VIP Club

Dom in the Morning

by Dom posted Jul 6 2015 4:58PM
2015 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

People read car reviews for lots of reasons. Some people need a big minivan or SUV to haul their kids and gear around; some want the best off-roading choice; others are shopping for a fuel-efficient machine to save them a few bucks.

This review will appeal to the person who values one thing in particular, and I’ll sum it up in one honest sentence: In the fifteen years that I’ve been writing car reviews, no car - not one - has elicited as many comments from strangers as the ’15 Jag F-Type Convertible.

Intersections. Grocery store parking lots. The gas station. My neighborhood. In the week that I drove this car, at least twenty people stopped me to talk about it. So, if the most important criteria for your next car purchase is head-turning, well, your search is over.

Personally, I need a little more than just eye-popping looks, but Jaguar has taken care of most of that. (And I have to admit that every time I parked the damned thing, I’d look back at it as I walked away. It’s like the prettiest girl in town, right?)

You can take your pick from a variety of F-Types, from coupe to convertible (get the convertible), from V6 to V8, from base model to S trim to R. I drove the top-of-the-line R (twist my arm), which putters along (ha ha!) on a mere 550 horsepower. Sheesh, even just STARTING the car makes you wanna put on a racing helmet. The engineers had some fun with that - the car will (on its own, no foot on the gas) rev thru the redline at the start, a rocketing, majestic growl that people hear from blocks away.

(I’m serious about that; I usually leave my house at about 4:30 in the morning to get to the radio station, and I found that I had to start the car with my garage door closed in order to not frighten my sleeping neighbors.)

As far as the exterior . . . wait, never mind. Just look at the photos. C’mon.

Inside, Jaguar has steeped the F-Type in luxury, with handsomely-stitched seats that conform to your butt perfectly, and just the right amount of sparkle and glimmer. The instrument panel is well-adjusted (unlike many of us drivers), and the touch-screen console is sufficiently-user-friendly.

My favorite thing about the cockpit - and something that got comments from more than one guest - was the grab-handle (or whatever you call it) on the passenger side. Dude, with 550 horses - and a zero-to-60 time under 4 seconds - your passenger will want something to grasp.

Like the earlier-reviewed BMW 2-series convertible, the Jaguar sports a soft-top for the convertible. And, just as I felt on the BMW, it’s the right call. The fabric version saves on weight, and doesn’t take up as much room in the trunk as the retractable hardtops out there.

And that’s good - trunk space is already at a premium here. Hell, you aren’t driving this to the airport anyway; with the speed of this car you’d probably be able to drive instead of fly. But the point is, you’re not carrying luggage in this car. (And there’s no back seat at all, not even a tease like you get with some other sports cars.) In fact, there’s no real storage space anywhere. And this time I didn’t care.

The wind deflector does an admirable job, allowing normal conversation, even over the husky tones of the engine.

Mileage . . . okay, for the R and its V8 monster, turned out to be around 18 overall (combo city and highway), but that’s actually better tha
n I expected. When I first drove it out of the ‘hood I figured I might get 14. So that’s a plus.

And while I almost always list the sticker price, I’m not going to this time. Let’s put it this way: the MSRP is exactly twice what I paid for my first home when I was in my 20s, and that had three bedrooms, two baths, and a two-car garage. Just sayin’.

Safe to say that the Jaguar F-Type R Convertible is for someone who has arrived. Ironic, since this is such a fun way to get there.

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Car provided by manufacturer
by Dom posted Jul 4 2015 10:39AM
I had an experience this holiday weekend that was at first frustrating, then aggravating, and finally enlightening and VERY fulfilling. And it all involved a barbecue grill and memories of my dad. Wanna dive in? This will take you right there. Enjoy, and happy 4th to you and your family!
by Dom posted Jul 3 2015 8:50AM
Well, this is something new. While hosting a book club with The Tattered Cover for fifteen years, I’ve never - not even once - featured one of my own books. It just seemed kinda schmarmy - and maybe even unethical? I don’t know, but I never even considered it.

