Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For Folks (VW Passat)

Ordinary motorists are probably acquainted with the history of Volkswagen Passat better than with their own.  When mentioning this car in a conversation, you are unlikely to encounter a complete ignoramus- everybody knows what kind of car this is! Most probably, the enquiry of your interlocutor will refer to the generation, body, and of course the engine of the car.

The Passat I got for the test was equipped with the most popular 1.8L TSI turbo engine with a capacity of 160 hp. The Passat TSI is produced (assembled, to be more correct) in Russia, which simplifies its mass availability in Russia and Post-Soviet countries- the “Pureblooded German” would cost more in these areas.
However, the car I tested was the German version (actually, there is no difference between the German and Russian assembly).  So, everything was quite familiar: the recognizable strong silhouette, chubby body line and the alluring headlights with tapered eyelids.
The interior was also decorated in a typical VW style. Front panel- in two floors: the black apron of the dashboard and the airflow deflectors on the top. Below, you will find dials with red arrows in slanting holes. I can’t say this is a top-notch interior (for comparison, the Audi A4, a closest relative of the Passat, is much better in this respect), but it’s quite decent.

I particularly liked the sparkling gear stick with its multiple modes- it can really please the eye. There are plenty of buttons on the steering wheel which are easily read and will never cause confusion- the main thing is that the Passat is smartly created for human convenience, and the longer you spend time with it, the better you perceive it.
But this is not what attracts me most in the Passat. The main highlight of this VW is the 1.8LTSI engine which has come to replace the former 2.0L FSI.
To be continued…

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Joyous Japanese

Mitsubishi Grandis has been one of the stockiest and, at the same time, longest cars in my tests so far. Because of its sizes, this Mitsubishi is a rather clumsy vehicle in city conditions, which is the basic (the only) disadvantage of this car.

Now, let’s find out the merits of this car.
The Grandis is built on the same chassis as the Outlander, and for a number of markets it is also available in 4X4 version. The van obviously inherited the well-known accuracy of the Outlander.
The car was so good at moving strictly straight, that I was able to lift my hands of the steering wheel. When I started maneuvering the car, the Grandis was amazingly accurate in carrying out all my commands. In this respect, this is probably the best van. On turnings, the roll angle was very small, because of low center of gravity. However, the road clearance was good enough.
The ergonomic package was excellent- the correlation between the pedals, steering wheel and driver’s seat is brought to perfection no matter how tall the driver is. I just cannot understand why other cars of Mitsubishi are not made in the same way. The gear stick of the automatic transmission was also pleasant in movements (as well as all the handles and adjustment buttons). The A-pillars did not anyhow worsen the visibility of the driver. The wing mirrors were big enough not to lose the feeling of space.

The dynamics was also good. Whenever I pushed the gas pedal, the Grandis reacted quickly and with maximum efficiency. The gear box was quick and stressless. In respect of noise insulation, this Mitsubishi is ideal like a luxury sedan - I was not disturbed neither by the engine roar (even at high rpm), nor by outer noises. But within the “genre”, the main thing is the layout solution of the back part of the salon. Behind the third row of the back seats there is little room for a pair of suitcases, but the seats are comfortably foldable, so you needn’t worry about capacity. The third row is the most spacious among all rival vans and can be removed under the floor on the   ”Hide and seat” principle- the mat is completely flat when the seats are folded. As for the doorways, they are broad and high enough to allow you to freely get out of the car.
The tested car costs about 36.000 US dollars and is equipped with almost everything you need:  alloy wheels, electronic stabilization system, chromed mirrors and door handles, climate control for back passengers and more. This car is a serious rival to VW Sharan and Chrysler Voyager.

