Monday, November 23, 2009

Off season happenings

So, about a month ago I was daydreaming about getting a daily driver so I could make the WRX into a track-only car. This came about because my last track day took me about an hour and a half just to swap out the pads, reset camber and toe, change tires, load everything up, etc. And then once home, I still have a bit of work to put away tools, take numbers off the car, etc. It sure would be nice to be able to leave all that stuff alone. That, and I never really get a good alignment with my dickering around with setting and resetting the alignment each time.

So, I had the first tentative conversations with my wife about how "practical" it would be to have another car (she hates the WRX because the coilovers make it so stiff). In the end, it really wasn't that hard a sell at all. BUT, she wanted a say in what car we were going to get.

So, my head was all over the 2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe -- if you haven't seen it you really need to check it out. With a swept back body line, it's just got gorgeous lines. Well, my wife's not to enamoured with it because the T-top isn't very practical (to go topless, you have to take the top off and leave it behind; there's no storage for it). So, this kinda left the GXP (non coupe) in mind -- or about a dozen other candidates from z370, S2000, even BMW 135i. In the end, it was fate that came together. My wife spotted a Saturn Sky in the parking lot at the bank, and instantly fell in love with it. She came home to tell me that she found the car.

Well, as it turns out, I knew all about the Sky -- I had put them in the same category as the Solstice since it's based on the same GM Kappa platform. So, it's really quite similar to the Solstice anyway. I went online and found there were a few Redline models in the area (turbo model) and a few days later became the proud owner of a 2009 Saturn Sky Redline Limited Edition.

Here's a few pictures of my car done with cell phone, and also a few better pictures where you can really see the lines:

In the end, I think my wife's choice was a really good one. The t-top on the solstice coupe would have been a real pain to deal with; and this is much better in the end. The angular lines have actually grown on me a lot, the solstice seems almost too bulbous now. :-)

When I purchased the car, I also got the LNF Turbo Upgrade kit which replaces some of the sensors and re-tunes the ECU. The baseline numbers are about 260 HP and 260 Ft/Lbs. The upgrade is stupposed to boost the power up to 290 HP with up to 340 Ft-Lbs of torque. To test that, I waited for the break-in period and took it to Portland Speed Industries (PSI; cute, eh?) and ran it on their dyno. Here's the results (keep in mind these are wheel power and torque numbers):

So, assuming a fairly standard 15% drive-line losses, the adjusted crank (or brake) numbers would have been: 305.3 HP and 328.6 Ft-Lbs of torque. I was pretty impressed with it; the toque numbers are just a smidge under the brochure number, but the torque curve is very flat and wider than some I've seen. Also, the ECU has had only about a week to learn the new settings, so I would anticipate it getting better if/as I use it more.

It's definitely an amazing machine and am really glad I let my wife talk me into it. It's got enough power to spin up the rear tires (good thing it has traction control), brakes are good, suspension feels good on the street (might be a bit soft for the track, but that's nothing new). All in all, a VERY fun bit of kit.

Now, I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with the WRX... :-) I am pretty sure I want to do a proper race setup (alignment), but I'm also thinking about installing a front splitter to help get through Turns 4-5 (and 6) where it tends to push out under throttle. Should be a fun season coming up and I'm looking forward to it!

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