The Volvo station wagon has returned, and it’s called the 2015 Volvo V60 Sportswagon ($35,300). Ours was a bodacious blue; they’re all turbo, five doors deep, and, as Volvo puts it, about both work and play.
America, as a whole, hates station wagons. But instead of despising the wood paneling, the center-of-gravity elevating roof loads and the smell of cheap vinyl seats, we should be clinging to every bit of wagon-dom that we can — who knows how much longer they’ll be around? Fortunately for history’s sake, they’ve made their mark in a handful of great movies and TV shows, not just as family haulers but as quick and capable chase vehicles and hero (and antihero) steeds of choice.
More beautiful than a Swedish bikini model
As great as Volvo’s first two concept cars (the Concept Coupe and the Concept XC Coupe) were, it’s the Volvo Concept Estate that’s got us giddy with “build it” fever. About to unveil at the Geneva Motor Show, the Concept Estate is essentially the shooting brake (two-door wagon) version of the Concept Coupe, bettered by the addition of a big rear door. Plus, it appears to be as beautiful under the skin as it is on the outside.
The Wagon of My Dreams
As much as I’d love to press my garage door opener and find a wickedly fast Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI bi-turbo or Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic Wagon waiting within, the real wagon of my dreams might actually be even more difficult to come by and definitely moves at geologic speed compared to the aforementioned family rocket sleds. It’s a true driver’s car that just happens to be an iconic station wagon, too: the Volvo 240 GLT Turbo Wagon.
Another automotive kidney punch to us Yanks
Packed with the same kind of rip-roaring five-door flavor as the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic Wagon and the Audi RS6 Avant, Jaguar’s XFR-S Sportbrake does up the wicked and track-ready XFR-S sedan with more cargo space and a nice big rear door for all those Home Depot runs.
Takes on the flat and the bumpy
No longer just a lame substitute for a real SUV, crossovers have grown in terms of quality, capability and available amenities such that there seems virtually no end in sight. Mercedes-Benz has been busier than just about anyone lately when it comes to redesigning their lineup and introducing new models, and the GLA Class is the latest to come down the Teutonic pike to fill this new crossover mold. We made our way to Málaga, Spain to take two iterations out for a spin: the GLA250 4Matic and the zippier GLA45 AMG.
Get it dirty, just not inside, please
With a long history of producing rugged SUVs before that term even existed, Land Rover could sell incredibly well based on just their name. Still, they decided the all-new aluminum-bodied flagship Range Rover wasn’t enough. They’ve spiffed up their biggest seller, the Range Rover Sport, and we had the chance to drive it through one of Chicago’s snowiest winters see how it performed off the clean tarmac.
Big guns for those haulin' runs
It’s no longer enough for a big SUV to transport seven; it has to look good and feel good (for both driver and passengers) while doing it. Our intrepid Octane crew drove five of the best seven-passenger SUVs out there and found a flavor for just about anyone. While none of these five SUVs are perfect, each is grand in its own right by virtue of style, quality and utility.
Rock Your World, Apocalypse or No
For the fortunate few who need to do serious work in a serious world (or for those with big amounts of extra coin laying around), there are two serious players at opposite ends of the cost spectrum: the Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5000 and the Bremach T-Rex. Whether it’s off-road adventure, payload hauling or search and rescue, both mean business.
Rehashing 50 ways to ride like the wind
From the Archives: Motorcycles are more than just simple transportation. They strangle attention. Ride one down the street and watch as babies point and smile mid-whimper, dogs chase joyfully, angsty teens fight the curling in the corners of their mouths, old biker types in leather nod with supreme comprehension. There are countless combinations of weapons-grade speed, sex, beauty, design and freedom found between two tires, sure — but these fifty, specifically, are the icons hand-picked by Gear Patrol as our favorites of all time.
