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roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 10:26 p.m.

I figured I should start a thread that consolidated the absolute chaotic mess of car reviews I routinely write out in various threads across GRM. 

I should probably explain: like most of the nuts on this board, I have a problem. I seemingly love all things with 4 wheels and a motor (and some things with 2 wheels and a motor as well). While turning 40 in the not too distant past, I've managed to recklessly purchase ~37 cars over the years, not including bikes or my wife's cars. I know those are rookie numbers compared to some of you, but I have a tendency to go through cars like some people go through socks. 

I also have an addiction to experiencing new platforms. I've mastered the art of talking a dealership into giving me a borrowed car agreement, a license plate and free reign to drive vehicles without having a salesman in the car. I am always respectful of the cars and the establishments, never seeking to bring a car back worse for the wear, but always eager to enjoy what spirited driving I can find on a back road or in as many environments as I can find! As a result, I've driven hundreds of cars, from all over the spectrum. 

While I'm trying to step back from motorsports for a while, I've also spent a decent amount of time in competition events that include autocross, time attack, some ice racing and a bit of drag racing (when I was much younger). Like many of you, I've attended a few performance driving schools over the years and even now, I am still enamored with the art of enjoying a good drive. 

While I don't post as much as much as some of you fellow Dorks, I have tried to write up reviews to share my experiences with various cars/platforms. I've been on this board for 10+ years, so many of the reviews I've written have ended up in a hodgepodge of obscure threads that have nothing to do with actually reviewing cars... So, I figured I would change that by trying to post them all in one place. Or at least the more recent reviews and reviews going forward. If nothing else, it'll help me keep track of my outlandish project-car or daily driver ideas! 

I figured I would write somewhat of an introduction thread for those that haven't had the misfortune of reading my long-winded rants in the past. 

A few things about me: 

-In case you haven't picked up on it by now, I'm a bit long-winded to say the least. Read at your own peril. 

-I have absolutely no brand loyalty whatsoever. While it's true that I've owned certain brands or models of cars more than others (we won't talk about how many Miata's have been in my garage over the years), I have no blind allegiance to any make or model. If it's good, I'll drive it. I don't care where a car is made- while I've owned more Japanese cars than others, I've also owned plenty of German and American cars. Nothing Korean thus far, but I'm not opposed to it. While I prefer driving cars of a certain era, I'm not against modern technology or alternate powertrains- as I've owned cars like a Tesla Model 3 Performance in the past. 

-I live in the Denver metro area. This matters for a couple of reasons: at high elevation, we lose a good bit of power up here- NA cars even more so. Although having lived here for many years, I've acclimated to it. We also have access to some of the best mountain roads in the world, which means I sometimes get the pleasure of test driving cars in what I'll refer to as The Lord's racetrack (aka the canyons of the Rocky Mountains). 

-I don't waste much time driving uber-expensive, exotic cars. I prefer to drive things that I, a lowly civil servant, can actually afford to buy and drive. This is Grassroots Motorsports, not Trust Funding my McLaren Motorsports. I imagine it's also tougher to get a dealer to hand over a set of keys and a license plate on a bright orange Lambo... 

-I'm not a terribly small man. I'm 6'2", 217 lbs, 33" waist (slightly larger around the holidays), 34" inseam. I only mention this because I sometimes have a hard time fitting in certain cars, or my body type doesn't always play well with ergonomics of some vehicles. So, if you're bigger/smaller or have a different body type, feel free to take what I have to say about fitment with a grain of salt. 

-I have a plethora of injuries from a career or 2 of banging myself up, somewhat professionally. Most notably, I have an old injury to my right knee. It normally causes me no trouble at all, but certain cars/seats cause it to flair up and leave me in a bit of pain. It's a common theme in many of the reviews I write about. 

-While I can't say I always "love it", I've been wrenching on machines in my spare time for close to ~25 years now. I enjoy learning how things work and translating that to how a vehicle feels from a driver's perspective. 

While I switch cars out fairly frequently, my current stable (not counting my work car or our oldest daughter's car) consists of the following: 

-2008 AP2 Honda S2000. This car takes the cake as the longest I've ever owned a vehicle in my life (4.5 years). I used to autoX it, but it has since been retired and now leads a life of garage pampering and fun driving on the weekends! It's essentially "stock", with the only mods (aside from lighter OEM-sized OZ wheels) being OEM mods- 2006-2007 S2000 rear springs/dampers, an S2000 CR front sway bar and a custom alignment. I think Honda just about perfected the S2000 from the factory (at least for a fun street car), I just tweaked it slightly to more align with my driving style. 

-2008 E82 BMW 128i 6MT w/Sport Package. Not counting my take-home work car, this is essentially my "daily", or as close to a daily as I currently own. It's pretty close to stock, with only a few tasteful OEM BMW M mods. I bought this pile of bolts as a potential track car, but as I slowly fixed all of the things, I ended up falling in love with it as a street car. Build thread with more details here: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/e82-128i-when-your-projected-track-car-turns-into-your-daily/258441/page1/

-1996 Acura Integra GS-R coupe 5MT. While I was previously building this car to run NASA TT6, at this point, it's essentially more of an OEM+ build, with the car more or less mimicking the performance of an Integra Type R. Too much to list. See build thread for details: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/the-teg-a-dc2-road-to-all-the-hondas-story/258401/page1/

-2008 Nissan Xterra 5AT 4WD. A fairly well-maintained winter beater. 

I mention my current stable, as I frequently compare my personal cars to other cars I'm driving to help give me perspective and some contrast. Especially if I'm considering buying said car I'm reviewing, which, let's be honest, I'm always considering buying something new! 

For reference, my wife's current cars (that I only occasionally drive): 

-2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack. The little lady's garage queen. 

-2016 Mazda 6 6MT. The little lady's daily driver. Yes, it's a manual. Yes, that was her idea. Until recently, she had a Suburban for kid hauling, but when our oldest daughter got a car (Mazda 3 6MT), my wife got rid of the big black tank of a Suburban and went with the Mazda 6. 


As a much younger man, I read all of the popular car review magazines! I still go back and read old articles when I'm looking for opinions. One of the things I enjoy about test driving cars, is that I don't have to see the car thru the lens of yester-year- a car that was considered great 30 years ago might not drive so well compared to today's machines, and by contrast, many older cars have a certain feel and charm that is harder to replicate in today's world of more numb driving machines. Hence why I like to drive them myself and see them thru the eyes of someone living in today's world, however that stacks up. 

I suppose that's more than enough about me. I will throw out that if anyone is curious about how a certain vehicle drives or compares to another vehicle (within reason), feel free to throw it out there and I'll see if I can find one to take for a spin!  

Happy motoring! 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 10:41 p.m.

Car driven: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla (Core trim/base model). 
Driven on 10/27/2023. 
Background: at the time, I was thinking about selling my S2000 to get a GR Corolla. 
Review style: abridged 

Review: 

My wife and I drove a little over an hour north to drive a GR Corolla. It was a 2023 Core (base) trim model, slightly used with 3500 miles on it. No Performance Pack (so no LSD's), which, for my purposes isn't really relevant. Long story short: I'm out. 


 

It hurt my right knee to drive, so, automatic disqualification.

My thoughts: 

-First, unless you're driving this car hard on a regular basis, I do not see the value in this car. This is coming from someone that used to own an FK8 Civic Type R and really wanted to like this car. I know this car has a very fancy AWD system that surely contributes to the price, but it costs more money than the FK8 Type R I bought just a few years ago and the Type R feels like a LOT more car. 

-The seating position is rubbish- they're too high. It almost feels like I'm driving a crossover. The seats themselves are okay per se, although I wish the seat bottoms were a little bit longer (my thighs stuck out pretty far past them- I'm 6'2 with fairly long legs). 

-The engine is a perky little thing! There's a smidge of turbo lag, but I didn't mind it in the least! Very strong midrange- the motor has a good amount of character and makes for a quick little car! It's not what I would call "fast", but certainly much quicker than my 3 "sporty" cars (S2000, Integra and 128i). 

-I'm not a fan of the clutch. It's not heavy per se, but I find it very difficult to drive the car smoothly, despite over 2 decades of driving a manual (I currently own 3). I couldn't pull away from a stop smoothly to save my life! Same with engaging 2nd gear, I found it to be abrupt and jittery. 

-The ride was a bit firm. Not as bad as my old Focus RS, so not too harsh for public roads, but probably firmer than my Integra and S2000. I can see it getting old if your local roads aren't terribly smooth. 

-The shifter is, well, a clunky, unrefined piece. It reminded me of an old turbo manual Subaru. It's not a fair comparison, but it honestly couldn't hold a candle to my Integra, S2000 or even my BMW 128i. It is not a box that wants to be shifted fast and I struggled to find gates when downshifting. It's not terrible, but it's not very good either. 

 

There's more, but those are the main takeaways I had after a ~20 minute test drive. Admittedly, it was mostly light to light, with a bit of freeway involved. There were no sweet canyon roads near by, so I really couldn't properly test it around corners... but it didn't matter, I learned what I needed to know. I understand that most of the money is in the powertrain and I would probably love it on a twisty mountain road... but around town, I would never exploit the car's strengths... and on a canyon road, I would likely prefer my Honda's anyway. 

I should also mention that I drove my 128i 6MT up north to test drive the GR. Translation: I had just gotten out of driving a car that was better balanced, had a MUCH smoother clutch, much smoother gearbox, had MUCH better seats (I have the Sport package seats), was better balanced, rode smoother, makes a better noise, has better steering feedback (hydraulic rack) and has a better seating position. We're comparing apples to oranges here, but I'm trying to be honest about what my senses were attuned to by the time we got to the dealership. I should also mention that the little Bimmer has become my favorite driving machine since I fixed it for a reason. The GR Corolla is certainly quicker than my 128i (stock powertrain), but there's no doubt, I would prefer to drive my little E82 any day of the week. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 10:47 p.m.

Car driven: 2023 Ford Maverick 2.0T AWD
Driven on 10/27/2023. 
Background: I didn't know what I was doing with cars, I drove this thing on my way home from driving a GR Corolla
Review style: abridged 

After we drove the GR Corolla, on our way home, we stopped by our local Ford dealership and drove a brand new Ford Maverick 2.0T AWD... good Lord I love this little truck! 



 

^^^^Talk about a great candidate for a daily! My local dealer seemed to have at least 7-8 of them on the lot and the best part: NO MORE DEALER MARKUP! 

I can't sing this little truck's praises enough: 

-Peppy little powertrain (with the turbo, I can't speak to the FWD hybrid version). It's a good bit quicker than a tiny little truck thing should be. The transmission is smooth, responsive and does everything I would want it to do. 

-Smooth ride on the freeway. I can't speak to the FWD version which has a torsion rear end, but the AWD version's multilink rides very well. I would have zero issues taking this little thing on a road trip. 

-Great ergonomics. The fact that this thing is so compact, yet has a bed and so much room inside for passengers (the back seat actually houses adults) is pretty impressive. 

-I dig all the little storage pockets and cubbies. 

-I did take it on a twisty little road... it's not a sports car, but it handles much better than anything with over 8 inches of ground clearance has any right to handle. 

-I really think this thing is the right size. Easy to park, easy to maneuver, great visibility, not too big but enough space to be not too small. 

 

I am just impressed with the little Maverick. I know it's built on a crossover platform. I typically hate crossovers- I feel like most of them are designed for much smaller people (namely women)- their seating positions are always awkward for me, their seat bottoms are far too short and the seats sit far too high... but whatever Ford did to the Maverick, color me impressed. 

 

When we got done test driving the GR Corolla, my wife's reaction: "maybe for $30k, but certainly not for $40k." 

When we got done test driving the Maverick, my wife's reaction: "that's definitely a vehicle of yours that I would want to borrow" lol. That prompted my response of: "absolutely not, hahaha". She absolutely loved the Maverick. So did I. 

