Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

PostHeaderIcon How the Pandemic Has Affected Our Driving Habits

With the dark shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic slowly dissipating in the atmosphere of indifference that follows when human beings just shrug off disasters and carry on with their lives, it is probably a good time to reflect on how the lock-down has changed our habits and behaviors. Now for us motoring guys the main concern, obviously, is the effect of this affair on our driving habits – and judging by the data that is coming out, it hasn’t been particularly good. 

Well, it hasn’t been good for the motoring public in general, as people have been using their vehicles less and less, even after the restrictions have been eased or lifted. From the standpoint of the driving enthusiasts, the fact that there are fewer cars on the road is a godsend. What it means for them is virtually no traffic – open roads to let loose their sports cars and basically treat the city streets as their personal race track. And they are not breaking any laws, either, as driving is a solo activity, performed in an enclosed space and away from any kind of crowd. So for us car nuts this has been a silver-lining, pretty much the only one.

But for the automotive industry and business, the fact that people are using their vars less is not a good thing. Based on the information gathered by the guys at HONK, the expected dip in car use during the pandemic has stretched into the lifting of restrictions. They have studied how often people used to fill up before and after the Corona virus malarkey, and basically it has gone from one every week to once every month. The same applies to where people are going those rare occasions when they do use their vehicles. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other supply stores still top the list of destinations, which made sense during the pandemic but not really after it, especially as the panic-shopping phase is well behind us and online stores are thriving.

With all the talk about the world economy going into the rubbish bin over the next few years in the aftermath of the C-19, people driving less, spending less and generally living less is another sore point we have to contend with. So if you want to help the economy and speed up the recovery, get in your car, go on road trips and engage in recreational activities as before and spend more on fun than on stocking up on useless supplies.

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PostHeaderIcon Ways of Making Motor Racing More Engaging

In recent years the number of people who watch motorsport has taken a sharp dive. Some attribute that to the increasingly tighter safety regulations put in place by the FIA. And while that is a big part of it, there is nothing that can be done about it. Safety matters, and we should do everything we can to improve and enhance it – even if it means you take away from how exciting the sport is. We reckon we need to look at some alternative ways to make motor racing more interesting and engaging for the masses. 

Some say that racing is the sport of the elite and that is why it doesn’t appeal to everybody. That is not quite true. Equestrian sports are just as, if not more, expensive to take part in as motorsport. But the organizers of that field realized long ago that they can popularize that sport, as evidenced aquí, through the introduction of betting. A similar scheme could very well work for motorsport. We know, there is already going on activities of that nature – some legal, some not. But there is a lot of room for expansion here. People would flock to the race track to try their luck on cars, as they do with horses.

Besides that, one could see that car racing could be more engaging for the audience if FIA introduced a new point system. It might sound impractical, but a lot of people have maintained for a long time that drivers should be scored based on overtaking. Think about it. If F1 drivers were awarded championship point, or bonus points, based on how many cars they overtake throughout a race, a lot of the issues that make that particular kind of motorsport bland would have been resolved. It would eliminate the meddling by team principals and strategists, who are more often than not extremely conservative and risk-averse. And obviously, that battle for title of overtaking champion would be an awesome spectacle to watch.

Auto racing could also benefit from more diversity. We don’t mean driver diversity, but the autos themselves. Many a petrolhead frowned when the new Formula E for electric race cars was introduced. But the series has proven itself to be on the par with other kinds of motorsport – no more boring and no less exciting. What’s more, the new challenges that different kinds of racing bring about – such as how they pit, etc., – could go a long way to bolster audience engagement. We should have racing series for vans, family estates, caravans even!

These are some of the ways we can think of to make car racing more entertaining. Let us know in the comments what solutions come to your mind…

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PostHeaderIcon Tesla Cybertruck vs GMC Hummer EV

If you asked us – or anyone else in the automotive news sphere, for that matter – even two years ago which segment would be the hottest for electric cars in 2020, probably the only one we wouldn’t mention was pickup trucks. But as it turns out, many car makers are convinced that in order to make it big in the electric market, they need to go big. And what better way to go big than pickup trucks? The thing is though, these new, ultra-modern electric pickups are nothing like their fossil-fuel-guzzling predecessors. They are a world apart. In this article we will look at two of the hottest electric trucks set to come out over the next few years and try to determine which one does the whole “truck of the future” thing better. This is Tesla Cybertruck vs GMC Hummer EV.

Now, the paragraph above might imply that these slick new trucks are more gimmicky toys than utilitarian vehicles. In other words, they are just marketing stunts, and that the job hauling stuff will still be delegated to the old-fashioned, real trucks. That is not so. The Cybertruck or the yet-to-be-revealed Hummer EV might be all fancy and sleek and high-tech, but they can hold their own against anything with Ram, Raptor or Sierra badge on it. They come with big beds, and what’s more, because they are equipped with space-age electric motors, they have oodles of torque, which of course means they can carry more, tow more, and generally do more work than their ICE cousins.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the original topic for this piece, which is which one of these two, Tesla Cybertruck or the Hummer EV, is the right truck for the future. Granted, the Hummer is not even revealed in full yet at the time of this writing in February 2020. However, we do have a fairly good idea what this is thing is going to look like, and judging by the teasers and previews, we also have a decent understanding of its performance. It does, for example, go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, which is mighty impressive. As for the Cybertruck, we have all seen and heard much about it. It can out-accelerate a Porsche Turbo, tow many times its weight, and go a good few miles before running out of juice. And all of that is down to the magic of electric motor’s instant torque and some big-ass batteries.

That’s all well and good. What those specs mean is, there is nothing really in it between these two in terms of raw performance and capabilities. We reckon the criteria for judging which truck is more future-proof really comes down to looks and interior tech. That is pretty much what it has come down to, not just with trucks, but all the other categories of modern cars. It is about how outlandish you can make the vehicle look while remaining within the boundaries of State regulations, and how much tech stuff (read interactive screens) can you cram inside the dashboard. And what usually gets sacrificed in the quest to make the car more geek-friendly is taste. I think we can safely say that neither the Cyberthingy nor the pansy Hummer are tasteful cars. But that is beside the point. What matters is if Gen-Z, or whatever they’re identifying as these days, approve of them.

