September 17th, 2008 · No Comments
The ubiquitous GM LS2 V8 is one of the great engines for sale right now. It evolved from the infamous LS1 engine and turned into the 6.0 liter 400hp heart of the 2005 Corvette. The LS2 has also served time in the Pontiac GTO, Chevy Trailblazer SS, Chevy SSR and the Cadillac CTS-V. The LS2 is also serving in GM’s European and Australian cars in the Vauxhall Monaro VXR and the Holden Special Vehicles.
There is one more place that LS2 is put into duty by Saab in their SUV. The Saab 9-7 Aero is an AWD SUV with 400lb-ft of torque and 390hp.
This Saab SUV firmly places the ”Sport” in SUV. It also has a great does of style and luxury. Saab is proud of this vehicle. The MSRP is $47,000. However, right now, GM has its employee pricing, and there a ton of incentives on this gas eating 364cid V8. People aren’t interesting burning that much gas for a go fast SUV. However, if you are looking for a high speed, luxury, stealthy SUV then you can get a great deal on the 9-7 Aero.
The current incentives put this $47,275 SUV at $34,788. That is over $12,000 off! That’s a heck of deal if you can afford the gas.
Tags: 9-7 Aero · Horsepower · Saab
September 17th, 2008 · 1 Comment
About 18 months automotive writer Kevin Miller started an Anti-Camry Blog. Yes, it is an actual blog about his frustrations of sharing the road with Camrys. I have a found a kindred spirit.
Here is an excerpt from his inaugural post.
“I’ve been infuriated by drivers of dumpy, dented tan Toyotas one too many times. This blog is going to be the outlet for my frustrations.
Yes, I exist in a higher level of automotive being. Your Totyotas are transportation appliances to you, just another refrigerator or washing machine, enabling you to go about your drearly daily tasks with as little joy as possible. You don’t care if they are dirty, dented, smoking, or even if you do a poor job driving them. But I care that you’re getting in my way, and clogging up the roads I need to drive on.”
It is scary how much I agree with him and I’ve even posted on this site a few times my disdain for the “transportation appliances”. Start paying attention to what the bad drivers are driving out there. Next time you see someone do something stupid on the road look at the make and model of that car. More often than not, it is a Camry or one of its derivatives.
Anyway, if this is a frustration you share, spend a little time at the Anti-Camry Blog. It is entertaining. Unfortunately for the members of the Anti-Camry faction this site’s last update was a few months ago. It appears that Kevin is now a regular contributor at Autosavant.com.
It’s nice to know that I’m not along in the blogosphere with my Camry hating. Maybe, I won’t need therapy after all and I can use that money to make my GTO faster!
Tags: Camry · Toyota
September 17th, 2008 · No Comments
V8s, superchargers and sleeper sedans, these are a few of my favorite things. These are also traits belonging to today’s “Car of the Day”. At the heart of today’s car beats a supercharged 4.2 liter V8. Today’s car is the 2003 Jaguar S-Type R. You can find gently used versions of the S-Type R in the $16k-$20k range.
The S-Type R gets nearly 400hp and 408 lb-ft of torque out of its boosted 4.2. The supercharger transforms the Jaguar from an average V8 luxury sedan to a near BMW M5. The M5 is technically a better performance vehicle. The M5 is a bit faster and handles better. The Jag is no slouch. It can hit 60mph in 5.3 seconds and is a pulley swap from quick jump in horsepower.
The S-Type is where people are looking for performance sedans. They call the Jaguar hood ornament a “leaper”; on this car it could be called the “sleeper”. Some different wheels and a couple of “R” badges and different grille are about all the S-Type R has to identify it as the most powerful Jaguar sedan.
If you want stealth, power, style and luxury for a deal then look into a 2003 Jaguar S-Type R.
Tags: Jaguar · S-Type R
September 16th, 2008 · No Comments
No, not that Mod Squad. I’m talking about the people that “mod” their cars.
There is an entire industry out there where a lot of people are making some serious coin around aftermarket modifications of their vehicles. There are a lot of reasons people will modify their vehicles, but they can really be organized into 2 simple categories; “Go” or” Show”.
If you want your car to look unique, personalized or cooler you throw some “Show” mods onto the car. This can range from wheels to window tinting, glowing lights under the car to bumper stickers declaring your affiliations.
