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3
Jul

Die-cast: Autoart’s Aston Martin Vanquish

Aston Martin Vanquish = automotive art …Autoart Aston Martin Vanquish

Some cars are rolling art right from the get go. Such is Aston Martin’s Vanquish, which was introduced in 2013 to coincide with the British luxury car maker’s 100th anniversary.

As with all Astons, the goal was to combine beauty and performance on four wheels.

Likewise Autoart has recreated that beauty in 1/18 scale with its composite-bodied Vanquish, in sparkling black for the review model. Other colors are available, but bathed in black this baby looks long, lean, and sexy, just like the real beast.

The History

Vanquish, like most high-priced luxury makes, was aimed at the uncompromising buyer. But not the one who demands only luxury, or beauty.Autoart Aston Martin Vanquish

Vanquish, as its name suggests, wants to smite its automotive foes that are competing for the high-end coin of the realm.

A 2017 Vanquish lists at $287,650 for the coupe (like the review car) and $305,650 for the convertible.  Under its long carbon fiber hood is a throbbing V12 that makes 568 horsepower, the most of any power plant in Aston Martin’s history. Read more »

2
Jul

2018 Subaru WRX

Subaru’s WRX makes you faster, more interesting …2018 Subaru WRX

Mention the Subaru WRX in front of young adult males and you’re likely to become the most interesting man, or woman, in the world.

Subaru devotees are a, well, devoted lot and WRX fans are darn near rabid. Face it, some folks, especially young males, love speed and yet their wallets aren’t fat enough to go Corvette or BMW shopping and their egos or tastes may not desire a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. So it comes down to two cars really, the race-ready Ford Focus RS I drove a month or so back, and Subie’s WRX.

Lucky for Subie followers, the WRX just happens to be revamped for 2018 already. But to my way of thinking it blends in too much, not a problem with the winged Focus. WRX needs a more muscular look than just its shallow lower body cladding, splitter on the lower nose and gaping air scoop on the hood. It really doesn’t look fast at all. And don’t get me started on the rear spoiler. It’s virtually non-existent on the tested Premium model.2018 Subaru WRX

Several co-workers asked if I had a new Corolla to test drive for the week – really!

Yet the tested bright blue WRX still has the guts that its young, mostly male, audience desires.

Subaru’s well-tested 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbo, Boxer 4-cylinder pumps an awesome 268 horsepower and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque. It flat out flies after second gear. There’s some turbo lag to be sure, but even if you ease into the throttle from second to third gear it’ll slam you back in the seat and take off like an F-16. Read more

2
Jul

Mark and Paul’s fun at Road America

A Dream Day for driving

As members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Mark and I make the trip to Road America where we get to drive new cars from the manufacturers. This year, we drove the Ford Focus ST, BMW M40i, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and GT, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Lexus RC F, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and Chevy Bolt. What fun. Below are videos from some of the drives.

 

 

 

 

 

Related: Read Mark’s full review on the Focus RS.

 

 

 

28
Jun

Small scale slot car track with big details

The ultimate experience for F1 fanatics

Slot Mods USA creates what could be considered the holy grail of slot car layouts for racers. I’m in for sure on that. These guys create over the top layouts which are all hand-crafted and museum quality. They create slot car tracks from vintage to modern-day circuits. The layouts guys like me and Mark dream about. Slot Mods crafts each layout utilizing styrofoam and construction-grade lumber, plus materials like marble, leather or exotic hardwoods. The details are amazing and looked after by everyone from fabricators to model artists. Slot Mods seems to keep crafting ones that are better and better each time. Their latest is an F1-commissioned build of the Canadian Grand Prix. Read more »

25
Jun

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd. Platinum

Highlander Hybrid excels at moving people, things …2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

A road trip to Louisville with a couple buddies, and plenty of cargo, proved Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid to be a perfect transport choice.

Ours was a medium metallic brown, what Toyota calls Toasted Walnut Pearl. Probably should have been pecan since we were headed to the South. But, color aside, this fine family mover will carry eight folks and their stuff, or in our case, three and luggage, boxes, a monster camera bag, etc.

Highlander is quiet, comfortable, roomy, nice looking and, being the hybrid model, got darned fine gas mileage for its heft. Even without three dudes and their gear it weighs 4,965 lbs.2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

There was plenty to like and really nothing to irritate a crabby old guy and his friends.