Old-School Looks, Meet Modern Power
Some modern motorcycle manufacturers — some of the best, in fact — have designed and built bikes that harken back to timeless style. Though we don’t recommend that you get out there with a flimsy leather helmet and goggles, we do strongly urge you to invest in the right gear and then hit the road on any of these five fantastic vintage-style motorcycles, looking damn good while you do it.
Catering to a group of riders that had historically ignored protective gear completely, Icon Motorsports created its own market and developed one hell of a loyal base by literally saving their customers’ skin. Thirteen years after their inception, the Portland-based company is still kicking ass, pumping out both no-compromise protective gear and some tire-shredding bikes.
Check One Off Your Bucket List
The right helmet makes a world of difference in both comfort and protection. Upgrading your headwear at least every five years ensures you’re equipped with the latest in technology and safety innovations; it also instills instant rider confidence. Here are the best motorcycle helmets on the market today.
Italian for batshit crazy
Limited in production but not in power, the Ducati Panigale 1199 R ($31,000) is a cross between a Navy Seal and Usain Bolt. It’s got carbon fiber and titanium for bones, a computer for a brain and a 195-horsepower engine revving to 12,000 rpm for a heart. We took it out for a few days — after we updated our will.
An awesome two-wheeled show, despite the snow
Twenty-eight hours before the doors officially opened at The One Motorcycle Show, in Portland, Oregon, things started looking messy. #TheOneSnow was already trending, and many builders were stuck in whiteout conditions, struggling to make it at all. Those who had arrived, bikes in tow, wondered if anyone would be crazy enough to attend. But motorcyclists are a passionate bunch — even the ride scheduled the following day continued as planned.
Rubbin' is racing
The best way to appreciate NASCAR is not by cracking a Bud and plopping on the couch but by getting in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately that’s a pipe dream for most — but when PEAK Motor Oil invited me to their Stock Car Dream Challenge as they searched for a future driver for the Michael Waltrip Race team, I grabbed my helmet and Nomex onesie and streamed Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines all the way to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A trip to (what we thought was) the ragged edge of control
Most drivers, including Porsche owners, spend little time at the ragged fringe of control. Daydreams of record-time morning commutes are one thing, but precise, high-speed driving is rarified air for most. Porsche has a solution: driving school. At Porsche Sport Driving School you won’t come away with points off your license or a lower insurance rate. Instead, you get a crash-course in precise driving at high speeds.
4 Wheels, 5 Skills
Becoming a skilled driver is about more than going fast and having the will to beat everyone else. Understanding physics, driving the line well and having hours under your belt in both your vehicle and the track or road on which you’ll drive all play key roles in maximizing your abilities. The fastest and most comprehensive way to improve these things? Opening up your mind and your wallet to a reputable driving school. Here are our picks for the five best.
Look track serious, be track serious
You’ve set aside a full day to improve your track driving skills, so don’t show up wearing a motorcycle half-helmet, a pair of jean shorts and thick-soled running shoes. Track driving is a sport of extreme focus, extreme speeds and extreme temperatures — and you’ve got to be fully prepped. Leave anything out and your concentration and skills development will suffer. We put together a track kit that will give you the confidence to nail the apexes like Senna.
Searching for enlightenment at Drag Racing's Garden of Eden
Drag racing at its core isn’t a complicated sport. Two cars line up. Their drivers hit the pedal on the right. A thousand or so feet later someone wins. It stands to reason that there must be something more to this sport, something visceral that has kept people interested in pure, unadulterated speed for so long. With that in mind we headed to the first race of professional drag racing’s pro circuit, The NHRA Winternationals at the historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
Two extreme cars from our border buddies
Two new and rather unique automobiles prove that dedicated performance for the tarmac doesn’t have to come from Europe, Asia or the States: the track-ready Vuhl 05 from Mexico and the angular Felino Cars CB7 from those French-Canadian secessionist wannabes in Montreal, Quebec. Both cars are built for a niche market of drivers who are serious about either driving fast on the track or turning heads — or likely, both.