If you want to make your car perform better you start bolting on the “Go” mods. Perhaps cold air intake, an exhaust, a cam, headers, or even a supercharger might fit the bill. (if you don’t mind paying that bill)
The cool thing about mods is that they are as varied as the customers who purchase them. It gives an automotive enthusiast a way to customize or personalize their car into their own creation.
I’ve done a fair amount of modding to my vehicles and I started thinking about why I’m driven to make these modifications to my vehicle. I don’t really car about having a custom creation. I don’t care about “personalizing” my vehicle. I could do that with a pinstripe with my initials in it.
What it is boils down to is that I simply love my vehicles. And at times I may want to improve on a vehicle’s deficiency. Let’s say a car has crappy traction, that is fixed with a suspension mod or some really sticky tires. And other times I may want to improve on a vehicle’s strength. Especially, if that strength is one of the reasons that I like my car.
For example, a 6.0 liter V8 LS2 is a very nice engine. And the aftermarket has a number of parts to improve the power output of that engine. I’m not talking about risky modifications. I’m not talking about one-off custom changes to a motor. I’m talking about tried and true, installed on thousands of motors all over the world, proven improvements.
There a folks out there driving cars that have strong aftermarket support for them. Not strong support because their car is a the bestselling car in the land, but because is a platform that has significant racing support behind and room for improvement.
The GM LSX engines have a vastly superior aftermarket for their powerplants when compared to say the bestselling sedan in the country the Toyota Camry.
People aren’t buying Camrys to mod them and make them better. They are buying them to go from point A to point B. The entire automotive enthusiast world is lost on them. Camry drivers are really looking for a good selection of beige and other dirt-ish colors so they don’t have to wash their car. I’ve actually heard Camry owners beam about their slop-brown colored car by saying “oh yeah, and you can’t even tell when its dirty.” To which I think, “Great, a car that looks dirty all the time.” I’m going to stop my Camry rant now. (If you want to read more Camry ranting go here.)
Anyway, I love the way my car goes. I now want to make it go faster. I like the way it looks. I now want to make it look better. These are the base thoughts at the heart of the aftermarket customers.
(excuse me, I’ve got to go study what my next mod should be)
Tags: Camry · Cars · Horsepower · Miscellaneous · Toyota
September 15th, 2008 · 1 Comment
A few days ago The Truth About Cars posted the question to its readers of “Does the American muscle car have a future?”
Here’s my response to that question. (For best results this should be read with a redneck accent.)
Whoooweee! Man, what’chu talkin‘ ‘bout? Does the American muscle car have future? Dang me. Who knows? I can tell you what though. The American muscle car has got itself one heck of a “right now”.
The boys in Dee-troit, might be screwing up their bidnesses, but they got mo’ power now than ever before. And speaking of mo’ power let’s start with the boys at over at Dodge and Plymouth.
Well crapmuffins! I done forgotted that they already runned Plymouth in the ground. Maybe, if they had called it Prettymouth, they’d still be making cars, but I de-gress.
Anyhows, Mopar is still alive and hunt’n with their SRT fellers. They got themselves a 420hp Jeep with 4 wheel drive. There’s the SRT-8 sedans, the 300c and Charger both with 425hp fire-eating 6.1 liter Hemis! And everyone knows that Jesus drives a Hemi.
And of course there is the mother of all Chrysler powered SRT vehicles…..(while angels sing and a spotlight shines down on this car)….. the rebirth of the General Lee! I know the first General was a Charger, but the new one has got too many doors to weld shut. The Dodge Challenger SRT-8 gits it right. I’ll take mine with the big hemi, orange paint job, and the stars and bars on the roof. Oh, fartknobbers, I almost forgot, they still got that V10 515hp Viper. It’s got a little git-up in its get-along. That ‘bout covers the mopar guys. You might call them the .8 of the big 3, but when it comes to horsepower, they’re bringing the whole stable.
Ford may not have the variety of high horsepower vehicles, but the ones they do have make a pretty whine. I’m talking ‘bout the whine from the superchargers on that hot rod Mustang and that Ferrari eating GT. I’m mean what’s so great about Ferraris or even Italy for that matter?
