Dodge Durango. What can I say about thee? When I think of Durangos I think of what they were like when they first came out. At the time I was nursing an unhealthy obsession with Dodge trucks already, due to the fact that my Dad had owned a few Ram trucks. I thought the Durango looked great. I loved the nose of the Dakota already and I couldn’t imagine an SUV that would be better. The second generation I hated. I thought it was to bloated and the tail lights seem way out of place in relation to the rest of the truck.
Now the latest iteration of the Durango is thirty times better than the old version. The front is sexy and conservative, not bulbous and grotesque. The rear lines and tail lights flow together in a classy and conservative manner which is a stark contrast when you look at the old tail lights which look like they were stolen off of an aftermarket Neon. All together it looks like an adult vehicle which I what I think a car that costs 30k+ should look like ( with the exception of various rally type cars)
Getting in, I expected it to be roomy. I imagined when opening the door and sitting in the driver’s seat I would feel like a small child behind the wheel. The new Durango has a big change in its platform since it is a unibody platform as opposed to body on frame that the previous models and most trucks are built on. This type of construction usually means more room on the inside and a smoother ride. In this Durango there was room but not in the way that I thought. If you look at the pictures you can see that everything on the inside seems big. The dashboard takes up a lot of room and the doors seem bigger than they are. This is just an impression, but I felt that despite its size it really didn’t have as much space as it should have considering its size The seats seem big and appear cushy but when sitting in them it is quite the opposite. They are rock hard and I really think they would get tiring on a long trip! The back seats do look roomy and I think it would be pretty easy if I was taking a kid in and out of the rear.
Now, actually driving it is pretty good! The interior is quiet and if you have the radio off you can hear the awesome Hemi engine rumbling in the background (that was my favorite part). The steering wheel is thick and satisfying to handle, and I remember thinking that actually turning the steering wheel was pleasant. Let me explain that feeling a bit more. When I get in my truck and I back out of a parking spot I have to aggressively turn my steering wheel almost all the way in order to make the complete turn and then when you pull forward you have to quickly turn it all the way back. It isn’t a big deal and I never would have noticed it if I hadn’t experienced the turning capabilities in the Durango. In the Durango I felt like I was hardly turning at all. I didn’t feel rushed and I felt that I was capable of making very precise movements. I talk about blind spots all the time when I drive these cars and I say most of the time that there are no problems to report. The same goes for the Durango. It seems that if you are in an SUV that is a bit more squared it much easier to see around. The stereo is nice and all the interior appointments were pleasing and luxurious.
I felt very cool in the Durango. I would be proud to be in this truck on a daily basis. It has cylinder shut off technology which means that when you are just cruising, the truck can run on just 4 of the 8 cylinders when all 8 aren’t needed. This helps with fuel economy which is an estimated 16/23. Again, along with the first generation Durango I think this one will look good for years to come.
This is the bottom line that I would like to give you. When I drive all of these cars I think about much I would like to buy them. I think they are all cool and I know I would love them but most of the time I wouldn’t want to actually pay to buy one of these cars with MY money. The Durango is kind of in the same boat. I think there are better options for cars of this size that would fit my needs better. I just watched the movie “the tourist” and my wife and I noticed that there were many times that they associated something negative with being American. I think that in a way SUV’s like this don’t help with that image. I don’t think that most families need a Hemi engine and I know that I fit into that category. What I would buy though is the Durango’s brother, the Jeep Grand Cherokee when it comes equipped with a diesel engine. With a diesel motor in a car this size you can get lots of power, better fuel economy, and an engine with greater longevity.
As a car enthusiast I am constantly on the prowl looking and admiring all of the different kinds of cars that are on the road as I drive around. I can often be found looking at cars and appreciating them and usually like to give the thumbs up or a wave if I really approve of a car. I could probably produce a few references for that if I actually knew the people I was waving to. The point is that I respect cars that are that they are. Like a father to his effeminate son, I look at all cars and accept them for what they are. The problem I have is when I see a car where an owner has tried to make it more than it is. This, in my opinion is one of the biggest crimes you can commit to your car. If you don’t know what I mean then read further…..
