Ludacris’ Legend Restoration for SEMA Show in Las Vegas; Final NALM Pics

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Odometer (Legend):  538,010

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Odometer (ILX):  143,674

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“That’s Ludacris!”  It’s a well-known fact that rapper, entrepreneur, and actor Ludacris has had a special bond with his car from the very early days of his career.  I’ve posted about Luda’s car before, right around the same time his latest album “Ludaversal” hit the airwaves.

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After a recent run-in that left the right rear quarter panel crunched, and thanks to a couple decades (and over 250,000 miles) of wear and tear, that old 1993 L sedan had seen better days.  Acura has swooped in and seen this as a great opportunity to restore a Legend, for a legend.  The car will be unveiled at a press conference during the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, the first week of November.  I plan on being there to see the finished product!

Here is a link to the official…

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Just a pretty face. Subcompact SUV’s

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The first unofficial family car was the station wagon. In the 80’s and early 90’s the wagon was king, and nearly all the major manufacturers wanted a piece of the pie, Buick, AMC, Peugeot, Renault, Mercury, Datsun, Toyota, VW, Audi, Honda, Oldsmobile, Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Geo and Subaru all had renditions of wagons that a consumer was able to purchase in the US and enjoy along with his VHS Player and portable pager. Then came the minivan, and made the wagon an endangered species. Now if you want a wagon you only have a handful of manufactures to turn to instead of nearly 20.

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The Dodge Caravan that replaced many of these wagons was more spacious, was easily to configure and versatile for any occasion, whether carrying kids or plywood. However, what the minivan and the wagon both lacked was off road capability, the ACR Eagle came with AWD, but it couldn’t shake the dated appearance. Sport utility vehicle to the rescue! The SUV gave customers the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, along with family and gear. Customers bought in wholeheartedly, quickly forgetting the days of sliding doors and wooden cladding. However, when gas prices started to rise the big, thirsty SUV was losing popularity and sales started to dwindle. Companies like Honda and Toyota saw a huge opportunity and seized it. Their reasoning went something like this; why not offer AWD capability in smaller more efficient package, welcome RAV-4 and CR-V. The crossover utility vehicle was born, and now rules the market. These smaller SUV’s or lager wagons are loved by many for their size, comfort, efficiency and affordability. Yet, the throne is being threatened once again. Or is it?

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When Nissan introduced its Juke in 2011 the automotive world reacted better than anyone including Nissan anticipated. In the first year, in America alone 30k Jukes were sold. The polarizing styling aside, the consumers loved the smaller packaging, higher seating position and AWD capability. Nissan bottled up the same virtues that made the original CR-V and RAV-4 great and produced a product that the masses loved, mainly because of its size. It wasn’t long that the rest of the industry began to notice, and just like the original wagon craze automakers began coming out with their own version of the compact crossover utility vehicle. Now Honda makes the HR-V Mazda has the CX3, Fiat the 500m, even the legendary off-road king Jeep has a player in the game called Renegade. These AWD vehicles are not a sedans nor a SUV’s or even a CUV, but something smaller, more attractive, efficient and  affordable. This subcompact crossover segment is the hottest in the game. Just how hot? Honda alone is projected to sell close to 130k HR-V’s in the first year. Naturally with all this buzz I was intrigued by these little wagons that could. After taking a closer look this is what I found.

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Most of these little trucks have an all wheel drive system (AWD). Meaning most of the time they’re  front wheel drive only. Jeep is the only one to offer locking differentials and an actual 4×4 system. So as far as capability goes tackling the Mojave Desert isn’t on the to do list, for these wagon trucks. No, most of these CCUV’s will be driven around cities and mall lots. That brings up one big question. Why chose them over its based on? The Honda Fit is one of the best small hatchbacks in the world, and I’m not exaggerating one bit. In fact it was so good Honda decided to use the same platform and lots of other bits in the HR-V. Same goes for Mazda 3, which is the CX3 essentially.

