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Connor McIntire

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Connor McIntire is a part-time contributor and a full-time automotive enthusiast. He is currently studying abroad in Brazil but still reppin' his love of cars.
http://connormcintire.wordpress.com/

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Road To Parity Part 1-6

The Journey Begins…

Before I even left for the trip, I managed to get lost for over an hour and receive a parking ticket. These were signs of the times to come.

Recently, I took a condensed road-trip through the mountain coast-line of Brazil in a Fiat Palio Fire Economy hatchback. At $11,000, this was a far cry from the supercars I recently covered. But over the course of a three-part series, I’m going to explain why this Fiat was one of the best cars I have ever driven.

Over 400 miles in less than 46 hours, that was our goal. Traversing everything from dirt-paths to beautiful highways, our Fiat was going to see it all.

When the car rental place pulled the car around the corner, I knew this was going to be an adventure. The Fiat was riding on tires sized for a Power Wheels car and had the ground clearance of a toothpick. My inspection revealed a working radio, no AC and an on/off switch. Despite the shortcomings, I signed the waiver and pulled it out of the garage.

Instantly, I was greeted with a complete lack of power anything, including steering. Fortunately the car was small so turning still felt relatively normal. Other quirks started showing themselves though. The pedals were so far to the right they were easier for a passenger to reach. The non-adjustable steering wheel angled upwards toward my chin and an annoying eco-meter gauge kept flopping up and down as I drove.

To make matters more intense, Brazilian drivers are the most aggressive drivers I have ever seen. This is odd because as a group of people they are very relaxed and easy going. Something happens when they get behind the wheel though. There was a constant barrage of cars pulling around me in made-up lanes and motorcycles weaving between traffic. It was a shock trying to understand the baffling driving norms.

After picking up my three comrades and piling everyone’s bags into the back, the car was stuffed. For added comfort, both of my knees sat firmly against the bottom of the dash. Before I even left for the trip, I managed to get lost for over an hour and receive a parking ticket. These were signs of the times to come.

Road To Parity Part 1-2

To avoid traffic, our group set out at two in the morning (UTC). The first four hours of the drive were pretty straightforward with lighting and mild traffic. The only annoyances were a series of randomly priced tolls throughout the drive. These left us scrambling for coins.

Pretty soon though, I found myself driving up. Then I started to find myself really driving up. First, I dropped into fourth gear…then third…then second. The mountain seemed to get steeper and steeper. Driving through the dead of night with no light on the road, I started to question my choice of route. The 1.0 liter 4-cylinder engine could have used a little power here. There was even a point when I had to drop the car into first gear just to keep the dang thing moving forward. The eco-meter didn’t seem too happy with my driving at this point either.

After some robust shifting and nervous cliff-side driving, I found the top of the mountain. But lo-and-behold, I was greeted by an intense sheet of fog that was almost as thick as smoke. I could only see 50 feet in front of the Fiat’s nose, and that’s being generous. Fortunately this only lasted for about thirty minutes.

Soon, light began to shine in the sky. Day-break was only a short-time away. The group woke up and I pulled over at a gorgeous waterfall to take in the sun-rise. The little Fiat had already tackled some intense driving and needed a break.

Already having driven for about four or five hours straight through the morning, I was feeling pretty weary. The car’s eagerness propelled me forward though. The next sign read, “40km (25miles) to Paraty”. We’re almost there, I thought. Oh, how wrong I was..

Ferrari F430 Sao Paulo Brazil

As some of you know, I’ve been on semi-sabbatical down south. No, not Louisiana south; South America, south. Well, it’s hard to contribute to “Sioux Falls” Auto Reviews from down here but I have managed to acquire some seriously interesting finds! Below in the gallery are some pictures I took of the various supercars/dealerships here in São Paulo. Let me tell you a little about what I’ve seen.

