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2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Mazda MX-5 Miata stays atop its game … 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Not much changes from year to year with Mazda’s MX-5, commonly known as a Miata, although there’s nothing common about this cute roadster.

First, if you know what a Miata looked like when introduced 28 years ago, you’ve got a good idea of how sharp the new one looks. This little runabout was restyled a couple years ago, actually shrinking a bit, and getting more muscular rounded fenders and slim LED headlights. But really, you know immediately that this is a Miata, er, MX-5. Continue reading 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

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2017 Lexus GS F

Lexus GS F is a NASCAR wannabe in street clothes … 2017 Lexus GS F

            Unless your name is Hellcat or you sport some semblance of racing stripes and a hood scoop you’re not supposed to gurgle and pop with power if you’re simply a luxury sport sedan.

Ah, but the Lexus GS is everything from a fine luxury sedan to a NASCAR wannabe, a racer in street clothes.

A base GS 200t, you see, is equipped with a 241-horse 2.0-liter I4 that’s turbocharged. Oh that’s nice and sporty in its own way and a potential Lexus owner that’s pushing the limits of his home equity loan to snag one will shell out roughly $47 grand and change.

But there are so many other choices, two more engines and a hybrid model too. So say sayonara to that base model if you want to light up the tires and thumb your nose at German luxury sedans, or domestic muscle too. The tested GS F, or F Sport model is the sharp end of the GS line and it’ll flat out fly.

Reason?

No, it’s not a HEMI, but the Lexus has a sexy sounding V8 that’ll nearly put the roughly 4,000-pound sedan into orbit. The numbers are this, 5.0-liter V8 creating 467 horsepower and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. Don’t go pooh-poohing that because your Vette or Hellcat has more ponies. With its modest weight and a dandy drive mode system that allows you to go from Normal to Sport or Sport+, you’ll suddenly find the GS turning surly.2017 Lexus GS F

I was expecting good power, but punched the console’s drive mode button just as I was pulling onto the freeway and the rear-drive GS twitched its tail and rocketed up to, er, well, more than the standard highway speed before I was halfway down the entry ramp. Haven’t had this much fun since my last Vette drive, and that’s been a while. Continue reading 2017 Lexus GS F

2016 Cadillac CTS AWD

Cadillac CTS remains edgy, fast CTS1sport sedan

Cadillac’s CTS remains one of GM’s biggest success stories and for good reason. The mid-size sport sedan features edgy styling and handles like a fine European sport sedan, but with better ride characteristics and now, all-wheel-drive.

The dark metallic gray test car was the CTS AWD 3.6L Premium Collection, which is a long way of saying its the upscale version with AWD. Same well chiseled profile, long and wide hood, mouthy grille and slender retro vertical taillights. The car looks, and feel, upscale.

What I like, and I’ve said it before, is that Cadillac delivers performance and luxury in equal doses.

Standard in this model is the strong 3.6-liter VVT V6 with auto start/stop. No turbo, and it still gets 335 horsepower and creates 285 lb.-ft. of torque. Others may crank up more ponies and the turbo versions rock like race cars, but this has good power to get the car up to highway speeds in a flash, but with a smoothness befitting its luxury nameplate.

CTS3Helping that effort is Caddy’s silky 8-speed automatic, which first debuted a couple years back. The tranny seems perfectly suited to the V6 and there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel if the driver wishes to take shifting into his, or her, own hands. Continue reading 2016 Cadillac CTS AWD

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Redesigned Mazda Miata still the perfect sport carmiata1

My generation may have been having fun, fun, fun till our daddy’s took our T-birds away, but since 1989 the fun, fun, fun has mostly been provided by Mazda’s Miata.

Lyrically it’s not the same at all, but the feeling continues to be the same and the nearly all new and slightly smaller 2016 MX-5 Miata continues the tune.

I’ve run out of superlatives for the car that was my first Zoomie Car of the Year Award winner back in 1990, just after the original hit the streets. Miata reinvented the fun, affordable two-seater. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s there were MGs, Sprites, Austin-Healeys and Triumphs. Today, as in 1989, there is only the Miata in the small roadster category, at least starting at less than $30 grand.

Mazda continues to keep the car simple and slips it back closer to its roots by downsizing it in every way, except driving excitement.

The Miata is a work of art, just like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa.
The Miata is a work of art, just like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa.

