It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.
That quote is a saying in China. I didn’t believe it either the first time I read it, but it’s quite true. When a driver in China hits a pedestrian, they don’t get out of the car and attempt to help the victim, but rather, drive them over 2, 3, 4 or 5 times to make sure they’re dead.
I immediately dismissed the story and rationalized that perhaps it was simply an urban legend with no firm evidence to back up the absurd claim. But after watching video after video after video of very cruel drivers running over innocent pedestrians with intent to kill, I had to succumb to the truth. But what is the truth? Unfortunately, poorly written legislation on vehicle-pedestrian accidents pigeon-holes drivers to choose murder over giving a helping hand because it’s cheaper.
What this phenomenon boils down to is dollars and cents. The victim compensation law in China is structured such that killing a pedestrian is cheaper than injuring them. Perverse ain’t it? The most you could expect to compensate a family for killing their loved one is about $50,000. But injure someone that makes it out alive, and you could face up to millions in lifetime healthcare costs.
Still doubting this story? That’s understandable. Your western view of of morality and human worth have made your ability to comprehend the possibility of this being true very difficult. This video from a few years ago shows a driver running over a little girl twice and then driving off. At least a dozen pedestrians pass by without offering a hand.
Here’s another example of how twisted this problem truly is. The driver crushes a 5 year old child and the first words out of his mouth are “How much do I have to pay?” The concern isn’t about the child’s well-being, but rather how much he will have to pony up to the family.
If you’re interested in reading more about this topic check out Geoffrey Sant’s article “Driven to Kill” on Slate.com.
The first BMW that I became intimately familiar with was my Dad’s 1992 BMW 325i sedan. At the time, I was just 7 years old and it was the coolest car around – at least it was next to my moms 1989 supercharged MR2. This was the car that ignited my interest in automobiles. I remember my dad explaining that the “3” represented the position in the lineup, and that I could ignore 1 and 2 because the Germans skipped those infantile numbers. He then taught me about displacement and that the “25” represented the 2.5 liters of capacity in the six cylinders and that BMW would ALWAYS display the precise measurement on the trunk lid for mechanics and potential mistresses to size you up. And finally he explained how the “i” represented injected, as in fuel injected and that maybe one day, there would be other letters there like “d” for diesel, “h” for hybrid, and “cf” for cold fusion. My dad’s 3 series was the first car where I read the owners manual cover to cover (and probably the last). It was the first car I went 100 mph in – he was driving. And about a decade later in High School, it became the first car where I used the back seat, intimately.
Fast forward nearly a quarter century and the 3 Series (now in 320i, 328i, and 340i variants) is still generally the king of the castle in the entry lux segment, although competition has grown fierce. However, over on the other side of the dealership lot, things have changed rather significantly. By reversing the order of the “3” and “i” BMW has created an entirely different type of vehicle and hedged a large bet on the future of mobility.
The i3 does not look like a traditional BMW. Not in any way. While it does have trademark kidneys on the front, they are not intakes, just a design element to keep the BMW loyalists from forming peaceful protests. The looks are unconventional for any manufacturer. It is tall, narrow, rides on pizza cutters for wheels. It is weird but strangely appealing. Funky but fresh. It looks like a concept car and in fact, its design changed very little from the original concept. My only gripe with the exterior appearance is the black hood which looks better on some exterior colors than others (i.e. white). Our tester was a dark grey and the black hood/roof as well as blue accents contrasted nicely.
The interior is a place of pure zen magic. And this is no accident. According to the BMW designers credited with the i3, they wanted to create a calming and peaceful sensation. Apparently when we (Americans) are calm we drive with a less heavy right foot and this leads better efficiency from
both the onboard battery and gas generator. An M model on the other hand is designed to make you angry and therefore drive like an ass.
But the most impressive part of the i3 is the part you don’t really see, and that is the carbon fiber monocoque. BMW is betting heavily on carbon fiber and is incorporating it more and more into each of its new launches (see the new 7 series). While the costs to produce carbon at this scale is still extraordinary, the drive for reduced weight in all vehicles will help to balance out some of those costs. You don’t see much of the carbon structure. BMW intentionally displayed it only when necessary. You do get a glimpse in the door sills and when you open the hatch, which is enough of a reminder that you have some bonofide supercar technology wrapped around you.
