Thursday, June 30, 2011

Devon test drives a Nissan Altima

Family saloons have never really been seen as cool or fun to drive. Honda and Toyota have pretty much ruined the family saloon image. Nissan however is trying to change all of that with the Nissan Altima. It's roomy, stylish and offers a suprising level of kit for the money. Can the Altima bring style and substance to the dull market of family saloons?
Performance: There's a 2.5liter four-cylinder with 175hp, a 3.5liter six-cylinder with 270hp and even a hybrid. The pick of the bunch is the 2.5S. There's a great balance of performance, fuel economy and price. The six-cylinder engine is smooth, but feels overwhelming to the car's chassis. While the hybrid form commands a higher asking price, that may seem off-putting to some buyers.

Ride & Handling: The Altima offers decent handling if you don't push it hard. The six-cylinder models offer a sports suspension that makes them more of a kick to drive. You'll either love or hate the ride comfort. It feels floaty even on the bumpiest of roads. Trade-off is the suspension soaks bumps up really well, but there's body roll and not much driver entertainment. The steering feels lifeless and leaves the driver feeling disconnected from the car and road.

Refinement: Wind and road noise is well supressed in the Altima. The transmission sounds buzzy when accelerating from standstill. But once you rev the engine, you'll hear a sporty exhaust noise. But it fades away quickly and continues to pull strongly. There's little noise from the suspension.

Buying & Owning: The Altima is more stylish than its rivals. If you stay clear of the V6 and ignore the base trim level, you'll find a Altima that's reasonably priced and holds its value well. The hybrid offers a fuel economy benefit and tax credit. However, the higher asking price and rarity of the vehicle makes it harder to find at dealer lots.

Quality & Reliability: The Altima has excellent fit and finish inside out. The interior feels logical and well laid out. There's all your controls within easy reach. All the plastics used look and feel like they will last long hard use. Mechanicals shouldn't give any worries as Nissan has excellent reliability record. With above average customer satisfaction scores on JD Power Survey.

Behind the wheel: Some drives may not like the front seats. They lack upright seating position, which makes the driver feel like they're sitting further away from the steering wheel than desired. The seats are comfortable, and there's reach and height adjustments for both the steering wheel and seating.

Space & Practicality: There's plenty of room for five passengers. The trunk has an old fashioned hinges, which eats into the cargo space. The rear seats offer plenty of room for two, there's room for three. However, the third passenger will have to make do with sitting on the transmission tunnel.

Likes: Roomy interior, peppy range of engines, slick shifting transmission, well balance of refinement and quality.
Dislikes: Ride often feels floaty, lifeless steering, front seats don't offer upright seating comfort.
Overall: The Nissan Altima presents an excellent alternate to the class leaders. While there are other rivals that offer more driving satisfaction and extensive safety kit. You'll like the Altima's charm and the low asking price for such a stylish well made vehicle.

Devon M

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 NBA DRAFT REVIEW: Part IV-The Trades

Felipe M.

With so many trades happening in the 2011 NBA Draft, it's probably a good idea to add some perspective to these deals.  The first trade dealt with three Western Conference teams: the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Denver Nuggets.  Here's how it breaks down:

  • Blazers receive Raymond Felton
  • Nuggets receive Andre Miller and Jordan Hamilton
  • Mavericks receive Rudy Fernandez
The Portland Trail Blazers looked like an old team for most of last season as they must figure that they need a guard who can run the court better and be successful doing so as Ray Felton was in New York and in Denver.  I don't know why teams find holes in Felton's game as he's been fairly productive everywhere he's played.  Whatever the case may be, he is quickly becoming the reincarnation of Chauncey Billups.  Let's hope for his sake that he wins a ring soon.  It won't be easy with Nolan Smith breathing on his shoulder, but I think the two complement each other fairly well.  As mentioned in a previous article, Jordan Hamilton in Denver is a potential nightmare for defenses.  However, with shaky defensive play and questions about his conditioning lingering, it's tough to see him beating out other veteran perimeter players in Denver.  

Rudy Fernandez joining the Mavericks is almost too perfect.  Fernandez was part of a logjam of wing players in Portland, but he should easily revitalize an aging Dallas team who would welcome his athleticism.

Andre Miller goes from leading the point for a group of veterans to playing that same role for a younger team.  Miller should flourish with the change in scenery, however, I'm not sure how he will handle Ty Lawson creeping up his shoulder if the Nuggets offense proves too inept with him running the point.

