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Quick Spin: 2014 Fiat 500L- The Fat Fiat

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They say go big or go home, and considering the largest consumer offering Fiat shipped over to the States in its waning days was the 131/Brava, perhaps it’s no surprise they abruptly closed up shop back in the ’80s. Today, the company is back, and have brought along something honkin’ big – the Fiat Ducato-based Dodge Pro Master – which you can eyeball after the jump. The Italian company has also brought over the big guns of its 500 lineup, the 5-door L. I took a lengthy spin in one, and am here to tell you whether or not it was worth the trip.

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First Ride: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 [w/Video]
A finely honed track weapon

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I don’t really care for the Chevrolet Camaro.

If you’re a regular reader of Hooniverse, you’ve heard me say that before. Sure, the older ones are definitely cool, but I have no love for the modern version. The Camaro ZL1 is certainly a blast thanks to its delightful amount of horsepower and noise. Folks who have driven the 1LE rave about its handling prowess. But other than those two (and one aftermarket tuned example), I’ve never enjoyed my time with the Camaro.

I’m telling you this so you fully understand just how impressed I am by the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. General Motors flew a handful of folks to Michigan so we could get a closer look at the latest machine to wear a very important badge. No, I didn’t get to drive the car, but I ride shotgun…

…and it was enough to blow me away.

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Quick Spin: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.8T
The Jetta is back

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If you are an ardent advocate of the maxim of less equating to more then the introduction of the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta should have caused you great internal debate. That’s because while the model offered far more room than before at a much lower entry price, the things taken away to provide that smaller hit to your bank account were what many an enthusiast holds near and dear. After the fact, Volkswagen’s decision to compete with the more mundane competition seemed to be the right one as sales of the Jetta increased nearly twofold with the new model. Still, missing pieces such as disc brakes and an independent suspension for the back end on all but the top model, as well as a downgrading of its interior materials, didn’t sit well with the marque’s fans, and induced a vociferous drum beat that the Jetta had lost its way.

For 2014, Volkswagen wants you to know that it’s found the way back.

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Quick Spin: Cruze-ing the Pacific Coast Highway

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“Marcal, we’re on our anniversary trip! Quit taking pictures of the rental car.” “I know; I’ll just be a minute.”

I hadn’t intended to do a photo shoot of our 2013 Chevrolet Cruze in the rain, but we drove from Seattle to Depoe Bay, Oregon down 101 in the middle of September; sunny weather is long gone. Between the fog, mist, road spray, drizzle, and a good old downpour one night, the car was wet almost the whole weekend. Still, the weather wasn’t bad on Saturday, and I was impressed enough with the car that I wanted to get a few pictures and share my thoughts with you. For more of both, please take jump and enjoy. … Continue Reading

On Driving a Manual Transmission Ferrari V12

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Ferrari is no longer in the business of selling cars with manual transmissions. Primarily, this is because they’re in the business of selling cars, and hardly any supercar buyer these days seems to give a crap about the appeal of a close-ratio six -speed and the three-pedal waltz. Not that you can’t still buy a very fast car with a manual transmission, but when Lamborghini and even Porsche both kiss-off the stick in their track-focused models, we can hardly be surprised. The last Fezza to be offered with a self-shifter was the California, and just three were sold. I sorta hate the California and all its showy. too-tall extravagance, but that’s still sad.

Like the manually-operated ignition advance or the crank-starter, the row-your-own gearbox is rapidly approaching relic status. Yes, it can make a dull car fun, but when you’ve got the best engines and best chassis in the world, it’s like trying to run your BlueRay player down a tin-can telephone line. Sticking a manual in an F12berlinetta  would be like installing a rotary dial on your iPad – it’s old technology, so untie the onion from your belt Grandpa, and get with the program.

And so, a car like this with its leg-press clutch-pedal and railway-switch gearshift gets outclassed, out-dated and overshadowed. It depreciates to a quarter of its original value and fades from the spotlight, caught in a trough between the skyrocketing prices of the classics and the nouveau-riche razzle-dazzle of thrusting modernity. It is a dinosaur.

