Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Langkawi and the Nissan Latio "Sport" and there's Not an Ounce of 'Fairlady 350Z, 370Z or GTR Experience in it.

I recently went on two holiday trips. Each one taking a weekend away from the usual daily weekend routine of frequenting shopping malls, teh tarik sessions with friends, outings with family and also the sometime weekly pilgrimage to the friendly neighbourhood specialist mechanic to ogle at other people’s ride and to have the usual friendly exchange of banter among enthusiasts.

The first trip was down south to Singapore. As some of you readers know, I tend to drive to the island of Singapore regularly. It has become almost a bi-annual ritual for the missus, the little gal and me to head down south every few months to catch up on the latest trends and goings-on with our rich neighbours down south.
The second trip was to the island of Langkawi. It has been almost 5 years since I last visited Langkawi and a lot has happened there. Last time the road to the north (or to the beaches like Cenang, Tengah and Kok) was a single lane normal country road. Now it is a two lane per side carriageway that made travel from the town of Kuah to the airport or to the above mentioned beaches shorter by at least 15 minutes on average. Not that it matters to some local folk, which seems to drive so leisurely that to an outsider like me the guy driving his Proton Wira seem like he’s on a bullock cart.
However, Langkawi is another motoring experience that all you Malaysians should at least experience. Aside from the road mentioned above, the other roads are idyllic, laidback roads that are waiting to be driven on with some anger. For example, the road from the resort where I stayed on Pantai Cenang, passing pantai tengah, the airport (runway and all) towards Pantai Kok (where the beautiful Telaga Harbour Marina is located and where the original ‘The Loaf’ restaurant is located – great fresh breaded prawn burgers and so on) and onwards to Burau Bay etc. etc. is superb for a mad dash in the countryside.

If you’re from Pantai Cenang, the road, a typical B-road is straight with some 90 degree turns through some kampong sections. It then changes as you pass a junction towards the Sheraton Beach resort where it gets slightly hilly and windy with the rain forest on both side of the road (and the sea close to one side). This is a nice short stretch where you find dips, crests and turns that will challenge you a little. This stretch opens up to the Telaga Harbour and the scenery there is wonderful. It is along this stretch the roads straightens a little for some 90 degree bends (that you can take pretty fast as I’ve experienced) and then heads inland for more hilly and forest lined driving. There are other nice roads in Langkawi, some are on a hillslope overlooking the sea, some are through forests, but all are great drives. You could bring your car from the mainland, but it’ll get there a day late and cost as much as renting one for a few days.
I was there for three days and had rented a black Nissan Latio 1.6 Sport. The thing about manufacturers is that they like using the word ‘SPORT’ for most things nowadays. I remember when I was young, manufacturers of everything would use the word ‘TURBO’ on everything from hairdryers, washing machines, freezers, mechanical pencils and so on. Nowadays, automobile manufacturers have decided that it’s a good time to start using the monicker ‘SPORT’ on anything vaguely sporty. Hence the Nissan Latio SPORT.

Driving the Darn Thing
The Latio Sport has a 1.6liter engine coupled to a 4 speed auto transmission that, while being pretty eager to drop a few cogs on full throttle and is pretty closely geared (you can tell as it’s quick off the line but gets pretty coarse higher up even on the 4th overdrive gear), is still an automatic box that does not even have a gated section for spirited drivers. There is no J-gate like in the Swift 1.5 or even paddle shifters (hey, the new non-ugly Honda City has this at around RM92,000.00) so that family type guys can play around and think like they’re driving manuals.

So while the car is pretty quick off the line, it’s still pretty tall. The Latio sedan is one car that is ugly due to the fact that it has a tall roof line. The Latio Sport in its hatchback styling looks better. But there is no disguising the fact that it is rather tall with small 15in rims and tyres. In fact while sitting on the leather and fabric lined seats that are like sofas instead of harder Recaro-like seats I’ve come to expect from sporty cars (like the Lancer GLS/GT or even the Swift 1.5)..... I realised that the car is tall, coupled with seats that make you feel like you’re in a van (mounted high in the cabin) with lack of proper support for the lower back and funny back of your back, at the shoulder blades support, when I was tackling a 90 degree corner somewhere along Pantai Kok on a Sunday morning. You could feel that if this car was slightly lower things would be better. At least your world would be a better place if this car was lower, but it is not. So you take the corner with all four tyres screaming for dear life at around 60km/h somewhere along Pantai Kok. Aside from the screaming tyres, the car is predictable, understeering early and if you be a little aggressive with it by braking late into the corner and manhandling the steering, the rear will assist you through the corner. But it wasn't as satisfying as I'd like it to be.

Yes, the steering is pretty fine. It is slightly rubbery but it does its job. Not as direct as I would have liked but hey, it’s a Latio, not a Fairlady Z. The thing I liked about driving this was it had no tail, being a hatchback. I like driving hatchbacks. With no tail, the rear is pretty obedient, and fast. There is no problems with having inertia (or the pendulum effect) from too much overhang at the rear because there isn’t any. However, because of that feeling, you tend to realise that you’re sitting pretty high up and you’d like the whole car to be lower to make full use of the nippy-ness to its fullest. The high roof-line somehow negates the fun factor of having no tail.

The ride is hard. I think Nissan needs more work on the secondary ride of this car. It tends to jiggle around abit on those bumpier sections. Big humps and bumps do not trouble the Latio Sport, but smaller bumpier sections of road make the car feel jiggly and irritating to the driver. Every small bump is felt and the car felt unresolved. It is nothing like the cheaper by almost RM20K Suzuki Swift 1.5 which feels smooth over small bumps and which feels quieter at 150km/h than this car. Both run torsion beam suspensions at the rear. But Suzuki is the better car. In fact, Ringgit to Ringgit, the RM70K Swift 1.5 is a better performance oriented car than the RM93K Latio Sport. In fact, spend an extra RM10K and get a Swift Sport in Manual for really good thrills.
I however enjoyed its user friendly controls and dash. Usually, there is nothing impossibly bad in most newer cars nowadays. The build quality is decent, materials used decent, but in certain aspects, like ride and handling as well as overall feel, some cars come up tops over others. The one qualm I dislike is this car does not have a water temperature gauge. Just an indicator in blue in the mornings to tell you the water hasn’t warmed up yet and an indicator in red. To tell you that it’s already too late to do anything except to get an overhaul for the engine. I mean, who actually pays attention to red lights on the dash (or the meters on the dashboard except for the speedometer) most of the time.

Now some of you may be asking why in God’s name did I take the Latio Sport then? Well, firstly I haven’t tried it yet. While I was offered a Mazda 3 1.6 I wanted something new in the Malaysian market that wasn’t going to be off the market soon (the Latio was only recently launched here in Malaysia early this year). The new Mazda 3 was recently launched so it’ll be old news soon. Secondly, I got it reasonably cheap. I’m not getting paid for this you know.

So in conclusion, the Latio Sport is not that sporty. It is a decent family hatchback with good carrying space. I went to Langkawi with my wife, kid and parents. We shopped like crazy and the Latio Sport managed to carry all the stuff to the airport without any worries whatsoever. I think you can buy this car if you have a small family, and the hatchback’s versatility for loading up stuff from IKEA. But as a Sports car it needs help. Lowering springs and better shocks to compensate for the overall height of the car and for the pretty bad ride. Maybe the IMPUL kitted version is a good buy. Maybe you should get a Suzuki Swift Sport straightaway. Now that’s a car that is indeed sportier right out of the box.
Buying this:
















Does not mean you're experiencing even 10% of this:
Buying a Nissan Latio Sport does not mean you’re buying a performance Nissan. Somehow, Nissan manages to get rid of real sporty-ness from its bread and butter model. Nissan Latio Sport does not equal to driving a Nissan 370Z pictured to the left (lighter, shorter wheelbase than the 350z – new drift/rwd legend? I am looking forward to this) or owning a Nissan GTR. You want actual Nissan performance? Buy the real thing. Somewhere unlike Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Honda or even Subaru. You still can get a satisfying drive from their most basic models. I've driven the 350z, I should know. I mean does driving your 1985 Nissan Sunny 130y make you feel like you’re in an R32 Skyline? If it does, tell me which mental hospital you frequented regularly and come closer so that I can hit you on the head. Hard.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On The Petrol Price Drop, 125,000km With The Subaru Impreza 1.6TS and On Visiting Our Neighbours Down South

The past few weeks have brought us good news in the sense that petrol prices have gone down to RM1.90 per liter from an incredible and outrageous high of RM2.70 per liter. This has brought me some joy as I don't have to drive like a 'good muslim' all the time. I recently drove down to Singapore to spend a weekend of shopping and my pocket was only slightly dented to the tune of RM160.00 for a round trip. Kuala Lumpur - Singapore - Kuala Lumpur at speeds higher than recommended by most people. This was with 4 of us in the car and travelling to and fro places in Singapore for shopping and dining. I'd be spending close to RM260.00 to be doing the same trip at the earlier prices. Of course this is temporary, once the speculators start their nonsense again, and if indeed the oil companies find it harder to get oil from the ground, it is bound to rise again. This time I hope that everyone will be prepared for it by remembering what I am stating below:

THE PETROL PRICE DROP IS ONLY TEMPORARY....ONE DAY PRICES WILL MOVE UPWARDS AGAIN OKAY?