The model we tested was a range extended version ($3,850 premium of the standard all electric) which adds an additional 50 miles of gasoline powered range. The anxiety of being stranded in an electric car (especially one with a sub 100 mile range) is hard to overcome and we feel 4 thousand dollars is a far price to pay for piece of mind. There is a downside however to the range extender, and that is what we in the industry call NVH. Unappealing noise, vibration, and harshness is the best way to describe the i3’s 3 cylinder rear mounted engine. It really isn’t that bad for a small, odd cylinder count engine but once you become used to driving an electric vehicle in pure silence, you notice how loud and annoying a gas engine can be. Unless you have a commute that is consistently under 50 miles and a good place to charge your i3 regularly, we would highly recommend the range extended version.
Either way, the i3 is an absolute joy to drive. Of course it isn’t a rear wheel drive straight six powered sedan, but I was grinning ear to ear every time I drove it just like when I was 16 and my dad tossed me the keys to his 3. The acceleration is fantastic thanks to the instant torque (189 ft.
lbs.) and sub 3,000 lb curb weight. The steering is direct, in traditional BMW fashion, and the braking is … well aggressive. Probably the biggest adjustment when first behind the wheel of an i3 is that you rarely need to actually use the brake pedal. In an effort to maximize regenerative braking, BMW has mostly eliminated coasting. You see, with low rolling resistance tires and reduced friction where ever possible, the i3 would otherwise coast for a good distance. Instead, when you lift off the throttle the i3 slows down, rather quickly. The brake regeneration works quite well in practice. After driving about 36 miles in heavy Southern California stop and go traffic, I had only used about 12 miles of actual range.
With the i3, BMW has truly made a huge leap forward in the green car movement. Next to the Model S, this is the easily the most significant car on sale today. And like the Tesla, BMW doesn’t make a profit when they sell one. Not when someone buys an i3 for $50,000 and they sure as hell don’t make a profit when someone leases one for $289/month. Fortunately for us, they are willing to lose money and give us an awesome glimpse of the future of mobility. If it fits your needs, and you have regular access to a charger, you would be crazy not to get an i3. That is, unless you’d prefer the i8.
For those of you living below the snow-belt don’t bother reading unless you are curious, or maybe wish to mock those of us who do live in piles of the stuff for a healthy portion of the year. For the rest us who are ‘in the know’, I’ve put together a few topics that are worthy of consideration and even further detail if you wish to obsess further over statistics. The objective here is to just create awareness and provide some general thoughts on things snow and cold.
It always happens. Sometime in late October to Early November you are forced to rummage around for last year’s snow scraper to peel that layer of morning frost off the windshield before heading to work. You might cheat a bit, and use your wipers to clear it off or you may let the car idle a bit longer in the morning. It just means one thing, if I may borrow from the motto of the Starks: Winter Is Coming.
I’m dwelling on winter in August because I recently bought a 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8, and I’m planning to do the unthinkable: drive it in the cold, wet and salt. I managed seven years with a 2008.5 MazdaSpeed 3, I figured, “how hard could this be” with the right forethought. This Charger comes equipped with a heated steering wheel, seats, block heaters and mirrors, so it must be made for it right? I’ll let you know in about seven months how I fared but that doesn’t mean I won’t prepare for it.
Winter is one of the hardest things we can subject our prized vehicles to, and in some instances we have no choice. However, there are things we can do to make up for the fact that not all of us are able to live in California.
Option 1: Don’t Drive Your Prized Car In the Winter
This is certainly a very valid option. One could resort to standing out at the bus stop in the cold, car pool, walk, use Uber or not leave the house for half the year. These are things that are decidedly less convenient for your daily life.
A common suggestion is to purchase a winter beater. I’ve often read that you can acquire a winter beater for the cost of snow tires. Granted, yes, you can do that especially in this case where the SRT8 tires and rims will cost about 2000.00 Canadian or more. This is assuming you have a parking spot or this doesn’t force you to put your car in storage at an additional cost; you still have the issue of finding reliable transportation. Nothing would be more irritating than waiting for a tow truck for your winter beater. Plus, in my neck of the woods, it’s still really necessary to at least consider proper snow tires. That means you’re driving a penalty box for a few months potentially and then you have to either store it or get rid of it for the summer before repeating this process.
