Some car models start out great but then topple from grace — the Nissan Maxima comes to mind (as much as we try to push it out). Then there are those automobiles that have only gotten better with time, tweaks, and tender loving care. Some have evolved gracefully, while others desperately needed a hefty dose of attention. Here are five models basking in the glow of recent changes that have brought them into their primes.
Captain Planet approved. Sort of.
The Porsche 918, the McLaren P1 and the Ferrari LaFerrari are still all about superlatives — fastest, best handling, most exotic. But they also repurpose the latest technology to maximize the “dear lord” factor. They’re redefining excess, not stamping it out.
It takes two to fan dance
Not that long ago, “Korean Luxury Car” sounded a lot like “Hardee’s Beef Wellington”. Something was clearly lost in both translation and execution — but those days are gone now. Both Kia and Hyundai have brought their own versions of luxo barges to our shores in the form of the K900 and the Equus. Sure, the snob factor isn’t nearly as present as in the German or Japanese offerings, but that could be just what the doctor (or lawyer) ordered. The Korean luxury sedan has arrived in a big way without making a big move for your bank account.
Head of the C-Class
In its past several generations, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class has promised drivers excellent entry-level luxury — a promise on which the car has never quite delivered. GP editor Eric Yang travels to the South of France to find the soul of the new C-Class using his right foot.
Can the world's largest automaker fix the problems ahead?
Today, Toyota is making bold bets in a wide range of areas — from alternative fueled vehicles and suped-up tricycles Robocop would sell his hex nuts for, to emotion-sensing AI, household “partner” robots, and smart homes — all in hopes anticipating the shifting mobility needs of tomorrow. Statistics are one way to understand how the company’s master plan will make for a better and Pikachu-cute future; then again, the world’s largest automaker is well aware that practice makes perfect, and that’s on display at their global headquarters, known as Toyota City. We explored the brand’s paradigm-shifting innovations, including personal mobility prototypes, robots, EV infrastructure and more.
Godzilla Invades America
While the majority of Americans look for their next vehicle at their local car dealership or online, there are some who spend countless hours to hunt down and import foreign cars that were never sold here in the states, at least legally. One of those grails just might finally be legally accessible to enthusiasts and collectors here in the U.S. for the first time in, well, ever. It’s the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, the car that birthed the current Nissan GT-R supercar.
IS is it
BMW has spent the past several years making its cars more luxurious and better appointed for its upmarket customers. While BMW was upping the luxury, Lexus was moving in the opposite direction, not by making their cars any less luxurious, but instead placing a stronger emphasis — maybe even a bull’s-eye target — on sportiness. The result? For now, the BMW 3 has to get off the gilded chair and let the new kid have the scepter of power.
A beast in plainer clothes
The Subaru Impreza WRX (nicknamed “Rex” by loyalists) has a cult following to almost rival the Beatles (smaller and younger, but just as fanatic). New iterations or improvements often make fan clubs and enthusiasts both skeptical and nervous; you can’t mess with perfection, and the Subaru Impreza WRX is pretty close. In November of last year Subaru debuted the fifth generation 2015 WRX ($26,295) at the LA auto show, and we were quick to and hop in line to see if they’d truly made it better or simply messed up a great thing.
This Indo-Brit could pull it off
For decades, the BMW 3-Series has been the sports sedan benchmark by which all others are measured, but all that is changing in this steel cage death match that includes German, Japanese and American contenders. BMW, naturally, has its hat in the ring. Then there’s the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C Class, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50, Cadillac ATS, and soon a new Jaguar known as the XE, which was recently announced but not fully revealed at the Geneva Motor Show.
10 Concepts We're Praying Find their Way to Production
Watching concept cars bow at international auto shows is like watching the festivities at Paris Fashion Week: displays are daring, beautiful and sometimes just downright petrifying. The world gets to see bold, shocking statements or captivating ones that might just make it to market. The best examples are fuel for dreams of what may come. This year, the Geneva Motor Show proved to be fertile ground. From a student-submitted sports car to a practical van, here are our 10 favorite concept cars from the show.
Porsche comes back home
Audi has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 12 out of the last 14 years, a feat that cannot be understated. But there’s another brand whose record at the race is yet unmatched: Porsche, which has 16 wins total. But those wins came during a different era. This year, Porsche re-enters the Le Mans fray with a brand new car that will compete in the LMP1-H (Le Mans Prototype 1 – Hybrid) category, the spectacular 919 Hybrid car, just unveiled in Geneva.
From Pocket Rockets to Black Vented Tanks, We're in Love
The Geneva Motor show is where carmakers like to come out and play. The absence of a major Swiss automaker provides both a level playing field for all manufacturers and a platform for car designers to go a bit crazy, often with radical concept cars. But there is a different class of vehicles, the ones that will see production, fulfilling our petrol-filled dreams by bringing speed, power and ingenuity to the road. These are our ten favorite production cars from the show.
A Triumphant Return to the (kind of) British two-seater
When Jaguar introduced their iconic E-Type in the early 1960s it turned heads and changed lives; new for 2014, the Jaguar F-Type ($69,000) looks to do exactly the same thing. First coming to life as the C-X16 concept, the production version debuted at the historic Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012 and, thanks to thrilling driving dynamics and a competitive price point, could be the most exciting offering from the Brits (under Indian ownership) since the tea trade routes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bringing sexy back to Toyota
By all accounts, the 2014 Detroit Auto Show was a huge success — the best in years, even, by virtue of the array of new production cars as well as the daring concept designs that the automotive culture demands. As much as it’s tough to choose a favorite, the Toyota FT-1 Concept has our vote for the best concept car of the entire show. Though it’s evocative of the Toyota Supra, the FT-1 clearly points in a far more daring design direction that any past or current Toyota. We break it down.