Slick, quick and as luxurious as the day is long, the 2014 Buick Lacrosse ($34,060) redefines what an American flagship can be. On roads rife with cookie-cutter shapes and duplicated automotive designs, the Lacrosse displays an edgy and elegant presence that cuts a fresh path through the field of American luxury cars. It not only dares to be different, but delivers comfort and convenience aplenty; Buick’s made all the right moves to deliver a rewarding driving experience.
Driving a benchmark of American Luxury
The Snake Lives On
When thinking of an automotive CEO, one expects a suit topped with a lot of gray hair, moved along with the help of a tidy personal chauffeur in the brand’s finest flagship sedan. Not so with Ralph Gilles of SRT. The man wears a baseball cap and jeans, is remarkably affable, and helms his own supercar creations at the track. He’s passionate and proud of his vehicles, and his latest, the new SRT Viper Time Attack ($123,080) is more deserving of those dotings than any other. This is no “base” version — it’s an impressive track edition of a true American sports car that’s no longer the unhinged, unrefined, chopped-top V10 monster that took to the streets and scared respectable citizens way back in 1999 in the form of the SRT10.
A father-and-son Mustang project car
My dad and I are alike in a lot of ways — the way we fall asleep in chairs and lose our hair, for instance — but our love of cars has bound us for as long as I can remember. Not long ago I sent my dad a handful of questions about what makes me a car guy and asked him to write quick responses; I got back six pages. (Dad and I also like to tell stories.) And so I realized this story is best told in tandem, with excerpts of his answers interspersed with my own. Together, they are the story of our similarities and our passions, and of the car that is, as my dad put it, “a mild street rod imported from the junction” of the two of us.
America Gets a World-Class Supercar
The Chevrolet Corvette is an American icon as popular as baseball and apple pie. But it hasn’t all been pretty. Through its iterations the ‘Vette has brought to mind everything from ’70s chest hair to midlife crises to silk Tommy Bahama shirts, stale cigars and trailer park access. There’s been beauty and power, too — especially in the C4 through C6 generations — but America’s car has always failed to achieve world-class stardom, perhaps pulled down by those sour associations. Everything changes in the seventh-generation C7 ‘Vette. Yes: the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ($51,000+) could go down as one of the best American cars ever built.
Charmed by the snake
A perfect homage to the spirit of Ford’s and Shelby’s original GT 500, the 2014 model takes “steroidal” to a whole new level. Starting at only $54,800, this savage serpent uses all 662 of its horses to hit 202 miles per hour at full speed, though you need only start the engine once to believe it’s capable of extreme and endless thrills. It’s capable of eating pavement for breakfast, lunch and dinner but also perfectly happy cruising around town; just be prepared for rubberneckers.
Stuttgart Speeds Into the 21st Century
Mercedes has been innovating in Silicon Valley for over two decades, but they’ve decided to bolster their cutting-edge technological efforts with their new Mercedes Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA) headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. We were on hand to explore the new facilities, check out their in-car technology and gawk at the beautiful, newly unveiled AMG Vision Gran Turismo.
The Abominable Snow-vehicle
Your closest encounter with the winter beast known as the Tucker Sno-Cat was probably watching as scientists and explorers with frozen beards made their way through parts unknown in an episode of National Geographic. What you probably don’t know is that these cold-capable snow monsters materialized out of one man’s desire to find a better method of snow travel, or that they comprise a proud family of multi-purpose vehicles that got their start way back in 1942. The Sno-Cat is an icon all its own in an industry that has few competitors.
Old Man Winter Anti-Venom
You welcome winter driving like you welcome a root canal without novocaine. It’s just something you’re going to have to deal with, and most of the time it won’t pretty. And though you certainly can’t control the guy who thinks his 4×4 means he can drive like the abominable idiot, you can at least ready yourself for most situations on the cold, heartless road. As the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared”. That’s a wise way to approach winter’s worst, one reflected by this kit of essentials.
Sleighs are for losers
You’re an hour late to the Christmas get-together, but not because that red velvet blazer you love so much is nowhere to be found. No, instead you’re trapped in a snowdrift in your vintage AMC Gremlin. No fruitcake for you. You could’ve fared better this holiday season with some better wheels. May we suggest some truly treaded steeds for your hapless self?
Full Contact High
American drivers are starting to learn something Europeans have known for a long time: winter tires do wonders for traction in snow, slush and ice. The extra edge in slippery acceleration, braking and steering is worth the hassle of swapping rubber with the seasons. We researched top performing winter tires for various types of vehicles to compile this ultimate list of winter treads for your car, truck, SUV or sports car.
Driving, on the rocks
When Frank J. Zamboni opened one of the largest ice skating rinks in the country just outside Los Angeles in 1940, he realized he needed to streamline the ice resurfacing process. Using surplus war parts from Jeeps and tractors, he perfected his design on a number of iterations — and in 1949 the Model A Zamboni Ice Resurfacer was born.
Fast forward more than 60 years and the company, which has become ubiquitous with hockey games and halftime shows, now offers more than 10 machines ranging in capacity, price and ability. We had the chance to take the all-electric Zamboni 552 ($160,000) model for a spin, and the drive was, as expected, extraordinary.
