Monday, August 22, 2011

The 'Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" - 1992 Mercedes Benz 500E

1992. I was driving my Fathers '79 Jeep Grand Wagoneer listening to some form of Gangsta Rap or the new rock stuff called "grunge" by those guys that couldn't brush their hair, Nirvana. It was a great time to be alive. The Camaro and Mustang didn't look a thing like their 60's counterparts, the GTI was the king pocket rocket, and German sedans were starting to come in to their own. The 80's brought some obscure German hot rods like the AMG Hammer and the M cars from BMW. The 90's however, were a little different. It wasn't enough to just have a larger motor in a sedan, like what America was about to do in the Impala SS. What you needed to create a classic in the 90's was something way out of the norm. Something that was close to the original but so far removed that it was more like an evil twin.

Enter the 500E. At first glance, it looks like the regular old W124 chassis but then there's something that grabs you. The fenders. The front ones to be exact. They are noticeably wider. They have to be. The track on the car has been widened 1.5". This is where real muscle begins and that sissy crap that the rest of the car makers in the world don't do. Most companies will throw some aero goodies and slick looking badges on a car and call it quits. Maybe they throw the larger engine in for good measure. Not Mercedes. They took a body shell and shipped it to Porsche's Zuffenhausen facility so that they could hand assemble the vehicle with the wider front and rear fenders, SL suspension and brakes, and the 32v V8 with 322hp.

Now I know that 322 horsepower and 354 ft. lb. or torque aren't big numbers by today's standards but let's face it. This car came out in 1990 when the Chevrolet Caprice made a whopping 175 ponies. Hell, the 92 Vette only made 300hp and 330 lb. ft. of torque. With such mediocre competition, it's easy to see what made this car special. Sometimes we get caught up in the horsepower wars of modern autos but we forget where we came from. This is a roots car. It's a car that is in a special line-up of vehicles. The line up that was AMG before AMG was a model designation.

I had a great time driving this car. Ya know why, because no one knows what the heck it is. My Mother in Law said it perfectly. She said, "That's some pimped out Benz you drove home, isn't it?" referring to the aftermarket Lorinser wheels that someone powerdercoated black. It's unassuming. It looks like a regular W124 to most people. 90% of the cars I drive are readily recognizable by the motorists I share the road with. Some cars garner lot's of looks, others get respect, and others, like this old school beast, fly under the radar unnoticed by the unassuming public.

The interior, one word. Classy. Seating for 4 with a rear center console. Seats by Recaro with just the right amount of thigh and torso bolster. Real wood, real gauges, real European. Looking at this interior is like looking at the interior of a 90's 911. Classic.

Wide wheels, bigger brakes, widened fenders, different suspension, a hot rod engine, and a classy interior. Sounds like I just described a custom built street machine from the Fatherland. I guess I did.

Good luck finding one of these ├╝bersedans for purchase.
They are rarer than hen's teeth with just over 10,000 of them ever being produced in the 5 years they were available. That's a fraction of how many Toyota Camrys are sold every month in this country. You know what they say though, good taste is paramount and this car exudes it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can Jaguar make a really great car

Oil leaks. Electrical gremlins. Cooling system problems. Underpowered. Horrible build quality. Crap.

These words have all been used to describe cars from the United Kingdom. Cars that aren't known for quality or longevity. Cars that are quirky and under-powered. Then Ford came along and saved the nation's major car makers - Jag, Rover, and Aston. That relationship has since been severed due to the economic stresses in the good 'ol U.S. of A. but we were left with some decent cars from across the pond. As I sit here sipping one of my other favorites from across the pond, Lagavulin 16yr., I will try to capture the spirit of the Jaguar XK.

Quiet, serene, seamless, high tech, and sumptuous. The XK is a wonderful grand tourer with a great combination of classic interior and sexy good looks. Looking on the outside, it resembles is rowdy older brothers in the Aston household. When you open the door you have the same interior styling as the new XF with touches of XJ thrown in the mix. If you are unfamiliar, the Jag interiors are currently my absolute favorite. They give a wonderful mix of high tech, with the touchscreen navigation and heating, and old world Jag with lots of wood and leather. It's like Ron Burgundy's Ipad, you know, lot's of leather and mahogany with a touchscreen.

Beauty. It's what best describes the sexy lines drawn by Ian Callum that make this cars silhouette. Part Aston up front and part previous generation XK8 on the rear. All good.

