Courtesy of Pat Kirwan on NFL.com, via Mike Reiss' indispensible ESPN.com Patriots Report
December 2010 Archives
Courtesy of Pat Kirwan on NFL.com, via Mike Reiss' indispensible ESPN.com Patriots Report
Yay, the new Subaru Forester is here! Today is the first day I've seen it during the daylight hours and I have to admit, it looks grand. Even my wife, who didn't want to get the "Camellia Red Pearl", said it is a very nice color. On the Subaru website, the red looked much brighter, although looking at it on my monitor, it doesn't look that different.
Still getting the seat adjusted. While having a bunch of adjustments is nice, it can be tough to get it set up just so. Luckily, I'm the one that will be driving it 90% of the time (maybe even more), although I guess that was for the Mazda, and my wife hasn't tried the Forester yet. A couple early impressions:
- Getting the key in and out of the ignition is more of a pain than I would like. It's tucked underneath a bit and can be tough to see. Yet another reason to have wanted the keyless ignition.
- The Bluetooth phone is just too cool. Not having to fumbled around with the phone to talk on it is really nice. I still have to set up the voice dialing, but even still, it works great.
- But the Bluetooth insists on starting up the media on my G1 when I use it, which is a pain.
- I create a music MP3 USB thumbdrive and that's pretty great. Just plug it into the USB jack and it plays! Slight disappointment that it doesn't read the MP3 tags, unlike the MP3 player in the Honda Accord rental.
- The moonroof is huge! It goes almost all the way over the backseat. It doesn't have the tilt option, like the Mazda one did, though.
- Still find it a little strange I needed to add the fog lamps extra, but they work fine.
One more step and I'll be done with this whole "totaled" car thing - return the rental. Oh, I guess actually the final step will be to submit the rental bill to the other driver's insurance company. But most of the hard work is done and I'm looking forward to some snow this weekend!
For the 12th year in a row, I am hosting the College Football Bowl Challenge. In this challenge, you pick the winners of all 35 (one more than last year even!) bowl games, ranking them from 1 to 35. Throw $5 into the pot and the top four point scorers split it up. With updates after every day of college football bowling, it's a fun way to add some spice to the intermitable bowl season.
There is a an easy online form to fill out and one of the players does all kinds of statistical breakdancing on the numbers once they are in. It usually comes down to the wire, with both experts and newbies racing to the finish. The more the merrier, so fill out the form and pass it along!
Those Patriots sure are on a roll, aren't they? My viewing of their latest steamrolling was delayed a couple of hours due to the girls playing in a basketball game. But A10.3 scoring 4 points and R11.5 scoring 2, and both out there during crunch time, made it all worthwhile.
The smashing victory over the tame Chicago Bears was made even sweeter by the simple fact that I work for a company based in Chicago, so needless to say there were a few wagers on the line. I felt confident enough to even let them take the points (the Pats were 3 point favorites). But the game was never in doubt. Some bits and pieces from the game:
- I was pretty confident going into the game. Save for the New Orlean debacle last year, the NFC just has never scared me.
- I loved how the Patriots came out and immediately went against the common "wisdom" and went 5 wide with an empty backfield. They just aren't affected by the wind and snow.
- Once again, despite the elements, the defense gave up 19 yards on a 3rd and 18. Argh, that made me so angry!
- Other than that though, they did a very solid job on defense. They seemed to bring the pressure at the right times and tackled pretty well. I still think the strip fumble by McCourty was down by contact, but hey, when things are working, things are working.
- Danny "Rudy 2" Woodhead had an amazing touchdown run, especially considering it was only for three yards. He couldn't have seen more than backs and butts and yet he kept moving for an impressive final dive into the end zone.
- Was that a brilliant catch by Tate or what? A full out dive along the sideline - wow!
- Man, can Devin Hester juke! I can hardly blame the Pats special teams, the only black mark on the day, for not bringing this guy down. He can just change directions on a dime. Amazing that Ninkovich was able to able to track him down.
- I think the biggest difference in this team over pretty much any other Patriots team in the past decade is the amazing trio of tight ends. They can each do it all, with The Big Gronk leading the way.