And speaking of Italy and all things foreign, you ever notice how much car magazines love the Japanese, German and Italian cars? I find it a mighty bit suspicious, that those are the same countries my Granddaddy fought in WWII. Is it just me or is the third Reich trying to invade us with superior automotive technology. The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi! Well, chitlin stew, I done veered off topic like my drunk granny on the John Deere.
Chevy, yep, them some good Americans over there. A great American muscle car is alive and kicking with a future so bright, it just might graduate from community college. (and it don’t git no better than that where I come from) I’m talking ‘bout the shiny new Camaro. The cars at Chevy benefit from being related to Corvette and it has historically been a simple engine swap to get Corvette power in another car. (See the Firebirds, Camaros, GTOs, Chevelles and Novas.) And the current king of corvettes, the Elvis Presley of American muscle is the new ZR1 with 638hp. It’s one part V8, one part supercharger and 4 parts goes-like-stink. As long as there’s a Corvette, there’s a power train for GM muscle cars and the completion will compete with their own muscle cars.
So, back to the question at hand, does the American muscle car have a future? Does moonshine still need running? Yes and heck, yes. Chevy’s got themselves plans for the next Corvette with the top secret code name “C7”. (you didn’t hear that secret name from me)
Yeppers, I was pondering this question, real serious like, out on the porch, and then it hit me, hit me like the kick of double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun, loaded with buck shot. The future of the American muscle car depends on the Americans and in particular the American muscle car fan.
We all know that Al Gore wants to kill the V8. But he ain’t the boss of what car I buy. And we can’t all get farm emission exemptions for our cars. We also gots to be nicer to mamma Earth and use less gas. These things sound like bad news to sports cars, kinda like learning your girlfriend is your cousin.
This has all happened before. Back in the early 70s when Petty was the king of NASCAR and beer was cheap, the future looked bad for the muscle car. The muscle car even took a few years off. At that point if you wanted muscle you went to the used car market. And then the muscle cars started coming back as technology caught up to the laws back then.
So worst case scenario, muscle cars go on hiatus. But if they do, they will be back like Willie Nelson; we love them too much for them to become extinct.
Tags: Cars · Horsepower
September 13th, 2008 · No Comments
This summer I purchased my GTO from a fellow automotive enthusiast. For the sake of this article we will call this guy “Ronny”. The fact that Ronny had a 2006 GTO 6-speed told me a lot about him as a car buyer. People don’t buy 400hp Pontiacs on accident. Guys don’t drive down to their local Pontiac and say “You got any more of them Aztecs or maybe a Grand Am I can take off your hands?” and then end up with a 4 seater Corvette. (especially the manual transmission version) You show at dealership on mission to get a vehicle that assisting in hitting “extra” legal speeds very quickly and often.
So this Pontiac GTO didn’t end up in Ronny’s garage by accident. He wanted power. He wanted comfort. He wanted sport. And being a family man, he needed more than 2 seats. The GTO fit the bill perfectly. And for 2 years he enjoyed his 6 liters of V8 fun. Recent back pains that were exacerbated by the manual transmission forced Ronny to sell his high horsepower funmobile and that’s where I came in.
When I test drove Ronny’s car it was the 4th time I had driven a GTO and his car was in great condition. The day I picked up the GTO seemed like a bittersweet sweet day at Ronny’s house. He was glad to have this large transaction behind him but a little sad to see the GTO leave. Several times he commented that if this car had been an automatic he wouldn’t be selling it. The funny thing is, if it had been an automatic, I wouldn’t have been buying it.
So with an open spot in his garage, the family man and horsepower freak goes on the quest for the ultimate vehicle that can satisfy his fatherly duties and his need for speed. Ronny had identified that vehicle as the Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon. Let’s just run a quick comparison of the E63 vs the GTO. The Merc has a bigger engine — 6.2 liter vs 6.0 liter, more horsepower — 507hp vs 400hp, and more torque — 465 lbft vs 400 lbft, compared to a stock GTO.
Today I’d like that think that the GTO is a fond memory in Ronny’s mind and that he totally satisfied in his screaming V8 Mercedes. A station wagon that can beat a stock GTO down the drag strip. Can it beat his former GTO? Well, Ronny has asked to be invited out the next track night so he can find out.
