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.
Be cool, not cold
Warm sunny days are still several weeks away at least — and yet taking your motorcycle out for a few “pre-season” blasts can be a joyous, refreshing experience. At 55 mph a simple flip of your visor is like downing a triple-shot of your favorite espresso; at eighty-five it’s even better. Hell, a simple whiff of spring air mixed with just a touch of exhaust is enough to give you the stamina of Sting — provided you’ve prepared. We’ve lined up our own personal arsenal for your cold-weather-riding pleasure.
Tapered tail, savage sport
We hopped a flight to the deserts of Las Vegas, where early one morning we had our pick of 10 shiny new 2014 Audi RS 7s ($104,900). Over its short tenure, Audi’s A7 Sportback has garnered endless praise and multiple awards, and the sportier S7 has impressed wholeheartedly with its ramped up athleticism and rakish looks. But we were righteously eager that morning in particular because the maniacal RS 7 takes both and soundly trounces them to smithereens.
Wreaking Havoc In A Winter Wonderland
We recently traveled to snowy and frigid Newry, Maine, where the Sunday River Ski Resort hosted the first-ever Red Bull Frozen Rush truck race. Pro 4 off-road racing trucks hit the slopes, racing up and down in a wild, aggressive, violent scramble over ice and snow, aided in no small part by spiked BF Goodrich tires. We rode along in a truck, watched drivers fly their trucks through the air like madmen daredevils and froze our tushes off all in the name of watching racing history unfold. Check it out yourself here.
The Blue Oval gets Ballsy
The most devilishly good detail in the 2015 Ford F-150 is more than skin deep. In fact, it sits just below the no doubt soon-to-be scuffed paint job. You see, Ford has made its boldest move in decades by building their flagship truck’s body out of aluminum instead of tried-and-true steel. It’s move that’s both expected because of the environmental trend and pioneering due to the vehicle in which Ford has chosen to make the paradigm shift.
Optimus Prime's Second Cousin
Cross a helicopter with an SUV and you get the Advanced Tactics AT Transformer, a platform that enables the world’s first roadable, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL). We break down the AT Black Knight Transformer, a Mad Max-ian vehicle that aims to use the Transformer technology for cargo drops or extractions during urban firefights.
A Taste of Things to Come
Concept cars are the stuff of dreams, representing the wondrous “could be” situations that make us salivate. Every year various auto shows pull the veil off auto industry pageants every year, and every year our collective pulses race to see what car companies have wrought in the way of wild designs, impressive technology and a foreshadowing of what might come in the not-too-distant future. Detroit has delivered ten of the most eye-catching concepts of 2014, and we’ve jumped in with a gusto. See which ones we love and why, here.
Making Detroit Shine
The North American International Auto Show is one of our favorite events of the year. It’s a time when just about every carmaker descends on Detroit, and the moment is a golden one. Picture it with us: gleaming steeds — SUVs, sports cars, sedans, pickups and more — as far as the eye can see, a field that’s tough to whittle down to our favorites. But we’ve done just that with these ten beauties, the best of NAIAS.
Going where no RV has gone before
When Charles Borskey started Sportsmobile in 1961, he had no idea the brand would rise to the popular status it holds today as the ultimate vehicle for adventure camping — or for simply making drivers look badass. Specializing in converting full-size vans into custom recreational vehicles, Sportsmobile turns your base people hauler into a rugged, rock-luvin’ beast. We recently visited Sportsmobile West’s Fresno, CA location to see the factory and take a van on the road; the conditions — snow and ice — created the perfect playground for these hulking yet nimble beasts.
Racing Prodigy, Porsche test driver
Most sixteen-year-olds spend their time learning how to parallel park and struggling with acne. Just after his sweet sixteen, Patrick Long moved to Europe to work on racing strategy and focus on becoming one of America’s best drivers. It worked. He’s since become the youngest American to take class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans — all while performing as Porsche’s go-to driver for testing new cars. We grabbed a few minutes with the Southern Californian — now 32 years old — between his surf sessions and race day.
Get Above the Action
Drones with GoPro capability have exploded in popularity over the past two or three years and are finally beginning to arrive at price points that might make the budget-minded filmmaker’s ears perk up. With that in mind, we sought to find the best drones for aerial filmmaking; after some worthwhile learning experiences (don’t try and learn to fly one in a New York City office), we’ve arrived at our three favorites.
