Monthly Archives: June 2014

1996 Chevrolet Corvette LT4 Review

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In the 1950s, General Motors enjoyed its status as the biggest corporation in the world. GM’s notoriety stemmed from its automobile divisions: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. However, they all lacked a world class sports car to rival Jaguar, MG, Triumph, and the like. GM’s lead designer, Harley Earl came up with the idea of a sports car that would also cost as much as an affordable American sedan.This generation is known as the C1 which lasted from 1953-1962. The Corvette had its ups and downs. The C2 generation was one of the most popular Corvettes thanks to the Stingray model which had hidden headlights and a split window fastback, and it boasted performance worthy of a sports car. The C3 (1968-1982) was hit by the oil crisis of the 1970s, and demanding government regulations resulted in more pedestrian friendly bumpers, and the result was more fuel efficient but slow engines and altered styling. The C4 generation arrived in 1984, and Chevrolet was determined to up its ante with updated mechanicals and new styling. In 1996, Chevrolet introduced the LT4 version that came with a new 350 cubic-inch small block V8 for the Corvette. Continue reading

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2014 Scion FR-S Review

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In the 1990s, Japanese sports cars dominated the automotive industry. You name it, every Japanese automaker had their own affordable sports cars that boasted a fun to drive index with four or five seats and relative affordability. Mazda had the RX7, Nissan had the 300ZX and the 200SX, Honda had the Prelude and the NSX, Toyota had the Celica, MR2, and Supra, Mitsubishi had the 300GT, and so on. But sadly, all of the aforementioned were put to pasture due to growing demand for more mainstream vehicles. Before the Scion FRS, the cheapest sports car with a rear wheel drive layout and four/five seats with an emphasis on handling was usually more than 25,000 dollars (besides the Mustang or Camaro). Automotive purists have been demanding for a back to basics car, a car that is all about driving enjoyment for not a lot of money. This is where Toyota and Subaru came in. Toyota wanted to return back to building fun cars like it did with the Supra, Celica, and the MR2, and it wanted to up its credibility with a new affordable sports car. Subaru and Toyota teamed up in 2007; Subaru would focus on the engine and the chassis development while Toyota did the styling and marketing, and both would get their own version. They looked at the Toyota AE86 (1983-1987 rear wheel drive Corolla hatchback and coupe), 1967 Toyota 2000GT and 1965 Toyota Sports 800 (both rear wheel drive sports cars) for inspiration during development. After a long five years of teasing us car fanatics with countless concepts, the production GT86 and its twin, the Subaru BRZ finally came to market in 2012. It was sold in other countries as a Toyota, but due to Toyota’s “youth oriented” division, Scion which was struggling in North America, the Toyota GT86 was branded a Scion FRS (Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive, Sport) as an attempt to make Scion relevant again.

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2008 Acura TSX Review

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In the 1990s, the Acura Integra fulfilled the role as Acura’s entry level sedan. With its blend of good reliability, handling, and fuel efficiency, the Integra was a success. It soldiered on to the 2000s before being replaced by the TSX. With the demise of the four door Integra in Acura’s lineup, Honda’s luxury division, Acura saw fit to introduce the TSX  (Touring Sportscar eXperimental) in 2004. What most people don’t know is that the TSX is actually sold as the Honda Accord in other countries. In Europe, the TSX is sold as the Accord and is marketed as Honda’s family sedan instead of the much larger model we get in America.  Acura positioned the TSX as a cheaper and sportier alternative to the bigger and pricier TL. Even though I favor the TL, I have always liked the TSX. The 2004-2008 TL is my realistic dream car (by realistic, I mean affordable and non exotic), but I usually favor smaller cars, so I was keen to see if I would like the TSX better than the TL, especially if it delivered in the driving dynamics department. Continue reading

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2013 Nissan Altima SL Review

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Replacing the Stanza, the original Altima debuted in 1993. Its role was to provide more space, luxury, and power than the compact Sentra sedan but less than the Maxima sedan. The first two generations sold acceptably well, but did nothing to worry the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. This changed with the third generation. In contrast to the previous generations’ tame styling and mundane handling, the 2002 Altima boasted sharp styling and prioritized nimble handling. With a 240 horsepower V6, the Altima had the power to match its looks, and in a time when competitors’ V6 maxed out at 200 horsepower, the Altima was fast. This Altima had the goods to worry Honda and Toyota. This approach continued with the fourth generation Altima. I’ve had the opportunity to drive a 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 and 3.5. The 2.5 liter four cylinder provided great performance for a four cylinder,and the 3.5 liter V6 was very sporty and powerful. I really liked the fourth generation Altima, and the fact you could get it with a manual albeit hard to find was a bonus. In 2011, the Altima was the second best selling car in the US. Captivated by this growing success in sales, Nissan wanted to capitalize this. It took a different approach with the 2012 redesign of the Altima in order to garner even more sales by focusing more on comfort and space. Continue reading

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2001 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG Review

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The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a long history that starts with the first generation debuting in 1972. This generation, dubbed the W112 (Mercedes-Benz used specific chassis names such as this to denote its models), was the first to be officially called the S-Class. As the flagship, the S-Class was loaded with innovative technologies. For instance, the car was styled for safety purposes, and boasted ground breaking safety technology such as headrests that isolated the pressure exerted on the occupants’ heads during a crash, safety padding on the dash, a rain water system that improved visibility towards the rear during rain storms, etc. Two more generations followed with the same focus on innovative technologies while gaining size and fame. This 1999-2005 “W220” generation was the first to receive an official AMG model. As a performance division, AMG got its start as an independent tuning firm for Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Then in the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz took a controlling stake in AMG, and then in 2005, ultimately purchased the performance division as its own. AMG variants feature cosmetic and performance upgrades over the lesser models. Continue reading

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