The Methuselah of automotive design
There are a scant number of nameplates that have lasted half a century with uninterrupted production: Mercedes-Benz SL, Jaguar XJ, Chevy Corvette, Chevy Suburban, Ford F-Series. But there’s only one car whose iconic design and sporting identity has remained truly consistent, only one whose recognition as among the best sports cars in the world has gone unmatched for 50 years…the Porsche 911. The 911′s DNA is a formula that’s intoxicating, one that the car world respects and envies. The half-century mark for a car is a colossal achievement, and when that car is the Porsche 911, that much more so.
In this 50th year of the 911, we decided to take a deeper look into the generations and iterations of this remarkable car to see how far it’s come. Not all of the car’s modifications were good ones, but they will all be remembered as part in parcel of what it takes develop an icon through multiple decades.
Narrowing down the best Porsches in history is a daunting and pleasurable task, similar to running through a cascade of single malt whiskies to select a mouthful of your favorites. After much debate, we’ve settled on the 10 greatest of all time. The final litmus test, we decided, was this: Is owning this vehicle akin to receiving a kiss from the car gods right on your petrol-lovin’ lips? A difficult prerequisite, but then again, this is Porsche we’re talking about.
Enough room for passengers, enough excitement to forget about 'em
When choosing a car for the track, it’s key to choose a ride with certain distinct criteria — things like sports-car dimensions and weight, great handling, two seats, an eye-brow singeing top speed and extreme impracticality for everyday driving. But what if your tool of choice just happens to be a luxury sedan? In that case, you obviously like challenges; maybe you’re the kind of guy whose idea of a workout is strapping a bag of rocks to your back and scaling a hillside in track spikes. Or maybe your choice of luxo-sedan just happens to be the 2014 Porsche Panamera ($78,100+). We hit the track in one at Atlanta Motorsports Park.
The apple doesn't fall far
When the Porsche Cayenne SUV took front and center for the Stuttgart automaker in 2002, Porsche purists had exhaust coming out of their ears. A Porsche SUV? The move, at least to them, was tantamount to putting a plaid shirt, leather suspenders and hiking boots on Gisele Bündchen. But the Cayenne turned into Porsche’s biggest seller, providing much-needed funding for more ambitious projects. Porsche’s doing it again with the 2015 Porsche Macan ($52,000-$62,000). We break down the small performance cross-over.
Gifts for the Rubber Burner
Drivers can be a picky bunch. It’s likely that fuzzy dice and sheepskin seat covers won’t cut it this (or any) year, so take some direction from us this holiday season. Car or motorcycle guys tend to appreciate things that enhance the experience or provide a bit of insight into the hobby/obsession. And you have no excuse to be stingy. He’s given you rides in his vintage roadster, and he even bought you some driving gloves for your Camry SE in hopes of steering you toward a more legitimate ride someday. It’s time you ponied up for something he’ll appreciate. Of course, you can still stuff his stocking with a box of synthetic 5W30.
Purity in Motion
2013 has been a great year in our motoring lives. We’ve hit the tarmac and the dirt track, tossed around Ferraris and Lambos, captured the ultimate camera car and two-wheeled it through the streets of London and Los Angeles. That’s a hell of a lot of burnt rubber — and we relished every moment.
We loved ‘em all, sure, but it’s high time we selected Gear Patrol’s Best New Car of the year, a tough task amid the fierce competition of some of the best vehicles we’ve seen in a long time. That field is packed full of cars from diverse manufacturers, each deserving of vehicular accolades of the highest order. But there can be only one winner — and to us, that winner is clear. The best car of the year is the 2014 Porsche Cayman S. But before we wax poetic (and we surely will), there are plenty of counterarguments to be made and bridesmaids to applaud.
Big grilles, rich thrills
Executives require executive rides, but perhaps you’re the new CEO of a startup and you’re strapped for cash. You can’t exactly plunk down for a six-figure european limo while you’re trying to figure out how to cover the new office expansion. We’ve got two rides that cradle you in luxury and deliver you with speed: the Mercedes-Benz S550 and the Hyundai Equus Ultimate. Both are opulently appointed despite a very noticeable $25k difference in price; one says that you’ve arrived, and the other, that you’re comfortably on your way.
Racing ferocity wrapped in quiet elegance
Lexus is no longer in the business of selling warmed-over Toyotas with nice interiors, and they haven’t been for some time. Indeed, the Lexus image has been completely revamped from its early days, and they’ve poised themselves in recent years as a formidable opponent to world-class luxury vehicles. Now, with their fully integrated F Sport lineup, the company has taken a solid shot across the reigning sport sedan titans’ respective bows; heralded by their flagship supercar, the LFA, Lexus is undeniably in the sport sedan business.
Red, White and Blew Me Away
The Dodge Challenger first hit the scene in the ’70s to compete in the “Pony Car” market along side the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. The third-generation Challenger (unveiled in 2006), retains cues from the ’70s version — hood scoops, round headlights, and an overall wide and flat design — to look every bit the American muscle car. New this year, the 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core ($40,000) is made for those who want a massively powerful 6.4-liter V8, but who don’t care about the $5,000 extras in the fully loaded SRT8.
