The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: March 2015



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Monday, 30 March 2015

Porsche fights over GT3 name with Aston Martin



According to Motor Trend, a new report stated that after talks between Aston Martin and Porsche over the use of the GT3 name, Aston Martin decided to switch the name of the Vantage GT3, which debuted at the Geneva show this year, to Vantage GT12 after its V12 engine.

There aren't many comments on the post but all three commenters are against Porsche fighting over the name, likening it to a spoiled child and saying there wouldn't be any confusion between the two. It isn't about confusion or Porsche being a child. It's about marketing and brand recognition. How many people refer to Porsche 911 GT3's simply as GT3's? If you say GT3 outside of an FIA sanctioned race, everyone knows you are taking about a Porsche 911. That's very successful building of brand recognition and takes time and hard work to do. The name GT3 has weight and cache in the realm of production cars that Porsche built. If this Aston is called the Vantage GT3, that distinct recognition will no longer belong to only Porsche. Everyone would have had to identify which GT3 they are talking about every time GT3 is mentioned. Whether it is intentional or not, Aston would have cashed in on the value of the GT3 name which Porsche built, especially if it turns out to be a good car.

I like Aston Martin and wish it could have been called the GT3 because it sounds a lot better than GT12 but I can't blame Porsche.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

2014 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 - A Closer Look




I agree with the video, there's something special about this car because it's one of the last very few naturally aspirated supercars. McLaren, Porsche, AMG, you name it. Even Ferrari is going turbo for the 458 Italia replacement. Porsche still has the naturally aspirated GT3 but the top dog is still the Turbo S. What makes this even more sweet is that this last fighter is a big V10. I'm a big fan of V10 noise. I don't know for sure which one sounds better, this or the high revving, wailingYamaha-developed 4.8 V10 in the Lexus LFA (which, in my opinion, is its only redeeming feature). I do know, though, that if both were on a track at the same time, the LFA would sound like it was wailing in fear of this Lambo, which would sound like a mad angry bull. I know which one I would take. Check out the video below to hear it and see its incredible performance.




Sunday, 22 March 2015

Kawasaki Ninja H2R - 300 hp and Supercharged




Okay, this isn't a car but there's a reason why I'm writing about it. It has a supercharged 1.0 litre engine makes 296 hp. 296 hp may not be too impressive in a car but one has to remember that this isn't a car. It's a bike and it weighs just 476 lb in full trim and a 90% full tank. That's a weight to power ratio of 1.6 lb/hp. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that number.




To put that number into perspective, a 2013 Mustang GT500 has 5.9 lb/hp. A C6 Corvette ZR1 has 5.3 lb/hp. A 2015 Porsche 918 has 4.2 lb/hp and that's with the electric motors running at full song. The insane Hennessey Venom GT with its twin-turbo LS7 7.0 litre engine has 2.2 lb/hp. I can't even begin to imagine what 1.6 lb/hp would feel like.




I would also be curious about how fast you'd have to be going to be able to use that power. I used to have an 09 Cobalt SS. It had GM Stage 1 and a few bolt ons which would put it at very close to that 296 hp figure at the crank. That car had a posted curb weight of around 2,920 lbs - a multiple of over 6 of what the bike is plus it has two wheels to put the power down, yet it struggled to gain traction in first and second gears going in a straight line. I unfortunately don't ride so I don't know what kind of power is useable in a bike and when but my guess would be that it's a struggle to use full power below triple digit speeds but I'm sure seeing how faster the speedometer goes above 150 mph would be surreal.




To make that power, the four-stroke 1.0 litre engine has a redline of over 14,000 rpm and uses an in-house designed Kawasaki centrifugal supercharger that makes 20 psi of boost but Kawasaki says the supercharger is efficient enough to eliminate the need for an intercooler and all associated plumbing. The supercharger uses a CNC-machined aluminum compressor wheel that spins up to 130,000 rpm. All of this does come at a price, though, because the bike costs a cool $50,000 USD.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dodge can't meet demand for Challenger and Charger Hellcats




Apparently, Dodge can't build Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcats as people can order them. As a result, the company told Fox News: "Due to unprecedented demand for the 2015 Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats, we are temporarily restricting orders while we validate current orders that are in the system."

Some dealers are slapping 50% markups on the MSRPs of $59,995 and $63,995 for the Challenger and Charger Hellcats, respectively, while others have reportedly taken deposits on cars they have no idea when they can deliver. In a very respectful move by Dodge, they closed the order books to respect the interests of its fans. It is unknown how long they will be closed for, but an AllParNews.com source said that Dodge may not catch up to the demand and existing orders until August.