But now it doesn’t make sense not to, really. The city of Denver bestowed a huge honor upon me by choosing my first book for students, The Comet’s Curse, as their Youth One Book / One Denver selection for 2015. Over 2000 young people are receiving copies of the action/adventure tale, and I’m hosting more than a dozen presentations with Denver students during July.

So The Tattered Cover thought it would be fun to spotlight the award-winning book, too. In fact, you and your kids are invited to a special evening at The Tattered Cover’s new location in Aspen Grove on July 23rd at 6pm. I’ll talk about the book (and the whole Galahad series, for that matter), answer questions, and generally just have a good time with it. I’d love for you and your family to stop by and chat.

Rather than a traditional review, I’ll just tell you that The Comet’s Curse is the story of 251 teenagers who are sent away in a spacecraft to colonize another world. And there are no adults aboard. Why they’re on this mission - and why no grownups are allowed - is revealed in the story. Of course there’s drama, action, suspense, mystery, and even a little bit of romance (hey, they’re teenagers).

The book won the International Grand Prize from Writer’s Digest magazine, as well as an EVVY Award for Best Young Adult Book. It’s the first volume in a six-book collection known as The Galahad Series, and all six of the books are available through the Tattered Cover and other sources. Find out more about the entire series right here.

Hope you and your kids enjoy the book. Yes, I do mean you, the adult, because half of the readers of The Comet’s Curse and the Galahad series are adults. Then I hope to see you on the 23rd. Mention Dom’s Book Club at checkout and The Tattered Cover will take 20% off the cost of The Comet’s Curse.

Happy reading!
by Emily Makinzie posted Jun 25 2015 6:04AM
Love for every body, every size, color, bump, stretch, scar, dimple, and curve.
I have my good days and bad days when it come to body acceptance. But I'm hoping that the good days win over and the bad days become obsolete. 
Bless these women for helping us all smile at what we see in the mirror.
Filed Under :
Topics : Human Interest
Location : Victoria
by Dom posted Jun 25 2015 6:00AM

The timing couldn't be better! On the heels of the mega-successful new Jurassic movie, this Saturday (June 27th) Dom will be hosting a fun day of dinosaurs (and books) at the Barnes & Noble on Colorado Blvd in Glendale.

It's an all-new Get Your Nerd On Day, starring world-famous paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, the host of PBS Kids' Dinosaur Train. He'll be signing his books and talking dinosaurs. Plus, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will be there with their Sculpt-a-saurus project. Kids in grades 2 and up can create their own dinosaurs! Although it's free, you DO have to reserve your spot by calling 303-691-2998.

And, oh yeah, Dom will be there signing his Mindbender books and Galahad books. You can get all of the information right here, so click away!

by Emily Makinzie posted Jun 23 2015 6:02AM
Two of my favorite things in the world are acapella music and Michael Jackson.
Put them together and it’s close to perfection for me.
The only thing that would make this joyous six minutes better is if I had a nice Riesling and my pup Kramer in the studio with me right now.
Filed Under :
People : Michael Jackson
by Emily Makinzie posted Jun 22 2015 5:57AM
Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen on "Game of Thrones".  She was on "The Graham Norton Show" this past weekend, and she talked about doing sex scenes with her co-star Jason Momoa, (that big hunk who played her husband Khal Drogo.)  He wanted to lighten the mood when they filmed a rather difficult boom-boom scene, so he wore a "beautiful, pink, fluffy sock" to cover his junk. She said when she saw him, she thought, "It's huge, and it's pink, and I don't know what to do."  Then she realized she just revealed the size of his junk... Hellllooooo.

by Dom posted Jun 15 2015 3:04PM
The best cars - regardless of sticker price - make you look forward to driving. It could be the contour and feel of the seats, the pleasing growl of an engine that wants to sprint, or maybe something abstract, undefinable. Something inside you doesn’t mind a forty-minute commute or a long road trip if it’s behind the wheel of that particular car.

