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2014 MPG Track Day: Driving Impressions

Occasionally, we here at Hooniverse have the privilege of access to some fantastic automobiles. Any time where I am invited to attend an actual track day, and when my real job wife will let me dedicate the time to go, I am all for it. Being the new member to the Hooniverse team, this was my first major event so I was walking around in a giddy fashion when I saw the list of offerings that were to be given to us.

I packed up my gear and headed from San Diego to Willow Springs Raceway to meet up with Jeff and Rob for this years MPG Track Day. Driving just about everything that was available to us, I will give you my quick impressions of a few of the good and bad about some of the vehicles in attendance.

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Quick Spin- 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

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This past week a number of your humble hosts attended the Motor Press Guild’s 2014 Track Days event, where we got to wrap our hands around the wheels of some of the coolest cars debuting at the moment. One of the most sought-after rides – one that literally had a waiting list to drive – was the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, the car that relaunches the venerated Italian brand here in the U.S..

I managed to get on that list and take the car out on the track at the Streets of Willow and I’m now back, with a crazy grin still stuck on my face, to tell you what it was like. … Continue Reading

BMW i3 and i3 Range Extender: Existential Review

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Have you ever wondered how arts reviewers manage to get away with saying what they do? Every time I pick up one of the London newspapers I spend time reviewing the reviews section, purely because I’m fascinated by opinion. What on Earth gives a person, particularly a non-artist, the right to judge on “how good” a new art installation, performance or recording is? Who’s to say that one idea is any more valid than another?

Of course, cars are a lot less subjective than art. For anybody who has ever taken an interest in driving it should be painfully obvious when a car fails, wholly or in part, to do its job competently. Or indeed when it excels. But sometimes the line between car and art becomes blurred. The BMW i3 has come along and established itself in a hitherto unoccupied slot in the vehicle-roadspace continuum. It’s a new idea, and I found it kind of tricky to get my head around.

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Review: 2014 Seat Ibiza FR 140; Poetry in Auto Emoción?

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Appearing at Millbrook where I spent a day at,
Was this little red hatchback manufactured by SEAT,
This motoring journalist lark that I play at,
Was an excuse to take it for a spin.

From it’s antecedent some thirty years back,
The Ibiza’s evolved to a meal from a snack.
Let us check its development, is it on the right track?
Take the jump, there are more words within.

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Quick Spin – Checking Out The Smoking Tire’s DeLorean DMC-12

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It’s an uncanny feeling of a circle closing. The very first Hooniverse piece I wrote was a post about a DeLorean DMC-12 residing not far from where I live on the west coast of Finland. Now, after a couple years and a few hundred Hooniverse posts, I was on the west coast of the United States, looking at another DeLorean.

But like two cars ending up on the opposite sides of the planet, they had grown far from each other. The other one, the first DMC-12 I had ever laid eyes on let alone touched or sat in, was a considerably more tired example with black leather and automatic along with the original 133-horsepower setup. The car I saw last week was the flawless pride and joy of Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire fame: a manual car with a light interior, a late build car with only a couple thousand miles on the clock. And the powertrain had been updated to brisker standards, the perceived sluggishness far gone. “This is the best car in the world”, Matt said. I didn’t doubt him.

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Quick Spin: 2014 BMW 328d xDrive
Giving Enthusiasts the D

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Sometime ago a lifestyle website called Jalopnik proclaimed that the entry-level rear-wheel-drive BMW 320i with a manual transmission and a sport package is something-something official sport sedan, yaddy, yadda. To quote:

That’s a sporty, RWD sedan with 50/50 weight distribution, a manual transmission, 36 mpg on the highway, and a turbocharged engine.

Is there anything new that beats that?

Well, as a matter of fact, as mentioned in this Podcast, yes there is. It is called the 328d.

Allow me to explain. The problem with BMW’s 320i and 328i is the four-cylinder turbo engine. That engine, like many others recently downsized and force-fed offerings from many manufactures, seems great in theory but is not so great in daily driving. Those engines lack in low-end power and have a good amount of turbo lag.

These engines are great when pushed hard; it’s what makes them fun in a Miata or hot-hatch sort of way, especially when coupled to a slick manual transmission. Unfortunately we don’t push our cars hard while driving from Starbucks to the Vet’s office, and that’s where lag delay is most noticeable, and it can be frustrating. Same goes for highway passing power, it’s there but it needs to be exhumed.

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Quick Spin: 2014 Fiat 500L- The Fat Fiat

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They say go big or go home, and considering the largest consumer offering Fiat shipped over to the States in its waning days was the 131/Brava, perhaps it’s no surprise they abruptly closed up shop back in the ’80s. Today, the company is back, and have brought along something honkin’ big – the Fiat Ducato-based Dodge Pro Master – which you can eyeball after the jump. The Italian company has also brought over the big guns of its 500 lineup, the 5-door L. I took a lengthy spin in one, and am here to tell you whether or not it was worth the trip.

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First Ride: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 [w/Video]
A finely honed track weapon

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I don’t really care for the Chevrolet Camaro.

If you’re a regular reader of Hooniverse, you’ve heard me say that before. Sure, the older ones are definitely cool, but I have no love for the modern version. The Camaro ZL1 is certainly a blast thanks to its delightful amount of horsepower and noise. Folks who have driven the 1LE rave about its handling prowess. But other than those two (and one aftermarket tuned example), I’ve never enjoyed my time with the Camaro.

I’m telling you this so you fully understand just how impressed I am by the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. General Motors flew a handful of folks to Michigan so we could get a closer look at the latest machine to wear a very important badge. No, I didn’t get to drive the car, but I ride shotgun…

…and it was enough to blow me away.

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Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.8T
The Jetta is back

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If you are an ardent advocate of the maxim of less equating to more then the introduction of the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta should have caused you great internal debate. That’s because while the model offered far more room than before at a much lower entry price, the things taken away to provide that smaller hit to your bank account were what many an enthusiast holds near and dear. After the fact, Volkswagen’s decision to compete with the more mundane competition seemed to be the right one as sales of the Jetta increased nearly twofold with the new model. Still, missing pieces such as disc brakes and an independent suspension for the back end on all but the top model, as well as a downgrading of its interior materials, didn’t sit well with the marque’s fans, and induced a vociferous drum beat that the Jetta had lost its way.

For 2014, Volkswagen wants you to know that it’s found the way back.

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Quick Spin: Cruze-ing the Pacific Coast Highway

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“Marcal, we’re on our anniversary trip! Quit taking pictures of the rental car.” “I know; I’ll just be a minute.”

I hadn’t intended to do a photo shoot of our 2013 Chevrolet Cruze in the rain, but we drove from Seattle to Depoe Bay, Oregon down 101 in the middle of September; sunny weather is long gone. Between the fog, mist, road spray, drizzle, and a good old downpour one night, the car was wet almost the whole weekend. Still, the weather wasn’t bad on Saturday, and I was impressed enough with the car that I wanted to get a few pictures and share my thoughts with you. For more of both, please take jump and enjoy. … Continue Reading

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