The second trade is as follows:

  • Charlotte Bobcats receive Bismack Biyombo and Corey Maggette
  • Milwaukee Bucks receive Tobias Harris, Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and Beno Udrih
  • Sacramento Kings receive Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons
Where to start?  Well, in Charlotte, Michael Jordan is on a mission to drive that franchise to the ground, one player at a time.  The Bobcats acquired Corey Maggette--for some reason unbeknownst to me.  Probably to be the first scoring option off the bench.  At least Jordan was able to pick Biyombo Thabeet.

The Bucks rid themselves of the oft-injured John Salmons only to replace him with the oft-injured, but more explosive, Stephen Jackson.  Certainly an upgrade, but I can't wait for the first time that I hear Jackson and coach Scott Skiles butting heads.  Beno Udrih should play the same role that he played in Sacramento: a player that can come off the bench as a backup point guard or as a combo guard playing alongside Brandon Jennings.  Statistically it worked when he played alongside Tyreke Evans.  Not sure how Shaun Livingston will fit with this team except to play in matchups that take full of advantage of his height.  Offensively, this makes the Milwaukee Bucks a more potent lineup.

The Kings got John Salmons back, but with a crowded frontcourt and an emphasis on speed in the backcourt, his days are pretty much numbered in Sacramento.  He can play shooting guard, but the Kings enjoyed having both Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans play together and it looks like that Jimmer Fredette will be the first player coming off the bench to spell one of the guards.  At forward, he has players in Omri Casspi, Tyler Honeycutt, Francisco Garcia, and Donte Green to worry about.  

The third trade is as follows:

  • Houston Rockets receive Jonny Flynn, Donatas Motiejunas, and Chandler Parsons
  • Minnesota Timberwolves receive Brad Miller 
  • Chicago Bulls receive Nikola Mirotic
With Ricky Rubio making his way to Minnesota, Jonny Flynn becomes expendable.  Unfortunately for him, the Rockets have a crowded backcourt so it looks like he'll be playing very sparingly. 

The T'Wolves acquired Brad Miller to remind Kevin Love what he would look like by the time he's 40 years-old.

And the Chicago Bulls pick an undersized European player that needs to develop his game overseas and add more muscle to his physique.  

The next trade is truly heartbreaking for both teams involved:
  • Indiana Pacers receive George Hill
  • San Antonio Spurs receive Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans
When it was announced that the Indiana Pacers would be getting a high energy player who has a lot of heart and is passionate about playing defense and rebounding you couldn't help, but feel good about the eventual turnaround for this team.  Unfortunately, it was a set up to acquire yet another point guard in George Hill.  The Pacers have been plagued at the PG position and it's Hill's turn to try his luck.    

The Spurs, on the other hand, showed their willingness to continue on their winning ways by trading away a player who is highly regarded within the Spurs' organization like Hill for the chance to be more athletic in the perimeter, especially on defense.  Also, the Spurs acquired Davis Bertans as it was rumored that the Spurs all but guaranteed Bertans that he would be drafted by the club.  San Antonio is looking pretty good in this draft as they were able to get the players that they clearly were targeting.  Too bad it was at the cost of trading away George Hill.

We already mentioned the trade involving the Boston Celtics and New Jersey Nets involving JaJuan Johnson and MarShon Brooks.  To summarize:
  • JaJuan Johnson is a defensive force who will play for a team that loves to play defense.
  • MarShon Brooks has some offensive skill, but has suspect defense going to a team that also has some offensive skill and a suspect defense.  
The Knicks would eventually acquire Josh Harrellson as they add depth and size to their Center position.  More on him in our 2nd round coverage.

Norris Cole of Cleveland St. gets traded to the Miami Heat and is almost guaranteed a roster spot just for his low salary alone.  The T'Wolves acquired foreign player Bojan Bogdanovic.  More on him in our 2nd round coverage. 

Finally, the Magic receive Justin Harper from the Cleveland Cavaliers for two future second round picks.  Harper will do his best to become the next Ryan Anderson.

The first fifteen 2nd Round selections are good to go!


Felipe M.

Picks 21-25: Not a bad pick for the Portland Trail Blazers as they are getting older and Nolan Smith gives this team much needed speed.  Reminds me a bit of former Duke guard, Jay Williams--before the motorcycle accident, of course.

One of the best stories of last year's NCAA tournament was the rebounding machine of Morehead St., Kenneth Faried.  However, at 6'7", he is undersized and because of this, reminds me of Danny Fortson.  The Nuggets can definitely use a guy like Faried who brings a lot of energy and toughness on the court.

