Tag Archives: Quick Spin

Quick Spin: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition

By John Neff

2013 Chevy Camaro Hot Wheels Special Edition - parked in front of Toys R Us store

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Pairing your car, truck or SUV with another brand is a tried-and-true method to create the sort of positive association that sells vehicles, or at least gives them an attractive new look and higher margins. Ford knows this, having paired the Explorer and rugged apparel brand Eddie Bauer in the ’90s with great success, and the F-150 with iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson since 2000 (that partnership, however, has ended with the 2012 model year).

Not every partnership is geared towards making a vehicle appear more macho, though. The Fiat 500 by Gucci, for instance, matches the cute Cinquecento with a high fashion icon (something Cadillac tried back in 1979), and Lexus has a history of Coach Edition models that came with higher grade leather and matching luggage. Indeed, this 2013 Chevy Camaro Hot Wheels Special Edition isn’t even the only pairing of toy and car, another example being the recent Call of Duty MW3 and Black Ops editions of the Jeep Wrangler. It isn’t even the only Camaro co-branded with a toy – the 2012 Transformers Edition with Bumblebee paint job preceded it.

Pairing your automobile with something sold inside a Toys R Us, however, can be tricky. Fashion and apparel brands have more universal appeal among adult buyers than, for instance, the latest first-person-shooter video game. Partnering with a brand that markets primarily to children can also communicate the wrong thing about the person who buys such a vehicle – that he or she has a Peter Pan syndrome, not wanting to grow up, buy that sensible sedan and get on with life like the rest of us. Then again, buying a Hot Wheels Special Edition Camaro could just mean you remember the fun side of life and have the extra disposable income to show it.

Driving Notes

  • The Hot Wheels Special Edition options package is a $6,995 question that needs answering when ordering your Camaro 2LT (V6) or 2SS (V8) coupe or convertible. The package includes Kinetic Blue metallic paint; 21-inch black aluminum wheels with red striping; the Camaro’s RS appearance package; Hot Wheels badging, decals and embroidery; premium floor mats and a painted engine cover. Nothing here makes the car go quicker, turn better or stop shorter, which is fine, as the Camaro’s got plenty of other packages and models that do that. This test car was also equipped with the optional dual-mode performance exhaust for $895 and navigation system for $795, bringing its out-the-door price minus tax to $45,720.
  • In creating this Hot Wheels Special Edition model, Chevy designers have done a good job walking the fine line between attention-grabbing aesthetics and gratuitously over-the-top looks. The Kinetic Blue paint pops, but not nearly as much as some other Camaro colors (remember Synergy Green?). The design of the wheels is a matter of taste, and they appear neatly inspired by their 1:64 scale counterparts, but no one …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: Ford Mustang GT Bi-Fuel CNG

By Michael Harley

2013 Ford Mustang GT Bi-Fuel - front three-quarter view

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Highly intrigued, we recently visited a Southern California Gas Company office to check out several hybrid vehicles promising something new. Unlike more commonplace gasoline-electric hybrids, we were there to evaluate innovative gasoline-compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrids – yes, they run on unleaded gasoline and compressed natural gas. According to the experts on hand, this arrangement delivers extended range and reduced emissions while chipping in with lower operating costs than pure-gasoline vehicles. There are advantages over its gasoline-electric counterparts, as well.

The program is part of a three-way collaboration between The Carlab, a Southern California-based automotive consulting firm, Landi Renzo USA, a company specializing in alternative fuel solutions, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a group that promotes CNG. Long story short, the team has engineered a way to allow a modified internal combustion vehicle to seamlessly switch between two fuels (gasoline and CNG) with no driver intervention. In theory, and if it works as well as promised, it’s a win-win for the vehicle owner and the environment.

Parked at the Gas Company office were six different gasoline-CNG hybrid vehicles. To demonstrate the technology’s versatility (just about any gasoline vehicle may be modified) Carlab brought a varied assortment of bodystyles, each from a different automaker. After taking a quick glance at the half-dozen in the parking lot, we made a beeline for the performance-oriented Ford Mustang GT – a 2012 model – with the six-speed manual gearbox.

Driving Notes:

  • The conversion to bi-fuel requires the installation of a four-gallon composite CNG tank (3,600 psi) beneath the rear trunk liner, CNG bi-fuel port injectors, a special fuel controller, integrated dash display and some other hardware. With the exception of the blue “CNG” diamond on the rear of the trunk, the exterior of this Mustang hybrid offers little clue to what type of fuel it consumes. The interior of the cabin is equally discreet, but a closer look at the digital panel on the instrument cluster reveals an OEM-like four-bar “GGE” gauge with the tank level. Peering under the hood, the only obvious changes are the new injectors (the CNG tank is filled through a nipple located behind the OEM fuel filler door). The conversion adds about 150 pounds to the coupe’s curb weight.
  • From a driver’s standpoint, vehicle operation is unchanged. A sophisticated controller determines which fuel is best for the job (or a mix of both), so gasoline is often used for the cold start. However, after a few moments of operation, the vehicle will seamlessly switch to more efficient CNG operation for partial throttle and during cruising. A firm press on the accelerator immediately delivers gasoline into the combustion chamber, bringing the Mustang’s full 420 horsepower on tap. During our drive of the manual transmission coupe, we noticed a very slight delay – almost a hiccup – at about 3,000 rpm during the bi-fuel transition (we later drove a BMW X3 automatic, and the changeover …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus

By Michael Harley

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Ignore the naysayers who say the Audi R8 is too refined to be a proper supercar, or that it has begun to show its age – after a few tweaks for the 2014 model year, the automaker’s flagship remains one of my favorite exotics.

Audi has treated all of its R8 models to a host of enhancements for the 2014 model year that include new LED headlights and tail lamps, larger steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, new exhaust finishes, updated alloy wheel designs and fresh exterior colors. However, the most significant news is the arrival of a proper seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission (it replaces the six-speed R-Tronic). The rapid-fire gearbox shaves a coupe tenths off the 0-60 sprint and improves fuel economy for both the eight- and ten-cylinder models (thankfully, a traditional six-speed manual is still on the order form).

I recently spent time with the new-for-2014 V10 Plus model, which is only available in a coupe body style. Compared to the standard V10 models, the Plus sheds upwards of 130 pounds thanks to lightweight manual seats (not fitted to my test car), carbon-ceramic brakes, reduced sound bay insulation, a smaller fuel tank and an assortment of carbon-fiber pieces (including side blades, front splitter, rear diffuser and spoiler). But that’s not all, as the V10 Plus also receives a bump in output that pushes its ten-cylinder to an even 550 horsepower.

