10 Best Vehicles for a Hitman

The job title “Hitman”, despite its glamour and prestige, is a bit more difficult than one might think.  The men and women who make ends meet by using their ex-military training to turn murder into income have a lot on their plate.  Not only do they have to risk their lives and deal with their crippling morality each and every day, but they also have the infuriating task of picking a vehicle to suit both their desires and needs.  A hitman simply can not just purchase a Camry and go to work – no one would watch that movie.  In order for a complete, legend-making hitman to exist, one must pick out a set of wheels that is menacing to the core.  Powerfully dark, clever and deceptively suave, these cars and trucks are just as dangerous as their drivers.

For this list, each vehicle picked rolled off the factory floor just the way it is – no modifications.  This is for simplicity, practicality and to provide real-world consumer advice.

10. 2007-2014 Cadillac Escalade

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Revamped in 2007 to critical acclaim, the third generation Cadillac Escalade is the perfect vehicle of choice for the hitman who anticipates a few takeaways.  Standing long at almost 17 feet, the storage space is plenty large enough for rifles, axes and body bags.  Mean, sharp, and suave, these big daddy heavy hitting muscle trucks pack an all-American 6.2 liter 403 horsepower punch and burble so deeply at idle, that no patsy would dare approach as a hitman sits inside, sharpen their knife.

9. 1999-2002 Audi S8

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The first of Audi’s big bodied heavy hitting super sedans is coincidentally the best.  Back when the high-volume premium German automaker was still producing masculine products, they decided to drop into their flagship sedan a high-strung, 355 hp 4.2 liter V8 and six speed manual thus creating the legendary S8.  Used in Ronin as the primary pursuit vehicle, this full-size luxury barge can hit 60 mph in about 6 seconds, haul “equipment” discreetly and look classically understated while doing so.

8. 2011-Present Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

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The current generation Jeep Grand Cherokee wins awards five times daily and there is a good reason for that – it’s bloody good.  In Overland form with its icy cool leather interior, understated exterior and muscle car worthy 5.7 liter 360 hp Hemi V8, it’s also a fantastic candidate for the utilitarian hitman.  Not only is the Overland at home parked in front of a swanky downtown soiree awaiting the exit of a “he had it coming to him” mark, but it is equally capable of outrunning the competition no matter what the terrain.

7. 2007 – 2009 Jaguar XJR

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Rear drive, the size of a limousine and powered by a supercharged 390 hp 4.2 liter V8, this iconic luxury sedan might has well been marketed toward baddies to begin with.  Obviously British in every sense of the way, the XJR is classy, powerful and runs on frigidly dead water thus making it perfect for the hitman who needs to attend social gatherings for “research”.  Despite being almost too perfect on paper, the Jag is not the heaviest thing out there for a baddie on good-guy scuffle and, as cliche as it may seem, it doesn’t have the most reliable rap sheet known to man.

6. 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S

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This is the Jennifer Garner of cars.  It’s strong yet delicate, powerful yet gorgeous and resourceful to point where if it kicked your butt, it would find a way to do so elegantly.  This car oozes cool and carries a devastating left hook filled with menace.  Packed under its icy cold hood is a 4.7 liter V8 with 434 hp and a wail so bone chilling, a hitman can intimidate their mark without even leaving the leather filled cockpit.

5. 1998 – 2001 BMW 750iL

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Yes, the V12 one.  While the charm and charisma of the third generation BMW 7 Series is not exclusive to the big engine, the heavy hitting Bavarian limo does get an extra oomph in coolness when the cylinder count breaks into double digits.  Timeless in design and oh-so-German, the E38 is the kind of car hitman, getaway drivers and all around anti-heroes adore.  Used in James Bond films and driven by Jason Statham, this may break down a time or two, but when it’s in tip-top shape, it will be a hitman’s best tool.

4. 2005 – 2012 Citroen C6

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This car was the first to obtain four stars from the EuroNCAP for its pedestrian safety.  Too bad the safety outfit failed too check for the body bags in the trunk because the Citroen C6 is the kind of car that oozes composure hiding lunacy.  It’s extraterrestrial cool looks, spacious yet beautiful interior and unsuspecting status make it the perfect candidate for “get in and get out” hitman jobs.  With its world-famous Hydractive 3+ suspension, the C6 is also so comfortable, the crooked congressman you need to “take care of” will certainly fall fast asleep all on his own – no Chloroform required.

3. 2006 – 2010 Chrysler 300 SRT8

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The Citroen C6 is piano wire.  The BMW E38 is a sniper riffle.  The Chrysler 300 SRT8 is a hammer and a pair of seasoned fists.  Built with menace as a main ingredient, this  mobster land yacht packs a 425 hp 6.1 liter Hemi V8 punch.  Sixty miles per hour comes up in under five seconds.  Sitting strong at around two tons, the Chrysler will punch, kick and roast anything it needs to all while dressed to nines wearing a cowboy hat.