One of the reasons a trip to Singapore takes only so little petrol is that the car I am driving. The Subaru Impreza 1.6TS is a wonderful highway/city/b-road car. It has ample poke and great handling coupled with great fuel economy from its 1.6litre engine. The only drawback in owning this car is an air-conditioning system that's insufficient to handle long journeys during mid-day. You feel the heat. After 125,000km of driving it, I'd have to say that I would not swap it for any other brand new car in Malaysia for the price I bought it for. With some tinkering by yours truly, the 0-60km/h time has been brought down from about 12.5secs to around 10secs and the top speed has risen from 180km/h to around 210km/h (unassisted by slopes or wind). I'd say that I've hit my initial target when I bought the car; which was to make it go as fast as a BMW Mini Cooper (Not Cooper S).

Now the point of this article is for me to tell you people out there that if you are a motorhead, you should at least once a year make a short trip to that island down south, Singapore. The reason is that on that small island nation you can get to see the latest in automotive hardware. Yes, occasionally you get to see Singapore plate Ferraris, Lambos and so forth driving to Genting for a bout of gambling but it is nothing compared to what you get to picture there. Yes, you might curse and swear at some of them when they drive up and down the North-South highway but if you haven't been there recently it's a bloody waste.

I mean, where can you get to see the latest Audis, BMWs, Mercedes', Hondas, Mazdas or even Alfas? Especially Alfas since Sime Darby seems to have given up on their quest to best Ron Lim in selling Alfas. I believe he's outselling them selling used Alfas to people compared to them. On my recent trip there I got to check out the latest Mazda 2. It's such a fabulous small car. It looks cool to drive one and it's styled uniquely enough that it won't be mistaken for any other small hatch. I even managed to park right beside a Maserati Gran Turismo (don't know whether it was the latest 'S' version or not) which looked smashing. No other car this side of an Aston Martin DB9 would have presence like the Maserati.

I managed to catch a Murcielago in white, 2 Lancer Evo Xs, a few Impreza 1.5s and S-GTs (but no STI), an Audi TT Cabrio with 19in S-line wheels in white (could have been a TTS Cabrio), some Chrysler 300s, the latest A4 Avant, the new R35 GTR in that dirty VSPEC Nur Green (it looked sublime in that colour), the new Porsche Cayenne GTS and some other cars that you don't see everyday here in Kuala Lumpur. At Second Link, you also may bump into fancy Malaysian and Singapore cars like a CLK350 (not as common like the CLK240), a brand new Saab Convertible, a few CLS's and Porsches.

The thing I'm trying to say is that while Kuala Lumpur has some fabulous cars to view, like the recent white Mansory GT650 Bentley Continental GT (Imagine someone ridiculously rich enough to body-kit a Bentley and let it ride on 20inch wheels), there is nothing like taking that short 3-4hour drive south and visit our neighbours. Aside from getting out of Kuala Lumpur and enjoying the interaction between your car and you (albeit on a straight highway and not on some fab B-road), you'd be amazed by the cars, the fabulous traffic system and also the shopping. On the shopping, you get to also see rich Indonesians, Singaporeans, Caucasians, Filipinos, Bruneians Malaysians but not as many rich Arabs who think money can buy anything like here in Kuala Lumpur. What more could you ask for?

Friday, November 21, 2008

More B-road madness.....more tales of shock and woe. The Ford Econovan


B roads are addictive. If you are a motorhead, or claim to be one, you should tell yourself that every few weeks or so you’d take a long drive for no apparent reason just to be as one with your automobile. It isn’t exactly like taking your car to Sepang or the local race track, which is as fun or sometimes better, or worse depending on some factors but it is a way to bond with your surroundings, your car and yourself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Impreza S-GT - A car that confuses the heck out of me.


Do you people out there know who Harvey Dent is? If you’ve been a Batman fan, then you’d know that he is the villain known as Two Face famous for his split personality and a half scarred, half normal face. Now the simple meaning of having a split personality is having two people living inside one being. When it comes to cars, we somehow know that there are some docile cars that turn into monsters at the prod of the pedal (some turbo cars) or with the switch of a button on the dashboard (think BMW M5 with it’s ‘M’ button). But what I shall be telling you guys out there is that the new Subaru Impreza S-GT isn’t a two faced villain or anything like that. It is something incomprehensible if you follow the usual route on how a performance car should be. In fact, no other car feels like it and I think no one except Subaru is psychotic enough to make such a car.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Nissan Latio, Sylphy and Teana - Where in the world does Nissan come up with names like that?

A Nissan Latio...a what?

Buying a car is one of the biggest investment that a person makes in his life and car manufacturers know this fact. The main reason you buy a car is to get from A to B without feeling as if your kneecaps are about to burst into pieces after a 20km run from your house to your workplace. In the old days, you could be a farmer, and your workplace would be as soon as you step outside your house but nowadays, you are bound to be a paper-pusher in some office 30km from your house and a car is your biggest necessity, whether you like it or not. No one it his or her right mind would want to take the bus until they retire at the ripe old age of 65 (or earlier). Everyone wants to have their own personal sort of transport and one that offers the comforts of a mini house, a car. You get a roof over your head and air-conditioning for those hot and humid days, or everyday since you work in KL.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to make 280bhp in Two Different Ways and Which is Better.



Yes, yes, yes. This is one of the topics that I mentioned that I am going to write about and finally, it has been transferred from the incredibly complex and very car savvy mind of mine to this article.

Recently, 2 chaps are in their (early) 30s and the first person bought a 2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STi and the other a 2005 Nissan 350Z Fairlady. Both are grey imports and cost basically somewhat close to the RM150,000.00 figure (one slightly higher and one slightly lower). Now these two fellows are good friends of mine, thus they let me wring out their rides a little for me to make a comparo of things.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CHICKEN SOUP OF THE SOUL KIND OF EMAIL THAT DESERVES TO BE SHOT.

I recently received an email telling one of those 'CHICKEN SOUP OF THE SOUL' kind of stories. Yes these stories have a decent moral ending to it but this latest one really got on my nerves. Read the purported sad story first:

> Seorang Executive muda yang berjaya sedang memandu

> disebuahperkampungan di pinggir Bandar. Ia memandu

> agak lajudengan sebuah kereta WAJA yang berprestasi

> tinggi yangbaru sahaja dibelinya. Sambil ia memandu

> perlahan-lahan ia sedang memerhatikan seorang anak

> kecil dicelah-celah kereta yang diletakkan ditepi

> jalan, ia memperlahankan keretanya untuk melihat

> sesuatu yangdifikirkannya.

>

> Seelok-elok sahaja kereta Waja tersebut melintasi

> kawasan tersebut; anak kecil tidak kelihatan tetapi

> seketul batu dilontarkan tepat mengena pintu disebelah

> kanan kereta Waja tersebut.

