The New Want

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Saw one of the nicest 68 Firebirds today. All I need is something nice to trade or maybe 24 grand. Anyone got some spare change to donate?

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Guarding Splashes, Check…

In our continuing series regarding Ely the Element, it’s come time to affix some Honda-designed/produced accessories to make Ely a little more stylish and clean.

DSC01487Costing $60 (or $15 apiece) from a West Coast dealer who under cuts the local dealers by $45, the “genuine factory Honda splash guards” came is a stylish and functional clear plastic bag. Luckily, they decided to put it into a nice cardboard box for shipping ease.

In the bag was four splash guards with screws and some hardware bits but, fashionably missing, no instructions!

Thank goodness for the internets…where I found the correct instructions for my year.DSC01492

Needing only a screwdriver, a stubby phillips at that, installing all four guards was pretty easy. The hardest part was making sure the front wheels were in the right position for accessing the interior screw.

Now, the instructions say to save two of the screws from up front to reuse and use two new ones but our set only cam with two new screws rather than the four needed. Using superior intelligence, it was deduced that reusing all four screws would not make for any negative consequences.

Like the instructions, the only before and after pics taken were from the left side as each side had the same screws in the same place, just opposite each other.

Front:

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Rear:

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And some of the whole vehicle with the new splash guards:

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So there you have it. An easy way to personalize an Element and possibly keep the rocker panels cleaner!


2006 Pontiac G6 GT Convertible

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Way Cool Hard Top for the “Excitement” Division

by James E. Bryson

In our present world, we have plenty of worries to keep us up at night; fuel prices, medical and other insurance costs, and not the least of which…our safety.

It was safety that was cited as partially responsible for the demise of the convertible in the late 70s; The weak structure, the lack of a roof to support the car in a rollover, among many other bad attributes.

Fast forward 30 years and most of those “demons” have been expunged, save rigidity, which is the last and most difficult of the gremlins to exorcise, but not outside of an engineer’s expertise; it’s just too expensive and adds unwanted weight.

For those brave souls out there who dream of owning one of the new breed of convertibles, you are in luck. For, starting under $30,000 is a new hard top convertible from the least likely of places: GM. Enter the Pontiac G6 GT convertible.

06g6_1The regular G6, in either sedan or coupe variant, is a handsome automobile with crisp lines, attractive curves and comfortable accommodations for most people. The convertible gives up some structural rigidity with the top down, some rear seat space and most of the trunk volume for the ability to tan your self on a nice day.

In a less complex, compared with the more expensive hard tops, but still utterly satisfying show of technical engineering moxie, the top opens and closes with just the push of a button: Hold that button, located on the windshield header, for about 30 seconds and the top is either gone from view letting the sun shine in or back in place, ready to protect you from the outside world. We loved the smooth action and orchestration of the whole process, from the quarter windows rolling down to the clamshell action of the dual-hinged trunklid. As we mentioned earlier, the only bad part of the convertible experience is the total disappearance of usable trunk space. But, really, it’s a small price to pay for a complete package convertible like the G6.06g6_2

Ride and handling are confidence-inspiring, which we were surprised to find. Don’t take that the wrong way, we just thought a front driver like the G6 would have so-so handling and a soft ride. What we got was good (if not great) handling and a comfortably firm ride that soaked up most minor bumps and never felt floaty or out of control. That said, with the top down, that was a lot of cowl shake (more of a shimmy) over really rough spots like train tracks and pot holes. With the top up, the hard top remember, the G6 took on a whole different persona. Sure, it was a touch claustrophobic, but it made the car so much more rigid that we sometimes forgot we were driving a droptop.

The suspension is made up if Macpherson struts with L-shaped control arms and stabilizer bar up front and a four-link independent rear with gas shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bar.

06g6_3Stopping was easy to do with the vented front/solid rear disc brakes with standard ABS. We had a chance to get out into the winding roads and found the brakes to be rather fade resistance and easy to modulate, not too spongy like previous GM brakes were prone to be.

The manumatic four-speed was a nice surprise. In manual mode, the shifts were actually quick and done with purpose, which was a surprise since every other manumatic we’ve driven were sad substitutes for sporting adventures with slow shifts and hesitations and dismal gear engagement.

