If anyone “missed” purchasing a Maybach, then it’s time to rejoice in the heralding of a German luxury sedan that makes no bones about its levels of refinement, complexity and utter technological wizardry — the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We got to drive (as well as experience) the limousine-level sedan recently in Toronto.
When perfect is not enough
In 2008 Audi introduced the R8, a mid-engine V8 somewhat inspired by their highly successful R8 Le Mans Prototype race car, and blew the world away, winning both the World Performance Car and World Design Car of year awards. It’s undergone only minor changes — until this year. The 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus ($171,000) gets one of the best upgrades yet, a smooth-as-glass and lightning fast seven speed dual clutch S Tronic transmission. We drove it.
After twelve generations of model updates, the Ford SVT Raptor is arguably the most tenacious version of the Blue oval’s numerous F-150 iterations. Truly testing this machine called for something more than a few days piddling around Los Angeles, so when when we were invited to go attend the one-day Raptor Assault School at Miller Motorsports Park in the wide open Utah countryside we moved quicker than a rattle snake on the floor of a country line dance. What we drove was an out-of-the box, insanely capable machine able to run, jump and crawl over just about anything in its path.
Grand Touring Family Style
It’s a well-known fact that the mellifluous sound of a Ferrari V12 is ultimate bellow of the vehicular gods. The now-famous Ferrari V12 first showed up in the 1947 125 S, the Italian automaker’s first roadgoing car. Since then, some form of 12-cylinder Ferrari engine (V12 or Flat-12) has showed up in no fewer than forty cars over the past seventy years. One of Ferrari’s most recent offerings, the Ferrari FF, makes use of the V12 staple, albeit in its most powerful form ever in a roadgoing car — but the FF also makes a noticeable departure from Ferrari Grand Tourers of the past through polarizing style, all-wheel-drive, practical (yes, practical) seating for four and enough cargo room to hit the road for more than a day. We got the behind the wheel with family in tow.
Vee Dub-steppin' it up
Wikipedia astutely defines a dark horse as, “a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort”. There’s a dark horse in every race: Abraham Lincoln in politics, Mark Cuban in everything, and that one Nickelback album in music. The VW CC ($31,795+), we believe, fits that bill in the upscale midsize automobile realm. We got behind the wheel for a week-long driving review.
The Poster Child For Invincibility
Mercedes-Benz’s longest-running production model, the Gelandewagen (G-Wagen), is a testament to versatility and timeless style. For $135,000 one can not only look ultra tough in this military-inspired ride but drive like it as well. Plus, the humble 382 horsepower, 5.5 liter V8 from the “regular” G-Wagen goes bi-turbo in the AMG and jumps to 536 wild horses. We got behind the wheel deep in the Catskill mountains to give AMG’s beast a good thrashing and see how much it would bite back.
In the current automotive landscape, true environmental halo cars don’t exist. Volkswagen, however, has produced their own version of a hippie halo car. It’s no V12 powerhouse, nor does it even come close to resembling anything supercar-ish in appearance. But what the VW XL1 definitely does is make a bold statement about what an ultra-efficient, super-small displacement hybrid can be. Our recent trip to VW HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany gave us a prime opportunity to evaluate the XL1 from all angles, including the view from behind the wheel.
A weekend track-attack in orange
BMW has a history of using racetrack names for their paint colors: Marrakesh Brown, Laguna Seca Blue and Dakar Yellow. But the 2013 BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition ($80,000, as tested) is the first time they’ve used one on a car itself and the first time the iconic track has lent its name to…
It’s nearly impossible to miss the iconic Fiat silhouette made more aggressive and distinctive in the 2013 Abarth 500 Cabrio ($26,000). Fiat’s answer to the 500’s supposed lack of soul carries the fervor — in its looks, its performance, and its aural delight — of an operatic crescendo. The sound of the engine and smooth long revs mean you can exploit every tick on the tach and push this thing hard — which, of course, we recommend, having tried it ourselves.
To see one is to lust
Ali Sadrieh is a man who lives in the present. From his cutting edge podiatry practice in Los Angeles, to his love of all things tech, he believes there has never been a better time to be alive. It is this very love of all things digital that inspired him to own an “analog car”: the iconic and rare 1968 Jaguar E-Type Series 1.5. Through a chance crossing of paths, we were able to meet Ali and take his gorgeous Jag for a ride. Read on to see the video.
Tanks for the memories
The mud pit looked impossibly deep, twin ruts at least two feet high and half full of a murky stew from the rainy spring. “Does this thing ever get stuck?” I asked.
My driving instructor, Brendan, an Airborne infantryman a few weeks shy of entering Green Beret selection, smiled and said, “Nope, just keep her straight so we can keep some trees upright.”
Just another day, taking the Abbot FV433 Self-Propelled Gun out for a spin.
A day of cruising sunny, funky San Diego is enticing enough without a brand new ride underneath you. All the better, then, when Yamaha brought us to downtown San Diego for a well-organized day aboard their new Bolt, an American-style bobber — an exercise in convincing some die-hard riders that their bike is a viable alternative to Wisconsin iron.
Some cars take it to 11. This takes it to 13.
Six hundred ninety-one horsepower. All-wheel-drive. A gearbox so mechanically high strung you instinctively quiver before each pull of the shift lever. And of course, the obscene sheet metal geometry. Enormous in every direction and specification, it makes us pause and wonder if this is what pornographic design is. Welcome to the Lamborghini Aventador.
Stirs the senses, not the wallet
When we found out the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA ($29,900 Base) wouldn’t be available stateside till September, we were willing to do anything to get our hands on it early; we even pondered selling our souls to the devil. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go quite that far. All we had to do was fly to the South of France for a day and half of driving. Yes, we spent 26 hours in the air to get 13 hours behind the wheel of this sub-$30,000 German ride.
The Ultimate Dreamliner
Bentley is undoubtedly a mega-luxury brand that backs up ridiculous comfort with serious performance. Take the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible ($240,000 base), for instance. Though its looks and interior are nearly pornographic in their excesses, it’ll also punch you in the throat and drink your beer without hesitation. After taking it for a drive in non-ideal conditions — and almost wrecking it on the icy streets of Squaw Valley — I got firsthand experience on why the brand is held in such high regard.
One hell of a legacy
The SLS AMG by Mercedes-Benz is truly the 300SL Gullwing reincarnate. Only the resurrected version is so much faster, you’ll wonder what happened to your eyebrows. How do we know? We got behind the wheel and watched it make people’s necks sore.
From isn't to IS
The suburbs of Austin, Texas are hilly, colorful and vast, and look especially pretty when seen out the windshield of the latest, all-new sports sedan. They’re even better looking when reduced to a racetrack blur. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport has been redesigned to look sexier, feel more solid and drive harder, and recently gave us the distinct pleasure of melting scenery around the track at Driveway Austin while testing out its sporting mettle.
Luxury within reason
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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…