2. 1997 – 1999 Bentley Turbo RT

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One of the last real Bentleys before they all became fancy Volkswagens, the Turbo RT is remarkably rare but insanely brutal.  More than 200 inches long and weighing in at 5,200 lbs, the RT is a full-size British muscle sedan with nearly 700 lb-ft of torque and a 150 mph top speed.  Classy, suave and forever cool, this Bentley goes about its business under the radar – rare for the current model line.  It also has a psychotic personality to match any hitman’s own.

1. 1975 – 1981 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

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While it may look like a classic Mercedes sedan, the “6.9” goes like a Ferrari and punches like a prize fighter.  This is Germany’s idea of a muscle car and in the late 1970s, this 4,390 lb 210 inch long hydropneumatic suspensioned luxury sedan put a serious hurt on the performance car landscape.  It is now the type of car that wafts around classically, never calling attention to itself but refusing to be forgotten.  It can be accepted anywhere it goes, punt any car into a hedge and store a full arsenal in the trunk.  It’s suave, collected, talented, handsome and most importantly, psychotic.  It is, the perfect car for the modern-day hitman.

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Project Hot Rod Apocalypse Part 1 – An Intro

I’m going to make this short and sweet as with the whole world coming to an end and what not, you and I do not have a lot of time for flowering introductory paragraphs filled with useless adjectives that are obviously pulled from some sort of online thesaurus and inserted into said paragraph in a desperate and moronic attempt to impress the many members of the female race that are not reading this because it contains the words “Hot Rod” in the title and that’s just boring.

Reader, meet Ruby. Ruby, meet reader.

1999 Jeep Cherokee

Ruby comes from a long line of exclusive American icons. While a majority of her siblings that came before her are rusting in pieces, Ruby was initially purchased in a place where there is no snow or salt and thus, no resulting rust – South Florida.  As her VIN plate says, she first opened her eyes as a 1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport. Being used and 14-years-old, this XJ is a bit special in that it has zero rust, under 1,000,0000 miles, no more than 200k miles and even less than 150k miles. Plus, it has a manual transmission or in nerdy, never get any girl with that kind of talk gearhead lingo, an AX15. While the gear box is a bit rare, the rest of the running gear is typical tried and true 20-year-old Jeep stuff. Connecting the two front wheels together is a Dana 30 solid axle, a Chrysler 8.25 works the back all while a NP231 transfer case puts everything together. The task of creating power and torque properly is dealt with by way of the absolutely legendary 4.0 liter PowerTech straight six.

1999 Jeep Cherokee

Now, any rational person would say, “hey, I found a rare, well together and reliable Jeep – I’ll just leave well enough alone,” but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not rational – I’m a car guy. This tale will thus chronicle the misadventures of ruining a perfectly functional automobile for the sake of daydreams and fantasies. Plans are to make her more deadly, more capable and more kickbutt awesome. Some day soon, the world will end and this little red box will be a vital weapon in the Hot Rod Apocalypse.

1999 Jeep Cherokee

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Top 10 All-New Cars Worthy of the Empty Road

Let me get this off my chest first even though it should be plainly obvious: I dislike a vast majority of all new things. This statement is especially relevant in regards towards the automotive world where concepts such as economy and performance numbers have diluted the beauty of the motorized vehicle almost entirely. Let me offer up an example and one that goes by the name “Nissan GTR”. Since its introduction in 2009, this car has been in the industry spotlight beating records and setting mind boggling performance figures in comparison to its MSRP. Yes, the Godzilla is a engineering masterpiece but no one has ever falling in love with a spreadsheet. The GTR is cold – very cold. It is a blistering fast robot that has no intent on brightening up your day because it has no intentions to begin with. Those “feelings” have been engineered out of it and that is the case with the majority of vehicles today.

Despite this trend, there are still a few vehicles being built right now that are pure. These cars and trucks are flawed and proud of it. They sit in your driveway waiting for you to wake up so an adventure can be had. They want to be driven and most importantly, they want to listen to your stories and your problems. These are not just transportation devices – they’re future members of your family.

10. Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec

The Genesis is an interesting creature.  Hyundai prides themselves on offering a variety of options to their customers and their performance coupe is no exception.  Two engines can be had that can be matched to a selection of transmissions.  Various interior packages are offered each with its specific purpose but their is one trim that has one prerogative and one alone -be driven.  The 2.0T R-Spec has zero options, one price and one configuration.  Its 2.0 liter straight four is direct injected and turbocharged to pump out a stout 274 horsepower.  If you can’t operate a clutch pedal, you’re out of luck as the R-Spec does not offer a torque converter.  In the middle is a simple and not that accurate six speed manual that feeds its power to a mechanical and clunky Torsen limited slip differential.   This car is what happens when new-world technology is given to some old hot-rodders.  The R-Spec has a sense of tradition about it as the steering is hydraulic, the suspension is bouncy and the interior is simple.  Driving the car is a treat as when kept in first gear, the throttle controls the steering.  The refinement usually found in modern day sports coupes is gone but in return, the R-Spec will tell you every little detail about what it is doing.

