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A trip to (what we thought was) the ragged edge of control

Track Day: At the Fringe with Porsche & Pirelli

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.

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4 Wheels, 5 Skills

Study Up: 5 Places to Learn How to Use 4 Wheels

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.

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Look track serious, be track serious

Kit: Track Driving

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.

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Searching for enlightenment at Drag Racing's Garden of Eden

Photo Essay: Crushing Numbers at NHRA Winternationals

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.

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Two extreme cars from our border buddies

Border Wars: Vuhl 05 and Felino Cars CB7

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.

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Petrolhead Playthings

Small Wheels, Big Thrills: 10 Best Automotive Toys

Kids love cars and trucks and things that go — get ‘em hooked early and they’ll be motorheads for life. Whether you want to start small with miniature die-cast models, build patience with tedious model-building or see how well your offspring hoon, there’s a car toy out there that’ll fit the bill. We’ve rounded up ten awesome — and classic — car toys that you’d be proud to bestow upon your kid and that he or she will be more than happy to crash pilot.

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More than just a toy

Rule the Land/Air/Sea With These 10 Remote-Controlled Vehicles

You can spend as little or as much as you want on a remote-controlled vehicle (you’ll see shortly that there are far more than cars available), but what each one delivers is huge fun in a small package — and, in some cases, the kind of performance that shames the full-sized deal. Here are ten great remote controlled vehicles that are worth your time, your imagination and some of your hard-earned cash. Just be prepared to fight over them with your kids.

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Go, Speed, Go!

The Spell of Speed Racer

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.

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A bit more involved than the miyagi method

Guide to Life: Wax a Car

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.

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Because it's going to happen, eventually

Guide to Life: Jump Start a Car

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.

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Nothing kicks ass like a Deere

Behind the Wheel: John Deere Gator RSX 850i

John Deere’s first-ever use of a 839cc V-twin motorcycle engine in a Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV), a beast that delivers the kind of fun typically reserved for all-out-war paintball melees, says a lot about their intentions. With a top speed of 53 mph (feels more like 100), 4WD, fully independent multi-link suspension, nine inches of wheel travel, 10 inches of ground clearance, Fox racing shocks, and a 400-pound capacity cargo box, the Gator RSX 850i seems eager to go anywhere and do anything. Sounds like a challenge we were born for.

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The intersection of leather and rubber

5 Great Leather Motorcycle Jackets, 5 Great Rides

Rule one of motorcycling is to armor yourself from head to toe with the right gear; style comes second, but when done right, it plays its part in your staying in one piece as well. For that extra bit of protection and tasteful flair, we’ve gathered five great leather moto jackets for the upcoming riding season and paired each with a like-minded beauty of a bike.

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Rising Suns of Anarchy

The Best Japanese Bikes of 2014 Add Passion to Reliability

2014 promises to offer up a ton of great bikes by which to dispel your winter blues, a handful of those out of the Far East. Japanese motorcycles are well built, reliable and typically more affordable than their counterparts from Italy and America, and they also have a strong history of great performance. From cruisers to sport-tourers to sport bikes, here are our five favorite new Japanese bikes of the year.

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Be cool, not cold

Kit: Cold Weather Riding Gear

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.

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Tapered tail, savage sport

Behind the Wheel: 2014 Audi RS 7

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.

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Going where no RV has gone before

Behind the Wheel: Sportsmobile 4WD

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.

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A Look Back at Octane, Good and Bad

Opinion: Great Cars, Great Drives, a Few Wrong Turns

It’s a unique thrill to drive incredible cars on fast tracks and scenic open roads throughout the year. We try to approach each vehicle with a modicum of objectivity, but it’s largely an ad hoc exercise — gunning through tunnels tends to give us tunnel vision. Now we take a step back. With the draw of roaring engines, horsepower and plush cowhides taken out of the immediate picture and hindsight pupils readjusted for perspective, what can we say about our most and least scintillating driving experiences of the past year?

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Milwaukee's finest

Octane Icon: Harley-Davidson Sportster

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.

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Power For The People

Quick Spin: Volkswagen 2014 Full Line

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.

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One fast land barge

Behind The Wheel: Rolls-Royce Wraith

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.

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The gifts that keep on giving

20 Cars We Want To Drive in 2014

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.

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High-Speed Thrills at the Legendary Raceway

Twin Peaks: Racing with Lexus F at Fuji International Speedway

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.

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Steering in the Right Direction

Quick Spin: 2014 Infiniti Q50S

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.

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A Skyline in the city

Behind the Wheel: 2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition

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.

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Driving a benchmark of American Luxury

The 2014 Buick Lacrosse: American Luxury, Redefined

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.

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A father-and-son Mustang project car

Raising A Stallion

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.

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Stuttgart Speeds Into the 21st Century

The 127-Year-Old Startup: Visiting Mercedes-Benz’s New Silicon Valley R&D Facility

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.

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The Abominable Snow-vehicle

Icon: Tucker Sno-Cat

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.

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Old Man Winter Anti-Venom

Snow Go: 10 Best Winter Driving Products

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.

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Sleighs are for losers

Blizzard Beasts: 10 Best Vehicles for Winter

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?