Driving Notes:

  • My six-foot two-inch frame has always found the R8 Coupe to be very comfortable – a standout in a segment of cramped coupes. The enhanced cabin is nothing short of breathtaking, with beautiful carbon-fiber and aluminum accents, tactile switchgear and a fit-and-finish to rival Rolls-Royce. My Brilliant Red test car was fitted with the optional diamond-stitching full leather package ($6,300) that seems a worthy investment, if just to watch your passenger’s jaws drop when they climbed in.
  • The naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10 has been massaged to produce 550 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, a 25 horsepower increase over the standard V10, which Audi says is good for a 3.3-second sprint to 60 mph (with the help of launch control). Nobody will miss the old, sometimes clunky, single-clutch gearbox. The new dual-clutch unit shifted smoothly during normal driving, yet it eagerly cracked off the gears when driven aggressively (don’t waste your time with the console-mounted shifter, as the wheel-mounted paddles are much easier to use). Power at the low end of the tachometer was plenty strong, but the V10 really came to life once it started vigorously spinning. Run it to the 8,500 rpm redline between each shift, and its screaming audio track will remind you why enthusiasts still appreciate fine, naturally aspirated engines.
  • Zipping through the canyon roads in the mountains above Malibu put the R8 V10 Plus right at home. Its mid-engine handling and balance was exceptional. The damping is fixed to a very firm setting, even though lesser R8 models offer a variable magnetic suspension, …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

By Seyth Miersma

2014 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S - front three-quarter view, red

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I don’t care who you are; when a new Porsche 911 rolls up in your driveway, that’s a pretty good day. This was my very first experience with Porsche’s 991 911, and after having spent time with just about every tune and trim of the last car, I was hotly anticipating comparing and contrasting.

Somehow (I don’t remember sending out any cash-filled, unmarked envelopes) I’d scored a week in the 911 Carrera 4S over a long holiday weekend, too. That meant that I’d get to A) log a ton of miles in one of the best cars in the world, B) get to show-off the Porsche to family and friends and C) tempt cops in three states to pull me over. Good thing I’ve got the Autoblog traffic lawyer on speed dial…

Driving Notes

  • I’ve never been one to find every-single 911 ever completely attractive – I find the 996 Cabriolets are a particularly bad representation of the legend’s style – but I think the 991 generation is sexy as hell. When my test car showed up in Guards Red over black wheels, I was smitten right away. Silver or black might be safer choices with this body shape, but I can’t help but think the profile of the car – sleeker than ever now – is nearly perfect. With that said, erecting the retractable rear spoiler completely ruins the body line, even if it helps keep the car pinned to the Earth at triple digit speeds.
  • The longer wheelbase of the 991 Carrera does set the car up as a better all-around driver and grand touring car than its 996 predecessor. On the negative side, this means that this 911 doesn’t feel quite as quick to turn in and rotate on a dime. Also, slightly more grown-up chassis and suspension tuning mean that I get less of a sense of overall road feedback, too. The positive side of that trade-off is a greater level of high-speed stability, with what remains an ultra-smooth, ultra-confident driving experience on the best of roads. And, while the electric power steering system’s feel might not be quite as good as it is in the last-gen 911 or the current Boxster and Cayman, it’s still light years ahead of many other sports cars.
  • I put more than 700 miles on this Porsche over the long 4th of July weekend, with a trip to Chicago from Ann Arbor, including plenty of backroads along the way. It’s not particularly sexy to say so, but the Carrera 4S is as just about as practical as anything in the “near-supercar” category is likely to get. Seats for the two passengers up front are comfortable and supportive, with plenty of head, elbow, and leg room for a car this size. Visibility is actually pretty decent, too, considering the silhouette of the machine. I was shocked to see highway fuel economy over the EPA estimated rating of 26 miles per gallon, especially considering …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Mercedes A45 AMG 4Matic [w/video]

By Matt Davis

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United States customers desiring one of the new smaller AMG models from Mercedes-Benz will really enjoy their 2014 CLA45. It’s swift, authoritative, more alive in your hands than any other AMG model has ever been, and it’s the only compact practical AMG you’ll ever be able to get anyway.

Little ghost-like leaks keep on happening from some apparent “source” in Germany, telling young cub reporters from the US that the A-Class hatchback range is also coming to the land of hashbrowns. The way we read it, the A-Class, however, will never come to the States, folks, at least not in this decade, anyway.

More’s the pity, because, as we and all others noticed at the recent drive event in Germany, for both the A45 and the CLA45, it’s the hatch that truly pulls no punches on dynamism. The CLA has clearly been massaged to be just a touch to be more civil than the excitingly bratty A45.

Driving Notes

  • As we said in the recent First Drive for the CLA45, the A45 is a decidedly different concoction from the usual straight-line marauders of the AMG lineup. The chassis is dramatically more alive and communicative, and we really like it.
  • From now on, AMG is putting some form of 4Matic traction under every car. That means some compromises – good and not so – will happen. In this case, the hang-on all-wheel-drive unit creates a much more capable sporting drive versus a straight front-wheel-drive setup.
  • That said, some people who talk like they’ve driven the car will shower both the A45 and CLA45 with their prejudiced derision. They’ll proclaim – no matter what we say – that these are cheapo overpriced front-drive Euro econoboxes. It also means that there’ll be more of these great cars for those of us who dig ’em.
  • While we dashed around on roads and Autobahn, our track time for this event was relegated to AMG Performance chassis-prepped A45 AMG Edition 1 units, a limited-run setup for Europe that pimps the ride out to around €57,000 base price (roughly $75,000 due to exhilarating European taxation policies and an overvalued Euro). Ride along for a spot of this action, in the video below.
  • Realistically, an A45 would need to start at around $45k in the US. The fully tricked Edition 1 as at this track, however, would bring about $60k for starters. Enough to make American blog comments go ballistic.
  • The optional matte Mountain Grey Designo exterior paint and darkened multitudinous-spoked 19-inch AMG wheelset of our street-tester A45, go together like ham and eggs. This unit had everything on it apart from the Edition 1 trickery and overly excited aero bits, and we think it’s all the better for it.
  • The experts on hand at this drive event finally admitted that the ratings of the elasto-kinematics fore and aft of the suspension were, in fact, different for the A45 versus the CLA45. The handling that is possible with the hatch is pure …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive [w/video]

By Jonathon Ramsey

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Reading the stats for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive is like looking at the Prada storefront on Rodeo Drive – it is an extravagance tinged with Electrobeam gaudiness that’s so far from normal it makes the average viewer declare, “Interesting, but…” before trying to find the stargate back to Earth.

