Monday, May 22, 2017

Kia Cadenza Limited SXL review

When thinking of a roomy luxury car for a suggested retail price of $45,000 what comes to mind? Think of some legitimate four or five passenger luxury cars, are any of them in that price range? One look at the interior of the Kia Cadenza which was redesigned for the 2017 model year is convincing enough. It’s a luxurious, roomy, front wheel drive sedan with a suite of computer driving aids making for a quiet and comfortable luxury car. This Kia makes a strong case in the segment. This particular loaded Limited SXL model styling is crisp, elegant with a touch of chrome and likely timelessness in the era of the modern sedan. If the name doesn’t carry the panache like Lexus did, the vehicle itself will be considered a gem, if an obscure one right now.

Equipped with the white Napa quilted leather seats, one feels guilty wearing old jeans and sitting in it.  The dash layout is logical, clean and probably best described as elegant. A cute greeting ditty plays when entering the car, then a pretty slick graphical system check is displayed as if preparing for takeoff. A quiet driver with great outward visibility, it’s a very pleasant driver although more shelf for the elbow on the top of the door would be appreciated. Yet such an uncouth driving position is unbecoming in this elegant tourer.

Quite capable on the high speed sweepers, it has a composed feel of proper suspension tuning and a long(ish) 112.4” wheelbase to straddle the bell curve between sport and bouncy old-school luxury.  It’s the tighter turns where you feel the front wheel drive push with subdued tire squeal. Of course that is beyond the intended demographic driving profile. Keep up that behavior and you’re simply betraying the message of the classy exterior chrome accents.

Multiple driving modes are offered and response in the Sport driving mode is noticeably sharp and will immediately spin the tires from a stop despite the classy pretentions. The only other drawback is a slight whine is heard while it continuously holds a lower gear in Sport. Comfort mode offers easy throttle response for driving in traffic, also very well executed with hardware and code. Smart mode is a decent compromise of both but Eco mode kills throttle response and one taste of that lag earned an immediate ban from further use. Despite frequent full throttle usage and over-the-speed-limit cruising speeds, 25 mpg was observed, falling right between the 20 city and 28 highway ratings.

Using all the configurable electronics is fun customization of the features, done on the center driver’s screen. The Surround View Monitor provides a 360 degree view of the vehicle when parking. A close-up view is also selectable for the front, side and rear. It even has a Rear Cross Traffic Alert in case of a passing object when backing out of space or driveway. The heads-up displays just enough information and it is both height and intensity adjustable, even working with polarized sunglasses. A night the LED headlights could be mistaken for brights from the driver’s perspective for the first few trips after dark.

On the 76 mile round-trip drive to the office and back, the Advanced Smart Cruise Control is great for relatively steady speeds. Despite the adjustable following distance, the closest setting was the ideal one as a “two one-thousand” count. Some more tweaking is needed when a large speed differential of the vehicle in front causes a sudden slowdown versus a gentle fade. It’s a little slow to react when a car moves out of the lane but when it does clear, the acceleration is brisk. The programming is logical, the closest setting is much different at 85mph than it is a 35mph, thankfully. In slow traffic when coming to a stop, it becomes necessary to reapply the throttle and the display says as much. Fading over to the lane divider activates the lane departure warning as well as the blind spot warning. Both are effective and not particularly jarring and thankfully not embarrassing if you’re talking on the integrated Bluetooth and the warning(s) beep. 

Stopping at Black Heart Racing’s fabrication shop to discuss a custom tool I needed, the 360 degree cameras were a blessing in the confined parking area of multiple businesses, trucks, etc. The owner Lloyd, a hot-rodder, fabricator and artist I had arrived in a Lexus, which is high praise indeed.

With the weather now getting hot, the air conditioning blows very cold and the ventilated seats are a great luxury, not too cold and very quiet although a higher setting would be welcome for even quicker cool downs. It also has a switch to do it manually. Other little thoughtful touches noticed are shifting into reverse automatically lowers the rear sunshade lowers and silently comes back up after shifting to drive. Locking the vehicle with the remote automatically and silently folds the side mirrors and unfold upon approach. The refinement level is top notch.

A few lacking features that have been out for year in other marques does seem a little odd. Parked car ventilation scheduling isn’t offered. Along the same thinking, holding the unlock button on the key fob does not lower the windows. The moon roof shade doesn’t seem to be able to be moved independently of the moon roof tilt or slide function. It’s either open or closed but the panoramic roof is going to the rear is a nice touch. These are all likely programmable since the hardware is already present.

Regardless of what is lacking, whether a few random features, cylinder count or where the drive wheels are, the Cadenza Limited SXL is impressively equipped. The Kia name may not be synonymous with luxury like the long established brands, yet, but the Cadenza is a strong argument for a roomy, very well equipped luxury sedan that makes driving an enjoyable, efficient and effortless endeavor. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sixth generation Camaro V6 review

Chevrolet updated the chassis of the Camaro for 2016 with the new Alpha platform and by all accounts the approximately 250 to 300lb weight reduction was a huge improvement. Despite having a brilliant chassis and three powerful engine choices, the interior and outward visibility hardly improved at all. I wanted to like this car, I really did. It has some really good aspects but overall it’s only good for going in a straight line, not reverse or backing up out of any parking space, on public roads or modified into a track-only car.  You decide if the interior justifies a $29,000 MSRP. The 2017 model is essentially the same.

The 335hp V-6 is a great engine, responsive, sounds good and with the quick shifting 8 speed automatic, the car is capable of mid-high 13 second quarter mile ETs. It feels every bit as quick as the numbers suggest. It has no appreciable dead spots and has an excellent pull. The 8 speed auto is finicky on the highway though, downshifting at the slightest provocation when closing a gap. Undoubtedly a result of the tall gearing to achieve its impressive highway rating of 28mpg. With a heavy foot, mixed suburban and highway driving, 21mpg was indicated in the readout which was reasonable.