Two vehicles, both have 707 hp, supercharged HEMI V8s. One is a large coupe that can go 199 mph and another is a four door sedan that can break the 200 mph barrier and hit 204 mph. The only problem is that the manufacturer can't build them fast enough to meet demand. What a great time to be a gear head. I sure hope Dodge can catch up much sooner than August, though!


Monday, 16 March 2015

4x4 1920's Dodge Brothers Oilfield Dodge




A buddy at work forwarded this video that he came across to me. It appears to be a promotional video for a 4x4 Dodge Brothers sedan with Oilfield Dodge painted on the side. Enjoy!





Top Gear - Please Come Back!




"I THINK it’s fair to say that nature made a mistake when it invented the dinosaur. It was too big, too violent and with such small and puny arms it was never going to be able to operate heavy machinery or even enjoy a bit of special “me” time."

“All the dinosaurs died and now, years later, no-one mourns their passing. These big, imposing creatures have no place in a world which has moved on.”

This is what Jeremy Clarkson wrote in his column in The Sun. By now, you've probably already heard about what has been going on with Jeremy Clarkson and a BBC producer. The show was suspended as a result and now, the above post suggests that the show is going to be cancelled for good, which is tragic as far as automotive entertainment goes. Top Gear's official website, though, has not posted about it being cancelled so there is still hope, although it confirmed that this week's episode will also be postponed pending the investigation into the matter. I think the last few seasons weren't as good as before but I still looked forward to every new episode. The worst part is that we are in the middle of a season so there are a few episodes already filmed and produced, ready to be broadcasted and we'll never see them. What a shame.

In an update, Auto Evolution reported that Clarkson was reportedly involved in filming for BBC rival Channel 4, with a new "Full Throttle" show on its way so there's at least an alternative to look forward to. However, the whole gang was very valuable to the character and entertainment value of the show so unless Jezza, the Hamster and Captain Slow are going to appear together again, I highly doubt this upcoming show, Full Throttle, will be as entertaining as Top Gear. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Hopefully, we'll at least get to see the last few episodes of Top Gear.


J.D. Power Dependability Study - It Isn't One




J.D. Power released its 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study about three weeks ago. I don't like their rating criteria, though. According to J.D. Power, the study "examines problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2012 model year) vehicles. Overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. The study has been enhanced in 2015 to better measure problems related to new technologies and features that are now being offered in today's vehicles."

There are two problems right there. The first is that the problems are reported by owners, not the dealer so there may be issues that are only perceived to be problems. For example, I have heard and read about plenty of owners thinking they have engine or transmission problems and bringing their cars in to get fixed because they aren't accustomed to continuously variable transmission (CVT) noises. Another common issue that I know of is owners unaware of noises associated with direct injection (DI) gas engines. Because of the high fuel pressure DI gas engines run at, they have a ticking noise that can sometimes be heard at idle if there isn't much traffic noise (say in a parking lot). These two perfectly normal noises can be reported as problems when they aren't which is why a problem should be based on warranty repair records.

Another, and a much bigger, issue is better measuring "problems related to new technologies and features". I'm sorry, but I do NOT think of "new technologies and features" when I think of dependability. According to the press release, "bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition issues are the most frequently reported problems after three years of ownership, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study." Dependability, as the name suggests, should measure how much you can depend on your car. If your bluetooth does not work but your car still starts and goes perfectly fine, it's dependable. If you think that if the bluetooth or voice recognition feature does not work, you cannot depend on your car, you have no business driving.

Don't get me wrong, I think those issues should be accounted for. It shouldn't be called a dependability study, though. It should be called a "Satisfaction Study" or a "Quality Study". These sound all encompassing. They sound like they rating everything about the car. A Dependability Study sounds like it is rating which cars are most likely to never have drivetrain, suspension or body problems but that's not what they base it on.

Until they do that, I'll be taking the results of this study with a grain of salt. It's probably safe to say that the top 10 brands in this study are pretty darn reliable, regardless of measuring criteria. These brands are:

1 - Lexus
2 - Buick
3 - Toyota
4 - Cadillac
5 - Honda/Porsche (tie)
6 - Lincoln
7 - Mercedes-Benz
8 - Scion
9 - Chevrolet/GMC (tie).
10 - Acura

Beyond these, though, I wouldn't rely on the study for a measure of vehicle reliability. Looking at Lincoln and Ford proves my point. The comparison is eye popping in terms of number of problems. Lincoln has only 118 problems per 100 vehicles while Ford has 188, a whopping 70 additional problems per 100 vehicles sold, an almost 60% increase in problems while Lincolns and Fords are very mechanically similar. I'm sure Fords are just as reliable as Lincolns but Fords are bought by younger people who utilize their infotainment systems more and probably run into unintuitive features or bugs more often. In my opinion, you can count on the top 10 to be reliable but you shouldn't count out the others as being unreliable or use the ranking alone to determine which brand is more reliable and make a buying decision, except for maybe the bottom two; Land Rover and Fiat.