It’s a shame if the SLS AMG Electric Drive comes off as an otherworldly bauble for the moneyed – most of whom won’t appreciate it beyond the early-adopter and top-tenth-of-one-percenter status it confers – because it’s almost 2.5 tons of passionately engineered electric fun and optic-smashing vinyl wraps. To overlook it is to miss out on technology that is, we hope, headed for a more prosaic AMG soon. We drove this car on the same day as the SLS AMG Black Series, and there was so much to learn and enjoy that we almost regretted having to leave it to drive the Black Series. Almost.

Driving Notes

  • It weighs 4,774 pounds, nearly 550 kilograms more than the 3,573-pound SLS AMG GT. The weight difference comes from the heft of the lithium-ion battery array, composed of 12 modules of 72 cells that weigh 1,208.1 pounds. The batteries change the weight balance of the coupe by one percent: the SLS AMG GT is balanced 54/46 front-to-rear, the Electric Drive is 53/47.
  • It’s an energetic beast: The 400-volt, liquid-cooled, 60-kilowatt-hour battery is rated at 552 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of immediate torque. According to Mercedes PR, that makes it “the most powerful AMG high-performance vehicle of all time.” The run from stationary to 60 miles per hour takes 3.9 seconds, top speed is limited to 155 miles per hour and range is pegged at 155 miles. For comparison’s sake, take the aforementioned SLS AMG GT with its 6.2-liter V8 blending up 583 hp and 479 lb-ft that gets from naught to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and will run out of acceleration at 197 mph. Also compare the Electric Drive to the philosophically similar Tesla Roadster (a two-seat electric sports car) that weighed 2,723 pounds, had a 53-kWh battery, 288 hp, 273 lb-ft of torque, a 245-mile range and performed the same sprint in the same time. But remember, we’re just putting these cars on a piece of paper together to see where they fall; the SLS AMG Electric Drive has zero interest in being a Tesla or its GT kin.
  • Those batteries juice four synchronous electric motors – a pair in front and another pair in back that sit astride the center line of the car, each pair flanking a single-speed, direct-drive transmission. In front, the setup necessitated a new multilink suspension with horizontal pushrod dampers replacing the aluminum double wishbones of the standard car.
  • The AMG Drive Unit knob takes its usual place and is inscribed with its usual markings: C for Controlled Efficiency, S for Sport and S+ for Sport plus. They alter the linear, straight-line driving characteristics

    From: http://feeds.autoblog.com/~r/weblogsinc/autoblog/~3/XT9mQtDC6PM/

Quick Spin: 2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport

By Dan Roth

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“Oh yeah, Toyota still makes the Tacoma.” Admit it, that’s what you just said to yourself. It’s a perfectly natural reaction, but the Tacoma has been quietly anchoring its segment for years, outselling every other compact pickup without making too much of a fuss. Toyota hasn’t neglected the Tacoma – it was updated in 2012 with a revised nose and interior as the most noteable changes.

In a world awash with high-value fullsize pickups all vying for your attention, the Tacoma still charms more than a few buyers out of their cash. I hooked a Tacoma for a week to see whether it still has enough to recommend it.

Driving Notes

  • The size of the Tacoma is nice. While fullsize trucks can feel a bit like the automotive equivalent of relaxed-fit jeans, the Tacoma does the Goldilocks “just right” thing for my purposes.
  • Yet the cozy cockpit of the Access Cab I drove can become uncomfortably tight if you’ve got adults using the jumpseats regularly. If you travel in a pack, get the Double Cab. That goes double if you’ve got kids still in child seats, it’s the better choice.
  • You have to be really committed to buying a compact pickup to ignore the extra value that goes along with the usually useful size available in the hyper-competitive fullsize class. The Tacoma starts at $21,260 with a four-cylinder engine, but the one I drove was a V6 4×4 with an automatic and the $4,035 TRD Sport Extra Value Package, not to mention a few other options to drive the price up to $32,791.
  • You do get a pretty heavily loaded Tacoma for your money, though. To compare, a Ford F-150 STX SuperCab 4×4 rings in at $32,145, but doesn’t come with the navigation, hitch, cargo-management features in the bed, running boards and TRD Sport package goodies like foglights, hood scoop, TRD graphics, alloy wheels and specially tuned suspension of the similarly priced Tacoma.
  • Still, the 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic combo is just as thirsty here as a larger truck would be, returning only 18 mpg in my hands.
  • Despite its big V6, the Tacoma feels sluggish, too. The 4.0 V6 in the Nissan Frontier feels a lot more eager.
  • The interior was updated for 2012 too, getting water-resistant seat fabric with the TRD Sport package, along with black center console and door trim. It’s hard plastic and shows scuffs easily, but it otherwise looks nice, and it’s not like the rest of the class is any better.
  • The classic Toyota small-pickup traits remain. You sit low to the floor with your legs splayed out a bit, just like you always have, and the steering is tight and direct. Keep your boot out of it, and the V6 and five-speed auto are smooth operators, too.

2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 16 Apr 2013 14:59:00 EST. Please see our terms

From: http://feeds.autoblog.com/~r/weblogsinc/autoblog/~3/azJQghmW68g/

Quick Spin: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

By Michael Harley

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When one speaks of sporty and fun-to-drive utility vehicles, few would put the Ford Explorer in the same category as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. Yet, with just a few reservations, I’d toss the new-for-2013 Ford Explorer Sport close to that arena for consideration.

As a recap, the sportiest of Explorers is fitted with Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, making 365 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque. Acceleration is brisk (figure about 7 seconds to 60 miles per hour), as power goes to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Contributing to its more athletic demeanor are larger front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, chassis upgrades, quicker steering ratio and a more aggressive wheel/tire package. Cosmetically, the Sport is distinguished by its blacked-out lights, black trim and noticeable lack of chrome (with the exception of the door handles).

