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Driving a Maserati Ghibli in LA


Or, How We Tore Around Like Idiots Without Spending TOO Much Money!


Nice car


 We started online, looking at car rentals for our time at the LA Auto Show, where I stumbled upon a peer to peer car rental app: TURO. While comparing Enterprise and Budget ($199/day for a Grand Cherokee) I saw I could rent a Maserati Ghibli for less on TURO.

As if paying less than the cost of a Grand Cherokee weren’t enough, TURO, The P-2-P Car rental service we were using, has their own valet that brought the car to us. We picked up the Ghibli at 5:00 PM in a nearby hotel parking lot. That is, we would have, but the owner was caught in traffic. This would be a sign of things to com.

When the valet did arrive, he handled scanning my driver’s license and inspected the car. The valet’s overall demeanor was very friendly and used his phone to take pictures of the scratches on one side and the bad road rash on one of the wheels. After we fielded some questions for the owner on the best luxury car to buy, rent for a few years, and then resell, not a Maserati if you were wondering, we took off for our hotel.

First impressions: The navigation system didn’t work. Punching in the name of our hotel resulted in a spinning hourglass that stayed on unchanging. Trying by POI gets us a list that doesn’t include our hotel, probably because we were too far away and needed a navigation system to find it. Google Maps to the rescue! My sidekick pulled up our hotel in Google Maps and we began driving there, with the hourglass still spinning on the navigation screen.

Second Impressions: Loud. Fast. Great handling. Nice seats. We shot through traffic, at least as much as one can at 5:30 PM in LA traffic going from the airport to downtown. Its great fun to stomp the gas, twist the wheel, and shoot into an adjacent lane that allows me a few hundred feet of movement. (I strongly disagree with this statement. -My Sidekick) Sometimes a lane is inexplicably empty for several hundred yards and I must snarl down it as quickly as I can only to find out why it was empty and be forced to jump back into the other lane having gained on my destination.

Third impression: This car has more turbo lag than a mid-eighties Chrysler turbo automatic. At one traffic light I floor it… three seconds after I ooze away from the intersection, the Maserati growls, barks and lunges forward like a mastiff that’s just smelled the mailman on the next block. I try pressing the “S” Button which issues a “Sport Mode” message in the center of the gauge cluster and seems to improve the lag marginally, but now the car bucks, lunges and stays in a lower gear most of the time. I eventually get very good at flooring it about two seconds before I need maximum acceleration, unfortunately this doesn’t work with stoplights and I really don’t want to torque brake somebody else’s car. It does, however, make for incredibly amusing corners. As I floored it to go around and the car docilely turns in and then fishtails slightly on the exit as the engine finally surges to life. This trick just did not get old.

The next day, after taking the Maserati a couple of miles from the hotel to the convention center to register for the LA Auto Show (see 2016 LA Auto Show), my sidekick and I decided (I decided nothing! -Sidekick) that we should take a longer drive and get the feel of LA and the Ghibli on the open road. After briefly determining that if the Maserati Nav system knew where Pacific Coast Highway was, it wasn’t going to tell us, My Sidekick looked it up on his phone and we started to head in the direction.

We closed in on the PCH, using mostly surface streets, when I decided we should gas up. Luck was with us and we paid less than $3.00/gallon for premium. Three modern niceties we often overlook made it simpler to refuel: a glance at the gas gauge revealed an arrow pointing to the passenger side of the car, so I maneuvered to place the Maserati to the left of a free pump. The Ghibli’s locking fuel door automatically unlocked when we unlocked the car. Finally, the Ghibli is cap-less, so I just had to insert the nozzle and start pumping.

Full of 93-octane, we spun out of the station, headed towards PCH. Ever been on the PCH on a weekday at 6:00 PM? Yeah, loads of traffic. Not creeping, bumper-to-bumper traffic, but congested, tight, “we aren’t seeing what this Maserati can really do” traffic. By now I’ve gotten the turbo lag subconsciously compensated for in my brain, so I give it a good old CarChat try: pointing, squeezing, anticipating holes in traffic, staying in a right-turn-only lane until the last second, trying to drive a car with an on-off switch throttle smoothly and evenly.

