Posts by Lawrence Ulrich
- Lawrence Ulrich at Motoramic1 mth ago
Who you calling cute?
Since its hugely successful revival by BMW, the Mini has rightly been known for its pint-sized urban charm. But there’s always been another side of the Mini: More macho than any Mustang, as invincible as a military off-roader.
The Mini’s rally-racing skills catapulted it to worldwide fame 50 years ago, when the British underdog won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Led by Formula One race builder John Cooper, Mini’s win cemented its image as a cool, sporty machine — not merely a cheap, fuel-sipping economy car. Even the Beatles sent congratulations, and the Fab Four would soon drive their own Minis, including George’s psychedelic-painted version in 1967’s “Magical Mystery Tour.”
- lawrenculrich at Motoramic7 mths ago
Lolling on a manicured lawn during Pebble Beach Concours weekend – the Super Bowl of vintage car shows – a certain blue Porsche looks the museum-worthy part. But in this faintly ridiculous auto country club, whose members include $25 million Ferraris, matchless Bugattis and other gas-powered masterpieces, the Porsche still manages to stand out.
The Porsche 911 is as obsessively restored as any car here. But it’s not period-correct: Not with a feathery carbon-fiber body, Cosworth-designed flat six engine and an 11,000-rpm tachometer that pays sly tribute to Spinal Tap’s favorite number, 11.
This Porsche, built from the air-cooled bones of a 1991 model, has been restored by Los Angeles-based Singer Vehicle Design. And the Renaissance man behind Singer is Rob Dickinson, a lifelong 911 fanatic, university-trained car designer – oh, and the former front man and guitarist of Catherine Wheel, the majestic, serially overlooked British alt rock band of the ‘90s.
- lawrenculrich at Motoramic8 mths ago
Watching the leather-suited gladiators of MotoGP racing is thrilling enough. But howling around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on one of the world’s fastest motorcycles is much, much better.
With fans packing the stands prior to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, that’s what I’m about to do. Fortunately, I’m sitting behind Randy Mamola, the retired MotoGP ace, for a once-in-a-lifetime, freak-show ride aboard Ducati’s latest MotoGP bike.
This red-and-white Italian devil generates 240 hp, more than the average automobile, from a mere 1-liter, V-4 engine. Yet the Ducati weighs just 340 pounds, or one-tenth as much as your basic family sedan. The result is an ear-numbing artillery shell that can hurtle to more than 210 mph, and corner with more force that you could imagine from something on two wheels.
- lawrenculrich at Motoramic9 mths ago
For decades, whipping someone in a Porsche was all about speed.
But on this day, after 33 miles through the Bavarian Alps in the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, I’m claiming a strange new victory: Crushing, in-your-face fuel economy.
Those 33 miles, you see, were accomplished entirely on electricity, beating my more lead-footed journalist colleagues. Not once did the Porsche’s supercharged V-6 fire up over those 33 mountain miles — though when it did, this Panamera still shot from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, amassing a combined 416 hp from its gasoline engine and robust 95-horse electric motor.
The first plug-in hybrid in Porsche history is everything the flawed (and now defunct) Fisker Karma was supposed to be: Genuinely luxurious, roomy, quiet and fast. The Porsche is also more satisfying than any plug-in hybrid before it, as it should be for a car that starts at $99,975, nearly triple the post-rebate price of a Chevy Volt.
A handy test can determine whether you’re the target buyer for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe or Cabriolet.
Like their sober sedan cousin, these more fun-loving E-Classes have receiving an unusually thorough “refreshing” for 2014. That’s industry shorthand for a makeover that occurs roughly halfway through a model’s life cycle, as opposed to the stem-to-stern redesign that happens roughly once every five or six years. At January’s Detroit auto show, journalists and janitors alike were struck by the E-Class' dramatized body – especially a black-mesh maw with the kind of gaping, jet-fighter air inlets usually associated with Italian exotics, not a demure Mercedes. Don’t forget the three-pointed star on the grille, roughly the size – and, some suggested, the tastefulness — of Flava Flav's clocks/necklaces.
