This Monday, Top Gear returned to BBC America, and I got the one television show I care about back. I really don’t watch things that aren’t sports, but Top Gear is that notable exception because it’s just about the most perfect show ever made.
And hot damn, I want to take that Pagani Huayra out for a spin. It’s now the fastest street-legal car to go around the test track. The thing looks like it’s a real handful to control (even the current Stig struggled with it at times), but that’s what makes it look really exciting to drive.
I think what I really like most about cars is watching engineers put together vehicles that push the limits of what we can do. Sure, we don’t necessarily need the Pagani Huayra or the Bugatti Veyron, but they’re masterpieces of engineering. They’re incredible machines at the pinnacle of automotive technology. They push the boundaries and raise the bar just a little bit higher, and because of that we eventually find improvements that only luxury vehicles and supercars got to have in our own standard point-A-to-point-B sedans.
Besides, they’re just plain fun to drive. Not that I know personally, but based on the way Richard Hammond was cackling like a madman when he took the Huayra out for a spin, I’d guess it’s a yes. And after all, isn’t having fun the point, too?
I’ve never been particularly good at it, so I wasn’t exactly excited with myself when I decided to include a bunch of cars in The Historians. Having Ells in the story automatically means there will be cars, though, so you can blame her and her Mini here:
So really, blame her for this. It’s her fault, really.
Anyhow, I’ve made a car list over on the Historians blog, and I realized whilst doing it that I love matching cars to people’s personalities. You can tell a lot about a person based on what they drive in many cases – for example, Ells is cheeky and fun-loving, a lot like her Mini. I was wondering about this and I got to thinking – if you’re a writer, do you ever do this, too? Do you think as much about what your characters motor around in as I do, or am I just weird?
Eventually I’ll write about this in more depth once I’ve got time on my hands and that sort of thing, but you get the idea, yes?
Today was the big day: I got to use my Klout perks to go and drive an all-new Acura ILX at a special event sponsored by Autoweek at Citi Field! This was the first time I ever went to an event like this – I go to quite a few local car shows and try to make my way to the New York International Auto Show every year when possible, but this was the first time I was at an event that I was specifically invited to (although it was really just through Klout, so).
Let’s talk a little bit about this car now, because that’s the reason I was there. The Acura ILX is an all-new car, replacing the CLX in Canada (a car exclusive to our neighbors to the north). It’s related to the Honda Civic, which I have driven before, so this was basically like driving a fancy Civic to me. It’s definitely not entirely the same car, however.
For starters, it’s fancier than the Civic, with optional leather seats and more gadgets on the inside. There’s an engine start/stop button, which seems to be the cool thing to do with luxury cars these days. (Besides, that would make a Le Mans start a little easier.) There’s also a hybrid version, which I did get the opportunity to drive, but I’ll get to that later. You’ve got two engine options if you’re going with the non-hybrid: a 2.4 liter manual transmission engine that provides 201 hp, and a 2.0 liter automatic that puts out 150 hp. The automatic, which I took around the closed course that was provided, also has flappy paddles, however, so it’s really a semi-automatic.
Here’s how it runs around a little closed course that they set up in the parking lot:
I purposely took it faster than necessary around the chicanes on the slalom bit because I wanted to check the car’s body roll. My dad owns a Mini Cooper S, and it sets the bar high when it comes to body roll. My own Chase (my Chevy Cobalt) doesn’t roll very much, either. The Acura’s level of body roll was close to Chase’s – it has a nice, stiff body and a comfortable suspension, as is to be expected from a luxury car, but I don’t think too many people really were there to test performance today. I showed up wearing a leather jacket, a t-shirt and jeans. Everyone else was in polo shirts and sundresses. I think I’m not a luxury car person.
For a luxury car, though, the ILX didn’t perform too badly on the closed course. It didn’t have the pep of a Mercedes-Benz, a BMW or an Audi, but it’s an entry-level luxury vehicle, so I didn’t expect it to be because it’s aiming at a different market. It doesn’t seem to be directed at speed freaks like me. It’s not a Nurburgring-style car. It’s a car meant for people who want a nice car for a fairly affordable price and aren’t purchasing for performance. This car will pamper you, believe me. It syncs with your Pandora account, allows you to use verbal commands to send text messages to people, specifically tells you which door is open instead of just saying door ajar, and delivers a very smooth ride, even when you’re pretending you’re the Stig and whipping it around a closed course faster than the other people there. (Whoops.)
I got to take the hybrid out on the road course, which was a very interesting experience for me since I’d never driven a hybrid before. I’d never even been in a hybrid, actually, so it was eye-opening to say the least. The engine is extremely quiet, so you lose the satisfaction of hearing the engine roar as you speed up to get on the highway, but the hybrid does have a sports mode which gives the transmission a little extra oomph. The guy who was accompanying me on my test drive seemed a little surprised when I asked if sports mode would stiffen up the car’s body and suspension. I guess that’s not a normal thing for a person to ask or something, but Top Gear has completely corrupted me and has shown me a bunch of cars that have either sports or racing modes that make the car more rigid and keep it flat around corners.
The hybrid also has an economy mode, which I drove in for a little while, as well. The ILX has indicators that show you how economically you’re driving, including a green dot that grows larger as you drive more cleanly. This was also the first time I drove a car that cuts the engine every time you come to a full stop. It’s pretty much silent, but you hear and feel it a tiny bit once you start back up because it likes to remind you it’s there. This gas/electric powertrain is shared with the hybrid version of the ILX’s Honda cousin, the Civic, so if it seems familiar, it’s because you may have seen it in one of the most popular road cars of the last 25 years. There weren’t too many major differences that I felt between the hybrid and the regular car, although the regular car has more pickup on the straights, especially if you’re driving the hybrid in economy mode.
In all, the ILX is actually a pretty good car for its market – it meets the needs and desires of the consumers it’s aimed at. It’s also not bad to drive – I rather enjoyed taking it out on the roads, although I wish I’d been able to push it a little more and really see what its limit was.
Oh, one more thing: the car from the Avengers was there. Sadly, I didn’t get to drive it, but here are a few photos for your viewing entertainment:
I realized I’ve been writing a ton of stuff about cars and had nowhere to put it, so instead of spamming you all with giant Twitter rants that really should be blog posts, I’m just setting this up.
So here we are. My name is Steph, and as you can probably guess from my URL I enjoy cars. I always have, too – when I was little I spent way too much time with my dad’s Hot Wheels collection (which I inevitably added on to) and decided that when I was ten years old that if my planned career in academia didn’t work out I’d become a racecar driver. Mom said no.
I am now twenty-three, and I jokingly asked my mom if I could become a racecar driver again tonight. Very wisely, she still said no.
I’ve found ways to cope since then, including writing a webcomic about a group of historians who double as a racing team (aka people living out my dream for me) and putting a ridiculous amount of effort to legally push my 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, Chase Spiggott III, to the limit on the roads around my house. When I can, I go karting. There’s also that stupid bit where I’m cosplaying the Stig at New York Comic Con in October, but we won’t talk about that because I know you’ll all make fun of me.
Basically, that’s it. Now I just need to get all set for that Acura ILX test drive on Sunday – thanks for that, Klout!