Category Archives: Opinions

Discussion of matters in the automotive industry and in car culture. Our opinions on what is going on, manufacturer’s products, etc

Am I the only one who likes the idea of a Jeep Renegade-like Toyota FJ?

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This is the Toyota FT-4X Concept, and it’s a clear hint that Toyota may be developing a small FJ SUV to take on the funky Jeep Renegade. A lot of people are hating on it, but I’m digging the idea a lot. I, for one, like a lot of things about the Jeep Renegade, and I think Toyota has a real opportunity to take a lot of that market. All they have to do is make a dependable small off-roader with some funky FJ style, and they will eat Jeep’s lunch.

I hope the FT-4X does make it into production, donning the FJ name when it does.

Call me the island in a sea of haters.

-Nick

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The Dodge Demon Heralds a New Era of Hyper Muscle Cars, and I’m Pumped!

 

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon has now officially dropped. I must say it’s mighty impressive, and I feel similar to how I felt about the Bugatti Veyron when it came out. The Bugatti marked the real jump from supercar to hypercar in our modern era, and I think the Demon could do the same relative thing in the muscle car sector.

Yes, Chevy made the COPO Camaro a few years ago, but you can’t put a license plate on that one so it doesn’t count. The Dodge Demon is set to be the new King of the Streets, in the most-classic muscle car sense.

The Challenger SRT Demon is a street legal drag-prepped hyper muscle car, and it runs an NHRA-verified 9.65 sec 1/4 Mile @ 140 mph, bone freaking stock. That’s at least 2/10ths of a second faster than any of the hypercar hybrids from Porsche, Ferrari, or McLaren. Sure, the Demon isn’t made to conquer such cars on a road course, or even top end, but at the drag strip, it will rule.

Having said all that, the NHRA has also banned the SRT Demon from any official street car competition. Dodge says “because it’s too fast,” but that can be fixed with the proper license and some extra safety bits.

Also, the Demon will only come with a drag-optimized automatic, but I’m okay with that so long as we can still have a Hellcat with three pedals.

Other impressive features for the Demon include a max output of 840hp and 770ft/lbs, 0-60 in 2.3 sec (or 2.1sec on prepped tarmac), 0-100 in 5.1 sec, a charge cooler that runs off the air conditioning, and a supercharger with more displacement than the engines in all three of my own cars, and a factory switchable tune for race gas. The price will also, supposedly, be reasonable, like south of six-figures (until you actually go to buy one at a dealer). That said, with only 3,300 being built values may go up long term, or at least not fall too much.

Lastly, can we just take a sec to appreciate how badass those wide fenders look?

So with the Demon dropped on the world, we can now anxiously await the response from Ford and GM. This should be a horsepower war that is too good to pass up.

-Nick Walker

Mercedes just dropped my dream SUV, the GLC63 AMG

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Yesterday I reviewed the impressive, but massive, BMW X6 M. In that article I talked about how the performance of large SUVs will always be held back by their hefty physical size and weight. While the X6 M was mighty impressive for what it was, I still found myself wanting one of the options one size smaller. As it so happened, the same day my review went live, Mercedes-Benz decided to drop their trump card. Meet the GLC63 AMG.

How did we get to this point, where there is now a 503hp twin turbo V8 engine in a medium-size crossover. Less than a decade ago, a crossover like this was a sign that a car enthusiast had given up on fun, that family life had beaten them into submission. But you can fit a car seat, or two, in this AMG just the same as you can a basic Subaru Forester. It’s still a fully functional crossover, but now with some brutally serious high performance credentials. This is a family car I’ll be more than happy to consider whenever that time comes (If I can afford one by then, of course).

Performance wise, the thing we most need to consider when comparing the GLC63 to the likes of a BMW X6 M is weight. The 4.0L twin turbo V8 only adds around 100lbs to the weight of the Mercedes C-Class, comparing the C43 and C63. Apply that same difference onto the GLC43, at 4,150lbs, and the GLC63 should weigh around 4,250lbs. That’s 1,000lbs less than the BMW X6 M, and the GLC63 S still has over 500hp. So it’s a LOT lighter and will handle much better as a result, and it’s also not much less powerful at all. In short, this new Merc will be better than any of the bigger options, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche the like.