9.  Nissan Titan PR04-X

Nissan-Titan

Nissan’s as of late are being built with an increasing amount of cold water given the influx of tech such as CVT transmissions and computer aided shift controls.  Hell, the most raw car they advertise isn’t even that raw as the 370Z can rev match its own manual transmission.  Given that information, why doesn’t it just race around Sebring by itself?  Despite Nissan’s affinity for technology, the Titan still lumbers around wearing a suit made of myrrh and lead paint.  It has a simple 5 speed automatic, a burly 2-speed transfer case and in PRO4-X form, the Titan comes with Rancho dampers, a lower final drive ratio and knobby tires.  It also comes equipped with a heart and a big ole’ dopey one at that.  This truck howls, barks, grunts and guzzles all while licking your face with a stupid grin.

8.  Dodge Grand Caravan

Minivan or not, this thing makes perfect sense.  It isn’t flashy, it isn’t glamorous and it’s not riddled with space-age tech to rival the Rebellion but it is just the right amount of wonderful.  Every section of the Grand Caravan is fantastically comfortable and its on-board infotainment systems are the best in the business.  No fuss, no mess and no possibility of boring, the revised GC is surprisingly engaging to drive.  Crisp steering mixes with ample power and obvious convenience to create an true Empty Road hauler.

7. Honda Fit

This is, the only honest Honda left standing.  The new Civic is terrible, the Accord is expensive, the S2000 is dead and the CR-Z is a joke.  The Fit on the other hand, is driving pleasure wrapped up in a tidy, inexpensive and efficient package.  Quirky looks mesh perfectly with the steering from a go-kart and suspension set up for cone dodging.  This combo creates a car that urges you to reach the limits of adhesion and do so a safe and teachable fashion.

6. Subaru Impreza WRX

For the time being, this bulky little hooligan is the last reminisce of Subaru’s glory days.  While it has gotten a bit luxurious, it still has a torque filled tractor engine, brilliant all wheel drive and most importantly, a cross-eyed character.  There’s a certain industrial air about impressionable Subarus and this hot-rod rally car still has it.

5. Ford Mustang GT 5.0 6sp

Ford Mustang 5.0

This car feels like something you would use to win a boxing championship.  It’s light, agile, eager, engaging and damn plenty powerful. 420 horsepower from a hyperactive 5.0 V8 is enough to chirp the tires in a variety of gears all while being assaulted by noises usually reserved for horror movies.  Fantasies galore ooze from every body panel gap found on the new Mustang and with each flick of the wick to ignite that engine, a plot to take over the world is sparked in the process.

4. GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali

I’ve talked about this particular truck plenty of times before and there is no doubt, that this hilariously stupid thing would give you miles upon miles of joyful adventures.  Like a million ton Cadillac with a Saturn 5 rocket as motivation, the 2500HD Denali makes zero sense and there in lies its justification for living.

3. Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300

Old world America was given a rebirth in 2011 when Chrysler LLC introduced the second generation full size LX cars.  In each variation, whether it be V6, V8 or punch you in the face 6.4 liter V8, the LX is an utter delight to be intertwined with.  This car talks to you, comforts you, soothes your sorrows and then shows you a hilariously good time all while looking like something Rex Banner would drive.

2. Ford Fiesta ST

Ford Fiesta ST Concept

The hot hatch is back.  This little rascal of a car was created with nothing but passion so that people could live their everyday lives as if the every corner of the world suddenly became an autocross course.  Like the Honda Fit, the Fiesta ST urges you to find the limit but with the Ford, every little detail on how to do so is just that much more clear and concise.

1. Jeep Wrangler

The Wrangler is an enigma.  It has zero competition, far too many flaws and can still be broken into with a ball-point pen.  Despite that, the all new one with its wonder 3.6 liter Pentastar engine is now, in the today’s age of record beating computers on wheels, the best way to experience what it truly means to be “one with the car”.

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Car Review: The Lady and The Tramp

In the fall of 2012, I decided to take the plunge into a pool that would cement my societal standing as a car guy. The decision took some time and a few difficult night sleeps, but at the end of the day, I signed the paperwork necessary to purchase a second vehicle. Soon after my John Hancock was littered throughout a series of dealership notes, my driveway featured two functioning automobiles and there was no intention of that number falling back down to a lonely one.

2002 Outback H6 JDM Grill

For car people, owning two vehicles isn’t that big of a deal. In all honestly, owning four or five cars plus a motorcycle is much more normal for people who prefer their morning coffee with a side of caked on engine grease. I had my reasons for the trigger pull and after 10 months of living with two vehicles, I don’t ever see myself going back to my much more pedestrian ways. The experience thus far has been outstanding if not more expensive and it has taught me a very valuable lesson in that cars, despite their on-paper attributes, are a lot more strange than we might even let on. Let me explain.

