Amazing Drive - The Road to SEMA

If you are following me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have seen some photos tagged as #livefromsema or #sema2013. That's right, Tokyo Car Parade was visiting SEMA for the first time under fully qualified media credentials.

But the story begins before the opening day, as I arrived to ever busy and chaotic LAX airport in the evening of November 1st.  As I entered the Hertz rental lot, I took my time to appreciate their dream collection including Porsche 911, Mercedes Benz C63 AMG, and Tesla Roadster.  Right behind they had the adrenaline collection consisting of another revision of Dodge Challenger RT sporting a darker blend of Orange and a bit smoother lines, brand new 2014 Camaro SS Convertible, and in the middle, Hertz Limited Edition 2014 Ford Mustang Penske GT.

Having read about it in Flyertalk forum, I was curious to know more about it and to my luck, a friendly agent approached me and and following usual chit-chat she started the engine; and at that moment, I knew I had to have it!

The aggressive deep exhaust note combined with smooth growl of the 5.0L V8 could only be compared to top end AMG models, but unlike the German machines this one didn't even attempt to be quiet.  It was loud, in your face, angry, and I loved it.  So, after a bit of negotiations I accepted a rate which would not make me declare bankruptcy, and was off to 40 mile ride to my hotel in Orange County.

I had few days to spend in sunny SoCal so I decided to visit "Neptune's Net" -  a seafood restaurant known well among bikers, but also for a scene in the first Fast and Furious movie.. Located right on PCH, past Malibu, meant a good 70 miles drive for me, but on such a beautiful day, with such an amazing car, the pleasure was all mine. 

Cruising along PCH is always relaxing and fun, as I wind the windows down to enjoy the cool ocean breeze accompanied by rumble of the Mustang's quad exhaust.

It almost feels like this car was built for this road, even though I did wish it was a convertible, and that speed limit was higher than 55mph. 

Before I knew it, I reached the destination and finally got to the awesome cooked shrimp and Baja Fish Tacos. 

The following day was dedicated for some shopping and cruising around town, where I got more familiar with the car.

Inside, it's similar to a Mustang Premium Convertible I drove previously, which means most usual Mustang mix of brilliance and disappointment,  with premium leather, striking looks and overall comfort combined with unergonomic buttons and knobs along with horrible elbow  rest on central console.  Sometimes I just wish Ford would send their cars to Europe to get interior features right!

However what made this car unique were the beautifully crafted Recaro leather seats with excellent comfort and body support.

 As any American coupe it also has a sizable trunk and a  decent back seat.

The car was turning out to be an excellent tourer - exactly what I needed for the trip; and as any tourer, it has to have a proper large engine upfront.

And it does not disappoint.  The normally aspirated tuned 5.0L V8 is a beast of an engine, but although very responsive it feels heavy and not as agile as AMG engines or even Nissan's 3.7L V6. However, once it gets past about 3.5K RPM it is absolutely brutal.  There is so much power and torque it feels that car will accelerate into stratosphere. 

My drive to San Diego was scheduled next and that's where I was more able to feel the potential of this car.  Finally leaving the congestion of LA county I had a long stretch of South-bound I5 to play around on.

Needless to say, I was very impressed at ease at which this car overtakes at almost any speed.  Acceleration, even from 60mph or higher speeds was instant and very linear. 

Arriving at San Diego I knew I had the right car for the job, and on such nice day, the only thing left to do was to give it a proper photo shoot.

The car is no ordinary Mustang.  It sports bigger 19" wheels, with Brembo brake calipers visible behind,

Sports suspension makes the car sit lower and more aggressive,

Visual features such as front diffuser and rear spoiler borrowed from 302 Boss Mustang and GT500 respectively, along with Penske themed racing stripe tell the rest of the story.  

Even stock Mustangs look great, but with so many features added and customized this is undoubtedly one of the best looking modern Mustangs out there.

As it was getting dark, I decided to grab a few shots of San Diego beautiful skyline and head to what is probably my favorite hotel in entire world:

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.

After a relaxing stay, a pint of Bitburger for dinner and a latte and a turkey wrap for breakfast, I had all the energy to complete the 300 mile journey to Las Vegas.

But first, I got a call from a fellow flyertalk member in Riverside where my Mustang was to meet its twin.

Naturally, I couldn't say "no", so after a quick uneventful run on I15 I was at very sandy Riverside where my California plated Mustang met its sibling from Nevada.

Word out on the street is that California Penske GT's ended up being de-tuned to meet the state emission standards (and I thought they only went after Skylines)

Seeing two of them together like this, is indeed a rare sight as only 150 of them were ever made.

But before we could finish appreciating the automotive beauty in front of us it was time to go.

The congestion on I15 has cleared up and I was all go for Las Vegas. 

During the 3 hour drive several things have got my attention.

First, I wanted to comment about the seats.  The beautifully crafted leather Recaro seats were probably most ergonomic and comfortable I have ever experienced.  At just about right softness they were very supportive and ensured that no muscle was unnecessary tense, which pretty much eliminated any signs of fatigue during such long drive. 

On the negative side, the short gears of the 6 speed customized automatic gearbox are tuned for acceleration and performance, meaning that at cruising speed, engine was rotating at whooping 2.5-3K RPM, which is absolutely unnecessary and utterly inefficient.  The car can barely make it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on single tank of gas, which is absolutely abysmal.

That said, it's America, gas is cheap, and if all cars could make it from LA to Vegas on single tank or charge, there would be no Barstow.  Positioned at exactly half way mark it was an ideal place for me to stop for gas and coffee.  Re-energized and re-fueled, I continued the drive and reached the home of SEMA before nighfall.

Once I reached my hotel, I couldn't help but notice how valets appreciated the car.  And indeed the car draws attention.  People stop to take another glance, compliment it. 

On a freeway, bikers wanted to race me, other Mustang owners wanted to follow, while Audi owners miserably failed to keep up; in town kids were pointing their fingers while their parents snapped pictures.  I felt like a rock star and that's the whole point of this car.

Nothing else matters, not the plastic trim, not the ridiculous gear change button, not even the horrible fuel economy.

And at the end of it all after exhausting two days of SEMA, it took me back to California in full comfort and joy. 

Thank you for reading everyone.  There will be at least two full features of SEMA coming very soon so please check back in couple of days!




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