Bad Boys: Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Vs. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chevrolet’s had the 5th-generation Camaro ZL1 out for a couple of model years now, and it’s only real muscle car competition was the now-defunct Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.  The GT500 is now out of production, as the 2015 Mustang will go into production soon.  Dodge’s heavy Challenger SRT8 is a great car for cruising the boulevards and highways of America, it’s just not a handling muscle car like the ZL1.  The ZL1 is meant to be a car that you can take to your local track day without a trailer, win, and drive home.  Dodge desperately needed a competitor to the ZL1, so they rolled out the awesome Challenger Hellcat.  The Hellcat is the most powerful stock American V8 ever.  It makes a thundering, throaty, screaming, 707 horsepower.  That’s right.  However, a dyno test by Motor Trend showed that the Hellcat actually makes more than that.  Back to that later.  The Hellcat is meant to be a car that you can drive to your local drag strip, win against other bone-stock cars, and drive home.

The Camaro uses a detuned LS9 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that pumps out 580 horsepower.  It puts the power down to the ground through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.  Plus, you can get it as a convertible, which would eliminate most of the visibility issues associated with the 5th-generation Camaro coupe.  While the Camaro may make far less horsepower than the Challenger Hellcat, it makes up for it in a trick suspension and 400 fewer pounds than the Challenger Hellcat.  Sometimes less is more.  Besides, the Camaro beat the 662-horsepower Mustang GT500 in it’s last shootout.

The Challenger uses an all-new 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 that pumps out a claimed 707 horsepower.  It puts all of those raging ponies down to the ground through either a six-speed manual or a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic adapted from the ZF 8-speed slushbox found in many cars nowadays.  It also comes with a trick suspension adapted from the Viper, and a variety of cool driving modes (like Valet Mode, which lowers the horsepower to 300, limits the revs to 4,000 RPM, and turns all of the nannies on).  Plus, it comes with more street appeal than just about any other new car on the market.  Well, with the exception of the Pagani Huayra…

If you want to kill them with consistency in the acceleration department, go for the ZL1.  It thunders to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.  It then goes on to slaughter the 1/4 mile in a stonking fast 12.2 seconds at 116.6 mph.  Whatever way you look at it, that’s pretty fast.  Enter the Hellcat.  It makes the Camaro feel slow.  That’s not surprising.  What makes it’s times even more impressive is the fact that it puts 707+ horsepower down to the ground through relatively skinny 275 millimeter-width tires.  Granted, the tires are Pirelli P Zeroes, but that’s a lot of power going to the ground through not very much tire.  This, of course, makes the Hellcat a difficult one to launch.  Even with launch control enabled, the Hellcat’s best 0-60 run was “just” 3.7 seconds to 60 mph.  It’s probably best to launch the Hellcat in 2nd gear, as that much power can get the Hellcat up to speed quickly, plus it eliminates a time-sapping gearshift.  It then goes on to absolutely embarrass the ZL1 in the 1/4 mile by doing a crazy-fast 11.7 second at 125.4 mph run.  That trap speed won’t only embarrass a Camaro ZL1 owner – it will embarrass a Porsche 911 Turbo S AND a Nissan GT-R Nismo in the 1/4 mile.  America for the win.

Then, you go onto a skid pad.  This is where the intended functions of these two cars show.  The Camaro ZL1 pulled 0.99 G’s on the skidpad.  This is probably thanks to the cool Delphi magnetic shocks, and the quick steering in the ZL1.  While the ZL1 may behave like a sports car, the Hellcat doesn’t.  As Motor Trend‘s Scott Evans put it, “The Challenger handles just like a Challenger.  Understeer into the corner, oversteer out.”  The Hellcat may handle like a boat, but it sticks.  Just ask the 0.94 G’s pulled on the skidpad.  The Challenger may not be the best choice for corner carving on a tight, windy race track, but it will put to shame many well-tuned drift cars as it shreds its skinny rear tires.

I literally couldn’t stop laughing when I heard this, but it’s 100% true.  Motor Trend‘s Kim Reynolds said that the Camaro felt like something developed by Infiniti’s Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team or McLaren’s Formula 1 team.  The Hellcat, on the opposite side of the spectrum, “feels like it was developed by HOT ROD’s Freiburger and Finnegan.”

Should you choose to road-trip either of these two cars, invite me or some friends along!  The Camaro has visibility akin to a solitary confinement prison cell at Abu Grahib, but it’s V8 hums along, the cool shocks absorb anything any road can throw at it, and it’s got a great sound system.  The Challenger Hellcat is THE ultimate road trip car.  I’ve heard that it’s ride is a bit busier, but it keeps you more alert than the quiet, subdued Camaro ZL1.  It’s seats are something that you’ll want in your living room.  The supercharged Hellcat Hemi has an absolutely demonic supercharger whine when you step on it – batten the hatches when the Hellcat comes to town!  The 8-speed automatic transmission is found in almost every new Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/SRT product these days, and it is more beefed up in the Challenger Hellcat to handle the crazy power numbers.  The Hellcat’s engine note when you step on it sounds like somebody supercharged Roadkill’s Blasphemi 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air gasser.  It sounds absolutely spectacular.  The best part is, Dodge has released a Hellcat Hemi engine note ringtone.

Inside, the Challenger is definitely the car of choice.  Aside from the crazy powerful engine and the sinister sheetmetal that looks straight out of 1970, the Challenger is really quite the ticket to being comfortable.  It’s got one of the best interiors in the segment, which it has had since day 1, an intuitive infotainment system, an even better Boston Acoustics sound system, plenty of room for five adults, and a stunningly low entry price of $60,995.  Then, the Camaro ZL1 enters the room.  Sure, it’s got Alcantara all over the bloody cabin, and snug, comfortable Recaro bucket seats, but you can tell Chevy cared more about what was under the hood.  Dodge didn’t have to try very hard to update the cabin in the Challenger.  If you can’t swing $60,995, no worries.  Chevy has a great Camaro ZL1 with your name on it for just $57,650.

While these two cars have traded blows in straight lines, in the curves, and elsewhere, street appeal is definitely part of what muscle cars are all about.  In a nutshell, the Camaro looks like just another Camaro with big black wheels and a vented hood, while the Challenger looks like it just stepped out of the Trans-Am racing series.  It just looks like pure evil.

This is America.  Just like basketball (and many other ball sports), there are NO ties.  There are only winners and losers.  In my humble opinion, the Challenger Hellcat will always come out on top.  It’s got a focus on power, presence, and straight-line performance define what a muscle car is supposed to be.  It shows that the boys over at Dodge know how to make a world-class muscle car after years and years of being pushed around by Ford and Chevy.  While I like the ZL1 as a capable and well-balanced sports car, it just doesn’t really seem like as good of a muscle car of the Challenger Hellcat.  Like the muscle cars of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Challenger Hellcat is built to dominate the streets with some serious power under the beautifully sculpted hood.  The Hellcat proves to me that the ultimate muscle car wasn’t built in the 1960’s or 1970’s – it is now, and here to stay.

Now for the dyno results.  The Challenger Hellcat is rated by the SAE (Society of American Engineers) at 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque at the crank.  Dodge is lying through their teeth.  This engine is almost as powerful as an engine in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.  The Hellcat Challenger puts down 635 horsepower and 591 pound-feet of torque at the wheels.  Factor in a 12% driveline loss (automatics are getting more and more efficient every year), and the Challenger Hellcat makes about 722 horsepower and 672 pound-feet of torque at the crank.  Both of those are more than advertised.  Some other cool things about the Challenger Hellcat:  When Motor Trend did their dyno test at K&N Air Filter’s Riverside, CA dyno shop, the Hellcat was the fastest car ever strapped down to the massive rollers there.  The speedometer topped out at 202 mph, but the Hellcat accelerated to 225 mph, which is the fastest the dyno can possibly go there.  While the Hellcat will never, ever get up to 225 mph stock (a brick goes through the air better), it’s cool to know that the SRT team of engineers didn’t bother fitting a speed limiter to the car.  Not only is it the fastest, but it’s also the hottest.  The Hellcat took five industrial fans pointed at it to keep it cool for it’s dyno pull.  An interesting fact to know about the Hellcat is that it will suck all of the air out of a 10 X 13 foot room in just one minute at full throttle.  It will also drain all 19 gallons of it’s fuel tank in a minute at full throttle.