- It's pretty incredible that they clinched their 9th playoff appearance in the last 10 years and that one missed playoff was the infamouse 11-5 Matt Cassell team. In fact, they've made the playoffs for 12 of Bob Kraft's 17 seasons of ownership.
- I sure loved the jacket that Coach B was wearing at the game way better than the Stay Puff jacket he wore the previous week. That's a very sharp looking jacket; too bad I can't seem to find it at the Pro Shop.
On to face Green Bay this weekend in Foxboro. A cold, blustery, snowy Sunday night - should look great on the TV! That is not one of my tickets, although I do like a good snow game. One interesting twist will be to see how facing Dom Capers, current Packer defensive coordinator and past "de-facto" Patriots defensive coordinator, affects the game planning.
Test drove Subaru
Fine car, fun car, zippy car
Signing dotted line!
Well, you're probably as tired of hearing about it as I have been of doing it, but it looks like the long national nightmare is just about over - I've finally put down money on a new car. I would have bought the Sorento I mentioned earlier, but by the time I could get down there on Friday, it had been sold and there really weren't any Sorento EX, 2 wheel drive models out there any more. So it was practically back to square one, which was very depressing.
R11.5 and I went over to the Hyundai dealer and test drove an Elantra Touring, and liked it just fine. It has a remarkably long list of standard equipment, including leather heated front seats, XM radio, and a moonroof. We once again forgot to bring the hockey bag, but the back seemed to have more than enough room for the bag and the back seats were plenty spacious enough. But, as I had worried, the 4 speed automatic just worked too hard to be that fun to drive, and it didn't have the shifting capability I have come to enjoy in my Mazda. R11.5 did really like the blue it came in though.
So on Saturday I thought we would head up to the Mazda dealership. I wasn't sure it would be big enough (it seemed to be smaller than my old Mazda3 when I looked at it at the auto show), but given my disappointment driving most of the other cars so far, with their buzzy, hard working 4s, I wanted to drive something fun again. R11.5 even knew what I was talking about when I complained about the Hyundai - she's become quite the new car expert! But I decided we would swing by the Subaru dealer, which was on the way, and check out the Forester.
Subaru hadn't been on my radar because it seemed like they were just outside my price range of the lower 20s. And with MSRP of over $26,000, the roomy, well-equipped Forester seemed like an unlikely match. But we took one out for a test drive and man, what a blast it was! I was surprised to hear it had 170hp, and combined with the Subaru standard all wheel drive, it really picked up speed and handled well. R11.5 got a kick out of it when I interrupted the salesguy's pitch as we merged onto the highway to say that I really loved how it could accelerate to highway speeds without the buzzing and hard work of other 4 cylinders we had been testing.
I liked it so much that when we came back I agreed to begin the haggling. It really was, by far, the best driving car we had tested and the idea of going up and down our big hill in the winter with ease had an real attraction. But their first offer was way too high and when I explained my ceiling, they were aghast. But much back and forth and we finally got to a price just a tad up from my budget - something that always seems to happen when you are car shopping. I could have settled for the 2.5X model, but the equipment list for the 2.5 Premium level (which oddly enough is a lower level than the Limited trim level!) was just too appealing. They also threw in the first service, which is worth a couple hundred bucks as well. We made them work, as I insisted on my ceiling, exchanged texts with my wife and negotiated hard. They ended up coming down over $1,500 from their first offering, so I felt like we did a good job and got a fair deal.
So now comes the worst part - the waiting. I still need to get the check from the insurance company, transfer plates, apply for a loan, etc. But the end is in sight and hopefully by this weekend I'll be driving my new car!
Still searching for a new car. Got some final numbers from the insurance company and they look pretty good. Almost $12,000 for my 4.5 year old Mazda3 - that's pretty nice for a car I only paid about $19,000 for, I think. Now I just await the check. Man I just want to move on from this!
Went and test drove the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport again yesterday. It seems to slot in between the Kia Sorento and the Sportage. Better ride than the Sportage, but certainly not up to Sorento standards. But it gets about 5mpg more, and costs a few thousand less, although it is smaller (but probably big enough for my hockey bag, which I keep forgetting to bring it with me), with a rougher ride and a 4 cylinder that works hard to get up to speed on the highway. That's the thing with cars - there are always tradeoffs, usually between apples and oranges. Maybe I should never have drove the Sorento, as it really spoiled me.
