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John Choi

Jun 042010
 


I really liked Sebastian Vettel. When he first burst onto the scene, everyone said he had the talent to become world champion. He was a young guy with big dreams and a personality that was animated and fun. He always had a smile in front of the cameras and was a welcome departure from robots like Kimi Raikkonen. I was cheering him on when he took his first victory as a driver at Monza in rain soaked conditions.

Fast forward to 2010. At the Turkish Grand Prix, Vettel veers right into the path of his team mate, Mark Webber, causing a crash that takes out both cars. Webber was able to continue and get a podium but he was all but assured 1st place up to this point. After he gets out of his race car, Vettel makes the above gesture as he makes his way pack to the paddock. Replay after replay shows that there was no steering movement in Webber’s cockpit. Vettel says he was ahead but he clearly wasn’t. However you put it, it was Vettel’s mistake.

Red Bull Racing declares that it was Webber’s mistake. The team management hug and pat Vettel on the back – even though Seb caused the crash. What is this? Kindergarten? Others within the team declare Webber should have let Vettel pass him – where they got this idea is unknown, but when do you just let someone past because he wants to? This is racing. That doesn’t happen. Then based on the backlash by the F1 fanbase force their hand, with team principal declaring it a “racing incident” and even force the two to take what I deem as an incredibly uncomfortable photo, for they have “buried the hatchet.”

What hatchet? It’s clear Vettel screwed up due to his inflated ego (no doubt inflated further by the team) and / or a stupid rookie mistake… except Vettel is no rookie. He’s a third year professional in an organization at the highest form of motorsport and they currently have the fastest car. It’s also clear that Mark Webber is getting a bum deal. He’s been driving at his peak, taking home the victory at Spain and Monaco. Is this how you treat a driver who’s delivering the goods?

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Jun 032010
 

Considering I am Asian myself, it’s a tad disturbing when I hear comments about “Asian drivers.” Let’s just say I don’t fit the stereotype and pretty sure that I can drive circles around 99% of the population out there.

Regardless, even myths and rumors are borne out of reality and truth. Have a look at these accidents on roads in China. Kinda makes you reconsider whether it’s really a myth…

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May 252010
 

feature_by_johnchoi2

Introduction

It’s all been said before. Mass media and automotive outlets have eschewed the virtues of the R35 Nissan GT-R. Every superlative has been assigned to the first supercar to arrive from the Land of the Rising Sun in quite a while. Fast. Wicked. Tenacious. Quick. Outlandish. It’s all been said before.

I’m not going to bore you with what the GT-R can do on the track. Let’s face it. Unless you’re pining for a heavy fine and points off your driving record, you’ll never discover the true potential of the GT-R. So the obvious questions beg to be answered: How good is the GT-R under “normal” driving conditions? As good as the GT-R is as a sports car, how civil is it? Well, let’s find out.

First Impressions

In 2008, I was one of the forunate few who got a few days behind the wheels of the first production year GT-R. Having spent some time behind the wheels of all previous generations of Nissan’s halo vehicle – the R32 GT-R, R33 GT-R, R33 GT-R V-Spec, R33 GT-R LM, R34 GT-R V-Spec – the R35 was pure joy.

The 2010 edition isn’t very different from the 2009 model, although launch control has been re-programmed by Nissan to prevent premature transmission failures. The Premium edition model we had was coated in “Super Silver” special metallic paint. Apparently, this is a special paint applied via a multi-step process that provides the ultimate in paint jobs among all color options. With the Premium edition only near-black metallic finish wheels, the car was quite the looker and attracted all sorts of attention from other drivers on the road.

Sure, attention is nice and all but the GT-R tends to attract quite a bit of “negative” as well. All means of cars, from an older M5 to a “fixed” up Honda Civic would rev their engines at stoplights and on the freeway. No thanks, folks. Frankly, the GT-R will blow the doors off your “fast” rides but that doesn’t mean we would be baited into a street race or another. Keep it on the track.

Right. More about the GT-R.

