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2020 Aston Martin Vantage AMR Manual First Drive Review

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 7:01pm

The speedo readout flicks past 170 mph, the basso V-8 growl from under the hood louder and more urgent than ever. We’re closing on 7,000 rpm, near the top of sixth gear, when I do something rarely done in a 500-horsepower sports car these days: Simultaneously lift off the gas, dip the clutch pedal, and tug at a leather covered shift lever. There’s a momentary lull while a series of links and cables shuffle gears into place. Then, as the lever thunks home, the clutch pedal is released, and the throttles snap wide open, the V-8 roars again and the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage AMR continues its mad, epic lunge down the autobahn.

The Vantage AMR is anything but an afterthought Aston, a car hurriedly created to cash in on the growing demand for high-end sports cars with manual transmissions, though Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer no doubt watched the 2017 feeding frenzy around the limited-edition, manual-only Porsche 911 R with keen interest. In truth, Aston Martin’s history with the concept pre-dates Porsche’s: The previous-generation V12 Vantage S manual was launched in 2016, and Palmer insisted from the outset the new Vantage be equipped with a manual transmission.

The Vantage AMR uses the same rear-mounted Graziani seven-speed dogleg transmission as the V12 Vantage S, right down to the ratios. But it’s no cut-and-paste engineering job. Not only is the transmission sitting in an all-new platform, surrounded by all-new suspension and driveline hardware; it’s also the first manual ever hooked up to the versatile Daimler-built 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that powers the Vantage. Recalibrating the powertrain management software so the German-made engine would play nice with the Italian-made transmission—done in-house by Aston Martin but signed off by Daimler engineers in Germany—took months of work. Compared with the regular Vantage, the Vantage AMR is a subtly but substantially different car.

Let’s start with the engine. Power is unchanged—503 hp at 6,000 rpm—but the overall torque output has been dialed back from a peak of 505 lb-ft to 460 lb-ft from 2,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm and limited to 295 lb-ft in first and second gears. That’s to keep the Graziani’s internals intact, says Aston’s chief engineer Matt Becker, who adds that a transmission with stronger components and a higher torque rating would also have weighed more. Even so, Aston claims the AMR is only four tenths of a second slower to 60 mph than the regular Vantage with its fast-shifting eight-speed auto, taking 3.9 seconds for the sprint, and has a slightly higher top speed, 200 mph versus 195 mph.

Despite the addition of a clutch pedal and additional interior parts and wiring, the AMR weighs 220 pounds less than a standard Vantage, and about 60 percent of that weight reduction is down to the lighter manual transmission. A new torque tube between the engine and the transmission weighs 8.8 pounds less, and the AMR’s transmission cooling system is 25 pounds lighter. Standard 20-inch forged alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes—with 16.1-inch rotors up front and 14.1-inch units at the rear—help trim a further 53 pounds.

In addition to reducing the overall weight, the lighter transmission means less weight over the rear axle, and so a subtle shift in the front to rear weight balance from a perfect 50:50 to 51:49. To compensate, the Vantage AMR’s rear spring rate has been slightly softened, and the rear anti-roll bar slightly stiffened. Software controlling both the revalved shocks and the electronic power steering has also been rewritten.

As in all modern Astons, there are three powertrain modes—Sport, Sport+, and Track—but with the gear shifting all down to you, they only change the engine mapping and exhaust note. Sport and Track modes deliver linear throttle response, the former for smooth driving around town, the latter for ultimate precision when pushing hard. Sport + is showoff mode, a non-linear map that delivers more urgent thrust the moment you touch the accelerator. There are matching suspension modes, too, each delivering successively firmer damping rates. Sport and Sport+ are on the money for most roads, endowing the Vantage AMR with a primary ride that’s slightly more compliant—and quieter—than that of a Porsche 911.

Having been developed from the outset with a manual transmission in mind, there’s plenty of room in the Vantage’s footwell for an extra pedal. Becker’s team spent a lot of time finessing pedal weights and placement, benchmarking their efforts against a manual Porsche 911 GTS, and you only need a couple of miles in the Vantage AMR to appreciate it was time well spent. The short-throw clutch uses a dual-piston master cylinder originally developed by AP Racing for Formula 1 cars to reduce effort, and the brake master cylinder has been revised to deliver less aggressive tip-in, to assist with smooth heel-and-toe downshifts. It all works beautifully, offering wonderful feel and feedback.

If you’re not confident matching revs yourself, the Vantage AMR will do it for your via AMSHIFT. This driver-selectable system uses clutch, gear position and prop shaft sensors, together with the engine management program, to mimic the technique of heel-and-toe downshifts. AMSHIFT also offers the capability of full throttle upshifts—just keep your right foot buried as you dip the clutch and the computer stops the engine revving to destruction.

