20130121-231521.jpgI sometimes struggle to think about what to stick in here. I mean, I never thought that would be an issue. Those of you that know me in person — the ones who use cars to just get around especially — know all too well that I can go on about cars until someone strokes or maims themselves to escape.

Just shooting the s#!t and vomiting up facts between two car people is far different than writing an article though — in the same way speaking to your friends is different than speaking at a boardroom meeting. Materials must be prepared, research done and organized in triplicate, and your language chosen carefully.

Luckily, I already don’t do one of those irritating s#!ts (guess which). Today, I thought I’d throw the other two ‘bodies’ into the ditch with their buddy, “modest language” and just ramble off the dead space in my head. When I stuck my hand into the void of the magic hat, this is what came out.

A Perfect Car (as told by Drive By Wire)

This idea isn’t new. In fact, to even mention it borders on the very edge of plagiarism because of the shiploads of automotive writers and journalists who have come before me — their 2¢ about what makes a perfect car collectively adding up to millions of dollars by now.

Unlike everyone before me though, I think I have really good reasons.

1) Cheaply and Easily Fixable Enough to Not Worry About Breaking It:
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This is a very important point of mine. That’s why it’s number one. It’s also first because it automatically discounts a lot of bedroom wall paraphernalia, like anything from Italy — or any of the very new greats from Europe (like new 911s, Aston Martins, and yes, even Audi).
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I’m afraid of breaking my car a lot. Not because it hasn’t been reliable, but because it can require some speciality to fix (and having car troubles just makes my b@lls itch). If you read 1, 2, 3, Quattro — the car needs a proprietary wrench just to change the center differential’s oil. For the most part, I drive the car pretty gingerly. One of my trusted compatriots at Axis Motoring (menders of all things on the TT) tells me I worry far more than I have to (but I guess that means I’ll break s#!t all the less, right?).

One thing a perfect car can be is simple enough to make you feel it’s near-impossible to break and not mean the end of your world when it does.

2) More Grease Than Circuitry:
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If you need a degree from M.I.T. to work on it, pack its bags — because its out of my list.
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I suppose this is partly due to criteria number one, but this also has to do with when you’re driving the car. How much of the controls in a car are connected to circuitry instead of something mechanical?
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If it’s far more than the radio, the mirrors, and maybe the seats, it may be too much. Drive by wire systems, self-shifting gearboxes, and electronically assisted steering are all feats of forward thinking and efficiency for 99-percent of drivers, but they can numb the driving experience.

I’ve driven cars with both cable throttles and drive-by-wire throttles. I don’t mind the latter, but when you push into a cable-throttle that is directly connected to the engine — its different. You feel the pedal shake with the engine, like a RWD manual shifter does, and anything that makes you tactilely feel what the car is doing is meaningful. It helps you blend into the car, not remind you that you’re separate from it.

3) Practical Enough to Be Your Only Car:
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We’re talking perfect here, right? Perfect doesn’t force you to say “Hey, let’s take your car, we can’t fit everything/everyone in my car.”

I like to drive. I like to drive whenever I get the chance. Need a ride to a store on the other side of town? — hey, I’m your guy. Need groceries picked up? — I love grocery runs. Need to get picked up after a root canal because you’re way too stoned, I always liked you more when you couldn’t speak anyway.
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But when we can’t use my car because it can’t fit everyone, or we’re going to get some cut-priced furniture at Ikea, a little bit of me gets sad. We have to take someone’s dull-as-bread S.U.V. or, God forbid, a minivan.
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That’s why I think sport sedans and wagons are cool. $100-bill-found-in-your-pocket cool. Some are even take-that-$100-bill-to-a-strip-club-but-the-dancer-gives-you-a-freebie cool.
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if you’ve never heard of the Ford Falcon Typhoon, take a look at that OEM front mount and know Ford of Australia has been f#%king you over
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see it here in racing trim

I’ve always liked a practical performance car because it takes the choice you’re typically forced to make between fun and responsibility — and it murders it. It kills it for you and then doesn’t even ask you to help bury it. It’s all, “hey I got to do something before we go out tonight, be there in a bit”, so when the police ask you what happened to “Fun v. Responsibility”, you don’t have to lie.

What a pal.

4) Ergonomics:
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For the other one to four seats in a car, this simply means being comfortable. I don’t care about those seats. I care about the one seat — the driver’s seat. A poorly designed cockpit means the best shimmering jewel of a motor and great suspension won’t mean farm manure if you’re busy wrestling with controls designed by Pablo Picasso.
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Your legs must sit comfortably enough to execute a variety of advanced driving techniques, from trail braking to heel-and-toe rev matching. The shifter should fall casually to hand and move with anticipated precision. The steering wheel should be no bigger than shoulder width and need only a turn and change from lock-to-lock.
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Poor driver ergonomics are like taking a Moscow ballet dancer and giving them steel-toed boots to perform in. You’ll bear witness to the death of grace and harmony (replaced instead by face-to-floor action). Does a surgeon work with boxing gloves or skin-like latex?

5) It Sounds Like a Kodiak Bear F#%king a Bald Eagle:
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I’ve already covered what I think good engines sound like two pieces ago. The best-sounding engines aren’t necessarily the most expensive.

When you drive a good car, it’ll push you into your seat, hug corners, and make you grin a bit and think it’s pretty cool. A perfect package will do all that and make you forget that you’re squealing like a prepubescent kid at Christmas with other people in the car.
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In fact, it will make you not care that you’re squealing like someone from Gossip Girl. You need to make these noises because they’ll explode inside you if you don’t let them out. That’s how good the car is and a strong noise that you feel, not only hear, is crucial to that.

This is something older cars are better at than new cars. Before sound deadening was made of lead and liquid-deafness.

I thought of these things while watching videos by an English auto journalist named Chris Harris. He test drives all the new stuff from GM to Pagani and anything in between, but my favorite videos by him are of older or cheaper cars. Classic 911s, older BMW M-cars from the early and mid 90s, and entry level hot-hatches.

see Chris Harris here on a Pirelli tire test with some of the most amazing sounding cars in history: vintage rally cars — skip to 3:25 if you just want to start hearing mechanical brilliance

Before pedigree, before top speed and top horsepower, before panty peeling ability — I think a car with ‘enough’ go, space for your baggage, and less baggage of its own are some of the most crucial ingredients for a perfect car. Anything that lets you focus more on the drive, all day, everyday is what makes the best cars.

