Category Archives: Automotive Reviews

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible Review

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Before this review, the 2012 Nissan GT-R that I reviewed had the most horsepower of any car I have reviewed. That is not the case anymore. Another car has claimed the title of having the most horsepower of any car that I have reviewed, and that is the 2013 Chevrolet ZL1. 580 horsepower mated to a six speed manual transmission. Before I get into the review itself, I should start with the expected introduction about what exactly is the ZL1 model and how it differentiates itself from other Camaros. Alongside the regular Camaro, the ZL1 originated in late 1960’s, 1969 to be exact. This is a little complicated, so do not take my word on the history of the ZL1. It is my understanding that the ZL1 came to fruition because Chevrolet dealers wanted bigger engines available for the Camaros. 69 models were made in 1969. Its exclusivity and performance made it a rare and coveted Camaro for car collectors (Do not take my word on the history of the ZL1). In 2012, the ZL1 was revitalized as a performance version of the Camaro. Even though I have already reviewed a Camaro, a SS version, I was keen on trying out the ZL1. As mentioned, the 580 horsepower engine makes for one memorable Camaro. The question is, is the ZL1 worth it?  Continue reading

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2013 Ford Focus ST2 Review

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Disclaimer: The interior pictures featured in this article are that of a 2015 Ford Focus ST, not the actual car that is depicted in this review. The 2015 version will appear later in a separate photo shoot article. 

You might be asking yourself, “Is that a bright yellow Ford Focus I see? And why does it look like it came out of a Fast and Furious movie?” Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Ford Focus ST. After reviewing a 2012 Focus sedan, I was impressed at how far Ford had come. With sharp styling, enjoyable handling, decent levels of equipment, I can see why the Ford Focus was a hit with the consumers. It all started when Ford finally consolidated its global models and started producing the same models for every market. Here in America, Ford previously concentrated its efforts on its sport utility vehicles and its trucks and neglected its passenger cars. Meanwhile in Europe, Ford’s lineup was of high quality and class-leading passenger cars. Europeans got a better Focus and Mondeo (European equivalent to Taurus/Fusion) than we Americans did. After the recession hit, Ford decided to combine its global portfolio and produce the same cars for every market. What this means is that we finally get the good cars that Europeans get which brings me to my point. In Europe, there is a very popular segment of hot hatches: sporty hatchbacks that deliver the thrills and performance of a sporty car while providing the versatility and comfort of a family hatchback. Ford did attempt this here in the U.S with the 2001-2004 Focus SVT, but as a two-door/four-door hatchback that was hard to live with on a daily basis, it never really caught the attention of most consumers except hardcore enthusiasts. There was also a 2004-2007 ST version of the sedan, but it was really a half-baked attempt to inject sportiness in the sedan when in reality it was just a top-of-the-line version with a manual transmission. Ford Europe introduced the first Focus ST in 2005, a sporty version of the Focus with 225 horsepower and a top speed of 152 mph.  For the 2013 model year, a Focus ST version was added to the Focus lineup globally. Little backstory behind this car. This car is owned by one of my good friends, and we both are car enthusiasts as well as manual transmission aficionados. The owner named the ST, “Pikachu.” Let’s see if Pikachu is as exciting as its Tangerine Scream paint and rear spoiler suggests.

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2015 Roush Mustang Stage 1 Review

