In the world of thrilling machines, Ducati registers somewhere between Ferrari and Alfa Romeo — this on two wheels, of course. Offering bikes ranging in price from $10,000-$30,000 and covering a range of “yeah, that makes sense” to “humans aren’t supposed to travel that fast”, the brand has a legacy and heritage dating back to 1926 that it maintains with pride today. This is especially obvious in the 2013 Ducati Monster 796 ($10,000).
When venerable Swiss marque Blancpain introduced its first diving watch in 1953, it was thought that 50 fathoms, or 91 meters, was the deepest a man could dive on SCUBA. Hence the name of their groundbreaking timepiece, arguably the world’s first purpose-built dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms. Now, Blancpain’s back at it again with their cheekily named X Fathoms ($38,700, limited edition). We break down this leviathan.
Two that slice and dice
It’s practically every boy’s dream to own a sports car. Good news: it’s a lie that you have to either win the lottery or inherit a family fortune to afford one. Both machines here couldn’t be more different with regard to country of origin, styling and amenities — and they’re separated by 125 horsepower and over $35,000. What they both deliver, as we’re about to show you, is true driving pleasure. But which one’s for you?
In the Oktopus's Garden
Watches, especially dive watches, tend to follow a set formula: black dial with white markers, round case, rotating bezel. But while we like classic aesthetics, sometimes it’s nice to see a watch company pushing at the edges of design, whether it be through a splash of color, a new case shape or an innovative function. The Linde Werdelin Oktopus II (~$9,873) checks all these boxes.
This is not a toy
“WARNING: Use Only In Case of Real Emergency.” These words are engraved on the caseback of the new Breitling Emergency 2, and you’d better take heed. Pull out the antenna to impress your buddies at your backyard barbecue and two things will happen: (1) a helicopter will land on your patio, and (2) you’ll pay an unpleasant fine for setting off a false search and rescue mission. We break down the watch that will save your life.
It's hot to hatch
In the States, we know that size still matters. And just like dinner portions, Americans love their bigger cars and trucks. But times, they are a changin’, and the current crop of hatchbacks just goes to show that manufacturers are putting in a lot more thought, time and money into developing small cars that work big. Driving a hatchback no longer makes you look like you were holding the door when they were handing out real cars. The combination of solid styling, creature comforts and great fuel economy (and, sometimes. wickedly good performance) has young and old alike turning to 5-doors options. We drove five of the best for a month and came away with a new appreciation for the hot hatch.
So bloody good, it hurts
Sometimes being American causes us great pain, especially when it comes to rides we can (1) never afford (which seems to occur often) and (2) never see in the States. Like a hot poker in the eye, Land Rover has issued a celebratory 65th Anniversary all-terrain yak known simply as the Land Rover Defender LXV (~$44,500).
Tops be droppin'
Summer isn’t nearly as enjoyable without top-down driving. As much as we’re fans of hardtop automotive design and the way a sweeping roofline catches the eye, we have to admit that the clear growl of an engine and the wind in your hair makes the warmer months that much better. Even a drive up Pacific Coast Highway in a cream-hued 1995 Chrysler Sebring Convertible can be a pleasure (as long as no one actually sees you). Bully for you, convertibles are better than ever — gone are the fussy tops, the anemic engines, and silhouettes that would make Quasimodo cringe. The crop of current convertibles range from modern nostalgia to supercar power players, but one thing they all do is make your motoring pleasure good for all the world to see.
Confirm your searing desires
Summer is bearing down fast, and no man passes up the opportunity to get outside and burn some meat (ok, and perhaps a vegetable or two). It is, simply, an integral summer experience, whether enjoyed in the backyard, at a tailgate, in the campsite or on your tiny urban front step.
My dad had a saying: “When it’s burning, it’s cooking. When it’s black it’s done.” This might explain the lack of repeat visitors, but maybe it was the limited tools he had to work with that contributed to his cynical approach to backyard grilling. With any of the 10 excellent grills here, you’ll not only find the right one to suit your particular needs — everything from searing steaks, to cooking a pair of burgers, to smoking an entire pig — you’ll guarantee a line around the block for your ‘cue, and a long list of friends who won’t stop asking when you’re having them over again.
Four doors to heaven
Certain cars don’t seem to make much sense, yet somehow make it to market anyway. Whether it’s because of design or practicality issues, these red-headed stepchildren of the automotive world rarely succeed. The Porsche Panamera had some of the warning signs of those real-world failures. More potent than the base model but not quite as maddening as the Turbo S, it still bears the bulbous but muscled body the Panamera design has become known for. We got behind the wheel on some California roads to see if ze Germans could reconcile this nonsensical creation.