Stay tuned for upcoming track results in the near future.
Tags: AMG · Cars · E63 · GTO · Mercedes
September 12th, 2008 · No Comments
The Mustang Mach 1 was reborn in 2003 and was only made until 2004. For 2 short years one of the best modern Mustangs was produced. The Mach 1 had 305hp and 320 lbft and was notorious for being under-rated. The word on the street is that the Mach 1 really produced numbers more like 330hp and 355 lbft. When equipped with a 5-speed transmission and a good driver it could hit 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and clear the ¼ mile in 13.2 seconds. Those are some very respectable numbers and those are stock.
The Mach 1 was built with cool shaker hood that allowed the driver to see the engine rumble. Retro font gauges and comfort weave seats really helped complete the best looking interior of that version of the Mustang.
The patient auto shopper can find some gently used Mach 1s with less than 35k miles for under $17,000. The Mach 1 represents some serious bang for the buck.
The base GT was a moderately quick car, but would lose a lot of stop light drags. The Mach 1 was the sleeper of the Mustang stable. There is also a great aftermarket and group of enthusiasts to help make these little gems go faster.
If you want to do a little extra reading there was a great write-up by a Mustang webzine and a Pontiac webzine where they took a 2003 Mach 1 and a 2004 GTO to the drag strip.
Tags: Cars · Ford · Mach 1
September 11th, 2008 · 2 Comments
0-60 times are used all over the automotive media as a benchmark for measuring a car’s performance. The magazines will publish varying times for each cars. This leads to the wildly inaccurate sport of bench racing.
There are numbers that the magazines publish and then there are the numbers that cars and normal drivers can actually run.
This week I took my GTO to the drag strip and I ran a run that equates to a 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds. I hit a 8.3 in the 1/8th mile that would equal a 12.9 in the quarter mile. The best time I’ve seen published from the car magazines is a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds.
The trick with the 0-60 numbers that are published by car magazines is that they are often performed by experienced drivers that are used to squeezing the best time out of any car. And of course thae automotive manufacturer wants the fastest times possible listed in the magazines.
However, what happens is people end up with cars that are a lot faster than they think. Cars that can really only achieve their amazing 0-60 times with highly dangerous and potentially damaging runs that need a professional driver to pull it off. This is ends up with people with false ideas of how fast their car is and ends up with people who may be a little over confident in how fast their car actually is.
A few years ago I raced a guy with a 2002 M3. The day he bought he car he proudly proclaimed that his car could hit 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. I then asked him “but can you hit 60mph in 4.8 seconds?” We lined up and I raced him in my 1998 Jeep. A 1998 Jeep really has no chance of running with an M3, but my Jeep had a little work done and could hit 60mph in about 5 and a half seconds. Long story short, the M3 wasn’t able to pass the Jeep until the Jeep was traveling over 70 miles an hour. (And when I say the M3 passed the Jeep, it isn’t accurate, the M3 flew past the Jeep, the M3 had to be going nearly 90 at that point)
Anyway, if you want to find out how fast your car is, how fast it really is, get to a track or get a good accelerometer.
As for Blue Lightning, it only needs 4.3 seconds to hit 60.
Tags: Cars · GTO
September 2nd, 2008 · 2 Comments
Today Google released their very own Internet browser. Google has historically supported FireFox as a browser, but now they have their own way for you to surf the web.
Chrome is a completely new browser. It is built based on the way we use the web today. All the other web browsers are evolving applications that are trying to change as the Internet changes. Google has the advantage of not being tied to the old roots of how Internet browsing began.
Google also chose an interesting way to explain their new application and some of its extremely technical details. They used a web comic. It sounds a bit corny at first, but it really does a great job of explaining the nitty gritty about what makes Chrome a better browser.
Chrome is a much faster, more stable and intuitive way to use the Internet. I’m writing this blog right now via the new Google browser. You can download Google Chrome here, its free, easy and fast.
So is Chrome a car? Well, obviously not. However, it is a hot new vehicle with which one can navigate the information super-highway.
Can the Car of the Day be a boat? Sure. On a holiday weekend a lot of people put their boats in the water to enjoy a little aquatic recreational fun. Boats are very much like cars from the stand point of all the variations that boats come in. You can get a boat that goes slow or fast, you can get one that is great for fishing, families or just fun. You can get boat that is all about power. There are boats that are like a floating RVs.
