Review: 2014 Porsche Cayman S

Filed under: Coupe, Performance, Porsche, New Car Reviews, Luxury

Second Fiddle Moves To First Chair

2014 Porsche Cayman S

In the interest of full disclosure and a bit of bloodletting, allow me to admit that while I’ve always coveted the Porsche Boxster and its hard-hatted Cayman cousin, I’ve never really warmed to them visually. They’ve always had a certain push-me, pull-you, can’t-decide-which-way-they’re-going aesthetic that I’ve never really wrapped my head around. Porsche achieved the same thing with the original 550 Spyder’s overturned bathtub bodyshell that would come to inspire the Boxster, but somehow that classic’s even more symmetrical nature works for me. Fast-forward to this third generation, and at least for this enthusiast, Porsche’s manchild has well and truly come of age as a design.

It’s all there – a piercing stare thanks to squircle headlamps inspired by the 918 Spyder hypercar, newfound directional thrust afforded by a longer wheelbase and elongated greenhouse, and muscular rear haunches with a wider stance emphasized by larger side ductwork and snubbed overhangs. The body’s teardrop shape terminates with an active spoiler that integrates into a gorgeous arc with the taillamps like a budding ducktail nod to 1973 911 Carrera RS. Despite casting a longer shadow than its predecessor, the 2014 Cayman still looks tidily proportioned, smooth and wieldy, the perfect skipping stone to ricochet down a canyon river road.

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2014 Porsche Cayman S originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 29 Aug 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2013 Ferrari FF [w/video]

Filed under: Performance, Hatchback, Ferrari, New Car Reviews

The World’s Fastest Four-Passenger is Frickin’ Fabulous

2013 Ferrari FF

“I miss my mommy.”

Those frightened words floated from the mouth of a five-year-old boy strapped snugly into a booster seat in the backseat of the Ferrari FF I was piloting. Moments earlier, his father had allowed me to take him, and his two brothers, for their first ride in a supercar, and I had apparently failed miserably.

I craned my neck and moved slightly to the right, in an attempt to see him in the rearview mirror, before I asked with a cautionary tone, “What did you just say?” My mind raced during the next few seconds of silence. I wondered if I had unnecessarily traumatized him, or worse – given the little guy his first case of whiplash.

I knew this 651-horsepower Italian was going to get me into trouble.

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2013 Ferrari FF [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 08 Aug 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2013 Ram 1500

Filed under: Truck, Work, New Car Reviews, Off-Road, Ram

Enough Is Enough. Finally.

2013 Ram 1500 - front three-quarter view

Not long ago, the efforts of an automaker to put a six-cylinder engine into a pickup truck went something like this: take the basic bread-and-butter V8, lop two cylinders off one end of the block and call it a day. The resulting engines were generally pretty rough around the edges, and while they were able to churn out reasonable amounts of torque, they generally weren’t good at anything else. Instead of being smooth running, they shook and shimmied; in place of a quiet highway jaunt, they operated well outside their low-rpm comfort zones and sent a corresponding racket throughout the cabin. And, instead of returning significantly superior fuel economy over their V8 counterparts, they guzzled gas and spat noxious vapors out their tailpipes.

In other words, the only reason to choose the base V6 engine over an optional V8 was to save money on the initial purchase, and that usually meant you’d be driving home in a stripped-out machine and would be lucky to have power windows, cruise control and air conditioning.

Those days are long gone, and good riddance, we say. Today’s lineup of full-size trucks are better in every way than ever before, from styling and safety to towing and overall performance. And, for the first time ever, fuel efficiency is a primary selling point for V6-powered pickups. But how does a new, modern-day truck with a V6 engine work in the real world? Does it deliver on the promises of decent efficiency, refined driving manners and adequate performance (both around town and when put to work) all for a palatable price? We spent back-to-back weeks with two 2013 Ram 1500 pickups to find out, one with a Hemi V8 and one with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Read on, faithful truck buyers.

