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First Drive: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Detroit gives Porsche a run for the money.

by on Sep.18, 2013

Chevrolet has begun shipping the first new 2014 Corvette Stingray coupes to dealers this week.

It’s long been known as “America’s sports car,” but despite having some fine attributes, the Chevrolet Corvette has long lagged that global sports car benchmark, the Porsche 911.  So, when we got our first look at the all-new, seventh-generation ‘Vette during a sneak preview in a well-guarded conference center last December, we were left wondering whether the folks at General Motors might have finally taken the challenge seriously and were set to give Porsche a run for the money.

True, from a financial standpoint, the 2014 Corvette Stingray wins hands-down.  You can get a fully-equipped Chevy for around $72,000, or barely two-thirds the price of a similarly well-contented Porsche Cayman, never mind the 911. But when it comes to sports car cred, price takes a back seat to other numbers like horsepower, power-to-weight ratios, cornering forces and the like.

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The good news, as we recently experienced during a long day’s run through the hills and dales of Central California, is that the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray stands up on every count.  No wonder the maker is finally confidant it can gain traction for the new 2-seater beyond our shores. The latest incarnation of America’s sports car is now good enough to be a global player that just also happens to be a good bargain.


First Drive: 2014 Jaguar F-Type

Well worth the wait.

by on Apr.18, 2013

The Jaguar F-Type V8 S during a first drive in Spain.

There’s an unexpected chill in the air as we head out from our hotel on the outskirts of Pamplona, Spain, dawn still 30 minutes away.  Yet despite the early hour, it’s hard to contain the excitement about what’s to come.

It isn’t very often that we get to test a new sports car from the folks at Jaguar.  Indeed, the last time the maker launched an all-new one was more than a half-century ago with the groundbreaking E-Type.  While there have been tweener cars since then, such as the XK, none has truly targeted the sports car segment.  Until now, with the Jaguar F-Type, that is.

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Few new entries have generated more buzz in recent months, and with good reason.  The 2-seater comes through with a blend of sensuous yet menacing styling that one would expect from Jaguar. And those good looks are complemented by exhilarating performance and dynamic handling.  Is the new F-Type really the “best sports car in the world,” as Jaguar officials have started to boast? Here’s what we discovered during two days of hard driving both on-road and on-track.


Snake Bit: Driving the 2013 SRT Viper

Worth the wait.

by on Dec.07, 2012

The 2013 SRT Viper and a 2010 Dodge Viper ACR face off at the Chrysler Proving Grounds.

The official unveiling of the 2013 SRT Viper at last spring’s New York Auto Show was a boisterous affair. Despite the loud applause, though, there were a few quick to razz the new sports car for looking like little more than a clone of the old coupe. True, the designs are strikingly similar – until you see them sitting side-by-side.  The new Viper is no carbon copy, nor is it the rebadged Alfa Romeo many had anticipated in those dark days between the time the old car was pulled from production, in 2010, and word began to leak out that an all-new model was in the works.

Ironically, some of those who loved the old design are also wondering what to make of the 2013 Viper.  The concept behind the original 1992 roadster was to come up with a car that was as raw, even brutal, as possible.  There were none of the usual amenities. Not even anti-lock brakes or airbags.  In a rainstorm it was easier to get drenched than try to install the fold-up vinyl “toupette.” But few cars of the era could come close to matching that first Viper’s pure fun-to-drive factor.

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With the addition of the first GTS Coupe and a subsequent list of limited amenities, the Viper did become – dare we say it – a bit more refined over the years. But what to expect from the new one, developed by an all-new management team and subject to new mandates requiring such “niceties” as airbags and electronic stability control? That’s what set out to discover as we headed over to the Chrysler Proving Ground in Chelsea, Michigan for our first drive.


First Drive: 2013 Porsche Boxster

More 911 than ever.

by on Jun.14, 2012

Porsche delivers a "more mature" Boxster for 2013.

Hollywood executives aren’t the only ones who seem to come up with similar ideas all at the same time.  When Porsche introduced the original Boxster, back in 1997, it hit market about the same time as several other European roadsters, notably including the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z3.

The Porsche Boxster was clearly the sportiest of the three – though no one would likely confuse it with the German maker’s classic sports car, the 911.  It didn’t have the style, the body stiffness, the power or the performance.  It was, by comparison, something of a youthful toy.

To its credit, each successive generation of the Boxster has gotten better and better.  And during its unveiling in Geneva, last March, when we asked Porsche chief designer Michael Mauer what the goal was with the all-new model his response was simple: “to make it more mature.”  After spending a couple days with the 2013 Porsche Boxster we’d have to say that nails it.

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If there’s a downside, it’s something Porsche should worry about.  The new model is so solid, so nimble and so attractive that those 911 wannabes who might otherwise have to strain to get into the flagship model might now comfortably enjoy – rather than settle for – the Boxster as an alternative.


First Drive: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera

Evolution of an icon.

by on Nov.09, 2011

Porsche rolls out the seventh generation of its iconic 911 Carrera sports car.

As the styling chief for Porsche, Michael Mauer knew he had one of the biggest assignments of his career when he was told to redesign the maker’s flagship 911 sports car.  Few vehicles are more iconic, so, few projects would be more challenging.