  • Inside, the interior is fairly straightforward and simple; whereas the trend by many makes has been to overwhelm the driver with every button imaginable, the GT-R’s array of controls is much simpler
  • The LCD screen in the center console unifies all entertainment, navigation and vehicle sensor interfaces into one, eliminating the need for multiple screens

  • Speaking of vehicle sensors, the interface allows the driver to customize what he / she sees; considering the complexity and multitude of the systems involved in forward motion for the GT-R, this is a God send
  • Although the navigation screen isn’t as sharp as that we found in the Hyundai Genesis sedan, it’s a great system and very easy to use
  • Bluetooth pairing with a mobile phone was a snap
  • The iPod interface works very well, displaying actual song information including artist, album, etc.; would you believe this isn’t the case in more expensive vehicles, like the Audi R8?
  • The seats are supportive and offer plenty of adjustment; for me personally, however, I found the seating position a bit high for my 6’3″ frame; even though I was able to find a good seating position, head room left a bit to be desired
  • Honestly, the rear seats are only good for stowing a briefcase or a duffel bag; we can’t see full grown adults finding it comfortable for more than a 15-minute somewhere

  • The trunk, by comparison to past GT-Rs, is cavernous – the BNR32 GT-R had a decently-sized trunk but the BCNR33 and BNR34 GT-Rs really had a sorry excuse of a trunk
  • It swallowed up two rolling carry on bags, 2 computer bags, a camera bag and other assorted items with ease
  • We would NOT recommend putting any refrigerated or frozen grocery goods in the trunk for any extended period of time, as the gearbox and other mechanical goodies seems to generate an inordinate amount of heat that warmed the trunk to temps resembling a pizza oven… unless you wanted to warm up a pizza back there

  • The GT-R is a BIG car and you can see its girth in clear detail when parked among other cars
  • Visibility out the back is lacking and it would have been a nice touch if Nissan added a reverse / backup camera to make parking easier

Driving Impressions

As we stated before, the GT-R has been thoroughly vetted on the track so we won’t delve too much into its performance aspects.

  • The GT-R is really easy to drive, with the steering providing very positive feedback
  • Stoplight-to-stoplight drag races are disposed of with ease; even with the revised launch control system settings, the GT-R roars off the line with a level of impatience seen not more than once, maybe twice, in one’s motoring life
  • Even when in the GT-R’s automatic shift mode, it still performs quite like the supercar that it is, aka SCARY QUICK and FAST!
  • Frankly, unless you really want to get into some spirited driving, automatic mode seemed quite adequate for the majority of driving; for long distance highway driving, say, from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back, it’s perfect

  • Sure, it has “comfort” mode available on the suspension setting, it really doesn’t feel any different than when set in “normal” mode; heck, we really couldn’t notice much difference between “comfort” and “R” mode
  • Ride quality, as stiff as the suspension may be, was fairly comfortable; mind you, this isn’t a Lexus LS460, but it’s not bad at all
  • Speaking of suspension, the GT-R has an endless amount of grip; even when we went way too hot into a corner, we didn’t hear a single chirp from the tires
  • Braking was solid, courtesy of the huge Brembo rotors and multi-piston calipers
  • Perhaps it’s related to the pizza oven trunk, but the center transmission / driveshaft tunnel also generates a fair amount of heat; this necessitated the air conditioning on full blast to cool things down for occupants
  • Although the GT-R is fitted with massive tires and 20″ wheels, in-cabin noise level wasn’t bad at all; conversation at normal speaking levels was fine
  • At speed – and we don’t condone speeding *wink* – the GT-R sounds like a Boeing 747 from the inside; not an overpowering noise, but just a hum of the engine and transmission
  • We were able to achieve 21MPG on while cruising along on the freeway; more realistically, however, we achieved 16MPG on mixed driving

Conclusion

Some other reviews we read have said that the GT-R is too removed, too automated… almost soul-less. We say… RUBBISH. There isn’t a single car at the GT-R’s price point that comes even close to its performance. But value isn’t why you buy this car. You buy it because it’s so unique in the way it delivers the goods. About the closest thing to the GT-R is a Porsche. No, not a Boxster nor Cayman. We’re talking about a REAL Porsche. Namely, the 911 Turbo. That’s yet another supercar that could be driven day-in, day-out yet put to the pavement insane performance. It’s no wonder that Nissan used the 911 Turbo as the benchmark when developing the GT-R. Porsche purists might be crying foul at this point, but get over it. Really.