Now on to the Camaro ZL1.  The ZL1 makes only 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of SAE-rated torque.  The car that Motor Trend tested made just 472 horsepower and 482 pound-feet of torque at the wheels.  K&N noted that that’s about 20 fewer horsepower than they are used to seeing from a stock Camaro ZL1.  Assuming a 10% driveline loss for the Camaro, it’s making a still-impressive 524 horsepower and 536 pound-feet at the crank.  That’s almost 60 horsepower than rated.

Why did the Hellcat need five industrial fans pointed at it?  Well, the Hellcat needs a LOT of air to operate optimally, and superchargers throw off lots of heat.  This 2.9-liter supercharger shoves 11.9 pounds of boost into the engine.  This supercharger is common in tuned muscle cars, and it’s not uncommon to see more boost out of it.  However, I just think that the Hellcat’s engine can’t easily make more power before it presses the self-destruct button.  It’s like the Nissan GT-R, where the engine has been tuned so much that Motor Trend found in a test last year that the engine kept loosing 5 pounds of boost from the two massive turbos.  That’s a lot of boost, so you’ve got to wonder if engines this powerful are tuned to within an inch of their life.

What about the ZL1?  Was it a dud car, or has GM just been radically overrating their engines?  Who knows?  Dyno results range anywhere from far more than what the manufacturer says to far below.  It depends on the dyno itself, the way the car is strapped down, if it has enough air going into the engine, the temperature of the air, and what gear the car is in.  There are literally thousands of different factors in dynoing a car.  It probably wasn’t in Motor Trend’s best interest to dyno two powerful cars with heat-making superchargers in the end of a SoCal summer in Riverside.  While Dodge does say that the Hellcat will last 20 minutes in 100 degree heat at a track and get consistent results, one has to wonder if the Challenger can really last that long without overheating.  Time will tell (pardon the pun) the reliability of this powerful engine.

The engine technology in the Hellcat Hemi goes back to 2002.  That’s a really long time for a cylinder head design to be around in one basic form or another.  Granted, that design works – really well, but Ford and Chevy have definitely stepped up their engine game.  The Mustang GT500 used an aluminum block, which took off 100 pounds off of the front of an already-heavy car, and a bunch of other really cutting-edge engine technology.  Chevy’s LS9 and LSA V8’s are really beasts of engines, but obviously not in the ZL1 dynoed by Motor Trend.  The Hellcat engine block was originally going to be aluminum, but was vetoed at the 11th hour by a Dodge executive.  It’s a shame.  The aluminum engine block would have shaved at least 100 pounds off of the front of a nose-heavy car, bringing it’s curb weight down to about 4350 pounds or so, which would be almost 100 pounds heavier than the also-chubby Camaro.

When it comes to transmissions, the ZF 8-speed automatic is the best transmission in a muscle car now.  Chevy’s six-speed automatic doesn’t like to downshift, even when told to.  Ford didn’t offer an automatic transmission in the GT500, but it used a TREMEC TR6060 six-speed manual.  This is a great six-speed manual.  It’s used by Ford, Chevy, and Dodge.  It’s also common in road-racing cars.  It’s beefy, reliable, and has good gearing for almost any engine.  The fact is, the Hellcat with the 8-speed ZF transmission is probably the best combination.  It’s going to be hard for even an experienced driver of a manual transmission to put 635 horsepower and 591 pound-feet of torque down to the ground.  That’s why Dodge offers 3 power settings – 300 horsepower, 500 horsepower, and 700+ horsepower.  In daily driving, the most power anybody will ever really need is 150 horsepower and about 200 pound-feet of torque.  Plus, the Hellcat with the automatic transmission will get 24 mpg on the highway.  The Camaro only gets 21.  The Mustang only got 22.

If you get a Hellcat, please, please, pretty please, let me know!  I will feature you on my blog, but ONLY if you either take me for a ride, or let me drive it!  If you do either of these, I will interview you, take wonderful pictures, and wax poetic about being in a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat for the rest of my life.

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The Monthly Automotive Forum

This is the place where automotive enthusiasts can pose any sort of automotive-related question for me to answer.  On the first Tuesday of every month, I will answer the questions put up for me.  You can choose where to put your question up as a comment – it can be on the previous post, or on the Monthly Automotive Forum post from the previous month.  Mark your calendars.  Here are the questions that I have gotten so far:

Candler,
Debating about which car to lease. I was thinking about the Audi Q5, the Acura RDX, etc.  Something in the 5 seat Hatchback SUV/Crossover type but I want the best car, best value, highest mileage, car I can get. I need to be able to transport 4 people comfortably when I take clients out, as well as have room and access for items I’m always picking up or samples to bring to customers. What gets your vote?  This question comes from Robert Weinberg.  Thanks for the question.  I have some ideas for you:  On the smaller side of the spectrum is the Mazda CX-5.  However, I think that that is a bit too small for you.  Check out the Acura RDX, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKC, and the Audi Q5.  The RDX may be a bit bland in it’s driving behaviors, but it gets the job done quietly, efficiently, and luxuriously.  The Ford Edge may not have the best looks, but it seats 5 comfortably with room for stuff in the back, and comes with a plethora of options.  The Lincoln MKC falls on the smaller side of the spectrum, but it will hopefully be a pivotal car for Lincoln when they need it.  It has gotten plenty of positive reviews, and it looks pretty dang good.  The Audi Q5 is a great little SUV, but it does not get stellar fuel economy.  That being said, it comes with plenty of bang for the buck in the segment, tons of options very few people will use, and is reliable.  Check all of them out, and see what you think.  Hope this helps!

Question: do manual transmission car drivers have fewer car accidents?

Question: what is the average age of drivers ticketed for texting and driving?  These two good questions come from Sherry.  It’s hard to tell, but I can tell you this:  Driver inattention accounts for about 25% of all accidents on the road today.  Driving a manual transmission does give some stress to drivers, as they always have to constantly pay more attention to the road ahead to shift, depress the clutch, etc.  But, studies have shown that new drivers with manual transmissions have about 1/2 the accidents of those with automatic transmissions.  It is unclear how these results were found, but it was a study done in England in 2012.  The average age of drivers ticketed for texting and driving is…wait for it…28!  Yep, believe it or not, new drivers are less prone to check their cell phone while driving.  That’s not to say that they don’t – many do, but 28-year-olds just get caught more.

Robin Levander has a couple of questions:

Hi Candler,

Thanks for a great forum idea!

OK here are two car questions. At some point we will need to replace our fleet of aging vehicles with low-mileage used vehicles (2-3 years old). What are some suggestions you have for:

1. A more comfortable car than my current Honda Accord that gets good gas mileage, is quieter, and is a hatchback?

2. A pick-up truck suggestion that is quieter, vibrates less, more car-like ride and has great repair/reliability record.

RL.  First of all, you’re welcome.  Second of all.  Check out the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and the Subaru Impreza.  I don’t know if you want a manual transmission or not, but all of those cars come standard with a stick shift.  The Impreza comes with AWD, and is a good, reliable choice for those who need an all-weather car.  The Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are both very good cars, but get the Focus with the 5-speed manual!  You’ll thank me later.  As for the pickup truck, check out the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier.  If you need something bigger, the Ram 1500 is a solid choice, and rides very much like a full-size sedan, thanks to an industry-first rear leaf spring suspension.  All of these trucks are quiet, reliable, and easy to drive.  Hope this helps!