When in the manual mode, upshifts only occur when manually selected. Seems reasonable. But if you hit the rev limiter, it’s a long, race-losing delay before it responds to the manually selected upshift. Unfortunately you cannot manually select with the paddle as an override when the shifter is in “D” when sitting at a light to first gear or second for slippery surface. And further, if in D, and you’re manually shifting once rolling, it won’t automatically upshift at redline which it should. A software update could potentially fix this.

The ride is very well controlled, slightly bumpy over the surprisingly lousy roads in Northern California. The firm suspension controls body motions extremely well with a very solid structure. Transitioning into a turn at speed doesn’t generate the expected body roll of a domestic product. Its target was BMW and it hit it, hands down. Granted this was the base suspension, wheels and tires. The highly acclaimed 1LE suspension would have to be experienced to comment. Road and wind noise is nicely subdued as well. It could make for a great road car except for some glaring faults and odd design decisions that never should have made production.

Complaining about the rear seat room would be silly in a smaller sized front engine coupe whose engine bay eventually contains a 650hp supercharged V8 in the top model, let alone a 3.6 liter V-6 and a decent trunk. Speaking of which, the trunk in the 5th generation was a joke. This one is deep and goes all the way to the fold down rear seats. It is oddly proportioned though, more on that later.

Another surprise is the fuel tank holds over 16 gallons. It doesn’t say in the manual, but looking at a road test it indicated 19 gallons, which is really nice considering the Mustang and BMW 3-series have 16 gallon tanks.  Also, it doesn’t have a filler cap, a nice touch.

But I can’t recommend this car to drive daily nor weekends. Stop reading if you don’t want to learn its long list of interior design and user shortcomings that are inexcusable in their totality in a modern vehicle, let alone the top of the line model whose MSRP is over $61,000 or this one that is $28,000 plus. It does have some great styling lines sitting on top of a tall body. The taillights are changed with this generation to a more traditional look, more integrated and less “Transformerish”.  Walking up to the car, you notice how low the roofline is which translates to some compromises.

Here we go so hang on. Getting in you might hit your head against the roof because it curves downward like the Dodge Challenger on the sides. Closing the door, you sink into the seat to where your glutes seems pinched front to rear. Later as you drive, if you’re broad shouldered, you can feel the seat pressing on your rear deltoids.

Sitting low and looking left through ten inches of vertical side glass, you can’t see the wheels of the car next to you or the parking curb unless you crane your neck and then you might hit your head on the interior roofline. The door has the tiniest storage cubbyhole that may not even be suitable for a pen. You need a deformed left T-rex arm to activate the window and mirror controls too. Forget putting your arm on the window sill while driving, it would mean your forearm would be up near your ear.

Looking forward, the left bubble for the gauges obscures part of the hood and fender. The hood does slope down nicely but you don’t really know where the right tire might be. The airbag warning on the sun visor is almost as large as the small visor itself.  The thick, flat bottomed steering wheel feels as good as any but at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, the paddles are mounted too close to the steering wheel leaving too little room for the fingers. It also obscures one-third of the tachometer and speedometer and despite the controls that work and feel well for the radio, display and cruise control, the icons are so tiny they are difficult to see and unlit, a big miss. The right shift paddle and windshield wiper stalk completely obscure the start button and the little ridge under it makes it more difficult to find by feel. 

The entertainment system works extremely well, and the Apple Car Play starts immediately upon plugging in the phone. For some reason the screen is tilted downward which makes absolutely no sense. The controls have a quality feel to them and the electronics are well integrated from the user interface to the lighting. It has a lateral and acceleration/braking g-force display as part of the menu showing fuel economy, reminders for turns signals and more.  Even the remote itself is nice and feels like a quality piece.  

Aim the large ventilation vent carefully or you’ll heat or cool your hand on the gearshift or your right thigh. The only place to put your phone is in one of the cup holders in the center console. There is hardly a place for your right elbow on the narrow center console cubbyhole lid. And your elbow ends up above your head when you open the long door to access the two USB ports and an itty, bitty storage hole. I’m not even sure if the silly Fastrak toll transmitter will fit.  Sunglasses only fit in the glove box, period. Same with a radar detector.

The rear visibility makes a back-up camera an absolute requirement, and luckily it’s equipped with one. A reminder again of the downward sloped screen.  There is no looking back to change lanes, it’s a useless attempt. Only the side mirrors are suitable. The rear end is so high and the rear visibility so bad, if a vehicle is following you at a standard distance, you can’t tell what make or model it is by looking in the small rear view mirror. Who the hell approved this interior for production? 

The trunk is a vast improvement versus the 5th generation but the depth of the opening is only 12 inches. What that means is your laptop or gym bag has to be turned sideways in order to load it. The opening width is 35” which is rather narrow.  However, these are trade-offs that are a big improvement from previous years. Despite the trunk not having much of a lip to lift it, nor an interior handle to close it, it closes with superb precision and dampening. 

The arch rival Mustang is clearly a better choice for day-to-day driving and livability. It’s like a domestic that went to finishing school in Europe and came back modernized and improved. The Camaro is like a European car that visited the US in the 1980s and picked up some really bad habits and ideas. The Camaro is the definition of a great powertrain and suspension desperately needing a vastly improved interior design and ergonomics. Some don’t care or dig the weirdness, but if where you spend time driving matters to you, there are other choices but they just won’t be as brilliant in the curves in the V-6 price range.

