Ford EcoBoost Challenge

17 May
©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

After the Ford racing school at Miller Motorsports Park my dad and I were craving more Ford fun. We found out about an event called the EcoBoost Challenge put on by Ford not too far from home. Early on a Saturday morning my dad and I drove down in his Fiesta ST to see what Ford was offering.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

We arrived at Santa Anita Park and headed over to the festivities. Even though my dad owns an ST we were required to drive something a little less sporty. Out of our three choices of truck, SUV or sedan we both of course chose the smallest available car. This happened to be the Ford Fusion.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery —— Fusion

©2014 Ron Avery ----Camry

©2014 Ron Avery —-Camry

After a several minute debrief on safe driving I headed out in the Fusion. It wasn’t terribly exiting but it was the only thing standing between me and getting in an ST. So I drove it and didn’t feel much in terms of a thrilling drive, but I still had one more car to drive before the fun was to begin. Ford brought along comparable cars to the ones they were highlighting, so in this case the Toyota Camry was my next ride to compare to the Fusion. Practically right away I understood why people might choose the Fusion over the Camry. The Camry felt big and heavy and just not fun. The Fusion seemed rather sporty to me after that.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

Next we finally got to head over to the ST section. After a similar talk on safe driving we hoped in and got three laps each; that is if the driver didn’t hit any cones. I didn’t but I also didn’t get much thrill or excitement from the ride. I’m not saying that the ST isn’t fun, because as I’ve told you countless times, it’s a blast, it’s just that driving such a tiny course at restricted speed kind of takes the fun out of the car. Not to mention that the car I had was obviously very much worn and squeaked through each turn. I will admit, though, that tossing the car around through the slalom and into tight corners did put a smile on my face.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

Toni_Fiesta_6

While the Ford EcoBoost Challenge wasn’t as much fun as the Ford racing school, my dad and I still had a good time beating up someone else’s car. Our ST also made some friends with this great lineup of fellow owners.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

ST Octane Academy and GT Clinic

25 Apr

ST Fun, How Fast They Run

Recently my father purchased a Fiesta ST to replace his Mini JCW. After experiencing exorbitant repair costs for the Mini my dad decided he had had enough. Stopping at a local Ford dealer, he test-drove an ST specked out just the way he wanted. While accelerating up the on-ramp he said, “I’ll take it.”

My dad has owned everything from a Maserati Coupe to a Mustang for an everyday car, but he insists that the ST is the most fun everyday car he has ever owned. That’s saying a lot, but for the money, the Fiesta ST is a lot of fun without the big dollar hassle.

Some automakers offer new owners a special gift: with the purchase of this model we give you a racing school. In this case my dad found out via an ST forum and promptly made arrangements.

The school that offered an ST program happened to be in Utah at Miller Motorsports Park. With his new car we decided to drive the whole 10 hours from Los Angeles.

frosty fiesta edited

©2014 Ron Avery——The ST on the way to Utah

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery——student cars at the school

School day exercises:

Although there was no car available for me to drive (being that my dad purchased the car and I was more of a guest) I was granted hot laps and rides with the instructors throughout the day.

Classroom

©2014 Toni Avery——-classroom time

After some classroom time, which we also had throughout the day, we were off to our first exercise. It was a tricky one with reverse 90° turns. To complicate matters, the weather was in the 30’s with the occasional snow flurry. But that didn’t deter participants from having fun.

group

©2014 Toni Avery——-getting instructions

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery—-my dad driving (in each pic of the Fiesta & Focus)

The second exercise was a little more complex with a forward facing 180° turn. Such as in the first exercise participants used a hydraulic hand brake installed in the cars specifically for these types of exercises. The trick was to turn the car the entire way without hitting surrounding cones. This came into play later.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Next was the skid car, which for this exercise was a Ford Fusion. While it’s a good idea to make mistakes and push limits that you wouldn’t normally on the street, the skid car exercise is the type you want to master especially in a state like Utah where it can snow in a moments notice.

Finally, the last exercise before track time was the all-important autocross. This is where those 90° and 180° turns would come in handy. The course practically started with a 180° turn and continued with some twisty tight turns, figure eights, slaloms and finishing with a 90° turn (sliding parallel) into a parking box. To make the course even more difficult, participants had to use the larger Focus ST, again without hitting any cones.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

This might remind of you of the famous Ken Block Gymkhana videos, but for these students it was more of a test of car control and limits than showing off. The second to last run for each participant was timed and at the end of the day the results were announced.