One of the clearest examples of this social crime is of an experience I had when I lived in Spokane washington back between 05-07. I would often times see a Hummer H2 stopped at that store to get gas, whipping cream (he was fat), or some other type of snack. At that time Hummers were still cool and this was the SUT version so I really liked looking at it. Upon further inspection of the vehicle I noticed a large AMG badge on both sides of the truck. Now a H2 is an expensive vehicle! I thought that because it was so expensive that no one would actually put a badge on it that didn’t belong, so I spent a fair amount of time pondering what AMG component could be on this truck. (For those that don’t know AMG is an in-house tuning company for Mercedes-Benz.) One day I was lucky enough to be at that gas station when that H2 pulled up. This “Kevin James” lookin’ guy got out and so I walked up to talk to him. Here is how it went:
Me: Hey man! Nice H2, I noticed the AMG badge on the side and I wondered what components on it were made by AMG?
Kevin: Oh that? Yeah my brother is a mechanic at a Mercedes dealer and he gave these badges to me to slap on this beast. Pretty cool huh!
Me: (Speechless and walking away)
Now why would this guy EVER think it was a good idea to put the badges from a german company, onto a truck that is based on a Tahoe AND made in Mexico? They are miles apart in quality and purpose so it makes no sense! Here is my theory. He is a dumb-ass and he couldn’t find curb-feelers that would fit on a bumper that high for curbs so low, and as a result needed something else to set himself apart.
The act of putting badges where they don’t belong have two things going against the individual that perpetrates the crime. The first comes from disrespecting the manufacturer of your car, and the car that you are trying to make yours into. These engineers spend time and effort and they make a vehicle that is great and that people want. Yes they are expensive but that is why they are better. THEY SPEND MONEY MAKING THEM BETTER.
The second problem is because there is not a single demographic that would appreciate what you did. The people who like cars hate you because they know that the badge is a load of crap. The people who don’t like cars don’t care and as a result never notice. In addition to those two groups you also have the 3rd group of people who do own the car you are making yours out to be. They spent the money and they earned the right to wear the badge and the liars cheapen that experience for the enthusiasts.
I hate it because it makes me dangerous. A few years back when the first generation G35 coupe was out I saw one with skyline badges all over. This was before the GT-R had been unveiled, but there were rumors that it would be put under the Infiniti brand name in America. The thing was, this car was very convincing. It had “skyline” written out under the Infiniti symbol on the back and the GT-R badge on the side was placed just right. I thought that maybe this was some kind of test mule that Nissan had been testing at the proving grounds. The dangerous part came from the fact that I was driving a semi truck at the time of the spotting, and I was shirking my primary responsibility of keeping that rig in its own lane.
In conclusion, I hope that I have shed some light on this problem and more than that, I hope that those that are guilty of this and are reading this post will understand that you are doing more harm than good. If a boy scout sews a badge on his sash that he didn’t earn you can bet the other kids in his troop won’t stand for it. If your car could talk I am sure it also would rather you just be proud of what it is (usually just a V6 mustang and not the GT version you are trying to make it look like). If you don’t stop you’ll give your car a complex!
Occasionally there are unique opportunities where you get to drive cars that you didn’t expect to drive. When I drive cars to write about them I usually go to a dealership and I present them with the reasons for why I am interested in driving on of their vehicles. A good portion of the time I am driving a car because someone was wanting to know what I thought, but most of the time I am driving them because I am interested in seeing what they are like for myself. It is kind of like an opportunity to see what life could be like if I had this (insert car name) I got a chance to test out the Subaru Forester because that is what they give as a loaner car that the Volkswagen dealership that I service my car.