Nikola Mirotic from Montenegro eventually goes to the Bulls.  It was reported at the time of the draft that he had a $2 million buyout in his contract and was reported at the time of the draft that he would have to wait 4 years before making it to the NBA.  Fran Frashilla did mention that if it weren't for all the barriers in selecting this player, Mirotic would be a "mid-lottery pick."  Was also compared to Luis Scola.  Yet another European player that won't be with his NBA team anytime soon.  

Another former baseball player selected?  No!  It's just Reggie Jackson from Boston College going to the Thunder.  Jay Bilas predicted that this 6'3" guard is a scorer and because of that, had a shot to be the first scoring option off the bench.  Also has a "very quick first step"--so the Thunder drafted a poor man's version of Ben Gordon.  Not too shabby.

When MarShon Brooks (out of Providence) was selected by the Celtics, I couldn't help but be perplexed at this selection.  Described as a player who plays horrible defense, I just didn't see how he would fit with the Celtics.  Then reports came out that he would be traded to the Nets.  A player who plays horrible defense going to the Nets?  Yes sir, he'll fit nice and perfect with that club!  All joking aside, the 6'5" perimeter guard is described to have the ability to score at will.  Plus the Nets needed a shooting guard so it's win-win.

Picks 26-30: Jordan Hamilton out of Texas would eventually end up in Denver. More on what he will mean to the Nuggets in a later post.  Nevertheless, at 6'8" he would be another undersized power forward along with Faried.  But as a shooting guard, he's a matchup nightmare!  Unfortunately, he is considered a defensive liability so I can only imagine how clumsy he will look guarding quicker perimeter players.  Plus NBA teams grew weary of his conditioning.  Wow, good luck with that whole conditioning deal in Denver. 

The Celtics get their man by trading for JaJuan Johnson from Purdue.  The Big 10 Player and Defensive Player of the Year fits perfectly on this team.  Boston emphasizes defense as a core necessity towards their success and Johnson personifies that emphasis.  Johnson also has good shot-blocking ability and is no slouch on offense as the ESPN panel was impressed by his mid-range game.  However, Jay Bilas believes that his body frame will limit Johnson's ability to get bigger and stronger, but considering the type of player he is, the Celtics probably don't mind that at all, if they even buy Bilas' theory.  

(It gets better for the Celtics as they were able to also select Johnson's teammate at Purdue, E'Twaun Moore, who will not get an in-depth look in my draft review, but is worth noting that these college teammates will also be playing in Boston and are clearly the type of players that the Celtics were looking for).

As a Bulls' fan, I was hoping that the Bulls would keep Norris Cole (out of Cleveland St.) as Derrick Rose's backup.  However, he would eventually find his way to the Miami Heat, making him just another player to keep around for salary cap purposes.  Described as very athletic and plays decent defense.  Not flashy, but might be a solid pro. 

The Spurs quickly replace George Hill with Corey Joseph out of Texas. The Spurs were very high on Joseph apparently as even Jay Bilas, who always has more positives than negatives things to say about these players was very nonchalant in describing Joseph's game.  The only thing he could come up with was that he knew better than to question the San Antonio Spurs.

And finally, with the last pick in the 1st round, the Chicago Bulls select Jimmy Butler from Marquette or as I like to call him, the NBA's version of The Blindside (the story goes that he was abandoned by his mother at the age of 13, only to be adopted by a family who helped nurture him).  A 6'7" perimeter player, he is described as "a humble kid," and I wouldn't be surprised if John Paxson pushed to draft this player as he tends to lean on these low risk, high character, collegiate players.  Bilas was impressed by this player's versatility and defensive skill (but after 30 draft selections, we already know that Jay loved, for the most part, every player's versatility and defensive skill)--I remember when the Bulls drafted a player like this.  His name was Thabo Sefolosha. 

The Second Round is Next, but first we wanted to make sense of these trades in our next installment of the 2011 NBA DRAFT PREVIEW....

Monday, June 27, 2011


Felipe M.

Picks 11-15: The Golden State Warriors picked up Klay Thompson, a guard that can shoot from anywhere and brings much needed size to their backcourt. Plus his athletic ability, along with his size, might help a porous defense.

The Jazz's second pick in this round is used on Colorado's Alec Burks. Burks put up some big time numbers in college, but is not a very good shooter. But his willingness to improve his game on both offense and defense might have won him over in Utah. The Jazz have had a very successful draft thus far.

The Phoenix Suns pick Markieff Morris with the unlucky 13th pick as his twin brother, Marcus, showed a lot of emotion when his sibling's name was announced. Markieff joins another twin, Robin Lopez (unless he gets traded away as many rumors would suggest) in the Suns' frontcourt. This is a nice addition for Phoenix as they needed an athletic big man at forward and is comfortable scoring via jump shots or banging on the inside. Plus he looks like a very hungry rebounder.

