Two to Four Wheel Drive, Acura NSX, Manual Hater, and What’s Up With The Elio? [Ask Nathan]

2014 buick verano nathan adlen
Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.


In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • Two- to Four-wheel drive!
  • Can’t understand hate for automatic transmissions!
  • Enough with the stalling! Where’s the new Acura NSX?!
  • What’s up with Elio?!

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

This question is a bit vague, but I think he wants to find a car that lets him manually control the two- and four-wheel drive.

Q: Hello

Now it’s time to buy a car again, but I need to get some help and I have a question, Is it any car that can activate or an-activate 4×4. So it become as two wheel drive drive car. Ex audi, bmw , mercedes any car. Please need some answers.

Sincerely, J

A: Okay, I think you’re asking about a vehicle you can control manually to go from two- to four-wheel drive (4WD). Right? Other than trucks and jeeps with manual (you shift/push-button) 4X4 systems, there are no cars out there that do it manually. All 4WD/AWD systems on cars currently sold in North America are automatic. This means they normally activate when they detect wheel-slippage. You can tell many of these systems that you want them to remain in 4WD/AWD, for unusual traction situations, some even “lock” the 4WD/AWD systems 50/50 (front and back wheels spinning with evenly dispersed power) – but they often deactivate when you approach regular traffic speeds.

The last car sold in North America that allowed the driver to select 2WD to 4WD on his own was the Suzuki SX4. Sadly, Suzuki Automobile no longer sells in the USA.

With all that being said, every automaker that sells in the USA has AWD cars. Volkswagen, FIAT Chrysler Automobile (FCA), Mercedes-Benz, Honda/Acura, General Motors, Toyota/Lexus, Subaru, Ford and so on. Recently, I’ve driven the new Chrysler 200 AWD, BMW 4-Series, Audi S4 and Lexus LS AWD and all of them were excellent, especially the 2014 Audi S4!

I hope that helps!


One of our viewers does not understand the love automotive journalists and enthusiasts have for manual transmissions.


Q: (Statement) I will never understand the hate for automatics and the love for manuals. I have driven both and feel automatics have less going so I can just keep my attention on the road and where I am going. Maybe since I don’t live in open areas and travel small distances, I don’t see the fun. Sorry.

A: I know, lots of automotive journalists tend to love manual transmissions. Usually, it’s because of the connection you have to the car. You have control of that component which makes you part of the power delivery system, if you will. Also, there’s something visceral and satisfying about the actual feel of shifting, especially in anger. It’s an emotional epiphany when you slap that baby in the right gear at the right rpm with the engine singing.

As for practicality, I fully admit that autos and CVTs are fine for many. Autos now go all the way up to nine-speeds and are proving very efficient. Still, manual transmissions tend to be easier to build, reliable, cheaper in most cases, and they still represent a great way to wrangle the best mpg out of economy cars. As an example, the Chevrolet Cruze Eco is one of the thriftiest cars on the road when equipped with a manual transmission.

With that being said, I admit that manual transmissions can be a pain in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Some people are willing to sacrifice for the artistic (yes, “artistic”) freedom the manual gives you. You can create an awesome driving experience, rather than have it simulated by paddles and buttons. You are free to have fun whenever you desire.

Yes, it can be THAT good my friend.

Also, keep in mind: with so few people driving sticks these days, it’s a good bet that a car-thief/car-jacker will have a hard time driving your car verses an automatic.




This one comes from a viewer regarding the constantly delayed next Acura NSX.

Q: Love you guys and I know you have some inside info from time to time. Tell me this, where is the new Acura NSX?! I have seen it for years and yet, nothing. I see them burn on racetracks, in commercials with Leno and on magazine covers, but not a damn thing mentioned on delivery. It’s beginning to feel like the way too long rollout of the Lexus LFA, and what a winner that was. I know Honda dislikes you, but do you have any information? I’ll take a rumor or two too.


A: I’m right there with you brother. The teasing and dozens of auto show appearances by Acura NSX concepts/prototypes is getting old. People want them, now. Here’s what has recently been reported about the upcoming Acura NSX. It should be out in the later half of 2015… or 2033. Just kidding. Honda has been working on this vehicle with the anticipation to build a vehicle that’s as technologically advanced as many modern supercars.

The 2015/2016 Acura NSX will have a mid-mounted V-6 with titanium connecting rods coupled to a wet twin-clutch seven-speed transmission and hybridized with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. The front wheels will have two electric motors powering them.

It should have a combined output of 475 – 500 horsepower and weigh just over 3,000 lbs.

Prices are expected to be less than $150,000.

That’s all the info I have, most of which was procured online. Acura has been remarkably tight-lipped about the NSX, especially after one of their test mules went up in flames while testing. Either way, I suspect we’ll see more “prototypes” at various auto shows over the next year before there’s an actual reveal.

I hope that helps and I pray to the car gods that we get to sample one soon!



This last one comes from a enthusiastic, economy-minded consumer who wants more information about the $6,800 Elio three-wheeled car that is supposed to get up to 84 mpg.

Q: Nathan! Have you driven this three-wheeled Elio? I like the price, less than $7,000, especially when measured against the Smart ForTwo. I can’t find any proper reviews except for some idiot newscaster driving around the block. She knows nothing about cars and giggled stupidly the whole time. I know you like small cars and you’re a geek for getting more than what you paid for, like me.

Have you driven it? What do you know about the Elio?

F.A. Huntsville, AL.

A: Great question and I wish I had something more than regurgitating information from Elio – but I don’t. Elio has yet to do any press events, first drives, sample drives or vehicle loans for most automotive journalists. They bombard subscribers with updates, but it’s primarily promotional material meant to keep the interest in the product alive.

Elio says their car/motorcycle will come out in March of 2015.

Yes, I said “motorcycle.” In many states the Elio will be considered a motorcycle and will be subject to the same regulations as motorcycles. That should mean free carpool lane access and less restrictions for emissions. It also means no fourth wheel.

Unlike the motorcycle-based Campagna Motors’ T-Rex. the Elio is front engine, front-wheel drive vehicle with the rear tire having nothing to do with power. It will have a three-cylinder engine up front hooked up to a manual or automatic transmission.

The seating is in tandem (think motorcycle) and there is room for two. Despite this, it appears that the Elio will have all of the benefits of what most regular cars have. A stereo, air conditioning, power windows and door-locks will be available, just like a regular car.

“Because what other vehicle is anticipated to achieve 84 MPG – letting you travel 672 miles on a tank of gas? The average workday commute is 32 miles, so you’d only have to make a gas stop about once a month. Couple that with a $6,800 no-haggle sticker price that includes stuff like AC/Heat, AM/FM Stereo, Power Windows and Door Lock, Three Airbags, Tempered Glass and more and you have ingenuity in its most ingenious form.” – Elio Motors

According to Elio, it will have a top speed over 100 mph, go 0 to 60 mph in under 9.6 seconds, will have a 3 year/36,000 miles warranty (serviced by Pep Boys) have three airbags, a reinforced roll-cage frame and Anti-Lock Braking System. Despite being considered a motorcycle, Elio expects a five star safety rating.

The Elio is made in North America utilizing 90% North American content.

It looks like a damn good idea, I like three-wheeled (tail-dragging) vehicles. Stability is better than you might think and the only issue it has when driving is the rear wheel bouncing through potholes. Rumor has it Elio is working on a three/four passenger version that might debut in a few years if the regular Elio is a success.

Can’t wait to test one.

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Nathan Adlen Bio Picture Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.