Another shortcoming (for regular people) rears up: this car is as stereotypically Italian as a swarthy man carrying a sack of garlic bulbs. There is very poor rear visibility and almost no side visibility. The automatic dimming mirrors are either stuck in “dim” or their surface is just too dark after Sunset in Southern California. I compensate the only way I can: changing lanes with the gas pedal. Instead of looking or signaling, I just floored it for 2 1/2 seconds then change lanes. This amused me to no end, although my sidekick looked ill the majority of the time. This worked quite well as I avoided wrecking it the entire 4 days we got to drive it. I did however pick up a toll violation somehow. (With their cameras, changing undecipherable lane markings, and ambiguous signage, it is almost impossible to figure out if you’re violating something in California.) The TURO owner sends me a bill for the violation a couple of weeks after we get back.

 Ghibli at McDonalds

Overall, the Ghibli is great fun. As a daily driver it would probably become tiresome. As a head-turner in Southern California it is a complete flop, but I imagine a Ferrari wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, either. Overall, I'd give it a C+.


2017 Audi A4 preview

2017 A4

news-2017-audi-a4-l-14 The A4 has been the anchor of the Audi USA lineup since it replaced the Audi 80 in 1994. Moving furthermore upmarket, the A4 still uses the MLB architecture it shares with the A5-A8 and even the Porsche Macan. This architecture supports a longitudinal (versus transverse) mounted engine and front or all-wheel drive, separating it from the A3 which shares the MQB Volkswagen architecture with the Golf. The new A4 sits on a new chassis with a slightly longer wheelbase and overall length but 100 pounds lighter. Early reports of a very efficient 0.23 Cd coefficient of drag were exaggerated: the Cd is a still respectable 0.27. Perhaps the larger American license plate frame? The engine is an improved 2.0 turbo, the same 252-horsepower double overhead cam four-cylinder as the new A6. It is now linked exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, also from the A6. Gone are the three different transmissions of the previous generation (8-speed automatic, 6-speed manual and CVT), meaning a three-pedal option is off the table. Quattro all-wheel drive is still available. Automatic engine start/stop is now part of the 2.0T and should improve city fuel mileage. Performance will increase substantially, because along with dragging 100 pounds less weight the A4 2.0T (presently the only variant) is up 32 horsepower, borrowing the A6's 252-horsepower 2.0 turbocharged 4-cylinder. With substantially larger brakes performance should be much better all around. Only the tires get smaller, but the lighter weight, longer wheelbase and wider track should compensate for it. Sadly, the turning diameter grows to a somewhat un-compact 38.1 feet, almost half a foot wider. On the technology front, the new A4 adds as standard a collision warning and automated braking system called "Audi pre sense® city." Pre sense basic, also standard includes electronically tightening front seatbelts and a system to close the windows, sunroof and move the driver and front passenger seats to a better position in the event an imminent collision is detected. If you dodge the bullet, everything returns to normal. (No, it doesn't present you with a pair of clean underwear; maybe next year.) Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control are offered as options on A4 Prestige. Both systems will actively help you stay in your lane using the electro-mechanical steering assist. Blind spot warning (Audi Side Assist) returns as an option, but with the added feature of pushing you back into your lane if something is in your way. A new top view camera system is standard on the A4 Prestige. The Parking System Plus now also includes front sonar sensors to complement the rear ones. A new SOS telematics system is now optional, which can call emergency services if it detects a collision or if you press a switch. Heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats are newly available features for 2017. Overall the quality, look and feel of the materials on the new A4 is top-notch, and along with Audi's very significant gains in reliability measures it should be a reliable, long-lasting vehicle. Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.46.22 AM


2016 Lotus Evora 400

2016 Lotus Evora 400

[caption id="attachment_3039" align="aligncenter" width="980"]2016 Lotus Evora 400 Lotus Evora 400 at St. Louis Motorcars

