Car Review Time!

Hi there, everyone! It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve posted. School and a new job (exciting, I know!) got in the way. All of my apologies being said and done, it’s time for a new post! I’ve been in the market for a new car for a while, but it was only recently that I started test-driving. I will be posting my reviews of the cars I test drive here…stay tuned! And of course, I’ll tell you what I end up buying (lips are sealed until then). Until then, here’s my reviews of a 2015 Subaru Forester and a 2014 Subaru Outback.

2015 Subaru Forester: The Subaru Forester is a staple for many Americans. It’s a very capable compact SUV in a lot of areas. It’s got a lot of room for whatever you might want to put in the back. I could easily take a couple of friends camping without having to fold the rear seats down. Fold the rear seats down, and you could sleep in the back! If the trunk does get dirty, it’s easily cleanable. Visibility is amazing, thanks to large, airy windows that give the impression of the interior being much larger than it is. That feature is great for taller people like me. The only downside to so many large windows is that it takes a while to heat up or cool down. If you’re tall, you’ll find decent, but not great leg space in the rear seats. You can fit, but you won’t be as comfortable as you would be in the larger, longer Outback. In the driver’s seat, you’ll find comfortable seats for people of most shapes and sizes. The seating position is excellent. You sit high up, and have a commanding view of the road. The mirrors are large, and you are always aware of where the vehicle is on the road. The model I drove wasn’t fully loaded, but it wasn’t unnecessarily loud. It was fairly quiet, but it could certainly do with more sound insulation. There aren’t many buttons to fiddle with, and there weren’t a ton of options. The interior is somewhat bare-bones. To fix that, you have to step up to the loaded model. Now, let’s move onto how it drives.

The Forester is decently quick. Be careful when you’re leaving a stop though, as the throttle tip-in is very aggressive. You’ll scoot across an intersection in no time. One benefit to this is if you’re trying to pass somebody at any speed. The engine can get a little buzzy at higher RPMs, but you never really need to floor it. It’s got more than enough power for everyday driving, and if you want more, Subaru offers a turbocharged engine. The AWD system is great just about everywhere. It turns on a dime. On the test drive, I was able to pull a U-turn on a 2-lane road. Obviously, this is a massive benefit for parking lots, large cities, and off-road. The Forester’s short wheelbase also helps with this. Subaru has been utilizing continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) for several years now, and while I’m not a huge CVT fan, the Forester’s CVT is one of the best on the market. If you’re coming from a car with a conventional automatic transmission, or a manual transmission, it will take a while to get used to no shifting. If you want to have more control over the transmission, the “Sport” mode for the CVT mimics a 6-speed automatic. Is it like an actual automatic transmission? No, but it does a good job of trying!

The Forester has light, communicative steering. You can feel the road surfaces, but you won’t be fighting for control of the car if you hit a large pothole or go over a speedbump. It has great suspension tuning. However, a downside to cars with short wheelbases is that they can feel busy on bumpy roads or on the freeway. It’s not a bad thing, but you do have to make constant, small adjustments to keep the car going straight. It has strong brakes, and the brake pedal feels firm. You have a lot of confidence when you’re braking. It’s got a nice engine note. It’s not that classic Subaru rumble, but it doesn’t sound terrible either.

While I wasn’t able to take the Forester off-road, there are many owners who have. The short wheelbase and AWD means that the Forester is able to go through mud, snow, down a rutted dirt road, through sand, and over most obstacles with ease. It instills a sense of confidence in the driver, especially if it has all-terrain tires. It should only seem obvious why active people flock to the Forester. It’s got plenty of space, is capable off-road, fun on the road, gets decent fuel economy (I averaged about 26 mpg on the test drive), and is easy and affordable to maintain. Plus, it’s safe (5-star NHTSA overall crash test rating)! I would highly recommend the Forester for: young families, active people, people who need a compact SUV, and those who want reliability and safety. A new Forester will start off anywhere between $22,000-$33,000. That’s before options, of course. But, that’s exactly what all of it’s competitors cost. A used Forester (let’s say 2014 and up) will cost about $20,000 or so. That’s not a bad deal, and you get a whole lot of car for the money. Image result for subaru forester

This is a 2018 Forester (image from the Subaru website, all credit given to their talented photographer). This might be my favorite color for the Forester. What’s yours?

