The raspy echo of a snarling V8 carrying over the desert sand is usually something that would conjure up thoughts of American iron and righteous lawlessness. The movie Vanishing Point comes to mind, and the Dodge Challenger is just the car I would normally think of when the topic of V8s echoing over desert sands arises. But in this case, what I am describing is not a muscle car, but a suave British exotic, fresh from the pages of a novel by Ian Fleming. I am of course talking about an Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage S to be exact, and no, I cannot promise that will be my last James Bond reference because such cliches are obligatory when a journalist drives an Aston, of course.
My drive took place on the racetrack at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas, Nevada. I doubt many Aston Vantages see track time in the hands of their owners, but it was very interesting to get to know this little car in a setting where I could actually explore a good bit of its potential. Exotics Racing had unfortunately unhooked all of the machine guns and the oil slick from the car (things that come standard on every Aston), but on the positive side, that made the car lighter.
Porsche is a brand with plenty of varied supporters and detractors. What’s funny is, some of those supporters are also detractors. Whether it was the 911 going to a water-cooled engine, the 911 getting the nose of the Boxster, the 911 going to electric power steering, the Cayenne launching, or the idea (even the idea! For shame!) that Porsche would–GASP!–produce a four door sedan. Any change, and they start screaming.
I’m not one of those people. The Panamera has been a big hit for Porsche financially and I have seen more and more of them on the road since the car’s 2009 launch in America. I hadn’t driven one yet and for some reason, just didn’t think much of it until I was at the Porsche Zentrum at the Quail Lodge in August. When I arrived, I signed up to drive this four-door Porsche, only because the 911s on hand were all booked completely. I thought I’d regret this decision until I turned the key…
Hyundai has transformed itself over the last decade, going from the stereotype maker of cheap jalopies to a company that is now taking on the biggest names in the luxury market. The Equus you see here is the culmination of those efforts, a car that claims to strike directly at the standard of the world, the Mercedes S class.
It is really crazy to think that the same company which makes the economy-minded Elantra can also produce this posh luxury bruiser. Other companies, like Honda and Toyota, created whole new brands (Acura and Lexus) for their upmarket efforts in the US, but Hyundai has decided to keep everything under one flag.
This does beg some questions: Can the Equus really work as a Hyundai in a country where people are obsessed purely with their own self image? And furthermore, if we put the Equus up against its claimed competitors, will it stand up to the challenge?
Waves crash into the rocks of the shore. There is a thick wall of fog that lingers out over the water, but the sun beams down brightly at the coast. A sustained sea breeze rustles the branches of crooked Cyprus trees, and a ribbon of asphalt winds gracefully along the perimeter of the rocky cliffs that overlook the sea. There is no traffic to speak of, only me at the helm of this bright-orange Jaguar F-Type.
The wind plows through my hair, as I rush through the glamorous scenery, as if in some sort of hurry to leave this oasis of Heaven I’ve found on Earth. Loud barks and crackles emanate from the high-strung V6 engine, echoing back to my ears off of the trees as I fly by. The high-pitched whine of a supercharger joins in as the revs charge toward redline, and the speed piles on at an exhilarating rate. I touch the brakes for an upcoming bend, and turn in at what should be highway speed. The F-Type clings to the road as if with mighty claws, completely at home with the rapid pace I have set. Getting back on the gas, I shoot out of the corner with haste, now staring right into the face of the massive expanse of ocean and fog. It feels as if I am about to charge into the abyss when the road turns me back toward the sun and the trees. As I continue forth, I just can’t help thinking “what an unbelievable experience this is.”
As everyone who reads this site knows, I drove an Aston Martin in Las Vegas back in early July. However, the first car I drove that day was this Mercedes SLS. I didn’t plan on driving it. I was slated to take the wheel of a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, but its transmission decided it hated the obscenely hot temperatures even more than I did. It was 115 degrees in the shade, but I felt ice-cold driving this Iridium Silver SLS. Having driven one already on the street and needing a car that could handle the Vegas summer scorch, I agreed to replace the temporarily broken F430 with this intriguing set of wheels. The experience was rather eye-opening.
The 7 Series is the flagship model in the BMW lineup. A far cry from a zippy little M3, the 7 Series has always had its focus on being a luxury cruiser. It competes in the top of the line limousine class against the likes of Mercedes’ legendary S Class, a car which has set the standard of automotive luxury for sometime now. In order to take on such formidable opposition, BMW has had to use some clever ingenuity to make the 7 Series appealing, and it doesn’t get more appealing than the top two models we have here.
