently... though not necessarily for good reasons. This would also be my chance to sample Ford's new V6, which it seems quite proud of and in turn will be stuffing in every one of its cars it fits in.

If you've read a few reviews of this car from different sources, you'll see that some like the new engine a lot, while others say it ain't all it's cracked up to be. Stock me in with the former, as I found it to be smooth and quite powerful. It's got plenty of power for families that will buy this car, probably more than enough actually. I had a decently good time heaving this massive car through traffic, and flooring it from a standstill resulted in impressive acceleration.

In newly chrome-spangled Taurus guise, it looks approximately 20% better than it did as the Five Hundred. Thankfully though, the example we were issued wasn't fitted with the horridly ribbed chrome wheels you'll see on most of these, rather these unoffensive two-tone 17s.

That said, this is still a boring car. The high seating position combined with 5-beer steering leaves you with the impression of rolling down a back alley in a wingback perched atop a Radio Flyer... and the strong V6 makes it a very steep alley.

The interior isn't terrible. Most of the plastics have some squish and don't shine too harshly. The worst stuff I found was right on the steering wheel directly above the radio/hvac buttons... not the best place to hide it. There's plenty of room obviously, though I expected even more given the hugeness that permeates the driving experience. My most curious discovery had to be the many dead insect trapped within both of the reading lights of the overhead console (4th picture below). How they got there is a noodle scratcher for the books.

Bottom line: There's nothing wrong with this car. If the Taurus was the only car sold in America, everyone would be perfectly happy with it. But it isn't, and the others are just better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


This just made me chuckle...

2008 WRX STi

Just fine:



Hey, cool car!:

After weeks of playing hide-and-go-f*ck-yourself with dark shady images, Subaru has officially released clear shots of the new WRX STi. Still looks goofy to me. I admire that they made the car lighter, but from what I've seen so far, the power/drivetrains are damn near carryover.

I recently sat down in a new WRX Sedan and I can tell you that it is a perfectly nice place to be. The quality of the interior is much improved and it feels just like a little Legacy... except nobody wanted a little Legacy. So if you want you can finally be a little more comfortable in your new, every so slightly lighter but much sillier looking WRX STi, and you'll surely be paying more for it.

I guess it's not God-awful though, I might even warm up to it in person. But that's just it, these cars have always been borderline cartoonish with their wings and scoops; they're inherently over-the-top... I shouldn't have to warm up to the design. It should smack me in the face with instant awesomeness. The STi is an improvement for sure, but they can only do so much for the oinker they're working with. There is no excuse for it not to have been great from the beginning.

The Evo always drove a little bit sharper, and with the new one they've succeeded in making it far cooler looking. Subaru has succeeded only in making a lot of peoples' decisions far easier.

[Source: NetCarShow]

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ford is Dumb Vol. 1

I'm not going to make the clich├ęd argument you probably expect and have all heard before. Something like "Ford sells great cars in other markets and tripe here on its home turf... why can't they bring the good stuff to us??" I've pined before on what a good Yaris / Fit competitor the Euro Fiesta would make, especially the snappy looking XR4 model pictured below. Even if it trailed the Asian offerings slightly in terms of outright economy and refinement it would still sell well just because it looks neat. It even has a proper looking interior, something the 'new' US Focus designers weren't capable of.

All around bone-headedness aside, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it just isn't doable. Money, crash-certification, exportation cost, whatever... they just can't make it happen. Fine. The thing I'm wondering is given the fact that they can't get their act together enough to offer us the quality product of the rest of the world, why not at least make our dismal product look like the good product?
(Continue reading below)

The Aussie Ford Falcon FPV Cobra isn't going to win any subtlety awards. You'd be hard pressed to call it 'pretty', let alone elegant. What it does have is a whiff of that special something that makes people pay $20grand over sticker for some Mustangs and GTs. It looks like a badass Ford. They could have saved a lot of money and dignity if they made the Five Hundred look like one of these from the beginning instead of pulling that just-kidding-it's-a-Taurus-again BS. True, it would still be novocaine to drive but the overall package couldn't be worse than what it's been so far.

