Posts by Steve Siler
- Motoramic8 days ago
When Audi first launched the TT in 1998 as a 1999 model, it instantly became a design icon. Its short, squat body was an amazingly simple, almost art-deco arrangement of big circles connected by straight lines, like a napkin doodle brought to life. Only as an Audi, it was pretty much perfect.
That same kind of strict geometry returns to the TT in its third generation, which just made its world debut at the Geneva auto show, only now, its tidy dimensions contain hexagons and trapezoids on the single frame grille, air intakes and elsewhere. The arched roof profile remains unmistakable, especially in the back, but the window line now features an A5-like kink in the C-pillar. Unique front and rear fascias and dual vs. quad tailpipe treatments separate the standard TT from the more powerful TTS model.
- Motoramic18 days ago
FYI: Porsche is a sports car company. Sure, it builds the 5,000-lb Cayenne SUV and a long-wheelbase Panamera “Executive” luxury sedan with a limo back seat and, as of 2014, the new Macan compact crossover. But after bringing us to the eastern German town of Leipzig, and the recently expanded factory where Porsche spent 500 million Euros to build all three of those front-engine Porsches alongside each other, Porsche executives felt the need to underscore the point that Porsche is a sports car company first, and a sports car company last. We can understand why. Just 12 years ago, Porsche’s model lineup consisted solely of sports cars: the carefully evolved 911 Carrera and its mid-engine little brother, the Boxster. Then, in 2002, Porsche shocked the automotive world — and infuriated Porsche purists everywhere — by introducing the Cayenne, which went on to become Porsche’s best-selling vehicle. In 2009, Porsche further diluted the bloodline with the hot-selling Panamera sedan followed by diesels, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and now the Macan crossover. Porsche still bolts together sports cars with the engine in the wrong place, but make no mistake: SUVs keep the lights on in Stuttgart.
- Motoramic29 days ago
I’m not really sure why the term “stretching its legs” was ever applied to cars — cars don’t have legs—but, for lack of a better term, I guess, that’s what my co-driver and I were doing with the Bentley’s new 521-hp Continental GT V8 S as we bombed down a lonely California highway between the mountain town of Julian and Palm Springs. The speedometer read in kilometers per hour, so we’re not sure exactly how fast we were going (that’s the story and I’m sticking to it), but suffice it to say that speeds were deep into the triple digits. The steering had come alive and the desert furnishings were passing in a blur, yet the 5,060-lb luxo-coupe was planted to the pavement as if with a vacuum seal. Finally, it felt like we were going fast. So it is with modern day Bentleys. Every last one of ‘em. In a Miata, 60 miles per hour can be thrilling, but in cars this big and fast it takes a heady clip to get your heart rate up. And so we charged down this smooth, sun-drenched (and thankfully, cop-free) stretch of asphalt, savoring the true meaning of the term “grand touring.” The $199,225 Continental GT V8 S is the fourth model in Bentley’s prolific Continental coupe and convertible range. Price-wise, the GT V8 S splits the difference between the 500-hp, “entry-level” GT V8 ($187,425) and the 576-hp, 12-cylinder GT W12 ($205,025). If you want the convertible versions of each, prepare to cough up another $19,000 or so, depending on model; the GT V8 S convertible starts at $219,925. Topping off the Continental range are the sport-tuned GT Speed coupe ($223,625) and convertible (246,425), which bring the 621-hp W-12 engine and a host of performance tweaks, including stiffer springs and bushings, lowered suspensions, retuned steering and shock absorbers, and unique throttle and transmission calibrations. We bring up the GT Speed because GT V8 S effectively adds all the Speed’s performance extras to the cheaper, lighter and more fuel-efficient V8 model. Sure, the Speed has an extra 100 or so hp, but otherwise the differences between the V8 S and the Speed are paltry: while the V8 S has 20-inch wheels and a quad tailpipe design, the Speed has 21-inch wheels and oval pipes, and so forth. So, are the W-12’s four extra cylinders worth the price of a well-optioned Mazda 3? Indeed, how different could the two cars possibly feel, especially on American roads where the V8 S coupe’s 192-mph top speed is irrelevant and a 0–60 mph time of 4.3 seconds (vs 4 seconds flat for the Speed) is more than adequate to squirt from stoplight to stoplight? Alas, the way we figured as we hurtled toward Idyllwild at ridiculous velocity whilst enjoying a lumbar massage from the air conditioned seats, few folks are gonna miss the GT Speed’s extra speed. The V8 S’s twin-turbo engine is a monster in its own right, capable of getting the big two-door up to any