I like Subaru a lot and I think that they are solid cars. I knew an old man in Spokane that had been driving the same Subaru Loyale for over 15 years and it worked great. There are very few people who have anything negative to say about them and the fact that they are all, wheel drive it makes them a no brainer for inclement weather. The Subaru Forester is a great car if you are looking for an inexpensive family car. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but it is pretty cheap and it has lots of room.
Getting in a car one of the things that I look at is how easy the car makes driving. One of the things that I think makes driving easier is having good visibility. This car is great for being able to see all around you. Blind spots are non-existent and that makes driving so easy. There isn’t a whole lot of technology in the car which is good if you are easily distracted. The seats and other interior bit draw no complaint from me. the back seat is roomy and because it is relatively square-shaped the back seems roomy enough to handle most needs.
I went from a Jetta TDI to the Forester. One of the problems with a turbo is that initial take off is always slightly delayed. Of course after that it is pretty quick and strong which is why I bought it. With the Forester I thought that it was real quick until it let first gear and moved on to the 3 gears after. It was a dog! The car I drove was the non-turbo 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine and If i was to buy this car myself I would definitely upgrade to the turbo version. The power goes from 170 hp in the non-turbo version to the 225 hp turbo version. This is one of the biggest short falls in the car. I also think that in our time a car should have more than 4 gears (which is all this car has).
The price for a Forest starts at around 20 grand which for all wheel drive is pretty sweet. The problem with a car like that in Phoenix is that you hardly ever have need for an all wheel drive vehicle. still it is a smart buy and, if I didn’t already have a Jetta I would probably consider this car for myself!
If you want some additional info on the Forester head here.
Recently there have been a few new vehicles that think are very exciting. You can cruise through my blog and you will see the different vehicles that I tend to gravitate to. One of those vehicles I talk about often is the F150. I think that what I write about each time is fresh and different as well. This is a testament to Ford and the constant improvements they are making to their cars and trucks.
For 2011 they have a few new engines that are here that are a welcome change from the 5.4 that we have had for a very long time. This is actually the same engine that is found in the Mustang with a few tweaks that make it ready for truck duty. Now the 5.0 is just one of the new engines that Ford has brought to the F150 lineup. In addition the 5.0 they also have a 3.5 liter twin turbo V6, and 3.7 V6 (also in the mustang). They have a 6.2 liter but that has been in the line up for a little while already in the Raptor.
Because these engines were so new at the time of my drive There were not a whole lot of cab configurations that were available to drive at the time. As a result I drove a truck that was more work oriented and was not set up exactly as I might want it. Getting in the truck it looked pretty much the same as the other F150 trucks that I drove and I didn’t expect too much to be different there. One major part that was exciting was the computer that was in the gauge cluster. This was in the Heavy Duty F series truck already and I am glad to see it here as well. It has a number of useful bits of information like the angles that the truck is at or the miles till empty. It even could have some information for a trailer that you were towing. Things like how many miles you have gone in with the trailer attached or it could show you a checklist of the things you need to do when you hook up. It was very exciting and I think it would be a very useful feature to use all the time.
The thing that I really wanted to know, was about what the engine. I wanted to know how it sounded and how it felt. First of all the engine sounded awesome. It had a throaty sound that you would expect in a V8 and it sounded a million times better than the old 5.4. On the drive you could feel that it was much quicker than the old engine which made it hard to not stomp on it at every light. The 5.0 has 360 horse power which is at least 30 more than the old engines which is a dramatic improvement. if you want more power than that you can run e85 Ethanol in the tank and get 375 horse power and a 10 pound increase in torque (390). The other attributes pretty much felt the same as the previous trucks.
I think the biggest take away from this experience is that there are a number of engine choices available in trucks now and even if you don’t get the biggest engine you still can have plenty of power and capability. The 5.0 would be considered one engine choice up from the very base option (3.7 V6). Considering that the year before was the 5.4 with somewhere around 330 hp this is a huge change.