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This is just a quickie. I myself have never been elite-stanced — ever. With the ride height I have on Koni Sport adjustables and H&R springs, I’m already having some clearance issues on the highest of speed-bumps (it’s like they’re trying to stop a monster trucks, what the f#%k).

That said, just because I’ve never have the testicular fortitude to commit to stanced-life, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the clean, intensely low lines of a well-dropped car. With a bit of e-walking through some forums, a couple of a$$-chewing flame wars online, and the occasional professional opinion — I threw a quick collection of clean or unique cars that represent scraping and killing reflectors.

(a friend of mine called them “Carkles”, like cankles for cars)

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A new issue has emerged for producers of gasoline and diesel hybrid cars in the U.S.: sound. Specifically, the issue lies in the level of raucous noise the cars make at 18 MPH or less: none. Below those speeds — most hybrid cars operate solely on their electric motors, which run double quiet.

The Federal government is now requiring that hybrids emit a sound while running just on Zeus-juice for the protection of pedestrians (especially those who are visually impaired). But in a Five-Degrees-of Kevin-Bacon sort of way, this got me thinking.

(If you don’t know what Five Degrees of Kevin Bacon is, look it up on Google — then go watch some movies made before iPhones came out, you philistines)

Synthesized noise for hybrids isn’t the only electronic-music making its way into cars. In order to satiate the appetites of the driving elite, car makers have resorted to clever ways of “auto tuning” our cars, polishing the experience of driving them.

While this has long been done with acoustic engineering, BMW took it a step further with their latest generation, twin-turbo V8 M5.
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Pull the #200 40-amp fuse in the M5 and you’ll notice the car suddenly gets more “meek”. The thunderous sound from inside the cabin will become a well spoken, but polite thrum. Fuse #200 pulls the plug on the M5′s “Active Sound” technology that pumps synthesized engine sounds into the cabin via the stereo.
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When the M5 first came out, magazines like Car and Driver and Motortrend leapt on this like Charlie Sheen would on a back-talking hooker (that would be “savagely” for those of you who don’t know).

We know why BMW did it though. Increased sound deadening, the comfort that 99% of buyers prefer, and a combustion soundtrack muted by the turbos meant the new M5 wasn’t going to feel as “involved” (aurally anyway) as its predecessor. This is only the beginning.

I know there are still plenty of lovely noise polluters, but I thought I’d make a collection of some noises we could hear less and less — until they solely belong to memory, digital and mental alike. These are just a few of my (and hopefully your) dearly departing favorites, from screaming altos to ground shaking sopranos.

Wankel/Mazda Rotary:
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Lets start this s#!t off right. Of all the engines on this list, this is a motor that sounds like no other because it is like no other. It has no pistons, no crank shaft (technically), no cam shafts, and only three moving parts. It can make as much horsepower as a typical, piston-reciprocating engine twice its size, and can spin at engine speeds where other engines would be calling next of kin.

It also has a thirsty appetite for gasoline, for oil, and for apex seals (its version of piston rings). Those things aside, issues of reliability can be solved with proper maintenance (preventing most, if not all faults). Issues of the engine’s character are the sort you either hate or love. Unquestionably, this is one of the most distinctive sounds in internal combustion — and one of the best.

Honda VTEC engines:
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The new NSX is a hybrid (no doubt one that will succumb to the electronic mumbo jumbo to come), the latest Civic Si traded 1,000 RPMs for an extra 400cc of displacement and more torque, and the S2000 is dead. God. Have. Mercy.

For those of you whose heart beat changes rhythm and intensity on the far side of a tachometer, a high revving, mechanically tuned Honda engine is just right (and a torque-biased, low revving Honda engine is wrong — cousin-f#%king-wrong).

Seems some shot caller at Honda thinks their cousin is a fine piece of a$$. Still, let us pay homage to the thrilling sound of cam lobes shifting mid-pull, transforming the engine you thought you had in your car into a horizon-reaching maniac.

Honda’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control showed the motoring world you can have two engines in one. One that wears a tie and does its taxes. The other rips the tie off, eats its tax returns, and then parks a motorcycle on the boss’s desk. Naked.

Ferrari V8:
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Now before any of you get all foot-in-a$$, knife-in-hand, or shoot-in-foot on me — this list is in no particular order of “best” or “worse”. These are all winners, and I’m simply getting to these Maranello masterpieces now.

A Ferrari is the auto name most synonymous with “thing to buy after winning lottery”. Having long enjoyed being wall poster royalty, old man Enzo’s family name is in no danger of being forgotten, and for good reason.

But before you think I’m going to get all teary eyed and give Ferrari’s card blanche to my heart, give me a moment to redeem myself. Not long ago, I had the opportunity for a few laps around Homestead Miami Speedway with a Ferrari F430. Just before the Ferrari, I had taken out Audi’s R8 halo car.
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In my own honest, perhaps blasphemous opinion — I thought the R8′s brakes were easier to use if braking late, the steering column-mounted paddle shifters were better positioned, and I’d like the interior more on a daily basis (if spending my $100,000~ish). The Ferrari’s engine sang a song like an aria though. The R8 didn’t sound like “Brumhilda, the milk maid” either (more Valkyrie maiden actually), but Ferrari’s have been making that sound for longer, so they get the slot.

GM Small Block V8:
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American muscle isn’t my all time number one, but I’ll still get out of my chair or take my hat off to any history making power plant.

In one form or another since 1955, the GM small block V8 has been synonymous with affordable, reliable power — come any day of the week (but especially winning Sunday to sell on Monday).

Having powered legendary American sleds like the Bel-Air, Camaro, and Corvette, the relatively compact engine obtained the nickname “Mighty Mouse” (what’s “big” and “small” in America can seem pretty f#%kin’ screwy to the rest of the World, but we are the obesity capitol of the planet).

Since we’re focusing on the sound and fury of mechanical harmony, the most important distinction to make is the one between the sound a Chevy Small Block makes and the sort a V8 Ferrari makes. The reason a blindfolded Amish person could tell them apart (aside from the fact an Amish person could know about engines and not conform to my ignorant stereotype) is their literal difference at their cores: crankshafts.

Most V8s either have a cross-plane (90-degree) crankshaft or a flat-plane (180-degree) crank shaft. These two different designs mount and move the cylinders of their respective V8s in two very different motions.