This question comes from Cynthia Weissbein.  Love the idea! Question: who are the safest drivers?  I’m glad that you love the idea.  I do too.  The safest drivers are always the drivers who drive appropriately for the road conditions, are courteous to other drivers, never cut in front of anybody, and never endanger others.  Plus, they usually wave at you when you are a nice driver to them.

All righty then, that’s a wrap for our first automotive forum.  I consider it a success.  I hope that you do too!  Those who I helped with car suggestions – let me know if they work!

The Twenty Best Cars for Summer!

Summer is a great time of the year.  Should you happen to live near the beach or somewhere where you can cool off, go there!  Enjoy summer!  That’s what I’ve been doing! Have fun!  Anyhow, I have compiled a list of the top twenty cars for summer.  Some of these cars are great for tearing up your favorite isolated canyon road.  Others are great for getting to that one remote spot that your Porsche 911 just can’t go.  Others are great for driving long distances.  Some of those cruisers have big, loud V8’s so you can take opportunity of every inch of open highway and tunnel.  Some of these cars are convertibles, others are, well, I shouldn’t spoil it for you!

  1. Jeep Wrangler:  The Jeep Wrangler is a staple of summer.  Should you live near a beach where you can drive on the beach, nothing beats driving a Jeep with the top down, the windows down, and listening to your favorite music.  Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat the feel of a Jeep in it’s environment.  The Wrangler can be ordered as a two-door Jeep, or a four-door Jeep, if you need that extra space.  It’s got truly staggering off-road capability, timeless looks, and a thriving aftermarket.  Plus, there are many models of the Wrangler with varying price ranges for everybody!  Plus, you can’t buy a Jeep and leave it stock.  It’s just not what the Wrangler was intended for.
  2. Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia:  Either of these three GM Lambda-class crossovers is an amazing SUV for a family.  They get decent mileage considering their intended function, have plenty of space for everybody, have one of the best rides out there, and have powerful engines!  We own a 2013 Enclave, and, man, I LOVE it!  It’s got all of the bells and whistles that I could ever imagine, and then some!  It’s spectacular on long road trips or doing light off-roading.  It just soaks up the bumps and is unfazed by anything.  It’s got superb visibility, and a bunch of safety nannies like blind-spot monitoring for those times when you just can’t see in that one spot, and got plenty of space and gadgets for every single person inside it’s sumptuous cabin.  I just can’t say enough good things about the Enclave!  If you’re on more of a budget, look at the Chevy Traverse.  The Acadia has much more truck-like looks, and is thus more intimidating when it comes up on your six.  That’s not to say that the Enclave isn’t.  It’s got a big ol’ honkin’ chrome grille that looks like it’s itching to eat small animals.  The one caveat that my dad has about it so far is the fact that a panel on the door gets dented easily on long road trips.  Other than that, I couldn’t want anything more out of the Enclave.  A job well done, GM.
  3. Dodge Challenger/Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300:  Chrysler/Dodge’s fullsize sedans and coupe are big, cushy cars that have been substantially updated.  The Challenger is great for those who want classic American looks, and a bunch of street appeal.  The Charger is good for those who need the extra rear seat space.  The 300 is good for those who crave that extra bit of luxury.  If you opt for the Challenger, any of the available models are fun cars, but if you road trip a lot, get the Challenger R/T with the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and the six-speed manual.  If you don’t drive stick, don’t worry – the superb 8-speed automatic is there for you!  With the Charger, get the Charger SRT8 – it’s a sleeper!  It does look intimidating, but the SRT8 model can scoot on the straightaways and the corners!  None of the Chrysler/Dodge cars are battleships in the corners, but the SRT8 models have a tweaked suspension and a potent 392 cubic-inch HEMI V8 (6.4 liters).  Get the Chrysler 300S for looks and comfort.  It gets rid of or blacks out most of the chrome that the 300 is known for, which makes it absolutely intimidating and beautiful. The white paint is the best option for the 300S – it makes the blacked-out chrome stand out!  Plus, it comes with the powerful 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and the sweet 8-speed automatic.  Even the Challenger is able to swallow two large coolers, a duffel bag, and at least one small suitcase.  The backseat is large enough to take two full-size adults with ease, with three in a pinch.
  4. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel:  As if the Ram 1500 wasn’t a good enough truck to start off with, Ram decided to put a small diesel engine into the popular Ram 1500.  Not only is this a good idea, but it’s a good choice for those who haul or tow a lot, but don’t want to have to step up to a massive 2500-series pickup.  Plus, diesel engines are great for road tripping.  The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the only half-ton pickup on the market with a diesel engine.  There are plenty of options available for the Ram 1500, many of which can send the price rocketing up well past $50,000.  It only comes as a crew cab with a six-foot bed or a five-foot bed, with 2WD or 4WD.  It comes with an 8-speed automatic standard, so you never have to worry about surfing that tsunami of torque.  If all of that wasn’t good enough for you, think about this – the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel was Motor Trend’s 2014 Truck of the Year.  It’s a repeat winner, as it won the 2013 TOTY as well.
  5. Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG:  AMG is and always has been known for making radically fast, fun cars with gobs of power.  With emissions regulations tightening every year, automakers are increasingly turning to turbochargers for performance and fuel economy.  The SL63 AMG has two massive turbochargers that make it an absolutely fun monster to drive, according to the grapevine.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to be swaddled in some of the finest leather on the market, along with the latest technology?  The SL63 looks absolutely evil and menacing in the triple black color, especially after sunset.  Even though it only seats two people, why not take a friend or the spouse, or even one of your kids (or your kid) out on a long, scenic drive.  The SL63 is great for high-speed cruising, but it can hold it’s own in the twisties.
  6. Ford F150 SVT Raptor:  If you’re an outdoorsy person who likes to take a lot of stuff with you when you go camping.  The Raptor is basically an off-road racing machine for the street.  It’s a big truck, though, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of fun you can have with this truck.  It’s the vehicle that I would take to get to my beach house right on the beach in Hawaii!  Or anywhere, for that matter.  It seats six, so it’s perfect to take the family or a few friends anywhere you want to go.  Think of it as a Jeep for those who need space.
  7. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray:  The Corvette Stingray is one of the most praised new sports cars out on the market.  It’s finally America’s sports car.  It’s also finally a true sports car.  It has a seven-speed manual, and for 2015, an 8-speed automatic.  It comes as either a convertible or a coupe with a targa top.  It may only seat two people, but that’s what a sports car is supposed to seat!  It’s got an engine note somewhere in between the thumping roar of a diesel V8 and the shriek of a NASCAR V8.  It’s beautiful sounding.  Plus, it comes in many beautiful colors, and the green color makes it look like it came from Italy.  It’s a good car to take a road trip in, especially with the comfortable sport seats.  You no longer are uncomfortable when you get out of a Corvette.
  8. Ram 2500 Power Wagon:  The Ram 2500 Power Wagon is basically the pickup that Jeep should have built.  It may be big, but that just means that you can take more stuff!  It’s got the burly 392 HEMI V8 (a slightly detuned version, but the same engine in all of the SRT products), 4WD, a beefy Aisin 6-speed automatic, and Dana-style locking axles front and rear.  Oh, and it’s got a pretty nice interior for a truck that is meant to take you dirty places.  This is the truck that I would use as a getaway truck when the apocalypse hits.  It also comes in some pretty cool colors like red with cool white graphics.  Think of it as a heavier-duty Ford F150 SVT Raptor.