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Even though this is my 5th Mustang review, I am going to say again that this is not your typical Mustang. In fact, it is not just a Ford Mustang. Rather, it is a Roush Mustang. I should explain. Roush is a separate tuning division that specializes in Ford vehicles, namely Mustangs and F-150s. Jack Roush, a famous automotive figure in motorsports racing, worked as an engineer for Ford. Possessing a passion for hot rods and NASCAR as well as Mustangs, Roush sought to make a car that combined all three. In 1988, Roush presented Ford with the first Roush Mustang which featured a 400 horsepower twin turbo engine. Unfortunately, this car did not take off as costs of mass producing the Roush Mustang was too high for Ford. Roush started his own company, Roush Performance Products. Initially, it consisted of fitting aftermarket packages to Mustangs. The first actual Roush Mustang with the complete Roush package inside and out was born in 1998. Roush sought to narrow the gap between street and track, and as such the Roush Mustangs are fitted with performance and exterior modifications. This is not your ordinary Mustang. The objective behind the Roush Mustang was to give the Mustang the driving dynamics and looks of a racer. The Roush treatment has also been applied to the F-150 truck. As I mentioned earlier, this is my 5th Mustang review. However, I have not reviewed the latest Mustang which came out in 2015. The current third generation Roush Mustang comes in four flavors: RS, Stage 1 (RS1), Stage 2 (RS2), and Stage 3 (RS3). The Mustang in this review is the Stage 1, which comes with the turbo four. Don’t worry, I made sure it was a manual transmission! I was a bit nervous about testing the new Mustang as it looks like a completely different car inside and out.  The latest Mustang is now a global car, so Ford developed the car in line with other markets’ preferences. What that does to the Mustang, I will have to find out. Continue reading

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2016 Acura ILX Review

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Once upon a time, there was a little sedan and coupe pairing called the Acura Integra that was born in 1986. When Acura debuted in the U.S as a brand, the Legend, a midsize luxury sedan, and the Integra, an upscale entry level compact comprised its lineup. As Acura was Honda’s luxury division with its models based off Honda’s existing models, the Integra was nothing more than a luxurious and pricier Civic. But the strange thing is that despite this, the Integra was vastly popular. With sporty handling, typical Japanese reliability, and value for the money, not to mention its huge aftermarket support, the Integra brought performance credibility to the Acura brand. The Integra was so popular with the tuning crowd that it is hard to find an Integra manual version that is not modded or “riced”. Then in 2001, the Integra coupe became the RSX coupe and the sedan was replaced by the TSX sedan in 2004.The TSX was never the direct replacement for the Integra sedan, but since it occupied the Integra sedan’s former place as the entry level compact, many have dubbed the TSX as the Integra sedan’s replacement. While the RSX and TSX did their fair share of upping the performance credibility of the Acura brand, they could not match the fame that the Integra garnered in the 1990s. The RSX was discontinued in 2006, and the TSX was redesigned for the 2009 model year. As it grew bigger in size, Acura saw fit to introduce a smaller entry level sedan to take the place of the first generation TSX and the Integra. This model would be called the ILX, based off the ninth generation Honda Civic. The ILX debuted in 2012 as a 2013 model. I reviewed a 2013 ILX 2.4 which comes with the Honda Civic’s Si high revving engine and a six speed manual transmission. While that was not a true Integra replacement, much to Acura enthusiasts’ dismay, I found that the ILX delivered a decent driving experience and fuel efficiency in a nice size. I will say this though, that particular ILX stickered around 35k. Thirty five thousand dollars. Granted it had about five grand in options, but that is a lot of money for a gussied up Civic. As much as I like Honda/Acura, the ILX simply is not worth that much money, and even the basic models such as the 2.0 and the Hybrid are upwards of $25,000 with slightly nicer interiors and slightly more updated equipment lists. Apparently, consumers felt the same way as sales of the ILX never really took off. For the 2016 model year, Acura extensively refreshed the ILX, giving it a new 2.4 liter four cylinder combined with a fancy eight speed dual clutch transmission standard across the lineup. Unfortunately, the manual transmission was ditched for the refresh, but the 2016 ILX is claimed to be more like a luxury sedan and less like a Honda Civic. For this review, we have my friend’s aforementioned Acura ILX 2.4 6 speed on hand in addition to the 2016 ILX, so it is not like there was any bias towards the manual model or anything (sarcasm). Seriously though, the question remains: Is the ILX now a proper luxury car? Continue reading