>

> Apalagi Executive muda tersebut menekan brek sekuat

> hatinya dan berundur ke tempat dimana Anak kecil tadi

> berdiri. Dengan marahnya dia keluar dari kereta terus

> meluru ke arah Anak kecil, menarik tangan anak kecil

> dan menghempasnya ke kereta yang terletak ditepi jalan

> dan terus memarahi Anak kecil tadi :

>

> ' Apa ni ? Siapa awak ? dan apa ke jadahnya awak

> berada disini ? Itu kereta baru, mahal dan susah nak

> baiki ? Awak tau tak ? Kenapa awak buat ini semua ?

> jerit Executive tersebut.

> Anak kecil itu tunduk sedih, sayu dan memohon maaf ;

>

> ' Saya meminta maaf Pakcik, Saya tak tahu apa patut

> saya buat, ia merayu. Saya melontar batu kerana tak

> ada orang yang berhenti disini apabila saya panggil'.

>

> Dengan linangan air mata ia menunjukkan ke satu sudut

> yang tidak jauh dari situ. 'Itu abang saya , ia jatuh

> dari kerusi roda dari tebing disebelah dan tak ada

> orang yang dapat mengangkatnya kembali. Boleh tak

> Pakcik menolong saya, ia cedera dan ia terlalu berat

> untuk saya.

>

> Dengan rasa terharu,Executive muda tersebut melepaskan

> anak kecil tersebut dan terus mengangkat abangnya dan

> meletakkannya kembali ke kerusi roda.

> Terima kasih, pakcik. Saya doakan pakcik selamat

> dunia dan akhirat.

>

> Tak dapat digambarkan dengan perkataan, Executive

> muda hanya melihat dengan sayu, Anak kecil tersebut

> menyorong abangnya yang cacat dan cedera pulang menuju

> ke rumahnya. Anak sekecil itu boleh mendoakannya akan

> kesejahteraan hidupnya.

>

> Executive muda tersebut berjalan perlahan ke arah

> kereta, WAJA kemek teruk tetapi ia membiarkan saja

> tanpa dibaiki. Ia mengigatkannya bahawa kita tidak

> perlu berkejar-kejar dalam kehidupan ini sehinggakan

> seseorang melontar batu hanya kerana hendakkan

> perhatian .

>

> Pengajaran

>

> Allah tidak menjanjikan hidup ini tidak pernah susah,

> bersuka-ria tanpa kesedihan, Panas tanpa hujan tetapi

> ia memberi kita kekuatan, menenangkan kita semasa

> kesedihan dan menunjukkan jalan yang sebenar-benarnya.

> Janganlah kita sombong dengan kelebihan yang sementara.


Now I promptly shot off a reply to the person who sent it and cc'ed it to all that received it. Not because I am a mean and cruel person. But because I am right. This was my reply:

Hello,

First of all, yes it's good to hear such stories with a moral behind it. BUt please la...a PROTON WAJA? Berprestasi Tinggi? Which country did you come from? Malaysia? Even Malaysians know that the WAJA is already an 8 year old outdated chassis (as at 2008) developed from a late 1990s Mitsubishi Lancer/Charisma chassis (and claimed to be wholly designed in-house) and may not cease production till the year 2850. I say this because the Japanese change models every 5 years minimum and we buyers get the latest technology in our cars.

The WAJA is one of the most dullest family cars on the market. Look at it. It looks like a shopping trolley with steel panels placed on it. I've driven a few and never once did I come out of one telling myself that 'BOY, THAT'S ONE PRESTASI TINGGI CAR LA, I'M SO GLAD I PAID RM63,000.00 FOR THIS MAHAL WAJA'. I'd pay Muthu the garbage collector RM2.50 to take the car to the nearest steel recycling plant.

Everytime I stepped out of one I'd say that it as bad ergonomics, the steering is too fat to have decent grip, the seating/driving position is slightly wrong, the shape of the seats are like sofas without the side support, the engine coarse sounding and unexciting, the overall shape makes all its owners look like old uncles and aunties. The only thing good with the WAJA is the size. It is large enough to carry 5 fairly comfortably and lots of durians in the boot. Are you telling me that carrying 5 people and loads of boot space a car that's 'BERPRESTASI TINGGI?'

If I wanted to buy a PROTON that's 'berprestasi tinggi' I'd buy the PERSONA as its so much better looking and better value for money. If I told a story of a guy feeling self confident that he was driving a WAJA that story must be a lie. For God's Sake, please ask the person who wrote that story to change the car to a Mercedes or a BMW. It's more believable.

Maybe I just read this tale as it has been making its round since 2000, when the WAJA 'BERPRESTASI TINGGI' first came out. But the real moral that has to be said here is -

MAKE THE DARN STORIES BELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!

By the way, SELAMAT BERPUASA TO ALL.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Some Ramblings and On Future Topics

It has been about two years or so since I started this blog about motoring here where I live. I've raved about certain cars, rubbished a few more cars and made my hatred towards most MPVs and also towards the current Honda City. There are some who are bound to ask on what grounds do I have the authority to lambast a person who drives a certain sort of car or whether I have actually driven the cars I've written about. The answer to that is "Yes, you fools!". I basically write about what I've experienced or on what I have noticed.

I have basically enherited my passion for cars from my late Grandfather, who when he was around bought his first car in the late fifties after riding on British made motorcycles before that. He was a person who ended up buying a new car every few years just to try various cars and I remember he went through cars like the MG Magnette, a Volvo 122 Amazon, a Hilman Avenger, a Ford Escort 1.6 MKII, a Citroen GS pallas and lastly a 1980s Toyota Corona 1.8cc which he used uptill his passing in the mid 1990s. He kept his cars in immaculate condition. Some were second hand purchases, some were brand new. But he truly enjoyed motoring as a whole and going back to the kampung was slightly made better knowing that there were his old motoring magazines to read instead of listening to aunties gossip and pester younger relatives on this and that.

I started driving in 1990. I was basically humiliated/forced to take my driver's licence due to the fact that my friend sarcastically said that I should stop talking about cars until I got my driver's licence since I was already 18 years old! Now the reason why I didn't bother to take up driving was that during that period, I was a truly lazy human being. Even more lazy than now. I had the pleasure of living in Gombak exactly where the Bus Mini Wilayah Number 14 had its last stop. I mean, I could go to KL and back and not have a problem with seating. All I had to do was ensure I had 3 Ringgit in my pocket, of which .50 sen would take me to Central Market and another .50 sen would take me back. 1 Ringgit would be used as change for 5 20 sen arcade games and another Ringgit for a drink. Live was absolutely simple back then. So it did not make me realise until my pal rubbed it in that I should talk about driving when I had a licence infront of our Form 6 classmate, which was a girl. Now having your ego shot down in front of a girl would usually make most teenage boy suddenly change his mind about something.

So it was from this moment onwards, and lots of British car magazines that slowly evolved me into what I am today. Friends played a crucial part. I started driving my mum's 2nd generation Honda Civic which I still have till today and by the time I started working in 1997, it became a monster with Weber Carburettors, blueprinted engine and so forth. It is a superb sounding car which I think most people now haven't the chance to feel. Most now have no clue how it's like to drive a car with razor sharp throttle response uncorrupted by emmissions control and electronic throttle bodies and so forth.

I've also driven tons of metal. I've driven many British sports cars, from a 1950s Austin Healey, a 1960s MGBGT, a 1970s Triumph Stag and even a modified 1275gt mini which is scary yet amazingly cute and fast. I've driven Italian cars like the Fiat 131 (which my father once owned) and newer ones like the Alfa 147. I've driven mega saloons like the E31 BMW 750I with its 5 litre V12 engine. That experience will be told in a posting someday as it is a fabulous experience driving one of the first uber-saloons that led the way to current crop of uber-saloons like the current 750iL and the S600 or even AMG series of cars.

I've also driven tuned cars, like the 1990s Silverstone Proton Saga Cup cars and a few privately owned tuned Protons with every sort of turbo engine you can find. Lots of Audis, from 1980s Audi 100s to the current Q7 bungalow and pettite TT. I've driven Mitsubishi Evos, Subaru Imprezas, 2 generations of Forresters, Legacies, two or three generations of Toyota Celicas, lots of different Hondas from the 2nd and 3rd Gen Preludes to various Civics and Accords as well as the odd Mitsubishi GTO or Ford Ranger pickup to the Estima MPV. I have even managed to hitch rides in Jaguars, current model S classes, older S classes, 7 series, Volkswagen Beetles, Citroen CS pallas, etc.

