Monthly Archives: March 2011

Road Performance

Pro: The 2.2L four gives sparkling performance without excessive noise. The revised five-speed manual transmission works very well with smooth and light clutch action. The four-speed automatic has overdrive to help save fuel. Excellent handling in town or on the highway. Firm but well controlled ride due to increased body rigidity, a reworked suspension and wider, larger-diameter wheels. Improved variable-assist power steering provides excellent road feel. Excellent braking, especially with ABS.

Con: No 4×4 or V6 option. Automatic transmission is a bit rough. Hard suspension is even harder with the Si, making for tiresome journeys over rough roads. The Accord still tends to understeer.

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Pro: The standard warranty is one of the best. Reliability is excellent for the first five years. These cars are built with care: there’s rarely a misaligned piece of trim or a crooked seam to be found. Corrosion-prone overlapping metal panels have been eliminated and galvanized steel used instead. Honda has made efforts to improve customer relations in the last few years, and the results are good: Canadian Automobile Association surveys show customer satisfaction is an impressive 88 percent, compared to 85 percent for both the Toyota Camry and Mazda 626. A large dealer network means that parts and service are never far away. Government crash tests of a 1991 Accord concluded that the driver and front passenger would be well protected.

Con: Air conditioner condensors frequently fail after a few years. Honda will pick up the approximate cost if you threaten to take the company to court. Accords always began to deteriorate somewhat after their fifth year, with body rusting and premature front brake and engine wear being the greatest problem areas. The present series isn’t old enough to tell whether the same thing is going to happen. High parts cost, but independent suppliers are very competitive. Delay after shifting into drive caused by poorly adjusted cable (DSB 89-040).

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The Honda Accord

GENERAL COMMENTS: The Honda Accord has always been the best performing family sedan on the market, and this year it gets better with a new station wagon and a few trim changes. Every time Honda redesigned the line, it not only caught up with the latest advances, but went slightly ahead. Strong points are comfort, fit and finish, ergonomics, impressive assembly quality, reliability and drivability. The 1992 Accord is roomy, fast and nimble. It is the car of choice in the compact sedan class for drivers who want maximum fuel economy and comfort along with lots of space for grocery hauling and occasional highway cruising. These demands are irreconcilable with most other small sedans. In total, the Accord offers something for everyone, and its high resale value means there’s no way you can lose money buying one. Accords are now built in Alliston, Ontario, to the same high quality standards shown in the cars imported from Japan. These cars depreciate slowly and are never difficult to resell. Their only shortcomings of note are the lack of an optional V6 engine and all-wheel drive, available on many cars in the Accord class. The four-door and wagon have a less rigid suspension and less precise road handling but more interior comfort.

Suggested alternatives: Don’t buy a 92 version if a discounted 91 is available; there is practically no difference between the two except for greater air bag availability. Other worthwhile cars to consider are the Ford Taurus/Sable, BMW 325i, Mazda Protege and 626, Nissan Stanza, Toyota Camry, Volvo 240, VW Golf.

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The Mustang Shelby GT

Mustang GT models have traditionally outsold other trims in Canada, so the return of the 5.0 ought to be well-received.

The car has good body control and the staunch acceleration is kept in check by the optional 3.73 rear limited-slip. The Tremec six-speed manual is a carryover, and is slightly notchy.

The whine from the standard Roots-type supercharger the GT500 convertible and coupe. For 60 grand and change, you get a whole lot of car in the New Shelby 500. Now, if only Ford has a bare-bones enthusiast model for under $20 grand.

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The Convertible Option adds a $4,400 premium to the Mustang

CALABOGIE, Ont. – After a total redesign last year, the 2011 Ford Mustang sees more subtle tweaks, including the return of the “5.0″ V8 and the new addition of a spectacular new Shelby GT500.

Ford’s ever-popular pony car can still had in coupe or convertible form, with a six-speed manual or automatic, and with V6 or V8 power. And the fast, fun and affordable mantra still seems to ring true too.

The new 3.7-litre Duratec V6 comes on the $23,000 value-leader trim that excludes things like power seats, fog lights and a rear spoiler, and downgrades to smaller (17-inch) wheels and lower axle ratio (2.73 versus 3.31) from the standard hardtop coupe, which starts at $27,000. The ragtop is a $4,400 premium on both six- and eight- cylinder models.

Trunk space is also good. The coupe boasts 379.5 litres of cargo space (271.8 L in the convertibles).  That’s nearly 80 litres smaller than Dodge’s Challenger but larger and decidedly more functional than the Camaro’s hold. But enough of this tiresome talk.

The V6 will certainly get you there, but not in the same way as the 2011 Mustang GT with its all-new 32-valve five-litre V8 with variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) as standard equipment, and a starting price of $38,500. A rear limited-slip differential is included, along with performance brakes, larger wheels and tires, and premium interior trim and audio (Sync is standard) upgrades.

Before arriving at Calabogie Motorsports Park and getting some proper track time, the route I’m on is making it difficult to practice restraint as I allow the 412 horses a chance to loosen up on the twisting, turning and undulating rural roads. The 390 lb. -ft. of torquey goodness is helping to maintain speed on the steeper hills and the Ti-VCT adjusts the valvetrain in microseconds, the engine reacting seamlessly to my inputs.

The six-speed manual (new on both V6 and V8 models) boasts short, firm throws to the next gear. It’s not at all notchy and the clutch has a nice firm feel as well.

So far, the only complaint is that the 5.0 sounds a bit innocuous – its not nearly ferocious enough. Fortunately there’s a simple DIV 5.4 -litre supercharged V8 of the new Shelby GT500. This Ford GT-inspired piece makes 550 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque and is 102 pounds lighter than before, thanks primarily to an aluminum (instead of cast-iron) block.

Despite having all of the SVT Performance Pack trimmings on it, the Shelby is quite easy to drive. The steering is surprisingly light and it accompanies the feeling of endless power. The upgraded Brembo brakes have no problem reining me in and the Goodyear F1 SuperCar G2 tires (made specifically for this Shelby) are very well-mannered (read quiet). Stiffer springs, bigger, lighter staggered footwear and unique styling are also part of the SVT track pack available for both.

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Sonata Plays New Tune

It used to be the Japanese who kept upping the ante in the mid-size car segment – now it’s the Koreans. To be specific, it’s Hyundai and the new 2011 Sonata, which has just aced the opposition in the high-stakes midsize market that still accounts for 20% of all new vehicles sold in North America.

In their publicity materials, carmakers often get carried away, but I think Hyundai has it right when it says, “Taken to a new level of style, luxury and refinement, the all-new Sonata will undoubtedly be the sedan against which others in its class will be measured.”

Our test car is Sonata GL. And, while at the low end of the Sonata lineup, it’s far from a “base” model. The GL can be ordered with either a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic, which also adds heated front seats. No options are available on GL, but standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks/windows/heated mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, six airbags and electronic stability control with traction control.

So you get a lot for your money. But to keep it under $25,000 a few corners had to be cut. For instance, there’s no keyless ignition (which Toyota even offers on the compact Corolla) and the driver’s seat lacks power adjustments.

If you can’t live without those things, there are better equipped GLS  and Limited models. And moving up to get more equipment doesn’t cost a bundle – a loaded Sonata Limited with touchscreen navigation, leather, heated rear seats, push-button start and sunroof lists at just $30,999.

Unlike many of its competitors, the new Sonata does not have an optional V6. Across the lineup, power is provided by a peppy DOHC 2.4- litre inline four with direct fuel injection. The all-aluminum engine produces 198 hp, which Hyundai says is best in its class. And thanks to the best power-to-weight ratio among four-cylinder family sedans, the Sonata wins the 0-100 km/h sprint against its competition with a time just over 8.0 seconds.

Still, this is much more of a family sedan than a sports car, with Hyundai engineers – properly, I think – putting a premium on smoothness, predictable handling and a quiet cabin.

A turbocharged version as well as a hybrid will join the lineup later. With a shape that looks fresh out of a wind tunnel, this is the best looking Sonata ever, with none of the bland sameness that resulted from everyone in this segment copying the Camry and Accord.

Instead, the Sonata makes its own fashion statement (inspired perhaps by the Mercedes-Benz CLS – another four-door sedan with coupe-like styling). Outwards vision hasn’t been impeded by the design, nor has rear seat passenger room or trunk space, with a capacity of 462 litres.

The car’s quiet, comfortable ride is amazing considering its low price and the fit and finish – both inside and out – and the use of quality materials is impressive.

Controls are ergonomic and easy to use and there are so many places to stash stuff I may have missed one or two. The driver and front passenger have access to three storage trays, a large bin under the centre binnacle big enough for an SLR camera, a two-tier bin under the centre armrest, and the usual twin cupholders, glove box and door pockets with bottle holders.

The old Sonata was good, and offered great value for the money. But the new one is better, with the bonus of a stunning new shape Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture.

No doubt about it: with the 2011 Sonata Hyundai has dealt itself another winning hand.

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Check the sensors and pull computer codes

On computer managed engines (most cars from 1980 on), problems with various components and systems are recorded in the computer in the form of codes. With a “scan” tool, a mechanic can recall any codes that indicate problem areas. New-car dealerships have the most sophisticated equipment for this test, but many independent shops also have scan tools now.

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Test the charging system and starter draw

In this test, a charging and starting system analyzer is connected to the alternator and battery. With the engine running, the output and regulation of the charging system is checked with the meters.

The condition of the starter is tested while the engine is cranked for 10 to 15 seconds. This test shows how many amps the starter is drawing, and is compared to specifications. Too much amperage draw could indicate a bad starter.

The battery condition is checked by performing a load test. A defective battery can further be diagnosed by sampling the electrolyte in the cells. The battery date code will also be checked.

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