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Friday
Feb102017

February 2017

February 24, 2017: First up is Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT. This 500 hp/500lb.-ft. of torque crossover isn’t meant for running the Rubicon Trail. It’s meant to put down a substantial marker in the performance SUV market, and put a silly grin on the driver’s face each time he steps hard onto the throttle. Surprisingly civilized, the Grand Cherokee SRT never lets you forget that lurking under the skin is the textbook definition of a bad boy. Honda’s latest Ridgeline has nothing on the Jeep, but aims for — and hits — the large sweet spot containing those who want the utility of a pickup with few of the compromises. It rides, handles and has the fuel economy of a car, while doing almost everything a “real” pickup can do. Lotus, meanwhile serves up yet another specialty model. This time it’s an Evora that homage to James Bond’s Esprit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me. But the real news is the negotiations that may sell the controlling interest in its parent company, Proton, to Peugeot, while Volvo’s Chinese parent, Geeley, makes off with the sports car maker. Finally, the Virtual Collection goes in search of the perfect Aston Martin V12 Vanquish without ever mentioning that 007 guy.

 

February 10, 2017: The torque vectoring rear drive module on the Ford Focus RS opened a lot of eyes, especially when in Drift mode. But the technology behind that performance, though a long time coming, is about to break out into the open in volume vehicles and full-on EVs. The folks at GKN show us what’s happening and what’s coming, and tease us with thoughts of boulder-humbling, electric drive off-roading. Until that day arrives, buyers will have to content themselves with the internal combustion engine-powered version. To satisfy this demand, Jeep has added a new model to the line called the Wrangler Rubicon Recon Edition, and combines style with increased off-road capability. Of course, if speed is your mantra, but you also want the trappings of the off-road life, Dodge’s 2018 Durango SRT could be your Holy Grail. Its speed is NHRA certified. If that proves to be a bit too much, or if you have need of room for eight people and their stuff, Ford’s latest version of the full-size Expedition could do the trick. It’s bigger, brawnier, and more luxurious than ever. Finally, this week’s Virtual Collection is a tale of naked power, and a surprising amount of insanity, that covers everything from a McLaren Can-Am car to a modern take on hot rod power to the most hideous MGA ever built.

Friday
Jan132017

January 2017

January 20, 2017: Ford announces that its GT tops out at 216 mph, and handily beats a McLaren 675LT and a Ferrari 488. What it doesn’t explain, however, is the track it used for this comparison. We think we have an idea why an obscure Canadian road course was the location for this shootout. Lotus, meanwhile, introduced a new addition to the Exige family, the Race 380. This track-only two-seater has more power, more downforce and less weight, but is just another stop gap in a lineup short on new product. Keeping with the race track theme, this week’s Virtual Collection is about a pair of Lotus race cars, the first and last of their breed. The folks at NASCAR held a press conference this week to lay out the changes it is making in each of its series to make the races less boring for the fans, and more intense for the teams. We think it puts the “ick” in “gimmick” and further elevates entertainment over sport. A week spent with Honda’s latest Civic Coupe proved to be eye-opening for a number of reasons, and proof the Japanese automaker may have rediscovered what once made it great. Lexus lent us an LX 570, a model which has been significantly updated since our last encounter, and we see what difference the changes make. We give quick impressions of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country, and the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE; take a look at British Motor Heritage’s 5-speed conversion for the MGB; and highlight a true artist and craftsman, Rod Tempero, as he builds a stunning recreation of a Ferrari GTO in a chicken shed.

 

January 13, 2017: It’s a new year and time for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Last year saw the event scramble to adjust as a number of upscale brands decided to take a pass on Detroit. They didn’t come back in 2017, but the show looked more calm and cohesive. The same wasn’t true behind the scenes, however, as some automakers tripped over themselves to embrace mobility and others came close to starting a thermonuclear war. The vehicles on display mirrored the mobility theme in many cases, with some level of autonomous driving edging closer to everyday reality. Conspicuous by their absence were the 2018 Mustang and Corvette ZR-1, but this void was filled with crossovers, a new rear-drive sport sedan/hatchback, the latest versions of the best-selling car and light truck in the U.S., and an electrified retread from VW. With automakers pushing hard to establish their relevance in a tech savvy world, autonomous vehicle concepts often promise more than they can realistically deliver. We spent time at ZF TRW’s Michigan test center to see and drive the technologies that will make autonomous driving possible, and spoke with execs to separate fact from fantasy. Meanwhile, this week’s Virtual Collection looks back at an era when the luxury offerings from Detroit were fully on par with their European competitors, and dripping with personality, glamour and style.

Friday
Dec022016

December 2016

December 26, 2016: We at TVD hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and will have a great New Year's Day. We'll see you in a couple of weeks from the floor of Cobo Hall where we'll be attending the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

December 16, 2016: We been catching up on our reading as we head into the Christmas holiday. And despite the somewhat eclectic mix of titles that have appeared on these pages in the past, the recent Road Reads are all car books. First up is The Complete Book of American Muscle Supercars. It starts with the Grand Spauldings, Yenkos, and Nickeys of the musclecar world, and continues right on up through the factory hot rods of today. Is it as the title suggests, or an overly ambitious attempt that falls somewhat short of its stated goal? Next up is Camaro 2016, one of the new breed of quick-to-market books aimed at model enthusiasts, and blessed by the brand’s PR and marketing departments. Can this composition serve two masters, reader and corporation, equally well? Then we have a self-published work from an owner of the vehicle in question. Iron Fist, Lead Foot follows the story of the 2003 Mustang Cobra from its gestation on a development drive to the last model off the line. It’s a compelling story, but can a self-published tome like this exhibit the polish of a more traditional automotive title, not to mention the expected objectivity? Next, our Editor at Large throws everything out the window to pursue an alternate reality where truth and fiction swap sides. You may think you know the truth about the featured cars, but chances are you don’t. Finally, in the spirit of the season, we take a look at a Lamborghini-inspired speaker system for your home. But, before you pull out your credit card, you might want to check your bank balance.

 

December 2, 2016: This week  Ford held a giant press conference to introduce the 2018 Fiesta. Interestingly, it isn’t scheduled to go on sale in Europe for seven months, and there was little information as to how the U.S. version will differ from its European counterpart. Speaking of Europe, Volkswagen released its plan to transform the brand in light of the diesel scandal, and the growing trend toward electrification. But is it the right recipe and direction for the brand and company? Mazda’s new CX-9 deftly straddles the sport, tech and luxury segments with a unique and capable mid-to-large crossover with very few vices. But is it enough to break through the clutter, and finally put some sales on the board for the scrappy automaker from Hiroshima? The Mini John Cooper Works Rally is a unique crossover, one designed to compete in grueling events like the Dakar. We take a look under its unusual skin in search of the Mini beneath. Cadillac is returning to endurance racing, this time with IMSA in the Daytona Prototype international class. Read why its uniqueness is pretty much skin deep. Rounding out the racing theme, the Virtual Collection has a pair ofracers with deep NASCAR roots. Both come from Ford, but one was destined for Le Mans, and the other the high banked ovals.

 

Friday
Nov042016

November 2016

November 18, 2016: This week’s L.A. Auto Show launched a lot of new vehicles, most of which were of the crossover variety. First up (alphabetically) is Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio. Based on the Giulia sedan, the all-wheel drive crossover has a sporting nature bred more for the Nurburgring than the Rubicon. Chevy’s Colorado ZR2, however, makes up for any shortcomings the Alfa might have. This über off-road machine has special Multimatic dampers, 31-in. tires, the option of diesel power, and could force Ford to build a “Raptor Jr.” version of the new Ranger. Chevy’s Spark Activ, on the other hand, is a trim level meant to mimic the styling of off-road vehicles. It either proves that crossovers and SUVs are the price of entry in the market, or that the industry is quickly running out of ideas. Then there’s the Ford EcoSport. Built on the Fiesta platform, this Indian-built micro crossover offers the option of all-wheel drive, and is Ford’s late entry into this hot market. Jaguar’s I-Pace Concept previews the British automaker’s upcoming battery powered crossover. Built on a modular skateboard chassis, it is the first of what promises to be many EVs from Jaguar. Mazda used the show to introduce its new CX-5 which is built on a revised version of the current model’s platform. This tasteful update brings the small crossover more in line with the range topping CX-9, which is not a bad thing.  Toyota, on the other hand, used the show to debut the production version of the C-HR, a crossover with claimed sports car overtones and (unfortunately) a CVT. Audi showed its new suite of 5s, including the Q5, A5 and S5 Coupe, and A5 and S5 Sportback. Mazda also pulled the covers off its RT24-P prototype that will debut this January at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Jaguar also showed the preview model of its continuation build of the nine XKSS cars lost in the fire at the Browns Lane factory in 1957. Scrupulously detailed, the cars are exact copies of the original, and all are spoken for. In a similar vein, the Virtual Collection looks at a pair of modern recreations of the Porsche 911 RSR. Far from tool room copies, they capture the essence of the original, and mix it with modern technology and individual style. Finally, Aston Martin introduced the latest generation Vanquish S. This tasteful hot rod starts at $294,950.

 

November 7, 2016: We've made a small but significant change to our rules for the Sta-Bil giveaway. Instead of awarding the prizes to the correct entry with the earliest time stamp, all correct entries will be entered for the sweepstakes, and the winner chosen at random from those entries. As a number of readers have pointed out, this levels the playing field for all entrants. Fortunately, we have yet to receive a correct entry for the contest (It's not that tough of a question!), so everyone who enters has the same chance of winning.

 

November 4, 2016: For the first time in the five-year history of this website, we’re running a contest. The winner will receive a 32-ounce bottle of Sta-Bil Storage and a $50 Amazon gift code, both from the Golden Eagle Co., makers of Sta-Bil.  These are the same people who have created a new way to take care of the fuel system of your classic car, motorcycle, ATV or other gasoline-powered vehicle, Sta-Bil 360° Performance. We take a look at some of the misconceptions that have built up around use of Sta-Bil Storage, and the properties that help the brand’s new product keep the metal fuel system parts free from corrosion. One item you might want to consider for Sta-Bil’s new formula is Mopar’s new kit to help you put a factory fresh modern Hemi in a 1975 or earlier Chrysler, Dodge or Plymouth. It’s just one part of Mopar’s effort to help restorers and modifiers build a car with factory approved parts. The other is the creation of a website for restorers that provides technical and parts location assistance by providing access to more than 45 approved Mopar parts licensees and 9,000+ restoration parts. What they won’t have are parts for the newest members of the Virtual Collection, a 1904 Packard race car, a 1929 Stutz Blackhawk, and a house. But not just any house. This 2,000-acre ranch was once the vacation home of Henry Bourne Joy, the former head of Packard. This week we take a look at VW’s Atlas SUV, and why it has taken so long to move from the CrossBlue concept to the production crossover. Slightly smaller, but no less German, is the new British-built Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Not only does it have an impossibly long name, it’s Mini’s first plug-in hybrid. Next up is Hyundai’s 2017 Elantra Sport, a Jetta GLI for the Korean automaker. It boasts 201 horsepower, a multi-link independent rear suspension, and a reasonable price. Finally, we take a look at Volvo’s plans to move S90 production to China, revamp its global production strategy, and launch a Chinese brand off its smallest platform.