Category Archives: Automotive Reviews

2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring Review

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Believe it or not, making a sports car is a cake walk compared to making a family sedan. As the number one most competitive car market in the US, the family car competition is hotly contested with contenders from every mainstream manufacturer. For decades, Honda and Toyota have reigned supreme, although in the last few years, their title as best sellers has been lessened. One of the reasons for this is Mazda’s midsize sedan, the 6. As a replacement for the aging and uninspiring 626, the 2003 Mazda6 ushered Mazda into a new era (as did the smaller 3 sedan/hatch the following year). Prior to 2002, Mazda was a very different manufacturer. Instead of prioritizing style and driving enjoyment, its approach was very similar to Kia and Hyundai at the time: affordable and basic transportation. Unfortunately, this approach meant that Mazdas were humdrum (with the exception of the Miata and RX-7). With this in mind, Mazda started completely renovating its entire lineup with sportiness in mind. The first generation Mazda6 debuted in 2003, and it was praised highly by critics alike. Accolades were given to its youthful styling, spirited performance, excellent handling, and the availability of manual transmissions with every engine. Truth be told, it was perceived as a sedan version of the Miata. However, this did not translate into sales success. It sold well, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord. The reason being? It was simply too small and narrow for American tastes, which is not surprising considering the first generation 6 was very popular in Europe (where smaller cars are more welcomed). The 2008-2012 second generation remedied the size issue, but in the process, it lost the handling in exchange for more space. Even with this approach, it still did not sell well (relatively). In 2013, Mazda redesigned the 6 sedan with an emphasis on driving enjoyment, fuel efficiency, and style.  Continue reading

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2013 Hyundai Veloster Base Review

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Rewind to ten years ago, and you would be forgiven for thinking that Hyundai cars are boring and staid. Hyundais of the past endured an unflattering reputation. Jeremy Clarkson, formerly one of the hosts of Top Gear UK, once said that if you are driving a Hyundai Accent diesel, you have failed at life. My friend asked me for advice on what to get as his first car and I suggested an old Hyundai Sonata. His response? “Dude, I want to succeed in high school, not commit social suicide.” Yes, he actually said that.  In the last five or so years, Hyundai underwent a transformation. All of a sudden, Hyundais were no longer boring and built to resemble appliances. The latest Elantra and 2010-2014 Sonata are examples of Hyundai’s latest curvy and bold designs. Showcasing Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” styling, Hyundai cars became more appealing inside and out. This combined with their excellent value for the money and fuel efficiency propelled Hyundais to the top of the sales charts. I reviewed a 2011 Sonata, and while there is room for improvement in the handling department, I was impressed with the Sonata’s blend of style and value. In 2007, Hyundai released the HND-3 Concept, which became the Veloster in 2011. In 2011, the Veloster went on sale as a three door coupe. Its party trick? It has one door on the driver’s side, and two doors on the passenger side. Confusing eh? The thought behind these three doors was to make the Veloster unique, but also to aid practicality. By having the door on the right side, children can get out on the curb. My mother texted me one day saying that her coworker has a Veloster that I can review. Naturally, I asked her if it was a manual. My mother said no, but I reviewed it anyways because I was keen to see if the Veloster really could drive like its sporty styling suggested.

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2008 Buick Enclave CXL Review

buick 9  Aunty Helen became my babysitter when I was 7 months old. She is also a part of our family and eventually influenced the person that I grew into. Even though we moved a couple years ago to a different state, she still visits us every year, and this summer she went with us on a family trip to Sri Lanka. She is one of the most important people in my life as I regard her as my third parent, and she says that I am her one of her favorite grandsons. It is also because of her that I am affiliated with Buicks. When my parents first met her, she was driving a 1991 blue Buick Skylark. Then she graduated to a light brown 1997 Buick Skylark, then a 2003 Buick LeSabre Custom, and now a 2011 Buick LaCrosse. I remember the day that I got off the school bus, and Aunty Helen was waiting for me with a huge grin on her face. I asked her, “Aunty Helen, why are you so happy to see me?” She said, “Honey, I got a new car.” She motioned to a shiny and sparkling black Buick LeSabre parked on the street. Aunty Helen was beaming with pride, and my sister and I were amazed at how huge the car was. Even though the LeSabre is a bland and unexciting car, it will always be in my memories because that was Aunty Helen’s car. Replacing both the Rendezvous and the Rainer SUVs in 2008, the Enclave was Buick’s first attempt at redefining Buick as a brand. The Enclave is one of quadruplets, the other three being the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and the discontinued Saturn Outlook. These four SUVs are built on the Lambda chassis, GM’s platform for large crossovers with three rows of seating. Even though I have reviewed a 2014 Chevrolet Traverse (The Buick, Chevrolet, and GMC were refreshed in 2012), I was curious to see what a Buick SUV would be like, given my personal history with the brand.  Continue reading