Start with power. There’s a bunch. Toyota puts a new 3.5-liter V6 under the hood, mated with its reliable hybrid power system. Combined these get 306 horsepower and operation is silky smooth. Creeping through Chicago traffic on the return trip, at about 5-20 mph, the Highlander hummed along on electric power. Once I needed to accelerate somewhere near Gurnee, Ill., its electronically controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission) eased right into it and off we went at 70+ mph. In fact, cruising through Indiana the Highlander is so quiet and comfy that we had no difficulty commenting on how far we could see in any direction.2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Ride is super. Highlander rides on a 109.8-inch wheelbase and the independent front McPherson struts and rear double wishbone suspension eat up highway imperfections. Few vehicles feel this smooth on rough Midwestern roads. Read more

18
Jun

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Hyundai Elantra, perceptions change a bit …2017 Hyundai Elantra

Perceptions can shift and auto writers often perceive differences in similar models they drive. This happened on a couple fronts with my latest drive of Hyundai’s attractive Elantra Limited, its near top-level compact.

I still like the car, its looks, its features, its gas mileage, its value. But compared with a 2016 drive of a quite similar model, well, I noticed differences.

First, the acceleration from Elantra’s somewhat new 2.0-liter I4 seems milder than in the previous test car although it’s the same engine. In the earlier car I pressed the Drive Mode button on the console and when Sport mode kicked in I felt decidedly different acceleration, more aggressive. This time there was a difference, but whether the algorithms were changed or what, acceleration was not as aggressive.

There’s an Eco mode too, but that’s unneeded as the car gets excellent gas mileage in Normal mode.2017 Hyundai Elantra

Second, there’s still modest road noise, although that seemed somewhat better on the tested bright Electric Blue Metallic test car this time. Funny, this time I test drove between Milwaukee and Indianapolis, so mostly highway driving where you’d think road noise would be more noticed.

Third, I’d found the earlier model’s seats supportive enough, but this time (possibly because I spent longer periods sitting) the black leather seats seemed harder and featured only modest hip support.

All that said, the Elantra remains an exceptional value. Consider this, the base SE model starts at $18,000, while the Sport model with more horsepower goes for $22,485 and the tested Limited lists at $22,350. All have an $835 delivery fee. Read more »

11
Jun

2017 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic

Volvo S60 OK, but doesn’t distinguish itself …2017 Volvo S60

Volvo’s S60 is a fine, but underwhelming, compact, entry-level luxury car.

The S60 is nice looking and has all-wheel-drive, which will make it more useful to drivers in northern climes. It performs well, although its ride is rough, yet nothing really stands out.

Some will argue that its safety features stand out. That’s what Volvo, now owned by Geely, a Chinese firm, has hung its woolen winter cap on for years. Certainly the S60 T5 AWD Dynamic (quite a mouthful) that I tested had safety equipment, about what you’d expect on any car or crossover costing north of $40 grand.

For instance, there’s lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection also with auto braking, plus distance alert. All those are swell, but are not standard. They’re part of an optional $1,500 tech package. It also adds active high beams, rain-sensing wipers and the ability for the car to read road signs so you’ll always know what speed you should be going.

I’m not pooh-poohing these devices, but nearly all car makes have these now.2017 Volvo S60

The test car also added an optional $1,950 vision package too that added a blind-spot information system (BLIS), plus rear park assist, cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, and a few other features. Again, others have these systems too, some come standard on other luxury, and non-luxury, lines. Read more

5
Jun

Diecast: Automodello’s 1974 Bricklin SV1 Scottsdale Police

Automodello retools its Bricklin SV1, adds cop car markings …Automodello 1974 Bricklin SV1

Bricklins were unique in their day, the mid-1970s, but even more unusual were three white over blue Bricklins with sirens, a bubble gum strobe and other police gear. They were part of the Scottsdale, Ariz., police.

Malcolm Bricklin basically gave the Scottsdale police the three cars in a publicity move. His corporate offices were in Scottsdale so he leased the SPD the cars for $1 each. The move created cars that were unusual enough for Automodello to rework its fine Bricklin mold from a few years back to create the car in 1/43 scale, and with its gullwing doors closed this time.