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There’s wood-grained trim on the doors and shifter surround that seems a tad out of place in a sporting convertible as this. Out of place, maybe, but we actually liked it because it added a bit of class to an otherwise sterile cockpit. In front of the driver is a set of gauges nicely laid out with the tachometer on the left, speedo front and center and tertiary gauges for fuel and temp to the right. It’s a handsome cluster with shiny bezels giving it an upscale look.

The seats were comfy but we found the headrests hit us awkwardly, resulting in a less comfortable experience in daily cruising with a touch of neck strain. Otherwise, the seats and driving position were spot on and ergonomics were standard GM fare of late; switches and knobs were easy to use, felt good under hand and were where you would expect them to be.

The best aspect of the G6 GT Convertible is its price; starting at around $29,000, expect to pay around $32,000 for a loaded GT with the 3.9-liter V6 and all available factory options.

In all, the Pontiac G6 GT Convertible is a great value and strong performer and a great looking vehicle that fits well into a lot of budgets.

New Cars Galore!!

10MARN_C19141_HRIt’s always fun to travel. And when you get visitors from another place, that is almost as much fun.

We had some visitors from the Detroit area and they brought their new 2010 Mercury Mariner.

Let’s pause a moment to lament the death of Mercury…

I just want to say how sad I am that another storied nameplate was sent to the great automotive junkyard. Mercury, in my opinion, served a purpose for the Ford Motor Company. It was a nice little stepping stone between Ford and Lincoln. Yes, it was mostly filled with rebadged Fords, but the engineers at Mercury shined a little magic on their cars, adding enough differentiation to them, in suspension settings and noise-deadening materials, that even “common folk” (those not in the car biz) notice the differences. 10MARN_C17520_HR

Back to the matter at hand…

When I first drove an Escape, many years ago it seems, I was impressed with how much it felt like just a tall car. (You can read the full review at the end of this post.) Like that Escape, the 2010 Mariner has the driving dynamics like your average sedan, with a bit more body roll but not as much as with a truck-based SUV. The fit, finish, materials and look of the interior are top-notch, with little or no missteps perceived, and all of the switches are well-placed and intuitive to use.

On the road, their four-cylinder equipped model got to highway speed easy enough but it ain’t gonna win no stoplight races. Which is not to say that the four-banger in the Mariner won’t get you into trouble. Just don’t bet your title on a race with anything other than a lawn mower.

10MARN_VOGA_C17527_HRAround town, Mariner has enough pickup to keep up with traffic, with 171 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission to keep the engine in its sweet spot even longer.

Of course, a really important selling point to any vehicle these days is economy and the four-cylinder Mariner gets around 20 city and 28 highway…your mileage will vary.

On the “How Cool Is That” front, all 2010 mariners have an integrated blind spot mirror…basically a convex addition to each side mirror to help you identify vehicles in the blind spots most people complain about.

If the mariner is an American vehicle done right, then the second car I want to talk about is one done not-so-right.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZI flew to Florida to see my Dad a few weeks ago and ended up renting a 2010 Chevrolet Impala. I’ve driven Impalas before but for some reason this one turned me off. I’m not sure if it was the spongy brakes or sluggish acceleration.

A bit about the acceleration…When I say sluggish, I mean I had to prod it worse than a half-dead mule to get it to motivate down the highway, or from a stoplight. At least the Impala cruised well at speed, with little need to modulate the gas pedal. And this phenomena was not due to a lack of power as the Impala has at least 200+ horsepower…no, I didn’t check to see which engine the rental had but one can only assume it was the lesser 3.5-liter and not the bigger 3.9-liter V6.

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The spongy brakes are nothing new to GM and the car never failed to stop nor did the brakes show any signs of fading when stopping from highway speeds to pay the toll on the stupid Florida Toll road I had to travel.