As we discovered during our rather 4 short days with the 2010 Nissan GT-R, there is much to love about the car. Road trips? Check. Grocery shopping? Check. A day at the track? Check. Commuting to work? Check. We don’t know of many cars that can say yes to so many things. So WE say yes. Yes, we absolutely LOVE the GT-R.

P.S. — If you’re serious about getting your hands on a GT-R and modifying it to deliver even MORE stunning performance, check out our R35 GT-R Aftermarket Buyers Guide!

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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May 092010
 

Introduction

The Nissan 370Z really needs no introduction. Selected as our pick for our overall best car of 2009, the new Z represents a phenomenal package that any motoring enthusiast can appreciate. But wait. Could Nissan really take things to yet another level with variants of this FM platform? Would the successful formula that is the Z34 be diluted in any way by offering something for the left and right ends of the spectrum?

Nismo 370Z – The “Left End”

Simply put, the Nismo 370Z is the “normal” 370Z’s evil brother. One quick glance at the exterior accrutrements says this particular 370Z is something a little different…

  • The extended front bumper and deep chin spoiler look very purposeful, perhaps intended to act as a splitter to increase downforce on the front end
  • The rear is much more tasteful than the previous generation Nismo Z – the previous generation’s rear bumper looked like it was trying too hard to mimic the looks of race-prepped Zs found in Japan’s Super GT racing series
  • The rear spoiler is aggressive without looking like a “shopping cart” wing; it does, however, hinder visibility out the rear
  • The forged alloy wheels made by Ray’s Engineering are much more open in design that those found on the “regular,” perhaps emblematic of greater airflow and cooling of the brake system

Frankly, we believe this is the way the Z should come from the factory, Nismo or not. Sure, it has a strong “boy racer” influence in its looks, but you really shouldn’t drive a Z if you don’t understand concepts such as throttle-induced oversteer, opposite lock and trail braking. To not drive this car HARD is a complete and utter injustice.

The interior is a different story. You won’t find anything particularly special. You get a very basic stereo system and not much more. Even the seats are the same as those found in the regular Z, albeit covered in different fabric and “Nismo” sewn into the backrest for good measure. As we’ll discuss in a bit, the Nismo Z needs a different cockpit environment. The handling characteristics of this vehicle require better shoulder and thigh bolstering and firmer seat cushioning to deal with the stiff suspension settings – our rear ends felt as if it was bottoming out.

These niggles aside, the steering wheel position is excellent. Deep footwells also allow the drive to sit comfortable close to the steering wheel while still maintaining enough leg stretch.

Now that you’re inside, what’s next? Push the keyless start button and bring the VQ37VHR engine to a roar. Slipping into first gear is more notchy and mechanical than we’d like. It’s just not as buttery a transmission you’d find inside a Honda. You’re forced to muscle gear shifts a bit and during very spirited driving, missed gears shifts are definitely a possibility. You won’t, however, find any fault with the SynchroRev Match system. It makes any driver a rock start behind the wheel, the ECU automatically blipping the throttle between every downshift. Heel-and-toe downshifting is an art form that takes much practice to master, but the Nissan system eliminates any need for it. We could call it cheating, but it works so well we can’t say anything to detract from it.

The power output, on the other hand, is strong from idle to redline. The VQ simply does not quit in laying down power to the ground. The VQ in the Nismo has a slightly higher rated horsepower rating than the standard Z but this is offset by the added weight of the body kit. No matter. This car is fun to drive. Stoplight to stoplight drag races are disposed of with ease. Is it any wonder that the VQ38DETT found in the GT-R is based on this engine? Absolutely fabulous.

Handling is pure bliss on the Nismo Z. By combining the gummy Bridestone tires, a limited slip diff and properly stiff suspension settings, this rocket holds its line and then some on smooth roads. When the road turns a bit rough, however, you truly realize just how stiff the suspension is. With much more aggressive compression / rebound settings and a very stiff spring, the Nismo Z WILL toss you around when traveling over rough, urban streets. And as mentioned before, better seating accommodations would have come in very handy in this driving situation.