I already loved the Mercedes GLC43 AMG, the Porsche Macan S/GTS/Turbo, and the Jaguar F-Pace S, and they only have 350-400hp. The GLC63 AMG S is upping the bar to 500hp, and as of now it’s only real rival will be the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV.

I love that we’re actually at a time where I can be genuinely excited about SUVs. These medium size high performance models drive like luxurious rally cars, and they’re a phenomenal package for the real world.

It would appear that BMW and Porsche need to catch up…

-Nick Walker

Are Electric Cars REALLY the Future for Driving Enthusiasts?

Watching the first episode of the new season of Top Gear, and Chris Harris made a comment about the Ferrari FXX K possibly being the last gasp of the combustion engine. It’s a comment we’ve heard before, and I’m sure it’s a comment many will continue to make. But I don’t buy it for a number of reasons.

Sure, I do think electric cars, specifically self-driven electric cars, are the future for mass independent transportation. I think so many people out there have so little interest in driving that they’re a danger to themselves and everyone around them when they get behind the wheel. Those folks should leave the driving to the machines, the world will be a much happier place.

But what about those of us who live to drive for recreation, just because driving is so much fun? Obviously you can totally forget the self-driving cars, but are electric cars even that desirable to us?

Continue reading Are Electric Cars REALLY the Future for Driving Enthusiasts?

My take on the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

The Geneva Motor Show happened this week, and every year it’s like Christmas has come for the car industry.

Here are the highlights for me, and my thoughts on each…

Ferrari 812 Superfast

The front-engine V12 Ferraris are by far my favorite Ferraris. They have always been the ultimate expression of what a grand touring car can be, and their lineage goes all the way back to the beginning of Ferrari road cars in the early 1950s.

The 812 Superfast takes the insanity of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, and takes it up yet another notch. With damn near 800hp on tap from its still-naturally-aspirated-V12 engine, the 812 Superfast is now the ultimate GT car (really more of a supercar) that money can buy. I also think it looks absolutely manic, yet somehow still in an elegant sort of way.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

Do you think anyone ever imagined this when the Toyota Prius first came out? Hybrids were once pathetic little econo-boxes, but here is a 680hp Porsche Panamera with a hybrid system developed from the 918 hypercar. This is exactly how hybrid technology should be used. I want a 680hp bullet that can still get decent MPG when I’m not thrashing it. If nothing else, isn’t technology all about having your cake and eating it too?

Continue reading My take on the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

What will the new 4.0L Porsche 991.2 GT3 do to the 911 Market?

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Porsche has finally done it, they’ve brought back the manual GT3 and have given it the 4.0L engine to boot. It’s basically the Porsche we’ve all been dreaming about, and it’s the car Porsche once said they’d never build again. Right after Porsche said the days of manual GT3s were over, values of 997 GT3s immediately went through the roof. It became abundantly clear that Porsche was making a mistake, and this new 991.2 GT3 is here to set things right.

But what’s going to happen to the values of all of those 997 GT3 models that skyrocketed in the last few years? This new 4.0L GT3 with a manual is pretty much an attainable version of the coveted 997 GT3 RS 4.0 or the mighty 911 R, and with PDK it’s a little too similar to the much-inflated 991 GT3 RS.

With pricing starting from $144,650, and surely going up to cross $200,000, loaded with options, why on earth would you want to buy a 997 GT3 or RS for the same money? And can the PDK-only 991 GT3 even have a prayer? How about the 991 GT3 RS?

The 991.2 GT3 is about to make things very interesting in the Porsche market, and not everyone is going to be thrilled about it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be the guy who just dropped $200,000 on a 997 GT3 RS, or $175,000 on a 991.1 GT3.

Continue reading What will the new 4.0L Porsche 991.2 GT3 do to the 911 Market?

The Range Rover Velar Looks Incredible!

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I think this is the best-looking SUV on sale, and by a decent margin. BMW and Mercedes need to take notes, this is how you make an SUV look properly sleek. You don’t need some awkward “Coupe SUV” thing like the X6 or GLE Coupe. Instead of chopping off the rearward roof section, Land Rover’s designers chose to give the teardrop treatment to the entire SUV shape. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Even better, underneath, the Range Rover Velar shares its platform with the lovely-to-drive Jaguar F-Pace. The Jag handles great, and is a ton of fun on back roads, and I hope this Range Rover will retain that trait. Engine-wise buyers can choose between a turbo gas 4 cylinder, a diesel 4 cylinder, or the fun model with the 380hp supercharged V6.