2002 Subaru Outback December Knoxville, TN

To be honest, the vehicle that I purchased as secondary (to become primary) was a bit of a head scratcher, especially given my age and affinity for alarm breaking exhausts. Built in 2002 by Subaru of America, the Legacy Outback that became known as Hazel was and still is, despite her vanilla appearance, a pretty interesting car. Looking around her hulking side moldings, butch tires, bold fender flares and deep red coat, one could find two subtle badges that indicated something rather unorthodox. These badges read “H6-3.0” and indeed, that is what Hazel rolled off the factory floor with – a 3.0 liter H6 engine. Rare then and even more rare 10 years senior. 2002 Subaru Outback FS

Billed as Subaru’s flagship, Hazel’s LL Bean trim level meant that any intention of mud flinging, tree dodging, sideways rally action were never even a consideration. This car was intended to cart two types of people around to their various sight seeing adventures: old people and college professors with children in elementary school. In short, there was no intent for Hazel to mesh with someone who purposely gets stuck in the mud or would rather be at opposite lock in some forest instead of simply looking at the trees inside. Thus, I received a few raised eyebrows at the dealership and in retrospect, I should have paid attention to why.

2002 Subaru Outback H6 First Drive

Hazel and I got off to a rocky start. Despite a flawless test drive, the first hour of my actual ownership was when she decided to overheat. Confused at best, I did want any foolhearted gearhead would and topped off the coolant and went about my business. That action “cured” her issues for a few days and in that time, I learned to appreciate Hazel for her smooth power delivery, opulent ride, lazy steering and quiet interior. A huge step away from the other Subaru I call transportation, the differences between Hazel and a five year older Outback with three pedals and two less cylinders was something I honestly wasn’t prepared for. While I talked her up with statements such as “dual cam flat six”, “all wheel drive” and “212 horsepower”, deep down I knew that I felt she was a bit boring. Regardless of my pep talks, Hazel understood just as much as I did that our relationship was stupid. Taking her gender to heart, the bulky girl decided she was going to become bitter about my new found feelings.2002 Outback H6 JDM Grill

A week into our marriage, I discovered through some remarkably frustrating events that Hazel had blown a headgasket. Now, I’ve dealt with Subaru headgasket issues before but to my understanding, the H6 engine was the foolproof variant so this diagnosis absolutely floored me. Shocked and disappointed, I contemplated letting Hazel go entirely but before I could cut the tie, the dealership made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – replace the headgaskets free-of-charge. A few weeks went by and I spent time moving and hooning in my rusty but trusty other Outback – the car that was intended to become a weekend project/racer. When Hazel was finally released from surgery, logistics stated that I could not procure her for a month given the new found distance between the two of us. Thus, my dear-sweet mother parked her Toyota Camry in lieu of a flat six Subaru. Her conclusion was this, “this is a really nice car.” During their brief time spent together, my mother and Hazel became very good friends. Not once did the previously questionable Subaru give her any signs of trouble. With said status report reading all positives, I made the decision to keep the car and continue to use her as I initially intended – as a daily driver. Soon after we were reunited, I had to replace parts for very weird reasons. Then, she started to overheat. Again.

 

2002 Subaru Outback FS

I diagnosed the second overheating issue as caught up air in the cooling system due to a leaking reservoir hose. After an Ace Hardware replacement, Hazel’s abilities became needed for my then roommate and for two whole weeks, I lent the keys to this particular Subaru to another caring female. For that period of time, despite my constant fear of a disastrous phone call, Hazel performed flawlessly. Any rational person would have believed that their shadetree handy work actually succeeded but I’m not rational – I’m a car guy. Essentially, the flawless status report I received upon the end of those two weeks was enough to convince me that Hazel simply did not like me. To add insult to injury, the car overheated a few days following my once again procurement. After a handful of coolant burping sessions, I finally trusted the car enough to make it the 1,000 miles from South Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee. This trip had a reason – unload Hazel on someone else. That someone else presented herself out of no where and after a brief and brisk test drive, the family friend purchased the luxury barge right on the spot. Yes, you read that right – Hazel was purchased by a female. A caring female. This transaction took place two months ago and each status report that I have received since ends in nothing but gold stars. It may sound dopey but, I firmly believe Hazel and I were never meant to be.  Perhaps a product of poor upkeep on my and or the previous owner’s end, the car turned out to be more trouble than she was worth but only for one person in particular -myself.  Hazel would always perform flawlessly around others and still does to this day.  I’m still not so sure why her feelings of remorse and disrespect were directed toward my person but then again, I never really asked.  

2002 Subaru Outback FS

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Creative Craigslist: Why buy New?

The other day, I told someone who isn’t very familiar with how the automobile works that I would probably never purchase an all-new vehicle.  The look on their face wasn’t very notable and the conversation pretty much ended right there but that isn’t the point I’m trying to bring to your attention.  What that brief interaction did was bring up a serious question that more and more people should ask themselves before dumping a lot of money on a brand-new vehicle.  Why?  If the classifieds have taught us anything, it is that there are a wealth of much cooler and better things available that our hard-earned dollars can be used for.