2014 Subaru Outback: Essentially a longer Forester, the Outback is also a staple for many Americans. The 2014 Outback I drove was great. I loved it. You don’t sit as high up as you do in a Forester, but you still have a great view of the road. It’s a bit slower than the Forester, but it has enough get up and go for something it’s size. Neither the Outback nor the Forester are sports cars, no matter how hard they try. But hey, trying hard isn’t a bad thing! Subaru really makes some fun cars to drive! The Outback isn’t as sporty as the Forester, but it’s not what Subaru’s engineers designed it to do. It’s not boring by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not enjoyable in the way that the Forester is. But I’ll get to that later, OK?

Inside the Outback, it’s not nearly as airy as the Forester, but that’s OK. There’s a whole lot more room, especially in the backseat. The interior feels more high-quality as well, despite being the same materials. The seats are even more comfortable, which is an added bonus for long road trips. The backseat has much more space than the Forester. I was able to sit behind my seating position, and have plenty of space. The Outback is much more of a family car than the Forester. The whole interior is much more user-friendly for kids (and adults). Plus, there’s more bells and whistles than the Forester (even in the base model Outback I drove). The trunk is gigantic (the Outback is basically a station wagon branded as an SUV). I could easily fit two bicycles into the trunk without having to fold the rear seat down. Plus, if I wanted to put something onto the roof rack of the Outback, it’s a significantly lower car than the Forester. I wouldn’t have to lift a kayak or mountain bike above my head to put it up, unlike the Forester. The Outback is like a library inside. Even when I floored it and went on a rough road, it was very peaceful inside.

Now, how does the Outback ride and drive? Quite well, if I do say so myself. It’s not as busy of a ride as the Forester is, primarily due to it having a much longer wheelbase. As I previously mentioned, the Outback rides much better than the Forester. It’s smooth and quiet. It’s not as quick as the Forester, but it’s got pep aplenty. It’s still got aggressive throttle tip-in, but it doesn’t rocket off the line like the Forester. It isn’t as fuel-efficient as the Forester, but you don’t buy a Subaru for fuel economy. I averaged about 22 mpg on my test drive, but it’s not unheard of for owners to get anywhere from 18-24 mpg. The Outback doesn’t turn quite as well as the Forester (again, long wheelbase), but it still turns well for how long it is. Thank the AWD for pivoting the car around. The steering feels similar to the Forester’s. For all essential purposes, the Outback rides and drives like a more refined Forester.

Just like with the Forester, the Outback’s AWD is a wonderful feature. Because the Outback is much longer than the Forester, it’s not as good off-road, but it’s still quite capable. There are a few local vineyards that traded in their trucks for Outbacks because the Outbacks are more comfortable, fuel efficient, and just as capable off-road. If you go camping, kayaking, mountain biking, or have an active lifestyle, the Outback is the way to go. The tradeoff in fuel economy for the added space, the better ride and drive, and cushy seats is well worth it. The salesman told me that the Outback was designed for dirt roads, sand, mud, and snow. It’ll follow a Jeep everywhere but rock crawling. Just like the Forester, the Outback is incredibly safe. Think of it as a larger, nicer Forester. Of course, there’s some downsides to a larger vehicle built on the same platform. You’ll get worse miles per gallon, if you go off-roading, you won’t be able to go as far, and how often will you be using all that space?

Image result for 2014 subaru outback

This is, for all essential purposes, the Outback that I test drove.

If I had to choose one of the two, which one would I pick? That’s a hard question, but for me, I would have to go with the Outback. Even though it gets worse miles per gallon, and I probably won’t use all the space it has to offer sometimes, and let’s be honest here: how often am I going to go off-roading? The Outback rides and drives better than the Forester, is much more comfortable, and is an all-around better fit for me than the Forester.

Stay tuned for future car reviews! I’m glad to be back and writing!

