The Natchez Trace Parkway – Best Driving Road in the States?

The Natchez Trace Parkway, stretching from the outskirts of Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS, has to be one of the best, if not the best, driving road in the United States. It is well paved, provides excellent curves, and gorgeous scenery of the South’s countryside. While there are several cyclists on the road typically given the time of year as well as an underwhelming speed limit, it remains one of the best driving roads I have ever driven. And while being able to go a little bit faster wouldn’t hurt, driving near the speed limit provides you with the opportunity to savor the experience and soak up the road in all its wonder. It is a wonderful place to drive spiritedly, and we cannot ask for more from a road. What do you think is the best driving road in the United States? Please comment!

Drive Spiritedly.

 

-JRB

Alfa Romeo’s Resurgence

Alfa Romeo. If you have watched any Top Gear, Fifth Gear, /Drive, or read any magazine within the past 60 years, the Italian brand stands forefront as the true car-lover’s machine. Everything written on Alfa Romeos since the 60s tells that despite its flaws and mechanical/electrical issues, owning an Alfa is a special experience as it becomes the car you love and adore the most. It is a car company with passion, flair, pedigree and heritage, and lots of soul. If you noticed, Super Bowl XLI’s sponsorship came from Alfa. I found this quite impressive considering the company has only recently resurfaced here in the United States a decades-long hiatus. Fiat, it seems, must be pouring tons of money into the brand not just with advertisement dollars but with a real product to compete in what is probably the toughest segment of the car industry: the Giulia and Giulia Quadrifoglio. With the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and numerous other entries from companies such as Cadillac, Jaguar, and Infiniti, the market space is super tight and competitive.

If you do a quick Google or YouTube search for the Giulia, you will see it has received massive applause – they say this is Alfa Romeo’s return to its former glory. They say this car trumps the big German three. The Giulia remains Alfa’s third entry since returning to the States, and it needed to get it right to make a permanent market space for themselves in the automotive world here but also in that particular segment of sedans. While I have not had a chance to test one, I will say this: it is beautiful (just like 99% of the Alfa Romeos out there). It ticks the right buttons: beauty, Italian, and unique. What do you think of Alfa Romeo’s resurgence in the States? Is it a sign of a new and returned juggernaut in the automotive world? What of Fiat’s leadership and goals with the company? Please comment below!

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB

Car Technology – What do you want to see?

Technology in the automobile has been amazing the past few years. From Apple and Android creating easy-to-use, familiar interfaces that integrate from your mobile device to steering-in-lane controls that guide your car within the lines on a road, the automobile is getting smarter to keep up with consumer technology and to keep us safer. Some cars even have mobile device wireless charging decks built into the vehicle’s center console! While nothing sounds better than charging your phone while also streaming music via Bluetooth to your speakers while also streaming your favorite navigation app on a long tip, where else do we need to go in regard to car technology? Is car tech just a mirror of consumer technology as in the case of smartphones and their various applications?

Some may say that autonomously driving vehicle is the next step in car technology, and that may be true. However, with consistent tragic wrecks taking place with self-driving technology, is this really the future? And what about engine technology? We don’t know what the future has in store, but I think we can all agree that maintaining the excitement of the automobile needs to remain a key factor in whatever technology emerges.

What are your thoughts? Please comment!

 

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB

2017 Hyundai Sonata – Review and Thoughts

I recently had the opportunity to use a 2017 Hyundai Sonata in SE trim on a trip for work from a rental company. And, I was surprised! Normally, when you walk into a rental office, you hope you get a new model of some sort, but you usually end up with a fairly worn hatchback that smells like a wet dog or something. My journey was a grand total of 9-10 hours, so I thought I would share my thoughts on my experience in the car.

The driver’s seat is comfortable. It had ample lumbar support, and it could adjust to numerous configurations. While the SE trim did not come with many of the bells and whistles that would include plush leather, I was surprised at the comfort from the normal seat. It had plenty of leg, hip, shoulder, and elbow room. And visibility from the seating positions was great.

And speaking of the cabin, Bluetooth and on-board computer and audio controls all were found on the steering wheel which came in handy. It also had iPod/iPhone connectivity via USB and Auxiliary inputs which was great for such a long journey. The Air-con and heat worked well, the audio system was sufficient, and it even had ECO, Sport, and Normal diving modes. However, the only noticeable differences while switching between the modes were the mpg figures and the throttle responsiveness.

The car also drove fairly well! It was the first time I had truly driven a Hyundai product, and it felt it had enough power when it was required. The ECO mode’s throttle response felt sluggish, however. So much so that when pressing the accelerator, it felt as if my foot was being pushed into smashed potatoes, but it did the job. There wasn’t a ton of feed back through the steering wheel, but you knew where the car was on the road, enough to drive it confidently. However, I did notice a droning noise coming from the rear of the vehicle at cruising speeds – this seemed to only appear while in ECO mode. This may tire passengers on a long trip. And the turning-signal noise became annoying fairly quickly, but that is just being picky.

