Ken Block Interview

Ken Block Interview

In my research for the interview it was obvious Ken is a lunch pail kind of guy. Comes in early, works hard, and stays late. However, what I didn’t know is what a great and humble dude he is given his litany of achievements.

Listen to the interview

Join me in wishing him the best of luck tearing it up on the 2013 Rally of the Americas.

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2013 Ford Focus ST

2013 Ford Focus ST

When I’m wrong I’ll admit it. Over the years we have had lots of great people involved in the Car Show. But none more fun than a producer we affectionately called “fish”. Fish is somewhat of a hardened metro-sexual. You know the kind of guy who pays someone to change the oil in his car but, drives a very manly car.

Last year, Fish starting talking incessantly about this new car Ford planned to roll out called the Focus ST. Having driven several examples of the Ford Focus I had a very hard time not picking on him on the air for this strange fantasy. “Just wait”, he would say. Everyone on the show would just kind of chuckle. You know, like a redneck chuckles at a truck with a sunroof.

Well, Finally the Focus ST showed up. I was lucky enough to draw the one tabbed the Tangerine Dream. I always thought tangerines were orange. Turns out, I was wrong. Tangerine is an electric yellow color. It’s not obnoxious, just obvious.

I do my standard walk around. Lowered stance, check, larger wheels, ok, maybe there is something to this Focus ST. I get in, fire it up and head out. Boom, I instantly understand that I am sitting in a very fun drivers car. Yes, the Focus is FWD but with the advanced torque steer system it drives great for a car with 252HP and 270lbft of torque.

When I was young the only people making fun to drive 5 door hatchbacks were the Germans. Now Mazda is in the game, Volkswagen still is, and Subaru can’t be left out. The competition in this segment is intense. Ford stepped up to the plate and blasted a homer with the Focus ST. It would have been a grand slam except someone decided to install the most uncomfortable seats ever produced for a driver and front passenger.

The seats I describe are an option that I would not order if you’re over the age of thirty. They are Recaro seats that are included as part of a 2,385.00 package. I would opt for the “normal” seats unless you posses the backside of a super model. While offering more support than an underwire bra, they are more uncomfortable than one of Dick Cheney’s hunting partners.

The jewel however is the 2.0L turbo. This engine is whisper quiet until you put your foot in it. When you mash the go pedal, it wakes up and screams. That’s by design. There is a valve that opens that makes the car scream, “ready to rally”. My nine year-old couldn’t be more impressed with the car. And, as I’m finding out more each year, want to know what’s cool, ask a ten year-old.

Putting that power to the ground is always tricky with a FWD car. No problem with the Focus ST. Ford uses a torque Vectoring Control system and an updated electronic steering system to keep the Focus straighter than a west Texas blacktop. This technology is backed up by a torque steer cancellation system. Helping the Focus ST hold the road as any self respecting sports car should are 235/40/18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.

2012 focus interior

2012 focus interior

Moving inside and ignoring the back breaking Recaros, you will find an expertly laid out series of gauges to keep track of everything from MPH to level of boost. Ah, Boost. Love me some boost! I’m a little disturbed at the technology present in the infotainment system but, my smarter friends tell me it’s impressive.

Fish, I’m saving the best for last. You were right. Ford did make and extremely fun to drive Focus. What next, bipartisanship in Washington?

The Ford Focus starts at $23,700 which is 300 dollars less than it’s ex cousin the Mazda. It’s priced perfectly for the first time buyer. Now maybe some of these twenty-something kids will have their mileage, 40mpg Highway, and infotainment-too much to list, and still find out what it’s like to pilot a driver’s car.

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2013 GMC Sierra Denali

2013 GMC Sierra Denali

It’s really difficult to choose the best truck, especially in Texas. We are, after all, in serious truck country. If you ever have any question as to how important Texan’s trucks are to them just attend the State Fair of Texas. Of course there will be no more appearances of Big Tex as he did his best Richard Pryor impression a few weeks ago. Thank God for cell phones.

The unique thing about the State Fair of Texas is that Big Tex is not the biggest attraction, trucks are.
Each manufacturer spends tons of cash to try and convince you their truck is the biggest, baddest, most fuel efficient model ever produced.

Truth is they are all impressive. So, if they all are good, what do you look for in a truck? Well that’s up to you. Me, I look for a sunroof and leather.

But, for the rest of you out there I know you tow boats and R.V.’s. And, if you listen to the Car Show on Saturday’s you probably also occasionally fill your truck bed with ice, and tailgate for all the Aggie home games.
The Denali has always been the exclusive brand for GMC. At first I wasn’t sure this would work for them but, years later it seems obvious they knew more about truck buyers than we knew about ourselves.

You see there’s no shame in admitting that you like to pull your hay trailer in absolute comfort or get out of the cold deer blind and enter an extremely well appointed cabin with heated seats. Of course if its summer and you are outside building fence in the Texas heat, you can jump in and cool your ass down with the air conditioned seats.
Yes, heated and air conditioned seats seem a little soft for a “truck man” but, you saw the elections we are evolving.

2013 denali interior

2013 denali interior

Let me assure you however the GMC Denali is not soft in any way. With the 6.2 liter with variable valve timing (E85 capable); and a Hyra-matic6L80 six-speed automatic transmission the 2013 Denali delivers 403HP and 417lb.-ft of torque. That is all you need to tow over 9,400 lbs.

The brakes were very impressive. The Denali offers standard powertrain grade braking through automatic downshifting. This feature will be extremely helpful when towing up and down hills.

