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Review Archives - DrivingScene

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The Jaguar F-Type V8S Is An Apex Predator

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The Jaguar F-Type V8S Is An Apex Predator

Posted on 08 October 2013 by Adam Kaslikowski

Silver Jaguar F-Type V6 Driving

This has never happened before. I’ve been in some epic cars. I’ve been in fast cars. I’ve been in nice cars. And I’ve certainly been in loud cars. The Mercedes C63 AMG, the SRT Viper, a Shelby 427 Cobra replica. But I have never, NEVER, driven a ride so ferocious and loud that the sound echoes off nearby hills and mountains. The Jaguar F-Type V8S is just such a vehicle. Hit the jump to continue reading… Continue Reading

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DrivingScene Movie Review: Rush

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DrivingScene Movie Review: Rush

Posted on 19 September 2013 by Adam Kaslikowski

Rush Review

Ron Howard’s Rush isn’t out till this weekend, but we’ve grabbed an early premier so that we could tell you – our gentle and attractive readers – whether it is worth your time. Was the famed director capable of truly capturing the intense rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda? Did filming with the actual 1970’s F1 cars make the movie better? Is there life-affirming nudity? We’ll get to all that…

Rush was Ron Howard’s pet project to showcase what the “golden era” of F1 was all about. Loud cars, fast parties, and spectacular crashes were all a part of the racing scene then, and are heavily featured here. Those of us who have only ever seen the perfectly manicured and polished modern version of F1 are unused to imaging racing drivers publicly drinking before a race, routinely talking smack during a press conference, or going up in balls of flames. Oh yeah, that was another huge part of F1 in those days. The cars were basically bombs on wheels, made of thin aluminum and with regard given to driver safety. This fact plays a crucial part in our story as any student of F1 history knows. We won’t ruin anything for you here if you don’t the historical story yet, but suffice to say you really didn’t want to be a driver back then.

So enough stalling – here’s the review:

It was good.

Oh, you want more? If you insist… It’s not as historical as Senna, or gives you as good of an idea of all the players and their personalities. But much like Senna, Rush revolves around the rivalry between 2 men at the top of their performance. Howard does a great job of showcasing the different styles and private lives of Lauda and Hunt, and details what drove each man to risk his life racing around in circles. It was not a great film, or even a great racing film, but a solid one worth seeing for any gearhead who wants to fill in their F1 history a bit. Also, there’s boobies and Chris Hemsworth’s naked butt in the film so whatever your proclivities you should be covered.

Go see it, you’ll enjoy it.


-Adam Kaslikowski

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Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

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Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Would you trade a four-course meal for a Slim-Fast shake? Seeing an epic movie for reading the Cliff Notes? Partying with friends for Skyping with them? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you take the those same watered-down routes and choose the Prius over a torquey and delicious diesel. Millions have. The car above is what they should have chosen.

The car I’ve been given for a week is the VW Jetta TDI, and let’s not muck about –  it’s fantastic. You name it and I love it – and you will too. Trunk? Several ladies-of-the-night enormous. Backseat? Comfy as a best Western Hotel and without the bedbugs. Volkswagen should be paying me for this review because I frickin’ love this car.

Show me another vehicle that so deftly combines comfort, luxury, style, speed, AND fuel economy. You do that and I’m sure I’ll love that car too. And this isn’t just me, people have been lining up at dealerships  to step inside the leather wrapped interior and partake this Jetta’s pavement crushing torque.

On the road the TDI is like any other Jetta – planted and quiet. Add in the bonus of the 2.0 litre’s 236 lb-ft of torque to get you on your way and you’re left with a very capable machine. The horsepower figure of 140 may seem small by today’s standards, but you have to remember that horsepower’s important at freeway speeds – torque is king for getting your fat ass from 0 to 60. The steering is a little more numb than I like, but that’s true of 90% of modern cars I drive. Like every VW, the 6-speed manual is crisp and rewarding with every gear change. What’s it like driving a diesel? Total non issue here. It goes when I want it to go, stops when things get risky, turns sharply, and even rewards with little tire-chirps when you’re a bit too heavy-footed. The TDI engine is known for its lagginess down low, but this never pops up if you just equip the car with the manual transmission I have here. Having driven the automatic, trust me that row-your-own is the way to go on the TDI.

I’ll leave exterior judgments to the eye of the beholder; I found the curves and creases rather catching in the flesh. The Toffee Brown Metallic my car was delivered in may sound 80’s-esque, but in reality it gifted the Jetta some maturity that would be missed in your garden-variety silver. Overall the proportions are good and I never spied any awkward angles on the car.

