C5 Corvette Z06 – The holy grail of analog Corvettes

The used market is a funny thing to watch and an even funnier one to shop. Amidst the “for the price of X, you could have a used version of Y!” articles and endless discussion of where money is better spent, it truly is remarkable to watch depreciation curves and play the much more important game of “What should I buy next with ~$25k?”

While some vehicles hold value well enough to justify buying new, prices of others plummet enough to rationalize the purchase of a high-performance vehicle at new economy-car cost. Few cars are better examples of this than the C5 Corvette, and especially its beefed-up, track-focused Z06 variant. With prices for a clean, well-maintained example dipping under the magical $20k-mark (and even dropping below $15k in some cases), the C5Z is a massive amount of car for very little money especially considering it’s one equally capable of handling the daily grind as it is a weekend of track time.

In an attempt to heed my own advice of “drive everything you’re considering before actually deciding on your next car,” one fall day I found myself in the driver seat of a bright red fifth-generation Corvette Z06, wringing out the LS6 and playing with the supposed race-car-for-the-street handling in order to find out if driving the widely-respected C5Z would be enough to convince my money out of me. I found good things in my brief test-drive, and for enthusiasts looking for a performance bargain it’s simply impossible to ignore this car. Jump with me to see how it fares on the street.

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Hooniverse Asks: Does Jeep need to keep calling it “Wrangler”?

Ross Ballot February 28, 2018 Hooniverse Asks

Would dropping the “Wrangler” name dilute the reputation of Jeep’s halo vehicle?

Despite pushback from enthusiasts clamoring for real, fun, actual names, we’re living in an age of ever-increasing reliance on numbers and letters to stand as a vehicle’s name. And yet, the Wrangler name holds strong. Jeep has always been upfront about its internal codes though, from CJ all the way up through JL, and even including it’s non-Wrangler vehicles.

Even Porsche has gone retro-alphanumeric with the addition of 718 attached to the front of its Boxster/Cayman’s nomenclature, and the reliance on short, letter/number-indicating nameplates becomes ever-stronger as each year passes. And, just to drive the point home, enthusiasts regularly refer to models by their internal engine/chassis codes with increasing frequency, and many Jeep fans do so when talking about the Wrangler models they love so dearly. But, as even Jeep has begun referring to its newest Wrangler, it seems that they have even begun to acknowledge the helpfulness of internal/external codes being what buyers and enthusiasts alike recognize the model by.

Would Jeep calling the JL just “JL” and not “Wrangler” harm it in the eyes of the enthusiasts, and consumers alike? Does Jeep even need the “Wrangler” name going forward? Is it time for the company to embrace alphanumerics?

(Let the record show that I am no way in favor of automakers moving to alphanumerics; I’d rather see real names, even bad ones, before number/letter combos)

Hooniverse Asks: What car would you launch into space?

Ross Ballot February 7, 2018 All Things Hoon

Yesterday, Elon Musk and the team at SpaceX made history not only for their rocket launch but also for sending the first road-legal production automobile into Earth’s orbit. A monumental achievement, and one that us car nerds watched in awe. It was one small step for *ahem* another display of both Musk’s and SpaceX’s enthusiasm for and intensity towards making space exploration a more practical, feasible, and prioritized reality. Thus far, it seems to be a massive success.

The vehicular choice of a Tesla Roadster was perfect as well. Being that Musk is the visionary behind both Tesla and SpaceX, it serves as much a promotion of the forward thinking attitude behind both companies.

Let’s pretend you have a rocket of your own and any vehicle you desire at your disposal. What would you launch into the abyss? There’s no pressure or anything. Just the possibility that whatever you choose will be the first thing extraterrestrials see of humankind.

Me? The question answers itself: It has to be a DeLorean. Or maybe something weirder, like a Plymouth Prowler or a VehiCROSS. But what about you? What’s the one vehicle you want circling Earth?

Bonus rounds:

What would you display on the infotainment screen?

What audio would you have playing?

What would you name your vehicle’s inanimate occupant?