This car was the base XK so the supercharged heart was not present but it's no slouch. It moves along just fine and let's face it, you don't by a Jag for absolute speed domination. You buy it for presence, prestige, and to be a little different. If you want a monster Jaguar, check out the newer XK-R with the 5.0 supercharged engine. I had the pleasure of a short trip in one lately, contrary to my video which was shot before, and I can tell you that it is my absolute favorite coupe. I would own it before an SL or 6 series. They are different, sporty, and extremely quick. The standard V8 retains all the looks and amenities, with a little less oomph, which is okay because where do you actually use all the 5.0 s/c engine's horsepower. Okay, maybe I know a place on my way home but I'll never admit it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

6'4 + Lotus Sport Elise = Awesome

We've all read the reviews, watched the videos, and cast our judgement about the Lotus Elise. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have been right there in the mix, with my horsepower figures and reasoning while riding my couch, keyboard in hand discussing the ins and outs of the Elise.

The car has been around for some time in the American market. Long enough that we've all seen one or two motoring around. Not long enough though for me to hide my excitement when I found out we bought one at auction though. To top it off, this was the extremely rare 06 Lotus Sport Elise model with only 50 being imported  to the states. It features Ohlins dampers with remote reservoirs, a cat-back exhaust (that is loud as a banshee wail), and a 5 point harness looped through the awesome ProBax seats. It also has air conditioning which actually works and was a necessity the day I drove it.

Most of you know that I am 6'4 and at that height, I am somewhat limited to what sports cars I can drive and enjoy. I have a hard time getting comfortable in a newer SL500 and a 993 is only comfortable for short trips. It stands to reason that I would never consider, let alone fit in an Elise. Well, truth be told, I never cared for the little car until I had the chance to drive one. There is a video out there of me getting in and out of this car. It's a sight to behold. Not a good sight either. I left the top on for the time I drove it as it's not an easy top to remove.

Once in the car, you notice that everything is in close reach. The wheel sits in your lap. The shifter is just off your right leg. The passenger window crank is, well, right there as well. It's a tight cabin, but hey, Colin Chapman wasn't in the mood for racing Buick sedans.

It's a stark cabin once you wedge yourself in between the frame rail, steering wheel, and the teeny tiny opening in the the cockpit. Once you're in though, it's a great fit. The floor is flat and you are sitting on it in that wonderful ProBax bucket seat that is at that perfect angle. The steering wheel is perfectly positioned and is probably the smallest wheel in current production. The gauges are a little chintzy but the darn thing is British and we all know the old adage: the Brits drink warm beer because they have Lucas refrigerators.

The first thing I do is hit the gas station. I know the car is a featherweight with a Toyota based powerplant so I get $15 and it gives the car half a tank. This makes me feel pretty happy until I realize that this means the gas tank is small, really small. No matter though as the mileage is pretty stellar for such a sporty car.

Now that the car is warmed up, I can exercise the throttle past 6000 rpm. The variable valve lift is inoperable until the engine is warmed up sufficiently but when this engine comes on, it's like an S2000 on a big diet. The noise goes from a sporty car to an uncorked race car over 6500, thanks in part to the sport exhaust. The cool part is that when the car is in 6th gear on the freeway, you can roll in to the throttle and move at a pretty decent pace. Downshift a couple gears though, and the Toyota block with the Yamaha designed head is downright quick.

I drive a ton of neat cars home. Cars that cost over $100k new some times. This car cost less than half of that new but it's the only car that the kids in my neighborhood flocked to look at when it landed in the driveway.

It's an exotic looking and acting car. It has an attitude that is far nastier than cars twice its cost. Sure, it needs another 50 ponies and some wider rear tires to counter the lift-throttle oversteer but that's what the Exige is for. Could you buy a used 911 C4S, SL55 AMG, or Corvette Z06 for the mid-$30's pricetag? Yup. Can your neighbor. Yup. Can he buy a Lotus Sport Elise. Nope. With only 50 imported in 06, he's not ever going to find one.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Mercedes Benz ML430 for sale

I am selling the ML430. Below is my Craigslist ad:

00 Mercedes ML430 SUV in Bordeaux Red with tan leather interior. I bought this vehicle 7 months ago with the thought that it would fit my 3 kids in the back seat. They fit fine, but the new baby seat is presenting some challenges with room so I've purchased a different vehicle and this one has to go. It's been a great vehicle with absolutely no problems. Before I purchased it, the vehicle had a major service and some repairs. The work performed was a new transmission valve body with transmission flush, a new crankshaft position sensor, new front and rear brakes, and full synthetic oil change. Before I bought it, the vehicle was a certified pre-owned "Star Mark Mercedes" which means that most of this vehicles life was spent under warranty. This means that no repairs were neglected. I put brand new Pirelli Scorpion tires on it 6 months ago and it will have another full synthetic oil change before it is sold. The AC blows cold and it has all the amenities you expect from a Mercedes. It has leather, power front seats that are heated and both have memory, navigation, 6 disc changer, running boards, roof rack, and many more nice options.

