By Chris Haak
I’m going to begin by mentioning how disappointed I was during my time with the all-new 2010 Toyota 4Runner. Not in the vehicle itself, really – more in the circumstances surrounding my use of the vehicle. In spite of my best efforts to plan a trip to the woods and get the thing muddy, I barely got any dirt on it. In fact, the photos you see throughout this review were taken after traveling over 100 miles to a friend’s mountain cabin for the express purpose of taking the 4Runner off road. Shameful, I know. And it’s especially disappointing given the fact that my friend was warning me for weeks that the road leading to his cabin was covered in mud, and that his parents were upset by the amount of mud on the lane to his cabin.
Instead, I used the 4Runner Trail – probably the most off-road capable model in Toyota’s current lineup – for a week of mostly driving around town and into the office, two back-to-back days of extended highway trips. Altogether, I tallied over 700 miles in the 4Runner. I learned a lot about it after living with it for a week and all of those miles, and I came to appreciate many aspects of it. With that being said, it’s hard to understand why families would choose to use a 4Runner as their primary transportation, when so many other vehicles don’t have the inherent compromises in fuel economy, ride, handling, and interior room that an off-road specialists like the 4Runner has.
By Chris Haak
GM announced today that its head of marketing, Susan Docherty, is now its former head of marketing. Prior to that, Ms. Docherty had previously been head of marketing and sales, but GM North America President Mark Reuss took the marketing role away from her.
There has been a considerable amount of turnover at GM in its executive ranks over the past 18 months, with the company now on (by our count) its third CEO, second president, and fourth head of marketing (Mark LaNeve – Bob Lutz – Susan Docherty – and now Joel Ewanick). GM has also changed its divisional heads a number of times, and added and removed responsibilities from various individuals. What is not yet clear is whether the script (i.e. GM’s culture) is changing, or just the actors.
By James Wong
Formula Drift USA has been around for some time now, but Singapore has only hosted Formula Drift three times. It has come a long way since the first time it was brought into our island, and this time it is reportedly the first time the event is held on an F1 track. Part of the Singapore F1 circuit was sliced off to create a meandering layout that is suitable for drifting. A blind clipping point was an added challenge to many of the drifters who had little time to practice in this new layout, and it caught many of them off-guard. Also, some of you loyal readers may remember my article about drifting last year. Well, my coaches (Jane Cheah and Ariff Johanis) competed in FD2010 this year though unfortunately, they did not get through to the qualifying rounds. One great piece of news however is that one of the guys who went on the same course as me is now a professional drifter who also competed in FD2010. I’m sure given time, some of the local drifters could make a name for themselves.
Some drifters complained of an uncomfortable helmet that resulted in migranes and consequently a degradation of concentration; some simply lamented that there wasn’t a specified power output. This meant that those less powerful cars were put at a disadvantage, especially when they needed to gain speed at the straight. Nonetheless, the winner of the two-day event was Tengku Djan Ley in his Silvia S15, who was also the winner of last year’s event. Follow the jump for some of the photos taken during the event, exclusively for Techshake readers.
By Chris Haak
GM’s long-running Suburban – which made its debut in 1935 as the Suburban Carryall – is celebrating its semisesquicentennial for the 2010 model year. (I don’t generally use that word in a sentence; in fact, I had to look it up.) I’ve always been a fan of the Suburban; perhaps that is partly because my parents have owned one Suburban or another for many of my 35 years on this planet. In fact, the Suburban is the longest-running nameplate in automotive history.
My earliest Suburban memory was taking a familiy trek from Pennsylvania to Florida in 1978 (I was three) in the family’s 1973 Suburban, with a tandem-axle travel trailer in tow behind. The first Haak Suburban (or “Sub” in our vernacular) was a goldenrod color with, of course, the classy vinyl woodgrain decals on its sides (much like the one below, but in goldenrod).
By Chris Haak
The auto industry still has a big, big hole to dig out of to get anywhere close to the volumes of the peak years earlier in the last decade, when 16 and 17 million unit annual new-car volumes were the norm. Sales volumes are still on the upswing relative to 2009’s pitiful performances, but the SAAR (seasonally-adjusted annual rate) dropped slightly from March’s incentive-fueled 11.7 million rate to 11.5 million in April 2010. Overall industry sales were up 20 percent, so any company topping that number is gaining market share.
As has been the trend in the past several months, Ford was again a big winner, with a 25 percent overall gain and a 32 percent retail gain; Ford’s March results were somewhat fueled by government and commercial fleet sales (allegedly not so much daily rental sales), so the retail strength is good news for Ford transaction prices and residual values. Ford’s venerable F-series trucks saw a 42 percent increase, while the aging Escape crossover leaped 41 percent over the year-ago period.
By Chris Haak
Have you ever seen a photo of a person who appears at a glance to be really attractive, only to see the person later in the flesh, and notice flaws like yellow teeth, sun-damaged skin, gray hairs, wrinkles, or that he or she smells bad? Or even worse, the person still looks great, but has a terrible personality, is mean, or a perhaps a little rough around the edges?
I’m not saying the Kia Forte Koup has a terrible personality, but let’s just say that its looks – and this car is, in my opinion, the best-looking car in its class, bar-none – write some checks that its chassis and drivetrain can’t cash. And really, its drivetrain issues, in particular, are nothing that the new four cylinder engine family in the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima wouldn’t cure. I smile at the thought of this car with a 274-horsepower, direct injection turbo four under its attractive hood.
By James Wong
The Audi R8 Spyder was launched in the midst of the Audi Fashion Festival 2010 held in Singapore. It is a car that is befitting of the event; for all of the fashionistas and for people who want to be seen, there is hardly a better car than the R8 Spyder for that very purpose.
Audi claims that the R8 Spyder can outrun a LP560-4 Spyder in the 0-200 km/h sprint (12.7 seconds), which if true is a very impressive thing indeed, as both cars are actually quite closely related and you would expect the Lamborghini to outperform the Audi in every way. Nonetheless, the engine in the R8 Spyder does come slightly detuned from the one in the LP560-4, pushing out 525hp and doing 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds.
By James Wong
I’ve never done a tyre test before, so this is going to be the first time. There is just so much to say about the tyres that I thought writing an article up on them is going to be useful, because I’ve been scattering my verdict on this set of tyres to everyone with nowhere to consolidate the findings. So I hope this is useful for those who are considering this set of tyres for their cars, especially since they may be going for a clearance price now that the Michelin Pilot Sport 3, the successor to the PS2, is beginning to creep into the market.
When I first bought my car, I didn’t really recognise what rubbers were given to me with my ride. Frankly, I did not even bother much as tyres didn’t really matter to me at that time. As long as they don’t look bald, I wasn’t too concerned what brand they were or whether they were highly-rated tyres. In fact, up till today I still think that among the major brands that represent their tyres in the, say, Ultra High Performance (UHP) segment, they are so closely matched that you can hardly tell the difference in real life. I have always read with some sceptism tyre reviews from consumers who only use the tyres for a month and already have a verdict on them. A month’s worth of driving is certainly enough to gather some information about the tyres, yes, but I feel a true verdict is only given when the tyre is used till end of life (EOL). That way, factors such as performance and noise level after heavy wear is also considered. As with many things, tyres also have a lifespan and throughout stages of their life, will perform differently.