Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finally back!

After a year out, I am finally back. China's great firewall doesn't quite like Blogger and I've not had much luck getting online. Now I've got a workaround and its going to be business as usual. Cheers. Read more...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Audi A6 Rear Anti-Sway Bar Modification

Having waited for quite a while, I finally got round to fitting on the rear H&R anti-sway bars for my Audi. Fitting on the anti-sway bar was relatively easy. Just remove the nuts on the exhaust and the stock bar comes off and the replacement is fitted on quite easily.

H&R Anti-Sway Bar for Audi A6 C6

Placed side by side, the H&R bar (above) is obviously much thicker than the stock bar (below) and much heavier too.

H&R Anti-Sway Bar for Audi A6 C6 comparison with stock

True to form, the H&R bar fitted perfectly without any problems. The H&R bar came with 2 settings to attach to the struts. The outer pair of holes provided a softer setting and presumably a little more comfortable. Naturally, I picked the inner (and stiffer) setting. I wanted to see how it worked first and if it proved to be too uncomfortable, I could always move the setting to a softer one.

H&R Anti-Sway Bar for Audi A6 C6 fits perfectly

The finished result looks great!

H&R Anti-Sway Bar for Audi A6 C6 fitted on car

Initial impressions after two days of driving were very satisfying. Even with the stiffer setting, ride comfort was not too badly affected. It was much more obvious on uneven road surfaces but take a corner fast or slow and it was easy to forget about the slight penalty in comfort. The car now corners flat with little body roll and I could take turns at much higher speeds with confidence. This was certainly a big grin inducing factor. I intend to keep the current setting for a week or two before adjusting to the softer setting to try it out for another couple of weeks. Once I have tried both settings, I intend to fit on the front anti-sway bars and see how it settles. Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Subaru Driving Experience: Forester

Saturday, 25 April 2009. It was a bleak and dreary morning and the skies opened up and was pouring buckets. This morning Subaru was due to have an event to let people test drive their cars at a karting track in Shajing, Shenzhen. My first thought was: Oh no, its going to be cancelled. Happily, I got a call from the salesman asking me to come on over. "Isn't it raining heavily?" I asked. "Even better! Then you can really see how good Subaru cars are. Come on over!" came the reply. Now that's the spirit. I needed no urging to drive over for a go.

Shenzhen Xtreme Speedway kart race track in Shajing is quite small but it is able to accommodate small scale tests of road cars along with the regular schedule of kart training courses and races. Thetrack is small but tight with plenty of turns as befits a kart track with a short straight in front of the viewing gallery.

On arrival, the rain had abated somewhat and had settled down to a steady drizzle. And on arrival I acquainted myself with the day's programme. They had only two cars available, the base Impreza and the base Forester, and a team of rally race drivers from Team Subaru on hand to coach. There were 4 stages to the programme. The first three segments are centered around basic driving skills - 1. quick lane change under emergency ABS braking, 2. quick direction changes making use of the Subaru's VDC, and 3. slalom. The last segment is a couple of quick laps around the circuit. All this naturally depends on the time available. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather, everyone arrived at about the same time and that left insufficient time to go through the entire programme.

Subaru Impreza Test Drive at Shenzhen Shajing Xtreme Speedway

We only managed to do the quicky lane change and the slalom. As I was more keen on the Forester, I opted to do both the programmes using the Forester and did not get to try the Impreza.

Subaru Forester Test Drive at Shenzhen Shajing Xtreme Speedway

These are my quick impressions of the Forester base model with a 2 litre naturally aspirated engine after having had a chance to do both the programmes as well as a quick spin round the circuit.

  • Getting into the Forester, it was apparent that Subaru has got it right this time. If you ignore the cheap plastics, the cabin is decently appointed and sensible and nothing gets in the way of the driving. It was easy to get a comfortable driving position within seconds and the driving controls feel very intuitive. Many people complain about the cheap finishing but I personally think that if it means cutting some corners in the engine department, I would rather get used to the budget interior.
  • Ride comfort is excellent. Moving off, the base model shows off a well sorted suspension with comfort levels aimed precisely at the mass market and yet retaining a little of the sportiness (not a lot, unfortunately).
  • To say that the base Forester is under-powered for the event is an understatement. The 2 litre engine barely had enough grunt to make the exercises a challenge. Then, again, if you look at day to day driving, the 2 litre engine was adequate with a just enough zest to overhaul the average Toyota Corolla.
  • Handling-wise, the improved ride comfort proved the Forester's undoing when it came to quick turns, although I must admit the Forester was decent on the slalom if you did not take on the cones above 60km/h speed.
  • The four-wheel drive that is Subaru's pride and joy did well in the wet and from the way the Forester handled, I could hardly tell that it was wet and soggy all round.