Brief technical specifications
Engine volume:                                2378 cm 3
Valves per cylinder:                          4
Engine capacity:                               165 hp/6000 rpm
Max. torque:                                     217 N m/4000 rpm
Acceleration 0-100 km/h:                 10 seconds          
Max. speed:                                      200 km/h
Average fuel consumption:              
Per 100 km:                                      9,9 L
Fuel tank capacity:                           65 L
Dimensions:                                      4765 x 1795 x 1655 mm 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Comeback of the Legend (Part 2)

As for the engine, it has really become more elastic, but I wouldn’t say that the character has changed dramatically- herein, it would be more appropriate to talk about nuances. The engine functions more willingly, and seems to have become more sensitive to the pressure of the foot-throttle.

The voice of the engine hasn’t changed at all- it roars and clanks like the previous version exactly reflecting the rough nature of the 350Z.
Handling is the most enjoyable side of the 350Z. The tough and resilient suspension doesn’t annoy at all; on the contrary, it kind of disposes you to a fast driving. The car went through the cracks and bumps of Armenian roads without any hits only slightly tossing its passenger up and down. In the corners, Nissan almost never heeled over, no matter how fast I drove.

The weigh balance of the axis: 53/47 in favor of the front part, which is considered as perfect by the engineers of the company. On sharp bends the front quarter was loaded, however, the 350Z obediently executed all the commands of the steering wheel.  When coming out from a bend, the load distribution on the axels changed- the car leant on the rear wheels for a second and then moved like a bullet. The track adherence is simply astonishing- in order to fully conceive the racing charm of the 350Z, you should find a proper racing track-after a few laps, I am sure you will fall in love with this Nissan.
The car instantly reacts to the slightest movement of the steering wheel. The tight control of the manual 6-speed gearbox helps you accurately change the speed gear; the clutch, which functions with the highest precision, enables you to never lose precious moments at intensive accelerations.
The braking system was also impressive: the powerful Brembo support will easily stop the car at high speeds without a hint of overheating.

Having spent a whole day with the 350Z, I can testify that this coupe is one of the best in its class. Nissan 350Z is a true sports car, which can be used every day. On weekends, it is sure to give you immense fun on racing tracks.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Comeback of the Legend

Taking into account the price, Nissan 350Z is one of the best offers in the segment of sport-coupe. The car has recently undergone some minor renovations and I couldn’t resist depriving myself of the pleasure to take it on a test.

At first, let’s find out the innovations.
Basically, the power of the engine has been increased by 20 HP, but on the other hand, the torque has been reduced to 10 N m; as a result, the torque curve has become smoother, which leads to a better elasticity of the transmission. This is because the design of the engine has been optimized, for instance, there have been applied new pistons, camshaft cams, a new intake manifold with a large flow section and a shorter inlet section.
The oil pump and timing chain have also been improved. The squeezing out of some extra 20HP in such a complex manner is a typical Japanese approach, isn’t it?

The exterior hasn’t changed very much. The shape of the lights is the same, but the content is new: the taillights are equipped with LEDs (42 pieces in each lamp), the shape of the headlights are slightly corrected. The bumpers also got modified, but almost unnoticeably.
In the salon there are much more soft plastics. The dashboard design has also been improved (indications are read more easily). The buttons of emergency lights and heated seats have moved to a different location.
Well, the innovation list for a car which has been on an assembly line for more than four years is quite impressive.

Can I feel the difference on the go?
When leaving the parking lot, I noticed that the steering wheel was not as heavy as that of the previous version at a low speed. There is one more innovation in the steering system: power steering with a variable gear ratio. This system was specially designed with an aim at parking speeds. The steering wheel got heavier and heavier as I accelerated the car, and the reactions of the car to its movements were no different from the pre-modified version.
To be continued…

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Tame Beast

Style, softness, comfort… this set of automotive terms would not be best applicable to describe this car. What’s inside Jaguar can’t be simply called as comfort: effective ergonomics, low level of vibrations, noise and dust concentration. Contentment and repose- that’s what I felt inside this car. The “junior" Jaguar is one of the biggest Jaguars I’ve tested so far. It sort of keeps itself apart from the hangouts of the “European golden youth” not so much for its “tendency to corpulence”, but for its pride in “humanity”. 

