Monday, February 25, 2013

My Rotary Diaries: The Turn and the Screw of RWD Sports Cars


So far, I have sung the praise of the RX-8 and its multi-layered character. Yet, in 21 years of driving, it was in my current steed that I came closer than ever to having the one thing every driver fears the most: THE BIG ONE.
It was late at night and raining. Getting wheel spin in first, second and third earlier, I had switched the traction control back on as the slimy surface didn’t warrant any heroics.

Mazda 2014

Mazda 2014

Mazda 2014

Mazda 2014

Mazda 2014

Mazda 2014

Less than half a mile from home, there’s a tricky left-hander that is extremely slippery in the entry even when it’s dry. I’ve crossed it a zillion times in many different cars and at various speeds.

Entering that bend at maybe 30-40 mph (50-65 km/h) the instant I turned the wheel the RX-8 didn’t oversteer or understeer at all. Instead, it scythed its own trajectory, crossed over to the opposite lane and headed for the sole stretch of barrier in maybe 10 miles or so.

I can’t quite recall if the DSC intervened at all, only my hands sawing at the wheel and my right foot firmly pressing the brake pedal as I was watching the barrier approaching through the driver’s side window!

As I was bracing myself for the force of impact, the sound of metal crunched and the airbags going off, it came to a halt. I could see the barrier inches away from my face, so close I didn’t even dare open the door. The car had stopped at a slight angle to the barriers so I checked the left mirror to see if the rear wing had made contact. It hadn’t.

I had scrubbed enough speed off so if I had crashed, it would probably damage the car and, subsequently, my pockets and ego.... Even so, if someone was coming from the opposite direction the consequences would be much direr and it would all be my fault.

Had I seriously misjudged the conditions? Had I become complacent due to the forgiving handling and the safety net of electronics? Damn, if I was going too fast it should have warned me like it had until then, no matter the road conditions, and it didn’t.

The next morning I was walking towards the car when I noticed something was askew. The left front tire was completely flat! When it was removed, I discovered a screw in the inner side of the tread. I must have picked it up prior to the near miss as it had tracked and steered faultlessly up to that point.

Partly relieved that it wasn’t my or the car’s fault, I was still dumbfounded by the realization that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the car from veering off the road. It was a freak occurrence and I was fortunate to walk away with not a scratch and without hurting anyone else.

On another note, the odometer may have read only had 68,000 km (42,000 miles) on it, but the calendar showed that its six-year/120,000 km (75,000-mile) service beckoned. It was a big one too, because apart from the usual engine oil/filter job and various checks, it should have its gearbox oil and spark plugs changed.

Rotary-powered Mazdas are not the DIY kind of cars and I searched for someone with experience on servicing them – preferably lots of it. The specialist I took it too came highly recommended and the presence of other RX-8s, including one he had prepared for racing as well as him not objecting to me being present, were a good sign.

In spite of charging a mere €50 (about US$66 at the current exchange rates) for labor, the parts came in at nearly €450 (US$595). That burned a nice, round €500 (US$660) hole in my pocket. If in any car proper maintenance can save you from a much more expensive problem down the road, in rotary engine-powered models it is even more imperative, unless you already have a spare engine sitting in your garage…

Articles Source : Carscoop

2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG: First Drive


Construction workers working to the left, Ferrari dealer to the right. Real, actual bustle. Barcelona does not act like the rest of Spain, which is probably why it has two cell phones and is maybe "going out with the girls" on Friday night.

2014 mercedes benz e400 and e63 amg first drive barcelona

2014 mercedes benz e400 and e63 amg first drive barcelona

2014 mercedes benz e400 and e63 amg first drive barcelona

2014 mercedes benz e400 and e63 amg first drive barcelona

2014 mercedes benz e400 and e63 amg first drive barcelona

Just a few hours earlier, we'd been wedged in the fab city's underbelly, parked below ground level opposite Casa Battlo, the fab apartment building rendered edibly by Antonin Gaudi in melted stucco, so that no stock Pella window would fit. One by one, we woke up a fleet of 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs one by one, wagons, sedans, oops that's a SEAT, and blew off some morning cobwebs that had caught some of us up too early after being up too late. 