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Comparably these hatchback also, offer a lot more room inside. That just seems redundant. Better fuel economy, handling, cheaper to insure, and are safer. Other than seating position, and a bit more capability, what are you really gaining? Don’t get me wrong, the Renegade is the exception, because you can genuinely use it off road, but everything other cute little CCUV makes very little sense at all. For about tree grand more you can get the large sibling like the CR-V or CX5, and live happily ever after, or not bother at all and enjoy your hatchback.

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This trend is the hottest thing in the Automotive Industry, and I have nothing against it. I just wanted to share my very valuable opinion. If I was in the market for a car that is fuel efficient and capable I wouldn’t be looking at the compact cross over segment. They’re adorable to look at it, but that’s pretty much it.

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Top Gear 2.0

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Fret not my dear car enthusiast friends, the boys are back! One Mr. Jenifer Clarkson, Mr. Richard Cheeseburger Hammond, and Captain James Slow-May, will be soon on our screens, together, in a holy trinity talking about cars, and then even driving them.

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This is of course very exciting stuff. I’ve personally been waiting on this news for a very long time, while watching reruns of specials and episodes of old Top Gear. There is no word yet on what the shows to be called but the guys are very excited about this deal. Clarkson said “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship”. Hammond seems to be on board as well, at least I think.

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Amazon also takes a huge step forward. Issuing the following Amazon Prime Video EU vice-president Jay Marine said: “Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen.” Adding “We can’t wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016.

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The company that delivers smiles to your door step came out of left field and swooped in the massive cash monster of a deal from right under Netflix. Just how big and how much are we talking here? Well, the old seasons of the show on BBC’s iPlayer last year generated 3.8 million viewers. To put that into perspective the most recent UFC (189) had only 847k viewers. Not to mention the huge numbers that Top Gear Episodes brought Netflix previously. With this deal Amazon moves closer to maybe one day posting a decent profit margin. But who cares! The boys are back, and they’re better than ever!

In conclusion Clarkson issued a statement to the BBC…

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Automotive Equality.

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I’m here to talk about equality, not the kind that everyone is excited about recently, but rather, automotive equality.  There are no legal restrictions on the type of vehicle you are allowed to purchase. There are, however restrictions of the other kind, that keep some drivers from truly enjoying the car they really long after.

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Recently I was faced with the most enjoyable task for any car enthusiast, buying a new car. Research, lots of comparison sites, van diagrams, and oranges and apples later I’ve come no closer to figuring out are replacement for the G37x, thrill of the hunt I guess. Looking back at my hunt, I noticed something a bit upsetting. I was giving some cars no chance, based solely on their driver stereotype. Its wrong yes, but I believe everyone is guilty of this. For example a minivan is the logical choice for an average family, they cost less than their SUV and CUV competitors, they are more efficient, cheaper to insure, and in most cases safer. So why chose anything else?  Because it’s a “mom mobile” used only for (insert sport) practice shuttling, and dry clean getting.

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Same can be said about most modern muscle cars. Some, like Jeremy Clarkson claim that only murderers drive them, others say it’s a mid-life crisis mobile. I’m here to tell you both of those accusations are crap. I would like to apologize for going against JC, but the new Mustang with the EcoBoost 2.7 is fast, relatively efficient and looks remarkable, ditto C7 Corvette. There are stereotypes that are associated with every vehicle out there. Especially cars that have been modified in any way.  I often get into it with a buddy of mine who’s a lunatic when it comes to Subaru, particularly the WRX. I tell him his exhaust is too big and the spoiler too high and I know he gets its from his girlfriend and parents to. I want to say to him, I’m sorry and to pay me no mind at all. Everyone who is considering buying a particular car or modifying your existing one, feel free to do as your heart chooses. The only time your car choice is wrong, is when it’s made by someone else. A car is made to be adored, and who can tell you what you can and can’t adore?  I might not agree with every mod, or the stanced wheels, but I admire your individualism. So chose the car that feels right to you, modify it the way you please, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

THE END IS NEAR!