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2013 Ram 1500 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2014 GMC Sierra [w/video]

Filed under: Truck, GMC, New Car Reviews

Big And Boxy Might Be Best

2014 GMC Sierra

As immense fans of the Back to the Future trilogy, we sometimes like to envision an alternate timeline in which General Motors had killed off GMC and kept Pontiac instead. The G8 GXP would still be on the road handily beating German sport sedans costing twice as much, while the lowly G3 would morph into a true subcompact-killer based on what is now the Chevrolet Sonic RS. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and imagine the G6 has become the best-selling car in the US and the Torrent crossover is selling 20,000+ units per month. Far-fetched, we know.

The thing is, these fanciful statements would have to be true to make the case against keeping GMC. Pontiac may have offered more excitement than GMC, but money talks, and a full line of trucks, crossovers and SUVs have made a lot more money for GM than the arrowhead brand ever did. How much? As we learned last month, about two-thirds of GM’s global profits came from its fullsize trucks, and GMC’s trucks typically have thicker margins than their Chevrolet counterparts.

So rather than reviewing the latest Pontiac G8 ST, here we are driving the new 2014 GMC Sierra 1500. During our first drives of both the 2014 Chevy Silverado and 2014 Sierra, it was immediately clear that these trucks are the best they’ve ever been in their 54-year histories, but to see how GM’s new trucks stack up against the likes of the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, we were looking forward to spending a whole week with a fully loaded Sierra SLT Z71 for this review. Sadly, our time with the Sierra was cut short as it had an unexpected date with a flatbed and a trip to the dealership.

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2014 GMC Sierra [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2013 BMW M3 Coupe Lime Rock Park Edition

Filed under: Coupe, Performance, BMW, New Car Reviews, Luxury

Sic Transit Gloria

2013 BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition

I like difficult cars. I like turbo “moments,” dramatic weight distribution, low-grip, peaky power delivery, and overly quick steering, along with ultra-short wheelbases and any number of other non-racecar-perfect dynamic foibles. I love the newest generation of BMW cars and engines – all turbo’d up with tons of torque and power everywhere in the rev range, too. But what I think the enthusiast community will miss when this 2013 M3 Coupe becomes the 2014 M4 Coupe – replacing its idiosyncratic, small-displacement, revvy V8 for something like a triple-turbo, directly injected, inline six-cylinder powerhouse in the process – is the work it takes to drive the car fast and perfectly. Sometimes small flaws just make things better; my mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, and all that.

The idea of this E92 M3 going away then, magnified by the loss of the M3 badge for the coupe, is at best bittersweet for me. This generation of M car is already surpassed in terms of raw thrills by the better-than-ever Mercedes-Benz C63, a car that doesn’t ask its driver to sacrifice low-end grunt or the very latest in amenities in return for stellar backroad performance. Yet any time I’ve been lucky enough to lap a track in the M3, it has quickly become clear that the Bimmer is the better on-edge tool. With the freedom to wring the neck of the 4.0-liter V8 and room to exercise the lovely balance of the car, the E92 is hard to match (even six years after its debut).

Still, when the 2013 BMW M3 Coupe Lime Rock Park Edition rolled into my driveway, its Fire Orange bodywork flashing over gloss-black 19-inch rolling stock, the car had me a little crossed up. BMW has been tossing out special edition M3s for the last few years now, all asking thousands of dollars extra for the limited production-run vehicles. I knew that the LRP was more than a mere trim and tape package, but would it be an appropriate send off for a spectacularly departing sports car legend, or just $10,000 down the drain where a stock M3 Coupe would have happily sufficed?

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2013 BMW M3 Coupe Lime Rock Park Edition originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 25 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: Grid 2 [w/video]

Filed under: Toys/Games

Shut Up And Drive The Car

Grid 2 - screencap

Grid 2 for XBox 360 - commercial packagingCodemasters’ Grid 2 was waiting for me at home when I returned to Ann Arbor from Los Angeles, after attending my first ever E3 this year. I was worried.

Of course I’d been thrilled weeks before when I’d gotten confirmation that I’d receive a loaner copy of the game to take out for a spin, and I’d certainly been stoked to play it since I’d first started seeing preview trailers and teasers show up on YouTube. But, having just spent a few days driving the newest and hottest upcoming racing games on a pair of next-generation consoles that I was sampling for the first time, my concern was that my expectations would be off for the Grid 2 experience on my lowly Xbox 360.

