SpaceChristian CarnutsSpaceChristian Carnuts
Car Photo
Car Photo

Black Line
ArrowNutty Reviews 

Welcome to Nutty Reviews! (And Musings ... personal articles from a Car Nut)

This section features detailed and enlightening reviews of the best cars produced from this day, and also some classics we may have forgotten about.  My goal is to make you feel as though you are in the cockpit, hitting the rev limiter and smelling the leather (or air fresheners in those classics)--but beware, after reading my reviews you may just go out and buy some of these gems.


Dodge Ram Thunder Road

    The first thing I noticed when stepping (or should I say climbing) into the new Thunder Road from Dodge was the view.  This thing sits way up, but I suppose most trucks have this quality, don't they?  Conceptually, the Thunder Road is Dodge's answer to the F150 Harley Davidson edition, with a taste of the Lightening.  I did not know what to expect when I cranked the pushrod engine to life, but I can tell you I did not expect such a nice rumble!  If this is any indication of what Dodge's new 5.7 liter Hemi has in store for me, I had better buckle up right now.  Now, before I get ahead of myself here, let me briefly go into some details on the exterior that set this aside from your run-of-the-mill Ram pickup.  First, how about the stock gargantuan 20" chrome wheel and tire combo (umm, wonder if that contributes to the aforementioned height)? There are some tastefully done side skirts and ground effects, and a nice color coded cover for the rear bed.  The Thunder Road comes in a four door version only, and overall has a very imposing disposition.

    Okay, back to the inside and that rumble.  My friend Don was nice enough to let me drive this monster, which he had just purchased two days and 115 miles ago. The interior still had that intoxicating new car smell - in this cockpit a mixture of plush leather, new carpet, and other factors which contribute to that irreplaceable scent!  Speaking of leather, the seats it was covering were very accommodating, especially for a six and a half footer like myself.  One thing that was a bit disconcerting was the rear seats, which I wish were bucket like the front (one view into the Harley F150 and you will see what I'm talking about).

    It was a clear, dry June afternoon, yet something about this test drive felt restrictive.  As Don and I began our journey, I reminded myself of the usual break-in periods for high horsepower V-8's - about 500 miles.  Well, at 340 hp the Hemi definitely falls into the high hp category, so a glance down to the odometer sadly revealed the obvious - I must not drive it like I just stole it!  We first took a leisurely cruise to get a bite to eat, and once my stomach was full, it was time to fully experience what this Hemi had to offer.  After some half throttle punches, I noticed the tachometer had no redline indicator.  At the same time, Don commented that tachometers on automatics were worthless.  Well, as I grabbed the column mounted gear selector and threw it into D1 at the next light, it became quite apparent why one would want a tach, after a few quick, nasty blips to D2 and D!  I worked the gears somewhat aggressively, shifting at about 5000 rpm, but soon realized this beast was designed to be left in D.  At the next light, I decided to give her a full throttle run, and what happened next surprised even this car nut!  This Hemi likes to rev!  (and it's owner likes to giggle, as a young teen would do when running his pop's Buick).  The 5900 rpm shift point came MUCH quicker than anticipated.  This is a good sign--well done Dodge.  I'll have some hard numbers as soon as I can convince Don to take her to the track!
Mini Review: Mazda RX-8

    The burning question was, could this 4 door "sports car" (Ha) fit a 6'5" 210 lb youngster, and what was the feel of this new machine from Mazda?  Should we be worried?  Well, with 250 hp and a quarter-mile time in the mid 14's, we can rest easy.  Amazingly, after many adjust- ments,  I fit just fine into the cockpit--but, instantly this RX-8 was converted into a 3-seater.  The shifter was in current theme with the 350Z--short, and the tach was center mounted, proudly showing the 9000 rpm redline.  Now the real test--the back seat! The suicide doors were well done and access to the rear was not as bad as expected.  I put the passenger seat half way forward, and crawled to the back.  Oh my gosh, my head did not hit!  It was actually pretty cool back there!  I'll have to go back soon and pretend to be a buyer--I just have to hit 9000 rpm once before I die...

