02-13-09 - Cars

I fixed my car by rebooting it.

Last week while driving to see Aaron, the ATTS in my Prelude suddenly cut out. The car lurched and clunked. I pulled over then drove the rest of the way with the ATTS off. I started looking into mechanics and read about it a bit and decided I should try rebooting. So I pulled the battery (and took the opportunity to clean the terminals) and restarted it. Boom, all fixed. OMG circuitry in cars is such a bad idea.

My dad got one of the first Acura Legends. Houston tends to get a lot of heavy rain and flood alot. One very wet day he drove to work and went through an intersection that was deeper in water than he thought. The water came up above wheel level, and suddenly the car turned off, no more power steering, no nothing. It turns out the car was running all control through a chip that was not very well weather-protected. (the dealership fixed it up for free and they wound up fixing this in later models). Still, WTF, ZOMG, and so on.

For the most part, the Prelude is delightfully immediate. There's extremely little smarts in it, you feel directly connected to the hardware, which is good IMO. The ATTS controller chip is the one exception. The idea of the "iDrive" in new BMW's is so repellant to me. I don't want fucking menus and screens in my car. I want hard switches and buttons and knobs and levers. There are two crucial aspects of car UI that retarded people seem to miss :

1. I should be able to access all toggles with my eyes closed. Not that my eyes actually will be closed, but they will be on the road and I don't want to take my eyes off for even a split second.

2. I should be able to instantly tell the status of any toggle and change it directly. I should also be able to see them and change them when the car is off.

Anyway, I'm thinking about buying a new car. Partly cuz mine is getting old, partly cuz hey I'm a rich software developer I need a fancy car, right? Also if I spend my money it can't get lost in the market or inflation.

Ryan sent me a nice list :

-- 4WD sporty

Subaru WRX: starts at $25,000 265 HP
(the WRX is maybe the ideal fun car + camping capable)
(I'm not a fan of the STI for daily driving, it's just too harsh)
(and commuting on the 520 in an STI would be seriously suicide-inducing)
(oh and the new hatchback model sucks, I'd get a 2006 or so)

Mitsibishi Lancer Evo:  starts at $33,685 291 HP

-- Not good for camping but still AWD and zippy

Audi S5: starts at $51,400 354 HP
(very sweet, kinda pricey)

Bmw 335i Xdrive:  starts at $42,300 300HP
(most reasonable AWD BMW option)

Infinity G37x Coupe AWD:  starts at $38,700 330 HP
(G37 = luxury version of the 370)

-- Not good for camping----------- Not 4WD

Nissan 370Z: starts at $30,000 332 HP

Bmw 125i Coupe: starts at $35,850 300 HP
(small two door with a big engine)

I guess I should go do some test drives. That sounds like fun, but man it's time consuming and you have to talk to car salesman which is the fucking worst. I really like the style of the Audi S5, but A) that's a fuck-load of money to spend on a car, and B) Audi's have really bad repair records (though BMWs and Mitshubishis don't have great histories either) (in fact the S4/S5 is one of the top ten least reliable cars). (supposedly they have improved a lot in the last two years though)

Amusingly, the Nissan/Infinity cars that are actually made in Japan get good ratings, but the ones made in America get very bad ratings. Good Game America. We fucking suck.

I think all my criteria pretty much point straight at the WRX, it's just not exciting to me, it has no sex appeal. All my friends have already had wreckses for years, I can't show it off, and it won't impress my girlfriend.


Aaron said...

Also, remember the price out the door is way higher and more painful. You're really looking at something more like this (maybe not exactly, but this is what it's gonna feel like):

35K for a WRX
40K for an evo
65K for th eS4
50K for the 335i
48K for the infinity
38K for the 350Z
42K for the 125i

With a car that powerful, I wouldn't worry about reliability. They're all strong enough to tear themselves to crap if you really drive them. None except the infinity/nissan have a chance of being reliable, and I'm not too hot on nissan reliability these days anyway (esp not in a high-hp beast). AWD is not necessary for camping or anything else really. If you're seriously gonna go offroad, you won't use a 50K car for that. Nor a 35K car either. FWD is pretty much as good in the snow and ice, too, just throw some snow tires on there and call it a day. I like the TSX's and TL's. They're not super fast, but they look pretty good, and they're fast enough. There's a TSX S-Type that's sorta fastish.

Aaron said...

Oh, and you can reboot your ECM more easily by just pulling the fuse on it. On my civic the ecm fuse is by the ecm iteself (under the hood, not under the dash).

cbloom said...

You do make a good point that I worry about buying any of those cars used since they're probably been driven very hard. Which is a problem for the WRX because the new ones are balls.

I like Acuras pretty well, but the TL is kinda pricey and the TSX is awfully similar to what I drive right now. Also the last time I test drove them (ten years ago) they felt a bit too "luxury" to me, a bit mushy and soft; I like to feel pretty low and locked to the road (though not quite like a go-kart).