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.
Since dressing up is finally back, we’re going to rehash an obvious point: every watch collection needs a dress watch. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar in white gold ($25,600) may not be the right selection for a gentleman on a budget, but if you play in the horological big leagues or want to add a grail to your collection, this triple calendar with moonphase timepiece is an excellent contender.
Never mind the mouthful of a name, this brawny Panerai stole the show for us at January’s Salon International Haute Horlogerie. The Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio‘s familiar design cues are unmistakably from the Firenze Officine, but the splash of color and an innovative new in-house chronograph calibre seal the deal.
A bargain German sex symbol
PICK IT UP BY MIDNIGHT
The Breitling for Bentley Light Body Midnight Carbon ($12,045) may have been crafted for the eminent car company, but it could just as easily have been made for the Dark Knight.
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.
Short of a polar bear club dip in frigid waters or a morning yoga session with a Victoria’s Secret model, nothing gets you started like a hot cup of joe… or 321 horsepower to the rear wheels. We at least imbibed in the latter two as we visited a couple of Chicago coffee spots in the new Cadillac ATS 3.6L Performance. Clearly an upgrade from the 4-cylinder turbo version, the V6 3.6-liter packs its own lunch and brings the dessert, too.
Forged in the Far East
Based on the 400cc Honda Bros, the Bandit9 Hephaestus (~$13,635) is truly impressive — forged from all stainless steel, including the tank, cowl and fender. The custom frame is also accentuated by side covers, exhaust, muffler and turn signals that have been designed and fabricated by the Bandit9 shop, so you know the Hephaestus isn’t some Frankensteined job created by a crazed creator screaming behind closed doors.
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.
The trailer that inspired the AirStream
We’re all familiar with the iconic design of Airstream trailers. But what about the name Hawley Bowlus? He was the designer and builder of the Spirit of St. Louis — the record-breaking plane used by Lindberg to fly non-stop across Atlantic Ocean. But a few years later in 1934, he also created the forebear of the AirStream trailer, a stunning piece of technically advanced machinery dubbed the Hawley Bowlus Road Chief. Today, the classic Road Chief is reborn as a stunner with all the modern trappings.
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.
Ride roughshod in style
The folks at KTM are on a roll, and not just with their X-Bow track monster. Their motorcycles are just as impressive (with an excellent color scheme, we might add), including the brand new, limited edition KTM 990 Adventure Baja Edition ($14,899). Designed specifically for North America, the 990 Adventure Baja makes the world of enduro riding even more sexy.
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.
For your best friend, meaning you
In celebration of the 50-year career of malt master David Stewart, who is the longest tenured master in all of Scotland, The Balvenie Distillery has released an extremely limited run of their half-century old single malt, aptly named The Balvenie 50 Year Old. Stewart, who started the long journey of becoming a malt master back in 1962, himself marvels at the uniqueness of Cask 5576.
Believe I'm sinkin' down
A stack of money might not get you a jam session with Mr. Clapton, but it can buy an incredible replica of one of his guitars, or a stunning signature series acoustic. Hell, maybe you could just sell your soul to the devil. In any case, the Eric Clapton Crossroads Collection is a gorgeous set of blues beauty. The set consists of handmade replicas of both his Fender “Brownie” Stratocaster and the Gibson Harrison-Clapton “Lucy” Les Paul, along with three unbelievable signature series Crossroads Martin acoustics.
A new generation of four-doors
Family sedans tend to be the automotive equivalent of Valium (minivans are horse tranquilizers, in case you were wondering), but times have changed. Family men no longer need to sacrifice
too much in the way of driving excitement and looks in order to transport tykes and trikes. We get it. You’d rather be doing some tire ripping, engine-snorting performance runs on your way to drop off your son at school. Still, we’ve compiled our list of “family sedans” that take let you perform your dad duties with aplomb while still allowing you more than a modicum of manly fun.
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.
We like our astronaut watches, and one’s just hit us out of the wild blue yonder — the Halda Space Discovery (~$13,200), a beautiful piece of technology that hides its dual personality a hell of a lot better than Dr. Jekyll. The watch features interchangeable timekeeping modules: the Space Module (electronic) and the Mechanical Module (well… mechanical). Both are integrated into the bracelet so well that it’s difficult to tell they’re swappable pieces.
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.
Wax on, wax off
We rarely come across a dive watch with a moonphase complication, let alone a moonphase complication that piques our interest, but the Linde Werdelin Oktopus II Moon ($29,400) has managed to do just that. Why does a dive watch need a moonphase display, you ask? Perhaps it’s to track the tide or plan a night…