Since I don’t have the parking capacity, and I enjoy driving the SRT8, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to drive a winter beater. Granted, if I had the funds for this and could score a reliable third car, I would be likely to take this route. Since I don’t, I won’t.
Option 2: Reluctant Acceptance (or Possibly Joy) of Pre-Winter Maintenance
Breathing deeply, you’ve realized that you’ve made your decision to drive your car into the oncoming winter. Or maybe you’re excitedly waiting to experience how capable your Toyota 4Runner or Subaru WRX is. Assuming that you are an experienced winter driver, the biggest risk is really other drivers. What can be done? Quite a few things actually, to make the whole process easier before the snow comes down.
First up, we have the basics. The interior of the car won’t require much. Ideally, you should have winter mats installed to collect the salt and the water, doing your best to keep it clean until that spring detailing can happen. Make sure the mats fit properly and do not interfere with the pedals. You can add extra towels to protect the carpet around the edges if you desire. The tip here is to ensure that you and your passengers knock the snow from your boots before entering the car to prevent the moisture from the snow condensing on your windows overnight. For extra safety you can add a small box of supplies which should include: battery jumpers, sand/kitty litter for traction/blanket/candle/tools in case you are ever stranded unexpectedly.
One of the critical pieces of equipment, but often overlooked, is the snow brush. If you have a larger/taller vehicle, ensure that you get one that can reach all parts of it, particularly the roof. Do not be one of those drivers who ‘let’s the snow blow off’ with either chunks of ice flying off, or the snow blinding other drivers. Those who do that, are selfish morons. On the car enthusiast side, you are going to want to ensure that you get a brush that won’t damage the paint by being too stiff. This year, I’m going to try using one of the foam brushes, and couple that with being careful about clearing snow. If there is dirt underneath the snow, and you move it around, it will cause scratches in the clear coat. Something that is not great, especially if you own a black car like I do. I have heard of taking the cheaper two dollar snow brushes and putting a cotton sock on top for a quick and inexpensive snow brush. My tip here is: clean your car entirely. Please, don’t just run the wipers and go. Visibility is important.
For the exterior, in the early fall, that a coat of hand applied wax is added to the car. This will serve to protect the paint, preventing dirt and grime from sticking. It also makes snow removal a bit easier. This is quite different than the liquid wax that is applied at the local car wash. It is far more durable and will work in conjunction with regular cleaning, which I will talk about further on.
Ensuring your windshield wipers are ready for the harsh winters is another sometimes overlooked feature. I recommend using reflex type blades with no hinges. This prevents the blades from freezing and lifting off the window in some condition. The ones with the covers on them can accomplish this task as well, but I find aesthetically much less pleasing. Also, ensure that your windshield wiper fluid is up to the task for winter. The last thing you want is to be caught with frozen fluid lines or smearing ice all over your windshield. There are some fluids that are available that are anti-stick. My experience has been that they leave a bit of residue on the paint at times. They do work well, but just be aware of that possibility.
Rust proofing is another common tactic to help your car survive multiple winters. They run the gamut from wax to oil based applications to complete seals. The controversy for me is the effectiveness of allowing your car to have holes drilled in them or not. I lean towards not, preferring not to expose any metal to the elements where I can help it. In the past, I’ve actually just relied on car washes regularly throughout the winter months (on a Mazda that I kept rust free doing this), but this time around I am going to see how effective this is.
Touchless car washes are your friend, and stay away from the cloth based ones. They horribly scratch your paint. Salt is the enemy. Anytime you see water on the road, you know salt is going to work on your chassis. Thus it is important to regularly clean this off your car, including the under carriage. Just the simple act of doing this on a regular basis will help preserve your car in the long term. This is especially important if you park your car in a garage (or even heated one). If the temperature goes above freezing even when it is cold outside, you are creating a situation where salt begins to corrode regularly.