- Motoramic1 mth ago
Among America’s auto shows, the Chicago Auto Show is the pre-eminent truck show. It’s also a show wherein Nissan has had a huge presence of late, so it’s fitting that Nissan made news with a truck — specifically, a diesel-powered Frontier called the Frontier Diesel Runner. Designed in San Diego, the Frontier Diesel Runner is officially a “technical study” at this point, and is bound to get a lot of miles put onto it by engineers, according to Nissan. It features a red and matte silver paint job fit for an energy drink, and wears other nifty add-ons such as a “carbon-fiber coated” roof rack, mesh grille, tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler, and PRO-EX 16-inch wheels (silver in front, red in back) mounted by white letter tires. The leather-lined interior is pretty close to stock, with a splash of red paint here and there, and some ancillary gauges. Our favorite show-car bit, however, is a carbon fiber hood with a C-shaped clear section that shows off an illuminated engine bay stuffed with a Cummins diesel engine. Cummins has been allied with Dodge and Ram for decades, but has never produced a small diesel for pickup duty here. Said diesel engine is a 2.8-liter four-cylinder producing 200 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a ZF eight-speed unit, sending the engine’s power to a 3.13:1 rear axle. Nissan promises a whopping 35 percent boost in fuel economy compared to the current Frontier’s V-6, which produces 261 hp but a comparatively paltry 281 lb-ft of torque. Otherwise, there’s not much about the Frontier itself that is terribly newsworthy — it’s been around in more or less the same form for the last 10 years and isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. Nissan’s other truck, the aptly named Titan full-sizer, is also on the old side, and at the same press conference, Nissan promised that we would be hearing a lot more about its replacement in the next year (our bets are on a world debut next year, same time, same place). Nissan says it is soliciting feedback from potential customers about the potential of a diesel Frontier. Besides, the upcoming Chevy Colorado will also be offered in 2015 with a 2.8-liter diesel four-cylinder engine with roughly the same level of output.
- Motoramic1 mth ago
Behold Kia’s perky Soul, electrified. The 2015 Kia Soul EV is Kia’s first entry into the burgeoning American electric car market, which also currently the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, and is soon to welcome newcomers like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf. If the Soul EV pushes the envelope at all, it’s not by much. An electric motor that produces 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque sends power to the front wheels via a single-speed, constant-ratio gear reduction unit. The lithium-ion polymer battery pack is both compact and juicy, with 27-kWh of capacity. It can be fully charged in 25 minutes using a Level 3 100-kilowatt charging circuit. A 240-volt outlet can charge a depleted battery in five hours, while 110-volt plug could require more than eight hours. Acceleration is a little on the slow side, even among EVs, with zero to 60 taking about 12 seconds according to Kia. At very low speeds — under 12 mph, or in reverse — the Soul EV will emit a virtual engine sound to warn inattentive passersby and neighborhood cats that might otherwise cross the Kia’s path. Top speed is in the 90 mph neighborhood, though don’t expect much range at that pace. Speaking of range, perhaps the most important consideration of an EV customer, Kia claims that the Soul EV can travel 80 to 100 miles in the real world, with some in its test fleet achieving over 100 miles of ultimate range. The brake regeneration system is also said to be able to reclaim up to 12% of the car’s kinetic energy. The Soul EV retains much of the funkiness of the standard Soul, which was just redesigned for 2014, but cleans up the front end with a width-emphasizing front fascia and a paneled-over aero grille. Inside, the Soul EV features unique white trim pieces and special sound-proofing materials are designed to quell road noise that might otherwise become noticeable in the absence of engine sound. The 2015 Kia Soul EV arrives in California later this year, and will spread to other markets such as Oregon, New York, and New Jersey by spring of 2015. The Soul EV’s price is has yet to be announced, but Kia promises it will be “music to your ears,” which we take to be somewhere near $30,000 before any government incentives.