Speaking of the Sorento, I had a great experience "shopping" for it. First off, the web site Edmunds.com is really great, although it seems to have changed quite a bit while I was using it just yesterday. I much preferred the earlier layout, but the information is still solid. They write a very good review, have some nice guides and have a great feature where you pick the car you want and select a bunch of local dealerships. This sends out an email to the "Internet Manager" at each of these dealers, explaining what you want.
So I did it for the Sorento, although it isn't 100% final. I still need to get the okay from everyone else, but right now, that sure seems the way to go. It's a little bit bigger than I probably need, but the space sure is appreciated. And it's a little bit more money than I had planned, being in the low to mid 20s, instead of up to 20. And it doesn't get quite as good gas mileage as I want - low 20s, instead of mid 20s. But the size is well nigh Goldilocks perfect - not too big, not too small. The 4 cylinder didn't seem to work that hard getting up to highway speeds, which has bugged me with all the other test drives I've done.
So 5 emails were sent out. 1 never got back to me (unfortunately, the local dealership). 1 got back to me with a canned response and I haven't heard back from yet. 1 got back to me with a listing of lower end models but my email reply bounced. 2 called me back. I wasn't real happy with one of them, as they just wanted me to come into the showroom and pushed a 2010 Sorento, which is, for all practical purposes, a completely different car (more like an old fashioned truck-body SUV).
But one dealership really shined. The salesguy from Quirk Kia in Braintree who called asked a couple very specific questions, quickly narrowing down what kind of car I was looking for, as opposed to what kind of car they wanted to sell me. A few quick taps on the calculator and he gave me a price on a pretty loaded Sorento that just blew me away. If it was the local dealership, I probably would have drove over then and bought it! Unfortunately, it's the dealership on the other side of Boston, which requires much more planning to get down to. But wow, that's just the way it should happen.
But I'm trying to be strong and practical, so I really need to get over for a Hyundai Elantra Touring test drive. That car should be plenty big enough, albeit with only a 4 speed automatic, I'm a little wary, as the cars that I have least liked have had that (the Kia Soul, for instance). My Mazda3 spoiled me - it has a sweet engine that easily gets to highway speeds, even if it is a little noisy once there. I should also probably go check out the new Mazda3, which looks pretty nice. But I think the Sorento has really spoiled me as far as size goes and the Mazda3 is cramped for backseat room, something I think even the Elantra Touring has over it.
Patriots 45, Jets 3 - now that was pretty much a perfect game for a Patriots fan like myself to watch. Heck, even the much maligned defense played a whale of game, moving all around and in general, confusing Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Some scattered thoughts about the game (for the best postgame analysis, keep an eye out for the Grades from Patriots Daily):
- My pre-game prediction was 24-10. I felt pretty confident, as this was a team playing well, at home, in the cold, against a team not playing so well. In this case, I don't mind being wrong...
- I hate settling for a field goal after a long, successful drive. But I guess given the cockups on the last series (botched snap, missed handoff), 3 points is okay.
- Football statistics are for fools. While I love their writing, Cold Hard Football Facts can't predict anything. They can do a ton of data mining, but I call it data dredging, because there just isn't enough data to predict things like there is in baseball. It is way too hard to isolate a player's performance as well. Their picks, against the spread, are no better than my 10 & 11 year old daughters'. And all the complaining about the defense being "32 out of 32" overlooks a simple fact that for plenty of it, they are in a prevent defense, as the offense has done so well. I thought they went soft too early on the Colts and Peyton Manning, but other than that, it's been played to perfection, especially considering having the youngest defense in the NFL (please repeat that phrase 100 times on the blackboard, football "pundits").
- My favorite plays last night were the Wes Welker touchdown catch, where he dragged a defender a good 5+ yards in for the touchdown, and, of course, Danny "Folk Hero" Woodhead's 50 yard scamper on the 2 yard shovel "pass". Danny always seems to make positive yardage. I wonder just how many negative plays he has, even.