I've driven good cars, bad cars (like the Datsun 120y), crappy cars (like the Nissan Sunny 130Y)and in doing so I believe it is my responsibility (whether you like to hear about it or not) to tell it to you people out there on what you should actually own or what you should not. I've not driven any Porsches or Ferraris as I do not have friends willing to loan them to me for fun but I think I will drive one or two eventually.

I also somehow end up on a nice B road once a month due to the fact that I make an outstation trip every month even though I don't expect to do so. I've done track time at Sepang and even have been lucky to have been at the Batu Tiga circuit before development tore it down.

So in short, expect some future write ups on the following:

1. 2003 Subaru Impreza vs 2005 350z - How 280ps is made differently and why we all need to be able to afford RM4,000.00 of roadtax per year.

2. The E31 BMW 750i - How to feel like the Brake pedal you're stomping on is the only safeguard against freeing up unlimitless amounts of power or that how a large car can feel like its a small Civic.

3. Reviews on earlier model cars like the Mercedes Benz W124 series models and the Honda Civic EG which is still fun to own according to some people.

4. Lots more critiques on stuff that I don't like and if you like it, you should stop liking it as I am right and you are wrong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bread and the Circus

Bread and circus. I found out recently that in the times of the Romans, these two items were the basic reason for the Roman Empire to prosper. It was from a recent article in a local daily that prompted me to remind you people out there about this concept. If the citizens in a country had enough food and entertainment, the Government would have no problems whatsoever. Those days meant lots of bread and pasta and gladiators in the arena fighting other gladiators or animals. However, in today’s Malaysian scenario, we seem to be suffering from a lack of both items. Food and entertainment are lacking as we seem to see people complaining all around us as regards to lack of projects to go around, uncaring politicians and cronyism and so on. Crime has risen as many find it hard to procure funds the legal way. In fact, the only entertainment that can be seen is by looking at our politicians, whether from the Barisan Nasional or from the Pakatan Raykat.

This brings me to the recent debate between the previous Chief Minister of Penang and the current Chief Minister of Penang. I spent an hour of my time watching two very different personalities debate on land issues pertaining to Penang. After watching that debate, I rationalised that it was actually a bloody waste of time. Both were clever spokespeople and intelligent in their answers, but one side seems to enjoy pointing fingers at other people and finding faults while not actually giving solutions or solving the problem in the first place. The other side merely stating the obvious in how our current administration works, with its faults and blundering state government officials which are to blame. In the end, nothing was resolved, one party politicking in order to win a second term as Chief Minister and the other, a person who has nothing to lose. I have to say that in this case, I’d put my money into the latter. But this sort of circus isn’t what I’d like to observe as it didn’t solve any of the Penangite’s land issues. I’d suggest that the state government stop pointing fingers and get on with things. Y.A.B. Mr. Lim Guan Eng, you’re the Menteri Besar for God’s sake.

If you read yesterday’s New Straits Times you’d notice that there were about 15 or so articles written on the first four pages dedicated to the Permatang Pauh by-election. Only 1 miserable article was for Anwar Ibrahim, the rest was against him. You must also note that there is another independent contestant, making this election a three way competition, but not a peep from this third person. I don’t even remember his name. I know that the New Straits Times is basically controlled by the powers that be, but could you have more journalistic ethics? The biasness portrayed is worse than watching the news on the Government run RTM channels. This also isn’t the entertainment I am seeking.

Watching the Olympics was good entertainment. It shows you that the Communists are fantastically efficient in holding a major event. The opening and closing was fantastic. Never before had you seen a spectacular display of fireworks, acrobats and beautiful people in one location. Never before had any Government been so blatant and dictatorial in creating an image of a nation. For example, the little girl chosen to lip-sing the theme song for the opening was done purely on her good looks. The singing was done by a girl who was slightly chubby and had a gap in her tooth. All of the women carrying banners, usherettes and those with contact with cameras, VIPs and those that had to do PR work had to attend long interviews and those that were chosen had a nose that cannot be wider than the beginning of the eyes, flawless skin and so forth. Even the children who were supposed to come from various ethnic groups came from one dance academy and were mostly from the Han ethnic group. There was talk that there were additional Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) fireworks for those who watched the opening on TV making it seem like the whole of Beijing was lit up. Amazing detail went through everything, making it the best Olympic to date, bar none. I sometimes wonder if that level of manipulation would ever reach our shores. We’d see our local politicians abuse it thoroughly I guess.

So what kind of cheap entertainment can we seek in the Malaysian Motoring scene as we all seem to be suffering from high petrol prices (which has since dropped by 15sen for 97ron) and a 8.9% inflation in July rating? I can’t think of anything except taking a long drive on some nice B road and forget about the political circus happening around us at the moment. There is this nice stretch aside from the Ulu Yam, Genting, Bukit Tinggi roads that I’d like to mention.


Take the NKVE and exit at the Rawang Toll and head towards Kuala Selangor. That stretch will take you through some tree covered hillside roads that are spectacular and surprisingly very low traffic. Tight and cambered corners as well as slightly bumpy roads make it fun (not major potholes). You can make this a complete circle by taking a left towards Ijok and then back to PJ/KL via Sungei Buloh. Even the roads around Ijok are pretty fun as from the tighter corners earlier, from the Rawang tree covered stretch the road opens up to nice fast corners that some rally-specials would love. You will pass some kampongs along the way and you can soak in the simple life of these folk as you drive by. This is a 45 minute – 1 hour round trip, depending on how fast you can go and the traffic on that day. It is not that long, and worth every minute.

Blasting up and down country roads is a nice source of entertainment, away from badly written newspapers, politicking politicians and even totally manipulated imagery of a country. This simple fun would make anyone happy to the soul and it costs a mere tankful or so of fuel and time away from it all. This is a form of motoring bliss and it takes you away from the political circus and the mayhem that is currently happening. By the way, don’t forget to bring some bread along in case you get hungry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kenduris, Weddings, School Holidays, Good Food, The Baju Melayu, CROCS (bleargh) and Crocs that I'd wear BUT nothing much about motoring!

It has been a hectic four weeks for my stomach. It first started right about the time my family and I drove to Penang for my sister in law’s wedding and this had culminated over the last weekend in which I had attended 3 (out of 4) wedding receptions. I am can now live without the taste of nasi minyak, beryani rice and tomato rice as well as dhalca, ayam masak merah and boiled eggs for at least 5 months. Last weekend was also the beginning of the school holidays is usually the beginning of more weddings, kenduris, weekend traffic jams along the North-South Highway and so forth. I try to avoid travelling outstation by all means during this period but I think that things may have improved ever since major parts of the highway have already been widened to 3 lanes from 2.

Anyway the reason why most Malay folk like to hold weddings during the school holidays is that everyone can get together for the event and there’s no excuse that this person can’t come or has exams or what not. But I believe that it is because of this, blood pressure and sugar levels of older people will rise to extremely high levels due to the increase in wedding invitations. I dare to say that hospitals and clinics usually have a rise in warded patients right after the holidays due to the phenomenon of everyone eating extremely rich food whether they like it or not. The same goes to the period right after Hari Raya. I mean, if you’re a close relative, you most probably be given some of the leftovers from the kenduri. This means that you will have the same nasi minyak and daging rendang for your breakfast the next day and this leads to more health related problems.

I am a connoisseur of good food but I also like having a decent blood pressure reading most of the time. So, it’s either I don’t eat a lot during the kenduri or I try to be more active than usual after I’ve eaten that large plate of nasi minyak so that I try to burn off some of that oily, greasy good stuff. So last Sunday, after having a plate of Nasi Minyak at a neighbour’s wedding I drove to a shopping complex and basically forced my wife and daughter to go window shopping. This was quite a fair thing to do as you will never lose any weight if you took your car up and down Genting even if it were a manual. The car is doing most of the huffing and puffing and not you. At the Gardens shopping mall I then realised that most of wedding receptions I attended over the past few weeks were held at banquet halls (hotel or club halls) that required me to actually ‘dress up’ to the occasion. This meant that I had to put on formal clothes, i.e the Baju Melayu (left, and no, that's not me in the pic. I'm more 'macho' than that wimp in the photo).