Rendering via Car&Driver

And in that sense, it is fairly obvious, Tesla Cybertruck has the edge over the more “ordinary” looking Hummer EV by GMC. One would imagine that the inspiration for the design of this truck was the new-fangled ideas about non-binary genders and all that. What we mean is, the public perception appears to be that the more “extraordinary” you are these days, the cooler you are. So Tesla just went mad and came up with the pickup truck equivalent of Caitlyn Jenner. So it might seem that the Hummer EV – cool and steampunk-y though it sure is – has no chance. If we were to put money on it though, we’d bet on the GMC. You see, the Cybertruck is such a niche thing, only a few Youtubers are going to buy it in order to feature it on their channels. The more “regular” customers, shall we say, will go for the less alien Hummer. So if you gauge the success of a model by how many it sells, like a rational person should, we’d say GMC Hummer EV takes the cake here.

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PostHeaderIcon Motorsport Exclusivity

Although motorsport is already enough of a spectator’s sport, what with all the crashes and fire and what not, it falls behind other similar sports in terms of maximizing audience engagement. The sport has, as it were, an elitist vibe that puts up a distance between the fans and the action.

One way to remedy the situation is to adopt the successful ways of increasing fan engagement from other sports. Take, for example, how PA horse betting brings you closer to the professional equestrian scene through an online system, or how he NFL provides you with a chance to indulge your fantasies of being on the front lines of the sport through initiatives like, well, Fantasy Football.

To be sure, car racing sport already provides some side action besides what goes on down at the track, But if you follow any of those, you know that they are more often than not high-profile social events with little or nothing to offer for the fans that buy the ticket and come to the track to watch the action. We’re talking cocktail parties and private viewings and sponsored yacht parties – that sort of stuff.

That’s a shame, because if you look at the number of the fans that flock to each race to sit for hours and watch those cars pass by at high speed, you realize motorsport has the potential to become the world’s number one spectator’s sport, surpassing even soccer. That is because soccer is not popular everywhere in the world, especially in North America, whereas racing is beloved by young and old, male and female, the world over.

With that in mind, we would recommend initiatives such as a fan scoring system in which spectators could push a key, either on a keyboard or via their smartphones, and rate the drivers based on how exciting their driving is, and the result would in some way or another affect the final ranking by adding or subtracting points. Another way they can ensure enhanced fan engagement is by having more accessible public events in which fans can get up close and personal with the cars and the drivers – Kind of like how car clubs operate. For that, of course, the pampered and overpaid drivers must get off their high horse and take up a more prominent role in the matter.

Motorsport will forever remain an expensive sport that is not really available for the masses. But by increasing the side actions and spectator engagement programs, they could make it even more popular and make even more money along the way. Then again, maybe the sport’s principals want to keep the sport on the pedestal in order to maintain exclusivity. Shame.

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PostHeaderIcon Tesla Cybertruck – Ridiculous or Ingenius?

As I am sure you know, the past few days after the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show the automotive blogsphere has been abuzz with opinions about Tesla’s new pickup truck, the so-called Cybertruck. That’s fair enough, considering how groundbreaking, and how amazingly odd this thing is. We reckon people are going to be talking about this creation long after it’s released in the market. So let’s have a closer look at this “truck of the cyber age.”

It appears Tesla arranged everything surrounding the launch of the Cybertruck for maximum dramatic effect. Nobody outside Tesla’s inner circle really knew for sure they were going to drop this bomb at the L.A. Autoshow. The surprise debut was commensurate with the nature of the vehicle unveiled, as it was something nobody had ever seen or even imagined. Well, that’s not quite right, is it? I’m fairly certain some of us drew something similar to the Cybertruck on the back of our math books when we were kids.

Than again, it seems the overly simple design of the Cybertruck has been carefully crafted to go with the whole drama thing. Surely, it would not generate so much debate, were the design of the truck on par with stuff like the F-150 or Silverado or Ram trucks – you know, the usual suspects. Elon Musk clearly wanted his take on pickup truck to be different, and like everything he does, he took it to the extreme.

And the thing about simplicity is, it makes a lot of sense. Granted, the Cybertruck is not beautiful in the conventional way, but the odd looks has not taken anything away from it in terms of practicality and functionality. If anything, the shape has given the truck some advantage vis-a-vis trucking features. The Cybertruck boasts a payload of up to 3,500 lbs and it has a towing capability of more than 14,000 lbs. And then there is the fact that it’s fully electric, meaning it has a large front trunk in addition to the bed, or Vault as Tesla calls it. So in terms of load capacity and storage space, the CYBRTRK is up there with the best of the class.

Where the Cybertruck leaves the competition in its dust, almost literally, is performance. Whereas the most serious performance truck out there would struggle to get you from 0 to 60 in around five seconds, you can get that kind of acceleration from the entry level 39 grand Cybertruck. The range-topping 70 grand version does that in a scarcely believable 2.9 seconds. That is insane for the vehicle that has the aerodynamic properties of a small cottage. Still, Tesla promises a range of 500+ miles for this thing, probably due to the fact that they had plenty of space to pack plenty of batteries in it.

Now, any one of the features mentioned above would have been enough to set this truck apart from everything else in the market today. But you know Tesla. They always have to go a step further. So besides all that, they’ve given the Cybertruck up to six full-size seats inside, a 17-inch display, air suspension, and oh, did we mention the body is made of “Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled” stainless steel? So yeah, it is also rugged in the truest sense of the word. They have also reinforced the glass for some reason.

So back to the original question, is Tesla Cybertruck ridiculous or ingenius? Well, inspecting the vehicle superficially, it appears to be the ridiculous fantasy of a mad billionaire who doesn’t know what else to do with this time and money. But go through the specs, checkout the public’s reaction to it, and consider carefully how it makes you feel like a kid again, and you have to admit, the Cybertruck is a stroke of genius.

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PostHeaderIcon Is EU’s Push For More Electrified Cars Realistic?