Inside you’re greeted with that familiar VW cabin quality – great swaths of soft leather and upscale switches. You want negatives? Well the shift-boot frame was already broken on my car and the major let down with the interior is the hard plastic that covers all but the frequent touch points.

The back seats offer an enormous amount of room for your passengers/kids/hostages. The layout and grouping of the switches is fairly intuitive and I was able to figure everything out – including the unlabeled auxiliary music source feature – in my first two days without ever reading the manual. Overall it’s a classic VW interior, and you’re reminded why they are ranked as one of the best at this.

Somehow Wolfsburg has been able to package this lovely engine, good looks, and reasonably solid interior for $23K. I never did wrap my head around that low price. I’ve paid almost as much for a used car and the thought that I could’ve had this instead is staggering to me. Unluckily for me to TDI wasn’t on offer then. Lucky for you it is now. This is the kind of car you’ll love equally from day one to day 1,001. Given the fact that previous Jettas have aesthetically aged well, held strong resell values (although it’s too early to tell what the diesel engine will do for that) and the strong aftermarket support available – run don’t walk and get yourself a test drive. I mean unless you really wanted that Prius.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Webster’s dictionary defines the worst way to start any piece of writing as quoting Webster’s dictionary. What’s the best way? Science has yet to tell us. Just one more thing those pompous scientists have failed us on. Others include decent pop music, microwave meals that don’t suck, and a way to get great gas mileage without having to be inside a Prius.

The lab coats at the Volkswagen Group are actually coming along on that last one. The TDI engine has owned the diesel passenger car market here in the states for years now, mostly being led by the TDI Jetta – which has been killing the sales charts. But what if the lovely VW is not enough for your bourgeoisie tastes? How will you know if Audi’s entry into diesel locomotion can satisfy you? That’s why I’m here friend.

The A3 TDI takes all that diesel goodness – great fuel economy, buckets of torque – and wraps it in the svelte A3 silhouette. The A3 has always been a handsome car, and having an oil burner upfront does nothing to change that. The long hood and short rump hint at a sporting character that is not altogether absent. The large chrome grill is well suited for mowing down bugs and the proletariat alike. The LED running lights may no longer be unique, but I still think Audi has some of the best executed.

Inside the cabin you’re greeted by a sea of black leather. I hope monochrome and drab are two of your style points, because the A3 interior is not what anyone would call adventuresome. Despite it’s one-note appearance, because it’s an Audi you know everything is screwed and bolted together with a ruthless efficiency. Don’t expect any squeaks or rattles out of this cabin for sometime to come.

The gauges are bright and modern; I especially enjoyed watching the thin needles sweeping across the digits when illuminated at night. The HVAC controls are logically laid out, and the stereo had no problem destroying my eardrums. Despite the car’s small exterior footprint, it capably handled large and oddly shaped loads (there’s a porn joke in there somewhere everywhere), including  my bicycle. I’m glad it’s good at hauling cargo, because it is less well suited for handling passengers. The rear seats offer only enough room to accommodate short trips or gawky teenagers. Despite the four doors, I used this car as more of a two-door wagon.

And what of driving the A3 TDI you ask? Well that depends on how well socially adjusted you are. If you vote, pay your taxes, and don’t have homicidal thoughts at grocery checkout lines, then the A3 TDI will probably do you just fine. If none of those things are true – and thus you are like me – you will find the turbo lag utterly infuriating. Not just infuriating, but also dangerous. 0 – 2500 RPM produces nothing – I mean nothing  – in terms of forward progress. This makes jetting from light to light an awkward process, and jumping out into oncoming traffic a treacherous one. You might get used to the lag and be able to time your maneuvers out correctly, but over my week with the car I was never able to get used to it.

Drive the A3 like a spinster librarian and it is quite good. Get the TDI up and moving and it is quite good. It is just from 0 to 30 mph when the trouble lies. Is it enough to ruin his car? Maybe, maybe not. Look at your driving style now and ask yourself how often you got your right foot planted into the carpet when the lights turn green.

In the end this is a compromise car. Luxury inside and out, huge cargo capacity, and a pretty decent canyon carver. Day-to-day driving is a little worse off. Depending on how you drive, you’ll either feel ensconced in luxury and smugness from your MPG numbers, or trapped inside a post modern German prison. For your sake, I hope you drive more rationally than me.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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Driving Road Review: Latigo Canyon

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Driving Road Review: Latigo Canyon

Posted on 29 October 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

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Route: Latigo Canyon Rd North from PCH to S Kanan Dume Rd.

Total Length: 10.2 miles

Directions: Turn onto Latigo Canyon Rd from the PCH and follow until it ends at Kanan Dume Rd .