Later on I drove the 3.5 liter twin turbo and I plan on talking about that next time!
p.s. Sorry about only having one picture. I thought that I took more than this but they seem to have disappeared. More pics from now on!
So here I am, driving down the San Tan 202 be-bopping to who knows what at the time when I happened to glance in my rear view mirror (which I do often since I am a very defensive driver). In my view I see this car with the most hideous grin and it is from a Honda Crosstour (see rearview mirror picture in gallery)! At the time I looked at through my mirror I thought man, that is such an ugly grill. It was so bad that I had to photograph it through my rearview mirror in hopes that it would show through in pictures.
I decided at that moment that it would be a good time to drive that car and see what it was really about. So I headed down to the nearest Honda dealer. They dealership had quite a few on the lot and they even had a Crosstour in the show room that was more well equipped. They got the keys to one and I took it out for a spin. The first thing I noticed was how hard the seats were. I am sure I have but I don’t remember sitting on seat in a car that were that hard in my life! There wasn’t any side bolstering on them either and I just felt like I was sitting on top of the car rather than inside being a part of it (which is how I feel in my Jetta). There is plenty of room all around. It is the same platform as the current Honda accord which is a pretty big car itself even without the “stink bug” rear end.
Driving the car is also fairly pleasant. It is pretty quick since it has a standard V6 engine that cranks out 271 HP and a 5 speed automatic transmission. I think I even broke the wheels loose a bit on one of my green light takeoffs. I love how much storage you have in the car. You will notice in the gallery of pictures all of the different cubbies that the car has and that is something I really appreciate (and something that I wish my Jetta had more of). The controls are easy to use and it is pretty quiet while driving as well. These are all things that we all know and expect from a Honda and the big reason why people buy them.
What do I hate about this car? In short, lots. I hate what it claims to be. I think that crossovers which is what this is a waste of time and money. I hate that people buy these cars thinking that they are cooler than a wagon or more practical than an SUV when in reality there are designs and cars that have been tried and proven throughout the years that have worked much better. Most of all I hate the false advertising that is this car when they say that it is a car made to haul more than most.
The blind spot is horrible while trying to drive and the rear window is super small which also reduces your visibility. I think that it is too expensive and not attractive. People might look at this car and say that these are worthwhile sacrifices because at least you have lots of room in the trunk. Wrong again. Just For fun I pulled up the cargo volume on a Crosstour and compared it to the car that I decided to purchase (the Jetta Sportwagen). The crosstour has 25.7 cu/ft with the seat up while the Jetta has 32.8 with the seat up. That is the difference as far as I am concerned. My mother bought a crossover (on my recommendation unfortunately) and that is one of the things that she dislikes the most. She feels that she was actually able to carry more when she drove a large sedan.
In my opinion that sums up my whole overall complaint with this car. It is quick and there is room and clever ideas packed in. For me that isn’t enough. If I am going to buy a car that I want to be able to haul what I need, I am going to find the best choice not just the choice that tries to be a wagon and does a poor job at it.
Greetings readers! I know once again it has been a while since we have talked but I do have something to tell you about that I think you will appreciate what I have to tell you about today. A few weeks ago Nissan hosted an event in Tempe that was part of a tour that gave consumers an opportunity to drive and experience the Nissan Leaf for themselves. Needless to say I was very exited about the whole idea since it was a car that I had been wanting to drive for over a year.
The set up was pretty serious. They had at least a dozen leafs on hand for display or driving. There were a number of buildings that had information on the different aspects of the Leaf (battery, space, info display, iPhone app) They had a guided tour of the different buildings that after which you were able to then take the leaf out on a dedicated route.
