Thursday, October 30, 2014

Still enjoying the fall weather

I don't know what kind of winter we're going to have, but it's hard to complain about fall so far. Even on days when it hasn't been sunny, it's been unseasonably warm. People seem to be driving their sports cars and classics later into the season than they used to, which is nice for car-spotters like me.

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I passed this 458 this morning (on foot) as it was stuck in traffic
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Perfect car to drop off your daughter at school: a loud 996 GT2
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More and more rare, and in nice condition too: VR6 Corrado
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This owner got the formula right for a sweet-looking Miata: lowered, aggressive offset wheels and the hard top

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tesla Model S mini review

Tesla mini review

Thanks to my friend Étienne, I got to take a short drive in a Tesla Model S 85 the other day. Étienne picked me up and we drove one lap of the mountain. Here are my impressions.

Sorry for the lousy night-time photo!
When I first entered the car, I noted the interior seemed current and nicely finished. I was most surprised by the sheer size of the central screen. It seemed like a 17-inch computer screen tipped on its side. I didn’t scroll through all the menus, but it seemed easy to navigate, compared to the system on a friend’s Mercedes. There did not seem to be a bunch of useless menus or settings. Also, I was surprised to realize the car was a hatch-back, as I had never noticed this before. I went and sat in the back seat, where there was ample leg room (I’m 6-foot-2) . However, the ceiling was less than an inch from the top of my head and I can imagine hitting it when going over a bump in the road. I guess this is the price to pay in any sleek-looking sedan. It would be nice if Tesla engineers could come up with thinner seat cushions to lower the rear passenger by an inch or so.

As I began to drive, I immediately noticed how quiet the car was. I'm sure everyone says this, but it really is that noticeable. It sounded just like a car coasting to a stop after the engine has stalled. Other than that, it felt like a normal, relatively large sedan. The power delivery is smooth, as one would expect. I was a bit surprised at how much “engine braking” there was once you ease off the gas. It felt as if you were letting go of the gas at maybe 4 000 rpm in a typical gasoline-powered car. You can reduce this effect in the menu. 

The suspension was a bit stiff, and did not deal well with the first few potholes we came across. However, the over all handling was quite nice and the car cornered flatly on the twisty road leading up to the top of Mount Royal Park.

Visibility out the front is good and the car seems smaller than it is from this perspective, as the nose is quite short. You realize that most of the girth of the car sits behind the driver. Visibility out the back is not great, as the rear window is just not that big. Again, this is something you can get used to, although I did not have to parallel park the car at any time.

As for the actual power, it is pretty spectacular. I floored the “gas” pedal briefly climbing Parc avenue beside the mountain and the car just quietly WENT. It’s not the fastest car I have ever driven in a straight line, but it’s plenty fast for the street. The acceleration is actually astounding from a car that is both so quiet and so big.

What is crazy is that after only a few minutes, it felt totally normal to be driving this quiet, electric car. Apart from travelling long distances in a single day, I can’t imagine what this car can’t do that any other sedan can. As a result, I can’t see why someone in this price range would buy anything else, considering the massive savings in fueling an electric car (a few dollars to travel almost 400 km instead of 70-80$ for a large gas-powered sedan).

Although my time in the car was short, I came away with an excellent first impression. The future of driving is not bleak for car enthusiasts if other companies can build electric cars like this one. Now if only someone could invite me to try out the Roadster...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More apples and a mini vacation

As the nice fall weather continued, we decided to head back out to St-Joseph-du-Lac for another round of apple picking. It's an inexpensive activity and Jules seems to like it.
Jules quite enjoyed the animals in the small barn
And of course, picking apples on low-hanging branches
The family, on our way to the orchard in a trailer pulled by a tractor
A neatly designed play area made out of hay bales
Back in the barn

The following weekend, Alex and I planned a short getaway to Ogunquit, a final little trip before the new baby arrives. Luckily, my mom was available to watch Jules for the weekend. We hit our usual spots: Ogunquit beach, the Maine Diner, Portland Maine, Portsmouth New Hampshire, the Marginal Way and a few others. It was a lovely and relaxing weekend, but over too soon.