Total Rating: ★★★★☆

Let’s cut to the chase – Latigo Canyon is the best California canyon road we’ve ever driven on.  This is a high-precision “course” that requires full attention and shows you the worst and the best of your vehicle. Latigo is DrivingScene’s go-to test course for high performance cars and the canyon we pit our daily drivers against when we need to unwind. Close this browser and go drive it now.


Curves Rating: ★★★★★

The best canyon road for technical curves  we’ve found so far. Full stop. From hairpins to fast sweepers, Latigo has got you covered. It feels like the majority of curves are blind 2 lane switchbacks, which gives this route a complexity and repeatability I’ve found nowhere else. Given that the curves are tightly stacked upon each other, 2nd and 3rd gears are the weapons of choice here.


Police Presence Rating: ★★★★★

Unless this review sends hundreds of auto junkies up and down this route at high-speed, you’re gonna be pretty safe from prosecution here. Basically, there are very few places for a radar-trapper officer to hide and not enough traffic to justify the hours spent there.  The moral of the story is enjoy this road, don’t abuse it, and we can all continue to enjoy it at 10/10ths for some time to come.


Traffic Rating: ★★★☆☆

Traffic is fairly light throughout the canyon, but if you do run into another motorist you’re going to be behind them until they decide different. There are no overtaking areas or split lanes anywhere on this route. Fortunately the residents are quick to pull over and let you pass if they notice you charging up behind them.


Scenic Beauty Rating: ★★★★★

This is the consummate California canyon road. Stunning vistas, jutting canyon walls, green foliage and abundant wildlife. With few pull-off areas you have to enjoy the views while attempting to keep your sled on the road, but the quick glances are worth it. The canyon also features some fairly breathtaking houses mansions.


Population Rating: ★★☆☆☆

There are houses and small neighborhoods dotted throughout canyon. Because of this, you have to be conscious of other vehicles suddenly exiting or entering your lane of travel. There is also one particular corner where it is difficult to determine which path of a fork is the road and which is a house’s driveway. There is no extended section of Latigo Canyon that is free of houses – consider the entire route populated.


Speed Rating: ★★★★☆

Get ready to abuse your brakes, and boil your transmission, because even maintaining the posted speed limit is a serious challenge here. While the posted limit is low and there are very few straight sections that allow you to build up great speed, it’s not much of a concern here. Keep your lines and concentrate on hitting apexes and you’ll never want for more speed.


Safety Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The biggest danger on Latigo is either you or an oncoming vehicle overcooking their entrance speed and bleeding into the other lane right at the apex of a blind corner. The canyon is largely populated by these blind curves, especially the decreasing radius curves that catch drivers off-guard and create unsafe situations. Keep control of yourself and your vehicle and you’ll be relatively safe. Lastly, the road is populated by deer and rabbits once the sun sets, so unless you want to redecorate your hood/face with entrails drive aware.


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Diesel Duel: Jetta vs A3

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Diesel Duel: Jetta vs A3

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski


The original premise of this review was to see who did the VW family 2.0 diesel better, the Jetta or the A3. Fail. This engine, in either application, is a thing of beauty. It can also be a terrible piece of junk. Let me explain.

This 2.0 liter diesel engine is great. It is utterly clear why the TDI Jetta is cleaning up the sales charts and moving diesels engines back into the mainstream of the American car buying consciousness. The engine is smooth, dynamic, fast, full of effortless torque, and quiet – although it is quieter in the VW for some reason. It pulls really well at freeway speed – where horsepower is more important than a diesel’s tsunami of torque – and is punchy whenever you need it to be.

Like I said, the engine itself is great, but as I learned over the week with both of these cars, it’s the transmission that makes all difference. You see, turbo lag is still a very real and unshakeable part of this modern TDI engine. In the automatic A3, it feels like 1975 all over again when turbochargers just began to hit the market in the form of the 930 Porsche 911. Until that snail-shell breathed its fire on the engine it felt like the accelerator pedal wasn’t connected to anything. You’d mash your right foot into the shag carpet and have enough time to think that maybe a linkage was broken or maybe you’re out of gas or BAAAAMM an explosion of thrust and wheel spin and oh god why am I pointed that direction now? Those bad old days are back with this engine when paired with Audi’s S-Tronic automatic gear box.

Now given modern technologies and the fact that both cars are front wheel drive means only slight wheel spin (chirps if you will) and some mild torque steer instead of face and roadside hedge rearranging amount of chaos. No, the danger lies when you want to merge with oncoming traffic. I repeatedly punished the accelerator only to creep into some barn-storming Merc’s path rather than charging ahead of it. The moment always passed and torque pulled me out of danger, but I never quite got used to the change of timing this engine requires of the driver.

