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McLaren 650S Spider: An open-top time machine

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What happens when you have an automaker that learns about going fast by winning races on one of the world’s greatest stages? You wind up with truly superior road-going cars, and you’re obviously talking about McLaren.

It’s been decades since the McLaren F1 rocked our minds, yet we still speak of that ultra-speed machine to this day. McLaren has been hard at work creating cars for a new generation of go-fast well-heeled enthusiasts, however, and the 650S Spider is proof positive of that.

The McLaren 650S Spider is the fastest, greatest handling vehicle we’ve tested in the Hooniverse. It’s not even the fastest, greatest handling vehicle that McLaren makes… and that thought warps our mind, yet makes us smile.

Racing knowledge and technology can certainly come together to produce tremendous sports cars, and exotic experiences. The experience of the 650S is one we won’t soon forget…

It’s an open-top time machine that warps the world around you.

Miserable Review: 2014 Seat Leon 1.6 Diesel.

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This is the first time I’ve ever embarked upon a car review while I’ve been in an absolutely foul mood. Usually you’re plied with goodies and refreshments and then handed the keys by a beaming member of a manufacturer press relations team. They then send you out on either a well chosen set of lightly trafficked roads, a private circuit or maybe a proving ground, and usually you’ve allocatedyourself enough time to build some kind of meaningful relationship with the review subject.

This review, however, started out with me being two and a half hours away from an appointment, in a city separated from me by 120 miles of near-stationary traffic.

So it all starts rather badly, and that’s not just the writing.

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First Drive: 2016 Acura ILX

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The entry-level luxury market is a hot spot right now in the industry. Strong competition amongst the offerings typically breeds great options for the consumer. You have plenty of ways to get in with an upscale automaker, so deciding on the best course of action is a good problem.

Acura has an updated answer to the problem with its 2016 ILX. This is the second go-around for the car, which launched a few years ago and was viewed as not more more than a slightly more fancy Honda Civic.

Acura knew it needed to bring more to the table, so let’s dive in and see if that’s the case here…

[Disclaimer: Acura flew me to Napa and let me toss the ILX around on the backroads around wine country. I’m still waiting on the day that we switch to beer and cicerones over wine and sommeliers.]

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

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Volkswagen is pretty much cooking up a Golf for everyone on the planet. You have the standard Golf, the diesel TDI, and an all-electric eGolf. Enthusiasts around the globe love the GTI. There’s also a wagon version coming soon called the Golf SportWagen.

This, however, is the one for… us. This is the Volkswagen Golf R, and it’s a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive hot hatch designed to make you a happier person. For just under $40k, you can pilot a nearly 300-horsepower five-door that also happens to have one of the (if not THE) best interior in its class.

Oh and Hans Stuck helped make sure the handling doesn’t suck.

Win-win? You best believe it…

[Disclaimer: Volkswagen invited me down to San Diego and put me up in a hotel for the evening. I took a train down to the location so I could drive a Golf R back and spend even more time with the car. Nice ride down… better ride back.]

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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