2014 Chevrolet Corvette

The Corvette is an American icon. When it first appeared in 1953 as a show car, it was met with so much enthusiasm that GM decided to make it into a production model, and it came out later that year. Seven generations later, and it’s still in production, and still loved as much as back then. While many will argue which is the best Vette ever made, I’d have to say without having ever driven another version besides the Corvette C6 ZR1, this is a great American sports car, hell, maybe even an American super car.

While it’s no Ferrari or Lamborghini, the C7 Corvette is well on it’s way to being a contender for bang for your buck. For a cool $51,000 you can be sitting in one. What does that $51,000 get you? I’m glad you asked.

You’re no longer looking at cheap, recycled parts, the same steering wheel as a Chevrolet Malibu, or decent performance. No, you’re looking at a very well crafted machine, filled with luxurious touches, and great overall performance. Looking over this car, GM took in every detail, from the soft touch leather dashboard, to the knobs that control the climate controls, everything feels well thought out, and well executed. The digital gauges add a very nice touch of the future to the cabin, but don’t worry, you still have some analog gauges there as well to even it all out. The seats are very comfortable as well. It didn’t take much to find a comfortable seating position, and while you’re pretty low to the ground, it didn’t feel like it.

Previous years exterior designs were never as controversial as this one. Some may think its too aggressive looking, but I think it looks just right. It has enough aggressiveness to have people take a double take when passing by, which is what the Corvette needed. Yeah, you see Corvettes a lot more than you’ll see Ferrari’s, which is partially the reason why previous generations get overlooked easily. But this one, you need to take a look at again, just to be like, “Wait, this is a Corvette? An American car company built something so exotic looking?” And exotic it is. Over the course of the 16 hours I had this car I had people stopping me, asking me questions about it, heck, some people were even pulling u-turns as the drove by just to get out and look the car over as it was parked on the side of the road.

Now, the performance parts. How can you go wrong with a 6.2 liter V8 pushing out 455 horsepower, 460 if you opt for the performance exhaust as in the car I had. Transmission choices are either a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, or a true enthusiasts transmission of a manual 7-speed with active rev-matching. Yes, thats correct, a 7-speed manual in a Corvette. While I’ll say that the 7-speed manual transmission in this car is pretty good, it did feel a tiny bit clunky, and many times I would find it hard to find the gear I was looking for. Trying to get from 2nd into 3rd I’d sometimes end up in 5th, and trying to go from 4th to 5th I’d sometimes end up in 7th, but most of the time, I’d end up somewhere in between. I’m sure with some more time in the car it would all become second nature to me, but it would take some time.

In the center of the car you will find a dial. On that dial you have some options. Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport, and Track. I kept it mainly in 2 modes, Tour and Sport. Tour mode is what I’d like to call your everyday mode. It’s comfortable, smooth, and just overall very pleasant. The exhaust isn’t too loud, unless you really get on it, the ride is very compliant and easy on the hind quarters. This is the kind of mode you use driving around your community neighborhood at the early hours, or if you’re on long road trip.

My favorite mode, however, was Sport. This gave the suspension a more aggressive feel, a little more jarring, but not unbearable. It also tightened up the steering feel and made the exhaust much more pronounced. This is the mode you’d drive in when you want to hear the roar of that LS3 engine, and when you want everyone else to hear it too.

No matter which mode you’re in, planting your foot into the floor will always give you a nice rush. Plant it hard enough and that back end likes to come loose like a wet noodle. Before you know it you’re hitting 60mph, which is claimed to be around 3.8 seconds. Keep that throttle pegged, and you hit triple digits in no time. The engine just begs to keep going, and hearing the noises that it’s emitting makes it very hard to pull that right foot back. But alas, unless you’re on a track you shouldn’t be hitting those speeds, but it sure is fun trying to get up there.

So is this new Corvette a true super car. Of course not. But it’s pretty damn close for what you’re paying for.

2013 Lamborghini Aventador

When you hear the word Lamborghini you think of fast, sexy italian cars. When you hear the engine, you know what it is. It’s rare that someone who hears it doesn’t look, let alone do a double-take. While I was not lucky enough to drive this car, I was lucky enough to be a passenger in one for a ride around New York City.