School day track time:

While exercises are fun and an important part of any school, track time is where the real action happens. Typically in a one-day school the most track time you get is some lead and follow with the instructors guiding you around track. But this school granted participants precious alone time figuring out each turns apex and exit points.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

I got to ride passenger with the lead follow instructor in the beginning portion of the track time. With each lap, the instructor progressively got faster, but his line was always perfect. The instructor led the pack in a Mustang GT while the class followed in their choice of Fiesta ST or Focus ST.

©2014 Ron Avery------getting a ride with the instructor

©2014 Ron Avery——getting a ride with the instructor

Each student was granted several uninterrupted laps on track in the car of their choice, figuring out the tracks lines and better understanding their new toy. My dad was thrilled to get some all-important seat time in his desired car.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

A few words with Ford PR:

After the day’s exercises and track time I asked Jayson Demchak (Performance Communications Manager at Ford) a little about the Fiesta ST.

T: How much influence do customers have on a cars development?

J: The customer is always first and foremost. From lessons learned from the past you are always trying to deliver the best product to the customer. Not only do we rely on customers and ourselves but also metrics. Such as for SVT and team RS there is a global performance vehicle metric that they dial into so it’s consistent across the board not just on performance vehicles but also on regular civilian vehicles to a lesser degree.

T: Did you expect the response that you got with the Fiesta ST from what you got with the Focus ST?

J: Yeah. It’s a competitive marketplace and I think the group was confident in the Focus ST and I think it’s been quite successful. With the Fiesta ST it’s very similar but different at the same time. It’s almost 500 pounds lighter, so from a dynamic standpoint some of the development/dynamic guys were pretty enthusiastic about it saying, “Hey this one is even smaller so it’s even easier to toss around.”

T: What is the reason for not importing the 3-door version of the Fiesta ST?

J: There isn’t a US version of the 3-door already available in the Country. A European version would have to be modified for the US, which would be too expensive. The 5-door is an easier car to sell for the masses. The weight difference isn’t all just the rear doors; it’s crash structures plus the doors.

Jayson added: “We want to make sure that current customers take advantage of this opportunity to see what the cars are capable of and to learn how to drive the car better.”

©2014 Toni Avery------dad loved it!

©2014 Toni Avery——dad loved it!

While my dad has participated in at least 15-16 racing schools, he had a blast. He still loves his Fiesta over the Focus and has a new appreciation for the car at full speed.

Certificates of completion were distributed along with exclusive ST Academy shirts and ST badges you’ll only see on owners cars that participated in the school. Not surprisingly my dad won the autocross competition but he also won something even more valuable, the appreciation and understanding of his new ST.

Mustang GT Clinic, American Muscle Tearing up the Track

Toni_Ron_car

 

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

Every year, since I turned 16, I’ve participated in at least one racing school. This year I was excited to learn that not only would I be a guest during my father’s ST Performance Academy, we would also both be participating in a second day Mustang GT Clinic. Not only would we be driving fairly high-horsepower cars, we would also be the inaugural second day class.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

School day:

The day started with classroom time. The instructor explained the layout of the track and where would be the best places to turn in, apex and brake. While classroom time is valuable, being out on the track is an entirely different animal. I hopped into my #24 Mustang and headed out onto the track.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery——stopping for instruction

We drove a couple of laps to get the feel for the tracks layout and that was followed by a multi-stop lap where we got out of our cars to discuss the more difficult corners.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery—–on track discussion

Next up were a few laps of lead and follow that included switching the lead driver every couple of laps so that each student had the opportunity to follow the instructor’s perfect line.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery——learning as much as I can!

