Posts by Ezra Dyer

  • Driving the Lamborghini LM002, Rambo's SUV

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 12 hrs ago

    The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG is, at the moment, about the most exotic truck you can buy, a juiced-up former military vehicle that packs 536 hp and price tag deep in the six figures. Its reign will be short; soon Mercedes will unveil the G65 AMG, with a twin-turbo V-12 and a price that begins in Bentley territory. Speaking of Bentley, the Brits are readying their own swank 4x4, the Bentayga. Rolls-Royce recently confirmed that it’s working on an SUV. In a few years, nearly every exotic car company will offer an SUV. It seems like such an obvious move, you wonder why nobody did this sooner. Well, somebody did, way back in the '80s: Lamborghini. Lamborghini started building the LM002 in 1986. The LM, a nearly 7,000 lb. 4x4 powered by a Countach V-12, was conceived as the Italian Hummer but never quite caught on with either militaries or well-heeled civilians. Too expensive, too complicated—too far ahead of its time, really—America bought a total of 44 LMs. Fortunately, I happen to know one of those 44 forward-thinking individuals, and he agreed to let me drive his 1990 LM002. For someone who loves trucks, this is a like a McLaren F1-level opportunity. In terms of sheer outrageous presence, the LM is equal to anything Lamborghini has ever built. Which is saying something. You can see why militaries balked at this thing. You need a special tool to lock the hubs. The V-12 has two check engine lights—one for each half of the engine. The Pirelli Scorpions failed long ago; their reinforced sidewalls parting ways with the tread after a session of off-roading. And yet, just look at how cool this thing is. This is the truck that would steal the Hummer H1’s girlfriend.

  • The one essential tool you need to never get stuck while driving off-road

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 11 days ago

    Over the past decade or so, SUV mania morphed into the crossover craze. For most people, the crossover is the perfect transportation solution—your car looks like a truck (sort of), but you’re not hauling around up-armored off-road gear every time you venture out to Chipolte. The majority of crossovers are useless off-road, and that’s fine. One major exception: the big Land Rovers. When you see an LR4 making the school run in La Jolla, you should feel bad for it, because it’s like a circus bear riding a unicycle. It should be out in the woods, roaming the wild, climbing hills and plunging into mud holes. And at the Land Rover Driving Experience at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, that’s exactly what you can do with it. This is the best kind of off-roading: the kind that happens with someone else’s truck.

    To prove the point, we plunge the LR4 into a mud hole that would’ve swallowed up a Ram Power Wagon (incidentally, one of the other vehicles with a factory winch). Nikolas unspools the cable and begins devising a plan to extract three tons of Land Rover from the primordial ooze.

  • Revving the Lamborghini Huracán, the last of the Italian stallions

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 1 mth ago

    The Lamborghini Huracán is actually a pretty good deal, by the warped standards of exotic cars. Yes, the base price is $242,445, which is more than the price of the average house in the United States. But there are plenty of cars that cost more and aren’t as quick. In fact, let’s leave price out of it: If you’re lining up for a quarter-mile, there aren’t many production cars on earth that can hang with a Huracán. You’re talking the low side of 10 seconds, the province of superbikes and seven-figure metal. Yeah, it probably gets around a road course all right, too, but this is a car that exists for the straights.

    The Huracán’s obvious competitors are the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren 650S, a pair of adversaries that take a more holistic approach to performance — they’re good at everything. The Lambo is the outlier, extroverted and brutal, stiff-riding and loud and built to take you to the other side of 200 mph. If you dare.

  • Driving the Polaris Slingshot, the grown-up's 173-hp trike

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 1 mth ago

    The Polaris Slingshot is a controversial machine. Thanks to its three-wheeled configuration, it straddles a fine regulatory line between motorcycle and car, thus causing consternation with certain state DOTs — notably Texas’. Bureaucrats want nicely defined categories, and a three-wheeler is neither fish nor fowl. But when the rules are all sorted and Slingshots are slinging to and fro around the country, I think the bigger controversy, the ongoing one, will concern price: Is this thing an expensive toy or the deal of the century?

    The base Slingshot costs $19,999 and gives you 17-inch front wheels and an 18-inch rear; a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder hooked to a five-speed manual transmission, and two waterproof seats nestled in a skeletal steel spaceframe. The $23,999 Slingshot SL adds bigger wheels, a stereo system with backup camera, and a windshield. You’ll know base Slingshots by their titanium metallic paint, while SLs are all red. And that’s it. You know you’re dealing with an elemental machine when the windshield is an option.

    Fair enough. Not everybody wants to look like they’re driving an Autobot every time they leave the garage. But I do.

  • Watch a Challenger SRT Hellcat race a Corvette Stingray for braggin' rights

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 2 mths ago

    We’re converging on the drag strip, 40 minutes or so away, when I finally get someone there on the phone. They’re not open, despite what it says on their web site. This presents a problem, because I’ve got a 2015 Chevy Corvette Stingray and The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil has a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat—nearly 1,200 horsepower of righteous American thunder, and now no place to use it.

    But I have a Plan B, and a short while later we’re at a rural airport, taxiing down the access road and lining up for takeoff. Which is quicker, a Corvette or a Hellcat? I think I probably know, but we’d better do this just make sure.