  9. Jeep Grand Cherokee:  Any version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is amazing, but the version with the EcoDiesel V6 or the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is amazing.  Either of these engines are great for highway cruising, and both get decent, if not good fuel economy.  It’s got a bladder-busting 700+ miles of range with the diesel, which more than makes up for the high cost of diesel today.  The SRT8 version has the 392 HEMI V8, AWD, sport seats, and handles like a barrel full of fun.  It’s also passed Jeep’s rigorous off-road tests with flying colors, thanks to the standard air suspension.  Well, maybe not flying colors, but it passed.
  10. Cadillac CTS VSport:  It’s got an efficient, yet quick twin-turbocharged engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, available AWD for those who need the grip in the snowbelt, heated/cooled/ventilated leather seats, amazing color choices, and, is, quite simply, one of the best cars that one can buy.  While it may be a couple of years before we see a 3rd-generation CTS-V, the CTS VSport will easily tide us over.  Plus, it looks absolutely gorgeous in any color or setting.
  11. Ford F350 Platinum:  This is probably one of the most luxurious trucks that one can go out and buy.  It comes standard with leather, navigation, heated front seats, mirrors, and even optional heated rear seats!  It comes with either a powerful 6.2-liter V8 or a thundering 6.7-liter “Scorpion” diesel V8 making 800 pound-feet of torque!  My dream F350 Platinum would be a 4X4 Crew Cab in red with the diesel, and just about every option available!  Why sacrifice for less luxury?  Plus, you can tow up to 30,000 pounds in sumptuous comfort!
  12. Ford Mustang Shelby GT500:  With a howling, screaming, yelling 662 horsepower out of an amazing-sounding 5.8-liter supercharged V8, the Shelby GT500 is the S197-generation Mustang to get.  Ford claims a top speed of 200+ mph, Motor Trend has seen 197 mph and still pulling, so I see no better way to find out the top speed than to take the GT500 to the Autobahn and see what it can really do!  Or, take it to legendary NASCAR superspeedways like Daytona International Speedway or Talladega International Superspeedway.  Or, take it to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and check it out there.  Better yet, take it to all three!  Or, you can simply tour Route 66 in it.
  13. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter:  I recently had the chance to drive a Sprinter, and, surprisingly, it was astonishingly easy and fun to drive!  It was a 12-seater van with a big air-conditioning unit on top, and the smaller 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel.  Truth be told, I’d get it the same way, as there really isn’t any need for the bigger 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.  The four-cylinder engine gives it plenty of oomph, and according to the owner, it gets up to speed quickly, even with a bunch of people in the back.  The smaller engine gets up to 25 mpg on the highway, as well, so fill-ups are far and few between.  It’s got amazing visibility, thanks to the short, sloping hood and the gigantic greenhouse.  The one downside is that the sliding door is on the passenger side only, and looks like a guillotine coming towards you when it’s going downhill.
  14. Mazda MX-5 Miata:  The Mazda Miata is a cute little roadster meant to put the biggest smile ever on the driver and passenger!  It’s formula is simple and has been proven true for decades.  It’s got a manual transmission, light weight, a fuel-efficient, relatively powerful four-cylinder engine, two seats, and enough bells and whistles to keep you satisfied.  Plus it gives you and everybody who sees one a big, goofy grin.  You can’t beat that!  The Miata is just instantly likeable and fun.  It’s a hoot to drive on a track, but driving it hard on a road with a lot of straight areas will not get you up to 150 mph.  It’s the curvy parts of the road where the Miata will embarrass many cars triple it’s price.  Plus, it’s extremely affordable, comes with a lot of inexpensive options, and is reliable.  Why mess with that?  British roadsters from the 1960’s and 1970’s had that formula except for reliability in spades.  It’s what made them so popular.
  15. Cadillac ATS:  The Cadillac ATS isn’t Cadillac’s flagship.  It doesn’t need to be.  But, it was Cadillac’s second best-selling car last year to the Escalade.  It’s the most affordable new Cadillac, and to this day, driving a Cadillac means success.  It starts off at around $34,000, so it’s in reach of a lot of folks.  The model that I would want is a 2.0T with the Technology and Luxury packages.  That’s all that I would really need.  Should you want more, Cadillac is more than happy to sell you more expensive options.
  16. Ferrari FF:  It’s the first Ferrari ever with AWD, so you can travel in the snow, do light off-roading (gravel roads and the like), and take three passengers in comfort and beauty.  It’s got a V12 making 651 horsepower, a quick-shifting 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, and Ferrari’s Haldex-based AWD system.  One of the few downsides is that you are heading into unknown territory because of the AWD system.  Another downside is that the infotainment system is based off of an already-dated Chrysler system from circa 2011.  If you can live with the FF’s faults, it’s a great car.  But, that’s true about any car.
  17. Dodge Durango:  This midsize SUV is quite possibly one of the best vehicles ever for a road trip.  It simply pushes any road imperfection back down into the road.  It can seat up to 8 people comfortably and still carry a good deal of luggage.  It comes with two powerful engines; a 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6 or a 5.7-liter HEMI V8.  Either of these engines are extremely good, reliable, economical engines, but I think that the best engine is the Pentastar V6, as it provides enough power for freeway driving, city driving, hilly driving, and towing.  If you tow a lot, go with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8, otherwise, stick with the Pentastar V6.
  18. Bentley Continental GT V8 S:  Bentley made a massive resurgence in 2006 with the new Continental GT.  Since then, it has morphed into the Toyota Camry of Beverly Hills.  It now has a powerful W12 engine or a powerful V8 engine.  The W12 engine is great, but it adds a lot of weight to the front, and drinks gas like beer on a Friday night.  The V8 is a fabulous engine that doesn’t sacrifice too much performance getting the 5,000+ pound Continental GT V8 S up to speed.  Plus, it comes with an amazing 8-speed automatic.  Since the V8 is far lighter than the W12, it makes the car handle much better.  It shaves almost 250 pounds from the engine difference alone.  Overall, weight savings are close to 500 pounds, so the Continental GT V8 S is obviously the weapon of choice for track days or windy roads.  It’s got a cushy ride when cruising, so you’ll get there in comfort.  Then, you can unleash the twin-turbocharged fury that is the GT V8 S.
  19. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible:  This is the most powerful Chevrolet Camaro convertible ever.  It makes 580 horsepower from it’s supercharged LSA engine, which is just a detuned version of the 638-horsepower LS9 motor found in the beastly C6 Corvette ZR1.  It’s got either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.  Getting the convertible eliminates the bunker-like visibility that the Camaro coupe is known for, plus you get a nice tan driving a convertible.  It has some pretty big, cool wheels, an exhaust note that sounds like it belongs to a Top Fuel Funny Car, and looks that are pretty amazing, if I say so myself.
  20. Honda Accord Hybrid:  This is Honda’s second attempt at building an Accord Hybrid.  So far, it seems to be more successful than Honda’s first attempt from 2005-2006.  It’s got decent power, plenty of inexpensive, good options, and a base price that is affordable to many.  I’m sure that it is a good interstate cruiser because it has a powerful four-cylinder engine with Honda’s VTEC technology, a CVT, and an electric motor that helps boost power when the gas pedal gets pushed in more than 50%.  I’m also positive that it’s good around town, because the gas engine doesn’t kick in until you’re going above 35 mph.  It’s got a range close to 650 miles, so you’ll have to go to the bathroom before the car needs to get filled up.

The Ferrari LaFerrari is a Dream Come True…for a Lucky Few!