- I loved Belichick getting the team together at the start of the fourth quarter, exhorting them to play the entire 60 minutes. They kept the pedal down and a foot to the throat. I have seen a couple places complaining about Brady playing the entire game, but that's just how it is done here. Even if they were to clinched home field advantage early, they still play the game 100%.
- I was wondering where Aaron Hernandez had been, and then he caught a couple in the 2nd half, including a prototypical 35 yarder and an easy 1 yd TD. Brady seemed to be wildly excited for Hernandez who, remember, only was able to share a post game beer with the guys beginning last month. As the youngest player in the NFL, he only recently turned 21!
- But Gronk led he offense in snaps played (besides Brady, of course). Reiss had him in there for 52 of 61 snaps, because the guy can block, run and catch at any time.
Big car runs stop sign Totals my little Mazda Think I'll buy one now
Saturday was "Test Drive A Kia" day. R11.5 and I went over to the local Kia dealership, which is only a few miles away, and took a look at their pretty impressive lineup of cars. As I mentioned earlier, they have two, maybe three cars, that are interesting to me (who wants a hatcback with some room, mid-20s gas mileage and low 20s price) - the Soul, Sportage and possibly the Sorento.
First up was a black (oh, excuse me, "Shadow") Kia Soul ! (yes, that trim level is called the Exclaim, as opposed to the + (Plus) and the Sport). R11.5 was very concerned we test drove the right color (she wanted the Titanium), but I explained to her that it wasn't too important, although our salesguy, Adam, tried his best to accommodate her in later drives. Adam came along with us and we settled in for a short jaunt. Saturday mornings are good for test drives, as the traffic is light and the road choices plentiful.
Visibility was excellent and the driving position okay, a little low maybe. I took it up the street and on to the highway. The 4 speed automatic had a hard time getting the little 4 cylinder up to speed and was pretty noisy doing it. Handling was fine, but overall, not really all that impressive. I liked my Mazda3 better. And later, when we brought back my hockey bag, we found it wouldn't store without folding down the backseat - not a deal breaker but inconvenient nonetheless.
Next, Adam brought us the Kia Sorento. The 2011 Sorento is a complete redesign, as the previous model used a more truck-like body-on-frame and the new one a more car-like unibody construction. This one came in "Pacific Blue/Gray" - to be honest, I didn't even see the blueness of it, although R11.5 picked up on it immediately. This time, he let us just take it out ourselves, which was real nice. We took it back up the highway, on a few twisty roads and tried out the "Downhill Brake Control", an interesting feature which, when engaged, keeps the car at a steady state 5mph. I can't imagine it having too many applications, but our house is at the top of a pretty steep hill, with a stop sign at the bottom on a very busy street, so it would actually come in handy for us. And it works pretty cool - turn it on and the traction, engine and ABS all work together to keep it going slow and steady.
The Sorento also has a couple of other neat little features. The back seats, which have plenty of room, recline slightly. And when folded flat, their headrests tuck underneath and out of the way. There's tons of standard features like Bluetooth, Sirius radio, CD/MP3 player, iPod control, etc. I really liked it. It had plenty of power, even in the 4 cylinder (I bet the V6 would be really sweet), handled nicely and rode smoothly. The hockey bag, even fully loaded with goalie gear, would fit just fine with the seats up. We both hated to give it up.
Then Adam brought around a "Bright Silver" Kia Sportage, which is Kia's new entry in the hot "compact crossover" class. With an MSRP slightly lower than the Sorento, it is slightly smaller and more sporty. This one came pretty tricked out, with heated mirrors and the like. Adam said he found one with plenty of gas in it, so have fun - that was pretty cool! So off we went.
I noticed two things immediately - the ride was nowhere near as smooth as the Sorento and the side mirrors were awful. Looking at some pictures, I don't see the same nearly triangular mirrors on the car we drive - maybe it's because they were heated - but they really didn't show enough and had some weird optical effects. But R11.5 and I both noticed the ride was much more bouncy. I hate to think I'm turning into an old man who likes to have a cushiony ride, but after the butter smooth ride of the Sorento, the stiff ride of the Sportage was a little jarring. It perhaps is just more tightly strung, as it dealt with the curves a small bit better.