Of course safety is not forgotten. The Denali has more air bags than the legislative branch, too many to list. Lets’ just say if you’re traveling down the newest Texas toll road between Austin and San Antonio and you have an accident, prepare to see lots pillows and powder. Ha, sounds like an early Rolling Stones album.

Mileage for the Denali could be better. Listed as 12/18, I was lucky to get that. I know it’s a big heavy truck but, GMC should deliver more on this front.

The best thing about the 2013 Denali is driving it. If you’ve never driven one expect to be blown away with the absence of road noise and the quality sound produced by the Bose sound system.

The pricing for the Denali starts at $48,635.00 but with Nav, sunroof and integrated trailer brake controller expect that number to increase to $53,694.00. I know, it’s a lot of cash but the 2013 denali is a lot of truck.

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2013 Honda CRV

2013 Honda CRV

2013 Honda CRV


When you chose your wife/girlfriend or your husband/boyfriend did you go safe or go wild? If you went wild, good luck. You’re in for a hell of a ride for a few months, a few years, or eternity. If you chose safe then be sure to buy the 2013 Honda CRV for all of your transportation needs.

I know, safety is important to us all. It’s just that I crave a bit of a challenge in my life, some excitement if you will. It’s why I chose my wife and why I remind myself everyday that, that choice was made for fun and not safety so, I chose an eternity of cooking and cleaning. Hey, there is always the ever present opportunity cost.
The opportunity cost of safe is usually excitement. That’s my overall impression of the 2013 Honda CRV. I can’t find one thing to knock about it except that it’s boring. I’m talking Bill Cates/code writer boring.

It’s quiet, efficient and comfortable but, so are Hush Puppies. With so many crossovers with angled bodies and peppy power-plants the CRV is forgettable in a crowd, but hasn’t that always been the case with Honda. I know, there are exceptions, the early CRX, the NSX and, whoops, that’s it.

The 2013 CRV gets respectable mileage, 22/30 and it doing this it achieves the highest fuel rating in its class. To get these impressive numbers in fuel economy Honda chose to put taller gears in the CRV which didn’t do much for the performance. However, if you buy the CRV you aren’t someone who’s into performance. You probably measure performance in longevity. I know it sounds sad but there are those out there among us that think like that.
Even though the CRV comes in available Four-wheel drive I wouldn’t take it past the closest State Park.

Here’s the deal, even though the Honda CRV is about as exciting as Betty White it’s also amazingly effortless to operate. There is something to be said for stability and reliability. Each time you drop behind the wheel and into the ten-way adjustable driver’s seat, turn on the 328 watt audio system and venture out into the world you feel a sense of comfort and adulthood.

There comes a time when we all grow up and realize that there is value in modesty. Honda has always driven this point home and nothing has changed with this year’s CRV.

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2013 Hyundai Veloster

2013 Hyundai Veloster

2013 Hyundai Veloster

If you don’t want a Hyundai Veloster turbo of your very own after you drive one, you have no sporting automotive soul. The 2013 veloster turbo is the Aaron Neville of cars. Fun, light, and fulfilling, I got lost in myself while driving the Veloster this past week.

I drove the Hyundai Genesis not long ago and was unimpressed with the 2.0 turbo. Granted the Genesis with the six cylinder is quite fun, but, the 2.0 turbo was just no fun to drive at all. In fact the Genesis 2.0 lowered my expectations for the 2013 Veloster.

One of the guys I do the radio show with has been making more noise than a broken rod about this car for over a year. He’s a euro dude, if not geographically, then mentally. He drives a BWM and covets small fun to drive cars. He also wears low top Chuck Taylors with no socks. See, told you so.

When I came down stairs to pick up the Veloster every expectation I had of the car changed. First off, I love the styling. The front end is blunt, like very blunt, like blunt like me. The wheels fit perfectly in the oversized wheel wheels. Then, there are the huge fenders, square back and a great stance, the Hyundai Veloster had everything I covet in a rally inspired car.

Granted, it’s one door short. Well, no, actually if you count the hatch back there’s four. The Veloster actual has one back door on the passenger side it’s just the right ingress opportunity for a young adult. It’s not the door I would choose to enter the car. It’s much more fun to enter through the driver’s door

Jump in and you will find a comfortable cockpit with extremely functional, sensible easy to use gauges and controls. The seats are firm and very supportive. The interior lay out is very sporty with sport accents on the front seats of the turbo. One of the best ideas Hyundai had was putting the start/fire it up button, in the center of the dash. It feels great to reach up and slightly to the right to bring anything to life.

veloster interior

veloster interior

Once fired up and on the tarmac the Veloster turbo shines more than Lil’ Wayne’s grill. The turbo version of the 1.6 liter offers 201 HP and 195 pounds of torque. That’s more than enough to propel the 3700 pound car. What also surprised me was the stiffness of the chassis. Where the Genesis felt like it couldn’t handle anymore boost, the Veloster almost screams, “give me more”. The six-speed manual was smooth and tight. And the clutch engages at just the right point.

I know I should point out a weak point. That could have been the mileage but, it wasn’t. The Veloster turbo gets 26 city and 38 Hwy. I’m beginning to wonder if the manufacturers are understating their mileage, as Ford has done for years under estimating their horsepower on the Mustang GT’s. I was able to easily coax 40mpg out of the Veloster turbo on the highway.

Hyundai manages to place all of this fun in an affordable package. The MSRP on the 2013 Veloster is 21,950. It feels like it could sell for up to eight grand more than that before you would start to hear complaints.

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