Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 Daily Drivers

Picking a car to serve as your daily driver is no easy feat. You have to consider practicality, fuel efficiency, comfort, and cost. For most, a midsize sedan or pickup will do the job. But where's the fun in that? There are plenty of unique vehicles that can be daily drivers without being boring or average. Here are ten vehicles that will set you apart from the crowd while still getting you where you need to go on a daily basis.

10. Fox Body Mustang

The "fox body" Mustangs, produced from 1979 to 1993, are not as muscular as their predeccessors or as sporty as newer models, but they're a great deal better than the atrocious Mustang II of the 1970s. The fox bodies have a lot going for them. They're small and nimble for city driving, but lightweight and quick for highway commutes. Available as a hatchback, convertible, or coupe, this generation of Mustang makes for a solid daily driver. They also have a very strong aftermarket following, meaning parts are easy to find, and customization is easy. A 5.0 GT is the must-have model if you want something fun to drive everyday.

9. Ford Focus/Fiesta ST

 A modern car is almost always guaranteed to be more reliable than a used car, and if you want something new and practical, Ford's current lineup is very impressive. The sportier "ST" models are the hot ticket if you want something truly exciting to drive. The Focus and Fiesta both offer an ST variant. The Fiesta is the smaller of the two, but neither of the cars are very big at all. Out of the two, I'd opt for the Focus. The five-door setup is practical and efficient, but the engine and chassis will bring a smile to your face in every corner.

8. Volkswagen Beetle

A classic Beetle meets every requirement a daily driver should have. They're cheap, easy to fix, fuel efficient, eye-catching, iconic, and they can go anywhere. The possibilities for modification and personalization are endless. You can build a baja bug, a lowrider, a Herbie clone, a racer, and so on and so forth. It can be anything you want it to be. A '60s or '70s model should be easy to find for cheap.

7. Land Rover Defender 110

While small and sporty isn't bad, sometimes a daily driver needs to be big, spacious, and indestructible. The Defender 110 is exactly that. In the world's most inhospitable places, Land Rovers are king. They can plow through anything Mother Nature throws at them, from mud and ice to cliffs and warzones. With credentials like those, the Defender is perfect for coping with everyday use. The smaller Defender 90 is also a brilliant choice. If it's good enough for the British Special Forces, then surely it's good enough for the average civilian.

6. Subaru Impreza WRX

The Subaru Impreza is a very good car. Be it road racing or rallycross, the Subaru is an impressive contender. For a daily driver, get an older WRX model. The 4WD means you get sensational handling, and the horsepower under the hood will give you a strong top speed and a respectable 0-60 time. Go for a second-gen sedan, it's practical but powerful.

5. Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee is a great daily driver. It has everything you want from an SUV, in a compact package. It's available as a two-door of four-door, it's got plenty of room in the back, and while the boxy design won't win any awards, it's attractive in a rugged way. Jeep drivers are a strong community, so parts and add-ons are never hard to find. Depending on the engine and transmission, mileage is roughly 20 mpg, which isn't all that bad for an SUV. The pickup truck version of the Cherokee, the Comanche, is also a good choice.

4. Classic Mini

The original Mini Cooper was a smash hit. A Cooper S won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Notable owners include George Harrison and Steve McQueen. It's as cool as a compact car can get. Built from the '60s all the way through to the 2000s, the original Mini Cooper is a great daily driver. Small enough to zip through city streets and park anywhere, it's sporty and exciting. You'll get a lot of looks, and no two Minis are quite the same. Go for an '80s Rover Mini with stripes and foglights. GTI drivers will be jealous.

3. Panther Platform Fords

Ford's Panther platform is one of the most beloved vehicle setups of all time. The Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car all use this setup. It's comfortable, safe, practically bombproof, and effective. Police departments and cab companies adore these cars, and drive them to death and then some. These cars are comfortable, easy to drive, and have room for plenty of passengers. The trunk is bigger than some apartments. For luxury, grab up a Grand Marquis or Town Car. The best choice, though, is a P71 Crown Victoria. P71 denotes the police interceptor package, which includes bigger brakes, better suspension, and more horsepower.

2. Chevrolet Blazer

Combine a pickup, an SUV, and a station wagon, and the result would probably be a Chevrolet Blazer. It's got all the perks of a big SUV, but with the size and drivability of a car. It uses basic GM parts, and features a detachable roof for sunny days. Bonus points if you can get a military-spec CUCV model. Alternatives to the Blazer include the Ford Bronco and International Scout.

1. 1980s Toyota Hilux

In the end, there can be only one winner, and in this case, it's the Toyota Hilux. If you watch Top Gear, you know that there is simply no way to kill one of these. It's at home both on pavement and where roads don't exist, there's plenty of room in the back, it's decently economic, absurdly easy to repair, and respectably cheap, too. Hiluxes have survived the North Pole, volcanoes, South African warzones, and even Australia, where almost every plant or animal has the ability to kill you. If you want a vehicle you'll never have to worry about, then this is it. The Toyota Hilux.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays! Stay out of the cold and enjoy the fire. Roast some chestnuts, and maybe some tires, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Remakes, when talking about anything, are either hit or miss. Win or lose. The good ones recapture the beloved qualities of their namesake, while the poor ones simply attempt to cash in on their popularity. EA, with a little help from Burnout developer Criterion, has recently released Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a remake of the 2005 title of the same name. The question is, is it any good?

