Carbon Black Metallic ($195); Audio System With Navigation ($1,145 -- includes AM/FM/XM stereo with MP3 CD player, USB and AUX port, MP3/WMA playback, iPod support, 7-inch color touchscreen display, multifunction controller, SD memory navigation system, and SD card reader in center console); Power Sunroof ($1,000); 20-by-8.5-Inch Five-Twin-Spoke Polished Alloy Wheels ($700 -- includes P255/35R20 blackwall summer only tires)
$37,474 (plus $885 destination)
Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
The traction control is pretty heavy-handed, and I might've been able to manage a less intrusive launch, but I doubt it. With traction control off, it's hard to hang the revs where I wanted them because the electronics would slowly bring the revs down to 3,000. Had to "zing" the engine up on the first throttle stab, then drop the clutch. Smooth wheelspin is allowed, but any axle hop would cause traction control to reawaken. Shifter has long throws and hates a hurried 1-2 shift where it would refuse to slow-in. Gear ratios feel too far apart because it felt like it fell out of boost with each upshift. Real power only begins above 3,250 rpm.
Firm pedal until the car is at a standstill, then goes to the floor. Excellent fade resistance.
Skid pad: Geez, does this car have a set of tires or what? With ESC on, it'd bleed off throttle as understeer approached. With ESC off, it'd creep up to understeer but I could drive slightly beyond it by lifting/pushing the throttle to coax a little rotation -- good balance, especially for a FWD car. Steering weight is good, as is "traditional" return to center resistance. So-so feel for ebbing grip. Slalom: Because this car has so much grip but so little tire howl (and little steering feel) it's one of those "you gotta have faith" cars. Everything says this shouldn't work and yet it does. Steering is very precise and car is neutral so I could use drop-throttle to rotate around each cone. Even went wide-open throttle at exit with all that bite.