Car Review Time!

I usually don’t do posts reviewing cars (at least I haven’t in a while), but I recently test-drove a 2017 Kia Soul. My sister enlisted my help in finding a good car for her, and like any good car-loving brother, I obliged. Somehow, there were no strings attached. We made a stop at the local Kia dealer, and looked at a few Souls. Next up was a test drive. Here are my thoughts on the 2017 Soul:

It’s a great little car. Decent power for it’s size and class. Yeah, I might want a bit more power when passing at higher speeds, or when it’s loaded down with people and gear, but that’s what the new turbocharged version is for! That being said, for everyday driving, it’s perfectly adequate. I’ll talk more about the driving dynamics in a bit.

Now onto how it looks. They’re certainly not for everybody, but I think it looks cool. It’s very roomy inside because of the styling, and the tail lights are cool. Yeah, the front end could look better, but that’s just me. Other people like it. Because of its boxier styling, it’s got great visibility. The windshield is big, and when you’re backing up, you’ve got great visibility. Because it’s a compact car with a very good turning radius, it’s great for big cities where space is at a premium. In white, it looks like an enlarged stormtrooper helmet.

This is the Soul "+" (Plus) model shown.
This is the Soul “+” (Plus) model shown.

The salesman was telling us that his first client was a big, tattooed, Harley-Davidson-riding guy, who really wanted a white Kia Soul because it “looked like a stormtrooper helmet.” It turned out that he was tired of nearly getting hit by cars all the time, so he decided to get a car and keep the Harley for nicer weather.

Yes, those are all of the available colors for the 2017 Soul!
Yes, those are all of the available colors for the 2017 Soul!

Inside the Soul, you’ll find a nice interior. By no means is it a Mercedes-Benz interior, but for what you pay for, it’s great. If you’re tall and find yourself in the backseat, don’t worry! I’m 6 feet tall, and had plenty of room behind the driver’s seat set to my liking! I could easily share the backseat with 2 other people. It’s also very quiet, thanks to Kia’s use of expansion foam in the body cavities. There’s a convenient USB charging port on the front console. There are also available fast-charging ports located inside and on the back of the center console. The overhead LED reading lamps work well. It also has fully automatic climate control.

Pretty swanky for a compact hatchback, don't you think?
Pretty swanky for a compact hatchback, don’t you think?

If you want a backup camera, you’ll get a bigger screen than the cars without  one. Spring for the navigation system and you’ll have a much larger screen (8 inches). You’ll also a 3-month SiriusXM All Access trial subscription, which gives you access to over 160 channels. The available UVO infotainment system (Kia’s intuitive infotainment system) has some neat features that are integrated onto your smartphone: it can keep track of where you parked your Soul, download Kia recommended apps through their App Download Center, monitor your driving habits and provide suggestions on how to improve fuel economy, etc., access 911 Connect or Enhanced Roadside Assistance, and check any maintenance requirements through Vehicle Diagnostics, all on the touch screen. What sweetens the UVO pot is the fact that there are no suscription fees for the first 10 years of access to the UVO system! It’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible!

It’s also got a suite of safety features, some available and some standard. You can get a rearview camera, a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, and one of the more appreciated features is the blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. It’s especially helpful when you have to back out into traffic.

This is a picture of the backseat of a Soul EV, but it's the same thing for all essential purposes.
This is a picture of the backseat of a Soul EV, but it’s the same thing for all essential purposes.

Now, onto how it drives. As I said previously, it drives well for something in it’s class. It won’t keep up with a Porsche 911 by any means, but you can have some fun with it, too. You can also change drive modes on the fly with the Drive Mode Select System, which has a button conveniently located on the perfectly sized steering wheel. There’s an Eco mode, which works well in heavier traffic, and a Sport Mode, which is great for merging onto a freeway, or just having some fun. Yeah, the engine gets buzzy at higher rpms, but it’s not a high performance engine. The transmission is smooth; maybe even a bit too smooth for me. It does what you ask of it, but it won’t ever be as quick as a dual-clutch transmission. There’s even a nice EV model that is supposed to drive even better (I didn’t drive it, so I can’t say).