First off, let me tell you this. You will not want to buy this car if you have any type of back problems, or have passengers who easily get car sick, or live nowhere near open roads or near a race track. Riding around the rough roads in the city was not pleasant, however, being seen in the Aventador, watching people stare and push people out of the way chasing after it trying to get photos gives you a nice sense of importance. Which is exactly what this car is for. This is a car you want to be seen/heard in, whether you’re the driver or the passenger. Someone who buys this surely isn’t buying it for comfort. The combination of the tight suspension and the single clutch automatic transmission makes for an awful ride, unless you’re using it as it was intended to be used, a super car. Push this car, and it responds, “Thats how I like it!” But try and baby it, and it lets you know its not happy, fighting with you all the way until you push it again. Keep in mind, this was all from a passenger’s point of view. I can only imagine what it feels like to saddle up with this bull and take it for a ride, pushing its 691 horsepower V12 to the limit…..

But being a passenger, as you would expect in a $400k+ car, the interior is luxurious, with leather and aluminum all around. Details inside were magnificent. But one of the coolest and smallest features, is how it has a cover over the push-start button, like you’re getting ready to launch a missle, which, you kind of are. Flip that cover, press the button, and the engine roars to life like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s that exact sound that gets enthusiast’s heart pumping. Other than the harsh city ride, and the blazing performance, there’s not too much else I’m able to share about how this raging bull drives, handles, or feels behind the wheel, but what I can give you are some nice photos to drool over.

-Enjoy!

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

I remember as a kid, playing outside on my front lawn, there was a guy that drove this small hatchback. It was a 2nd generation all white Ford Fiesta. He drove that thing like it was a racecar, and I remember thinking to myself, “That guy seems like he’s having a lot of fun in such a small, cheap looking car.” Obviously, the Fiesta back then, was nothing like the current offering from Ford, and here in the U.S. they certainly didn’t offer a Fiesta to be more than an econobox for commuters. Turn the page to 20 something years later, and Ford brings its long sought after Ford Fiesta ST over to the U.S. Now, I always knew that countries overseas always had a better selection of sporty cars, and it wasnt until recently that automakers started to bring more of these fun offerings here. I had heard that the new Fiesta ST was a hoot to drive, but didn’t really want to believe the hype yet, considering Ford hasn’t really built anything “fun,” Mustang aside, since the good ole’ days of the Taurus SHO with the Yamaha sourced engine. Then I was given the keys to one for 3 days.
The first thing I notice is, man, this thing is small….but kinda cute.
The door opens, and I slip into the optional Recaro front seats. A little tight as first, and I’m not a huge guy. A little playing with the knobs and levers, and I finally get a comfortable position. Push the button to start the 1.6l EcoBoost 4 banger, and it lights up with a little snarl. Check my mirrors, engage the clutch, slip the gear lever neatly into 1st, and off we go.
The shifter on the Fiesta is surprisingly easy, with quick short throws, it was easy to find the gear you’re looking for. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the shifter in this car. It made for easy, smooth transitions, and if the gas pedal was a tiny bit closer to the brake, heel toeing to rev match would have been magical. Couple this stellar shifter with an engine made to rev and pull from the low rpm range, and you have quite a quick little toy.
While it’s not the fastest car, it does 0-60 in a claimed 6.7 seconds, it feels plenty fast. Having such a short wheel base, and low curb weight, this thing handles curves like a dream. You can also thank the N├╝rburgring tested suspension for that. While the suspension is mostly comfortable, yet sporty, if you have a bumpy ride to work, don’t plan on drinking your coffee on the ride in, as it will surely end up in your lap.
Ford claims the Fiesta ST to get a combined mpg of 29, 26city/35hwy, you’ll most likely see a little less. That pedal on the right likes to be pressed hard, and its very hard to resist. However, in my 3 days of driving, in what most would call spirited, I still achieved a modest average of 25mpg. That was mainly driving around town, and a couple trips on the highway.
Onto the interior. While this is no Mercedes, the quality of the interior is surprisingly nice. It’s by no means luxury, but for the price you’re paying the materials feel well put together. The soft touches are soft, and the hard plastics don’t feel cheap. Overall, it’s a very well put together interior. Now, if you’re tall, don’t expect your rear passengers to be complimenting you on the amount of legroom there is in the back seats, but if you’re of average height, there’s enough room in the back to fit a pair of adults comfortably for a short jaunt. Then there’s the trunk portion. While it’s not made to go on a Costco run, you’ll have no problem making a little grocery run here and there with more than enough room in the back to fit at least a weeks worth of groceries.
And now, back to my childhood days of seeing that 2nd generation Fiesta scooting down the street and around corners, tires squealing. While that Fiesta was nowhere near the performance and quality of this Fiesta ST, I can see why he looked so happy tooling around in that old Fiesta. This little Fiesta ST was a blast to drive. It’s honestly the most fun I’ve had in a car since I drove my Legacy on a track, and that’s saying a lot considering I put about $10,000 worth of performance upgrades into that car to make it handle and perform well for autocross events. I’ve never been a fan of front wheel drive performance cars, I can’t stand torque steer, but this car makes perfect use of the amount of power it has, and the electronic stability control makes torque steer pretty much nonexistent. So, if you’re looking for something small, kind of economical, and fun as hell, I’d surely recommend getting the Fiesta ST. I can’t really say there is anything out there that feels more complete for an everyday, fun-to-drive car on a budget.

