2014 Mazda3

By | November 13, 2014

2014 Mazda3

In a world filled with expensive gas, the need for practicality, and the desire to have fun on a budget the 2014 Mazda3 fits the bill.  It offers great fuel economy, comes in the form of a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatch (shown), and is a hoot to drive.

Mazda has been marketing Zoom Zoom with fuel efficiency for a number of years now.  They have gained a reputation for sporty rides, good looks, and excellent fuel economy since.  The new 2014 Mazda3 keeps the tradition going with this handsomely redesigned model shying away from the less popular “smiley faced” cars.  This new 3 follows the current Mazda design language inspired by the Shinari concept from 2010 which has helped Mazda see a boost in sales numbers across their model range.

2014 Mazda3

Mazda has given the 3 a choice of two SkyActiv 4 cylinder engines, the base 2.0L has 155 hp and a 2.5L with 184 hp that is shared with the Mazda6.  Our test car was fitted with the 2.0L and paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission.  The 2.0 is a buzzy little engine that will get you around town and down the highway with no problems.  The transmission shifts smoothly and you hardly notice when driving.  Move the gear lever into sport mode and you can shift yourself but it is slow to respond and requires timely pulls of the lever to get it to shift when you want it to.  The 2.0 is far from quick but in return you get great fuel economy.  It is rated at 30/40 mpg for city and highway respectively.  In our mostly city driving our average was 31.7 mpg according to the onboard mpg calculator.  It will also show you real-time figures and on the highway we have seen averages in the low 50 mpg range.  If quick is more your style then we’d recommend the 2.5L with its extra 29 hp which helps the car get up to speed when pulling out into traffic better but at a sacrifice of a few mpgs with it rated at 27/37 city/highway.

2014 Mazda3

Take the 3 out of the city and down a canyon road and the car handles great for a small econobox.  In the corners the car grips and doesn’t roll about like others in its class. The steering is quick, responsive, and nicely weighted which gives the driver better confidence.  We would argue that if Mazda were to build a rear wheel drive 3-series fighter BMW would have some serious trouble on their hands in terms of handling and overall feel from behind the wheel.  The brakes feel nice and linear and feel better than most in its class and it takes about 122 ft to stop from 60 mph which believe it or not is only 4 feet farther than the Ferrari 355.

2014 Mazda3

The interior is a nice place to be.  The design is pleasing to look at and the basic cloth seats are comfortable and offer plenty of leg room both front and back.  My 6’3″ frame doesn’t need the seat all the way back to have enough room like in most cars and I can even sit in the back without a fuss.  The speedometer is easy to read but the tach is tiny.  But then again, in a car such as this a tach isn’t the primary focus.  Our test car had very little options with no heated seats or infotainment screen.  The higher trim levels even offer a fighter jet-like heads up display which displays your speed.  Our car did have blind spot monitoring in the form of lights in the corners of the mirrors which light up if a vehicle is in your flanks.  Turn on an indicator and it beeps to warn you.  The system works quite well and is sensitive enough to pick up bicyclists.  It also works when in reverse to let you know if a car is coming which also works remarkable well in parking lots.

2014 Mazda3

Admittedly, the new 3 is priced above pretty much everything in its class but for what you get it is a great buy.  A base model sedan can be had for just $16,945.  The hatchback adds $2,000 to that.  Check all the boxes though and you’ll see that price double and after destination charges will be close to $35,000!  The new Mazda3 can be a very smart buy if you go easy on the options.  We liked the 3 so much that the test car is actually my car.  My wife and I have put just over 3,000 miles on it to date and have loved every bit of it.  It offers plenty of Zoom Zoom with practicality and fuel economy numbers to keep us from stopping at the pump.

Photos: Chance Hales

A Day In The Life of A SEMA Exhibitor

By | November 6, 2014

I’ve been in the automotive industry for several years now, an editor at The Daily Derbi for just about as long, and an enthusiast from the womb.  Despite all that and good intentions I have never attended SEMA until this year.  Kids, vacations, moving, and family obligations have all prevented the much coveted trip to the mecca of the automotive aftermarket.

Now that I’m working for a distributor of performance products I’m at SEMA for the week and will be every year for the forceable future.  Unfortunately, when you’re working the show you have to come early, before the show opens just to enjoy the cars that are at the show.  Just to put it into perspective, I spent 9 hours at the show the opening day and only made it to seven booths.  It was like a prison with no doors and giant windows.

