Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Little Rant

I just wanted to rant a little about the internet’s perception or hypocrisy towards automotive videos.  I’m not going to talk about if it’s right or wrong because that is something you have already decided in your mind.  What I do want to talk about is simply how the internet responds differently to videos that are basically doing the same thing.

If you see a private person making a video of themselves doing a burnout, doing a hard pull through the gears, or challenging someone on the highway at night, the comments are always overflowing with people flaming.  They say, “Take it to a track”, “What a dumbass” “Don’t do that shit on the street”, etc etc.

However when you see Matt Farah, That Dude in Blue, or countless others blasting through public roads past people on bicycles, normal traffic, pedestrians, etc.  Watch any of the One Take videos, they are all  the same.  But nobody bats an eye, we’re all somehow fine with it because they have a YouTube channel.  I guess we consider them a professionals or something?  They aren’t, they are just like you and me.

What made me want to talk about this is watching Matt Farah’s One Take video posted today.  He is driving a car that he describes as too crazy for anyone that isn’t a professional driver.  He is rocketing past people on bicycles and at speeds that would easily land you in jail, at one point even running over a squirrel.  Not a closed course, these are public roads currently open to normal traffic, and everyone is just fine with this.

I’m not giving an opinion either way.  Speeding is a crime in the eyes of the law.  Street racing/reckless driving is a crime charged with the same amount of ferocity as drunk driving in many States.  When you purposely drive your car in this manner you know very well what you are doing just as a person stealing knows very well what they are doing.  You know you are doing something illegal.  So there is no need for commenters to spew their holier than thou BS under such videos.  Everyone involved knows what’s up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Focus RS After 1500 Miles

The Ford Focus RS.  It’s the car on many people’s lips recently.  All over the internet there are reviews after reviews telling you it's the top “hyper hatch.”  Videos on YouTube show people astonished when they drive it, blown away by its power and amazing grip.  On the dark side it’s also a car that has been haunted by engine issues of leaking head gaskets and cracked blocks requiring complete engine replacements.  Word is this is a 2016 only problem and Ford has fixed it in 2017?  Is the Focus RS all that they say it is?  Well I bought one so here are my thoughts after owning it almost a month with about 1500 miles on the odometer.

I think to properly understand my views you first have to know where I’m coming from, automotively speaking.  I bought the Focus RS to replace my 2007 Hummer H3 daily driver which was awesome but was also costing me $520 a month in gas.  I could accept the gas cost as part of Hummer ownership but it started going down the road of having mechanical issues and after investing over $6000 in repairs and more on the way I decided that was enough.  I also own a 2014 Shelby GT500 which is a 662hp supercharged monster.  It’s my sunny day fun car. A few hard pulls in that will leave you shaking with excitement.

To replace the Hummer I wanted something sporty but AWD for winter.  Better mileage would be nice but not essential and realistically everything gets better mileage than a Hummer.  After lots of deliberation I decided to go with the 2017 Focus RS.  I decided the Golf R was too plain, the STI was too dated, and the Audi RS3 was out of my price range.  Here in Canada the most dealerships had a strict “no test drives” rule with Focus RS.  I would assume to prevent people stopping in for a joy ride.  So if you're interested in a purchase you just had to go for it and put the money down.  Kind of a smart move on Ford's part, it not only keeps people from beating their cars but a test drive could expose things you might not like.  This would have certainly been the case with me.  If I would have drove it I doubt I would have bought it.  Instead I totally trusted the YouTube vids and made my purchase.

I wanted the Stealth Gray color which took the dealer some time to locate but after about a week I went to pick it up.  They handed me the keys and I started it up expecting to be amazed.  Slowly I left the dealership lot and pulled onto the road and gave it some juice but nothing crazy.  As my girlfriend chattered away I felt a bit “meh.”  I would call it a peppy car but mind blowing it wasn’t.  In fact it was extremely civilized.  If there wasn’t a boost gauge I wouldn’t even know the turbo existed, no spooling sounds or blow off valves could be heard.  Driving home on the highway steering was very responsive and sharp.  The seats were uncomfortably tight for me but my petite girlfriend described them as comfy.  Since my she was in the car I didn’t try to do anything fun but I was a little disappointed.  I was thinking, “If I had test drove this, I wouldn’t have bought it.”

Later that weekend I was able to sneak away and go for a little drive alone.  I decided to blast down the curviest road in my area so I switched to sport mode and the car woke up a bit.  A 30 km corner I took at 80 km with no issues.  Every bend in the road the grip was there, even in the sandy roads of early April and still wearing winter tires.  This is what the car was made for, not acceleration but grip.  Seemingly endless grip.  I was beginning to lose my regret.

