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?
One sultry Swede
Volvo has been eschewing their once-signature boxy designs for over a decade as cars like the swoopy XC60 demonstrate. But at the Frankfurt Auto show this year they proved they’re ready to venture even farther with the Volvo Concept Coupe, a gorgeous, liberal reinterpretation of their venerable P1800. We break it down.
252 made. Get one if you can.
Trace some of the best modern cars back to their origins and you’ll be surprised how much design language and heritage have been passed forward, in some cases for decades. BMW is no exception. The pioneering Z3, the unique Z8, today’s Z4 — the BMW 507 is the granddaddy of them all. It’s only fitting to look back to the origins of the BMW convertible and pay our respects to the iconic 507, a car that nearly bankrupted BMW, but provided an immense wealth of legacy.
To drive or ride? That is the question.
If anyone “missed” purchasing a Maybach, then it’s time to rejoice in the heralding of a German luxury sedan that makes no bones about its levels of refinement, complexity and utter technological wizardry — the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We got to drive (as well as experience) the limousine-level sedan recently in Toronto.
A Feeling of Displacement
Recently, we made our way out to Bilster Berg, a new $45 million dollar track and driving resort tucked into the eastern foothills of Germany. A former British ammunition depot, the 2.6-mile track has quickly launched to must-drive status due to a challenging mix of speed and extreme elevation changes. It was a worthy canvas for painting tracks with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, a 2.0-liter beast.
Four doors. Four stars. Five cars.
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.
Super is an understatement
Supercars are easily the Kate Uptons of the automotive world: stunning to behold, unobtainable by the average human and wicked in all the right ways. Even in an age of high fuel costs and environmentalism, they still get our attention. Exotic materials, radical designs, pavement rippling performance lead to stratospheric prices, which ensure that for most men, these cars will remain a fantasy. We got to drive a handful of supercars that made us happy to be alive and gave us good reason to change our underwear.
When perfect is not enough
In 2008 Audi introduced the R8, a mid-engine V8 somewhat inspired by their highly successful R8 Le Mans Prototype race car, and blew the world away, winning both the World Performance Car and World Design Car of year awards. It’s undergone only minor changes — until this year. The 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus ($171,000) gets one of the best upgrades yet, a smooth-as-glass and lightning fast seven speed dual clutch S Tronic transmission. We drove it.
The most excellent excess
Studies show that many young people just don’t care much about cars or driving these days — they’re more focused on things like smartphones and the latest portable technology. Though the supercar landscape is changing, the basic idea and fulfillment behind this dream car is not. Regardless of changes in the industry or the pressures of fuel economy, the supercar will not only survive, it will continue to thrive.
Bring the 80s back, please
The Ferrari Enzo and F40 need no introduction — they’ve virtually been canonized. There is a Ferrari supercar, however, that travels under the radar compared to its two aforementioned (and more modern) brothers. The Ferrari 288 GTO was built with purpose, created to feed Enzo Ferrari’s unquenchable racing passions in Group B racing, a beautiful, supremely quick beast. It can actually be credited as the father of the modern Ferrari supercar.
Though we lament the (hopefully temporary) disappearance of the “Scuderia” name from Ferrari’s newest street-legal sports car, the Ferrari Speciale doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it boasts improved aerodynamics, increased power and decreased weight for blistering acceleration and unparalleled handling. We have all the impressive Italian details in our breakdown.
Unclean and loving it
When you’re looking to travel from coast to coast, you’ve got several options; planes are the fastest, trains are probably the cheapest, the interstate is a good DIY choice. But for the adventurer, the Trans-America Trail (TAT) is one of the best. The TAT is a westbound dual-sport motorcycle trail across America on unpaved roads. Sam Corerro, original founder of the TAT, spent years passionately pursuing his goal of charting a coast-to-coast, off-pavement motorcycle adventure. After studying reams of maps and personally surveying thousands of miles of unpaved roadway, Corerro finalized this 5,000-mile route across America in 1999. Over a year ago, Land Rover, too, had the idea to travel across the continental United States completely off road, and we recently joined them for a long leg of the trip.
After twelve generations of model updates, the Ford SVT Raptor is arguably the most tenacious version of the Blue oval’s numerous F-150 iterations. Truly testing this machine called for something more than a few days piddling around Los Angeles, so when when we were invited to go attend the one-day Raptor Assault School at Miller Motorsports Park in the wide open Utah countryside we moved quicker than a rattle snake on the floor of a country line dance. What we drove was an out-of-the box, insanely capable machine able to run, jump and crawl over just about anything in its path.