It should be worth mentioning to you that copious amounts of drool may ensue while reading this article.  If you’re a numbers junkie, read ahead.  If you’re an experience junkie, read ahead.  If you’re a looks person, read ahead.  Well, you got it.  There’s something for everybody in this car, and this article! The 2015 Ferrari LaFerrari is the most powerful production Ferrari ever made.  Yipe.  It’s also the first hybrid Ferrari ever made.  Yowza.  It’s carbon-fiber tub (where the driver and passenger sit) is made from the same carbon fiber as the frighteningly fast Ferrari F1 cars, and it’s formed by the same team that makes the F1 cars.  Wow.  It’s name translates to “The Ferrari.” As emissions regulations around the world get harder, supercar manufacturers are forced to turn to alternative different forms of power.  McLaren’s powerful P1 hypercar uses two turbochargers, an electric motor, and an already powerful 3.8-liter V8.  Stuttgart fired back with an equally impressive salvo that is the 918 Spyder, which uses an insanely powerful naturally aspirated V8 with two electric motors.  The LaFerrari is just as, if not more impressive.  It’s pretty darn hard to beat a Ferrari V12 for power, reliability, and sound. All three of said cars are spiritual and literal successors to simply amazing hypercars from about 10-15 years ago.  The P1 is the successor to the legendary McLaren F1 of the late 1990’s.  The 918 replaces the controversial Carrera GT, the car that Paul Walker and Roger Rodas died in late last year.  The LaFerrari replaces the stunning Enzo, named for Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari.  But, we aren’t going to be talking THAT much about the LaFerrari’s rivals. The seats are bolted directly to the carbon fiber tub, which means that they are not adjustable.  Ferrari tailors seat padding for each and every customer and their passenger.  A small lever does move the pedals fore and aft.  The flat-bottomed steering wheel adapted from the Ferrari 458 Italia Speciale telescopes and moves up and down.  The LCD screen that is the speedometer and tachometer has a 9000 RPM redline, but the engine will briefly go to 9250 RPM. The V12 engine is pulled from the F12 Berlinetta, which means that it displaces 6.3 liters, and puts out a shriek like nothing of this world.  It trades low-end power for a higher redline (the F12 stops revving at 8250 RPM, and the LaFerrari stops revving at 9000).  It also makes 58 more horsepower (731 versus 789).  The 161-horsepower electric motor that is bolted to the back of the equally fabulous seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission kicks in at low speeds and when the engine hits redline.  There is no EV mode, as Ferrari estimates that the range from the batteries is under 6 miles, and Ferrari has no plans of adding more batteries or EV range. With a combined 950 horsepower, this car is more far more powerful than the 903-horsepower P1 or the 887-horsepower 918 Spyder.  This means that the Launch button looks pretty dang tantalizing.  Ferrari claims 0-60 in under 3 seconds, but won’t allow any major automotive media publications to gather data. A nice touch is the small plaque at the bottom of the steering wheel, which allows owners to put whatever they want onto it.  The steering should be quick, as Ferrari says that the steering wheel will turn just under two turns lock-to-lock.  That’s on par with an F1 car.  Yet another Ferrari first is the electromechanical steering.  That basically means that an electric motor boosts the steering in addition to the power booster. The rear wing moves up and down, yet Ferrari claims that it shouldn’t impede driver rearview visibility too terribly much.  The flaps at the front of the hood lift up when the brakes are applied.  Combine those two flaps with the rear wing, and the car can generate up to 800 pounds of downforce at 125 mph. The LaFerrari also has an active exhaust system.  This means that there is a series of flaps inside of the mufflers to mute the noise when you’re not digging into the throttle.  When you get into the throttle, the valves stay open for more noise.  Another bonus – the electric motor’s high-pitched whine is drowned out by the wail of the V12! Yet another added bonus is the fact that every single piece of electronics in the LaFerrari don’t interfere with the driver, which means that the driver can drive as fast as they want to (on a track!) without having to fight all of the nannies.  That’s a problem with most new cars.  Give a driver a car with nannies that they have to fight, and it can lead to a horrible driving experience.

Ferrari LaFerrari Drift

Ferrari LaFerrari

 

 

The Most Driveable Classic Cars

Classic cars look great.  They sound great.  They all get thumbs up.  Some of them aren’t very easy or fun to drive on a daily basis.  But, that’s not to say that ALL of them are that way…

  • 1908-1927 Ford Model T:  The Ford Model T, believe it or not, is actually a fairly driveable car.  It’s light, small, and cute.  It can keep up with city traffic, do some pretty decent off-roading (when the Model T was built, most roads were gravel or dirt), and in some configurations, seat up to 5 people.  There are some downsides, however.  Earlier Model T’s have crank starters, which mean that you have to crank it over by hand.  Newer Model T’s don’t have that problem.  If you don’t take highways, the Model T is a fun choice for taking long, slow trips.
  • 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado:  The Cadillac Eldorado was one of the whale-sized GM personal luxury cars of the late 1960’s.  Power disc brakes were standard from 1968 on, and power steering was standard from day one.  As for the engine, it’s hard to beat a Chevy big block V8.  The standard engine for 1967 was a 429 cubic-inch V8 that was ditched for a massive 472 cubic-inch V8 in 1968.  The 472 is a good, powerful engine that makes well over 500 pound-feet of torque.  In 1970, Cadillac came out with one of the largest engines ever made – a 500 cubic-inch V8 that made about 400 horsepower and about 600 pound-feet of torque, as rated by GM.  Dyno tests showed that it made about 450 horsepower and about 675 pound-feet of torque – to the wheels!  That’s about 520 horsepower and 740 pound-feet of torque at the crank!  The Eldorado is a big, cushy car that really meant success when it came out.  To this day, nothing really shows success quite like a Cadillac.  A fun fact is that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has owned a 1970 Eldorado since the day he was elected President of the United States!
  • 1947-1955 Chevrolet/GMC Advanced Design Pickups:  These are some of the most hardworking, amazing trucks that the world has ever seen.  They are literally bulletproof, and it’s amazing how easy to drive they are.  From 1947-1954, Chevrolet/GMC pickups used a 216 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine called the Stovebolt Six.  In 1955, Chevrolet introduced the 235 cubic-inch inline-six-cylinder engine called the Thriftmaster 235.  The 3100 series (a half-ton pickup) came standard with a three-on-the-tree three-speed manual, with a four-speed floor-shifted manual transmission.  Heavy-duty 3600 series (3/4 pickups) trucks came only with the four-speed.  In 1954, a heavy-duty Borg-Warner three-speed manual was offered as an option, and GM’s new Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic was an option.  The rear end in these trucks is either a 4.11:1 axle ratio in earlier trucks or a 3.90:1 axle ratio.  The 3.90:1 is more road-friendly, as it allows for lower RPM in city traffic and highway driving.  In terms of braking, it’s not much.  Four-wheel drum brakes were standard for all trucks.  Heavy-duty trucks came with a power booster, but not the light-duty trucks.  Inside of these trucks, they are spartan by today’s standards.  But, back in the day, their interiors were compared to those of passenger cars.  The availability of the DeLuxe Cab with corner windows greatly improves visibility, and the DeLuxe Cab-only armrest and sunvisor for the driver are a nice touch.  These trucks also had thicker floors and floor mats to make them quieter, and there is even room for some small tools underneath the bench seat.  The 3100 and 3600-series pickups came standard with a column-shifted transmission starting in 1948, and the shift pattern was identical to every single Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick passenger car as a nod to driver ease of operation.  The foot-operated parking brake is located in the far corner of the footwell so the driver doesn’t activate the parking brake when shifting!  The cab and body is made completely out of steel, and was designed to be long-lasting.  While some of these trucks are starting to rust, don’t worry – there is a thriving aftermarket JUST for that!
  • 1966-1973 Volkswagen Beetle:  The VW Beetle is one of the world’s most popular cars ever, and it’s a very driveable little car.  The 1,600 CC engine has surprising pep, lasts forever, and gets good fuel economy.  The VW Beetle from this era is bulletproof, cute, and easily restored for very little money.  It comes in some colors that really make it look fun, like the creamsicle orange color!  Some Beetles from this era were turned into Baja bugs that are lots of fun to drive, and they often have upgraded engines.  A common engine upgrade is the 1,776 CC engine, which significantly boosts power without killing the engine.  It essentially just puts bigger pistons and heads on.
  • 1967-1971 Plymouth GTX:  The Plymouth GTX was Plymouth’s full-size, more luxurious version of the Roadrunner.  It had functional hood scoops, a chrome filler cap that looked like a NASCAR filler cap, and optional racing stripes.  It had a heavy-duty suspension found in the Charger 500 and Coronet 500.  The standard was Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth’s massive 440 cubic-inch V8.  For an extra $546, one could step up to the legendary 426 HEMI, nicknamed the “Elephant Motor.”  For 1968, the GTX received new styling and the new TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic transmission.  For 1970, it received a massive redesign that included the racing stripes being removed and put on the lower part of the car.  It also introduced the 440+6 (a 440 with three two-barrel carburetors), which could closely compete with the HEMI up to highway speeds.  In 1971, the GTX entered it’s final stand-alone model year.  The engine choices remained the same.  It was also completely redesigned to look more like the Roadrunner.  Emissions restrictions reduced horsepower in every engine except the HEMI.  From 1972-1974, the GTX was a model on the Roadrunner, before being dropped.