    Mazda RX8
    Mazda RX8
2002 BMW M3 Convertible

    The anticipation was building--I was only hours away from driving the one of the famed M3's.  And, just not any M3, but the newest iteration from BMW, which is regarded as the cream of the crop, with both performance and technological enhancements.  This goes without saying, of course, as the BMW's have been successful in their racing endeavors, and have tapped into this for their current M3.  The M3's intake setup, along with it's ability to extract 333 hp and attain an 8000 rpm redline from the H6 are perfect examples, just to name a very few.

    A few months back at the gym, I peered my eyes into the interior of an unsuspecting fellow weightlifter who was exiting his '01 M3.  "Wow", I told him, "that interior is beautiful and just invites you to settle in and thrash that H6 to it's 8000 rpm redline!"  That experience combined with numerous readings and reviews of the M3 had my blood flowing--admittedly, my expectations were high.  So, this next sentence may come as a surprise, but the interior was a disappointment. Sure, most of the ergonomic concerns were addressed, and the quality of materials were spot on, but the seating situation left a lot to be desired.  The seat bottom was hard, and the thigh supports were intrusive.  So I thought, after looking at the side of the seat and seeing numerous power adjustments, this can be easily fixed.  After fiddling for what seemed like much longer than it should take, I gave up and decided to lose myself in the high notes of the exhaust.

    Out of habit, I tend to somewhat aggressively push the shift lever in manuals hard to the left, before pushing it to first.  This may be a habit from my days of tight short shifters, and it has never been a problem before, until now.  On no less than 3 occasions, I almost put the car into reverse, as this gear is conveniently positioned up and over to the left, right next to first.  Okay, no big deal--time familiarizing myself with the nuances of any new car will alleviate certain fallacies, this one included.  But, the loose, spongy shifter is there to stay.  Not very precise in my book, but of course this book has some chapters with race inspired short-shifters in it.

    Once firmly in first, I amusingly watched the lights on the tach countdown the warm-up procedure - I must say, this is the coolest feature. As engine temperatures reach their optimal levels, the yellow lights on the tach disappear one by one, gradually letting you know when you can approach that magical 8000 mark.  So, I patiently waited, hesitant to exceed the yellow watch-guards. Then, alas, there was only one yellow hash mark remaining. I'll take it - 7500 here I come! I nailed the throttle, did a quick shift into 2nd (I think the tires chirped), then backed off as a 45 degree bank was approaching. Umm...that didn't feel like a 13 second car. I was then advised by my co-pilot that the convertibles were slower - high 13's. Okay, but I still could not get over that exhaust note--did I mention that? Take a tin can, put a few marbles in it, and shake, vigorously. Let's call it an exotic VTEC sound...Not very appealing, I know. But, my rumbling V-8 blood raises the bar for these sports-car wannabe's. So, when one does not produce, the judgment could be deemed as harsh.  As a suggestion, please don't enter the market claiming to be a sports car, if said car has a tinny exhaust note, rubbery shifter, sedan-like seats, and an engine that has no zip below 5000 rpm. At the end of the ride, my co-pilot mentioned that was the best shifting he had experienced as a passenger.  As I drove home from the testing facility (car dealer), I reflected on what Rob had said, and thought, "with 100 horsepower less than my default, sure the shifting was smooth and easy..."


Car Junkie

    Cars...oh how they shape our lives. They are a time line of growing up, each evolving as your personality changes. True, for many people they are a means to get from A to B, but I have a feeling that you would not be reading this site if you did not fall into that other category - one I like to call a car junkie. Perhaps your needle is that gas pedal, or maybe those tires you constantly shine. What ever your fix, denial is your enemy...liberate!, and come clean.

    You should no longer be ashamed that most of the pictures in your personal photo album are of your car(s), maybe even in chronological order from youth to mid-20's carelessness to parenthood to the 40's "crisis" to (insert stage here)... And sure, some of the family pictures do have your favorite vehicle in the backdrop, but that is common, isn't it? I'm finished now. My job is done, and I hope you feel a little less guilty - not as hopeless knowing you have company.  Now is a good time to take a break, open the garage door, and do what us junkie's do...stare, admire, and dream...
Thank you all.
Doug Barton