Museum Lunch:

Our track time was broken up by a much-deserved lunch. Most of the time when lunch is served at a racing school we all sit around the classroom and talk. But this time we were lucky enough to be surrounded by some truly iconic cars. We had lunch in the schools museum filled with some of the most recognizable and amazing American classics around. From a GT350 to an 11 million dollar Ford GT40. My personal favorite was the wonderful collection of GT40’s but we also got some shots of other amazing cars on display.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery——Le Mans winning GT40

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery—–variety of GT40s

 

School day continued:

Since our class was so small (only three people including my dad and I) and we were the inaugural class the instructor asked us what we would prefer to do. Typically the instructor would let us loose on track and ride along with someone if they wanted. This time we wanted a combination of rides with the instructor at the wheel and the rest of the time with him being passenger.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery—–Me going down the straight

During my time alone on track I found myself concentrating more on my line rather than top-speed. But once the instructor buckled himself in he pushed me to press the accelerator a little more and be less cautious. In certain corners he would have me lift off the brake earlier and accelerate earlier as well. I found myself having more fun, carrying more speed and having more trust in the car.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery——me coming onto the straight

The time when the instructor was guiding me from the passenger seat was the most valuable. I discovered that it doesn’t matter how many schools you take or how often you drive, it’s always helpful to accept wisdom from the mouth of someone who knows more than you. It’s also important to trust. If you don’t trust the car then it can’t show you what it’s really made of. Once I put my reservations aside I felt more comfortable and confident. Plus the sound of the exhaust on those GT’s made me want to buy one just to run it through an enclosed tunnel on a daily basis.

©2014 Ron Avery

©2014 Ron Avery

Miller Motorsports Park was by far the most beautiful track I’ve been to. I plan to come back for many more schools in hopes of improving my technique and confidence on track.

©2014 Ron Avery

The whole gang!

 

Mario Andretti Honored at RRDC Dinner

18 Apr

Just recently I had the privilege to attend a special dinner honoring one of motor racings greats; Mario Andretti. The dinner took place at the Hilton in Long Beach and began with an outdoor cocktail reception where some spectacular cars were displayed. If you know anything about Mario you know that he is one of the most diverse drivers of our lifetime.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Lotus 77 (pictured above)

Mario was not the only driver/well-known motorsports icon there. Others attended such as Parnelli Jones, Bobby Rahal, Dan Gurney, Juan Pablo Montoya and many many more.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Ferrari 312PB (pictured above)

While this wasn’t really a dinner aimed towards media coverage, I did snap a few photos of the wonderful cars displayed and was lucky enough to get a photo with the legend himself.

Toni Avery_Mario Andretti

The dinner was fun and the food was great. Mario sat on stage for a time with Bobby Rahal telling stories of his youth and racing career. It was such a thrill to be surrounded by some of motor racings legends and to meet a few all in one place.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

1965 Brawner Hawk Indy Car

 

World’s Greatest Sports Coupes

15 Apr
©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

Wednesday, April 9th, I attended an exclusive exhibit opening at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The exhibit, called The World’s Greatest Sports Coupes, features a number of iconic, rare and beautiful sport coupes from around the world. Anything from Ferrari to Acura, this new exhibit is a must see.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

I attended the event, Sponsored by Jaguar, as media. The evening started off with drinks and hors d’oeuvre in one of the museums other exhibits. After some time, which seemed like an eternity, the video screens started playing an introduction to the exhibit. One of the exhibits curators, Ian Callum (Jaguar Designer) spoke about the F-Type Coupe, which made an appearance in the exhibit. Then the curtains were drawn and like cattle we all poured into the exhibit.

Me with Ian Callum!

Me with Ian Callum!

There were some cars that I expected to see such as the Jaguar E-Type but there were a few surprises thrown in to make for a very interesting and diverse exhibit. Below are images of each car featured plus the sign accompanying that car.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

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©2014 Toni Avery

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Love my new Monaco dress from Kate Spade!

Love my new Monaco dress from Kate Spade!

I hope you enjoy as much as I did. Be sure to visit the World’s Greatest Sports Coupes exhibit at the Petersen soon!

Jaguar Driving Experience

2 Apr

with ftype british flag

I have been in love with Jaguar since first driving my dad’s 1965 E-Type. But I couldn’t see myself purchasing the then current lineup, until the F-Type arrived. Since Jaguar has used our E twice during the Monterey Car Week (2011 and 2012), they have been more than generous with invitations to special events and the like. Recently I received an invitation to take part in a Jaguar Driving Experience near me, and I accepted without hesitation.

©2012 Ron Avery

©2012 Ron Avery

Knowing how Jaguar puts on an event I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Walking into the large tent I was greeted and handed a badge with my name on it. Past the doors, there was plenty of seating, food and a gorgeous F-Type Coupe R sitting center stage. After waiting a few short minutes, my 9:30 am driving group was guided into an outdoor area with the entire Jaguar lineup to look at. Once we were educated on all things Jaguar I headed over to my first driving experience.