Those are the best classic cars to drive every day, at least in my opinion.  If you drive a classic daily, and it’s not on this list, tell me if it’s a good daily driver and why and I will do a part two of this blog post!  I know that all of these cars aren’t as reliable or inexpensive as new cars, but they have character, something that many new cars lack.

For those of you still in school, good luck on finals, and get back to studying!  Read up about cars AFTER finals are over!  I don’t you want to fail finals because you were reading up about cars!

 

 

A Cool Classic

A while ago, my dad introduced me to one of his business partners who just happened to happen to own a 1960 Jaguar MK9.  Hmm…Maybe I just needed to see it…Well, I’m happy to report to you that it is, without doubt, one of the most breathtaking cars that I have ever laid my eyes on.  Not only does the beautifully patina’d maroon and good paint look absolutely stunning.  Oh, and if stunning looks and a spotless beige leather interior complete with Grey Poupon jars (you never know who might need them!) aren’t enough, this car used be Ike Turner’s car.  So, this car isn’t just ANOTHER Jaguar MK9…

The story behind the owner of the car is an interesting one in itself.  My dad’s business partner, Michael Page, used to be the bassist for Iggy and the Stooges, which was a band that opened for the Rolling Stones.  Mike also played for Chuck Berry and other bands in the 1970’s.  Mike now runs a small studio down in Southern California.  When I asked Mike if he still played musical instruments, his reply was, “Naw, I’m content to listen to it now.”

The story behind how the car ended up being in Michael’s hands is an interesting story itself.  During Ike and Tina Turner’s long divorce, Ike parked the Jag on blocks in a back lot of Paramount Pictures for somewhere around 17 years.  One day when Mike was walking in the back lot, he saw the Jag, was absolutely smitten, and made an offer on the spot.  It was accepted.  He then proceeded to, as he put it, “I stood on my head for about an hour with the guy from Paramount just trying to figure out what kind of engine was in it.  Eventually, I saw a label that said ‘Chevrolet 350 C.I. V8.'”  That means that the engine is a Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch small-block V8.  The Chevy 350 V8 is a popular choice for engine swaps in Jaguars.  It requires very little work to install, it has decent power stock (a LOT when it’s tuned), and it’s an extremely reliable engine.  That can’t be said about any Jaguar engine.  Just ask my uncle or grandmother.  As a whole, a 1960 Jaguar is a pretty sturdy car.  It’s made all out of steel (the only aluminum is inside), it’s got glass that could probably stop a bullet, and the tire treads wouldn’t look out of place on something destined to go off-road.

After Mike had owned the car for a couple of months, he decided to take it out for a spin on the freeway.  When he got up to 55 mph, the engine was screaming at something close to 5,000 RPM, and he was playing tag with a bunch of tractor-trailers and grandparents.  Not exactly my (or his) definition of fun.  He got off of the freeway and went to the local transmission shop and had them install an overdrive.  Now, the RPM’s are cut down to 2,500 RPM (most modern cars turn 1,800-2,000 RPM’s on the highway), and he can go up to 70 mph without worrying about killing the engine.  The overdrive, Chevy small-block V8 and Turbo 350 transmission are the only parts that didn’t come with the car.  That is, other than the tires!

Speaking of tires, the tires are modern Coker radial tires with big, tall whitewalls on them.  If whitewalls are put on the right car, they can turn a show-stopper into a car that will literally make people’s heads turn right off their neck!  That’s what my dad’s business partner did with this Jaguar.  The whitewalls make this classic Jaguar look better than it did when it rolled off of the Jaguar assembly line in Coventry, England, in 1960.  Not many cars can pull that off.  Plus, the engine, transmission, and overdrive give a car that wasn’t really driveable before the engine/transmission swap driveability.

In terms of driveability, Mike says that it drives like a wallowy, new car.  It’s got suspension technology from 1960, so it’s not the best choice to throw around a road course.  With the stock engine and transmission sans overdrive unit, the Jaguar MK9 isn’t easy to drive unless you toodle around town.  The stock engine was designed for people to take a slow, scenic drive of the British countryside, not for freeway cruising.  Bring a car like that to America where there are vast expanses of freeways, and you’re essentially got a death wish.  Mike essentially said the same.  The stock three-speed manual has a stiff clutch, according to Mike, and three short speeds aren’t going to do you any favors when you’re cruising.  The Turbo 350 transmission greatly improves the driveability factor.  The Jag doesn’t have power steering, but it tips the scales at about 3,400 pounds, so you’re really not having to put THAT much effort into turning it.  It does, however, have power brakes, so that does make it easier to stop it, even though there was no such thing as ABS back then.  With the Chevy engine and transmission, plus the overdrive unit, Mike could easily drive across the state of California if he so wished.

His Jaguar doesn’t have thousands of man-hours put into restoring it to #1+ condition.  It doesn’t have ABS, cruise control, or satellite radio like most modern cars.  It’s a survivor car.  Trust me, the Jag is perfectly fine that way.  It’s got absolutely gorgeous looks before the paint, which accentuates the car’s looks even more.  It has beautiful walnut wood varnished to an almost matte look.  It doesn’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get best-of-show at every car show.  These old Jaguars have a certain charm to them that very few other cars, classic or modern, can duplicate.  They’re not absolutely cute like a Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite nor do they look like they were hewn from a block of stone like a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.  They have an understated elegance to them, plus that cute British charm.  With the right paint colors on them, like gold and maroon, they can be quite a looker.

If you have a self-esteem issue, buy a Jaguar MK9 NOW!  Nobody really lusts after them, so they cost far less than a 1960 MK2, which is also a good car for those with self-esteem issues.  People will want to take pictures of themselves standing in or next to the car (#selfie), and Mike says that whenever he goes out, he literally has to either leave an hour just to talk to people, or park the car and run.  I’d leave an hour.  Running’s not my thing…

I’ve attached some photos of the Jag for you to literally drool over.  As I’ve previously said, it’s one of the most beautiful cars that I’ve ever seen.  It really looks stunning, especially with some light, but not too much.  I’ve never seen it at sunrise or sunset, but I can only imagine how beautiful it is at those times.

 

Badges are awesome - just ask this car!
Badges are awesome – just ask this car!

 

Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess...
Grey Poupon is a requirement for British cars, I guess…

 

Sorry about the view - it was the best that I could get!
Sorry about the view – it was the best that I could get!

Editor’s note:  Mike actually played with Chubby Checker, NOT Chuck Berry!  My apologies!

Dodge Revives Classic Shaker Hoods and Scat Packs!

While it’s been a couple of months since the 2014 SEMA show in Las Vegas, I only recently heard about the legendary Shaker Hoods and Scat Packs returning to Mopar!

