Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Food Loves French's - Ay-yay-yay-yai!

Brilliant randomness. To date, only outdone by the "El Pollo Loco" guy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Mazda, She Is No More. Long Live The Acura.

The time came.

For the last few months, my 2003 Mazda 6s was quickly showing its true GM roots. As it neared the 60,000 mile mark, there were a host of new creaks and knocks. Front suspension, radiator, minor oil leak, 60k-mile service, tires, and rear brakes were all going to need attention -- and the prospect of dumping about 3 grand into a car with 60,000 miles on it wasn't exactly appetizing. And assuming I did pay to get it fixed, I'd still be out of warranty.

Short story short -- the Mazda, she is no more. Long live the [certified pre-owned] 2007 Acura TL!

What can I say? I'm a sucker for the four door saloon. Apart from the fact that the TL has more interior headroom and a better looking rear-end, my taste in styling hasn't changed much. Notice the similarities?

And if you look at each photograph carefully, you'll notice that both pictures were taken in exactly the same location, which is really a freak occurrence because two weeks ago, I moved back to an apartment complex I had lived in years ago. It's like Groundhog Day!

Well -- almost. There are some important advantages to the TL. For starters, first and second gear are not absolutely useless like in the Mazda. At low speeds, the 6 was jerky, heavy, and just all around horrid in stop-and-go traffic (that it was brilliant on the highway is neither here nor there). The TL's extra 38 horsepower and 41 pounds of torque are a welcome addition over the 6's asthmatic and (amazingly inefficient) 6-cylinder engine. I'm actually amazed that the TL has much more power and still manages to get better miles to the gallon.

Other TL advantages include superior build quality and materials, like the leather and dash plastics. There is significantly less headroom noise on the highway too, which makes driving longer distances a lot more comfortable in the TL.

I didn't think I would, but I like the TL's handsfree phone system. The microphone is perfectly positioned and there is no need to talk louder than usual, and the other caller's voice comes through clearly through the stereo. Unfortunately, Acura insists on not reading your phone's phonebook, so it can be a little tricky.

I still think the Mazda's interior cockpit design is above-average in its class, but the lack of basic features like bluetooth, MP3-CD playback, AUX-in, or iPod integration (even in the 2008 model) were especially infuriating because their integrated dash system is very very (very) costly to replace.

What the 6 lacks in build quality and features, it definitely made up for in handling. The firm sports suspension, super-stiff chassis, and great steering wheel feedback made even a simple drive to the supermarket a thrill ride. The TL has a much smoother ride and is, unfortunately, a bit more numb overall. It doesn't bob and weave like a Caddy, but it doesn't feel as glued to the pavement as the 6 did. And no, I can't afford a TL Type-S, so forget it.

The only TL "feature" that bothers me is the advanced Grade Logic Control System and Shift Hold control. So when you are slowing down to stop at a signal, the transmission will automatically downshift for you -- and downshift hard. Although the engine-braking will help you slow down faster, these downshifts to 3rd and 2nd are quite harsh. This makes it very hard to slow down smoothly or just keep your foot off the gas and coast until the light changes. It is quite intrusive and makes every occasion you slow down at a light a real adventure.

Basically, what these features attempt to do is mimic a manual transmission. But the peculiar thing is that most manual drivers -- when stopping at a signal -- will keep it in 4th or 3rd and come to a full stop, then just shift to 1st to get going again. The only time they would really downshift sequentially like the TL is to slow down quickly to hit the apex on a tight curve and have enough low-end power to accelerate out of the turn. But seriously, I'm driving around in the 'burbs of the Bay Area -- I don't need hard engine-braking every time I slow down to get into the parking lot of the local Target! Fortunately, the TL's manual shift mode (tiptronic) doesn't downshift as aggressively, so I tend to just use that.

In terms of upgrades, I always try to keep them understated. I've added an amp and sub from my Mazda, which sound fantastic. Tint has also made a huge difference. With the dark exterior (Carbon Gray Pearl), untinted glass makes this car looked like a plain vanilla Camry you might borrow from your grandmother. But with matching 35s all around, the TL comes alive.

The one thing I have seen that I really like is these illuminated door sills. They are pretty elegant and understated.

I was thinking of getting a rear wing spoiler, but I don't like the way it would add bulk to an already muscular rear end.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On Truth in Advertising

Is it just me or is the name of the public TV program "New Tang Dynasty" incredibly misleading?