370Z Roadster – The “Right End”

Indeed, if the Nismo 370Z is the tattooed brother, then the Roadster is the pinstripe wearing sibling. The moniker alone implies this car is meant for grand touring. It’s for open top motoring in the country side, with the wind blowing through your hair with an unrushed destination in mind.

On the outside, there’s not a whole lot to distinguish the Roadster from the Coupe until you look at the back half of the car. The antenna mounted smack dab in the middle of the trunk is a dead giveaway that this car is a little different – we think this is a rather poor aesthetic choice. Indeed, looking at the posterior of the Roadster really reminds us how big and wide this car is. While we don’t notice the bulbous rear section on the Nismo and Coupe renditions of the Z – perhaps the lines being broken up by the rear spoilers present on both – the Roadster continued to remind of us of the song “Baby Got Back.”

The fabric convertible top opens and closes in about 25 seconds each way. The operation is a choreography in moving parts, the top and hard tonneau cover adjusting, opening and closing with a degree of precision. Although the action is very smooth – save for the big thunk of the tonneau cover closing or the top sealing itself over the same over when the top is up – we wished it would work a little faster.

Climb inside and you’ll find familiar territory – interior accroutrements are the same as those you find in the coupe.

  • Seating position is fine save for the tallest of drivers; for my 6’3″ frame, the steering wheel was situated directly in front of my chest, mimicking the kind of steering position found in a touring race car
  • With the top up, getting in and out of the car required a bit of contortionist-like moves; getting in required the head going in last, while the opposite was required when exiting the vehicle
  • Speaking of the top, it left very little headroom for yours truly, although I suspect most “normal” sized individuals would have no headroom issues
  • Legroom was still substantial thanks to the deep footwell design found in all Z34 models
  • Our tester was equipped with the 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters; somehow, the automatic seems more appropriate for this model and we’re guessing that it is probably the more popular option

Firing up the engine and flicking the paddles elicits nearly the same level of acceleration found in the Coupe. Throttle response is excellent, thanks to the throttle-by-wire system. Downshifts are fairly smooth courtesy of rev matching on the down cycle, but when engaging 1st from 2nd under aggressive driving, there is a noticeable amount of shudder and engine braking. We don’t see this as a problem for 99% of prospective Roadster buyers out there as we suspect they are more than happy to let the ECU figure out the downshifts in fully automatic mode. We just can’t see the same owners downshifting with aggressive abandon as they enter a 1st gear corner “hot” and punch it at the apex to generate maximum corner exit speed.

Unlike its sister car under the Infiniti brand – which we would describe as “noodly” over railroad tracks and uneven terrain –  the Roadster was firm and displayed none of the cowl shake and noise we’ve noticed in other open top variants. Taking the car to limits of adhesion presented no problems for the Roadster and we were impressed at how hard it would bite the pavement. Tail-out maneuvers were never a surprise, as it was very progressive and didn’t snap out the rear in unpredictable fashion.

Conclusion

With the addition of the Nismo and Roadster models, Nissan has created a powerful trio of sports car options. With a truly ready-to-race Nismo Z, the “civilized” Roadster and the do-everything-well Coupe variant, the 370Z line is a powerful offering like no other on the market today. We can’t think of a common platform line up from any other manufacturer that offers the same level of performance, value and ownership experience that the 370Z brings to the table. It’s truly worth your purchase consideration if you care for a car that inspires you as a driver.

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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forged alloy wheels

May 062010
 

Whatever you want to call it, the green movement seems here to stay. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and hydrogen power are monikers that seem to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue whether they know something about cars or not. But to us at RevdCars.net, it’s the same story. Oh yes, they are going to be the be-all, end-all solution to our reliance on fossil fuel, clean up the environment and turn back the tides of global warming / greenhouse gases.

Bollocks.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I reject the notion of global warming. All scientific facts point to it and we support any movement that helps reduce the impact of mankind on the environment. But what really is the truth? The fact remains that the majority of electricity produced via “green” methods in the United States amounts to only about 15%. That means that for every mile driven in an electric vehicle, 85% of it was based on fossil fuels of one sort or another. Probably electricity produced by a coal burning electric plant. And what sort of carbon footprint do the batteries represent? Can we dispose of them in an environmentally sound manner? How much fossil fuel was burned to make the batteries themselves? Of course, no manufacturer is going to pony up this bit of information.