Since the 2014 Dodge Challenger looks like it’s 1970 ancestor, it seems fitting that the Challenger should have the legendary Shaker Hood.  Like the original Challenger, the 2014 Challenger can also be fitted with a hood that has the air scoop directly attached to the engine.  This Shaker Hood isn’t just a useless piece of retro jewelry, either.  It provides cooling air to the thirsty HEMI engine under that beautiful hood.

What makes the Shaker Hood even more accessible to enthusiasts who want a 2014 Challenger is the fact that it comes as its own special model!  It’s called the 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker, and it comes with it’s unique graphics, a period-correct Satin Black Shaker Hood, plus the optional Super Track Pack performance package and a few other cosmetic changes.  It also comes with a spectacular creamsicle-orange color that is a must!

Also returning for 2014 is the Scat Pack.  The last time the Scat Pack was seen on the 1968 Challenger, Charger, and Dart.  Back then, it was called the “Scat Pack Club” package, and it collectively referred to all of the performance models, and it also encouraged camaraderie among enthusiasts and owners.  This time around, however, Dodge is using the moniker as a performance package for, you guessed it, the Dart, Charger, and Challenger.

Each Scat Pack package is available in three stages, with each stage offering additional performance enhancements for the mighty 5.7-liter HEMI V8 on the Charger and Challenger and the turbocharged 2.4-liter four cylinder on the Dart.

These performance enhancements include enhanced ECU tuning, and freer-flowing intake and exhaust systems.  The V8 cars come with more serious modifications:  Not only do they come with what’s mentioned above, but they get new Iskendarian camshafts, and ported-and-polished cylinder heads – in the upper levels.  The Dart has to make do with brake and suspension enhancements.  All three Scat Pack cars come with cool graphics and custom interiors done up with Katzkin leather.

The Challenger R/T Shaker and the Scat Pack Challenger, Charger, and Dart will arrive in dealers by mid-May 2014.

A Lincoln Town Car for the Modern Day

Fans of Ford’s Panther platform will no doubt cry “blasphemy” and a whole other host of names.  Haters gonna hate.  If you’re a Panther fan, keep it to yourself and read this blog post, or come back next Tuesday.

Not only does the Hyundai Equus Ultimate serve as Hyundai’s flagship, it also costs as much as a premium midsize sedan like the 2014 Cadillac CTS.  I’m not suggesting a comparison – the CTS is in a completely different league than the Equus.  While Hyundai’s execution of a fullsize flagship sedan is good, it’s not quite as good as the Lexus LS460, Mercedes-Benz S550, and BMW 750i/Li.  It’s just that you can’t really build a value-oriented flagship and expect it to compete against manufacturers that have at least 25 years of practice.  It’s the equivalent of In-n-Out going completely vegan.  You just don’t expect it to be good.

Panther platform enthusiasts will be quick to point out that the 12.3-18.3 inch-shorter Equus doesn’t have body-on-frame construction.  The Equus DOES, however, have a 2.7-inch longer wheelbase than ANY Panther platform car.  Like the Town Car, the Equus is styled much more conservatively than the love-it-or-hate-it Cadillac XTS and bulbous Lincoln MKS.  The Equus has a roomy, comfortable interior filled with amenities and options that the Lincoln Town Car never offered.  It’s also rear-wheel-drive, and it’s got a smooth, very powerful V8 shared with the Hyundai Genesis.  It’s the only modern car to have clear Lincoln Town Car DNA in it.  It’s obvious who Hyundai is trying to attract.

Rear seat passengers can now individually control the infotainment system, look up restaurants on the go, and even enter destinations while moving.  All 2014 Equus models get a standard three-zone climate control system (driver, passenger, rear passengers) standard.  Ultimate models now seat five people instead of four.  Very few of its competitors offer four seats instead of five in top-of-the-line models.  Ultimate models also come with cruise control with a unique 0 mph stop-start function, front, rear, and multi-view cameras.  It also comes with a proximity key that turns the exterior and interior lights on and off, as well as unfolding the side mirrors.  The doors automatically close a la minivan, and power lumbar support for rear outboard passengers.

For those drivers who want to have performance, fear not.  The engine is a 429-horsepower 5.0-liter V8.  The front bushings are completely new.  As for the Sport and Tour modes, they have been revised for improved ride and handling, respectively.

Because its cabin is so insulated, and its powertrain is so smooth, the optional heads-up display is justifiable.  Since the suspension is engineered for comfort, lots of brake dive and body roll make it less than ideal for back road barnstorming.  It also probably diminishes driver confidence on the street, especially in the city.

While the Equus isn’t quite up to par with the Lexus LS460 in terms of interior quality, it has a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with separate lumbar controls.  The front passenger seat has 10 ways to make you more comfortable.  Outboard rear seats have four ways and lumbar.  Like the S-Class, the Equus has many of its front and rear switches conveniently located high on the doors.

Up until the end of the 2013 model year, the Equus Ultimate only sat four people.  It had a massage function for the driver and the right rear passenger (where many passengers sit).  The 2014 model offers seating for five people, but no massaging seats.  The 2014 model also has controls for the:  Infotainment system, rear climate control, and rear seats on the fold-down center armrest in the rear seat.  A “Relax” button moves and tilts the front passenger seat forward before reclining the rear passenger seat.  The “Return” button returns both seats to their previous positions.  Now that both rear seats recline, the available power footrest is no more.

Like the Lincoln Town Car, the Hyundai Equus Ultimate offers full-size space and all of the luxury touches one would expect in a flagship.  Another similar thing between these two vehicles designed for those like to be chauffeured around – neither lives up to the standard set by the Lexus LS460, Mercedes-Benz S550, and BMW 750i/Li.  While the value-oriented Equus can be compared to a modern Lincoln Town Car, it does have something that the big Lincoln never had – a 429-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission.  In my mind, the Hyundai Equus picks up right where the Lincoln Town Car left off.  Now, the one thing that Hyundai has left – the monumental task of convincing everybody the virtues of a bargain-priced flagship sedan.

 

10 Cars That You Just Have to Love, Even if They Were Lemons

Lots of cars are reliable.  Lots of cars aren’t reliable.  A lot of British and German cars fall into the not-so-reliable category.  My uncle can attest to that with the fact that his 2001 Jaguar XK8 has spent about half of its life in the shop.  On the other side of reliability, another one of my uncles had an Audi Quattro for something like 10 years, and he never had any reliability issues.  My dad’s had trouble with his 2003 GMC Sierra 2500 HD with the Duramax diesel engine.  My 2003 Chrysler Town & Country is just a few hundred miles away from hitting 200,000 miles, and it’s been one of the most reliable cars that I’ve ever seen.  Anyhow, the basic premise of this blog post is to tell you the top 10 cars that we all love, even if they were (or still are) lemons.