Other than those two little bits, the current Impala is a fine car but definitely outclassed by the competition, both from Ford (have you seen the current Taurus??) and Chrysler (Charger!!) (I know, right?!) and especially by the imports like the Hyundai Sonata or Nissan Altima.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZI did like the highway ride and the fit, finish and materials were of good quality. And, thankfully, the current Impala uses the new-ish style of windshield wipers and the gold standard of washers, the hood-mounted nozzles!!!! YAY!!!!!! (see below Retro Review for a little explanation)

We can only hope that Chevy puts some interesting-ness into the Impala to make it more like the Malibu, and hopefully get the sales increase enjoyed by the Malibu.


RETRO REVIEW!!!!!!

2004 Chevy Impala SS

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Impala SS Lives up to the Legend on Today’s Terms

by James E. Bryson

Out in the African savanna, the fleet-footed impala, a member of the antelope family, makes life difficult for its predators who might be shopping for their next meal. To get away from the feeding zone, the impala explodes into stampede at the first sign of danger, zigzagging to confuse the predators. For out in the wild, the impala is sought by lions, leopards, cheetahs and other such meat-eaters.

Here in America, our own Impala, of the Chevrolet family, was sought out by different breeds during the Muscle Car heyday like the Mustang, Road Runner and Barracuda.
Today, most of those other breeds are long gone and the rest, Mustang for instance, have moved on to other game, like snake hunting (Viper, anyone?) or ship hunting (can you say Corvette?).

No, the Impala of today’s world is more of a family car with four doors, room for five, and a huge trunk to boot. It has a tried-and-true V6 (either 3.4- or 3.8-liter) and solid construction for long lasting durability.

There isn’t much to dislike about the styling of the 2004 Impala, as long as you’re not buying the car for that reason. It’s a bit boxy, but not as terrible as, say, the Aztec or any AMC sedans from the 70s

Fortunately for us, though, we got to drive the new SS version of the Impala, and let us say that having a fast sedan with good handling characteristics really makes the smiles shine through.

The heart of this Impala beats with a supercharged version of the 3.8-liter Series II V6 that has powered GM vehicles for more than five decades in one form or another. It doesn’t have that "techie" sound of a dual overhead cam engine but its horsepower (240), torque (280 lb.-ft.) and fuel economy (18 city/ 28 highway) make it the perfect choice for this sedan.

Mated to a smooth-shifting heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission, this Impala got going like its animal brethren. Though it didn’t exactly explode off the starting line, it did get the pulse racing and left us with a feeling that there was more there than we expected.

Surprisingly, we found the SS to handle better than expected in the twisties as well. A four-wheel independent suspension with struts all around, stiffer spring rates front and rear and stabilizer bar increases of 4 mm front and 2.5 mm rear make for more sport and a greater "fun factor" with the SS designation, compared to the plebian Impala.

Out on our test loop through some hills and twisty/curvy roads, we found the SS to be a natural at handling speed and direction changes easily. The only downside was the apparent heaviness of the car that could be felt more on quick changes, with body lean but not much tire squeal, if any.The most fun we’ve found with the SS is getting on a highway…hit the gas and hang on. Don’t be surprised when you look at the speedo and find yourself doing 80 before you make the end of the ramp.

As with most "performance" packages these days, different looks help set the car apart from other plebian rides. The SS is no different.

Outside, there is a new decklid spoiler that replaces the wing of the LS model and body colored appliqué surrounding the tail lamps. There’s also a nifty looking wheel/tire package with 17-inch "diamond cut" wheels and P235/55R17 tires, body colored side molding (also found on the LS version), dual chromed exhaust tips and fog lamps…all included. Oh, and don’t forget to get the black paint (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Inside, there’s "SS" embroidered on the seats, on the doors and in the floor mats. There are also "SS" plaques in strategic locations. Other touches include a comprehensive gauge cluster (with boost gauge) and taught leather upholstery on all seating surfaces.

The Impala’s interior is a very nice place to spend a trip in. Once we got the eight-way adjustable seat configured and steering wheel at the angle we like, we found the seating position to be more true than on other GM cars and comfortable for long jaunts down the highway.

The controls for everything from the radio (redundant on the wheel) to the climate system fell easily to hand. They also felt more upscale and didn’t show a lot of nicks and scratches.