Photo album here:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Flawed octane rating testing by Consumer Reports

Recently Consumer Reports published a piece how premium grade gasoline may not be needed for vehicles due to manufacturer recommendation versus a requirement. The article has several flaws and omits some key factors. One aspect is the testing used two vehicles that had recommendations for premium grade gasoline but not a requirement. The recommendations are usually only for performance, but the testing was lacking in a variety of situations.
It was suggested that if the feel and the sound of the engine indicates knocking, it’s a good idea to use gas with higher octane. Feel and sound are not good indicators of knocking or pinging. It is more serious when it is audible but using the human ear as a guide is deeply flawed. A data logger for the knock sensor and reading how the engine fuel mixture reacts is the only way to determine if the octane is causing knock. Knock is detrimental, audible knock is very bad.

Consumer Reports claimed the power difference using premium versus regular grade gas was measured with a zero to sixty mile per hour timed acceleration test.  A 0-60mph time is a very poor comparison of horsepower. It is too launch dependent and only runs through the first two gears typically. A more powerful car may have a more difficult and therefore slower launch due to managing traction. This confounds the data even though it makes up the time once rolling. There are two reliable ways to measure horsepower without removing the engine; a chassis dynamometer and full throttle acceleration from a roll at a given speed and gear selected. The testers cannot feel a few more or less horsepower either. Not many people are able to accurately.  

The article never mentioned mid-grade fuel nor the premium octane rating ranges. 91 octane is prevalent in California but 92 and 93 octane is available in other areas. Are factory stock vehicles tuned for 91 or 93? The difference can be significant. Are any production cars tuned for 93 versus 91? In powerful cars, especially with forced induction, just what would the difference be? An estimate is it can be a ten to thirty horsepower difference.

The last sentence hinting at reliability is irresponsible. It is implying a vehicle requiring premium is less reliable. Yet a performance engine is highly engineered with extra robust components. Also a first tier gas supplier may have a superior formulation in its premium grade. For instance Shell's V-Power Nitro+ has seven times the government mandated additive package that is proven to reduce valve deposits, corrosion and cause less wear versus other brands. That would imply superior reliability. 

It should be noted that the testing didn't vary atmospheric conditions and temperatures. Nor take into account the summer versus winter grade of gasoline. Engine output varies significantly based on intake air temperature also called altitude density. It also should be disclosed that vehicles with forced induction tend to require premium fuel, and not simply recommended unless specifically noted. Especially when the engine is tuned for performance rather than economy.

Measuring performance differences demand proper instrumented testing and procedures. It also requires disclosure of testing conditions and more than a cherry picked facts and tests.
 Link to Consumer Reports article:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sixty foot failure - Why are magazines afraid to measure in sixty feet?

Recently Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained calculated a clever theoretical zero to sixty miles per hour best-of time using the extreme threshold braking measurement. He used the sixty miles per hour to zero braking distance to calculate the time from 0 to 60mph. The braking shows the grip threshold of the tires. There are some problems with this. First the sixty foot should be the launch measurement. Second 0-60mph is only half the picture with too many variables and becoming moot with all-wheel drive.

Real world results of drag racing with street cars are obtained with the most participatory motorsport in the United States. Hundreds of drag strips across the country host hundreds of racers each on any given weekend or evening weekday. Whether minivans and Honda Civics, Prius or Porsches, and ever-present Camaros and Mustangs, they are all raced and the drivers get a timeslip with their results for each pass.  And on that timeslip is the sixty foot time showing how good the launch was. The magazines don’t do this. Dragstrips don’t measure the 0-60mph time. We have a discrepancy.

The 0-60mph measurement is becoming essentially moot among all wheel drive vehicles. Add more power and the time drops. With 8, 9 and now 10 speed transmissions, more aggressive gearing is even easier to make a vehicle quicker without negating overall mileage. Imagine hitting redline in first and second gear before hitting 60mph in under three seconds. So for all those AWD performance cars, does a 2.2 or a 2.4 second 0-60mph time really matter? Only in a stoplight race across the intersection. And assuming launch control is active, conditions are ideal and if an EV, has a nearly full charge.  But a sixty foot time tells the launch potential. Tesla now has the production car record 0-60mph. And the new 911 Twin Turbo S lifts the front wheels at launch per Motor Trend. What is the 60ft for both of these?

Rear wheel drive cars are not just limited to their street tires and a theoretical traction limit based on their braking distances. Weight distribution and transfer can vary, that is always a given. But surface and tire adhesion can be increased with substances like VHT which as a result decrease potential 60ft times. Also a very popular upgrade for better traction is street legal drag radials (“DRs”). Dodge is making history by equipping the upcoming Hellcat based Demon with DRs for the very purpose of better launch traction and hence a quicker elapsed time at the track.

So the NHRA and dragstrips across the country have been measuring the 60ft, the AWD cars are making the 0-60mph a secondary data point and now a car is coming from the factory with drag radials. A special mention should be made for the Mustang GT which comes with a line lock for allowing rear tire spin to clean and heat them up to make them more sticky. And of course Tesla, despite the only performance metric they excel at, for now having the 0-60mph record and bringing such attention to production car drag racing. Bottom line, the 60 foot time is long overdue for the magazines and needs to be incorporated in their testing.

An initial appeal was originally published on February 3rd, 2013:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Ferrari Finali Mondiali

For the first time in the US, the Ferrari Challenge series world championships were held at Daytona International Speedway the weekend of December 4th. Featuring races, displays, exhibition laps, a show and more.  Ferrari has history at the track and it's a world class venue appropriate for such an event. Although tailored for Ferrari fans, the event was only $10 for the public. Not well attended in superspeedway terms or any other except by owners, it was spectacular for the car and racing enthusiast for multiple reasons. And less crowds meant excellent access, as good as it gets.