I came in early today to catch some cars.  Staying true to last year, there were lots of custom FR-S and BRZ’s.  I still want one.  We’ll be coming out with an overview of our favorite cars from the show later but for now, here’s a list what struck me on my first walk through.

FT-1

Similar to Honda, Toyota has been on a performance car hiatus for years (excluding the Scion FR-S).  The Celica is long gone and the legendary Supra is a relic of the past.  The FT-1 has been tantalizing the Supra faithful for a long time now.  As the Supra’s spiritual successor, the FT-1 has a lot to live up to and as gorgeous as it is in concept form, a lot of potential to disappoint should it make production.  I say disappoint because the FT-1 is a work of art on so many levels but many of those heavenly aspects would never make it into production.  Connecting pillars would have to be widened to accomodate air bags, DOT approved signal and safety lights will have to be added (causing blemishes to clean lines) and those beautiful side mirrors are probably worthless.  The 1950′s and the beauty over safety mentality will forever be missed in the enthusiasts world.  Still, with all those obstacles ahead the FT-1 is a top attraction at SEMA in 2014.

918 Front

The Porsche 918 Spyder is a shoe in as well.  It’s the hybrid hyper car, the halo Porsche, and successor of the Carrera GT.  The 918 is one of the most beautiful Porsche’s ever made (made easier because of the Panamera) and its performance is staggering.  From an exhaust point of view, it’s one of my favorites around.  Duel exhaust, exiting from the top of engine compartment is magical.

Without hi-lighting a specific one.  Just know that there is a butt load of 2015 Mustangs at SEMA this year.  The 2015 stang has received its fair share of criticism but let me tell you that the car is far more impressive in person than in pictures.  Clean lines and, muscular shoulders, and one of the best rear ends in the business make the new Mustang one of the most appealing pony cars yet.

911 LS Front

Crazy one off cars are always expected at SEMA.  Hawk Performance hasn’t disappointed this year with their custom 911.  While it does have a one-of-a-kind wide body kit and wheels that you won’t see anywhere else, this German autobahn blaster is powered by American muscle.  It’s a tight fit but yes, this baby has an LS Chevy hanging over the rear axle.  Säuglinge zurückkamen!!

We’ll be at SEMA the rest of the week and will continue to provide coverage on what catches our eye.  Pardon the crummy cell phone pics.  Stay tuned for our top pics from #SEMA2014

In Photos: 2014 NASA Utah Region Round 6

By | October 14, 2014

2014 NASA Utah Region Round 6

2014 NASA Utah Region Round 6

Welcome to another WET and rainy NASA Utah event held at Miller Motorsports Park. To be fair to mother nature, it was a great day to go racing the following day!

And this was the 2nd to last round of the series (insert “crying eyes” emoticon here).

I could go on and on about how NASA Utah is great for getting that all important seat time. How NASA Utah is great for getting experience in your car at an HPDE event. And it still is! Not only that, it’s still some of the best value for your racing buck! And I’ll say again, those interested in taking the “next step” should seriously look what NASA Utah has to offer.

BUT..

The last event is this weekend. IF YOU HURRY, you can still register -> HERE!

So bookmark NASA Utah’s page to keep on eye on other upcoming events and events next season!

Round 6 results can be found here.

And again, thanks to fine folks at Miller Motorsports Park for their help!

[photos | Scott Pettett | Mike Gillilan]

2014 Auto Show Season Kicks Off in Paris

By | October 8, 2014

Paris_Motor_Show_2012_(8065363857)After a 4 month summer break, automakers return to the show circuit for the 2014 Paris Motor Show.  The Paris Motor Show always brings something new and interesting for the world to see.  Dozens of world debuts were shown.  So many new concepts and production ready models were shown that we had a hard time narrowing down which to feature.  We did manage to narrow the list down to ten of what we feel are the most interesting or significant.

2015 VW Polo GTIWe start off with the new Volkswagen Polo GTI.  This scaled down Golf is about the same size as the Ford Fiesta and would compete with the Fiesta ST nicely if it were offered in the US.  Unfortunately, it isn’t.  Our friends across the pond will enjoy the 189 hp available from its turbo charged 1.8L 4 cylinder engine which should be ample power to make this a potent little machine.  The rally version of the Polo has been dominating WRC the last couple of years but will this new Polo GTI dominate the sub-compact, hot hatch market?