Kia offers industry-leading warranties. You get a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 5-year/100,000 mile anti-perforation warranty, and a 5-year/60,000 mile 24-hour roadside assistance warranty.

Here’s my takeaway:

Now, would I recommend it? Absolutely, no questions asked. I would even consider buying one for myself. Plus, they’re inexpensive, very reliable, safe, and pretty darn fun cars. Yeah, they would be pretty impractical for somebody who has kids in booster seats, but you could absolutely make it work. They have a lot of space, are safe, and last forever. Oh, and they look neat, especially in white. Kia has some pretty wild colors, which some people like (makes it easier for cops to spot them!).

Buy a New Acura NSX, Get a Custom Film!

Hey everyone! Sorry that it took me such a long time to put this post up, but school was especially stressful this semester. I’m glad that the semester is over, and that I’ll have more time to give the blog more attention. Look forward to more posts in 2017!

I have to admit, the 2017 Acura NSX is quite the looker!
I have to admit, the 2017 Acura NSX is quite the looker!
The interior isn't bad, either.
The interior isn’t bad, either.

Did you know that Jay Leno’s 2017 Acura NSX is #0003? I’m sure you knew that already, right? Why am I talking about this? Well, you and I both know that Jay Leno has one of the most amazing car collections in the world. What makes his NSX really cool is you can watch it’s creation in Acura’s new campaign video called “NSX Originals.”

If and when you drop at least $157,800 on a 2017 Acura NSX, you’ll receive a personalized digital film that matches the exact specifications and serial number of your NSX! Seriously, how cool is that? Pretty damn cool in my book. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough for you, Acura will give you a customized 1:18 scale model that is identical to your NSX! Now, how cool is THAT?

You can immerse yourself in some amazing films of the twin-turbo, V6, hybrid NSX on the microsite (http://www.nsxoriginals.com/acura/en/). You can also watch the build of Jay Leno’s pretty slick NSX at: https://youtu.be/2KzAeU67SXw

According to a release from Jon Ikeda, Acura’s VP and General Manager, “The Acura NSX is a bespoke supercar inspired by an original concept and this campaign speaks directly to that heritage.”

What’s in these films? You can see some behind-the-scenes action of the NSX being built at Acura’s state-of-the-art Marysville, Ohio plant, which highlights the seven key manufacturing periods of the NSX. You might be wondering what those are. Let me tell you. They include: precision robotic welding, space frame construction, a zirconium bath, paint robotics, the three-motor sport hybrid power unit, custom hand assembly, and the rolling dynamometer.

I bet that there won’t be a dry eye in the house when you show your car friends the birthing video of your car!

Also, it’s best to keep that custom scale model out of reach of the kids (or grandkids) – I’m sure that they would LOVE to play with it! Hide it or risk an almost certain, “sorry, I just broke it.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the adults are going to want to take the full-size NSX for a spin. But hey, it’s your supercar after all!

Here’s my two cents on the 2017 NSX: After years of teasing us with various concepts, prototypes, and general speculation, the NSX has made a return. The original Honda/Acura NSX was the car that sent Ferrari, Lamborghini, and just about everybody who made supercars scrambling to the drawing board.

The 2017 Acura NSX is what Acura wants you to think of as a “usable supercar.” It’s jam-packed with the hottest technology out there. It’s definitely state-of-the-art, but according to just about everybody who’s reviewed it, that’s not what it is. It’s certainly fast, good-looking, and everything else you want a supercar to be, but a supercar is not designed nor intended to be a car that you can drive every day. While I certainly understand Acura’s point of view, Acura should have followed the original NSX’s footsteps. The 2017 NSX isn’t going to send anybody scrambling to the drawing board. Sticking to the tried-and-true supercar formula brings money in.

I think that the 2017 NSX will sell relatively well, but only time will tell. It’s got some stiff competition, what with the Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari 488 GTB, Nissan GT-R, and Audi R8.