According to a new ruling by the European Commission, 40 percent of all new cars sold in the continent by 2030 must be zero or low-emission vehicles. That is basically the driving force behind the new onslaught of electric and electrified models unleashed by all major manufacturers. They were once forced to lower their average CO2 levels by downsizing and adding more economy models to their range. Now they have to completely eliminate a big chink of it, if they want to sell cars in Europe.

The challenge wasn’t that easy the first time around, but those plucky car makers pulled it off. The big ones like Volkswagen, or Hyundai, or Peugeot, they sailed through as they make a whole range of small, eco-minded cars that lower the average for the entire range and balance out the lumps of CO2 emitted by their more high-performance models. Other, more niche automakers such as Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin resorted to a bag of tricks that includes downsizing, turbocharging or, in Aston’s case, releasing a stupid city dweller based on a stupider Toyota model to even things out. The point is, they managed to meet the target set for them by the EU top brass, none of whom has the faintest idea how cars work and what are the challenges of making them more fuel efficient.

These days, though, car makers have to go two or three steps further than that in order to retain their licenses to sell cars in Europe. And while the whole electrification revolution that seems to be sweeping the land might seem an excellent solution to this at first glance, there are some underlying issues that stop things from being peachy keen.

The old-fashioned hybrids where you had a small electric motor supplementing the internal combustion unit are a thing of the past. Everybody soon caught up with the fact that those are just normal cars with a green badge to fool people and legislators. These days it’s the plug-in hybrid that’s in vogue, and where they differ from their non-plug-in counterparts is that by virtue of boasting a plug – hence the name – these are in essence electric cars capable of driving solely on electric power. They also come with larger batteries and they are set up in a way to give more weight to the EV side than the ICE side. Now, these are the real eco cars that could and would meet the new standards, at least until regulations get tighter and call for more fully electric cars, or they come up with hybrids with the electric motor as the dominant element and the combustion unit as the lackey.

All good and gooey, but the trouble with most, if not all, of the plug-in hybrids today is that they are by and large very uninteresting cars. And that would be find, were it not for that 40 percent sales target the esteemed brains at the European Commission have deemed reasonable. The PHEVs of our time are not exactly what you would call a “hit”, which means they are not going to achieve the kind of sales figures the rule makers are entertaining. The interesting ones are the “electrified” cars like those electrically-boosted Merc-AMGs, or e-hybrid BMWs. And they all cost an arm and a leg to purchase, which again means they are not going to be high-volume sellers.

And as for the fully electric cars, the issues of range and charge still remain largely unsolved, rendering them less than a viable option, at least in the near future. Not that any of these will make the decision makers to reconsider their positions. By increasingly toughening up the regulations they will eventually force the car makers to find a solution, and that solution is invariably a compromise on the product’s appeal and desirability.

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PostHeaderIcon The Missing Link in Electric Motoring

If there is one thing you can put your finger on as the overarching theme of this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA), it’s that it was decidedly electric. No, we don’t mean thrilling and exciting. Literally electric. And that’s fine and all, but a keen observer cannot help but notice that the EV scene is growing asymmetrically, as it were.

What we mean by that is, everything happening vis-a-vis the growth of electric motoring is happening at the either ends of the spectrum. You have the very high-end supercars and super saloons at one end, and city-dwelling hatchbacks at the other. The middle bit, which counts for the biggest chunk of the market, well, it is conspicuously under-represented. It is as though car makers have decided to each take up only one segment, with luxury brands going for the top end, and economy makers sticking to the lower stuff.

For a fan of electric motoring wandering through the IAA, that meant a leap from the small and cutesy VW ID.3 city car, all the way to things like the immensely impressive, immensely expensive Porsche Taycan. If said EV enthusiast was looking for, say, a mid-range sedan with a decent zero-emission powertrain, he was out of luck. For some reason this category of vehicle has yet to be recognized as a viable business model, even though, theoretically at least, it would offer the EV its best chance of going mainstream.

Part of the reason for that, as I’m sure you are all thinking it right now, is because of SUVs and crossovers. Those are what have caused the regular sedan market to diminish significantly over the past few years, and they seem to be doing the same in the world of electric motoring. The thing is though, auto makers don’t seem terribly keen on developing fully electric sport utilities that are affordable, either. Sure, there is the Audi e-tron and the Mercedes EQC, but again, not much to write home about in the middle sections, nothing for the middle class, if you like.

We reckon that has to do with the cost of developing electric cars. The damn things are still so expensive to build, it only makes sense for the manufacturers to develop them from scratch as high-end models that command high-end prices. Only then they stand a chance of making some money on them, which is the whole point. So even though they keep promising good things, don not expect a fully electric C-Class or A4 until China can make some cheaper batteries, and someone has invented a workaround for the charging issue, which to put mildly is still a bit of a faff.

As for the “EVs for the masses”, stuff like the Tesla Model 3 and the aforementioned VW ID.3, first of all, they are not affordable – not when you compare them to their fossil fuel-burning equivalents. What’s more, they are not what you can call business successes. Well, the Model 3 isn’t. As for the ID3, while VW is pretty optimistic about it, history teaches us that they are not above making huge flops. Which is why we reckon they are full of hot air on this one, too. They are going to be pissing money away with their EV effort until some crossover down the line become a hit and make up for the loss.

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PostHeaderIcon Bring Back the FJ Cruiser!

Motoring journos are well known to change their minds often, hating a car one day and then singing its praise another day. With that in mind, we admit that we are guilty of this crime when it comes to the Toyota FJ Cruiser, a car that is on its way to achieve cult status in the auto world. The FJ is long gone now, and enough time has passed since its getting the ax that we are now missing it, and want it back.

When the FJ cruiser first appear on the scene we remember not liking the whole idea. It seemed infantile and ridiculous, a sort of hummer wannabe that tried too hard to attract attention to itself. Granted, at the same time we were lambasting car makers for not making enough cool and funky models, but that’s that motoring journo duality we talked about above. At any rate, we didn’t care much for the FJ, nor for the people who bought it. They were mostly the type you try to avoid at a social function in case they engage in a long-winded rhetoric about how awesome they are.