Shell had a small booth, really the only the third party that was there, showing the advantages of the VPower Nitro+ premium gasoline. Shell has partnered with Ferrari from even before their first road car in 1947 and to this day they are an integral partner with Ferrari. Every Ferrari, Maserati and BMW M use the cleanest gasoline VPower Nitro+ for less deposits, corrosion and wear versus other brands. Ferrari also uses the patented PurePlus technology oil from Shell for reduced wear, better temperature protection and cleanest burning for reduced engine wear and varnish.

The main events were the 458 Challenge series championships. Two different classes, Pirelli Trofeo for the near pro level drivers and Coppa Shell (Shell Cup) for the amateur class. Vehicle count was healthy and it was for all intents and purposes ran exactly like a major event. The level of organization and participation was impressive.

There was so much more than the racing however. The hot lap sessions offered ultra-exotic sights and sounds all weekend. The 1,036 horsepower Corse Clienti FXX-K cars positively screamed around the road circuit and exceeded over 200mph on the back straight banking. 599XX cars were also numerous and offered similar sounds and heroic speeds. One Enzo based FXX was observed.

Historic F1 cars were also present and running. By historic I mean not only 1970s or so but also only a generation or two old. Which meant former champion Ferrari Formula 1 drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikonnen put on a clinic in the 2009 V8 cars. Howling down the front straight, they were spectacular, a real treat on Sunday. Complete with burnouts and a fan/worker/technician/media scrum in the grass to celebrate. Later two historic Daytona winners were rolled out for a memorable photo shoot.

Earlier at the press conference, Seb and Kim, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and team boss Maurizio Arrivabene were present. Both drivers are looking forward to more grip offered by the next season's tire size upgrade and stating they wouldn't mind more power either. Also they expect big changes in how the current test mules evolve for next season. Sergio remarked how a return to NASCAR was in order and felt aerodynamics needed further development for their F1 program.

Ferrari worked closely with the Ferrari Club of America to have members participate in volume. And they sure did, coming from all over the country with their cars. The show on infield was The Quail level in exclusivity. Multiple LaFerraris, F60 Americas, special body cars, historic racers and more. The participation was essential for the Saturday night logistical nightmare attempt at beating the largest parade of Ferraris. Early estimates of 1100 cars suggested breaking the record of 964 held at Silverstone but Guinness Book of World Records officially stated 809 cars unfortunately. If all had drivers versus being parked, my guess it would have been broken. Staging that many cars is always a big challenge. It really didn’t matter, it was spectacular.

One of the temporary buildings had a working Ferrari showroom with new models present with color samples for paint, brake calipers, leather and more. A home equity line approval would have been dangerous… Another building was for the advertising of Classiche program of factory restorations, customization program, re-bodies and more. On display was a flawless 250 GTO with an estimated worth of over $50 million. In glasses in office was a recreation of the binders of all their historical build sheets.

Saturday night was an invitation only cocktail reception but it was really just a huge champagne and wine party with a special auction tossed in. Not much different fashion-wise than McCall's Motorworks Revival, it was a lot of fun, although I draw the line at silver sequined Mens moccasins. The award ceremony for the regional and overall champion drivers was very dignified along with kind words from Sergio Marchionne.  Besides world champion drivers suits selling in the 5-digit teens, LaFerrari number 500, built especially for charity sale to benefit the victims of the August 24th Central Italy earthquake. A record price for a LaFerrari and the highest price paid for a vehicle produced this twenty-first century, sold for $7 million. Later, the evening closed by being treated to tunes spun by former Formula 1 and champion sports car driver DJ Giancarlo Fischella. The free poster and prints were very nice giveaways.

One miss was the Ferrari clothing and gear store that was well picked over. Ferrari could have had one three times larger with even more variety and still have done very well. What also should have been available was the promotion video shown during the cocktail reception. It was spectacularly done and worthy buying on DVD or on a memory drive.

VIP rides was one of the last events on Sunday. Stock 488 GTBs were driven by none other than Kimi Raikonnen, Sebestian Vettel, and mine was AF Corse Ferrari team driver and Le Man winner Toni Vilander. Holy cow its eye widening what a 10 second car felt like with insane brakes to match. I kept thinking we would overshoot the turns. But it was on the back half of the Speedway, not even on a full lap, the acceleration was relentless. All I could see in the passenger seat was the track surface in the left hand turn starting at the windshield header and disappearing under the car. Well into the triple digits is when the lateral g-force push could be felt. When I finally looked over at the end of the straight, the speedometer had just showed 182mph! It wasn’t even a full lap it and it was incredible! The car sounds great but just doesn’t have that naturally aspirated howl. A catback exhaust system would make it perfect.

The Finali Mondiali easily could be a more commercial event, but it certainly met the needs and expectations of fans and owners. The sights and actions was spectacular, the catering top-notch, Daytona is a world-class facility, and this was an experience of a lifetime.

Multiple race results:

Check out this awesome soundtrack of my F1 car walk-by tour:

Albums from the San Jose Cars Examiner Facebook page:

The new Ferrari 488 Challenge!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The San Francisco Auto Show is rolling at the Moscone Center

The 59th annual San Francisco Auto show returned this past Saturday, November 19th through November 27th at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. Always a bargain to view over 800 vehicles at $10 for adults and children under 12 free.

This year expanded further the emphasis on electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Test drives are offered with thirty vehicles by six different manufacturers including Mercedes and Fiat. Multiple special guests are scheduled throughout the week such as local sports mascots, the Raiderettes, radio and television personality Gary Radnich and more.

