Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sharpton Accuses Texas Cops of "Velocity Profiling" in Driver's Ticket for 110 MPH

Scrappleface has the (tonque firmly planted in cheek) details here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

SOLSTICE: CarConnection Reports from Portland Intro


CarConnection has good things to report after driving the Solstice around the Portlant area on a GM intro. If this review is indicative of the general tone and temper of what is to come from the enthusiast media, GM will have a winner. Go here for the full CarConnection review.

Friday, August 26, 2005

JAGUAR: Autoblog has the new XK


As Autoblog notes, the new Jag is the production version of the ALC concept seen at the Detroit show in January and it bears a strong resemblance to the Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish, likely because all three came from the pen of designer Ian Callum.

SOLSTICE: Good News/Bad News on Pontiac's Two-Seater


GM's Tom Kowaleski has an update for folks hot to trot to get their hands on a Pontiac Solstice and for those who have already signed on the dotted line:

"Each of these cars is being carefully built and in so doing, we're taking extra time to make sure all is just right. We're paying special attention to fits and finishes, interior materials and trim, and all elements of the car's operation. And when each is ready, it's immediately shipped.
"Just as with any new build process, we know that as we ramp up production, our ability to do this more quickly will increase. However, at this time, we feel it's better to take the time to ensure your Solstice leaves the factory ready to run and perform at the level we intended."

Good news in that Pontiac is determined the Solstice is right. Not good news in view of Mazda's success with the new Miata. And doubly bad news for those who think the Saturn Sky is the preferable of the new GM two-seaters. Get the full details from Kowaleski here.

Prediction: All it will take to put the Solstice - and quite possibly Pontiac as well - into permanent eclipse is one big recall. That's why the most prayed words at GM these days may well be "Please, Lord, not another Fiero."

Prediction II: Nobody will remember the F-word six months after the Solstice production line is sorted and lots of loaded trucks are unloading in dealer lots.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

MAZDA6 WAGON: Oh Yes!


There is a stretch of semi-rural/suburban road I traverse most days on the way to and from the office that includes a series of four tight corners, one after the other. You can see all the way through the whole series of corners, which means you know if it's safe to push it hard. Two of the corners are banked a bit and all of them are either up or downhill a couple of degrees.

In other words, it's a good spot to get a feel for the handling capabilities of a vehicle. The Mazda6 Wagon whistles through the series, the very low-profile tires chirping just right, and zinging out to the exit point of the last curve. It's almost enough to make you forget this is a front-driver! Lots of Zoom-Zoom in this one.

SUBARU FORESTER: First Impressions


Hmmm. Bigger and less chunky on the outside. Almost handsome in the deep burgundy of my tester. Suspension seems softer than before on first drive. Interior has richer look to it, though. Love the cream and brown shades.

First Forester struck me as the hot rod of mini-SUVs because it handled well in the corners and could actually accelerate with some enthusiasm. The new Forester definitely does not engender a similar impression. But we've got a week to drive it and see what happens.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sometimes Two Wheels Can be More Fun Than Four


That's what I discovered a lot of years ago. This is my 2003 Suzuki Bandit 600S on the cold January day in 2004 when I brought it home from the dealer. My previous bikes were two decades ago, including a 1982 Honda CX500 and before that a 1979 Honda CM400.

The CM400 was a starter bike. It was an early example of the cruiser style that has dominated motorcycle sales in the U.S. for years. It was a great little bike, which I kept for almost two years and rode frequently. But I had only had it for about a month when I realized I really very much preferred the standard or sport bike configuration to the cruiser.

The CX500 was a sweet bike. I bought it used with about 12,000 miles on it. I loved that bike, especially the mellow exhaust note of the unusually configured vee-twin powerplant. It stayed with me almost seven years and I put a bunch of miles on it.

But then came a divorce and I sold it in 1989. By then, I had been racing a Formula Ford in SCCA events for several years and the bikes had been eclipsed in my consciousness. It remained that way for a long time.

About September of 2003, however, I started noticing bikes more often. After a couple of furtive visits to a local showroom, I finally started looking seriously, comparing models and trying to figure out what I wanted for my re-entry. It came down to a choice between the last version of the venerable Honda 750 and the Suzuki.

I got the Suzuki because its ergonomics fit my 5'9" frame more comfortably, plus I figured it would handle better than the heavier Honda. It has been a great bike to get back into the sport. I have put nearly 3,000 miles on it in a year and a half. Nothing serious, just weekend rides, usually 50-75 miles on back roads in the north-central area of Maryland.

Claudia rides with me occasionally but the Bandit is not really set up for two-up riding. I think the next bike will be something like a Honda ST1300 with ABS. Might be a few years before that purchase is possible, though. In the meantime, the Bandit is just fine for this 55-year-old "biker."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mustang GT ragtop proves nostalgia can be modern


It amazed me, too. That I found myself actually wanting to put the top down on my bright yellow Mustang GT convertible tester, that is. And driving the open-air GT was a total ball.

Long-time “Behind the Wheel” readers probably wonder what’s up because my negative sentiments about all open vehicles with fenders. I loved racing open wheel
Formula Fords, but open-air vehicles for the streets just don’t do it for me. Too much noise, vibration and cowl shake. Handling and acceleration compromised by excessive weight.

What is it about the heavily nostalgia-inspired 2005 Mustang GT convertible that makes it different? For starters, Ford moved the Mustang to the platform currently used by the Lincoln LS, Ford Thunderbird and Jaguar S-Type.

That platform starts out far stiffer and rigid than the old Fox platform underneath the Mustang for eons and Ford engineers took additional measures to cancel virtually all of the unpleasant shake, rattle and roll, even on all but the absolute worst D.C. roads.

Gone, too, is any evidence of cowl shake and shudder. Hit a bump and the GT convertible goes right on down the road. Only rare does even a hint of shake or windshield post tremor appear.

On the performance side, my five-speed stick shift tester came with the same 4.6 liter SOHC V-6 found under the hood of the GT coupe. That engine and tranny combination puts 300 horsepower at your beck and call, and is good for sub six-second rips from zero to 60 mph over and over, if you please. That just about exactly duplicates the GT coupe’s straight-line capabilities.

Handling is equally impressive, with the GT convertible feeling snug and secure going around all kinds of corners at dizzying speeds. There’s still a live axle behind the drive-shaft, but sophisticated shock and spring rates and 17-inch P-Zero tires provide gobs of road grip.

Best of all, the open-air GT allows full appreciation of the throaty growl produced by the engine. Even died-in-the-wool Chevy guys will sometimes admit they loved the distinct sound of the old 5.0 liter Mustang at full song.

Somehow, Ford has managed to massage the 4.6 liter’s exhaust system to duplicate the joyful noise. That means cruising is doubly fun in the convertible, especially for those who enjoy blipping the throttle on downshifts.
Styling? It took a while but I’m a fan now. This one is a home run, even if you never saw those epic Trans Am battles between Mark Donahue and Parnelli Jones in 69 and 70.