Tag Archives: savageonwheels

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Fiat’s 124 a Miata remake long on style, better ride2017 Fiat 124 Spider

It has been a long, long time since an affordable convertible with Italian styling was available in the United States, but now we have Fiat’s 124 Spider.

Actually, we had it all along, or at least since 1989, in the form of a Mazda Miata. The new Fiat is mostly Miata, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ah, but there are differences.

For stylistas who prefer a long hood reflecting the styling of previous Fiat Spiders and other Italian sports cars, Fiat’s restyling of Miata’s body will be alluring. And it is. The Spider looks longer and leaner than the cute, but edgy Miata.

Yet there’s amore; I mean more.2017 Fiat 124 Spider

The 124’s headlights are round and taillights are rectangles, similar to the 1960s Spider, the ride is a tad smoother and well, plus there’s a bit more oomph under that long hood. Fiat uses one of its Multi-Air turbocharged 1.4-liter I4 engines to propel the roadster.

That’s not a huge upgrade in the pony department, moving from Mazda’s 155 horses generated by its 2.0-liter I4 to 160 in the Fiat. But the torque, the oomph if you will, is more substantial at 184 lb.-ft. with the turbo.

Dimensionally Fiat’s Spider is about 5 inches longer (most of it hood we suspect) and 100 pounds heavier. But what’s that among friends.

From a driving perspective the feel is nearly the same in a 124 Spider as in a Miata – simple fun. Handling is quick and light, the car feels you totally control it and can put it anywhere you want on the road. The roadster corners well on twisty roads and thanks to the turbo, it leaves a stoplight with a touch more zip than the Miata. Continue reading 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

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2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

Mazda3 delivers good looks, modest price, driving flairmazda1
The new Mazda3 is better looking than its predecessor, gets better gas mileage and still delivers driving flair, a fair accomplishment for a modestly priced family sports sedan.

First, Mazda reshaped its former gaping smiling nose with this more Audi-like big grille and swept its profile lines back enough to make the tested 4-door sedan look almost as good as the hatchback version. This is a low, lean, lithe sedan at just shy of 2,800 lbs. in this brilliant “soul red” test car.

Like other automakers, Mazda also has grown its formerly subcompact to compact dimensions, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase and 180.3-inch long body. The result, a car that handles four adults easily and offers a fair sized, 12.4-cubic foot trunk.

That’s the practical side, then there’s the fun stuff, like how the car performs (although still highly efficient) and all the tech features that you get.

Mazda uses what it calls Skyactiv technology to provide a high-revving, high-performing four-cylinder engine that also remains surprisingly fuel stingy. The base car, and the tested Grand Touring, top trim level for the base i models, features a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G I4 that creates 155 horsepower. That’s tops, says Kelly Blue Book, for base models in this segment. Next in line are the Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia Forte at 148 horses. Continue reading 2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

2014 Lexus RX 450h

H = hybrid in luxurious 450h crossover for a smooth quiet cruiser
lex450Lexus makes quiet, comfortable and reliable vehicles as well, if not better, than most car makers and its RX crossover has been a hit for years, being an early entry into the crossover, or tall wagon, market.

Certainly Lexus does nothing to embarrass itself with its latest RX iteration, and this was the 450h, which means it’s a hybrid. That translates to better gas mileage and quiet startup and running. But then all of the RX models are quiet as a church on a snowy Sunday morning.

Yet quietness is just one of the RX 450h’s virtues.

The metallic tan (satin cashmere metal is what Lexus calls it) test vehicle delivered good gas mileage with its hybrid assist system and in both Normal and Sport mode it accelerates well. Steering effort is moderate and handling is smooth and linear so you always feel in control.

A seamless all-wheel-drive system keeps it well planted even in heavy snow. I had this during a pre-Christmas snowstorm and traction was excellent.

Under the hybrid’s hood is Lexus’s proven 3.5-liter V6 that features variable valve timing and is backed up by a hybrid battery system that combined gives the RX a substantial 295 horses. There are three driving modes, with Normal and Sport allowing all those ponies to be used, although you’ll likely burn more gas. The ECO mode, which I used for several days, delivers lame low-end power. You creep, although smoothly, away from stoplights.