Overall, the Hyundai Sonata SE was a fine car for the trip. It was comfortable, averaged around 34 mpg on the highway, had enough tech to satisfy a long-trip, and it felt safe. While the more premium trims  offer more, the platform itself seemed great. Coupled with an amazing warranty from the factory, the Sonata is an excellent car for commuting and family trips.

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB

The Perfect Car?

What is the perfect car? Is that car even made or has it ever been made? When thinking of what the ideal car would be, one must understand what they want in a car. I will admit, this is somewhat of a subjective question. But honestly, what really isn’t subjective in some form or another? For the ideal car, it must be reliable. After all, cars, as part of their essence, are tools and means to get from point A to point B and back again. Unless you are transient and continue onto point C. Reliability brings up, in my mind at least, manufactures like Honda, Toyota, Subaru, older Chevrolets and Fords, and Mercedes-Benz. Another criteria on the list would be safety. Fortunately, there are several agencies that will happily give you ratings on the safety of vehicles from all sorts of angles and tests. Economy is another important criteria. You don’t want to burn through your wallet/purse as you go to work only to fill that wallet or purse back up again for the return trip home.

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However, I think one of the more important qualities that often gets overlooked is excitement. I don’t think this quality is necessary for a car, but it is necessary for the perfect car. If you grab your keys, head out the door, and the car doesn’t at least provide a little satisfaction or excitement during the process of driving, then that car becomes something less. It becomes nothing more than the terrible, unwieldy hammer in your workshop: a tool. Perhaps excitement is a luxury. However, this is your perfect car, and life is too short to not have some excitement even if it is on your daily commute. The great thing is that excitement in the automotive world comes in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges – you can have the reliability, the economy, and the safety while also having the excitement.

What is your perfect car? Please comment below! Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to this blog!

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB

Will the Sports Car disappear?

Will the sports car disappear? Or will the term or the definition of “performance” simply evolve? With environmentalists, active politicians, and concerned manufacturers moving for changes, it may seem like doom-and-gloom for the high-performance, gasoline-burning sports car. Of course there is an environmental and air-quality impact of burning fossil fuels; no doubt about that. However, with changes on the horizon for transportation and the fuel for that transportation, will the feeling of sporty handling, raw power, and all of the bells-and-whistles of a sporty car still be there?

BMW, Tesla, McLaren, Porscche, Ferrari, Fisker, and others are making either hybrid or fully-electric vehicles in their range and claim sportiness on par with, if not excelling, their gasoline counterparts. Plus, these vehicles add excellent mpg, massive amounts of torque and power, and other things to the list that some cars with combustion engines don’t offer. Will the idea of “sportiness” or “fun” change as transportation changes? I don’t mean to bring doom-and-gloom to your Saturday mornings, but I am optimistic and say that the sports car will exist and thrive in the years to come. The engineering involved in making sports cars will not just suddenly disappear; engineers and designers will adapt and continue to produce “sportiness” with the changes being made.

What do you think? Do you think sports cars will end with the demise of the combustion engine? Please comment below! Also, don’t forget to subscribe for updates to the blog as well as to the Twitter account @SpiritedDrive

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB

Wednesday Luncheon Post: What gives a car “soul?”

What gives a car “soul?” What is a “personality” in a car? When does a car not have a soul and personality? If you read a lot of automotive journalism, whether in the newspaper, on a blog, on a video online, or in a magazine, you sometimes notice that the phrase “the car has soul” or something similar appears. Can soul or personality even be engineered? And if yes, what does that mean? While some may claim that these questions are merely based on semantics or are too far into the weeds of philosophy, reviewers, writers, and journalists all seem, at one point of another, to make a decisive claim on this question. What becomes interesting is what determines or defines “soul” in a car. Is it the exhaust note that makes a car “souldful?” Is it the precise engineering that gives a car soul or take it away? Some claim a car has soul and personality due to the numerable flaws, break-downs, and “temperaments” of the car and claim “Oh look! Personality! It makes a fuss; it has a soul!” But do cars only have souls if they break or fall apart?

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While philosophical arguments can be made on either side of the question “Do cars have souls?”and take us into left field, I see that cars do in fact have souls and distinct personalities. This view isn’t based on the fact that cars break, have an exquisite exhaust note, or philosophical arguments. No. I believe that despite what engineering and physics may tell us about why a car does not have a soul, I remain and maintain optimistic belief that owners and drivers lend their own passion, zest, enthusiasm, and “soul” into their cars because of their love for them. Cars become more than machines at this point; they become extensions and mirrors of ourselves.

What do you think? Please comment below!

 

Drive Spiritedly.

-JRB, Editor.