Behind the Wheel

Luxury within reason

2014 Acura RLX

On the heels of the NSX concept last year and the brand new entry-level ILX, the longer, leaner Acura RLX looks nothing like the car it replaces, so we were piqued when Honda's luxury division invited us up to Napa to experience all the RLX has to offer. Fine wine and luxury cars. Makes sense to us.

True British Muscle

Aston Martin V12 Vantage Carbon Black Edition

Aston Martin recently decided that being one of the most prestigious and sexiest car makers on the planet wasn't enough. They needed to be audacious. Their execution of this? Surgically transplanting the 6.0-liter 510 hp V12 from the DBS into their smallest and lightest offering, the Vantage. The Carbon Black edition adds carbon-fiber side strakes, lightweight carbon fiber and Kevlar seats, piano black accents and gloss black painted wheels, which convey the same kind of ballsy aggression as the drivetrain underneath that extruded aluminum body. Read on for a video and photo essay of this Brit stunner.

An unincorporated territory, a Mini, and some wild roads

Setting the Pace in Puerto Rico: Mini Paceman S All4

Puerto Rico is a peculiar place. It's not an American state but is under US law. It's only 100 miles by 35 miles but has a thriving car culture. Though it feels a world away, it's only three and a half hours from JFK. This land of contradiction was the perfect place to experience the new Mini Paceman ($24,000 Base), which at first glance appears to be a small version of Mini's largest offering.

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

Battling the Ghost of Winters Past: 2013 BMW 650i Gran Coupe

My winter BMW driving history is a sad one, littered with shattered taillights, bent frames and too many loaner cars. After one too many calls to my insurance agent, I finally gave up on the Bayerische Motoren Werke for good, moving on to more sensible Scandinavian cars that understood what winter is all about. Given my less-than-stellar driving past, the prospect of piloting a 2013 BMW 650i Gran Coupe, in Germany -- in winter -- both thrilled and mortified me. On the one hand, the opportunity to put the whip to 445 twin-turbocharged horses on the very roads for which they were bred was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But it was December, and my PTSD flared up, with visions of mid-Autobahn donuts making my palms sweat.

Stay Focused

Quick Spin: 2013 Ford Focus ST

What Ford has done in the few years is nothing short of brand reinvention. A new focus on technology and consolidation of their various models sold globally and in the States has left many a test driver of a new Focus, Fiesta, Fusion or Escape asking "Is this really a Ford?" The 2013 Focus ST ($24,000 Base) continues this leave-drivers-impressed trend. We take a quick spin.

S is for Sexy

2013 Audi S7

We want everything -- always. That's the American way. We want our gourmet burger with egg, parmesan crust and arugula, our clothes to fit well, be cheap and last forever; we want to marry the veritable hot girl who drinks beer... craft beer... at a football game. Audi's answer to this consumer desire to have it all(ish) is the S7 ($79,000+). Despite the A7's success, rumor has it (thanks, Adele) the performance division of Audi wasn't satisfied yet -- so they snuck into the garage one fateful night and replaced the standard 310 hp V6 turbo with a 420 hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The S7 emerged.

King of the hill and vale

Behind The Wheel: 2013 Range Rover

The remote West is a far cry from where most modern SUVs claim their stomping grounds, but it's exactly where we found ourselves recently. Utah's desert landscape isn't what you'd call sparse, as far as scenery is concerned. Sedimentary rock formations that range from the utterly massive to the small and bizarre are scattered as far as the eye can see, peppered by small patches of remnant snow and capped by the beautiful winter desert sky. But this is where we tested the 2013 Range Rover -- and the car felt right at home.

Fun Per Gallon

Quick Spin: 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid

If a hybrid vehicle is what you seek, there are two ends of the spectrum. On the left: the Toyota Prius, sipping fuel at 51mpg through an uninspiring 98 hp engine for $24K. On the right: the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, which will run you close to $100k, with an “is-this-really-a-hybrid” 22mpg due to its...

Accountants in search of flair, take note.

Quick Spin: 2013 Hyundai Azera

The original Hyundai Azera wasn’t exactly sure what it wanted to be, despite Hyundai’s goal of slotting it between the Sonata and Genesis sedans. The placement made sense, given the huge gap in pricing between the two aforementioned cars. And though the Azera was a practical bargain with its roomy interior and V6 engine, it...

