Our 1,000th View!

As of this morning, we have reached 1,000 views!  We are extremely pleased with this news and we look forward to a bigger future.  We at The Spirited Drive would like to thank all of our viewers for this achievement.  We work diligently here at The Spirited Drive for all of our viewers, and we look forward to publishing more exciting and intriguing automotive content in the future.  Remember to spread the word about this blog and our activities.  We appreciate all of your support!  Thanks and remember to go out and have a Spirited Drive once in a while!

– The Spirited Drive staff.

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AMG and M-Power – The German Switch

BMW’s M-Power and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG; these two iconic arms of German automobiles make me think and believe in German engineering.  That sentiment goes for a lot of folks, as German cars are renowned for their… well German-ess.  Rivalries in the world usually make for great stories:  Beowulf and Grendel, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost… the list can go on.  All great rivals, and all great stories.  The same can be said for AMG and M-Power.  Their rivalry has been one of the hottest topics in motoring whether it is or has been focused in DTM Racing, car reviews, or friendly debates between two motorheads.

When I hear the phrase M-Power, my mind immediately thinks of the E30 M3 from back in the day.  With its smooth shifts, seamless power delivery, and ability to dance on the road like water, it is no wonder the M badge’d 3 Series BMW is the icon of the M-Power vehicles.  It was nimble enough to be used as a scalpel for a track, yet as comfortable as a leather recliner.  AMG, on the other hand, reminds me instantly of half-eaten back tires and exhaust notes that resemble of what would probably be dinosaurs fighting with grenades.  The noise is glorious; a definite roar.  When I see an AMG badge, I know that the car has plenty of power; power to the Nth degree.  But what about recently?  Are these landmark divisions of these German giants perpetuating their glory by improving upon their past formulas for success?

As with today’s person, cars have gotten larger, heavier, and more advanced.  Perhaps the reason why cars have gotten bigger is due to the fact that people have become larger… food for thought!  As interesting as that thought may be, I somehow tend to think that cars have become larger due to technological advances, specifically in the safety areas.  What does a larger and heavier car spell in terms of performance?  This is an issue that I think these performance divisions have to cope with a great deal today.  As the golden rule of performance and efficiency, automobiles need to be as light as possible to achieve the best performance.  Fat men do not win races on foot; likewise, fat cars do not win races on the track.  When you buy a M-Power or AMG vehicle, though they stem from sport-luxury brands, they are performance vehicles for the road.  They are to bridge the gap between track and road by providing levels of civility and comfort that you would find in a luxury car with the ferocity and performance of a car that is at home on the track.

The E30 M3, as great as it was, can give some credit to its light-weight for its performance figures.  Mix in BMW and M-Power’s excellent chassis development, sublime steering racks from heaven, and a fantastic engine, and we have ourselves a winner.  On the other hand, AMG had to deal with more weight as compared to the M-Power vehicles, and because of this, it is quite possible to assume that it is for this reason that they have such brutish engines.  Their weight may stem from such larger, robust engines.  But today, things have changed.  M cars are now becoming larger, fatter, and heavier, which equates to excellent chassis development and fantastic steering becoming a priority, but this weight makes this makes these attributes harder to maintain.  BMW and M-Power are not used to this weight, steering, and chassis problem, because historically, their cars have been somewhat on the slimmer side when compared to their rivals.  M cars typically always have been renowned for their handling, nimbleness, and agility; not to mention their driving feel.  With the upcoming M4, and the new F-Chassis, I fear that the newly added electronically assisted steering rack, which is somewhat in uncharted water for them, will slow down the growing glory for M-Power.  This new chassis also seems hefty and less compliant with things that we all associate M cars with, namely agility and performance.  Factor in smaller, turbo’d motors and it is possible that the new M4 may be more badge than heart.

AMG, however, seems to be improving still.  Yes, the cars are getting bigger here as well.  But, their steering is getting better.  They have a longer history with electronically assisted steering systems than BMW, so the chances of their steering being better than BMW and the upcoming M4 are high.  AMG has typically had the engine power of an active volcano, and this is a mainstay for AMG; their bread-and-butter.  They are continuing to improve their engines, their steering, and because of their long rivalry with BMW, they have and are improving their chassis and steering dynamics.  Unlike BMW’s M-Power, AMG is not changing their formula for success.  Instead, they are improving across the board, particularly in areas where they were the weakest (handling, chassis development, etc…)  Because M-Power seems to be changing their game plan, in areas which had been their greatest triumphs (handling and chassis works), for something that they are not used to as well as not good at, the two German performance arms seem to be switching places with AMG taking an edge over BMW in those departments.  AMG always had more powerful engines, but now they possibly have better driver feel via the steering and better chassis works than BMW’s M-Power cars.