The truth is that developers are still squeezing more and more performance out of current gaming platforms, and this Codemasters effort oozes good design and nuanced graphical work, despite being behind the frames-per-second and ultra-detail pace set by upcoming Xbox One and Playstation 4 titles. And, because gameplay is satisfying just as soon as one boots up Grid 2, the demos and delights of E3 were quickly in my rearview.

‚ÄčGrid 2 is clearly standing on the shoulders of some great work from one of the studio’s big releases from last year, F1 2012. Influence from the racing title can be seen in the elegant and easy-to-navigate menu design, loading screens enriched with live-updated player stats (kilometers raced, average finishing position, top speed achieved, etc.), and most prominently with the in-game environments. From breezy and sun-soaked coastal roads to the million-points-of-light nighttime races at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, G2 has created some of the best lighting design I’ve ever encountered in a racing game. (For a sample, scroll down to the bottom of the article for some game play video from our friends at Joystiq.) Overall detail for the tracks and surrounding worlds is not as dense or pixel-perfect as other top-tier racing games, but Grid 2‘s flowing, rich style is sometimes more attractive (especially when seen at speed during a race) in the same way that an oil painting is often more interesting to look at than a photograph.

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Grid 2 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 27 Jun 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2013 Infiniti QX56 [w/video]

Filed under: SUV, Infiniti, New Car Reviews, Luxury

Promising, And Delivering, Bigness

2013 Infiniti QX56 - front three-quarter view

Some things appear much smaller in pictures than they do in person. The Eiffel Tower, Space Shuttle orbiters and the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the National Mall come immediately to mind. The 2013 Infiniti QX56, however, isn’t one of those things.

The Infiniti flagship sport utility looks massive in pictures, and it grows to simply colossal when you are standing next to it.

Even at an arm’s distance, the QX56 has the physical presence of a Clydesdale horse – its styling cues project power and strength, says the automaker, and the designers apparently made no attempt to downplay the full-size SUV’s massive V8 engine and cavernous eight-passenger cabin. There are other passenger vehicles on the road that are physically larger, but none visually cast their mass as well as Infiniti’s traditional body-on-frame QX.

We recently spent a week with the heavyweight in an effort to determine whether three tons of substance is overkill or handy to have around. In a nutshell, does bigger always equate to better?

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2013 Infiniti QX56 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 24 Jun 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

Filed under: Coupe, Performance, Aston Martin, New Car Reviews, Luxury

Squirrelling Away In Motown With British Royalty

2014 Aston Martin Vanquish - front three-quarter view

As far as unexpected encounters with wild animals go, squirrels don’t normally rate. The furry little nut-smugglers are omnipresent fixtures in my neck of the woods – literally – so a chance meeting doesn’t warrant caution the way a bear or even an ornery raccoon might. But one’s list of priorities can’t help but change a bit at 175 miles per hour. That was exactly the case when I drove this Aston Martin’s predecessor, the DBS, a few years ago.

I was hammering around a closed course – Ford’s Romeo proving grounds – on the company’s high-banked 5-mile long track, 25 mph shy of the double ton, when a little red dot appeared on the surface of the track, far up the straight. It was a squirrel, which, lacking the good sense not to be on the track at that particular moment, was at least smart enough to flatten itself into a pancake (perhaps it heard the Aston’s mighty V12 closing in). I prayed it wouldn’t dart from its adjacent lane into mine, because at my closing speed, I figured I wouldn’t have time to retaliate. Naturally, the kamikaze rodent skittered on its stomach directly into my trajectory at the last minute, leaving me no choice but to issue a critical hair’s breadth correction at the wheel. Roadkill manufacturing is normally a momentary wince-inducing affair – a grimace, a quick appeal for the universe’s forgiveness – and then on with one’s day. Yet in a car as low as an Aston Martin, at the velocity I was traveling, a bit of fur flying and battered karma would’ve been the least of my concerns.