Not just another cushy ride

Behind The Wheel: Lexus GS350 AWD

Lexus, once the darling of middle-aged Asian-American women everywhere, is focusing more nowadays on driving experience as opposed to driving you to boredom. Lexus has also revised their design language to be more edgy, adventurous and sporty in appearance -- relatively speaking, of course. What they've wrought is more than just a new brand-identifiable spindle grille, and it's a change in the right direction. We've been tracking Lexus all year and even got in some track time in their new GS sporty sedan earlier this year; we came away impressed.

Porsche's finally done it.

Quick Spin: 2013 Porsche Boxster

Previous Boxster owners were largely perceived as the type of people Ron Swanson might hate -- pastel wearing, shoulder sweater draping, Mediocre University Honors graduates who yearned for the 911 Cabrio but either couldn't afford it or couldn't muster the skills. Of course, it was a Porsche, so it drove well and handled well, but aside from the S model, it seemed to lack that Stuttgart Blitzkrieg-like power that Porsche drivers expect. So with this new generation of the German roadster, Porsche decided to make it worthy of her pedigree.

The Charge of the Ford Brigade

Ford Focus Electric

It wasn't that long ago that driving a Ford was done simply out of loyalty to Made in the USA. They were cars made in America for America, and though "this land is your land, this land is my land" is a nice sentiment, most vehicles from "our land" were built from a "this is how we've always done it" mentality. No real innovation. No real style. No real appeal.

425 lb-ft. Diesel. 'Nuf said.

Behind The Wheel: BMW X5 xDrive35d

The BMW X5 xDrive35d is a mouthful, an earful and a pocketful all at once. Its visually eclectic nomenclature is BMW speak for all-wheel drive and a diesel powertrain. Yes, we said diesel. Get used to it, because the clean-burning fuel is here to stay — providing both efficiency (relative, of course, for something this...

A sublime encounter with the bull

Steering by the Horns: Giro Lamborghini

In the world of exotic Italian automakers, the Lamborghini name needs no introduction — especially with the legacy of V12 superbeasts like the Miura and the Countach. Such icons adorned the walls of many a high school boy’s room just a few decades ago, and still ring true in our memories as a couple of...

Biscotti, Pavarotti, Maserati

Quick Spin: Maserati GranTurismo Sport

Maserati’s singular focus on high-end beautiful Italian machinery has made them masters. The GranTurismo, GranTurismo Convertible and the Quattroporte are all essentially a variant on one auto. They’re vehicles with gorgeous lines and roaring V8s; each is designed to be (Maserati vernacular) “a good host” (however, as Olivia Munn and Mario Lopez demonstrate, good hosts...

Semi-hot hatched at birth

Quick Spin: Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Love ’em or hate ’em, Hyundai is making some serious waves in the automotive industry. With a new design language pervading the lineup and cars that compete in just about every segment (Hyundai pickup truck, anyone?), Hyundai is seeing monumental growth. Last year, the Korean automaker came out with the radically styled Veloster; now they’ve...

The Anti-Amanti

Behind The Wheel: 2013 Kia Optima SX T-GDI

Korean car makers are creating huge waves in the industry, and the Kia Optima is a perfect example of this automotive tsunami. Just a few short years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find such a car in their lineup (the awfully poseur-like Kia Amanti didn’t exactly qualify). We always end up tooling around in...

Its worst emission? Burnt rubber

Behind The Wheel: 2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

The second coming of the very popular and virtually unpronounceable Volkswagen Touareg (“Too-a-regg”) now comes in Hybrid form, which actually makes more sense than hybridizing a compact car that already gets better gas mileage than its larger automotive counterparts. And though its 20/24 city/highway mileage numbers don’t truly impress (the Touareg TDI gets better fuel...

Four on the floor

All-Wheel-Drive for the Masses: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 Sedan

With fresh changes to design language inside and outside of recent models like the XC60 and C30, Volvo has impressed buyers in the luxury/European markets, tempting some potential German-made owners to their (safe) side of the road. In hopes of continuing that trend, Volvo’s released an affordable AWD option for their entry-level, 2.5L engine 2013...