Speaking of Marcus, he immediately gets selected by the Houston Rockets. Marcus was getting a bad reputation for being a tweener player. Where Markieff was clearly a power forward, NBA scouts were not sure where Marcus' talent would make him successful as always the case with players like Marcus, he's either too slow to be playing at small forward, or undersized to be playing power forward. However, the experts also suggested that he's a better inside scorer than Markieff. Either way, Marcus Morris is a great fit in Houston.

The Indiana Pacers selected the very "long" and huge heart of Kawhi Leonard from San Diego St. Definitely a player that the Indiana Pacers needed. Unfortunately, Leonard would be traded to the San Antonio Spurs. More on that in a later post.

Picks 16-20: The Philadelphia 76ers feeling left out from picking a foreign player, but not wanting to pick a foreing player with an expensive buyout, select USC's Nikola Vucevic. This guy is really huge at 6'11" and 260 lbs. A guy with a decent mid-range game, Jay Bilas predicted that he can easily add a consistent 3-point shot to his arsenal. Plus he's a good rebounder. The 76ers have had good luck picking in the 1st round lately so I will consider this selection another slam dunk on their part.

Knick fans were anticipating a slam dunk of their own as their team was ready to make their pick. They were left disappointed when Iman Shumpert from Georgia Tech was selected. A tall athletic guard, Shumpert impressed New York with his willingness to play defense. On a team where their two best players don't really care much about defense, this pick makes sense--even if the Knicks picked too high for this kid.

Chris Singleton (not to be confused with the former White Sox and Oakland A's player) from Florida State is selected by the Wizards. Like many players in this draft, Singleton has very little offensive skill and an even weaker jump shot, but he was picked for his size (6'9", 230 lbs, and wingspan of 7'1") and the potential to be a defensive force. Reminds me of Taj Gibson, but with less of an offensive game.

Tobias Harris out of Tennessee was selected by Milwaukee. Described as a "versatile" perimeter player with a "high basketball IQ," this player has a reputation for his hard work and for being a gym rat. On the downside, Harris was one of the few players in this draft whose lack of athleticism was a major concern. I think he will succeed right away, especially with Bucks' head coach, Scott Skiles, who loves to coach players like Harris.

And finally, after doing the math and using my powers of decuction to its fullest, it looks like the Rockets end up with Donatas Motiejunas at #20. A seven footer who Fran Fraschilla (ESPN's expert on foreign players) described as a player who needs to improve his rebounding skills (red flag) and has a very blase disposition as even his European coaches would be very upset at his attitude (double red flag). Despite all of this, Fraschilla admitted that Motiejunas would've been a top 15 pick in last year's draft. Wow!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Felipe M.

I had a perfect plan for the Cleveland Cavaliers to get better in a relative hurry. The Cleveland Cavaliers, if they want to have their fans forget about LeBron James, need to select Derrick Williams with the #1 pick overall and then select a point guard at #4. T’Wolves and Jazz don’t need a PG so the Cavs might end up with the best athlete in Williams and STILL get Kyrie Irving at #4. Besides, who was the last player Duke developed into an NBA franchise player? If I were a Cavs' fan, I would much rather have Brandon Knight anyway.

Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers blew a perfect opportunity to get better by doing the following--and now, a recap of the 2011 NBA DRAFT:

Picks 1-5: A lot of nonsense happened in this year's NBA Draft and nothing was more ridiculous than seeing the Cavs pass on this year's best overall player in Derrick Williams by selecting a good point guard, but not a franchise-type player, in Kyrie Irving. Once again, the Duke Propaganda Machine suckers another NBA team's future fortunes down the drain.

Even worse was seeing Williams go to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA's version of hell. The T'Wolves already have plenty of players like Williams and by them picking him with the #2 pick overall, have all but guarantee the obstruction of this kid's development. The T'Wolves almost ruined Kevin Love and have done a horrible job in developing young talent and do a worse job in evaluating talent. Before the 2010-2011 season, it was reported that the T'Wolves' top brass decided that after looking at their roster, they came to the conclusion that Darko Milicic was the best player to build their franchise around. Yikes!

The other picks: Enes Kaster seems to fit perfectly well with the Jazz, especially if the trade rumors about Paul Millsap are true. Tristan Thompson out of Texas was the other pick for the Cavaliers who looks to be a poor man's version of Derrick Favors and according to Jay Bilas, Thompson needs to improve on his SCORING! You can forget about another Cleveland uprise happening any time soon.

