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First Drive: 2012 Audi TT RS

Return of a performance line.

by on Oct.18, 2011

Audi brings back its performance badge with the launch of the 2012 Audi TT RS.

We’ve never understood why Audi has been so stingy with its performance line-up.

True, there was a time when BMW’s M models and the Mercedes-Benz AMG offerings would come and go, disappearing for a model-year or two, but these days they are mainstays of their respective brands.  Not so the comparable Audi RS line, which hasn’t planted its badge on a U.S. offering in three years.

The good news is that the performance brand-within-a-brand is back, making its return debut on the 2012 Audi TT RS – with the RS5 set to follow.  That’s not the best-kept secret, we have to admit, Audi having set out to slowly build buzz with some carefully crafted social media campaigns over the past 18 months – which only made us more eager to climb behind the wheel when given the chance.

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Our destination: New England and upstate New York, a perfect time of the year considering the fall colors.  Or, at least it would be were it not for the steady drizzle that threatened to drench our initial enthusiasm.  Then again, considering the 2012 Audi TT RS will only be offered with the German maker’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, we came to realize it really was the perfect opportunity to test the car’s mettle.


First Drive: 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

Thunder and lightning -- with a dash of elegance.

by on Jul.21, 2011

Chrysler takes the new 300 sedan up a performance peg with the launch of the 2012 300 SRT8.

Over the last couple of years, Chrysler has defied conventional wisdom and seemingly informed opinion by reviving its product line despite scarce resources.

The re-launch of its SRT performance line, marked by the debut of four revamped muscle cars represents the next step in creating an air of excitement around the company’s product line. And our first experience with the Chrysler 300 SRT8 certainly leaves an excellent impression both curbside and out on the highway.   (Click Here for more on the SRT story.)

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For starters, Chrysler designers have tweaked the car’s exterior and the changes have enhanced what was already a strong and popular design. The 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 sits a half inch lower than non-SRT models – which only just went through their first complete redesign in seven years.  With such touches as new side sill cladding, the SRT8 edition gets a more aggressive and sporty appearance that’s accented by seven-spoke, 20-inch aluminum wheels.


Chrysler Re-launching SRT Performance Brand

Redefining the muscle car for $4 gas.

by on Jul.15, 2011

Ralph Gilles with the Dodge Challenger SRT-8.

While fuel prices may be hovering near record levels, there’s plenty of demand for performance – or so Chrysler is betting as it readies the ambitious re-launch of its SRT brand.

The make is rolling out four new SRT models that have been equipped with a new 6.4-liter hemi-engine that delivers not only better performance but also markedly improved fuel economy compared to the old Chrysler 6.1-liter Hemi.

The engine in each of the cars has been equipped with cylinder de-activation technology that Chrysler claims can boost mileage by as much as 25%, while upgraded vehicle dynamics, performance-oriented brakes and race-inspired seats – as well as a new high-end sound system – should appeal to traditional muscle can fans.

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The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 produces 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque and can propel the SRT versions of the Dodge Challenger , Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 to top speeds of 175 mph. The SRT version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee with its 20-inch, highly stylized wheels – designed to show off the new Brembo brakes – tops out at “only” 165 miles per hour after the vehicle’s ground clearance was reduced by an inch to make the SRT SUV more aerodynamic.