The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: March 2013



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Saturday, 30 March 2013

The new 2014 Jeep Cherokee - A Closer Look




I thought I had seen a design team screw up when I saw the Aston Martin Rapide S (full post: Aston Martin Rapide S - What were they thinking?) but this is something else.. besides the grille, this looks nothing like a Jeep should look.




The profile looks far better. I can easily see resemblance to the Grand Cherokee, which is a very good thing since it looks great, but those headlights just ruin the front for me. Apparently it was designed to look contemporary in 2019, when it becomes due for a redesign. Why? Shouldn't it look contemporary now? It WILL be redesigned in 2019. People's tastes evolve along with car design. If we've learned anything from the history of car design, if a design is too far ahead of people's tastes, it is usually not very well received.




The interior looks good and a definite upgrade over the current Compass and Patriot. It will still be offered in front-wheel drive and all wheel drive configurations and with two engine choices - a 2.4 litre Tigershark 4-cyl engine with 184 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque and a 3.2 litre Pentastar V6 engine with 269 hp and 234 lb-ft of torque. A ZF nine speed automatic transmission will be the sole transmission option but there will be 3 options for those wanting 4 wheel traction; a single speed AWD system, a two speed 4WD system and a two speed 4WD system with a locking rear differential. A Trail Rated Trailhawk package (pictured below) features unique fascias, which improve approach and departure angles, among other trim pieces. The two-speed system provides a 56:1 crawl ratio on the 2.4 litre 4-cyl  engine and 48:1 on the 3.2 litre V6.










It is clear that the 2014 Jeep Cherokee will be an upgrade over the current Patriot and Compass in terms of drivetrain and interior. The exterior certainly looks more upscale and I'm sure a lot of people (besides Jeep's faithful) will find it appealing. I think it should do great but I will be waiting for the redesign and I hope it will look more like a Jeep.

Source: Motor Trend

Friday, 29 March 2013

Aston Martin Rapide S - What were they thinking? - A Closer Look




That gaping grille.. I can hardly notice any other detail about the car in any picture showing the front, which is just wrong for an Aston Martin. Besides the fact that it's ugly, Aston Martin's designs always flow without being "fluid" and busy. At first glance, you see the car as a whole - a beautiful piece of design. This just isn't the case here. The rest of the car flows very nicely, as it should for an Aston. I wish I could talk to an Aston Martin design engineer. What were they thinking? Performance isn't very strong either, for what it is.



Many people are upset about the numbers. 4.7 s 0-60 mph and 13.1 s @ 111 mph isn't slow (full post: Aston Martin Rapide S Test) but it is far from impressive these days, especially for a $200,000+ exotic super sedan.. with a 5.9 litre V12 engine.. but it doesn't really bother me. This is not the point of an Aston Martin, especially a sedan. Let's face it, owners of this car are not going to track it or take it to the strip. The acceleration is more than enough for what this car needs. What is really letting this car down, in my opinion, is that ugly front end. Will it work for Aston Martin? I don't know but I sure hope they change it soon.

Source: Car and Driver

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Details about the U.S.- spec 2015 VW Golf GTI (Mk VII)




The first detail about the 2015 Golf GTI (Mk VII/Mk 7) that caught my attention was the available torque sensing limited slip differential. The differential will be offered as part of a performance package that adds horsepower and bigger brakes along with the upgraded differential. The brake-based limited slip differential has been an area of criticism with the current GTI so this should be a great upgrade. However, torque has increased significantly to 258 lb-ft (although power gets only a small bump to 210 hp).



Although the Golf GTI has been low on power compared to turbocharged FWD hot hatches and compact sedans, it always has been well balanced and composed. Will the extra torque spoil the balance of the GTI? The Mazda Mazdaspeed3 uses a torque sensing limited slip differential but the front end is still nervous and torque steer is just about the worst in the class. I doubt the GTI will be that bad but will it be worse than the outgoing model? Will this move force Ford to offer a true limited slip differential as an option to the Focus ST? Sound off in the comments below!