So here’s how this is going to work: below will be a series of well-known and well-reviewed 2013 vehicles with various purposes and price categories.  Accompanying them will be  something pulled from the flyers (ebay mostly) that serves the same basic purpose, cost the same but, does things better in every way possible.  This is some serious consumer advice.

$15,000

yaris

For $14,370, you can go to a Toyota dealership and drive home in an all-new and revamped 2013 Yaris.  Included in that cost are three doors, up to 37 mpg, bluetooth and nine airbags.  Wow!  It’s so astonishing that Toyota themselves advertise the Yaris by reminding potential buyers that it is actually still “a car”.  A little bit of clarification can go a long way especially given that the tiny little hatchback still uses a 4 speed automatic and is powered by a 1.5 liter shoe.  Not quick, not spry and by no means pretty, the 2013 Yaris really is just “some car” and is so much so that after just a few days,it will lose a hefty amount of its value.  So why then would you buy it when the same amount of money could get you this:

Shiro

In 1988, Nissan created 1002 of these quintessentially 80s  special edition 300ZX sports cars.  Called the Shiro SS, it is one of the rarest Z cars ever made.  Underneath its long and sloped hood is a single turbo 3.0 liter V6 that produces 200 horsepower which is, almost 100 more than the Yaris.  The Shiro features rear wheel drive, a viscous limited slip differential, Recaro seats and a five speed manual transmission supplied by Borg-Warner.  All of these things are items not found on the spec sheet of the 2013 Toyota Yaris.  With its widened body, chiseled shoulders, all white exterior and timelessly 80s interior, the Nissan gives off so much more creativity and life compared to the copy-and-paste stuff adorning the Toyota.  And given the Shiro’s rarity, the Z should also continue to appreciate while the value of the Yaris will drop like a brick tied to another brick.  So there you have it: for $15,000 you can either fall asleep driving or, you can summon your hair to stand on end by flinging Duran Duran sideways in pearl white glory.  The choice is yours.

$25,000

Out

Let’s say you want a full-size, four door utility vehicle with all wheel drive confidence.  For $25,000, you can go to a Subaru dealership and buy a 2013 Outback 2.5i with a CVT automatic transmission.  Being as it would be the absolute base two-pedal Outback, a single overhead cam 2.5 liter flat four cylinder engine would be present and with that, a driver gets a modest 173 horsepower to pull around nearly two tons of all wheel drive station wagon.  Needless to say, a brand new Outback isn’t very quick, especially with the gear-less transmission which Subaru is by no means qualified to make.  CVTs are dumb all by themselves but the one made by the “other” Japanese automaker takes the biggest slice of stupid engineering cake.  Sluggish and numb, the automatic found in a base current generation Outback is the biggest let-down in Subaru’s colorful history.  Even still, your $25,000 will get you a lot of space, serious all-weather confidence and excellent safety.  Or, it could get you this:

srt8

In 2006, someone inside Chrysler LLC thought it would be a wonderful idea to take a 6.1 liter Hemi V8 and put it in a Jeep.  Thus, the legendary Grand Cherokee SRT8 was born and today, one can be had for the same amount of coin that could get you disappointing but quirky acceleration.  On paper, the 2013 Ouback and 2006 SRT8 are fairly similar as both have all wheel drive, feature two pedals and house five passengers utility style.  They both can carry a full family and all their gear up to the sky lodge but in one of them, the action will surely be conducted in a much more rambunctious fashion.  Given that the Jeep packs 425 horsepower, an all-American V8, Brembo supplied brakes, 285mm wide rear tires and a top speed of 170 mph, the SRT8 will surely get you to your weekend getaway much sooner than expected.  Sure, it may get around 8 mpg but that’s all academic anyways.  And besides, when was the last time you had fun doing math?  Exactly! Clearly, the choice simple.

$35,000

eos

If you want a posh, sporty but European four seat convertible, you could spend $34,650 on a base 2013 VW EOS.  Built off of the same chassis that the fantastic Golf GTI calls suspenders, the EOS came to be a few years ago as a purpose-built premium drop top and continues to rack up somewhat modest sales today.  Under its hood is the same 2.0 liter TSI turbocharged inline four cylinder engine found in the hot-rod hatchback and for under $35 grand, the “Komfort” (only VW can get away with misspelling words on purpose because the language barrier is “kute”) comes equipped with the tried-and-true DSG double clutch automatic transmission.  The base car also comes with heated seats, satellite radio, bluetooth and many other things that somehow become relevant when there isn’t much else important to talk about.  Needless to say, the Komfort EOS may look adorable and have some okay grunt, but that’s about as far as the positives go.  Unlike the GTI it shares quite a lot with, the EOS weighs 3,569 lbs which is 500 lbs more than the hatchback.  The base GTI also starts at $24,000, travels faster, handles better, is more useful and more economical.  If you want to spend $35,000 on a four seat European convertible, why would you get one that isn’t hair raising or very cool?  Why not just spend your money on this:

db7 1

Oh yes; for the same amount of money required to purchase a floppy Volkswagen, you can buy an Aston Martin DB7 Volante.  While the example in question is 15 years old, it has only traveled 38,000 miles and actually, costs a little bit less than a base EOS.  Absolutely bite-the-back of your hand beautiful, the DB7 was created during a time when Aston Martin was less associated with soccer players and more associated with the sultan of cool himself: James Bond.  In the late 90s, the grand touring champs were not powered by the big and heavy V12 we know to be familiar today but instead, the DB7 Volante made due with a simple but elegant dual cam 3.2 liter straight six.  Aided by a supercharger, the powerplant creates a still impressive 335 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque which is substantially more than the VW.  Plus, the Aston is rear wheel drive and much more elegant overall.  The amount of soul adorning the DB7 Volante is so immense that the car will go down in the history books as one of the all-time greatest automobiles ever conceived.  Now think about that before you plop down $35 grand for a heavy and less exciting GTI that isn’t as useful.

db7 3

 

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Car Review: The Dumb Little Washing Machine

If you have a mother, you have undoubtedly heard this statement: “hate is a strong word.”  While it may seem harsh, it is more often than not said in  a manner that is either clownish, hyperbole or fully tongue in cheek.  In order to use hate in its full capacity, a wave of uncontrollable emotions must attack a person’s most inner soul.  There have been times in the past where we found heavy dislike for a car but even the GM J-Bodies have a sort of repulsive charm that make them “okay” or at the very least, laughable.  Because of this, we never really knew if we would ever meet a vehicle we would dislike so much that arduous walking would be the preferred mode of transportation.  On a cold winter’s day however, that all changed as the funky little Nissan Juke found its way onto our driveway.  Initially intrigued by 188 turbocharged and direct injected horses, we got behind the wheel of the strange crossover with honest high hopes.  After all, the Juke contained Nissan’s first U.S.-spec turbocharged four cylinder in ages and how cool is that?  In all honesty, not very cool at all.  Instead of joy, EmptyRoad was assaulted with enough anguish that we were forced to give the word hate a full-blown workout.  Please meet not only our least favorite car of 2012, but our least favorite car of our quarter century lives

Juke_EXT_10_

The Juke was born from what appears to be absolutely nowhere.  Throw away all concerns regarding its appearance and look at the vehicle compared to the current automotive structure.  At 162.4 inches long and 69.5 inches wide, the Juke is not much bigger than the B-Platform Versa it shares so much with.  Unlike that entry-level compact, the Juke rides 7 inches above the ground, comes available with all wheel drive and is actually called a “crossover”.  This means that it does not compete in the small city car segment but instead, it does battle in a market that is now, rather lonely. After the death of the Suzuki SX4 late in 2012, the Juke was left with not much in terms of competition.  This begs the question, why would Nissan turn a small hatchback into a tiny utility vehicle?  Perhaps they would like the public to buy into the notion that crossovers are safer but simply put, the extra gear amps up the B-Platform’s revenue building abilities.  Take our Juke tester for example.  It came out the door with Rockford Fosgate’s speakers, a spoiler and navigation carrying a price tag of $26,145 which is a dollar-to-size ratio of expensive.  Things seem to get even worse when you realize our tester was not even equipped with the Juke’s party piece: all wheel drive.

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So there you have it; when fully equipped, the Nissan Juke can cost very close to $30,000.  Judging by its size alone, the Juke doesn’t seem worth the cost but as history has shown, there is more to a happy ending than just width and girth.  Justification for the Nissan’s entry fee could be found under the hood as its dual cam MR16DDT is rather impressive.  But when one dwells on what else can be had in that price bracket, the sale becomes difficult once again. For the kind of money needed to purchase a fully loaded Juke, a wealth of much better turbocharged speed demons are readily available.  The Mazda MazdaSpeed 3 can be cheaper and makes almost 100 more horsepower plus, it is simply bigger.  A base WRX comes with all wheel drive standard and can be had for less coin as well.  And if you fancy a rear drive boost feed frenzy, $27,000 can get you the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec which comes with 274 horsepower and adjustable camber bolts.  When faced with those facts and figures, the Juke seems stupid even before you get behind the wheel.  The thing is though, the Nissan is a crossover –  the Hyundai, Mazda and Subaru are not.

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To be fair, our hate towards the Nissan was not born from what’s under the bonnet.  If anything, the little 1.6 liter’s snorty power is the Juke’s only saving-grace.  The mill is eager to rev, good on linear power and makes all the right noises but considering the Juke’s 3,000 lb curb weight, a 0-60 mph time of around seven seconds is just okay. Compared to other vehicles in its price bracket, it isn’t even news worthy and more acceleration could easily be had.  This is where things start to go wrong and the Nissan starts be become annoying.  Our tester, a loaded out front driver, came equipped with what is our least favorite thing in the entire world: a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).  For some strange reason, Nissan is absolutely obsessed with the damn things and has been ever since the Murano debuted years back.  While the company may be the pioneers in mass producing the gear less transmission, there is still no example that can match the wonderful simplicity of a box filled with cogs.