Presenting, on cue, the 2015 BMW 228i Convertible. I’d already logged plenty of city miles during the first few days, but found myself happily anticipating a drive from Denver to Colorado Springs that I’d planned. Suddenly I-25 was out of the question; the back route, down highway 83, had to be the way, with its winding turns and wide-open spaces.

The 228i is BMW’s bait for getting you into their family. It’s initially stickered at just under $38k - making it attractive to a larger segment of the populatio
n - but that’s relatively stripped down. The test car I drove had a bounty of options that pushed the price over $50k, and I’d have to strongly recommend most of them. In particular, the SportLine adds 18-inch alloys, while the Driver Assist (rearview camera) and Track Handling Package (sport brakes and adaptive suspension) make the overall experience so much better.

The 4-cylinder power plant seems rather blah on paper, but don’t be fooled: This car jumps off the green light, and the 240 horses get you up to
speed in a hurry. Plus, the handling (as expected) is first-rate. The smoothest ride? Well, maybe not; the car sits low to the ground and is - after all - a sports car. But I had no complaints with the quality of the ride. Throw in the badass steering and suspension and you’ll forgive a minor bump or two.

As for the convertible element, it gets a thumbs-up in all of the categories that count. It will raise or lower in about 20 seconds with an easy control tab. BMW swears that you can do either of these functions at up to 30mph, but I just can’t bring myself to even try that. I’m not so impatient that I can’t wait until I’m stopped somewhere to take care of that business. If you try it, let me know.

It’s what the old-timers used to call a ragtop. Now, I know that retractable hardtops are popular, but there are a couple of reasons to lean on the soft side. For one, the lighter weight allows a lot of the aforementioned zip. And two, you don’t give up nearly the amount of trunk space that you do with a metal giant. I dug it.

Once you’re up to speed on the highway, you appreciate the wind deflector. Not only does it keep things on the seat (or your hair, for those of you with long locks) from flying around, it dampens a lot of the noise. Normal conversation is possible at 65 mph with the top down. That’s pretty cool.

Inside the cockpit you get an array of features, including the iDrive, your mouse-like device to control audio, etc. I’m still not a fan of this type of technology in a car,
and wish BMW and Mercedes and all the others would ditch it for the tried-and-true buttons. But, that aside, the 228’s console is fairly intuitive. You’ll be staring at a flat-screen display which sits up in a somewhat-awkward way, but you get used to it.

The shifter (this convertible is only available as an automatic) is funky, but fine. Spend about two minutes getting used to it and it
grows on you. Yes, there’s a back seat, but not really. It’s there to qualify as a four-seater (likely for insurance reasons), but you’re really just gonna be stowing your work gear and your groceries back there. On the plus side, the seat does fold down for access to the trunk.

Materials and such inside are A+, of course. (I’m not personally crazy about red leather, but people - as they say - are different.) Mile
age is surprisingly good, with an average of about 27 mpg.

If for some reason you demand even more power, look for the 228’s cousin, the 235, which cranks the horsepower up to 320, and offers a choice of manual transmission.

The BMW 228i Convertible is a blast to drive. With its reasonable price, great lines, and fun ride, you’ll see several show up in your ‘hood. Maybe your own driveway?
Reviewed by Dom
Car provided by manufacturer
Filed Under :
by Dom posted Jun 6 2015 10:47AM
2015 Mercedes GLA250 4Matic

Reviewed by Dom
Car provided by manufacturer

I pulled around the corner, saw the review car parked in front of my house, and said, “Oh, check it out, Mercedes made a hatchback. And it’s BROWN.” But don’t let the German automaker hear you say that; to them it’s a “cocoa-brown compact crossover.” Um, okay. Crossover it is. (But it’s still brown.)

After I got past the idea of a brown hatchback, the truth is I spent a few days behind the wheel of a well-made, comfortable luxury car. Granted, it’s storage space isn’t what some of the competitors can trumpet, but there’s certainly a place for this car in the segment.

