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2015 Audi S8: Assassin in the League of Extraordinary Super Sedans

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There exists a League of Extraordinary Super Sedans, and few four-doors can claim to be members. The quiet assassin of the group is, undoubtedly, the 2015 Audi S8.

This is thanks to the pairing of its well appointed interior with a 520-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 engine under the hood. You can blend in with the pack thanks to the subtle exterior styling or you can disappear into the horizon should you need to remove yourself from the company of other cars.

[Disclaimer: Audi loaned me the S8 for a week and included a tank of gas. If you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up… truly a fantastic machine.]

Review: 2015 Audi S3
I Can’t Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout You

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Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld where George leaves his hat behind at a girls apartment so he’ll have a reason to come back? You know, the one where he says his own last name to the tune of the “by Mennen” jingle on his way out the door (COS-tanza!) as an earworm to get her to remember him? I think this Audi must have done something similar to me, because it’s gotten under my skin. It’s infiltrated my brain. I just can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t eat (well, yes I can), I can’t sleep (well, yes I can), and I can’t go a single hour without picturing this blue beauty nestled safely in my garage.

I psychologically want to have it. I physiologically need to have it. I’ve driven a number of excellent cars, but only two have been this close to exactly right fresh out of the box (Porsche’s 991 Carrera 4GTS PDK, and this Audi S3). I wouldn’t change much about this car, and those things I would change are minor. Read on to hear what I would change, and why I love it so.

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Dodge Challenger Hellcat: Mad Max… the car

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Yes, I know Mad Max drove an old Ford. It Mr. Mad were around in the modern era, there’d be no question about what he would driving; the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

It’s a 707-horsepower, supercharged coupe, and you can have it with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic. We’ve got the manual, and we’ve got empty roads to play around on. That means it’s time to get sideways, get silly, and get busy burning off the rear tires.

We apologize to no one… you don’t ever have to apologize to people when you drive a Hellcat.

(It voids the warranty)

[Disclaimer: Dodge tossed me the keys to the Hellcat and included a tank of gas. That fuel didn’t last very long… ]

Volvo V60 Polestar: High Performance Conflict Resolution

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You need a car that can handle the load of your daily life. You also need a car that’s going to make you smile when you drive it. Enter the Volvo V60 Polestar; a premium, compact wagon with a racing background.

It’s limited. It’s packing 350 horsepower. It will run from 0-60 miles per hour in under five seconds. It can do all of this, and it can also transport your family comfortably and safely.

This is another shining example of the awesomeness that is the wagon.

[Disclaimer: Volvo/Polestar tossed me the guys to this bright blue wagon for a few days, and included a tank of gas. I wish they would toss me those keys and let me keep it forever… such a great car.]

Dodge Challenger Scat Pack: A Half-Price Hellcat

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The name isn’t great, even if it’s rooted in history. All is forgotten upon a press of the start button, however, because the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack is a ridiculously fun machine set at half-Hellcat pricing.

Under the hood is a 485-horspower 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine that enjoys ruining any relationship it may have had with its own rear tires. Inside is a cabin that is actually from the 21-st century. Outside is retro styling done right, with a clear nod to the past mixed with modern touches.

It’s not perfect, but that makes it even more of a muscle car, and that’s part of the reason that we love it.

Just know that everywhere you go is now a Smoking Zone…

Precise Figures Unavailable: The Aston Martin 6.3 Liter Wide Body Virage

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“We can’t disclose those figures I’m afraid.”

This was the reply I received to a series of questions from a fellow who should know, Paul Spires, the general manager of Aston Martin Works in Newport-Pagnell, County Buckinghamshire, England.

Situated in the “historic home of Aston Martin” since 1959 – effectively the fifth Aston factory, following earlier stints in London and Middlesex – the AM Works is the keeper of the brand’s historic flame, offering “heritage services” for all late model Aston’s including “heritage upgrades” as well as a menu of other services.

The Works website and company brochures tout Newport-Pagnell as the font of all things AM. “Aston Martin Works is now the largest, best equipped and most knowledgeable heritage restoration center in the world.”

So why can’t the Works general manager “disclose” how many of Aston’s already imposing Virages received the full “Works Service conversion” that resulted in the very rare and lusted-after British muscle car you see here?

Why is Aston Martin unable to divulge how many of the converted cars were right-hand-drive or left-hand-drive or how many were equipped with manual gearboxes?

Three reasons as far as anyone can tell: the plight of Aston Martin in the late 1980s/early 1990s, poor record-keeping and the English penchant for doing rather grand things in convoluted fashion.

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Jaguar F-Type R: Pretty, Powerful, …Perfect

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It’s been a hell of a year for those of us who love noise, horsepower, and cars that encourage driving shenanigans. The perfectly sculpted icing on this massively delicious cake has to be the Jaguar F-Type R coupe.

It’s a simple recipe at first glance; you take a powerful engine, pair it with a small rear-wheel-drive coupe, and you make the world happy. Jaguar has a lot more going on underneath the surface here though, as there cabin is wonderfully laid out and designed, the driving experience is precise and tight, and the multitude of smart systems employed keep everything moving in the right direction.

The Jaguar F-Type is pretty. It’s also quite powerful. The F-Type is… perfect.

[Disclaimer: Jaguar tossed me the keys to the F-Type R for a week, and included a tank of gas. I went through that tank, and smiled during the next few fill-ups as well because it meant I got to hear more F-Type R noise.]

HCOTY 2014 Nominee: 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Blacktop

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[Editor’s Note: Yes, we suck at this. Two new cars this year… we apologize and it won’t happen again. Antti at least has a good reason for this one.]

Having thought long and hard about the car I would be nominating as my personal Hooniversal Car of the Year candidate, I have no other option than to go way back to the last days of May and the first days of June, when I finally set foot on American soil and American tarmac and received the keys to a 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Blacktop, reviewed here.

Granted, it’s not a Hellcat by a long stretch, and the at least 707-horsepower super-Challenger has deservedly become the beacon of insanely powerful Challengers since its unveiling, but for myself the old R/T stands for so much more.

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Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon: Long Live the Longroof!

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The wagon… It’s fallen out of favor over the course of the last few decades thanks to the rise in popularity of sport and crossover utility vehicles. That’s a shame, because the wagon is the TRUE sport utility vehicle in the market.

Case in point is this 2015 Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon. It’s powered by a 302-horsepower V8 engine, has seating for up to seven people, or it can be used to haul a whole lot of stuff. This longroof drives in a manner that’s far more enjoyable than any SUV or CUV counterpart, and it looks better as well.

Only a handful of automakers are still cranking out wagons… which means only a handful of automakers still get it. Long live the longroof!

[Disclaimer: Mercedes-Benz tossed me the keys to this wagon for a week, and included a tank of gas. I actually got oddly ill while shooting the car, which wasn’t the fault of the Benz. Can you tell I feel like crap during the video? I did love the car though.]

First Drive: 2015 Nissan Murano

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Designers are an optimistic bunch. They are asked to create a vision that is then whittled down, distilled, and changed. What starts as a concept, moves to a drawing, then clay, and finally scale models before it is adjusted to fit the needs of marketing, engineering, and those sitting at the top of the automakers food chain. Occasionally, a designer gets to see his or her work stay a bit more true to an original concept, but that’s rare these days.

Today is a rare day, because this is the 2015 Nissan Murano and it is a mixture of everything Senior Designer Ken Lee envisioned when he set out to craft the brands latest flagship crossover. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate…

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