We don't get a lot of Lotus (not Lotuses or Loti) over here in the States. Although we once got the Elise and Exige, U.S. safety regulations sent these diminutive almost-race cars back across the pond. Even the large grand touring Lotus, the Evora was chased out after 2014 due to the expiration of its advanced airbag waiver with the NHTSA. The new Lotus Evora 400 is back in the United States. After a one model year absence in 2015, the Evora has returned, with modern airbags and more horsepower. The "400" in "Evora 400" stands for 400 horsepower, up from the 276 of the previous base model and 345 of the supercharged Evora S. The Evora 400 is available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifting. The engine is still a bullet-proof 3.5 Toyota V6, ecstatic it will not have to live under the hood of a Highlander or Sienna. Instead it gets a honking big supercharger bolted to its intake tract with a water-to-air intercooler and an exhaust that sounds like it borrowed Volkswagen's emissions engineers during regulatory testing. Brakes are significantly beefier: 14.6 inches front and 13.8 inches front; venting and cross-drilling is standard front and rear. As Colin Chapman would have wanted, they simplified and added lightness. The Evora 400 weighs less than the previous Evora S, even with more horsepower, bigger brakes and wider tires. Lotuses, though a relative bargain for their performance, don't add "cheapness." The new Evora 400 starts at $89,900 American dollars.

2016 Lotus Evora 400 Interior Optional Alcantara® Interior

The exterior and interior receive various tweaks as well, with the changes to the interior being the most important. Right away when you enter, you'll notice you aren't wondering if you need to start taking Tai Chi classes at the senior center. The door sills have been made about two inches lower and narrower, making entry and exit much easier (still not like jumping in a Lincoln Town Car). Coupled with the manually tilting and telescoping wheel, comfort isn't much of a problem. Getting there might be: power seats, let alone memory seats aren't offered, and the control for changing the seat-back angle is a knob that has to be cranked a lot for each degree of change. Seat height is not adjustable. The rear seats are still for insurance purposes or groceries, only. The interior furnishings are much improved; the optional Alcantara® interior being especially handsome, including areas such as the dashboard and the non-grip areas of the steering wheel. Overall there are nice touches throughout, such as the brushed aluminum (please pronounce it "aluminium") shifter. 2016 Lotus Evora 400 Shifter Once you're in the car, you'll have better luck seeing behind you: a rear-view camera is now standard, as are rear sonar sensors to warn you if you're going to tear your bumpers off. (They were previously both options.) Controls are better in the new car, to name one specifically, the headlight control is now a simple, universally understood knob, versus the previous model's chromed buttons. Buttons that were scattered over the center console have been reorganized at the top of the center dashboard and are easier to reach. The trunk is still a tiny (5.7 cubic foot) cubby behind the engine compartment in the rear. The front section of the car does not open. 2016 Lotus Evora Engine Compartment Open


Not So Minivan

IMG_0291 (1) The stigma against minivans is unfounded. Are they uncool? I'll gladly join with plenty of happy soccer moms and ferry around six other friends at a time. Are they cumbersome? Well, according to those six friends in the back my braking skills could use some work so maybe it's okay I have to be intentional when slowing down. But as a college student, no anti-minivan propaganda could ever sway me after all the band equipment, furniture, and random "stuff" my faithful, if frumpy, steed has carried for me. Optimized-rsz_img_0244 My friend's art project, a massive chair made of cardboard, is one such random object I've been hauling around. Would it fit in a fancy two-door car? It doesn't; we tried when my friend attempted to take it back. IMG_0273 And about friends, you'll make a ton more when your six person band needs to get to practice together and everyone else owns two-seater trucks and cramped cars. Will you also be the first call when the question of transportation comes up? The small sample size of my life says yes, but you'll earn plenty of gentlemen points, and against the stereotype, gentlemen can own minivans, too. IMG_0261


Car Chat Reviews the new Hyundai Azera


Car Chat Reviews the new 2012 Hyundai Azera.




The all-new Hyundai Azera arrived in April for the 2012 model year. Its design now lines up with the other recently redesigned Hyundai cars like the Accent, Elantra and Sonata. Called “Fluidic Sculpture,” the Hyundai style has sharp corners, curves and complex surfaces which catch the eye and continue to differentiate the Hyundai line-up from the more plain Toyotas and Hondas they compete with.


The new Azera is much more sleek, improving its coefficient of drag to .28. (That’s better than a lot of the Azera’s competition: Lexus CT200h .29, Prius v .29, Jaguar XF .29, Porsche Panamera .29, BMW 5 Series Sedan .29-.3, BMW 328i .29, 335i .3, new Altima .3, Chrysler 300 .32, 2013 Taurus .33, and Maxima .33)


This efficient design helps the Azera achieve 20 MPG city and 30 MPG highway (up slightly for 2013) as rated by the EPA.