Books on tape and Corn Nuts required
If you happen to be fan of long road trips, used cars and unpredictability, and you also have copious amounts of unused vacation time, the Shipwreck Rally is calling your name (and possibly that of your healthcare insurer). Starting November 1st in NYC and finishing in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina, the rally is a truly unique roadgoing experience where no support teams and no crazy vehicular mods can give any one team an unfair advantage over the everyman.
Grand Touring Family Style
It’s a well-known fact that the mellifluous sound of a Ferrari V12 is ultimate bellow of the vehicular gods. The now-famous Ferrari V12 first showed up in the 1947 125 S, the Italian automaker’s first roadgoing car. Since then, some form of 12-cylinder Ferrari engine (V12 or Flat-12) has showed up in no fewer than forty cars over the past seventy years. One of Ferrari’s most recent offerings, the Ferrari FF, makes use of the V12 staple, albeit in its most powerful form ever in a roadgoing car — but the FF also makes a noticeable departure from Ferrari Grand Tourers of the past through polarizing style, all-wheel-drive, practical (yes, practical) seating for four and enough cargo room to hit the road for more than a day. We got the behind the wheel with family in tow.
Respect Your Elders
The BMW M3 easily shows up in the top 10 performance cars on just about every critic’s list. With the new M3 just on the horizon, it’s time to pay homage to the original: the BMW E30 M3. It’s a classic that still looks good, like Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October — handsome, tough and no-nonsense. All the first M3 did was cement the German sports coupe/sedan category in the annals of automotive history.
Are two really better than one?
Since General Motors introduced the first Hydra-Matic automatic some 70 years ago, the world has been divided between two types of drivers: those who push a clutch pedal and shift, and those who do not. But in a world where fuel economy takes up the majority of the automotive attention span, a third possibility looms: the dual-clutch transmission, or DCT. Learn to love it. Unless you’re just a passenger holding the steering wheel and pointing your two tons of SUV at Point B, DCTs represent the best hope for engaged, entertaining driving and reasonable fuel economy.
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.
It’s hard to keep a longstanding car model fresh and consistent over the course of decades. Cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, the Honda Accord and the BMW 3-Series are a few models that have stood the test of time. Then there are those models that keep on keepin’ on as the rest of us wonder why. The Nissan Maxima is quite possibly the poster child of this category. I heave a sigh of disappointment every time I see a current model on the road.
Looking like the combination of a duck’s bill and a chisel, the Lancia Stratos was developed as an homologation car (production numbers to justify its rally racing intentions) a year after the revolutionary Lancia Stratos HF Zero car debuted. It was a car with virtually limitless rallying potential based on its design and performance. The Stratos did want it was meant to do — devour dirty, twisty, bumpy closed roads with an insatiable appetite.
In the current automotive landscape, true environmental halo cars don’t exist. Volkswagen, however, has produced their own version of a hippie halo car. It’s no V12 powerhouse, nor does it even come close to resembling anything supercar-ish in appearance. But what the VW XL1 definitely does is make a bold statement about what an ultra-efficient, super-small displacement hybrid can be. Our recent trip to VW HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany gave us a prime opportunity to evaluate the XL1 from all angles, including the view from behind the wheel.
It's all in the hands
Though the supremely capable Nissan GT-R is a feat of automotive technology, the craftsmanship behind the monstrous VR38 twin-turbo V8 engines by the “Takumi” is nothing short of impressive. Only four men can boast this level of skill for Nissan and each one prides himself on handbuilding each heavy-breathing beast beneath the hood of the current Japanese supercar. There’s no shortage of skill or humility in these four “samurai of the streets”, and our latest Viewfinder shows you their handcraft in an age of burgeoning technology.
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.
God bless you, Enzo
It’s easy to marvel at modern supercars — the Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Aventador. They’re remarkable automobiles that almost defy logic, packed with technology that can turn just about anybody into a semi-competent driver. But there are some cars that usurp respect and admiration from even these titans of technology. They’re so iconic, so wickedly ravishing to behold, and so pure in their purpose and performance that to own one is to reach automotive nirvana. To see one in the flesh is enough to take your breath away. The Ferrari F40 is just such a car.
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…
The Birth of a legend
When the Porsche 917 debuted at the 1970 Le Mans, it quite literally blew away the competition. Housed in an ultra-lightweight (93-pound) chassis, its 12-cylinder engine and state-of-the-art materials made it both the most formidable and most dangerous car on the road. It would supply Porsche with its first victory at Le Mans and help grow the brand into an icon of automotive excellence. This short documentary pays tribute to the car and its makers.