The Range Rover Velar slots between the Range Rover Evoque and Ranger Rover Sport, competing with the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, and BMW X3/X4. It’s up against some decent competition, but with looks to kill, the Velar may have a leg up on the Germans. I was blown away by the style of the Evoque when it came out, but this takes the design past the next level.

I can’t wait to see the Velar in person because it will probably look even better than in photos.

-Nick Walker

Ford Focus RS Power Modifications and Tuning

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The Ford Focus RS is the hottest $40,000 car around right now. A new addition to the rally car segment in the US, it takes on the STI, the Golf R, and the echoes of Evos past. All things stock, the Focus RS seems to have them all beat, outgunning them by around 40 or 50hp, but what happens when aftermarket mods and tuning come into play?

The simple fact is the Focus RS’s stock turbo is out of breath around 380-400 crank horsepower on pump gas. Ford doesn’t use way oversized turbos in their cars, and as a result its basic tuning potential may seem a little lacking compared to, say, the Golf R or the Evo.

Having said that, fear not, because peak horsepower numbers are only a small portion of the story, especially for a street-driven car. So let’s have a look…

Continue reading Ford Focus RS Power Modifications and Tuning

Pagani Releases the Huayra Roadster, and I need to go change my pants…

Huayra Roadster Ginevra 2017 DETT0001 D

Anyone who knows my taste in cars knows that Pagani is my holy grail. There’s something about Horacio’s philosophy of art and science intertwined that makes his creations truly special, even at a level above the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world (for me at least).

Pagani just released the new Huayra Roadster, before it will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show this March. I guess they wanted it to be the center of attention when it dropped, rather than a bullet point in the clutter of the show itself. Very Smart.

The jest of it is that Pagani took a lot of elements from the Huayra BC, and used them to improve on the Huayra to make the Roadster something on the next level. Weighing in at around 2,800lbs, the Huayra Roadster is an impressive 176lbs lighter than the Huayra Coupe, and it boasts 764hp to the Coupe’s 730hp. So it’s lighter than a Cayman GT4 and it’s got almost double the horsepower. Chew on that for a minute.

The point here is that Pagani has made the Huayra even better as they’ve cut off its roof. Lighter and more powerful, with the improved transmission and suspension design from the BC, and you get to choose whether you want a roof or not… I’ll take this over the Coupe, gullwing doors be damned.

Speaking of which, we haven’t actually seen the doors open yet, so maybe they’re interesting. That said, most rumors indicate the Huayra Roadster will have normal style doors. For many that may be a detractor, certainly when it comes to posing the car for photos, but I think having the wind in my hair is a worthy trade.

So, if you’re see this, and you’ve got a spare $2-3 burning a hole in your pocket, you can actually go screw yourself because all 100 Huayra Roadsters are already sold. Sucks to suck.

You can still enjoy looking at it, though… Continue reading Pagani Releases the Huayra Roadster, and I need to go change my pants…

Could we see a mid-engined Porsche 911 road car soon?

991 GT3 RS ORG

The new Porsche 991.2 GT3 is rumored to be essentially like the previous 4.0L RSs, with Porsche’s mighty 4.0L flat six, around 500hp, and a choice of two or three pedals. Meanwhile, the new 911 RSR racecar is a mid engined now. So the next 991.2 GT3 RS finds itself at a fork in the road. Should it stay as the ultimate rear engine track crusher? Or should it be based on the new mid engine RSR, staying true to form as a racecar for the street?

If the new 991.2 GT3 RS were to be based on the mid engine RSR, it could create a break-point between rear and mid engine 911 models, which would amount to the line between sports cars and supercars.

The rear engine 911 is a great sports car, maybe the greatest, because it offers a totally unique driving experience. However, Porsche clearly knows they’re pushing the boundaries of what a rear engine layout can do. The fact that the new 911 RSR racecar is blatantly mid engine just makes it obvious, but Porsche has been pushing the 911’s engine more and more forward of the rear axle with each new generation. At this point, the current 991 is extremely close to technically being a mid-engine car.

Look, whether it happens within the 991.2 generation or not, I think a mid engined 911 GT model, or lineup of models, is absolutely coming. People want what the racecar has, and now the racecar has its engine in the middle.