The squirrel, the DBS and I all survived to fight another day, and that 175-mph run still stands as my own personal v-max. The Aston’s high-speed stability and steering saved my bacon that morning, but in truth, I wasn’t that impressed with the car overall. So it was with some consternation that I took possession of this 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, its replacement killer.

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2014 Aston Martin Vanquish originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 17 Jun 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic

Filed under: Classics, Etc., BMW

Memoirs of a Hack MechanicWhen you self-identify as a hack, that means you’re proud of it, and Rob Siegel is proud of being a hack. He even has rules for what makes “a good kludge,” which he delineates in his book, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic. Rob Siegel, you see, isn’t just a backyard wrench-twirler. His column, The Hack Mechanic, has been a fixture in the BMW Car Club of America’s official magazine, Roundel, for decades. Now, Bentley Publishers has given Siegel a wider platform for musing about cars, while really not talking as much about cars as you’d think.

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic bills itself as “a memoir with actual useful stuff” – an apt description. It’s not a how-to manual for fixing your car, and it may be more helpful keeping your life in balance than it is with carburetor balancing. That’s no bad thing, and Siegel himself explains how classic manuals like John Muir’s How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive and books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Shop Class as Soulcraft serve more like manuals for self-discovery than fix-it books.

The tone and Zen-seeking flavor of those books makes Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic an easy read that often makes you chuckle (because you’ve been there) or marvel at the clever solution to a potential landmine of a repair (“cascading failure” is Siegel’s apt descriptor). Talking about the process of auto repair not from the “put-tab-B-into-slot-A” perspective, but from the “stand back and look at the big picture” point of view that the book takes is due, in part, to the author’s day job as an engineer. It’s good advice, and it’s why the book has appeal beyond fans of Neue Klasse Roundies.

The actual useful stuff is exactly that, especially the section that covers tools and shop procedures. Knowing the right kind of equipment to buy, where to spend the money, and where you can find bargains is key to getting the job done in an at least somewhat enjoyable fashion, and that’s all well-covered by the book. Another nugget of gold is a detailed section of repairing air conditioning systems, because without AC, your summer enjoyment season with a car lasts about five weeks until it’s too sweltering to use, forcing you back to your Corolla. And nobody wants that.

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic is a book that will feel right at home next to your spiral-bound How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, and it’s written with a breezy, conversational tone that lets you get to know the author even if you haven’t been reading Roundel for 25 years. It’s less a car manual than it is a how-to guide for living with this particular addiction, from buying to keeping to selling cars that entertain you, and that’s why it’s a worthwhile addition to your library.

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 13 Jun 2013 17:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Review: 2011 Bentley Continental GT

Filed under: Coupe, Performance, Bentley, Reviews, Luxury

Updated Best-Selling Coupe Doesn’t Err From Its Luxury Mission

2011 Bentley Continental GT

2011 Bentley Continental GT – Click above for high-res image gallery

Somewhere around the world, floating amid a sea of crystal-clear water, is a Hatteras 100 Motor Yacht. It is hardly an ordinary boat.

Built for long passages, with a sturdy sea-keeping fiberglass hull, the Hatteras offers unparalleled engineering, meticulous craftsmanship and immense power. Its staterooms feature exquisite wood cabinetry, double bullnose moldings, and polished natural stone countertops. The main salon is equipped with plasma video screens and multi-channel surround sound for entertainment, while the pilot house features state-of-the art digital electronics for monitoring systems and navigation. And under the stern deck, there are twin 16-cylinder turbo diesel powerplants generating 2,400 horsepower each. It’s enough propulsion to move the 270,000-pound yacht through the water at speeds approaching 30 mph.

On open water, the 100-foot Hatteras is the ultimate expression of luxury and sport unequalled in its ability to project wealth and prestige. However, thirty percent of the world is land – with many a mile of paved road. All of which begs the question: What does an uncompromising Hatteras owner motor about in when they come ashore?

They drive their new Bentley Continental GT, of course.

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2011 Bentley Continental GT originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 31 May 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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