Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Double Header Edition




Greetings!! As promised, I'm posting the first two reviews in my three part series about summer convertibles. Checkout my take on the Volkswagen Eos 3.2L and the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Stay tuned for the third review, where I'll be discussing the Honda S2000. As always, let me know what you think of my take, or any other thoughts you have about goings on in the automotive world. Happy reading!

Retractable Hardtop Shines on Volkswagen Eos

Fast Forward
By Marcus MacFarland

OVERVIEW

Over the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing cars whose purpose is rooted less in practicality and more in fun. While each of these cars is quite different from the others in many ways, all have one common denominator. They are convertibles, and they are all about fun. Considering summer is now in full swing, reviewing three "good time" convertibles seems quite appropriate. Further, the fact that you’re reading this review means that you live in one of the most affluent regions of the most prosperous country in the world, which means that your automotive buying decisions aren’t always only about needs. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
The all-new 2007 Volkswagen Eos 3.2L is a two-plus-two with front-wheel drive and a retractable hardtop. Considering its size, sticker price, and luxury options, there isn’t a lot of competition. Pontiac’s G6 power hardtop and Volvo C70 are the Eos’ closest competitors.

PERFORMANCE

The Eos comes in three trim levels but offers only two choices for power. The first, available in the base and 2.0T trim, is a 2.0-liter turbo charged four cylinder making 200 horsepower. My tester featured the second choice, a 3.2-liter VR6, making 250 horsepower. Despite the Eos’ rather porky curb weight for its size, the 3.2L model is pretty quick. It’ll reach 60 mph in just six and a half seconds.

HANDLING

When putting the little Eos through its paces around my local testing facility- aka country roads- it proved to be rather responsive and crisp. When I really pushed hard, front grip gave way to the more than 3,500-lb. curb weight. One characteristic I expected but was conspicuously missing was torque steer at corner exit. Overall, the Eos is a competent cornerer.

STYLING

I made up my mind about the Eos’ styling just about the time I took it to my local gym. Almost as soon as I pulled into the parking lot my mind was spinning up reasons for driving this chick car: The jacked-up SS393 Chevelle wasn’t running. My wife took my Harley shopping. Whatever. I felt my manhood under scrutiny immediately. Not only are the exterior lines cutesy, but my tester was a shade of blue that could almost be described as periwinkle.
Inside, the surroundings are comfortable and rather luxurious. Its retractable hard top features a panoramic sunroof that can be opened without lowering the hardtop.

JUDGEMENT

On the whole, I liked the Eos. I would liken my feelings about it to that of many guilty pleasures, like singing in the shower or romantic comedies. Men, if your wife decides to buy one of these cars, you’ll likely complain about it, and then find yourself asking to drive on summer afternoons.

MX-5 Miata Adds Retractable Hard Top
Fast Forward
By Marcus MacFarland

OVERVIEW

Now in the second year of its third generation, Mazda’s MX-5 Miata isn’t resting on its laurels. The sporty little two-seater, which practically single-handedly brought back the classic roadster from the dead, has kept true to its roots while continuing to get better with age. For this year, a rather surprising option has been added, the retractable power hardtop, which is normally associated with more option-laden luxury automobiles. What’s more, the hardtop neither added an inordinate amount of weight nor sacrificed truck space in the MX-5.

PERFORMANCE

While the marketing for the MX-5 Miata states that it has "the soul of a sports car", I don’t think it got the engine of one. This most recent generation has more horsepower than has ever been available before, but considering brute force has never been a strongsuit for the Miata, that’s not saying a whole lot. The current mill is a 2.0-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder that makes 166 horsepower. This engine could be called lively, but in no way fast.

HANDLING

This is where the little roadster earns its reputation as one of the most fun cars on the market. Spend a beautiful spring day blasting through the country with the top down and you’ll not only appreciate the Miata, but also the 50’s and 60’s British roadsters that inspired it. This is really one of the more forgiving and neutrally handling cars I’ve driven. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not fast, but really fun to drive around twisties.

STYLING

So, this generation of MX-5 Miata is more sporty looking and less cutesy than previous generations. But, stylistically, the most significant part of this year’s model is the retractable hardtop. Kudos to Mazda for this addition. Not only does it only add 80 lbs. over the standard convertible model, but it also can be put up or down in a mere 12 seconds. Oh yeah, it also doesn’t absorb any trunk space.

JUDGEMENT
This year’s MX-5 Miata has kept everything that makes it a Miata, but now has received a noticeable jump in sophistication courtesy of the new retractable hard top. This is a characteristic that hasn’t exactly been overwhelming in years past. The fact that they’ve been able to add this to such a great niche vehicle, and keep it under 30 grand is pretty impressive. I wish the MX-5 Miata had a bit more horsepower, but hey, I doubt anybody who has ever bought one of these cars would care about that.

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