More exotic V8s (like the pasta-rocket Ferraris) use 180-degree cranks. They bark, pop, and sing to lofty redlines with a quickly ascending, metallic soundtrack synonymous with Formula-1. The Small Block is a 90-degree crank V8. They rev more slowly, have more mass (produce more torque), and have the characteristic uneven, thundering sound of NASCAR and the NHRA.

Japanese Twin-Turbo Straight Sixes:
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Before 2001, only the elite knew about Toyota’s overpriced (when new), twin-turbo, straight-six super coupe: the appropriately named Supra. After 2001 — and The Fast and The Furious — everyone and their kid brother knew about Toyota’s overpriced (today), twin-turbo, yadayadayada.

The heart of the Supra was its 2JZ-GTE 3.0L six cylinder engine. Known now for being capable of monstrous four-figure horsepower (1,899 HP is the highest I’ve found), the aluminum head and magnesium-infused iron block 2JZ is now debatably the heaviest of heavy Japanese hitters.

I say debatably because this engine actually owes its development to a rival power plant: Nissan’s RB26DETT — which finds its home in the R32 through R34 Skyline GT-Rs. This article isn’t nearly big enough to settle this debate, but Toyota did make the 2JZ to go head-to-head with the RB26.

I will say that I was considering giving each of the engines its own slot, but then I was listening to sound clips of each and thought, “their sounds aren’t that distinctly different to me.” On full boost with a turbo big enough to swallow Honey Boo Boo’s Mom, each engine emitted similar soundtracks — six cylinders of premium, over engineered, kick a$$ Japanese engineering.

They’re both high horsepower, exotic (some parts cost enough to be anyway), horizon-chasing winners in my book. And they both must play nice and share a shelf on my board.

Porsche Flat-Six Engines:
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This is here for two reasons. Firstly, I truly believe these are some of the best sounding motors to have ever been created. Secondly, I know someone would have used my backside as a shoebox if I didn’t include any mention of these thrum-y tenors from Stuttgart.

Since 1931, Ferdinand Porsche’s legacy has produced a timeless legacy of automobiles — but the best selling wasn’t even a Porsche. It was the original Volkswagen Beetle. But while that car may have the champion-accolade from the tofu-munchin’, dolphin lovin’ crowd, drivers remember one Porsche and only one Porsche as the definitive car of the brand: the 911.

Waving its d!¢k in the face of physics, the 911 has — from past and henceforth until eternity — carried its engine behind the rear axle. In the earliest 911s, it sat out over the a$$ of the car where it upset balance, made twitchy handling, and even earned early 911s the nickname “widow maker”. Damn if it didn’t make a fantastic sound though.

Today, the car handles infinitely better and wills written by the stubborn engineers at Porsche instructed their replacements to never (under pain of excommunication) move the engine from its asinine sacred resting place at the very back of the car.

Top Gear’s Richard Hammond said Porsche’s were clearly a man’s car — because a woman would have moved the engine to a practical location decades ago. He’s probably right. But if she cared enough to work on cars, I think women and men alike can enjoy this sound.

Lamborghini V12s:
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If we go back to Italy for a moment (and I don’t think we’ll have any objections) I want to draw a distinction between Ferrari and Lamborghini. Ferrari is to Lamborghini what Beethoven is to KISS.

If that was lost on you, I’m sorry — but again, educate yourself on pop culture before reality TV (or you’ll die with all the personality of skim milk) (and you’ll deserve it).

As one of the three most naturally-balanced engine configurations, V12s have a particularly interesting sound that combine two elements already covered in this list. I think they idle with a subtle lump, like a mild or moderately cammed 90-degree V8. They rev high, but not necessarily sounding as pretty as the flat-plane-crank V8s either. These are just animals of a near-psychotic nature. How appropriate that Lamborghini uses a raging bull when Ferrari uses a prancing horse.

Ferrari had already won Grand Prix titles when a younger Ferruccio Lamborghini was still the owner of a farm equipment manufacturer. If you didn’t know before, let this sink in: Lamborghini used to make tractors. Still, having some money of his own after selling equipment to mix dirt with pig s#!t, he was a fan of fast Italian sports cars. His favorites were Ferraris.

On a trip to meet the Prancing Horse Godfather himself, he gushed and gushed to Enzo about what he loved, but then made the mistake many fans do when meeting their heroes: he offered suggestions.

Enzo replied with a fervent “I’ll take advice from a tractor maker when pigs fly” (paraphrased) and dismissed what was likely a hurt-Lamborghini back to his workshop. But did he sit there with his tractor-money only to bend over and let the Prancing Horse mount him on his backside. F#%k. No.

He started a car company that made cars that sound like this.

Ferraris are aristocratic (though you wouldn’t know it from many American buyers). They’re an old guard and are makers of precision, Formula-1 inspired wizardry.

Lamborghinis, much like the owner in this video, are about being a rock star and letting everyone around you know it.

Each of these engines is a rock star in its own right — each playing its distinct sound into history.

The sounds our parents hang onto belong to the British Invasion and the legendary bands of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Personally, I don’t think the music of my generation has become as timeless (like it as much as I do). That’s okay though, I don’t care if it does, and it wouldn’t be what I tell future generations about anyway.

Like our grandparents before us, we too will sit eye-rolling children on our old-fart laps, and barely hold their attention as we tell them of when cars didn’t move on a hum and a whisper, but snarled and wailed as they drank dinosaur blood, belched poisonous gas, and actually moved you as they moved you.

(the little s#!ts probably won’t believe us)

Let me leave you with this. It’s a synopsis clip of the 2012 Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado. It has both the sounds of the past and the future. You tell me which really touched your mind, heart, and trouser junk.

20130109-230329.jpgPssst. Want to know a secret? I mean, don’t tell anyone and keep it under your hat: drifting’s cool here now (Want to know another secret? I like to swear. F#%k.).

Yes, the trickle started by Option Auto and Best Motoring videos has now become a flood of new wave motorsport in The States — and now everyone wants in. When companies like Mopar and Ford Racing sponsor your team and field your cars, you’ve safely dug your grubby fingernails into what was a world of going in straight lines and only turning left (and they’re never getting you out now).

Safely secure in the hearts and minds of gear heads in America, most anyone old enough to drive, but not old enough to rent a car wants in on the action. Used car prices for clean, used Nissan 240SXs have sky rocketed — and so has their popularity (they’re nearly stolen as much as Civics now in our scene).

