Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Volvo S60 T5 Premier

Well I never thought I'd be driving a Volvo, but that's mainly because their MPG always hovered around 22, much like Infiniti and their bulletproof 3.5L engine that always got exactly 20 MPG. But by sheer chance during my research period, I read that starting with their 2015 cars, Volvo put in a new engine called the Drive-E which supposedly boosted the MPG substantially. Since I've been a Swedish car fan since the Saab days, I thought I'd give it a go. It's funny actually...during my whole search for a replacement car, I only had my eyes set on a 2nd Gen TSX, but when it came down to it, it was all about location and where you went to look at a car. I went to Carmax since I wanted to see two Acuras with fair prices, but when I looked at the actual cars, their condition was a bit more 'used' than I would've liked.

After test driving the Acuras, we test drove this S60 and it was a night/day difference. The seats were way comfier, the power was more pronounced in the Volvo, and everything felt more upscale. We decided to just go for the Volvo because we were already in the 20k range; might as well pay a few thousand more to get a newer car with less miles.

Positives
  • The car is pretty fast after you get it going. There's a turbo lag from stop, but after the initial acceleration is out of the way, it's pretty speedy.
  • Even though the MPG is nowhere near 37, I still get 29 MPG on average so that's pretty good considering the turbo and the engine size.
  • The seats are super comfy; leather is very nice and the electric seats/memory = a godsend.
  • Appearance-wise, the outside looks great; much better than a BMW, Audi, or even the TSX.
  • The blind spot monitoring system is pretty slick. If someone wanders into your vicinity on either lane, an orange light will appear on the A-pillar. It's an unobtrusive feature that works.
  • The HUD (Heads Up Display) can be changed to 3 different modes which was a selling point, but I don't like how 2 of them look, so I just stick with 1 and never change it.

Negatives
  • The center console is super cluttered. I've gotten used to the controls, but yeah it's not an ergonomic setup.
  • The two cup-holders have some very flimsy flaps on the sides to keep a smaller soda from moving around too much. Unfortunately the previous owner broke these flaps off since they are made of some flimsy rubberish material. Additionally, the 2nd cup-holder is on a different 'level' from the first, and thus it doesn't have the same height coverage for a soda, so any drink placed in it can more easily tip over. I think the best design for cup-holders were from the older 2006 Civic.
  • The dual climate control system doesn't have a "sync" button. Because of this, whenever you change one temperature control dial you, have to do it for both. Even my old Infiniti could be linked. I honestly wished that they would just get rid of the auto control. It's way more efficient and fun to control the temperature and fan speed manually.
  • There's next to no storage space. Sure there are 2 cup-holders, but that's about it. Car-makers need to know that there always needs to be a miscellaneous space to put stuff. Behind the waterfall control center there is a nook but you have to bend your hand in an awkward way to get back there. Additionally it isn't deep enough to withstand a turn, so whatever you have in there will fly out (sunglasses). The door cubbies can hold random stuff minus a water bottle, so WTF?
  • There is a pretty hefty blind spot when you check the rear-right. I always thought the Prius had it bad, but ironically this car is worse because of the sloped doors and the high rear end. The design sure looks good from the outside, but man oh man does it suck while you're driving.
  • There is no manual oil dipstick that you can check. It's all electronic, and as I found out later, the measuring methodology is all out of whack. What I mean by this is that it only tells you if you're OK, Not OK, or Over OK. Think about that for a second. If your car is losing oil for some reason and you're 1 ml away from being in the 'low' range, the car will still display OK until it reaches that threshold and then Bam! you're Not OK (low oil state). Oil is the most important thing for a car's engine, so it's irresponsible for the manufacturer to let consumers get so close to being in a low oil situation.
  • The auto start/stop feature for the engine was supposed to be a highlight selling point, but now I find it more annoying than anything else. I'm always turning it back on/off because the damn thing will shut off when it's totally unnecessary, such as inching up an on-ramp, in a drive through, behind a guy at a 4-way stop, etc. They really should just have a button that you can press to manually turn off the engine and then it would just turn back on when you lifted your foot off the brake.
  • Depreciation. I know it was its depreciation that allowed for this slightly used Volvo to end up in my hands at the price I paid for it, but man I know that after the warranty runs out on this thing, it'll be worth close to $10k if that. I'm sure the Prius will still be worth more than it even though its 5 years older.

