Thursday, June 01, 2006

X-Men 3

Just got back in from the hero-fest that is, X-Men 3. I won't go in to details about the plot (I'm not entirely sure there was one) or anything but it's a fitting end to the saga. I'd have liked to have seen a very different movie to this one, but it's gritty and get's the point across.
Maybe I'm spoilt by the likes of Spiderman and the recent (and very good) Batman. But the X-Men were always my favourites as they had a group and an impossible fight. This movie doesn't, to me, bring that across quite as well as the cartoon did (yeah, a cartoon!).
By all means go see it - most of you probably already have. I could use lots of words ending in 'fest', believe me. It's a 7/10.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

2 months on with the Monaro VXR

I posted this (word for word) on Club Calibra. I had a fantastic response and I'm chuffed with it. So I'm posting it here for you to read. Why? Shut up is why! :D
Have a read. Be a convert. Love the VXR. It's epic.

"Firstly, apologies for this sitting in the Calibra Chatter area. I thought that since the Monaro is both a million miles away and yet almost the natural successor to the Calibra that it has enough grunt to appear here. Tell me if it's not and I'll move it straight away.

Okay. It's been a couple of months and short of a few pictures I've kept my mouth pretty much shut on the Monaro issue. How is it? What's it really like? Does it live life sideways? How good or bad is the economy? All questions I had when I turned the key for the first time, and I get asked a lot - so I thought I'd tell you all and then, well, you'll know. :)

I'll enter each area individually and sum up before moving on. I'll even use bold lettering. Oh yes. There may be even words such as Power, Epic and Hippopotimus - but I'm not promising anything just yet.

I thought I'd start where we all do. The outside. This is probably the most subjective area, and very much down to personal choice. I've found that most Coupe owners love it's looks and very very non-car people just think it's
awesome (I've been told more than once, I ain't making it up!). I LOVE it. It's everything the Calibra isn't, and a little bit more. Why do I say that? Well the Calibra is a stunning looking piece of design from nearly every angle.
It's a design that's often been copied and yet rarely improved on. Sat next to the Monaro it's clearly more subtle and more lady like. Quite petite almost. The Monaro is none of those things. It's big, brash and 'flared'. The standard CV8 has more in common with the Calbra I think - much more understated. I liken it to the old Porsche 993 versus the 993 Turbo. The Turbo was the out and out performer but it sacrificed some of that shape with the big spoilers and wider arches. Same here. I prefer the VXR personally - but that's me. I like the extra bits.
Let downs come with the doors, they aren't pillarless. Not that I've really noticed as it's a gimmick anyway. The paint is thinner than I'd like - although the actual quality is pretty high. And it's size makes it quite difficult to navigate on our smaller roads and car parks. But that's the price you pay for having a muscle car.
Oh and the vents are functional :)
PROS: It's big, brash and still obviously related to the Calbira
CONS: It's big, brash and still... paint could be heavier set, doors would have been cooler pillarless.

Ah here we are. One of the biggest differences I notice moving from the Calibra to the Monaro is the 'feel' of the thing. The Calibra has a lower waistline and you feel more "on top" of the car whereas the Monaro snuggles you in and wraps the steel around you cosseting the outside world away. The seats are just perfect. They hug you and yet allow movement for the evening cruise. The plastics aren't as cheap as I first thought but I don't much like the silver painted plastic that is thrown around. It looks tacky in my opinion and would be much nicer as brushes aluminium or even smooth black shiny plastic. Carbon fibre effect would look great - hmm.
Everything is within reach (mostly on the wheel), the stereo is a great 6-disc changer with enough bass to vibrate the external mirrors and the climate controls are a breeze to use (and boy, does it work). The dials are all present
and correct with some nice little touches here and there. There is also a ton of room in the rear (again with big bucket seats).
PROS: A great place to be. No squeaks and it's bolted together properly.
CONS: None that I've come across

The list of equipment is fantastic on this car. Cruise control, dual-zone climate, a 6-disc CD player with adaptive volume control, leather, auto-headlights etc etc. For the cost of the vehicle it has everything bar Sat-Nav and I'm actually glad it doesn't (I wouldn't use it and it's just a pain ready fitted).

Running Gear:
You all mostly know what's going on here. The latest generation of the LS series of V8s sits up front. That's the 6.0 LS2 from General Motors. Most famous for powering the Corvette and has it's history in pretty much every GM car at some point in the last 50+ years.
It's a 16 valve, push-rod V8 with 404bhp and 400lb/ft of torque. So that's power a-plenty. It's pretty low on the old "bhp per litre" scale at only 66.66bhp per litre. That's not bad mind you, most modern cars only manage around the 60-figure unless you're talking 9k rpm Vtecs.
The power is fed to the rear wheels through the same old Tremec 6-speed gearbox that's been tweaked over the years but it's strong and reliable if a little clunky and heavy. The clutch is good for 500bhp(ish) and is light enough but it's a bit of a dog in stop-start traffic.
There's little much to say on that front - but literally a few thousand pounds can nigh-on double the output of the engine. Not that I want to. Yet.
The brakes are great for road use, but I'm hearing that track use will kill the fronts pretty quickly. Most cars I've come across (VXRs) have had the 'big brake upgrade' weighing in at £2k and that stuff goes forever.
Oh and it's worth mentioning that an exhaust and re-map brings the power up to 450bhp and even more torque. Not bad eh? (Yes, I'm saving my pennies!)
PROS: Everything.
CONS: Don't be silly - oh all right then, the sports exhaust should have been standard!