2013 Hot Wheels Edition Chevrolet Camaro

When I was a little boy, I remember thinking to myself, “Gee, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could shrink down in size so I could fit inside my Hot Wheels cars so I could drive them around and do the loop!” Well, since that is pretty much impossible, Chevrolet and Hot Wheels teamed up to bring us something us adults can actually fit into. For many, this is a dream come true, for others, its just another way to make some money from some suckers. While at first I was a little skeptical of this appearance only package upgrade, after driving around for a day, it brought me back to my childhood days. Now, you can get the package on any version of the Camaro, but if you want to have the most fun, I’d advise you to get it on the SS. For some pretext, I drove the original 2010 Camaro SS when it first reappeared back in 2009.
chevy-camaro-ss-2010While it was a vast improvement over the previous generation of Camaro, I felt a bunch of things lacking. The steering felt numb, the shifter was clunky, and you just felt generally unconnected to the ground and the car. While the car was plenty quick, I got bored of driving it just as quickly. It just didn’t feel like a driver’s car.

Fast forward to 2013, and with the addition of some new updated parts, I can say that the steering feel, shifter feel, and connectedness on this 2013 Hot Wheels Edition Camaro SS is much better. Overall feel for the road has increased, as well as responsiveness. Rather than feeling like I was just floating on the road, I can feel what lies beneath, and can get a better connection to the car. A nice added feature to 2013 is the dual-mode exhaust, which basically lets the Camaro be nice and quiet, until you really get on the gas, and what a wonderful sound does that make! It’s no wonder why people get into so much trouble in these types of cars, it begs to be opened up, and listened to.

One must be careful, however, as the rear end likes to break loose with any kind of overzealous right foot, even with traction control on. But if you want to leave a nice double solid black line, traction control can be defeated, and the burning of rubber can commence.

Now back to the dream as a kid driving a Hot Wheels car. Being in this car, and seeing the kind of attention it got surely felt good. The Kinetic Blue Metallic paint when properly polished up looks beautiful, and while its not Spectraflame, it sure does get the job done of standing out. This Hot Wheels car has their logo emblazoned all over the car. There are embroidered seats, aluminum door sills, and emblems everywhere to let you, and everyone else around you, know that you’re driving around in a Hot Wheels┬ábranded car. To make it even more complete, they gave this edition a nice classic Hot Wheels feature, Redline wheels, albeit subtle Redlines, that really only true Hot Wheels fans will notice and appreciate. Oh, and there’s one more thing, Hot Wheels even put into production a 1/64th scale mainline diecast car replicating the real life sized Hot Wheels Camaro, which you see in the photos.

So, is this a car for the masses? No. Will it appeal to everyone? No. Would I buy one with my own money? Sure, if I had plenty of it. It could be a great heirloom to pass onto future generations of Hot Wheels collectors. But beyond that special feeling that you are driving a true to life Hot Wheels, this is nothing more than a gussied up Camaro, which I’m sure one day, maybe, will become a collectible.

Welcome to Wheels of the Cog!

When you think of car reviews, you think of guys with highly technical backgrounds, testing cars to their full potential. Magazines, online blogs, tv shows, all present cars that are tested and pushed. You rarely get honest opinions from your everyday working guy. I plan to change that with this blog. I’m first and foremost a photographer/photo editor by trade so these will be mostly photo heavy reviews, I am in no way the all knowing automotive professional. I am however a diehard automobile addict as I’ve been playing with cars, reading about cars, and looking at cars my entire life. I’m one of those guys that can tell you the make and model of a car just by seeing the headlights or tail lights.
It was not until I bought my first car(2008 Subaru Legacy Spec B) on my own at the age of 24 that I began my journey into the mechanics and technicalities of the automobile, so you will not be getting 100% technical opinions or advice here, just your run of the mill honest opinion about cars I get to drive around in for a day or maybe a few days here and there. I’ll give you my opinions on their ability to live with in a “normal” person’s daily life. So if you want an unbiased, honest opinion about a car for your everyday Joe, I hope my thoughts and photos will help.
Enjoy!
-Wheels of the Cog

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