Alex in front of a 200-year-old house on the Strawberry Banke in Porstmouth
Not that many tourists on a Monday in October
Moody Beach, in company of hundreds of white birds near the rocks
Bridge over the salt marsh
Alex and the Portland Head light

Lookind back towards our hotel from the Marginal Way
Our quaint hotel room was on the second floor of the Terrace hotel
The view from our hotel's lawn
Of course, there were a few neat cars to be spotted (among the SUV's and Crown Victorias) if one really looked.

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A nice 964 with the nicer OEM wheels
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A lovely 60's Mustang in great condition
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A very clean E36 M3: the best all around car one can buy under 10 000$
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A loud but nice colour for this Lotus Elise R
And finally, a couple of spots from Montreal:

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A cool E28 M5, with period-incorrect but still nice wheels
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This Dodge Aries is just like my first car, except for the colour and hubcaps. I am surprised to see this one still running and in such good shape.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Jules and I started the holiday Saturday with a visit to St-Eustache to check out the Super Production Challenge races and the ASE Lapping Club Time Attack. It was to be the final event for 2014 in each series. It was tough not to be racing, but I still enjoyed walking around the paddocks.

When we arrived, we saw Carl and Perry's lovely 996 GT3, looking spotless. I later found out that when Carl parked it there, it was leaking fuel and would have to be towed home!

 Jules and I checked out the action from the paddock area. If my face looks swollen, it's because I had dental surgery a couple of days earlier.

There were some interesting track cars in the paddocks. One of these Evo's is a replica. Can you guess which one?

Seeing these two super clean M3's of the same colour and generation as mine got me thinking I should have the paint polished, like these two owners did. The result is amazing.

This time attack Subaru is one of the fastest production-based cars in the province.

Later in the day, after Jules' nap, we went for a walk in Outremont and spotted a few interesting cars on the street.

I was too slow to get a good shot of this clean E30 M3
I was too lazy to slow my pace in order to get a better photo of this GT-R
This Porsche is nothing special, but the Avant-Garde wheels were really well-suited to the car
Jules loves pumpkins!
Two neat cars in one shot: a classic Mini and a Saab Viggen
A lovely new M3 on Laurier street

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An enjoyable season

The weather has been generally quite good this fall and we have been able to spend a lot of time outdoors. We went apple-picking with Jules, and he managed to fill a whole bag of apples with minimal help from us. He also quite enjoyed sitting on a tractor, as he usually does.

Another milestone was reached: Jules had his first haircut. Although he did not terribly enjoy the process, we are pretty happy with the result.

Even with the Civic gone, it's hard not to think about car-related subjects. Here are a few thoughts:

The Mazda 3: I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the 5-door really looks like it was designed by Porsche. I have yet to see one with nice wheels with the optimal offset, but I think it’s a great-looking car.

Maserati Ghibli: the proportions are better than the current Quattroporte, and similar to the old Quattroporte. It’s a lovely sedan.
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Porsche Macan: each new Porsche Cayenne is better-looking than the previous generation and the Macan is better looking still. It reminds me of one of my favourite SUV designs, the original Infiniti FX35.

Chrysler 200: it doesn't look terrible... 

The second car quandary: the Civic is sold. We now only have one car. As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, I have always loved having two cars. I can’t explain it, it’s related to the freedom of being able to choose which car to use for a particular task. The fact is, though, that the Civic never got “chosen” to do anything expect track events, as it was not a particularly pleasant street car. Also, the M3 never got chosen for track (except one time for a few laps!) because the cost of breaking the car was too high.

Even if I had the time and money to devote to a second car now (at some point, I will!), it would not make sense to get a track-only car like the Civic, as I won’t have time to go to the track very often now that we will have two little boys to take care of. As far as getting another street car, it’s very hard for me to imagine a better street car than the one we have now. The M3 may be getting older, but it still does everything well: it’s quick, comfortable and looks great. Apart from gas, the running costs are surprisingly low. I don't know if it would be worth the trouble of owning another car if there was no potential to drive it on a track. Of course, you can slowly build a track car... it can take months, or even years, right? 

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A neat duo spotted not far from home. The S2000 is boxed in pretty tight!
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The S2000 is small, but not as small as the NB Miata
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Spotted at the dealership... still a nice car!
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Same Celica as the other day
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... and this neat vintage Honda in the same area.
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I don't like the CLA's, but I am a sucker for small styling cues like the red stripe in the grill
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Not a great car, but a pretty one!
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Still, I would prefer one of these.
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Another cool delivery vehicle: this super clean E36 BMW