Category Archives: Everyday Normal Cars

I call them “Transportation Appliances”, but this is what most people are looking for.

Tesla Model S P85D Review

Tesla Model S P85D Front

Tesla has taken the industry by storm, shattering all expectations and continuing to surprise everyone. I remember about a year ago when Tesla shares were around $120 and many analysts were saying that was far too high. Well guess what, today shares are selling for $218.

Elon Musk’s can-do spirit permeates through the Tesla brand. That charisma associated with the brand seems to appeal to many customers as much the car itself does. Lately, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Teslas everywhere in my area. For a high-end luxury car, they are selling like hotcakes.

The Model S P85D is surely the most multi-functional vehicle that I’ve ever experienced, and that is what surprised and impressed me the most about it. In fact, I’d say it’s like having four distinct cars in one…

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Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Reviewed (10/10)

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Review

Everyone, meet Porsche’s Prius! The new Panamera S E-Hybrid, like the Prius, is a 4-door hatchback, and it uses an electric motor to help out its gas engine in a similar way. Furthermore, the Panamera S E-Hybrid has shown in real world tests that it can top 50 mpg, also just like the Prius! Yes, the similarities between the two cars go surprisingly far, much further than most might expect, but they couldn’t be more different in their fundamental purpose.

The Toyota Prius is an economy car for people who want to spend as little money as possible on a car. The Panamera, on the other hand, is a high-end luxury machine for people who are comfortable writing a six figure check for a single car. You can buy four Toyota Priuses for the starting price of this Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and that’s before adding any expensive options. However, playing Devil’s advocate, the Panamera does have nearly the horsepower of all four of those Priuses combined. The Panamera may cost as much as four Priuses, but you could also argue that it’s also four times the car.

I remember being amazed when Al Gore’s son got caught going 100mph in his Prius, not because of his behavior, but because he actually got a Prius to top 100mph. If he buys one of these Porsches, then maybe next time he can be pushing 170mph.

Okay, it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room here: The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid will not be competing for buyers with the Toyota Prius (sorry to disappoint). No, it will be going head-to-head against the almighty Tesla Model S, and Elon Musk’s trendy “King Innovator” brand image. It is a massive challenge, one that basically killed Fisker, but I think this Porsche is up to it, and I will explain why.

Continue reading Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Reviewed (10/10)

2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

Fiat 500L Front Left

Fiat has been doing a pretty good job of marketing whatever new product they have.  They have come a long way from the cringe-inducing “Jenny From the Block” ads that were running a few years ago, to running ads with P.Diddy and a little kid to advertise their newest creation.  The 500 was a hit for them worldwide and in America, they’re certainly selling pretty well.  In fact, there’s been a new kid on the block for them in the past year or so now, the 500L, a four-door model designed with the small family in mind.  Fiat needs all the sales it can get right about now, as the 500L is in a tough marketplace and has not been getting a good amount of positive press.  I decided to take myself to the local Fiat showroom a few miles away and see what the fuss was all about. Continue reading 2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

Cadillac ELR Reviewed (6.5/10)

Cadillac ELR Review

The Chevrolet Volt hasn’t sold well, despite its fantastic technological design. The reason Volt hasn’t sold is because it costs around $40,000 when a Toyota Prius costs around $25,000; who would’ve guessed, but most cost-conscious consumers would rather save their extra fifteen grand.

GM knows the Volt is in trouble, so they’ve decided to attack the problem from a different angle — if the Volt is too expensive, then why not make it into a Cadillac, called the ELR, which can command a higher price. On the surface that seems like a good idea: take an over-priced economy car, turn it into a luxury car, and add a couple grand to the price tag.

Here’s the problem, though. GM didn’t just add a couple grand to the Volt’s price tag, they went and doubled it. So now, a way over-priced economy car has become a way over-priced luxury coupe.