In one corner we have the Alpina B7, an upgraded vehicle that has been factory sanctioned. Alpina has had a long relationship with BMW as a third party tuner, similar to AMG and Mercedes before they were officially brought together in 1990. Alpina models are usually marketed as alternatives to cars from BMW’s M Division, but in this case, there is no BMW “M7”, so the Alpina B7 is as close as you can get.
Of course, you might instead fancy having the ultimate 7 Series that BMW makes themselves. That would be our other contender, the BMW 760Li. It is a more traditional take on a top-end luxury limousine with a proper V12 under its hood.
Las Vegas is a strange place. It was quite hot outside when I arrived at the track on July 5, during the tail-end of a massive heat wave in the vicinity. I was already sweating after just a few minutes in the 100+ degree heat. After signing in and attending the driver’s meeting, I chose this Aston Martin as my second car after some time in a Mercedes SLS AMG. After climbing out of the SLS, the sweat was replaced by a feeling of confidence.
I drove a total of four different cars on this track that morning, and of them, this Aston was by and large the most surprising. I didn’t know what to expect, with this Vantage S being my first ever Aston Martin, but after I climbed out of the hot seat, I realized that this entry into Aston’s lineup is a lot better than people might think.
Back when Rolls Royce and Bentley sailed under the same flag, it was often said that a Bentley was a car to drive and a Rolls Royce was a car to be driven in. The two companies have now been split up for over a decade, with Bentley owned by Volkswagen and Rolls Royce under BMW. Since their separation both brands have had to branch out a bit, but for Rolls Royce, branching out has come to mean venturing into some unexplored territory.
Rolls Royces have traditionally been focused on the concerns of their rear occupants, aiming to preserve comfort at all costs, even if the chauffeur goes completely mad. The car you see here, Rolls Royce describes as being a “gentleman’s grand tourer”, and the most powerful car they’ve ever made. It is the new Rolls Royce Wraith, and no part of it has anything to do with being chauffeured. The Wraith is a driver’s Rolls Royce, and to many, that may seem a vast ideological conflict.
The M6 has been extremely controversial for me, and I have often been quite negative about it in the past. My central issue is the sort of idealistic clash between what the M-badge stands for, and the fact that this new M6 weighs in at a behemoth 4600lbs. As the flagship high performance car for a company who claims to make “The Ultimate Driving Machine” this raises, for me, not only the question of validity, but also the question of integrity.
BMW’s M Division has made some of the greatest driver’s cars of all time, but now I have to question if their name holds the same distinction as it used to. Judging things on paper is always just half the story, though. I really needed to drive a car for myself before I could pass full judgement on it. Luckily, I was recently afforded the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this M6 Convertible. So, it’s time to drop the gavel.
The pursuit of perfection is a perilous road, but it is a way of life at Ferrari. Some of the greatest cars of all time have come through that famous red gate at Maranello, each new model a further refinement from the last. There have, of course, been mistakes over the years, but all are lessons well learned. No matter what sort of cars you may prefer, there is no denying that it is Ferrari who sets the bar for the supercar standard. That is why every time a new car comes out of Maranello, everyone else is immediately gunning for it, adjusting their own lineups as needed.
The 458 Italia may in fact be the most challenged Ferrari model in recent memory. Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes, and, of course, McLaren all seemed to respond immediately to the Italia’s launch with new models, all aimed to take some of the wind out of its sails. While their efforts have certainly yielded some fantastic cars, the 458 still wound up being “the car to have” among the world’s elite — most of whom can afford multiple such cars anyway.
So what is it about the 458 that is so enticing? There are plenty of awesome cars out there to choose from, why is it that the prancing horse always seems to be galloping ahead?
I recently had the opportunity to do a quick drive in Jaguar’s new F-Type. Jaguar held a driving event in Philadelphia where they set up an autocross course in the parking lot of the Phillies’ stadium. Though it was only a quick, but intense, experience, I did get to sample both the V6S and V8S models from the F-Type range.
Timing was down to the wire, as there was a massive thunderstorm bearing down on us, and by the time I did my runs, it had already begun to rain. This article will serve as a quick first impression take on the new F-Types, and hopefully I will get a chance to drive them for longer in the coming months.