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2011 BMW 335i Review

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You are probably confused and wondering why I am reviewing another E90 (2006-2011 generation) 3 Series if I have already reviewed both a 328i Sedan and a convertible. Well those were the 328i versions, and this is a 335i version. For those of you who know, my sister now drives the Pilot, and so I drive my father’s 2010 BMW 328i. One of my friends has a 2011 335i, and it is exactly the same color and the same generation as mine, so I thought, why not just do a review on his BMW? It may be another E90, but it is a 335i. The 335i is the top dog version with a turbocharged inline six cylinder engine whereas the lesser 328i versions make do with a normally aspirated inline six cylinder engine. The first 3 Series started with the E21 in 1975. At this time, BMW was cementing a reputation as a purveyor of “ultimate driving machines,” a strategy that culminated in the making of some very fine driving machines until recently. After the E21 came the 1982-1991 E30 which launched the first ever M3, then came the 1993-1998, then the 1999-2005 E46, then the 2006-2011 E90. Funny thing is that even as the BMW 3 Series slowly grew in size and status, it remained the undisputed compact luxury sedan in terms of prestige, sales, and driving enjoyment. No matter what other competitors threw at it, the BMW reigned supreme. After reviewing an E30 M3, E36 325i convertible, E46 330i, and two E90s, I can attest to that. I would not include the present generation F30 as one of the all time BMW driving greats because it is part of BMW’s new comfort oriented philosophy. The older the generation, the better driving characteristics they possess, but they are all fantastic to drive except the 2012-present F30 (which actually has started losing comparisons in automotive publications due to its worse handling). Since I drive a 328i, I was curious to see whether the twin turbocharged engine makes the 335i a better car than the 328i.  Continue reading

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2010 Acura ZDX Advance Review

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Traditionally, Acura and its parent company, Honda, have always been conservative and staid automotive manufacturers. That changed in around 2009 when Acura decided to debut its new grille design, the so called “beak” which consists of a very pronounced chrome design. This new grille design sparked a new design revolution at Acura. All of sudden, its cars were designed to be less angular and more curvy, yet more futuristic looking. This new design strategy also led to the ZDX. Designed by Christine Michelesen and based off Acura’s MDX, the ZDX is meant to blur the lines of a coupe and an SUV, akin to the BMW X6. Breaking from the Acura’s norm of producing conventionally styled vehicles, the ZDX was all about design and not function. When it debuted in 2009, Acura was thought to have gone off the deep end. Here is a vehicle that is based on the MDX SUV, yet it is less impractical, can only carry five people, and commands about 10 grand more. Sadly, these flaws counted against it, and it never really sold enough to become a common sight on streets. In its last year of production, the ZDX sold only 362 units (according to Wikipedia.com) in 2013, truly making it a rare sight in America. The owner of this car (check out his blog) was able to get this car in the fully loaded Advance version for a fraction of the price to buy as brand new. Naturally, I wanted to review a ZDX and see what the SUV/coupe/SUV-ish coupe/coupe-ish SUV was all about.  Continue reading

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2002 BMW M5 Dinan Edition Review