I do think the basic 911 Carrara up through GT3 and Turbo models should remain “rear engine” sports cars to stay true to form. After all, a rear engine is the defining feature of a Porsche 911. That said, I also think that opening up a range of mid engine 911 supercar models at the top of the range creates a healthy evolution for the Porsche brand. Okay, sure, maybe they might call the new mid engined cars by a name other than “911”, but they would essentially be mid engined 911s. For those of you scoffing right now, appalled at the idea of a 911 with an engine in the middle, just remember there’s already a major precedent for this from the late 90s; it’s called the 911 GT1.

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What I think may happen here is the 911 GT3 and Turbo will be the top of the rear engined 911 range. Then the hardcore GT3 RS will kick off the new range of mid-engine, 911 GT1-style supercars derived from the RSR. The GT3 RS would have the rumored 4.0L+ naturally aspirated flat-six, as well as a host of track-ready features. Porsche should then offer turbocharged models of the mid engine 911 supercar, ready to compete directly with the Ferrari 488s, Ford GTs, and McLaren 650s of the world. Maybe that would be the “GT2”, and then have a “GT2 RS” with an upgraded turbo engine (a turbo 4.0?) and all of the trackday tricks of the GT3 RS.

Price wise, I picture it as follows: Rear engined 911 Turbo and GT3 models occupy the $150k-$250k range, as they do right now. The mid engine GT3 RS would come in around $300k, the turbocharged mid engine GT2 would run $350-400k, and the GT2 RS would be $500-600k and be built in limited numbers.

This is all just me pondering at this point, but if you remember back a couple years, there were rumors of Porsche wanting to develop a mid engine supercar above the 911 Turbo but below the 918. This would be that car, clear as day. Porsche had supposedly sacked the idea, but now they have a racing program with a mid engined 911 RSR?

It sure seems like they’re headed in this direction…

-Nick Walker

Ford better to not screw up the new Bronco…

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The title may sound obvious, but the obvious has often proven difficult for the corporate mindsets in Detroit. Keep it simple, stupid, the people who want a new Ford Bronco want a Ford Bronco in the iconic sense. Give them the rugged functionality they need wrapped in the classic Bronco style they want, and you will sell units. This image has been making the rounds on the interweb, and people seem to really love it. Could the path forward for Ford be any clearer?

The new Bronco is supposedly going to take on the Jeep Wrangler, an off-road champ who’s style hasn’t changed since “retro” was brand new. People love that iconic style, and most won’t settle for a watered-down alternative from Ford. The new Bronco has to be the same sort of “special” that the original was. Anything but retro styling will be a huge mistake here.

I trust Ford to make the Bronco a decent functional off-roader at this point, but I’m worried the corporate big-wigs might try to water down the styling to try and make it appeal to everyone, and that’d be a dumb move. Let’s be honest here, most people who buy a Jeep Wrangler don’t do much serious off-roading, but they all love it’s distinctive style. In my opinion, the Bronco needs to compete with the Wrangler on style above all else. Whether or not it can climb a bigger rock or not is secondary for most people.

Continue reading Ford better to not screw up the new Bronco…

Lexus’ Modern Luxury Flagship Is Finally Here

I’ve become more and more of a fan of Lexus over the years. It’s not because I’ve gotten older and more mature, either, it’s because they’ve improved their approach to building cars. High performance and driving dynamics used to mean nothing to Lexus, it was all about having a silky ride with unparalleled build quality and reliability. What I really love about Lexus’ coming of age in the last decade, or so, is how their gains in dynamic performance have not come at the expense of their foundational values. Sure, the F models may compromise a silky smooth ride in the name of handling prowess, but they’ll still run over 200,000 miles without breaking down. Lexus is still Lexus, just a better version of themselves.

You have to remember that Lexus was only founded in 1989, four years after Mercedes-Benz had celebrated it’s first century of building cars. In the luxury realm, they are still a very young marquee.

In the past, a Lexus was a simpler alternative to the many German luxury options. It was always a nice car, very well built, and could be counted on for many, many years. They always lacked most of the fancy new features found in the German cars, though, you know, the sort of cool stuff you want when you spend a lot of money. Well, here in 2017, I finally feel like Lexus isn’t lagging behind their German competition. This is the new Lexus LS 500, and the Germans should be pretty nervous.

Continue reading Lexus’ Modern Luxury Flagship Is Finally Here