Now the Baju Melayu is the local equivalent of black tie or semi formal gear. (White tie is the more formal, i.e coats with penguin like tails and all, but no one actually knows about this here in this country and it isn’t for me to tell you about it as you could read it up by yourself elsewhere) This is the equivalent of a tuxedo and you should know how a tuxedo looks like. The thing is, a tuxedo consists of a black woolen suit with a black bow tie complementing the lapels, cummerbund or low-cut 3-button waistcoat, and patent leather Oxford shoes appropriately accessorize the tuxedo.

Wearing a tuxedo boils down to two main things, aside from the fact that most Malaysians do not look like James Bond to carry it off properly. The first is that it is rather costly. A proper tailor made tuxedo with satin lapels would cost you at least RM1,400.00 for the suit and waistcoat alone. The proper white shirt another RM200.00. That leaves you with a total of RM1,600.00 with accessories like cufflinks and the bow tie but without adding in a pair of proper English or Italian Oxfords (Bonia shoes do not apply as they're seriously crappy). The second thing is that even with a half lined tropical suit style coat, you are unsuited for our nowadays ridiculously hot and humid Malaysian climate. Even at night, things may heat up before you enter the air-conditioned banquet hall. You may even smell like the cow (or cows) that were recently slaughtered for the main course that day.

If you went out and bought your Baju Melayu, you’d find out that you could get brightly coloured linen and workmanship for around RM300.00 only for the top and pants. Add RM500.00 for a well made kain samping made out of hand woven songket material and about RM50.00 for a traditional songkok and you’re complete for a Malaysian formal function. I am an advocate for using linen in the Baju Melayu. It is extremely cooling to wear and does not have that sheen you get from those silky rayon, polyester like material that is used for most Baju Melayu which also does not allow good air flow and can make you feel sticky also. For totally formal occasions, a black Baju Melayu with a black samping with gold thread is a must. But for weddings, a bright cheery colour is most definitely allowed. In other words, why suffer by wearing a tuxedo or a suit if there are better and more breathable (cooling) local styled alternatives? You see, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

I must also add that you should not wear a pair of CROCS with that outfit, ever. Unlike the story of the couple that I wrote in my previous posting. The only sort of 'CROCS' that are worth having are the ones shown in the pic below. Nice ain't it?


Trivia: Did you also know that Ferrari big kahuna Luca Di Montezemolo once vetoed a customer requesting a full crocodile leather interior for a factory customised Ferrari. Honestly, croco leather for seats and dashboard? Horrid. See? Crocs are despised if used in bad taste.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some Things That I Have Learnt.

I’ve learnt a few things recently that I wish to share with all of you readers out there. I learnt these things from a recent trip to Butterworth which is located in the state of Pulau Pinang a couple of weeks ago.

1. A mid-morning run at speeds above 155km/h on the North-South Highway during a dry spell leads to a ridiculous amount of tire wear. I had a set of rears that were 85% worn. I honestly thought that they would last till the trip back to KL. Unfortunately, by the time I reached Bukit Merah, there was no sign left of the ‘V’ groove thread pattern left on the rears. It was completely bald. I had to get a new pair of tires in Butterworth when I got there.

The moral of this story is that change tires before you go someplace far.

2. Your car may have a large fuel tank. But at speeds above the century, it needs a larger tank. I have a 50 liter tank in my Impreza and for a trip that has speeds averaging a century, petrol freely drains out. ¼ tank was left before I reached Cangkat Jering, nearby Taiping with another 45 minutes or so of driving to do before Butterworth.

The moral of this story is that you should either get a car with a larger tank or drive slowly or don’t bother and just stop when you feel like it and reach someplace faster than taking a flight.

3. Your bladder may not be as large as you wanted it to be. It was during this trip that I found out that some bladders last longer than most. I had to have a ‘pit-stop’ to alleviate this problem.

The moral of this story is that you and your car may be able to make Butterworth in less than 3 hours. But your occupants cannot.

4. Fat people look fatter wearing crocs on their feet.

There was this 30 something couple which I happened to observe at the Gunung Semanggol rest area (somewhere near Bukit Merah). They were decently dressed in the national dress. The man was wearing the Baju Kurung Melayu and songkok and his wife was wearing the baju kurung with her hair done up in a bun. Both looked immaculate in pink and were slightly on the plus size. They looked immaculate until I came upon their feet, which were housed in a pair of crocs each.

Why do some people spoilt their silhouette but putting on chunky looking footwear when they are CHUNKY themselves? It somehow makes a round ball look even rounder if there ever was such a thing. This guy and his wife looked even rounder than he ever was. He also spoilt his whole Baju Melayu look as he would look like an overweight Hang Tuah wearing the ‘chapal’ instead of looking like Bozo The Clown. Yes, that was what the guy looked in my eyes. A BIG FAT CLOWN.

Look, CROCS are extremely chunky. They SEEM comfortable but they do not give you any real support as the rubber squishes when you put pressure on them. They don’t keep your spine aligned properly and if you are a motorhead, they are too chunky to be proper driving shoes. You can never properly heel and toe or even left foot brake in those clown shoes. Spend money, buy some proper Italian loafers with a driving sole (the one that has a sole curves all the way to the top of your heel). Tod’s driving shoes come to mind or even the PUMA speedcat series. Heck, or buy some cheap BATA driving mocs. I will respect you better than wearing fat Crocs on your way to a wedding up North. I shudder at the thought that the couple was driving to a wedding all done up in formal/national wear and wearing Crocs to attend that wedding. It made them look so underdressed. It’s like going to a black-tie function in a pair of sneakers. Also, FAT people shouldn’t wear fat looking shoes. Period. You can find comfort while looking good okay.

I once bought a pair of imitation CROCS that cost me RM10.00. That is as much money as I would spend for a chunky pair of clown slippers. I wear them when I have to walk to the garbage disposal room to throw garbage and even then I think I look crappy in them. Cheaper flip-flops look better on me.

The moral of the story is that if you are fat, for the love of God stay away from CROCS.

http://ihatecrocs.com

Image of crocs: courtesy of : maddox.xmission.com




If the fat guy in the painting wore crocs that were pink in colour, he would certainly be one ugly fat clown.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Desire has a New Name: The Terengganu EXCO Members desire some luxury in their lives

Terengganu decides to opt for the Mercedes Benz E200K over the Proton Perdana V6. The newspapers decide to comment on this which led to a supposedly outcry of misuse of government funds. The reason, according to the person in charge was that it costs a ridiculous amount of money to maintain a 4 year old Perdana. I somehow admit that the figure of RM174,000.00+ for a single over a 4 year period is ridiculous but unsurprisingly as I believe that the government is being short-changed by their contractors yet again. I know Perdanas are slightly expensive to maintain as company cars, but an average figure of RM43,750.00 per year over 4 years is astounding.

Nevertheless, it could happen as if we factor in the contractors billing the government for using ‘brand new’ spare parts such a thing could happen. I have in the last decade inquired a brand new automatic gearbox from Proton for a friend’s 3 speed automatic and the figure that came back to me was an incredible RM20,000.00. RM20,000.00 for an outdated piece of gear changing device. Needless to say, my friend opted for a second hand item that only cost him RM1,200.00 inclusive of labour at that point of time. Imagine what Proton or the government contractors would want to charge for a ‘brand new’ Perdana gearbox then?

Now imagine the Terengganu State Government Perdanas having a slightly strenuous work load. These cars are driven by drivers who basically have no care in the world about avoiding potholes on the road, keeping the engines running for long hours while being stationary, hardly any warmup period for the gearbox and engine before starting and driving off and other abusive driving styles that most staff drivers and company/government pool car users utilise.