The 5th pick saw the Toronto Raptors draft yet another European player in Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania--a 19 year-old player who will never set foot with his NBA team until he's 24 and by then, Bryan Colangelo might be long gone. Or Jonas would have been traded to another team, thus making him a wasted pick at #5.

Picks 6-10: Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic was described as a "high-flying, energy guy" who can one day be a slam dunk champion. Unfortunately, the Wizards already have a player like that in JaVale McGee. And again, Vesely is reported to not make the Wizards' squad for another 5 years.

The Bobcats selected Bismack Biyombo from Congo who literally came out of nowhere. The 18 year-old is very athletic, but "cannot score." So Michael Jordan, who has been notoriously bad as a GM, decides that he needs the second coming of Hasheem Thabeet on his team. Just like the other Foreign players picked, Biyombo has a buyout issue, which is great because MJ has been known to have very little patience with young players (that he hand-selected in the first place). Best part about being Michael Jordan? He can screw up the Charlotte Bobcats all he wants because he will never get fired.

Brandon Knight--my guy!--gets selected by the Pistons, a great pick for Detroit as they are getting older and Rodney Stuckey is proving to not be the point guard that they were hoping for. Knight might just be the best point guard in this draft.

Speaking of point guards, the undersized Kemba Walker goes to the Bobcats as MJ might be losing patience with one of his hand-picked players, point guard D.J. Augustin--or maybe he wants both players to share the backcourt, making them one of the shortest in the NBA.

Finally, the Kings had to make a couple of deals to get Jimmer Fredette, which makes no sense to me whatsover. Yeah, they made room by trading away Beno Udrih, but they still have Marcus Thornton and no way is the Jimmer overtaking Tyreke Evans. Bilas thinks that Fredette can develop into a "scoring" guard, not just be limited as a Steve Kerr-like spot up shooter, but if his defensive liabilities become an issue, he might be just another white, bench player in the mold of J.J. Reddick and Adam Morrison.

This draft set a record for most Foreign players selected in the first 10 picks. However, this is a by-product of a draft full of "weak" collegiate players that were perceived to lack the offensive skills to make them standout in the NBA. This caused many NBA teams to roll the dice on a lot of foreign players. However, many of these players have many years to go before they arrive with their NBA teams.

History shows however that many foreign players who were drafted in the top 20 from 2000-2010 did not fully develop into the players that many NBA scouts thought their upside would take them. Of the 25 foreign players selected in the top 20 between 2000-2010, only half of them are still in the NBA, and often times, most of those players never make it to the NBA despite being drafted so high. However, the biggest letdown about these foreign players drafted very high in the NBA draft is that they never develop into that franchise type player that one would hope to get when selecting such a player. Many NBA teams select such players hoping they get the next Dirk Nowitzki, but more often than not, if one of these players end up a notch below Pau Gasol or Yao Ming, it should be considered a small victory.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Devon Test drives a Toyota Matrix

The days when buying a small wagon are becoming less and less common these days. No longer are people buying wagons, but instead optioning for crossovers that sit higher off the ground like the Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. However, what if you need a small wagon that's just as versatile and slightly more fuel efficient? Look no further the Toyota Matrix may just push some of the right buttons.
Performance: There are two engines available for the Matrix. A 1.8 liter four-cylinder with 132hp, and a 2.4 liter four-cylinder with 158hp. Both engines provide swift acceleration, but the 2.4 liter engine provides more punch at highway speeds. There really isn't much of a price difference between the two engines. The top of the range model gets all-wheel-drive.

Ride & Handling: Ride comfort is excellent for a small wagon. The suspension soaks up bumps really well. Some bumps may upset the ride. Handling isn't inspiring, and doesn't urge you to push the Matrix to its limit. There's bodyroll but not a lot. You may want to look at the sporty trim for a sports suspension.

Refinement: Toyota's reputation for quality doesn't come short of the Matrix. Road and wind noise is well supressed. The engine can be heard when revved hard, but its far from annoying. Around town the Matrix is nippy and easy to manuever. At highway speeds, the Matrix is quiet and refined. However, there's very little feel from the steering wheel. This is a let down because the Matrix looks sportier than its Corolla counterpart.

Behind the wheel: The dashboard has a nonsense free layout. Everything is within reach of the driver's seat. The materials used look and feel high quality. However, the interior looks a bit dull compared to some rivals.

Space & Practicality: The interior is roomy for five passengers. The floor in the rear seat is flat. This gives more space for three people. There's plenty of head and leg room in the back. The boot space is somewhat disppointing compared to rivals. The rear seats fold flat creating a cargo van like roominess.