Source: Volkswagen

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Ticket for Driving 2 MPH Under The Limit

There are some people on the road who don't take too well to being passed, even if they're driving under the limit. Sometimes when I pass a driver and get back in the right lane, he or she floors the accelerator, changes lanes and drives in the left/passing lane next to a slow vehicle at the same speed that vehicle to block me for a while. Needless to say, it is VERY frustrating and it seems like people like that may have something to worry about in the future.

According to Jalopnik, a lady in Maryland was pulled over and ticketed for driving 2 mph under the limit (full post: You'll Love The Police For Giving A Woman A Ticket For 2 MPH Under The Limit). I don't know if she was blocking someone in particular, as I have seen happen several times on the highway, or she simply didn't think it was a big deal to drive under the limit in a passing lane. There is usually a law that states you can only drive in the left lane while passing. I don't know if that's the case in Maryland or the cop just found it frustrating. What I do know is that the cop decided to do something about it.

Some people could say 2 MPH is too little - she may have not noticed or it may even have been speedo error. 2 MPH could easily have been a speedo error and it is possible that she thought she was driving at the limit but even if that was true, any driver should be aware of the road and considerate of other drivers.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST Lap Times - A Closer Look




A few weeks ago, Car and Driver posted their annual new and updated performance cars test - Lightning Lap 2013 (Car and Driver's Lightning Lap 2013 - A Closer Look). While the Focus ST has yet to disappoint a reviewer in terms of driving balance and handling, especially for a front-wheel drive, performance numbers and lap times were a little lower than expected.

The Lightning Lap is held at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), where the Focus ST posted a lap time of 3:21.4. In case you are not familiar with the track and the lap times, this time puts it behind competitors like the Golf GTI MkVI, the Subaru BRZ, the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works, the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3. One thing to note, though, is that it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Focus ST during Lightning Lap 2013.

The Lightning Lap test is simple in that cars are ranked based only on their lap times over 3 days of tests. They usually record the fastest lap times on the second day, which makes sense because they wouldn't be as familiar with the car on day 1 and exhaustion probably hinders progress on day 3.  In an unfortunate incident (for the Focus) the keys were smashed and the car was forced to miss the second day of lapping, which means it possibly missed its chance to record the fastest lap time. A recent Motor Trend comparison test may have just redeemed the Focus ST's numbers though.

Motor Trend posted a comparison test between the 2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed3, Ford Focus ST and Subaru Impreza WRX Special Edition a couple of weeks ago. The comparison included hot lapping the 3 cars at the 1.55 mile Streets of Willow Raceway where they ranked third, second and first:

1 - Impreza WRX: 1:27.40
2 - Focus ST: 1:28.40
3 - Mazdaspeed3: 1:29.51

While at VIR with Car and Driver the rankings were different:

1 - Mazdaspeed3: 3:16.2
2 - Impreza WRX: 3:16.5
3 - Focus ST: 3:21.4

You can't always carry the same lap-time-based order/ranking from track to track. This is clear here where the Mazdaspeed3 is a couple of seconds slower than the WRX at Streets of Willow but 0.3 s quicker at VIR. However, during the Motor Trend test, the 3 cars were closely matched and the same stands at VIR, except for the Focus ST which is far behind. It's not unusual for a car's performance to vary a lot from track to track, though, because different track configurations highlight different strengths and weaknesses.

So what are the Focus ST's weaknesses compared to the WRX and Mazdaspeed3? We know from reviews that it's the best handler, objectively and subjectively. It is the most neutral with the best turn in and posts class leading grip and braking numbers. The only category where the Focus ST trails is acceleration. Add that to the fact that it lacks a mechanical limited slip diff, which is something it's always critiqued for, and it's apparent that what the Focus ST needs to post better numbers is one thing; Speed.

