29 December 2016

Ford Focus First Impressions

I had the opportunity to drive a MkIII Ford Focus SE hatchback during a short trip to Long Island, NY. I was surprised by how much car one can get for not very much money these days. Here are some impressions of the car.

  • The steering is very light. One can easily tell it is electrically assisted, rather than hydraulically assisted like my 911's steering. It filters almost all imperfections of the road. I didn't take the car on any back roads so didn't get to feel the steering in a more lively setting.
  • The dry dual-clutch transmission was atrocious. Its default programming is very lazy, so I found myself in sport mode while not cruising. The interaction with brake input is very strange: on application of the brakes, it first coasts (declutches), then lazily rev matches, if at all. My manual driving is much smoother than this computer!
  • Brakes seemed fine.
  • The mooing noise of the engine and exhaust was unbearable, especially under load.
  • The car felt pretty nimble. Body roll wasn't terrible.

04 September 2016

Lotus Evora First Impressions

I had the opportunity to drive a 2010 Lotus Evora at Jaguar of San Jose. These cars are quite rare (not to mention out of production, save for the new-for-2017 Evora 400), so I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found one sitting at the dealer that I was able to test drive. Here are some impressions of the car.

  • I can barely push the clutch all the way in with the seat in the frontmost position.
  • Massive B/C pillar blind spot.
  • Short brake pedal travel.
  • Light clutch. Acceptable clutch engage feel, though nearly stalled the car on a couple occasions.
  • Shifter is complete trash! Felt like stirring very thick soup/jello. Known as a vague shifter. Putting shifter in gear is not crisp. Supposedly 2012+ shifter cables make the shifter feel better.
  • Lift gearshift collar for reverse.
  • Hard to heel and toe on first try for street use due to short brake pedal travel and sloppy gearshift.
  • Heavy steering that transmits every single road detail.
  • Good engine note, especially 5k and above.
  • Sit low to the ground and bucket seats really give a sense of transmitting information from the chassis.
  • Car was nicely planted and felt balanced in an onramp. I didn't push hard at all to reach any limits. I would have loved to take the car on some back roads or to an autocross course.
  • Makes the [Porsche 911] 997 feel incredibly insulated!
I love this car so much that if the vague shifter was fixed, then I would seriously consider one of these. Reviews indicate that the Evora 400 has a delightful shifter, so that's super tempting!

14 April 2016

The Stradman's Lamborghini

A young, car loving youtuber released some statistics about his Lamborghini ownership. I felt that summarizing the video in writing will potentially be useful to me or for others interested in this subject.

If I recall correctly, the youtuber was 26 when he bought this car in late 2015 for $110k. I think that's a fair price for a Gallardo with the manual transmission (at least a $15k premium in the used market), a good looking color scheme (orange), low-ish miles (under 10k), and single owner. I can believe that a well-cared E-gear (automatic) car costs $95k with everything else constant. The cars around $80k generally have more than 15k miles and are almost certainly E-gears.

His 6-month insurance premium is $972.66. Being over 25 certainly helps.

He claims his average mileage is 14.7mpg over the past 8k miles that he has driven. While laughable, at least he is enamored with driving the car and doesn't live in an area with a high gas tax.

He paid $2573.43 for his first (probably 15k) maintenance. Also laughable, and painful!

07 February 2016

McLaren 570S First Impressions

I went to McLaren San Francisco yesterday to drive the 570S. Alessandro, the sales manager, first drove the car to give an overview and then we swapped for some behind the wheel time.

Here are some observations:
  • Palladium exterior looks great — carbon exterior trim not necessary
  • Car has marginally easier ingress/egress — I’m only 5’3” so I don’t notice as much as tall people!
  • Soft close is either/or — nice, but I don’t feel a must have
  • Standard seat felt like sitting on leather wrapped concrete
  • Power seat controls still unusable without practice; would get the manual seats
  • Interior trim in palladium is decent — practical benefit of carbon interior is extended paddles?
  • Unparalleled forward visibility; apparently the front windscreen has been enlarged, necessitating a second windshield wiper (boo! the single wiper of the 650S and 12C looks so cool)
  • Track mode suspension really stiff
  • Car is really willing to turn
  • Turbocharger whistle loud around 5k RPM
  • Sports exhaust not necessary

Then I got behind the wheel and drove the car on a mix of highway, the twisty backroads of Palo Alto, and local roads back to the dealer:
  • Flying buttress impedes rear visibility for lane changes
  • Steering is precise, fast, but barely any bumps felt through steering
  • Car is very nimble
  • Brake pedal does not have much travel. This apparently is normal in cars with carbon ceramic brakes.
  • Throttle has a lot of travel. I didn't realize this when I initially adjusted my seating position, so when Alessandro kept egging me on to push the car, I was embarrassed that my seat was too far back for me to floor the car.
  • Power delivery is more linear than the 650S, which I drove late last year. So when the turbos start spinning, you don't feel an insane push.
  • In full auto mode, the gearbox will shift depending on your throttle usage. The car was very eager to get to 7th gear when I was simply cruising on the highway (75mph is around 2500rpm). During mildly spirited driving, the car would shift around 4000rpm.
  • Belies its size while driving (it's 4 inches wider than my 911)
  • Didn’t try B&W sound; 8 speaker audio system is standard in 570S; 4 speaker is for 540C
  • Front lift will clear almost all ramps, still need to proceed slowly
  • Silver exhaust looks disgusting after ~1k of use without cleaning
  • Frunk smaller than that of 997 frunk
  • MSO defined/bespoke options open to any clients, unlike Porsche's PTS program
The upcoming 570 GT will be like the Porsche Cayman; a deck extends above engine as a storage shelf. The rear glass hatch will slope and be openable, like 997 targa, but will open from side instead of roof. The car will be shown at the Geneva Auto Show next month.

The 570S Spider demo will arrive mid 2017 the earliest, though I heard from another cleaning lady that her dealership will have one in January of 2017. That seems incredibly optimistic to me, but we'll see.

22 January 2016

Farewell, Athena account

[1] shewu@mass-toolpike> blanche ec-discuss -a shewu
blanche: Ticket expired while authenticating to Moira.
blanche: Authentication error while working on list ec-discuss
blanche: Try the -noauth flag if you don't need authentication.
[2] shewu@mass-toolpike> kinit
kinit: Clients credentials have been revoked while getting initial credentials

I thought I was clever by leaving my ssh session open overnight, during which the administrators almost certainly would deactivate my account. Today, I tried listing my files and was told "Permission denied."