Hello everyone, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of BSN* and we’ve been working on expanding our website towards car tech, specifically focusing on the things that we know: The tech aspects of cars and how they’re becoming more and more computers on wheels. Alan and I recently got new cars and we realized that picking our new cars involved a lot of the same things that you would do for a whole car review, so we decided to explore the topic and share our own experiences. We both love cars and driving, so we take it pretty seriously when they’re something we care about.Alan:
Exactly. The debate between x86 vs. ARM which has caught the attention of the tech world, is going strong in car technology. NVIDIA has an entire automotive division working not only on infotainment but also using the GPU to accelerate the mathematics needed for driver assistance technology like number-recognition for camera-based speed limit detection or improving the instrument panel. I have been involved with online tech journalism as a hobby for about 15 years, so I’m glad to work with Anshel on this feature. By day, nights, and weekends, I’m an orthopaedic spine surgeon. So besides my usual perspective as a car and tech enthusiast, my background in biomechanics and experience of frequently being part of the first team of physicians to evaluate a patient being brought into a trauma bay after a car accident has given a different perspective on car safety which I hope to share today.Anshel:
Speaking of safety, my previous ride was a 2000 Volvo S40
and was an incredibly zippy and sturdy Swedish Vehicle. Except, this car wasn’t actually made in Sweden, it was actually made in the Netherlands by Nedcar
which was a joint operation with Mitsubishi Motors. As a result the S40 was internally almost identical chassis to the Mitsubishi Charisma
of those years. Alan:
Yeah, the old Lancer Evolutions were called “Carisma Evolution” in some countries. The S40 was built on the same platform as the Evo III! You could have had import tuner street cred…Anshel:
I did have a sweet spoiler on the back! The car was nothing technologically fancy other than the fact that it had a tape deck (Yayy) and a CD Player which is basically worthless nowadays. I actually used the tape deck more often since I had one of those tape deck adapters that gave you a 3.5mm jack for your phone or iPod.
The US version of this vehicle was a 2.0 Turbo and was an inline 4 engine that was rebadged in the US as a 1.9T and had a maximum horsepower output of about 158 HP and 170 ft lb of torque. I made almost no modifications to this vehicle other than replacing random parts of the engine that needed replacing. It did, however, come with a nice sunroof and had all of the window switches in the middle of the vehicle, like a true Volvo. The steering was responsive and I had wider tires than were recommended for better grip on turns. Before I had this car, I drove a 1995 Toyota Camry, so it was a huge upgrade because I had leather seats, a sunroof, and a more powerful engine with a more aggressive transmission as well.
Driving this car around was an enjoyable experience and I probably would’ve never stopped driving it (I planned to drive it into the ground) if the repairs weren’t so expensive, constant, and incredibly dumbfounding. There was simply a point where taking this car to get it repaired was an exercise in futility. Something always seemed to be wrong with the coils.
This wasn’t really a sporty car, but I definitely made it a fun to drive car. It rode pretty smoothly and handled pretty well, as it got older the engine started to take some time to wake up, especially in cold weather. But even with its flaws, it was still a great car and I was prepared to drive it until it died on me. Because of the 2.0L turbo, I was able to get the car’s turbo to kick in at around 2,500 to 2,600 RPMs and as a result, got some pretty stellar highway mileage. On a good day, highway-only driving I could easily get 30 to 31 MPG. With combined city and highway driving, I usually got around 23 MPG, which was pretty good for a car that’s over 10 years old and over 100,000 miles on it. To be fair, I did maintain the car pretty well and it was running fully synthetic motor oil for many miles.Alan:
I’m coming from a 2008 Infiniti G35x. My car was as Spartan as they came. No sunroof, navigation, or even Bluetooth. I went with no sunroof on this car for increased chassis rigidity and stiffened it even further with a front-tower strut brace. I added paddle shifters and swapped in lightweight 18” Enkei rims running Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus tires. Huper Optik ceramic tint. I ran German Castrol 0W-30 with Purolator One oil filters from the first oil change and on.
The all-wheel-drive system of the G35x has its roots in the old 1989-2003 Nissan Skyline GT-R. That meant that it used an electromagnetic wet clutch which split the torque 25% front/75% rear from 0 to 10 mph and then switched to a 100% rear bias above 10 mph. When rear wheel slip is detected, the vehicle can deliver up to 50% of power to the front wheels. This meant that I got the AWD benefits of straight line acceleration and the handling characteristics of a rear wheel drive car. With a 1-foot roll out, a brake launch, and Shell 93 Octane V-Power gasoline and ambient temperature in the 40’s, I was able to get 0-60 times of 5.38 seconds. The car was advertised with an EPA 17/25 mpg. In San Francisco, my actual commute averaged 14.9 mpg.
Compared to a G35s with a stiffer suspension and lower ride height running on Bridgestone RE050A, the G35x’s handling was slightly floatier and the torque transfer from rear to front was something easily detected. Just as the rear was about to kick out, you would feel the power being transferred to the front wheels. This gave the sensation of being on rails for a brief moment and then, if I kept pushing it, the car would begin to understeer. As artificial as it sounds, the results was very predictable and certainly explains why the old R32 Skyline GT-R was such as great car on the track in Japan. You knew exactly when the car was beginning to lose grip before actually losing grip and had a small safety net.
What was most impressive about the car was that while the G35/G37 sedan and coupe could be thought of as a more comfortable and practical version of the Nissan 350Z/370Z with tuned specimens making the cover of magazines like Import Tuner, the sedan was also the Consumer Reports Top Upscale Sedan for 2007, 2008, 2009, and then Sports Sedan 2010, 2011, and 2012 only losing to the 2013 F30 BMW 328i. It really says something when you have a car that appeals to readers of both Import Tuner and Consumer Reports for a six-year period. Great car. I was just getting tired of refueling all the time and wanted a trunk bigger than 13.5 cubic feet. Anshel:
I really enjoyed the size of the Volvo, so I was looking for a vehicle of comparable size, but also had to be properly updated in terms of tech since my Volvo was going on being 13 years old and only had a tape deck and a CD changer. I also needed something more reliable that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to maintain.
Based on this, I decided that I was going to test drive all of the cars that fit in that segment and that met my pre-determined parameters.
One of the things that sparked my interested was Cadillac’s $299 a month offer on the ATS. Obviously I knew that this was going to be the bare bones model, but I had no idea how far I’d stray from that. After that, I decided that I would also look at the Subaru BR-Z and Scion FR-S since they had piqued my interest and had just been released. I went to a local dealership and was treated with a level of arrogance that I was frankly shocked to experience. I was told that they were selling so many of the Subaru BR-Zs that they only had one in the showroom and it was for serious buyers only. Keep in mind, this car is only $25,000 MSRP. This immediately turned me off and I didn’t even bother to go for a test drive or to look for another dealership and I refocused my efforts and regrouped another day on the weekend...
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