Ford recently handed me the keys to a Ruby Red Metallic Explorer Sport. Rather than mindlessly drive the big seven-passenger all-wheel drive hauler in soccer mom circles around Los Angeles, I loaded up my family and embarked on a long weekend road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Driving Notes

  • Despite a passenger load of four and a hotel suite worth of associated luggage and travel paraphernalia (pillows, blankets, iPads, Nintendo DS, etc…) there was still plenty of room remaining within the Explorer’s cabin. Nobody complained about a lack of shoulder room, legroom or a need for more personal space. Acknowledging today’s digital needs, an assortment of outlets (including lighter plugs, USB and 110v household) meant everyone was able to keep their electronic devices charged while on the road.
  • Power from the 3.5-liter Ecoboost was strong under nearly every driving condition, but I came to loath the significant torque steer off the line. If the throttle was floored while pulling away at a corner, the inside front wheel would briefly spin – absolutely maddening – revealing the Achilles Heel of its front-biased “Terrain Management” all-wheel drive system.
  • Fuel economy was surprisingly good. Total trip distance was 691 miles. During the highway portions, where I cruised mostly between 70-75 mph, the Ford averaged 22.6 miles per gallon. During the climb into Yosemite, driving the scenic valley and climbing back out, the onboard computer registered 20.4 mpg. We never dropped into the teens.
  • The Explorer Sport drove like a big front-wheel drive sedan. Even with the firmer suspension matching European touring levels, there was nary a complaint about harshness or ride quality from my family. Straight-line stability at high speed was excellent, and the cabin was acoustically quiet, making long-distance travel effortless. The tight route into Yosemite, on twisty California 41, was a pleasure thanks to the Sport’s accurate (but lifeless) steering, lack of body roll and high level of grip – no squealing tires. Much to the dismay of my passengers, I enjoyed mile-after-mile of this slalom exercise.
  • Everyone found the MyFord Touch interface infuriating. Aside from the …read more

    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 1910 Benz 21/80 Prinz Heinrich [w/video]

By Jeffrey N. Ross

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR - Forza Horizon

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As many invitations that I receive to drive the latest and greatest the automotive industry has to offer, my ears always perk up just a little bit more when the invite specifies a ride in a particular vehicle. Normally, I’d be expecting to ride shotgun in some sort of development mule or prototype, but during the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance last month, Mercedes-Benz offered to give me a ride in a fully restored 1910 Benz 21/80 Prinz Heinrich racecar. While hundreds of cars sat parked on the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island golf course, Mercedes shuttled me to a nearby road canopied by oak trees draped in Spanish moss to spend just 30 minutes with this super-rare antique racer.

Cars like the 21/80 were used in long-distance races between 1907 and 1911, and Mercedes-Benz says that they were among the first true sports cars. This particular example (wearing the No. 38) is owned by Mercedes, and it was recently restored to practically brand new condition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

Driving Notes

  • After a brief walkaround/history lesson, the two-man crew with the 1910 Benz 21/80 Prinz Heinrich got to work getting the car started. The first step is delicately removing the engine cover and priming the engine with a hectane fuel. Then comes the hard work. While one man adjusts the various steering-wheel controls and foot pedals, the other stands in front of the car to crank the engine over. It took four good attempts at the hand crank, but the 80-horsepower, four-cylinder engine finally came to life with fuel leaking on the ground and the exposed cylinder valves clattering away. Life was good!
  • With the big Benz running, I hopped in the back seat… almost literally hopped. Back in the day, the car’s single-piece, wheel-to-wheel running boards helped occupants get in the car, but you simply don’t step on the freshly painted metal of a 103-year-old car. Getting into the back seat was a feat requiring athleticism and flexibility, but once in, it was like being transported a century back in time. There’s just something very majestic about being chauffeured around on a cool Florida afternoon in a car with a suicide shifter.
  • Taking off was no easy task either. As the driver started to work the gas and clutch pedals, it felt like we were rear-ended by another car to get our forward momentum kicked off. Once up to speed though, there is nothing as exhilarating as driving through a neighborhood with the wind in your face watching as local residents and motorists alike do double, triple and quadruple takes of the car before letting out a grin and a friendly wave.
  • One of the requirements for the Prinz Heinrich racecars was that they must be production vehicles with seating for four passengers. Now while I’d like to tell myself this was one of those “bendable” racing rules, it’s more likely just a telling sign that passenger size and personal space have both grown …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

By Michael Harley

2013 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG - front three-quarter view, charcoal gray

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Mercedes-Benz sells seven different models of its flagship S-Class sedan in the States. Look past the entry-level S400 Hybrid (base price $93,000) and the standard V8-powered S550 models. The four-door at the pinnacle – squashing the amazing S63 AMG ($140,000) and twelve-cylinder S600 ($160,300) as it steps over them – is the bordering-on-preposterous twin-turbocharged twelve-cylinder S65 AMG seen here.

“Excessive” is an understatement, as the S65 AMG leaves little to want. Tucked up front is a hand-assembled 60-degree 6.0-liter V12, force-fed air by twin blowers to develop 621 horsepower and 738 pound feet of torque. All of the mind-blowing power is sent through a robust five-speed automatic to the rear wheels where it seems utterly unchallenged by the sedan’s curb weight of 5,082 pounds – the four-door will bust through the benchmark 60 mph barrier in 4.2 seconds and pull all the way to its electronically limited top speed of 186 mph.

Few will ever have the opportunity to see an S65 AMG in the flesh, let alone spend an hour alone with one, so I leapt on the opportunity. Upgraded from the standard trim, this particular test car was an even scarcer bespoke “Designo” model, with exclusive matte paint, custom shades of soft leather and glossy piano black trim. Pricing, as they say, is available upon request.

