The Best Thing In Life Is To Discover Something New …

I love to discover new things. Whether a new restaurant or a new magazine or new music. If I’ve never seen it before, then it’s quite new to me and I usually have to find out what it is and what makes it tick.

As an automotive enthusiast I’m always looking for a different perspective or new or different information outside of my usual avenues (Car and Driver, Road & Track, et al). Well, the wife and I were at the local library and I happened to spy a DVD set of the British car show Top Gear. Called “Top Gear 10”, it is the complete tenth season and let me tell you … these guys are awesome! The three hosts (Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and the mysterious Stig, the tame race car driver, who does not speak on the show) are witty, funny and have that dry British humor that I grew up with from my Dad’s parents, who grew up in Scotland.

The show revolves around testing high-power, sexy, great-handling cars along with some crazy stunts and cool  reviews of more pedestrian autos. One of my favourite(!) spots is the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, where the Stig trains a celebrity to run on Top Gera’s own race track and we get to see how well that celeb does. In season 10, Simon Cowell was king! Of all people!

Part of Top Gear’s charm for me is the English colloquialisms like Bonnet and Boot (we say hood and trunk), Saloon and Coupe (pronounced coo-pay) (we say sedan and coupe or two-door). Another great one is nicked … as in “they nicked my car stereo last night. Bloody blokes!”

It’s good, irreverent fun and I will definitely keep my eyes open for more seasons and what they have available online.

Another discovery came Saturday night. The wife and I were in an adventurous mood, ever since we ate at Utsav in New York City, we’ve been talking about trying new foods and doing some experimentation. And since the Wife isn’t a big fan of Chinese food, it’s been rough going…

That is, until we sampled Thai Cafe at the eastern end of the Delmar Loop in The Lou. We started with the Thai Tempura (# 10 on the menu) which was vegetable bits battered and deep fried and served with a totally delicious sweet and sour sauce. The veggies were baby corn, carrots, onion, broccoli and red and green peppers. The batter was light and very tasty and the combination of the veggies, batter and sweet and sour made for one of the best appetizers we’ve had in a long time.

The most interesting aspect of the menu is the choices of “meat”, from beef and pork to seafood and tofu, all of which cost extra! It is a grand departure from most American restaurants where the “meat” is included so if you’re a vegetarian, then you’ll still pay for the meat. It is totally refreshing to have that much choice in a meal out and it would be great if more American restaurants would follow suit.

For entrées, the Wife had the Pad Manora; flat rice noodle stir-fried with meat, onion, pepper, bamboo shoot, basil leaves and red curry paste with coconut milk. It’s flavor reminded me of my favorite stir fry place, BD’s Mongolian Grill, where you create your own stir fry and have a ton of choices to flavor the vegetables and meats you choose. The Pad Manora was slightly spicy and had a great curry flavor.

I had the Pad Ped, which included red curry stir fried with meat, bamboo shoots, pepper, and basil leaves, all on  a bed of white rice. For my meat, I decided on chicken and it was sensational! The spice built the more I ate and by the end I was sweating quite a bit, but it was never hot and not once did i feel the heat in my mouth. To me, it was the perfect amount of spice and savory flavors.

Bottom line? We’ll definitely return and we definitely have a new genre of food to consider the next time we eat out!

Today’s review is of the 2001 redesigned Honda Civic:

2001 Honda Civic EX

A New, Civilized Civic

By James E. Bryson

In the hilly outreaches of suburban St. Louis, there are many twisty, curvy roads that beg to be driven. Hard. The car of choice might be a Corvette or one of the many expensive sports cars on the market today. But if you, like many of us, can’t afford one of these, then a drive in the new-for-2001 Honda Civic EX will give you a taste of what else is out there. Honestly, the only thing smoking during this road test was nothing but tires.

The EX Sedan is a pure pleasure to drive, plain and simple. The test vehicle came with the standard five-speed manual and the peppy 1.7l VTEC inline-four cylinder. It’s amazing how quick 127 hp and 107 lb.-ft. can feel, especially in a car that is designated as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle.