Ferrari 458 Speciale A Ferrari came swinging hard with their new ragtop version of the 458 Speciale.  This yellow pony uses the same drivetrain as the hardtop with its 597 hp 4.5L V8 making this the most powerful Ferrari spyder to date.  0-62mph is claimed to take just 3.0 seconds.  This 458 Speciale A, as it is known, has a stunning blue carbon fiber interior to match the blue stripe on the hood.  If you are thinking of buying one you’d better contact your Ferrari dealer fast because Ferrari will only build 500 of these and they are likely to sell like Carlo’s Bakery’s cannolis. Mercedes AMG GT Unveiled a few weeks prior, the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT made its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show.  The baby SLS as it has been called will be anything but a baby.  It is powered by a 456hp or 503 hp 6.2L V8 depending on the trim level.  0-62 times are a claimed at 3.9 and 3.7 seconds respectfully.  Were you thinking of buying a Jaguar F-Type Coupe?  You may want to reconsider. Jaguar XE At first, this new Jag looks like any other four door Jaguar.  This is the new XE.  Jaguar says the car is aimed at the like of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C Class.  In other words, it is the new version of the X-Type.  There will be a few engines available ranging from 4 cylinders to the V6 from the F-Type.  Let’s hope it is more exciting than the old X-Type.  Expect it to hit the US sometime in 2016. Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Infiniti has had some very elegant concepts in the last few years.  The Q80 Inspiration is no exception.  The Q80 is just a design study for now but is what Infiniti imagines their Mercedes S-Class fighter would look like.  It is said to feature a 3.0L twin turbo V6 and an electric motor combining to make 550 hp.  It also features autonomous driving and two separate HUDs for the driver and passengers.  The interior was shown in a different idea of two-tone, the front was dressed in black while the rear was wearing white.  It also sports rear suicide doors much like the Rolls-Royce cars. VW XL Sport Concept Volkswagen brought a fun toy to Paris in a new version of their XL1.  If you aren’t familiar with the XL1, it is a 1700lb hybrid powered by an 800cc turbo-diesel twin cylinder and a small electric motor combining to make 77hp.  The idea is to be as aerodynamic and fuel efficient as possible.  This though is the XL Sport Concept.  It ditches the gas sipping drivetrain for something more sporty, a 1200cc v-twin from the Ducati 1199 Superleggera which is good for 197 hp and a claimed top speed of 168 mph.  With nearly three times the power as the XL1 and weighing less than a first gen Mazda Miata it should be a spritely car.  For now it is just a concept, we say build it! Bentley Mulsanne Speed Speed and Bentley are two words you don’t typically think of together but don’t tell Bentley that.  This is the new Bentley Mulsanne Speed.  The looks are mildly revised for this luxurious ride but looks and luxury are not what is most interesting about the latest from Crewe.  Chew on this, 811 lb/ft of torque at 1750rpm.  That is what this 6 3/4L V8 is capable of, that and 530 hp.  That’s full size towing truck torque numbers!  This new found torque allows the Mulsanne Speed to scoot to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds which is remarkable considering the thing weighs three tons.  The Mulsanne Speed should hit showroom floors this winter.  And if you have to ask how much it cost, you can’t afford it. Audi TT Sportback Concept Audi has gone TT crazy this year showing a number of different versions of the new TT ranging from the droptop to an Allroad version.  Now they are previewing a Sportback version.  For the first time, we see a TT with 4 doors and lines similar to an A7.  This new Sportback is surprisingly not much bigger than the 2016 TT Coupe, only a foot longer and is actually 1.2 inches lower.  The TT Sportback is powered by a 2.0 turbo 4 making 400 hp.  Audi says it should hit 62 mph in 3.9 seconds when paired with their dual-clutch 7 speed S-Tronic transmission. Lamborghini Asterion The car that brought the most buzz at the show was Lamborghini‘s first hybrid.  What you see here is called the Asterion LP910-4.  The Asterion swipes the V10 from the new Huracan combined with an electric motor to make 910 hp.  The electric motor alone can power the car up to 78 mph with a range of 31 miles.  Top speed is said to be 199 mph and 62 mph should arrive in 3 seconds flat.  Stylistically, it doesn’t shout Lamborghini though, we think it looks like someone slapped an Aventador nose on a C7 Corvette.  Lamborghini boss, Stephan Winkelmann, says the Asterion is just to show the public what a Lamborghini hybrid could look like and that their focus right now is the Urus.  Hopefully it won’t end up like the Estoque and remain a one-off. Honda Type R Concept Honda came with their latest version of the Civic Type-R.  This little hot hatch sports a 2.0 turbo 4 making 276 hp and Honda says it is faster than any other Type-R model they have produced.  That is saying something considering the NSX is included in that list.  It will also feature a +R button, a glorified “Sport Button,” which will sharpen up the steering, stiffen the suspension, and alter torque mapping.  As is the case with all Type-R models though, the likelihood of the car coming stateside is very slim. That will wrap up our coverage of the Paris Motor Show.  The next big shows will be SEMA from November 4th-7th and the Los Angeles Auto Show from November 21st-30th. Photos: Drew Phillips via Autoblog