The History

The SV1 was a sports car, think along the lines of a Toyota Supra or Nissan Z-car, but more than just a sexy body with good power. Bricklin designed the car with a frontal energy-absorbing crash zone and integrated roll cage. Reportedly the SV in its name stood for Safety Vehicle.Automodello 1974 Bricklin SV1

But Bricklin wanted his car to be both fast and safe, so he dropped in a 360-cubic-inch AMC V8 (one could argue that choice) that got 220 horsepower, a substantial amount for a two-seat sports car. While fast, the SPD rarely used them in pursuits, instead the cars ended up mainly as public-relations vehicles and cruisers. Those gullwing doors were hard for cops to get out of fast, so the police weren’t too thrilled to be using them for chasing speeders or other bad boys. Read more »

2
Jun

2017 Ford Focus RS

Ford’s Focus RS is a scorching hot rod …2017 Ford Focus RS

Simply put, Ford’s Focus RS is a street-legal race car.

Not many of those out there, and most that are require you to sell your house in order to make a down payment on said speedster.

So here, for “just” $36,995, Ford will put a scorching hot rod, drifter, rally car in your driveway, enticing neighbors, especially young males, to drool. It’ll also increase your heart rate, something on the order of being a real race driver.

The backstory on the German-made RS is that it, or similar Foci, have been sold in Europe for years and U.S. lead-footers have been itching for it, begging for it, praying for it to hit our shores. Now it has. I don’t know how many will be sold, but the Subaru Impreza WRX now has serious competition. In fact, folks considering a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger may want to consider saving some dough and going this route for serious performance.

What does that performance consist of?2017 Ford Focus RS

In a nutshell this fast Focus, complete with a big deal rear spoiler, pumps 350 horsepower out of its tiny 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine along with a matching torque rating. It’s said to do 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. By comparison, a Mustang GT can do it in 4.4 seconds. That’s pretty close and this handles better! Read more

31
May

Plug and Play Motorcycles

Electric fun on two wheels

Photo: Alta

It’s not just the auto industry that has made major breakthroughs in electric power, so as the motorcycle industry. In less than a decade electric motorcycles have gone from garage-built prototypes ones that rival gas-powered superbikes (bike with 1,000 CC and above engines). While power isn’t a problem, they suffer the same shortcomings as their four-wheel cousins, lack of range. Now in 0-60 times, it’s a whole different story. Read more »

29
May

Die-cast: NEO’s 1932 Packard 902 Standard Eight Coupe

1932 Packard’s beauty shines through in resin model … 1932 Packard

You know you’re mature when you remember seeing Packards for sale at the corner used car lots and driving around the neighborhood, and mine was not a ritzy area.

But for those of us who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Packard was still a car make we recognized. Certainly Packard’s reputation had been stellar for years, before it slowly and sadly faded away after being purchased by Studebaker. The last Packards were 1958 models.

Yet in its early years and through the 1930s, Packards were considered more than premium motorcars, they were right up there at the pinnacle. One of its classy coupes was the 1932 902 Standard Eight, a two-seater with rumble seat out back. NEO creates a 1/43 scale resin beauty now in dark red with black roof and fenders. The review model comes from American-Excellence.

The History

For 1932, despite the ongoing Depression, Packard rolled out its Ninth Series of cars, all longer, lower and faster than previous models. The Series 902 Coupe was a sweet one with an improved version of Packard’s Standard Eight engine, a 302 cu.in. L-head straight eight creating 110 horsepower.1932 Packard

A new feature that sounds more like it should be on today’s cars was Ride Control adjustable shocks. The system allowed the car’s hydraulic shocks to be adjusted from inside the car. The cars ran smoother and quieter too as rubber engine mounts were employed along with the driveshaft being rubber mounted and jointed. The car also had a self-lubricating chassis. Read more »

26
May

2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve

Mr. Lincoln returns with statuesque Continental …2017 Lincoln Continental

            Lincoln’s new Continental, its first since 2002, has the type of curb appeal that will instantly allow it entry into the country club parking lot. It looks luxurious and that big chrome grille lets you know it’s a Continental.

For those interested in making a luxury statement, but really only hoping for that big mellow Continental ride, relax. The 2017 iteration delivers on the boulevard ride. Thankfully it’s simply pleasant, not floaty as in model years past.

Lincoln uses a long 117.9-inch wheelbase, multi-link suspension front and rear and continuously controlled damping to ensure a ride worthy of yourself and three or four of your country club friends. And yes, there’s plenty of room in the trunk for a couple golf bags.2017 Lincoln Continental

So with distinguished looks and supple ride you may consider the Continental right on target for its audience. Except, like Cadillac, Lincoln is hoping to lure the 45-55-year old luxury sedan buyer, not senior citizens. For middle-aged luxury buyers power and handling also play a big role in brand selection.