Part of me thinks I should just get a fun commuter, then I can always rent a 4WD for the rare camping trip, since that's literally like a few days out of the year. But they are actually very hard to rent. And I like the idea of being able to take off cross country in my car and be able to face any road that's in my way.

cbloom said...

And Honda/Acura is just miles ahead of everyone else in terms of reliability. I really really fucking hate dealing with car problems. I guess I could get a 10-year comprehensive warranty on some of these options.

AK said...

You'd be hot in a Mini Cooper. Besides, Subarus kinda turn me on.

Aaron said...

Another option is the hotted up Subaru Legacy. Dunno, at that point, I'd just get the WRX. I be no one you know has the new hatchbacky one. At first the hatch looked ridiculous to me, but it's starting to seem kinda nicer. There are some other hot small car options too if you don't get hung up on silly 4wd. I'm telling ya, anywhere offroad you can take your wrx, you can take my civic just as well. There's the 263hp Mazdaspeed 3 (though dear god I hate the way the regular 3 drives) and the RSX (kinda seems to appeal more to the female set though) and the VW GTI (though again that'll probably just disintegrate in a couple of years). Just get a big purple minivan like me. Man that Odyssey drives nice :)

Tom Forsyth said...

The new STIs, WRXs and Evos have all been softened from a few years ago. This means that now the WRX is dull, the STI is pretty civilised, and the Evo is fun (instead of being a twitchy mess).

I still would drop down one from the WRX to a Legacy GT (spec B if you can find one). I own a 2002 "bugeye" WRX, and it's awesome, but the Legacy GT-B has all the fun and just that slight bit more practical.

Of course if you want a properly awesome all-round car - the Nissan GT-R. Holds four grown-ups, 4WD practicality, it's a Nissan so it's bulletproof, and it's fast as fuck. If I had another space in my garage it would be filled with GT-R. The markup is still kinda silly on them though, even in this recession. But considering your rant about in-car electronics you may not like it - it practically drives itself. The dashboard was coded by Polyphony Digital.

cbloom said...

Hmm, I should go check out an Evo.

The GT-R is definitely drool-worthy but out of my price range.

Aaron said...

Not the EVO you should buy, but this will whet your appetite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AMIoQUCEvY. This is the *insane* EVO. The regular EVO is much more practical. Someone at Zipper has a slightly hotted up version (400+ brake). AS might be able to introduce you. You'll definitely get to know your mechanic with a Mitsubishi. But, that's true of most of these high end beasties.

Brite Lines said...

ak: that's just because of all our good times in my wrx. ;-)

Sly said...

I feel some of these cars are really ugly (mostly the WRC, Evo, and the Es4).

WRX: I keep hearing about how much care must be taken with the turbo, and how many people are killing it by not letting the engine heat up and cool down at start/end of the ride. Maybe not so true with newer versions?

You could also look at a RX8, if you're not afraid of the gas and oil consumption (due to the rotary engine), and of playing with the manual gear box (almost no torque at low rpm, like the "insane version" of the Evo 8.
Jeremy Clarkson at 4:55: "Of all the cars I've driven this year, I'm pretty sure this one is the best."

If you're not so much in the sport mood, and you mostly want the sport look, the Hyunday Tiburon might be an option. Huge trunk also for a supposedly sport car, amazingly I could put my huge stroller in it ; it didn't fit in the RX8 -and in my case it eliminates all 2 seats cars also :(.
Top Gear "considered it to be an overall better ride than the Lexus SC430" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_coupe#In_popular_media), then Top Gear Australia said it was rubbish (http://www.topgear.com/en/hyundai/tiburon).

MH said...

Whatever you get, Ide lease for 3, then just buy a sensible car in 3 ;). Then again, I love my M3.

Its so odd, all the BMWs look like crap on their website; much better on the road. Though, even then, I dont like most the new models.

You could also get a decent commuter, then pick up an older WRX and beat the hell out of that for the cost of one of those beasts.

Sly said...

Another car you might like, if you like slim and low roadsters: the MX5

cbloom said...

"Whatever you get, Ide lease for 3, then just buy a sensible car in 3 ;)"

Yeah, hmm, normally I think of leasing as a bad deal but if I'm gonna get a racer and just tear it up, it might be a good play.

Aaron said...

I'm sure they thought of the 'tear it up' idea and they'll make it suck for you, esp if you're leasing a sports car. But maybe worth looking at a lease agreement too see, and maybe still worth it even if they're screwing you.

Drove in to work today behind a Nissan GT-R*. Gonna have to go with Tom on that one, even though I can afford it even less than you. If I had space on my lawn (and 90k to spare), I'd probably put a GT-R there too.

old rants