Chris_Doane

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Chris_Doane last won the day on January 8 2013

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About Chris_Doane

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  1. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door

    By Chris Doane January 29, 2013 I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio. I’ll pause for your laughter. For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts? But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down. If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day. If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive. It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway. The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration. In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon? So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy. Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time. If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining. Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors. Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill. Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more. Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking. Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700 -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95 -Destination - $750 TOTAL - $18,545 Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door 7 images 0 comments
  2. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door

  3. 2012 BMW 650i xDrive Coupe

    By Chris Doane January 22, 2013 Five minutes after the photo session with the 650i came to an end, my phone rang. It’s Mark, the guy who was driving the Bimmer while I snapped photos. “Chris, something is wrong with my car. It feels slow, I must be towing a big trailer.” There was no trailer. Mark had just stepped from a 400hp, twin-turbo BMW into a 2005 Ford Expedition XLT. All 5352 pounds of it. “I’ll never enjoy driving this again. I’m blaming you.” Oh, um…alright, then. Misbehavin’ Apart from permanently ruining a man’s truck, the 650i encourages you to behave in ways your fellow motorists might not fully appreciate. You’ll creep up behind that Rav4, with only the “halo” LED lights on, stalk it like prey, then drop two gears and hammer past it in even the shortest passing lane. But when you have this much thrust on tap, short passing lanes suddenly turn into “Oh, I can make that!” lanes. The main source for that urge to misbehave comes from BMW’s twin-turbo, 4.4L V8 engine, good for 400hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. While those 400 ponies are undoubtedly great, you also get all the available torque very early in the rev range (1750 rpm.) Simply put, the power delivery is immediate, fierce and will pin you against the seat when you mash the pedal on the right. In addition to the speed, hammering the accerator summons a gurgling, satanic symphony of power, emanating from the huge tailpipes. It’s a sound that is as addictive as it is bad for your fuel economy. Living in proximity of a long tunnel should be a prerequiste to own this car as tunnel blasting will become your newest, loudest, most favorite hobby. When it comes to handling, the 650i encourages you to bend the rules once again and take the corner posted 20mph at 45mph. It’s something this BMW is certainly capable of, as it offers large amounts of grip, very flat cornering and…almost no steering feel whatsoever. And that last bit can be a problem. As is the case with many new cars, the 650i has electric power steering. A nasty side effect can be little to no steering feel. It made for a pretty numb steering wheel in the new 5-series, and it’s done exactly the same thing to the 6-series. Wheeling the 6’er through the bends is a hard feeling to describe. “Strange” might be the most accurate word. With no steering feel, it’s difficult to tell when your cornering speed might get too fast, and your grip of the road will cease to be. You almost have to rely on listening to whether the tires are just “singing” through the corner, or screetching and about to let go. With less sensory input to react to, it’s tough to know whether you’ll make it through the corner gracefully, and power out of it, or if you’ll be sucking on the airbag after skidding off the road and into that sugar maple tree. But hey, either way, it’ll be exciting. Technology, anyone? Once you set butt inside the new 6-series, there’s an awful lot of technology waiting for you. Some of it is cool, some of it is mediocore, and some of it doesn’t really work. Any tech talk about a BMW car almost certainly involves the often controversial iDrive interface system. It’s a setup that’s been through several revisions, and the net result of that is…it still sucks. It certainly sucks less than the earlier versions, but iDrive still has tons of endless menus that aren’t real intuitive to navigate. The week before I drove the 650i, a friend of mine said I’d be totally wow’ed by the heads up display offered in this BMW. It projects your speed, along with several other bits of information, on the windshield near your normal line of sight. Since a BMW is not an F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, I was skeptical how useful this really was. After one day of using it, I was totally sold on the HUD. Sure, it will help you keep your eyes more on the road, but really, it’s just the cool factor that makes you want it. On the downside, the HUD can be very hard to see if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses. One of the latest automated technologies making its way into luxury cars are the automatic high beam lights that turn themselves on and off as other cars approach you. Much like the earlier days of rain-sensing wipers that never seemed to get wiper speed right, these auto brights just aren’t there yet. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they would turn themselves off when I was the only one on the road. Heaps of style Once you’re past all the technology, you might notice you’re sitting in one of the nicest, most luxurious interiors out there at the moment. While I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, there is leather, and contrast stitching, everywhere. The dash flowing into the center console is incredibly elegant and the seats adjust 20 different ways to mold to your body. It is a really, really nice place to be. Unless of course you’re in the back seat. Then it’s best not to have legs since there’s nowhere to put them. On the outside, the sleek elegant design continues with an incredibly attractive posterior, strong character lines highlighting the profile, and a front end that’s gone a bit wrong. While this new 6-series is certainly much more attractive than the rounded-off, last-generation model, the front fascia on this latest model feels a bit over-styled. There’s just too much going on, especially when you opt for the M-sport package. Sign here Should you buy one? Yes, buy it for the sound that comes out of the exhaust pipes alone. Nevermind the exquiste interior, good, but numb, handling and rev-happy, twin-turbo V8. It’s certainly no sports car, but it’s grand tourer worthy of your checkbook. The biggest reason not to buy one? The way this 650i xDrive was spec’ed, you could be in an M6 coupe for only five grand more. And if you’re spending 100 grand on a 6-series, well, what’s another five? 2012 BMW 650i xDrive Coupe - $86,000 -Cold Weather Package - $750 -Driver Assistance Package - $3,330 -M-Sport Package - $4,440 -20” wheels with performance tires - $1300 -Premium Sound Package - $1800 -Instrument Panel with Leather - $1500 -Ceramic Controls - $650 -BMW Apps - $250 -Destination - $875 TOTAL Price – $100,825 Album: 2012 BMW 650i xDrive Coupe 8 images 0 comments
  4. 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

    By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments Click here to view the article
  5. 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

    By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments
  6. 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

  7. Spied! 2014 GM Half-Tons Caught Testing

    Yeeea....because GM *wants* to lose money on their trucks... The Gen V V8 will be in there, yea. Which V6 it will get is still a little uncertain. Some sources indicate it might actually launch with the ancient 4.3L V6. Others think the 3.6L will go in. There's also the matter of the 3.0L turbo V6 currently being worked on. Though most seem to think the 3.0L T won't be ready in time for launch.
  8. Spied! 2014 GM Half-Tons Caught Testing

    No, it's a Chevy. Possibly a Silverado Sport. Not an SS, but something to go against the R/T or FX2.
  9. Chevrolet News:Will Chevrolet Revive the Impala SS? *UPDATE*

    So I just found out the real story on that Impala test car. Fortunately, I know an engineer on the Impala program, and when I showed him the Autoblog link, his reply was: "Hah, I was sitting in that car on Friday. That front fascia is to cover up the Long Range Radar module. Anyway, DEFINITELY NOT a SS car" Then I asked if it was even an Eco model, and he said "Nope, just an adaptive cruise car."
  10. Chevrolet News:Will Chevrolet Revive the Impala SS? *UPDATE*

    Well there is still a turbo 6 coming...whether it ends up as one or two turbos remains to be seen. Or maybe there will be both variants?
  11. Chevrolet News:Will Chevrolet Revive the Impala SS? *UPDATE*

    Definitely not an SS model. Probably Hybrid/Eco or foreign market.
  12. I'm also getting that Crosstour/5er GT vibe. I dunno, it's weird...not what I was expecting. Kinda seems like the front half and rear half were designed by different teams, then glued together. Rear looks like an Infiniti M.
  13. Let's grind

    Well, let's see... I've owned 4 American cars and 2 German cars. The American cars had their fair share of troubles. On the other hand, I've had no problems with the German cars. Unless you want to count a small stone getting wedged into the brakes as a problem. Neither of my German cars have had emissions components that fail every 15-20k miles like my last American car did. The only car an OEM has ever bought back from me due to its' extensive problems was American. My parents have had similar experiences with their American cars. Mostly Chevys and Buicks. I've also reviewed all sorts of cars from OEMs around the world. The only time a brand new press car ever broke down before the fleet company could even drive it over to my place was a 2010 Chevy. There was also the 2011 Cadillac press car, with less than 200 miles on it, that I cut my hand open on thanks to some smashed/misaligned chrome trim. So, yes, it's been my experience that German engineering is better.
  14. Let's grind

    *rolls eyes* Yep, German OEMs are the only ones using non-serviceable wheel bearings.