Tag: used car review

Used Car Review – 1998 Chevy Blazer

Chevy S-10 Blazer#blazeit

At Surfwrench, we really like Blazers. We like that they are simple, capable small SUVs that can handle pretty much anything that you can throw at them (within reason). The early ones were a bona fide answer to the revolutionary Ford Bronco and they are pretty damn cool. Today though, we’re taking a look at a 2 door S-10 variant from 1998.

First of all, I had one of these early in my driving career and to me it was a genuinely great car. While the gas mileage wasn’t very good and I was commuting a long way to school, one of the main things that I remembered was just how liberating this car was. It meant that I could get where I needed to go in just about any weather because of the solid 4×4 system. This really was a very good car for a new driver being cheap, durable, and fairly capable when things get dicey. Continue reading “Used Car Review – 1998 Chevy Blazer”

Used Car Review – 2003 Pontiac Aztek

Pontiac Aztek
Image by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Good, Bad, and Ugly

Style is a fickle thing. When it’s on point, everyone knows it. Conversely, when its not on point, everyone is more than willing to point it out. I would say that about 90% of cars on the road today fall right in the middle — they are neither here nor there. They all pretty much look the same and therefore evoke no real emotion based on aesthetics. The top 5% of cars in terms of looks leave the viewer in wonderment of man’s ability to make art move. The bottom 5%, well, they make us ask: “why?” In the case of the Pontiac Aztek though the question wasn’t why, the question was, “what the f**k were you people thinking?”

First off, this is a car that literally everyone on planet earth with a motoring blog, or two functioning eyeballs, has s**t on ad nauseum. Every list of the ugliest cars of all time from Edmunds to Time magazine has this very near the top. Time even went so far as to blame the Aztek for the downfall of the Pontiac brand in the late 2000’s. So when I found one of these on sale in a local marketplace, I figured, “ok it’s ugly as sin, but what is it like to drive?” So I donned a disguise and took it for a spin.

Surprisingly Good

Right away, the interior is very roomy and extremely modular. This was an early mid sized crossover and most car makers hadn’t really figured out how to make best use of the limited space. However, the Aztek’s interior really works. The one thing that is absolutely stunning was the overall visibility from the driver’s seat. One of the things that floored me was the idea that you could get the Aztek with a heads up display. However upon further research, it made sense. When the Aztek was being thought up, GM wanted to try a lot of new things on a proven platform and engine. The Aztek was built for people who were going to go out and use every bit of it. So, they added it with goodies that you would expect in a hardcore Range Rover — coolers, split tailgate, audio controls in the very back, tent attachments, air compressors, air mattresses — literally everything but the kitchen sink, and if you wanted I’m sure you could pay someone on Surfwrench to add one.

The performance was surprisingly good. At just 4000 pounds, the 3.4 liter V6 handled itself well and the Versatrak all wheel drive system is actually still one of the better ones out there. It’s not quattro, but it’s not supposed to be. I thoroughly expected it to handle like an absolute whale, but the plastic body cuts the weight and the all wheel drive distributes power nicely. There was a fair bit of body roll but I suspect that it was more the result of a failed suspension component on the driver’s side, rather than the actual design of the vehicle itself.

Then, something weird happened. I kinda forgot that I was in one of the ugliest cars ever made. Yea, it was ugly, but at 14 years old everything still worked. The interior was still fairly clean. There was pretty solid legroom in the back, and with all of the optional extra’s at $4,000 it was a pretty solid deal. It had only done 89,000 miles, but the transmission still shifted perfectly and the engine hadn’t lost any of its steam. GM V6’s are rarely going to win any drag races, but they are a well built and engineered powerplant. It also doesn’t get great gas mileage; 20 mpg in suburban and city settings.