Everybody and their bada$$ grandma wants to rip the e-brake, smoke those tires, and tap that wall (two of those anyway), but not everyone knows where to start. Fortunately for us, this doesn’t stop them from jumping into a car with a camera rolling to record what they expected to be their first-time domination of a supermarket parking lot.

This typically happens moments before they have to think of a way to pull their head out of their a$$ after their parents stick it up there (but this is the wrong way to go about it all anyway).

If you’re going to do it the right way, you’re going to have to do your homework. Well ding, ding ding. That was the class bell; welcome to Newbie Drift Tips 101. I’ll be your headmaster (that means I’m the master of pulling your head out of your a$$, it’s not a hat).

This is the first installment of a series in drifter beginner tips, taught by my name-taking, clutch-kicking faculty of experienced drivers. Each one is a sponsored driver with countless hours in the hot seat as well as competing in Street Wise Drift, X-Treme Drift Circuit, and Formula D Pro-Am events.

That means two things. They’re good enough to run what they brung and good enough to make someone else pay for some stuff.

So sit down, shut up, and lets meet your teachers for today.

Marco Tellez: Nissan S13 240SX
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365 HP —
LS1 swap
Custom cut 234/236 camshaft
Full Crane Valve Kit
LS7 lifters
Ported throttle body
BC Racing coil overs
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Marco is both a long time drifter and friend of D.B.W. If anybody reading now has been with us from the start, you’ll remember Marco from previous pieces on the page — especially his then-lime green S13 (called Kermit back then). Marco helped us teach people online how to rebuild their SR20DET bottom end and swap bell housings on shredded Nissan 5-speeds (according to the click-o-meter, some of our most popular features).
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Well, Kermit is now dead. Spiritually anyway — if Kermit were still green, he’d be the Hulk now. But he isn’t green anymore. He’s Black. Black as the night (so… Batman? Whatever.). What he is now is a piece of cross-pollinated bada$$ery. While the chassis is as Japanese as a plate of sushi, the engine’s specs read like a Can-Am road racing lion heart. I guess that makes it a Saki-Bomb: Japanese flavor with typical American restraint.
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Entering into the 2013 season soon, Marco honed his tire selection carefully with his sponsors (BC Racing, Zero Gravity, Expert Car Care, and now Stanced Fresh) to select a good blend of tires. His menu has a good variety of tire experience.
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Marco’s Tires:

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“Good tire, lots of smoke when mounted backwards and lasted pretty good but to get a super sweet amount of grip I have to run like 265 sizes or higher in the back.”

Toyo Proxes T1 ($200 per tire) — 20130109-225507.jpg

“Super grippy! Soft compound, super smoke, but didn’t last almost anything. I would feel my car squat on the rear like a monster coming after its prey, but they literally lasted 2 whole runs and they were down to the tread-bar.”

Falken Azenis 615K ($300) — 20130109-225512.jpg

“Lasts great! Medium smoke, definately not as much as the Achilles but more that the S Drives. With a 255 tire size, it felt like the tire had loads of grip, but its price can make a whole in your pocket (and that is exactly what my sponsor said, so we scratched that one off the list of possible tires for a whole season). Maybe to play with once in a while, but not constantly for a whole year (it’s just too pricey).”

Yokohama S-Drives ($172 per tire) — 20130109-225519.jpg

“A great tire that lasts quite a while, but again had to run huge numbers to get similar grip to others. It does not make as much smoke as the Achilles Sport 2s either.”

Hankook Ventus V12 Evo ($172 per tire) — 20130109-225527.jpg

“Most likely the tire I will be running in the 2013 Formula D Pro Am season. It’s an awesome tire, with good grip, great smoke, and lasts longer than I expected. With an average price, I love it in every way even down to the fact that is says Hankook in the middle of the thread going down the tire.”

Kelsey Rowlings: Nissan S14 240SX
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360 HP —
S13-spec SR20DET
GT2871R .64 @ 18 PSI
Built Block
JWT S3HI camshafts
740cc injectors
tuned by R.S. Enthalphy in Brandon, FL
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Kelsey’s distinctive S14 has shown up on a Drive By Wire article or two while I was shooting at Central Florida Racing Complex. She’s also gotten snapped in Wrecked Magazine as well. It’s a bit hard to miss her car though. It’s the Expert Car Care-sponsored hot pink one.
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No matter, any color from the “hot” palate would have been appropriate — because this e-brake-ripping lady can light up tires and get crowds fired. Last year, I saw her go head to head with Formula-D Pro-Am driver Nate Hamilton (burning the image of that hot pink S14 into his mirror for three back-to-back runs). She’ll graze a wall close enough for the high fives, but not the wipe-out.
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Drifting, however, is only one of this renaissance woman’s several passions and interests. Kelsey’s also a four-year model, a 15-year equestrian (that’s “horseback rider” to the dumbf#%ks in the class), and a classical musician. This is about how Kelsey attacks the corners though, and how she can help you pick a set of kicks for your car if you want to paint some burnt-rubber masterpieces.
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Kelsey’s Tires:

Hankook Ventus V12 Evo ($179 per tire) — 20130109-225527.jpg

“I would probably have to say that so far, the Hankooks are my favorite tire. They have great grip and put out great smoke. They also wear nicely and don’t chunk like a lot of other tires. They are more pricey than say the Achilles I also like, but overall I’d say their performance slightly outshines the Achilles.”

Achilles Sport 2 ($159 per tire) — 20130109-225501.jpg

“The Achilles have a higher treadwear rating, so they have slightly less grip than the V12 Evos that I really like. I switch back and forth between the two brands depending on what my sponsor can get for me that event. When I run the achilles, I tend to run a lower tire pressure than I do with the Hankooks to achieve similar grip levels. I also run the Achilles in reverse of the tread pattern (backwards).”