Knowing all of this, when given the opportunity to take an ELR for a spin, I decided to put my predispositions aside, and see what the car had to offer. Maybe, just maybe, GM could’ve sprinkled it with some sort of magical pixy dust that would make it worth the $80,000…

Continue reading Cadillac ELR Reviewed (6.5/10)

Test Driven: 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid (10/10)

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid
2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid

Infiniti just seems to want to watch the world burn. For some reason they deemed it a good idea to rename their whole entire lineup, for no reason whatsoever. Every Infiniti is now named Q, with some meaningless number. The car you see here is the new Q50, the replacement for the current G37 sedan. As the replacement for the G, which is surely Infiniti’s best selling model of all time, the Q50 has big shoes to fill. This one isn’t an ordinary Q50, though, this is the much-anticipated Q50 Hybrid. So in addition to filling the G37’s shoes, the Hybrid must also make a case for itself in some new territory.

Briefly looking back, the G35 was the car that really launched Infiniti into what it is today. It was based on the same platform as the Nissan 350Z, making it a true 4-door sports car. What resulted was the car that gave the BMW 3 Series its most formidable challenge to date.

Boy has the world changed a lot since the G35 first came out. The emphasis in the luxury market is now on multitasking, both from the car and from the driver. A car needs to be comfortable, but also sporty enough for you to weave in and out of traffic at 90mph while you’re updating your Facebook status and texting your friends. The pure focus on driving is all but dead at this point, even BMW has made that obvious. While luxury cars must still be dynamically capable, and “fast”, the priority for most buyers is now on cool gadgets and hypothetical fuel economy numbers.

Looking at the Q50, especially the Hybrid, it is easy to see that it is a car built for our modern world. I must confess, that when I actually drove the car, I knew very little about it. Since my drive, I have been doing a lot of research to help with this article, and I am finding that the Q50 Hybrid may, in fact, be one of the most interesting cars on the market.

Continue reading Test Driven: 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid (10/10)

Test Driven: 2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI manual (9/10)

2013 Jetta Sportwagen TDI

Most American car buyers would reject this straight away. As a wagon, it still carries the “neutered” stigma developed in the era before minivans. As a diesel, it is different, and therefore is terrifying. And as a manual, most people could not operate it, and would not be bothered to learn. So the Jetta Sportwagen TDI cannot possibly appeal to the mass droves of uninterested laymen, and that means it must be pretty good. This is a thinking person’s car, and among high MPG wagons, it is by far the enthusiast’s choice.

You see, not all enthusiast cars need to be about high performance. They just need to be engaging for the driver in performing a given task. Practicality and fuel efficiency define the main purposes of the Jetta Sportwagen TDI. It is undoubtedly a car that will be daily driven, and used for all manner of tasks. As a wagon that can see over 40mpg, its only real competitors are the Toyota Prius V and the Ford C-MAX. Obviously those are both hybrids, so the VW’s approach is quite different from theirs.

Continue reading Test Driven: 2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI manual (9/10)

VW Jetta Hybrid observed MPG


I have been getting many questions about the real world fuel economy of the VW Jetta Hybrid. I figured I would share this to give people an idea of what is possible with smart attentive driving.

On my trip to class today, roughly 40 miles on back roads with lots of hills and corners, I averaged 50.7 mpg. That is almost 3mpg more than the EPA says the maximum highway mileage is for this car. I did this not by “hyper mile-ing”, but by driving normally and paying attention to the car’s systems in conjunction with my surroundings. I stayed within 5mph of the posted speed limit as well, as to keep things realistic. Weather was around 60 degrees F, with a light breeze.

Our car has just under 5000 miles on it now, and is just getting fully mechanically broken in. When we first got the car we were seeing averages in the lower-mid 30s, and MPG has steadily increased as we have put miles on the car.

Now, keep in mind I was trying to drive as efficiently as reasonably possible, so I was paying special attention to how much throttle I was using, and planning when to use the gas motor to keep the battery charged. I have found that when I drive the car like i normally drive, typically 10-15mph over the speed limit, then the car seems to average more in the high 30mpg range. The Jetta Hybrid is turbocharged, so your mpg depends mostly on your right foot. It is pretty quick, especially for a car capable of 50mpg, but realize that there is a big tradeoff between using its performance abilities and getting “great” fuel economy.

That said, this is definitive proof that the VW Jetta Hybrid will deliver its claimed fuel economy in the real world, so long as it is driven properly.