And, given that this seventh-generation iteration has moved from a double-wishbone to a MacPherson strut front suspension, it handles like a more expensive car. Taking the twisties in the Civic is as fun as after-hours trading, the main difference being the instant return on your driving investment.

The shift lever is almost as precise as that of the Mazda Miata or BMW Z3. It’s a pleasure to work, back and forth, in small increments, never feeling like you’re going to miss a gear because it seems to know where you want it to go, and it takes you there. No other car in this class can match this precision. Honda’s engineers have taken a normal economy car and given us something to remember.

On that front, the whole drive train works extremely well together. Honda’s venerable VTEC technology (variable valve timing) works wonders in keeping torque high throughout the rev range. That, coupled with a 6700 rpm redline, gives the Civic plenty of oomph to get around without much fuss. And fuss it does not. It tantalizes and taunts, causing you to push harder and farther towards redline, pulling every inch of the way. The best aspect of the VTEC engine is the lack of buzz as the revs reach higher ground.

The 2001 Civic EX has definitely moved upscale too. No longer is it a sub-compact econocar. The EPA rating puts it in the compact class for the first time. If you need proof of this, get a ’01 Civic, park it next to an older Accord (the older models give a better indication of the newfound size) and compare length and width. You’ll find the Civic to be almost as much car as an old Accord. This overall vehicle growth is becoming an increasing trend at Honda these days.

The upscale near-luxury treatment continues on the inside, where the two-tone dash treatment lends an air of sophistication. The plastics on the dash and the carpeting on the doors have a quality feel that should last for the 150,000 to 200,000 miles some Honda owners put on their cars.

More neo-luxury fair can be found with the shifter itself. The lever is covered in soft leather with a bezel and accent that hold the boot in place. The bezel and accent are done in an aluminum-looking material that almost looks like it belongs in an aforementioned Acura. Though, more such trim pieces would have given the Civic a much more grandiose feel.

On the ergonomic front, where Honda engineers seem to spend a lot of time, the switches are easy to reach and operate and feel like they were taken from an Acura. For instance, you can feel the fan detents when you turn the dial, but they never hinder movement. The transitions are smooth, making the dials feel more expensive. A nice touch for a vehicle that costs under $18,000.

As for price, the top-of-the-line new Civic EX stickered at only $17,160.00. On this model, standard equipment encompasses air (with Micron filter), CD stereo, cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, a myriad of storage cubbyholes, front and side airbags for driver and passenger, ABS, rear seat anchors and tethers for child safety seats, an emergency trunk opener, anti-theft system, 5 mph bumpers and a bevy of other equipment. The only optional piece on the tester was floor mats at $89.00. That plus the destination charge brought the grand total of the tester to $17,689.00. Not a bad deal considering that the average new car leaves the showroom at the mid-$20,000 level.

There aren’t many dislikes with the new Civic, thought it can be quite noisy at highway speeds, depending on the road surface. There are a number of factors that could cause this, not least of which is the fact that the Civic is still an “economy” car. It is not an Acura, nor does it claim to be, but a little more padding in the right places might drop the noise levels.

After 336 miles of tortuous driving, the Civic returned 31.1 miles per gallon of gasoline. And, no, there will be no recount. This figure is less than the EPA City estimate for the EX, but the mostly around-town driving was up and down and around the hills of St. Louis, therefore garnering a bit less in the mileage column.

As for crash test data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2001 Civic five stars for frontal crash worthiness and four stars for side crash worthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested a 2001 Civic yet.

The new Civic is a good buy and a great car for young 20-somethings, older Honda enthusiasts or anyone in the market for a highly contented car for not a lot of money. And with Honda’s stellar quality and durability, the 2001 Civic could be the new sales leader in its class.

And now, the car of the day:

This is the Mitsubishi Tarmac Spider concept from the 2003 NAIAS. It’s a cool little car that might could make a big impression today with it’s diminutive size and cute looks.

Mitsu Tarmac Spider 1

It does look like the current Eclipse Spider, at least it has some similar styling cues like the complex rear lights and well defined wheel arches.

Mitsu Tarmac Spider 2

Hope you had a good read!



Published by

James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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