So we were kind of happy that Toyota pulled the plug on the FJ after ten or eleven years of not-so-pleasing sales. Turned out there weren’t that many people who wanted their car look like a child’s toy. But something strange has happened since the demise of the FJ. This big bulk of muscular metal is now looking pretty darn cool every time we see it out and about. And we don’t mean in an offroad setting where the FJ is most at home. We mean just parked in the corner of a street clearly too narrow for it. In short, everything that was annoying about the FJ Cruiser is suddenly interesting.

The reason for that could be that the FJ Cruiser was ahead of its time. The world was not ready for a car built primary for fun. It seems that back in 2006 we were kind of uptight about the perceived image, as it were, to the point of depriving ourselves of the bucket loads of something like the FJ could provide. Things have clearly changed, because now we really don’t care if the neighbors think of us as douchebags and parvenus and whatnot. Who gives a toss what they think? And what’s wrong with your car looking and feeling like a toy? In fact, what aren’t all cars like that?

We are not at all surprised that the Toyota FJ Cruiser is not only holding its value incredibly well, but in some cases sells more second-hand than when it was new (we’re talking about the special editions and tricked-out versions). People are only just starting to appreciate what cool and playful SUVs can offer, and the market is thirsty for stuff like this. So we reckon it behooves Toyota to start thinking about bringing the FJ back from the dead. Of course, this is always tricky, because there is a chance that in their zeal to repeat the success of the original they overcook things and come up with a replacement that is an affront to the whole idea of resurrecting the car. But hey, they should at least try.

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PostHeaderIcon Convertible SUVs – Can They Make’em Work?

The case of the convertible SUVs is a curious one. Back when this style of vehicle was new – the days of the original Jeep and Land Rover, that is – the open-top utility vehicles were cooler and more practical than their hardtop counterparts. But the more modern SUVs got, the rounder and more car-like they got, the less they worked as a convertible. Many auto makers have tried to create a successful drop-top sport utility, but all have failed.

The thing is though, there are those that are still hoping to build the first great convertible SUV of the modern time. A while back Range Rover tried their luck with the Evoque convertible. The design of that car proved pretty polarizing, with the roof up or down, but that didn’t matter because the sales, to put it mildly, sucked. The total sales of the Evoque Convertible barely covered the cost of developing the ugly soft top it sported. So naturally, and inevitably, it was discounted. Now you would think that others might learn from Land Rover’s experience, and countless other experiments before that, and forego the idea of convertible SUVs altogether. But no.

The latest car maker to put their hopes and dreams in an open-top SUV is Volkswagen. And the model they have chosen to give the treatment to is the popular new crossover, the T-Roc.

While the T-Roc Cabriolet is yet to be released into the market, the initial impressions suggest it has all the flaws of the Evoque Convertible. Among the main features that doomed the British car were the ungainly roof, pathetic cargo room, and cramped rear seat, not to mention the wince-inducing price. Now, the Volkswagen will probably sport a more reasonable price tag, but as you can see in the videos provided here, the space, the boot (trunk) and the looks are quite questionable. Looks like VW has not learned anything from the fate of those convertible SUVs that came before. Sure, they have so much resource, they could care less if this car proved a flop. But they could have tried harder, you know.

The problem with open-top SUVs, besides those mentioned above, is that they have to, by default, be a two-door car. And if you look at the history of SUVs from the 70s onward, only a handful of two-door SUVs have been successful. Again, when one thinks of an example the first instance that comes to mind is the Evoque Coupe – also discontinued. Only Jeep Wrangler has managed to be a fairly successful two-door SUV, which has also made it a reasonable convertible SUV. And it is obvious why people don’t like two-door SUVs. When you buy a large 4×4 vehicle to go on long trips with and maybe go off road from time to time, you want to be able to carry a lot people and cargo. So it makes sense to have four proper doors and a large cargo area. Coupe and convertible SUVs cannot prove that, which makes them barely more than boutique vehicles favored only by a small minority. We seriously doubt even the mighty VW can circumvent that major flaw.

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PostHeaderIcon The Question of Ergonomics Vis-à-Vis Modern In-Car Displays

Whether you are a fan or not, the configurable, color-rich, graphics-heavy in-dash touchscreens are here to stay. They have all but replaced the traditional knobs and dials and buttons, affecting not just the way we interact with our cars, but the whole design of the cabin as well. Fair enough. They are the new fad and we have no choice but to go along with them. But the question remains, how ergonomic are these visually impressive screens? In other words, do they make our lives easier or harder? Put bluntly, do the people who design them, actually use them before signing off on them?

Some may say that it is a given that new technologies make our lives richer and more fulfilling. But if you look at the history of fads and trends from, say, 1960s forward, there have been many occasions where people picked conforming to a certain trend over personal comfort and convenience. Many different styles of clothing come to mind when one thinks of this, and a great number of astonishing hairdos. We can’t help but think that a large part of the public fascination with these touchscreens has to do with just that – the trend.

Let us illuminate this point with an example. In the latest Range Rover models you have no less than three screens: one acting as a virtual instrument binnacle, one for the infotainment/satellite navigation, and a fairly weird screen that controls the car’s climate features. Of these three, we can only make logical sense of just one. The instruments screen, which is fairly configurable and offers various views with maps and stuff is a very handy thing to have. Mind you, even that screen contains some hard to fathom menus that are pretty hard to use while driving. The infotainment screen, located in the middle of the dashboard, is the default screen which is must-have and we do not object to its existence. What we do object to, is the size of the buttons and fonts and icons on this screen. What on earth were the people at Range Rover thinking when they came up with this layout? The Range Rovers of the old used to famously have chunky buttons and levers so that they could be operated by a gloved hand. These new touch-buttons require the delicate and slender fingers of a female pianist to be clicked on first try. And that is while you are stationary. If you want to use them while driving, you also need the vision and focus of a fighter pilot.

We reckon Range Rover designers will argue that they had to go with extra small icons and buttons because of all the features integrated into the system. This is the result of a ripple effect, caused by the desire of, we imagine, some market research that said people have all of a sudden developed a hatred of physical buttons. So the brass decided the dashboard had to have the least number of buttons, and so the designers and engineers had no choice but to cram everything in a 10 inch display with icons more at home on a tablet. Why not delegate some of those functions to a set of physical buttons that are not only more convenient to use, but also easier to locate and understand for everybody?