My brother is far more of a "truck guy" than I am, he was checking out a Maverick recently as well. He currently has a Chevy 2500 (among other trucks) and he actually liked the little Maverick as well, referring to it as "the Miata of trucks" lol. I agree with his sentiments. 

After leaving the Ford dealership on the way home, neither one of us could believe that the Maverick cost so much LESS than the GR Corolla. It felt like it was a lot more car. Certainly a lot more car for the money. I know most people don't cross shop vehicles like this, but it's nuts to think of the price delta between these vehicles after driving them. Maverick= great value. GR Corolla= I just don't see it- I'm pretty sure I would have to be on a canyon road or at an autoX to see it. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 10:58 p.m.

Car driven: 2023 Subaru BRZ Premium
Driven on 10/31/2023 and 11/3/2023
Background: I was thinking about selling my S2000 to get the BRZ/GR86
Review style: incoherent rambling

PART 1 (I drove it twice)

I needed to burn some vacation time (I'm constantly in use-or-lose territory), so I left work, drove out west and took a spin in a used 2023 Subaru BRZ Premium: 



 

Someone just traded this car in- it has a bit over 8000 miles on the clock; which I was happy about, as the car is well past it's break-in period, so I was able to open it up a bit. Disclaimers:

-It was a cooler day today (around 40 degrees F) and the weekend snow is still melting. As a result, I didn't really pitch it around corners much.  

-I understand that the BRZ is actually supposed to feel ever-so-slightly softer than the GR86- although for my purposes, it doesn't really matter. 

-The exterior of the car is dirty- they literally just wiped the snow off of it while I was on my way. The interior was very clean. 

The sales lady was very accommodating. I called before I drove out there and when I got there she just handed me the keys, a dealer plate and sent me on my way. I spent about ~30 minutes driving solo and learned a good amount. My thoughts: 

-It's a good car! I can see why everyone loves this thing so much! 

-There is a massive difference in this new 2.4L motor vs the old 2.0L motor. It's not even close. At my elevation (5200 ft), the old car felt absolutely gutless- I could never get over how slow it felt. Objectively I think it was quicker than it felt, but the mid-range torque dip really killed it for me. The new 2.4L now pulls pretty strongly across the rev range. Even though it revs to around 7500rpm, it never feels like an old school Honda motor- it feels more like a bigger Miata motor- very linear. I now have no problems with the power it makes- it's fairly quick. I think it's probably just a touch quicker than the S2000, but due to the shorter wheelbase and open roof, the S2000 feels a lot quicker when revving it out; in truth, the S2000 feels much quicker than it actually is. Around town, the BRZ's 2.4L motor has a good bit more torque than the S2000 and doesn't feel nearly as gutless as the S2000 does down low. 

They definitely piped a bit of extra sound into the cabin... like, quite a bit of extra noise. I didn't mind it, but if I'm being honest, this engine doesn't exactly sound good. It's okay. Not the worst sound I've ever heard, but I could take it or leave it. With that said, although the car has good power/torque, I don't feel like the engine has much character. I never felt rewarded for wringing the motor out, but it does feel good/strong throughout the rev range. Subaru has done a great job for what is otherwise a tarted up Forester engine. 

-I didn't really push the car hard through corners due to the cold and melting snow all over. I have a feeling it's very good, based on the inputs I did receive. The steering is very light and the car seems to be very eager to change direction. It feels very light on its toes. The steering feels a good bit lighter than the steering in my S2000 and a LOT lighter than the steering in my 128i. I think the feel of the steering is maybe a bit better than the S2000's, but it can't hold a candle to my Integra or BMW that both have hydraulic racks. 

Body motions are very well controlled. The car is certainly firm, but it's not what I would call stiff. Honestly, it's pretty reasonable for a sporty street car. I would have no qualms with taking this car on a longer road trip. 

At freeway speeds, the BRZ certainly isn't as darty as my S2000... but it is noticeably dartier than my 128i. The door sill on the driver's door is a bit low, not leaving me with a place to rest my left arm while cruising. Not a deal breaker, but the car certainly doesn't cruise as well as the BMW- which really shouldn't shock anyone. 

I would have preferred a bit more weight to the steering- while the car felt eager to rotate, it does feel very much like a fingertips kind of car. It's not bad at all, but I've certainly been spoiled by my 128i's steering which is nicely weighted, making the car feel more planted. 

-The clutch was super easy to use! Not heavy in the least and very easy to drive smoothly. I know is has a spring on it that some people remove, but for driving in traffic, I would leave the stock spring in there. 

The shifter was also pretty good. Much better than the 1st gen cars I drove. Very easy to find gears, solid throws, overall very intuitive. It feels more mechanical than the more rubbery throws in my BMW and had no difficulty even while cold (she might have warmed up the car before I got there?), which is something I can't say about my Honda's that need a bit of heat, but it still doesn't feel as good/mechanical as either of my old Honda's. Honestly, I've driven just about everything under the sun and no manual shifter feels as good as golden age Honda's. I like the BRZ's shifter just fine- in the absence of other cars (namely old Honda's), I would probably be pretty impressed. 

-The seats are a mixed bag. The seating position is GREAT! Forward visibility is GREAT! I thought the overall ergonomics are pretty good for my frame- I had no issues reaching for the steering wheel or shifter. I thought the back bolsters were very comfortable... but the seat bottom bolsters pinch me a bit too much for my liking. I'm a bigger guy and I usually like to splay my legs out a bit while driving... which, I can technically do, but in doing so, my right leg ends up sitting on TOP of the seat bolster and feels pinched/awkward. If I ever got one of these cars, I would likely remove the seat and see if I could bend the heck out of the seat bottom bolsters so it would stop pinching my leg. 

Does it hurt me knee to drive? Maybe. It was hard to tell, honestly. So, not nearly as bad as the GR Corolla which caused me pain within minutes... but maybe. I could feel a bit of discomfort. I suspect that it had something to do with the lower seat bottom bolster putting my right leg in an odd position. I had a similar problem with an aftermarket seat in the past- I bent the hell out of it with a pry bar and it was fine. Maybe bending it would do the trick here? I'll be honest, it does make me a bit wary of spending $30k+ on something I feel like I would need to modify to drive comfortably. I don't remember having this issue with the 1st gen cars. 

-There is quite a bit of wind/road noise within the car. I've read all the reviews of Subaru/Toyota cutting costs by not using sound deadening.... the rumors are true. It's not convertible noisy, but it seems to be just as noisy (maybe noisier?) than my 1996 Integra. Again, not a deal breaker, I don't need a completely isolated cabin, but it was pretty loud.

-The brakes felt pretty weak. I know that's easily fixed with a set of more aggressive pads, but compared to my S2000 (aftermarket pads), Integra (track pads) and BMW, they required a good bit of extra pedal to slow the car down. 

-I know everyone says the BRZ is easy to heel-toe, but I was wearing dress shoes (just came from work), so I can't comment. I tried a couple of times but my shoe keep slipping off of the pedals. That might not be the car's fault. 

-The car feels very light/tossable. Honestly, it feels a lot like a hardtop coupe Miata. That's about the nicest thing I can say about it. 

 

Overall, it was a positive driving experience. I liked it. I don't know if I love it, but I certainly like it. I suspect I might have enjoyed it a lot more on a warm, sunny day where I could treat it like a sports car. 

How does it compare to the S2000? The BRZ is a good bit more relaxing than the S2000, without feeling like it's dull. I can see the BRZ being more fun in most circumstances. With the S2000, you really have to grab that car by the scruff and pitch it around like you mean it, otherwise you'll never enjoy it. You need to be pushing the S2000 hard to have fun- that's seemingly not true with the BRZ. The BRZ feels like it would be more forgiving and likely more fun day to day. I would rather drive the BRZ daily, by a pretty substantial margin. On the perfect road, on the perfect day? That's a tough one that I couldn't answer without really putting the BRZ through its paces. I found the BRZ to be a suitable S2000 replacement for someone that wants to drive more often. 
 

How does it compare to the 128i? That's a tough one. Full disclosure: my 128i isn't 100% stock, it does have a set of front and rear M3/1M control arms (stiffer and they added an extra degree of negative camber up front). I came back and drove my 128i around for a bit to compare... I think I might prefer my 128i. 

The seats in my 128i are better- the lower leg extension (I have fairly long legs), the adjustable bolsters and the lack of an overly pinchy seat bottom make for a more comfortable seat. To be fair, my car does have the Sport Package- I wouldn't feel that away about the base 128i seats. 

The steering in my 128i is phenomenal. Great weighting, great steering feel, very confidence inspiring. The BRZ is pretty good for an EPS rack, but at the end of the day, it's still an EPS rack and I wish it had more weight to it. 

The 128i's smooth inline-6 makes a much better noise. I've removed the intake resonator on mine, so it's just a tad bit louder than stock- I get it, that's not fair, but I would take an I6 noise over a flat-4 noise any day of the week. 

I'm pretty sure the BRZ is quicker than the 128i, but numbers don't tell the full story. Lower in the rev range, the BMW definitely feels torquier. The BRZ pulls harder up top, but I still prefer the mid-range of the BMW 3.0L I6. I have a 3-stage DISA intake manifold that I pulled off of an X5 in a junkyard a few weeks ago for $100 that's just sitting in my garage. That manifold from the factory bumps power from 230hp to 255hp, with a solid gain across the rev range. I'm curious if the BRZ would feel faster if the BMW had the DISA manifold on it. I really need to get around to swapping it in and reflashing the DME. While the BRZ is the faster car, I think I prefer the BMW's motor.  

Handling is a mixed bag... the BRZ feels lighter and more eager to rotate... but the BMW feels more planted and confidence inspiring. 

I figured that I would prefer the BRZ... but the 128i is very good. The BRZ would mean a warranty and no real repairs for years... but the BMW is such a joy to drive! If they were both brand new and priced the same, I think I would pick the BMW. 

I guess I have a lot to think about. 

My wife and I are supposed to go back and drive the BRZ again on Friday (assuming it doesn't sell before then), when temps are supposed to be in the 60's. Maybe I'll have a different impression driving it when it's warmer outside and there isn't as much snow melting on the road. 


PART 2 on 11/3/2023: 

 

Well, my wife and I went back to the dealership today to take a 2nd spin in the BRZ (she wasn't with me the first time). This time I drove my 128i there so I could literally drive them both back to back. There's no getting around it: I prefer driving my 128i and my wife also prefers my 128i. 

Temps were in the 60's today, so a good bit warmer. I did take it to a twisty road (the car is in Golden, which borders the mountains) to get a better feel for it. My mind didn't really change on pretty much anything from last time. A few notes: 

-The steering is a bit too light for my tastes. 

-The car seems like it wants to be tail happy, almost on turn-in, which is something I'm likely not used to. On a track or at an autoX, I'm sure it would be fun. On a mountain road that I'm not familiar with in a car I'm not used to driving, it didn't inspire a lot of confidence in driving it a bit harder. 

-The traction control is not obtrusive at all. I imagine that was done intentionally for the purpose of allowing the driver to get the tail out at will. 

-Unfortunately, the little BRZ makes my wife car-sick. 

-My knee feels some kind of way after driving it- not pain per se, but definitely some odd discomfort. 

-The blindspot in the BRZ is more obtrusive than in the 128i or even my Integra. The more closed in feeling likely contributed to my wife getting car sick- the same thing happened a year or 2 ago when we drove a new Supra. 

-Other than those things, this just reaffirmed my previous thoughts about preferring my 128i over the BRZ. 