Driver feel is something very important in a car of this type.  It usually stands as a usual gripe from an automotive journalist, but the fact remains that as drivers, we should need to feel more connected to the road.  This isn’t just for performance or pleasure reasons, but also safety.  I feel safer if I know exactly what my car is doing where it meets the road.  My seat and my steering wheel are what connect me the most with the car.  M-Power seems to be turning the tables on themselves.  AMG, with their herculean engines, are becoming more refined in those areas where they were once weak while retaining every bit, if not more, of the potency of their motors. Either way, the battle between BMW M-Power and Mercedes AMG will continue to roar as the new staple-cars come.

What are your thoughts?  We would like to know!  Please comment on this article, share it with your friends via Twitter or Facebook, and please subscribe to us by email.  You can follow us on Twitter @SpiritedDrive to get the latest updates from this blog.  Until next time!

 

– JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Opinion – “What makes the best automobile for the summer?”

Here in the heartland of the South, as well as the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of summer was a few days ago. This has led to an interesting question: “If you could have any type of vehicle to drive until the first day of autumn, what would it be?” I know each reader will have his or her own idea of what this ideal vehicle would be, but I hope I can create a small list that we can all agree would make for fantastic summer vehicles. One assumption I must make is that all vehicles referenced are exactly as they were when they rolled off the assembly line.

Before I begin the details of this list, I would like to make a list of features I would or would not want on any vehicle in my list. The first item in the list of features is leather seats. Some may enjoy leather, but as someone who has had leather in the summer, I know how incredibly unpleasant it is to sit on when has been heated to 120ᐤF or above. For a summer only vehicle, I would choose cloth seats. The next item is air conditioning, for obvious reasons. I may want to enjoy summer, but sometimes I also just want to be cool. The final item is a sound system in good working order. When I drive, I need to listen to the radio. I prefer to have one that can be heard if I am driving with the windows down. Some may say most of the items in this list are standard features, but I include them because some of the vehicles I reference are not new, and may or may not have these features.

The first vehicle type I would like to mention is the Jeep Wrangler. I have considered this vehicle for two reasons. First of all, I categorize it  as a vehicle type because very few vehicles can be taken apart in the way a Wrangler can. With an older model Wrangler, the top, doors, and windshield can be taken down in about a half hour. Note I do not endorse driving without a windshield, but I included it because it is an option. Second of all, the Wrangler is the posterboy of the great outdoors. Jeep markets the Wrangler as a the great tamer of the wilderness, and the Wrangler has proven itself as a capable offroad vehicle. The Wrangler makes a great summer vehicle because a driver can easily remove the top. This allows the driver to be engulfed in the summer season. All Wranglers come with four seats, so there is ample room for friends. If you do not have an Unlimited, the cargo room can seem slightly cramped. Luckily the rear seats fold up for more space, but that presents a tradeoff between storage capacity and people capacity. The Wrangler’s offroad capabilities also allow you to navigate rough terrain to get to any certain point you wish, including a secluded beach or lake, for example.

summer drive

The next vehicle type is probably at the top of the list for most readers: the convertible sports car. Convertible sports cars come in two classes, full convertibles, and t-tops/targa tops. I personally favor t-tops, such as the Nissan 300zx had, but full convertibles, such as a Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miatta, or Porche 911, would also be fantastic. The convertible sports car allows one the experience the season, but differs from the Wrangler in that it also allows for ridiculous speeds and provides a symphony of noise from the exhaust. Convertible sports cars are best on twisting country roads at the height of summer. The speed provides an adrenaline boost, but is contradicted by the relaxing and scenic views of the countryside. One thing the sports car does not have is very large capacity for people or storage. They are typically two seaters, and most storage space is occupied with the vehicle top. This vehicle type is best for those with few friends, or a very special one.