Kids love cars and trucks and things that go — get ‘em hooked early and they’ll be motorheads for life. Whether you want to start small with miniature die-cast models, build patience with tedious model-building or see how well your offspring hoon, there’s a car toy out there that’ll fit the bill. We’ve rounded up ten awesome — and classic — car toys that you’d be proud to bestow upon your kid and that he or she will be more than happy to
More than just a toy
You can spend as little or as much as you want on a remote-controlled vehicle (you’ll see shortly that there are far more than cars available), but what each one delivers is huge fun in a small package — and, in some cases, the kind of performance that shames the full-sized deal. Here are ten great remote controlled vehicles that are worth your time, your imagination and some of your hard-earned cash. Just be prepared to fight over them with your kids.
Go, Speed, Go!
One of the most iconic cars the world has ever seen doesn’t even exist. It’s sleek, has a three-pointed front end, a huge red M emblazoned on the hood, myriad gadgets like saw blades and a periscope and sometimes has a little kid and a crazy chimpanzee in the trunk. It’s Speed Racer’s Mach 5, and both the car and its super-skinny driver made an indelible impression on me as a boy. More than candy and snow days, I longed for the next episode of Speed Racer with its high drama, fast cars and peril on and off the track.
Aging well at 100
You know Buick, but you probably don’t know their rich motoring history: they won the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are the oldest American automotive brand still producing cars and led industry innovations such as the overhead camshaft, a closed body car and turn signals. So how does a brand more than 100 years old compete in the 21st century? The 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD ($40,000) has a few ideas.
Mittens, check. Shovel, check. Big balls, check and check
The Volkswagen Polar Expedition Amarok was specially built to promote the 2014 Winter Olympics by completing the trans-Russia Amarok Polar Expedition, a trip that can’t be made by any ordinary vehicle. We’re talking about 16,000 miles from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the far southeastern Kamchatka peninsula across snowy Russian terrain, often in the complete absence of roads. We break down the snow beast.
A bit more involved than the miyagi method
Waxing your car is actually more important than you think — especially since it’s about far more than just seeing the sun glint off your steed’s resplendent paint. Waxing protects your car’s paint and body from grime, road salt, moisture, sun damage and other finish-ruining elements. We’ve broken down the steps for proper waxing. Do it quarterly and you’ll keep your car looking as radiant as the day you drove it off the lot.
Because it's going to happen, eventually
Winter is prime dead battery territory, and jump-starting during cold weather requires nearly twice as many cranking amps as its t-shirts-and-shorts counterpart. There’s also another, more worrisome issue to deal with: regardless of weather, most people go about their jump-starts incorrectly. We’ll assume you’ve been smart enough to keep functioning jumper cables in your trunk and someone has been kind enough to offer their car as a source of juice. With those in place, follow these simple steps to jump start your car correctly.
A Young Man Reminisces on his truest ride
Somewhere in a musty garage basement in northern Pennsylvania, my 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250, silver with a few small red stripes on its cowling, sits collecting dust. I miss her. She deserves far better than this, and someday soon I’ll give it to her: open roads dappled in spring sunshine, screaming lunges out of tight twisting corners, highway cruises where she can yell as loud as she likes. She’s just a little thing, but ccs don’t mean anything to me. I ogle Ducatis; she doesn’t mind. Our relationship is not about displacement.
Nothing kicks ass like a Deere
John Deere’s first-ever use of a 839cc V-twin motorcycle engine in a Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV), a beast that delivers the kind of fun typically reserved for all-out-war paintball melees, says a lot about their intentions. With a top speed of 53 mph (feels more like 100), 4WD, fully independent multi-link suspension, nine inches of wheel travel, 10 inches of ground clearance, Fox racing shocks, and a 400-pound capacity cargo box, the Gator RSX 850i seems eager to go anywhere and do anything. Sounds like a challenge we were born for.