The question is, does it have enough speed to post a faster lap time than the 3:21.4? The answer, in my opinion, is a definite yes. The VW Golf GTI Mk VI, a direct competitor for the Focus ST, posted a lap time of 3:19.3 at VIR when it was tested for Lightning Lap 2009. The Golf GTI has less hp and torque - 52 hp and 63 lb-ft torque to be exact. The Focus has stronger brakes, more grip and a more composed chassis (in terms of performance). The Golf GTI even has to do with an electronic brake-based limited slip diff, much like the Focus ST. In terms of performance, the GTI should have no advantage over the Focus ST.

So what do I make out of this? The Focus ST should be able to at least post a better lap time than 3:19.3 and probably closer to the 3:16.x range. There's no way to tell for sure, though, so I hope Car and Driver brings the Focus ST back next year for another round of testing.. Now enough with all that bench racing - if you have a Focus ST, you know it's a pretty quick car and should be able to hang with the best in class so take it out to a track or an autocross event and see how fast you can take it!

Source: Car and Driver and Motor Trend

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Can't afford a Stingray? Get a Corvette Coupe!




Chevrolet has released plenty of information about the C7 Corvette - the Stingray. There are many improvements such as a more aerodynamics body, a stiffer and lighter aluminum chassis and standard carbon fibre roof and hood to lower weight further and bring the centre of gravity lower. All of this sounds great for performance but not so much for the price. To make sure the Corvette stays affordable, Chevrolet is planning a base Corvette coupe that won't share the Stingray moniker.

The Corvette coupe is expected to have a smaller version of the new all-aluminum direct injection small block V8. The displacement is expected to be around 5.3 litres and should have around or just under 400 hp. Chevrolet considered a twin-turbo V6 but didn't use it because it delivered on power goals but not fuel economy. I expect carbon fibre bits to be replaced with lower-cost aluminum or fibreglass ones and the 7-speed manual to be replaced with a 6-speed unit. Chevrolet said during the release that the all-aluminum chassis will be standard across all models but it's unknown whether that includes the non Stingray model or not.

There will be some changes to the exterior, including the front fascia, front fender and rear diffuser. If changes are limited to those parts, then most of the aerodynamic improvements should remain on the base Corvette. Changes to the interior should be expected and there will probably be fewer available options but I think Chevrolet will keep the quality of the interior high because that is an area of criticism in the current Corvette.

There's no information on the base price but the current Corvette starts at an MSRP of $49,600 according to Chevrolet's website so it should have a base price that's close to that or maybe even lower to further differentiate it from the Stingray which will undoubtedly start over $50,000.

Source: The C7 Corvette's release and Motor Trend

Mods That Make People Think You're A Dirtbag

Ever wonder what mods make you look like a dirtbag to people? Jalopnik put together a top-10 list of worst mods according to its readers (full post: Ten Car Mods That Make People Think You're An A--hole). I agree with the majority of them and I am actually (pleasantly) surprised that stance is number 1 on the list. However, I wouldn't put stance as number one. My number one is very low on the offence list - sitting comfortable at number 9.




HID Kits In Stock Housings: As Jalopnik wrote, wanting better and brighter headlights is just fine. Getting a cheap set isn't a problem for me either - it's your car and it's up to you to take care of it - and putting them in stock housings isn't necessarily the problem. The problem is HIDs in reflector/non-projector housings. Nothing says you're dirtbag more than blinding oncoming traffic, increasing the risk of a crash, because you're too cheap to properly modify your car.

HIDs in reflector housings are not only bad for oncoming traffic but they can also be bad for the driver. Since they're too bright and cannot be aimed properly, the driver's eyes will adjust to the very bright area closer to the car and reduce long distance visibility. If you're planning on doing an HID mod, please wait until you can afford the HID kid and a project headlight housing for your car, if stock housings are reflectors. If you already have HIDs in reflectors, PLEASE go out and buy a set of project headlights for your car.