Does this mean that I don’t like the 2017 NSX? Far from it! I think it’s a fantastic piece of engineering, and certainly a novel idea. Sure, it’s got a lot more computers to save your bacon every day of the week, and twice on Sunday, but every supercar out there is that way. It seems to be a fantastic car. It’s definitely not the car of the future, but it’s one of the faster ways to get to the future. I think it’s safe to say that some of the technology on the 2017 NSX will trickle down to other Acuras in the next few years.

Audi Will Reportedly Buy Back 25,000 Vehicles

Reports have surfaced that Audi will buy back 25,000 vehicles that have the 3.0-liter TDI V-6 in the U.S. This buyback would only apply to older models that can’t be brought into exhaust emissions compliance, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reports.

While the initial Volkswagen Group Dieselgate focused on the 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder, it was discovered that the 3.0-liter TDI V-6 used by the Volkswagen Group also employed this emissions test-cheating software. Audi is currently in talks with U.S. regulators regarding close to 85,000 vehicles equipped with the 3.0-liter TDI V-6, according to a Reuters article. Approximately 25,000 of those vehicles cannot be brought into emissions compliance.

Audi has been facing less-serious-than-Volkswagen litigation in a U.S. District Court regarding the emissions scandal, nicknamed “Dieselgate,” regarding its 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder and 3.0-liter TDI V-6 engines. In a statement to Automotive News, Audi said:

“We are working hard with U.S. regulators to reach an agreement an approved resolution for affected 3.0-liter V-6 TDI vehicles and thank our customers for their continued patience. The Court has scheduled a status conference for November 3, 2016 to discuss the matter further.”

Way back in April, the Volkswagen Group agreed to buy back some 482,000 vehicles of the approximately 600,000 vehicles with the 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder engine affected by the emissions scandal. This decision did not include the 90,000 vehicles equipped with VW’s 3.0-liter TDI V-6 engine.

Why the 85,000 and 90,000? Because approximately 85,000 Audis are affected by the recall, and an additional 5,000 VW Touaregs are lumped in there as well.

Here’s my scoop on what it’s going to be like going forward for the VW Group regarding diesels:

I wonder how true the horsepower/torque ratings, fuel economy ratings, etc., are heavily re-evaulated by U.S. regulators and EU regulators – Volkswagen is required to send vehicles to both. In 3-5 years, which is likely when the VW Group will send cars to the EPA and EU, the regulations are going to be much stricter and more heavily enforced than today’s CARB (California Air Resources Board; VW Group has to get all of their vehicles to pass U.S. testing, plus CARB) regulations. VW and Audi will almost certainly try to re-certify their vehicles in the next few years to try and recover their losses.

While the 2.0-liter TDI engine might have gone 40 times over the regulatory maximum, the regulatory maximum in the U.S. is one of the lowest in the world. It’s still low levels of emissions. Yes, it’s disgusting that the VW Group had to do this, but we still don’t know the real reason why. It could have been reliability issues with the engine or cost-cutting measures. Let’s say that the regulatory maximum is 0.0001 parts per million, why don’t we? 40 times over that is still not very much.

West Virginia Tech’s test results found that the Volkswagen vehicles they tested (a Jetta and a Passat) were within carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and total hydrocarbon (THC) emissions compliance. In diesel vehicles, carbon monoxide and THC is never really an issue because of it’s nature of combustion. THC is usually found only in cold starts. NOx always has been the primary concern. Any modern diesel vehicle that hasn’t been tuned to “roll coal” have diesel particulate filters, so rolling coal (particulate matter) isn’t much of a concern. This regulation, however, is not separated for diesel-powered and gasoline-powered vehicles, which means that gasoline-powered vehicles will have higher carbon monoxide emissions than diesel-powered vehicles.

European regulators are saying that numerous other diesel vehicles would fail the same tests that the VWs tested went through. The team at West Virginia Tech is currently testing other diesel vehicles, and are combing through massive amounts of data to quantify what the differences are between real-world driving and certification testing. Just because the certification levels may be low does not necessarily mean that the real-world driving will churn out the same results time-after-time. That difference is always going to be there – whether it be with diesel-powered vehicles, electric vehicles, or gasoline-powered vehicles.