You then have to know that the Perdana V6 has always had gearbox problems ever since it first came out. It was only during the latest round of facelifts that the car was given its own dedicated transmission fluid cooler for the gearbox and even then, we have still heard the gearbox dying. I have an acquaintance or two which are car enthusiasts who drive the Perdana V6 and both have had at least 2 gearbox changes on their ride to date. Both, after their second autobox decided to convert to the Mitsubishi 5 speed manual and have been happy campers ever since. Some are lucky, but their cars are hardly abused or neglected and they keep to their rigid maintenance schedule when it comes to servicing the car. But do you think that the State Government cars are maintained as religiously as they are supposed to be? I doubt so.

So the Terengganu Government bought some Mercedes Benzes to replace the Perdana V6s. I suppose some patriotic people are arguing that this is wrong and we should support our national product. These group of people should realise that even being patriotic or nationalistic should be up to a point of being realistic and not just being full of blind pride. The Perdana is a bloody OLD car, get it? It has been around since 1995 and has only been facelifted more times than Joan Collins has been under the scalpel. It is one of those cars that should have been put to sleep at the very least 3 years ago. This supposedly middle executive car is no longer refined as what a middle executive car should have been. You take a look at the current benchmark of a small family sedan, the Honda Civic and you can tell that refinement, performance and everything has moved a notch higher than the Perdana which is supposedly a Honda Accord competitor. I won’t even compare the Perdana with the Accord as it’s that pathetic. Proton should have a replacement for this model soon and this is an order from me, not a statement.

There is another group who is arguing that Terengganu shoudn’t be spending so much of their money in times of political and economic turmoil. If they wanted to replace the Perdanas they should not buy luxury cars. The problem with the State Secretary’s explaination is that he is saying that the State is not using the funds that are from the oil revenue that the State receives but from its normal allocation / collection. Look, is he saying that if the State were to utilise the oil revenue they would be buying Rolls Royce Phantoms for each of the State’s EXCO members and legal advisors and so forth? Somehow, in times where the ruling coalition, i.e. Barisan Nasional is getting hit left, right and centre on everything that they do, they should be buying sensible cars. This isn’t the time for them to be rewarding themselves. This is the time to prove their worth till the next general elections. Spending money like this is another dumb move.

The move which they should have done is buy the Toyota Camry. This car is assembled locally and everyone knows that this decent unclemobile is a good, sensible car to buy and maintain and it only costs RM150,000.00 with taxes. The price could be a sensible RM100,000.00 or below without tax. Toyotas almost never break down. But noooooooo, they are thinking with their egos and desires. Desire has a new name and it ain’t the Satria Neo. It’s the Terengganu State Government EXCO members!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The New Audi A4 1.8 TFSi and Where You Can Get Free Food on Sunday

The business of selling luxury cars has hit a new high (or low). The reason I am saying this is that I was at the Audi hanger recently to have a look at the new Audi A4 1.8 TFSi and there were chicken drummets & wings, fried bihun, 2 types of sandwiches and some chicken balls. The food was fantastic even though I had lunch about an hour back. Well, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little to eat a little more.
Anyway, in walked a guy in his mid-forties with his family in tow. He Was greeted by a sales person who knew him and ushered him to the refreshments while he waited for his test drive of the new Audi. He was overheard saying to the sales man “Wah, only this ah?” He exclaimed as he sauntered to get a plate to get his fill of the smallish buffet spread I mentioned above. The sales person waited for his comment which was “Lexus got mini Lamb Chops you know?”
Now this had got me thinking. I can actually beat recession! Why I said this was that I also knew that Auto Bavaria serves up food on certain Sunday for test drive sessions and now I know that Lamb Chops were being served at Lexus I shall have one stop every Sunday at a luxury car sales centre with my family in tow for a “Test drive” of their finest cars. This coming weekend I shall be served with ‘luxury’ at Lexus in Mutiara Damansara, the next weekend I shall ‘test drive’ the ‘ultimate driving machine at Auto Bavaria and then I shall test drive a Mercedes and hope I get at least a cup of Latte and some sandwiches there. I plan on bringing the family so that we can ‘Test drive’ the finest cars as well as sample ‘luxury’ according to Lexus. I plan to rotate this list every few months as BMW, Mercedes has around 4 showrooms around Klang Valley for this (IF they all serve food that is!) Or to put it bluntly, I wanna go eat some free lamb chops at some luxo-barge showroom. Marketing has its benefits for the layman if you know what I mean.
The Audi A4 1.8 TFSi? It is so much better than the previous Audi A4 which I tested awhile back. This 1.8 version comes with an 8speed CVT gearbox that has hardly any CVT like lag and ample power to activate the ESP on a slightly damp road. The handling of this car is just right for most drivers. i.e. pointy and the tail is obedient, even in the wet. Now you may say that it is a little dull, but it isn’t. This is the first Audi in a long time that behaves differently from most Audis. There is no, or very little sign of it being nose heavy like its predecessors. It is a sporty car.
It took Audi 12 million years to finally agree with everyone alive that having a tall 4,6,8 cylinder engine set up high in front of the front axle does not do wonders to the handling. They have finally decided to reengineer the gearbox to have a more forward front axle placement and better steering feel. The car does not drive like you were sitting just slightly behind an arrow’s head in flight. You actually have a car in which does not fight the laws of physics like the old one does all the time. You see, the older A4 feels nose heavy and feels it, this one does not. It feels like you’re driving a new Front Wheel Drive car with a normally adapted transverse engine instead of a longitudely placed one.
The ride and handling is sorted. Unlike previous Audis I have driven or been in this one has dynamic and comfort damping. I prefer dynamic (the slightly firmer setup) over comfort as this is just totally fun compared to comfort, which will please a lot of older (and duller) drivers out there. The damping on both settings are so much better than the earlier ones which seems to be undamped (or oversprung) depending on what schools of thought you believe in. The older B7 Audis have a choppy ride due to the over aggressive rebound over bumps which I didn’t actually like.
The 8 Speed CVT gearbox is a charm to use as I noted as I sat beside my friend who tested it at the Kiara stretch was nicely geared for sprinting. It actually was geared high enough to feel punchy and was never at any time out of breath. The 160ps that the engine pumped out was more than adequate to take on and win against an older 2.0 liter Alfa 156 in a mid-range dash at that stretch of road. This new tech works!
Yes the car is larger than the previous model and has better rear legroom also. Materials used is up to par and if you were to compare between the 3 series, the C-class and the Audi, you’d choose between the Audi and the C-Class and throw the 3 Series cabin material quality taxi like compared to the two. On the exterior of the car I'd have to say that it is a successful abeit slightly fussy interpretation of the Audi school of design. However, the stance of the car, i.e how the car sits is amazing. From the front with the driving lights lighted up it looks like an R8 and from the rear three quarter, it looks fantastically swoopy. However, it has lost some of the clean lines of the previous B7 model and from the A6. But this look will attract people and that's what Audi wants I suppose.
The Audi is priced at RM235,000.00+, the Mercedes C200 Kompressor at RM248,000.00+ and the BMW320i Sport at RM245,000.00+. Would I buy the Audi over the BMW? Yes I would as the 3Series is an ugly over-designed car with bad material quality and stupidly expensive run flat tires that hurt the ride comfort coupled with a so-so engine and drivetrain (but great steering and handling). Would I buy it over the Mercedes? I would since it costs RM10,000.00+ cheaper and comes with more goodies like the MMI Multi Media Interface screen and controls, dynamic drive controls (ONLY in a C230 model at RM300K) and a lag free CVT box with 8 gears instead of 5 in the C 200K (But if they ever used the 7speed g-tronic then the outcome here may change). However I would not second rate it for interior quality (even though its assembled locally over the imported Audi) and its RWD chassis for that extra RWD thrills. I do not rate or care about that extra 5-10% in steering feel and handling that the BMW or Mercedes has as heck, most normal drivers won’t even notice the difference which wheels are been driven by the engine. If they do they’re just being anal about things.
But I think the best is, go get free food or coffee from these people. Your stomach won’t regret it and neither will your wallet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Car Can Run On 92ron....Can yours? A Revelation.