    Digest all that, and a betting man might guess that the Vette will actually beat the Hellcat off the line, but that the Hellcat will eventually reel it in. I mean, 247 horsepower is still a pretty major advantage, a whole Honda S2000 or so. I mark off a quarter-mile, per the Vette’s onboard data-logging system, and return to the end of the runway to line up with the towering Dodge.

  • Riding Harley-Davidson's Project LiveWire electric bike, and why it won't be the last

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 2 mths ago

    Harley-Davidson is a company that knows what it’s about. And Harley is about the V-twin. Whether you’re talking a V-Rod or a big fat cruiser, Harleys are defined by sound, vibration and callous American low-down torque. Sure, even a V-Rod will get dusted by a modest Japanese sport bike, but Harley’s not selling out-and-out performance. They’re selling an experience — a highly popular and lucrative one. So they don’t mess with the formula.

    But even brands that are built around an iconic product need to evolve, if only to attract new recruits to the fold. And so Harley is gingerly exploring the possibility of building a bike that foregoes a V-twin. In fact, it does without pistons, exhaust pipes or a gas tank. It’s called Project LiveWire, and it just might become the first electric Harley.

    This is obviously a major step, so the company built about two dozen LiveWires and took them on tour to gauge reaction from the faithful. I ventured to one of these events, in Charlotte, N.C., to try the LiveWire for myself and try to make sense of a silent Harley.

  • A 40-mph electric recumbent tricycle that changes your commute forever

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 3 mths ago

    I’m sitting in a bucket seat, wearing a full-face helmet, going so fast that my instinct for self-preservation is telling me to hit the brakes. I’ve been in this situation before, in cars. But right now there’s no bodywork around me, no windshield, no steering wheel. I’m riding the Outrider 422 Alpha, an electric recumbent tricycle that does 40 mph and writes a strange new chapter in the annals of transportation history — it’s a hybrid where your legs are part of the powertrain. It’s also a blast to ride. If you don’t think 40 mph sounds like much, consider that that’s about how fast you’d be traveling after a five-story freefall. Riding the Alpha is probably about as visceral.

    But the Alpha is, as its name implies, the top of the food chain. Outrider ran a modified version up to 85.9 mph, which they say is the speed record for a vehicle weighing less than 100 pounds. They also won their class at Pikes Peak (yes, there is a class for electrified bikes) and then climbed the mountain a second time without recharging. It should be more than capable for your commute.

  • Thrashing the Porsche Macan, the rolling contradiction of sports car/SUV

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 4 mths ago

    Thanks to the Porsche Cayenne, we’re all long past the point of griping about Porsche’s fealty to its core principles: Porsche makes things that are not the 911, and that’s OK. Yes, there are still people who won’t buy a Porsche that isn’t air-cooled, but in general the company’s forays into four-doors have been well received. Porsche’s latest sporting non-sports car is the Macan, a small crossover. And building a small crossover worthy of a Porsche badge might be the company’s biggest challenge yet.

    The issue is that small crossovers are mongrels, not quite optimized for any one purpose but designed to edge into the Venn diagrams for sports sedans, SUVs and luxury cars. Porsches, however, always prioritize the driving experience — speed, feel, sound. The Macan is thus saddled with the task of bringing single-minded purpose to a genre that is inherently unfocused. It’s like trying to build a high-performance spork.

     

  • 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost: Misfit toy, or tuner's delight?

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 4 mths ago

    The 2015 Ford Mustang GT is about what you’d expect — smooth V-8, artfully evolved styling and a chassis that now feels ready for the inevitable forthcoming horsepower upgrades. The base V-6 is probably no riddle, either: a machine to put a Mustang in your driveway at a low, low payment. (Or low, low daily rental rate.) The new four-cylinder EcoBoost, though… that one’s a little bit of an enigma.

    It’s the most interesting new Mustang, and during the Los Angeles launch Alex Lloyd and I ended up spending most of our time contemplating this curious new addition to the lineup. With most cars, the question is whether the intended job is fulfilled. The EcoBoost Mustang presents a deeper existential quandary: Why is it here?

    You can see the EcoBoost conundrum right on the spec sheet. The base V-6 makes 300 hp while the EcoBoost generates 310 hp. The V-8 ups the ante to 435 horses. So you’ve got two motors that are almost identical, power-wise (though the EcoBoost beats the V6’s torque, 320 lb-ft to 280 lb-ft) vying for your Mustang dollar. Or, if you can swing $32,925, you could be rollin’ in a 5.0.

  • Putting America's newest big van through the Costco test

    Ezra Dyer at Motoramic 5 mths ago

    For me, the words “American full-size van” conjure images of 1970s party wagons from Ford, Dodge and GM. We’re talking sidepipes, porthole windows and maybe a unicorn or scorpion airbrushed on the side. Inside: plush velour. That’s one kind of van. The other is the battered white tradesman genre, its interior bearing all the luxury of a Chinese shipping container. Until recently, those '70s vans were still the standard, as any U-Haul customer would know.

    Suddenly, though, the dinosaurs are all but extinct, replaced by Euro-style vans like the Mercedes-built Freightliner Sprinter, Ram ProMaster and now, the Ford Transit.

    The Transit replaces the E-Series, a platform that wasn’t fundamentally much different last year than it was in 1975: body-on-frame construction and a snub nose stuffed with either a gas-guzzling V-8 or a V-10 that was about as efficient as a burning oil well. There was no diesel.