Sunday, September 1, 2013

Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 First Take

After just 26,000+ miles, the OEM Dunlap Sport 5000M tires were down to their wear markers. I am always happy to take care of my ride and was diligent about rotating the tires every 7500 miles or so.

After much research, I found a good deal on the Michelin Sport A/S 3 from America's Tires for the Labor day weekend. The Michelin just came out this summer to replace their all-season Pilot line. According to Michelin, they have used several new technologies like the asymmetric read pattern and high silica compound to give summer tire performance with all-season versatility. Are Michelin's claims true or are they all just marketing jargon?

There are several online reviews out there that report 0-60 times, 60-0 braking distances, and lap times. The Pilot Sports performed amazingly well, particularly considering that the wet 60-0 braking distances were shorter than the competitors' dry braking distances. While I cannot perform these tests to confirm them myself, I can give some seat-of-the pants impressions.

As soon as I pulled out of the tire shop, I immediately noticed that the ride and steering feel were completely transformed. Even when the Dunlaps were new, the ride on the Genesis was always a bit choppy going over larger bumps. As the OEM tires wore out, expansion joints and even smaller bumps and potholes sent unpleasant shocks through the chassis. The worst part was perhaps the bad case of bump steer the car exhibited on the worn out tires. With the fresh set of Michelins, however, just about ALL the harshness disappeared over all but the largest bumps and dips. Road noise had also substantially been reduced and the bump steer is non-existant. Just with the brand new set of tires, the car felt completely different. Although I have not pushed the car hard enough around any corners, I am confident that handling is much improved as well.

I have always been a skeptic when it comes to the importance of tires, particularly on ride quality. I always felt that the ride quality sole depended on the suspension and chassis design. Although this is still true, I can humbly say that the new Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 has made a believer out of me. It combines the wet and dry traction of summer tires (traction rating = AA) with durability (wear rating = 500), ride, and noise reduction of high-end all-season grand touring tires. At roughly $200 per tire, it is certainly one of the more expensive tires in its class (compared to Pirelli P Zero Nero A/S at ~$150 and Continental ContiProContact DWS at ~$180), but the extra cost is well justifiable for the extra performance and ride improvements. I would highly recommend it to all Genesis owners out there.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2012 Mazda6 short take

Last few days, I have been on the Big Island of Hawai'i for a nice getaway. Being the savvy consumer, I went through Hotwire to reserve a "Ford Fusion or similar" rental car on the cheap. Once the reservation was placed, I was notified that it was through Hertz. Of course, my first thought was Hertz is a reputable rental company, so I should get a pretty nice car.

When I arrived, the lady at the counter saw that I went through Hotwire (probably paid about half their normal rate) and gave me the keys to an Altima. Let me tell you, this car was BEAT UP! The car was probably a couple of years old at least and had close to 50K miles. The paint was fading, scratched up everywhere, and the rear bumper was dented. Regardless, I put my stuff away and was ready to mark off all the nicks, dings, scratches, etc. and saw that couple of the tires had bulges on the side wall! I quickly pointed the tires out to a gentleman on the lot and he had someone put me in another car, 2012 Mazda6.

Like that Altima, the Mazda was black on black (great job picking a color on a HOT, sunny island!) with lots of dings and scratches. I pretty much ended up circling all the panels on the worksheet and was on my merry way. I was at least excited to drive a Mazda6 since I've rented the Altima a couple of times before. The car was the base trim "i" with no options, as far as I can tell – a humble $20K family sedan.

Back when I was shopping for a new car, I did test drive a Mazda6 with the 3.5L V6. I could have gotten a great deal on a fully loaded 2010 model, but I could not get over the cheap plastics and the lack of an iPod connection (AUX jack only). Fast forward to 2013, the 4-banger from Hertz didn't seem so bad. The touch points were covered with padded plastics, but other parts of the dash looked a bit unrefined. All that seemed much easier to take in a low-$20K car than in a low-$30K car.

Enough with the background info... how does it drive? Well, pretty predictable family sedan stuff here. The 2.5L I4 puts out 170 hp into a 5-speed auto. It's a simple transportation with ample power for island life. On the Big Island, this is especially true, since there is no major freeway. I found the steering to be decently weighted and it took corners reasonably well. The ride was comparable to any family sedan I've driven, but on the glass-smooth roads on the Big Island probably would have made an RX-8 ride liked a limo. The backseat is huge and there is plenty of head room since there is no optional sunroof. The trunk is also big enough for all the luggage.

The Mazda6 pretty much does what it is supposed to do and blends into the crowd. Perhaps that  has been the big problem for Mazda. Mazda is a company that makes the Miata, RX-8, and the clown-faced Mazdaspeed3. These cars all have unique personalities that the Mazda6 simply does not have. This is a company that prides in itself to built unique cars, and yet, this particular generation Mazda6 is buried too deep in trying to appeal to the masses. Even the fully loaded V6 version I test drove a couple years ago didn't really impress me as much as the Accord or even the Sonata Turbo. It felt unrefined and the interior looked second rate. If a lesser known company like Mazda builds forgettable cars, people will not notice. Mazda does build some awesome cars, but they certainly need to sell a lot of these family sedans to keep afloat. I truly hope that the glowing reviews on the 2013 Mazda6 are true and that more people will take notice of the new 6 as a competent Accord-beater.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Record MPG

In the recent months, gas prices here in California have steadily gone up. Locally, I've filled up with prices as high as $4.25/gal. Naturally, that means keeping a closer eye on my mileage. Well, a couple weeks ago on a 30+ mile drive to Irvine, I've recorded the best MPG I've ever gotten with my Genesis. Check it out! Unfortunately, since then, it's been all commuting with very little driving on the open road. My mileage have been in the dumps around 15-17 mpg.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2 year summary

I've now had the Genesis for 2 years + a few weeks and driven it around 21K miles. It continues to be a great car and perhaps the bargain of the decade. As I've stated before, yes, the Genesis is by no means a perfect car, but it does a lot of things very well. My favorite aspects are the high-quality interior and the powertrain performance. My recent service experiences with the local Hyundai dealership has also been excellent and I have seen far worse treatment from the so-called luxury brand shops.