Thoughts
I like the quiet cabin and fancy feel, but sometimes it seems like too much when I think about the price. The car's warranty will expire in 2018, so I'll keep on owning it past that time unless the maintenance starts costing me more money than I would like. The car feels much larger than I'm cool with though...I totally miss smaller cars as they're more nimble. Ironically this year the newly redesigned 2016 Civic got released, with a new turbocharged engine mated with a CVT and regular gas. They will be releasing a hatchback version within a year and I think I'll be enamored by it; just my luck.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ex Machina (Sci-Fi 2015)

So this movie was both deep and simple at the same time. It reminded me of Moon for some reason. Yeah it was all about the Turing test and how this smart robotics coder created a robot and brought in a 3rd party to see if the robot would pass.

The fact that the robot is this Swedish chica added to the types of T&A that were in this film. The whole plot built-up to the ending that was a bit controversial. Should being human lean more towards having some semblence of compassion or having the mindset to maximize survival? The ending bothered me, but I'm sure it's because it made me think. All acting, ambiance, and details were pretty good though.
Rating - B

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Sci-Fi Action 2015)

Opening weekend, 11:20PM, and talk about a sleepy me at 3AM getting home. I haven't done that in a long while. Was it worth it to see SW again? Yes...yes it was.

This movie was pretty good. I think it lived up to the hype as it had everything that one would expect from a J.J. Abrams film. The style was totally different from something like Episode 1, but it was inherently still SW. I think this film will resonate well with the current fan base since both action and sci-fi films have changed so much over the years. But it's safe to say that the franchise has been re-ignited; can't wait till the next one.
Rating - B

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Extinction Age (The Extinction Cycle Book 3) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith (Book 2015)

This was a very enjoyable 3rd book to the series. Again we're facing genetically mutated human baddies instead of regular zombies, so that backdrop always adds a lot of flavor to each firefight.

Everything in this book was pretty spot on for what you would like; action, more action, and the ending in this one was great. There were never any boring parts and you really get to know the core group of characters. I very much look forward to the next few books in the series.
Rating - High

Threshold (Chess Team Adventure series Book 3) by Jeremy Robinson (Book 2011)

Pretty good 3rd book in the series. It took the legend of the Tower of Babel and ran with the story. Not bad, but perhaps not as good as some of the earlier books. Details and pace were decent but I think that it overall went too fast in areas that could've had more background. I do like how one book builds from the last so the reader can just jump into the cast of characters vs re-learning what happened in the previous novels. I got a few more book in this series ready to go so here's to more adventure.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Battlefront: Twilight Company (Star Wars) by Alexander Freed (Book 2015)

With the release of the new Battlefield game, they also pumped out a book to probably try and increase the hype. The plot follows around a group of infantry grunts fighting for the alliance during the time of the Battle of Hoth. Although the primary characters were mentioned and/or made brief cameo appearances, most of the Jedi/Sith stuff remained far far away.

The story was all about a group of soldiers as they work to complete missions/tasks to fight the Empire. As a standalone story, I've read better in the Star Wars world to be honest. Even at the end I didn't feel any connection to any of the characters, even the primary. There just wasn't enough character development although there were attempts; nothing really stuck. Additionally the author would build up to a battle scene just to end it with a one paragraph summary vs. a play-by-play sequence. I didn't like that at all; and this occurred on numerous occasions and the story didn't flow very well because of it. I would rate this book definitely below par.
Rating - Low

Spectre (Action 2015)

It's been a while since a Bond movie got released. I'm sure I'll be forgetting about the plot in this one, just like I forgot all about Skyfall, but it's Bond, so action-action it is.

This film is in-line with all previous Bond films in the past. It has cars, girls, guns, lots of location changes. Baddies are villainous and explosions are everywhere. It was good for an action flick, but there was nothing really memorable that sticks out.
Rating - B