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1999 BMW 328i Review

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Just from judging from the title of this review, you guys are probably thinking that I have an obsession with the 3-Series. That can be justified considering that I have reviewed a 1990 M3, 1994 325i, 2001 330i, 2009 328i, 2010 328i, 2011 335i, and a 2013 328i, and now I can add the 1999 328i to the mix. What makes this car so special? Well for starters, it is a manual transmission model of the coveted E46 generation. I say coveted because to this day, many car enthusiasts still regard the E46 generation (1999-2005) as one of the finest 3 Series ever produced. As with most nameplates, the 3-Series grew in size and comfort with every iteration, but this E46 represents a fine balance of what the 3 Series used to be: handling and poise in a right-sized package. Now for the traditional history lesson, the 3-Series debuted during the oil crisis. Replacing the 2002, the first 3 Series, the E21 (1975-1981) generation, was sold only in a two door format as a coupe or convertible. Known for its memorable driving dynamics and perky engines combined with its tidy size, the E21 cemented BMW’s reputation as a maker of ultimate driving machines. Five generations succeeded the E21, and with the exception of the latest 3-Series, the successive generations have all upheld the BMW tradition of providing excellent handling and performance in a luxurious package. The generation in review is the E46 which debuted in the United States in 1999. Whereas the previous generation (E36) didn’t deliver the driving experience as expected of a BMW (but it still drove quite well), this generation set a new performance benchmark for its class. This was the car that made other luxury brands take notice, and it is not hard to see why. In 2002, more than 560,000 units were sold worldwide, an impressive achievement for a luxury car. Even though I have already reviewed a 330i some time ago, I wanted to try out the less powerful variant, a 328i, especially with the manual transmission.  Continue reading

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2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Review

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If you think I do too many reviews of the fifth generation Mustang, you may be right. So far, I have done a 2012 Mustang V6, 2014 Mustang 5.0 GT, and a 2005 Mustang V6 (all manual transmission coupes of course.) Well, now I have an additional manual coupe to add to the list: the 2013 Mustang Boss 302. The history with the Mustang harks back to the 1960s, or more specifically 1964 when Lee Iocacca came up with the idea for a sporty and practical vehicle for the masses. Equipped in many body styles as well as numerous powertrain configurations to suit the American tastes, Mustang sales skyrocketed. In just 18 months after it debuted, the Mustang sold over a million units. For six generations, the Mustang has successfully cultivated its heritage while morphing into a household name. The Mustang also introduced several notable special editions such as the Shelby Mustangs, Bullitt, and the Boss 302. Due to the success of the first Mustang, Chevrolet scrambled to develop a worthy adversary which would become the Camaro. Boasting small and big box V8 engines, the Camaro proved its advantages over the Mustang which featured smaller engines. The original Boss 302 was Ford’s answer to the Camaro. The 302 name is derived from its 302 cubic inch engine. This car was developed in secret, so if anybody asked what car this was, the employees in charge of this car always referred to it as the “Boss’ car”, hence the Boss designation. It was also developed for a racing homologation series, hence the mechanical modifications. The first Boss 302 was sold in 1969-1970, and it was revived in 2012 with production ending in 2013. Think of the Boss 302 as a Mustang 5.0 liter V8 GT with mechanical and visual tweaks. If you want to go for a more extreme version, there was a Boss 302 Laguna Seca edition available. It featured more extreme suspension tweaks, the deletion of the rear seats for a brace to enhance structural rigidity, and it came in four colors with a red roof and red accents. With that said, as soon as the opportunity to review a Boss presented itself, I just knew I had to do it.  Continue reading

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1995 Volvo 960 Review

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Just like manual transmissions, station wagons are a dying breed in the U.S. Unfortunately, they are being cannibalized by the market’s trend towards SUVs. The image and the lofty driving position that an SUV provides are proving to be irresistible to consumers. Even the Subaru Outback, long a poster vehicle for “outdoorsy” wagons is now being labeled as a “crossover SUV” on Subaru’s website, and the latest generation is as tall as a compact crossover. The emerging SUV market has caused station wagons’ (or in Europe speak: estates) relevance to decrease significantly. The Audi A4 wagon is now a puesdo-SUV thingy called Allroad in which they took a regular Avant (Audi language for wagon) and put cladding and raised the height as to reinforce the Allroad’s appeal as an SUV. Volvo, long associated with boxy station wagons, now features more SUVs than wagons in its lineup. Speaking of Volvo, one of the boxy station wagons it is known for is the 960. Part of the 900 series of flagship rear wheel drive cars in Volvo’s lineup, the 940 and 960 models were introduced in 1990 to replace the preceding 700 series. This is a bit confusing, but what I gathered from research is that the 940 and 960 are actually the same car. Apparently, the 940 denotes four cylinder engines, and the 960 denotes six cylinder engines. In 1994, the 960 received a freshening, and  for the 1997 model year, the sedan and wagon were renamed S90 and V90. In 1998, the S90/V90 were replaced by the S80. Having the chance to review an actual proper station wagon, I knew I just had to review this 960.  Continue reading

