Prognostications and other thoughts

Friday, April 21, 2006

Q1 Numbers

Here's how Q1 '06 Stacked up
Stock NetIncome NetRev RevYOY MktCap
YHOO 160 M 1.57 B 34% 47.5B
EBAY 248 M 1.39 B 35% 49.3B
GOOG 592 M 2.25 B 79% 133.0B

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Car review: Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Our '98 Land Cruiser is in the shop for a major tune up/smog cert. I decided to get a rental car, and for $9/day, Toytota 101 gave us the Highlander Hybrid. Wow. This is probably the most all-around capable car I've ever been in.

Road Test:
- 0-60 in 6.6 sec according to Motor Trend. My Audi A6 4.2 is supposed to do that in 6.7 seconds. So I tested both (in the rain). According to my stopwatch, the Highlander did it in 7.66 seconds. The Audi in 7.67.
- Driving through mud. There is a section of dirt I park in to go running. It is now a saturated mud bog because of the rain. When I drive the big old Land Cruiser in there, it starts to slip and slide as the huge tires get gummed up. The Audi, with it's also huge low profile tires, overcompensates with it's anti-skid control and also bogs down in the mud. The Highlander, with taller/skinner tires just dug in and plowed through with the least drama.
- Braking in wet/Anti Skid control. The Anti Skid is much more advanced in the Toyota. It doesn't kick in as abrubtly as the Audi's.

Gas mileage: claimed 27/30 mpg, though a lot of owners have complained it "only" gets 25 mpg. That's 127% better than the Land Cruiser and 47% better than the Audi.
If you drive 15k miles a year, at 3$ a gallon:
- Land Cruiser (11 mpg): $4091
- Audi (17 mpg): $2647
- Highlander (25 mpg): $1800.
Over 5 years, the Highlander would save nearly $11,500 vs the Land Cruiser and $4,235 vs the Audi in gas costs! There is a site that describes exhaust emissions; the Land Cruiser would dump over 6000 pounds in a year; the Highlander, 3000 pounds.

Cargo Capacity: This is what's great about the Land Cruiser; it hauls all of our camping crap; 60 cubic feet behind the middle row. The Highlander is 50 cubic feet.
The real test is putting the baby jogger in the back without having to disassemble; easy with the Land Cruiser. I tried in the Highlander-didn't quite fit. Then I noticed that the 2/3, 1/3 rear seats are on rails and you can easily move the seats up. Presto-baby jogger fits!

3rd Row Seating: The Land Cruiser has removable 3rd row seats. They have terrible leg room but workable in a pinch. At first I thought the highlander didn't have a third row-it is so cleverly packaged, they fold in to the floor. Leg room is definitely worse, but still available for small kids.

Rear Seat Comfort: The rear seat of the Land Cruiser is our daughter's playground. She has all of her toys back there. It has enough leg room to be comfortable for me, even if the front seats are all the way back (I am 6 feet tall). Guess what-the Highlander felt just as roomy. Also, you can actually recline the rear seats!

Front Seat Comfort: I really like not being too cramped. The audi feels spacious. Highlander-even more! The only thing wrong with the Highlander is the steering wheel doesn't telescope.

Navigation: My Audi has a first gen nav system. It's useless and impossible to operate. The Land Cruiser has none. The Highlander has the bad-ass ones with the real time map. Impressive.

Sound System: Though not great, the amp has more watts than either the Land Cruiser or the Audi. Upgrading speakers would make it rock.

Safety: The Land Cruiser has front air bags. The Audi and Highlander have front plus front/rear side airbags. In crash tests, the Highlander received "Good" and "Excellent" ratings; the Audi received "Good" and "Fair" ratings.

Driving the Highlander.
So, like the Prius, hybrids are different. When you start them up, it's silent. The Highlander doesn't have the goofy key fob/sensor, just a regular key. Perhaps the biggest drawbacks is the weird feeling of the continuously variable transmission. It sort of lurches as it changes ratios. And the noise of the engine(s) under power isn't pretty. But when cruising, it's incredibly quiet.

The most amazing thing-after years of waiting for these things, dealers actually have a ton of them. On the phone, the sales rep said their asking price is $42k fully loaded. But without prompting, he said he'd easily drop to $39k. They have 2.9% financing and really low lease rates as well.

What's wrong with it?
The Highlander is kind of butt-ugly. There isn't a lot of road feedback through the steering wheel. It doesn't "feel" as fast as it is. It doesn't have as much room as the Land Cruiser. It doesn't have real 4wd capability (tho, does that really matter?). And there aren't a lot of used ones--getting a used one will only save aout $3k.

I love our land cruiser but want to unload it before it becomes unsellable as gas prices keep climbing. It's got 120k plus horrid gas mileage. Now if I can only convince my wife...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

IRD Compact Cranks

(click for larger image)
Larry Norris ordered these IRD compact cranks. Here's how they compare to the Ritchey Carbon Compacts.
- They are lighter and weigh as claimed, 545 grams.
- Finish is slightly better. Look at the pedal hole for the non-drive side; carbon runs completely to the edges. This must mean they have separate molds for each arm length-unlike ritchey.
- Tolerance between thickness of the chain ring and crank itself is higher. Meaning there is less of a ridge between the crank and the chain ring.

I guess IRD has been doing carbon cranks a little bit longer than Ritchey. Not sure what final retail prices are for either so the verdict's still out on value.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New bike! Scott Plasma

Just got this SWEET new triathlon bike frame. Had it built up of mostly "spare" components.
Read the whole thing here.