Jason Jiovani: Nissan S13/S15 “Sileighty”
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400 HP —
LS1 swap
Trick Flow kit featuring
Heads
Cam
Intake
Exhaust
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Jason “Box Mod” Jiovani. A softly spoken, big-stick-carrying tour-de-force-maker on the skid pad. He’s definitely a D.B.W. favorite for some of the shots he’s given me (back when CFRC still had the track-center media bunker especially). If you see Jason in your rear view at the tandem staging lines — don’t count on his screwing up to save you.
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Even under the hottest of pressures (and temperatures), this day-time school teacher keeps his cool with a calm and knife-honed focus. He’ll also drink two bottles of water and pour a third over himself between runs — it gets melt-your-b@lls-hot in Florida dammit!
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Being committed to the game since 2006 (flirting with it here and there before), the Nexen Tire-sponsored, Pro-Am veteran now has a steadily growing trophy case of clinched and dominated events alike — and he’s only getting started, having now been fully FD licensed. Remember him and where he came from, because the next time you see him, he’ll probably be breaking his foot off in some FD celebrity a$$.
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Jason’s Tires:

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“The N9000s I run in the front of the car have amazing feel to them. They are very responsive and you can easily compress the rubber by hand when the tire is brand new because they’re so soft.”

Nexen 6000 ($120 per tire) — 20130109-225540.jpg

“The N6000s out back are also pretty soft, but the extra width also helps balance the car’s grip front to back. When we setup the alignment, dampening, and spring rates, the car is pretty awesome. I have actually had to dial out some of the grip we gained for some tracks.”

Nexen 3000 ($176 per tire) — 20130109-225547.jpg

“The N3000s can outlast the 6000s (meaning they can be an economical rear tire choice — but this sacrifices grip). You can play around with some pressure settings to help your tires last longer though.”

Drivers’s Tips:

Running the tires backwards/”against the tread”

You may have noticed both Marco and Kelsey mention running certain tires backwards in order to boost the performance of the rubber in a run. This is mostly a longevity trick.

The point of this, especially for tires with a sharp-tread pattern, is to combat “chunking”. Chunking is exactly what it sounds like — the tire coming apart in chunks like Animal from The Muppets got at it.

Running against the tread takes that sharp, leading edge of the fancy tread (that would normally be going face-first into a world of hurt) and turns it blunt-end-first into the direction the tire will be spinning. It’s like letting the tire fall a$$-first into a fall instead of face-first — chipped teeth, broken nose, and all.

Air Pressure

This is a tricky issue, because it depends from condition to condition. How hot is the tarmac you’re running on, how much natural grip does the tire you’re running have, and your suspension setup. Typically, with a lower quality, lower grip tire — let the air out a bit.

Not enough so as to kick the tirewall in the baby-maker and compromise its rigidity, but enough to let it grab the road a bit more snugly. Kelsey says she does this when running the Achilles Sport 2s instead of her preferred Hankooks, which grip more.

Do not over-inflate a tire to try and combat grip. Jason-San says over-inflating a tire will delaminate its surface. Like Mr. Mackey, you’re going to have a bad time (mmmkay?).

Camber

Camber does not have a singular principle to follow in drifting either. Not even in negative vs. positive — you don’t always need to dial-in ridiculous negative camber for “grip in the turns”. In fact, it could have little more effect than the flush-ness that’s so coveted.

Jason says that you could flush 66-percent of your tire down the toilet by doing this — since just one-third of the tire will be gripping and being used up, you’ll be left with the rest of the tire pristine (but just as unusable).

Marco actually runs +1 degree of camber in the rear in order to maintain grip and control while his V8-swapped S13 squats like its about to drop the mother of all deuces (#V8-problems-wah-I-have-too-much-power) (nothing but love, Marco). The point is, dial suspension in for physics, not for flush-thug-life. Comprende, class?

Alright students, that’s all for today. Collect your things, don’t let my door hit your a$$ on the way out, and make sure to study today’s material and take it to heart. There will be a pop quiz (not here, but every time you get into your car). There is no pass or fail, just happy tire shredding or broken car.

Stay tuned for more Up In Smoke.

20130107-205256.jpgYou could probably bet money nine times out of 10 that the first change anyone makes to their car is a new exhaust. As an entry level modification, you get a fair dose of something you can feel and something others can see (and in this case, hear — as much as your neighbors wish they didn’t).

From uncorking the full audio-fury of your 6.2L V8 to slashing your turbo spool-time in half, replacing the factory pipes on most everyday cars will have varying degrees of improvement — especially on those with forced induction.

The reason for this is the compromise that car companies play between optimum flow, sound suppression, and cost. While the straightest path out of the motor will help a car stretch its legs, there are decibel laws and only a certain degree of pi$$-inducing, teeth-loosening rawness that 99-percent of buyers will put up with.

That means it’s up to us one-percenters to undo all the watering down in our cars if we’re so inclined. How much an improvement you’ll get is up to the car and you though.

If you want your car to be louder, I can guarantee that you’ll have no issue with this problem. Getting the sound you want can be a matter of trial and error (but thanks to YouTube, you can just look up your car and “exhaust” to get a Congressional Library’s worth of clips to check out).
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Mainstream muffler companies like Magnaflow, Borla, and Dynomax coupled with a good resonator further upstream in the system typically have good results.

The larger the main piping of the system, the more you’ll have to rely on a good quality muffler and resonator. If you’re keen on saving money on a system without a resonator — consider downsizing your pipes by a quarter-to-half-inch.

Your engine may not even miss the additional flow (there are plenty of GM LS and Ford 5.0L guys running 2.5-inch systems) and you may thank yourself when you hear what an un-resonated 3-inch system sounds like (your neighbors may thank you too by letting you keep your windows un-bricked).

If you’re out to unleash every untamed horse from under the hood, know this: an exhaust alone will never do this, no matter how big you make it. You’re far more likely to have your exhaust hand-delivered by Bigfoot — atop the Loch Ness Monster, with a pair of leprechaun squires carrying his hair-care products than getting the high double-digit claims some exhausts promise.

Those can be flywheel claims, or simply fabrication — but the power that makes it to the wheels should be in the 8 HP to 10+HP at peak. That isn’t to say additional gains below the curve (in the crucial 2,000 RPM to 5,000 RPM area) aren’t to be had as well as increased engine response.

Like I said earlier, factory exhaust systems are a compromise — and the attention power gets depends on the intended market for the car. In the case of the D.B.W. luxury-runabout Audi TT, lets just say people with money in 2000 liked their peace and quiet.

The factory system, from the a$$-end of the turbocharger all the way to the fake fat tip is a 2-inch, double-catalyst, crush bent piece of (s)crap — the bare minimum to help the 20-valve 1.8T engine work out of the box. At the crucial area just after the turbo (the downpipe), the system is most restrictive.
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This is like duct taping someone’s mouth and making them breath through a straw shoved up their nose while giving you a piggyback ride. While you cane them. Around the 200M.