Friday, 13 March 2015

Adjustable Dampers - Are they worth it?




Adjustable dampers are far from perfect. If they were, a car like the Camaro ZL1 would be Mercedes S-Class (or equivalent) comfortable on potholes, Camaro Z/28 (or equivalent) stiff on smooth tracks and infinitely adjustable in-between on mid corner bumps, road imperfections, speed bumps, etc. GM's magnetic shocks are excellent but, while they are one of, if not the best adjustable dampers available in any mainstream car, they're still a huge compromise between ultimate comfort and ultimate chassis control, you just give up less in performance and less in comfort compared to fixed dampers but get added cost and complexity in return.

The added cost and complexity aren't the only issues, either. Ironically, adjustable dampers put a huge roadblock on adjustability if you ever decide to modify the suspension. Every modern car now has stability control and adjustable dampers would have to be connected to and monitored by the stability control system. Buying aftermarket dampers would upset the stability control system since the signals from the stock electronic dampers would be missing. I know some people don't like stability control but they can save a very bad situation and can be even be useful on the track by putting a nice safety net while someone is learning.

Moreover, a stability control system warning light will probably come on so if you bring your car to the dealer for service, it'll probably cause warranty issues. There may be a handheld tuner to disable the warning light and let the stability control system function properly, but then you get into issues with flashing the car's ECM (although that may not be an issue if you intend to modify the stock engine tune anyway). Basically, it's a huge hassle.




Are they worth it? Absolutely, but only if the car is appropriate. I don't think they are worth it on cars that can be considered track toys. Cars that are expected to be modified a lot for autocross and track days such as Focus ST's or RS's, Mustang GT's, a Camaro SS's, etc. But I would like to have adjustable dampers on a car like a Cadillac CTS-V for example, a car that I would track if I owned, expect to be immensely capable but should still be completely civilized in everyday driving. Now if the adjustable shocks are manually adjustable like the Koni Sports (Koni Yellows), they are a perfect fit for track toys.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Lexus LF-SA (unfortunately) Revealed




And it is a disgrace to automotive design. How is it possible for a concept car to be so HIDEOUS? What kind of crack is Lexus' design studio smoking? If time machines existed and someone took a picture of this, went back a decade or two and showed it to Lexus' design studio at the time, they would burn the place down to make sure nothing this appalling could ever come out of their offices and curse the roads of the future.


Ford Focus RS - Automatics vs Manuals




A few days ago, Motor Trend posted about the debut of the highly anticipated Ford Focus RS. As with just about every debut of a new performance car, an auto vs manual debate shows up in the comments section. The main argument for auto is that modern dual clutch autos are no longer slow and a detriment to performance so why go for an outdated technology (i.e. manual)? This really annoys me. If someone just wants the fastest, they should want intakes, heads and cams tuned for high rpm for max power, mid range be darned. They should want huge turbos for maximum power with no concern for spool times and linear power deliver. That's not the case, though, those who want autos still want a car that's always responsive and linear throughout the rpm range because it isn't a race car and it won't always be at max boost and rpm.

There are compromises that have to be made for street cars to make them enjoyable and fun to drive as often as possible. A manual is one of these. I won't even use cliches like feeling more connected to the car and being one with the machine. It's about the action. I truly love driving, every aspect of it. I don't want anything taken away. Going to an auto means something is taken away. It's like have an excellent traction control and/or AWD system where you just mash the gas pedal and let the computers figure out how much power to send to the wheels. Another example (albeit an extreme one) is no gas pedals and no brakes, just steering. This is what it feels when I think of getting an auto. Giving up some of the action and letting the car do it for me. Sure, you can put most modern dual clutch boxes in manual mode and it will hold gears but you still lose control over the clutch. And can you get the satisfaction of doing a perfect heel-and-toe downshift? Heck, no!

I agree that a dual clutch should be an option for those who put more emphasis on performance figures or, even more importantly, people that cannot drive a manual because of a physical condition. That's by no means, though, a good enough reasons to say a manual is outdated or unnecessary. The only thing I don't like about a manual is going in slow city traffic. But city traffic IS annoying, with or without a manual. An auto only reduces the effort. Saying no to a manual because of city traffic is like saying no to a stiffer suspension because of discomfort over bumps. Hopefully, manufacturers will keep offering manuals, despite the lower demand.