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The future is now! I always found that statement a bit ridiculous, and from a literal stance completely wrong. But, it works well when selling something new and innovative, for example a car that can drive itself. The S Class, and the Q50 operate fully without or very little human input and within the next ten years autonomous cars will be more common than ever. GM, Jaguar, Audi, Nissan, BMW, Renault, and Tesla plan to join the game within the decade. The idea of car safely driving on its own is nothing short of magic and witchcraft. I can sit here and tell you that there are lasers that measure the road, and cameras that do this and that, and you can try to comprehend and appear like this makes sense, but it doesn’t really. A car driving on its own, if that doesn’t blow your mind than you might not have one. I’m honored to be living in times that this is possible. However, there’s always a however, isn’t there. What does all of this mean for the hardcore auto enthusiast?

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You know the guy; he’s got a Miata, WRX or 5 point OH. He scoffs at your automatic transmission and to him a self driving car might as well be a synonym for antichrist. I loved cars ever since I could remember, and if I could fit in a Miata I’d own one, cars in general are wonderful creations. They generate joy and happiness. On a warm summer day, when the windows are down and the road is open there is nothing better than to be in a car you love. Experiencing the sounds, smells, and sights is what gear heads call heaven. It’s also completely the opposite of what a self driving car offers. Yea, the Benz is luxurious, and the Infiniti is sporty, but not the Google car. They’re awful. They look like toasters, and drive like them and soon they’ll be everywhere, the end of the muscle/sports car is near!

Not so fast my third pedal loving friend. I tend to look at this as a blessing in disguise. Driving is fun, but not in all the time. In gridlock, when everyone on your side of the beltway is stopping to look at an accident that happened on the other side of the beltway seems like a good example. Honestly, I would have no problem letting the car take over at that time. Or if you’ve been out and about all night and had one too many, or if you’re exhausted coming from a family vacation. The point being is that even the most hardcore auto enthusiast would welcome some relief from driving at one point in time or another, and that’s where the self driving car would happily exist. When cars began replacing horses by the early 1900’s everyone was worried that our four legged alleys would go extinct. Rather, the appreciation for the horse is greater than ever, i.e. American Pharoah. The animals are used for parades, shows and sport, in other words only for enjoyment. Gone are the days of dead or dying horses on the street of your city because they’ve been used to taxi people back and forth. And the car is heading towards the same path. No one enjoys a Ferrari in traffic no matter how much horsepower it has. But on an open road when you’re free to push it to the limit the story is much different. With that being said I welcome the self driving car into the world. They can do all the driving that I don’t want, so I can enjoy driving as its intended. Drive me home, so I can enjoy my manual driving relic, and make it snappy!

Infiniti G37/Q40 .

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I must apologize for the absence, the past month or so has been pretty intense with root canals, and work projects I haven’t had much time to devote here. I’m glad to be back and especially on a day like today, sunny, warm, spring day. Without wasting anymore time lets jump into My Car Monday. This car was the very first car I owned that was brand new, like 3 miles on the Odo new. It is then a special vehicle to me, but special isn’t necessarily great. Or is it?

Used, was always the way for me, it made very little sense to pay the inflated price of a new vehicle only to have it drop four grand as soon as you take delivery. However, one February afternoon I stumbled onto the G. I was looking at new Maximas online as I often do when my work productivity seizes to exist. Then I spotted an ad from Infiniti allowing people to lease their G for something around $400/month. Leasing was never out of the picture, and the argument of lease vs own is a lengthy one and will be reserved for another time. A few emails later, and without ever seeing the car I was the proud owner (lessee) of a black on black, fully loaded, G37X Sedan. To say that I was excited would be lying, I was stoked. Right in front of my eyes was a brand new, untarnished, shiny car that I would get to call my own. Mind you this is the very car that was compared to by many automotive publications to the 3 series BMW, and won several times. This was the car that unlike the monstrosity that they call the 2016 Nissan Maxima is a true 4 door sports car, and now it was mine.

