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.
Stuttgart Speeds Into the 21st Century
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.
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.
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.
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 ($52,600) is just such a car. Beneath the fuller, sexier skin is a powerful and smooth flat-six engine that puts out 274 hp in the Cayman and 325 in the raucous Cayman S. In either case, the driving rewards are aplenty, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating sports car.
Die Zukunft, Now
No longer the red-headed stepchildren of the car world, hybrids are quickly improving in both design and efficiency. Now, with the introduction of the remarkable Volkswagen XL1 ($TBA), the world’s first hyper-efficient supercar has arrived. The culmination of eleven years of research and development, the XL1 combines elite materials with environmental consciousness to buck precedent and set the bar for the next generation of vehicles. With a carbon fiber reinforced plastic monocoque, a slippery body and pre-eminent hybrid power, the XL1 is the world’s ultimate eco-conscious car.
Fall for all of them
The end of the summer doesn’t mean that the best driving months are behind us. With the arrival of fall comes cooler temperatures, the rainbow of foliage colors and fewer vacationers on the open roads — all reasons to open up the throttle. But all leaf-scatterers are not created equal. Some have drop-tops for feeling the crisp air zip by your ears and others want to blast snaking backroads; still others will get you, your gear and your family to the annual fall camping spot. These ten cars — our favorites for taking fall driving to the next level — can do it all. If you’re lucky enough to drive one, your winter doldrums just got put on hold.
Fueled by Champagne
The application to work at Bentley must go something like this: here’s some wood, some metal and a cow…go make a car. Bentley arguably sets the industry standard for this wild world of luxury vehicles, and it’s mind blowing how much work goes into their hand-crafted, hand-assembled chariots. As the Flying Spur is essentially a stretched Continental GT, it had carried that namesake since its inception — but the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur ($200,000) drops the prefix and gets a boost in power and a fully refreshed exterior that separates it from its two-door brethren.
Midsized, but far from the middle of the pack
The war of midsize family sedans is a brutal one, with combatants from the likes of Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan and GM upping their game year after year. The 2014 Mazda6 ($20,990) has made mincemeat of the competition through its combination of head-turning looks, a capacious cabin and the best driving dynamics in the challenging segment. The 184 horsepower direct-inject 16-valve 2.5-liter SkyActiv gasoline engine is peppy, backed by the best steering and handling in the segment. It’s an excellent family car that’s worthy in every respect.
The lion's call
The brand new Jaguar F-Type ($69,000) isn’t the second coming of the legendary E-Type — but it is Jaguar’s first true sports car in 40 years. The F-Type takes the form of a compact powerhouse that isn’t afraid to bear its high-performance teeth. The two available 3.0-liter V6 engines in the base F-Type and the F-Type S boast a healthy 340 and 380 horsepower, respectively, while the top-end V8 delivers a raucous 495 horses to place it in supercar territory for power and performance. The sporty but luxurious cockpit is gleefully driver centric; driving this posh and powerful roadster is pure bliss. The F-type is the sophisticated sports car the world has been waiting for.
Pavement pansies need not apply
The guys at Overland Journal know how to adventure, and adventure well. Their magazines can be found both on coffee tables and in some of the most rugged vehicles around. Case in point, on our shoot last week of Sportsmobile we found a few editions in the back seat — for inspiration no doubt. So it comes as no surprise that they’d be the perfect match to outfit a 2013 Land Rover LR4 ($50,000) for adventure and comfort.
When Godzilla gets Juke'd
Have you ever seen “that couple” — the short, rotund Geek Squad individual and the Olympic beach volleyball player walking hand in hand? A similarly weird aura surrounds the incredibly unnecessary yet blissfully real 545 horsepower Nissan Juke-R ($665,000). We got some seat time in this, one of the rarest production automobiles in the world.
Silicon Valley does motorcycles
With the recent proliferation of electrified transportation, it seems things are swinging solidly from Who Killed the Electric Car? to “Who Maimed the Gas Engine?”. Motorcycles are no exception. One of the best e-bike makers out there, Zero, let us test their Zero DS ($14,000) for a few weeks in L.A. to see if a silent motorcycle is a groundbreaking way to ride or a tad emasculating.
Explaining Turbocharging and Supercharging
Air. Fuel. Spark. Take one away from your car and you’re going nowhere fast. Increase one, air for example, and things get interesting. More air equals more power — the very principle behind forced induction. Two systems, supercharging and turbocharging, make this all happen. Take a deep breath and dive in.
Ze cream of ze crop
There was another huge auto show this year in Frankfurt, Germany. Spread out across a dozen exhibition halls covering a mile of real estate, the 65th IAA show featured wares from virtually every automaker on the planet. It is at Frankfurt, for instance, where you can learn about cutting-edge technology like heated armrests (no, we’re not kidding) and then walk around the corner and sample the same technology in a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If the question is asked, “Wasn’t that car shown at Frankfurt?” chances are, at least for now, the answer is “yes”. Ditto on whether said car saw extensive press coverage. With that, here’s a rundown of the best of Frankfurt — not just the big names, but the ones that made us take notice.
It truly is a party
Though the Ford Fiesta (not to be confused with the midget-special Ford Festiva) has been around since 1976, it wasn’t available stateside until 2011. Back then, we enjoyed the original 1.6-liter 120 hp inline four cylinder hatch but longed for more pep. Obviously the engineers behind the Shelby GT500 and the F150 Raptor SVT follow Gear Patrol closely, because they answered our need for more zip with the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST ($22,000).
Think of your family, and yourself
Dodge isn’t the only one that can boast about a Power Wagon — a few of today’s wagons haul as much ass as they do family members. If you’re about hitting the apexes and dragging sports cars after you’ve finished toting the kids to their sports practices, you have several options. Do you spend north of six figures for the big German rocket or significantly less for home-grown wagon speed?