The Auto Salon which featured modified cars, trendsetters in an eclectic collection. It is in the south hall on the upper level. The signage needs to be increased, but it’s worth a visit. Yes, there were the broken-axle appearing stanced cars and plenty of lowered sedans, but there are some gems as well. Photography is a bit of a challenge due to the cars being too close together, but it’s a good display.

In a clever move, the displays for the Pacific Region Ferrari Club of America, the Aston Martin Owners Club exhibit and Dominator Street Rods was moved to a section near the South Hall main displays. Although roped off, there was plenty of room to view them.

The Academy of Art University classic car collection featured a 1959 Cadillac “Elvis III” was particularly cool, also in the South Hall. Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, VW, Lincoln with the new Continental and others were in the South Hall.

The North Hall has the less “exotic” makes. Honda had the new Ridgeline is very impressive as a do-everything vehicle. Of course there were plenty of other SUVs and trucks to climb in and around. Chevrolet had the Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Bolt present as well as a Corvette Grand Sport to check out and sit in. For some reason the Ford GT350 was roped off.

Always recommended, if you can suffer the traffic, it’s a great show to attend.  There are plenty of places to eat nearby, parking can be found across the street. Starting at 10am and ending at 5pm each day, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and spend hours enjoying the sights.

SEMA Las Vegas 2016 review

Is big and shiny. The 50th annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association features everything you can imagine in an automotive aftermarket and OEM trade show. Everyone is there with all their products and it's overwhelmingly amazing. Walking ten miles a day to see everything is not an exaggeration. The tag line this election years domestic vehicle dominated event is, "We Built This". One wonders if that isn't a coincidence. 

Attending as a social media ambassador for Shell, I was extremely fortunate to take part of in this bucket list event. Shell had a huge outdoor tent, stage, walk-in display trailer and vehicles with numerous displays and expert staff on hand full of factoids and cool, useful information. Numerous automotive celebrities were interviewed live on stage as well as Sung Kang unveiling his 1972 Ford Maverick, Project Underdog. 

One of the main products promoted is the Shell and Pennzoil synthetic oils with Pure Plus technology. The patented Pure Plus synthetic oil technology makes it the cleanest burning oil due to its purity. Check out pictures my Facebook page of the varnish-free interior engine of the Ford Fusion with 75,000 miles with 5k oil change intervals. Pretty amazing. 

The V-Power Nitro + gasoline display featured a Dodge Charger that had one cylinder bank using Shell V-Power Nitro+ premium gasoline and any available brand on the other side. With the borescope it clearly showed how there were less deposits and corrosion on the valves on the side used exclusively with Shell gasoline. Proven to reduce corrosion, wear and deposits in the engine, up to 60% less deposits on the valves by weight in a single tank full. It's time to switch to Shell. 

The stage featured numerous appearances from notables like Joey Logano, John Hennessy and many more. 
Besides the obvious draw of top notch vehicles on display there were also the Shell/Pennzoil race cars like Joey Logano's #22 NASCAR, Leah Pritchett’s Top Fuel dragster. A brief 4 question quiz won a pair of Mechanics Gloves and there were lots of hat and shirt giveaways. Notably a numerous tool sets, $100 gift cards, a four post lift and a Mini Clubman were featured raffle prizes totaling nearly $70,000 during the event and also a Camaro SS modified by Tommy Pike Customs previewed for next year! Check out the Shell website here:

Mitchell and Grant, members of the Mater Dei High School team that won the Shell Eco-Marathon Challenge by hypermiling their innovative, aerodynamic vehicle were on hand as well. 901mpg due to light weight of under 210lbs, inboard carbon fiber wheels and more. So well thought out the little Yamaha 50cc scooter engine hardly had to run at all. Brilliant.

Ok the cars. And trucks. There were literally fleets of lifted trucks with incredible suspension, wheel and tire modifications along with other equipment and paint/wrap jobs. Despite being miserable street vehicles, they showed spectacularly. Huge, mechanical, the nuts and bolts of automotive-dom. In a way, like the nakedness of a motorcycle except the engines had to be viewed from below. 

The other most frequently seen vehicles overall were stanced and many with bolted on bodywork. Sadly looking like broken-axled versions of their former selves with amateurish bodywork, they nonetheless featured some cool finishes, engine modifications and wheels. Mustangs, Challengers and Subaru BRZs seemed the most popular display cars. Lesser in numbers were Camaros, Nissan GT-Rs and various Lamborghini's. Even rarer were McLarens and Ferrari 458s and 488s. There were two LaFerrari and I believe two Porsche 918s. No P1 or other hypercars. I saw one Toyota Supra. My have times changed. 

Near Shell outside there were notable displays by BF Goodrich, Accuair and many more with the constant glorious sounds of drift vehicles putting on an all-day exhibition. Ken Bock in the Ford Mustang GT350R drifting exhibition was a the best soundtrack ever for a car show. 

The North Hall was mostly accessories, shop tools, lifts, paint and paint booths, wraps, etc. The display cars were top notch including a Ferrari F12tdf and quite a few custom motorcycles. 

The Central Hall is where the big names were. BMW, Ford and Chevrolet had large performance displays along with Toyota. Others like Magnaflow, Paxton, Factory Five and many more were there, far too numerous to list.

The South Hall upstairs was all trucks and truck oriented gear and accessories. If it needed to be lifted, off road, or trail equipped, modified and hit the outback, this was your floor. Weathertech was there with a Singer Porsche too. If I had a truck, this would be the place to be.

There were Booth Babes galore but the South Hall first floor level was where they really showed off their "style". Not coincidentally this was the wheel and tire vendors were. This wasn't just performance and pickup/SUV truck tires, but semi, forklift and other industrial tires. The further back one walked, the brands became totally unfamiliar to the car enthusiast. 