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2007 Volkswagen Eos Base Review

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Whenever you think of a Volkswagen and a convertible in the same sentence, the association”chick car” comes to mind. Like for example, if you see a Volkswagen Beetle convertible on the street, you automatically assume that it is driven by a girl. Talk about sexism. Volkswagen’s second convertible offering (up till 2014), the Eos was also subject to the chick car syndrome. I wouldn’t drive a Volkswagen Beetle or an Eos but that’s not because of the stereotype. I just dislike convertibles in general. I also dislike Starbucks and Nutella, so I have pretty popular opinions. Right? Anyhoo, the Eos debuted in 2007 in North America, and it boasted a metal hardtop roof, earning it the title of the cheapest metal hardtop convertible on sale at the time. Right now, here we have a 2007 Volkswagen Eos. Considering its reputation as a chick car, you would assume that it is driven by a girl. You are right: it is driven by my first prom date. She was a cheerleader in high school, she is pretty, and I assume she likes shopping. So she fits the stereotypes of a girl who drives a chick car ( I am assuming). But there is one caveat. This Volkswagen Eos is a stick shift. That’s right, I converted my prom date to manual as she initially wanted an automatic for her first car. The stick shift is also the reason why I wanted to review an Eos even though I have already reviewed a 2012 Eos. With the automatic equipped refreshed Eos in mind, how does the pre refresh manual equipped Eos compare?  Continue reading

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2006 Honda CR-V LX Review

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As you may know, I drive a 2004 Honda Pilot, which I love dearly. One of my good friends was supposed to get her mom’s 2004 Pilot when she got her license, but instead she got a 2006 Honda CR-V. This move has jumpstarted a debate between which is better; the Pilot or the CR-V. (Obviously the Pilot is better). Just to annoy her, I resisted reviewing her car because I still maintain that she should have gotten her mom’s car (which by the way is still running strong at over 200k miles), and we could have been car twins. But nope, she got the CR-V. But since I am addicted to finding cars to review, I gave in and asked her if I could review the CR-V much to her delight. Believe it or not, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 were one of the first compact SUVs to create a new category of car-based SUVs. The CR-V, based off the Civic, debuted in 1997. Although it was slow, the combination of its go anywhere ability, fuel efficiency, versatility, and affordability made it a success. The CR-V was redesigned in 2002 and retained the first generation’s virtue with more space and power. It received a facelift in 2005 with new visual modifications and the addition of a top of the line SE version.

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2007 Volvo XC90 3.2 and 2014 Volvo XC90 3.2 Premier Plus Review

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Over Christmas Break, we had a gathering in which I encountered a family friend. Amid a discussion, I learned that this person and his family currently own three Volvos, two of which are XC90s. Inevitably, I jumped at the chance to review the Volvos. Much to my dismay, I learned that the XC90s are in fact essentially the same car with the same engine choice, albeit with slight cosmetic and trim differences. I thought why not just combine these two cars into a review? With the SUV boom taking over the market in the early 2000s, safety innovator Volvo found itself without a suitable SUV to capitalize on this newly emerging trend. As a result, the XC90 debuted in 2002 as a 2003 model. The XC90 was designed with safety and versatility in mind, two traits that appealed to families. It quickly became Volvo’s best selling vehicle worldwide (in 2005), and it garnered the North American Car of the Year Award in 2003. I remember reading one of Jeremy Clarkson’s books (A former Top Gear host), and when the Volvo XC90 was brought up, it was noted that he’s had three of them. I remember that he said, “The Volvo XC90 seems like it was designed by engineers who actually have children, not just read about them in books.” I thought, if Jeremy Clarkson, one of the most critical and irrational people on the planet likes the Volvo XC90, then it must be good. Let’s see if I feel the same one about these XC90s.  Continue reading

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