And then about five hours later, we were detained. Not that kind of detained--the other kind. With handcuffs.

Let's just say we're not 100 percent against the idea, but at the day's start, this is not how we were supposed to roll.

The way in which we were to roll was to go like this: blast down Las Ramblas, hit a main artery, ride the spurt out to the Catalan hills northeast of town, to an awesomely drawn stretch on an unfamiliar map that could have doubled for Latigo Canyon Road. On the navigation system, it was Muntanya Montserrat, and quickly we figured out every country must have one, since the last Montserrat we visited currently sits under a dozen feet of volcanic ash. This also was not in the plan.

Good thing that about three-quarters of the real plan came through before we descended out of Montserrat's piney better-than-California-ness. (San Diego--you've been warned.) It'd be the only shot we had at shoving this E63 AMG sedan around steeply inclined, frequently elbowed roads without so many officials in the mix.

And the E63 AMG requires a fresh set of hands and hocks this year, because it's changed once more--thrice now if you're using that word, and counting all the times since the E-Class was completely new in 2010. Every other E-Class is eking out fuel-economy gains wherever it can--the diesels are dropping cylinders, the V-8s are tapping out for twin-turbo sixes. The AMGs are content to sail by with a curt little wave. Tschuss! This year, they're up from 518 hp to 550 hp and 531 pound-feet of torque in base form, and if you spec up to the "S" model--a new sub-sub-model in the hierarchy--you'll net out at 577 hp, 590 lb-ft of torque.

Whatever you choose, Lord, a scalding-hot 0-60 mph time of under 3.6 seconds is yours for the taking through RACESTART launch control. Top speed: it's 155 mph on the E63 AMG sedan, 186 mph on the E63 AMG S sedan and wagon.

Burble and speak

Oh, that engine. The 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V-8 might always be seen and heard as the pale successor to SLS' 6.2-liter V-8--the one that energetically whomp-bomp-aloo-bomps through tunnels while it drinks liters of 93 blend. We think it's an unintentional parody of Little Richard's perfect day. That's cheating the twin-turbo unit its due, though. The newer engine climbs a Matterhorn of torque from 1750 to 5000 rpm, feeling rich and sounding in top vocal form all its own, and less manic about, well, everything.

The seven-speed automatic that's permeated the AMG and Mercedes lineups is present and accounted for, with the usual comfort, sport, sport-plus, and manual modes. Stop/start is here too, and it's not the fig leaf you'd think, even if it starts the E63 AMG in second gear when the tranny's in comfort/economy mode and thwaps the drivetrain to life with a mini-riding crop. The EPA gives it some credibility for saving gas--all of which goes away when you remap things to any of the more adventurous modes. Here it's set to stun: start/stop is disabled, shifts speed up and get rev-matching on the downshift. The exhaust opens up like bronchioles on a good hit off an inhaler, and launch control comes online for perfect 0-whatever-mph runs.

That the E63 comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment this year, is a mild controversy among the AMG crowd. The third AMG to get all-wheel traction after ML and CLS, the E63 AMG has a torque split of 33:67. You can give it the slip--but the E63 AMG S gets a limited-slip differential to avoid just that potential for uneven wheelspin. Plus it also gets lovely red brake calipers, and optional carbon-ceramic brakes that replace the 14.2-inch vented and drilled discs that otherwise hide behind the E63's 19-inch wheels.