F-Type:

First up was the V6 S (380hp) Convertible. No Coupes were available to drive because they are too new. I have driven the F-Type Convertible once before so I knew what to expect: plush leather, gorgeous exterior and an intoxicating exhaust note. Little did I know that my one lap around in the V6 S would be my only one. From my brief romp in the car I experienced a smooth ride, adequate power and a wonderful sound. Just wish I had more time.

white ftype and me

But the V8 S was up next and from the minute pressure applied to the accelerator I could tell this one was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Now that I had figured out I only had one lap, I decided to drive the V8 S more aggressively than my first go-around in the V6 S. I’m not one to say “x-amount of horsepower is too much,” but the available 495hp in the V8 S was a little much for the small course. I felt like I was riding a wild bull that was saying hold on tight or get out. I love horsepower of all kinds and the higher the better. But for street use and for a weekend driver/long trip car the V6 S seems the wiser choice.

red ftype and me

With the possibility of the V6 S and manual transmission combination coming out, the shift-it-yourself crowd should be more than pleased with the power output and the torque delivery.

XK and XJR LWB:

The next set of cars were there to demonstrate the power of different Jag models. The course was longer and faster than the F-Type course and really gave me a taste of just how dynamic the Jaguar lineup really is. While I have a special place in my heart reserved for the F-Type I came to appreciate these next two models.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

The XK Coupe embodied elegant and sporty styling in relatively small package. While I wouldn’t call the XK a cheap car I felt the interior lacked the “wow factor” that the F-Type interior had in spades. But moving past the lacking interior, the exhaust note that resonated into the cabin was truly awesome.

On the makeshift back straight of the course, the instructor I rode with told me to floor it and not brake until he said so. I did and was in love with the sound. The Coupe’s cabin was filled with the wonderful roar you expect to hear from a Jaguar. But almost as soon as I planted my foot on the accelerator, the ride was over and I was on to the next car.

me with xk

I asked to drive something completely the opposite from the XK and ended up with the XJR LWB. What a completely impressive and beautiful interior. Every surface was covered with elegant materials but it didn’t let you forget you were driving an R. At the very front of the dash a long strip of carbon fiber with a bold “R” followed the line of the windshield.

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

One negative thing I noted was that the gear selector dial in each car was difficult to navigate and kind of a pain to use. For some gears you need to press down and for others the selector just spins easily. If a car is going to be automatic I prefer the look and feel of a traditional gear selector, such as what you see in the F-Type.

The instructor reminded me not to underestimate the power of the large sedan. As soon as I pressed the pedal to the floor it seemed as if all 550 horses came alive, screaming down the back straight and molded a giant smile across my face.

XJR LWB and me

It was rather nimble through the turns and just completely impressed me. I will no longer underestimate the capability of a Jaguar sedan.

XF AWD:

The last and the most technology packed car was the XF AWD. A course was set up to demonstrate the various technological advantages associated with the AWD system.

First was a bumpy road setup to show how smooth a ride you can get with the XF. I wasn’t overly impressed, but compared to my Lotus anything is smooth. Next was a hill soaked with water. The first go around I was asked to floor it and see how the car behaved with the system off. It of course slid a little. After exiting the soaked hill, the instructor asked me to turn the wheel all the way to the left and floor it. The car started to spin and I unconsciously corrected.

4 wheel-drive jag on ice

The next go around all systems were engaged. Over the bumpy road I noticed little if any difference. Up the soaked hill there was no wheel spin and when the wheel was turned all the way to the left and the accelerator floored, there was also no wheel spin.

This technology, in my opinion, gives consumers in winter weather climates more options in the luxury segment.

XF AWD and me

Jaguar put on another fun event for automotive enthusiasts and curious buyers. While I hoped for more driving, I did appreciate the opportunity to test and explore the current Jaguar lineup. I’m looking forward to the next one!

©2014 Toni Avery

©2014 Toni Avery

2013 Mazda Miata Club Modifications: How to improve your MX-5 without paying the big bucks

5 Mar

As you might have read in my previous blog post, I recently purchased a 2013 Mazda Miata Club. But me being a car girl and this being my second everyday car, leaving it stock wasn’t in the cards. I’m not talking ridiculously large wheels or a several thousand-dollar turbo-charger, no, more reasonable yet fun mods anyone on a budget can do.

