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First Drive: 2015 Corvette Z06

World-class performance, unexpectedly affordable price.

by on Jan.07, 2015

Chevy is offering the Z06 in coupe and convertible configurations, with stick and auto transmissions.

It’s an unusually chilly morning out in the Nevada desert, and as we buckle our helmets, strap on our seatbelts and make a few final adjustments, we get a last-minute warning: the track is chill and the pavement cold. It might get a little slippery if we go balls-to-the-wall on the first couple laps.

But it doesn’t take long to throw caution to the wind as we shoot through the corners and back out onto the front straight at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, an hour outside Las Vegas. With a neck-snapping 650-horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque bursting out from under its hood, the new 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is not only one of the fastest cars you can find, it’s also one of the most forgiving.


It’s the sort of sports car that makes an average driver feel like a hero, and a serious performance enthusiast push further than they might ever have thought possible. What’s all the more impressive is that it comes at a price tag that Euro-snobs might snicker at, less than $80,000 to start with – nudging up to around $110,000 for an absolutely fully loaded Z07 version.


Nudging 253 mph in a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

From 0 to jail cell in less than three seconds.

by on Jun.14, 2013

A Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport at rest.

I’ve driven some really great cars in my lifetime.  Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches, Mercedes – you name it, and chances are I’ve driven it.  That’s the life of an automotive journalist. But my head is still spinning and my heart is still pounding from a recent drive in what can be considered to the ultimate automobile, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.

It certainly is one of the most expensive, pushing $2 million.  And among the most powerful, nudging up towards 1,200 horsepower. And the fastest, pushing to speeds at which large jetliners would long be airborne. And the most exclusive, with production measured in the tens, not tens of thousands.

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The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport is one of those rarities which, when given a chance you make sure to get behind the wheel.  But first, a little history.

The French car company with the Italian name (and now owned by German car company Volkswagen) was founded in 1909 by Ettore Bugatti.  Bugatti built some of the world’s most beautiful and successful cars, often raced against his main nemesis, Bentley.


Audi Unveils Updated R8

Lighter, leaner, faster for 2013.

by on Sep.04, 2012

Audi will offer a new V10 Plus version of the R8 supercar for 2013.

Hard to imagine but it’s been a full six year since Audi first pulled the covers on the R8 supercar – which means it’s time for some changes for the new model-year.

The updated 2013 Audi R8 is making its debut at the Moscow Motor Show, apparently so all those oligarchs can look good stuck in the Russian capital’s endemic gridlock.  Should they finally get free of traffic they’ll be able to clock some serious performance numbers with a 2-seater that sleeker, leaner and – with the addition of the new R8 V10 PLUS model, a fair bit faster.

The 2013 Audi R8 gets only minor exterior tweaks, including redesigned front and rear bumpers, new LED headlamps, a new rear diffuser, revised exhaust pipes and an updated R8 logo.

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What should really matter to Audi aficionados will be found under the skin.  That starts with some significant gearbox changes.  The unloved six-speed electrically-shifted manual goes away, with few regrets.  In the base R8 424-horsepower V-8 it will be replaced by a seven-speed S tronic automatic.  And a new twin-clutch automated manual is offered as an option, as is a six-speed stick.


First Look: Aston Martin 310 Vanquish

British marque reveals its “new hero.”

by on Jun.20, 2012

With the new 310 Vanquish, Aston borrows some styling cues - and the carbon fiber body construction - from its One-77 supercar.

The fact that Aston Martin had something big coming wasn’t exactly the most well-kept secret, especially not as a few blurry shots started appearing from the spy photographers always hiding in the hills surrounding Germany’s vaunted Nurburgring.

But now, the British marque has made it official, revealing that an all-new version of its top-line Vanquish model is heading to market, this one official dubbed the Aston Martin 310 Vanquish.  And if the new super-coupe looks familiar it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, either.  AM officials unabashedly admit they’ve lifted some of the new car’s most striking design cues from the Aston One-77 supercar.

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Referring to it as the brand’s “new hero,” Aston Martin’s never-subtle CEO Ulrich Bez suggests the “AM 310 Vanquish is the ultimate expression of Aston Martin design ethos, engineering innovation and technical ability. It offers luxurious, continent-crossing capability and pure driving excitement without compromise.”


Better Hurry; Lexus LFA Supercar Sold Out – Almost

“Down to single digits.”

by on Jun.15, 2012

Better hurry if Dad wants one for Father's Day.

Looking for an appropriate last minute Father’s Day present for your dad the hedge fund manager?

Better move fast if the $375,000 Lexus LFA is high on your list.  Even if the price tag doesn’t put it out of your reach, you may soon be out of luck, according to an official with Toyota’s luxury subsidiary.

After two years, it seems Lexus has just about run out of the 500 carbon-fiber supercars it built and isn’t planning to produce any more.

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“The supply is down to single digits,” said Tim Morrison, Lexus vice president of sales, and most of those are actually tied up by dealers.

Following the presentation of the decidedly more mundane Lexus ES, Morrison said LFA sales were considered a success since it created a huge, positive halo for the brand.