The hero car of Most Wanted: a customized BMW M3 GTR

To answer that question, you have to start at square one. In 2005, EA released the original Most Wanted. It focused on the story of a driver who, after being cheated out of his prized BMW, must win back his car and get out of town, all the while being chased by the police. To accomplish that goal, the player first had to beat the city's Blacklist, a group of ten street racers wanted by the police. The open world and in-depth customization helped make the game a strong seller. So how does this modern rendition stack up?

Well, several changes have been made to the gameplay structure. There is much less of a storyline. Instead, the game opens with a simple explanation of the plot: you must beat the city's ten best drivers to become the most wanted. No bad guys, no stolen cars, and no theatrics. Instead, the game puts its focus into exploration and gameplay. A risky move, but it's worked in the past. Criterion and EA's last venture, 2010's Hot Pursuit, was hailed as one of the best driving games of its time. It, too, was a remake.

A really good remake, too.

The best place to start is the setting. Your environment in this game is the city of Fairhaven. It's a moderately sized area which will keep you looking for new routes and hidden shortcuts, but there is a feeling that the map could be a bit larger. Fairhaven consists of a large urban center at its heart, but also features an industrial area crowded with factories and railyards, a mountainous region consisting of winding roads and stunning vistas, and some coastal stretches with lighthouses and ports. There are lots of interesting locations that help give the game depth, but it would be nice to see more in the way of size.

To explore Fairhaven, you're given a choice of approximately 50 cars in total. That's not as many cars as games such as Forza Horizon or even Burnout Paradise can offer, but Most Wanted makes up for this with its choice of cars. The variety is a major factor. Supercar enthusiasts will admire the Pagani Huayra and the Porsche 918 Spyder, muscle car lovers will go for the SRT8 Challenger or the Camaro ZL1, and hot hatches such as the Ford Focus RS500 and Lancia Delta Integrale will find an appreciative audience as well. There are also some oddballs. The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is included in the lineup, as well as the Ariel Atom 500 V8 and the BAC Mono.

There's something for everybody in Most Wanted.

What makes this lineup even sweeter is the fact that you can essentially access any car you want without having to unlock it. You simply have to find it hidden in Fairhaven. 10 minutes into the game, I was driving a Ford GT. Moments later, I acquired a Lamborghini. This unique unlocking method is a fantastic idea. No longer do you have to play for hours in order to unlock the car you want. All you need to do is find it. This applies to all of the game's cars, save for the ten cars driven by the most wanted. To acquire their cars, you must beat them in a race and destroy them.

Want it? You have to beat it and destroy it first. Good luck.

Another terrific part of the game is the sound. The cars all sound fantastic, each engine note unique and individual. In addition, the tunnel effects are fantastic, possibly the most impressive I've seen in a video game. The sound of a 427 Cobra barreling through a tunnel is a surreal experience. The team behind the sound effects have done a truly spectacular job. The game also features a fairly good soundtrack. Whereas previous Need for Speed titles have lacked decent soundtracks, this one is actually very good. Artists include Green Day, Dispatch, and even The Who.

Now, nothing is without its flaws, and Most Wanted is no exception. The map feels a bit cramped, there could be more cars, and car customization is very slim. But as a whole, this is an enjoyable game. It's fun to play, and with plenty of collectables, plus Autolog integration and a very strong online mode, it has replay value that will keep you coming back for more, whether it's to find that last speed camera or beat your friend's jump record.

Roads? Where you're going you don't need roads.

To rediscuss remakes, Most Wanted is terrific. It takes the highlights of the original and amplifies them to new levels. It lacks in quantity, but more than makes up for it in quality. It's a game you can play for hours without ever having a dull moment. If you're a gamer, I'd advise you to give this one a go. It's a good old fashioned fun time.
Photo Credits: IGCD

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Car Show Highlights

As the temperatures slowly drop into survivable levels, car shows begin to spring up all over the place. In the past few weeks I've attended three different shows, each one a diverse and unique collection of both weird and wonderful. Instead of creating three seperate posts, I've decided to take the highlights of each show and present them all at once. Think of it as a greatest hits collection. Now, on to the cars. Be warned, there are plenty.

1928 T-Bucket

1939 Chevrolet Coupe

1941 Chevrolet Flatbed
1941 Willys Pickup
1954 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery
1955 Chevrolet 210 Wagon
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
1956 Ford Club Sedan
1959 Chevrolet Bel Air
1963 Ford Thunderbird Convertible
1964 Ford Country Squire
1964 Pontiac Tempest
1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero
1965 Innocenti S
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle
1967 Ford Galaxie 500XL
1968 Aston Martin DB6
1969 Chevrolet Camaro
1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS/RS
1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396
1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1
1969 Hurst Olds 455
1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
1970 Dodge Charger 500
1970 Ford Mustang Convertible
1971 Dodge Coronet Police Car
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
1971 Plymouth Roadrunner
1972 Ford Gran Torino
1973 Dodge Challenger Rallye
1973 Jaguar XK-E
1974 Plymouth Roadrunner
1975 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1975 Triumph TR6
1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1982 DeLorean DMC-12
1986 Lotus Esprit
1994 Jaguar XJ220
2011 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic
2012 Aston Martin Virage
Like I said, a lot of cars. But there's something for everyone, be it a muscle car, a hot rod, or a shiny new sports car. The car show season has only just begun, so hang around for more mouth-watering machines.