Volkswagen Engineer Pleads Guilty for Involvement in Dieselgate

A VW engineer pleaded guilty today in a federal court in Detroit for his involvement with the automaker’s diesel emissions cheat device. This makes him the first person to face any criminal charges in connection with the emissions scandal.

According to Bloomberg, Volkswagen engineer James Liang is being charged with “conspiracy to commit fraud against U.S. regulators and customers and to violate the Clean Air Act.” He will be sentenced in January, and he could face up to five years in prison. Bloomberg‘s report states that Liang’s guilty plea comes after a year-long investigation by the Justice Department, which has faced tremendous pressure to hold more individuals accountable in high-profile cases, such as this diesel emissions cheating scandal, which has been dubbed “Dieselgate” by the automotive community.

James Liang is a long-time VW employee who reportedly worked on the team that developed the diesel cheat device for the VW Jetta back in 2006. He is also accused of assisting Volkswagen in its attempt to deceive U.S. regulators during their investigation into how the cheat devices worked.

Liang told the judge, “I know VW did not disclose the defeat device to U.S. regulators in order to sell the cars in the U.S. That’s what makes me guilty.”

His plea comes after VW has agreed to pay at least $16.5 billion to settle a whole host of claims. They also face ongoing investigations in Europe where the European Commission is encouraging consumer groups to take legal action against VW.

Here’s my opinion on what’s going on so far:

In addition to fines, if VW executives are to be paid for the responsibility of overseeing the manufacturing and sales of products, then they should be held fully responsible for such gross negligence. They have already been caught not telling the truth numerous times. James Liang is just a scapegoat for VW executives, who use a lot of money, power, and influence to get off squeaky clean.

This scandal comes amid the Takata airbags scandal and the GM ignition switch scandal, among other things. How many people have died from those? Far too many. Millions of people a year die from respiratory ailments, while millions more are diagnosed with asthma. How many asthma attacks have been triggered by Volkswagen’s emissions cheat device?

Liang is essentially saying “I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” The judge and attorneys were soon seen peeling out in a green van marked “Mystery Machine.”

In my eyes, it should be former VW chairman, Martin Winterkorn, who should be dragged off to prison. James Liang was following orders given to him by greedy pricks on the other side of the Atlantic. He was ultimately the one who gave the emissions cheating project a green light, but he’s got enough money and influence in the European Commission to stay out of court. Winterkorn must surrender his golden parachute and his gigantic pension, and serve the rest of his life in a federal prison for the crimes he and Volkswagen committed against governments and consumers.

I’m wondering how much VW is going to pay Liang’s family in exchange for his agreeing to fall on the sword for the emperor. It certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

It seems that VW was on top of the world, and now their empire is going to slowly come crashing down on their heads. It was a wicked and wild wind (filled with the emissions their cars spewed out) that opened the doors that has brought down the end of an era. It’s only a matter of time before VW is forced to sell off their many assets – they own Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, and other automakers. They’re a true giant in the world’s automotive market, but it’s only a matter of time before they’re a shell of what they once were.

AC Cars to Build Nine Cobras to 1962 Specifications!

Are you a car enthusiast who has a lot of money? Do you not own a Shelby Cobra? Would you like to? Well, you’ve got a chance. Did you miss the chance to buy the first AC Cobra produced? Most likely you answered yes.

AC Cars – which apparently still exists, by the way – will make nine new Cobras to exact 1962 specifications! They’ll even use the original tooling. While these continuation cars won’t be nearly as expensive as the $13.75 million original, they certainly won’t be cheap – be prepared to cough up at least $670,000 (or 500,000 GBP) for just one.

Autocar reports that these cars, which are called the AC Cobra Mk1 260 Legacy Edition, will be built at AC Heritage near the former Brooklands racing circuit in the UK. The factory is run by AC historian Steve Gray, who just happens to have acquired most of the Cobra’s original plans and tooling.