Driving Notes

  • Despite its omnipotence, the S65 looks rather low-key and almost indistinguishable from its siblings. Observers will note the “V12 Biturbo” badging on each front quarter panel and the “S65” on the rear decklid. Those with really good eyes will catch the slight difference in the horizontal slats on the S65’s front grille (three twin-parallel slats, upgraded from four thick bars). Most all of the other sporty cosmetic enhancements are shared with the S63 AMG.
  • It is impossible to defeat the traction control on the S65 AMG, meaning mile-long burnouts aren’t going to happen. While acceleration off the line was dizzying, the real fun happened above 50 mph when the explosive power under the hood spooled to its full potential (it’s a treat to watch the traction control light blink at highways speeds). An illegal coast-to-coast run at 150 mph would be joyful and effortless, but I would hate to foot the fuel bill (or pay the fines).
  • Of course, the S65 will never feel as nimble as smaller sedans, but its active suspension was more than competent through every series of curves I tossed it into. There is no getting around two-plus tons of mass, but the aggressive staggered tire package (255/35ZR20 and 275/35ZR20) provided plenty of grip at the limit. The unique twin sliding-caliper brakes fitted over cross-drilled rotors effortlessly bled off the speed with very good pedal feel. It is a very large and comfortable luxury sedan, yet it is still very entertaining to drive – much to my surprise.
  • Those who couldn’t care less about the S65’s mechanical brilliance will find plenty to soothe their souls …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged

By Malcolm Hogan

2013-land-rover-range-rover-sport-supercharged

As one last hurrah for the current Range Rover Sport model, the 2013 model carries its finely aged design well yet still touts its historic off-road go-anywhere on land prowess. The Range Rover Sport embodies a road-going presence that puts itself into a desirable category among fast-moving cities without the much need for using its in-tact off-road capabilities. The latest version, just before the introduction of a redesigned model, still has what it takes to turn heads and transport its precious cargo on and through just about any navigable terrain you can throw at it.

2013-land-rover-range-rover-sport-supercharged-dashboard

Exuding luxury appointments in its finely crafted interior, the 2013 Range Rover Sport takes the normal Range Rover up a notch in the visual excitement and fun factor categories. The visual sports appeal of the Range Rover Sport does not end with is finely chiseled body or leather-laced cabin, it carries into the drivetrain with a 5.0-liter V8 boasting 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque in the HSE trim, while my Supercharged trimmed test vehicle gets a supercharged version of the V8 allowing you to play with a full deck in the form of 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque.

2013-land-rover-range-rover-sport-supercharged-engine

The sport really shines through the Range Rover Sport Supercharged getting more than enough all-wheel-drive power to scoot the tall-statured SUV to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds. In the handling department the Range Rover Sport Supercharged puts forth its best effort of the optimized air-suspension system. The trick suspension system, quite characteristic for Range Rover models considering how off-road capable they are, has a full array of settings. Starting off in normal mode the suspension is dialed in for paved roads and highway travel. A Dynamic mode tailors the chassis for better throttle response, advanced 6-speed automatic transmission shift mapping and tighter handling by putting the dampers into an aggressive setting. The Terrain Response System’s other settings adapt well to rock, gravel, snow, mud and dirt at the turn of the selectable dial on the center console.

2013-land-rover-range-rover-sport-supercharged-side

Being that the suspension is height adjustable, you are able to manually dial in the vehicle height from a low-riding access height, which is available at low speeds in preparation for parking to give the driver and passengers easier access. The normal height is automatically selected should you drive off while in access height. You will want the system to select the normal height as the suspension travel is diminished giving the Range Rover Sport a bouncy and uncomfortable ride while at access height. Also selectable at low speeds, is the higher settings of the air suspension and Terrain Response System, raising the Range Rover Sport several inches for optimal ground clearance.

2013-land-rover-range-rover-sport-supercharged-rear-side

The off-road capabilities, being that the Range Rover Sport has an much more aggressive road-going demeanor from …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Automotive Addicts

Quick Spin: 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

By Seyth Miersma

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After spending some time roaming the Hill Country of central Texas with Mazda’s new Mazda6 and CX-5 with the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine, I got a round with the redesigned CX-9 back in Michigan. The three-row Mazda crossover comes to court in the 2013 model year with the same 3.7-liter V6 engine that we’ve sampled before (still making 273 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque), though the nose that wraps it has been updated with the same “Kodo” design language that marks out the CX-5 and friends.

I had quite recently spent time in our long-term Nissan Pathfinder, so I felt better equipped than usual to suss out the potential high and low points of Mazda’s family-facing CUV.

Driving Notes

  • A combination of a responsive throttle pedal and a surprisingly lively exhaust note made the CX-9 feel immediately sportier than the CVT‘d Pathfinder I had just stepped out of. The Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission was surprisingly willing to drop gears and pile on the revs when I put my foot to the floor for a pass on the highway, and I actually never really felt prodded to use the manual mode as a result. Don’t get me wrong, the CX-9 isn’t “fast” in an objective sense, but it definitely feels adequately powerful for a largish 4,500-pound crossover. (Those seeking real speed with three rows would still prefer the Ford Explorer Sport or Dodge Durango in V8 trim, I’d wager.)
  • True to form for Mazda, the CX-9 feels a shade sprightlier in terms of handling than does the bulk of its competitive set. Sitting in the drivers seat for the first time, I was actually a little shocked at how small in diameter the steering wheel is. Better yet, the front end of the large vehicle moves promptly when guided by this sporty wheel, turning in with a quickness that belies the long wheelbase, and offering a shade more road feedback than is typical of this class. I’m not sure how many buyers really care about a kind of “athletic” steering feel when selecting their next kid-wagon, but the Mazda would seem to be the top-of-class here.
  • Overall fit and finish of our CX-9 Grand Touring-spec interior felt nice – I particularly liked the kind of micro-suede door inserts – if a little bit simple. There’s still more hard-plastic surfacing in the CX-9 than I’d gotten used to in our long-term Nissan, and far fewer enticing pieces of technology. Mazda is offering a new-for-2013, 5.8-inch display with which to negotiate the navigation and media controls, but the interface simply serves to make the CX-9 feel slightly less out of date than it would with the older setup. And the Mazda didn’t have the near-luxury feeling that the plusher, gizmo-laden Pathfinder does.
  • There was more interruption from wind and tire noise in the CX-9 than in other similarly sized crossovers and SUVs I’ve been in lately, too. Just a shade louder, …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Supercrew

By Michael Harley

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I’m not normally a pickup kind of guy, but the 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor won me over nearly instantly. The street-legal trophy truck – there is really no other way to accurately describe it – is big, brawny and incredibly capable. Let’s just say it’s every bit the monster it visually portrays. I spent a week pretending I was one of Ford’s Baja 1000 drivers, but lacking desert sand, I headed into the local mountains where a mild winter storm had dropped a couple inches of fresh snow on my favorite off-road park. The Ford was, for the most part, practically unstoppable.

