Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dispatch drives the 2008 Taurus, and it doesn't completely blow

So I went on that Chicago trip and the dowdy Ford Fusion we thought we booked just happened to morph into a spanking new Taurus. I was delighted with the swap however, as this is a car that has been in the news recently... though not necessarily for good reasons. This would also be my chance to sample Ford's new V6, which it seems quite proud of and in turn will be stuffing in every one of its cars it fits in.

If you've read a few reviews of this car from different sources, you'll see that some like the new engine a lot, while others say it ain't all it's cracked up to be. Stock me in with the former, as I found it to be smooth and quite powerful. It's got plenty of power for families that will buy this car, probably more than enough actually. I had a decently good time heaving this massive car through traffic, and flooring it from a standstill resulted in impressive acceleration.

In newly chrome-spangled Taurus guise, it looks approximately 20% better than it did as the Five Hundred. Thankfully though, the example we were issued wasn't fitted with the horridly ribbed chrome wheels you'll see on most of these, rather these unoffensive two-tone 17s.

That said, this is still a boring car. The high seating position combined with 5-beer steering leaves you with the impression of rolling down a back alley in a wingback perched atop a Radio Flyer... and the strong V6 makes it a very steep alley.

The interior isn't terrible. Most of the plastics have some squish and don't shine too harshly. The worst stuff I found was right on the steering wheel directly above the radio/hvac buttons... not the best place to hide it. There's plenty of room obviously, though I expected even more given the hugeness that permeates the driving experience. My most curious discovery had to be the many dead insect trapped within both of the reading lights of the overhead console (4th picture below). How they got there is a noodle scratcher for the books.

Bottom line: There's nothing wrong with this car. If the Taurus was the only car sold in America, everyone would be perfectly happy with it. But it isn't, and the others are just better.






Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Resemblance?


This just made me chuckle...


2008 WRX STi

Just fine:


Vomit:


Better-ish:


Hey, cool car!:


After weeks of playing hide-and-go-f*ck-yourself with dark shady images, Subaru has officially released clear shots of the new WRX STi. Still looks goofy to me. I admire that they made the car lighter, but from what I've seen so far, the power/drivetrains are damn near carryover.


I recently sat down in a new WRX Sedan and I can tell you that it is a perfectly nice place to be. The quality of the interior is much improved and it feels just like a little Legacy... except nobody wanted a little Legacy. So if you want you can finally be a little more comfortable in your new, every so slightly lighter but much sillier looking WRX STi, and you'll surely be paying more for it.

I guess it's not God-awful though, I might even warm up to it in person. But that's just it, these cars have always been borderline cartoonish with their wings and scoops; they're inherently over-the-top... I shouldn't have to warm up to the design. It should smack me in the face with instant awesomeness. The STi is an improvement for sure, but they can only do so much for the oinker they're working with. There is no excuse for it not to have been great from the beginning.

The Evo always drove a little bit sharper, and with the new one they've succeeded in making it far cooler looking. Subaru has succeeded only in making a lot of peoples' decisions far easier.

[Source: NetCarShow]

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ford is Dumb Vol. 1

I'm not going to make the clich├ęd argument you probably expect and have all heard before. Something like "Ford sells great cars in other markets and tripe here on its home turf... why can't they bring the good stuff to us??" I've pined before on what a good Yaris / Fit competitor the Euro Fiesta would make, especially the snappy looking XR4 model pictured below. Even if it trailed the Asian offerings slightly in terms of outright economy and refinement it would still sell well just because it looks neat. It even has a proper looking interior, something the 'new' US Focus designers weren't capable of.

All around bone-headedness aside, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it just isn't doable. Money, crash-certification, exportation cost, whatever... they just can't make it happen. Fine. The thing I'm wondering is given the fact that they can't get their act together enough to offer us the quality product of the rest of the world, why not at least make our dismal product look like the good product?
(Continue reading below)





The Aussie Ford Falcon FPV Cobra isn't going to win any subtlety awards. You'd be hard pressed to call it 'pretty', let alone elegant. What it does have is a whiff of that special something that makes people pay $20grand over sticker for some Mustangs and GTs. It looks like a badass Ford. They could have saved a lot of money and dignity if they made the Five Hundred look like one of these from the beginning instead of pulling that just-kidding-it's-a-Taurus-again BS. True, it would still be novocaine to drive but the overall package couldn't be worse than what it's been so far.