 

When we hopped back into the 128i, we both preferred driving/riding in it. My wife swore up and down that the 128i feels quicker than the BRZ. Which, the 128i is pretty close to stock, with just a removed resonator and removed charcoal filter. Maybe our elevation has something to do with it? Or maybe it just feels that way because the low and mid-range of the 128i feels substantially stronger? I think the BRZ likely pulls a bit harder above 6000rpm, but the 128i seems to pull harder everywhere below 6000rpm. I honestly preferred just about everything in the 128i over the BRZ- engine, seats, noise, steering (that's the biggest one!), pedal placement (easier to heel/toe), you name it.

I think the only things I prefer about the BRZ over the 128i is the aesthetics (they're good looking cars!), the lack of leather seats (I've never been a big fan of leather), Carplay/more modern amenities and that fact that it's still under warranty/likely won't require much maintenance for years to come. 

 

When I got back to the house, temps were in the mid 60's, the sun came out and it was perfect for driving a roadster. So, I took the S2000 out for a spin with the thoughts of the BRZ fresh in my mind. My thoughts: 

-The BRZ is definitely more usable than the S2000, but the S2000 is more fun. While pitching the BRZ around, my wife randomly said "the S2000 is more fun than this". She's right. 

-I think the BRZ has a bit more low/mid-range torque, but honestly, the S2000 feels faster. I know by the numbers, they're comparable with the edge going to the BRZ, but the shorter wheelbase of the S2000 combined with having the top down make it feel substantially faster. 

-The S2000 is substantially sharper. The BRZ is no slouch, but the S2000 feels much more eager to change direction. Granted, I don't know how fair that is- the S2000 is on a set of older summer tires (Michelin Pilot Super Sports), whereas the BRZ had the primacy tires on it (I'm pretty sure they're all-seasons?). 

-The S2000 is more confidence inspiring in the corners. The BRZ feels like it wants to party with the tail out- whereas the S2000 tightens its line if you ease into the throttle. If you lift in the S2000 or come in too hot, the rear will toe-out and the car will quickly rotate- which can be fairly unnerving if you're not used to it. Otherwise, the S2000 definitely feels more serious about attacking corners. 

-They both have EPS racks. I know the BRZ is supposed to have more feel, and maybe it does- I'm not sure if the Primacy tires are playing a role there? All I know is I've always enjoyed the weight of the S2000's steering and wished the BRZ had more weight to it. 

 

This sounds like a very harsh review for the BRZ, which, I actually like the little BRZ, but I definitely didn't fall in love with it. My wife commented about how much quicker the new 2.4L is vs the old 2.0L. We both agreed this is the motor it should have gotten from the start. But even with the newfound torque of the 2.4L, the motor lacks character. My VTEC machines feel manic and more exciting to rev out. My 128i sounds much better, feels smoother and has a powerband that is more street-friendly. The BRZ's new motor gets the job done, but it's not a whole lot of fun. 

I will admit, I've never been into drifting. When I used to autoX my S2000 (and track the one before it), I set it up to be more neutral/less over-steer prone (giant front sway bar and extra camber in the rear). Same with my old Miata's. So, maybe my lack of comfort with hanging the tail out is part of the issue here? I can get the tail on the BMW to come out for a split second, but when it does, it feels very easy to control. I think I would have to become more adept at driving with the tail out, or get used to what the BRZ wants before I would feel more comfortable driving it as hard as any of the other cars in my fleet. 

I like the BRZ. I respect the BRZ. I can't believe how much value this car has brand new for $30k! I have to remind myself that the S2000's MSRP in 2008 was $34,935, which, with inflation would be over $47,000 today! The fact that you get SOOO much car for so little money with the BRZ is impressive. If all I wanted was a brand new sports car that I could use as a daily, it would be tough to beat the BRZ. But unfortunately, I already own a car that I prefer to drive over the BRZ in almost every way: my old E36 M3box E82 128i. So, I think I'm going to pass on the little Toyobaru. 

 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:02 p.m.

Car driven: 2018 ND1 Mazda Miata 6MT
Driven on 11/5/2023
Background: I was thinking about selling my S2000 to get an ND Miata
Review style: abridged

My wife and I went to have lunch with an old friend and decided with the sunny 65 degree weather, I should take the S2000. Afterwards, I decided to stop at a local dealership and take an ND1 2018 Miata Grand Touring 6MT for a spin: 


 

My rationale for taking the ND for a spin: I loved my NC. I also loved my old NA's- for slightly different reasons. I've never owned an ND, but I did enjoy driving my wife's old ND1 on occasion (I tried to talk her out of trading it in on a Camaro SS, but she had her mind made up). I look at the ND as more of a mix between the NC and NA. I also looked at national pricing for used ND's and saw they're starting to get reasonably priced (read: some used ND2's are going for considerably less than I can likely sell my S2000 for). 

My thoughts:

-The ND is a barrel of monkeys fun to drive on the street! With the S2000, you really have to be pushing the car to have a good time, whereas the Miata is always having a good time! 

-Even in softtop form, the ND lacks headroom if you leave the top up. My hair is touching the roof in the car... I think a couple of companies now make seat rails that lower the stock seats by over an inch... if I ever buy one of these cars, the aftermarket lower seat rails would be installed the first weekend after bringing it home. 

-For an EPS rack, it's actually pretty decent. Overall, I didn't have a problem with the weight or feel of the ND's steering compared to my S2000. I preferred it over the BRZ's rack (even if none of them come close to an actual hydraulic rack). 

-I know the ND2 revs higher and makes more power up top. To be clear, I would just buy an ND2 over an ND1. With that said, the ND1's little econobox powerplant is a punchy little thing! It's not fast, but it's peppy and has a stronger feeling mid-range than my S2000. Driving around light to light, I actually think I prefer the little Miata over my S2000. 

-The clutch and shifter are great! Easy to work and very intuitive. Shifting is a joy in this car! 

-The ND is 500 lbs lighter than the S2000... and it feels 500 lbs lighter than the S2000. It's hard to find a car that makes the S2000 feel labored and heavy... the ND is that car. It just feels so nimble and playful! It truly feels like a toy that was created for the sole purpose of having fun. 

-The ride is extremely smooth... but the trade-off is the body roll. During more steady-state cornering, I didn't have much of a problem with it- the car seems to set on it's bump stops and holds a line... during quicker transitions, the car feels all over the place. I know its supposed to add to the drama and be more fun at low speeds, but in my opinion, this car could use a set of thicker sway bars. 

-The beautiful thing about the ND is the same thing that made the NA so wonderful: it's fun at any speed. It has that party trick where you constantly feel like you're going faster than you actually are. 

-The trunk might actually be smaller than the S2000's... both have terrible interior storage space- I can't decide which is worse, for different reasons. 

-I fit in the ND, but it's tight. Not many cars make the S2000's interior seem spacious. With the seat all the way back, I have enough leg room- although is bit more room under the steering wheel for my legs might make heel-toe downshifting a bit easier; which again, those lower seat rails are likely a good idea for folks around my size. 

-I find the S2000 to have beautful, classic lines that have aged well... but I would be lying if I didn't admit I prefer the aggressive looks of the ND. 

 

Having driven the new BRZ and ND on back to back days, the BRZ is undoubtedly the more usable car that a lot of folks could use as their only car... but there's no question, the ND is the more fun. On the street, at lower speeds, I would say the ND is more fun than my S2000. 

 

So, while I was wanting to find a vehicle that was more practical than the S2000 that I could drive more of the year, the only car I found to be more fun was the ND that is smaller and even less practical than the S2000. I guess I just enjoy a lightweight roadster. 

Now I have some real thinking to do: namely I need to be honest with myself and ask myself: would I actually get more use out of an ND vs my S2000? For practical purposes? Absolutely not- it's just as useless for doing real-world things. Would I drive it more? That's a tough question. My initial instincts are: yes. It doesn't feel nearly as collectable- it's not an appreciating JDM legend. Mazda still makes brand new motors (and parts) for them and I suspect that will continue for many years to come. The ND doesn't have to be prodded hard on a twisty road to be fun- it's fun just plodding along at normal traffic speeds. So long as I didn't stiffen the suspension much, the ND has a much smoother/less twitchy ride on the freeway. With the proper set of tires, I could see testing the ND out in the winter lol... if something happened to the ND, it feels like it would be much easier to replace due to the fact the Mazda is still making them brand new. 

Do I think I would use an ND more often than an S2000? Yes. How much more? Well, I'm going to have quite a bit to think about between now and next spring. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:05 p.m.

Car driven: 2020 Mini Cooper S 7-speed DCT
Driven on 12/18/2023
Background: I was thinking about selling my S2000 to get, well, something interesting
Review style: abridged

Today was a lovely day for December- temps in the high 50's with the sun out and no wind. It's been a while since I've taken anything out for a test drive. I figured I would take a potential contender for a spin and drove a 2020 Mini Cooper S with a 7-speed DCT. 



It was something outside the box: it's still somewhat small-ish and fun, but also something I could/would use more often. Brand new they're way overpriced, but they seemingly depreciate like a rock dropped in a lake, so I figured a lightly used one could fit the bill. The one I drove today only had 14k miles on the clock. 

I drove the car around town, a tad bit of freeway and found a couple back roads to pitch it around on, likely spending around an hour behind the wheel. I like it, but I don't know if I love it. My biggest takeaways: 

-It has a good amount of leg room for such a little car. The seats themselves aren't bad per se- they have that BMW lower seat extender which is nice for taller folks like myself. Although I wish the seats went a bit lower. Headroom was fine, but the height of the seats feels closer to a CUV than it does a sports car. I don't know if it bothered my knee? I felt some discomfort at first, but I think it was my fault, as I was sitting too close to the dash- when I moved the seat back a couple of clicks, it seemed much more comfortable. The leather seats are a bit on the harsh/firm side (you don't really sink into them). They're not bad, but for some odd reason they're not nearly as comfortable as the sport seats in my 128i. 

-Good torquey little motor. For a fun little town car, the motor matches the character of the car very well! Plenty of torque on tap throughout the powerband. I've read that it falls off up top, but I wasn't paying much attention to it. Whenever I wanted the car to go, it was very responsive and didn't seem to lack torque. 

-The DCT was actually pretty smooth. I've only owned 1 DCT in the past (2014-ish? Audi A3 DSG) and the experience was terrible. I've been wary of DCT's for years as a result. It looks like they've gotten a lot better! By that, I mean it did a good job emulating a traditional torque converter auto. It has that roll-away feature that makes it feel like a traditional auto. The upshifts and downshifts were very seamless. My old A3 was annoying to drive in traffic, specifically trying to come to a stop smoothly- the car would constantly downshift which resulted in engine braking and a constant need to modulate the brake pedal. This Mini/BMW has no such issues. The paddle shifters were also very responsive and easy to use. My only complaint is that there's no auto-hold feature- I had it on my old Mazda 3 Turbo (and technically my old Tesla Model 3 Performance) and it was wonderful! Shocking that no such feature seemingly exists on the Mini, considering their prices. 

-The ride is stiff. I don't think it would bother me, but I can see how it might turn some people off. I drove my S2000 to the dealership and I could have sworn the Mini was stiffer- not by much, but shocking nonetheless. People blame it on the short wheelbase, which, my S2000's wheelbase is shorter and it seemingly rides a touch better... 

-Handling isn't as good as I would have expected. Maybe the handling is fine/good? Maybe it's just the higher center of gravity (taller seating position) and lack of seat bolstering? I can't describe what the problem is, other than maybe just being a little bit floaty? Or disconnected? It's not nearly as much fun to pitch around corners as I might have expected and it certainly isn't from a lack of suspension stiffness... it's not bad, but it just isn't much fun to pitch around on a back road, which I'm shocked about. It's not fair to compare it to my S2000 or my highly modded (customized to my driving style) Integra... but my 128i (which has stock Sport suspension with only the addition of the M3/1M control arms) both rides much better and is far more engaging to drive on a back road. I can't put my finger on what the problem is, but for a car that's supposed to be a go-kart, it sure doesn't feel like a go-kart. 