Next to the South Hall were the tents for the overflow of vendors. Carbon fiber wheels ($3000 each), Paasche airbrush where my father, Theodore Eckaus was the Sales Director, car covers, and you name it. Behind those tents was another drift display and exhibition rides, mostly BMWs from what I observed, moving fast but not even remotely as cool sounding as the domestic V-8 machines in the front. 

The Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo had a show at the Sands Hotel convention center which was more of a "traditional" show in this trade show veteran’s opinion. No music, lower key and it was like a show for suppliers to O'Reilly, Pep Boys & NAPA. OEM suppliers for parts you've heard of and some you never had. Shop suppliers, lifts, etc. 

The banquet award dinner was held at Westlake Casino and Hotel. It was enormous with seemingly hundreds of tables. First rate video production, a live band and two professional presenters honored the accomplishments over the last fifty years. The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees were Matt Agosta, Chip Foose and Gary Hooker. Other honorees were recognized as well:
Person of the Year – Tim Martin, K&N Engineering Inc.
Manufacturer of the Year: WeatherTech
GEN-III Innovator Award – Jonathan Mill, Keyway Innovations
Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year – Kunzman & Associates
WD of the Year – Turn 14 Distribution Inc.

Access to the outside displays was open to all, but on Friday bleachers are set up to watch the cars leave, the event is called SEMA Ignited. Somewhat reminiscent of Goodwood but I bet a lot louder…

SEMA 2016 vehicle photos here:

Shell vehicles:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Ban on the Internal Combustion Engine

Is headed our way. Eventually internal combustion engine vehicles will be marginalized to the point of being effectively banned and nearly extinct. Just like incremental firearm bans in several states, the restrictions will either outright keep the internal combustion engine vehicles from accessing many areas or other targeted means so that their use and in parallel, sales will diminish and they will become limited access, higher insurance, and less vehicle choices. Coincidentally it seems to follow progressions along political party lines too. Meanwhile China, Russia and India are seemingly gross industrial polluters but Russia and India have adopted European vehicle emission standards.

The ever evolving, fossil fuel consuming, emission spewing engine in modern cars in the United States are incredibly clean burning. Whether you call it global warming or climate change, the modern automobile in the US is a tiny contributor to the problem especially as more and more hybrids hit the road. And us dinosaurs; with gas consuming throwbacks should welcome electric cars so the scorn thrust upon is diminished. But the enthusiast will eventually be penalized for owning one. Yes the electric motor is more efficient, doesn’t require the fuel burning resources to operate, has less maintenance but has limitations and lacks vital interaction with the driver.

The bans and penalties are already here.  Currently London has a congestion charge, targeting the ICE. Paris has banned cars made before 1997 and Motorcycles made before 2000. Norway and Holland are moving to ban gas powered cars by 2025.  Germany just voted for a resolution to ban ICE vehicles for sale in the European Union by 2030. Nationally the ass-backwards logic of the HOV lanes already pushes the ICE into the more congested lanes. Just wait until some politician, the EPA or CARB (California Air Resources Board) decides it is time to start attacking the numerous, thirsty terrors on our roads in the US: Trucks and SUVs. It’s inevitable and it will piss you off.

This isn’t to say electric vehicles are inferior. On public roads for commuting to work, the Tesla Model S is possibly quite superior. Tesla is the only EV on sale, for years now, that is an absolutely viable daily driver for well over 90% of commuters. And when the smaller and much more affordable Model 3 comes out and is able keep up with demand, the big paradigm shift will start. Chevrolet hopes their funny looking Bolt will be the kickoff. Well, judging by the many Prius out there, maybe they are right. I mean correct.

Currently, range is the biggest concern about EVs. The next technological leap from laboratory-to- production battery technology will solve that concern. But, hauling and towing capacity will remain in the realm of the ICE. Proof is the most extreme example is that there are no battery or electric powered semi-trailer trucks or passenger planes, nor is it feasible at this time.

For the enthusiast, a street legal EV can’t complete a lap under full power, nor can it do back-to-back dragstrip runs without cool-downs. Powertrain software intentionally diminishes available power as motor temperatures increase and battery capacity decreases. The batteries get taxed under wide open throttle and the electric motor heats up. You know what really sucks about EVs? No sound. An enthusiast knows a great engine and exhaust note contributes exponentially to the experience. Don’t believe me? Try watching Formula One, NASCAR or NHRA on mute. Or Star Wars with only dialogue and without music. Don’t forget transmissions! Shifting gears is a very pleasurable experience and interaction with a mechanical device. It is control, involvement and response. EVs lose efficiency with multiple gear ratios and the sound difference is moot. They are also quite heavy. Battery capacity needs to take some giant leaps before 6.2lbs of battery has the same stored energy the equivalent energy gasoline of gasoline which weighs about the same.

Other manufacturers besides Tesla are delving into the EV scene. We know too well the efficient yet ugly, performance compromised wart and appliance offerings like the Leaf, i3 and Prius. Look at manufacturer participation in Formula E. Audi just announced leaving the World Endurance Challenge for Formula E. Keep in mind they are owned by Volkswagen. The ridiculously quiet Formula E racing series is with compromised cars due to a vehicle swap needed mid-race on shortened tracks because of battery capacity, without sound. Formula E currently is just a marketing appeasement for those who scoff at the fuel burners. What do you think transports the cars and crew from city to city? And they don’t all use solar power to charge the batteries, I assure you of that. They should put solar panels on semi-tractor trailers though, huh? Still don’t get it? Ask yourself why digital watches haven’t completely taken over the market for mechanical movments.