Under the hood, the Azera gets a gas direct-injection 3.3 V6. Gasoline direct injection used to be only in high-end German luxury cars, but Hyundai is the fastest adopter of this new, highly efficient technology. Where normal fuel injectors fire downstream, through the intake port, direct injectors (as their name suggests) fire fuel right into the combustion chamber.


This does two things: 1. It delivers the fuel more precisely, timing it to better mix with air and burn more completely. And 2. It cools the intake mixture, allowing a higher compression ration, which means better fuel mileage and more torque.


The Azera’s 3.3 V6 jumps to 293 horsepower. That’s more power than the Acura TL FWD, Accord V6, ES 350, Maxima, Altima V6, Camry V6 or Passat V6. It may be coincidence that none of those engines feature direct injection.
Azera         293


TL FWD      280


328i            240


Accord V6   278


ES 350        268


Maxima       290


Altima V6    270


Camry V6    268


Passat V6   280


Safety’s a very important feature to look for when buying, and the near-luxury category isn’t an exception. The new Hyundai Azera joins six other Hyundai vehicles in receiving the 2012 “Top Pick” status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Getting top marks in the frontal offset test, side impact test, rear collision test and roof strength test, the Azera is safe in a collision.


Equipped with dual-stage smart airbags for the driver and front passenger, the Azera also protects front passengers with side-impact airbags located in the seats. In addition the driver is further protected by a knee airbag that protects the driver’s legs and helps keep the driver properly positioned for the main airbag’s maximum effectiveness.


The driver and front passenger’s seatbelts both have height adjustments, to make them more comfortable and effective for people of different heights. They also have pre-tensioners. Pre-tensioners are activated when the safety systems determine a frontal collision is occurring, and while the airbags are beginning to deploy, the seatbelts draw in rapidly [Holding seatbelt, pull it back quickly], to best protect the front passengers and position them for the airbags.


The Azera also has advanced impact-reducing front seats which help to prevent neck and back injuries in rear-end collisions.


The Azera has childproof rear door locks, which can be set to prevent a small child from opening the rear door. The driver can also deactivate all the passenger windows.


All three rear-seat positions have three-point seatbelts and headrests.


The Azera is one of the few in its class to have standard side-impact airbags to protect the rear passengers’ hips and ribcage in case of a broadside impact.


Side airbag curtains protect front and rear outboard passengers’ heads from side impacts, and are also standard on the Azera.


 LED taillights use less power than traditional bulbs [Someone press brake pedal] and the brake lights light almost a quarter of a second faster, giving following drivers more reaction time.


These LED taillights are an integral part of the Azera’s premium styling. With the continuous reflective strip and the twin tailpipes integrated into the rear bumper, the Azera is clearly a step above the Sonata.
Azera’s standard side mirrors are heated clear to off frost or condensation to help improve driver visibility.


The primary strategy Hyundai has employed to make the Azera a winner is content. The Azera is loaded with standard equipment that even most players in the luxury class charge extra for: rear view camera, heated front and rear seats, Proximity Key (where you don’t need to take the keys out of your pocket to unlock the car, open the trunk or drive away), navigation with live traffic, Blue Link (a GPS response service, similar to OnStar), and Voice Command control of the audio system and navigation.


The only optional equipment comes in the Technology Package: HID headlights, 19” wheels, parking sensors, memory seats and mirrors with power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, air conditioned front seats, upgraded stereo system and a panoramic sunroof.


The ride and drive is good. The engine is responsive and the handling is very competent without making the ride harsh. The 12.6” brakes stop very well. Motor Trend reported a stop from 60 MPH in 120 feet. That compares favorably to 128 feet for a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L Sedan.


Stability control to prevent skis is standard, as it is on all new cars, but the Hyundai uses the electric power steering assist to turn into skids automatically to counteract skids even better than a conventional stability control which only uses the brakes.


What the Azera doesn’t offer is interesting for a new model: adaptive cornering lights, blind-spot or collision warning systems are notably missing.


The standard Azera is $33125. That’s less than $265 more than the starting price on a V6 Honda Accord with navigation. Its $7845 less than a Maxima with navigation, heated mirrors and seats. From a value point of view, the Azera scores high, as most Hyundai models do.


With Hyundai being ranked ninth in overall reliability by J.D. Power and Associates, over Acura, Honda, BMW, Infiniti, Nissan, Volkswagen and others, the Azera seems to be a very smart, safe, stylish choice overall.



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