-It's a narrow car, which makes things interesting... it has an arm-rest that is both nice, as well as obtrusive. The arm rest is adjustable, which is pretty cool, but if the car had a manual, I feel that it would get in the way. For some odd reason, the DCT I drove has a manual parking brake, which is interesting, but you can't use it with the arm rest down... not a big deal, although I frequently use the e-brake in most of my cars while siting at a light to take pressure off of my right knee, which can be done in the Mini, just not with the arm rest down. 

-The interior materials are an overall nice fit and finish. Everything feels like a miniature luxury car. Although the steering wheel felt a bit too smooth and hard. My other cars all have wheels that are a bit squishier that I guess I'm just used to by now. 

Overall, it's not a bad car, I liked it just fine. 

Although today was just such a fine day that I took the S2000 and put the top down on the way back. You wanna know what's a heck of a lot more fun than the Mini? The S2000. I get it. It's not fair. One is a FWD econobox with the turbo and the other is a purpose built sports car. It's not fair. But everything I interacted with just feels better in the S2000- the pedals, the steering wheel, the shifter (not fair as the Mini is DCT), the balance and feel of the car, the way it transitions, the sounds and even the seats. The Mini is a more practical while still being a bit of fun, but the S2000 puts an exclamation point on fun! We rarely get winter days like this- where the sun is out and the roads are clear, but when we do, the S2000 is a very engaging machine. 

I like the little Mini, but I can't see it ever being a proper replacement for the S2000. My bigger issue is that I don't think I would drive the Mini more than my BMW, which is a better car to drive/daily. I was hoping it would be a rare blend of feeling both special and practical enough to use regularly... but I just never fell in love with it and didn't think it really felt "special" at all. In that case, if it's just a practical car, something like a Ford Maverick is even more practical... 

And in this vein of cars, you know what I thought was a much better car to drive overall for similar money when new? My old 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo. It felt nicer inside (especially the seats!), had a more finished look to it, more power/torque, more practicality, it handled better/felt more composed while also riding smoother and felt like a much better value. To be fair, the 3 Turbo wasn't without its faults: it burned a quart of oil every couple thousand miles, BRAND NEW. I read something about valve seal issues, so maybe it's been corrected, but I never thought that was acceptable. The hatchback also had a terrible blind spot, the doors sounded cheap when closed and the back seat/trunk weren't as usable as they are in most hatches (compared to something like a Civic hatch- but still much larger than the Mini). Overall though, I can see why the Mini doesn't sell all that well, when cars like the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic exist- cars that are just a much fun, while being more practical and a good bit cheaper (when new). 

DWNSHFT
DWNSHFT Dork
2/16/24 11:07 p.m.

I like your reviews.  I appreciate knowing your current garage to get an idea of your perspective.  I always evaluate reviewers, and their reviews, in light of their on-track abilities.  It's good to know where you're coming from.  I enjoy your writing style and I don't consider your reviews long, just details.  And you pick up on important details.

 

Keep them coming!

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:09 p.m.

Cars driven: my 2008 Honda S2000 vs my 1996 Acura Integra GS-R
Driven on 12/18/2023
Background: I was comparing my S2000 to my DC2 Integra, to figure out which one was really the more fun car to drive on a nice day
Review style: comparison

So, I had been reassessing some things over the past couple months when I was thinking about selling the S2000. I noticed a couple of things: while I haven't driven the S2000 much, I also haven't driven my Integra much. I honestly think I've driven them the same amount over the last couple of months. They're both fun cars that are a riot to pitch around on a back road... but when it comes to which car I generally prefer to drive, it's the BMW 128i. After nursing it back to health, the 128i has become my de facto daily. 

To be clear, the BMW is still fun on a back road... but the Honda's are MORE fun on a back road. The BMW is just better pretty much everywhere else. As such, the Integra has also just been sitting in the garage. Which has led me to a conundrum. 

I drove the S2000 around town today and had a blast! Sunny with no wind, temps in the high 50's, absolutely perfect weather to drop the top and turn the heat up! I sometimes forget just how fun the S2000 is to drive...

So, after coming back from test driving the Mini, I decided I would do a much needed comparison: between my S2000 and my modded DC2 Integra GS-R: 



 

I always think to myself: the DC2 feels a LOT like a FWD S2000, but it's extremely rare for me to drive them both on the same day. 

The DC2 is more of an OEM+ type build: it has OEM Type R springs on Koni yellows, an OEM Type R sized RSB, OEM Type R transmission (with LSD), some rare OEM+ type bolt-ons & tune (putting down around ~163whp), etc. Honestly, it likely feels a lot like a Type R. 

So, I spent some time driving them both. I have to be honest with myself: as good as I've made the Integra, the S2000 is the better sports car- it's just more fun to drive. 

For reference, here's my Integra's build thread: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/the-teg-a-dc2-road-to-all-the-hondas-story/258401/page1/

Yet again, it's not a fair comparison. The Integra is a FWD econobox, whereas the S2000 is a purpose build sports car... and it shows. My takeaways: 

-With similar spring rates (Type R spring rates are very similar to OEM S2000 spring rates), the S2000 feels more lively and responsive. On-center, the S2000 changes directions rapidly, like a mongoose tormenting a cobra. Comparatively, the Integra is a bit dead on center. The hydraulic rack in the Integra has better feel, but the steering feels lazier and less eager to change direction. Maybe this has to do with all the extra caster the S2000 has? The S2000 has about 6* of caster vs around 1* for the Integra. There are some tricks to get a good bit more caster out of the Integra, but many recommend against them, citing they result in bump steer. Either way, the S2000 feels sportier. The shorter wheelbase probably also helps here. 

-The S2000 is faster and feels a good bit faster. The extra ~35 ft-lbs of torque from the bigger engine (2.2L vs 1.8L) can easily be felt. Neither of them are what I would consider fast or torquey, but driving them around, the S2000 feels far less anemic below VTEC and far more powerful above VTEC. The throttle in the S2000 also feels snappier, despite being DBW. They both make sweet VTEC noises, but the S2000's engine feels better. 

-The S2000's seating position is better, stock. My S2000 is essentially stock, with stock seats. It's pretty much the only Honda I've ever driven that I've been completely comfortable in, with no knee pain to speak of. It's a tight cabin, but it fits me like a glove, always has... by contrast, with OEM seats in the Integra, my hair touches the roof and it hurts my right knee to drive... in order to alleviate this issue (and also fit with a helmet), I put aftermarket seats in my Integra, but that wasn't enough, I needed to bolt the driver's seat to the floor.... which, it works, but the S2000's seating position is still better. 

-Both have great gearboxes. Likely the best I've ever driven. I've made some slight mods to the Integra's shifter to make it just a hair better; the S2000's is stock. Even stock, the S2000 still gets the nod, if only slightly. It's just the perfect throw length with the perfect amount of effort and feedback from the factory. 

-They both have great balance, being almost completely neutral. The S2000 pretty much came that way, I just tweaked it slightly; the Integra needed more help to get there. The Integra is easier to drive fast- honestly, just pitch the car into a corner and hold down the throttle, let the FWD LSD pull you out of a corner like a rally car! The S2000 is far more punishing if you get it wrong- it doesn't reward hamfisted driving. With that said, since mine is a 2008, it has traction/stability control and I've tweaked the car ever so slightly, to minimize it's unforgiving nature- the only mods on the S2000 (which are easily reversible) are an OEM front sway bar from a CR and slightly softer rear springs from a 2006-2007, plus a custom alignment (using OEM adjustments only) with an extra degree of negative camber out back. Even with these tweaks, while the S2000 is tamer than the early AP1's, it still doesn't respond well to idiocy. The Integra can be pitched around by a novice with much more confidence... but the S2000 is likely just a bit more rewarding when you get it right. 

-On the freeway, it's a mixed bag. With the Koni's turned down, the Integra might be a bit smoother... but the extra caster in the S2000 does a much better job of self-centering and not wandering. Neither are quiet cars. I would like to say the Integra is a hair quieter, but not by as much as you think. Neither are extraordinary road trip cars. Both spin ~4000rpm at freeway speeds (only because the Integra has a Type R gearbox). 

I know this is a shocker, but as it turns out, the dedicated sports car is more fun than the tarted up econobox. 

Seeing as though I haven't hardly driven the Integra for the past couple of months, I've realized why: the BMW is the better daily. They both (Integra and BMW) have useless back seats. They can both get groceries in their trunks. They're nearly identical in size and purpose. They're both manuals. They can both be fitted with snow tires if I so desire (even if it's not necessary). They both have their dings and scratches (read: not afraid of cloud in the sky). But the BMW is a better street car... so where does that leave the Integra? If the BMW is the better street car and the S2000 is the better pure fun sports car....

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:12 p.m.

Car driven: 2023 Acura Integra A-spec 6MT
Driven on 12/19/2023
Background: I was thinking about getting a nice, newer daily
Review style: abridged

On the recommendation of GRM, I drove a lightly used 2023 Acura Integra A-spec manual. 



Before I go further, I'm out. It's a really good car that I would likely recommend to others, but it absolutely hurt my knee to drive it. Likely not as bad as my old Type R, but there's something about the pedal spacing and overall ergonomics that doesn't play nice with my right knee. I think it's because the pedals are spaced far to the right, pressing my right knee into the center console and forcing it to turn at an odd angle. All I know, is that it's a deal breaker for sure. 

To compare with the new Integra, I drove my 128i out to the dealership. My abbreviated review/comparison of the Integra vs 128i: 

-RWD > FWD
-N/A I6 > Turbo 4
-Hydraulic steering >>> EPS
-50/50 > 60>40

Absent my knee pain, I think the new Integra is a really good car. For all intensive purposes, it's really just a tarted up Civic Si. Which, the Civic Si is a good car- so there's nothing wrong with that. With that said, even if it didn't cause me any knee pain, I couldn't see myself selling my 128i for the new Integra- I prefer driving the little BMW. 

The little 1.5T powered Acura isn't fast (neither is my BMW), but it's a torquey little motor! While it's nothing to write home about, for commuting, I would have no complaints with the little 1.5T. Compared to my BMW, I think the turbo motor has a bit more low-end torque, but I prefer the smoother, more linear pull of the N52. I also prefer the noises the N52 makes, by a lot. 

The Acura handles well- it stays flat in the corners, despite the fact that it also rides very well. Knee pain aside, I wouldn't hesitate to take the new Integra on a road trip, as it was very compliant on the freeway. The Integra is very composed and felt very confidence inspiring on the 1 back road I took it on. With that said, my little Bimmer is more fun and engaging. Going around corners, the Integra's steering almost feels choppy- like maybe the car was trying to vary the amount of assist or something? It feels like driving a robot. A very well-trained robot, but a robot nonetheless. It cannot come close to the feel and feedback that I receive from the E82's hydraulic rack. 

I have no idea which of them would be faster around corners at full speed at a race track (and frankly, I don't care). But what I do know is that the BMW is more fun around corners on a back road. The way the BMW rotates feels very natural in a way that a modern FWD car just isn't going to match. You can tune a suspension on a FWD car rotate, but at the end of the day, there's no replacing the feel of a well balanced 50/50 weight distribution RWD car. The Integra isn't bad. If I was comparing it to other modern FWD cars, I would say it's very very good. But it will never be inherently balanced and it will never rotate like a RWD car. 

The Integra's shifter is pretty decent. It's nothing to write home about, but it's much better than most of the modern manuals on the market (that's not saying much), sans the Miata. I could tell it's a cable shifter within the first couple of gears- it's very smooth and I never came close to missing a gear, but it is a far cry off from the old school mechanical linkage boxes Honda used to make. I'll be honest, I actually even preferred the BMW's shifter, even if it was only by a small margin (to be fair, I do have an "extended length" M shifter on it). Overall, the clutch and shifter in the Integra make it very easy to drive. 

Overall, the Integra has great visibility, plenty of space, comfortable front seats- I actually liked the red interior/seats! They were leather with alcantara center sections. An easy place to spend time in. 

The Acura is far more modern than my BMW, but I've never been an interior kind of guy, so it's wasted on a peasant like me. 

If it didn't hurt my knee, would I daily drive a new Integra? Absolutely! Would I ever consider trading my 128i in it? Not just no, but hell no. The little BMW is a more fun car to drive, without giving up anything in the way of overall driving comfort or ease of use. If I needed 4-doors and a usable back seat (and it didn't hurt my knee), and I couldn't simultaneously own multiple cars, I would certainly consider buying one. Take that for what it's worth.

At least I've struck it off the list, so I don't have to wonder. For the record, I know the Type S would be faster and more fun to drive, but the knee pain is an automatic deal breaker. 

If you don't count the ND Miata, of all the other vehicles I've driven in recent months, the Ford Maverick is my favorite; which, given my typical vehicle tastes, is shocking. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:16 p.m.

Car driven: 2019 Ford Mustang GT 6MT w/Performance Pack
Driven on 12/21/2023
Background: I was looking for something fun and interesting
Review style: abridged

So, my wife and I had the afternoon off together. We had been getting some unusually (for December) beautiful weather, so I took the S2000 out. We drove a couple of cars, back to back... one of which was off the beaten path a bit. We got our hands on a 2019 Ford Mustang GT w/performance pack and a manual! 



 

To start, my wife absolutely loved this Mustang lol. I spent most of the rest of the night hearing her make a case for why I need this beautiful sounding V8 in my life. Where do I start? This thing is fun! 

The sweet Coyote 5.0 had an aftermarket exhaust on it and sounded The Business! Man, do I love that engine! We've driven an S550 GT or 2 in the past, but I think this was the first one I've driven with 3.73 gears. I now feel like the 3.73's are a must for this car. Without them, I feel like the gearing is too tall and doesn't fit the powerband of the engine very well. The 5.0 isn't exactly a mid-range monster (like the LS and my wife's 392 Hemi)- it wants to rev and rewards you for spinning it over 7000rpm! 

As I was trying to explain to the salesman why we weren't buying it, my wife was actively trying to do the salesman's job for him, explaining to me how great of a replacement it would be for the Integra lol. She was ready to buy the thing as soon as I revved the exhaust. Me? I'm not exactly sold on the big pony car. 

The seats are comfortable, but I had a bit of slight knee discomfort and I could pinpoint why: the rake of the lower seat cushion. Rather than adding padding to the front of the seat bottom for thigh support, they just added rake... if it wasn't for that, I'm confident I would have loved the seating position. The pedals were well placed and my right knee wasn't jammed into the console. 

This big pony rides pretty well, while staying fairly flat in the corners. It's a pretty good mix. Although you can feel the weight when pitching it around. The plus-sized Brembo brakes are very grabby at lower speeds, but when you start pitching it around, you NEED them to slow this big girl down! Back road cornering is NOT this car's strong suit. It's not terrible, but it's not nearly as confidence inspiring as the equally sized current gen Camaro (my wife used to have a 2016 Camaro SS). Going full throttle thru 2nd gear and then trying to slow down for a corner feels like you're playing a game of "gotcha" with the Grim Reaper and it's only a matter of time before he wins a round... 

We spent a good portion of the drive in traffic in the Denver Tech Center area, before finding some back roads to avoid the endless supply of cars that were hell bent on spoiling our fun. In traffic, the Mustang leaves a LOT to be desired. 

I'm fairly tall (6'2") and with the seat all the way down, I have plenty of headroom... but this car is big. The hood is tall and the shape of the fenders leaves me guessing where they are on more narrow roads. Add in the fact that the rear corner visibility isn't the best on earth and it makes for a car that isn't much fun to slice through traffic in. The car feels wide and clumsy trying to dart through traffic. The steering, while direct, is also pretty muted. I think this makes for a great GT car- I would take this car on a road trip in a heartbeat, but I certainly wouldn't want it as a city car. 

I liked the big Stang. I LOVED the Coyote engine! Sounds amazing and pulls like an angry silverback gorilla, all the way up to it's ~7500rpm redline! Although I'm not sure if I like the Coyote better than my wife's 392 Hemi- the 5.0 is a much revvier motor that I would enjoy on a racetrack, but in town, I think I prefer the instant mid-range punch of the big 6.4L. 

The clutch and shifter are very polished and easy to use. It's not the annoyingly abrupt left pedal of the Camaro, that I can't drive smoothly to save my life... however, they don't give much feedback and neither does the steering wheel. I never really felt connected to the car. The inputs feel closer to something more akin to a luxury car than a sports car. They would likely be easy to live with daily, but didn't set my hair on fire. 

If we lived in the country, or spent a lot of time on wide, uncrowded roads, I could see the appeal of the S550. As it stands, I don't want one. The car has a ton of speed, but on crowded public roads, or even twisty back roads, I don't feel like I could really use the speed, due to the car's size/weight and poor visibility. It's fun, but I don't feel like I would get the opportunity to use the fun very often, if that makes sense? 

I would love to take this engine and put it into something the size of my E82. 

 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:17 p.m.

Car driven: BMW E46 M3
Driven on 12/21/2023
Background: I was looking for something fun and interesting
Review style: abridged



 

To start, aside from the hideous looking oversized wheels, the car seemed like it was stock. This thing only has 48k miles on the clock and is in phenomenal condition! 

I need to be honest though, we've been avoiding this particular dealership for over a year now. My wife and I buy a lot of cars... but whenever we get into a "buy another car mode", we end up test driving a lot more cars than we buy. It's just the nature of the game. I think we wore out our welcome at this dealership a long time ago... I was hoping the guy we previously worked with was no longer there to avoid the awkwardness of asking for another set of keys... not only was he there, he's now actually the manager and recognized us immediately. He was not pleased to see us. But he did arrange for us to take the E46 out for an unaccompanied spin, so at least we had that going for us. 

Onto the drive: 

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I prefer my 128i over the E46 M3. Yes, I said it and I mean it. 

Pulling away in the M3 is a breeze. The clutch and shifter are smooth affairs that are easy to work. It's a fairly comfortable car, the driving position is just fine and the seats are decent as well. Although I would mention that I felt like I was sliding out of the seat a few times on the test drive. I don't have that problem with my E82. I didn't take the time to investigate why. I think maybe the leather was just a bit smoother and felt more slippery? I honestly don't know though. 

I was afraid to use most of the electronics... despite it's overall good condition, things like the heater didn't work. Either that or the interior temp sensor was lying about the temperature of the car. When we tried to turn the climate control on, set to 71 degrees (it was about 50 F outside), it blew only cold air (yes, the car was fully warmed up). 

I don't know why, it might have been a me thing, but something about the car seemed fragile to me. It might have been fine, but with such a nice, low mileage E46 M3, I was afraid to hurt it, so I avoided ragging on it too hard. 

My 128i feels more solid than the E46. The little E82 truly feels more planted and more confidence inspiring. The M3 was somewhat light on it's toes- it seemed willing to rotate and I could see it easily being a daily driver for someone that wasn't afraid to drive it... but everything inside my E82 just seemed a bit more solid. I don't know how to explain it, but my wife agreed with my assessment. We're not talking night and day differences, as they were fairly comparable, but honestly, the E82 just seemed like BMW made incremental improvements, tweaking small details that made the chassis better. I've read that the E82 is a better chassis than the E36/E46- while I haven't tracked any of them, I would believe it, as the E82 just inspires more confidence to drive it, at least at around 8/10ths or so. If you push the E82 much past that point, the rear end gets a little floppy (hence the recommendations to replace the RSFB's), but for sporty street driving, the E82 is very good. I have a feeling that the E46 would likely be better at 10/10ths, but I'm certainly not going to push it on the street, especially in a car I don't own. 

The M3's steering was good, shifter is good, chassis felt fine/good, nothing about the car was bad... but I never fell in love with it or felt much of a connection to it. It's the right size of car. I certainly think it would be much better than the Mustang in traffic, but I didn't lust after the car while driving it. Maybe that's my fault for not driving the hell out of it? I pitched it through a few corners- I respect this car, but I don't want it. 

The engine... it's a strong motor, with a wide, fairly linear powerband. Keep in mind, we had just gotten out of the Mustang a few minutes prior... comparing it to a much newer 5.0L Mustang isn't fair... the Mustang felt like it would walk away from the M3 with ease... below ~6000rpm, the M3 actually felt pretty similar to my 128i. It might have a slight low-end torque advantage over my 128i, but I don't think I would really notice. Now, above 6000rpm, the M3 screams to it's 8000rpm redline! It pulls pretty good... but I feel inclined to mention a comment my wife made later while driving the S2000 to dinner after the drive: "the S2000 feels faster than that M3". 

I want to be clear: no, objectively, the S2000 is not faster than an E46 M3. I'm sure the M3 pulled harder. But drive them both back to back (we did) and the S2000 gives a much greater sensation of speed, feeling quicker in the process. 

I think the comparison to the 128i to the E46 M3 is appropriate... but I'm not talking about selling the 128i, so it's a moot point. In comparison to the S2000, there's no doubt, the S2000 is far more fun to drive. The S2000 is impractical, rides firmly, it's borderline darty, it needs to be revved to the moon to get going and I wouldn't want to take it on a road trip... but on a back road, or even through light to medium traffic, it's an absolute riot to drive! The M3 doesn't come close to the sensation that the S2000 gives you. Objectively, the S2000 is a bad car; but subjectively it's a hell of a roadster! 

If you can only have 1 car to do everything, I can see the appeal of the E46 M3. Fortunately, I'm not in that position. You know what I would rather drive over the E46 M3? The combination of a 128i and an S2000. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:20 p.m.

Car driven: 2014 Infiniti Q50 AWD
Driven on 1/6/2024
Background: I had just dislocated my right shoulder and was considering getting rid of one of my manual cars to get a daily driver automatic 
Review style: abridged

Well, it's been an interesting couple of weeks that have given me a bit of perspective. I dislocated my right shoulder about 2 weeks ago (long story). While this wasn't necessarily work related, in the professions I've spent most of my life in, injuries are not uncommon- although this is the first one that has put my right arm out of commission for a bit. It took about ~5 days before I dared to try driving a manual transmission. So, I've spent quite a bit of time driving my Xterra, as it's the only vehicle I have that's an automatic (not counting my work car and my wife's vehicles). It's made me think a bit. 

The Xterra isn't a bad vehicle. It's meant to be a winter beater and serves that purpose well. It's nothing fun or exciting, but it gets the job done. 

Nothing has changed since my last updates, I'm still planning on selling the Integra... but I'm reconsidering what (if anything) I might replace it with. After my latest injury debacle, I'm thinking something with an automatic wouldn't be a bad idea. After scouring the Internet (to include reading through a plethora of old GRM threads), I think I might have found something: 



 

I just got back from test driving a 2014 Infiniti Q50S AWD 7AT and I liked it. 

To anyone that isn't in the know, the early Q50 (2014-2015) is just a renamed Infiniti G37, with a slight face-lift and interior update, but is otherwise, the exact same car. 

My impressions: 

This car is good at everything... although it's seemingly not great at anything. The motor has plenty of power/torque. The steering (still hydraulic) is a bit on the lighter side, but seemed to still have decent road feel. The seats are comfortable, the driving position is very adjustable, making it easy to get fairly comfortable. The back seat isn't huge, but it's enough to put smaller adults in. The overall fit and finish of the car is exactly what I would expect for a luxury car. The spacing of the 2 pedals is decent- the brake pedal felt pretty linear, if not overly strong (admittedly I wasn't playing sporty car driver). Overall, it's a good package that I enjoyed driving in a very different way than my other sporty cars. 