There will be several ways the ICE will be penalized and segregated. HOV lanes as mentioned. The government is mandating higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that will require tiny gas engines with hybrid power or EVs. That means little putt-putt cars that can’t spin a tire or generate any thrust detected and identified by the human brain as pleasurable or satisfying. By the way, forget about diesel cars. Thanks to Volkswagen committing diesel seppuku, diesel cars in the US are doomed, let alone elsewhere. But we need diesel trucks, don’t we?

But trucks, ah yes, our trucks and for that matter SUVs. Haulers, towing, deliveries, cargo transport. Essential to our economy and weekend recreation for many. Politicians and their appointees will stand behind it. They won’t get the idea from my proclamation, they would eventually think of it themselves and probably already suggested on the deep, dark online forums for EV fanboys. Two years ago the idea for an ICE ban petition appeared on a Tesla Forum.

This is how the bans will be implemented: They will propose pick-up trucks and SUVs used as daily transportation without associated business use by registration have a very expensive registration fee or tax and of course an outright ban from certain areas. In other words, going to work in your pick-up or SUV that you use to haul the family, projects and toys on the weekend will cost you thousands of dollars versus the EV or hybrid sedan owner. This is not a big leap of paranoia. Modular auto loading rifles are being banned piece by piece and so are semiautomatic pistols. But there is a bigger killer than guns and that’s why the ICE is the target. The World Health Organization considers the direct cause of 4.6 million people dying per year is from air pollution.

A subtle change already in place is California implementing a multi-step diesel engine requirement that mandates 2010 or newer emissions on trucks phased in by weight class. Harley Davidson was fined for selling an engine tuner that wasn’t emission compliant. Vance & Hines was fined for selling CARB compliant exhaust systems. Los Gatos, an upscale suburb of San Jose banned gas powered leaf blowers due to sound, but of course there was the secondary benefit. The government agencies are going after the aftermarket suppliers of performance parts, but wait until they go after replacement parts. They will require costly compliance measures that will discourage production of said parts by registration fees, excessive taxes and more.

Why not sports cars? Because trucks are the bestselling vehicles in the US. They are the biggest target and they get driven a lot and don’t get very good mileage. Forget my earlier attack on silly lifted trucks, this time we all need to band together on this one. What if the family EV or economy car needs service or is insufficient to bring the family on a trip. Will it be chargeable, fineable or simply unlawful to drive into the city or to work because the registration isn’t tied to your business? A license plate reader can easily tack a five hundred or thousand dollar additional fee and that has the same intent and outcome of an outright ban. The penalty itself becomes the defacto ban. Incentivize the manufacturer, then the consumer. Then penalize the opposite end of the spectrum with higher fees, tougher requirements and more restrictions. That’s how you manipulate the market. Make it really tough to manufacturer, outlaw certain aspects, and suddenly the ban is in place.  

What needs to be done? Our engines need to be clean burning in the US and the rest of the world needs to catch up because they very well may be ruining it for us. Vehicles in China, the largest vehicle market must be clean burning like ours. Don’t get upset, we have 175hp per liter turbo engines and 770hp naturally aspirated engines that are emission compliant, the fun won’t go away. Small engines like leaf blowers and lawn mowers must be clean burning. Modifications for increased power must be allowed and not banned with excessive costs and unrealistic requirements. ? The time of throttle opening for excess-than-stock power is miniscule in comparison to the total engine hour lifespan. EPA compliance must continue, but I wonder what CARB requires for an approval and cost

We've got to continue with solar development and make it common and widespread. The more clean energy use, the better chance the enthusiast will be forgiven and hopefully not targeted. Vote for realistic politicians who don’t think the wonderfully complex ICE is a threat. Continue to encourage development for efficiency and low-emissions. Buy the fossil fuel burning car, truck or motorcycle you intend to keep.

Don’t destroy it, restore it. Support the major gas producers on social media and their investments in hope the gas prices don’t increase as demand drops. There are a few spectacularly miserly hybrids that can deflect the scorn, but only a few fun ones, to borrow the line, burn gas and rubber.

Pictured: Sources of great sound, great sensation generators and killers of millions. :rolleyes:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The captivating Ferrari F12tdf

Oh I’m so in love. I’m writing this right after getting home. First it’s a Ferrrari V-12, that’s usually enough right there. It’s like a regular car though, a traditional one with the engine in front, doors that open out instead of up, rear glass you can see out of, the door sill isn’t too wide so ingress and egress is easy and it’s quick, insanely quick. It’s not a space-shippy, UFO looking oddity and actually, seemingly obtainable because of the natural shape. It has swoops and curves like a beautiful woman lying down (on either her front, back or side). It’s the car a Maserati Grand Turismo wishes it could be. Behold! It’s the Ferrari F12tdf! Now bow down in reverence!

The F12tdf is the monster from Maranello named after the Tour de France race Ferrari dominated in the years before the bicyclists, winning ten times from 1951 to 1964 almost all with the 250 GTO, a similar looking car. The F12tdf is a F12 Berlinetta that’s been lightened, more powerful, revised suspension, transmission, aerodynamic enhancements, rear steering added and a sharper edged version of the F12. This particular version has upgrades including a front axle lift, audio and a stunning selection of personalization with blue tinted carbon fiber. The blue helping highlight the various aerodynamic upgrades over the standard F12 that create 500lbs of downforce at 125mph.

The 6.3 liter V-12 has a horn section. It blares, blasts, plays notes and talks to you with aural feedback like only a Ferrari V-12 can. The brass section changes tunes depending upon the gear and throttle position. Rated at 769hp at 8500rpm, up from 730hp in the Berlinetta. The torque peak is 519lb-ft. at 6250rpm but 80% of that available from 2500rpm and the redline is 8900 rpm. The power builds in a linear rush with no dead spot or lacking under a particular rpm, a rheostat connected to the foot similar to the wife’s LaFerrari. And as he says, it is a front engine LaFerrari, albeit noticeably slower. Well slower to him.