Finally, when it comes to describing what the E63 looks like without its overgarments, there's an adaptive suspension poised for Montserrat's loopy landscape with comfort, sport, or sport-plus modes. It's not a fully adaptive setup--AMGs carry steel suspension bits in front with conventional shocks, it's the back that gets air springs--and as a result, on purpose, the E63's never going to be as soft as a base E-Class. Or as quiet. The firm thump of the tires comes to life through the steering wheel with the barest of nudges--the electric steering rack builds up plenty of its own resistance a few millimeters off center--and the cabin's always filled with the ripe, mature sound of a big V-8 barking out orders like it's in charge. That's life with an AMG. Either you're in, or you're out.

You don't go halfway with the E63 in anything. It's a big sedan--bigger than ever, heavier than ever--and all-wheel-drive and electric steering have put more lead in its sled, more perceptually than physically (the AWD setup adds only about 150 pounds.) The E-Class' long wheelbase and the weight dialed into the steering, even in the lightest setting, aren't neutralized entirely by the rear torque bias. Carving up Latigo--sorry, Montserrat's canyon road--can be a task, even with a brake clamping on an inside rear wheel, vectoring it in more closely to the corner. It's just grown into a massively powerful, unbelievably stable machine that's serene and unflappable through 30-mph sweeps, and a real maul on 15-mph door-scrapers. Flip the paddles low once you're in manual-shift mode and you'll be able to slide your way out with brute force. In any other driving scenario, just open it up. It'll suture itself back to the ground, one way or the other.

Articles Source : motorauthority

Hyundai Delivers Its First Special Edition Veloster RE:MIX


Last October, Hyundai rolled out the production version of its Veloster RE:MIX at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Embracing the RE:MIX ethos of “individual creativity, passion and connectivity,” the limited-edition Veloster was rumored to be hitting dealers before the end of 2012.

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

hyundai veloster remix

It actually took until mid-February for Hyundai to get inventory into dealer hands, which is why the first Veloster RE:MIX has just now been delivered to Brittany Carmona, a customer of Sterling McCall Hyundai in Houston, Texas.

RE:MIX Velosters will be available in Sprint Gray, Century White, 26.2 Yellow, Marathon Blue, Ultra Black and Boston Red. Outside, each wears a custom body kit, 18-inch gunmetal-painted alloy wheels, LED headlight accents, LED taillights, custom graphics and RE:MIX badging.

Inside, the custom Veloster gets a 450-watt Dimension audio system, a leather steering wheel and shift knob, interior accent lighting, keyless entry with push button start and  RE:MIX floormats. A manual transmission is standard, while a dual-clutch automated manual is an available option.

What the car doesn’t get, however, is any bump in output from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes 136 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. There’s no change to the Veloster’s suspension or brakes, either.

On the other hand, that’s probably OK with Veloster RE:MIX shoppers. In the words of a Sterling McCall spokesman, “The Veloster RE:MIX represents the ultimate Hyundai lifestyle coupe... customers today are looking for individual design expression, exclusivity and smartphone connectivity.”

While all Veloster models deliver connectivity and a degree of design expression, only the Veloster RE:MIX can deliver exclusivity. Pricing starts at $20,475 for the the manual transmission version (including a destination charge of $795), so if you want to park one in your own driveway, now is the time to visit your local Hyundai dealer. 

Articles Source : motorauthority

Ken Block's 2013 Hoonigan Racing Division livery


However moderate Ken Block's success in the World Rally Championship, there's no denying his dominance here at home. Like his Gymkhana videos, he consistently knocks it out of the park--even when other contenders are faster, the often crash-prone Block manages to hold it together for the win at the 100 Acre Wood.

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

ken blocks 2013 hoonigan racing division livery

He does it so well, in fact, that he's already won it six consecutive times, and is going for his seventh when the rally takes off this weekend.

Set in the Ozarks of southern Missouri, the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is an often bitterly cold affair, but its broad gravel roads and Block's Hybrid Function Hoon Vehicle (outfitted in its new blue-centric Hoonigan Racing Division livery) will make it a viciously fast event as well.

"I would say that these are the sort of roads that I dreamed of as a kid that I would want to drive," said Block in a statement. "They're fast and flowing and fit my flat-out style of driving. These are basically like video game roads to me; they're a ton of fun."

You can follow along with the results as they happen at the official Rally America site--and don't forget to check out our first-hand experience in the 100 Acre Wood if you haven't already. 

Articles Source : motorauthority

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rolls-Royce mulling V16 roadster, SUV


Rolls-Royce may be working on a new, mega-powerful roadster for 2017. CAR reports the convertible would conceivably boast a V16 engine. Of course, the report gets a little muddled here, with CAR saying the engine would be very similar to that of the one that powers the Bugatti Veyron – the French machine makes use of a W16 mill. Even so, the article says the Rolls-Royce version could put down around 700 horsepower. Design wise, we're told the creation will feature a suitably long nose with the passenger compartment pushed far to the rear.

Rolls-Royce mulling V16 roadster

Rolls-Royce mulling V16 roadster

Rolls-Royce mulling V16 roadster

Rolls-Royce mulling V16 roadster

Of course, 2017 is a long way off, and the thought of a 16-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine bowing under the crush of ever more stringent government fuel efficiency and emission regulations seems unlikely. We'll just put this one in the wait-and-see file for the time being. In the interim, you can hop over to CAR for a closer look at the magazine's rendering of the would-be roadster. If a V16 convertible does happen, look for a smug look on Rowan Atkinson's face.

Oh, and about that SUV? There's not much to report, though CAR does note that officials are keeping a close eye on rival Bentley and its plans for a luxury utility vehicle. Rolls brand boss Harald Kr├╝ger has even gone so far as to admit "we're regularly debating whether to take action."

Articles Source : Autoblog

2013 Goodwood FoS Central Feature To Mark 50 Years Of The Porsche 911


We’re starting to lose count of all the automotive anniversaries taking place this year, but one of the most significant is the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911 sports car.

Porsche 911 sports car

Porsche 911 sports car

Porsche 911 sports car

Porsche 911 sports car

Clearly Porsche has a lot planned to mark the occasion but so do organizers of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an event that in 2013 is also celebrating its own 20th anniversary.

Each year during summer, the grounds outside Goodwood House in Goodwood, England, plays host to some of the most exciting, unique, and historic cars of the past and present.

Also each year, a gigantic sculpture celebrating a theme is unveiled.

Organizers of the festival have now confirmed that 2013’s sculpture will honor the 911. They say it’s only appropriate, as the iconic sports car is one of only a few cars that have featured at every single Goodwood Festival of Speed, from the first event in 1993--when an unexpectedly high 27,500 enthusiasts turned up--to the 185,000+ visitors that attended the event last year.

In addition to the sculpture, a procession of racing and road-going 911s will also be appearing, and no doubt they will be attacking the 1.16-mile Goodwood hillclimb, spitting gravel sideways around the Forest Rally Stage, or sitting serenely at the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours lawn.

There will also be several other historic Porsche models present, including the 356, 908, 917 and 962.

This year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place from July 11-14. For our ongoing coverage of the event

Articles Source : motorauthority

Nismo Announcement, 50 Years Of Porsche 911, Mercedes CLA45 AMG: Today's Car News


There's a whole lot of excitement brewing over the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, but that's not all that's happening in the luxury and performance car universe.

2014 mercedes benz cla45 amg teasers

Nissan's high-performance Nismo brand is planning a big announcement soon, but what, exactly, it will entail is still unknown--though it's possible Nismo may become its own performance brand like Mercedes' AMG or BMW's M Division.

Porsche will continue its celebration of the half-century mark for its iconic 911 sports car at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, with everything from classic Porsche race and road cars to the festival's annual featured sculpture.

We also got our first (semi-) official look at the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. With its dashing looks, all-wheel drive, and a monstrous turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the CLA45 AMG is on our must-drive list this year.

You'll find all of this and more in today's car news headlines from around the High Gear Media network right here at Motor Authority.

Articles Source : motorauthority