Economy/Running Costs:
The BIG quesion eh. Everyone's first comment is about this. Not that many people have a bleedin' clue ;)
At first, with less than 3000 miles on the ode, she was managing a paulty 15.6mpg on my 3 mile commute to work. To put that in context, I was managing about the same in the Calibra on a cold morning doing that short distance. So, not hugely bad. Now though, it's up to 4500 miles and the trip currently read 19.6mpg. So it's either my right foot or the car is adapting. I'll go for the latter - but more on that later :)
Servicing is, and should be very cheap. The engine can go for tens of thousands of miles without so much of a hiccup (these engines are bullet proof). However, it's a Vauxhall, it's new and I want service history. Thusly, it's first service is happening (oil and filter) very soon at the cost of £185. Not hideous (I once owned a Porsche 911 and the same cost me 3 times as much) but I could do it for £50 at home - minus the stamp. Oh well!
Long term I'm told it's get cheaper. We shall see.
Tyres are like new and I have no real issues on wear so far. I have no idea at present how long they'll last.
PROS: Not quite as thirsty as people think. Servicing has long intervals.
CONS: Main dealer servicing will never be cheap.

Driving experiences:
It's pretty hard to compare this to any car I've had as it drives like no car I've ever driven. It's big, but it doesn't feel it. It has power in bucket loads - so much in fact that I have found no place to really open it up and go nuts. It'll swallow 70mph on the M-Way at just 1600rpm in sixth gear. This is a true 185mph muscle car, and it shows. Does it go sideways? Yeah a little bit, but it's harder than I thought to get it break free. It's not a car that will suddenly jump sideways and kill you. Nor does it try to wake you up in bad weather by killing you. I've had no scary experiences and only when I've purposely pushed it did it want to get back to it's roots. I think I need either a big open space (to see what will make it go) or a track day session. Hmm.
Ride quality is superb. She rides on big 19 inch alloys on low profile tyres but you wouldn't know it. I'd prefer it to be a little stiffer but it's very accomplished for what is essentially just an 'out of the box' product.
The package is just... epic though. It goes like hell, stops like hell and it'll even go round corners.
Considering my particular car is completely standard it's just awesome. I think what it could be like with sports suspension, bigger brakes and another 100bhp and I go even weaker at the knees. Sadly, so does my bank account!
By no means is the Calibra a badly riding car. On a good run it's extremely comfortable. So just step it up a level and you're already there. Evolution over revolution by accident? Perhaps.
And back on the MPG subject. Above I mentioned that the car is either improving it's MPG due to my right foot or it's adapting. Well with the noise this thing makes even under part throttle, it's way too easy just to drive by noise and that can't be good for the economy and I'm not even close to getting past that! So I'll just keep doing it. V8s are cool!
PROS: Rides like a dream. Goes like stink. Even goes rounds corners without killing randomly.
CONS: It won't outhandle an Elise. Still a big car.

It's no Hippo. It IS Epic and if you love the Calibra, you'll love the Monaro in any guise. It is no diesel Fiesta but it's not the tank you'd think either. There is both a long distance GT and a sideways hooligan out of the
factory and it has that V8 noise every time you turn the key. Proves the age-old adage that more isn't necessarily better - and that if it ain't broke... 2 seats, a V8 up front and power to the rear. Marvellous.
Sorry to ramble but I enjoyed doing it. I really like my new car :p"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Any excuse...

To post. I mean, I don't really need one - I need time though. Heh.
So what's new? With me? Not a lot. I'm busy as hell with work, and general life. Gemma starts her end of course exams this next week so I won't be spending a huge amount of time talking to her since she (brutally honest mode) has more important things to think about than me missing her (/brutally honest mode). And I'm okay with that. Hell, this isn't the first time and I doubt it'll be the last.

Next week is PV (Performance Vauxhall). Held at Santa Pod each year it's a great time to meet up with fellow Vauxhall owners and enjoy watching a variety of cars attack the 1/4 mile with hopes and dreams of hitting that low quarter time. 12s would be nice. This show may mark the end (or nearly) of the Calibra Turbo that you can see on this site.

If not, it'll be Billing. Held at the Billing Aquadrome it's a proper two day event and is a chance for all thing Vauxhall, Opel, and it's relatives to get together and generally look pretty. I may take the Calibra.. or the Monaro. Dunno yet. The Calibra has a better load area for tents and the like - the Monaro is just more comfortable, quicker... sounds better. Lol.. I dunno.

As for the Calibra. Well her insurance has been renewed - but on a very limited mileage policy as she's never used. I cannot afford to keep her going being still technically a project, and the Monaro being just an expensive car. I would love to just sell the Calibra to an enthusiast and hopefully still see her at shows. The reality is, the first person to get it would strip it and make twice the money. So I have the choice there.. strip it, make the money and be done. Except it's never that simple. Firstly the stripping involves a lot of work and storage. Neither of which I have in abundance. Secondly you have to actually sell the bits. That also isn't a given. With stock LETs making too much cash that they simply aren't selling, and with so many Turbos being broken that the rest of parts aren't worth most people's time and fuss.
So I'd end up with half a car on my drive and probably be no better off.

Ah better the devil you know, eh?

Watch this space. I know I have to do something. And the Monaro really fancies a new exhaust and a free-flow air filter too. :p