The transmission upshifts are 30% quicker and the downshifts 40% quicker with 6% shorter ratios, turning roughly 3000rpm at 80mph in 7th gear. The suspension features magnetorheological suspension control (generations beyond the first system developed by Delphi) with dual coil system. In order to help with immediate turn-in, the first application of rear steering by Ferrari is with a controller by ZF and software by Ferrari, the system is called Passo Corto Virtuale which basically means short wheelbase. It allows for rapid rotational change as if the wheelbase was shorter and helps keep the rear end stable. For ultimate grip, tires are 275s in front and 315s in the rear and the overall weight is reduced a reported 220lbs.

The owner said the standard F12 Berlinetta was a very good car but wasn’t passionate about it and his wife wasn’t really a fan, but this car is on an entirely different level. More reminiscent of his 599 GTO which he thoroughly enjoys, this F12tdf handles extremely well, rotates immediately, and feels lighter than the weight reduction would indicate which many attribute to the rear wheel steering. The owner, now very experienced and frequent track day participant in extremely high horsepower cars scoffs at reports the car is tricky to drive at the limit. Who goes ten-tenths on the street anyway? However feeling that turn-in a level of effortless grip shames many street legal cars.

Opening the passenger door the custom color choice glossy carbon fiber door panel is stunning, as it contrasts nicely in the interior. The shifting paddles are very long and the steering wheel has multiple functions on the front versus levers behind it.  The display in front of the driver includes front and rear camera views. There is a lot of finished details inside with the carbon fiber and it works great. Plenty of legroom in the footwell was another pleasant surprise and the thin backed carbon fiber seats are perfect with an interestingly firm center section in the back that, while noticeable for a new passenger, were very comfortable. The yellow mesh headliner helps brighten the interior and the blue Alcantara compliments without being garish. Peering in the rear, the hatch opens up revealing a cargo area sufficient for a small suitcase and gym/duffel bag. It’s not a small coupe with a 107.1” wheelbase but under the hood long, blue carbon fiber airboxes lead to the V-12 that actually sits behind the front axle line.

Weight distribution is 46% front, 54% rear. Despite the engine not being behind the driver, traction off the line at a stop light is fierce and even with wheelspin, the fantastically responsive traction control allowed the car to accelerate extremely hard. This is a sub-3 second 0-60mph car with proper traction and run the quarter mile deep in the low 10s and trap speeds likely in the upper 130s. For comparison sake, a heavier, lower horsepower Lamborghini LP750 SV clocked a 10.5 @ 136mph.

One would think this is a numbers car with all the figures tossed around. It’s not, it becomes immaterial when going for a ride in this. Would it matter if it only ran low 11s? What if it only turns 1:35s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? It doesn’t matter. The numbers simply aggregate into an audible, visual, and g-force sensation experience. A seriously sexy beast, the owner loves it, even more than expected. It’s just so cool, especially as bespoke as this one. Possibly the pinnacle of front engine, rear wheel drive cars, it also may be the last of the naturally aspirated and non-hybrid Ferraris. This may be the last of the standalone V-12s with Ferrari. If you ever see one, take your time and really examine it, take it all in. Why? Because V-12, that’s why.

Link to pictures and video:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering was a visual and digestive feast

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering held on Friday, August 18th once again proved itself to be the finest gathering imaginable for cars, food and drink. Held at The Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel Valley, this year it expanded once again and featured another world class gathering of greats.

Pictures can barely capture what is seen in person. The Bugatti Chiron, Bentley’s entire display, Pagani with multiple cars, Singer Porsche, the 50th Anniversary of the Lamborghini Miura lined up like a bunch of sexy skittles, 100th anniversary of BMW with a couple of F1s (street and GTR long tail race car) a bunch of Z8s off in the corner, great Ferraris, super cars and much more.

Lamborghini introduced the Centario Roadster and also a present was a Miura Homage Aventador and Huracan Spyder. Porsche had a very clean display with the revered 911R as the centerpiece. Ken Okuyama design introduced a stunning one off V12 front engine roadster called Kode57. This is a judged car show, the winner being a 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Spyder. The only black Maserati MC12 produced made women and men weak in the knees.

Now in the inaugural year, the The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award was awarded to the stunning 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS, Chassis No. 90106 Coupé aérodynamique ‘Goutte d’Eau’, Figoni & Falaschi. It was chosen among six of the world’s finest automobiles from top concours events internationally, to compete for the title of the most exceptional car in the world. Of the contenders, the most recent model year was 1968. The judging panel was twenty-four of among the most renowned designers, collectors and enthusiasts. Unfortunately it was in one of the food tents rather on a turntable on prominent display. If you’re a foodie, plan on eating multiple gourmet meals with menus from Beverly Hills, Chicago, New York and Paris.

Among various vendors, the achingly gorgeous stone automobile sculptures from Kellen Silverthorn captured the essence of the rolling sculpture at the event. Using a high tech process with careful staging, locations, props, photoshop and expert photography, Unique & Limited s.r.o. from the Czech Republic doesn’t capture magic, they create it with incredible scenes of cars and even aircraft. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and a must if you collect automotive art.

Outside the show, Porsche has a destination display in itself and on the opposite side, the Bonhams auction took place. The program and poster themselves are collector quality. Of course a car enthusiast would just go crazy here, it’s so good, so overwhelming, when it’s over you don’t even want to leave. You secretly hope a car is left over on the field and you’re asked to drive it away. Instead, you reluctantly leave, the greatness gently tugging at your soul, with memories and photos to hold you over until next year.

Album here:

Scott Campbell Photography