Ford offers its SVT Raptor package on Supercab and Supercrew platforms with the five-foot, five-inch bed. The Supercrew I tested rides on a 144-inch wheelbase (about a foot longer than the Supercab). In addition to its cosmetic differences when compared to the standard F-150 – there isn’t a young boy on the planet who doesn’t think the matte black Ford grille is cool – the Raptor has a 73.6-inch track – nearly seven inches wider than the track on the standard F-150.

After upgrading the F-150 SVT Raptor significantly for the 2012 model year, there are only a few changes for 2013. The list includes standard high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, Hill Descent Control, forged beadlock-capable wheels, and the new matte Terrain color (aka “Desert Storm“) option seen on my test model.

Driving Notes

  • The SVT Raptor grabs plenty of attention whether driving through a grocery store parking lot or bounding down the highway. Physically massive, it is amusing to watch other drivers move out of its way – nobody even considered cutting me off. Opinions were split on the new Terrain color. People either liked it or hated it. I liked it, as it hid dirt impressively well and it was a nice contrast to the trim and optional graphics without being overly loud like the Race Red or Blue Flame.
  • Nobody will question the power coming from the big-bore 6.2-liter V8. Its exhaust note is frightening, but so is its fuel consumption. I missed the EPA‘s ratings by a long shot, never seeing double digits around town. In fact, I found it challenging to hit 13 miles per gallon on the open highway. The six-speed transmission is sturdy and only about average when it comes to smoothness, though it never skipped a beat.
  • The commanding view, comfortable seats, spacious cab and kitchen-like storage space made the Supercrew very popular with passengers. The additional row of three-passenger seating, easily accessible through the second set of full-size doors, seemed to provide more legroom than an airport shuttle Lincoln Town Car. I found the backup camera a lifesaver, as I often had no idea what those LT315/70R17 All-Terrain tires were rolling over. The Raptor needs an all-around camera system (and, why can’t the excellent front-facing camera work during parking maneuvers?)
  • Off-road, the Raptor was …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee

By Steven J. Ewing

2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee

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I can pinpoint the exact moment when I fell in love with this car. It was starting down a nearly straight entrance ramp at 15 miles per hour when I buried the throttle. In a moment, I was thrown back into my seat as the big SRT8’s engine came to life with commensurate sound, fury and force, bringing me up to 75 mph in what felt like two blinks of an eye. This thing feels so much quicker than its 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque would lead you to believe. And mashing the right pedal never, ever gets old.

But beyond sheer speed, I found a whole lot to like about the Charger SRT8 during my week with the Pitch Black test car here in Detroit. And while the whole Super Bee kit isn’t really my style, it’s really easy to overlook those badges for a package that offers so much for so little.

Driving Notes

  • Like I said, the 392 Hemi engine feels much more powerful than its numbers might suggest. Chrysler estimates that the car will rip off 0-60 times in the high-four-second range, and you’ll pass the quarter mile just before the 13-second mark.
  • And then there’s the transmission. Dodge fits a five-speed automatic unit to its 6.4-liter Hemi here in the Charger, and while that’s almost an archaic piece of technology by today’s standards (and considering that the recently refreshed Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT with the same engine uses an eight-speed auto), it’s still well-suited to the big motor. Shifts happen quickly, both up and down the range, and because there are only five ratios, there’s less hunting around between cogs.
  • There are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but the transmission felt best when left to its own devices. Just hit the throttle when you want to go, and you’ll go. There’s no drama, just speed.
  • The rub, though, is with fuel economy – at best, you’ll manage 23 miles per gallon on the highway, and my average of 16 mpg fell just short of the estimated 17-mpg combined rating. Oh, well.
  • But this thing is just so damn fun to drive. You can get the rear tires to spin at every stoplight, but in an incredibly manageable and playful fashion. Likewise, it’s easy to nudge the rump out around turns, and the thick, leather-wrapped SRT steering wheel is a joy to toss back and forth.
  • This is a big, heavy car, though, and you won’t forget it from behind the wheel. At no point would I describe its handling as nimble or precise, but it’s not nearly as tough to wrangle as you might imagine. There are big Brembo brakes to keep all that power in line, and you don’t need to turn off the traction nannies to have a good time.
  • Visually, the Super Bee kit offers unique, double-five-spoke 20-inch wheels, decals on the hood and rear quarter panel, and a small graphic next …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

By Jeffrey N. Ross

2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport - front three-quarter view

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Truth be told, I have always considered the Range Rover Sport to be something of a poseur in the Land Rover lineup, but there’s one big reason this SUV is so popular in chic cities like New York and Miami – it has the boxy, instantly recognizable looks of a classic Range Rover but with a sportier demeanor. In fact, if sister marque Jaguar ever does get around to building an SUV (as has been rumored for years), I have the feeling it will have the ride quality, performance and handling similar to the Range Rover Sport, albeit with a greater on-road emphasis.

Coming in at just under $80,000, the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is no easy financial pill to swallow, but even now, with its replacement waiting just off-stage, it’s just hard to say anything that bad about an SUV that is equal parts off-road, luxury and performance. Land Rover has kept the Sport fresh with a mess of small tweaks (new wheel and interior color options, etc.), and we thought spending a week with this generation would be a fine sendoff before the all-new 2014 model arrives.

Driving Notes

  • First and foremost, the performance of the Range Rover Sport Supercharged is a result of the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 under the hood cranking out 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough power to get this almost-three-ton SUV to accelerate from 0-60 in just 5.9 seconds, which is not too far off the pace from a Porsche Cayenne S. Moving that kind of mass takes a lot of fuel, and the engine isn’t afraid to suck down the octane – I averaged just over 11 mpg for the week in mostly city driving.
  • My biggest disappointment with this Range Rover was how flat and uninspiring the exhaust note sounded (especially knowing how great the supercharged Jags sound using the same engine).
  • It’s very unlikely you’re going to see a Range Rover Sport tackling any serious trails, but that’s not because it can’t. While most Range Rover Sport owners likely consider off-roading to consist of splashing through big puddles in NYC or kicking up sand blown onto Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive, the Sport is no less capable off-road than its brethren thanks to its height-adjustable suspension and Terrain Response System. There’s even an off-road screen that lets the driver know the articulation of each wheel, whether the differentials are locked and the angle of the front tires.
  • Terrain Response takes the guesswork out of off-road driving by providing five simple modes that are all accessible at the push of a button (yes, the days of locking hubs and manual transfer cases are long gone for most modern off-roaders). Purists might take issue with this system – or similar ones used by Jeep and Ford – but it’s hard to argue with the simplicity and user-friendliness that Terrain Response provides. Most of the Terrain Response settings …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG

By Michael Harley

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG

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Make way for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, the most wonderfully preposterous car I have ever driven.

