Germany, how we love thee — especially when it comes to cars. Fast, tractable and built like bank vaults, all our favorite Deutsch sports sedans feature a lordly level of detail. No surprise, then, that while the Japanese and Americans continue to ramp up in the genre, the Germans’ standing is just about engraved in granite. Helming one of these schöne Autos simply makes you feel like a real driver, and the practicality doesn’t hurt, either. We drove five truly great Teutonic four-doors and came away with lots of grins and plenty of notes.
Four doors. Four stars. Five cars.
No loafers allowed
Let’s say you regularly pine for some rock climbin’, mud-slingin’, feel-good four-wheelin’ — you just love off-the-beaten-path driving and no-holds-barred adventure where others fear to tread. There are several options to choose from, but our favorites are the custom-built and bad to the bone ICON 4×4 CJ3B or the special edition Jeep Wrangler Moab, both of which will conquer rocks, mud, stream and snow with aplomb. One will make you look like a rich adventurer; the other will just make you look cool. You decide. Errr… perhaps your wallet will.
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.
Three top chronographs go head to head
The popularity and prevalence of chronographs might just make one think that it is an easy watch complication. Everyone from Hamilton and Tissot on up the line to the loftier likes of Patek and Lange & Söhne have one in their lineups. Something about the asymmetrical cases — those buttons poking out from under a shirtsleeve — and the gauge-like dials with tachymetric scales and multiple subdials seems irresistible to men everywhere.
So when we recently got our hands on three of the best available in-house built automatic column wheel chronographs from three legendary companies — Zenith, OMEGA and Girard-Perregaux — it presented an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We’ll call it a shootout — loosely.
UNDER THE DOME
The Ressence Type 3 ($30,555) is a totally modernistic design, unique in every sense of the word — something very refreshing in today’s horological world of “my watch has more tourbillons than your watch”. Its interesting take on the regulateur style comes together in a timepiece you need to touch and feel firsthand to truly appreciate. We give you the next best thing in our breakdown above.
Newman or Everyman?
Today we’ve got a vintage version of “Want This, Get This”, and its timing couldn’t be better. 2013 is the convergence of two important events in the watch world: it is the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Daytona and also the year in which Tudor makes its American market comeback. One is virtually unattainable to mere mortals and one will give you the same look and Rolex pedigree without having to mortgage your home.
5-Doors to your heart
The venerable station is no longer what it was: a dowdy people hauler that oftentimes “sported” less than favorable designs (faux wood paneling, anyone?). And though the American populace now prefers cross-overs, station wagons still survive in the domestic automotive landscape. With lower centers of gravity, sleeker profiles and (typically) better driving dynamics than their SUV counterparts, there’s plenty of reasons to love them. We certainly do.
It’s for all of the aforementioned reasons that wagons sell in much bigger numbers in Europe. With the hope of bringing the States around to how truly great they are, we give you five of the best wagons (and, sadly, some of the only ones left for sale here). Let’s just hope they never completely disappear.
There once was a watch from Nantucket
There are few scenes that conjure up summer more than white sails against a blue sky, whether you’re cruising in a 12-meter out of Newport, rounding buoys in a Laser at your lake’s weekend regatta, or just sitting on the beach watching the action. Our country’s lore and style are steeped in sailing culture, and watch companies haven’t ignored the nautical theme. Even if the closest you come to a boat all year is your company’s annual booze cruise, you can still channel a little bit of the maritime vibe and look like an old salt with any of this year’s fleet of nautical watches.
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…
Gentlemen, start your graphics engines
You grew up on Mario Kart, but that’s just it — you’ve grown up. But… not entirely. You still want to grip a controller and curse at a screen and burn rubber without having to see (real) flashing lights in the rearview. You want risk life and limb in the pursuit of speed — but not actually, you know, risk life and limb. Stretch your thumbs and be prepared to make up for the drudgery of that godawful commute this morning: here are the best racing games for most every platform.
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.
We Have All the Time in the World
In a wristwatch, any function beyond merely telling the time of day is called a “complication”. This term encompasses simple functions such as the date, poetic ones like the phases of the moon or even something as esoteric as sidereal time. But perhaps the most useful watch complication is the ability to tell the time in more than one time zone. Since the advent of the traveler’s watch, we’ve seen every conceivable variation of the traveler’s watch — for pilots, divers, businesspeople — but all still live up to their raisons d’êtres: keeping track of the world’s times at a glance, no matter the complication style. Here are five of the best out there (yes, we said best, so gird your wallets) that are ready to take flight.
The weapons of a track day toreador
Einstein once said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was the very definition of insanity; obviously he never studied lap times. In fact, we’ll take the track over studying the theory of relativity any day. But we need the right steed. Whether your wallet can handle them or you’re just dreaming, here are our picks for the five best track cars around.
A performance SUV is something tantamount to a chainsaw with jet propulsion. There’s really no need for it, but to dismiss it is to deny man’s inherent quest for power, in whatever form it may come. Gear Patrol’s wheeled staff had a chance to cruise around in some of the best four-wheeled tarmac eaters that just happen to ride on stilts in celebration of Octane‘s launch. Here’s what they thought.
King of the road
Al Capone, DB Cooper, The Sundance Kid. By riding Cannondale’s new Supersix EVO Black Inc. ($13,310) you join an exclusive cadre of criminal minds. Don’t worry, the Connecticut bike company hasn’t filled the bike’s tubes with any illicit substances (though the price tag might suggest otherwise). However, it tips the scales at a felonious 11 pounds, sitting well below pro cycling’s 15 pound weight limit. Despite its weight, the Supersix EVO is able to boast stiffness and aerodynamic figures that bike engineers dream about.
Don't Mind If I Ducati
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.