I've driven a G37x in the past that hurt my knee to drive, so I kind of forgot about them... I also used to own a G37x that never bothered me, but it was many years ago, prior to my knee injury... I decided I would specifically search for one with the Sport package for one specific reason: the Sport seats with the BMW-esque extendable thigh support. I've found that having longer seat bottoms has been very helpful in some cars in the past (my 128i included). So, I specifically sought out a car with the proper seats- and it absolutely made a difference! I think at the beginning of the drive, I felt a slight discomfort in my right knee, but I think that was my fault for having the seat too far forward. Once I moved the seat all the way back, I didn't notice it again. 

I didn't drive this car hard or push it to it's limits. I have other cars for that type of work/fun. I drove it around in a manner that I would normally commute in, which I believe to be it's intended purpose. I've owned one a long time ago- I remember it being a pretty good daily, but I don't remember it being a whole lot of fun... I'm pretty sure that was why I sold it. That was at a time before owning multiple cars at one time was the norm in my life. 

It looks like they have pretty good reliability ratings. Looking at common problems, it seems like the biggest issue they had is the oil gallery gasket going out- which, it would appear Nissan/Infiniti addressed/fixed around ~2012. 

The car has everything I would look for in a normal commuter car. Although it does have 1 deficiency: the 7-speed transmission isn't very bright. There's a pretty substantial delay when pressing the Go pedal before it downshifts and when it does, I don't think it downshifts as aggressively as I would like... it seems like if you keep holding the Go pedal, it will eventually get to the appropriate gear, but it's not nearly as intelligent or responsive as something like the ZF 8-speed in newer Chrysler/BMW products. For the price (these cars depreciate pretty heavily, making for a great value proposition!), that's something I'm willing to look past. I'm sure I could likely put the car in a sport mode or use the paddle shifters if it bothered me that much. 

In recent months, I've also driven cars like the 2014+ Mazda 6 and the 3rd gen Mazda 3- they weren't for me. Since our oldest daughter started driving recently, the Suburban is no longer needed for kid hauling, so my wife was looking to get something easier to park and better on gas so she could stop using the Suburban so often. I love Mazda as a brand, always have. I liked both the 3 and a 6... but at my elevation, I found them to really be down on power (both with the NA 2.5L- even though my wife didn't mind at all). And that's coming from someone who owns 2 NA 4 cylinder Honda's... that's a problem I feel like a car like the G37/Q50 solves. I'm shocked that there's not much of a price difference between the Mazda 3/6 and the G37/Q50 (assuming somewhat comparable miles).  

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:25 p.m.

Car driven: S197 Ford Mustang GT
Driven on 1/22/2024
Background: I was getting wild and considering something with a big, silly V8
Review style: abridged

Enter today's test drive: the last year of the S197 Mustang, more specifically a 2014 Mustang GT California Special with a 6MT. 



The way I figured it, this car has some things in common with the E82: RWD, comfy interior, nearly useless back seat etc. So, I figured, what the heck! 

I drove the 128i to the dealership so I could really get a back to back comparison. 

I spent about 2 hours driving the car total. I wasn't planning on spending that long with it, but after the initial test drive, the dealer offered to let me bring the car to my wife, so I obliged. 

To be fair, I don't believe this car had the track package or beloved 3.73 gears, but it only had 11k miles on it- pretty much brand new! Someone took very good care of this car! 

My thoughts:

-Seats: they're not bad. Fairly high off of the ground, but also fairly comfortable. I wouldn't mind sitting in them all day. 

-Seating position/knee pain. Overall, not bad at all. I might have had just a tinge of right knee pain, but it was hard to tell since my knee was bothering me earlier this morning. The steering wheel is a bit of a reach (it doesn't telescope), but livable. Pedals were in a decent position and easy to work. I had to move the seat all the way back to have enough leg room, but seemed to fit comfortably. 

-Clutch & shifter: the clutch had some weight to it, certainly heavier than my BMW and Honda's, but not terrible. I got stuck in traffic a few times and it didn't seem to exhaust my left leg. It was enough weight to let you know it's there, but not nearly as heavy as say, my wife's old 2016 Camaro SS. It had enough weight that I could feel the engagement point without wearing my leg out. 

The shifter's throws are very short. I never missed a gear, but the shifter itself is more closely spaced (side-to-side) than I would like. The close spacing made the shift effort a bit higher than I'm used to, but not problematic. I'm not a fan of this shifter, but it's not bad. 

-The brakes were NOT confidence inspiring. They would work just fine in traffic, but I wouldn't want to use them on track or in the canyons. It did not have Brembo/track package, which might have changed things. The couple of times I leaned on the middle pedal, they were not eager to haul this big girl down. 

-Visibility was MUCH better than the last S550 Mustang I drove. A slight blindspot on the driver's side, but overall I felt pretty confident in the visibility. It felt bigger than my 128i, but smaller than the S550. I know the S550 is only about ~100 lbs heavier, but the S197 seemed like it was a full size smaller due to the increased visibility. 

-The steering lacked weight and feel. As in, it felt completely numb. Right towards the end of the drive, I found it was adjustable and I set it to Sport. In sport the weight and feel improved, but I didn't pitch it around to see how much it improved. If I wasn't trying to get back home, I would have spent another 20+ minutes pitching it around with the steering in Sport mode. I know some people like overly light steering, but I'm not a fan. If I owned one of these cars it would stay in Sport 100% of the time, as it made the car feel less floaty. 

-As always, the Coyote is a sweetheart of an engine! I love the noise that thing makes! I don't believe it had the 3.73 gears, so it didn't feel as angry as the last S197 I drove year(s) ago, nor the last S550 I drove. It never lacked power, but shifting the car, there's more of a "thunk" when going into gear that I'm not used to in my torqueless Honda's and BMW. I won't rehash what I've previously said about the Coyote 5.0, but I will say, I like it a lot better with the 3.73's. 

The first time I went full throttle, on a freeway on-ramp, in 1st gear (they have those stupid freeway entrance lights, so the car was in a completely straight line) the car got a little sideways on me and I let out of it. It required more judicious care of the throttle from a low speed in 1st gear, which made me a bit hesitant to drive it too hard. Temps were in the high 50's, so that didn't help (it was sunny outside though). At the time, I felt nothing thru the wheel and was a bit shocked, as I went WOT from a rolling start on relatively smooth pavement. The car didn't communicate what was going on and traction/stability control didn't really do anything to intervene. This isn't my car and I'm driving on a public road, so after that, I was far more cautious in 1st gear. 

-On the freeway, it rode pretty well, much better than anything with a solid rear axle has the right to ride! Ride quality might not have been quite as smooth as my 128i, but honestly, it wasn't far off. I could see this car soaking up miles. Although it certainly wanders just a tad bit more than I'm used to. The front and rear don't seem to communicate with each other as well as my other cars and it doesn't have the high speed stability/confidence of the BMW. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the car, 99% of people likely wouldn't notice, as it is pretty good on the freeway, I'm just hyper-critical. Would I take a road trip in it? Actually, yes. But with the steering in the Standard setting (before I discovered Sport), it was a tad bit on the floaty/disconnected side. 

-Where in the world is the digital speedometer? The old school analog speedo is great for retro appeal, but it's not the easiest thing to read at a glance... the car has plenty of menus, with all kinds of gauges for all kinds of things, but I couldn't find a digital speedo. Looking for the digital speedo is what led me to the steering settings on accident! 

-Overall, it's a pretty fun car. I really liked it! My wife loved it! To be honest, if I had to choose from the 2011-2014 S197 5.0 or the 2015+ S550 5.0, I would choose the S197, as it feels more lively/fun and the added visibility made it much more confidence inspiring in traffic... although the rear end of the S197 definitely felt a bit more unruly than the planted S550. Usually I would prefer the more planted car, but in this case, it added to the charm of the S197. It felt like a big, dumb hammer use to smash things. I just so happen to like big, dumb hammers when there's something to be smashed...

...but I have some problems: 

-The BMW is a better daily. I immediately got back into the BMW and the overall ergonomics, shifter, visibility, clutch (softer) and steering feel are just better, making the BMW a more confidence inspiring vehicle to drive. The BMW was also just a bit easier to manage in traffic, making it a better place to spend time. The BMW is not a fast car, but it's also not terribly slow. The N52 3.0L is very responsive and I can use the throttle aggressively shooting for holes in traffic, without worry of the rear end stepping out... I can't say the same thing about the Coyote 5.0. Which is to say, the BMW is better in traffic and also feels more stable and planted/connected at speed. 

-The S197 feels like more of a fun, weekend car and less like a daily. Problem: it's not as fun as the S2000. 

Soooo, it's not a great daily (although it's actually not bad!) and it's not as fun as a dedicated sports car... leaving me not really lusting after it. I came away from the car liking it, but not loving it. If you could only have 1 car and it has to be fun, I can see the appeal. For my situation, I can't see it making a whole lot of sense. 

Truly, I haven't decided what, if anything, I plan on doing with the BMW. This was just a good excuse to go drive an alternative and share my thoughts. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:28 p.m.

Car driven: 2018 Ford Focus ST
Driven on 1/26/2024
Background: Integra replacement? 
Review style: abridged

Today I decided to go a bit off of the beaten path and drove both of the Ford ST hatchback amigos. I forgot to take a picture of the Focus ST.

We drove the Xterra to the first dealership and drove a 2018 Focus ST w/50k miles on the clock. What can I say about this car? I like it, but it didn't set my hair on fire. Granted there was a salesman in the car and I wasn't really pushing it, just a bit of spirited playfulness a couple of times. I was mostly just trying to get a feel for how it would be as a daily. 

Full disclaimer: I actually owned a Focus ST, but it was a long time ago- I owned a 2014 Focus ST that I bought brand new for $19k (Ford was giving out massive rebates at the time). Imagine my surprise to find that many used cars with 50-100k miles are going for nearly as much as I bought a brand new one for a decade ago... I had fond memories of that car, even if it was only short lived in my garage. Well, it's not a bad car by any stretch, but after a decade, it's not as good as I remember it. 

To be clear, this car was very clean and appeared to be a bone stock ST1 package car. 

It has a grunty little motor and very sharp handling. I remember this car being a riot to drive on a canyon road... which, I have a feeling it would still be a riot to drive on a canyon road... but I wasn't driving it on a canyon road. 

The clutch is relatively light, although there's a delay in engagement when you let it up. It took me a few stop/starts to figure out how to drive the car more smoothly. It's not bad in the least, just a bit wonky at first. 

The shifter has some weight to it and I actually enjoy rowing the gears in the ST cars! There's a solid engagement going into gear that feels pretty satisfying. 

The seating position is just a bit awkward... I drove the base ST1 package car, which has the base non-Recaro seats. I drove this version on purpose, as I once owned the Focus RS that came standard with Recaro's and I don't care for them in these cars. You can adjust the seat height, but not the rake... there's a bit more rake than I would like, not as bad as the Recaro versions, but it almost feels like my body is pointed upwards, rather than at the wheel and as a result, with the seat back far enough to reach the pedals without cramping my legs, I felt more like I was reaching for the wheel, rather than the wheel falling to hand. Ergonomically it just doesn't jive well with my 6'2", 217 lbs frame, even though the car otherwise has plenty of space. 

The steering in this car is odd... on hard turn in, I like the ratio of the rack (I believe it's a variable ratio) and I really like how well the front end responds to quick steering inputs... but being an EPS rack, combined with what I can only assume is Ford's eLSD (brake based), leads to an odd, unnatural feeling to the wheel. 