If you park your car outdoors, then a block heater would be a worthy addition to the fleet. This has the added benefit of keeping oil liquid when you start the car, thus limiting metal on metal wear inside the combustion chamber. This will also allow your car to warm up faster. Synthetic oil will further add to these qualities, and will help if you do not have access to an outdoor electrical outlet. Synthetic oil has artificial molecules that spread better and don’t clump as easily as traditional dino-oil does. This takes the stress off the battery as well, which has to work harder in the winter months. Speaking of batteries, there are some that provide extra cranking power, which is something to look into when you are replacing your car batteries. Your car will thank you for it.
What are you doing to your car when you peek out through a frosted window first thing in the morning, point your fob and let it run for 15 minutes before getting in? A few things. Gas is being wasted, air is being polluted for no reason, and worst of all you are causing additional wear and tear on your engine by idling as it takes much longer to warm up and get the oil circulating properly. Your best bet is to idle for a minute or two, and then drive sedately keeping the revs low until the engine warms up. Winter gas that is already affecting your fuel economy, why make it worse?
This is a topic that deserves an entire article on its own. I will touch on various reasons why you should use winter tires. Yes, you can survive with all-season tires. However, tires are the one thing that touches the road and affects everything else about the car. You have great brakes? They are useless without traction. You have all-wheel drive? This is enhanced further with winter tires. Remember all cars have four wheel brakes, which means stopping and turning are of paramount importance when the white stuff falls. Tires are something to consider year round, and if you have a dedicated winter set, you can also have a dedicated summer set (especially in the rain) that will more than out perform any so called ‘all season’ tires.
Snow isn’t the only danger. Ice can form at various points in the winter and is often hidden. Snow actually has friction to it, but snow on top of ice becomes a tricky exercise in maintaining control. Snow tires are basically designed to remain soft during cooler temperatures, along with more aggressive tread and siping that helps remove water. This means ‘all-season’ tires begin to get compromised when the roads are perfectly clear but the temperatures become cold. Think of a hockey puck, which is slightly malleable in warm temperatures, but become rock hard in the cold (and slides easier). This is the same principle. No, you should not run snow tires year round as they become very soft when they warm up.
Once you have decided to acquire snow tires, there are a few things to consider. You can simply pull the tires off the rims and put on winter tires of the same size. This is less effective for a few reasons. You will then subject your stock rims to winter, which will brutalize them. It’s also not terribly healthy for the tires to be pulled off and remounted all the time. You end up paying more to rebalance them frequently.
Which brings us to the optimal solution. Purchase rims that are a size down. This has the benefit of adding tire wall to your wheels, providing a bit more cushion in icy/chunky snow conditions. You can get inexpensive steel rims or alloys if sizing doesn’t permit anything else. It’s better to put these through the rigors of snow and ice. For the tire itself, you can not only add the tire wall height, you can get a skinnier tire. This has the advantage of focusing and increasing the ability of the tire to cut through the snow. Side tip: Always buy four matching tires. Don’t just put them on the drive wheels, as you can then run the risk of spinning out. All the tires work at keeping the vehicle going straight, and if this is unbalanced, you can run into serious issues.
I suggest that you do some research on your own to see how effective winter tires actually are in terms of stopping distance, turning capability and traction. I know from personal experience, I won’t drive winter months without them again. If you avoid a single accident, they have more than paid for themselves.
Common wisdom holds that for snowy climates, Four Wheel Drive comes first, then All Wheel Drive, then Front Wheel Drive and then Rear Wheel Drive in terms of performance. There are pros and cons for each type, proving they are a compromise in one form or another.
Four Wheel Drive: These types of vehicles usually have selectable control and low gears for truly getting through some noxious stuff. They are good for kind of snow that you rarely encounter on the streets, unless it is a full out blizzard. Most of the time you would be in a rear wheel drive mode, and have to stop to select either 4-LOW or 4-HI depending on conditions. These vehicles usually have stellar ground clearance, moveable axles, big beefy tires and are very heavy. Being really heavy can be good for traction which is how snow plows work, but handling and stopping is less than stellar. This setup is overkill for most conditions, and during the summer months unless you use such a rig for off-roading or mudding, you probably don’t need to go this route. They are not particularly sporting vehicles but have a whole realm of amazing performance on their own (such as the Baja 1000 or the Jeep Moab trek).