That is really the part that I want to tell you about. The car looks to be about the size of a Nissan Versa if not a bit bigger. The seating position is comfortable and the visibility in the car is also good. They had an escort of each of the cars and he was assigned to sit in the front passenger seat. my wife as a result was assigned to the back seat. She said that it was quite roomy and she was even able to stretch out her legs. At the beginning of the course we would wind through an obstacle course of sorts, after which we ended up on the surface streets. I have to say that I really enjoyed the drive. The car is no slouch. the electric motor is responsive and quiet. We didn’t have the radio on and it was eerie how quiet the whole drive was.
There is lots of info that the car gives you as your drive, things like range, nearest charging station and a history of your driving habits. Driving the Nissan leaf was also pretty cool because we got lots of looks and stares from people walking around and driving. I The final satisfying thing about driving the Nissan Leaf is the fact that you can floor it all you want and you can know that you are hardly spending any dough to drive it. I was flooring it and I knew that I was maybe costing my self a few pennies at the maximum. My truck is a totally different story and even my Jetta TDI has consequences much harsher. If you are not planning on driving to the end of your batteries charge then there are really no consequences to flooring.
This is the final take away for the Leaf that I think needs to be considered: First of all people complain about the distance you can travel on these batteries. While it is not that great right now if 100 miles is a number that you can deal with you can guarantee that the batteries will get better and charging stations will become more abundant. Second, there is zero engine maintenance. Brakes and tires are excluded from this but you have no need to worry about oil changes or things likes that. Third, it is a bit expensive. The car is priced in the 30′s but then gets into the 20′s with government assistance. This assistance is only good for something like the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold and it leaves me to wonder how many of these cars will be sold after. I know that I wouldn’t want to pay 30k for a car that I could only drive 100 miles at a time. With that in mind if you are interested in a leaf you might have to wait a few months to get one but you can get on a list right away.
Tesla was using only a small section of one of the foyers that was by a door (since the car was parked outside). It was probably to most intimate car function I have ever been to. There were a few refreshments and one car that when I arrived was out on a test drive. There were a few people standing around talking about the car and one of them was a professional photographer. I was not out of place if you were comparing the interest that we all have in cars. I did feel like I was a bit too far down in the tax bracket though.
The car was awesome. It is small and aggressive. You can tell that Lotus had something to do with the design and it totally works. From the side my eyes were drawn to the giant brake rotors and all of the vents. It looked really fast (which of course it is). There appeared to be only one employee that worked for Tesla and he was actually out on a test drive when I first got there. When he got back he had a few different people that he needed to juggle. I waited around in hopes that things would die down and he would be able to share a few things with me about the car that he appreciates or that I would want to know about. Everyone stood around for about another hour chatting and once everyone left he was able to show me the inside of the car. The weather as you could see was a bit inconvenient and at one point He was planning on pulling the car under an awning. I was hoping that I would be able to ride with him to see what it was like on the inside of the car as it was driving. He ended up not doing that so we just stood there talking about the car as it sat.
The car itself is exciting. It is 100% electric, has a 250 mile range and has a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds. Those figures alone make it an impressive machine. The thing that makes me want to own a car like this is how unique their approach to speed is. I commonly associate speed and power to a strong engine note and maybe a snappy transmission. This is a completely different experience from what I understand. It is quiet and only has one gear. I have never bought a car like this but I imagine that when you spend over 100k for a car part of why you buy it is so that you can stand out and show your personal style. A Tesla Roadster can be a way to have a fast car with a personality.
In conclusion, Tesla has a lot of great things happening. It might not be a car company for the masses yet but I am sure they want to get there. When I first heard about this event I emailed them to sign up for it and I got a rapid response from Tesla with the event details. A few days later I even got a call from them so that they could ask a few questions about why I was interested in the event at all. I appreciated those things because you know that it is a product they believe in. The guy on the phone was able to share with me why he was so excited about his company and their products and I think that speaks volumes about the organization. At the event I think that the Representative for Tesla might have had more people that he had to talk to than he had planned or I might not have been important enough but the excitement that I felt from Corporate did not translate to the event. It was great to see the car but might have had more to write about if I was able to have a bit more interactive of an experience.