To explain, these cars have 270 ft-lbs of torque in a FWD car with an open front diff. I'm pretty sure whenever I'm giving it gas in 1st/2nd, the brakes are activating, trying to keep the car in a straight line... as a result, the wheel feels more robotic. It feels like it wants to torque steer, but then corrects itself. I think a less hyper-sensitive driver would likely overlook it, but as someone who has built and owned some outstanding handling FWD cars, I'm not a fan. 

I understand that Ford was trying to keep the car affordable, but I disagree with the lack of a proper LSD in a car like this. I would almost prefer to turn the eLSD off altogether in the hopes the steering would feel more linear. 

The suspension was firm, but not harsh. Well, going over a rougher portion of beat up city roads, it was just a bit jarring, but nothing I couldn't live with. On the highway, the car was perfectly reasonable. I wouldn't mind a longer freeway trip in the little Focus, so long as the roads weren't too rough. 

With that said, I liked it just fine, but I don't want another one. That's becoming a real theme isn't it? Oh well, at least now I know. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:30 p.m.

Car driven: 2019 Ford Fiesta ST
Driven on 1/26/2024
Background: Integra replacement? 
Review style: abridged

Later on in the evening after driving the Focus ST, I was out and about and drove the Fiesta ST back to back with my Integra: 



^^^This little car is a super clean, bone-stock 2019 Fiesta ST that was Ford certified with 50k miles on the clock. It was also a base car with the base cloth seats. 

I'll come right out and say it: just like seemingly everyone else, I preferred the Fiesta ST over the Focus ST. 

Straight up, the FiST is just more fun than the FoST. 

In the FoST, it has a variable steering rack- I like how quickly the FoST turns in when you give it some wheel, but it's not terribly linear... the FiST has a very quick steering rack ratio (13.6:1 I believe) with no variation... the FiST seems to turn in even BETTER than the FoST without the variable rack! You point this thing in whatever direction you want and it just goes! 

Better yet: since the FiST has much lower torque (202 ft lbs vs 270 ft lbs), the eLSD is seemingly far less intrusive. The combination of the less intrusive eLSD and the linear rack make for a car that is more fun to drive! It feels like far more of a proper, more old school, hot hatch! With the exception of steering feel- like the FoST, the FiST also has a fairly muted EPS rack. Sawing away at the wheel is far more linear and satisfying vs the FoST, but since I own multiple hydraulic rack vehicles, I immediately pick up on the fact that something is missing, as the wheel turns too easily without much resistance. 

While it seems like I should prefer the bigger, torquier motor in the FoST, I actually felt like the little 1.6L in the FiST has more character! And since it doesn't seem to fight the brakes constantly, I thought it was a more appropriate amount of torque for a FWD car with an open diff. 

No matter what a manufacturer tries to do, there's no substitution for shedding weight. Driving both of the ST cars proves that. The FiST is ~500 lbs lighter than the FoST and it feels 500 lbs lighter. Pitching it around the FiST feels like you're driving a flea! It's a more smile inducing experience to say the least! 

I think the FiST might have rode a bit more harshly than the FoST (the rear torsion beam doesn't help), but on the freeway, I thought it was reasonably compliant.  

I'm bummed out that the FiST seemed to bother my right knee just a bit. Overall, I preferred the ergonomics of the FiST, other than the shifter- it was mounted a bit lower than I would like... but for whatever reason (I think because of the angle my right knee was pushed up against the center console), my right knee wasn't terribly happy about it. Otherwise, I really liked this little car. 

Sans the knee issue, the Fiesta ST is actually a car I would buy. There's only 1 more minor issue... 

My Integra is more fun to drive than both of them, while still being easier to drive in traffic and not riding any more harshly (it might ride a hair smoother if I turn the Koni's all the way down). Yes, the Integra is modified to my liking so it's not a fair comparison, but it is in fact a car I'm comparing it to since they're all FWD econoboxes. 

The Integra has a hydraulic steering rack (read: far more steering feel), a real LSD (full Type R gearbox), better shifter, smoother/softer clutch and revs to 8000rpm. Yes, the boosted machines make far more low end torque, but when revved out, the Integra feels faster and is far more exhilarating. I'm not sure if the Integra is actually faster than the ST cars (surely the boosted cars are quicker at my elevation, right?), but it definitely has a greater sensation of speed when rung out. Both of the ST cars have intake noise piped into the cabin that sounds very good... but my DC2 has a CTE (formerly Comptech) Icebox, Comptech header and Apexi WS3 exhaust (read: very streetable, no drone)- when the Teg hits VTEC (currently set at 5300rpm), that thing howls! 

As a fun experience car, I prefer my DC2 GSR over the ST cars... and sadly enough, I even prefer the Integra around town, as it's just so easy to drive. 

If I hadn't already sunk a boatload of money into my Integra, and it didn't bother my knee, I would be looking very hard at a Fiesta ST. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:32 p.m.

Car driven: 2015 Cadillac ATS AWD 3.6L V6
Driven on 2/15/2024
Background: I was considering getting an automatic daily driver
Review style: more in-depth

So, yesterday I drove a 2015 Cadillac ATS AWD 3.6L 6AT coupe with 68k miles on the clock. This car had a bit of hail damage on the hood, but overall it appeared to have been very well taken care of.



 

Overall, it's a good car. My wife loved it! 

 

I'll start off with the interior: That car has a tremendous amount of legroom. Probably more than pretty much any car I’ve ever driven, ever. The seat bottom/thigh support also extends- but not nearly as far as the BMW’s sports seats, which extend an extra 1-1.5 inches further than the ATS' seats. I started my test drive out with a position that was closer to the steering wheel, so my arms were in a good driving position, which ended up causing me some knee pain... so, as the drive progressed (I probably spent ~45 minutes driving it), I kept moving the seat back and the craziest thing happened: the knee pain went away entirely. That’s never happened before. The legroom in the car is truly incredible and makes me wonder: why can't other cars follow suit? 


Unfortunately, with the seat far back enough for my legs, the steering wheel was a very far stretch, which made me feel like I had T-Rex arms stretched out so far that I couldn’t comfortably pitch the car around. Not a problem for cruising and not a deal breaker, but the wheel should have been able to telescope another 1-2 inches, like my BMW. Matt Farah complained about the exact same thing- and he was right. For reference, I'm 6'2", 217 lbs, 33" waist and 34" inseam. I believe Mr. Farah is about 6'3" and a good bit heavier than I am. For shorter drivers, this likely won't be a problem. Yes, the steering wheel was fully extended. 

 

This car has a ton of headroom and great visibility. Granted, this particular car didn't have a moonroof, but nonetheless, it had enough headroom that I don't think it would have mattered. Overall, I felt like the car had plenty of space in pretty much every direction. The back seats weren't huge, but fitting a smaller adult back there would have been just fine. 

 

The seats are adequate. Sitting in them, they’re pretty hard/not very cushy, without much bolstering, so I slid around if I tried to take a corner at speed. This is surprising, as I remember the seats in the "lowly" Camaro being far more comfortable and supportive. I drove my 128i down there, with both my wife and I agreeing that the BMW's seats were softer, more comfortable and far more supportive. The rest of the interior was nice, but the touch screen infotainment was rubbish and difficult to use while driving. I can see why everyone hates Cadillac's CUE system. 

The ATS 3.6L V6 is not fast, but with 321hp (bumped to 335hp in later years), she’s plenty peppy. The transmission is also fairly responsive (much better than the G37/Q40's 7AT). More than adequate power for passing. The transmission isn't as clever and responsive as the ZF 8-speed in modern BMW's and Chrysler products, but it's adequate and I didn't have many complaints about it. I believe the later (2016 maybe?) models got an 8AT, which might be more responsive, but I can't comment on that, except to say I didn't really have problems with the 6AT for daily purposes- it was just fine. Nothing impressive, but perfectly adequate. 

Overall the ATS has very responsive steering and a very solid chassis. I know it's built on the same super stiff Alpha chassis as the Camaro and you can feel the rigidity- it's like it was hewn from a solid block of aluminum. At around ~3600 lbs (in V6 AWD trim), she's not a light girl, but she actually hides her weight very well, feeling like a smaller, lighter car. Being an EPS rack, there's not a lot of steering feel, but I felt like the rack was very good for an EPS car- very direct and well weighted. The weight of the wheel is not excessively heavy as to be laborious, but not too light to the point where it feels darty and lacks feedback - the Goldilocks of steering weights. Solid work, Cadillac. 

 

Body roll was minimal, with the car being very eager to change directions, without feeling like it was going to get away from you. If it wasn't for the seating position, it would have been very confidence inspiring to pitch around. The ride was certainly firm, but not what I would call harsh. I would have no problem taking this car on a road trip, soaking up all the miles. 

 

For something in this genre of cars, I felt like the ATS was the right size. Small enough to get through traffic without much of an issue, but big enough that it doesn't feel cramped in the least. 

 

This isn't what I would call a crazy fun car, but I think it would make an excellent daily. My biggest complaint was the awkward seating position with the seat back far enough to quell the knee pain. Being so far away from the steering wheel, I didn't feel confident in controlling the car. I think that took away some of the fun factor for me. I don't think a shorter driver would have this problem. 


I deliberately sought out a 3.6L V6 to drive. Most of these cars are GM's 2.0L turbo, which, at my elevation, would have probably felt a bit more mid-range torquey (even though I didn't have a problem with the 3.6L)... but I haven't seen people having many problems with GM's LF/GX V6 on this platform, whereas there appeared to be a few issues with the 2.0T that I wanted to avoid. 

If I was shopping between the ATS and the Infiniti G37/Q40/early Q50 3.7L, I think I would get the ATS after driving them both. I think the biggest detractor from either of them would be the E90, which is in an odd spot. The E90 undoubtedly has better steering and ergonomics, but there's a trade-off. These cars, in AWD sedan trim are all of similar sizes and weights (3600-3700 lbs). The ATS and Infiniti's have bigger V6's, making 320-330hp... whereas something like a 328xi is comparatively underpowered with the 230hp N52 I6. Don't get me wrong, the N52 is a great engine- smooth as butter, sounds better and has a very linear torque curve... in my 128i 6MT, the N52 is great! But when placed in a 328xi: the 328xi adds 400 lbs of weight, AWD drivetrain loss and a power robbing slushbox... Which leads me to believe: I don't feel like the power would be adequate. 

I used to own a CPO'd E90 335xi many years ago. Under warranty. Power was not an issue in the least. But stepping it up to an old E90 335 is a tough sell, as the N54/N55 require far more wallet-breaking maintenance than the N52 cars. Based on that alone, I think for a reliable daily, the ATS or Infiniti 3.7L cars are a smarter choice. Hence why I haven't looked into an E90. For whatever inexplicable reason, I'm just not terribly interested in the F30. 

 

With that said, I think I'm going to hold off on buying something like this. My shoulder is healing up nicely and I drove my BMW down there... When I was done driving the ATS, I got back into my 128i and after pondering a bit on the drive back home, I wasn't convinced that I would actually drive it as much as I drive the BMW. The BMW is just very good to drive- it's more fun and more comfortable. I'm not convinced I would get much use out of the Cadillac. As such, as of right now, I can't really see the value in it and will likely pass. 

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:35 p.m.

Car driven: 2005 Acura RSX Type S
Driven on 2/16/2024
Background: Integra replacement? I've just been curious? 
Review style: more in-depth

So, today I found something I haven't seen in a while: a near-stock, fairly well maintained (ish) 2005 Acura RSX Type S. I've been wanting to drive one of these things for a while now. I remember driving an RSX-S a few times way back in ~2006. I remember loving these little cars and considering buying one new at the time. As I've gotten older, I've driven several cars that I enjoyed when I was younger, only to walk away and realize they weren't as good as I thought they were. This is not one of those cars. 



This particular example has 171k miles on the clock, but no CEL's, everything works and one of the previous owners put a set of decent Continental tires on it, which tells me they likely cared about the car to some degree. 