However what floats my boat is a boat designed for wakeboarding, well, that and water. This weekend was spent on lake enjoying our boat and the wakeboarding fun that can be had behind it. It was a well deserved break from normal. If you haven’t on a boat in awhile, find a way to lake and enjoy a day of fun. I’m not saying buy a boat, just go enjoy a day at the lake.
Have a great Labor day!
August 28th, 2008 · 1 Comment
The 2006-2008 Chevy Impala SS came with a 303hp 5.3 liter V8. Sure the Impala isn’t the ultimate driving machine. It is a powerful sleeper American sedan. It is roomy and comfortable. The Impala can hit 60 in 5.6 seconds.
There are a couple of issues with the Impala SS. It only comes with an automatic transmission and is front wheel drive. The LS4 V8 has a pretty good enthusiast following where people are developing quite a bit more power out of their engines.
The SS is a nicely executed option package on the base Impala. It has a true dual exhaust with chrome tips, upgraded wheels and nice SS badges to help it stand out. The thing is that the SS doesn’t really stand out like other sports cars or even other sports sedans. It is a great sleeper car and the enthusiasts driving their SS’s are having fun surprising other unsuspecting drivers on the road with their 303hp.
The SS was a $30,000 car new and they can be picked up for somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000 all day on Autotrader. The SS has a GM stablemate in the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP.
Both of these cars are being remade. The Grand Prix already has it’s new version at dealerships now. It is the new G8. The SS will come back in 2010. They are rear-wheel drive and will have models with over 400hp.
But if you want a deal on a straight-line sleeper, check out these cars. Fun, fast, cheap and sneaky!
How often in your life have you had the chance to drive a new BMW M car? I’ve ridden in a few and today the number of new M cars I’ve driven totals 2. A friend at work has the new BMW M3 sedan. This is the first M3 to cross the 400hp mark and the first M3 to be powered by a V8.
When I sat behind the steering wheel of the M3 the first thing I noticed was how the driver’s seat grabbed me. The side bolsters just hold you snugly in place. Actually, the side bolsters are like those Select Comfort beds and are totally adjustable to your personal liking. The steering wheel is a thick meaty control interface that allows you to get a great grip on the direction of the M3.
The thing that the M3 reminded me of when I drove it is what the middle letter stands for in BMW. For those of you that don’t know the “M” stands for “motor”. BMW’s have always been powered by great motors and the M cars get the best motors.
When BMW first started producing V8s, I remember an automotive journalist who summed it up like this. “BMW has a long history of making 4 cylinders that compete with other companies V6s. They make 6 cylinders that compete with other companies V8s. What happens when this company makes a V8?”
Well, engine technology has come a long way since BMW introduced its first modern V8 and it may not quite be light years ahead of the competition. However, BMW still makes superior power plants, especially when the M division builds that engine.
Anyway, back to the test drive and the amazing V8. A V8 that redlines over 8000 rpm, an 8400 rpm to be exact, nearly 2000rpm over where the V8 in my GTO redlines at. It was great fun to rev out the 4.4liter German of jewel of an engine to the stratosphere of V8 rpms. It doesn’t just rev high; it revs silky smooth all the way through the tachometer applying its power smoothly all the way the shift point.
Oh and the shift points, they deserve their own paragraph. The M3 in question controls its power through a 6 speed manual transmission. This transmission has all the snickety-snick goodness that one wants in a manual transmission. The throws are short and very precise. If you properly snap through the gears you will be treated to 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear scratches. This was the first time I’ve caught a chirp on the way to 4th gear, it was a little surprising and just good fun.
The M3 is also very fast. It builds its speed very smoothly and deceptively, triple digits arrive quicker than you can say “What seems to be the problem officer? We were just out for a little test drive. What do you mean I’m going to jail?”
It also handles like a BMW. Volumes have been written about the epic handling of the Ultimate Driving Machines. It’s not just a marketing slogan, especially when you are behind the wheel of the Ultimate 3 Series. I’m not going to say much about the handling other than it feels like a precision instrument. It is like signing your name with fine tip Mont Blanc pen versus a Marksalot.