Usain Bolt would have a stroke.

To remedy the first half of the TT’s exhaust, 42 Draft Designs out of Millersville, MD provided the new components and Ivan Gutierrez and Harold Rodriguez of Axis Motoring in Orlando, FL provided the experienced manos for the job.
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Replacing the anchor-like one piece downpipe was 42DD’s 3-piece aluminized stainless steel unit. Engineered specifically for the TT 180 Quattro (to carefully navigate the nearly non-existent space between its driveshaft and chassis), it eliminates both the asinine crush-bent bottleneck as well as the choking hazard double-cats. It also sheds nearly half the weight of the stock unit’s 23 lbs, a’la Biggest Loser.
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Some snooping online suggested removing the front subframe to swap the downpipes on this chassis. I can tell you now this just wasn’t the case. The trickiest bit wasn’t getting the downpipe to the turbo, it was the top driver side turbo-flange bolt next to the driveshaft — take your time, it’s tedious, not impossible. Harold made the switch quickly (a swivel socket attachment will save you some grief) and had the TT un-yoked in quick time.
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On a turbocharged car, removing something as restrictive as the crush-bent exhaust allows the car to breath more efficiently, spool the turbo sooner , and altogether lets the car do its thing more easily.

Let’s talk crush-bending for a moment. This is the industry-standard pipe bending process for making factory and replacement exhaust systems (the sort you can pick up at your local Mieneke Muffler Shop). This process is also called “pressure-bending”, but crush-bending is far more appropriate — because that is what they’re doing to the pipe.
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(Photo Credit: CM Performance)

Crush bending is both cheap and quick because they’re doing to your exhaust what you essentially do to a drinking straw. The surface area where the bend occurs is literally pinched and the metal collapses at that point — reducing the interior surface area of the pipe.

This could also be called “Homer Simpson”-bending because it bears similarity to how he hilariously abuses his son by choking the bajeezus out of the little s#!t. You see how well he breathes when that happens. That’s your motor on crush bending. Like an asphyxiated child at the hands of America’s most loveable drunk father.

(Please: watch the whole thing — it’ll be worth it) (you impatient bastards)

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That’s why when I went to finish the TT’s exhaust from the downpipe back, I turned to David Burnham and Stephan Brust of CM Performance Exhaust in Margate, FL. Burnham has operated CM Performance for 25 years. His menu had a bit of everything back then — but turned from just keeping cars running to creating something out of passion, not necessity: quality exhaust systems.

CM Performance has one of the few “mandrel bending” machines in the state. Why are they so few are far in between?

“A brand new machine can cost about $70,000, you could probably buy a good used one for $40,000 to $50,000,” said Burnham.

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Mandrel bending’s process is entirely different from crush bending in that it combines supporting the pipe from the inside (using a shaft) while interchangeable dies stretch the metal as it’s pulled along them. While crush bending essentially give the pipes a big, fat pinch — mandrel bending is like sending pipes to a shiatsu masseuse.
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The metal is only compressed at one side at the bend, while the outer area is stretched to maintain the interior dimensions of the pipe. If you cut a mandrel bent pipe at the bend, you’ll see the thin and fat wall where the metal was morphed into a clean turn for your exhaust.
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My gaping mouth about the machine’s cost made him add that the machine wasn’t anything special, it just takes money and that everything’s possible with money — except happiness. I hoped for my sake that when he was done with my new exhaust, he’d be wrong.

It didn’t take long for me to find out. Before I could setup up my camera and ask ‘when do we start’, the tell tale screech of a buzz saw told me he already did. Burnham made quick work of cutting the dead-weight muffler off and removing the mid section from the 42DD-supplied adapter.
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Like the rest of the new downpipe, the adapter for mating with the stock exhaust was a high quality aluminized steel unit. Rather than waste a good part (or more of his own raw materials), Burnham simply stretched the tough steel from its 2-inch shape to the 2.5-inch diameter the new system would be.
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I’ve photographed D1 drift cars initiating at 60 MPH to 80 MPH, with seconds at a time to get perfectly frozen shots.
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It was easier to shoot those damn cars than this guy working — as he kicked jack stands up as quickly as he kicked them down between test fittings (catching them on his foot before they crashed on the garage floor).
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Burnham would cut, measure, knock the hell out of the stubborn heatshield by the trunk, and bend the pipes — who were then welded by himself and Brust, who apprenticed at CM Performance (and owes his Mk.IV big-turbo R32′s exhaust to Burnham as well).
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Unlike just about every TT Quattro system I’ve seen, the CM-P guys didn’t bother with keeping the factory idea of a big laterally mounted muffler. Instead, their system fitted a much smaller, much lighter 8×14-inch oval unit from Thermal R&D in Lancaster, CA.
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I like it — has a bit of an Import flair to it, like Wasabi Sauerkraut. You know, katsu and wiener schnitzel are basically the same thing. This probably saves a fair deal of weight even over the aftermarket systems that keep the stock configuration.
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The results were impressive — even only in sound. At idle and cruising between the crucial 2,500 RPMs to 3,500 RPMs (drone territory), the resonator-less system exhibits no maddening drone whatsoever. When wanting to behave yourself and take your time, the car sounds like its following suit: the mark of a quality job.
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Push down on the go-pedal though and the sound becomes a bass-y thrum as you surge forward with no effort at part throttle thanks to a 25-percent increase in flow (an engine that needs to load-up less to do its job is a motor that’s using less fuel). Go full throttle and CM-P’s new pipes let the 1.8T bark nicely to redline with a grin-inducing burble and low pop or two when you lift-off.
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Things to keep in mind when doing an exhaust on Volkswagen/Audi platforms — keep a good eye on what the exhaust shop is doing with your oxygen sensors! If the wiring is damaged or exposed in anyway that can short the O2 sensors, stick your head between your legs and kiss your ECU-less a$$ goodbye, because it will short out the critical drive-by-wire circuitry.

Trustworthy shops are the ones that don’t force you to let your car out of your sight — both Axis Motoring and CM Performance won’t make you face separation anxiety, letting you be there for every step.

42 Draft Designs, Axis Motoring, and CM Performance Exhaust.

Drive By Wire approved.