All Wheel Drive: In addition to also compromising braking distances with additional weight and complexity, not all of these drive systems are created equal. Many of them are barely better than front wheel drive applications and can frequently be tricked depending on the conditions and differentials. You can believe that a Subaru WRX STI drive train setup will be superior to one you would find on a Toyota RAV4. Yet they are marketed the same way. It is buyer beware, so do your research. There are many different kinds out there, so don’t be taken in by marketing hype.
Front Wheel Drive: This drive train exists as it is the most efficient one. This is one of the easiest to drive in the winter because the drive wheels are also the turning wheels. If you add in a limited-slip differential, you begin to have some pretty decent snow performance almost as good as the AWD setup (and better in some cases). The weight of the engine is over the wheels, helping traction. The disadvantage is the front wheels end up doing all the work.
Rear Wheel Drive: This configuration demands snow tires most of all. The weight of the engine is not over the drive wheels. Some people try to mitigate this by placing extra weight in the bed or trunk of the vehicle. Bear in mind, for many decades, we survived the winter months in Rear Wheel Drive vehicles. It just requires a particular skill set and traction. In cities and towns, they will do just fine. Police officers and Taxi drivers often handle winters this way.
At the end of the day, ground clearance, balance, and snow tires are really the things to consider, particularly if you live in an area that is well plowed. Necessity should dictate the type, not the want.
The infamous driver mod is probably the greatest factor when determining the effectiveness of a car. Yes, everyone thinks they are a great driver. There is always room for improvement. It can be as simple as learning how your own vehicle responds in certain conditions in an empty parking lot. You can learn how it slides, reacts and performs in snowy conditions. Or, you can take it a step further and enjoy a winter driving school and channel your inner rally driver.
Phew! After all of that, you can see that if the right choices are made, then you can enjoy winter just as much as summer without beating up on your car too much. Good luck! I hope you wish the same for my SRT8.
My little bro texted me recently saying he did a search for Arabic themed smartphone applications. I assume he’s trying to enhance his 5th grade Arabic skills (he’s 27 btw). But what he found was extraordinary! Here is the screenshot he sent me:
When I first saw the screenshot I was captivated by the fact that there was an app for this! I guess I didn’t truly realize how big this niche of motorsports (hold on is driving on two wheels a motorsport or just sheer idiocy?) had gotten. Most silly games I see in the app store have a few reviews, but this had 3027 and mostly all very positive.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about at this point then prepare to be blown away by the kids that do this.
We could go into analyzing why exactly Saudi youth do this kind of thing but let’s just suffice it to say that they have nothing better to do!
So the name of the app is Side Wheel Hero, which is not a 1:1 translation from the Arabic name they have, which literally translates to “The King of Raising”. But you can’t translate Arabic to English in the literal sense so Side Wheel Hero is as good as it’s gonna get.
I couldn’t help myself and ended up downloading the app, which is quite strange for me as I never give in to these types of mindless games, but this one seemed really fun and curiosity had gotten the best of me.
The idea behind the game is that if you continue going down the road on all four wheels, that your vehicle’s energy reserve will get depleted in a matter of 15 seconds or so. However, if you manage to swing the car up and onto two wheels, then you can continue on for as long as you want, collecting points by driving through floating lamps and obtaining +100 points for every one that you pass through.
If you play with it enough you can get the hang of it but the input is quite sensitive so if you turn a hair too much you’ll find the car on it’s side! Which brings me to the best part about the app – the cars!
1. Mercedes Benz G 65 AMG
2. Nissan Navara
3. Nissan Patrol
4. Toyota Hilux
5. Toyota Land Cruiser
6. Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup (Classic)
7. Toyota Land Cruiser SUV (Classic)
Playing Side Wheel Hero is as close to the real thing as I ever want to get. Go ahead, give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments!
Consumer Reports recently purchased a Tesla Model S P85 D to test on. It is the most expensive car they have ever purchased and 27 days in and at 2300 miles they ran into a problem that essentially rendered the $127,000 car useless.
Of all the things that could potentially go wrong on a modern and complex vehicle such as the Tesla, you wouldn’t think door handles to be at the top of the list, right? Well think again. The Tesla Model S has a pretty neat feature (admittedly) that allows the door handles to pop out when you are in proximity of the vehicle.