The final vehicle type I would like to mention if the pseudo-SUV/hatchback.  This is a very large type of vehicle, so some examples I would like to give are the Honda Element and the Subaru Crosstrek. This type of vehicle has seating for 4+, and usually a good amount of storage. These vehicles also more often than not come with a sunroof, so the passengers are more insulated from the environment. This insulations can be a good thing, if driving in an area prone to frequent changes in the weather. This vehicle type is also usually pretty fun to drive. It may not be able to attain the speeds of the sports car, but it can still be driven aggressively, so as to get some of the adrenaline boost mentioned before. They are spunky, but without being the monsters that the sports cars are. This vehicle is best suited for long drives to camping grounds, concerts, etc. With these vehicles, drivers can bring friends on longer trips, thanks to the higher storage and people capacity.

These are three vehicle types I think are best for the summer months. They all provide the passengers with the ability to experience the summer in all its glory, though each has its strengths and weaknesses. I know everyone may not agree with this list, but I hope they can see how I came to the conclusions I did.

Please feel free to leave your own list in the comments.

– J. Potts, Autmotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief

Don’t Forget!

Don’t forget to subscribe via email to keep up-to-date on this blog and to also follow The Spirited Drive on Twitter @SpiritedDrive.  You can do these things on the right side of the page.  I would love to hear from those who read about what you want to see on this blog, what you like or dislike, and any and all comments!  Our Twitter is usually very active, so keep posted there as well.  I look forward to hearing from you all, and thanks for the views thus far!

– JRB Editor, The Spirited Drive

Buying a New Car in the 21st Century – A Look Back

Purchasing a new car has greatly changed with the rise of the internet. As a kid, I remember my mom taking an afternoon to purchase a car. The vehicle in question was test driven, the old car appraised for next to nothing, papers were signed, and that was the end of it. We never went back to the dealership, save for something being wrong with the new car. Also the dealership never contacted my mother. Once the car was purchased, that was the end of it.

This is not the way things are today when buying a new vehicle. Of course the driving and signing your life away is the same, but the communication with the dealership and the company is not over once the dealer hands over the keys. I know this because I purchased a new 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sport in early March, and the company is still engaging in communication with me. This week a letter arrived in the mail from the Jeep Brand. Inside was an informational pamphlet about my vehicle and support services offered with it.  Note that is also full of advertisements for warranties, parts, clothing, etc., but there was also a rehashing of information I previously obtained about ways in which the company was engaging the customer.

One key difference between buying a new vehicle from when I was younger to now is that when I purchased my Wrangler, the dealer asked for my email address. Naturally, I thought this was for advertisements, but was surprised when I got home that I had received an email that was not an advertisement. It was a link to a website run by the Chrysler Group called the Mopar Owner Center. This site allows the user to create an account, bind the new vehicle’s VIN to the account, and track the maintenance of the vehicle. This site is tied to Chrysler’s databases, so any and all maintenance records performed at a dealership are instantly available to the user. It also allows for the addition of custom records, in case the you like to change the oil yourself.

I personally find this amazing. I know that giving someone a small amount of space in the database to save their information and allow them to access it isn’t a big deal from a tech standpoint, but from the average person’s standpoint, it is a very useful and intriguing tool. It shows that the company cares about the buyer in the long term.  In addition to access to this site, I’ve already been asked to complete two surveys for Chrysler about my vehicle, my buying experience, etc. and receive the letter mentioned earlier. Included in the letter was a leather keychain with “Jeep” on one side and “Wrangler” on the other. I know that this is just a small item, but I think it is a fantastic marketing tool.

key

Companies are beginning to focus more on brand loyalty, and in doing so I believe on the way to building better vehicles. By sending things such as pamphlets and keychains, a company can keep a buyer interested in communicating with the company, which allows for better data collection without buyers feeling hassled by the company. With better feedback, companies know what consumers think could be done better and design and market appropriately. The consumer also feels that the company is truly interested in the customer, and not just the profit margin; therefore the consumer is more likely to continue buying a certain brand.

This new mode of operation by companies has greatly changed the way one thinks about buying a new vehicle. No longer is the transaction over once the papers are signed. Instead, the company creates a lasting bond with the consumer that benefits both parties in the long run.

– J. Potts, Automotive Contributor for The Spirited Drive

– Edited by JRB, Editor of The Spirited Drive

New to Twitter and YouTube!

Just a quick announcement.  The Spirited Drive can now be followed on Twitter @SpiritedDrive and on YouTube at TheSpiritedDrive.  Updates to this blog will be seen on Twitter, and the upcoming video reviews will be uploaded to our YouTube channel.  Hope to see you there! 

– JRB Editor