20130104-222105.jpgNow, I may be biased — very slightly, debatably, and arguably — but Audi is no slouch or stranger to pioneering. Trend setters since the company went by the name “Auto Union”, engineers from Zwickau (this was long before they were the pride of Ingolstadt) were going nearly 200 MPH — in the 1930s.
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Their most timeless innovation, Quattro, has become synonymous with the brand since the company unveiled the original Quattro coupe at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show. How ironic then that their next innovative motorcar be powered by only two wheels.

Still, it accelerates from nought to 60 MPH faster than a V8 R8 without using a drop of gas. It’s the Audi R8 E-Tron prototype that was promised for production by 2012′s end (in limited capacity to niche car buyers bonkers enough to pay the outstanding premium for the quietest R8 money can buy).

The calendars have now turned 2013 and still no E-Tron though. Perhaps they were hoping the Mayans (who either couldn’t count half as well as we thought or are laughing their a$$es off at us in hell — may they rest in peace) would get them out of having to deliver.

Actually, what happened was when the reins of Audi’s research and development changed to Wolfgang Dürheimer in October of last year, the project was halted with likelihood of cancelation. Now the project is recharged and generating electricity at Germany’s Nürburgring (if you don’t like my puns, know that they don’t like you — and neither do I).
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Audi test pilots have steered the all-electric R8 E-Tron around the treacherous (even life-claiming) bends of the historic track to an electric car record-holding 8:09.099.

A quick trip to this whimsical thing called the Internet showed me that was faster than a Viper GTS, NSX Type-R (second gen, surprisingly, the first gen was still quicker) , three generations of Mitsubishi Evo, and Porsche’s Boxter and Cayman S.

It’s actually faster around “The Ring” than many gas-powered cars that turned motoring on its head in their day. But it isn’t faster than its dinosaur-blood-chugging brother.

While it bested the V8 R8 in the dash to 60 (trailing the V10 by four-tenths of a second), it trails its Nürburgring time by just over five seconds — an eternity in racing. The reason for this is just one of a number of issues that plague the electric car (especially when trying to go fast).

I’m a reasonable guy though. I recycle. I check my Dog’s pulse once a week to make sure he isn’t dead.
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I can drive so slow to save gas, people with AARP bumper stickers give me the finger (I’d do something about it, but with so many people losing their jobs, I don’t want to take work from the Grim Reaper).

In short, I can care about nature and the environment — ish. In the interest of giving the E-Tron and all electric cars a fair shake, I’ll go over what’s good first.
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Any engine that burns fuel has what’s called a powerband. This is a spectrum in the engine’s rev range (from zero to redline on your tachometer) where the engine is most efficient at making power. The cusp of the pushed-into-seat stuff only happens there — let the engine get out of that efficiency zone and you’ll have all the unrestrained fury of a leashed toddler at a Walmart.

Actually, maybe the kid will be stronger — put a candy bar at one end of the store, those caffeinated spider monkeys could win Monster Truck pulls.

Point is, fuel burners have to rev up to make power and torque. Electric motors don’t. They need no inertia to be built and continue producing torque for power and more torque for more power. They make it all at the sky high motor speed of zero RPMs.

This is how the R8 E-Tron can accelerate faster than the V8 and just reach for the tail lights of the V10. The E-Tron makes about 376 battery-powered ponies of HP (less than the V8), but a forehead slapping 600 lbs/ft of torque.

Electric motors don’t win arm wrestling contests with suspense-building struggles to the bitter end, just smashing the other guy’s hand into the table at the last minute. They fling the guy, the table, and the horse he rode in on through the wall before word-one of s#!t talk can be spoken.

They are pocket protectors meet Muhammad Ali.

They’re also friendly to the environment, hug polar bears as they keep them from drowning, won’t make trees sad, and other mumbo jumbo like that — now — the bad.
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If the E-Tron out-sprints the V8, why does it arrive (sweating and out of breath) at the finish line five seconds behind it? Weight. The E-Tron should follow the popular New Years resolutionist trend — because the electric car weighs nearly two tons.

The reason is the 1,272 lbs of lithium-ion batteries the environmental fatty must drag like a green paunch around the track. This is one heavy hippy — and weight is the enemy of any sports car. Unsprung weight bobs and weaves from side to side. It makes it difficult to balance and pitch a car how you want to in turns.

This isn’t just limited to the E-Tron Ultra. All electric cars can suffer from this, and while it’s not a deal breaker for family runabouts and utility vehicles, it can make for a redundant sports car by today’s standards. Top Gear tested the TESLA Roadster against the ‘petrol’ car on which its chassis was based on: the Lotus Elise.
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I don’t think I have to tell you how the TESLA stacked up in a featherweight contest against a Lotus. Any Lotus.

On that same episode of Top Gear, in that very head-to-head battle between the TESLA and Lotus, another critical issue of electric cars was uncovered: range.

Mileage is just as hot as performance in today’s market — arguably hotter. Like the beasts that died to fuel our hot rods, we too may soon be extinct.

Luckily, we may live long enough to see one of our young punk replacements die — electric cars don’t go very far.
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On a single charge, the farthest-going electrics just squeeze out 300 miles, give or take. According to EPerformance.com, the new TESLA Model S sedan manages that, but only if you drive 55 MPH. The next runner up on the site, the Venturi Fetísh, has a range of just over 200 miles.
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Mind you, 200 miles is longer than I’d want to be seen in a car named Fetish, but not as far as I’d want to be from the guy who named it.

Once out of juice, it will take more than the pi$$-break and doughnut buying-time at a gas station to recharge them. Locations fitted with 240V quick-chargers can charge full-size electrics in around four hours. Bump down to a household 120V connection — roughly 10 hours. Plan journeys accordingly.
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Audi won the 24 Hours of Le Mans again last year — they’re the second most winningest team in the over-80-year-old race, and they fielded E-Tron cars in 2012. Not full-on electrics, but turbo diesel hybrids. There was a reason for that.
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As it stands right now, the electric car’s technology is plagued without foreseeable practical solution. Forever dependent on an electrical grid that is still powered by coal, gas, and nuclear energy primarily — they’re a bandage on a broken leg. They can’t save the world for everyone, much less preserve the one you and I live in.
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Every time that a new monicker is released promising to change the face of the electric car — it goes to testing like a lamb to slaughter. If it survives, it does so on the graces of eco-poseurs who can afford them (financially and practically). There are other alternatives though… (more on that later).

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When I heard Audi will no longer offer three-pedal, true manual transmissions in their top-of-the-line RS sports cars — I was taken aback.

