Posts by Ruari Griffin

  • Living with the Mazda3 long-term tester: Year-end update

    Ruari Griffin at Motoramic 2 mths ago

    What’s your favorite car you’ve ever owned and why? For me it was a 1985 Nissan Maxima SE. It had the right mix of sporty, practical, reliable, and was just the right size. It even talked! (thank you, 1980s). That Maxima and other midsize cars of the ‘80s have supersized over the past 30 years, moving far beyond my perfect sized car. Today’s Maxima is 10 inches longer, 10 percent wider, and 500 pounds heavier—nothing like that 1985 model that fit me so well. n Along comes the 2015 Mazda3 , a compact car by today’s standards but with the same dimensions of my preferred 1980’s midsize. Nothing like the stereotyped “econobox” compact, the Mazda is sporty and upscale with 18” wheels, leather, all the tech, and more performance than my V6 ‘85 Maxima. I’m back in my favorite car again, it even still talks (thank you, navigation). n The Mazda3 is shifting perceptions; it’s no longer a compromise to settle for the compact model in lieu of a midsize. Most people didn’t buy a full size car back in the ‘80s, but today it’s that same size car leading the sales charts, perhaps this is a side effect of the SUV age. Is limo like rear seat legroom really worth the compromise of nimble handling...

  • Living with the 2014 Mazda3: The sweet spot between sport and efficiency

    Ruari Griffin at Motoramic 8 mths ago

    Cost aside, the ideal personal fleet might include both an efficient commuter and a weekend rocket. However, that still means enduring a yawn-fest as your daily driver, not to mention garage space issues and convincing your significant other that you need a "personal fleet." On the other hand, single-vehicle folks must decide where they belong on the scale of sport to efficiency, and make an inevitable compromise.

    Mazda’s distinguishing slogan is "Zoom-Zoom," a cleverly abstract way to say "sporty" without specific promises of speed, blistering 0-60 times, or German-besting handling. Spirited performance typically incurs a hefty mileage penalty, but as we’ve experienced with our one-year long-term tester, the company has found the sweet spot where sport and efficiency intersect with the 2014 Mazda3.

  • 2013 Dodge Dart long-term update: A small car for the rest of us

    Ruari Griffin at Motoramic 1 yr ago

    As a larger guy—6’2” and comfortably north of 200 lbs.—the notion of small cars yet comfortable cars felt forever out of reach. I wedge into Japanese subcompact cars, reflexively slamming the driver’s seat all the way back and keeping my elbows tight. So thank you, Dodge, for the Dart’s generous interior dimensions and the plush, and wide front seats. Hips and shoulders fit with ease and I don’t fight my passenger for elbow space on the armrest. No need to worry about small car safety either; the Dart scored top marks in the IIHS crash tests, only eight out of 37 small cars tested can claim this, and the ever popular Corolla and Golf are not among them.

    The Dart has enough of a sporty image to avoid the stigma of a bland compact commuter. I still find myself catching looks at the front and back whenever I approach the car, and think springing for the 18” wheels would really complete the whole look. Our deep red Rallye model with its aggressive front end has serious personality and is easy to spot among the sea of silver Toyotas at your local parking lot.

  • 2013 Dodge Dart long-term update: Gearbox gripes

    Ruari Griffin at Motoramic 1 yr ago

    As we previously mentioned, our long-term Dodge Dart has largely been a pleasant road trip car, but with some transmission quirks. For this update I was planning on focusing on its sluggish shifts — except the Dart’s dual-clutch transmission unexpectedly failed with 6,915 miles on the odometer. An error message flashed on the dash upon startup, which said the car couldn’t engage into any gear. The Dodge got towed to the dealer, where a new pump brought it back into service.

    A Dodge representative said they had not encountered any transmission issues thus far, so it seemed like a case of just bad luck. When we got the car back from the dealer, I was eager to test the newly repaired transmission, expecting all the random clicks, clunks, and slips to be gone. Sadly the issues persist, making me wonder if the problem has truly been resolved.

    Putting the car into manual mode makes gear shifts more responsive, but having to always change the gears yourself seems to defeat the point of an automatic.

  • RallyCross racing: Strap in and feel the g’s

    Aki Sugawara at Motoramic 2 yrs ago

    The sudden brake before Turn One slammed me against my five-point harness, squeezing the breath out of my chest under what must have been 5 g's. The Incredible Hulk might not have had the neck strength to keep his helmet from surging forward at every turn, or snapping back an instant later under fierce acceleration. RallyCross is not for the faint of stomach. But if you've enjoyed Ken Block's Gymkhana videos, this is the sport for you. Drivers experience the jumps and twists of a monster roller coaster, with the added exhilaration of brain-rattling braking and acceleration. I'm talking about zero to 60 mph in 2 seconds, which is quicker than a Bugatti Veyron.

    When Subaru invited me to ride along with its RallyCross team during this race prep day, I didn't realize the experience would exhaust my adrenal glands, rearrange my insides, and leave me drenched in sweat. Still, I left wanting more.

  • Catching air in the Subaru BRZ on the Isle of Man

    Contributor at Motoramic 2 yrs ago

    Centered in the Irish Sea lies the Isle of Man, a land of tranquil green hills, charming small towns and narrow country roads. One would think such a locale would be the perfect escape to find peace and serenity, only you'd be wrong. Dead wrong.

    Each spring the island transforms to host what may well be the world's deadliest and most thrilling motorcycle race, the Tourist Trophy, featuring 38 miles of those bumpy, undulating roads lined with ancient stone walls, mature trees and more blind corners than any racer could memorize. Thrilling because any tourist can ride the course themselves as fast as they can -- and many don't live to tell the tale. To date, 237 racers have met their end here, and perhaps ten times as many tourists have. The exact number is hard to pin as the severely injured are airlifted to Britain, their eventual death only tallied as an accident on the island. Police mark the scenes of these extreme accidents with bright yellow paint for future riders to take note, and take caution.

    Sensing our growing anxiety about our lives, his next warning came as "Miss this next turn here and at least you'll land in the pub."