Then there’s the matter of sheer driving exhilaration. The performance numbers don’t amount of much (well, nothing at all really). Handling is probably hampered by the heavy batteries and styling is a snooze fest at best. And the total driving range? What about the infrastructure necessary to recharge batteries as one’s driving along the highway? Who will pay for this? Tax payer?

Here’s our idea. Drive less by combining errands into one trip. Live closer to work, school or wherever else you need to be on a frequent basis. Purchase a more fuel efficient car – there are vehicles like the Honda Fit which are pretty fun to drive, practical, CHEAP and get great gas mileage. What else? Car pool. Take public transportation whenever it’s possible and or efficient to do so. Park the car and walk your fat ass into the fast food joint instead of idling and wasting gas in the drive thru lane. These are just some of the simple behavioral changes that we all can make to spend and pollute less. Technology isn’t going to change human behavior nor have an impact on the environment when it’s still burning fossil fuels.

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Apr 182010
 

In the upper reaches of motorsports, teams are pretty clear about who they are. Heck, even HRT (Hispania Racing Team, formerly Campos) in F1 is never misunderstood beyond what they are – a newcomer struggling to catch up to everyone and anyone as they had absolutely no pre-season testing. But when a team makes a blatant move to confuse the hell out of everyone, I feel like it’s worth speaking about.

I attended the qualifying session for the IndyCar Long Beach Grand Prix earlier today. A festive event for sure with a decent turnaround for a non-race day. Then I saw it whizz by while standing around in the pits. Takuma Sato in the KV Racing… umm… Lotus… powered by Honda. What the heck is going on? The livery sure looked like that you would find in the Lotus F1 car, but this isn’t Formula 1 for starters.

So how does this association make any sense whatsoever? Let’s trace things back a bit…

Takuma Sato was basically a Honda boy from day 1. He went to a driving school sponsored by Honda. His debut was in the former BAR-Honda F1 squad. Then he was relegated to the Super Aguri F1 team (still powered by a Honda). All in all, it makes all the sense that he would find a seat in a spec series powered by a Honda engine. Fine. But what does Lotus have to do with it all? It’s now a Malaysian-owned car company (parent company = Proton) which uses Toyota engines in their road cars such as the Elise, Exige and Evora. KV Racing is owned by an Aussie and an American who is a former CART champion. They’re racing on American soil but the title sponsor is a Japanese car company (Toyota). How does this make any sense whatsoever when Lotus has NOTHING to do with the driver, the racing series, the chassis (Dallara), the team nor the engine manufacturer.

To summarize, a Japanese driver “brought up” by a Japanese car manufacturer who was kicked out of a primarily European racing series racing in an American series for a team owned by an Aussie and an American running an Italian chassis powered by a Japanese engine at a race title sponsored by a competing Japanese manufacturer wearing the colors and brand of a Malaysian auto maker that has absolutely nothing to do with them. Phew. What a mouthful.

Seriously, who / what the hell are you KV Racing / Takuma Sato?

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Apr 022010
 


Lexus, a division of Toyota, is launching new cars faster than most of us can keep up. The latest new vehicle, the CT 200h, looks very promising. Our primary gripe about hybrids has always been… the lack of any personality, character or style whatsoever. Let’s face it. The hybrid is designed with mostly function in mind. Sure, you can sing your own praises about gas efficiency and saving the planet but no one is going to grant you any style points.

The new Lexus CT 200h, however, is one hybrid we wouldn’t mind at all. It’s a combination of a number of different looks from different vehicles, mashed together to create a pretty decent looking package. The front fascia is definitely taken from that of the Lexus IS-F, a true barn burner in every respect. The side profile and beltline remind us of the Toyota Matrix, a decent little car, and the rear reminds us of a combination the RX SUV series with a bit of the Subaru WRX thrown in for good measure.

Sourcebox

Lexus, a Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A
P.O. Box 2991-Mail Drop L201
Torrance, CA 90509-2991
1-800-255-3987

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Hit the page jump for the full press release on this new Lexus.

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