  • Subaru Impreza Test Drive at Shenzhen Shajing Xtreme Speedway

    Overall, after attending the event, I had a few random thoughts that crossed my head:
  • >

    • Subaru makes good cars but they are certainly not doing themselves any justice by not showing off their best cars. Showing off their best cars seems to me to be the best way to upsell their cars to current owners as well as to potential customers. I suppose there is a logic in showing off base models since that is where the bread and butter volume is. But in doing so, they reduce their chances of recruiting more die hard fans in the hopes of going mainstream. The big question in my mind is, would Subaru be best served going mainstream or remaining niche?
    • The event was not well organized and very casual. Perhaps that is what should characterize a Subaru community. But if Subaru wants to go mainstream, perhaps they should run the event with the professionalism and precision expected of a mainstream brand. That is the conundrum that Subaru faces and has faced over the past few years. Each time, it appears the answer Subaru came up with was one that was neither here nor there.
    • Not enough thought was given to the actual programme either. The distance given to accelerate for the quick lane change under emergency ABS braking was clearly insufficient for the base models to gather enough speed. As such, if one applied the brakes correctly to trigger ABS, you would stop before you even hit the cones that formed the obstruction. Also, the briefing did not clearly explain the entire theory behind this and it seems like the rally drivers were not thoroughly grounded in their theory either. In contrast, in an Audi event which I attended, their professional drivers were able to clearly explain the entire process properly so that everyone was able to grasp the entire process before proceeding to try out. The coaching process in the car was also a lot more helpful and precise. While coaching was not the goal of the event, the main point Subaru needed to deliver was that Subaru cars are a lot safer and easier to control and they were going to show participants how to make the most of their cars to stay safe. This message was not delivered well.

    Subaru Impreza Test Drive at Shenzhen Shajing Xtreme Speedway

    Overall, I thought it was reasonably enjoyable and a decent start to hopefully better run events by Subaru in the future.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Street Hawker Goes Upmarket

    Seen while driving along Dong Bin Road in Nanshan, Shenzhen. Street hawker upgrades from putting goods on a mat placed on the ground to placing the goods on car bonnet.

    Street Hawker selling shoes on car bonnet in Shenzhen

    Unfortunately, the prices were also upgraded accordingly and she wanted near department store prices for the children's shoes as well.

    Street Hawker selling shoes on car bonnet in Shenzhen

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner

    The pictures say it all. I was passing by Shenzhen's Mangrove West Coast, one of the highest priced residential estates, when I noticed the apartment owners had put up banners on their balconies. From what the banners say, it seems that one of butler got into a fight with one of the apartment owners. How this happened, I am not sure but I do know that the property developers and management have been boasting about their butler service as being as good as that of a five star hotel and this was also one of the main reasons why the property management fees for this estate was double the price of the fees charged by neighbouring developments.

    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    Translation: "Unbelievable - Butler beats up owner"
    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    Translation: "Beating up someone is illegal"
    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    Shenzhen Mangrove West Coast: Property Management Staff Beat Up Owner 深圳红树西岸管家打业主

    I think the main reason for the low number of banners hanging out is a low occupancy rate.

    BYD S6 Hard Top Convertible Launching Soon

    Seen in China Car Times, BYD has a new hard top convertible ready for launch in the next few months and it seems they are more than ready. I caught this production model testing on Shenzhen roads last month but did not have time to post the hastily taken pictures due to a busy work schedule.

    New BYD S6 pre-production model on Shenzhen roads

    The car was cruising along at about 50 kmh and I could not tell much from running along side.

    New BYD S6 pre-production model on Shenzhen roads

    I can only say is the clone wars are still on-going but surely, with 1.4 billion brains to tap on, someone could think of something a little more original...

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Nanjing Bus Driver Runs Down Cyclist And Drags Body 5 km

    Nanjing local media reported an incident where an off-duty public bus driver Wang stole a bus from the bus company where he worked at and went out with the intention of killing someone. According to witnesses, Wang drove dangerously till he hit a cyclist riding on a motorized bicycle.

    Nanjing Bus runs down cyclist and drags the body five kilometres

    After hitting the cyclist, he continued driving for another five kilometres despite other drivers pulling alongside to yell for Wang to stop.

    Nanjing Bus runs down cyclist and drags the body five kilometres

    The reason for all this? When he was on duty driving the public bus, he closed the motorized door on a passenger boarding the bus and the passenger got caught between the doors. For that incident, he was scolded by his superior and he was unhappy at the ticking off and wanted to kill someone to take out his anger.

    Having lived in China for several years, nothing surprises me any more. This is a sign of a society that has forgotten its Confucian roots and priciples. Fortunately, this incident provoked angry responses from the public. The question is: what will they and their government do about this after the anger has died down and the public debate has blown over.

    Original Chinese article
    Partial translation of article on Shanghaiist

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