Tag Archives: road test

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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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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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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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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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 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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2006 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review

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Even though it shares the same name, this modern sedan bears no resemblance to the Chrysler 300 from the 1950s to the 1960s. When the Chrysler 300 debuted in April 2004 as a 2005 model, Chrysler was experiencing a “rejuvenation” or so we thought. While Chrysler’s lineup made improvements in quality albeit not very significantly, the 300 was the model that made Chrysler relevant in terms of design and image. Some people may not know this but Chrysler which includes Jeep and Dodge, merged with Daimler-Benz AG (which owns Mercedes-Benz) in 1998. As a result, the Chrysler 300 as well as its twin the Dodge Charger, were built off the same platform that underpinned the 2003-2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan. This allowed for a rear drive platform that also gave the 300 handling that bettered its rivals such as the Toyota Avalon and Buick Lucerne as well as giving it that Mercedes-Benz solid feeling. My friend’s mom let me come to her office to review her coworkers’ cars. It was like being in a candy store, and I could pick out whatever candy I wanted. She knew I only wanted to do manual cars, so she directed me to the parking lot. However, one car caught my eye: this 2006 Chrysler 300 SRT8. SRT is Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep’s high performance tuning division. Yes, it’s an automatic, but hello! 425 horsepower SRT8! How could I not review this car?  Continue reading

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