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Quick Spin- 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

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This past week a number of your humble hosts attended the Motor Press Guild’s 2014 Track Days event, where we got to wrap our hands around the wheels of some of the coolest cars debuting at the moment. One of the most sought-after rides – one that literally had a waiting list to drive – was the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, the car that relaunches the venerated Italian brand here in the U.S..

I managed to get on that list and take the car out on the track at the Streets of Willow and I’m now back, with a crazy grin still stuck on my face, to tell you what it was like. … Continue Reading

BMW i3 and i3 Range Extender: Existential Review

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Have you ever wondered how arts reviewers manage to get away with saying what they do? Every time I pick up one of the London newspapers I spend time reviewing the reviews section, purely because I’m fascinated by opinion. What on Earth gives a person, particularly a non-artist, the right to judge on “how good” a new art installation, performance or recording is? Who’s to say that one idea is any more valid than another?

Of course, cars are a lot less subjective than art. For anybody who has ever taken an interest in driving it should be painfully obvious when a car fails, wholly or in part, to do its job competently. Or indeed when it excels. But sometimes the line between car and art becomes blurred. The BMW i3 has come along and established itself in a hitherto unoccupied slot in the vehicle-roadspace continuum. It’s a new idea, and I found it kind of tricky to get my head around.

… Continue Reading

Review: All-New Porsche Macan S and Macan Turbo

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Going into this event, I was at the same time excited and disappointed. Excited because I’d be driving a brand new front-engine turbocharged Porsche, disappointed because it was another sport utility vehicle. As a P-car nut job, it was hard to contain my concern for the company I’d grown to love, fearing that their current trajectory would see them making pickups and people movers in no time flat. To make matters worse, this new Porsche Macan uses a chassis developed by Volkswagen and Audi (Tiguan and Q5 respectively), rather than the Cayenne’s chassis, which was developed by Porsche. The Macan is the first Porsche since 1983 to wear anything other than a 5X130 bolt pattern, using instead VAG’s traditional 5X112.

Could it possibly live up to the Porsche brand name? Click through to find out my thoughts on the subject.

… Continue Reading

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: Ballin’ on a budget or the real AMG deal?

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For many years now, AMG have been churning out ballistic machines with hand-built engines. The cars sole purpose has been to generate power, noise, and tire smoke. Now though, there’s a new generation of AMG vehicles and one of the interesting spots in the lineup is occupied by the CLA45 AMG.

It’s a compact sedan that’s shaped a bit like a coupe and offers up turbocharged four-cylinder goodness. That doesn’t sound like something that the mad minds at AMG would cook up… until you realize that this is one of the most powerful four-cylinder engines ever created.

Still, is it the real AMG experience or is it merely a budget pretender? Let’s watch…

Review: 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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I triple-checked the parking brake and glanced ahead through the narrow windshield—almost more of a viewing port—at the “ZL1″ affixed to the hood scoop’s side. I heard Jeff Glucker, Hooniverse’s executive editor, in my head.

Don’t f— it up.

Well, he hadn’t said those words, but he’d typed them in an email to let me know what I’d be driving for my short weekend visit to California to serve as a member of the austere and somber 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. Nevertheless, I heard his voice when I first read those words and I heard it again as my thumb pinched the ignition key against my index finger.

Don’t f— it up.

My foot floored the stiff clutch pedal and I rolled my wrist forward. The Chevrolet Camaro’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8 sprang to burbling life and the whole chassis oscillated with the cam’s lope, a mighty American bear awakened. Ready to pounce.

I chanced a grin before those words popped up again in a buttery smooth podcast voice.

Don’t f— it up.

I furrowed my brow. This brand-new Camaro was about to see the easiest 330 journalist miles of its service life.

… Continue Reading

First Drive: 2015 Ford F-150
An aluminum game changer?

2015 Ford F-150

[Friend of Hooniverse Ben Wohja Woodzila W. recently got some seat time in the brand new, aluminum bodied Ford F-150. He posted about it on Facebook, and I asked if we could repost his thoughts on the new truck here. So here you go, enjoy! -- J.G.]

1) At a 20,000 ft level, it’s a truck. Yes, it has an aluminum body and as a result has a higher payload and trailer rating, but at the end of the day, it’s a truck. At no point in the day and a half that I spent with a variety of models did I think “This really changes the game.” I know from a materials and manufacturing process that it does indeed change the game, but to the end user, it doesn’t cure cancer, it doesn’t blow skirts up. It’s a good, solid truck, much like you can buy at a GM or Ram dealer.

Aside from not being able to stick magnets to it, the average Joe would have a REALLY hard time determining why it’s special. Out the door pricing will be very important because the competition among the three main players will be pretty stiff.

2) Exterior styling works well. Trucks are hard, in that they’re three boxes period, no options. The grille works, the body lines flow, the tailgate distinguishes the truck from its predecessors in traffic. Fancy ambient lighting in the headlights looks cool as do the optional all LED headlights. Ford has done well to eliminate the protruding blue ovals used to hide various cameras. The truck looks clean.

3) As far as features go, the F-150 is leading the pack. The improved man step in the tail gate is great. The LED spot lights on the wing mirrors seem hokey at first, but they’re pretty neat in real life. The side steps are carry-over and only necessary because the bed side around about a foot too high. The LED light on the tail gate is great. The power release tail gate… kind of silly. The optional E-track mounts in the bed sides are genius and should be copied by everyone else. Borrowing a page from Nissan’s Around View playbook with the 360 view is nice if over due.

[Jump past the break for more...]

… Continue Reading

Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT – A $100k steal

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The Aston Martin V8 Vantage has been around for a few years now. It’s been refined a bit during that time, but some might say it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. We’re okay with that… because it keeps getting better while still maintaining its beautiful looks.

There’s a new version for us to love, and it’s called the V8 Vantage GT. While our friends in Europe get the N430 version, which is a luxed up Vantage, we get the version that’s easily one of the best deals in this segment.

Aston Martin offers the V8 Vantage GT with a starting price of just $99,000. To be able to put one of these in your garage for less than the cost of 911 with a few options is a rare treat, and it’s one that should have well heeled shoppers thinking twice about heading to their local Super Beetle dealership…

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!

… Continue Reading

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.]

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