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First Drive: 2015 Lexus RC F

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Lexus is looking to join the big leagues of the sport luxury segment. That’s a hefty road to climb considering it’s currently filled with the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, BMW M4, and the Audi RS5, amongst other machines.

Lexus has an answer to those vehicles, however, and it’s called the RC F. Hooniverse.com Executive Editor Jeff Glucker heads to the Monticello Motor Club in New York to see if it can compete with the rest of the segment.

[Disclaimer: Lexus flew me to New York and put me up in a hotel. I ditched the after-track after-dinner drink-a-thon to hang out with my buddy Matt... we had our own drink-a-thon. I was tired the next day.]

Understanding and Hooning the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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10.8 seconds. That’s how long it takes the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat to cover one quarter of a mile from a stand still on street-legal drag tires, according to the NHRA. Let’s put that into perspective:

  • Until 2008, all cars faster than 12 seconds needed a roll bar and a harness.
  • The super exotic Ferrari F40, when new, ran it in 11.7.
  • A 2007 Porsche Carrera Turbo ran it in 11.6 seconds.
  • Everyone’s beloved McLaren F1 ran the quarter in 11.5 seconds.
  • The new $320,000 Ferrari F12 Barlinetta does it in 11.0 seconds.
  • The fastest Lamborghini Gallardo managed about 10.9 seconds.

Yes, many modified cars run faster than that, but if you want a factory stock car with air conditioning and warranty, you’re looking to spend significantly more than a hundred grand. Yes, the Hellcat is a muscle car whereas the cars listed above are sports cars that can corner as hard as they accelerate. Yes, street slicks, a sticky track, and overall ideal conditions do make a difference, so repeating those numbers at the local drag strip won’t be easy.

Still, 10.8 seconds, 707 horsepower, sixty-ish grand. In case you are still not convinced that we are living in the greatest automotive era of all time, this should erase all doubts. But the cool folks at Dodge think that despite its muscle car heritage, the Hellcat and other Challengers can hold their own on the road course, too. Dodge’s SRT team was so confident in the handling of their models that they let loons such as me loose on Portland International Raceway with their newest Challengers. And in heavy rain, too!

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2015 Cadillac Escalade drops the guilty and ups the pleasure

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For me, the Cadillac Escalade has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure vehicle. This is a machine that I shouldn’t like, but for some reason I’m oddly attracted to said vehicle. I once took a 900-mile road trip in a last-generation Escalade Platinum Hybrid. With four adults seated comfortably, the journey was a breeze. Still, that ungainly machine was extremely expensive on the window sticker yet it didn’t quite pair that price with the same level of luxury one would expect when shelling out that much dough.

For 2015, Cadillac has launched an all-new Escalade, and it looks a whole lot sharper than the version it replaces. The exterior has been refined, the interior has been upgraded, and the engine is better than before.

Is it still a guilty pleasure… or has it evolved into something more?

[Disclaimer: Cadillac loaned me the keys to the 2015 Escalade for a week. They also included a tank of gas. Spoiler alert: One tank doesn't get you very far and I made my local Mobil station very happy.]

2015 Subaru WRX is a mature middle child

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Earlier in the year, we got to sample the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX STI. It’s the wild child of the Impreza family, and it might actually prove to be a bit much for the average person when it comes time to pick a daily driver.

Enter the 2015 Subaru WRX. It’s the middle child, and it’s more mature than it’s insane-o sibling. The car has grown up, it’s evolved, and it’s changed.. for the better.

[Disclaimer: Subaru loaned me the car for a week, and included a tank of gas. Just as the WRX is more mature, I too am more mature* and have nothing funny to add here to this disclaimer.]

[*Extra Disclaimer: ...Poop, hehehe]

The Bi-Annual Tour of New England to see the family
…this time in an appliance, with upgrades

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The Northeast corner of this country is comprised of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Collectively, the six states are known as New England. It’s also a corner of the country that I call home, even though I haven’t lived there in 12 years. That’s where my family is, it’s where my wife’s family is, and it’s where many of my closest friends still reside. I try to get back there at least twice per year, and when I do it turns into cannonball-esque blast across the majority of New England’s states as I try to squeeze in as many visits as I can over what’s always not enough time.

Sometimes the trip unfolds from behind the wheel of a luxury car. A sport utility vehicle or two have made the journey, and there’s always the hope of a sports car waiting for me at the airport. For my most recent trip home though, I was given the keys to an appliance.

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Sampling all three flavors of the 2015 Lexus NX
It’s easy to figure out which one we like best

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British Columbia is a beautiful place. From the towering buildings butting up to the water in Vancouver to the snowy expanses lying to the north near Whistler, there’s something beautiful to see nearly everywhere you look.

A good way to break all of that up is by using something that some would describe as “polarizing”. That’s exactly how we’d describe the all-new 2015 Lexus NX. Some folks are going to love it, while others… well, they will let you know what they think.

For us, it boils down to how a car drives, and the NX drives surprisingly well. It’s clear that Akio Toyoda’s mission to make his brands more sporting is paying off. It should be no surprise that our favorite of the three new NX examples is, of course, the F-Sport version.

We touch on both the 300h and the 200t to start things off, but we quickly focus on the most interesting of the three.

[Disclaimer: Lexus flew us to Whistler and put us up in a swank hotel. Also, I cleared customs in like five minutes... I don't know if that had anything to do with Lexus though.]

First Drive: 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish & Rapide S
Finally putting the super in these super cars

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Yes, both the Aston Martin Vanquish and Rapide S are gorgeous machines. They make great noise, and they’re fun to drive. That’s actually a bit of a problem though, the fact I just said “fun” and not amazing, outstanding, or excellent.

Aston Martin knows this.

The automaker has just revised the cars for 2015, and you won’t find the changes on the outside (minus a new color or two and some wheel changes). Instead, the revisions have occurred under the skin in the form of a new eight-speed ZF gearbox, revised suspension geometry, a modified rear subframe, and fatter anti-roll bars. Ast0n Martin has also extended the range between settings of the adaptive damping suspension system so that you can clearly feel the difference between each of the three. Additionally, the front brakes are larger and the braking boost has been adjusted.

Have these changes paid off? Oh yes.

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Video Review: Dinan S3-R BMW 1M
The Real Ultimate Driving Machine

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I harp on BMW a lot. Too much, in fact. The automaker still builds machines that provide a truly engaging driving experience. The problem is though, that the lineup has less and less of that. Still, cars like the new M3 and M4 prove that BMW can still create ultimate driving machines.

Back in 2011, however, they may have created their own modern-day masterpiece. It’s called the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, or 1M for short. This 335-horsepower mighty mobile proved that BMW had not in fact lost its mojo.

Did they leave a bit on the table with the 1M? I wouldn’t have said so back then, but after spending a week with the Dinan S3-R 1M I’m singing a different tune. What Dinan has done is take a great car… and made it into one of the best true driver’s cars that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

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Drive Report – The 2014 Ram C/V; A surprising and versatile small cargo van…

 

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The small van category is a growing one, at least here in the States. Ford took a gamble, and introduced the Ford Transit Connect during the 2010 model year, and it was a rousing success. Here was a product, introduced at the right time to an eager buying public, and sales haven’t cooled since. In fact, the Transit Connect was just redesigned, built at a different location, and spawned a couple of new competitors in the form of the Nissan NV-200, and the soon to be introduced Ram Promaster City.

However, there has been a competitor to the small Transit almost from the beginning, and it is a very capable bargain if you can get past its looks, and I just spent some time behind the wheel of one. Introducing the Ram C/V…

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost 1.0 Powershift. Fun… if you insist.

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I like my cars to be visceral, possibly brutal. I like to feel the car fighting back as I wrestle it around my favourite backroads route. I like to feel as if I’m working as part of a team, the car and myself acting in unison to cover ground as entertainingly as possible. The car doesn’t have to be totally reliant on muscle and it doesn’t have to have racetrack credentials to provide fun, a grunty lightweight like a Z4M or a heavy old horse like a Bentley Turbo R are equally adept at making me grin.

On the face of it, a low-powered Ford Fiesta with an automatic gearbox should be pretty much the opposite of what I love in a car. Take the jump to see whether this really is as miserable  a combination as it sounds.

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