The M3 is also nicely styled car and full of some great technology. You can read about on BMW’s web site. I just wanted to share my impression from my short time with the M3. Thanks to M3 owner who let me appreciate this automotive masterpiece. If you get a chance to ride or drive in the M3, take it.
So is the M3 faster than the GTO? It’s hard to tell. It would sure would be fun to find out some day.
Tags: BMW · Cars · M3
August 7th, 2008 · 1 Comment
In May I wrote about the Audi A3 Clubsport a diesel powered sports car concept. Well BMW is bringing the US the first diesel powered sports sedan in the form of the 2009 335d. If the idea of an oil burning 3 series that gets 22/33mpg and 425lb-ft of torque and 265hp appeals to you, then this car may be just the ticket. Unfortunately, right now diesel costs more per gallon than unleaded gas and the diesel version of the 335 will cost a few thousand more than its gas burning stablemate the 335i.
The 335d is powered by a twin-turbo inline six cylinder and it makes 125 more lb-ft of torque than the 335i and only 35hp less. The trick to remember is that this a turbo-charged engine and they are very responsive to tunes. I wouldn’t be surprised to be writing about a new tune for the 335d that makes over 300hp and nearly 500lb-ft of grunt.
Tags: Audi · BMW
The Car of the Day is driven by my obsession of cars. My obsession of cars is fueled by every time I get in my car. While on the road I have time to focus on the other cars around me and cars I’d like to be driving.
Since I’ve been driving the GTO it has hurt my daily obsession with cars. I still spend time thinking about cars, but I now spend time thinking about the GTO and how great it is.
The GTO is a blast to drive. I love the LS2 engine and its 400hp. I think about how nice the interior is from the leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter to the alcantara inserts on the door panels. It has a very cool A/C that works even in the heat of a Texas summer.
The greatness of the GTO has me thinking about car reviews and the automotive press in general. When the GTO came out it didn’t receive a lot of great press. There are a lot of cars that do things better than the GTO. The GTO isn’t as fast as a Corvette, it doesn’t handle like a M3 and doesn’t look like the new Challenger. Car reviews are all about comparisons and it is difficult to find any review that doesn’t make at least one comparison, directly or in passing to competing vehicle.
All this comparing dilutes the actual virtues of the actual vehicle. The GTO never won a comparison test it was in. I think it came in last in every comparison. It was compared to a Dodge Charger SRT-8, a Cadillac CTS-V, Ford Mustang GT and even the Mercedes SL500. The GTO did very well in all the performance comparisons but was never able to take the top spot. The only place the GTO won was with the individuals who purchased the GTO.
The point of this little rant is to simply say, don’t take someone else’s opinion of a car. Check out the car for yourself. Don’t dismiss a car because it loses a comparison, just take it for someone else’s thoughts. That writer may well have different views on what a perfect car is or may be sponsored by a certain manufacturer. Or the author may be jaded from years of reviewing high end cars.
So take a test drive, go to an auto show or a simple car get together and check out the car in real life.
The VW/Audi 1.8t engine is one of the great economical powerplants currently in action right now. It is simply a small turbo-charged 4 cylinder engine that produces decent power while delivering decent fuel economy at the same time.
The 1.8t is probably most famous for its application in the VW GTI, but numerous cars have benefited from the 1.8t engine. These cars include the VW Golf, Jetta, Passat, GLI, Beetle, and the Audi TT and A4. Depending on which car and what year the vehicle was the engine output varied, 180hp is where the 1.8t topped out the in the GTI.
The thing that makes the 1.8t so popular today is its tunability. With a simple chip or tune you can add 35hp and 70lb-ft of torque to the engine for $500. That is a significant percentage of hp gain for the dollar. There are plenty other engine upgrade options for the 1.8t that can realistically end up with a 300hp engine. It is a well built engine that is well suited to supporting the extra power.
The VW GTI and its relatives can be picked up on the used car market for a nice price. You can get a 2005 GTI with 25k-45k miles for around $14,000. It is a fun car stock with a lot of potential.
So if you find yourself hankering for power and nervous about the prospect of $5.00 a gallon gasoline you don’t have to give up power and fun. A little 1.8t powered car may be just the ticket.