Lighter Car News: The Last Left-Hand-Drive RX-7, Manual Kias and Tougher Horns
Our semiregular roundup of the latest automotive news and musings from around the Web.
This week on our semiregular “Lighter Car News” roundup, we’re really heavy on light news. Partly, it’s because we’re a few weeks away from the Paris Motor Show, and also because your author loves any time the Mazda RX-7 is mentioned in a story.
We’re also talking about new manual transmissions in the Kia Rio -- thanks to loud complaints from enthusiasts -- and why automakers are spending more time and money on developing longer-lasting horns.
The very last left-hand drive Mazda RX-7 is in California
The third-generation Mazda RX-7 is one of the rarest cars on U.S. roads, since it was on sale from 1992 to 1995. It is beautiful and fast, comes with a Wankel rotary engine, and looks just as amazing now as it did 17 years ago. In 1994, my father tested one but never bought it, and I still hate him for it. But in the mid-1990s, the market for expensive, powerful, 2-door sports cars dried up, and Japanese models such as the RX-7 and Toyota Supra quit. (Iffy reliability, like the fussy, overheated turbos and leaking coolant on my father’s loaner, was part of the problem. So really I can’t hate him, but man, that car would have looked awesome in our garage.)
The RX-7 continued selling in Japan until about 2002, when it was given even more power, BBS wheels and a spoiler. And somehow, Motor Trend just drove -- in California, not Japan -- the world’s only left-hand-drive RX-7 from this model year. Normally, I can’t watch a long YouTube video without skipping half of it. Not this time. If you’re anything like me and wished you could have driven a nearly new RX-7 in 2012, you must see this.
Kia adds more manual transmissions -- all 400 of them
The only connection between the RX-7 and the 2013 Kia Rio SX is a manual transmission. Like the RX-7, manual transmissions are also rare in the U.S, finding fewer than 10 percent of all buyers. But in a surprise gesture to car enthusiasts, Kia said it would build 400 top-of-the-line Rio SX hatchbacks with 6-speed manual transmissions, whereby it had previously offered the stick only on the bargain LX trim.
As expected, Car and Driver, which has been waging a “Save the Manuals!” campaign for the past two years, took all the credit. Except it still found a lot to complain about, including a “numb” clutch and an occasional grinding sound. Maybe some manuals aren’t worth saving?
Just what cities everywhere need: Horns that last longer
In Boston, I’m on the horn several times a week, either to alert pedestrians from jaywalking or letting cab drivers understand that the right lane is not a standing zone. If I were in India, where traffic laws are mere suggestions (see above), I’d be on the horn several times a minute. That’s why automakers are making tougher, longer-lasting horns, according to an AP report.
General Motors, for example, is switching its steel diaphragm to a longer-lasting tungsten unit, while Ford will debut a horn that honks more consistently over bumpy pavement. For the U.S., GM is switching from copper wiring to aluminum for (supposedly) better fuel economy. But don’t think the U.S. market is any more sophisticated with using its car horns, even with “No Honking” signs plastered all over Manhattan. Unlike in Sri Lanka, which limits noise at specific distances, we don’t have a federal standard governing noise.
Wow, I thought India was advanced since we outsource so many jobs there. What a bunch of idiots driving and stupid chaos, no desire to travel there!
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