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When I was little, I got my first car game to play on the computer, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Remember the Need For Speed series? How I miss the days of NFS Underground, Hot Pursuit, etc. In the Hot Pursuit game, one of the cars featured was an E39 M5 (BMW cars are classified by their generations so the 1996-2003 5 Series is the E39), and I became enamored with its power (in the game) and its styling. I never have and probably never will own a brand new luxury sedan, but if I had to go used, the only luxury sedans I would consider buying is the first generation Infiniti M or an E39 5 Series with a manual transmission. The first M vehicle for the 5 Series was the 1980 M535i although it was not badged as an actual M brand vehicle, but it came with performance and visual upgrades. The first actual M5 came with the second 5 Series generation (E28 1981-1988) in 1985-1988 which was only available with a manual transmission and sold in “Jet Black” color only. The next 5 Series generation (E34) brought along another M5 version that was sold from 1989-1995. The E28 and E34 were the last M5 models to be hand built before the E39 arrived. When the E39 M5 debuted in 1998, it took the world by storm. People raved about its 394 horsepower V8 engine, its butch looks, and its overall image as M’s flagship sports sedan. This M5 reviewed here is a Dinan edition; Dinan is a company that produces both mechanical and cosmetic aftermarket products for BMW vehicles.  They also have a long standing relationship with BMW as Dinan modified BMWs are able to retain their factory warranties. Even though this is not the regular M5, I could not resist the opportunity to be able to review one of my favorite cars in the entire world. How desperate was I to review an E39 M5? So desperate that I saw this car in a parking lot and left a note on the windshield asking the owner if I can review the car. Fortunately the owner obliged.  Continue reading

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1990 BMW M3 Review

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When I found out I would get the opportunity to review the first ever M3 ever produced, I was giddy with happiness and anxiety. Just to clarify how much of a coup this is, only 4,996 of these were sold in North America during its six year run. BMW’s M (called Motorsport GmbH then) was created in 1975 to aid BMW’s presence in motor racing in the 1960s-1970s. However, they started to add mechanical and cosmetic upgrades to BMW’s existing lineup to sell to the market. The first M-branded car launched was the 1979 M1, but BMW’s M division’s prominence did not emerge until they made an M version of the 5-series sedan, M535i, in 1979. The first actual separate M model debuted in 1985 for the M5, a version of the 5-Series. A M version of the E30 3-Series followed (BMW vehicles are classified by chassis numbers, so this generation is the E30) in 1986. Initially, the M3 was built to fulfill motor racing requirements. The World Touring Car Championship requires that the car be commercially produced in order for it to compete which is why the M3 was limited to just 5,000 units. However, the M3’s success was unprecedented, so production was expanded to almost 18,000 worldwide (including both convertible and coupe models). With the first M3 and M5, BMW and its M division cemented a reputation for itself in the automotive industry as a maker of the “ultimate driving machine” which was its slogan until recently. Sadly, as the luxury market has progressed in technology and power, BMW’s “M” cars have gotten a bit of an unflattering reputation. Once a division that pertained to strict principles of just manual transmissions, rear wheel drive, normally aspirated engines, the latest M cars are turbocharged, mostly automatics, and all wheel drive (at least for the SUVs and arriving soon for the M5). Not only that, and excuse my language, but the latest M cars have attracted a certain “douchebag” reputation. The general stereotype of the latest M cars is that they are driven by showoffs who could care less about the performance and handling capabilities and are focused on the cachet the M brand brings. However, this stereotype only pertains to the M cars manufactured around 5 years ago. This M3 reviewed here is the very first showcase of the M brand’s pure driving philosophy, and I was giddy with excitement as I got to review this gem.  Continue reading

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2005 Ford Mustang V6 Premium Review

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Do you ever believe in coincidences? Well guess what, I do. The owner of this car went to the high school I would have gone to had I not changed districts, and as it was unbelievable how well I knew his classmates (I attended the elementary school that preceded the high school). Not having spoken to many of those classmates for so long, the owner filled me in on them, and it was like reading a tabloid about my former classmates. Because of that, we started bonding and became great friends. If that is not a coincidence, I do not know what constitutes as one. Our friendship was made better because he informed me that he is a car fanatic, and he drives a manual car, a 2005 Ford Mustang V6 5 speed. The Ford Mustang was what one would call the starter of the “pony car.” Ford wanted to build a sporty but affordable and family friendly vehicle for the masses. The first Mustang debuted on April 17, 1964, and these Mustangs were regarded as the “1964 1/2 Mustang.” In its first year, it sold over 400,000 copies and sparked the muscle car era. Shortly after, Ford’s rivals Chevrolet and Dodge/Plymouth started getting in the action with the Camaro and the Challenger/Barracuda. The Mustang II, introduced in 1974-1978, was a disappointment compared to the first generation. No longer displaying svelte and crisp lines, the frumpy Ford Pinto-based (Ford Pinto was an economy hatchback) Mustang II was slow and featured ordinary styling. Due to the oil crisis of the 1970s, the Mustang II was fitted with fuel efficient but slow engines. However, the Mustang soldiered on till the fifth generation in which the most significant Mustang since the original debuted in 2005 model year. This generation’s design would borrow heavily from the original Mustang as well as be completely redesigned in and out. I had the pleasure of driving a 2011 V6 and 2014 5.0 GT, but since those were refreshed models of this generation, I thought it would be cool to review a pre-refreshed Mustang, with a manual transmission of course.  Continue reading