2013 Infinity G37X

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The initial drive home included lots of winding back roads and I experienced the grip and handling that makes this car great. I’ve never owned an all wheel drive car and to experience it during spirited cornering is something wonderful. You feel the car being sucked into the apex and then pushed out. It knows the best and fastest line out of each corner and it helps you guide itself in and out. The feedback from the conventional steering set up is exceptional, you can tell exactly what the wheels are doing, and inputs are precise and immediate. The balanced chassis and 370Z platform are solid and keep the car plated firmly on the tarmac. Overall this car handles more like a go kart then a luxury family sedan. During these handling “test” the VQ, 3.7, 330hp, V6 mill makes certain that the sedan remains in motion and it does so with some loud mouth backtalk. My favorite thing about this car is this engine. The immediate response it delivers is addicting but the sounds it makes are ever more so. Compared to the cars in its class, it’s an old school tough guy. While the Germans are pumping artificial noise into their cabins, and exhaust note and Lexus are never to be mentioned in the same breath unless the LF-A is involved, this VQ V6 snarls, growls and barks at every opportunity. Kudos to Infiniti for allowing this engine to speak its mind, since it does this extremely well.

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Having the G in my possession for over a year now I can say there some things that could be improved. We’ll start with the 7 speed auto slushbox. During normal, everyday commuting it works reasonably well, however during stop and go traffic when you need to accelerate quickly to switch into the open spot in the other lane there is some hesitation. A second or two is spent searching for the appropriate gear before forward moment happens, and when it does its time to slow down again. Leaving the gearbox in Sport minimizes the lag considerably but that also holds the revs longer, doing this in daily driving will burn more gas, and since were on the subject. The fuel economy of this vehicle is atrocious. I average 20MPG, and yes I do have a heavy foot but those are Chevy Tahoe numbers, and of course premium gas is recommended.

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The interior is plush and luxurious, however it is starting the show its age, this fourth gen G has been around since 2006 and areas like the plastic on top of the dash is a telling sign. My favorite part of the interior is the analog clock in the center of the dash; it’s a classic touch that isn’t offered on the Q50. Also, the infotainment system is instinctive and easy to use. My least favorite is the size of the B pillar, and I’ll tell you why. When your might height (6’5) you need to move the seat back all the way, in doing so the seat back lines up directly in front of the inappropriately thick B pillar, meaning the torso of your body is shifted a few inches to the right, this can be extremely irritating on long rides. Speaking of long rides, this suspension isn’t for them, maybe I’m getting old but I feel most of the bumps along the road, and it gets old quickly.

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With all that being said I’d like to leave you with this. The G37X is an excellent car. It has never gotten me stuck in snow, it deliver exceptional performance, for a price much lower than the German competition. The small squabbles that I mentioned above are just that, and one on ramp blast makes you forget about all of them, not to mention most of these issues are addressed in the newer model. Infiniti is doing a great job of offering an exceptional alternative to the German trio with the G/Q models, and I’m thankful to be along for the ride.

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Official Review. Ford EcoBoost Challenge

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The date was set! The time was set! We were headed to the track (parking lot) to try out the latest and greatest EcoBoost engines that Ford offered in a wide array of its vehicles.

Let me preface all of this by saying it was brutally cold out, the wind-chill was biblical and being that it was the end of March, no one was properly prepared. The reps that were in charge of the event were wearing wind breakers some had no hats or gloves. Same goes for the event, there were no tents sent up with heaters, there was free hot chocolate, and mine blew away after I sat it down on the table. Nonetheless, there was a bit of excitement in the air, even my friend, who is very little into cars was visibly excited, it was either that or early stages of hypothermia. Focus and Fiesta ST’s were launching drag racing style to the right, Mustangs were being tossed around some cones straight ahead, and F-150’s shredding tires to the left. It all looked extremely fun, but as we found out shortly after looks can be deceiving.