That’s not true actually. That’s what I tell people who aren’t as car crazy as I am. On a Jackson-family scale of crazy, I’m a chronic Latoya. When un-dubbed for “normies”, I actually feel like this.

This sort of thing makes my b@lls itch.

Before I get all foot-in-a$$ on this, let me explain a few things and defend my gritty opinion for your own edification.

The latest example of the new Audi RS5 (based on the A5 coupe if you don’t know your Audi alphabet soup) is only available with the Volkswagen Audi Group’s dual-clutch automated manual transmission — called DSG in VW spec, “S-Tronic” in Audi guise.

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This wasn’t the first auto-manual by a long shot, but it was the first to make the technology available to nearly everyone (and make it work very well). It also began the flood that has the third pedal and shift lever in Panda-levels of near extinction — soon to go full-Dodo.

If you don’t know how VW/Audi’s DSG system and other auto-manuals work, but you give more f#%ks than the number of good Rob Schneider movies — watch this:

Credit where it’s due, the engineering behind these is brilliant. Certain transmissions can save some weight from their human controlled counterparts because the lack of human error in shifting means components don’t have to be as-tough, just tough enough (computers don’t grind gears).

Those that use two clutches instead of one (for smoothness) negate those savings though. Audi and Volkswagen’s dual-clutch gearbox adds a great deal of complexity to the driveline — with DSG-fluid that must be changed around every 40,000 miles (in addition to regular gear oil that must be changed like in any transmission). Their additional complexity also adds points of wear that can fail under higher power applications (remember what kept happening to the earliest of new R35 GT-Rs?).

None of these are my chief complaint though. None of them are the “ditzy customer service person over the phone”, the “dumb-as-Snooki slow driver in the left lane”, the “suspicious, pube-like hair in my soup”.

My most vulgar gripe with these magic transmissions is having to learn absolutely nothing to use them. No commitment, no responsibility, no discipline.

In the elite world of racing, new auto-manual transmissions shift faster than humanly possible, cut lap times, and have proven to make cars faster. They help drivers focus more on setting up their lines through corners, pass other cars in half-a-second, and focus altogether better on accelerating and braking.
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This isn’t what they’re doing in the real world. From Volkswagen’s GTI to Ferrari’s 458 Italia — these self-shifting gearboxes are doing the good work of eradicating the need for much skill to go fast. Turn key. Shift into D. Stomp foot on the go-pedal and pretend you know what you’re doing (right until you hug a lamp post with the front of your car).

I think a manual-less sports car is like a low-carb burger. It’s a low-carb burger, with a spray-on tan, a fake Rolex, and sunglasses by “Goochee”.
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Do I mind that they exist at all, of course not. Do I mind that Audi made them the only transmission available in their b@lls-to-the-wall RS cars because they’re more popular — you bet your fat a$$.

I don’t blame the manufacturers. They’re only giving the lazy, two-left-feet-having, hamfisted poseurs what they want. We’re talking about sports cars here — did you hear what I said? Sports. Cars.

Do they want a football that punts itself? Bats that swing for them? Boxing gloves that knock the other guy out? (condoms that f#%k for them?)

That’s what I think of when I think of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and any other high performance car without the choice of a true manual. I like them — they’re beautiful cars, but dammit — I would like the chance to differentiate myself from the fat-wallet dregs who aren’t buying a machine to connect with, but a panty-peeler-matic.

Cars marketed like this:
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Instead of this:
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During his guest appearance on Britain’s Top Gear program, Jay Leno said, “race car driving is a lot like sex, all men think they’re great at it.”

I know a thing or two, but still very much on the level of “See Spot Run” in my track driving education — but I’m young and have my whole life to keep learning (and intend to).

My friends, some of which have been featured in past articles here, are tremendously skilled drivers already — clutch kicking, left-foot braking, lock-to-lock steering asphalt artists that express themselves with melted Khumos, Nexens, and Dunlops on paved canvases.
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They earned the skills they have, teeth cut in the crucible of event after event, practice after practice, crash and near-crash after another. Like so many things, will knowing how to actually drive your car die out like so many other skills — condemned by an easier, instantly gratifying solution?

How very sad I find that.

Maybe I’m a young guy just pretending to be an old fart, but I didn’t want to learn to drive so I could get out of the house. I didn’t want to go anywhere or get away from someplace — get dates and be cool. I wanted to drive. I know driving is maybe my only singularly genuine passion, because I’d do it if there was no one around to say I look cool doing it. Sometimes getting groceries is just getting groceries, but when the mood strikes me, I like doing everything myself (with every push of the gas, the brake, and especially the clutch).

I think taking your first steps with teeth chipping, neck snapping stalls as you learn to drive stick in deserted parking lots (as I did) until the moment you learn to control every subtle detail about your car is a fantastic learning experience, years in the making. You learn to know your limits (and then push them further with practice) and you learn about your car (and to respect it as much as enjoy it).

Regular Joe, hardcore driving machines like the Mitsubishi Evo X and the now-retired R32 from Volkswagen come with either available or mandatory auto-manuals that do all the tricky stuff for you. Every Ferrari out of Maranello now only comes with a pair of paddles and enough buttons to launch the space shuttle while making extra-fancy espresso.
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Despite this, there’s still hope — there are signs (while far and few) that some manufacturers are resisting the auto-shifting invasion.

BMW ditched their slap-you-silly, overly jerky SMG gearbox from the last M5 for a true three-pedal box in the new one (and a dual clutch auto-manual, le sigh). Porsche took their PDK auto-manual and made a true-manual version — the World’s first seven-speed manual. Even Volkswagen sells the R32-replacing Golf R with a manual — only a manual (seems they polled the right sort of people this time, though the car is targeted at younger drivers truthfully).

But this is only treading water. Each passing year will bring more driver-numbing cars and fewer that involve their owners (each year, there are fewer and fewer that want to be). This is only the beginning.

The Audi TT-RS is the last RS-model to have a clutch pedal, the Nissan GT-R may or may not come back at all, and the grape vine is oozing a skin-crawling rumor of a green, diesel hybrid Evo XI.

If you have your hands on a barely run-in weekend warrior or a classic vintage whip of the old-school — take good care of it. Make it last. Before we know it, our cars (and drivers like us) will literally have no place. Like cowboys and samurai, we’re not long for this world.
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