Bottom Line: They wouldn't have to worry nearly as much about what it's called if it looked interesting.

[Source: WorldCarFans]



Here's the Ute version. Why? Cause I like it and it's my blog.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

BMW M3 Sedan

Nothing new or unexpected here. Just the 3 Series sedan dipped in M-sauce. Does that detract from its supreme, jaw-dropping righteousness? NEIN! The legions of M3 Saloon fans finally have a new reason to get up in the morning, after being denied a new car since the cult-worthy E36 of 1998.

All the good stuff is here, and the extra practicality only costs you a tenth to 60. The coupe is certainly the icon, the borderline ungainly hardtop-convertible gives you the sky, but I'll take my M just like this thank you very much... in Interlagos Blue, por favor.

[Source: Autoblog, NetCarShow]




Friday, October 5, 2007

Dubbers Unite for H20 International... and I'm not talking Bush-Boosters

... more specifically V-Dubbers, the fanatical members of the Volkswagen tuning lifestyle. H20i is an annual event held in Ocean City, Maryland bringing together thousands of enthusiasts in a clusterfudge of speed and style. VW enthusiasts are typically divided between fans of the older air-cooled models (Beetle, Microbus, etc.) and the newer, more modern water-cooled examples. The latter being the obvious theme for this show, not to mention the source of its name... along with New Jersey's Waterfest held earlier in the year.

Though I wasn't able to make it to this year's show, I was there for the 2006 edition and the scale and scope of the event completely blew me away. Throughout the weekend, Ocean City's infamous Coastal Highway is clogged with gleaming, hissing, farting, chassis-scraping German (and Mexican) modified metal in tastes ranging from the handsome to the hash-induced.

You’ll find a wide range of tuning styles here too. Big now in the US is OEM+, a look defined by modifying VW cars with equipment (especially wheels) from the higher-end marques that reside within Volkswagen’s vast empire, e.g. Audi, Porsche, Bentley and even Lamborghini. The key to the popularity of this style is that many of Volkswagen’s subsidiaries tend to share some fundamental architecture specifications, (wheel bolt-patterns for example) therefore making cross-brand part swapping a largely plug-and-play affair. This by no means implies affordability mind you. OEM parts can be extremely expensive when purchased directly from the manufacturer, especially the Mulliner Edition Bentley Continental GT wheels pictured below on the white GTI (below top). This has lead to the booming business of OEM replica wheels. Now instead of dropping $3500 on 4 real Lamborghini Gallardo front wheels for your GTI (yes they do fit) you can have a set of identical replicas for half that much (below 2nd).

Another trend gaining popularity in the US is the rat style, which originated with American hot rods and spread to Europe where it was translated onto their domestic machinery. The look can more or less be described as souped-up junker (below 3rd). Cars sporting mismatched matte finish or even rusted body panels, and widened versions of steel wheels like the one under the floor of your trunk get the spotlight here. Usually applied to older cars that weren't in very good shape to begin with, it has also been inflicted upon brand new cars… much to the chagrin of the occasional unknowing onlooker. They can’t usually wrap their heads around why you’d strip the hood of a new car down to bare metal and leave it out in the rain for 2 weeks.

If there’s one thing you’ll find common to near every modified VW, it’s a dumped suspension (below 4th). Air-ride is making strides in the scene, but a traditionalist will tell you that coilovers are the only way to roll low. The buzz words lip, stretch, and tuck are all at work here. The old adage goes, “You ain’t Dubbin’ unless you’re rubbin.”


The magnitude of this show must truly be seen to be believed (below bottom). You don't have to be a hardcore Dubber either, anyone can appreciate the diverse creativity of these cars...plus it's at the beach and just happens to be a hell of a lot of fun.
[Photo Source: The members of VWVortex.com]





Sunday, September 30, 2007

BMW 1-Series Convertible

I want a BMW 1-Series. Not just the way in which I want most of the cars discussed here, but rather a deep, carnal, yearning whose only cure may be purhase. Specifically a 135i Coupe, though I wouldn't mind it in the Tahiti Green pictured below on the newly unveiled convertible variant. Is it just me, or is it damn nice to see a new interesting color on a great new car? Not a lot of people like green cars but I'm gonna go out on a limb with my respect for this one. I'm not alone in my 1-Lust apparently, as BMW has received an unprecidented flood of pre-orders for the car months ahead of its Spring 2008 launch. With the possible exception of the new Nissan GT-R, the BMW 1-Series will be the hottest car of 2008.