It’s amazing the amount of money some people have. The thing about Brazil is, it isn’t really cheaper here. Not like you’d think. Brazil is plagued by over-taxing and excessive costs. This takes and skyrockets the cost of goods we take for granted. So, let’s say you have a $200,000 Aston Martin Vantage V12 in the U.S. Pretty spendy huh? Well, that same car is going to cost you somewhere around $900,000 in Brazil. Yeah, that’s dollars. All of the Lamborghinis I saw were well over $1,000,000. You don’t even want to know what that damn Rolls Royce was priced at.

Still, the income disparity is HUGE down here in Brazil and like I said before, it’s amazing the amount of money some people have. While I was perusing these dealerships, there were plenty of rich folks shopping in the stores for their teenage kids. No typo there. Seeing how you can’t legally drive before 18, I’ll give them the benefit of being upcoming University students. But still, I bought my first car from money I saved working in catering at the Ramkota. It was a 1986 Honda Prelude Si that cost me a whopping $400, not a $1.5 million Ferrari F40.

Things are very old-school here though. I was NOT a welcome sight in most of the dealerships I went to. For instance, the Ferrari/Maserati dealerships really did not like me. Even worse was one car dealership. When my friend and I walked in, we introduced ourselves as usual and I explained that I was taking photos and exploring the car market in Sao Paulo.

No photos. From then on, a lady followed my friend and I uncomfortably close (about 5 feet away) while pretending that she was talking on the phone. Seriously? Were we going to sneak into a car and drive it through the glass walls? Anyway, some of them were very nice. For instance, the Lambo dealership prohibits pictures but the salesman said I could take two if I was discrete (hence the Gallardos).

Anyway, I’ll do my best to bring some more interesting and rare treats as I find them. From the a warm, sunny country, I wish you a wonderful cold weather!

*Cars to note: The brand new Aston Martin Vanquish (black) and the ultra rare Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Squadra Corse (grey).

Disclaimer Taking photos was most often against the rules. I did what I could to sneak most of these photos so don’t judge too much on the quality!

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We all know the name, Ferrari. Mr. Enzo Ferrari himself has been called many things. From Racing legend to entrepreneur. His legacy lives on not only in the success of his famed driving team, but also in his automobile company. It’s amusing to think that Ferrari himself was not particularly fond of starting a regular automobile company. He was mostly just interested in racing but did so after a need post-WWII.

Prior to founding Ferrari S.p.A. in 1947, he had many years of experience with Alfa Romeo as a manager of the production of factory cars. He also helped build up a significant team of racing drivers. His career was personally ceased in 1932. Over the years, Ferrari’s production cars have received countless praise on their design, sound and good looks. One quote that he is famous for saying is, “Everyone dreams of driving a Ferrari, that was my intent from the start.” This is definitely true for us here at SFAR!

Despite several controversies over the years, and even a case in court accusing him of manslaughter due to a racing accident, Ferrari lives on in every car that’s produced. It’s this extreme passion that allows the brand to live on and thrive so well past Enzo’s death. Now enjoy this car named after him!

Ferrari Enzo

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1938 Volkswagen Beetle

If you don’t know about World War II, just don’t even bother reading. If you actually live on earth though, you know the massive amount of destruction, devastation and horror that was involved. For many years, the great war slowly built into a catastrophic series of events. To make sure you understand just how real it got, here’s a bit of information.

On August 7th, 1944, Volkswagen actually had to cease production of the Beetle at their facility in KdF-Stat factory for 5 months. Released only 6 years earlier at the Berlin Motor Show, the “Beetle,” as it was internationally known, quickly rose to the number 1 spot as the everyday vehicle in Germany. A Mr. Ferdinand Porsche designed the original prototype of the vehicle we have all come to know today.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Beetle factory was taken over by Britain and re-opened in December of 1945. It goes to show how tough of a little vehicle the Beetle really was. Only during a massive world war did VW take a forced 5 month break before commencing work again. 68 years later, the Beetle legend still lives on!