Unfortunately, the car wasn't completely stock. Someone put a set of cheap aftermarket coilovers on it. They weren't the stiffest coilovers I've ever driven, but I couldn't help but think an OEM suspension would have been an improvement. With that said, they raised the coilovers up to OEM ride height, which also tells me something about the previous owner. The car might have had a fairly tasteful aftermarket cat-back exhaust on it as well, but beyond that, everything else appeared to be stock. 

I'm going to come right out and say it: I liked this car more than I thought I would. How much? I actually preferred this RSX-S over my DC2 Integra GS-R. I'm shocked to type that, but it's true. 

In Japan, the RSX was just the next gen, DC5 Integra, and, after driving it, honestly, it feels a lot like a better Integra. I know a lot of people complained about the lack of front double-wishbones- on track, I'm sure the Integra is a better handling car. Between this car and my DC2, there's no doubt, my DC2 would leave this car for dead on a twisty back road or autoX event. On the street, in traffic? I'll take the RSX-S. 

List of things I prefer about the RSX-S over the DC2 GS-R: steering weight, headroom, legroom, shifter height, shifter smoothness, clutch smoothness, the engine/power/torque, the seats and the interior. Yeah, like I said, it feels a lot like an upgraded Integra. 

Getting inside, the car grew ever so slightly in almost every direction. There's about an extra 1/2" of headroom (maybe slightly more) in the RSX-S vs the GS-R (with stock seats). There's probably an extra 1/2" or more legroom as well. This seems pretty incremental, but for someone my size who is constantly hunting for extra space in the DC2, this car fits me just about perfectly. My knee hurt when I started driving the RSX-S... but ~10 minutes into the drive, I felt nothing at all- which is a good sign, telling me this car is a good fit for someone my size. 

Sitting in the seats, they're comfortable, while being fairly supportive. They feel better than DC2 seats... honestly, they remind me a lot of my S2000's seats. The whole interior is a step up from the DC2- with all the interior control knobs being a bit bigger and giving more positive feedback when operated. It even has cup-holders that can actually hold cups (unlike the DC2's)! The only real downside is that there's no center arm-rest. Not a deal breaker- I imagine it would have gotten in the way of the shifter- but something negative to note nonetheless. 

Setting off, at first I thought it had an aftermarket clutch, as there seemed to be a lot of pressure needed when I first pressed the clutch in... I was pleasantly surprised that the car was remarkably easy to drive. The clutch engagement point is close to the ground, but very intuitive and not hard on the left leg in the least. 

The shifter is a cable unit that can't match the engagement of the old DC2's mechanical linkage... but even when the car was cold, it was very smooth and easy to operate. I never missed a gear and I don't think I ever would, as the gear spacing is very well thought out. Moreover, the shifter height is just about perfect! The low-mounted shifters in the old FWD wishbone Honda's have long been the bane of my shifting existence- I've essentially added an extension to every one I've ever owned... with the RSX-S, that's not needed in the least! It's like Honda listened to the ergonomic complaints of tall drivers around the world and actually made real, noticeable changes! 

The pedals were all well-spaced and easy to work. Everything just seemed very intuitive and easy. 

The engine. Oh my word. Listen. I know the Internet has a recent resurgence in the purity of the B-series, but straight up: the K-series is just a better motor. I might give the B-series the nod for making a better noise on VTEC, but everything else goes to the K. The K is a smoother engine, with substantially more mid-range torque and even with my GS-R's bolt-ons (S300 dyno tuned), the RSX-S felt faster. Not just faster at redline, faster everywhere. I didn't feel the need to rev the RSX-S out, as it had good torque in the lower/mid regions, but when I did rev it out, this little car is quick! Not muscle car fast, but peppy and downright fun to drive! 

I can't really comment on the handling front. This poor little RSX-S was running coilovers that didn't really agree with the uber-rough roads we were on and it sorely needed an alignment... it might have also needed a new bushing or tie-rod, or 2. It wasn't the tightest car I've ever driven and up against my extremely well-maintained, customized to my driving style DC2, it's not really a fair comparison. 

What I can say is that the steering is better than the DC2's. No, not "different". Not "I could see how some people could prefer it". No, simply better. One of my biggest complaints with the DC2 has always been how light the steering is. Which, the old wishbone Honda's come from the factory with a whopping 1* degree of positive caster (if you're lucky!), so it's understandable. With that said, the RSX-S steering weight is tuned perfectly. The RSX-S is one of the last of the sporty Honda's that still has hydraulic power steering, so there's no loss of feel, just a much-needed increase in weight. Honestly, it felt more like what I would expect of a FWD BMW, if such a thing existed (no, modern Mini's don't count). 

More important than everything else listed above: these little cars are fun to drive and easy to pitch around in traffic! They have good visibility and are still small enough that slicing through the stoplight races is a breeze. 

If it sounds like I'm singing this little car's praises, that's because I am! The car felt a lot like a mixture between an S2000 and a FWD BMW. You could say a car like this is right up my alley. 

What were the negatives? Well, this car in particular could use some work in the way of OEM suspension components, a suspension refresh, an alignment and some help getting it to not smell like weed when the heat kicks on. I got the feeling that the 1st/2nd owner(s) likely took excellent care of this car, but the most recent owner was a kid that got the car repo'd... If it were as well-maintained as my GS-R, I would likely say overall, I prefer this car over my DC2 in pretty much every way. I'm not sure if I could give it a bigger compliment. 

Counter point: my wife didn't feel the same way. She liked the RSX-S, but when asked, said she preferred my Integra. I think she mostly felt that way because of the stiffer/cheap suspension and the RSX-S feeling like it could use from TLC, whereas my Integra might as well be brand new by comparison (I've replaced just about every part you can think of on that car!). She also really loves the Integra, so there's that. 

Do I like it more than my 128i? Hold the phone. Let's not get crazy here. I don't think so. It's tough to compete with RWD and a smooth inline-6, even if the K20 is an absolute gem of a motor. 

Would I actually buy one of these cars? Yes. Am I considering buying one of these cars? Yes. 

My hesitations about buying an RSX-S: 

1. It's very tough to find a clean, non-molested RSX-S that hasn't been wrecked and modified within an inch of its life. 

2. Would I actually drive it regularly? That's a tough question. I don't drive my Integra right now... not because it's a bad car, but only because the BMW is better to drive. The RSX-S is also a better car to drive vs the Integra, but could I see myself grabbing the keys and leaving the BMW in the garage regularly? Man, that's a tough question. 

3. Do I want to continue maintaining and paying insurance on 4 cars? Well, no, not really. I suppose I've been doing it for quite a while and I'm somewhat used to it, so it's not a huge burden, but the thought of owning 3 cars (vs 4) is more appealing. Would I sell the Integra and BMW to get it? Absolutely not! The Integra? Sure. The 128i? As much as it's a money pitt, something about keys and cold, dead hands? 

4. Do I want to start over fixing all the things that yet another previous owner neglected to fix/maintain? After all the wrenching I've done in the past couple of years, that sounds exhausting and unappealing right now. 

So, where am I at? I really liked this little car. The thought of getting one right now doesn't sound terribly appealing... but if I sold the Integra... and I happened to run across a clean, unmolested example, I could see taking it home... but I don't plan on searching one out. I also wouldn't want a completely mint example either, as odd as that sounds. We only have a 3 car garage: my wife's Challenger and the S2000 are non-negotiable, they're not sleeping outside... and the more I drive and repair the BMW, the more I think the BMW should also stay in the garage, as I think the E82 is more or less the new E30 or 2002: the last of the analog, inline-6, RWD BMW's... and I wouldn't want to park a mint RSX-S outside year round. 

For now, I'm not going to seek an RSX-S out... but that doesn't mean it's a "no". Potentially just a "not right now". 

CyberEric
CyberEric SuperDork
2/16/24 11:41 p.m.

I like that you're doing this! I sometimes don't trust the big magazine reviews, and appreciate real driver's opinions. 

If you're open to suggestions, I'd love a Pluses and Minuses section for those of us who don't have the time to read the whole review.

And I'd like to hear your review of the 6MT Mazda 6 sometime. I really liked the 6 I drove, but it was an auto and have been curious about the MT for a while.

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/16/24 11:47 p.m.
CyberEric said:

I like that you're doing this! I sometimes don't trust the big magazine reviews, and appreciate real driver's opinions. 

If you're open to suggestions, I'd love a Pluses and Minuses section for those of us who don't have the time to read the whole review.

And I'd like to hear your review of the 6MT Mazda 6 sometime. I really liked the 6 I drove, but it was an auto and have been curious about the MT for a while.

I've mostly just copy/pasted reviews from the last few months, but going forward, I'm more than happy to add a quick Pros and Cons sections to help people skim over the more important bits! 

I'm happy to take my wife's Mazda 6 6MT out for a more thorough drive on some back roads and do a full write-up! 

Turbine
Turbine HalfDork
2/17/24 12:34 p.m.

Thanks for putting all this together. I've enjoyed hearing your thoughts in the other thread-it really speaks to my automotive ADD lol

Youve also really got me excited about e82's. I've heard them called the 'modern e36 m3' so if you ever get a chance to review one, I'd be interested to see what you think!

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/17/24 12:52 p.m.

In reply to Turbine :

If I can find someone that will allow me to drive an E36 M3, I would love to! That's not the only M3 I've been interested in driving- I've had my eye out for an E90/92 M3 6MT for a while now... 

maximumunicorn
maximumunicorn New Reader
2/17/24 1:00 p.m.

This is a great distillation of your other thread! I've been really interested in what direction you're going there, but this will be a great reference.  As another serial car owner on the hunt for a fun weekend car to supplement my daily, these types of reviews are super valuable! Especially since we don't have much inventory here in VT - it can be hard to test drive whatever I want which means I turn to this forum often for opinions! 

rdcyclist
rdcyclist HalfDork
2/17/24 6:35 p.m.

Loving your distillation here. Yeah, a TL;DR would be nice but then we'd miss your sparkling commentary.

Have you driven an E82 135i? There's a 2011 6mt 135i on the local Craigs here for 17.7 large: https://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/cto/d/santa-clara-2011-bmw-135i-spd-manual-e82/7708945825.html

I wonder...

roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/18/24 10:12 a.m.
rdcyclist said:

Loving your distillation here. Yeah, a TL;DR would be nice but then we'd miss your sparkling commentary.

Have you driven an E82 135i? There's a 2011 6mt 135i on the local Craigs here for 17.7 large: https://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/cto/d/santa-clara-2011-bmw-135i-spd-manual-e82/7708945825.html

I wonder...

I haven't driven a 135i in years- I think I drove one around 2008-2009 or so; I remember having positive impressions of it, but no specifics. 
 

I would like to find a 6mt coupe to take for a spin... most of the ones that pop up at dealers locally are automatic convertibles. If I'm being honest, I'm probably slightly wary about driving a 135i, only because I'm afraid I might love it lol! 
 

I know Z31maniac had a 135i, that he claims did terrible things to his wallet, the cost of maintenance/repairs seemingly leading him to sell it... I believe it was a DCT, but am not sure if that was a contributing factor. Matt Farah also had one that he fixed up for a giveaway on his channel- I believe he said he paid $10k in maintenance/repairs... ouch. To be fair, I think he was paying someone else to work on it. Either way, I'm down to drive a 135i, but I don't know if I'm brave enough to own one. 

CyberEric
CyberEric SuperDork
2/19/24 9:38 a.m.

I worked at an Acura dealer in the early 2000s, so I drove a lot of integras and remember when the RSX came out.

Completely agree with your comments. Steering was better, engine was better, ergonomics were better. It's pretty unloved now, probably because it didn't have the suspension the Integra had. But it felt like an upgrade at the time, though I only drove it slowly on the street.

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