Guess what? I've recently been using regular 92ron petrol on my Subaru! Isn't that blasphemous using 'cheap' fuel on such a car? Well firstly the vehicle manual says that I can, hence I am. You see, an Impreza TS is an AWD NON-Turboed Impreza which does not need higher octane to run. The reason only reason why you need high octane most of the time is when your car runs a very high compression engine. Currently, such engines have a compression ratio of about 11:1 and above (The Impreza TS has a 10:1 compression ratio). This means cars like certain Porsche GT3s, VW's FSi engines and some Honda VTEC engines. Turbo cars have to run high octane due to the fact that when the turbo kicks in, you wouldn't want any premature detonation of fuel which would wreck the engine and the turbo. Most modern cars have an ECU with knock sensors to eliminate any pre-detonation issues. And if you have a carburettor in your car, all you need to do is go to a mechanic (who knows how to tune carbs) and get the distributor and carb set and you can safely run 92ron.

With my ride, I can feel a slight lack of power above 4,500rpm when I believe the ignition timing (which is ECU controlled) of the car retards slightly as it does not want to give its maximum due to the lower octane. But since we now pay so much for petrol I have been driving like a 'good' Muslim. So I change gears between 1,500rpm and 2,500rpm most of the time and keep the actual Schumi style driving for the weekends when I do pump 97ron petrol for a spin or two. I've calculated and I've found no extra consumption using this cheaper petrol. I can live with the slight lack of power as I can fill in 'power' when I need to.

I honestly can manage to save up to a few hundred Ringgit a year using 92ron most of the time. I usually have to spend an average of 50 liters of petrol a week. At RM2.621 I spend RM131.05. If I spend RM2.70 on 97ron I have to pay RM135.00. Now I see myself on average spending 45 out of 52 weeks on 92ron and the rest on 97 ron for thrills and outstation trips. That's RM5897.25 for 45 weeks INSTEAD of RM6075.00 for 45 weeks. That's RM177.75 worth of petrol savings compared to using 97ron. I get to enjoy this extra AND also the RM625.00 rebate which I will get when I renew the car's road tax. Somehow, I seem to be slightly less effected due to this.

For a slightly more in depth look at the myth of using cheaper petrol, visit the Ugly Chicken blog.My Pal Lee Meng over there will tell you more:

http://uglychickens.blogspot.com/2008/06/dont-waste-money-on-premium-petrol.html


On another note, the change of driving style has actually enabled me to pump as much petrol as I did before the petrol hike. I've actually managed to clock an average of 12.0-12.5km per liter compared to a low 10-10.5km per liter before this. I've actually made an impreza safe petrol! Now if you'll excuse me, I am spending this new found savings on driving to the Audi Showroom at JAYA 33 today at above average speeds to have a look at the new Audi A4 1.8T. I'll eventually write some stuff on this car soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What Everyone Needs is Quality of Life, Not QUANTITY of Life

Right, it’s almost July of 2008 and I have decided that it’s time I set the general populace straight. I have been having impromptu discussions with a few friends regarding the general Malaysian public on their sad, pathetic lives in general. We have basically decided that what the average Malaysian family in Peninsula Malaysia goes along this form of lifestyle that in general makes them into copies of most average families all over Malaysia. The gist of such a life is generally like this:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Enough of Petrol Increase Talk, Let's Talk About A Dull, Fast Car, the Mitsubishi 3000GT









All this talk about rising petrol prices has actually knocked everybody off balance. We are now hearing stories how families with a combined income of less than RM2,500.00 suffering and making all sorts of cost cutting. We hear stories of food prices rising due to increased transport costs. We hear people eating out less or eating less at fine dining restaurants and frequenting the mamak shop more. We are hearing a whole lot of complaints in which clearly shows that not one single person, whether rich or poor is basically happy with the way things are in Malaysia. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Alternative Means of Saving Petrol

Petrol it seems is in the hearts and minds of everyone I meet. It is because of the extreme increase in this commodity that everyone seems to be either a good Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist or whatever religion you are practising. Everywhere I drive people are slow, in fact they are so bloody slow in changing lanes the wife, my daughter and I were nearly involved in a 'slow' accident as a VW MPV (for those of you who don't know - GTI) signalled and switch lanes following a BMW 5 Series, did not look behind as I was half a car's length from the BMW and she just came in! The worse thing was she did not accelerate. She stayed in the middle of 2 lanes and ignored the desperate horns comming from me. I mean being a slow driver is a good thing in times like this, but not at the expense of other road users. I may decide to dispense with the niceties and become the road hog i once was if things stay like this. I mean, the other day a friend of mine was hogging the overtaking lane on the Federal Highway at 70km/h and no one flashed at him, no one beeped at him, no one raise a finger at him. This is a little pathetic. The increase has gotten to everyone's head.

As a motorhead I am in a way enjoying this increase as traffic has lessened. More people are taking public transport and more people are thinking of innovative ways of travel. There are really cheap people who resort converting their Perodua Kancil to run NGV. While it's a good thing, as NGV is dirt cheap. It also shows the world that these people aren't just frugal, but extremely cheap. This sort of people would be those that take those small chilli sauce packets you get from takeaways and fill up their sauce bottles at home. Yes, it shows you're frugal, but it confirms that you're outright cheap.

I've heard of people using the LRT more these days. Yes, I've recently heard from my wife that her staff who commutes to work using the LRT that more people are using it to work in the mornings. It confirms the fact that there are less cars on the road in the morning. However, the thing is whether you can tollerate smelly armpits, roving hands (if you're a pretty woman) and pickpockets among other things as the LRT can be jam packed in the mornings. I can bet you the ministers who suggest to you that a change in your lifestyle is necessary have not taking the LRT or a Bus to work before. These people are the ones who actually never walk the talk if you know what I mean.

I mean, Mr. Why Should I Step Down, I've Got Work To Do recently announced his 10% cut to his RM18,000+ entertainment allowance. I don't even have a salary of RM18,000.00 to begin with and this person has an allowance for entertainment that much. He gets an approximately RM20,000.00 salary on top of that. He also gets other allowances on top of that too. I suppose RM1,800.00 would make him tighten his belt, buy a Perodua Viva limousine instead of a Proton Perdana Limousine to cut costs and run it using NGV. (a Perodua Viva limo - now that's a thought).

So with all of these changes happening to the motoring public, what could be do about it aside from walking more, taking the LRT,Converting your car to run on NGV, driving like Mother Theresa or staying home? You could buy a horse. Yes, buying a horse is a good idea. How about riding to work? A thoroughbred race horse that is about to be pensioned is a good choice. It may be cheap to buy and maintain unless he's a winning horse whereby his sperm could make baby racehorses hence make its purchase price expensive. Find one who's always lost, learn horseback riding (as a horse carriage would be considered as a trailer and fall under the jurisdiction of the RTD and you then need to licence it.) and trot to work. I was thinking, if I lived in a apartment, I'd park the horse at the grassy patch near the entrance of the apartment and let it graze and eat grass there. Later at night, I'd bring that horse to my apartment carpark which I've converted into a stable. I think it's a foolproof plan if you're travelling alone. The costs would be very little and you'll be kind to the environment as the only greenhouse gas the transport (horse) will produce if some methane when it farts.

1. Horse - RM6,000.00 for a pensioned horse (maybe cheaper, maybe more..ask around)
2. Saddle - RM1,000.00
3. Wood and Hammer - For the stable at your apartment car park - RM500.00
4. Broom and dustpan - to scoop up poo - RM25.00
5. Feed - RM50 per bag or less if you let your horse graze at the nearest playground.

This could be you on the way to work.

Weekly costs? Very negligible. It'll trot to work at a leisurely 15-20km/h and if you work about 20km away, you'll be there in under an hour. But if you push it, it'll think that it's in a race and really go for it and you may reach work earlier. What if you want a new model or if it breaks its leg? Well, buy a gun and shoot it like the cowboys do.

Think about it. I am only suggesting BUT can't attempt it as I got a kid to ferry around most of the time. No, I not making any excuses. Really.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Of The Fuel Price Increase and RM2.00 Pasar Malam Ramly Burgers

RM2.70 per liter. Yup, Malaysians now pay that amount for 97ron petrol and life must go on. It was inenevitable, but the way it was announced by 'Mr Why should I step down, I've got work to do' was what actually got on my nerves a bit. Firstly, the press reported that the cabinet had agreed on a new fuel pricing scheme and subsidy scheme which will be implemented as soon as the cabinet confirms and decides it on Wednesday and in August things will be clearer.