But if you think this screen is bad, you have to have a go at trying to adjust the temperature and fan speed on the air con screen. Here we enter the realm of ridiculousness as we have to locate and press a small circular icon on the not-so-responsive screen, make sure it is showing the right shape relative to the function we want to use, and then go to the digital rotary dial to get the desired effect. You notice that throughout this procedure our eyes have been off the road and focused on some tiny icons, our mental capacities employed in the service of the hand-eye coordination required to complete the task successfully. Hmm, quite a lot of trouble to go through not to have some physical keys…

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PostHeaderIcon L.A. to Vegas – A Great Benchmark Test for Electric Cars!

These days you hear a lot about electric cars falling short of the claimed range by the manufacturers. It is pretty much the same story as the MPG ratings which never live up to the expectations. So we have a recommendation. The regulatory bodies should replace their traditional method of rating cars with a simple, real world test: Los Angeles to Las Vegas on one charge!

If you think about it, this is the best test of an electric car’s real world’s performance, comfort, range and pretty much everything else. Not that too many people are inclined these days to go Vegas, what with the top casino codes at your fingertips anytime you want. But still, a good number of drivers make this journey every week, if not for gambling then for bachelor parties, or to partake in the city’s vibrant prostitution scene. In any case, the point is, L.A. to Vegas on one charge is an excellent measure of evaluating an EV’s capabilities.

Frankly, if an EV cannot make the 270 miles distance between L.A. and Vegas on one charge, it is not really a good one – simple as that. This is the absolute minimum inter-city range an electric car worthy of the name should be capable of. Think of it like the NCAP or IIHS rating. Sure, you can spend a little less and get the car with the lower rating. But it could very well end up costing you dearly later on.

That is why we reckon the L.A.-Vegas one-charge trip could be established as an industry-standard benchmark test. We could call it the Vegas rating. And the rating system could be little Martini glasses in place of stars, with cars that make it through with a decent amount of charge still left in the batteries getting a full 5 Martini glasses, those that just about make it one charge getting four glasses, and so on.

Mind you, Tesla has sort of ruined this test already by putting up a great network of Supercharger stations along that route. But that should only affect biased testers and cheats. Independent referee should have no problem resisting the temptation to juice up a little half way to the desert. For Europeans, a similar route could be devised from, say, Milan to Monte Carlo. I don’t know why all my routes have to do with gambling, but here we are. That probably has something to do with the fact that running an electric car as a daily driver is, at the end of the day, a gamble.

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PostHeaderIcon The Nouveau Riche Taste in Cars – A Bit of a Hit and Miss

There is a famous saying that money can buy everything except class and character, and nowhere is this more clear than in the world of cars. Look around next time you find yourself in a fashionable high street in any city around the world, and you will find the flashiest cars are being driven not by the old money, but the nouveau riche. There is just something about new money that does not go along with taste. 

Granted, the old riche – as it were – were once nouveau riche themselves and now that they have done it all, it has grown out of them. So maybe it’s a rite of passage, buying embarrassingly flashy cars on your way to become cool and classy and develop some real taste. But we reckon there is more to it than that. There is something to be said about the way that money is made that is in direct accord with what it is being spent on. Take, for example, someone who has made big money mining crypto-currency, or, I don’t know, through online poker or something. He or she is going to spend that money on an entirely different kind of car than, say, a surgeon, or a screenwriter.

That is not to say the nouveau riche always buy crap. On the contrary, sometimes you find some pretty cool stuff in the parking lot at the Old Trafford. Sometimes Mr. Young Money catches a glimpse of a fellow Fresh Prince and realizes he’s been doing wrong. Or they might come across a real gentleman with a set of gentlemanly wheels and try to emulate him. But on the whole, I am afraid, the whips of the parvenu make them stand out for all the wrong reasons.

It is not just the brand, either. The bad taste of the nouveau riche extends to details beyond the mere badge. They tend often to go for extra-vibrant colors, put unnecessarily large wheels on the car, and install ridiculous body kits. It doesn’t make sense to a normal guy, at least not until you realize it is for the sake of the attention those things grab that the young buck loves orange paint job and spinner wheels and naked carbon wings. It is not enough that they have the money, they want everybody else to know they have the money. Maybe it’s an evolutionary thing, the same old peacock’s tail theory, if you like. Maybe, ultimately, big wings and dished wheels serve no higher purpose than to attract a mate.

And maybe it is because the nouveau riche can’t rely on their wits and manner to score a mate that they resort to showing off their wealth. Whatever the cause, they are the reason the world is so full of uncool cars, and why car makers follow so many uncool trends in design and style. After all, they want to be where the money is.

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PostHeaderIcon Speculating on the Porsche 992 Turbo

Granted, the Turbo version of the Porsche 911 is not as special anymore, now that all version of this iconic sports car have been turbo-fied. But still, if you want a high-powered 911 that, unlike the GT2 and GT3 variants, you can daily drive, the Turbo is still your best bet. And that is why the new Porsche 992 Turbo, forthcoming some time in early 2020, is a remarkable car worth speculating about. 

So right off the bat you know what you’re getting with the Porsche 992 Turbo. It is basically a regular 911 C4 with a souped up turbocharged flat-six engine. But as to how much oomph the new model will be packing, well, the word on the autobahn is the standard version will boast around 540 horsepower out of the box, which is a healthy number. But as always there will also be a S variant you can get for a whole lot more money, and that should be good for around 600 horsepower. That extra power is hardly a bonus considering the price difference between the two, which, if the current model is any indication, is around $30K.

True to its nature as an evolutionary car rather than a revolutionary one, the new Porsche 992 Turbo will get all the technology features of the previous model, but they have all been made a little bit better. So you get the performance-oriented all-wheel-drive, the exquisite Porsche driving management system with trick suspension and electronics, and the rear-wheel-drive steering. That said, Porsche could have something new in pipeline for the new Turbo, something along the line of the Wet Mode which they came up with to spice up the regular 992. In any case, you can rest assured that the new 911 Turbo will be every bit the daily-drivable supercar we all know and love.

