There may be a lot of new green cars on the floor at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, but powerful cars still have a strong presence. We take a look at the new Ford Shelby, Jaguar R series, Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro, the last SLR, and a new supercar from Revenge. These cars show there is still a place for highly tuned engines with performance-oriented suspensions.
I had the opportunity to spend a few hours driving a 2010 Honda Insight on city streets and backroads of Carefree, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, when it was introduced to the automotive media last month.
Driving the 2010 Honda Insight is a bit different from driving any other CVT-equipped car. Regenerative braking is noticeable on deceleration, allowing less use of the antilock disc/drum hydraulic brakes. There are also two new features on the Insight not found in other cars--EcoAssist and Econ mode.
With 98 horsepower, developed fairly high in the rev range at 5,800rpm, and 123 pound-feet … Read more
McLaren ends its SLR line with a special model named after a British racing legend. The SLR Stirling Moss features supercar performance and looks that, except for the carbon fiber, are right at home on a 1950s racetrack. When the limited production run starts on the SLR Stirling Moss, McLaren will stop building the current SLR line, and currently has no plans to bring it back. But the model is going out on a fine note, as this carbon fiber body has an extremely seductive side line and incredible power under the hood. Think less than 3.5 seconds to … Read more
Elsewhere, editor Wayne Cunningham has covered the new styling and cabin features of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h. So I'll comment on the drivetrain and chassis changes.
Let's just say that, at Lexus, "The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" is not merely advertising hype.
Lexus has obviously been doing something right with its RX, as the midsize luxury crossover is its most-popular vehicle, and the one that defines the midsize luxury crossover segment. But there was room for improvement in both the chassis and powertrain departments. The two previous generations had suspension tunings best-described … Read more
After our reviews of previous model year Civic Sis, we're always happy to get another one in the garage. The 2009 model turned out to be as fun as we expected, with precise shifting and handling that kept us in the driver's seat for long stretches as searched out mountain roads. The car's navigation system makes exploring easy--any time we saw a particularly crooked road on the map, we would head that way--and it's also useful for spotting sharp turns on unfamiliar roads before you get to them. Even better with this generation of Civic Si, … Read more
With a navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic--and even weather forecasts and graphic weather displays, plus a calendar, calculator, and database of scenic attractions, as well as cell phone integration, the newest Acura TL outfitted with the company's technology package could be thought of more as a PDA on wheels than a serious car. Oops, I forgot the XM satellite radio and the hard-disk drive for both software and music, plus minijack and USB interfaces for external players. Move over, Apple, RIM, and Palm, here comes Acura...
Fortunately, from the car enthusiast (as opposed to gadget enthusiast) … Read more
Today, bicyclists are the only people to race on wooden tracks, as the classic velodrome is wood. Track racers have been doing so for over 100 years, and at the juncture of the 19th and 20th centuries, bicycle racing was immensely popular.
At the same time, internal combustion was new. Automobiles and motorcycles were in their infancy, and of course, they were raced. Early races over open public roads proved dangerous, even lethal, to participants and spectators, and so closed courses were made. Dirt horse-racing ovals were used for motor sport, on two and four wheels.
Or...technology transfer, of … Read more
Nissan just launched the latest version of the Z, the 2009 model designated as the 370Z, taking over where the 350Z left off. This new car takes styling cues from the GT-R, Nissan's new supercar, and shows improved power and performance over its predecessor. We take the car on a California road trip, one of its less suitable activities, and try it out on some winding roads, where its wide tires and downshift rev-matching features make all the difference. Cabin tech in our tester was nothing to write home about, but Nissan makes a full tech suite available, including … Read more
Every automotive journalist who drives a Tesla comes away impressed with the car's power, and I can say the same after taking the car out on a quick drive near the company's Menlo Park, Calif., Tesla store (they don't call it a showroom or dealership).
In Performance mode, the car exhibits powerful and smooth torque, even at speed. I had this little open top roadster at 65 mph on the freeway, then mashed the accelerator (don't call it a gas pedal) and got another powerful push in the back that sent the car quickly up to 90. The Tesla's push is unique among sports cars though. Where a high-stepper such as the BMW M3 makes you feel a kick in the back with every gear shift, the Tesla delivers a strong, steady push when you put your foot down on the pedal.
The Tesla I drove featured "Powertrain 1.5," eliminating the two-speed gearbox from the previous model. Yes, Tesla patterns itself after tech companies, so the power train gets a version designation, although the cars themselves still go by a model year.
In this Tesla, as in other electric cars I've driven, the operation is dead simple: Move the shifter from Neutral to Drive, and you're moving forward. Push the accelerator if you want to go faster and hit the brakes if you want to stop. The only real difference, besides the fact that the Tesla goes a lot faster than other electric cars, is that taking your foot off the accelerator at speeds less than 40 mph makes the car slow down as if you were applying light pressure on the brakes. That is the regenerative power train in operation, using the car's momentum to generate electricity for the battery pack. The Tesla also has regenerative brakes, but you don't need to use them much, adding the side-benefit of very infrequent brake maintenance. … Read more
After playing Midnight Club: Los Angeles, for the past week, I have to agree with the GameSpot review: the races are very difficult. But that's just the initial impression.
Grind for a while, make some money to get your car tuned up well, and you will start winning races. You start with a small potential selection of cars--I chose the 1998 Nissan 240SX--and get to drive around Los Angeles looking for people to race. Prepare to watch the other cars streak past you at the starting line, and spend the race negotiating your way through traffic and around turns, following your competitors to the finish line. But after grinding like this for a while, you build up enough money to upgrade your car. Performance mods, like forced induction (turbo) and sway bars, are essential. Then you will find yourself winning maybe 25 to 50 percent of the time, which is still a long way from rewarding.
I found that freeway racers seemed to be the easiest to beat early on, even if they have a higher level of difficulty. After upgrading my Nissan, I built a big enough bank account to buy a muscle car, the 1987 Buick Grand National GNX. That one is very fast, but the handling is lousy, even with all the suspension upgrades available.
This car also proved a problem because of the bad controller mapping of the game. You use the right stick to accelerate by pushing forward. Push back for braking and reverse. So on the approach to a turn, you want to brake. But this car has a nitrous injector that, when spooled up, also gets activated by pulling back the right stick. Braking for a turn suddenly turns into a high speed excursion into a wall. Fortunately, there is a handbrake, but without careful application you'll be pointing in the direction you've just come from. … Read more