Daily Archives: November 10, 2012

First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ

Introduction

The BRZ is a condemnation of Subaru’s bread and butter all-wheel drive and turbocharged performance stall. Apart from the fact that bits and pieces are picked off from the Impreza design lot, Subaru has pretty much completely diverged away from their rally racing trademark and dulve into a light weight rear-wheel drive sports car machine. To give a few examples, the front struts are tilted at an angle inwards towards the engine bay to yeild a lower front height while retaining equivalent suspension travel resulting in  improved ride comfort and handling. The radiator is also placed at angle to achieve better weight distribution in the rear.

A bulk of the engineering design efforts of the Subaru BRZ was spent on optimizing weight distribution. In order for Subaru to achieve an overall 53/47 front to rear  balance,  Subaru used an aluminum hood and placed the auxiliary battery behind the front wheel axle. The engine mount is also recessed lower into the vehicle to improve the center of gravity. Even though all the components are mounted so low in the vehicle, the BRZ still surprisingly achieves decent ground clearance with no issues of front or rear fenders scraping under typical driving conditions.

Driver Ergonomics

One of the major design criteria of the Subaru BRZ was to maximize the man-and-machine interaction. Never to say the least, Subuaru scored an A+ on this one. Once hopped into the BRZ and doors closed, you obtain an immediate effect of being fully integrated with the vehicle. The raw engine sound floods strait into the cabin to fully alert the driver of the rev status. There is minimal sound insulation in the cabin space – every rain drop splattering on the chassis roof can be clearly heard. The six speed automatic transmission delivers a quick snap effect with blipped throttle when changing gears upon a flick on the paddle shifter. The six speed manual transmission gets even sweeter.

The shift lever has a perfect throw coupled with a light weight clutch. Even the manual shift knob shivers with alertness to indicate the car is ready for some cornering ass kicking. As much as the BRZ was built for handling – it doesn’t deliver that neck-snapping effect when sling-shooting through corners. However, the car is so well balanced and lightweight (at 2700 lbs) that in any conditions in and out of a turn, the car remains completely calm and composed. It is so easy to drive, and the car simply goes and does what you want and expect it to do.

Performance and Handling

The six speed manual transmission definitely delivers a much more exciting driving experience, but you won’t be flogged for buying the six-speed automatic version. In fact,the automatic transmission has a few nifty features to preserve the track car driving experience such as an integrated yaw sensor to detect when the car is turning through a corner to instruct the transmission to hold its gear at up to 7450 rpm. Common to both transmission models, the speedometer is dead simple with a triple digit seven segment LED display to clearly indicate vehicle speed, a massive tachometer and a large blinking red LED shift indicator when engine speeds are within the red-line zone. The BRZ does have a limited 200 hp of power delivery.

The torque curve starts to flatten when breaching 3200 rpm. Building up speed and passing can lead to difficulty in the lower rpm range; therefore, downshifting is a necessity to keep the engine revs up to deliver peak acceleration.

Conclusion

In modern sports cars, on-board computer nannies are built into vehicle to assist and override physical driver input to achieve better cornering performance.  It is rather refreshing to see that Subaru has stripped out all vehicle baby sitters to deliver a purely raw driving experience. The overall vehicle weight of 2700 featherlight pounds with sport tuned suspension and a light-weight 4 cylinder horizontally opposed boxer engine make the BRZ a cornering machine of excellence. The Subaru BRZ is definitely a very unique car and will be enjoyed by many enthusiasts for generations to come.

2013 Ford Taurus SEL AWD

Bringing back the old reminiscent crown jewels of the Ford Taurus has sparked new excitement in the automobile industry.  At a first glimpse, the Ford Taurus can be accurately described in a sentence with candy words such as big, relaxed, luxurious, and powerful.  As much as these characteristics line up with higher end sedans on the market, Ford refuses to classify the Ford Taurus in the luxury domain and instead, has reserved that territory for their premium Lincoln fleet line.

Ford has freshened up the looks of the 2013 Ford Taurus with a larger and more aggressive front grille, redesigned exterior lighting, rear fenders.  Other features newly introduced in the 2013 model include new suspension tuning, electronic controlled power assisted steering with torque vectoring control, and upgraded brakes to improve the brake feel and stopping distance.

Ford continues to follow its elegant European style trend in the interior cabin space of the Taurus. The interior is bolstered with high quality leather with fully adjustable seats.  Other luxurious features and attributes incorporated into the 2013 Ford Taurus include Microsoft Sync media access and connectivity, and excellent interior sound insulation.

Under the hood lies a V6 engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual select-shift capability.  Ford also offers an AWD power train option for commuting in more extreme weather conditions.  Averaged at 26 mpg on city and highway, the Ford Taurus gains respect in performance and fuel efficiency.

The Ford Taurus is classified as a family sedan and seats 5 passengers and is offered in four different trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and SHO.

Standard equipment on the entry-level SE include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED taillights, blind spot mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The SEL adds larger 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, remote ignition and keyless engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Microsoft Sync media control with integrated bluetoothe smart phone connectivity and satellite radio.

Other purchase options for the SEL model include rear parking sensors, an additional high fidelity center speaker, Improved MyFord Touch with a larger 7″ LCD front navigation display, two USB ports and expanded Sync functionality. For the more demanding consumers, up-scaled purchase options further adds 19-inch wheels, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry, ambient interior lighting and power-adjustable pedals. Free-standing SEL options include leather upholstery (packaged with heated front seats and a six-way power passenger seat), a power sunroof, a rear spoiler and a voice-activated navigation system.

The Ford Taurus is propelled by a 3.5 six-cylinder engine producing 290 hp and 255 ft.lbs of torque.  Fuel efficiency can be slightly gained with the front-wheel drive powertrian system with its score cards showing 19 mpg in the city, 29 mpg in the city and combing average of 23 mpg.  While the AWD power train system scores slightly lower in both city and highway fuel consumption at 18 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and a combined average of 21 mpg.

The interior cabin space is the most notable feature of the Taurus lineup.  The interior is very solid and well built with high quality material.  Ford has also paid quite a bit of attention into their detailing, such as the mesh pattern leather stitching on the side panels and uniform dash board control styling.  The seats are very large and provide plenty of comfort and adjustability with the added bonus of an integrated back massage system built into the seats itself.  The Ford MyTouch infotainment system coupled with Sony’s media and climate control dashboard really adds the final touches to provide both form and function.  However; like the rest of Ford’s lineup coupled with Ford Mytouch system, the Microsoft SYNC software provides a plethora of features, but lags in overall user response time.

The overall ride quality of the Ford Taurus is great, but can be a little harsh over bumps due to its large wheels stiffer suspension setup and more rigid chassis structure.  Nevertheless, there is no shortage of power delivery from the v6 engine.  The extra power delivery and increased cabin space does increase the overall size of the vehicle and weight of the vehicle, but maneuverability and parking is still very well manageable.

Luxury, power delivery and roominess will be greatly enjoyed by consumers looking into purchasing the Ford Taurus.