[Source: Autoblog, NetCarShow]





Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lexus IS-F: Bad For Tires

Me thinks they're not kidding with this one. This is the first footage I've seen of the Lex-rod and it's freaking badass. Fully defeatable traction control and a limited-slip rearend join forces with the V8 to hang the tail out just as awesomely wide as a certain M-car... it even sounds like it. Listen closely to one of the launches in the second clip as a sharp chirp from the tires on the 1-2 shift signals no shortage of starch in the 8-speed auto.

I wasn't extremely excited for this car until I watched it hang ass around Laguna Seca. Looks like they finally put their pennies where the pie goes.

[Source: Autoblog]





Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2008 M3. Tiff.

Need I say more? I wonder if he'll slide it...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT in the tin

Parked next to this very enticing piece yesterday on my way to the gym. The Sport GT isn't the newest Quattroporte variant; that honor is reserved for the Sport GT S just recently unveiled in Frankfurt. Unlike the GT S with its recalibrated suspension, the GT was mostly a styling package... the standout feature being the stunning 20" alloys draped in gorgeously gummy Pirelli PZeros. This particular car was equipped with the questionable DuoSelect sequential manual transmission, a system broadly chided as unsuitably jerky for a machine of this pedigree. The Quattroporte's gaping maw isn't to everyone's taste (including mine), but the sedan's overall presence is undeniably striking to behold. Amidst my brief droolfest I managed to snap a few pictures before anyone saw how creepy I looked doing it. Enjoy the sensuous Italian curves below (nearly as sensuous as those of the adjacent car in the 3rd shot...)





Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rental Cars

The majority of us gearheads will likely get a bit excited whenever a chance arises to rent an automobile. Unless you're a gentleperson of means that can afford to treat yourself to an exclusive exotic car for hire program during your stay in perhaps Vegas or Miami, you're almost certainly setting yourself up for an inevitable letdown. Case in point:

The girlfriend and I last night sat down to book our hotel and rental car for an upcoming October trip to Chicago. Through her job, she is eligible for 'free upgrades' at various rental suppliers... hence a twinkle appeared in my eye as I hoped we may be able to swing some remotely interesting transportation. Upon inspection of the available iron, my middling hopes stumbled in witness to the fun-squashingly equipped domestic sh*t-kickers.

Since I didn't feel it necessary to pony up for the probably still uninspiring automatic V6 Mustang, our Chi-town steed shall be a base Ford Fusion. Aside from being one of the more interesting looking domestic offerings, it's got halfway decent Mazda 6 underpinnings somewhere up under there that might just offer up something resembling transient response. The engine, a Duratec 4-cylinder funneling 160 hp through an indifferent slushbox to mile-high behubcapped rolling stock, is sure to leave my mind securely unblown. Nevertheless, secret plans exist to steal away and conduct a semi-serious road test for posterity... stay tuned (snore).

All hope for the prospective driving vacationer is not lost however. I managed to be thoroughly entertained by a Nissan Micra during a week in Ireland last year. If it's your first time driving in Europe, no matter what you end up with, you're thrust into a completely alien driving environment forcing you to learn everything backwards pretty much immediately to avoid death. I recommend an oddball little car like my Micra or some dodgy Fiat that offers the novelty of driving something not even available in the US. Despite resembling an atrophied bee trapped in snot, the Micra proved a lightweight and admirably tight little car that made the most of what felt like 15 hp. Throw in an honest manual gearchange for your left hand and it's like being 16 all over again.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Carlsson Aigner CK65

Remember the f*ck-ugly AC Schnitzer GP3.10 Concept I posted a few days back? That was an example of adventurous design gone horribly, cancerously wrong. A similarly audacious exercise it indeed is, the Carlsson Aigner CK65 has been wrought with a keener eye for good taste.