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With two belts and various tension pulleys, the CVT is, on paper, more efficient than a conventional geared transmission.  In reality however, CVTs have never really worked the way their engineers would hope and the Juke’s is no different.  When called upon in a manner more associated with race tracks, the Juke would do nothing.  After a few hair-raising seconds in which the oncoming vehicle would be much, much closer than first expected, the CVT’s tension pulleys would respond and jump the rev-happy turbocharged engine up to its optimal power output.  Good right? Wrong as without a proper front limited slip differential, the Juke’s chassis is completely incapable of dealing with the engine’s power.  Jittery, nervous and twitchy are all adjectives that describe the Juke’s acceleration patterns.  In short, pulling out into traffic is almost never inspired by confidence and at times, the action can be flat-out dangerous.

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Nissan has never really been one for absolute quality and since the 1980s, the other Japanese car maker has always been just that – the “other” Japanese car maker.  Forever in the shadow of Toyota and Honda, Nissan has made strides with certain home runs like the Frontier and GTR but this crossover is a perfect example as to why the manufacture is not as successful in the U.S as it could be.  In terms of overall build quality, the Juke feels exactly like a car that has been in a horrific accident and hastily put back together by a man with two first names.  With the structural rigidity of an overly worn Converse sneaker, the Nissan flexes, creaks and shimmies with every given input.  Even when sitting completely still, the simple act of the windshield wipers doing what they are supposed to do would shake the Juke.  No car with a price tag close to $30 grand and a model year 2012 should tremble from its own windshield wipers.  Then there’s the handling which can be best described as worrisome.  For some incredibly disappointing reason, Nissan will only sell you a front wheel drive Juke with the rear suspension from a truck (or a 15-year-old Maxima as the two are one in the same).  The torsion beam can not supply the amount of grip needed for the Juke to deal with its own power and given the car’s tall stance, body roll is far too present.  Entering a corner isn’t very pretty while exiting can be even worse. The CVT will quickly jump the engine all the way to 11 which then causes the inside front wheel to spin furiously.  Yes, you read that right: the Juke is a front wheel drive, 188 horsepower turbocharged car without a limited slip differential.

So there you have it, the Nissan Juke is too expensive, handles poorly, looks stupid and is built with the kind of effort needed to get a C- on an English 101 first week essay.  This could appear to be the end of the hate but it isn’t as the Juke has something to reveal that will make any gearhead confused and possibly very angry.  If equipped with all wheel drive, the torque steer and traction issues are taken care of and on top of that, the added grip comes with a properly sophisticated multi-link rear suspension.  This means that the uneasy handling characteristics are thus absent so why not just pony up the extra cash and get an all wheel drive Juke?  There is, of course, a terrible and life threatening catch; Nissan will only sell you a proper Juke with a very improper and offensive CVT transmission.  Given its wonderful engine and admittedly nifty interior, the Juke could be a fine little runabout but Nissan refuses to sell it the way they should: with all wheel drive, a 6 speed manual and fully independent suspension.  When a car company denies buyers of what could be, people take notice and as a result, they go somewhere else.  We certainly would and we certainly did.

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Every “Best Driver’s Vehicle” List is Wrong and Here’s Why

Automotive websites, including this one, absolutely love lists.  “10 Best What-have-you” compilations are often created in order to aid consumers and point them in a proper direction.  Most are rather useful and go along the lines of the best vehicles to have in the Northern United States, best vehicles to buy for hypermiling or best vehicles for doing donuts around the mall security’s pre-owned Ford Escape.  Things however, are not always as cut-and-dry as simply pointing out price and statistics.  There is one aspect of the automotive world that, while very popular, is so clouded in opinion that it shouldn’t even be brought up: The Best Driver’s Vehicle.

For the most part, whenever a site creates one of these lists, the words “Mazda Miata”, “Honda S2000” or “Ferrari Something Way Too Expensive to Even be Considered Useful” are included.  As fantastic as these cars are to drive, they may not do the same things to all different types of gearheads.  Take for example us at Empty Road Chronicles.  During a seasonal stint  receiving press vehicles, items anywhere from Corvette Convertibles, Infiniti G37s and Ford Mustangs have made it onto our driveway for sampling and exploration.  If any other contemporary automotive website were to comply a list of the best driver’s vehicles strictly from the press-provided-products, the sporty models with high output engines, spotlight stealing looks and low profile tires would be at the top of the list.  Of course, Empty Road Chronicles isn’t very contemporary.  For that reason, the best driver’s vehicle we have ever sampled from a long list of press cars, trucks and SUVs is a Darth Vader black 2011 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Denali.