After less than a month of testing on the Model S, Consumer Reports found that the driver door handle ceased to pop out with the key fob in the vicinity of the car. In most vehicles this would be a nuisance, but in the Tesla Model S, it means that the car becomes undriveable. Presumably this is in the interest of the driver in case he or she were to get into an accident. Obviously if the door handles don’t work a first responder is going to have a hell of a time gaining entry to the vehicle to extract the driver quickly.
And this is no isolated case. If you Google “Tesla Door Handles” you’ll find many forum posts with concerned Tesla owners asking for advice on door handle related issues. Regardless, I still want a Tesla and I’m willing to overlook this issue because the bigger picture points to a very successful vehicle that has overcome all the odds.
If you have a turbocharged vehicle, then you are probably aware that blow off valves exist. But what exactly does a blow off valve do? Let’s start at the turbocharger and work our way to the blow off valve.
Turbo Compresses Air
The turbocharger compresses atmospheric air (14.7 psi @ Sea Level) to anything above atmospheric pressure. Let’s take air pressure in a tire for example. You typically inflate your car tire up to 32psi. But this pressure is referred to as “gauge pressure” since it doesn’t account for atmospheric pressure. The 0 on your pressure gauge is actually 14.7 psi. So to calculate the actual pressure you would take the gauge reading of 32 psi and add 14.7 psi for a total of 46.7 psi.
The same is true for turbo systems. If someone refers to setting the “boost” (boost pressure) to 10 psi, for example, then the actual pressure is 24.7 psi. This brings us back to the turbocharger compressing atmospheric air. Now if your boost gauge is showing anything above 0 psi, then you are “in boost”.
But what happens when you let off the throttle? If you didn’t have a blow off valve the air that the turbo had just compressed tries to make its way into the intake manifold but can’t because the throttle valve has shut close. The air then turns back and makes its way towards the turbocharger. What happens here is something referred to ascompressor stall and can easily destroy your turbocharger. This is because the turbocharger is still turning at tens of thousands of revolutions per minute at this point. The compressed air enters the impeller side of the turbo in the reverse direction and causes it to slow down much faster than it would if the compressed air didn’t flow back into it. This rate of the reduction of speed exceeds the limits that the turbocharger was designed for and can damage it.
And that’s where the blow off valve comes in to play. It’s actually a type of pressure relief valve and they are referred to by many names – including diverter valves, blow off valves, anti-surge valves, bypass valves, dump valves, and recirculation valves. They are all essentially the same thing in that they are all designed to prevent compressed air from entering back into the turbocharger.
How the blow off valve works
The blow off valve is typically located between the turbocharger compressor and the throttle plate. Inside the blow off valve is a spring that is normally uncompressed and keeps the compressed air flowing to the intake. Connected to the spring side of the blow off valve is intake manifold pressure via a vacuum line. When the engine is under boost, the intake manifold pressure is equal to the pressure between the turbo and the throttle plate so the spring remains uncompressed and air does not escape the blow off valve. However, once the throttle plate closes, a pressure differential is created. Now we have vacuum in the intake manifold (below atmospheric pressure) and pressure in the pipe upstream (before) the throttle plate.
Now there is pressure on the spring in the blow off valve because there is less pressure above the spring (vacuum) and positive pressure under the spring causing it to open and allow the pressure to vent to the atmosphere.
Venting to Atmosphere vs. Recirculating
You will find that your car may not run right when you allow the blow off valve to vent to atmosphere. This is because your MAF (Mass Air Flow Sensor) is located upstream of the blow off valve. The MAF measures incoming air and meters a corresponding amount of fuel. If the air that has already been measured and accounted for is released to the atmosphere, the engine will run rich temporarily and will run rough, idle poorly, or even stall as a result until the vehicle is under load again (throttle open).
This is why it is almost always suggested that you recirculate the blow off valve so that air is recirculated back into the non-pressurized side of the intake (upstream of turbo) but downstream of the MAF. When configured in this way, the intake charge is always metered and the vehicle will run more smoothly as a result. It won’t be as loud as before but at least you won’t look like an idiot stalling at every light.