Yep, it’s a dinosaur all right. What kind of idiot wouldn’t want to ride a dinosaur? … Continue Reading

Quick Spin: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel Engine

It is pretty amazing, but General Motor’s past experiences with diesel-powered cars still remain a punch line of many jokes. It’s no surprise then that it has taken them decades to very carefully come out with a new diesel offering. That new diesel, a 2-liter, four cylinder was installed under the hood of the midsized Chevy Cruze, a significantly more conservative choice than the company’s diesel models of the past.

Chevy makes no secrets that the Cruze is aimed directly at the hot-selling Jetta TDi. Chevy will quickly point out their car is more powerful, with 151hp and 250lb-ft, more efficient, and less expensive when comparably equipped (MSPR: $25,695). If Volkswagen was here to defend themselves, they would say that their car has a lower starting price and is available with a manual transmission, which has a very high take.

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Quick Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

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The current WK2 generation of the Grand Cherokee has been around for a few years. In that time it has won a number of awards and satisfied many customers, a lot of them repeat buyers. For 2014, Jeep has made the first meaningful visual and functional changes to the Grand Cherokee. Those changes, aside from differentiating the 2014 from earlier models, are meant to increase economy, comfort, and looks.

Let’s see what’s what…

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Driving the Royal Jaaaag

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Tired of being subjected to revoltingly florid language on car blogs? Annoyed that every single car written about has to be more special than the last? Frustrated by the constant use of tired, hackneyed phrases like sense of occasion?

Then you’re going to hate this article and should probably go and read something else because this car really is something out of the ordinary. It used to belong to a celebrity; and Hooniverse usually avoids celebrity like the plague, but this particular VIP was Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother.

None of which is as important of the fact that it’s a 1971 Jaguar XJ12. And I’ve driven it.

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Quick Spin: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder – In defense of the CUV

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For 2013, Nissan introduced the Pathfinder, a vehicle designed along with the Infiniti JX, which I liked a lot. Surprisingly, Jeff liked the Pathfinder, yet he wasn’t too crazy about the JX35, which confused me. Hooniverse readers complained that Nissan turned a proper body-on-frame 4×4 into vehicle for someone who does not want a minivan, or a CUV. Yes, they did and they did that because that is what sells – body-on-frame SUVs and minivans simply do not sell as well as the Highlanders, MDXs, X5s, and Pilots.

For those that do want an off-road capable body-on-frame SUV, Nissan has the Xterra. They offer a minivan too, in form of the Nissan Quest. They have the big Armada too, in case you need to tow a house, so they got all the bases covered.

Let’s start off with the fact that Hooniverse readers are right; many people, including me, won’t buy a minivan even if they are more practical and less expensive. That’s because suburban moms drive minivans and no one wants to be a suburban mom. SUVs, in theory, are driven by hip adventure-loving people – and that’s a fact! Every SUV buyer wants to be a hip adventure person, which is why they buy SUVs. This is the same reason why people buy the Nissan GT-R – they want to be that guy with the GT-R, even if their driving limits don’t exceed the capabilities of the Nissan Cube.

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Quick Spin: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC

Mercedes-Benz has had a long love affair with the diesel motor. The automaker has been churning out oil burners for well over 75years. In the United States, Benz has been sending over diesel-drinking machines since 1949. In fact, during the oil crisis of the 70′s and 80′s, many car shoppers turned to Mercedes for diesel offerings to help alleviate costs at the pump. Eventually, however, consumers got a bit tired of the loud, stinking machines and turned their attention back to regular gasoline.

Things have changed, however, and diesel vehicles are experiencing a renaissance in this country. Volkswagen and Audi both sell a bunch, BMW has added a few stateside, and even a few Japanese and American manufacturers are now offering diesel vehicles. It makes sense then that one of the pioneers of the diesel engine would continue to add more oil-burners to its existing family of products.

Enter the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC.

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