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2011 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Review

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I never understood why Americans are against hatchbacks. My family and I travel often to other countries, and in Asia and Europe, hatchbacks are the norm. Even in Australia and New Zealand, hatchbacks generally sell more than sedans. So why does America have an adverse reaction to hatchbacks? I have no clue. One time, in a store parking lot. I pointed out a nice Audi A3 hatchback, and I said to my sister, “Look at that A3, isn’t that a sweet ride?” Her reply? “Ew. It’s a hatchback.” I am baffled. Logic dictates that we should prefer hatchbacks over sedans because they provide better cargo space and more versatility and in some cases, they tend to look better than their sedan counterparts. Such is the case with the second generation Mazda3. Replacing the Protege (called the Familia overseas), the 2004 Mazda3 was the start of a new era for Mazda. No longer a company of humdrum and ordinary vehicles, Mazda placed emphasis on sporty driving experiences and styling which started with the first 3. The first generation Mazda3 was a blistering success, and it was the car that pulled Mazda out of obscurity. It was renowned for its blend of enjoyable handling, quick performance, excellent fuel economy, and its design. I reviewed two first generation 3s, the high performance hatchback, Mazdaspeed3 and a sedan. I was impressed as they provided the driving experience of a BMW but for half the price. In 2009, the second generation debuted as a 2010 model. I also had the opportunity to review one, but it was an automatic transmission sedan. However, this car is a hatchback with a manual transmission. Which begs the question; would I like the hatchback configuration better than the sedan?  Continue reading

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2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review

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When foreigners judge Americans in terms of cars, the first thing that pops to mind are pickup trucks. Which makes sense considering that a Ford F-Series truck has been our best selling automobile for the past 32 years (according to Wikipedia). However, there is one other thing we are also known for: our muscle cars. America has a long history of shoving big horsepower engines into sporty cars, a craze that started back in the Roaring Sixties. When the economy was booming, American manufacturers wanted to add fun to their lineups. Ford was the first to jump start this idea with the 1964 Mustang. Then Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, created the Camaro three years later. So did Dodge two years later with the Challenger. The three of these muscle cars coined the term “pony muscle car.” The Camaro also spawned a twin, the Pontiac Firebird. The Chevrolet Camaro lasted for four generations until Chevrolet discontinued it in 2002. By the time the fourth generation arrived, the Camaro and its twin, the Pontiac Firebird became more like big sporty coupes rather than sports cars. Due to lackluster sales and the market’s decreasing appetite for sporty coupes, General Motors discontinued the Camaro and the Firebird. However, in 2006, Chevrolet showcased the Camaro Concept at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show to unexpected levels of acclaim and praise from spectators worldwide. The Camaro became more prominent, especially in its role as Bumblebee in the Transformers series. The overwhelming demand for the Camaro was too much for Chevrolet to ignore, so they made the decision to produce the Camaro as a 2009 model. The release date got pushed to spring 2009 to produce the Camaro as a 2010 model. The Camaro was designed and engineered by GM’s Australian division, Holden, and it was built off the “Zeta” architecture that underpinned many Holden vehicles. After reviewing a Mustang, and a Challenger, I was anxious to review a Camaro. However, you may remember that I will refuse to review a car unless it is in the proper specification. That’s right, I told myself I would review Camaros only with a manual transmission. Problem is that this is America. Luckily, the opportunity presented itself soon enough, and it was not just any version of the Camaro, it was the top of the line version, the SS!  Continue reading

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