Equipment: Each Matrix comes well equipped. Air-conditioning, power windows and central locking all come standard. There's an MP3 compatible stereo, with top of the line trims adding upgraded stereo system.

Buying and Owning: The Matrix is priced reasonably with other small wagons. There's not much of a price difference between the base and top of the line trim. Most buyers will pick the base trim, its priced reasonably and comes with enough kit to satisfy most buyers. Running costs should be low, and resale value will be average.

Quality & Reliability: Toyota's reputation has been soiled by the recall. However, the Matrix has always gotten high remarks by its owners. Build quality is excellent, and the mechanicals have been proven to be trouble free.

Safety & Security: Each Matrix comes with deadlocks, and other anti-theft systems to guard out theft. There's ESP and ABS standard across the range. There's also side curtian airbags and day time running lamps to add to safety.

Likes: Excellent fit and finish, very fuel efficient, loaded with value for the money.
Dislikes: Dull driving experience, play it safe styling inside out.

The Matrix is a dependable and reliable vehicle that offers extra cargo space and versatility. The legendary build quality of Toyota and fuel efficient engines are also some of the benefits. However, the driving experience is rather dull and styling inside out is bland. If you can overlook these few little faults the Matrix is a great car to own.

Devon M

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Devon drives a Smart Fortwo for a day.

The Smart Fortwo has been sold in Europe for many years and has finally graced our roads here in the U.S. It's not the largest of cars and it certainly does turn heads no matter where it goes. The Smart Fortwo is here to show that small cars are just as cool as larger vehicles. But is the Smart Invasion all just a hype?
Performance: There's only one engine available, its a 1-liter three-cylinder with 70hp. It's not the most refined engine, and isn't the most powerful. Performance is only so-so, but then you'll be missing the point. This car is aimed more towards urban use not highway driving. The Fortwo makes the most of its engine output, but a more powerful engine option would be desired.

Ride & Handling: The Fortwo has an overly firm ride. Things get even worse when you hit a bump. The suspension does very little to soak anything up, giving the passengers an unforgiving ride. Handling isn't good either for such a small car. The front wheels lose grip very quickly.

Refinement: The three-cylinder engine emits a distinct thrum whenever you touch the accelerator. The sound is far from unpleasant, but can make long highway journeys. The semi-automatic gearbox is the biggest let down. Shifting between gears is jerky and slow to respond, unless you ease your foot off the accelerator between shifts.

Behind the wheel: The interior is very well laid out. All the controls and dials are within easy reach of the driver seat. There are plenty of user-friendly buttons and dials. However, the driving position isn't for everyone because there's no seat height adjustment. The steering wheel is fixed, making the driving position awkward for some drivers.

Space & Practicality: Wide opening doors means getting in and out of the Fortwo is a breeze. There's plenty of room for two passengers, but cargo space is limited. The boot isn't massive, but there's plenty of room for a few bags. You'll have to fold down the passenger seat to squeeze anything more. The cabriolet roof retracts at the touch of a button. But you'll have to remove the roof bars for a full cabriolet experience.

Equipment: The Fortwo comes with a very large safety kit. The cabriolet adds power windows, ESP, and traction control to help keep the Fortwo stable under mixed driving. The Rev gauge and clock are a nice addition but cost extra. Optional leather seats and automatic headlights are reasonably priced and worth considering.

Buying & owning: The Fortwo fuel economy isn't all that impressive. There are rivals that are bigger and offer more in everything the Fortwo falls short in. Since the Fortwo requires premium fuel, your fuel bill may be higher than you'd desire. Resale value should be a worry, as Smart doesn't have much of a image in the U.S.

Quality & Reliability: Smart is built by Mercedes Benz. Most materials used are designed to last long wear and tear. However, the gearbox may cause some problems. Most owners have complained frequent gearbox faults in the JD Power Survey.

Safety & Security: The Fortwo has the most elaborate safety kit. Many features you'd have to pay extra for, or not even ask for are standard. An engine immobilizer means thieves won't be able to drive away with your Fortwo. However, Mercedes rejects deadlocks on safety grounds.

Likes: Small size means its easy to park, stylish inside out, cheapest cabriolet in the U.S.
Dislikes: Touchy brakes, jerky transmission, handling is sloppy, and the engine requires premium fuel.
The Fortwo doesn't have many strong points. The brakes are touchy, the transmission is jerky, and there's the engine that requires premium fuel. Even though there are rivals that are bigger, roomier and offer better fuel economy. The Fortwo has a charm that no other city car offers. It's stylish, easy to park and makes the most sense in tight urban areas. If your trip doesn't evolve highway driving, and want a car that stands out everywhere you go. The Smart Fortwo is the perfect car for you.