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There are six different types of driving activities set up in this event, Trucks and SUV, Mustang Corse, Learn how to drive manual, drive a Transit Connect or Expedition, and ST launch. We started off with the trucks, on this course one can pilot an Escape, the brand new Edge, and F-150, as well as the competition, CR-V, Highlander, and Silverado, before each drive you had to listen to an instructor. These self proclaimed professional drivers, explained the layout of the course and gave a brief overview of the vehicles themselves. Now, something I want to make clear, every single one of these professional drivers, on several occasions, made it very clear to the public that they are entirely unbiased, that we as the consumers were to make our own determinations of the cars. However, during the presentation you heard things like “best in class MPG” and “other trucks I’ve driven aren’t as comfortable” further more the Silverado present was quipped with the 5.3 V8 Ecotech not the 4.3 V6 Ecotech, so clearly it would have worse gas millage than the 2.7 Ecoboost in the F-150 at the event, but who’s paying attention right? I drove the Silverado, upon starting I was scolded for putting the transmission in manual and turning the traction control off. The truck held its own on the course, after returning I was scolded some more for going faster than permitted and breaking on the rumble strips. The Mustang course was the same way. The slightest indication of spirited driving was looked upon as though we were kicking puppies. No dropping of the clutch, no setting the steering to sport, no traction control interference and no fun at all. What made matters worse, other than the brutal cold was the one lap rule. Allowing the patron to only drive the car once was a poor decision, how on earth does Ford or anyone else for that matter expect even a pro driver to be able to test out a car after driving it one time? That’s like asking someone to play Mozart after their first piano lesson, ridiculous. The icing on the cake was when I asked one of the instructors for an additional lap, seeing that there was no one in line for that event, I figured he would agree. His response summarized this whole event perfectly “It’s not about the people we also have to protect the cars”.

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Ford attempted to offer an event where the general public would enjoy their turbocharged offerings, and evaluate them against the competition, an event where driving fast and breaking late is encouraged. In reality the event that they created showcased their marking ability above all else. This wasn’t an event where you can admire the handling and performance of the cars it was a mere publicity stunt, nothing more. Honestly more fun at your local dealer on a test drive. Ford Ecoboost Challenge failed.

Ford EcoBoost Challange 2015

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Ford is hopping to attract even more interest to EcoBoost, these blown power-plants  promise  all the performance of larger displacement engines with none of the awful gas millage.

So today I will take part in this “challenge” and see if the hype is real. I’ve driven the F150 3.5V6 Ecoboost this year and can say that from behind the divers seat there is little difference between it and it’s V8 brother, hopefully that will be the case with the Mustang as well. The ST Focus and Fiesta are also on my must drive list, so I’m looking forward to wheel time in those hot hatches. If you haven’t done so already register for your drive in the link below. It’s without cost and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. In the meantime enjoy the video and stay tuned for my review of the event!

http://www.ecoboostdrive.com/

The Bombshell of the century.

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People always claim they can’t recall exactly when their love of cars originated, often time throwing around phrases like “as long as I can remember” to that I say, if it’s meaningful you’ll remember. The car that sparked my interest was a MK2 Golf, the styling was unique, the interior was spectacular i.e. plaid seats, the thing made a wonderful noise every time it came and went. I loved everything about that car, and knew that moment, back in 92 that cars are wonderful creations. Several years later and after moving to the great USA, I discovered my other automotive related passion. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the screen, a Vauxhall Monaro VX-R (GTO), Chrysler 300C, and a Jaguar S-Type R all drifting on a beach, in perfect unison. I’ve never before seen such thing, outside of cell phone quality YouTube clips, but this was so much more. The quality was phenomenal, it could pass for a James Bond commercial, the music was even better, and the commentating came from a man with a unique accent. I was locked in to the screen, and watched all the episodes I could find that day. I couldn’t get enough, I’d anxiously wait for new episodes to come out, I read books, magazines and was never disappointed of the quality of work that was presented.

As you may know already and if you didn’t know I’m sorry for breaking the news, but Top Gear is no longer. The reason behind this is almost irrelevant; it doesn’t really matter why this happened at all, what matters is that it happened. The three chaps from across the pond will no longer entertain us on Sunday/Monday nights, and it’s a bit heartbreaking to be honest. While there might be another show with Hammond, May and Clarkson, I can assure you it won’t be as good as the original, nothing ever is. I applaud and show my gratitude to the show that allowed my love for all things automotive to cultivate, it will be surely missed. Richard Hammond summarizes this perfectly “Gutted at such a sad end to an era. We’re all three of us idiots in our different ways, but it’s been an incredible ride together” On that bombshell it is time to end.

Goodnight