Specifically, it’s a possible choice for anyone who lives in the city and prefers cars that can fit into small parking spaces, or for someone in the ‘burbs who has to fit a couple of cars into a small garage. The GLA is several inches shorter (both length and height) from it’s sibling, the Mercedes GLK.

Let’s accept that it’s a crossover vehicle, which means you get used to the flowing lines pretty quickly. The car seems to have a wide footprint, which translates into very good handling. No complaints there. The ride itself wasn’t the best Mercedes experience I’ve had, but still sits nicely in the upper half.

It might take you a little time to get used to the gear selector, which juts out of the steering column. It’s not an intuitive way of shifting, but once you get the hang of it you’ll appreciate the space-saving that it allows.

And once you start your drive you’ll also need to acclimate to the anti-idle, which several manufacturers are currently in love with. It will shut your car down at a red light, then fire back up when you let off the brake. In the Jaguar I recently drove it was a lightning-fast response; in the GLK it took a second or so longer to come back to life. End of the world? No. But the car did seem to hesitate off the green light.

Grab the base 250 or the 250 4Matic and you’ll get 208 horsepower; the souped-up AMG model jumps up to 355 horses. I drove the 4Matic and never felt like it was underpowered. Other than that split-second pause coming off the anti-idle, the car has good acceleration.

The interior is blessed with the usual Mercedes soft touches and classy appeal. The center console is slightly confusing, even more so with the Nav package that adds a popped-up screen which somehow (can’t put my finger on it) looks a little out of place. The controls themselves for things like sound and climate took a bit of time to figure out. The optional rear-view camera had a glitch, operating only about 20 percent of the time. I’ll chalk that up to the specific test model I drove, because I’ve never had the problem with a Mercedes before.

You can choose either front-wheel or all-wheel drive with the GLA. Mileage rolls in at an average (city/highway) of 27mpg, and your MSRP for the 4Matic begins at around $33k. My test car added a few things like Bi-Xenon headlights, 19-inch wheels, as well as the Premium Package (upgraded sound/heated seats/etc.) and the Multimedia Package for a total sticker of about $42k.

The GLA has serious competition from the likes of Infiniti, BMW, and Audi, but if you’re in the market to scale down (at least size-wise), the Mercedes entry is worth a look.

You don’t have to get brown.
by Dom posted Jun 4 2015 8:01PM

Daring Greatly
By Brene Brown

Reviewed by Dom

Like a lot of people, I first heard the words of Brene Brown through a TED talk. It was a small, 10-minute session of a TED Radio Hour, where she was talking about vulnerability. It immediately caught my attention, because I’ve had more than one personal relationship that didn't catch fire because someone was unable to be vulnerable. (Sometimes me, sometimes the woman.)

Because of that, over the past several years I’ve embraced the fact that it’s practically impossible to grow in a relationship - personal, work, or otherwise - if you’re not willing to put down your defenses and dive in.

It was President Teddy Roosevelt who provided the title for Brown. Roosevelt understood that success and achievement is great, but that even failure is good if you have dared greatly. In other words, get your ass in the ring and take your swings. Or, as Brown writes:

When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.

It’s so true.

The author relies on research and personal experience to show us that courage isn’t about making yourself a warrior behind walls; it’s becoming brave enough to let down those defenses, and allow yourself to live fully and exuberantly. Do we really want to look back later and say that we lived safely inside a bubble?

Fortunately I learned this lesson before reading the book, but I know (personally) several people who could probably gain a lot by thumbing through many of these chapters. You can call it a self-help book if you like, but it’s really a book that simply opens your eyes - and then gives you the strength to dare greatly. The only way you love completely - and happily - is by being vulnerable.

Find Daring Greatly by Brene Brown at The Tattered Cover Book Store. Just ask for Dom’s Book Club, and you’ll get Daring Greatly for 20% off through the end of June.

Filed Under :
Topics : Human Interest
People : Teddy Roosevelt
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