Drop Top Gorgeous

Behind The Wheel: Audi R8 V10 Spyder

Legend has it that when you drive a supercar, your biceps and pectorals enlarge by up to 30% and your testosterone levels climb rapidly, giving your confidence a much needed kick in the basement. On the down side, you become increasingly discourteous and you can’t seem to supress the desire to purchase (and wear) a...

The longer, faster cat's meow

Behind The Wheel: Jaguar XJL Supercharged

Jaguar cars, long known for their sexy lines and classic proportions, were growing extremely long in the tooth with their XJ platform, a design that was pulled, smoothed out and tweaked since the Series 1 cars in 1968. In cat years, that’s food for worms. Well, in 2009, Jaguar took the much needed leap into...

Creature comforts where creatures roam

Behind The Wheel: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL

New Mexico seems other-worldly to those unaccustomed to the arid nature of the South West. But the desert-like atmosphere isn’t as stark as you might think. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe, the adobe style homes fit in well with the captivating landscape. Blue sky and enormous cumulus clouds as far as the eye can see...

The second time's the charm

Behind The Wheel: Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Spyder

Back in May, we whet your appetite with photos of the Lamborghini LP550-2 Spyder, and we promised you a revisit in a video clip. What you need to know is that even though Lamborghini specializes in their all-wheel-drive setups, the rear-wheel-drive LP550-2 Spyder is perhaps one of the most exciting to drive, largely due to...

Anything but mini

Behind the Wheel: Mini John Cooper Works Coupe

Mini Cooper, Maxi Clones. The sprawling lineup from BMW now includes a car with a hat, the Mini John Cooper Works Coupe, the answer to a question nobody really asked. Though it’s not really a coupe, since it technically qualifies as a hatchback, the appearance is certainly so. Okay, so it’s not the best looking...

The sound and the fury

Behind The Wheel: Porsche Cayman R

If ever there was a car that could make you an instant superhero with the neighborhood elementary school boys (and girls, for that matter), it would be the Porsche Cayman R, specifically painted in Peridot Metallic (a.k.a., Chernobyl Green). Consider it the ultimate Hotwheels sports car, come to life. We had the chance to toss...

FRE-SH

Behind the Wheel: Quick Spin in the Scion FR-S

Toyota’s sports car submission has been woefully absent from the automotive scene since the MR-2 Spyder bit its last customers in 2005. Well the Scion FR-S ($24,930) has something to say about that. Recently introduced with its sister vehicle, the Subaru BRZ, the FR-S is a game changer for the automaker. Initially, Toyota wasn’t too...

The sleeper awakens

Behind the Wheel | 2012 Audi S4

Audi’s S4 has been on the scene since 1991 as Audi’s performance response to BMW’s M3 and Merc’s C-Class AMG. Quick, sophisticated and a sleeper in its own right, the S4 still tended to reserve itself for those who wanted solid performance and creature comforts but didn’t necessarily pine for the M3’s razor handling and...

Bold Three

Behind The Wheel | 2012 BMW 335i

Love it or hate it, the new 2012 BMW 335i (internally, F30) makes a bold statement. A continuation of BMWs design language found in the current 5 and 7 series, especially in the completely reworked front fascia with its exposed kidney grilles and elongated headlamps, the 335i makes no bones about what it’s here to...

Be my Valentino

Behind the Wheel | Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder

After more than 40 years as a test driver for Lamborghini, Valentino Balboni retired. In place of a gold watch the Italian supercar maker crafted a limited edition model (only 250) in his honor: the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni — yes, it’s a mouth full. That very car birthed two beautiful descendants. Our...

Bespoke Barroom Brawler

Behind the Wheel: 2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S and S Hybrid

Let’s start with the near absurdity of a four-door Porsche, on the heels of the ridiculously successful Cayenne, which no Porsche enthusiast thought should be built. The Panamera was never meant to compete with the BMW 7-Series, the Mercedes S-Class or the Audi A8, though comparos almost always include the four in a heated battle...

