Friday, January 23, 2009

Mazda 5 review

Wow, a new car review!

I know I haven't done one of these in a bit but here goes.

Rented a car for my quick in and out trip to South Florida this week. When the rental agent gave me my choices (Chevy Malibu, Mazda 6, Pontiac G5 ect.) I went with something new, I said yes to a black Mazda 5 with 2k on the ticker. I have been wanting to check one of the funky styled wagon/van things out for a bit. The styling is a bit strange but I don't mid so much.

Front seats where comfortable but I wish I had been able to raise just the front up in order to support my legs a bit more. Controls are in all the right spots and very easy to reach. Steering wheel controls are nice, and the wheel tilts and telescopes (yeah!). Driving position was nice, dead peddle was a bit close but not as bad as some cars and there was plenty of room to put my foot to the side. Back seats (middle row captains chairs) are comfortable but you have to raise the head rest or else it digs in your back. 3rd row seats where small but could hold kids pretty well. Storage in the behind the 3rd row seats was a joke, my lap top case barley fit back there so I had to drop the seats in order to stow my carry on. Visibility was good but there was one huge problem. With the back seat headrests up (or if someone in the seat) there is a HUGE blind spot. I could not move the side mirrors to a place that I felt comfortable being able to see all around the car. My only solution was to just put the headrest down, problem being if people are riding back there it really isn't an option to have them ride bent over the whole time. This is a serious issue in my mind and would cross this car off my list of cars to buy, it's too bad to since the rest of the car was pretty darn good.

Is it a wagon or a microvan? Well it looks a bit more like an Aztec or Matrix so I suppose it is more of a wagon, that is until you open the rear doors and they slide like a van. Boooo! I guess the sliding doors give you more access to the rear but I really don't think regular doors would cut down on the access any and they would not look near as minivanish. Those doors are really the only thing I don't like about the exterior.

The biggest thing that kept me from really liking how this car drove was the transmission. It was out and out terrible. 1st gear was much to short. Found myself almost getting whiplash every time I took off from a dead stop. It just lurched if you got on the gas just a tad to much. If you wanted to take off smoothly you had to press the peddle like you where stepping on a grape and didn't want to squash the thing. It handled great, just as I expected from a Mazda, was pretty neutral which was nice. Got to test the handling out on one of those neat spiral parking deck ramps at the airport. But for as much as I liked that it was still stifled by the transmission. 1st gear was awful (as stated above), it couldn't make up its mind on when to shift, would take way too long to downshift when trying to accelerate, would upshift way too early (1.5 to 2k rpms usually) which made city driving a pain in the arse. About the only way to make driving somewhat fun was to use the manual option. Using that you could get the engine into its torque sweet spot (3k+) and have some fun. A manual tranny in this car would probably be great to drive.

I really wanted to like this car. Great handling, pretty peppy when using the manual shift option and keeping the revs up made it a hoot to drive sometimes. Alas, the blind spot issue, non-existent storage space (which really just turned the car into an overweight 4 seater wagon), terrible transmission and quirky sliding doors pushed it away from my good side. I really don't know who would buy this car. I guess if you had to have a small hatchback but needed to be able to really seat 6 instead of 5 then this would be the option for you, but I would suggest it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Good and the Bad.....

The Bad: I decided to take the TR6 on a short drive before we headed up to the mountains for the weekend. Car was running great, weather was good but cold and the drive was going quite well until I pulled back into my subdivision. That is when the car decided it just wasn't going to let me put it in gear at all. The clutch peddle went to the floor and nothing but grinding noises would come from the transmission when I tried to put it in gear. Luckily I was able to match revs and get it into 2nd gear which allowed me to limp it home. Got home and took a look, no fluid in the clutch master cylinder and a new spot of liquid on the driveway where I had stopped while pulling out to let the car warm up. I have not gotten under the car yet but I am betting the slave cylinder finally went. Figured as much since it looked a bit rough when I replaced the master last year. Got the new slave ordered today along with a rebuild kit for the front right brake caliper and new seat covers! That will give me a little to do in order to spiff the car up for any potential buyers.

Now for the good: The first long road-trip in the new XC70 went great. Car handled the full load well. Cruises very nice on the highway, very comfortable and has enough umpfh with the turbo to make passing easy. Handled remarkable well on the twisties although you can definitely feel the extra weight and higher center of gravity on the car. It was nice to have the AWD for the drive home, roads where a bit slushy from the snow storm Saturday night. Seat are great, much more comfortable than the Lexus and MINI seats. I don't find my self getting as tired driving this car as I did the Lexus, the seating position is just better. All in all a successful shakedown cruise for the new land yacht.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Swedish Invasion....

Well we now have a nice '06 Volvo XC70 Cross Country parked in the garage next to the TR6. The MINI is still relegated to driveway parking and the Lexus sits out front of my wife's uncles house with a for sale sign on it. Really happy with the new Volvo, only has 16k miles and looks new every where. It is a bit creepy how much it drives like my old '87 245 wagon. I drove it around most of the weekend and was having a serious case of dejavu. It handles like the old 240, the way the body leans a bit in the corners is the exact same, the rear view mirror is in the same exact spot, even the clock control is the same type knob. Now, the XC70 is a much more comfortable car than the 240 was, seats and the interior are amazing. I just hope they hold up to 2 kids! Anyway, I'll get some pics up here sometime. Until then, happy motoring!

Friday, January 09, 2009

New Cars all around...

Ok, looks like we will be picking up a new car for the wife this weekend. We found an '06 Volvo XC70 we really like. Going to go pick it up tomorrow. I guess that mean I finally convinced my wife to buy a wagon! Haha, my wagon fetish has finally rubbed off on her. I'm excited about the new car, always loved my old 240 Wagon and hope that we get as much use out of this one as I did the old silver bullet. Now we have to get the Lexus cleaned up. I put it up on craigslist already and I figure we will stick it out in front of my wife's uncles house for a bit.

Now for a new car for me, well not really new. Just a new obsession that has lead to the TR being for sale again. Think I have settled on trying to find a nice Series III 109" Land Rover Station Wagon. Yep, the big one that seats 10 (well not really that big, about the same dimensions as a late 90's Grand Cherokee). Figure it will be a bit more useful than the 88" and easier to haul the twins and other stuff around in if needed. I have my eye on a nice RHD '75 one, just that pesky thing about selling the TR first. Hopefully I can drum some interest up for the TR in the next 2 weeks or so. That's it for now.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ahh, that New Year Smell....

Welcome to 2009 here on Adventures in British Motoring. The possibility of the TR being joined in the garage by a member of the Swedish Bikini team are increasing every day. We have a few Volvo XC70s pegged to look at this week, just hope one of them is the right one. That leaves selling the Lexus. Figure I will throw it up on Craigslist this week and see if anyone bites.

News on the TR6 front, not much doing right now. Heck, I haven't even had a chance to drive it since I got back in town from the Christmas vacation. I am planning (and more importantly have received the ok from the wife) to do the front brakes and recover the seats by March. Taking the seats out to recover will also give me a chance to clean up the under dash area and fix a few things on the interior. It looks like the transmission and rewiring project may be put off until next winter. It is a big project and one that will require me taking the car off the road for a few months. Hopefully I can stage everything well and just spend a few nights a week on it when I decide to start.