Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Commuting in the Snow

Last friday was one of several snowy commutes that I’ve had in January, and I realized my normal dash mount allowed the iPhone’s camera a view of the road. So I recorded a few clips, if you feel like experiencing the crawl of traffic with me.

The video was shot vertically in portrait mode, as my iphone normally sits there running INRIX Traffic while driving. I was wondering what effort I would need to go through to rotate and crop the video, which is beyond the capabilities of iMovie on the computer. But a new free iPhone video editing app just came out that allowed me to do so very easily: Splice. In fact I’d say it is easier to use than iMovie for iPhone. Sadly it is currently prone to bugs and crashes (you MUST add transitions to get around export errors). But the price is right, and I’m sure it will be improved soon. It’s great to be able to shoot and edit together clips without ever leaving your phone-in fact 720tube lets you upload in full resolution, so there’s truly no need for a computer.

Good Impression

Waterless Wash

In New England, it’s impossible to keep your car clean for almost half the year— freezing weather, snow, salt, and grimy roads are stacked against you. With a tree covering my cars instead of a garage, birds really have their way with them. And frankly I just haven’t had the time to give them the attention they need. But the car care industry never stops innovating, and now they’ve come up with the “waterless spray wash.”

Available from Griots, Autopia, and others, the product is somewhat like a lubricating quick detailer with some wax as well. Unfortunately it is still water-based, so no washing below freezing, but it sure beats dunking your hand in a bucket of chilly water on a cold day. It is also potentially useful for a quick freshening say before a car meet, or while you’re off for a few days. In the past I dragged all my car washing equipment up to MINIsOnTop, here all that’s needed is a spray bottle and some microfiber.

I tried Ultima Waterless Wash Plus+, mostly for its cheaper price. I easily following the Instructions to mix a bottle from the concentrate. As I had a ton of heavy bird droppings, I instead went over with a very high-pile MF towel first. It works just like it says: spray on, and everything wipes away, transferring the dirt to the towel. For the most part it dries without streaking too.

While I thought this would be more of an experiment, I realized I will be using this a lot. It’s been years since I had the time to do a bucket wash every week, I sometimes goe months before dragging everything out. Now I can quickly and easily refresh both cars in between real washes with minimal time and effort. Of course, nothing beats a real wash, especially if you are going to wax afterwards.
Here are some before and after shots:

I went through about a quarter bottle per car, and of course at least one microfiber towel is needed per use. So be sure to have plenty of towels and solution. At Autopia, they have a Ultima Waterless Wash Plus+ concentrate kit, however I would recommend the much higher-pile Carrand “Microfiber MAX” Soft Touch Detailing Towel over the Ultima towel. Griot’s has the full line of their Spray-On Car Wash on their web site or you can get the Griot’s Kit from Amazon.

My Old Commute

I’ve been meaning to post this video for years, my old commute from Newton to Essex that I captured and finally sped up and posted. This day was “best case” 46 minutes, sped up 800% here, but the return trip often took between 1-2 hours (and too often, more). Thankfully since moving to Medford, though my morning commute has only dropped to 35 minutes, evening is usually 45, and rarely an hour. But, the old commute here is much more interesting.

The route goes from city to country, with plenty of fun curves, tunnels, and bridges. The full length of Storrow Drive into Boston, through some of the Big Dig tunnels, beside the Zakim bridge, and then over the Toben bridge. High speed curves on Route 1 North then commercial mecca. Finally 128 on to Cape Ann, exiting in Beverly, and the farmish suburbs towards the office in Essex. If you’re not from around here you may notice the crazy but clockwork-like Boston traffic, the many old highways with no shoulders, and of course plenty of people zoned out and blocking the left lane.

Details in the MINI like the old iPaq GPS show the age of the video: Early September 2007, just after I started work in Essex. This is just before colleges started, which instantly added more traffic and time. It’s such a relief to know the wasted time and stress that this commute caused me for years is behind me, but it is fun to relive it, especially at this speed.


BMW of Peabody gave me a 335Xi service loaner today so I thought it would be a good opportunity to compare to the 128i. The things I noticed right away were the annoying automatic transmission and much heavier steering.

Of course this automatic was ten times better than the Mustang’s auto, but I will always be instantly annoyed when a car doesn’t respond to my instruction to GO. Later, I did put it into manual mode and while that improved things, I still found its response times unnervingly slow. Even Germany can’t make a good slushbox, and maybe that’s why they’re moving the 2011 135 to a double-clutch SMT.

This was my first time driving the 300-hp twin turbo engine, and at first I felt no difference. After a while I might say there is a bit more acceleration on the low end, but what this is really saying is the extra 70 horses are soaked up by the transmission, AWD, and of course the 600 pounds of extra weight. Unfortunately it will cost you a good 8-10 mpg deficit.

Speaking of weight, you would think the portly extra pounds and larger dimensions would also be immediately noticeable, but that wasn’t true at all. I guess that’s where BMW shines because aside from the softer ride from the lack of my sport suspension, the car didn’t handle like something larger.

Chalk the heavier steering up to BMW’s active steering in -35 models. I knew to stay away from it from reviews, and although it was by no means horrible, I instantly missed the lightness and linearity of the regular steering. By the way, that is petty much the same comparison I’d make between that normal BMW steering and my MINI’s steering.

Other small details? I thought the iDrive was well-designed and easy to use. The only issue I had was the map zoom went the wrong direction and like everyone else the traffic data was useless. This was my first time driving with HIDs at night and I saw no benefit as expected…that’s why I saved $1500 without them on both cars. The 3 didn’t really feel any more spacious than the 1; in fact, I hit the door jamb getting out be because of the smaller doors.

I haven’t mentioned looks because of course I’ve seen plenty and that opinion was already well-formed. I don’t like the 3 series design in any of its forms, too many creases and wierdness, not quite balanced overall. I also noticed that I couldn’t see the hood while driving, unlike the 1-it’s nice to be reminded of the straight six living under there. Or maybe that just comes from growing up with Crown Vics.

So like the Mustang but in much smaller-detailed way, it’s nice to drive something different to remind me of how much I appreciate my cars, and why I research and nitpick and factory order to get every detail just right. I’m still pretty sure I’d prefer my 1 over any other BMW. At least until the 1M appears!


MINI of Peabody has a new Countryman in the showroom for just a few days so I quickly stopped in to have a look. My feelings were mixed on the mini SUV so I wanted to see it in the flesh and now… my feelings are still mixed. I was impressed with the interior, the rear legroom with the rear seats slid back was still small but the layout was very functional. The new center stack is a definite improvement over the garish ’07 design, and the orange/anthracite scheme looked nice. From the side, the Countryman almost looks like a small Cayenne. Unfortunately they went overboard on the front end aggressiveness, and we were all wondering why the rear bumper (and taillights!) stick out disturbingly far. I’m sure the combination of extra interior space and all wheel drive will make it very successful in New England as I’ve heard so many people say they like MINIs but think they need those features.