2014 Challenger R/T: Proof that modern cars still cause headaches

A comfortable, brutish display of nonstop problems: Looking back on what went wrong with my 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T 5.7/6MT 100th Anniversary Edition

In June of 2014 I purchased my dream car: a Dodge Challenger R/T 100th Anniversary Edition. With eight cylinders up front, power sent to the rear and a six-speed manual, it was everything I had fantasized over since the Challenger concept car announced the nameplate’s reincarnation. Eight years later I finally had my own, but reality hit me hard: modern cars, contrary to my expectations, can still be riddled with issues. I won’t venture so far as to say it was plagued, but my Challenger was certainly troublesome. In July of 2016, after passing my breaking point in fighting these problems and during circumstances exaggerated by and coinciding with life changes, I sold it.

Which is extremely unfortunate, seeing as it was a truly gorgeous car that did much of what was asked of it quite well. Nearly ten years after the Challenger’s reintroduction I barely need mention that the LX-platform car, at least in stock R/T guise, is incapable of dancing with its supposed Ford and Chevy competitors, but it shines in other disciplines. A comfortable, competent, road-trip-craving Grand Tourer, a supremely controllable drift machine that sang beautiful V8 songs, and, still in my eyes, a magnificent looking piece of machinery that sold itself on its macho character. But, as I found through my two years and fifty-five-thousand miles with the car, it was far from flawless. On the contrary, it was quite fucked.

What could go wrong with a 2014 model year Challenger? Was it enough to ruin my perception of the model and corresponding relationship with this specific car? How many headaches can one car– and one dealer– cause? Read on for the full story.

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Jeep touts the JL Wrangler’s off-road prowess as company’s “manifesto” in new ad

Ross Ballot February 6, 2018 All Things Hoon

Much like they’ve done with removing the company name from the front end because “the seven-slot grille is the logo,” Jeep has concocted an advertisement for its all-new JL Wrangler that says it all by not really saying much. Take one brand-new two-door Rubicon, show it splashing through deep water and climbing the correspondingly wet ledges, and voila – advertising simplicity at its finest. No music, no visible people, no distractions; just a Jeep doing its thing, and showing off in the process.

As much a commentary on the JL Rubicon as a vehicle as it is on broad, sweeping statements made by car commercials as a whole, the Super Bowl spot takes aim at other automakers’ “all talk, no show” advertisements and in the process does so in its own way. The brand instead uses the Wrangler’s ability to tackle a decently difficult off-road obstacle to remind viewers of the company’s own so-called “manifesto,” which is accurate to an extent being that the company’s reputation is built on the mantra of unparalleled off-road capability. This is somewhat interesting (or is it ironic?) in that many of the JL’s changes over the JK it replaces are direct improvements to its street-friendliness; attention to NVH, creature comforts, and live-ability, as Kamil found out recently.

Still, it’s readily apparent that Jeep wants buyers to know that the Wrangler remains the company’s halo car, and that they still pride themselves on four-wheel-drive prowess above all else. It’s a good spot, and there’s no questioning that the Wrangler, especially in Rubicon guise, is an immensely competent wheeler with its locking diffs and electronically-disconnecting swaybars (among other slew of toys). That said, the driver definitely had some excess speed going into the water and in climbing the upper tier of the ledge, more so than I’d hit any of the aforementioned obstacles with, but it certainly looks good on camera. Take a look for yourself in the video above.

Fiat 124 Hardtop possibly in the works – Could it be the best ND Miata?

Ross Ballot January 25, 2018 All Things Hoon

Image courtesy of motor.es via Miata.net

As of the last year, Fiat has been selling its own version of the current-generation Mazda ND Miata, albeit with some touches and changes to make it their own. The 124, name in homage to its long-deceased predecessor, is marked by a turbocharged MultiAir powerplant, as opposed to the MX-5’s naturally-aspirated Skyactiv engine, a slightly more upscale interior, more intensive use of insulation and sound deadening, and aggressively classic roadster styling. But the 124’s driving dynamics, as a result of different chassis tuning and the engine that peaks early but dies equally so, are very different from the Mazda on which it is based.

There is one other major difference, though, and it’s one explained by two simple letters: RF. As its nomenclature dictates, this represents Retractable Fastback, or a targa-top version that Fiat does not offer on the 124. So, should you want a turbocharged ND Miata or a 124 with a hard-top straight from the factory, you can’t have one. But a thread on the Fiat 124 sub-forum within NDMiata.net caught my attention with its headline: “124 Coupe Spotted?”

It appears from spy photos that Fiat may be working on either a removable hard-top version of its little sports car, or a top that mimics that of the NC Miata’s power retractable hard-top (PHRT). Could Fiat be possibly building the best Miata yet? 

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Hooniversal Opinion: 2018 North American International Auto Show

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, you guessed it, it’s auto show season! Kicking off 2018 is one of the biggies: the North American International Auto Show. This week many automakers and journalists alike congregated in wintry Detroit to show off and inspect the manufacturers’ newest offerings, both updated and all-new alike.

And what a well-rounded show it was. From pickups to performance cars there was something for everybody, a widespread exhibition of new and revised vehicles showcased over the past few days. Noteworthy debuts were the slew of truck offerings a la F150 diesel, Silverado, and Ram, and Ranger; Ford’s Bullitt Mustang; Hyundai’s second-gen Veloster and performance-focused N variant; Mercedes’ G-Class and 53-series AMG models; and many, many more.

What made waves and tickled our fancies? Hit the jump for details on what vehicles were revealed at the NAIAS, as well as opinions on said vehicles from your respective Hoons.

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2017 Subaru WRX: Full-year reflection update

Let’s start off 2018 …by looking back on 2017, and oh what a year it was. A tumultuous, peaks-and-valleys ridden turning of the calendar. Much like that of the world, ownership of my WRX has been one of varied emotions. I’ve fallen further in and out of love with the blue Subaru, having gone through moments of “I need to get rid of this car ASAP” and contrasting it with “I’m keeping this car forever.”

Some things have not changed though, and the car is an absolute riot on a back-road and when driving through terrible weather conditions. But its limitations have begun to reveal themselves further, with frustrations like understeer and an uncompromising rough ride repeatedly bearing their heads and regularly making me want to use the steering wheel to bash mine.

With that said, let’s take a moment to reflect back on how the turbo sedan has me feeling after the last full calendar year of ownership. Hit the jump to read more.

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Mazda releases 2018 MX-5 with luxury Club options
Talk about timing…

Ross Ballot December 22, 2017 All Things Hoon

The timing on this couldn’t have been more coincidental. 

On Tuesday I published a piece in which I wrote about Mazda’s poor option & group packaging on the MX-5 Miata. How it’s a shame that you can’t get an LSD with heated seats or vice-versa. Well… yesterday the automaker announced that changes are being made for the 2018 model year. After many complaints from buyers and reviewers alike, Mazda has done what the people asked of it and is giving them what they want.

What’s changing on the Miata option packaging, and how does this affect desirability of certain trim levels? Read on to find out.

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Mazda ND MX-5 Miata: Frustration in option packaging

Ross Ballot December 20, 2017 All Things Hoon

I love Mazda, probably more than I do any other manufacturer. Scratch that – as of this writing, I love Mazda more than any other manufacturer. There, I said it. I’m sorry, Jeep, Mazda just has its mojo no in a way no other company does. And, if I’m honest, I’m head-over-heels in love with the ND MX-5 Miata.

Which is why I’m so frustrated by Mazda’s option packaging on its world-famous sports car. Put simply: if you want some things, you can’t have others. And if you want other things, you can’t have some. Not that these are catastrophic flaws, the models are great across the board, but there’s a few items that have me, and many others, questioning the reasoning behind Mazda’s offerings.

What is my issue with the availability of options, both mechanical and on the comfort front, and how does it affect the theoretical purchasing of an ND MX-5 Miata? Read on to find out.

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