- ssiler100 at Motoramic4 mths ago
For most of us, the closest we ever get to the front seat of a New York cab is when we lean forward to pay the driver. And even if we do cram four (or more) passengers into a cab, prompting at least one of us to get a front-row seat to watch the streets blur as only NYC cabbies can make happen, the left seat is always occupied by someone else.
So we jumped at the opportunity to not only ride in but drive the all-new NV200 “Taxi of Tomorrow” — which became the taxi of today when owner/operator Ranjit Singh, shown above, started taking fares this morning from JFK International Airport. Based on Nissan’s compact NV200 cargo van, the Taxi of Tomorrow was purpose-built for NYC cab duties, but will get pitched to taxicab fleets around the world soon. And while its shape lacks the iconic style of Checker Cabs from the 1960s or the dome-roof retro cabs in London, the NV200’s giant Dustbuster case proved perfect as a short-haul shuttle.
- ssiler100 at Motoramic5 mths ago
If there’s one thing we can learn from the plight of Saab Automobiles in this country, it’s that American buyers have fallen out of love with pricey hatchbacks. While the Swedish brand gained a loyal following in the 1980s and '90s among yuppies, the proliferation of SUVs and crossovers basically killed demand for its signature car, the 900/9-3 hatchback, with the company ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 2011. And no one has really been clamoring for the 5-door body style to return, at least with a luxury brand badge on the tailgate.
So what to make of BMW trying to resurrect the luxury hatchback segment with its all-new 3-Series Gran Turismo hatchback. Either the Bavarians see an unmet need, or the GT arrives as part of an all-out drive for sales by spackling any gap in BMW's lineup — in this case, between the 3-Series sedan/sport wagon and the taller X1 and X3 crossovers.
- ssiler100 at Motoramic7 mths ago
It’s hard to believe that the Toyota 4Runner SUV has been with us for three decades, during which Toyota has sold about 2 million of them, some 75 percent of which are still on the road.
But like its more storied cousin, the Toyota Land Cruiser, today’s 4Runner is a far cry from the simple sport-ute it was in 1984. As it grew bigger, heavier and more complex, it lost some of the charisma that made it an icon in the first place. Moreover, SUV buyers have moved away from truck-based models in favor of lighter weight, softer riding and more fuel efficient crossovers, leaving the 4Runner and its hip platform mate, the FJ Cruiser, as the last such mid-size SUVs on the market.
In hopes to extend its lease on life after 30 years. Toyota gave the 4Runner a facelift. And like many such decisions made to fight the march of time, this one didn't turn out well.
- ssiler100 at Motoramic7 mths ago
“It’s too bubbly,” said a respondent at a consumer clinic, talking about the ginormous Toyota Tundra pickup. “It doesn’t look very big.”
Ouch. That had to hurt.
Actually, we know it hurt, because in response to that comment and many similar ones Toyota received from customers over the years, Toyota heaped on the macho when redesigning the 2014 Toyota Tundra.
- ssiler100 at Motoramic8 mths ago
Audi’s motto, “Vorsprung durch Technik,” may not roll off the average American’s tongue, but those are some hallowed words in Audi’s hometown of Ingolstadt. In English, they mean “Truth in Engineering,” and at this year’s Audi Future Lab media program held at Berlin’s famous Templehof airfield, the facility that served West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift, Audi took the opportunity to show us some of the ways it is putting its money where its mantra is.