Category Archives: Articles

2017 Toyota 4Runner – Test Drive, Review, Ratings, Specs

2017 Toyota HighlanderBig SUV’s Still a Thing

Despite the fact that the world has more or less accepted the transition to the more favorable cross-over, the ultra heavy-duty Toyota 4Runner SUV refuses to let go of its existence. Not to say that the old-school SUV is a hopeless comparison to the modern cross-over though. Towing capacity and off-road conquering is where the 4Runner reigns supreme if that’s on your priority list.

How to Handle Diesel Exhaust Fluid During the Winter

Green gas nozzle wasting fuel on white backgroundWhen winter approaches, understandably, you may be worried about the repercussions of your Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) freezing. However, we are here to say: don’t.

2014 Mazda Miata MX5 – A Final Farewell To a Classical Roadster

Gray Exterior

2014 Mazda MX5 Overview

Debuted in 2005, the engine department in the Mazda MX5 remains relatively unchanged. Underneath the hood of the roadster lies the shimmering 2.0 liter MZR four-cylinder engine producing 167 horsepower and 140 foot-pounds of torque. These numbers are not exactly astonishing at sound, neither does the Mazda MX5 accelerate in time-warping speed, but that’s not why you buy this car. The Mazda MX5 is all about maintaining speed around corners, and delivering that ultra pure driving experience – a rare and highly respected feature in the automotive performance realm.

Off-roading: Vintage vs New School

vintage-car

Most of the time, we just prefer new technology over old.  But when it comes to off-roading, this vintage 1920′s Dodge Brothers might beg to differ..  The video below shows a 1920′s vintage Dodge Brothers sedan conquering down heavy mud roads and fields to “get to the gushing oil well”.  Most current off-road 4×4 trucks would fail miserably in these road conditions.

 

Source: YouTube

All Terain Roadless Wheel Design

Ackeem Ngwenya roadless wheel

Ackeem Ngwenya demonstrates his innovative concept of the shape shifting automobile tire.

Driving can be difficult when you’re living out in the suburbs where road conditions are less than ideal. That is, if you’re reluctant to change your tires for every possible scenario.  Fortunately, this may all change with the Roadless tire design.

Designed by Ackeem Ngwenya from Innovation Design Engineering from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, the Roadless tire is a shape shifting road tire that can form into different shapes and sizes to best adapt to any road terrain.  The mechanics behind the Roadless tire is based on the scissor-jack mechanism, allowing the wheel to expand or contracts “to give more contact area or better ground clearance”.  As you crank the (telescoping) hub up and down the wheel expands or contracts to give more contact area or better ground clearance.

Ackeem was actually supposed to graduate in June, but came short on tuition fees.  Instead of paying off his dues by flipping burgers, Ackeem took time off and applied his resourceful knowledge and came up with the idea of the Roadless Tire.  The idea was drawn up by witnessing difficulties people had in driving through rough road conditions with limited resource.

Ackeem has started an Indiegogo campaign for Roadless tire.  Currently he has successfully raised £5,135 in funds. His work has also gained media exposure on BBC and other news media sites. The Roadless Tire is currently in an early prototype phase and is going under various test to determine whether this design can sustain harsh road conditions.  To learn more about his project and his progress, be sure to visit the official Roadless tire project page here.

Miriam’s story from ackeem ngwenya on Vimeo.

Source: IndieGogo

2013 Lexus RX350

When Lexus first debuted its RX SUV in 1998, it changed the SUV game by building a sport utility vehicle on its ES sedan platform. The 5-door “luxury SUV” was a hit in the marketplace, with its comfortable car-like ride, high-quality construction, and plush passenger accommodations. The reliable 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover SUV, now in its third generation, continues the trend toward luxury, comfort, and innovation in sport utility vehicles, and is set to capture an impressive portion of the US mid-size crossover market, where the RX has been the best selling luxury SUV since its introduction.

In line with Lexus’ new brand direction, the 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover has been updated to give it a visual flair that sets it even higher above the competition with an athletic, sporty appeal. 18-inch alloy wheels, new grilles, LED running lights, new interior colors, and an expanded standard equipment list including power lift gate and iPod/USB audio interface serve to increase the RX 350’s luxury appeal. Still comfortably seating five passengers, the 2013 RX 350 sports a clean, classy interior of exceptional cabin materials and upscale appointments, with plenty of cargo space, headroom, and legroom. Rear passengers will ride in comfort with roomy, cushioned seating and independent reclining and sliding seat adjustments

Innovative high-tech options in the 2013 RX 350’s interior include keyless ignition, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an unmatched 9-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and heated and ventilated front seats. The navigation system is similarly innovative, featuring the newly updated Lexus Remote Touch interface that utilizes a tactile feedback controller to access navigation through the infotainment system. The infotainment system itself runs on the Lexus Enform suite of apps, tying driver and passengers into Internet services such as iHeart Radio, Movie Tickets.com, and Pandora, as well as Safety Connect emergency communications.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover has a 3.5 liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission with standard front wheel drive (all-wheel drive is optional). This gives the RX 350 270 hp and 248 pound feet of torque. The more athletic F Sport package includes all-wheel drive, and comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 6-speed automatic gets an estimated mpg of 18 city/25 hwy/21 combined, while the 8-speed F Sport gets 18 city/26 hwy/21 combined.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 maintains its luxury name when it comes to ride quality as well. Like all Lexus vehicles, driving impressions are very homogeneous. The RX 350’s plush ride and composed handling reduce the stress of driving so driver and passengers can enjoy the ride. The RX 350 provides exceptional sound insulation and a quiet, softly-sprung suspension to coddle passengers in a bubble of quiet, comfort, and luxury. Although the engine is impressively quiet, it boasts enough power to accelerate quickly and easily, and the steering has a responsive and sporty feel, with confident composure in turns. The F-Sport model’s sport-tuned suspension sharpens the handling to make it especially fun to drive, with the exhaust note giving quite a grunt on downshifts.

