Sunday, January 3, 2010

Test Drives

Day of drives: Wed. Dec. 30th
Rides: 2004 Infiniti FX45; 2006 Range Rover HS3; 2009 Ford Flex; 2008 GMC Acadia
Along for the ride: My buddy, Grant

I've been a fan of the FX45 since its release as an '04 model, and although I've driven countless G35's and visited my local dealer numerous times, I've never come across the FX45 version that cried "Drive Me!" There was always something in the way, whether it was the weather, the time of day, or the lazy sales guy. It's taken me this long to get behind the wheel of one. And I must say, "I am not impressed". For being such an expensive luxury vehicle, I really did expect more from it. Now I know, driving a used one (especially one now five years old) isn't exactly the best vehicle to bet your opinion on, but then again, for how well these vehicles are supposed to be built and for the price they command new, there's a lot missing in this "luxury" vehicle. My 2000 Mustang convertible was in WAY better shape than this big creature, when it turned five (and with WAY more miles on it!).

I will admit that I am a fan of Infiniti vehicles (most, anyways). My brother owned a G35 sedan and my buddy owns a G37S coupe. I love the monstrosity called the QX and would love to get my hands on one, but I don't look lightly at ANY vehicle, especially one that's billed as having been meticulously maintained. And cold weather shouldn't affect how the vehicle drives, once it's been properly warmed up. But the FX never seemed to really do that (warm up properly). It felt cold inside, even after the half hour drive. The heated seats should really be labelled "heated thighs", and there should be a warning for the road noise: "If you're not blasting the stereo, prepare to be inundated with the whirrrrrr of the road!". Seriously! This thing was LOUD! I drove my convertible for nine years, and I thought IT was loud, but whoever decided to put this combination size wheel/tire and tread pattern on a vehicle this size, should really reconsider their line of work! Seriously unimpressed with my first experience in the FX45, and it had less than 80 000 clicks on it. For shame!

Off we went to Ford to test the Flex. I had an interest in the vehicle since it's launch in '08, but still cannot believe Ford decided to go fwd on this size of vehicle! For all it's weight to be on those two wheels, and the advantage rwd would've given Ford in the sales arena, I'm surprised they still chose fwd. Nonetheless, it handled well enough albeit feeling quite large doing so, yet surprisingly easy to drive and manoeuver. The seats were comfy, the tranny shifted smoothly, and it was amazingly quieter than the FX45 on the highway. Kudos to Ford for this vehicle, but not gonna be a consideration for me unless it ends up with rwd or awd in the future.

Headed over to my area GMC dealer to check out an Enclave or Acadia, but noticed the Range Rover. Nice vehicles, and OMG! THE TOYS!!! WOW! Soooo much fun to play around with, especially the back-up camera (so cool) and the height adjustable suspension! WOW! Now THAT'S nice! We fiddled a little while at the pumps (had to fill up before the drive) and the nav/info center displays the standard ride height, and where the vehicle currently sits in relation to it. If the sales guy didn't tag along, I definitely would've had more fun playing around. Smooth ride for a boxy SUV, but even quieter and smoother than I expected (and subsequently, better than the FX). Nice toy, but the biggest squabble was the rear hatch/window combo. Not nearly quiet enough; hit a bump or an irregularity in the road, and the squeaky noises come out to play. If I ever get one of these, it'll have to be brand new. But even then, not sure if I'd ever spend that kind of coin on one.

My last ride was in the Acadia. It wasn't as decked out as I'd liked it to have been, but since it was getting late and Grant had to depart soon, I figured this version would do or I'd have to wait another week before I could try again. It actually surprised me. I didn't realize it was a six-speed auto until I started fiddling around with the manual shift controls, and was actually really impressed with its responsive shifting time. It rode nicely, but I'm really going to have to check out one appointed in leather and awd (since those are a couple of my necessary options) to see if it's truly as quiet as I'm hoping it to be.

All in all, the nicest to drive this day was the Acadia, while the Rover was the most fun to play around with. The Flex felt too big (must be for that North American diet!), and the FX just left me completely unimpressed. I'm hoping to check out a few more versions of "crossover utilities" and would love to get my hands on an X6 sometime soon, but I haven't seen a used one yet, and the only other option at my dealer is the M version (uhm, I'm not putting $10 000 down for a test drive). So looks like that'll have to wait a while. Maybe the lucky streak will strike up soon and I'll hit that $40 Million jackpot this week so I can just buy everything. But come to think of it, if that happens, I won't be driving used vehicles to fill my afternoons any longer! ;)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Leadership at GM

So, having grown up as a Pontiac guy, I watched with much interest and inticipation last year, the news that General Motors had decided to shut down the Pontiac brand. The reports and reasons were vast and varied and generally made sense to me as a business person. Still, there was some sense of resentment and displeasure that the only truly exciting division (arguable, sure) at GM was getting axed. As Mr. Fritz Henderson took the reins and leadership (never really hearing anything about the guy beforehand, made me apprehensive he was going to be a real leader), I felt upset that the one car I wanted GM to keep in their lineup was being taken away from me (the G8). I hated the fact that Mr. Henderson was not only killing off my favourite lineup at GM, but he was also taking away my ability to purchase the ONE car I wanted to buy (and could afford). It made no sense to me whatsoever, that the G8 couldn't be adapted or rebadged as a Buick or Chevy. I was livid, and hoped to see the day Fritz was done at GM (btw, although they weren't perfect by any stretch, I admired the courage Bob Lutz and Rick Wagoner were taking GM).

So, today comes news that Mr. Henderson has resigned as he's failed the "100 day test" of The Board, not being able to take GM in the direction they need to go, nor able to fix its finances ( Well, I'm one that's definitely happy to hear the news, not so much for seeing yet another executive take a nice (I'm sure) payout package and leave his company hanging, but in the fact that maybe now The Board can find a real leader to take the company forward (I never really heard much from Fritz - in the news - on what he was gonna do with the company). I am hoping that interim Ed Whitacre (former head of AT&T Inc and current Chairman of GM's board) has a chance to really look at the direction GM should be moving forward, and brings on a leader with vision and courage to bring on the next phase of the GM plan. One of the important, as I see it, things this leader will need to consider is not only offering what the general public claims to want, but to bring back some of the passion that feels lost since Lutz left last year (and the concepts/designs he's taken with him).

Let's hope that Mr. Whitacre can bring in someone that not only creates a car we can live with, but in 50 years, our kids can say "that was an awesome time and there were some great opportunities" and we can say "yes, and that's the kind of leadership and foresight GM needs again today".

Monday, November 16, 2009


Hi all! Welcome to Godfather's Auto blog. This is my first attempt at blogging, so bare with me as I learn the ropes. I hope to provide some fascinating opinions, and hope that it'll stir some conversations. After all, everyone has different tastes, and my choices may not be what you live by (although, I highly recommend you do!). LOL

Check back soon, as I tell you about some dealership, driving, and general automotive experiences I've had over the decades.