The X-Type is the liveliest Jaguar in the family. Of course, it’s not ideal and there are plenty of minor defects, for instance, the body panels do not always fit perfectly, there are plenty of gaps in the saloon and the hinges of safety belts are not movable enough to be in a line with the strap- the fabric gets chewed. However, let’s not forget, that whereas the majority of cars are mostly designed by powerful robotized machines and computers, this car is a work of man’s hands.

The X-Type is equipped with the least 2-liter petrol engine- it’s a true inline-six, which, in spite of its small volume, roars like a dangerous beast.  Ten minutes is not enough to fully understand what the X-type on the go is- you are sure to be disappointed- as compared with rivals, the suspension of the X-Type is monstrously soft, however, I dealt with a very nicely riding vehicle, which was slightly in the old style. Nowadays, good chassis that function correctly with soft settings can be counted on the fingers, and the X-Type is definitely among that number. It’s so much soft that can lull you into a light doze, but even at high speeds, the swing will never frighten you.

The long delays in performing maneuvers are quite logical. Handling does not set any records either. On the other hand the car is solid and harmonious enough to be felt as a part of your body, so driving it is just like walking in the park.
As for the exterior, you will instantly realize that this is a Jaguar- the car is different from its continental “colleagues” in everything- it’s big, soft and slightly old-fashioned.

In general, Jaguar X-type left a very good impression. It’s like a powerful and fast beast, which needs no training- it’s tame. The car successfully combines its family prestige and sporting nature. Driving this car is a process of relaxation and rest. The car is of course expensive, but Jaguar is worth it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Volkswagen Eos- Modesty is the best policy

The four-seater convertible Volkswagen Eos is a rare guest in our part of the world and it is natural- Volkswagen Eos is neither a sports car nor a luxury sedan, but even in used condition, Eos is still quite expensive. VW Eos is built on the same platform and wheelbase of VW Golf 5 and was first introduced in the autumn of 2005 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The appearance of a coupe-cabriolet in the lineup of Volkswagen was, beyond doubt, long expected.

Volkswagen, of course, had manufactured roofless vehicles earlier, but only with soft tops, the most popular of which were the so-called Golf variations, but the Eos, the first full-fledged coupe-cabriolet, has already eclipsed the fame of its predecessors. Usability, convenience and accessibility- all these are perfectly combined in Eos. The exterior is not deprived of its family traits, namely, the oblong chromed radiator grille and slanting headlights with powerful Bi-xenon lenses.
The folding hard roof named CSC allows this car to combine all the advantages of a coupe and convertible. It consists of five sections which are automatically retracted into the boot.

An important note here is that the boot must be empty- otherwise special electronic delimiters will stop the process of folding. The boot can be considered as roomy- its volume varies from 205 to 380L.
If you want to take of the roof, just press the lever located between the front seats- the process will take 25 seconds.
So, I gunned the car and started to watch. After 120km/h, I got speechless: the soft breeze, sunny weather and smooth running of the Eos left me nothing but to enjoy music produced by the powerful stereo system.
There are two options to struggle against gusts of wind: first- acquire a special partition, which will reduce turbulence, and the second, which is more cardinal- open the huge roof hatch, of which adds zest to the unique CSC roof.
This Eos is equipped with a 2L turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual gear box- as a result, the car speeds up to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds- the maximal speed I could squeeze out of this engine was 230 km/h, which was slower from the official speed data only by 8km/h. In scant seconds, the engine spins up to 7000rpm, so you can send a challenge to many speed lovers, though, outwardly, the car has nothing in common with a sports car- neither is there a violent roar of the exhaust system, which would emphasize the might of the engine- as we know, modesty is the best policy.