All that is great, but none of it is stimulating enough to get us excited about the new Porsche 992 Turbo. But don’t despair, because the looks of the car could very well be. The regular new 911, pretty much everyone agrees, is an alright looking car, if a bit tame and conservative. That won’t be the case with the Turbo. The guys at Car & Driver have penned a rendering (shown below) showcasing the new Turbo, and we have to say it looks pretty awesome in a German supermodel sort of way. The rendering, mind you, only shows the backside, which is enough, given the fact that the 911’s face always looks the same regardless of type and model.

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PostHeaderIcon Driving In a New Country – Dos and Don’ts

Whether you are an immigrant leaving your mother land behind to start a new life elsewhere, or just a student or just someone planning a long stay in a foreign land, one of the inevitable situations you are going to face is driving in a completely new environment. While it might not seem like that big of a deal for someone who is already an accomplished driver in his or her own country, the challenges they might face could be enormous and quite stressful.

Any change, for that matter, could be stressful, let alone a change that requires you to adapt certain concrete skills honed and established in you over years to a new and often exotic setting. Take, for instance, someone from Hong Kong moving to the United states through online lottery in USA or something. First and foremost, he will have forego all he has learned about which side of the road to drive on, and basically reset his brain and feed it new data about directions. And that is before he can begin making new neural pathways for the location of the gear stick, the indicator stalk, etc., and only then begin to worry about the road regulations in the new country.

So you see that this seemingly easy task could end up completely disorient a fella at first. So what are the steps one can take to ensure a trouble-free transition?

The first logical step would be theoretical work. What we mean by that is, before setting off for a new environment where you will be driving, you have to take time to familiarize yourself not just with the rules and regulations of the new place vis-a-vis road behavior, but also habits and quirks of its people when it comes to driving. And lack of resources is not a valid excuse anymore. Scour the internet for all the data you can find on the new environment, and memorize, for example, the way they go around roundabouts, or whether or not your are allowed to make a right at a red. These little details go a long way to minimize the stress level once you find yourself on the road for real. Do not assume that rules are basically the same everywhere and that you can wing it. In most European countries they operate based on a strike system and enough offences could result in your license being taken away. And in America you could go to jail.

You could also hit YouTube or other video sharing sites and look for actual footage of the city you are travelling to. A neat feature of these sites is that you will always find some people who have filmed their entire commute by a dashcam or something, so you get a first-hand look at what it’s like driving on those streets, how much space the people there usually leave between them and the car in front – if they stop four car lengths behind or, like London van drivers, stick their nose up the front cart’s bottom – and you get a good idea of how they treat the traffic lines and graphics and basically what they mean. This way, when the time comes for you to get your new license there, you have already mastered the important stuff and breath through the exam. Again, do not trust your gut, because it is attuned to your old driving habits which don’t work elsewhere.

Another extremely important you have to learn before starting to drive in a new city in order to lower the chances of getting overwhelmed with confusion is the parking situation. You have to be aware of where people there usually park on the side of the street and alleyways, whether there is car parks near you and how much they charge, and generally acclimatize yourself with their parking habits because they are almost certainly going to be different than yours. Do not guess if a place that looks okay to park, really is. One of the worst things you can face as a newcomer to another country is having your car towed or getting a big fat ticket.

Last but not least, try to figure out what sort of vehicles are more popular in your destination city. If, for example, you are moving from Tokyo to Adelaide, you should know that a lot of people there drive big 4x4s and if you are used to tiny city cars, you could find yourself feeling like a mouse among elephants. So you can go and rent a 4×4 before hand and practice driving with that.

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PostHeaderIcon Autonomous Cars – Already Mainstream?

Many of us tend to think, in spite of all the evidence, that autonomous cars still have ways to go before becoming a viable, marketable mode of transport. We are waiting for a big, dramatic, crystalizing moment when they announce with real flourish the arrival of the self-driving cars. The truth is, like most other revolutionary technologies, autonomous driving is making its way into our live slowly but surely.

If you go and buy a brand-new family car today, pretty much anywhere in the world, chances are the vehicle comes with some form of autonomous technology already built in it. Most of you have heard of features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist, right? Well, what most don’t realize is that these are the building blocks of self-driving technology. Autonomous cars are nothing but regular cars equipped with technologies that automate some or all of the tasks hitherto assigned to the driver. But again, it is not going to be a big giant leap. It is happening step by step, phase by phase, so that by the time full autonomy is achieved, people are already used to it.

We talked above about the semi-autonomous technologies already fitted to cars. This is the first stage of the self-driving revolution, if you like. Here you can delegate some of the more mind-numbing parts of driving to the car. We’ve all been there: a long highway drive with nothing to see and nothing to do but follow the car in front. Well, now you can set the smart cruise control at a safe distance from the car in front, engage the lane assist and auto brake, and then sit and play with your smartphone the entire way while getting a massage from the seat. They call this in the business the hands-off stage. Next would be eyes-off, in which you can totally rely on the car to navigate itself through traffic while you, I don’t know, nap or something. It might sound far-fetched, but we already have all the technologies required for this – from super smart navigation systems, to sign recognition, and of course automatic driving operations such as steering and braking.

Where are going to go from there? Well, it’s anybody’s guess. The only sure thing is that these technologies will become increasingly, and exponentially, smarter. With the advances in cloud computing and internet of things, it is entirely within the realm of possibility to have cars that are more intelligent than us. If we absolutely have to complain about some part of it, though, we would raise the point that car makers should first implement the whole autonomy and electrification thing on the public and commercial transportation, and then bring it to the regular, day to day cars. What they are actually doing seems to be the opposite.

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PostHeaderIcon Nissan GT-R – Still Hot, Or Outdated and Ridiculous?

We have been known to complain about certain car makers doing facelifts and makeovers where none were needed. Hyundai, for instance, tends to put out a new Sonata every other week, just because. Nissan, however, is falling off the other side of the cliff. No other automaker has the stones to keep cars in production like this determined Japanese company, as seen with models like the 370Z and the GT-R.

The 370Z, especially, is a car with a lot of nerve still presenting itself in a market where there is a new version of the Cayman and BMW Z4 every year. Based on the ancient 350Z, and with minimal changes to its design and performance, this tired sports car still commands a hefty price, which goes to show how cheeky Nissan tends to be with their sportier models. They think they have done something amazing with them, which is probably why they keep them in production for like eighty years.