First was the exhaust. Out of the three cars I test drove, the Miata had the least exciting exhaust note. So while I signed the paperwork I wrote a new exhaust into the deal. Since I purchased the car from Galpin Mazda, GAS (Galpin Auto Sport) would be installing the exhaust. Almost as fast as I purchased the car, the exhaust was installed the same week.

While I was looking for improved sound, the Magnaflow exhaust provided so much more. The horsepower was bumped up 8 hp to 175 hp (167 hp stock) and the torque also improved by 10 lb-ft to 150 lb-ft (140 lb-ft stock). The car also shed about 2-3 pounds with the new exhaust. The sound is great! I even get those wonderful exhaust crackles when downshifting.

Magnaflow exhaust: around $800 for 8 hp and 10 ft-lb gain and 2-3 pound weight reduction. All while improving the exhaust note, can’t beat that!

Exhaust before and after ©2013 Ron Avery

Exhaust before and after
©2013 Ron Avery

Believe it or not, but the Club version of the Miata does not come equipped with Bluetooth. Living in California and driving a manual, Bluetooth is a must. I also wrote this into the deal and had it installed the same day as the exhaust.

The tiny screen that shows you which menus you are scrolling through is placed right next to the cigarette lighter. The dial, play/pause button, end/pick-up call buttons are all in one compact unit that can be placed anywhere there is a plastic surface in the car. I chose the location you see below for convenience in use.

The system works great! I also have my iPod connected and can receive/make calls with very little distraction. Since the Miata also doesn’t come with a navigation system, my iPhone now serves as one. The map app that comes with any iPhone acts as a navigation system and gives directions through the Bluetooth, which plays through the cars speakers. So even if I’m listening to the radio or my iPod, the system silences whatever is playing to give directions. The same goes for when calls are received. The system asks if you would like to accept the call and you can either say ‘accept’ or press the ‘pick-up’ button.

Parrot Bluetooth: around $200 for hands free phone use, hands free navigation (on any iPhone) and iPod connection.

These next mods are more aesthetic than anything but really improve the cars look. They can all be found on http://www.mossmiata.com

The original pedals on the Miata were as plain as plain can be and needed some help. I found these great pedals for the very reasonable price of $79.95 and while they look easy enough to install, they aren’t just a ‘snap on and you’re done’ type of job. Warm water was needed to sort of soften them and force them to snap over the pedal. Not too much drilling is required but you’ll need some serious upper-body strength for the installation.

New and old pedals  ©2013 Ron Avery

New and old pedals
©2013 Ron Avery

The Handbrake was another item that could use some help in the looks department. I found a really well made leather hand brake handle for just $69.95. This was one item I thought would be better in the hands of professions such as those at GAS. After installation, the end result is a great visual upgrade but in terms of practicality, the fit causes a little difficulty when engaging the push button to release the brake. While I’m happy with the look, I think this is one improvement that could be left off my list.

New parking brake ©2013 Ron Avery

New parking brake
©2013 Ron Avery

Finally, the easiest upgrade was the shorty antenna. Again, I found this one for just $26.95 and installation was as easy as unscrewing the old tall antenna and screwing on the short one. This is a huge improvement over the stock antenna not only for but also when I go to cover the car I don’t need to remove the antenna. Reception is just as good with the shorty and it looks ten times better!

Short antenna  ©2013 Ron Avery

Short antenna
©2013 Ron Avery

Pedal Set by IL Motorsport: $79.95, Leather Hand Brake Handle by IL Motorsport: $69.95, Shorty Antenna: $26.95

Here are some more shots of my Miata:

Three Car Comparison: Finding a great sports car for under $35,000

11 Feb

If you’ve been out car shopping lately you might find it difficult to find anything you love for under $35,000. But just recently I was handed an ultimatum: stick with my current car and pay half its value for the next major fix, or get out now and find something new and reliable. I chose the latter. So the day after Christmas, 2013, I set out on a quest to find the best sports car for the money.

My three choices are very different from each other but are all highly regarded in their respective communities. The 2014 Mustang V6 Premium Coupe with the Performance pack (six-speed manual) was the most expensive of the three but was also filled to the gills with technology and horsepower. The second was the 2014 Subaru BRZ with the Limited package (six-speed manual) that was the most common and the least expensive option of the three. Last but not least was the 2014 Mazda Miata Club (six-speed manual) offering the second lowest price tag and smallest package.

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2014 Ford Mustang V6 Premium Coupe with Performance Package

Our first stop was the Ford dealer to test-drive the Mustang. I had called around to several dealers in and around the Los Angeles, CA area trying to find a V6 Premium Coupe with the Performance Package and a six-speed manual. Believe it or not, most Mustang’s with the Performance pack, sitting on the lot, are equipped with an automatic transmission. I finally found one and took it for a spin.

The first thing I noticed was the awesome exhaust note. It was rumbling and loud, just how it should be. The interior was nice and spacious although the car I was driving did not feature a navigation system or Recaro seats that I wanted. While the horsepower was rewarding, there was a fairly large disconnect between myself and the car. I was separated from the road by a 3,500 lb mass that was just too much like the car I was selling. The gear-box was also a let-down with rough shifts that weren’t as rewarding as I had hoped. While I felt safe and liked the idea of all the technology and horsepower I would be getting with the Mustang, I wasn’t a fan of the weight or the transmission.

Another issue I was dealing with was the fact that I would have to order the car, taking another 4-6 weeks. I wanted the right color, the right packages and the right transmission for my car and finding one on the lot seemed nearly impossible. I did sit in a car that had the Recaro seats, and looking back, they happen to be my favorite part of the car. The salesgirl I rode with was a real car nut and understood my desire in shifting my own gears and having a car with more custom touches so as not to blend in with the rest of Los Angeles.

While the exhaust note, Recaro seats and horsepower was nice, I had to remind myself that I had two other cars to test in making my decision.

The total MSRP for the Mustang I wanted totaled $33,904. This included: base price of $26,610, Performance Package ($1,995), Electronics Package ($2,340), Rear Video Camera ($240), Recaro Leather Sport Seats ($1,595), Vehicle Security System ($208), car cover ($321), right and left Quarter Window Louvers ($113 x2), and Destination charges ($825).

http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1312_2014_ford_mustang_premium_v6_performance_package_first_test/

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2014 Subaru BRZ Limited

I had spoken with the dealer earlier that morning and had confirmed they had a Satin White Pearl six-speed manual on the lot to drive. By the time I had made my way over there there had been a dealer trade of the car I wanted so I settled to drive whatever six-speed they had on the lot.

Outward appearances on the BRZ were the most appealing of the three, with a low, aggressive stance that looked track ready. First impressions of the interior was “cheap.” The controls and navigation seemed very bland and to a price point. Quite different from the Mustang. The salesman crammed himself into the back seat and did not look the least bit pleased or comfortable.

The gear-box was a step up from the Mustang and the engine sound was satisfying. This car sits much lower to the ground and gives you a European sports car feel. The car gripped the road and felt more agile than the Mustang. Going on the freeway on ramp I hadn’t revved the car up enough to fully feel the power going from first to second gear (200hp @ 7,000rpm). This resulted in a delay while the car reached the appropriate RPM for its 200hp to take effect. This could have been a result of many factors; me not winding it up enough or the car just being new. Either way I was frustrated not getting an immediate acceleration response.

Besides this, the car looked nice on the exterior but was a little rough in how it drove, like Subaru still has some fine-tuning to do. The interior looked cheap while the exterior was the best looking of the three cars. The transmission was an improvement over the Mustang but the drive was rough. I don’t mind being beaten up a little in my Elise, but not in what would be my everyday car. I did feel, over the Mustang, that the BRZ was much more responsive and gave me more confidence in my driving abilities. I did feel more connected to the road in the BRZ compared to the Mustang, but still felt there was some finesse missing. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those girls that likes plush leather seats and 7-way adjustable seat heaters, but I do want to be impressed, not beat up.

Why did I choose the BRZ over the FR-S? Well, I preferred the color options, packages and accessories of the FR-S over the BRZ, but I liked the option of a navigation system and a slightly lower price point better. They are essentially the same car sharing the same motor and similar looks, but the less Subaru offers in terms of extras will bring the price down.

The total MSRP for the BRZ I wanted totaled $28,671. This included: base price of $27,995, Car Cover ($139), Rear Bumper Applique ($69.95), Wheel Locks ($29.95), Severe Weather Companion kit ($44.50) and Destination charges ($795).

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Check out this comparison between the BRZ’s twin the FR-S and the Miata Club. Any guesses on who comes out on top?

http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/coupes/1305_2013_mazda_mx_5_miata_club_scion_fr_s_comparison/

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2014 Mazda Miata Club

I had never before considered a Miata, but my dad has mentioned how well-loved the cars are and how, for the price point, it’s a very good buy. For our last stop I left the Subaru dealer and walked across to Mazda. Similar to my feelings at the Subaru dealer, this Mazda dealer gave me the feeling that I was bait on the end of a fishing pole. The salesman didn’t seem to be a real car nut or want anything more than for me to purchase the car.

I took the car out with the salesman as passenger and began my test-drive. A large truck was backing out ahead so I used some techniques I had learned at my countless racing schools and swerved to avoid it. The salesman gasped and grabbed onto the doorhandle with all his might. I found this to be more sad than amusing. But the test-drive continued.

As we headed towards the freeway I wanted to pull over to experience the top down, since I had never owned a car with a convertible hardtop. The Miata Club’s hardtop goes up or down in just 12 seconds at a stop and folds behind the seats on the car’s exterior, not in the trunk so no valuable space is taken. So down it went and off we went towards the freeway on-ramp. Entering onto the freeway, the power wasn’t overwhelming but a factor came into play that hadn’t before with the first two cars; and that was fun.

The exhaust note wasn’t to die for but the car just oozed fun. I loved having the top down, especially living in Southern California. The gear-box was flawless and the clutch, effortless. Out of the three, the easiest to drive. The suspension and ride quality wasn’t as stiff as the BRZ but with the Bilstein shocks I felt I was in good hands.

There wasn’t enough going on in the interior to look or feel cheap, while the seats were the least exciting or gripping out of the three. The Club did offer exclusivity that the others didn’t. Special suspension, mechanical limited-slip differential, shock tower brace and some sticky rubber plus a few ‘Club’ badges separate this MX-5 from the rest. The Club is also a limited edition model, so you won’t see one on every street corner, and with this being the last generation before the Alfa/Miata comes around, value will be sure to rise on these too.

The total MSRP for the Miata Club I wanted totaled $29,460. This included: base price of $28,665 and Destination charges ($795).

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Now that all three test-drives were over, my head was spinning with what to do. We went over all the pluses and minuses of each car in an effort to make the decision easier.

Ford Mustang:

Pros- Lots of technology, Recaro seats available, lots of horsepower, and lots of room

Cons- Clunky gear-box, very heavy, very common, would have to order, and the most expensive

Subaru BRZ:

Pros- European sports car feel, low to the ground, nice engine sound, nice seats and exterior, and lighter weight

Cons- Rough around the edges, cheap looking interior, very common, not many factory options to customize

Mazda Miata Club:

Pros- Folding hardtop, wonderful gear-box, fun to drive, limited edition

Cons- no navigation or Bluetooth offered in the Club, OK engine sound, mediocre seats and not much room for storage.

I was trying with all my might to make a logical and practical decision, but my dad stopped me mid thought and asked a very important question, “What car, after you park it, would you turn back to look at?” I was worried about my first thought. I was going from a 3-door hatch back with a large trunk and back seats, so going to something smaller with the Elise as my other car seemed silly. So when I finally came out and said “the Miata” I explained my reservations to my dad. He asked me very plainly, “do you have kids, or a dog, or a husband? Do you haul furniture?” And when I answered “no” to all of the above he said “then you should get the car you want.” His explanation was “you are young, and you have nothing requiring you to have a big car. Why not enjoy something fun now and get the big family car later down the line?”

So that night we headed down to a different Mazda dealer who had offered me a better deal and signed the paper work. I ended up with a 2013 model instead of a 2014. There is virtually no difference in the car except the deep discounts the dealer was offering. I chose to go with a grey color because I felt the black roof and mirrors (exclusive to the Club retractable hard top) blended better with the grey paint.

Some other notable pluses on the cars performance are: RWD, 2.0-liter, I4 DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine and variable valve timing. Power is estimated at 167hp (@ 7,000RPM) with 140 lb-ft (@ 5,000RPM) of torque. Redline is 7,200RPM and has short gearing for better acceleration. It’s 2,482 lb curb weight and standard six-speed manual transmission adds a large dose of fun. Acceleration from 0-60mph is 6.1 seconds, and you’ll be sure to smile the whole way.

Soon I’ll post on what modifications I have done to my Miata, but lets just say the exhaust sounds great now.

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