The hybrid uses an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission with an intelligence feature that helps it understand your power needs and driving habits. This system gives it an infinite amount of gear ratios, allowing the crossover to accelerate as efficiently as possible. It’s incredibly smooth, but again, most of us will prefer anything but the ECO mode. Continue reading 2014 Lexus RX 450h

2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

Versa is inexpensive, versatile, but extremely underpowered
Rarely have I driven a car as underpowered as the Versa Note, Nissan’s new four-door hatchback version of the Versa, which debuted last year as a sedan.versa

Naturally this is an economy model, but still, with a 1.6-liter, I4 that cranks only 109 horsepower the acceleration is lackluster, and that’s being kind. Adding to the car’s giddyap woes is its Xtronic CVT, or continuously variable transmission.

Nissan has some of the best CVTs around, designed to increase fuel economy and give smooth quiet seamless shifts. This one does just that, but, oh my. I found myself disengaging the tranny’s overdrive system via a button on the shifter just to get out of the way of traffic as I “accelerated” away from stoplights.

I had done this with the sedan version too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, it’s a tad embarrassing when other small cars pull out and around you as the car lumbers up to speed. Those were NOT friendly stares or looks of admiration for the hatchback. Oh, and there’s small engine moan as you creep up to speed.

I feel compelled to start with this sour note because anyone driving this car will immediately notice its lack of power. Yet I know full well that Note buyers will be looking for economy and the utility of a hatchback, vs. the sedan version.
There really are plenty of both. Continue reading 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

Audi R8 races two superbikes

The need for speed!!!

I’ve seen a lot of car vs. motorcycle videos over the years but this one really caught my eye. Entertaining yet stupid. Not because of a spectacular accident or anything like that, but because the people involved race like they’re playing a harmless video game.

The video comes from the interior of an Audi R8, which I have seen when I got to take a ride in one, and documents a scary-fast impromptu race against two superbikes, a Suzuki GSXR1000 and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX 10R. That’s what the description reads but they might be 600 cc  bikes. It seriously looks like something you would see in a game of Need for Speed and not on a real highway.

FYI:  265KPH = 165MPH

Caution: language

AudiR8-motorcycle-racing

 

Die-cast: Maisto 2014 Corvette Stingray

New Maisto Corvette Stingray easy on the eyes, good value

My first hands-on, up-close-and-personal experience with a Corvette came in the early 1960s at a local Chevy dealer’s lot. My uncle had a white Corvair and I’m pretty sure my dad was jealous, so we were walking the lot, window shopping.Filename: MOD-PS1013_Stingray04.psd

There sat a white and red Vette, all busted up, its nose caved in with shards of fiberglass jutting from the fenders. I was still oohing and aahing though. I’d seen Vettes in magazines, but not up close. Dad said they weren’t safe because of their fiberglass bodies. I didn’t care, they made our old green ’55 Chevy look like a dinosaur.

No doubt some kids today are thinking the same thing when they see the 2014 Corvette Stingray, and aren’t we glad THAT name is back.

Maisto comes to market quickly with many diecast models, and now beats even Chevrolet to stores with its 1:18 scale C7 version of the Corvette. Maisto’s model came out mid-summer, while the real production C7s didn’t start rolling off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Ky., until late summer. Pre-pros, of course, were out earlier! Continue reading Die-cast: Maisto 2014 Corvette Stingray

2014 Acura RLX Advance

I’ll be dogged, Acura RLX delivers power, elegance and PAWS

My experience is that it’s hard to go wrong with an Acura sedan, and the new mid-size RLX does nothing to make me rethink that notion.rlx1

Fairly handsome outside, elegant inside it’s smooth on the road, handles well and offers oodles of power. Even the gas mileage is good for a powerful V6.

Mechanically the silver RLX Advance was as close to automotive perfection as one can get for roughly $60 grand. Sadly that’s the price one has to pay for such stout performance and elegant interior appointments, plus what is becoming the usual assortment of electronic gizmos, from a blind-spot warning system to rearview camera.

Ah, but the Acura adds in yet another, PAWS. That’s short for Precision All-Wheel Steering, which obviously is a step up from simply standard All-Wheel Steering. What this goodie does is mildly improve your car’s handling and agility by tilting your car’s rear wheels 1.8 degrees in the direction you’re steering the front wheels. This shortens your turning radius and makes the car feel a bit more responsive. PAWS helps in cornering and braking too. As you apply the brakes it slightly angles your rear wheels to increase tire braking pressure.

Certainly if you were driving on a race course this would become much more evident and useful. In daily driving I must admit it was hard to notice, but then most Acura sedans have fairly responsive steering and corner well. So the best way to test it would be to have the exact same car without the system installed and run it side by side with the tester. Continue reading 2014 Acura RLX Advance