After our reviews of previous model year Civic Sis, we're always happy to get another one in the garage. The 2009 model turned out to be as fun as we expected, with precise shifting and handling that kept us in the driver's seat for long stretches as searched out mountain roads. The car's navigation system makes exploring easy--any time we saw a particularly crooked road on the map, we would head that way--and it's also useful for spotting sharp turns on unfamiliar roads before you get to them. Even better with this generation of Civic Si, … Read more
With a navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic--and even weather forecasts and graphic weather displays, plus a calendar, calculator, and database of scenic attractions, as well as cell phone integration, the newest Acura TL outfitted with the company's technology package could be thought of more as a PDA on wheels than a serious car. Oops, I forgot the XM satellite radio and the hard-disk drive for both software and music, plus minijack and USB interfaces for external players. Move over, Apple, RIM, and Palm, here comes Acura...
Fortunately, from the car enthusiast (as opposed to gadget enthusiast) … Read more
Today, bicyclists are the only people to race on wooden tracks, as the classic velodrome is wood. Track racers have been doing so for over 100 years, and at the juncture of the 19th and 20th centuries, bicycle racing was immensely popular.
At the same time, internal combustion was new. Automobiles and motorcycles were in their infancy, and of course, they were raced. Early races over open public roads proved dangerous, even lethal, to participants and spectators, and so closed courses were made. Dirt horse-racing ovals were used for motor sport, on two and four wheels.
Or...technology transfer, of … Read more
Nissan just launched the latest version of the Z, the 2009 model designated as the 370Z, taking over where the 350Z left off. This new car takes styling cues from the GT-R, Nissan's new supercar, and shows improved power and performance over its predecessor. We take the car on a California road trip, one of its less suitable activities, and try it out on some winding roads, where its wide tires and downshift rev-matching features make all the difference. Cabin tech in our tester was nothing to write home about, but Nissan makes a full tech suite available, including … Read more
Every automotive journalist who drives a Tesla comes away impressed with the car's power, and I can say the same after taking the car out on a quick drive near the company's Menlo Park, Calif., Tesla store (they don't call it a showroom or dealership).
In Performance mode, the car exhibits powerful and smooth torque, even at speed. I had this little open top roadster at 65 mph on the freeway, then mashed the accelerator (don't call it a gas pedal) and got another powerful push in the back that sent the car quickly up to 90. The Tesla's push is unique among sports cars though. Where a high-stepper such as the BMW M3 makes you feel a kick in the back with every gear shift, the Tesla delivers a strong, steady push when you put your foot down on the pedal.
The Tesla I drove featured "Powertrain 1.5," eliminating the two-speed gearbox from the previous model. Yes, Tesla patterns itself after tech companies, so the power train gets a version designation, although the cars themselves still go by a model year.
In this Tesla, as in other electric cars I've driven, the operation is dead simple: Move the shifter from Neutral to Drive, and you're moving forward. Push the accelerator if you want to go faster and hit the brakes if you want to stop. The only real difference, besides the fact that the Tesla goes a lot faster than other electric cars, is that taking your foot off the accelerator at speeds less than 40 mph makes the car slow down as if you were applying light pressure on the brakes. That is the regenerative power train in operation, using the car's momentum to generate electricity for the battery pack. The Tesla also has regenerative brakes, but you don't need to use them much, adding the side-benefit of very infrequent brake maintenance. … Read more
After playing Midnight Club: Los Angeles, for the past week, I have to agree with the GameSpot review: the races are very difficult. But that's just the initial impression.
Grind for a while, make some money to get your car tuned up well, and you will start winning races. You start with a small potential selection of cars--I chose the 1998 Nissan 240SX--and get to drive around Los Angeles looking for people to race. Prepare to watch the other cars streak past you at the starting line, and spend the race negotiating your way through traffic and around turns, following your competitors to the finish line. But after grinding like this for a while, you build up enough money to upgrade your car. Performance mods, like forced induction (turbo) and sway bars, are essential. Then you will find yourself winning maybe 25 to 50 percent of the time, which is still a long way from rewarding.
I found that freeway racers seemed to be the easiest to beat early on, even if they have a higher level of difficulty. After upgrading my Nissan, I built a big enough bank account to buy a muscle car, the 1987 Buick Grand National GNX. That one is very fast, but the handling is lousy, even with all the suspension upgrades available.
This car also proved a problem because of the bad controller mapping of the game. You use the right stick to accelerate by pushing forward. Push back for braking and reverse. So on the approach to a turn, you want to brake. But this car has a nitrous injector that, when spooled up, also gets activated by pulling back the right stick. Braking for a turn suddenly turns into a high speed excursion into a wall. Fortunately, there is a handbrake, but without careful application you'll be pointing in the direction you've just come from. … Read more
We didn't expect a tuner car from Chevy, but the Cobalt SS measure up in all ways. Two-liter four cylinder engine, check. Variable valve timing, check. Turbocharger, bonus. With 260 horsepower, the Cobalt SS has more power than a Honda Civic Si, and the Cobalt SS' limited slip differential, stabilizer bars, and suspension tuning lead to good handling in the corners. Put it in launch-control mode and you can achieve maximum grip and acceleration off the line. Chevy also steps up a bit in cabin tech, giving the Cobalt SS iPod integration and a bass-heavy Pioneer audio system.
Throughout the year, we've seen some pretty amazing cars at CNET Car Tech, but two stood out for our sports car-oriented gear heads. We reviewed two versions of the BMW M3, the first a coupe with a manual transmission, the second a convertible with an automated dual-clutch transmission. Given the model history, we expected these cars to be good, and they were. Between these reviews, we had the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, which proved a more than pleasant surprise. Similar in size and price to the M3, the C63 is Mercedes-Benz's idea of a small high-end sports car, … Read more
Want to see a bunch of alternative-fuel vehicles? Going really fast? Head to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, near Monterey, Calif., this weekend, October 17 to 19, for the final races of the 2008 American LeMans Series (ALMS) calendar.
Don't look for "Gasoline Alley" at the track. The cars run on E10, 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline; E85, 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline; or clean diesel. The ethanol part of the E85 of choice is celluosic, made from waste wood, not corn, and the diesels are among the quickest cars in the world.
ALMS … Read more
The usual procedure for the driving part of an automotive press introduction is four to six hours in the car, on the road. "Road" meaning a mix of entertaining and hopefully uncrowded back roads, some freeway, and as little city traffic as possible, all with the intention of highlighting the featured vehicle's capabilities and comfort.
That is adequate, and appropriate, for most cars, even relatively high-performance cars. Most cars get used mainly around town and on the freeway, with maybe a lucky clear shot at an empty canyon road early on a weekend morning.
The Porsche 911 … Read more