In Photos: 2014 Energy Solutions Utah Grand Prix

By | October 5, 2014

2014 Energy Solutions Utah Grand Prix

2014 Energy Solutions Utah Grand Prix

On September 12~14, Miller Motorsports Park hosted the last two rounds of 25th annual running of the Pirelli World Challenge. Everything from Fiat 500s, Honda Fits, to Audi R8s, Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins, Cadys, Corvettes, and why not, let’s throw in some Lamborghinis and Bentleys to the mix!

With some of the drama and politics that are happening in other series, Pirelli World Challenge has seized upon some of that frustration from teams and has stepped up and expanded their game to include machines similar-in-spec to GT3 class cars. With migrated teams mixing it up with established teams in a multi-class sprint racing format, this makes for some exciting racing!

Also racing that weekend was NASCAR K&N series, United States Touring Car Championship, Pirelli GT3 Cup, and unique to MMP, the Miller GT Cup.

Results of weekend.

So, enjoy some pictures from the weekend!

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the broadcast of the GT race

Lastly, we would like to thank the fine folks at Miller Motorsports Park for their help over the weekend!

[photos | Scott Pettett | Jason Porter | Neil Eschenfelder | Mike Gillilan]

Racing Blip: 2014 Petit Le Mans

By | October 3, 2014

Action Express Racing

Action Express Racing

Well, this is it! The LAST race of the inaugural season of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is here. This stop is in the outskirts of Atlanta at a track called Road Atlanta. This is the 17th annual Petit Le Mans. And how do you send off the last race of the season? How about a 10 hour race sound? Well, that’s what we get!

Leaving out some of the politics and rumors floating around, here are some things to look for at the race.

In the P class. With Extreme Speed Motorsport sitting out this race and prepping for a stint in World Endurance Championship, there’s really only one P2 car to give the DP cars some heat on the track. That would be Oak Racing with their new Ligier JS P2. With the DP cars with an apparent performance advantage, I expect Oak to be more of a torn in the sides of the DP cars eyeing for the season championship. That being said, the No. 5 Action Express Racing took pole during a double red-flagged qualifying session with a solid 1:14.508. Oh..and the DeltaWing comes back, sporting some new changes to it.

GTLM – The No. 911 Porsche RSR with Nick Tandy driving, took the pole. This makes the 11th pole winner this season. That is what makes this class so exciting. 11 different pole winners for 11 different races! Questions remain, will Corvette break their slump? Will BMW finally show it’s strength? Will Porsche take the manufacture’s trophy? What about Ferrari being 1/10 of second off pole? Viper? It should be a VERY eventful race.

GTD – Gotta hand it to Aston Martin, TRG, and James Davison. Forth pole in a row! This will be a very exciting race as well. Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Viper, Ferrari, and BMW all vying for the winner’s circle. About 0.6 secs separates the top 5 cars!

How to watch the race? The race program starts 11:00 AM EDT on Saturday (10/4) and all of it will be streamed live over on IMSA.com – no geo limitations – FINALLY.

More details on how to watch can be found here. (ed note, updated link)

The every handy dandy spotters guide.

And here’s a preview of Petit Le Mans

[photo | mike gillilan]