Of course, this car isn’t as cool looking as the previous generation SS, which was basically a Caprice with monochromatic paint, cool five-spoke wheels and a Corvette motor. This SS is much more just an extension of the Impala line rather than a stand-alone like the last one was.

Now for the bad news…

We were a bit disappointed that the front fascia wasn’t at all different from the regular Impala. We felt it would have had a more powerful impact with even a simple grill redesign.

Also, the seat heater on the driver’s side did not heat the seat evenly, leaving cold thighs and hot buns.

And let us not forget the worst GM invention ever: washer fluid that sprays out of the wiper blades. Come on GM, there’s a reason why no other manufacturer uses this technique…it doesn’t work. We found the system to be sub-par at cleaning dirty windows and thought the streaks left were a hindrance to an enjoyable driving experience.

Not a whole lot of bad stuff, but it had to be said.

On price, we saved this last bit for last like usual, but this time we really didn’t want to mention it. You see, cars get more expensive with each passing year and the Impala is no exception.

Our car’s base price (which included most of the good stuff like the supercharged engine, wheels and tires, four-wheel antilock discs, leather seats and power driver’s seat and floor shifter and center console) was a high $27,335.00.

Add in options like the $1425 SS preferred group (cargo net, 200 watt premium sound system with CD and steering wheel controls, heated outside mirrors and auto dimming rear view mirror, driver info center and OnStar.), the $445 comfort seating package (power passenger seat, heated seats for driver and passenger), a $350 driver side-impact airbag and $325 for XM and you get a grand total (including the obligatory destination charge of $660) of $30,540.00. The SS is a bit pricey but not too stratospheric considering the performance gains and other niceties.

It is a car Darth Vader wouldn’t mind being seen in.

Here is that Retro Review of the early 2000s Ford Escape. It’s in picture format because I got a virus a few years ago and it wiped out the review files I had:

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Thanks for stopping by and spending some time here!

A Gift, From BMW To America

To: Zach

From:Autoextremist.com/Peter De Lorenzo:

“BMW of North America has announced a production run of thirty identically-equipped 2011 Frozen Gray M3 Coupes for the United States in honor of the 25th anniversary of the original BMW M3. The 2011 Frozen Gray M3 Coupe features a special matte-gray paint and unique Fox Red / Black bi-color Novillo leather interior. According to BMW, “Compared to conventional exterior colors with gloss finish, the sculpture-like character of Frozen Gray paint highlights the athletic contours of the M3.” To achieve this luster, a special BMW ColorSystem silk matte clear coat is applied over the Space Gray Metallic base coat. This will be the first and only opportunity to obtain Frozen Gray Metallic exterior paint on the M3 for the 2011 model year in the United States. Each of these special M3 Coupes will be powered by the 4.0-liter, 414-horsepower M V8 and equipped with BMW’s M Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT). Also included is the new M3 Competition Package, which adds an exclusive set of 19-inch wheels and other upgrades. BMW M enthusiasts will be able to reserve a 2011 Frozen Gray M3 Coupe by dialing 1-800-245-4269 no earlier than 11:30AM Eastern Time (8:30AM Pacific) on Monday, June 21, 2010. The price? It will have a MSRP of $77,600 and it will be available for delivery in late June 2010 through Authorized BMW Centers. The production run will be completed by the end of July. Additionally, each purchase of the 2011 Frozen Gray M3 Coupe will include a one-day enrollment at the BMW Performance Driving School in Spartanburg, South Carolina.”

Thank you Mr. De Lorenzo…please don’t sue….

Summer is Near

With temps hovering in the 80s, and storms bantering about, you know Summer is near. The dred is not so great this year but is still present. The dred is all about the really hot Summers we have here in the Lou.

Speaking of Summer, went out golfing for the first time last week at the Landings at Spirit Golf Club. It’s a “links” syle course that is very flat and fairly wide open. The lack of any hills or valleys is made up by the VERY fast greens. And for the price, I would highly recommend it.

Had a great time with the guys from work. It’s always a little more fun when you scramble as your bad shots can be offset with another’s good shots and you really feel the team atmosophere. My team didn’t win but we had a great time and were able to finish at 2 under!