An enduring benchmark of '60s style
The Sixties were flush with revolutions: in music, sexuality, drugs, fashion, wider-sweeping social reform and more. And then there was the look. Psychedelic patterns and deep-pile shag carpet ran rampant through the era, but it was the Don Draper-esque looks of the Sixties that stuck and still strongly reverberate today. Skinny ties, streamlined furniture, chrome, elegance: these are the essences that seems to ooze forth from the paint of Lincoln’s 1961 Continental sedan and convertible.
Intentionally Stranded in a City of Gridlock
Navigating LA, which is known for its vastness and interlocking freeways, without a car is akin to a New Yorker pulling his vehicle from storage to run errands in midtown for a few hours. It’s crazy. It doesn’t even seem like an option. But what if I made it an option? I decided to try the unthinkable: live in LA for one week while my car sat in the driveway. The goal: see just how dependent I was on my car — and determine just how much I could buck that dependency.
A Class of Its Own
The term “affordable luxury car” never made sense. Either the car is not really affordable or it is not really luxurious. It’s a chimera, an oxymoron. Well, it was. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class ($29,900) breathes life into the fantasy with a unique combination of breathtaking design, high-tech amenities, a truly bespoke interior, front-wheel-drive performance and the convenience of four doors in a coupe-like body.
Supercars and sports cars are largely out of reach for the average human, much to our chagrin. But there’s great news for piston-lovers everywhere, too: hot hatches are here to stay, largely due to earth-bound prices, impressive speed in spite of their smaller displacement engines, and everyday practicality that dwarfs many sedans. The 2013 Ford Focus ST ($23,700) is the new hot hatch king, and for good reason. The 252 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine and sport-tuned suspension ensure it’s fast in the straights and in the curves, and the sublime steering ups the pleasure quotient even further. Plus, it just looks fast. The hard part is stepping out of it after a spirited drive.
British excellence, embodied
When it comes to iconic vintage Jags, the stunning E-Type comes to mind for most, but there is a British racing legend that came before the XKE. Though just about everyone recognizes the E-Type, only the true automotive cognoscenti can identify the D-Type, a car that’s far more rare and even more coveted when one of the two happens to come up at auction.
The Caddy that wows
The CTS Vsport ($59,995) takes a big step forward in Cadillac’s new era of design and driving excellence. The car is more elegant than the previous model thanks to a leaner profile; the front grille is smaller but no less noticeable; the faux vents aft of the front fenders from the previous car are, thankfully, gone. This clean-up is part in parcel of a smoother and more unified countenance that’s attractive and less busy. The result is the first Cadillac that elicits automotive desire a la BMW, Mercedes and Audi — and we had a chance to get behind the wheel.
Stalwart of the Skies
747. The Jumbo Jet. Whether you’re a million miler or just look for the cheapest thing on Kayak, the 747 is a plane that requires no introduction. You know it has an upstairs. You know that’s what Air Force One is. You know it’s been around forever and it still imparts second glances through the glass even when you’re beelining it for baggage claim. It’s a stalwart of the skies.
Since its birth in the ’60s as a revolutionary way to tackle long distance flights with large passenger loads, the 747 has undergone several evolutions. Today the 4th generation 747, the 747-8 Intercontinental, is, in our opinion, the finest one yet, though its success has been somewhat marred by its misunderstood approach. In the previous decades while manufacturers focused on making their products bigger, newer and faster, Boeing took a different tact with the 747: efficiency and evolution. We got aboard one on an inaugural Lufthansa flight.
In a world of “sporty cars”, it isn’t enough for them to be appealing, powerful and expensive. Yes, a sports car must be quick, but a truly great sports car must also must be first and foremost a driver’s car, an extension of the body; it must inspire confidence in order to maximize its potential. The 2014 Porsche Cayman ($52,600) is just such a car. Beneath the fuller, sexier skin is a powerful and smooth flat-six engine that puts out 274 hp in the Cayman and 325 in the raucous Cayman S. In either case, the driving rewards are aplenty, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating sports car.
A boat is essentially pure freedom, and Sea-Ray’s 370 Venture ($390,000+), the brand’s top-of-the-line express cruiser, embodies this freedom with style in spades. The Venture 370 redefines a category of boat known for being sporty and fast-cruising while also flashing more amenities than a cabin cruiser. The secret to its success? Swapping traditional onboard V8s for outboard 300 hp Mercury engines.
In 1934, Hawley Bowlus decided to apply his knowledge to a new market: towable trailers. His efforts became the Bowlus Road Chief. While the design was industry leading, the floundering economy of the Great Depression hampered sales. After selling 80 trailers, Bowlus decided he’d be better off making planes and shuttered Bowlus.
When car collector John Long found one of the original 80 made in the ’30s, he decided to resurrect Bowlus and bring the Road Chief back to market. In 2013 he succeeded: for the first time in 79 years new Bowlus Road Chiefs were being made, lived in and gawked at. Today the Bowlus Road Chief ($100,000+) still blows away new and vintage competition with spellbinding style and updates aplenty.