Doctor, gangster, developer or third-world dictator — the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been a perennial marker of success in any career, legal or otherwise. And for the all-new 2014 edition, the world's oldest carmaker added every gadget it could think of — and a few that have never been seen on the road before.
Appropriately, Mercedes’ top executives unveiled the 2014 S-Class in the Airbus Operations center in Hamburg, where another jumbo flagship – the Airbus A380 – sees its fuselage and interior come together in a cathedral-sized assembly hall.
The Benz may not match the 262-foot wingspan of the double-deck A380, but it’s plenty big. And as anyone who’s peered through country club gates can tell you, the S-Class is the conservative choice in big sedans, and has been since 1972. That befits a car whose owner heads a household with an average income of $371,000.
Shadowed by the Cascade Mountains, the town of Snoqualmie, Wash., near Seattle is known for its 236-foot Snoqualmie Falls – but also as the fictitious backdrop of "Twin Peaks," David Lynch’s cult TV phenomenon of the early ‘90s. Today at Dirtfish Rally School, where the office doubled as Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, we’re plunged into our own surreal mystery: Learning to drive a rally car.
But first, we’re told, forget everything you know about fast driving. Because rally racing, in which a driver and navigating co-pilot blaze at maximum speed over dirt, gravel, mud and snow, demands a unique set of skills.
It also demands the right car. For Dirtfish students, that car is the Subaru WRX STi, the fierce AWD sedan and hatchback that has won rally championships around the world. With beefed-up suspensions, and showroom interiors torn out and replaced with roll cages, racing buckets and five-point harnesses, these 305-hp Subies are born to conquer the torture trails at this playground.
When you’re hitting the Squaw Valley slopes with one of the world’s best extreme skiers, it helps to bring an extreme car.
Chris Davenport, meet the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible. You two actually have a lot in common. Power, style, uncanny grip and control. Did we mention the speed?
Davenport’s risk-taking resume includes pioneering, never-before-attempted descents on runs from Alaska’s Denali to Colorado. He’s skied the perilous East Face of the Matterhorn, plunged off 100-foot cliffs, been swept up in avalanches and survived. He won the 24 hours of Aspen endurance race in ‘98, speeding with U.S. men’s teammate Tyler Williams at up to 97 mph down the mountain, getting crucial leg massages on the lift up, and blasting down again — for 24 hours, covering 77 laps and more than 251,000 feet of vertical distance to top all competitors.
Plopping an engine smack in the middle of a car has a magical effect on handling – even if it means sacrificing a back seat. So while Porsche is most famed for a rear-engine, two-plus-two sports car, its signature 911, it has managed great things with a pure mid-engine coupe with just two seats: The Cayman.
The magic continues with an all-new, third-generation Cayman. Snobs may consider the crocodile-named coupe a junior member of the Porsche family. But with this redesigned version, they’ll be forced to admit that the Cayman handles as well as the far-pricier 911, and in some situations better.
Add a strikingly reworked body and cabin, and the full gamut of Porsche performance technology, and the Cayman has evolved into one of the world’s greatest sports cars, regardless of price. That status shone with million-watt clarity on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in southern Portugal, the devilish high-speed circuit where Formula 1 teams have tested their machines.
First off, the Cayman is lovelier than ever, reshaped to play up its classic silhouette and alluring, deep-cleavage rear fenders. There’s no confusing this two-seater with the more-demure 911.
Gunning the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster down a straightaway at Homestead Miami Speedway, I manage a quick glance at the speedometer: 147 mph, just in time to bend into the NASCAR oval that forms a section of the winding infield road course.
This convertible version of Lamborghini’s latest 12-cylinder flagship could go much, much faster. But the Italian pace driver ahead checks my speed along the steep 20-degree banking, making sure the day isn’t spoiled by anyone introducing their $445,300 baby to the unforgiving track walls. Fair enough: The Lamborghini’s 691-hp howl and skull-snapping acceleration – including 3 seconds flat from 0-60 mph, and a quarter-mile in just 10.7 seconds at 136 mph – are entertainment enough.