Bottom Line: They wouldn't have to worry nearly as much about what it's called if it looked interesting.

[Source: WorldCarFans]

Here's the Ute version. Why? Cause I like it and it's my blog.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

BMW M3 Sedan

Nothing new or unexpected here. Just the 3 Series sedan dipped in M-sauce. Does that detract from its supreme, jaw-dropping righteousness? NEIN! The legions of M3 Saloon fans finally have a new reason to get up in the morning, after being denied a new car since the cult-worthy E36 of 1998.

All the good stuff is here, and the extra practicality only costs you a tenth to 60. The coupe is certainly the icon, the borderline ungainly hardtop-convertible gives you the sky, but I'll take my M just like this thank you very much... in Interlagos Blue, por favor.

[Source: Autoblog, NetCarShow]

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dubbers Unite for H20 International... and I'm not talking Bush-Boosters

... more specifically V-Dubbers, the fanatical members of the Volkswagen tuning lifestyle. H20i is an annual event held in Ocean City, Maryland bringing together thousands of enthusiasts in a clusterfudge of speed and style. VW enthusiasts are typically divided between fans of the older air-cooled models (Beetle, Microbus, etc.) and the newer, more modern water-cooled examples. The latter being the obvious theme for this show, not to mention the source of its name... along with New Jersey's Waterfest held earlier in the year.

Though I wasn't able to make it to this year's show, I was there for the 2006 edition and the scale and scope of the event completely blew me away. Throughout the weekend, Ocean City's infamous Coastal Highway is clogged with gleaming, hissing, farting, chassis-scraping German (and Mexican) modified metal in tastes ranging from the handsome to the hash-induced.

You’ll find a wide range of tuning styles here too. Big now in the US is OEM+, a look defined by modifying VW cars with equipment (especially wheels) from the higher-end marques that reside within Volkswagen’s vast empire, e.g. Audi, Porsche, Bentley and even Lamborghini. The key to the popularity of this style is that many of Volkswagen’s subsidiaries tend to share some fundamental architecture specifications, (wheel bolt-patterns for example) therefore making cross-brand part swapping a largely plug-and-play affair. This by no means implies affordability mind you. OEM parts can be extremely expensive when purchased directly from the manufacturer, especially the Mulliner Edition Bentley Continental GT wheels pictured below on the white GTI (below top). This has lead to the booming business of OEM replica wheels. Now instead of dropping $3500 on 4 real Lamborghini Gallardo front wheels for your GTI (yes they do fit) you can have a set of identical replicas for half that much (below 2nd).

Another trend gaining popularity in the US is the rat style, which originated with American hot rods and spread to Europe where it was translated onto their domestic machinery. The look can more or less be described as souped-up junker (below 3rd). Cars sporting mismatched matte finish or even rusted body panels, and widened versions of steel wheels like the one under the floor of your trunk get the spotlight here. Usually applied to older cars that weren't in very good shape to begin with, it has also been inflicted upon brand new cars… much to the chagrin of the occasional unknowing onlooker. They can’t usually wrap their heads around why you’d strip the hood of a new car down to bare metal and leave it out in the rain for 2 weeks.

If there’s one thing you’ll find common to near every modified VW, it’s a dumped suspension (below 4th). Air-ride is making strides in the scene, but a traditionalist will tell you that coilovers are the only way to roll low. The buzz words lip, stretch, and tuck are all at work here. The old adage goes, “You ain’t Dubbin’ unless you’re rubbin.”

The magnitude of this show must truly be seen to be believed (below bottom). You don't have to be a hardcore Dubber either, anyone can appreciate the diverse creativity of these cars...plus it's at the beach and just happens to be a hell of a lot of fun.
[Photo Source: The members of VWVortex.com]