With a base price of $40,000, the powerful and efficient 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover SUV provides a combination of comfort, convenience, innovative tech features, and a strong safety and reliability record that promises to keep it at the top of the luxury crossover market.

2013 Kia Optima – Another Hit!

The Kia Optima sedan, when it initially debuted in 2000, was essentially a variant of the Hyundai Sonata, with slightly different styling details and minor differences in equipment. The second generation, introduced in 2005, used a global platform unique to Kia, called the “MG,” but still shared its 2.4 liter straight-four engine and Sportmatic transmission with the Sonata.

The third generation Kia Optima sedan, in contrast, is completely revamped, with sleeker, sportier styling and a powertrain upgrade to a universal GDI 4-cylinder engine.

The 2013 Kia Optima sedan offers European-inspired styling designed by Kia’s chief design officer (former chief designer for Audi), Peter Schreyer. With its complete redesign, the Optima went from looking ordinary to being one of the nicest-looking sedans in the mid-size market. The new design boasts sporty, European detailing, a more rakish, coupelike roofline, stretched headlamps, and flashy wheel designs, and it has a more athletic look overall than most mid-size sedans.

The well-heeled interior of the Optima has a clean, minimalist design with a wide bank of controls canted in the driver’s direction, that are easy to read and pleasing to the eye. It also offers features such as available heated rear seats and panoramic glass roof. The cabin is fairly spacious and provides comfortable seating and a good amount of legroom in both front and rear, and boasts an abundance of soft-touch materials as well.

The 2013 Kia Optima is offered in LX, EX, SX, and SX Limited models. The LX and EX are both powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection, providing 200 horsepower and 186 pound feet of torque, in both manual and automatic 6-speed options. Both LX and EX trims deliver outstanding fuel economy figures of 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy, and 28 mpg combined. The SX and SX Limited utilize a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that gives up to 274 horsepower and increases torque to 269 pound-feet. This added boost barely affects fuel economy, with the SX trims still getting 22 mpg city/ 34 mpg hwy. Kia also offers an improved Hybrid powertrain in the 2013 model, teaming the basic four-cylinder engine with a 40-hp electric motor and batteries. The Hybrid achieves an output of 206 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque, while getting 35 mpg city and 40 mpg hwy.

The 2013 Kia Optima rides and handles well, with a quick, nimble feel both on open stretches and in city traffic. The electronic power steering feels a little numb, lacking positive road feedback, but the ride is comfortable and quiet over textured surfaces, and the overall driving experience is better than average for mid-size sedans. The four-cylinder engine, paired with a responsive transmission, provide a smooth-shifting and powerful-feeling driving experience.

With a starting MSRP of only $22,000, this well-rounded mid-size sedan offers a long list of positive attributes and plenty of features for your money. With its variety of trims and prices, there is a model to fit most budgets, as well. Overall, the 2013 Kia Optima sedan is a good choice for a family car, providing comfort, style and a fuel economy rating that is top in its class.

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.

Direction Fuel Injection vs. Port Injection

Today’s automotive manufacturers face tremendous pressure to deliver vehicles that are cheaper in cost and better in performance.  Auto makers must meet strict fuel emission regulations every year before their vehicles can be put on the road.  Direction fuel injection is a technology used in many of today’s cars to boost performance, lower emissions and improve fuel economy.

The question you have right now is: “what is direction fuel injection anyways?”  Firstly, there are two methods of injecting fuel into gasoline engines: the conventional port injection method, and the newer and modernized direct fuel injection method.

Both systems require precise computer control to inject the right amount of fuel into the engine at a given time.  The difference  lies in the location of where the fuel injectors are mounted at.  In port injection, the fuel injectors are mounted in the intake manifold before the intake valve where the air-fuel mixture resides.  Once the intake valve opens, it will pull in the air-fuel mixture into the cylinder for the combustion process.

In direct fuel injection, the fuel injectors are mounted right on the cylinder head, and fuel is directly sprayed into the cylinder where the fuel-air mixture occurs.  In other words, only air passes through the intake and eliminates the need of the intake valve in direct fuel injection.  This method allows more precise control of fuel air mixture into the cylinder; thus, optimizes the cylinder combustion.

With direct injection method, fuel injection can be controlled much more precisely.  In addition, because engine cylinders can reach an excess of 15,000 psi, the high amounts of pressure allows the injected fuel to synthesize and ignite almost instantaneously.

Performance doesn’t come without compromise.  Direct fuel injection costs more to manufacture.  Because the fuel injectors are mounted so close to the cylinder heads, the injector are exposed to extremely high levels of pressure (up to 14,000 – 15,000 psi).  As a result, fuel injector components must withstand much harsher environments compared to port injectors.

Compared to port injectors, the pressure introduced in the intake manifold only reaches up to 40 – 70 psi.  As a result, port injectors are much more simpler and cheaper to manufacture.  One of the draw backs of port injection is that fuel is injected behind the intake valve.  Depending on how long the fuel-air mixture sits in the intake manifold runner, fuel can leak out of the air.

With tighter fuel emission standards and increasing pressure from consumers, automotive manufacturing itself, is a competition arena.  Direct fuel injection is a perfect example of offering both increased in performance and fuel efficiency at an affordable price.  Today’s vehicles still use both methods of fuel injection, but with new technology and development introduced every year, it may not be too far in time before we see all vehicles out on the road equipped with a direct fuel injection system.

Sources:

  1. http://thechronicleherald.ca/wheelsnews/26226-direct-vs-port-injectio