This is a walk around video to show every aspect of
the car.

If you have any questions, please call at 541-292-6111. I work in Portland and live in Salem so call to set up a time for me to show it to you. You will not be disappointed.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family Truckster, Swedish style.

I've always been a fan of the Volvo turbo wagon. Ever since the early 80's when I saw my first 240 Turbo wagon, I've been hooked. They've always shared a soft spot in my heart. When the 850 T5R came out in 95, I couldn't wait to get one. I wanted one so badly. The way they looked with their 17" wheels (large for the time) and low stance with that aggressive front bumper really pushed all my hot buttons. Add the higher horsepower 5 cylinder turbo engine and I was sold. Too bad I never had the money at the time to get one.

Then Volvo answered everyones requests and finally brought a high horsepower all wheel drive manual transmission optioned wagon and sedan to market with the S60R and V70R. Well, they answered almost all the requests. We wanted something that was high performance. Something that showed the potential that the aftermarket has known for a long time, that Volvos can haul more than soccer balls and kids. Unfortunately, the 3700 pounds made the 300hp seem fairly optimistic especially with a quarter mile time of 14.4.

The automatic version of this car was particularly uninspiring to drive. I mean, don't get me wrong. The interior is excellent. No one makes a more comfortable seat than Volvo. The fit and finish is always top notch and there are plenty of cubbies to store things along with Big Gulp approved cup holders. The variable dampening suspension isn't a bad thing either. Go from "Advanced" to "Comfort" and you feel the difference easily. When I say uninspiring though, I mean it with all the niceness I can muster. When you build a car that's supposed to be special and all it can muster is a quarter mile time that's the same as an 03 Altima 3.5SE, it's not special enough.

The version I drove, however, was drastically different. This particular car was helped in the hot rod category by the Volvo Ninjas at IPD. The car sports a TME cat-back exhaust and TME ECU upgrade. It's also a 6 speed and let me just say, don't waste time with the automatic in this car. It's a tragedy and should never have been made. The manual though, is a mover, especially this particular one. I found myself wanting to race whoever pulled up next to me just so they could go home and post on their Facebook status that they got their butts handed to them by a grocery getter.

These cars are affordable now and pretty reliable. It's worth every penny for the exhaust and ECU upgrade and given the value price of the car used, it's worth the addition. In fact, I can say that I wouldn't own one of these without the upgrades. It's as drastic as Heidi Montag before and after plastic surgery.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Does BMW mean "Boring Motor Works"

This Drive Time finds me making a video double up of 2 different cars. Both of these vehicles are from one of the finest automakers on the planet. Both are extremely well appointed. Both are from BMW, The Ultimate Driving Machine. Well, maybe if you are driving to church on Sunday. Sure, these cars are wonderfully engineered, driver oriented machines that handle well and, in case of the 750i, are really nice cars. All that aside, I just didn't get that fire in my soul like when I drive certain cars.

The 750i is a really nice car. Super nice. Like, so sweet that it could give you a cavity. It has heated and cooled massaging seats, doors with closure assist, and more wood than my dining table. That doesn't mean it's an enthusiast car. I believe, that even though the 750i is a great handling full size sedan, it's no ballerina. Unless by ballerina you mean fat breakdancer. 

Does it feel nimble, No. Does it handle well, yes. Does it feel as planted and flat handling as an S55 AMG. Not a chance. In all fairness, there is no M7, but then again, that's not my fault. It's BMW's and maybe they should join the full size luxury performance sedan class like our friends at Mercedes and Jaguar. It's a sweetheart in the economy department though. It really does get decent mileage for such a large car. It moves out of its way decent enough but again, it's not in the realm of an AMG or Jag R, which is disappointing given the abilities of the M Division. 