Later the next week as often happens in Canada we had a late snow storm dumping several inches of snow while I was at work.  The snow kept falling and I was pretty nervous at the thought of driving home.  This was the car I replaced my winter driver with.  Would it really be able to do the same job as the Hummer?  I was super cautious all the way home.  The roads were extremely slick and with the traffic of the commute I didn’t want to screw around.  But once I got away from the main roads I decided to see how it dealt with the road conditions so I took it down that curvy road.  The first thing I did was slammed on the brakes.  It stopped immediately.  The Hummer would slide forever due to its massive weight. That felt good.  Then in the corners I could feel the AWD system dealing with the snowy conditions encouraging me to go faster.  By the time I got home I was super happy with the car.  On snowy roads it was a superstar and gave excellent confidence.

Now after 1500 miles of daily driving back and forth to and from Toronto how does it hold up?  First of all the good things.  As expected the gas mileage is better than the H3.  I ended up getting an average of 21 or 22 mpg and that's a 50/50 mix of highway and city driving.  So that is good.  It’s peppy on the road which is great for a crowded city like Toronto when you need to rush to a hole in traffic.  The uncomfortable Recaro seats have broken in like a new pair of shoes which I can now describe as comfortable most of the time.  Many reviewers complain about the ride quality but I never found that to be an issue.  The Stealth Gray paint is doing exactly what I hoped it would do which is keeping the RS under the radar of the police and “boy racers” looking for a challenge.

What don’t I like?  Well the Sony stereo sucks.  I’m not a huge audio guy so I don’t require much, I mainly listen to metal so I just ask that it’s loud.  But the way this stereo is set up feels strange.  When I picked it up it felt like the audio balance was all towards the front of the car.  So I moved it back to center which dramatically lowered the volume.  I turned off that annoying auto volume system that raises and lowers the volume with the car speed and that seemed to lower the volume even more.  Fiddling with the settings in the driveway for quite some time I just can’t seem to get the stereo to be more of a rear speaker balance and also loud.  I also really don’t like the piped in engine noise through the speakers.  If you’re sitting in the car with the engine off there is a faint white noise hiss coming through them.  I’m planning on disabling the fake noise at some point.

Another thing I don’t like is the RPM ratio.  This could be because I’m use to my big 5.8L V8 in the Shelby but I expected that when I shifted into 6th gear the RPMs would drop down to like 1500.  But when I’m keeping with traffic on the highway at about 120 km (70ish mph) the RPMs are at like 2500 to 3000.  That feels way too high for me.  I keep feeling I need to shift again.  Same goes when turning right or left onto a new road.  Normally you’d shift into 2nd gear but with the RS it feels more like I need to be in 3rd.  Shifting into second brings the revs way too high.

Overall I expected the RS to be more visceral.  I want to hear the turbo spool, I want to hear the blow off valve.  The pops and cracks from the exhaust are nice but since I know they are faked they don’t mean much to me.  My Shelby does pops too but it’s because it’s a bad ass car not faked.  Watching the people testing them online I was expecting to be amazed by the experience of driving it.  The grip is amazing without question, but I still find the acceleration to be kind of boring.  That being said it is great for the exact thing I bought it for, which is a daily commuter car.  Perhaps if I didn’t own the Shelby I would be more thrilled with the experience, however I am still thrilled to have the Focus RS as my daily.

Everything said and done it’s a fun all season commuter car.  I’m not blown away by it but also not upset I bought it.  The Focus RS is perfect for the position I wanted it to fill.  Combined with the Shelby I'd say I'm pretty spoiled.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The SRT Demon Will Send You To Hell

Well Dodge finally did it.  As if the Hellcat wasn’t crazy enough they revealed the Dodge SRT Demon.  A Dodge Challenger with an 840hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi putting out 770 pounds-feet of torque.   They are desperately trying to market this as a big time first, like it’s never been done ever.  Well technically that’s not true.  Ford makes the Cobra Jet Mustang and Chevrolet makes the COPO Camaro.  Both are serious drag strip ready cars you can buy from the dealer and  they will smoke the SRT Demon.  The biggest difference here is that Ford and Chevy aren’t stupid enough to release those cars as street legal vehicles.  Dodge is bragging how the NHRA banned the SRT Demon from competition but frankly I’m shocked that the NHRA has shown more concern than Dodge in the safety of drivers.

The Cobra Jet & COPO are strictly for track use only and that’s a wise decision.  A car that does the quarter mile in 9 seconds (Dodge claims 9.65 sec with the Demon) is not something the average Joe has any idea how to drive.  Generally 9 second cars are built by people that obsess over cars and are experienced behind the wheel.  Frankly I find it really negligent that Dodge is willing to put these in the hands of anyone that can write the check.  Also how will these ever get insured?  There is a rumor that Hagerty Insurance has partnered with Dodge to offer insurance for customers because they expect other companies to decline coverage.

I drive a 2014 Shelby Cobra with 662hp and it is a handful on the street.  Car mechanics that have driven it have said, “My god that thing is insane. How do you drive that?” It is nothing compared to the SRT Demon.  Dodge is flashing the Demon around like a monkey with a gun.

Below is the Demon video but also videos of the Cobra Jet and Copo from last year.  Which seems meaner to you?