The first thing Mauer recognized were the limits confronting him.  While he was asked to come up with something distinctive for the seventh-generation he knew that a radical redesign simply “wouldn’t be a 911.” That meant maintaining the car’s distinctive shape, starting with the long hood, bulging headlamps, “flyline” roof, and, of course, its rear-engine layout.

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What Mauer and his design team have come up with is somehow very different and yet surprising familiar – a Porsche 911 that is at once familiar and yet radically different.  There’s not a single panel or part carried over but for the powertrain – which nonetheless undergoes some significant enhancements.  The 2012 Porsche 911 is longer, lower and wider.  It delivers an array of new technologies intended to make it more powerful and more dynamic – while also improving its fuel economy by an estimated 16%.

The 2012 Porsche Carrera S is longer, lower, wider -- and 100 pounds lighter.


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.


GM Bringing “Completely Different” Corvette to Market in 2013

Maker investing $131 million to prepare plant for launch.

by on May.05, 2011

The Grand Sport is the latest variant of the C6 Corvette .

General Motors has confirmed the next generation Corvette will roll out in about two years – and the maker’s top North American executive hints it will be “completely different” from the look of the current 2-seat sports car, which has undergone mostly evolutionary changes during its nearly six-decade history.

GM will invest $131 million in the Bowling Green Assembly plant to support production of the next generation Chevy sports car, adding about 250 jobs in the process.

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“This is a significant day for anyone who believes that America should build world-class, high-performance products,” said Mark Reuss, GM North America president. “Corvette has no domestic peer for performance and pedigree and stands alongside the world’s best supercars with almost 60 years of continuous heritage,” he added.


First Look: Scion FRS-86 Concept

“Friggin’ really sweet,” suggests Scion chief Hollis.

by on Apr.20, 2011

Scion boss Jack Hollis reveals the FRS-86 Concept.

There’s no denying Scion General Manager Jack Hollis is one very enthusiastic executive, so it took the corporate legal beagles from letting him write the press release explaining the logic behind the name of the maker’s new FRS-86 Concept.

“Friggin’ Really Sweet,” Hollis proclaimed during the Scion sport car’s unveiling.  Oops, never mind, he quickly said.  The barristers prefer the more officious Front-engine, Rear-drive Sport, with the “86” borrowed from the legendary Toyota AE-86 Corolla of a quarter century ago.

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The FRS-86 is no retro-mobile.  It’s a decidedly edgy show car that might take by surprise skeptics who expect plain vanilla design out of Toyota and its various brands.  Visually, the sports car boasts a gull-wing shaped roof, a trapezxoidal rear end and striking, almost sci-fi style headlamps.  The 20-inch wheels are eight inches wide up front and 10 in the rear, and incorporate the brake rotors.

Developed in a joint venture with Subaru – which Toyota holds a major share in – the sports car is aimed at rebuilding the market effectively left to Mazda’s little Miata, these days.  The FRS-86 takes advantage of the smaller maker’s low-slung boxer engine, which permit the powertrain to be mounted low and rearward.


Porsche Celebrates 60 Years In The US With 3 L.A. Unveilings

Cayman R, 911 Carrera GTS and 356 Speedster share the stage.

by on Nov.19, 2010

Are those birthday candles? Porsche celebrates 60 years in the U.S. with the L.A. Auto Show launch of the Cayman R.

Some folks celebrate their birthdays with candles.  The folks at Porsche came up with a better way to mark the maker’s 60th anniversary her in the U.S. – by rolling out three new models at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show.

Sharing the spotlight are the brand new Cayman R, the 911 Carrera GTS, which is making its North American debut, and the 4th-generation 356 Speedster.

The 356 was Porsche’s first – and some would say most revolutionary – production car. It was a lightweight 2-seater with rear-wheel drive and a rear-mounted engine, which was the first to bear the Porsche badge when it arrived in America in 1950.

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The first Speedster will always be remembered as the car raced by actor-cum driver James Dean – though he had his fatal accident not in the Speedster but a 550 Spyder.

Of the already limited production run, only 100 copies of the new Speedster 356 will come to the North American market. This means that potential customers have to speed up if they want to buy the exclusive Porsche – which will be offered at $204,000.


First Drive: 2011 Audi R8 V10 Spyder

Catch it if you can.

by on Aug.19, 2010

With the launch of the new Spyder, Audi is only going to enhance the appeal of the sexy R8.

For anyone who has wanted to experience the raw G-force crush of a launch from a Navy aircraft carrier.  You can either enlist or start saving your pennies for the all-new 2011 Audi R8 Spyder.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the new ragtop version of the R8 coupe, which has created a huge buzz since its launch, a couple years back.  The convertible is likely to become the top-seller in the line-up, and for good reason.

The Spyder features the same 5.2-liter direct-injection V10 that Audi introduced for the R8, last year, a 528-horsepower, 391 lb-ft monster that can quite literally take your breath away when you slam the pedal down to the floor.  In coupe form, it’s rated to hit 197 mph; surprisingly, the convertible cuts that top speed only by 2 mph.

(Click Here to read’s review of the Audi R8 V10 Coupe.)

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The surprisingly light and exceedingly nimble R8 undergoes a few visual tweaks as it reemerges in convertible form, (though the overall shape is familiar, including the distinctive LED running lights, 24 of them to represent the German marque’s ongoing dominance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race).