This is plain to see with the Godzilla, the Nissan GT-R. There was a time, ages ago, when the first came out, that is was a bit of a phenomenon. It was brisk and brutal and bold. And every loved it for the rawness, the sheer technicality, and the mind-bending capabilities that it offered. But you see, things have moved on since then, and the GT-R sort of hasn’t. Sure, there has been the odd nose job and skin lift here and there, and they have put on a lot of mascara over that face to cover up the wrinkles over the years. But the GT-R, just like its little brother the 370Z, is way too old for this modern world.

You may argue that the GT-R still has plenty to live for, that the V6 turbo engine under that bonnet still has lots of juice to give. And that’s true. But the fact is, the GT-R delivers a kind of rough and edgy performance that is no longer vogue. Take any new German sports cars, even the supposedly soft AMG Mercs, and you get the same sort of performance as the GT-R but with a lot more comfort, convenience, features, and of course, better styling. This big old fish is no longer fresh.

So I think we have established that the Nissan GT-R is not hot stuff anymore, except maybe to a handful of hard-core fans.And it probably goes without saying that it is outdated. You certainly get more for your money getting a Porsche Cayman or a BMW M4. And that brings us to another important point, and that is, Nissan GT-R would have still made some sense were it not so hugely expensive. Options one of these half-decently, and you will easily exceed a hundred grand, and the to-end Nismo models could easily go pass $170K. That is insane, especially as that kind of money can buy you a sleek and modern Aston Martin with an up-to-date German engine.

But is the GT-R ridiculous and idiotic, as the implication here clearly goes? Well, we don’t know about the car itself, but spending big money to get a car with outdated design, godawful refinement, eye-watering maintenance costs, and a brand of performance that is more scary than fun is certainly idiotic and ridiculous. So maybe it is not the car that is ridiculous. Maybe it’s the people who still buy it…

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PostHeaderIcon Tesla Model 3 Makes A Lot of Sense, But…

Just like many of you, we are finding ourselves increasingly thinking about an EV as our next family sedan. We have resisted as long as we could, of course. We are going to ridiculous length to keep our beloved gasoline-powered machines. But it’s like the smartphone revolution. You could keep your old Nokia if you want, but the time will come that efficiency will dictate getting the new stuff. The same is true of cars and EVs.

So really, it comes down to which electric car we would like to buy. Which of these smartphone with wheels, as it were, we would like to walk up to every morning, spend a few minutes, or hours, in as we commute to and from work? Note that we are looking for a regular family sedan, nothing too fancy or expensive. So right off the bat, things like the Tesla Model S goes out the window. But what about its little brother, the Model 3? This, on paper, seems to make a lot of sense. Well, okay, the base version makes sense, not the high-end variants on account of costing way too much for a family car.

The list of the things right with the Tesla Model 3 is pretty long. To begin with, this EV has a decent range. And that’s real-world, tried and tested range. Depending on the variant you get, you could do from 220 miles (354 km) to 325 miles (523 km), which is great for a family car travelling in and around the city. Granted, you still can’t plan a full road trip in this thing if your habitat lacks the Tesla Supercharger network. But those, or some other kind of public charging station, are spreading around the world like mushrooms.

Then there is the performance of Tesla Model 3, which even in standard version causes the shame and chagrin of many a top-end executive sedans. Yes, it does get a bit tired at speeds above 120 mph or so. But how often are you going to hit that? What are going to want is instant acceleration from 50 to 70 mph, and Model 3 provides that like no other car, not even a V8. So there is none of that electric-car-getting-overtaken-by-bicycles stereotype. You could challenge sports cars in this EV.

Another amazing highlight of the Tesla Model 3, which itself could be enough of a reason to buy this car, is the technology. By that we mean the connectivity and in-car controls presented to you via a superb super-iPad like display in the center. The minimalist look of this cabin might put some people off, but it will definitely appeal to the smartphone generation who like nothing more than starting at a bright screen all day long. And we don’t even need to mention the driving assist and automated driving functions integrated into the 3.

Long story short, the Model 3 is by far the superior choice for anyone looking for a sleek,modern and cool family car. And yet…

And yet there is nothing about this car that makes us go all hot in pants. Your C-Class Mercs, your 3-Series Bimmers, the Alfa Giulia, you look at these cars and are instantly filled with a desire to get in and drive them. You want to own them because you want them. We spent hours checking out a Model 3 up close, and honestly, the more we looked at it, the less we desired it. Maybe it has something to do with the design. Maybe we are old school. Whatever the reason, the Model 3 does not do it for us, and the same is true of almost all mid-range electric cars. Somehow they miss the charm that we seem to get from the gas-powered stuff. We reckon it is the fact that with the “old” cars, because the manufacturers have spent years and decades perfecting them, they have acquired an X factor, a little something that warms the cockles of your heart when you sit in them, like they are familiar, recognizable, cozy. The electric stuff still have ways to go before they can offer the same feeling.

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PostHeaderIcon Rear Seat Entertainment Should be Standard Feature!

I recently took a road trip across the bottom of Australia, going from Melbourne to Brisbane. We took the journey in a 2017 Toyota RAV4, and it was fine, except for those parts that I had to sit in the back seat. The combination of the RAV4’s small rear windows, its black upholstery, and high shoulder lines of the vehicle meant that rear compartment was dark, cramped, and somewhat claustrophobic. 

Countless times throughout that journey when I was in the back seat I longed for a decent rear seat entertainment package. It would have made those stints in the backseat a lot more tolerable as I could watch a movie, surf the web, or amuse myself with one of those Australian online gambling games that I like so much without having to hold a smartphone up to my eyes the whole time. That brings me to the whole concept of Rear Seat Entertainment and why it should be included in every sedan, SUV and hatchback as standard, or at the very least as an option you can choose.

These days, with the cost of electronic devices at an all time low, there really isn’t an excuse for car makers not to at least offer a rear seat entertainment package as an extra. Time was such packages were reserved only for the most expensive luxury sedans, and even they used to get a crappy system with low-re screens that showed a crappy picture of the local TV stations. Now though, you can have iPad-quality touchscreen displays connected to fast LTE networks, providing you with plenty of choices how to spend those boring hours in the back seat. I cannot stress enough how much I would like to have slot machine games to play on the go!

But rear seat entertainment goes deeper than a couple of screens. Actually, I reckon we should call it the rear seat convenience package, as it should also include individual climate zone each occupant can control on their own, and also a massage function for each of the backrests. Again, these used to be the purview of high-end super deluxe models. But the cost of fitting these systems has dropped so much, you can have all of them, plus the above-mentioned entertainment goodies, in an optional package for less than two grand. And that’s a two grand I would happily pay, even if it means I’ll only use them like twice a year.

An step further than that would be having reclining seats in the back, and that is still not an option readily available for mid-range cars. If you want that, you either have to wait a few more years until they become a mainstream feature – as they have started to, given some of the latest SUVs and executive sedans we’ve seen out in the market – or shell out big money on a full-size sedan or SUV, most of which come as standard with it. Of course the very top end of this segment also provides you with a Maybach-style reclining chair complete with front passenger seat fold option which gives you the same comfort as in an Emirates business class seat in an Airbus A380.

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PostHeaderIcon On The Compact SUV Craze…

SUVs have been the undisputed kings of the automotive market for quite a while now, spawning a whole bunch of new sub-styles, as it were. It is not really difficult justifying the Sport Utilities themselves. There are plenty of nice things about them that make them popular with the masses. But the new craze about the compact SUVs does not really make as much sense. So why do people love these tiny, cramped and impractical machines so much?

If you think about it, compact SUVs are the exact opposite of what makes the full-size SUV a hit with the users. They lack the space, the imposing size, the capabilities, and in most cases even the high driving position. And the latter is basically the first reason why people buy SUVs. They desire a high seat because, in their mind, it makes them feel invincible on the road. Sitting up there, they can lord it over other motorists, survey the traffic for a great distance ahead, and pass the time in traffic looking into other people’s cars without being caught doing so.

The new generation of compact and sub-compact SUVs, though, has a distinct lack of everything that make their bigger brethren great. Often these cars are based on nothing more fancy than hatchbacks. They have the same platform as a city car, bolstered with jacked up suspension and come plastic cladding on the wheel arches. So straight away, the capability aspect of the SUV is out the window. They drive like a hatchback and often have the same interior and cargo volume as well. But because they are jacked up and have a boxier shape, they have worse aerodynamics, which means they have worse fuel economy and performance. That means a lot of the times with a compact SUV you are paying more to get a worse car than its hatchback variant.

So these things are not terribly capable in terms of driving dynamics and no more practical than a regular city car. But what gets us about the compact SUVs above all else is the automakers’ insistence on making them more marketable by jamming more SUV-features into them. Check the new Mercedes GLB, for instance. This is a compact SUV/crossover which can ordered with up to seven seats! Seven seats in a car the size of a phone box. Now, if you have used a seven-seater SUV, you know that even the full-size variants do not do great in terms of 3rd row space. Except for really huge SUVs like the Escalade or the Lincoln Navigator, the third row is practically unusable for adults. So one can only imagine what life is like in the third row seats of the GLB. We reckon even toddlers are going to find it difficult to get comfortable back there.

Actually, toddler wouldn’t want to be there in the first place because the third row of a compact SUV is a dark and claustrophobic place. And with no window which they can open, and the high c-pillars which block their view outside, they are guaranteed to barf explosively five minutes into the journey. All of this makes us thing that the compact SUV craze is the result of misplaced vanity on the part of buyers. Those who go for these cars really want a big SUV, but can’t afford it, or can’t live with its size and cost. So they settle for a compact one, just so they can say yeah, I have a SUV, too. And that’s sad for a number of reasons, above all the fact that this craze is killing the sedan and hatchback segments, which means it’s killing all the fun family cars.

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PostHeaderIcon Braking – The Oft-Forgotten Part of Tuning Jobs!

If you like cars, you like tuning. That is almost a given. People who are into cars are the kind who enjoy fiddling around with spanner and screw drivers, and the majority fancy themselves rather skillful home mechanics. That is why we see so many home-tuned cars these days, especially in the lower echelons of the market where people tend to “invent” rather than “invest.”

That brings us to an all-important issue which is often overlooked, and not just by home tuners. Throughout the years in this business covering the latest trends and developments of the automotive world, we have come across really great cars modified by big companies which lacked a vital component. And that is proper brakes.

Of course, by that we do not mean they have forgotten to put in bigger, better brakes. Home tuner might make that mistake, but you rarely find a big time tuning company refusing to offer some braking system as part of their upgrade package. But what both groups overlook more than they care to admit is stopping distances. Yes, you can fit massive brake discs and fit 10-piston calipers. But if your stopping distance is not idea relative to the car and the speeds it can achieve, it won’t be much good in the real world.

Now you might be thinking that bigger brakes, by default, result in shorter stopping distances. Granted, a 15-inch brake disc provides more braking power than a 7-inch unit. But there is more to it. Like other part of the car like the engine or the suspension, your braking system needs to be engineered by a professional. That is why well-known tuners with a good record always offer braking packages tailored for a specific model. They take into account the weight, the dynamics, the driving mods, and of course, the modifications they have made to it.

What’s more, tuners need to consider cooling and how to thermal efficiency of the brakes vis-a-vis the material used in its build. Proper brakes are such a complex piece of engineering that most car makers and tuners like to order them from the giants like Brembo or AP-Racing instead of investing time and resources developing one from scratch. Those guy have the faculties and the experience needed to tailor a system to the needs of a particular model, therefore they can do the job a lot quicker and a lot cheaper.

That said, performance-oriented auto makers such as Porsche always make their own brakes. They have the expertise needed to create a proper braking system, and they have the know-how – from materials, all the way to the size and calibration – which is why Porsche brakes are among the best in the industry. But as if to prove our point here, you get those discs and calipers off a Porsche model and fit them without any further adjustment to another make of car, and chances are you won’t get the performance you are looking for. That is the importance of engineered brakes which result in shorter stopping distances in practice.

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