Until now, the vehicles featured in our Octane Icon series have been but singular iterations of automotive excellence — standout models, limited runs and one-offs that have bucked trends, pumped blood and turned heads. The first motorcycle to be honored in this series defines most of that very criteria. And yet, it is readily available and remains relatively inexpensive: this is the Harley-Davidson XL or, as its more commonly known, the Sportster.
Power For The People
Volkswagen is making some driver-friendly improvements to their 2014 model line. Good: they’re replacing the somewhat disappointing 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine option in the Jetta and Passat with a torquey (for its size) 1.8-liter, direct-injection turbo four. Better: five models will be given VW’s hot rod R-Line treatment for the 2014 model year. Best: we got to drive them all.
The Lebron James of luxury sedans
If the 2014 Audi S8 ($112,000) were a person, he’d be the CEO of a tech conglomerate who lives in Manhattan, competes in triathlons, dates supermodels and always finds himself surrounded at the coolest who’s who parties. The S8 has daily driver looks with supercar stats, making it arguably the perfect car for those who can drop $112k. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to sell our Apple stock to get some wheel time in this 520-horsepower German statement.
One fast land barge
Rolls-Royce issues new models with a frequency not unlike solar eclipses, so the introduction of their latest car, the Wraith ($284,900), was nothing short of momentous. The public’s anticipation of the car at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show was met with a stunning deviation from the pure stateliness of the previous two cars. The two-door four-seater captured the audience and the automotive world with a bold fastback design that put an unmistakably bright feather into a strong, staid tweed cap. We shooed the chauffeur and stepped in the driver’s seat.
The gifts that keep on giving
Just about every morning, before our cup of joe, we slap ourselves as a reminder of how lucky we are to drive some of the best cars in the world and get paid for it. 2013 was another year of stupendous privileges, with wheel time in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Land Rovers, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Porsches, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, BMWs, Aston Martins and more. We’ve been the beneficiaries of a huge upswing in the automotive marketplace in terms of style, quality and driving excitement through virtually all segments. And you know what that means: 2014 should prove to be even better.
Here are the cars we most covet for the new year, each one a standout in its segment by virtue of its quality, technology, design, driving experience or all of the above. In a stellar field, these are the ones that stir the petrol in our veins the most. As we embark on a new year, here’s a toast to what should be an incredible 2014 on the digital pages of Octane.
When we introduced Today in Gear last year — or “TIG”, as we refer to it internally — we set out to create a daily digest of the latest in gear-related news to accompany our broader, deeper full length stories and features. The TIG oeuvre is still about the latest and coolest in cars, clothes,…
High-Speed Thrills at the Legendary Raceway
Lexus, when it was created in 1989, was itself a halo brand. Today Lexus is pushing its own groundbreaking products — that is, incredible vehicles — to reach new automotive heights. We were recently invited to experience those new halos, several of the company’s latest F models, this time at the very same proving grounds on which they were first developed: Fuji International Speedway. The opportunity provided a unique chance to study Lexus’s approach to the wide spectrum of automotive performance. It also gave us the chance to routinely push 150 mph right under the nose of Mount Fuji.
Steering in the Right Direction
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 (essentially the next generation G37 with a new name) brings ground-breaking tech, a strong engine and grown-up styling to the table and could be a major pivot point for the brand as they leave the shadow of parent company Nissan. We took a quick spin in the upgraded Q50S ($43,550), which is loaded with even more tech and an interesting new Direct Adaptive Steering system.
Rising Stars from the Rising Sun
Japanese cars have long been the epitome of reliability and trustworthiness, but they haven’t always been beautiful to look at. Things have changed with the current generation of Japanese cars, which boast great design and more personality than ever, along with driving dynamics that can rival (and even best) the Germans in some cases. Their bombproof reliability hasn’t been altered through the generations, either. Here are the ten best rising cars from the land of the rising sun.
A Skyline in the city
With one of the highest thrill-to-dollar ratios of any production car on the planet, the only way to make the Nissan GT-R more monstrous (hello, 0-60 in less than three seconds) is a limited Track Edition. Luckily, we didn’t have to call in any favors or cash in our Bitcoins to get our hands on the 2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition ($117,000), which serves dual duties as a sports car and a missile.
Driving a benchmark of American Luxury
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.
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 be 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?