Devon M

Monday, June 13, 2011

Devon Test drives a Volkwagen Jetta

The more Americanized Volkswagen Jetta is supposed to appeal more to buyers that haven't considered one before. With a lower asking price, and more interior space. Will the new Jetta offer more value than its keen rivals? The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Performance: The Jetta comes with two engines. A 2-liter four-cylinder with 115hp, and the familiar 2.5-liter five-cylinder producing 170hp. The base engine is best avoided. Its sluggish and doesn't offer a fuel economy benefit over the five-cylinder engine. If you're you're after fuel economy or performance. Both the turbo-diesel and turbocharged 2-liter engine from the GTI will be available at the end of the year.

Ride & Handling: The Jetta feels well composed on most surfaces. The ride feels settled and irons out bumps. Although its bigger on the outside, Volkwagen has done a great job keeping the character of the Jetta the same.

Refinement: The Jetta offers a solid engineered feel. There's little wind and road noise at highway speeds. The base engine will fill the cabin with a drone when pushed hard.

Behind the wheel: No matter what driver sits behind the wheel of a Jetta. You'll find the ideal driving position for you. Visibility is good all-round, and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and height. The dash is laid out clearly, but rather bland and traditional. All controls are easy to use.

Space & Practicality: The Jetta is a bigger car. The extra length and width offer more cabin space. With plenty of space for five adults in the rear. The trunk has large and can hold more than the class favorites. The rear seats fold down 60/40 for more space.

Equipment: All Jetta vehicles come well equipped. The base trim loses out on a few features that most may desire, but its not seen as stingy. For a low asking price, you get air-conditioning, remote central locking and a full safety kit. However, alloy wheels aren't fitted on the base trim. You'll need to step up to the higher trims for iPod-connector, cruise control and split-folding rear seats.

Buying and owning: The base trim level is best avoided. The engine doesn't offer enough punch, and feels gutless at times. The trim with the 2.5 liter engine feels well worth the extra cash. If you go any higher, then the Jetta doesn't seem much of a bargain. Fuel economy is decent, and resale value continues to lead rivals.

Quality and Reliablity: The interior doesn't feel up to Volkwagen par, but they look and feel long lasting. Most mechanicals have been tried and tested, so there should be little to no worries. The DSG gearbox may cause some worries in long term reliablity.

Safety & Security: The Jetta comes with a very large safety kit. Side airbags, ESP and anti-lock brakes. Items that are not common among the class favorites. Deadlocks and alarm are fitted as standard.

Likes: Roomy interior and trunk, sophisticated alternate to the class leaders, German engineering at a lower price.
Dislikes: Bland styling inside out, base engine is embarrasing compared to rivals, some options should be standard across the range.
Overall: The more Americanized Volkswagen feel solid in build. With plenty of features for the money. However, you'll have to step up to the higher trims to get items that should be standard across the range. The base engine feels like an after thought, and should be avoided. 

Devon Test Drives a Volkwagen Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is a classy alternate to the likes of the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. It's a stylish CUV with the same engine as the GTI. While priced on the steep side, and rivals offer a few tricks at a lower price. Can Volkswagen justify the Tiguan or is it a case of too small too expensive?

Performance: The only engine available from the Tiguan is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which pumps out 197hp. It offers plenty of punch and large amounts of passing power on the highway. A more powerful engine would be desired with the all-wheel-drive models. The heavier weight means acceleration and fuel economy suffers.

Ride and Handling: The Tiguan is the most fun to drive crossover in its class. The sports suspension in our tester car has a firm ride. It can be a bit jittery over some surfaces. The trade-off is well controlled body roll, and responsive handling with lots of grip.

Refinement: The interior is quiet, something you'd expect from a Volkswagen. At highway speeds the engine is barely heard. There's little road noise, but some wind noise can be heard when picking up speed. You'll barely hear a peep out of the suspension.

Behind the wheel: The Tiguan feels very similar to the Golf. All the controls and dials are in easy reach from the driver's seat. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and height. Anyone can get comfortable behind the wheel. The dashboard layout is neat and logical, but feels a bit dull in the more basic trim.

Space & Practicality: The rear seats fold with ease, as well as slide forwards and backwards for more legroom or more cargo space. You won't be able to have both. The rear seats are roomy for four people, adding a fifth person is pushing it.