Why It Didn’t Work

In its 5 year run, GM sold less than 120,000 of these cars, which in GM numbers is absolutely terrible. But there is something weird about every one that they sold. The Aztek scored highest in the mid sized SUV Consumer Satisfaction Index in 2001. These people mostly cited loving the interior, all wheel drive system, and the overall “different-ness” of the model. That’s actually a good observation from the people who actually owned them. The entire car was just different, and in the early 2000’s people didn’t really want different. The world was changing in ways that they didn’t understand, so we stuck with what was familiar- square, body on frame SUVs with V8’s that didn’t upset the status quo. The Aztek dared to be different, and while it didn’t do different right, it did stand out. Unfortunately it found itself in the bottom 5%, but that isn’t bothering the people who still drive them (mainly because you can’t see yourself in it).

Wow, look at that. I made it the whole article without making a Breaking Bad joke.

Used Car Review – 1993 Acura Legend

A 20-Something Year Old Luxury Barge That Actually Works!

Image by IFCAR, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

If you came into our office and said, “I have $3000 dollars to buy a used car, but I am looking for a luxury barge, and it has to be older than I am,” there is a decent shot I would have to keep you occupied while Uncle Jimmy gets the men in white coats. Big, complicated, flagship sort of cars are notoriously terrible on resale and for a lot of really good reasons: they break and when they do it is usually extremely expensive. Often when a car is dubbed a “flagship” it is utilizing a lot of technology that a car maker is going to work the kinks out of and then put into higher volume makes in the near future. However if your search for a large, complicated, fashionable luxury barge lead you to the 1993 Acura Legend, we would call off the men in white coats and have a good chat.

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Used Car Review – 2009 Chevrolet Impala

9th generation chevy impala
Image By IFCAR, via Wikimedia, Public Domain,

You know, there is just something inherently right about a small block V8 in a big American sedan. It conjures up images suits with skinny ties, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, and dying before you’re 50. The world is still black and white, and you like Ike. So driving one of these that was built in the post expensive gas, politically correct, polar bear friendly 2000s is kind of out of place — much like a member of PETA at a pig roast. However, the 2009 Chevrolet Impala SS is a small block sporting sedan built in these strange times, and it’s not terrible.

The Chevrolet Impala really is one of the best American nameplates out there. Its old, storied, they have sold an absolute sh*t ton of these cars. Introduced in 1958, the Impala is currently in its 10th generation. This is incredible considering it is an American car and the generations go on longer than the tenure of most Italian dictators. Statistically speaking, if you talk to someone born in America after the 20’s, they have owned one of these. In 1965 they sold over 1 million of them. To but that in perspective, it’s hard to sell a million of one brand in 2017, let alone one million of one make. They’re still selling the piss out of it, averaging well over 100,000 Impalas every year, like clockwork.

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Used Car Review – 2015 Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

It’s not a car…it’s a bulldozer

Dodge Ram 2500 Front ViewUsually when I get an email that I’m reviewing a vehicle with 6 cylinders, two turbo’s, and all wheel drive it’s something sleek, fast, and German. Needless to say when I found out that I was driving something Italian, my mind instantly went to the brilliance of some of the recent Alfa Romeo’s and to questions about the possibility of an AWD Maserati Biturbo. So when I saw the hulking, battleship grey Ram 2500 — I was pretty sure it was the wrong car. Mainly because it’s not a car, it’s basically a bulldozer!

Right away, the thing that hits you is the magnitude of the Ram. It’s tall, wide, long, and built like a brick sh*thouse. Looking at some of the stats on the thing, this is matched by the weight, torque, and unrelenting capability of the thing. The tires were huge and grippy. The springs looked like the ones on NORAD to protect it from taking a direct missile strike. It weighs just shy of 8000 pounds, and it feels like it.

However, when you get inside (with a crane if you’re under about 5’8’’) you find an interior that really quite nice. Every truck I’ve ever owned was a single cab beater “Les Miller Special” meaning it was about as well equipped as a Quaker’s wet bar. So when there was a lot of nice features, such as heated seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, ample leg room in the back, cubby holds for your drinks, dry storage for things, and enough glovebox room for an AR-15 completely disassembled — I was a bit surprised. Honestly, I don’t drive a lot of trucks, but this one was as well equipped as a BMW. I know as they have grown in cost, the equipment has been tarted up to match, and it was nice to see that the Ram follows this trend.

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