Each “new” Cobra will be built with an aluminum body, and will have a live rear axle and a 260 cubic-inch V8, just like the first Cobra. AC Cars will offer two colors: the original blue of the first Cobra chassis (CSX 2000, in case you were wondering), or yellow. Each car will be left-hand-drive, just like Carroll Shelby’s personal car.

Over the years, numerous Cobra replicas and continuation cars have been built, most notably a continuation series by Shelby American, but these Cobras are going to be very unique. While most replicas copy the more powerful and faster 289 and 427-powered Cobras, it’s incredibly rare to see one with a 260 cubic-inch V8. Plus, these cars have the distinction of quite proudly wearing the AC badge.

This is CSX 2000, the first Cobra ever made, not one of the continuation cars.
This is CSX 2000, the first Cobra ever made, not one of the continuation cars.

As always, donations are gladly accepted. It can even be the unofficial car for The Unmuffled Auto News!

The Perfect Balance of Street and Track in a Corvette

Some of you might know how the “Grand Sport” name for the Chevrolet Corvette. If you don’t, let me explain. In 1963, Zora Arkus-Duntov was hoping to build 125 lightweight, high-power homologation-special Corvette Sting Rays so Chevrolet could qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GM smashed that plan to smithereens after Chevrolet had built just five of the so-called Corvette Grand Sports. All five were quickly spirited under the table off to legendary racers with last names like Penske, Foyt, and Hall. All five cars were raced without any factory support.

Since then, Chevrolet has revived the Grand Sport name twice – once in 1996 and once in 2010. Both of those times, the badge meant special editions with beautiful bodywork, but no massive performance gain, unlike the 1963 Grand Sports. The 1996 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and 2010 Z06 would still outperform the Grand Sports. Of course, the 2010 Corvette ZR1 was still the most serious Corvette of that generation of Corvette.

Of course, Chevrolet’s engineers went hog-wild with the C7 Stingray Z06. It’s a combination of a massively powerful engine that has been described as one of the best-sounding engines ever (I agree), absolutely brilliant suspension, and enough computing power to sequence the human genome. Yet, it’s so approachable for the average driver that it’s truly mind-boggling. It also costs around $80,000. It’s a true giant-killer, especially with a professional driver. Even without a professional driver, this is not a car you want to tangle with.

The Z06 is also quite unlike the Corvette Racing C7.R that competes in one of the highest echelons of motorsports – endurance racing. The C7.R’s that quite simply walked away with the win at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona actually make less power than the Z06 you can get on your dealership’s showroom floor. There’s no supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 shrieking under the hood of the race-winning C7.R – those drivers have to make do with a 5.5-liter V8 sucking air through a restricted air intake the diameter of a garden hose. Because power is handicapped by a rule book (which didn’t stop NASCAR legend Smokey Yunick), the Corvette Racing team wins races with unworldly grip and highly aggressive aerodynamics. Let’s put it this way – their strategy works well.

It’s interesting that the new Grand Sport, which is the mid-range model, lives up to the “street-legal race car” cliche. It’s got some of the best street tires in the world, aggressive aerodynamics enhancements, and stock engine. Oh, and it comes with a warranty, something most race cars can’t brag about.

Let’s start off with the tires – Michelin Pilot Super Sports are standard tires, or even stickier Pilot Sport Cup 2s with the Z07 high-performance option package, which are the same tires you can get on the Z06. They’re much wider than the standard Stingray tires (40 mm wider up front, 50 mm wider out back), which means that Chevy had to put the Z06’s massive, bulging fenders to clear the massive tires.

GM’s truly brilliant Magnetic Ride Control is standard equipment, as is the highly advanced electronic limited-slip differential, as are the Z06-derived chassis sports custom stabilizer bars and springs. You can pair the brilliant 460-horsepower, 465 lb-ft, dry-sump LT1 V8 with a fantastic 7-speed manual transmission or a pretty darn good 8-speed automatic, both of which come with the Stingray and Z06. What does the Z07 package add? Carbon ceramic brakes, and even more aggressive aero, mostly.