But it just felt a little more cramped and just not quite as pleasant as the Sorento. All in all, the Sorento is our favorite car so far. I had hoped to test drive the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport right after that, so we would get a true head-to-head feel, but I was all "new car"ed out, so we gave up. The Sorento, while its MSRP is higher than the Sportage, has some "incentives" that actually bring its price down below the Sportage, and has better EPA mileage even (although Consumer Reports got some pretty disappointing "real world" MPG out of it, around 20, instead of the 21/29 EPA).
Of course, the Consumer Reports web site is invaluable when researching new cars on the web, but the AAA web site has a really cool feature called "TrueCar Price Report", which tells you exactly what prices others have paid in your area. So it looks like for a Sorento EX (the higher end) 2WD, I should pay around $23,000. Not bad, really, considering all the car it is.
Although pretty happy with the Sorento, I feel I really should also check out the Hyundai Elantra Touring. It really impressed at the auto show with its value and size. And we need to try the Outlander Sport again.
So last Saturday, I headed over to a friend's house to play the new Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game (the Fantasy Flight 2010 edition, not any of the earlier Sid Meier games, or even the classic Avalon Hill Civilization). Seemed like a good way to spend an afternoon, after getting plenty of food and family for our American Thanksgiving. A clear, cool, sunny day, heading down a neighberhood street on my way across town when I caught a brief sight of a big ol' Mercedes Benz SUV coming flying thru a stop sign on my right. I had barely enough time to say "Holy Shit!" when BAM!, the car slammed into my passenger side rear door / tire, spun me around 180 degrees, and we both slid to a halt.
To cut a long boring story short, I'm fine but the poor Mazda3 is totaled. Surprisingly, I failed to get a picture of it! It doesn't look all that bad, but given the age of the car (2006) and the cost of auto repairs these days, I wasn't suprised when the insurance company told me to clean it out. Of course, I had just finished paying it off about 6 months ago and it only had about 30,000 miles on it. So it's back into the shark filled waters of new car shopping...
So I have started to research new cars. I like a hatchback, as the biggest limit I have is my hockey bag filled with goalie equipment. So a big hatchback or one of the new compact SUVs is the way to go. I'm trying to keep to around US$20,000 but it is so easy for "feature-creep" to occur, jacking the price up.
Lucky for me, the New England Auto Show opened on Wednesday. Actually, I blame my friend for the accident, as he asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to go and I said sure, which almost certainly jinxed me and my car!-) So we walked around for about 3 hours - man, there are a lot of cars! I came away with three surprises:
- Kia sure has a lot of cars! I asked the saleswoman at the show to differentiate between the Sorento and the Sportage, but I'm not sure I got a satisfactory answer, besides the fact the Sorento is made in Georgia and the Sportage in Korea. I'm leaning towards the Sportage, as it is smaller, although I think the Sorento, is some guises gets better gas mileage and is cheaper. I also liked the Soul, although it may be too small.
- The Hundai Elantra Touring sure is one tricked out hatchback, with heated leather seats, moonroof and everything for less than US$20,000. And it looks plenty big enough. And it is in the "electric" blue that R11.5 has become so fond of.
- I scratched th e Nissan Rogue and Juke off my list. They both felt cramped, dark and as a Twitter-bud called it, cumbersome. And they didn't even have a Versa hatchback at the show.
R11.5, who has become my new car shopper bud, and I have test drove a couple of cars so far. We went to the Honda dealership (we own and love our Odyssey) and looked at
the Fit and the Insight. The Fit is also a remarkable value for the money, but I'm not sure it really "fits" (ha!) what I'm looking for. R11.5 talked me into test driving the Insight, which was fun, but again probably too small.
The other day we test drove the new for 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which is a very sharp looking compact "crossover". That's where R11.5 became enamoured with the electric (or Laguna, as Mitsubishi calls it) blue, although both the Odyssey and the Mazda are blue, so I was kinda hoping for a new color. We test drove the AWD version, although for as little as I actaully drive, all-wheel drive is probably just a $2,000 affectation. I loved it, including the little shifter paddles (my Mazda had the manually shifting automatic too).
So we are off to the local Kia dealer to try out some cars. Wish us luck!