Now I'm not a huge fan of two-tone cars unless they're from before 1960 and handle like greazed arse, but here the effect is quite dramatic, and not at all unappealing. The work-of-art Carlsson 21" forged aluminum wheels set off the exterior, upon which the only aesthetic blunder appears to be the the Strut-esque pimp-my-crapwagon chrome mesh lower grill.

On the inside you'll find just a pinch more red, as the Aigner in the car's name refers to Etienne Aigner, a supplier of fine leathers who was charged with upholstering the interior. The effect is either daringly bold or vomitously garish depending on your tastes, and for me it's just the right tint to achieve the former. If I'm not mistaken, this car's primary stylistic influence had to be the Pagani Zonda F. The black of the exterior recalls the tinted glass canopy and numerous carbon fiber elements of the F; the vivid crimson/oxblood interior's inspiration is obvious upon comparison.
(See for yourself below)

As it's based on a CL65 AMG, this is the last car that needed any engine tuning but they've gone and made the Biturbo V12's hefty ballz even bigger to the tune to 700bhp and 811 lb-ft of torque. There's also a trick active suspension, sports exhaust, and a full carbon fiber body kit.. along with innumerable bespoke doo-dads and gee-gaws guaranteed to put your wallet on weight-watchers.

[Source: WorldCarFans]






Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron Pur Sang

For the money I'd take this over the Lamborghini Reventon in a heartbeat. Pur Sang means 'thoroughbred', and this very special edition of just 5 cars for the entire world comes completely stripped of paint leaving the spectacular aluminum and carbon fiber body structure of the Veyron exposed. Those unique alloys are absolutely drop dead. If this car were a woman it would be naked Monica Bellucci holding a cheese steak and a Guinness. Aside from looking like it's MSRP, it's actually lighter than a standard Veyron; paint weighs much more than you'd expect. I'll try to see if i can detect the weight loss when I personally roadtest a Pur Sang against a standard Veyron next week not.

[Source: Autoblog, WorldCarFans]



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Weapon of Mass(ive) Erection

Lamborghini's rumored super expensive Murcielago derivative is named Reventon, and it's truly the stuff of kids' posters. Only 20 people get to pay the 1 Million Euro to own one, and if they manage to change the oil and avoid immovable obstacles they're sure to make their money back someday, and then some. It also features some seriously neat glass-cockpit fighter-jet style gauges.

It's wicked nasty rotten awesome yes, but the mechanically identical (save 20bhp) Murcielago LP640 is $700,000 less. That fact is a waste of typeface however, because which would you rather have up on your wall?


[Source: Autoblog, InsideLine, NetCarShow]





BMW X6 'Concept' unveiled at Frankfurt

The Frankfurt International Auto Show finally got underway yesterday in Germany and there was no disappointment in the quantity of new products and concepts. I am but a lowly blogger and cannot even fathom being able to comment about everything that's coming out of the show (this isn't my job unfortunately), but I will do my best to show you my favorites.

Camouflaged prototypes of BMW's X6 have been the darlings of auto-spy photographers in recent months and we finally get to see it in its final form, mostly. BMW loves to show off cars they label as Concepts, when in reality the production version is 100% finished. They make the wheels a little different, a little shinier perhaps; fit fancier exhaust pipes and/or head and taillights... but it's 99.99% what they'll unveil very soon after as the production model. They did it with the E46 M3, the E90 M5, E92 M3, and it's exactly what they've done here. It just seems like a waste of energy on their part. Between here and the dealerhship, I foresee the X6's wheels changing ever so slightly, and the exhaust exits to lose a bit of their sparkle and melt into a more conventional shape.

Although this thing exists only to make money (not to refine the illustrious pedigree of BMW), I do think I like it. The X5 was always near the top of my list of ownable SUVs and though this is mostly just a less practical version for surely more money, it would look awful nice in my post lotto-victory 30-car garage serving as a foul-weather people-mover.

Engine choices are more interesting the those of the current X5 with the mouthwatering 3.0L Twin Turbo 6-cylinder at the bottom end, and talk of a new 4.8L Twin Turbo V8 at the top. An engine that's supposedly been under development for the next generation 7-Series.

I'm sure they'll sell every one of these they intend to... just not to me unfortunately.

[Source: Autoblog, NetCarshow]