Power is no problem here. The base Premium model features a 3.7-liter V6 making 305 horsepower, while the Select and Reserve models boast a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 that creates 365 horses and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos always deliver more oomph than naturally aspirated engines.2017 Lincoln Continental

Ah, but the silver test car added (for $3,265) the upper crust 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that cranks an impressive 400 horsepower, with an equal torque rating. This turbo empowered beast is standard on the top level Black Label edition too. Read more

22
May

Die-cast: Autoart’s 2014 LeMans, Toyota TS040 Hybrid

Toyota’s LeMans hybrid racer looks good in 1/18 scale …Autoart Toyota TS040 Hybrid

LeMans prototype racers press the envelope of styling and power to compete at the highest levels of the World Endurance Championship that includes the famous 24 Hours of LeMans in France.

Audi has dominated that race for the past decade and Porsche has had its run too. But a few years back Toyota decided to enter the fray and take on the big boys with its TS030. But it took two years to work out the bugs and the hybrid model TS040 won the WEC manufacturer’s championship in 2014.

Autoart has created another masterful reproduction in 1/18 scale, here with the No. 7 Toyota racer that was driven in 2014 by noted endurance drivers, Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima,  and Stéphane Sarrazin.

The History

Toyota’s foray into prototype racing for the endurance title started in 2012 with the TS030 hybrid. But it was the TS040 that finally moved the Japanese car maker to the top of the LMP1 podium. Autoart Toyota TS040 HybridThe TS040 used a naturally-aspirated V8 that featured a supercapacitor system, or energy-retrieval system, on the rear and front axle to give it 58% more power than its predecessor. This also gave the racer 4-wheel-drive, a major benefit in an endurance car that often has to race in lousy weather.

The car features a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb chassis and its 3.7-liter 90-degree V8 along with the energy-retrieval system generates nearly 1000 horsepower – 986 hp to be exact. Read more »

19
May

2017 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription

New Volvo XC90 packs in a lot … 2017 Volvo XC90 T6

Honestly, the new Volvo XC90 is a bit overwhelming.

It’s a big luxury crossover or ute, whichever you prefer. It looks buttoned-down collar sharp and has nearly every conceivable electronic doodad, safety device and feature one could expect. But there’s just so much here to enjoy and learn it’s a bit like going to flight school straight from junior high shop.

There’s no denying Volvo has been a fuddy-duddy brand for years, the square car in the round hole that is the wagon and now crossover marketplace. Safety was its gig, which is laudable, but styling and luxury were, let’s say, well down Volvo’s best practices list.

The luxury bit has been addressed in the past several years, but the XC90 brings Volvo up to and beyond some peers in the luxury market and now its sophisticated styling is a big help.2017 Volvo XC90 T6

First, the XC90 ranges from moderate luxury to full-on eye-popping price tag luxury. The base T5 Momentum starts at $46,745 in front-drive mode and still features the potent 2.0-liter, supercharged and turbocharged I4 that runs throughout the lineup. It creates 250 horsepower in the base model and 316 horsepower in the tested T6 model with all-wheel drive. Both feature a smooth shifting 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.

The tested T6 AWD Inscription lists at $51,600, plus $995 delivery, but the Inscription package adds another $5,600. The metallic black test ute ended up at $72,805 after adding nine more options and packages.

Now hold on for the upper end. Volvo’s plug-in hybrid, the T8 Excellence lists at $105,989 with delivery. You read that right, but it adds an 80-horse electric motor to the equation to boost gas mileage to a still mild 25 mpg, but can run 25 miles on an electric charge. It also includes heated and massaging rear seats, a built-in fridge and a 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo.

OK, back to reality, sort of! Read more »

19
May

From the captain’s chair to the cockpit

Warp factor 9, engage

By Paul Daniel

Video screen grab from Redshirts Always Die

From the Captain’s chair to driver’s seat. I love this because I’m a huge Trek and racing fan. Hollywood star Sir Patrick Stewart, Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), will contest the celebrity race at the Silverstone Classic in July in an Austin A35. The Star Trek actor competed in the event when it was run using Morgans in 2012, finishing ninth in a race won by Emmerdale actor and later British Touring Car Championship racer Kelvin Fletcher. Read more »

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