It may seem odd that among a list of items that include a Corvette, Jaguar, BMW, Infiniti, Mustang, Camaro and Nissan Quest minivan, there is a nearly 4 ton pickup truck standing tall at number one.  An easy on-paper candidate for the best product for uprooting trees, demolishing houses and upsetting greenwashed neo hippies, the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Denali isn’t what most people would call a “driver’s vehicle”.  Sitting strong at 7,208 lbs, the 2500 Denali (a Crew Cab Standard Bed) is 240 inches long, more than 78 inches tall and 80 inches wide.  To put that into prospective, a 2012 Mazda MX5 Miata is 157 inches long, 67.7 inches wide and almost 50 inches tall.  The little roadster also weighs 2,400 lbs which means that driving the HD Sierra is like driving three 2012 Miatas at the same time.  Last time we checked, human beings still only have just two legs and two arms: not really enough to drive three cars simultaneously .  Then there is the issue of cost.  At right around $60,000, the Sierra HD Denali isn’t cheap, even for a vehicle that could pass off as luxury.  A base Miata is just a tad over $20,000 which classifies it both as a bargain and accessible to wide variety of drivers.  This all means that on paper, the Mazda would be considered the better driver’s car compared to the HD Denali simply due to statistics and dynamics.  Strangely enough, that isn’t really how the automotive world always works.

We will be honest in saying that we are a bit hard to please.  The current scope of the automotive world is so caught up in numbers that the splendor of the old-world is almost entirely lost.  In less than half a decade, the automobile has gone from a wonderful piece of art housing strength, independence and effulgence wrapped up in a warm blanket of freedom and glory to an appliance more associated with controversy than joy.  What made vehicles from the 50s, 60s and 70s so beautiful was their ability to combine simple technology with an indescribable passion that made driving anywhere an adventure and a delight.  That emotional connection seems to no longer be a priority and far too often, isn’t even considered in the manufacturing process.  Instead, it has been replaced by an obnoxious amount of engineering.  For those of us who still prefer operating vehicles older than ourselves, hope is not all lost as there are just a few new products that continue on with the “old-world” mentality of build and design.  Despite what its on-paper performance might say, the Sierra 2500 HD Denali is one of those vehicles.

On the inside, the Denali looks, feels and smells like a luxury car from the 1960s.  It’s overly spacious, full of wood trim, elegantly placed out, extremely comfortable and gives off the impression that it would make an excellent candidate for a black-and-white movie scene filled with cigar smoke.  Driving the truck is nothing more than a laugh as the steering tells a driver a little less than nothing and the act of stopping a vehilce of this caliber requires actual pre-production planning.  The ride quality is pretty heavy-duty but just soft enough that hitting a bump doesn’t hurt at all; it’s just funny.  Bounding over speed humps in the HD is like jumping on a water bed but from 30 feet in the air.  It’s going to shock you, but you’ll be laughing the entire time.  The chassis feels spring-loaded and a bit bouncy: just like the land yachts of the 60s and 70s.  But unlike those pseudo muscle cars that, despite their appearance, could barely move, the Sierra HD Denali can really hustle.  It’s newly revamped 6.6 liter Duramax turbocharged diesel V8 produces just under 400 horsepower which in today’s numbers hungry world, isn’t really news worthy.  What could stop the presses is the engine’s torque rating, which at 765 lb-ft, can allow the Sierra to pull almost 20,000 lbs, haul 4,192 lbs and run down the 1/8th mile in a hair over 10 seconds.  Paired to an Allison-built six speed automatic transmission, the HD Denali gives off the impression that it could stop the world’s rotation, never break and outrun a sports car each and every time you take off.  The powertrain surges the heavy-duty truck up freeway on ramps in a manner more associated with commercial airline takeoff than with wheeled vehicles.

As fun as it is to drive, the Sierra HD Denali is, without a doubt, a huge novelty.  The truck really doesn’t have a justified reason for existing and is massively irrational.  The same powertrain can be had in a lower priced and more work friendly base 2500 while the same opulent interior can be had in the less industrial and better riding 1500 Denali.  But when GMC decided to combined the interior from a Buick with the chassis/drivetrain from a dump truck, something truly magical was created.  The big Sierra is an utter delight no matter what the situation and driving the truck is nothing but hilarious.  It barely turns, doesn’t fit anywhere and hardly stops but it can still out run most sports cars when the light turns green.  Simply walking up to the broad-shouldered Denali is an adventure in itself.  Its gleaming chrome and dark demeanor instantly conjure up fantasies of smashing through banks and fleeing to Canada with a bed full of stolen currency.  And once you’ve arrived from your adventure, be it legal or not, the laughs will continue as the 2500 will never be fully situated in a parking spot as it is just too big.  GMC may say that they engineer the industry’s best trucks but what they actually do is create one of the most lovable and playful vehicular friends you will every come across.  That same passion that could be found everywhere in the 1950s is inside and all around the 2500 HD Denali.  This truck makes no rational sense at all but that might just be the reason for its existence.

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