That said, If you drive like less of a maniac than an auto journalist does you’d probably never even notice. When I stopped trying to go 0-60 in 3.0 from every stop sign or set of lights the A3 was extremely capable. Calmly merge into traffic, gently accelerate like a well-adjusted human, always pay our taxes, and you wouldn’t want for more than the A3 TDI. Great looks – the Monza Silver is understated and classy, great gas mileage – 30/42, plenty of cargo room – 38.85 cu ft, and more luxury than you can shake a peeled mink at.

If for some reason you wanted to actively choose to drive like a sociopath, then you need the manual transmission only offered in the far cheaper Jetta TDI to do away with the lag-monster’s effects. In truth, the Jetta is far better a car than it has any right to be given its price range. Stacked up against the A3, it comes out the clear winner. The VW is roomier, just as luxurious feeling, smooth, and fast – more Autobahn cruiser to the A3’s athletic canyon carver.

Yet for all the greatness of the VW, when I had keys to both I consistently kept choosing to drive the A3. It’s the badge snob in me. Blame my weak self-esteem, the fact that I’m a young aspiring yuppie, or my upscale Santa Monica neighborhood. I wanted to be behind the wheel of the Audi more than I wanted to have a faultless driving experience. You are now thinking what every girlfriend I’ve ever had thinks – I am sufficiently and completely broken. I know.

The Jetta is objectively the better car when judged on interior space, comfort, drive train, and especially price. When the VW arrived at my doorstep, I thought it was sexy and especially catching in its Toffee Brown candy coating. The yuppie in me was very happy, excited even. But then the Audi arrived the next day. That deep grey little hatch with two-toned alloy rims had me hook-line-sinker. Once I had the option of which one to drive every day, I didn’t really have an option anymore.

But that’s me. You’re more mature and intelligent than me, right? Of course you are. If you are in the market for a Teutonic diesel sled you’ll choose the logical option and go with the Jetta. And you’ll be very pleased.

Either way you’re going to get excellent gas mileage, be coddled in leather and serenaded by great stereos. Either way you’ll be able to smugly look down on Prius and Volt owners for choosing such compromised rides when they should have gotten a diesel instead. Either way you’ll be quite happy.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Would you rather drive like a maniac and wring pleasure out of every last mile in the Jetta, or would you prefer to lord above the peasant folk and drive in a mobile announcement that you’ve arrived into the upper class. Choose wisely.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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Driving Road Review: Pacific Coast Highway

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Driving Road Review: Pacific Coast Highway

Posted on 20 October 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

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Route: Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica Pier to Point Mugu.

Total Length: 37.9 miles

Directions: Join the Pacific Coast Highway from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Stay on the PCH for 37 miles until you reach Point Mugu. A turn around area is available at the highway junction just past Point Mugu outside of Oxnard .


Total Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Tell someone you’re a driving enthusiast in California, and they will inevitably ask about driving the famous PCH. We’ve all seen movies and posters of fast cars next to ocean cliffs and though “me too!” Don’t bother. The LA to Oxnard section of the PCH is a crowded ticket trap with scant opportunity to enjoy those ocean views. There are so many better places to drive in this state, you are cheating yourself if you spend any of your gas on this section of tarmac.


Curves Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

The PCH is not a driver’s road so much as a world famous scenic route. Any and all “curves” are high speed sweepers following the coastline. You’re not going to get any rush or push your car’s abilities on any of them.


Police Presence Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

The Polizei are omnipresent and very happy to give you a ticket. Ask me how I know. Speeding is highly verboten on the PCH and there seems to be a couple of motorcycle cops speed-trapping every 2 miles or so. Behave yourself or pay the $250+ price like I did.


Traffic Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Heavy. Always heavy. You’re not going to find any time of day or any day of the week where this stretch of the PCH is anything resembling empty or even slightly non congested. Be prepared to move around traffic if you want to make any forward progress.


Scenic Beauty Rating: ★★★☆☆

There are some magical moments when the condos cease and opposing traffic clears just enough to allow peaks at the surf breaking on the beaches of Malibu. These moments are serene and wonderful and life affirming and over very quickly when the minivan in front of you slams on its brakes. This generally brings you back to the present.


Population Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The road is alternately lined by ocean vistas and condos. Population is high near Santa Monica and Malibu, then thins out as you approach Point Mugu. Houses or not, traffic is always around.


Speed Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The PCH is a fairly fast road with normal highway speeds, but good luck maintaining that with all the traffic. And don’t be tempted to exceed the posted limit either. Stick to the posted MPH and the Sunday drivers and you’ll be traveling at a decent clip.


Safety Rating: ★★★★★

Only danger you face driving the PCH is getting into a fender bender. Guardrails and parked cars  protect you from going into the ocean and steep hills flank the other side of the road. Stay aware of other drivers, and you’ll be perfectly safe.

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