White Lightning

Behind the Wheel: 2012 Audi TT RS

The Audi TT started out as an exercise in modern Bauhaus Auto Union design and it’s been hugely successful in both 2+2 and roadster versions. Though neither car has been deemed especially quick, that all changes with the TT RS, a balls-to-the-wall 2+2 that makes other sports cars sweat like an elk in Ted Nugent’s...

Price of perfection? Starts around $96,000.

Behind the Wheel: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Let’s get this out of the way. The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S crushes miles. It crushes miles on grand tours, it crushes them on B-roads, it even crushes them on boring commutes. From the moment you turn the key — Porsche thankfully forgoes the start button frippery — to the raucous score of the...

Behind the Wheel | White Out: 4th Generation Mercedes-Benz 4Matic

First things first. The snow covered roads of Jackson Hole, Wyoming are not the ideal venue for a test drive. Even less so for a car packing over 400 horsepower and fat rubber. But hey, we’re always up for a challenge. And so here we are, with our driving cohort, behind the wheel of a...

Bruise Control

Behind the Wheel: 2012 Chrysler 300 S

No longer the poor man’s Rolls, the 2012 Chrysler 300 S (yes, the one in all those “imported from Detroit” ads) is no longer the big bruiser of yore. Though absolutely sinister in black, Chrysler has sent the 300 to finishing school — giving it a German eight-speed automatic and a seductive new interior with...

Highest Common Denominator

Behind the Wheel | 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL

Taking a step back — a good one — VW returns to its roots of making stellar vehicles at earthly prices, and the result is the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, now made right here in America. Remarkably better than its predecessor yet refreshingly light on the wallet (prices start under $20 grand) the 2012 Passat is...

Green With Envy

Behind the Wheel | C’ing is Believing: 2012 Toyota Prius C

When it comes to cars, we spend most of our time fixated on rides that churn through a gallon of gas faster than a fat kid eats twinkies. Yet for all of our love for “driver’s cars”, we still acknowledge that practicality should be a major consideration when it comes to selecting a primary ride....

Canon, Cantons and Continentals

Wondrous 100: Driving Gstaad to Geneva in the Bentley Continental GTC

Sunday, 12:24pm | A hundred miles. It doesn’t sound like that much. Maybe a long round-trip commute or a weekend ride up to the grandparents. But take that same distance, move it 3,800 miles, and my, how things can change. If you’ve ever looked into great driving roads than you’ve undoubtedly heard that Europe is...

Call it a comeback

Behind the Wheel | Auto Focus: 2012 Ford Focus 5-Door Hatchback

In America, the hatchback has long fought an uphill battle — garnering the scorn and disdain of image conscious buyers who prefer the look of a sedan or coupe. The thing is, regardless of mass public opinion, we think hatchbacks are great, especially on smaller vehicles where the proportions, engineering and design seem to jive...

1,000 miles never felt so easy

Behind the Wheel | Silver Lining: 2012 Mercedes-Benz E350

Recently, we hopped into the 9th generation E-class for an extended test on the unfamiliar (to us) roads of Miami. Over the span of a week, we logged nearly a thousand miles hurtling our Mercedes-Benz E350 Sport everywhere from South Beach to Little Havana, from the University of Miami to Dania Beach and we’re still...

Super Natural

Behind the Wheel | Super Natural: 2012 Ford F-150 SuperCrew EcoBoost

We have a big soft spot for pick-up trucks. Not just because they represent so much of what America is and how we get work done, but the fact that when it comes to two-axle haulers, no one does a full-size pickup like the U S of A. Even as fuel prices have rocketed and...

Cars and caffeine, an ideal pairing

West Coast Blitz: 1,100 Horsepower, 800 Miles and Blue Bottle Coffee

Recently we found ourselves presented with a couple of problems. First. We were handed the keys to a deep blue pearl 2012 Nissan GT-R and 2012 diamond black edition Cadillac CTS-V at roughly the same time. Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound like so much of a problem but bear with us. In reality neither cars...

Design Within Reach

Behind the Wheel | Design Within Reach: 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

Volvo has long been seen as the safe car. But no one wants to date the “safe” guy. And only billion dollar corporations afraid of lawsuits give out awards for completing something safely. Needless to say, “safe” isn’t a buzz word that lights up headlines. Armed with this cultural realization Volvo’s designers and engineers decided...