Equipment: Every Tiguan comes well equipped, depending upon how much money you're willing to dish out. Top trim levels come with rain sensing windshield wipers, Xenon Headlamps and climate control. All-wheel-drive is offered on all but the base trim level, but it comes at a hefty asking price.

Buying and owning: The base Tiguan is priced aggressively with its rivals. However, the Tiguan loses points for the high asking price of its all-wheel-drive. Fuel economy is average and running costs are low. If you stay away from the options lists, you can get a nicely equipped Tiguan well worth the money. All the extra features just make the Tiguan seem overpriced. You're investments will be secured, as Volkwagen have high resale value.

Quality & Reliability: Volkswagen is known for quality and Germanic build quality. The Tiguan's interior won't win any prizes, but the materials used look and feel long lasting. Most mechanicals have been tried and tested, so there should be no fear of major problems. However, owners have rated the car's reliability as average in JD Power Survey.

Safety & Security: ESP, emergency brake assist and six airbags are standard. The high seating position and all-wheel-drive will be seen as a safety advantage. Although some maybe put off by its high asking price. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted to guard against theft.

Likes: Logical interior design, smooth turbo engine and transmission, a sophisticated option among small crossover vehicles, more fun to drive than its rivals.
Dislikes: Plain Jane looks, interior on basic models look cheap, price can skyrocket with options, more horsepower please! Trims with sports suspension suffer from a firm ride.
Overall: The Tiguan offers better on-road dynamics and has a turbo engine that makes it more fun to drive than rivals. If you're in the market for something a little upscale in terms of looks and feel. The Volkswagen wont' disappoint. However, there are rivals that offer the same tricks for far less money and should be considered before buying a Tiguan.

Devon M 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Deftones 'Eros'

The working titnes of all songs from Eros were named after strippers.

With production on Eros still on hold, Deftones recruited former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega to fill in for various festival shows and also fundraising concerts for Cheng's hospital bills in early 2009. Vega had previously filled during 1999 tours after Cheng underwent back surgery. In July 2009, Deftones announced they had indefinitely shelved Eros in favor of work on a new album written with Vega. Their decision to temporarily scrap the album and start over was a "purely creative" choice, and had nothing to do with the condition of the bassist. Instead of finishing what they had started and releasing the nearly complete Eros, which was described as a dark album, Deftones wanted to write an optimistic and uplifting album to help cope with their situation with Cheng. The band used the same method of writing music as a group and avoiding Pro Tools that was used with the writing and recording of Eros.
The new album, titled Diamond Eyes, was released on May 4, 2010. Deftones supported this release throughout 2010 and 2011 with international tours, singles and music videos for the songs "Diamond Eyes," "Rocket Skates," "Sextape," and "You've Seen the Butcher." With Eros still shelved, Deftones expect to write a second album with Vega during mid-to-late 2011 and release it in early 2012.

Devon M 

Why should we have sex?

Sex is beneficial for both the heart and blood circulation, especially in the brain. While having sex, the heart rate goes 70 beats per minute to 150, a good training for the heart. Having sex thrice a week decreases the risk of heart attack by 50%. Also during the sex intercourses, the breath is deeper, meaning a better oxygenation. 
The mental and emotional health balance is clearly tuned by sex. People that exhibit involuntary celibate or abstinent often display depressive feelings are often driven into this by 'missed opportunities' due to living without having sex. 
Sex eliminates stress. The feeling of total relaxation and calm following sexual intercourse. A subseqent profound caling sleep follows, with great effect in combating stress. With a regular sex life, you'll sleep better and feel better the next day. 
Sex helps you live longer. For those who had oragasms more frequently had half the death rate of men who did not have such frequent orgasms. This is due to the plummeting stress hormones, a reaction that installs after we have sex. Frequent orgasms (100 per year) have been linked to an increase of 3-8 years in a person's lifespan and a decrease of death risk of 50%. 
Sweating while having sex cleanse the skin pores. Making the skin brigter and decreasing the risk of developing dermatitis. 
Sex can keep you fit. A quickie of 20minutes weekly mean 7,500 calories annually, that's as much as you consume on 745 miles of jogging. A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running fifteen minutes on a treadmill. 

Sex improves senses, at least the smell. Following the orgasm, a rise of the hormone prolactin makes the brain's stem cells form new neurons in the olfactory bulb, boosting a person's olfactory abilities. 

Sex fights off allergies. A good sex session can be a good remedy against stiff nose, being a natural antihistaminic that helps combating asthma and high fever. 

Sex means a better control of the bladder, as pelvis muscles controlling the urine flow are stronger.

Also remember use protection! :) 

Devon M