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2013 Kia Optima SXL (16)

On July 24th, 1998 Kia Motors went up for auction/bidding by the South Korean government. After the Asian financial crisis, Kia was 10 billion (yeah, that’s with a B) in debt and filled for bankruptcy. Despite being the first company in Korea to manufacture a passenger car in 1974, they had a hard time keeping up with Daewoo and Hyundai (pronounced hun-day, like Sunday).

As the company went up for bidding, many people took a hand at the company including: Hyundai, Daewoo, Ford, Samsung, etc. Hyundai was the winner in late October of the same year. As they say, the rest was history. Hyundai made great improvements to the company’s vehicles and led Kia’s expansion into Europe.

We recently drove a 2013 Optima and have to say, the improvement hasn’t stopped. From the first Kia on U.S. soils (branded the Ford Festiva) to the latest generation, we’re pretty happy with where Kia is going with this and equally excited to see where they’ll be in 10 more years. Either way, if it weren’t for Hyundai, who knows where Kia would be today.

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Hot Harley Nights 2013 Parade (49)

Well, we managed to pull away from Top Gear and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee long enough to get our arses downtown for the Hot Harley Nights 2013 parade. We’ve gotta say, it was worth it. Loud motorcycles, cool cars, and beer. What else do you need? Enough chit chat though, it’s all about the photos and here they are. Enjoy!

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We’re a day behind here due to Hot Summer Nites but don’t worry, we still have some trivia! Today, July 18th in 1897 Ernest Eldridge was born. Probably not a household name, Ernest still has a rather interesting history. An English auto race driver, his career started in 1921 in an Isotta Fraschini. From there, he began moving around, taking on such racing series as the Grand Prix Motor Racing and the Indy 500.

Still, Ernest seemed most interested in breaking land-speed records. He did very well in a Miller 122 (no, thta’s not a type of beer, it’s a car) and took the races from the U.S. to Europe. He suffered a terrible accident while attempting one of these records in Europe though and suffered a mild brain injury.

After this, he continued in record breaking but often with other drivers at the helm. Ernest was a great engineer and a lot of his focus went on to developing better technologies for cars. It was after a trip to Bonneville though that he suffered from pneumonia and died. Though he’s not a household name, we think he deserves a spotlight here on our little Auto Review site. Cheers Mr. Eldridge!

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Formula 1 has been around for years, since 1950 to be exact. And it hasn’t always garnered the best attention. In it’s early days, this was an extremely dangerous sport with an average of around 1 to 2 deaths per year between 1953 and 1982. That’s almost as dangerous as golf.

Anyway, since then, the sport has really improved and there haven’t been any deaths since 1994. Taking on a new direction, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile or F1 parent company has now opened Formula E. The E presumably standing for electric. Similar to F1, FE will have 10 teams running 10 races between September 2014 to June 2015. This is where similarities start to fade though.

Formula E will boast speeds of 135mph but with relatively low noise levels. Where current F1 race cars reach decibel levels of 130dba, FE cars will only reach around 80dba, not much louder than an idling fart can if you will. You can find two confirmed locations in the U.S. for the race: Los Angeles and Miami. We’re working on a petition to get a track built here in Sioux Falls yet.

Either way, we’re excited to see what the future of motor sports will bring us. Considering the various advantages of electric drive systems, it’s not hard to see this becoming just as exciting if not more exciting than F1 is the next 10 to 15 years. They’ll have to get past the batter issue though. The current plan is to have drivers switch into a second car half way through the race. Hmm… not sure about that.

The new Formula E website has been finished though and we’re glad to see the series confirmed. Count on us to keep up on race and season converge. Here’s to driving excessively fast around sharp corners in extreme cars!

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2013 Kia Optima SXL (3)

Win: Bang for buck, great to drive

Loss: Some materials still feel cheap

Score: Kia hits a home run with their new design and driveability

Peter Schreyer, “Chief Design Officer” of both Hyundai and Kia is some what of a saving grace to Kia. In and around 2010 when the new Kia’s rolled into the lot I sat back from a distance questioning my judgment. Those vehicles look great! But they are still Kias; or is it Kiai for plural? Well, here at SFAR, we hold no bias (officially that is). The 2013 Kia Optima SXL literally blew away my perceptions of what a Kia is/was/should be.

Sliding into the driver’s seat reveals a slick new design for Kia. The center console is turned to face the driver, making it easier to engage with and see the navigation screen/audio system. A Microsoft infotainment system is available in some of the other packages but oddly enough, not in the SXL. Our Billion Kia dealership representative, Brian Farmen, did a great job of explaining all of the features to us. There were many buttons though and my simple-mindedness was quickly overwhelmed. So I flipped it into ‘D’ and drove off.

Rolling down the road, I could really feel the difference in this new model. Road noise is significantly lower from older generations and the seats are my favorite of any mid-sized sedan. Not foreign to modern tech, the 2013 Kia Optima automatically engages Eco-mode depending on how your foot meets the pedal. This should save you gas but I honestly didn’t notice much difference in pedal-play or steering while the little green light was illuminated. Still, the EPA estimates 34 on the highway which is plenty good for a sporty sedan to me.

Oh boy, I said sporty. Yeah, that’s right, this thing is. The SXL comes with a turbocharged 2-liter inline 4-cylinder with a 274 hp output. The transmission offers a “Sportmatic” option as well as paddle-shifters. Getting up and going onto the highway is something we love and this car did not disappoint. After a slight turbo-lag, the car kicked into gear and moved fast. Sliding around corners was surprisingly easy as well. My favorite part of this whole car was the seats though. They held me firmly in place and I honestly felt like they were made for me.

Still, I had reservations. It was easy to see that some of the interior trim was sacrificed in the name of cost and the navigation system was difficult to read while at speed. But for a car that starts at $21,350 (the SXL comes in at $26,800), I’m surprised they got as much in as they did. Much of its competition can run you quite a bit more for similar amenities.

When all is said and done though, I’m very surprised. I never really stopped grinning the entire time that I drove it. It isn’t the quickest car and it isn’t the most luxurious but it definitely has something else. It’s almost as if, while all the other brands were fighting over mpg, cost, sales, and other things, Kia found the key: passion. Raw, unrefined passion. I really think that Kia is on to something and I can’t wait to see what they bring out next!

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It was on July 10th in 1962 that the U.S. patent office issued the patent for a 3-point seat belt to Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin. Prior to this point, belts were only standard in racing while the 2-point seat belt (across the abdomen) was known to cause damage in high-speed crashes.

The first company to implement these belts? Volvo, no surprise here. But after a short while, most of the automotive world was bearing 3-point belts. Then, in 1966, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act required all new vehicles to have safety belts in the U.S. These seat belts are estimated to reduce the risk of death and serious injury by 50%. Happy Belt-Day and don’t forget, Click-it or Ticket!

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2013 Honda Accord Touring 5

Win: There’s a mode for every kind of driver.

Loss: It’s a fun car that will rarely be used for fun.

Score: Best looking and best driving Accord yet!

It’s a Honda right? We know it’s good. We know it’s reliable. We know that we should buy one. So then why the heck did we bother doing a review of this 27-time Top 10 Winner with Car and Driver? Because we’re picky. Yeah, this might be a good 10-hour road trip kind of car but what about merging on a round-about onto the highway? We like to feel some g’s ya’ know? So here we are, in the 2013 Honda Accord Touring with the beefed up V6 i-VTEC engine and plenty of gadgetry to keep the family occupied. We wanted to know, is this a driver’s car?

Like I said, there’s plenty to be found in the new generation Accord. The Touring being the top trim package, has everything. A rear view camera with 3 angles of vision, lane departure and blind-spot warnings, and the same dual-screen nav/entertainment system we found in the 2014 Acura RLX we drove earlier this summer are just some of the features available. Our exceptionally helpful Vern Eide representative, Kelly Harbin, explained that he owns the 2012 Accord. After seeing the 2013 model, he regrets not waiting the extra time for what he describes as a greatly improved vehicle in both look and design.

Cruising down the road, the driver has three gear-box modes: Eco, Drive (Standard), and Sport. Rolling around in Drive leaves plenty of access to power in the pedal. Switching over to the Eco-mode really shows Honda’s dedication to saving the owner gas dollars. Switching, the pedal mushed to a sort of long-engagement and I started to take notice of Honda’s “Coaching Bars”. These are a couple of lights straddling the speedometer to show you how much gas you are consuming at any point in time.

I already knew Honda made a gas-sippers though. It’s the sporty bit I was curious about. Sliding into ‘S’ on the gearbox proved fun. Running all the way up to the red line was a blast. The V6 in this car goes. The noise it made was quite surprising as well. I’m getting used to the whine that turbo-fours make but this is naturally aspirated (non-turbo) and it growls. Grip was solid too, the car stood rather firm into the corners for a mid-sized sedan. I can see what the fuss is all about.

The only sad part to this whole story is knowing that most people that buy the 2013 Honda Accord probably never know the full potential of a vehicle like this. Yeah, it’s refined and comfortable and even rivaled our more luxurious test-models in features and interior space but driving is what seals the deal. This car can move and it’s meant to. It’s up to our friends over at Vern Eide Honda then to make sure the word gets out. The Accord really is a driver’s car.

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On July 2nd, 1900 the first Zeppelin took flight in Germany. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was the inventor and in 1890 he began his pursuit of his flying machine after retirement. Though the machine was successful for some time and used by the German army in World War I.

All was fine until the Hindenburg went up in flames in 1937. Although most people think this was the end, there were actually still a few Zeppelin enthusiasts until 1940 when the airships were ordered to be destroyed and the Zeppelin facility went up in flames. This isn’t really car history but it’s pretty cool huh?

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If you haven’t had a chance to check out Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you should probably get out from under the rock. Now in its 2nd season, this show has made quite a splash online. Apparently this formula: Comedians + Cars + Coffee yields killer results. Boasting over 113,000 likes on Facebook (yeah, that’s a lot), this show is doing well. We’re fans here at SFAR and we’re glad to see more comedians in more cars getting more coffee.

Here’s the link: http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/

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That’s right. On June 25, Audi officially opened its synthetic fuel plant in Werlte, Germany. Audi calls it e-gas. Cute huh? Although there is no official award for it, Audi is the first automaker to offer a chain of sustainable energy carriers, which is something we didn’t see coming. Still this is pretty cool.

How this works is all really boring and sciency and stuff but my understanding of it is this: Audi takes excess energy from wind turbines, hydrogen, etc, and breaks down good ‘ol H2O into just hydrogen (This is the stuff Honda uses to power its fuel cell FX Clarity). From there, Audi actually turns that hydrogen into methane by mixing it with CO2. The 2 processes are called electrolysis and methanation. Pretty crazy huh?

This e-gas is basically natural gas so don’t expect it state-side anytime soon. Although Audi does have plans for e-ethanol and e-diesel here.

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Take one 4.6-liter V8 outputting 608-hp, 1 front electric motor generating 127-hp, and 1 rear electric motor generating 154-hp. 608 + 127 + 154 = 889-hp! That’s a lot of ponies pulling the first ever hybrid-hypercar produced by Porsche. Certainly taking styling cues from the current Porsche line-up and predecessor Carrera GT, to me, the Porsche 918 Spyder might be the best looking Porsche yet.

Porsche 918

In Porsche fashion, you’ll see a plethora of driving modes as well; that’s 5 modes to be exact. Our favorite? Hot Lap mode. Oh and the best part is to engage Hot Lap you must turn the car to race mode and press the BIG RED BUTTON! We like that. In this mode, Porsche claims a 7:22 around the north loop of the Nürburgring. That’s fast.

Pulling in at a cool $845,000, this is definitely a car for the super elite. Still, you can bet we’ll be trying to call Porsche to get our hands on one of these for a test drive! Want to know more? Check out their all new microsite!

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