There is absolutely no reason why any two-seat roadster should be fitted with a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 developing 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque, but I sure am glad that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t see things that way.

Drop into the leather-lined cockpit of this $213,145 provocateur, floor the accelerator pedal as I did over and over again, and 60 miles per hour falls in a traction-limited 3.9 seconds. Top speed has been electronically held to 186 mph (this apparently saves Gulfstream jet owners from embarrassment). Forget the SL550 and SL63 AMG, the valets will trip over themselves attending to the tycoon driving this thoroughbred – it’s the real deal.

Driving Notes

  • The handcrafted 36-valve V12 returns with a new internal designation of M279 (replacing the M275) and a matte carbon-fiber engine cover. Mercedes-Benz has updated the powerplant’s turbochargers and improved engine airflow for the 2013 model year. This explains the 17-horsepower improvement and efficiency gains over its predecessor. The venerable five-speed automatic was also replaced with AMG’s Speedshift seven-speed transmission (offering electronically controlled Efficiency, Sport, Sport Plus and Manual modes), and the SL65 AMG now features an engine start-stop function.
  • Acceleration rates normally flatten as aerodynamic drag rises. The SL65 AMG seems to do just the opposite as it picks up speed like a rocket leaving the earth’s pull of gravity. Full throttle applications release a throaty growl from the quad exhaust, accompanied by spine-chilling burbles as the transmission catches each gear. Downshifts are equally as pleasing as the V12 cackles and pops as each gear falls. Yet, during steady cruising the exhaust note is perfectly tame and proper.
  • Despite is substantial physical size, the SL65 AMG is surprisingly agile. It tracks well and the new electrically boosted steering is precise and nicely weighed. Cornering is flat, thanks to Active Body Control (offering both Sport and Comfort settings). The 19-inch wheel and upgraded monobloc brake package (lifted right off the enthusiast-tuned SL63 AMG), does its job commendably.
  • The cabin is a smart mix of luxury and sport. What leather doesn’t cover is made of either woven carbon-fiber or brushed aluminum. The infinitely adjustable quilted seats are heated and equipped with the automaker’s neck-heating Airscarf. The meaty three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel is wrapped in smooth leather with grippy Alcantera sides and aluminum wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard. The convertible hard top, with its lightweight magnesium frame encircling the automaker’s trick Magic Sky Control dimming feature, can be raised or lowered in about 20 seconds at the touch of a button.
  • Don’t confuse the SLS AMG GT Roadster with the SL65 AMG, as each has very different role. The SLS is a true sports car, with a mission-appropriate ride, gnarly exhaust snarl and a moderate level of amenities. The SL65, on the other hand, is a luxury grand tourer …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2014 Mazda6 Skyactiv-D Wagon

By Matt Davis

2014 Mazda6 Skyactiv-D Wagon - profile view

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This was sort of a quirky surprise drive opportunity. I’ve been over here in Italy for a while now, and Mazda Italia contacted me seemingly out of the blue to drive test some version of the Mazda6 with a diesel engine. Supremo. The Mazda6 is a sexy everyday beast and I have been digging their SkyActiv-D engines for a while now. Very spirited units.

My contact phones me the day of, and says he can come by with the car, and then we’ll head off to some sort of special spot for dynamics testing and technical conversation. Nice deal, say I.

My guy Ernesto pulls up outside of the house and – lo and behold – it’s a dang Mazda6 station wagon with the very most recent 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D motor good for 148 horsepower and healthy 280 pound-feet of torque. The wee four-banger with 14.0:1 compression ratio hauls this 3,260-pound wagon around with the best of them. A decent 0-to-60-mph time of 8.7 seconds, too.

Best touch? This one had the standard six-speed manual gearbox. We at Autoblog know how we bend a few noses the wrong way with our open cravings for exactly this sort of un-American car setup. But, oh my, did we have a good day together.

Driving Notes

  • First off, the Mazda6 sedan we just tested is a fine-looking conveyance. But if you like wagons like I do, this 2013 Mazda6 wagon is even finer. To my eyes, it doesn’t overdo it like some Infiniti models or the Nissan Juke, and any references to the swoopy Fisker Karma soon fade away. Mazda’s “Kodo” (“Soul of Motion”) design approach just works.
  • I was so geeked that this was a wagon. And the six-speed manual mated with the SkyActiv-D engine just took it over the top. Before hopping in, I noticed the optional set of really nice 19-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza T001 treads, the latest vintage of this fine rubber.
  • Ernesto tells me that I am the very first in all of Italy to drive this engine trim outside of the company testers. “What about the Italian journos?,” I ask. He smiles and shrugs, meaning, “Too bad for them, I guess.”
  • This revvy and strong 2.2-liter turbodiesel is not the 173-hp tune that arrives in the U.S. later this year in the sedan, but it would do just fine on American roads. If the hp bump seems modest on the trim we’ll get, well, the torque bump is also a mild 30 lb-ft. Acceleration to 60 mph will be only a half-second quicker and fuel use will increase, though it will still be good at about 30 miles per gallon city and 40 mpg highway.
  • We pulled up outside of a go-kart track I know out in the middle of the northern Italian flatlands. Ernesto tells me this is the place. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Ever whipped a front-wheel-drive family wagon with manual …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic [w/video]

By Matt Davis

2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic - on the road, at speed

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Maybe you saw our recent blog snippet on a bunch of US journos getting pulled over in the middle of nowhere in Catalunya, Spain for driving a bunch of new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG models. By all accounts, they weren’t speeding – which makes me softly guffaw. I was there in that group, yet I had taken the more direct route into the mountains from Barcelona so that I could… well, so that I could go faster. No one hassled me and I had the Autovia all to myself. And it was the goodniks – the team players – who got nabbed because Spain had decided to suddenly enforce the never enforced “must carry an international driver’s license” clause of the highway code.

The departing E63 AMG with 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque from its M157 5.5-liter biturbo V8 hasn’t exactly been poorly received. It isn’t as crisp as, nor as pleasantly evil as its C63 AMG kid brother, but we generally accept that the heavier and larger car will always feel, well, heavier and larger.