The 530xiT on the other hand, was lamer than a paraplegic without a wheelchair. Sure it's a wagon. Sure, it has all wheel drive. Did it have a ton of options, yup. Was it as inspiring as Oprah. Only if by inspiring, you mean slit your wrists. What a boring car. I literally have driven Tauruses with more excitement. No joke. It's a very nicely built car with good chassis communication and a good engine but let's face it. A Mazda 6 or Accord have a good engine and good chassis. The experience is what was lacking in this car. I literally got so bored that I decided to fill half my video with a talk about the horsepower benefits of Motley Crue. Sorry BMW, but if you don't give me an M7, I will hate you forever. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Born from jets or just plain different?

Saab is probably the most misunderstood red-headed stepchild automaker in the business today. Maybe it's the whole "key in the center console" bit or possibly the fact that the car has to be in reverse to remove said key from its awkward location. Maybe it's because the decision to put an engine in a car backward with the belts facing the firewall, a la the original 900. Maybe it's the way they look like a pregnant rollerskate cruising down the highway. It could be because there are few qualified shops to repair them, even if you live in a metro area. The dealership support isn't much better. Heck, they don't even know who owns the company from one week to the next. Spyker has promised to change things with their takeover and having looked at the new 9-5 recently, I see they are at least making an effort to push out some product.

For whatever the reasons, the 9-3 is a quirky little "hot hatch" that has some weird endearing charm. As I slide in  to the comfy cabin, I switch on the massaging and air conditioned seats and set my destination in the navigation. I set the suspension setting to sport and then plug in my Ipod.........WAIT. What the heck. None of these things are here. What kind of car is this. Where's the amenities at? Where's my massaging seats dangit? After the shock of sitting in a normal car, I realize that this is a pretty decently equipped car for the time that it was produced. A hatchback with power windows, auto climate control, and heated seats is all one really needs. These are the "bare necessities" nowadays.

So at this point you are asking me, "why the heck are you driving an old Saab?" It's simple really. I work with all sorts of cars from a wide range of years. I try to chose cars that are interesting and newer but sometimes, there aren't many cars to chose from and the blog goes on. I chose this car because it doesn't fit in. It's not normal. One of these things is not like the other.....

The reality is this, the car is fun to drive. It brings back memories of the inexpensive fun cars of times passed. It makes me think of GTI's, Mazda 3's, CRX's, and all the other fun pocket rockets that I have loved over the years. Think about this, a hatchback is useful, a 4 door is super useful, a turbo engine is a "fun-time" requirement, and nimble handling is paramount. These are the characteristics that make up the 9-3 2.0T and its older and more neurotic brother, the Viggen. They are what take all plain-jane commuters to the edge of coolness. Not quite the super cool AWD cars from Japan or the rear drive horsepower monsters from Germany but a great package. A complete package. A fun package.

With Saab, there is a weird, nerdy Nordic brotherhood. I was driving home and 10 miles away from home, I pass another 9-3 2.0T on the freeway. It's as clean as a whistle with a retiree behind the wheel. He get's it. He knows the secret the Saab possesses. As I pass, I give him the universal head-nod of approval to let him know that I think he's got a clean Saab and I approve. He responds with a 100mph fly-by. I end up catching up once his pace slows and we drive in tandem for the last leg of my commute. As I leave the freeway, he opens up the throttle and takes off. That's one thing a Saab turbo can do. It can move. Not big V8 fast. Not by a long shot, but definitely faster than most of the turbo 4's out there, even to this day.

Saabs are weird, their owners weirder, and the shops that work on them, well, don't go there. Saab has a loyal following, and I get it. I get why. They just fit that niche of a fun and economical car that has utility at the same time. That's the classic "hot hatch" definition if I've ever heard one.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Range Rover, why the other half really does live better.

In 2003, Land Rover delivered the all new Range Rover to a public that had grown wary of poor ride quality, horrible electronics, and questionable reliability. They had a real mountain to climb and even though ze Germans didn't win the war against England, they invaded just the same, only this was on a mission of mercy to the buying public. When BMW purchased Rover for long enough to transform the Range Rover, the faithful were worried. Which faithful you ask, well, the German auto faithful of course. How would the reputation be upheld with the pitiful quality at Rover. Well, things turned out okay. The interior was better for sure. The switches didn't look archaic. The panels looked and fit better. The quality of materials was finally world class. This is the first Rover that was actually fit for the Queen.