The papers in their headlines, whether this was down to bad reporting stated that things will only change in August which clearly wasn't true. Of course, not reading the whole story and reading the headlines made some people (which I will not mention) roll their eyes and made their heads spin like Linda Blair in The Exorcist after reacting to the 'sudden' price increment in petrol and diesel prices. But this is a problem with the current administration. It likes making snap changes. I mean honestly, what's a couple of million Ringgit lost if the powers that be decided to announce today and implement in 48 hours? People would be happier instead of cursing and swearing at 'the person who made the announcement' while queuing for petrol close to midnight. The last 'snap' decision he made was stating that he did not know when the General Election would be the day before it was called. I suppose he thinks the general public are not smart people and is making fun of them. And obviously, the 'snap' decision caused his party to suffer badly in that last election. If you allow 48 hours, there'll be slightly less congestion as some may fill up their tanks 12 hours earlier and stay home instead of all rushing at the same time. It's as simple as that. It does not matter if you think Malaysians like to do things last minute, but hello, some of us don't.

On another note, why bloody bother banning the refueling of foreign cars for a ridiculously short span of time and then decide otherwise? Is anyone actually thinking when they made the decision in the first place? Why? To stop subsidised fuel from being used by foreigners? Amazing as it only took a few days for the Government to decide otherwise again. Why issue directives and change it in a split second? Are we Malaysians actually sure the people running our Government know what they are doing? Why are they so fickle-minded? Why do we have to ask so many questions about people who supposedly graduated from Oxford (or from Mordor it seems)? Doesn't the Goverment practise the 'Do it right the First Time' concept of work? What I do know most Government officers are doing is the 'Out At 4.45pm or earlier' style of management. Even if they were in the office, it has been proven by decisions and indecisions like this that their grey matter have in fact left the office much earlier than their bodies.

The queues at Petrol Stations were ridiculous. I myself was pretty lucky (or supposedly lucky) as I managed to find the NKVE Shell station heading towards Kuala Lumpur did not have a long and stress filled queue at 10.00pm. However, right after filling my car to the brim with cheap RM1.92 97ron, I looked behind as I drove off and found that the queue had already begun. Some stations had to close as their pumps ran dry. Some most probably falsely declared that their pumps had run dry and were just either too lazy to rake in the cash from last minute sales or just wanting to keep their underground tanks for the increment at midnight. Either way, lots of Malaysians were pretty pissed off that night. Pissed from the snap announcement and then pissed to bits due to waiting so long for petrol.

Of course this is inevitable. Petrol globally has hit ridiculous prices. Oil exploration costs (according to these oil-men) are rising as they are now drilling from smaller oil fields. China and India are experiencing an economic boom and they are now buying cars, motorcycles, planes, lorries, Louis Vuitton handbags and endangered species' furs like there's no tomorrow. When demand outstrips supply, things like this happens. I just hope that I still see a RM1.00 Ramly burger at the Pasar Malam after this.

I predict small car sales will be booming. Those rich people with money to spend would also be thinking of being economical. We'll see sales of the Mercedes C200 and E200 booming, E240 and above dropping as imagine that, Mr. Rich man gets Mercedes prestige, pays 1,800cc roadtax and is STILL given a RM652.00 rebate if he renews his roadtax the next few months. It's not only the poor who benefits. Which is why we need to be richer than what we are now, but still capitalise on the system.

I also predict when 'Mr Why should I step down, I've got work to do' writes his memoirs, it'll clearly state that he was doing what he believes was right, and that it was a global phenomenon that was beyond his control. That he inherited a system in that way and was trying to correct it. Excuses. What do you think most Malaysians would remember him for? Making the RM1.00 pasar malam Ramly burger cost RM2.00?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tech Focus: Noisy but not that Fast. VW R32 vs Audi A4 2.0TFSi

The other day a friend was happily chasing down a 2008 mk5 VW R32 with his 2007 Audi A4 2.0TFSi on a trip to Penang. Both cars were loaded with one passenger each and was basically down for a weekend trip. The VW R32 is a rorty sounding V6 powered Full Time AWD car with around 250bhp on tap running through a superb DSG gearbox. The Audi A4 is a 4 cylinder 2.0 Turboed car with around 200bhp powering its front wheels via a CVT transmission. Now what happened on the North-South Highway was that at all speeds, the R32 could not pull away from the A4. Amazing isn’t it? The ultimate Golf cannot pull away from a 4 door mid range Audi.

It got me thinking. Then I also realised. Let’s put all factors in play. The R32 weighs 1538kg empty. The A4 weighs a measly 1430kgs. There is a 108kg difference here. Add both drivers, 80kg and a passenger each at 80kg and some luggage I’d say the Audi is still a good 80kgs lighter. Now we measure power to weight ratio. The R32 has about 162bhp per ton against 139bhp per ton. Yup, it shows that the R32 has a 23bhp advantage over the A4 2.0. It isn’t much is it? When you put the numbers in. Of course in Sepang that could be a 2 second per lap advantage on average.

Now we factor in the fact of transmission loss into the picture. We know that AWD usually losses an easy 20-25% of its power through transmission loss. A FWD would lose only about 7-10% depending on the type of gearbox used. Usually a CVT loses a lot due to it having a basic rubber band/chain system (like a racing bike type gear system) and it has lots of slip and loss here and there. So we will now state that the R32 will lose about 22% of its drive due to the transmission and the A4 will lose 10% due to the CVT. The R32 is then estimated to make 195bhp at the wheels and the A4 180bhp at the wheels. So, in other words, the Audi only loses out 15bhp to the R32. Amazing. I also have to add the fact that I have never known a turboed car to actually make what is said in its manual. I think that A4 may have a few more horses north of 200bhp from the factory. The owner may be lucky. But most Turbo cars are usually pumping out slightly more than quoted.

You buy an R32 for RM300,000.00++++++. You buy a A4 FWD for RM265,000.00++. You then find out that you own a heavier car that makes 15bhp more at the wheels, pay more road tax and while it’s a top of the line Golf, it looks like a mini MPV compared to the Audi. 15bhp will not allow the R32 to outrun the A4 on the highway. You pay for a cheaper Audi that also have more brand prestige than a 'people's Car'.

We haven’t factored in gearing. We also have to note that a Normally Aspirated Car like the R32 would thrive on revs and to actually DRIVE the car, you’d have to be extremely silly. I.e. If you’re in a manual, you’d probably be in 2nd gear while the Turbo is in 3rd. We also don’t know how VW actually geared the R32.

It is geared for the Autobahn? Then you’d only see that car coming into play at about 200km/h, which is actually a speed that is nearly impossible to maintain on the 2 lane stretch of the North-South Highway for more than half an hour. In Sepang I’d say the R32 would be the faster car. But in the real world, OR Malaysian highway driving. 15bhp wouldn’t make a darn difference and that’s why the R32 couldn’t and wouldn’t pull away from the A4. To the guy who bought the R32. Tough luck. But at least it sounds superb. Maybe that’s the actual reason to buy the R32.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drive experience: You Can Blame Everything Bad in Malaysia on a Dead Dictator and We Look At The Original Mini

I think we should all blame Adolf Hitler for everything wrong in Malaysia today. We can blame him for the high price of petrol, cooking oil, rice, cockroach infested mamak stalls, ugly looking flower horn fishes, badly designed cars and the volkwagen beetle owning Malaysians who love that car, not that there’s anything wrong about the car but the fact that is was Hitler who actually gave the green light for the Beetle project in the first place. This is because Hitler is the universal villain whether he likes it or not. And also for the fact that everyone who’s a politician with the rulling party is pointing fingers at everyone else or trying to be a hypocrite and saying nothing about it whatsoever even though he can do something about it. So, the best thing I would suggest all people who are into politics in Malaysia is to blame a dead dictator for any wrongdoings in the country. You have also Mussolini, Idi Amin, Rasputin and a few other famous people to choose from if you don’t want to blame Hitler for it.

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