As part of the 2014 E-Class mid-cycle redesign, Affalterbach decided to give its E63 AMG more power and torque for the occasion. The base car now gives off 550 hp and 531 lb-ft, while the hotter S version I tested (formerly the AMG Performance Pack) produces 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. The other big novelty is that E63 sedans will be available with both rear- and all-wheel drive, while all US-spec E63 wagons will be 4Matic equipped.

Driving Notes

  • All S-trimmed AMGs come standard with 4Matic all-wheel drive, as well as an AMG-specific 4Matic clutch pack integrated neatly to the rear of the 7G-Tronic gearbox housing. This unit really alters the game of the E63.
  • While the pumped-up standard E63 with rear-wheel drive now reels off 0-60 runs in an estimated 4.2 seconds, this E63 S with AMG 4Matic can straight-line to 60 mph in just 3.6.
  • Not much has been altered for the chassis and suspension layout, so the ride and handling on the 19-inch Pirelli PZero treads – 255/35 front, 285/30 rear – and AMG sport suspension is entirely familiar. Merc knows how to coddle me Euro-style, even in an AMG model.
  • Things do get pretty hardcore due to the constant fore/aft torque split percentages of 33/67 via the AMG-specific 4Matic. (Non-AMG 4Matic E-Class models run a default 45/55 split, and it varies depending on road and driving conditions.)
  • Along with a completely new front axle to accommodate 4Matic and a more aggressive front wheel camber, there is a quicker 14.0:1 steering ratio versus standard E-Class models at 17.4:1. The more hardcore AMG setup is programmed to be 25 percent heavier feeling than the Sport settings of the series car.
  • The steering action while driving along those Spanish curves was impressive, assisted by the rear axle mechanical differential lock that is standard on S models. This, coupled with the throttle’s newfound urgency, makes for …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Dodge Durango R/T

By Jeffrey N. Ross

2013 Dodge Durango R/T - front three-quarter view

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Not too long ago, Chevrolet got itself into some trouble by throwing the SS badge on just about everything it produced, so I’ve always been a little hesitant about the seemingly excessive use of the R/T nameplate on Dodge vehicles. For the 2013 model year, every model in Dodge’s lineup has an R/T trim level from Dart all the way up to the Durango. Although the R/T name used to signified models made for road and track, I doubt anyone would be delusional enough to assume the Durango – and some of the other models wearing this badge – are suited for any sort of track duty.

Still, when this 2013 Dodge Durango R/T rolled up for me to drive for the week, I couldn’t help but take in its big, mean and imposing stance. Sure, if I had my choice of buying any of the Dodge R/T products, the Charger and Challenger would be my top picks for sure, but it’s easy to say that the Durango would be a close third – far above the R/T versions of the Avenger, Journey and Grand Caravan.

Driving Notes

  • Not that the current Durango was a bad-looking SUV to begin with, but the R/T package gives it more aggressive styling thanks to a monochromatic look. With the removal of just about all the chrome that comes on a Durango, this tester even looked good in what would normally be a boring shade of silver thanks to the body-colored front fascia, smoked headlights, 20-inch wheels and the sporty-looking rear fascia with dual exhaust outlets.
  • The styling might be there to back up the badge, but there is no extra power under the hood of the R/T. In possibly one of the best moves Dodge made with this particular model, the only engine offered is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The 360-horsepower, 390 pound-feet of torque engine feels adequate perfectly for this 5,331-pound utility. This is the only model of the Durango lineup that comes standard with the six-speed automatic transmission, too.
  • Fuel economy is about what you’d expect from a V8-powered SUV weighing as much as the Durango does, with EPA estimates of 13 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. During my week with the R/T, this tester returned 15.5 mpg.
  • The Hemi is equipped with cylinder deactivation, which feels clunky at times when it switches from V8 to V4 power, with an ever-so-slight delay when the cylinders reengage once again. The only bypass for the system is just to be sure that you’re right foot stays planted whenever possible.
  • Chrysler says the Durango R/T comes with a sport suspension, but aside from the bigger standard wheels, I felt no difference between this and any other Durango I’ve driven in the past. If you’re really looking for a sporty, family-sized (three-row) SUV, you’re probably going to want to check out the new Explorer Sport.
  • The …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Quick Spin: 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman All4

By Steven J. Ewing

2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman

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In just over a decade, Mini has expanded its modern range from the singular Hardtop model (launched in 2002) to a full range of little runabouts. The latest of these is the Paceman, and while European Editor Matt Davis gave us the full scoop on this model late last year, we recently spent time with the all-wheel-drive model just outside of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

It’s weird, this Paceman. It slots in between the Hardtop and the Countryman (on which its based) in terms of size and functionality, and Mini says that it will appeal to a more style-conscious shopper. Key competitors range anywhere from the Nissan Juke on the low end to the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque on the high end.

After spending lots of time with the Countryman, we’re convinced that maxi can still be Mini. And the same is true with this Paceman, too.

Driving Notes

  • The Paceman rides on the same platform as the Countryman, and from the A pillar forward, it’s identical. That includes all versions of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which range from the 121-horsepower Cooper spec up to the 208-hp John Cooper Works that was introduced in Detroit last month. Our Cooper S model with 181 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque falls right in the middle, and just like in the Countryman, it’s a good pairing.
  • What we don’t love is the six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. In the hills of Puerto Rico, the trans often struggled to keep us in the right gear, and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters don’t provide much in the way of engagement. Opting for the six-speed manual transmission will solve all of these problems, but we wish a proper dual-clutch setup were offered here for people who don’t want to row their own.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Paceman drives exactly like the Countryman. That is, the steering is, for the most part, direct, though putting the car in Sport mode adds a false sense of involvement to the rack. Basically, it just feels heavier, not more engaging. But we’re happy to report that the usual go-kart driving aspects have not been lost on this portly hatchback. The Paceman performed exactly how we expected. (That’s a good thing.)
  • She’s a heavy girl, though – 3,260 pounds here in Cooper S All4 spec. That weight is indeed noticed when you’re hustling it through turns, though the excellent suspension setup and good steering feedback do a lot to convince you that the car’s a lot smaller than it is.
  • We like the implementation of All4 in the Mini, and we could really feel it working as we wound the car around the twists and turns of Puerto Rico. Give the car a boost of throttle in a turn and you can actually feel the rear wheels working to propel the car forward with poise.
  • Inside, the front cabin hasn’t changed from the larger Countryman, though new for the 2013 model year …read more
    Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog