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Friday
Mar132015

March 2015

March 27, 2015: A big bruiser that’s about as subtle as a punch, Ford’s F-350 4x4 is a capable work truck, but more than all but a rancher or tradesman probably needs. Despite all appearances, driving a Jaguar C-Type at speed is all about subtlety, and planning ahead. Watch as Alex Buncombe takes Juan Manuel Fangio’s old racer around Monaco. Speaking of Jaguar power, the Lister cars has put the Jaguar-powered Lister Knobby back into production, building a short run of racers suitable for FIA historic racing. And as Amazing as these Jaguar-engined cars may sound, nothing compares to the symphony that comes out of Honda’s 1965 RA272 F1 car. Driven by Americans Richie Ginther and Ronnie Bucknum, it makes you nostalgic for a time when F1 cars sounded fantastic, and American drivers were thick on the grid and able to run with the best. Staying with the racing theme for a moment, Audi has updated its R18 e-tron quattro for the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we take a look inside. Meanwhile, McLaren Applied Technologies and MTS have teamed up to build a simulator suitable for road or race cars. Intelligent Energy’s Motive division shows a 100 kW automotive fuel stack it is licensing to automakers globally. Opel/Vauxhall bring high-tech lighting systems to everyday cars. The AAA reexamines distracted driving among teens, and comes away with dire statistics and shocking videos that will have you wincing. On the plus side, Ford introduces a technology that could make speeding tickets a thing of the past, and our own Al Vinikour asks what pair of geniuses set speed limits on the nation’s roads.

 

March 13, 2015:  Detroit’s other auto show was in town, and it was a record setter in more ways that one. Chip Foose took his fourth Ridler Award, a record, and attendance climbed yet again. The quality of cars on display continues to increase, and the scope of vehicles expands to include restorations, imports, race cars and more. It’s a show everyone should attend at least once. The introduction of the Apple Watch comes as some automakers include smart watches into their technology plan. However, it was the introduction of the 12-in. MacBook that has the greater relevance to the auto industry. Speaking of computers, Honda’s new aero package for its IndyCar teams spent a lot of time churning through a CFD program, but the result is not only shocking, it’s bad for the sport. We also spent time on the road testing a variety of vehicles. First up is the Mustang GT, not the first choice for winter fun. But, shorn of its summer tires and Performance Pack, can the prototypical pony car measure up? Next, we get behind the wheel of Lexus’s turbocharged NX 200t F Sport. It has the potential to give Audi, Mercedes and even Porsche something to think about, but is it more show than go? Finally, we spend some time in the Toyota Yaris, the smallest, least expensive vehicle in Toyota’s lineup. Might it prove the old adage about good things coming in small packages? Finally, Al looks back to his earlier escapades to condemn freeways and drivers that aren’t in the Western U.S., and question the sanity of adaptive cruise control’s creators.

Tuesday
Feb032015

February 2015

February 27, 2015: It’s a big issue, so let’s get right to it. Lotus introduces the Evora 400, but is it too much money and too much hype? McLaren previews its 675LT road-legal track car with its devilishly high output twin-turbo V8. Not to be outdone, Aston Martin goes to ridiculous lengths to build the ultimate track day car, and a driving school to make sure your talent level is on par with your bank account. The Jensen Group announces a new GT and Interceptor for the well-heeled gentleman driver. While Squire digs out is prototype, drawings and title paperwork in hopes some wealthy soul might want to resurrect the dormant automaker. Back on Planet Earth, meanwhile, Hyundai shows its 2016 Tucson crossover. VW pulls the wraps off its 2016 Touran, a vehicle that would fit well into its U.S. lineup. Hyundai and Kia build a turbocharged three-cylinder for Europe and (eventually) America. The Henry Ford raises the hoods of some classic cars. Lamborghini launches a new clothing line. Porsche builds a navigation audio system for classic Porsches. And Al Vinikour speaks out about staying in line.

 

February 13, 2015: Did Kia tip its hand when it unveiled the Trail’ster Concept at the Chicago Auto Show? Probably. The Soul-based vehicle introduces an electrically driven rear axle to create an all-wheel drive hybrid with better acceleration and fuel economy. Honda, on the other hand, introduced a new Pilot that’s everything the old one wasn’t. Which is to say, it doesn’t look like the box it came in. Meanwhile, Acura updated its MDX to keep it relevant, and ahead of the Pilot with which it shares its underpinnings. Continuing on the crossover front, Motorway America’s Jim Meachen takes a first drive in the diminutive Jeep Renegade, and brings us his observations. Plus, we take a critical look at Ford’s three-cylinder Fiesta, and ask if it’s worth the claimed mileage gain. Turning from the sublime to the ridiculous, Nissan’s GT-R LM  racer is an example of just how fertile DeltaWing creator Ben Bowlby’s imagination really is. Want more? How about Ferrari’s menacing 488 GTB? It promises to give Ford’s new GT a run for its money. Or you can strap yourself into a CXC simulator for a surprisingly realistic look at racing from the comfort of your own home… or arcade. Then again, Ford’s enhanced stability control may make your on-road crashes less frequent than your on-screen shunts. Still not satisfied? How about a video of a working miniature 32-cylinder engine, and the man who made it? Or maybe you’d prefer to read Al Vinikour’s take on how he feels automakers have legalized theft.

 

February 3, 2015: Ford launched the third-generation Focus RS at a special event in Germany this morning, and beamed the extravaganza to its offices in Dearborn. There we sat with Ford execs and other media to watch as the company's ultimate hot hatch hit the stage. Though Ford left a lot of spaces blank, past history, reading between some very defined lines, and discrete inquiries allied with educated guesswork helped fill in some of the blanks. You can read all about it (and watch video of the press conference) here.

Thursday
Jan012015

January 2015

January 30, 2015: We start off with another new set of furniture from the folks at Bentley, and wonder if former CEO Woolf Barnato would approve. Next it’s on to Silverstone Auctions where a delivery miles-only Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione is up for sale. Next, Goodwood’s 73rd Members’ Meeting reunites Jean-Pierre Jarier with his Shadow DN5-1A. Speaking of F1 racing in the 1970’s, we review a novel about that period, and give it a conditional but positive review. On the new car front, we spend time in Ford’s revised but terribly familiar Expedition King Ranch 4x4. Jim Meachen of Motorway America reviews the 2015 Nissan Murano. And Lotus launches an Exige with an automatic that you can’t drive in the U.S. If that’s not enough, Cadillac opens the door to some of the technologies it will use to build the new CT6. Jaguar introduces a technology that should help prevent drivers from injuring bicyclists and motorcyclists. And our own Al Vinikour tells us why every car is a closet two-seater.

 

January 16, 2015: The reveal of Ford’s new GT was the highlight of this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the poster child for a show that put a focus on high performance. Fast was not the only story, however, Hyundai showed a pickup concept that might prove profitable, Chevy launched the new Volt and a concept called Bolt, and Acura probably wished it had picked another venue to launch it production-ready and much revised NSX. Click here to read more about these vehicles and the whitespace race that was Detroit. When you’re done drooling over the show cars, take a look at Pawet Kmiec’s coffee table book chronicling the planes, race cars, tanks and much, much more artisans have built with Lego Technic pieces. Finally, Al Vinikour takes automakers to task for undersized seats.

 

January 2, 2015: We at The Virtual Driver have just the thing to help you take your mind off your first hangover of 2015. First up, our friends at Motorway America take a first drive in the Ram ProMaster City and hang with a bunch of troublemakers. We review the 2015 Kia Sorento and suggest it as a high-value alternative to the all-new 2016 model. Bultaco introduces a pedal-assisted electric mountain bike with a familiar name. The folks at LiquidPiston reveal a tiny X-shaped engine, while we look at the history of this unusual engine design. Our bank accounts (and undoubtedly yours) come under attack as Haynes adds to its Owners’ Workshop Manual series. Al Vinikour asks why God hates him while declaring war on people who turn to the right in front of him. Finally, you can replicate the vertigo you felt last night with a video of crazy rally footage sure to keep you gasping.

Friday
Dec052014

December 2014

December 19, 2014: Ford’s Transit 250 High Roof is a big box on wheels, just what you need when have large items to carry. We take the Transit on a long drive to see if its efficiency extends beyond how much it can carry. One person who may need a Transit is Lotus chassis engineering chief Matthew Becker. He’s on his way to Aston-Martin, and should be more than capable of removing the harsh, “bred on the Nurburgring” ride that drives Top Gear’s James May rightly crazy. Speaking of the guys from Gaydon, Becker might just want to take a look at Aston partner Mercedes’ new GLE Coupe for his company car. On the tech front, Ford introduced a new version of SYNC, that does everything it hoped MyFord Touch would do, but didn’t. Jaguar shows a concept of how “clear” pillars would improve driver visibility. And BMW shows a self-parking i3 controlled by a smartwatch. On the lifestyle beat, we preview a neat iPhone 6 case created by a motorcycle designer that needs your help to get kick started. GAZ creates a family of shock absorbers for classic Chevys. And we take a look at some watches your inner Helio Castroneves might desire. Closer to home, or at least to the couch, our own Al Vinikour waxes lyrical about televised police chases.

 

December 5, 2014: A quick trip to San Diego to drive the 2015 Chevy Trax reveals a compelling, complete and capable small crossover that’s high on content, but low on personality. The same can’t be said of Fiat’s 500X, which combines the cheeky styling and attitude of the 500 hatchback with the underpinnings of Jeep’s Renegade. Mercedes is working on high-tech LED headlights it believes will be more than a match for laser headlights. And while that technology is lighting the way to the future, Volvo has a decidedly low-tech, but effective, solution to determining whether interior odors are acceptable or too strong. We also take a look at the hard-knock life of The Henry Ford’s Le Mans winning Ford GT Mk. IV to see the difference between conservation and restoration. And our own Al Vinikour comes clean with a personal admission, and a challenge to automakers.