As far as performance, the powertrain is just about perfect for a $40K car. The 4.6L V8 is smooth as ever and the 6-speed automatic shifts nicely with no drama. Maybe it doesn't get as high an MPG as some of its V6 competitors, but there is just no substitute for displacement. The car is always quiet, but when you get into the throttle, there is a sweet, but subtle rumble that only a V8 can make. The midrange punch is almost brutal and passing acceleration is almost instantaneous even with modest throttle. That quiet, but distinct soundtrack and effortless cruising really makes the 4.6 feel much much more special than the V6 version. In comparison, the Acura TL or Lexus ES just don't have that added dimension, even if they put up similar 0-60 times.

Of course the biggest gripe that remains to this day is the ride quality. Hyundai had supposedly tuned the American version to have a slightly stiffer ride than the Korean version, but the car is sprung too soft with not enough suspension travel. As a result, the car has a very comfortable ride when going over small road imperfections (e.g., patches, freeway expansion joints, small potholes), but becomes unsettled when hitting a mid-corner bump or going over larger dips and bumps. I believe the suspension basically bottoms out when it encounters larger bumps. The car would likely benefit from stiffer progressive rate springs and/or stiffer shocks. The 2012 update supposedly fixed this issue, but when I test drove the R-spec a while back, the ride did not feel all that much different. This issue is something I can live with, but I can't help but wonder what Hyundai engineers were thinking when they gave the Sonata a much more forgiving ride than the Genesis.

All in all, I'm still very happy with my Genesis. It has decent features, excellent V8 power, and RWD dynamics. The materials inside are of very good quality, especially compared to anything Toyota or Honda puts out these days, and the cabin is roomy and comfortable.

By the fall of this year, Hyundai will likely introduce the 2nd generation car with more advanced features and some subdued version of Hyundai's "fluidic sculpture" design language. With the new design, I also suspect the prices will creep up slightly to the $37-55K range. If Hyundai manages to improve the chassis tuning, they should have another hit in their lineup. Maybe in about 8-10 years when my powertrain warranty finally runs out, I will think about upgrading to the 3rd generation Genesis or Equus. By then, we might all be driving hybrid versions and our kids will never know the sweet V8 soundtrack.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rental car review... 2012 Nissan Versa

Talk about almost a complete opposite driving experience! I was on vacation in Honolulu this past week and was stuck with in a 2012 Nissan Versa. Granted it got over 30 mpg during my mostly city driving, and it did get me from point A to B, but it was probably the second worst car I've ever driven, the worst being a previous gen Versa. The interior was covered with the cheapest grade plastics this side of GM cars from the 90s and the powertrain was so anemic that I had a hard time keeping up with even the laid back Hawaiian driving style. The CVT had a rubber band-like effect, where the power was very soft at tip-in and then it was followed by a non-linear power input, although with just 100-some odd horsepower, the non-linearity was not all THAT obvious.

Despite all that, it seemed to be a very good fit for the application. Most days were spent on the beach, complete with sand everywhere and wet swimming trunks and towels. If it was my Genesis, I would've locked all doors and would not have let anyone or anything inside! For island living, a cheap, simple car is certainly good enough and there's less guilt over getting it dirty!

Oh BTW, it was still pretty awesome to return home to the quiet V8 burble and instantaneous acceleration.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Holiday travels

With what is quickly becoming an end of the year tradition for me, I made the long, 400-mile drive from sunny Southern California to the Bay Area. As usual, the drive was as effortless as it can be and the Genesis handled the high speed cruising without a sweat. The trip computer read ~25-26 mpg on the way up, which is right on with the EPA numbers, but on the trip back to LA, I got it to read 28+ mpg! I calculated 26.8 mpg on the return trip. There may have been some hypermiling mixed in there, but I was definitely going faster than 50 mph and a couple of hours with the A/C running (in early January!) when I got to the valley.

Back in the real world and commuting in typical LA traffic, I find the quiet and effortless driving as relaxing as it can be under the conditions. Sure, the ride could be better, which by the way, I realized, the suspension is very soft and it becomes harsh when the car encounters big bumps and the suspension crashes. If they had used progressive rate springs and dampeners, and/or longer suspension travel, I'd expect ride to be significantly improved. The interior looks as good as the first day and all the bits and pieces show minimal wear and tear. In the coming months, I'll go over some of the distinct features that come with the car, which will hopefully win over prospective buyers and also help current owners rediscover their Genesis.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fill up compliment

295.5 miles / 17.150 gal. = 17.23 mpg

While I was filling up, I saw a middle-aged man driving a Toyota Previa take a long hard look at my Genesis. When he came back from the register, he made it a point to come around the back of my car to take a closer look and said, "that's a really good looking car, do you like it? How long have you had it?" I replied that I like it a lot and that it performs very well. BTW it's been almost exactly one year since I've had the car and I have not looked back. For the money, I truly believe it is the best all-around sedan in the market today. There have been a few minor issues, some of which are unresolved, but it has performed flawlessly and is proving to be a capable and comfortable luxury car.