Now, let’s move onto the beautiful bodywork. It’s mostly borrowed from the Z06 part bin. However, it’s got Grand Sport-specific front fender vent inserts. What about from the Z06? It’s got the Z06’s wider track (how far apart the wheels are from each other), an open-mouth front grille, and big differential cooling vents on the rear fenders. The Grand Sport has a Z06-spec front splitter, front splitters, and wickerbill rear spoiler, all of which are finished in carbon fiber in the Z07 trim. Chevy claims that they all create downforce, but the Z06’s clear plastic Gurney flip isn’t available on the Grand Sport. Oh, and then there’s a Heritage package, which adds the traditional front fender hash marks, which are now connected in a horseshoe shape. I somehow forgot to mention that Chevy has more than the entire rainbow’s worth of body, hash, and full-length racing stripe combinations.

Inside the Grand Sport, there is badging depicting the 1963 Grand Sport #002 (the only roadster out of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s original five Grand Sports) on the floor mats, headrests, and on a dash plaque directly ahead of the shifter. The brushed aluminum halo on the right of the center stack has a subtle racing stripe, which is created by rotating the brushing pattern on the metal 90 degrees during the polishing process.

Chevy says that the Grand Sport will hurtle it’s way to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and blast through the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds. I’m going to say that’s probably because the Grand Sport has much better tires than the Stingray does.

The Grand Sport weighs in at 3,252 pounds, which is 98 pounds lighter than the Z06. Because there’s no gigantic supercharger, the hood is lower, affording much greater visibility of the road.

Even with the windows up, the A/C on full blast, and the engine contentedly burbling along at 1500 rpm in one of the Grand Sport’s many overdrive gears, you’ll still easily pull over 1 g without the car breaking a sweat. You won’t either.

We’ll move onto the price now. The Grand Sport coupe starts at just a freckle under $66,500, which is a $5,000 premium over the Stingray. It’s also about $14,000 cheaper than a Z06. If you want to drop the top on any Corvette, plan to shell out an additional $4,000. Do you want the Z07 package? Give Chevy $8,000. Even if you buy the Grand Sport convertible with the Z07 package, that still gives you about $2000 to get some accessories, or haggling wiggle room.

The Z06 is a great car – don’t get me wrong. However, the Grand Sport was designed with a different purpose in mind. The Z06 is powerful in a way that you’ll rarely be able to enjoy. 650 horsepower is more than you’ll ever be able to use on the street – with one quick stab of the gas pedal, you’ll be well on your way to jail. On the track, it goads you into probing it’s incredibly high limits, all the while serving a main course of absolutely brilliant chassis tuning and suspension, with a side of driver aides for that moment when you push it too far. To do that on public roads, you’d better have a top-notch lawyer, a very good health insurance plan, and a glovebox filled with bribe money. OK, you can forget about the last part. Cops really don’t like it if you try and give them $20,000 in $1 bills…

The Grand Sport does something truly incredible. Chevrolet designed this car to have the same absurd limits as the Z06, but never leave you feeling like it’s a waste of horsepower because you can never floor it. While grip, balance, and power all work together, which is what makes low-power sports cars so fun, they become magical when you turn the dial up to 11.

What would happen if you put the optional Z06-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires to your Corvette Stingray Z51? It’s obvious that sticky tires are key to making a good car handle well. However, good tires won’t work as well unless the chassis and suspension are dialed into those tires. Even if you somehow figured out how to make those tires fit under a stock Stingray Z51’s seductive bodywork (remember that the Z06 is three inches wider in the back), you still would have a lot of work to do. The ABS system wouldn’t be properly calibrated. Stability control intervention would be much more sudden, and the brakes would slow you down almost instantly because the Z51’s brake calibration is designed for less sticky tires. That means it would apply more brake than necessary. The electronic limited-slip differential wouldn’t perform as well, either. The suspension would also be woefully undersized relative to the massive amounts of grip that the tires generate, which would make the car feel sloppy.

What does this all boil down to? It’s more than a sloppy badge job, far more than a Corvette with some random Z06 parts, and more than a throwback to a legend. It’s the real deal, folks. This car isn’t tuned to within an inch of it’s life (and yours). This is a race car for the…wait, I don’t endorse illegal activities here.