Audi R8 GT Spyder Breaks the $200,000 Barrier

Only 50 coming to the U.S.

by on Feb.06, 2012

Audi's R8 GT Spyder is its first model to top $200,000.

Start saving your change but don’t wait too long.  Audi says it plans to import only 50 copies of the hand-built R8 GT Spyder convertibles later this month.

The most exclusive version of what is already Audi’s top-line model, the topless supercar will carry a sticker price of $210,000, making it the German maker’s most expensive offering to date.  And that’s before you add on $1,200 for the destination charges and as much as $3,000 more for gas-guzzler taxes.


By comparison, that’s a $38,000 premium over the current Audi R8 Spyder.

For the money, the 5.2-liter R8 V-10 gets bumped up to 560 horsepower, enough to launch the GT Spyder from 0 to 60 in just 3.8 seconds – also making it the quickest Audi ever – with a top speed of 197 mph.


First Drive: 2013 BMW M5

Making the best even better.

by on Sep.23, 2011

Our European correspondent Henny Hemmes gets behind the wheel of the new BMW M5.

When the first BMW M5 was introduced, back in 1984, it was the fastest production sedan in the world, largely hand-built on the same chassis as the 535 but given the modified M1 engine under the hood.

Time and again, each generation of M5 has gotten a bit more powerful and a bit faster, gen-two featuring a straight six engine and, in 1998, the third generation getting a V-8.  It seemed like BMW would have a hard time topping the 2004 remake, with its superb V-10.  And complicating the challenge: a steady stream of new offerings from Audi and Mercedes-Benz AMG that have stretched the limits of performance beyond what once seemed possible in all but the most exotic supercars.

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But BMW has given no signs of retreating.  Barely a month ago, got its first look at the fifth-generation BMW M5 out on the Laguna Seca Raceway.  (For that report, Click Here.) Sadly, it was a static display, the Bavarians tantalizing us with some impressive numbers but letting us wait until now to get behind the wheel.

Which is precisely, finally what we had a chance to do this week – though this time at Europe’s Ascari Race Resort, a beautiful and technically challenging race track which features plenty of bends and a long straight that seemed perfectly suited to the latest offering to wear the legendary BMW M badge.


McLaren Plans “Much Broader” Range of Supercars

Battery power likely as exotic brand faces regulatory realities.

by on Apr.25, 2011

The McLaren MP4-12C will be followed by a number of other sports cars, says McLaren's managing director.

British supercar maker McLaren is planning to follow up on the introduction of its MP4-12C with a “much broader” range of high-end sports cars, a senior executive tells

By using lightweight materials, like carbon fiber, and other advanced technologies, McLaren Managing Director Antony Sheriff says the maker – best known for its successful Formula One team – should be able to meet stiff new fuel economy and emissions standards.  But he also hints that McLaren is looking at ways to integrate battery-based propulsion systems into some of its future offerings.

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The McLaren MP4-12C will arrive in nine U.S. showrooms later this year carrying a price tag of $229,000.  But it is just the first model the maker has been working on, Sheriff revealed during a lengthy conversation following the New York Auto Show’s annual media preview.

“Between the various models (under development), we’ll have something new about once a year,” the executive explained.


Audi Sets $196,800 “Base” Price for New R8 GT

Supercar now nudging the 200 mph mark.

by on Mar.17, 2011

Audi R8 GT: lighter, more powerful, faster and, yes, more expensive, too.

You’ll soon be able to buy the Audi R8 in three flavors: fast, faster and, “Oh, my god.”

But getting close to the 200-mph mark will nudge you ever closer to a $200,000 price tag.

When the slick 2-seater came out, a few years back, critics found little to, well, criticize, other than the lack of oomph from the stock 4.2-liter V8.  They didn’t have long to fret, however.  The addition of a 5.2-liter V10 – the same basic powerplant from the Audi GT3 LMS race car – bumped the pony count from 420 to 525 horsepower.

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Needless to say, that wasn’t quite enough for some folks who have gotten caught up in the numbers game.  So, while the new R8 GT isn’t quite in the same rarified air as the new, 700-hp Lamborghini Aventador, it still has enough to challenge the best of the supercar breed by adding yet another 35 horsepower – 560 in all.


First Look: Pagani Huayra

Supercar will hit 60 faster than you can pronounce its name.

by on Feb.16, 2011

Italian supercar maker Pagani is finally set for a U.S. debut with the upcoming launch of the Huayra.

Who says it’s the year of the electric vehicle?  That was so, well, January.  Anyone who attended the recent Chicago Auto Show knows the spotlight has shifted to performance, with the Windy City preview of the Dodge Charger SRT8 and Camaro ZL1.

For someone with the money and desire to have something more exclusive – and quicker yet – Pagani is ready to step in.  And, yes, for those who’ve been following the Italian supercar company, founded in 1992 by former Lamborghini executive Horacio Pagani, the Modena-based maker is finally ready to launch itself into the U.S.

Though you’ll find a few of the old Zondas in the States, they were never formally distributed here, but Pagani plans to set up a formal dealer network now – though we’ll have to wait for specific details.  The good news is that the company’s latest engineering marvel, the Huayra, will arrive sometime this year.