It didn't last long though, as quick as BMW was in, they left. But this was the stroke of luck for the brand. They were purchased by Ford. Wait, is that a bad thing. NO. Best selling truck in the world ring any bells. After all, these are really supposed to be truck-like in the utility department. But that's not all the magic. At the same time, Ford owned Rover, they also owned Jaguar and Aston Martin. This means they had access to other engines than the BMW 4.4L V8 that came around in the mid-90's. Not that the 4.4 is a bad motor. It's great, but enter the Jag 4.4L. An equally excellent engine that was going in to the new XJ8. This also opened the door for the supercharged 4.2 to be used in later Rover models. This also necessitated a transmission change and let's face it, BMW automatic transmissions aren't known for super reliability. I know, I've had multiple 03 and 04 Rover and first gen X5 transmissions replaced where I work.

So did I say Jag makes reliable powerplants. I did. I actually see less Jag engine problems after 04 than any other engine, with a possible exception of the Mercedes V8's. Every maker has it's shortcomings and Jag has a past that would embarrass a sailor. This sailor has repented of its evil ways though and the quality is there. You know what else is there beside quality? Mileage. I have proven on multiple occasions that the Range Rover will get 20mpg on the freeway. You say that 20mpg isn't good but I say to you "find me a gas engine SUV that does what this vehicle can do that is this luxurious." You can't. It doesn't exist. Your Escalade doesn't get this mileage. Your Navigator doesn't either unless it's a 2wd and that's not an even playing field since the Rover is using 4wd all the time. What about your Cayenne or GL class. Not a chance. How about the Q7. Not even close.

In many parts of the world, corrosion is the enemy. Not with Rover. They have been using aluminum for their vehicles since their upstart. This is important when you live in salt states. If you want a vehicle that is literally built to last, this is an important characteristic.

People of means know the secret. The secret is you get what you pay for. This rings true in 90% of life. If you buy a budget new vehicle, you get a budget made product. When you buy a Range Rover, you buy a no-compromise vehicle that can go from a night on the town to an African safari with a flick of the turn signal. That makes this one of the most versatile vehicles made. German sedan ride quality and interior noise levels with the offroad ability of most Jeeps. The other half really does live better.

Follow me on twitter @the_dennis_king     and thank you for your patronage.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Big Motor plus small car = SLK55 AMG

It's a time honored tradition is the automotive industry to shove a big motor in to a small car. It's like a performance prerequisite. Imagine the mental checklist. Sporty car, check. Bigger brakes, check. Stiff chassis with different damping, check. Motor that is from a big sedan, check. It's the same story in some of the more successful European cars, see the V8 S4, the V8 M3, and of course American muscle like Mustangs, Camaros, and the original big motor small car, the Shelby Cobra.

Enter the SLK55 AMG. The SLK started life as your girlfriends cute convertible with a little bit of street cred for the all metal folding roof. Then they shoved a supercharged V6 in the engine bay for the SLK32 AMG. After the new body style came out though, the Daimler boys knew they needed to step up their game. They had a Kompressor version of every sporty car out there, all with over 400 ponies. This meant that they couldn't sissy out on their least manly car in their arsenal. They knew that the SLK had the chassis and ability to become a real weapon, but it needed a heart transplant. Enter the new heart. A 355hp normally aspirated version of the 5.5L in the original E and S55 AMG and the engine in the current C55 AMG.

It's a rocket. An absolute rocket. It's the stuff dreams are made of. The stuff that teenage boys fantasize about when they aren't thinking of that girl in math class that they'll never get. All this from a "girl car". I think that's one thing I really like about this car is that it is unassuming. The guy in the Mustang thinks you borrowed your girlfriends car, until you smash to Go pedal and that exhaust emits an eruption that begs to be heard. It's like a kid crying for attention saying "hey look at me", except by the time you hear it, it's in front of you and you are left thinking, "did that girl car just lay in to me like my wife after I've drank too much?"

The SLK was tested against it's big brother, the SL55 AMG by EVO magazine and it turned a one second faster lap time. Not bad for a car with almost 100hp less on tap. Is it as nice as the SL55, no. It also didn't cost over 100grand new either. This is a bang for your buck car. A wicked fast track missile that can be driven daily. Mercedes Benz is a company that has mastered the performance automobile. They have made it tame and usable, while allowing a monster to live in the same space. They balance Jekyll and Hyde like none other. Each AMG engine is hand built and I've yet to see a major engine concern on an AMG, even ones that were driven as intended.

A big shout out to the Freeman Motor Co. Service Dept. and Captain Savage for the sweet decals. Thanks guys. I'm always happy to entertain.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Audi S4 V8 - the perfect mix

I'm a fan of cars with power. When I say power, I don't mean dragsters or Nascar cars, I mean usable real world power. The ability to merge on to the freeway in any fashion, no matter how reckless. The ability to overtake lesser and slower vehicles in short distances. The ability to move swiftly through canyons and backroads with limitless speed. The ability to express what your mind says the car should do. Not just straight line horsepower but the power to make things happen. To find a car that has this power is not as easy as one may think. It takes a delicate balance of sophistication, competence, traction, and of course a powerplant that pulls this sophisticated jack-of-all-trades rocket around.

Enter the Audi S4 V8. The previous generation used a 2.7L V6 engine with 2 turbos force feeding air in to the cylinders for power delivery. This was a decent combination and one that tuners used to great success as well as Quattro GMbH in the original RS4 Avant with 380hp. After a while though, it seems that these engines start needing affection. Affection many didn't want to pay for, given the design was so tight in the engine bay that it necessitates major work to change a turbo. Audi saw the need and answered with the V8 from the S8 horseshoed in the small engine bay of the A4, a car built to house a 4 cylinder or V6.

Combine the engine with the Quattro all wheel drive system and all of a sudden you have a car that goes anywhere and does anything. Kinda like a Subaru, except this car was made when Subaru was just starting to import the WRX and let's face it. Just because they are all wheel drive and sporty doesn't mean they are comparable. One's an economy car with a quick motor, the other an entry level mid-luxury sedan with competence and a pedigree established long before Subaru was earning WRC trophies.

The car is quick, very quick. The engine sings a great tune when you want it to as well. Drive it like Granny, and it's happy as a fly on a turd but use the pedal on the right and it's as eager to please as your new puppy. You know, the one that pees on the floor in excitement. It's more composed at speed than the Queen Mother herself, but the feedback almost speaks to you.

What's amazing is how easy this car is to drive fast. It inspires confidence like few cars on the road. It begs you to brake late and slam the gas pedal. Forget the old adage from Jackie Stewart that "smooth is fast". That was for guys with low power and no grip. No Jackie, Quattro with a V8 is fast.

Is this the fastest car I've driven, no. Not by a long shot. Is it the best track car. Nope. Is this the car that I would choose to drive everyday knowing that it can handle every weather condition and any task I ask it to do. Yep. There is a small list of cars I would drive every day and this is on there.

A special thanks to my brother. This is his car and it needs a brake job so I swapped him with a loaner car from my work and drove this. I promise, I didn't brake any speed limits. In Germany......

Friday, April 22, 2011

Land Rover LR3 conquers all

As you may know, I am a Land Rover fan. Was I always this way. No. I hated the wretched British piles of junk. At least that's what I thought but after some time behind the wheel of all the new models, I get it. I get the reason the wealthy buy these cars. They are silent on the road. It's like driving a Mercedes E or S class but with a lot of ground clearance.

The newer generation of Rovers are far more reliable than the earlier models. We can thank Ford for their involvement and the foresight to use Jaguar powertrains in these beasts. Did I just say using a Jag engine and trans was a good thing? I did. They are very reliable. I have not had a Jaguar or Rover with the 4.4L or 4.2L Supercharged in my shop for any type of repair that wasn't human induced.

My Wife and I are considering the LR3 for our next vehicle to replace our Mercedes ML430. One reason is the optional third row seating that allows me to space my 3 girls out in the car a little more.

If you've seen my Seattle road trip video, you can see the potential of the LR4 off road. The LR4 and LR3 are pretty much the same, with the LR4 using a new 5.0L engine.

Thanks for tuning in.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2008 M3 V8 meets up with Dennis. Results at 11.....

The M3 is a staple in the performance car genre. Whether it be coupe, sedan, or convertible the M3 has provided great balance and enjoyment in every generation. Having the pleasure of driving each generation, I still am a purist believing that the original M3 with it's 2.3L was a lightweight razor blade on the track. It's handling was very neutral and it was a car more focused on the ability to drive smoothly than most newer cars that have the WRC philosophy of "jam on the gas and slam on the brakes". But like they say, there's no replacement for displacement and with 4.0 liters on tap under the pedal on the right, this car overcomes the some of the finesse needed with power. Get too crazy with that power though, and this car will sidestep out quicker than you can wink. The traction control is not intrusive though and will allow for input from the gas pedal, up to a limit of course.

The M3 is well equipped with bluetooth, navigation, and ipod interface along with the rest of the normal goodies one gets in a 3 series. As capable as the car is, it's not a burden to drive whatsoever. This particular car has the standard 6 speed transmission. Yes, I know that the SMG is faster in a drag race but if you are drag racing this car, you are wasting it's potential. The 6 speed really gives a great feel and allows you to have a more traditional experience. Couple that with the non-traditional experience of a V8 that revs to 8500 rpm and you have a fun little monster. It wails when you want it to but around town, you can drive it like Granny's Buick with no problems. The clutch is smooth and the steering is just as normal as any other 3 series. It feels like second nature to drive this car.

All this is fine and good, until you push the "M Dynamic Mode" button on the right part of the steering wheel controls. Immediately, the throttle becomes more sensitive to inputs of your right foot adding the need for precision. It also forces the car in to the maximum potential power mode.

There is no replacement for displacement, unless it's forced induction and I am glad that we are able to enjoy an 8 cylinder M3 before the gas prices and company regulations force their hands into producing smaller displacement turbo engines.

All in all, it's a fun car. It's easy to drive and easy to drive quickly. I'm curious to see how this car stacks up against the C63 AMG that has more off the line snort and much more displacement.

Stay tuned for more episodes, follow me on twitter @the_dennis_king and please follow this blog. Thanks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Better than a Corvette? 911 C4S drive.

Since the late 80's, the comparison has been Porsche vs. Corvette. They are both similar in weight and similar in purpose. Both are thinly disguised weekend warrior track cars that inspire confidence and give power to the masses. Both are economical and both have relatively low maintenance costs. The 911 uses variable valve timing, variable intake geometry, and dual overhead camshafts to make power. The Corvette uses big displacement to make it's power. As similar as these cars are, they are so very very different.

Today I drove home a 2002 Porsche 911 C4S. This particular car had 108,000 miles on it and even though I believe that there are few cars that offer the bang for the buck that the Corvette does, I have yet to see a 9 year old Vette with 108k miles that is this solid with this little wear. The Germans build things better. Period.

With that said, the interior is a little plain jane with the requisite tape player that German makers insisted stay in cars until 2003 or so. There is no tilt wheel, no adjustable suspension, no air conditioned massaging seats. Just a great driving car.

The car is noisy, very noisy. Enough road noise that it's distracting. It doesn't matter though because when the rubber hits the road, this thing inspires confidence like none other. I attribute that to the all wheel drive, not that I ever push it hard in these cars as they are not mine and I have a very unique privilege I intend on not losing.

Check out the vid, notice at the end some Jeep Cherokee comes flying up to pass me going over 100MPH at least. He slows for a second but takes off again. This is the kind of attention this car attracts, which means it probably attracts attention from law enforcement as well.

All in all, I can see the attraction to the 911. Fun to drive, decent economy, and relatively reliable, especially when you consider the amount of technology the powertrain employs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What happens when 3 car guys go on a road trip

The General Manager (Marshall), the Sales Manager (Bill), and myself all went to Seattle for a Management Training Seminar. What happens when you send 3 car guys out of town on a trip. Well, they search out other cool dealerships to get ideas and sometimes convince the salespeople to screw around a little.

Our first stop was Seattle Auto Auction to pick up a few cars for the dealership. First of all, I have to thank my owner Eric for the fun opportunity to do this. I got a real appreciation for the effort Eric puts forth as our auction buyer. We only bought 4 cars at a smaller auction. Eric usually buys 3-4 times that amount at much larger auctions. Bill strapped on his big boy boots and bought his first two cars at auction and did a great job. Marshall and I seemed to try to buy every single car that they wanted too much money for and in the end, we would walk away. Cars at auction were selling for what we sell them for at our dealership. Bottom line: cars are getting more expensive, not less.

After the auction we were hungry so we drove to Bellevue as it was our next destination on the schedule. Once in Bellevue we hit Google Places on the Droid and the name "Dixie's BBQ" pulled up. Marshall and I immediately knew where we were going to go. Bill on the other hand, was wasting away in the back seat and wanted to go anywhere he could. As Bill was kicking and screaming all the way there, we followed the navigation in Marshall's phone. When it said we were close, Marshall pointed to an old auto shop and said "there it is" in his joking manner. We kept driving. Turns out, that's where it was.

It was our maiden voyage to Dixie's so we were commanded by the owner to meet "The Man". The man is an evil concoction of hot sauce wrought from the blood of Satan himself, and a pinch of salt. The owner dipped 3 toothpicks in the sauce and gave us each a taste. This put Marshall in to a tailspin of ramblings about some Huskies football game and Bill collapsed in pain.

Then it was off to Park Place Motors in Bellevue. They have a large online presence and quite a collection of collector cars. The cars were pretty cool, especially the 59 300SL Roadster and 59 300SL Gullwing and the Spyker C8 Laviolette. It was cool to see a Spyker up close and their collection is very cool.

After that we went across the street to the Land Rover / Jaguar dealership where we convinced a salesperson to take a new LR4 on the test track. Land Rover is the brand that you NEED to own when the zombie apocolypse happens. It's science. We also convinced him to take our Range Rover HSE that we drove to the seminar on the test track.

All in all, it was a great time for learning about other stores and what we can do to stay ahead of the curve.

After that we went back in to Seattle to search for dinner. Bill threw the idea out of taking a ferry to Bainbridge Island. We obliged and off we went in search of dinner. We hopped the ferry for a quick trip to across the water from Seattle. We landed at a pub that served some really great fish and chips. We hung out a little while and went to the store on our way back to the ferry. Upon leaving, we were informed that the ferry left in 2 minutes. All I can say is that Marshall drove and the Cop didn't follow us on to the ferry.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BMW got it right, just don't tell them that.

Everyone says the 3 series is one of the most consistently good cars out in todays market. It has something for everyone and you can use it for a grocery getter or a weekend track weapon. Well, I'm here to say that I too am part of the sheep that follow the mantra that the 3 series can do no wrong. 

Today I drove home an 07 335i sedan. This particular car stands out a little due to the lowered stance and larger wheels that the previous owner put on there. 

I was impressed with the linear power delivery of the twin turbo straight six engine and I was also impressed with the fuel economy. After my 40 mile trip home, I averaged 27 mpg, and that was with a slight amount of free spiritedness .... 

I will include 3 videos below. Now, this is my first time posting videos online so bear with me. I am using a cell phone video camera, the lighting is horrible due to the giant orange flaming ball in the sky butting in with its "natural light", and I've never done this before. 

Without further adieu, I give you the 335 vids. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Introduction to the author, and a little bit of this and that.

This is my first blog, ever, so bear with me as this progresses and changes over time.

First of all, allow me to let you in to my world a little bit.

My name is Dennis King and I have a Wife and 3 little girls. I work at Freeman Motor Co. as the Service Manager. I am responsible for reconditioning of all the vehicles we purchase and prepare for sale in our showroom. I am also responsible for working with outside customers to meet their service needs. Most of my clients are also people who have purchased vehicles from us.

I have been with Freeman Motor Co. for a year now. Prior to that I have been in the automotive industry in some form or another. I started in the mid 90's as a stereo installer for a local stereo shop in my hometown of Coos Bay, OR. but after 4 years of working in a town with no future, I took a chance and moved to Medford, OR. where I worked in the same field for another 4 years. After realizing that my future was bleak, I left to sell cars. I sold cars for a few years and moved in to the Service Dept. of a large local Ford store where I ended up becoming the Asst. Service Manager. This was a big move and a far cry from where I started. I was there for 2 years before the economy decided to go in to the toilet and I was forced to move.

So I packed up the family and moved to Salem, OR. It wasn't where I wanted to move but it was where I could find a job.

After 9 months of working at a local Nissan store, I was offered a position in Portland at Freeman as the Service Advisor. Now, a year later, things are growing and changing.

So what's the point of all this? The point is, if you are dense, is that I've been around cars for a while. A long while. I grew up helping my Dad work on the car. My Dad had plenty of car buddies and always had a copy of Car and Driver on the coffee table. Cars have played a major part in my life at almost every turn. That brings me to the reason for this blog. As part of my compensation, I am allowed to drive a car home. Not just any cars either. Fine European motorcars. The cars that, when you were a kid, your Dad would say, "You see that there. The only reason they drive that is because they want to look better than you." The truth is, they aren't better than you, they just like better cars than your Dad and his Oldsmobile. One day I will drive an E63 AMG, the next day I'll drive an M3, and then an RS6 may find its way to my shop. Now, it's not all obscure or sought after performance machines. There's plenty of regular European cars to drive home as well, like Volvos, Saabs, and the German staples, BMW and Mercedes Benz.

I also started enjoying cigars about 10 years ago and it has been a hobby that has grown over time. Part of this growth is from trying to find simple things that make life more enjoyable and part of it is based on budget. I used to own a car for myself and that was my project, my hobby, my stress reliever, and just an overall way to wind down. Now, I don't own a car for my own use so I don't have that project. Sure, my Wife has a car but it's more of a family hauler.

So there's a little info about the author. I look forward to your feedback and your subscription to my posts. I hope to post video reviews of cars that I drive, but for today, this is as far as it goes.