Edit: I drove home using the same methods, this time on an all highway route, and saw 48.3mpg, exactly what VW claims. It is more difficult to “sail” on the electric motor at highway speeds, especially with the varied terrain in my area. I was able to coast on downgrades, but in general there were less opportunities for the electric motor to do its thing, and more traffic to deal with. My average for the day wound up being 49.5mpg, much higher than the EPA’s stated average of 45mpg. I think the Jetta Hybrid’s true fuel economy potential (with good driving) is more like 51 mpg in town and country driving, and 48mpg on the highway. Again, this is all staying within 5mph of the posted speed limit. It is both a realistic and acceptable driving style, but if you let your lead foot get the best of you then you will see you mpg drop off.


Road Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (9/10)

VW Jetta Hybrid

This is my mom’s new car, Volkswagen’s brand new Jetta Hybrid. Her Volvo was rear-ended and totaled back in December, so naturally the car search began. For some reason this car managed to fly under my radar until just recently. There hasn’t been much media coverage, and it debuted quietly at NAIAS last year. I had been triaging, and test driving a few different options when my dad asked me what I thought of the Jetta Hybrid. That got me looking, and when I saw the details, I was pretty blown away. I went and test drove one the next day, and my recommendation was set. This was the car, and you will soon see why.

Hybrids have really caught on as a way of saving gas here in America. For most hybrids, the focus is on fuel economy alone, all in an effort to woo people with the showroom window sticker. The undisputed leader of the hybrid movement has been Toyota, with cars that are as much a political statement as they are a form of transportation. We all know the Prius, some love it, some hate it, but it has set the standard for the hybrid segment. Other carmakers, like Ford, have hybrids too, but they are basically copies of the Toyota’s design formula. Because of this, people tend to know what to expect when they see a hybrid, but Volkswagen has taken a different approach.

Continue reading Road Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (9/10)

Test Driven: Buick Verano Al’s Take

Buick has not had the best reputation with smaller cars.  Their most recent entry, the Skylark, turned a once great name into one best remembered for being an elderly librarian’s best friend and a speed demon’s worst enemy on I-95.  However, Buick’s fortunes have turned around a lot in the past two years or so, with newfound success in the larger and smaller portion of the premium midsize market and a newfound lease on life.  So, I took this white Verano you see here for a spin in South Florida to see if it was up to the hype. Continue reading Test Driven: Buick Verano Al’s Take

Test Driven: Toyota Prius C (9/10)

Toyota Prius C: Small Car, Big City

This was my first time driving a Prius of any sort, although I have driven other hybrids. The Prius is special though because society has made into the poster child for the green car movement. The Prius C is the newest, smallest member of the Prius family, and it is selling like hotcakes right now. Like many car guys, I have always had a good deal of contempt for the Prius over the years for various reasons, but I figured it would be a good idea to at least go try one out for myself before closing the book on the car for good. What lay ahead tuned out to be an interesting experience.    Continue reading Test Driven: Toyota Prius C (9/10)

Test Driven: 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6

The Camry is probably the one vehicle everyone who loves cars could care less about 100% of the time.  In essence, it’s vanilla-flavored vanilla, with no other description.  But, everyone’s either sat in one, ridden in one, or driven one at some point, including me.  My daily driver up until very recently was a tan 2007 Hybrid.  It still, though, outsells everything in its segment and all of its competitors use it as a benchmark.  The 2007-2011 Camry was a true bestseller and sent everyone back to the drawing board.  But, it’s new again this year, so I took the wheel of this slick SE V6 and asked this question: Will it repeat the trick it made back in 2007?  Continue reading Test Driven: 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6

Test Driven: Mini Cooper Coupe

Since my grandpa got his first Mini Cooper in 2002, I’ve always looked at them with an air of respect.  Mini has been trying to expand the brand out since 2008 when the Clubman came out, and now, the new Coupe is said to be the most hardcore chassis they put on the market.  With all that in mind, I went to a local dealer and tried one out.  This new black car was an interesting mix of things, but I stepped out of it at the end of the drive with a lot to think about. Continue reading Test Driven: Mini Cooper Coupe