The new car rides on 1-inch less wheelbase, is 6 inches shorter in length, loses 0.5 cubic feet of trunk space and drops about 250 lbs. Even the engine’s horsepower is down a smidge to 155 horses.

The result is a superbly balanced sports car that remains light, peppy and easy to throw around curving country roads, or winding city streets.

I felt no discernable reduction in power from the 2.0-liter I4 because the new 6-speed manual is so well suited to it. Shifts are short and direct and the clutch light. I took this on an afternoon spin around the Holy Hill area over winding side roads and with the top down. What a joy, smelling the apples, barley and livestock as the car flitted through the early autumn sun. Continue reading 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

Great-looking Lexus RC 350 packs performanceLexus profile1

Lexus cars always look luxurious, rarely racy, until now. Lexus stylists have cranked up their angular mojo to create their first truly sporty looking sports coupe – the RC 350.

I’ve read or heard all sorts of jawing from other car writers that the RC isn’t racy enough, sits too high, has too big and bulgy of wheel wells, won’t break the sound barrier, etc. Let me tell you that’s hogwash – except the sound barrier thing.

First, the RC is exceptionally good looking with a rakish stance, sleek sloping windshield and roofline, extreme spindle grille that Lexus has made its trademark of late, and slim beautifully sculpted lights front and rear along with fins on the lower rear bodywork. Plus those twin exhausts sound pretty sweet. Yes, this baby would look fast in a car wash!

Speed, handling, ride and performance are all first rate.

lexus tailOne could argue that this isn’t as track worthy as an off-the-truck Porsche, but it’s a street racer of distinction. And by that I mean it’s plenty fast, sounds like it means business and handles like a high-end sports coupe. It’s not an $80 to $100 grand racer, it’s a $42,700 sports coupe and as tested with the F Sport package and other goodies, hits $54,815. That’s not cheap, but it’s not so pricy you’ve got to sell the house and kids.

Power is generous. A typically smooth Lexus 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and direct and port injection gives the RC 350 its oomph. Officially it creates 306 horsepower and 277 ft.-lbs. of torque. Because the Lexus is refined, not a beast, its engineers provide it with Drive Mode Select, allowing the driver the option of Eco mode to save fuel (it drinks premium), Normal, or Sport. The later keeps rpm up as it holds lower gears longer to boost acceleration. Continue reading 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe RWD Premium

Sporty, stylish ATS Coupe takes aim at younger monied buyersats1

Cadillac has a hit on its hands with the compact luxury ATS sedan, and now there’s a sporty coupe for you to tuck in your garage next to the 4-door.

That’s certainly Cadillac’s hope. Its marketers are looking for a lot of well-off younger buyers opting for one of each, as both are fun and modestly priced in the entry-level compact luxury sport market. My previous ATS sedan test was mostly favorable, so I wasn’t surprised at how much I enjoyed the “majestic plum metallic” (metallic grayish purple) test coupe. This was the 2.0T RWD Premium model, so closer to top-end than bottom.

Continue reading 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe RWD Premium

2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport

 

CTS Vsport kicks butt on the sport luxury sedan frontcady1

Cadillac is beyond just being back, it’s now about kickin’ butt and takin’ numbers.

First, unlike most sporty luxury brands, Cadillacs now exude style. The new CTS is the beauty queen of luxury sport sedans leaving others only to compete for Miss Congeniality.

CTS’s well chiseled profile with long, wide hood and big mouthy grille give it some panache. But those vertical taillights that carry over from previous models, some dating back to the 1960s, plus the big headlights that extend back into the slender fenders give it an athletic presence – think pro athlete in a fitted Ralph Lauren suit.

Beyond the edgy styling that catches a potential buyer’s eye, Cadillac continues to deliver performance and luxury in equal doses.

cady2The tested CTS Vsport, the top-level model, now boasts a 420-horse twin-turbo V6. The 3.6-liter unit earns a torque rating of 430 that reportedly pushes the rear-drive sedan to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Power is readily available and smoothly delivered with Caddy’s first 8-speed automatic, which offers a manual mode and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Ride is comfortable too with GM’s magnetic ride control and a performance suspension that provides a firm, well-controlled ride. Plus CTS offers four driving modes, selected via a switch on the console between the front seats. Touring is for everyday driving and smoothes the ride while offering responsive steering. This would do for most of us 90-95% of the time. Continue reading 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport