We Visit the 2014 LA Auto Show

By | December 31, 2014

2014 LA Auto ShowOne month and one hard drive crash later, we look back at the LA Auto Show.  Most auto shows we, like you, sit in front of a computer and watch the new unveilings online.  This time is different.  We actually went in person and saw it all right before our eyes.  This was made possible because of good timing.  You see, my wife and I got married in San Diego five years ago and we try to go back each year if we can.  The LA Auto Show just so happens to land on the same week as our anniversary!  Let’s just say I have a very awesome wife to allow me to drive up to LA on our anniversary trip just for the show.

Toyota MiraiToyota has always been one to push alternative energy.  They were the first to offer a hybrid for the masses and have been quite a big seller as well as the butt of many jokes.  Toyota is yet again taking new technologies and opening hem up for the public.  This is the Mirai.  In many ways it is like the Prius, ugly, is eco-friendly, and a first for the masses.  The Mirai is the first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car to be sold.  Toyota promise a 300 mile range and thee car will be leasing for $57,000 or $499 per month.  Now that sounds like a lot, but then Toyota is throwing in free hydrogen to all buyers.  Only time will tell if Toyota can turn hydrogen power into gold like they did their Prius.

Mazda CX3Mazda is jumping on the cute ute band wagon and served up this Mazda2 based CUV.  The CX3 follows suit with the rest of the Mazda product line with its KODO design language.  It will be offered with a Skyactiv turbo four and al-wheel drive.  Specifics are yet to be announced but we speculate it will use the same 155 hp 2.0 found in the base models of the Mazda3.  If it is anything like the rest of the Mazda lineup it should be a hoot to drive.Volkswagen Golf R VariantDo you ever look at you Volkswagen Golf R and think, “I really wish I could haul more stuff…”  Well now you can with the new Golf R Variant.  The Golf R Variant is basically a Golf R drivetrain engineered to fit in its Golf Variant packaging.  It uses the Golf R’s 296 hp 2.0 turbo, six speed dual-clutch transmission, and 4Motion all-wheel drive.  The Golf R Variant is good for 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds (.2 sec slower than the normal Golf R) and has 57.2 cubic feet of cargo space.  It goes on sale in Europe in the spring but there is no word if it will be sold this side of the pond.

Scion iM ConceptScion brought what can only be described as what Toyota would have built if they still sold the Matrix.  In actuality the iM Concept is a modified version of the Toyota Auris which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2012.  The iM Concept shows that Scion is still very serious about building fun cars for the younger generation.  The iM gets its name from “individuality” and “modern” and it is just that.  Scion says the iM has been given the green light for production and should cost less than $20,000.  We expect the production version will loose its aggressive stance, large wheels, and body kit.  More details on the production version are expected to come sometime in 2015.

BMW X5 MThe ultimate driving machine and SUV don’t get said in the same sentence very often but don’t tell BMW.  They brought new versions of both their X5 and X6 M division SUVs.  Neither are particularly beautiful and both are rather pointless.  Both are powered by a 4.4L twin turbo V8 producing 567 hp and 553 lb/ft of torque.  That is enough to move their 5000 lb masses to 60 mph in a claimed sub 4 second time.  If anything, that is very impressive.  Prices for the X5 M and X6 M start at $99,650 and $103,050 respectfully.

Audi Prologue ConceptPerhaps Mercedes-Benz is to blame for this ridonculous car.  Earlier this year Mercedes launched the S-Class Coupe.  It should come as no surprise that Audi decided to take a bite out of that cake as well with the Prologue Concept.  Although it isn’t based off any current Audi, the Prologue Concept could very well be a look into the future of the A8 but in coupe form, an A9 if you will.  featuring new tech such as laser headlights, 4 wheel steering, 5 link air suspension, and nothing but touch screens inside for the controls and instrument panel, the navigation system can even be controlled from the rear seats!  Imagine that on a road trip with kids…  Power comes from a tuned version of the 4.0L twin turbo V8 used in the RS7 and Bentley Continental GT3-R and has 605 hp.  Such power should scoot the Prologue Concept along to 62mph in just 3.7 seconds.  Pair that with its good looks and the S-Class Coupe would have a serious challenger on its hands.  Unfortunately for now it is only a design study but we say build it!

Mercedes Maybach S600The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the luxury car of choice for thousands around the world.  But what if that is too common for you?  What if you want something bigger and more exclusive?  What if you want to kick back in a recliner and let someone else do the driving?  Well, Mercedes has once again joined forces with Maybach to make this possible.  Say hello to the Mercedes-Maybach S600.  From the outside the car looks longer, 8.1 inches longer.  That makes it longer than the Bentley Mulsanne.  The rear seat is replaced with two reclining seats that can recline up to 43.5º back, have fold out ottomans, and massage you.  The cupholders will also keep your drink hot or cold for you.  What more do you need in the back seat of your personal limo?  The driver is well taken care of too with a 6.0L biturbo V12 making 523 hp attached to their right foot.  Prices are estimated to start at $200,000, a relative bargain to the Maybach 57 from ten years ago.

Bentley Grand ConvertibleBentley hasn’t had a big convertible car for a while now. Sure there is the GTC but that is small compared to what Bentley brought to LA which is where most of these will likely be bought.  Meet the Grand Convertible.  In short, it is a convertible version of the Mulsanne Speed.  It puts the same 6.75L 530 hp V12 to use and offers miles of headroom.  Expect to see these cruising down Rodeo Drive if Bentley decides to put it into production.

Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran TurismoPerhaps the most outlandish car of the show was this, the Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo.  The wordy name references both Chaparral Racing, who was famous for their experimental Can-Am race cars with massive wings, and Gran Turismo.  This Chaparral is purely and theoretical fantasy car that can be downloaded and driven in Gran Turismo 6.  Inspired by BASE jumping wing suits and adapted to look like a car.  The idea is the driver lays down face first and your limbs angled toward each wheel.  The powertrain is also complete fantasy using a 671kw laser, lithium-ion batteries, and an air-powered generator to propel the car forward with 900hp of thrust.  See the fantasy?  This powertrain allows 1.5 sec 0-60 times and a 240 mph top speed, er, in Gran Turismo 6.

Lexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus has had some of the most controversial designs in recent memory and the new LF-C2 Concept is no exception.  Look past the Predator mouth and the piss-yellow paint and you’ll see something that is a bit of a cross between the recent LF-LC Concept and the Lexus RC but in convertible form.  The 2+2 has no roof meaning open air driving 100% of the time.  As of now it is just a concept and there has been no mention to drivetrain or price.  If it does get the go ahead we expect it will take the place of the bland IS Convertible and create a RC Convertible.  Until then we are stuck trying to look past that hideous paint to make a real judgment on this creature from Lexus.

Ford Shelby GT350 MustangThe most anticipated car of the show had to be this, the new Shelby GT350 Mustang from Ford.  Technically revealed a few days prior, the GT350 features a 5.2L V8 make more than 500 horsepower according to Ford.  Other features include upgraded suspension including MagnaRide (Ford’s version of Magnetic Ride Control), massive brakes, equally large tires, and a mesmerizing exhaust note thanks in part to a flat-plane crank.  Look for the GT350 to undercut the Camaro Z28 in price and perhaps knock it off its high horse.

The next stop on the auto show circuit is the North American International Auto Show in Detroit January 12-25.

In Photos: 2014 WinterX – December – Round 1

By | December 29, 2014

2014 - WinterX - Round 1

2014 – WinterX – Round 1

Happy Holidays everyone! Hopefully we’ve all recovered enough from our post-holiday induced comas to start work on installing new go-fast goodies! Or in some cases, some of you have been “extra-special” good and received a new go-fast car!

Anxious to get out there and try out the new toys?

Not sure you can wait for warmer weather?

Have a solution for you, Miller Motorsports Park’s WinterX series. What is WinterX? Think of it as a an AutoX course on a world-renowned race track, regardless of the weather. That’s right - rain, shine, snow, sleet, wind – it doesn’t matter – you will be on the track! To find out the specifics, do the clicky thing here.

To give you some idea of what to expect, here are some photos from last season.

And below are some photos from this month’s WinterX event.

Enjoy!

[photos | Scott Pettett | Mike Gillilan]

5 Things Car Guys Hate About The Movies

By | December 10, 2014

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Four wheels beneath me and a steering wheel in my hand is generally all I need for good entertainment.  Flats, straights, v’s – 4′s,6′s, or 8′s.  It’s all good.  Throw in a good movie, maybe even a drive-in in the back of an old pick-up and I’ve really had a treat.  I’m pretty easy to please.  Probably a little too easy, especially with the movies.  I don’t get caught up in analyzing the flaws of a film or the improbability of a story line.  I just enjoy the couple of hours of entertainment and some popcorn.  Except for most scenes that involve automobiles, especially action scenes.  I’ve listed my top 5 pet peeves that I think most car guys would agree with.

5.  Unbelievable Air Time: This isn’t my number one offender for one simple reason.  The big time jumps are super entertaining, regardless of their ridiculousness.  Pretty much every fast & furious movie involves major hang time.  Each movie outdoing the last.  “Gone In 60 Seconds” is probably the most infamous jump that has caused its fair share of rolled eyes… except for the utility workers that get to inspect the Shelby’s undercarriage of course.

4.  The Complete Absence of Headrests:  It will forever bother me that every movie scene that takes place in a vehicle during a conversation lacks headrests.  If you look really close, you can usually see the fabric that was made to cover the evidence of their existence.  Sometimes they’ll magically appear during an chase scene… probably to prevent whiplash.

3.  Vehicles In Chase Scenes That Repair Themselves:  Reason #3 is actually the reason I decided to write this article.  I was watching “It’s A Good Day To Die Hard”.  A totally lame Mercedes utility van is being chased through the streets of a Russian metropolis by a giant military armored vehicle.  Never mind the likely differences in top speeds of these two vehicles, the van gets smashed up early in the chase.  In particular, it loses a headlight.  I’m talking, hanging from the wiring harness type of loss.  About two minutes later into the chase the headlight has magically found its way back into original home, shining brightly for everyone to see.  I also hate it when cars involved in movies change model years inexplicably between scenes.  Those chargers that pull the vault through Rio in “Fast Five” ring any bells?

2.  Soundtracks That Don’t Fit The Car:  “Need For Speed” is one of my favorite car movies.  Probably because of the excellent exhaust notes throughout the movie.  Thankfully that Mustang that Toby Marshal drives through most of the movie sounds like a stacked Mustang.  The problem with most car movies is that most cars involved, sound like a stacked Mustang… especially that Vanquish from James Bond “Die Another Day”.  Car guys can tell a cylinder count or configuration just by hearing it.  Hollywood can’t fool us.  Apparently a throaty V8 is the only way to go in a chase scene.  Who cares if that big bass is coming out of the skinny tailpipe of a euro taxi.

1. Incorrect Speedometers:  My biggest pet peeve is ironically in one of my favorite movies.  “Unstoppable” starring Denzel Washington is based off of a true story involving a run away train.  Towards the end of the movie, an over confident railroad employee leads the dopey local police on a merry chase throughout the Pennsylvanian countryside.  His appropriate mode of transportation is a Ford Super Duty dually.  At one point in the movie we get a glimpse of his speedo.  Apparently the excessive lack of character of an early 2000 model year Ford truck was not good enough for Hollywood because what you see is a 1960′s vintage Mustang speedometer.  At least they got the make right.

Maybe I’m too easily annoyed by such things but at least I can be a movie critique to a point.  Share your favorite big screen automotive bloopers in the comments below.

In Photos: NASA Utah Region Round 7

By | November 30, 2014

NASA Utah Region - Round 7

NASA Utah Region – Round 7

Sometimes life gets in the way of the important things. As is such the case for this gallery featuring round 7 of NASA Utah. This, the final round of the 2014 season. You can gander at the previous galleries of the season here.

Round 7 results here.

Need the season results – do the clicky thing here.

Thanks once again to the folks of Miller Motorsports Park and the folks of NASA Utah and all the drivers and fans that let us take all sorts of pictures of you!

Until next season, enjoy a smattering of photos from round 7!

[photos | Mike Gillilan]

2014 Mazda3

By | November 13, 2014

2014 Mazda3

In a world filled with expensive gas, the need for practicality, and the desire to have fun on a budget the 2014 Mazda3 fits the bill.  It offers great fuel economy, comes in the form of a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatch (shown), and is a hoot to drive.

Mazda has been marketing Zoom Zoom with fuel efficiency for a number of years now.  They have gained a reputation for sporty rides, good looks, and excellent fuel economy since.  The new 2014 Mazda3 keeps the tradition going with this handsomely redesigned model shying away from the less popular “smiley faced” cars.  This new 3 follows the current Mazda design language inspired by the Shinari concept from 2010 which has helped Mazda see a boost in sales numbers across their model range.

2014 Mazda3

Mazda has given the 3 a choice of two SkyActiv 4 cylinder engines, the base 2.0L has 155 hp and a 2.5L with 184 hp that is shared with the Mazda6.  Our test car was fitted with the 2.0L and paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission.  The 2.0 is a buzzy little engine that will get you around town and down the highway with no problems.  The transmission shifts smoothly and you hardly notice when driving.  Move the gear lever into sport mode and you can shift yourself but it is slow to respond and requires timely pulls of the lever to get it to shift when you want it to.  The 2.0 is far from quick but in return you get great fuel economy.  It is rated at 30/40 mpg for city and highway respectively.  In our mostly city driving our average was 31.7 mpg according to the onboard mpg calculator.  It will also show you real-time figures and on the highway we have seen averages in the low 50 mpg range.  If quick is more your style then we’d recommend the 2.5L with its extra 29 hp which helps the car get up to speed when pulling out into traffic better but at a sacrifice of a few mpgs with it rated at 27/37 city/highway.

2014 Mazda3

Take the 3 out of the city and down a canyon road and the car handles great for a small econobox.  In the corners the car grips and doesn’t roll about like others in its class. The steering is quick, responsive, and nicely weighted which gives the driver better confidence.  We would argue that if Mazda were to build a rear wheel drive 3-series fighter BMW would have some serious trouble on their hands in terms of handling and overall feel from behind the wheel.  The brakes feel nice and linear and feel better than most in its class and it takes about 122 ft to stop from 60 mph which believe it or not is only 4 feet farther than the Ferrari 355.

2014 Mazda3

The interior is a nice place to be.  The design is pleasing to look at and the basic cloth seats are comfortable and offer plenty of leg room both front and back.  My 6’3″ frame doesn’t need the seat all the way back to have enough room like in most cars and I can even sit in the back without a fuss.  The speedometer is easy to read but the tach is tiny.  But then again, in a car such as this a tach isn’t the primary focus.  Our test car had very little options with no heated seats or infotainment screen.  The higher trim levels even offer a fighter jet-like heads up display which displays your speed.  Our car did have blind spot monitoring in the form of lights in the corners of the mirrors which light up if a vehicle is in your flanks.  Turn on an indicator and it beeps to warn you.  The system works quite well and is sensitive enough to pick up bicyclists.  It also works when in reverse to let you know if a car is coming which also works remarkable well in parking lots.

2014 Mazda3

Admittedly, the new 3 is priced above pretty much everything in its class but for what you get it is a great buy.  A base model sedan can be had for just $16,945.  The hatchback adds $2,000 to that.  Check all the boxes though and you’ll see that price double and after destination charges will be close to $35,000!  The new Mazda3 can be a very smart buy if you go easy on the options.  We liked the 3 so much that the test car is actually my car.  My wife and I have put just over 3,000 miles on it to date and have loved every bit of it.  It offers plenty of Zoom Zoom with practicality and fuel economy numbers to keep us from stopping at the pump.

Photos: Chance Hales

A Day In The Life of A SEMA Exhibitor

By | November 6, 2014

I’ve been in the automotive industry for several years now, an editor at The Daily Derbi for just about as long, and an enthusiast from the womb.  Despite all that and good intentions I have never attended SEMA until this year.  Kids, vacations, moving, and family obligations have all prevented the much coveted trip to the mecca of the automotive aftermarket.

Now that I’m working for a distributor of performance products I’m at SEMA for the week and will be every year for the forceable future.  Unfortunately, when you’re working the show you have to come early, before the show opens just to enjoy the cars that are at the show.  Just to put it into perspective, I spent 9 hours at the show the opening day and only made it to seven booths.  It was like a prison with no doors and giant windows.

I came in early today to catch some cars.  Staying true to last year, there were lots of custom FR-S and BRZ’s.  I still want one.  We’ll be coming out with an overview of our favorite cars from the show later but for now, here’s a list what struck me on my first walk through.

FT-1

Similar to Honda, Toyota has been on a performance car hiatus for years (excluding the Scion FR-S).  The Celica is long gone and the legendary Supra is a relic of the past.  The FT-1 has been tantalizing the Supra faithful for a long time now.  As the Supra’s spiritual successor, the FT-1 has a lot to live up to and as gorgeous as it is in concept form, a lot of potential to disappoint should it make production.  I say disappoint because the FT-1 is a work of art on so many levels but many of those heavenly aspects would never make it into production.  Connecting pillars would have to be widened to accomodate air bags, DOT approved signal and safety lights will have to be added (causing blemishes to clean lines) and those beautiful side mirrors are probably worthless.  The 1950′s and the beauty over safety mentality will forever be missed in the enthusiasts world.  Still, with all those obstacles ahead the FT-1 is a top attraction at SEMA in 2014.

918 Front

The Porsche 918 Spyder is a shoe in as well.  It’s the hybrid hyper car, the halo Porsche, and successor of the Carrera GT.  The 918 is one of the most beautiful Porsche’s ever made (made easier because of the Panamera) and its performance is staggering.  From an exhaust point of view, it’s one of my favorites around.  Duel exhaust, exiting from the top of engine compartment is magical.

Without hi-lighting a specific one.  Just know that there is a butt load of 2015 Mustangs at SEMA this year.  The 2015 stang has received its fair share of criticism but let me tell you that the car is far more impressive in person than in pictures.  Clean lines and, muscular shoulders, and one of the best rear ends in the business make the new Mustang one of the most appealing pony cars yet.

911 LS Front

Crazy one off cars are always expected at SEMA.  Hawk Performance hasn’t disappointed this year with their custom 911.  While it does have a one-of-a-kind wide body kit and wheels that you won’t see anywhere else, this German autobahn blaster is powered by American muscle.  It’s a tight fit but yes, this baby has an LS Chevy hanging over the rear axle.  Säuglinge zurückkamen!!

We’ll be at SEMA the rest of the week and will continue to provide coverage on what catches our eye.  Pardon the crummy cell phone pics.  Stay tuned for our top pics from #SEMA2014