  1. 2001-2005 Porsche 911 and Boxster:  The 996-generation Porsche 911 was the first Porsche to ever have a water-cooled engine.  For Porschephiles, that’s the equivalent of the Pope converting to Buddhism.  The 2001-2005 Porsche 911 and Boxster had a teeny, weeny, little problem with their engines where the faulty intermediate shafts could fail, turning a fine sports car into a very expensive paperweight.  Even after enough owner complaints, Porsche started fixing the problem, but only on a case-by-case basis, which meant that many owners were left out to dry unfairly.  It’s easily one of the largest black spots in Porsche history, which is a true shame, because these cars were otherwise some very nice drives.
  2. 2001-2003 Subaru WRX:  The first Subaru WRX to be offered in the U.S. had a massive problem with the transmission.  The five-speed manuals were extremely fragile, and the tuner-friendly engine often meant that the tiny boxer four-cylinder engine was tuned to within an inch of its life.  All Subarus have problems with their head gasket, but the 2001-2003 WRX often gave its head gasket up before it even reached 100,000 miles.  I can forgive all of this, because aside from these two problems, it’s a reliable daily driver that’s a LOT of fun.  The purity of these WRX’s means that your inner Swedish rally driver fantasies can come true.
  3. 1993-1995 Mazda RX-7:  One of the last rotary-powered cars (the last was the Mazda RX-8), the Mazda RX-7 was a true driver’s car.  However, apex seal failure hangs over every owner’s head like a cloud.  Apex seal failure means a complete engine rebuild or replacement if the car is not maintained at the proper intervals.  The massive amounts of premium fuel and oil going into the engine didn’t help matters, either.  Still, the 3rd-generation Mazda RX-7 is an amazing driver’s car.  Plus, many owners say that there’s  truly nothing like spooling up the second sequential turbocharger.  Mazda had made the RX-7 with two turbochargers – one for the lower rev range only, and the other for the upper rev range only.  It’s been a long, long time since the last RX-7 was built, and I really hope that Mazda gets their act together and builds an RX-9.
  4. 1999 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra:  This was a one-model-year special put on by Ford, and it was supposed to be a drag racing special for the street.  However, it didn’t  take long for enthusiasts, mainly drag racers, to figure out that it was making WAY less than the 320 horsepower that Ford advertised.  Ford traced the problem to aluminum residue in the intake and exhaust systems.  Ford did well by fixing the problem free of charge.  However, the public snafu on Ford’s part caused Ford to drop production of the SVT Cobra after just one model year.  The upside is that there are no other reliability problems with the SVT Cobra Mustang.  Because it’s a single-model-year special-edition Mustang, it’s got potential to be a future classic.  Don’t be intimidated if you see one for sale with lots of modifications – Ford designed this car to be tuner-friendly.  Just make sure that there’s good documentation of the car.
  5. 2008-2010 Nissan GT-R:  Like many supercars, the Nissan GT-R came with launch control.  The difference was that the launch control function could potentially blow up the transmission and void the warranty, leaving the unlucky owner with a $20,000 repair bill.  Nissan settled a class-action lawsuit in Decemer 2010, and the launch control was dialed back on 2011-up models.  It’s impossible not to love the GT-R and it’s mind-altering ability to be an absolute freight train on race tracks of any kind, just avoid the hard launches.
  6. 2001-2006 MINI Cooper S:  Anybody who was (or is) an owner of the 2001-2006 MINI Cooper S felt more like a beta tester for a video game than anything else.  Here’s the relatively short list of, uh, ‘bugs:’  Electric power steering pumps that could catch fire, supercharger failure after just 80,000 miles, and head gaskets that seemed to be timed to blow up as soon as the warranty expired.  Despite it being a sub-$20,000 car new (and used), it’s got maintenance costs of a 2001-2005 Porsche 911 or Boxster (see #1 on this list for reference).  If you can forgive those faults, the handling is some of the best this world has ever seen.
  7. 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia:  Most mid-engine Ferrari’s have a wholly undeserved reputation for spontaneous combustion.  However, with the 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, the argument was valid.  The adhesive bonding between the wheelwell and the engine heat shield would melt and catch fire.  Reports vary, and if Ferrari is to be believed, only 11 cars were affected by this.  All 1248 Ferrari 458 Italias sold until that point were recalled.  Ferrari still claims that this only happened during hard driving, but asking owners of Ferraris to not drive their car hard is laughable.  After the concerns of owners becoming BBQ, the Ferrari 458 Italia once again ascended to its rightful place as the best mid-engine car the world has ever seen.
  8. 2003 GMC Sierra 2500HD:  These things are supposed to be bulletproof, right?  Think again.  The fuel injection systems on the Duramax diesel-engine trucks are notorious for the fuel injectors cracking.  My dad has a 2003 GMC Sierra 2500HD, and the engine’s been rebuilt something like 4 times.  If you buy one of these vehicles, make sure to get it with the LQ4 6.0-liter V8.  The Allison 1000 heavy-duty transmissions will go over 150,000 miles without trouble.  Just DON’T get it with the Duramax!  Not only are engine rebuilds expensive, but they are frequent.  If you buy one, make sure you find one with good documentation, as many of these were used for hauling and towing, both of which put phenomenal stress on the engine and transmission.
  9. 1996-2005 Volkswagen Passat:  This was the infamous era of VW unreliability.  The B5-generation of the Passat had steering problems – the rack-and-pinion assembly was prone to stripping, which means no steering.  When it stripped, it would burn out the power booster, which means that other parts are brought into the mix.  Volkswagen made a lot of these cars, and some of them are good.  Other family sedans are good choices.
  10. 2003 Land Rover Freelander:  This is quite possibly one of THE most unreliable vehicles EVER!  It was quite simply bad.  The engine was bad, the cheap interior fell apart after just a few thousand miles, and forget replacing parts for it.  The replacement parts were usually just as bad as the stock parts.  Avoid this car at ALL costs!

 

 

 

What One Sees on the Road

After a successful surgery and a minor hiccup, I am back on the road to recovery!  This means that I will start publishing every Tuesday and Friday!  This should make everybody happy, right?  I know that it makes me happy!  I’ve got plenty of captivating and funny posts just itching to be published.

While on the road to get to the hospital with my parents, I spotted something most people won’t see…ever.  No, it wasn’t a Pagani Huayra (I wish!).  It was a car transporter carrying 12 brand-new Ford Interceptor Utilities destined for, you guessed it, the California Highway Patrol!  It was one of the most amazing, cool things I’ve ever seen!  I just needed to share the pictures I took with you!  I hope that you enjoy them!

These are just two of the twelve 2014 Ford Interceptor Utilities on this car transporter!
These are just two of the twelve 2014 Ford Interceptor Utilities on this car transporter!
All of the Interceptor Utilities were destined for the CHP!
All of the Interceptor Utilities were destined for the CHP!
I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of all 12 of the Interceptor Utilities.  We were simply too close to get a picture of all 12 :(
I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of all 12 of the Interceptor Utilities. We were simply too close to get a picture of all 12 😦

I will give you some information on the Ford Interceptor Utility.  It’s a pretty cool vehicle.  The Ford Interceptor Utility is based off of the Ford Explorer SUV, but that’s about where the similarities end.  The Ford Interceptor Utility comes standard with FWD, but sales show that an overwhelming majority of buyers buy the Interceptor Utility with AWD.  The standard engine is the 3.7-liter, 305 horsepower V6 from the Mustang.  The Explorer is a porky vehicle, but with the high-revving, powerful V6 from the Mustang, the Interceptor is no slouch.  60 mph comes up in 6.4 seconds, while 100 mph comes up in 14 seconds.  That’s with the Interceptor Utility loaded with all of the gear required by the CHP!  A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available.  The other engine option for the Interceptor Utility is a 2.0-liter four cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine making 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.  This engine has seen service in everything from the Taurus to the civilian Explorer to the Focus ST to the Escape.  It’s a durable engine that feels like a V6, and it gets decent mpg in the nearly-5,000 pound Explorer.  This engine was also named one of Ward’s Ten Best Engines for 2013.  That’s a pretty lofty achievement for Ford.  The other engine, the sweet spot in my mind, is the 3.5 liter, twin turbo EcoBoost engine borrowed from the F-150.  This is one powerful engine, and it’s been proven to be barrels of fun.  It sees service in everything from the Flex to the Taurus to the F-150 to the Explorer.  It propels the portly Interceptor Utility to 60 mph in a scant 5.7 seconds.  It’s the most popular engine with the CHP, Texas State Patrol, and the Michigan State Patrol.

Don’t forget what the Crown Victoria’s headlights look like.  The CHP bought 329 in 2011 before it’s production ended, and they will likely be in service until at least 2016.

I hope that you laughed yourselves silly over Roadkill.  Let me know what your favorite episode of Roadkill was!