The only disadvantage of VW Eos, I think, is the high price. The lowest price of a used Evo in Yerevan varies from $12000 to $15000. Just for instance, a used (2008) Mercedes CLK 350 will cost the same price for you.
However, this is your choice which to pay for.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Grand Leader of Cherokee Tribes (Part 2)

At low speeds, the transmission performs well running all the commands smoothly and quickly. But, when the engine, at normal revolutions, is sharply revved up , the 4-speed gearbox gets "baffled" and is unable to function properly. This off-road vehicle is equipped with a straight-six engine with fuel injection system, which produces 189HP at 4750RPM. According to official data, the 4L engine speeds up the car from 0 to 100km/h in 10.9 seconds. The car consumes 11.8L/100km with highway drive; the city drive is 22.6L/100km, which is far too much for such an engine. My test showed that Grand Cherokee speeds up 0-100km/h slower and consumes more petrol as compared with the official data. However, this is due in part to some worn out details and, of course, Armenian highland climate.

Now, let's move on to the interior.
The black colors sort of impel you to aggressive driving. Both front and back seats are quite soft and comfortable. The driver's seat has only 4 positions. As for the steering wheel, it can be adjusted only vertically. The dashboard displays plenty of information, which can be read easily. Unlike other US cars, the gear stick of Grand Cherokee is located on the right place for us, between the front seats, under the right hand of the driver. The stereo system is of medium-quality, however the huge buttons provide easy access to it.
I tried to drive the Cherokee on impassable steep paths and I must confess, this car is ideal for such conditions. Without enabling the four-wheel drive, the car easily overcame all the difficulties of mountainous terrain. Luckily for such a test, it started to rain heavily- the solid ground soon turned into deep mud. The car was on back-wheel drive- the back wheels were uselessly digging the mud deeper and deeper, and therefore I had to enable part-time 4WD system, which allowed me to move through that mud like on a normal road.
In general, the Grand Cherokee has an impressive off-road arsenal with its noteworthy Quadra-Drive and Select-Track2 systems.

To summarize: I didn't like the primitive equipment of the interior and bad handling ,particularly, on wavy roads. Excessive fuel consumption is the most disappointing disadvantage of this SUV. As an off-roader, there are no complaints-the car acts like a tank and is ready to destroy most of the famous SUVs.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Grand Leader of Cherokee Tribes

The second generation Grand Cherokee was first introduced in 1998 and became a worthy successor to Grand Cherokee ZJ, the previous representative of the model range. The long-expected second generation Grand Cherokee went like hot cakes not only in the USA and Europe, but also in Armenia, and therefore I decided to test it and determine its potential.

The car I am going to go over point by point is a Laredo manufactured in 2005. It’s different from the standard version only in a few details:  the two-colored wheel rims with unique trimming, tinted xenon headlights and bright color of the radiator grill- all these make the car look much more beautiful.
This model of 2005 is subtly different from the one of 1998, since the whole model range got restyled in 2003.
The abandoned area I found close to Arzni gorge was ideal for my test- almost no car is seen over there. But, while getting there, I tested the smooth running of the car on Yerevan-Sevan highway- and so, the car gave mixed impressions- from the moment I got into the car and started the engine, I never stopped feeling the “rebellious” character of the car: up to 100-120km/h, it behaved confidently and it was easy to handle, but as soon as I speeded it up to 130 km/h,  all reactions slowed down as if it was moving through water.

By the way, the top speed is electronically limited to 180km/h. However, I would never advice to reach the top speed on SUVs, since almost all of them have a high center of gravity, which may lead to fatal overturns on bumpy roads or hairpins-this SUV defect is particularly referable to American off-roaders. Such cars, as a rule, float during the ride-the steering wheel is rather uninformative. On the other hand, Grand Cherokee is quite a comfortable and “soft” SUV- the suspension maintains high-level energy-absorbing qualities, which secures our comfort on bumpy roads. But, at the same time, this suspension causes big discomfort on wavy roads rocking the body of the car from side to side, so one can get seasick.
To be continued...