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.
Fall for all of them
We're not gonna take it
Just about every car manufacturer has had its “car of shame” at one point or another. The names are easily recognizeable and are usually followed by a full-body cringe: AMC Gremlin, Renault Fuego, Chevy Citation, Oldsmobile Achieva, Volkswagen Fox, Geo Metro, Nissan Pulsar, Cadillac Cimarron, Pontiac Aztek, Ford Festiva, Chrysler PT Cruiser. To our everlasting chagrin, many of the cars we’d rather not have driven have come from right here in America. But things have been improving. Improving a lot, in fact. American cars today are better built and better designed at just about every level, and they’re even competitive with once out-of-reach European performance cars.
An American Thoroughbred
The pickup truck is an American icon, its ruggedness and no-nonsense utility having long ago made it the workhorse of the blue-blooded. But the new Chevy Silverado ($23,590) introduces a new generation of big pickups that boast great design, posh interiors and improved drivability and toughness. Three great engines are available, including a robust 4.3-liter V6 that’s both economical and capable. Step inside the Silverado’s upgraded cabin and you’ll wonder if you’re in a well-appointed sedan. The new Silverado is also a pleasure to drive thanks to a stronger structure, better ride comfort and improved handling; it’s as impressive on road as it is off. This truck is a shining example of what America does best.
More beautiful beasts of burden
Baseball, apple pie and trucks: all iconic, savory slices of Americana. The urban cowboy may have given the pickup a bad rap, but don’t let that sour the segment. These ain’t your granddad’s haulers. No sir, the trucks of today have taken fuel efficiency to an all-time high in the segment, for starters, and have added touches of interior and exterior class that leave little to be desired, even when compared against luxury makers.
Yes, the beloved truck has changed, but it remains grounded in its roots as a tree-stump-puller. Indeed, the core functionality of the pickup truck has remained nearly unchanged through the years — that is, it still has the ability to blast copious amounts of diesel exhaust over smug, hybrid drivers. We found time to drive and rate the five best full-sized models on the market. Which one you choose is between you and your payload.
Pages of legends
Every man’s library should consist of great books. Of course, regardless of how many classics you’ve read, if you’re a devotee of automobilia, your shelves should also house some truly great car books. We take a look at some of the best automotive books around in hopes that you’ll get your hands on some of them, park yourself in a comfy chair and spend a weekend afternoon imagining the sights, sounds and smells of great motoring.
Time to Drive
Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately. And whether the watch of choice is used to measure lap splits or to simply echo the same kind of quality and heritage as his car, you can be assured that careful time was taken to select both. We match up some of the best in timekeeping and automobilia in Gear Patrol style.
Starpower trumps horsepower
Weeding through Hollywood’s entire crop of iconic movie cars in the hopes of arriving at an agreed upon best of list is like trying to choose the sexiest Victoria’s Secret model — it can be grueling work, but the research isn’t exactly painful. Car guys are a picky lot, especially when looking to the silver screen: Some go weak in the knees when they hear an American V8 rumble to life slightly out of frame, while others are gaga for the svelte silhouette of a European exotic on a twisty backdrop. A select few believe the essential chase scene is the deciding factor, while yet another breed is only happy when the director has chosen an “appropriate” vehicle for the character driving, regardless of whether the movie was even watchable.
The GP Team’s collection of petrolheads put all of these variables into play, entered into
deep philosophical debate and eventually agreed to disagree so we could present you with our picks for the best movie cars ever. Gentlemen, start your arguing engines!
Tops be droppin'
Summer isn’t nearly as enjoyable without top-down driving. As much as we’re fans of hardtop automotive design and the way a sweeping roofline catches the eye, we have to admit that the clear growl of an engine and the wind in your hair makes the warmer months that much better. Even a drive up Pacific Coast Highway in a cream-hued 1995 Chrysler Sebring Convertible can be a pleasure (as long as no one actually sees you). Bully for you, convertibles are better than ever — gone are the fussy tops, the anemic engines, and silhouettes that would make Quasimodo cringe. The crop of current convertibles range from modern nostalgia to supercar power players, but one thing they all do is make your motoring pleasure good for all the world to see.
Time to meet the winners
Imagine spending years designing, redesigning, engineering and finally building a car — only to have public opinion weigh in on your baby. No pressure, right? Well, at this year’s New York International Auto Show, plenty of brands did a damn good job. We were tantalized by some of what’s to come: cars that will certainly hit production in some form or another (and thank goodness for that). From track beasts to practical and attractive sedans, we rounded up the cream of the crop, in our humble opinion. Take a look at the 10 best in show.
Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Chevy, you had us at “ZL1″, but our loyalties have waned as we pine for the Camaro Z/28, with its 500 hp, 7.0-liter V8 and enough racing bits to make lesser muscle cars cower in fear. It’ll be available in late 2013. chevrolet.com Commando Padlocks Manufactured in Michigan to military- and commercial-grade…
Don't be ashamed of going topless
The wraps just came off the Corvette Stingray Convertible, which will be sold alongside the hardtop in the fourth quarter of 2013. Powered by the same potent 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine with 450 hp, the convertible sheds the metal for a fully electronic top that can be deployed or retracted at speeds of up to 30 mph. It’s the perfect new recipe for fast, top-down driving, American style.
A new generation of four-doors
Family sedans tend to be the automotive equivalent of Valium (minivans are horse tranquilizers, in case you were wondering), but times have changed. Family men no longer need to sacrifice
too much in the way of driving excitement and looks in order to transport tykes and trikes. We get it. You’d rather be doing some tire ripping, engine-snorting performance runs on your way to drop off your son at school. Still, we’ve compiled our list of “family sedans” that take let you perform your dad duties with aplomb while still allowing you more than a modicum of manly fun.
The History of America's Greatest Sports Car
Your loyalties may lie with other sports car brands, but the Corvette garners respect from all automotive circles for its remarkable capabilities, especially in light of its price. The Corvette is truly an American automotive icon and easily qualifies as America’s supercar, though it didn’t always boast the performance numbers of today. For at least the past three generations, it has been widely considered a bargain, as far as supercars go — with the speed, handling and track chops to make cars costing three times more quake in their brake shoes. Follow the Corvette as we detail its humble C1 inception to its modern automotive exotica in the recently released C7.
Mash the throttle, hold on and smile
As happy as we are to see a smorgasbord of automotive selections at the Detroit Auto Show this year, our pulses raced especially fast for sports cars. But even the definition of a sports car has changed. They don’t always have two doors anymore, and they may never even set tire on a track. But some things never change; what they still can do (at least the good ones) is perform and put a crick in your neck from looking too hard. Here are some of our favorites from NAIAS 2013.
From the C7th Circle of Hell
The Bowtie has pulled the wraps off its pride and joy, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and the result is impressive: design language is evocative of past Corvettes, while embarking on a more aggressive, more sophisticated look.
Americans know what Americans need, and sometimes a big, bad pickup truck is just what the doctor ordered. But that doesn’t mean brute strength shouldn’t have a dose of refinement. GM’s top dog trucks, in the forms of the 2014 GMC Sierra and sister vehicle, the Chevrolet Silverado, have just been unveiled, and we like…
Lone Star Lovin'
Sometimes we wonder, given the job prospects and varying degrees of instability, if writing auto reviews was the right decision for our lives. But then we realize that if Fate had wanted us to be anything else, we wouldn’t look so dang good behind the wheel. And so it goes, saddling up our horses we…
If Chevy has the cojones not to completely bludgeon the buff and beautiful design of the Chevrolet Colorado Rally Concept, then they just might have a winner in the evolutionary-but-not-revolutionary pickup truck field. The recently released images reveal a rugged and ready vehicle that’s more Paris-Dakar than Paris, Texas. The Colorado Concept sports a new,…
Bumblebee's P.O.'d cousin
Okay, so the new Camaro has taken the muscle car world by storm, throwing down against the Ford Mustang and winning (so far) in the number race. Now Chevy has its crosshairs focused on the Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 with its upcoming rubber scorcher, the 2012 Camaro ZL1. More performance car than muscle car, the…
Sun Protection Factor Zero
3 long years after the fifth-generation Camaro, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible ($30,000+, February) is finally arriving and its doing so completely swathed in style. The convertible inherits the hardtop’s choice of a 3.6 liter 312 HP V6 or the sublime 6.2 liter 526 HP V8 with six-speed automatic or manual, but Chevy has infused…
The 2010 Paris Motor Show had landed and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to for a man to assume an amplitude of impossibly sexy cars, leggy models, and enough bespoke suits to make the men of Positano blush. Well, if this year’s display of supercar prowess is anything more than a declaration that the recession is…
Camaro Without Compromise
Check out more of Bradley’s Gear Patrol auto reviews on our YouTube channel. For more transportation technology you can also see Bradley on Translogic at AOL Autos. More images after the jump.
The 2010 Hennessey HPE700 LS9 Camaro is proof that American muscle is not dead, but rather in the hands of mad scientists who love cramming bigger engines into products not originally intended for them. In other words, a good place and a guaranteed recipe for either disaster or utter torque-laden bliss. How does one get…
[click on image to enlarge] When you think of a “hybrid” do you immediately think of an exorbitantly priced underpowered vehicle with questionable styling? Do you also think that with today’s gas prices and fuel uncertainty a hybrid vehicle is becoming an ever more viable option? Now, when you think of a Chevy Tahoe do…
A luxury SUV wrapped around a tough-as-nails truck frame. That’s the Tahoe in a nutshell. Best served black. The 2007 Tahoe brings on a new look that we hear at Gear Patrol can’t get enough of. It’s 320 horsepower V-8 will never fall short for hauling you and your four compadres to the links, lake,…