That doesn’t mean the Vantage AMR is easy to drive from the get-go, however. Though the pedals are a joy to dance over, the Graziani transmission doesn’t have the oily rifle-bolt action of the Porsche 911’s seven-speed as you work it through the gears; the throw is longer, clunkier, clumsier, and the gate not as well defined. The shifter weighting favors the central fourth-fifth gear plane, but even so you have to be very careful not to slot into sixth gear on upshifts from third to fourth. On downshifts from third to second it’s far too easy to get fourth gear instead. It takes time and practice to get the feel for the Graziani’s quirks, to learn when to use your palm or your fingertips to guide the lever into the right slot.

It’s a difficult and frustrating experience, all wrong slots and bad language, especially when you first try to explore the Vantage AMR’s performance envelope and the road starts rushing towards you. This is no point-and-pull-the-trigger supercar; you have to understand that less haste means more speed before you can start having fun with it. And then, if you’re on your game, it delivers. The chassis is well balanced, its limits easily approachable, and the feedback from the steering and brakes rich and rewarding.

However, make no mistake: The Vantage AMR is more work, more effort to drive, and indisputably slower than the standard Vantage. Despite its expensive performance hardware—the forged wheels, the big brakes—this is an Aston Martin best enjoyed at seven-tenths, where you have the time to shift gears with care and deliberation and can concentrate on driving as smoothly and precisely as possible. And yet, despite—or maybe because of—the flawed transmission, it’s an oddly appealing thing. It’s like driving a brand-new classic car; its imperfection involves you.

Hooked up to the Graziani the 4.0-liter twin turbo V-8 under the Vantage AMR’s hood is like an old friend who’s learned new tricks. It feels extra alert and responsive; you’re more aware of its muscular punch out of the corners, and strength with which it pulls all the way to redline. It’s a thunderously effortless engine, characterful and engaging, the snap-crackle from the exhaust on the overrun in Track mode somehow more authentic than it is in automatic-transmission cars. There’s a hint of the gloriously mad Virage-based Vantages from the 1990s, with their monstrously powerful twin-supercharged V-8s, in the way the Vantage AMR goes down the road.

Priced from $179,995, the Vantage AMR will be limited to 200 vehicles, available in five designer specifications, one of which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Aston Martin DBR1’s win in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. Named Vantage 59, it will be applied to the final 59 cars of the production run and features a Stirling Green and Lime exterior paint scheme with Dark Knight leather and Alcantara and lime highlights inside. The Vantage 59 spec is priced at $204,995 in the U.S., and all 59 cars have been sold.

The manual transmission will be available as an option on the regular Vantage lineup from the first quarter of next year. The Vantage AMR suggests it could be, despite its foibles, a curiously characterful take on the entry-level Aston Martin. Stick with the automatic if you want a faster, fuss-free Vantage, though. It’s the better supercar.

The post 2020 Aston Martin Vantage AMR Manual First Drive Review appeared first on MotorTrend.

2020 Hyundai Sonata vs. Camry and Accord: Just the Numbers

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 3:46pm

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a design stand-out. We’ve covered that. But to take away sales from segment monarchs like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Sonata will have to do more than stand out; it has to excel. Numbers only tell part of the story—we’ll have to wait for a full comparison test between these three to see the full picture—but they can help us anticipate each car’s strengths and weaknesses.

For the sake of this comparison, we’ll be looking at luxury trim models with upgraded engines: the Hyundai Sonata Limited, Toyota Camry XLE V-6, and Honda Accord Touring.

Size – Interior and Exterior Dimensions

One of the elements Sonata designers pushed for was a longer wheelbase, and the platform engineers made it happen. Μore space between the front and rear wheels generally means more interior space, but it also leads to a car that rides better and feels more stable at speed.

The 2020 Sonata has a 111.8-inch wheelbase. That’s 1.4 inches more than its predecessor and edges out the Camry (111.2 inches) and Accord (111.4 inches) for longest in the class—save the discontinued Ford Fusion. The Sonata is also the longest car of the three, at 192.9 inches compared to the Camry’s 192.1 inches and the Accord’s 192.2, which could make it feel less maneuverable around town.

Inside and up front, the Sonata trounces Camry and Accord with 46.1 inches of front legroom (Camry and Accord have 42.1 and 42.3 inches, respectively), but it falls short in the back row. The Honda’s 40.4 inches of rear legroom makes it stand out—a Camry has 38.0 inches of legroom in the rear, and the new Sonata has only 34.8 inches.

In terms of headroom, the Sonata has an advantage up front (38.4 inches compared to 37.5 inches in Camry and Accord), but it’s the Camry that comes out on top in the back row. It has 38.0 inches of rear headroom compared to 37.4 in the Sonata and 37.2 in the Accord. The Sonata is at a disadvantage as a result of its sloping roofline, but packaging engineers utilized thinner foam on the rear seats to maximize vertical space.

Performance – Engine, Horsepower, Torque, and Acceleration

The examples we’re examining here all have upgraded engines over their respective base models, so you’d expect them to have similar outputs, yes? Nope.

Toyota is the last remaining automaker in the segment to offer a V-6, which, in the case of the Camry, is a 3.5-liter unit developing 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic, and the last V-6 Camry we tested hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Hyundai and Honda go the turbocharged four-cylinder route, but in different ways. In the Accord Touring, you get a 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s a detuned version of the engine in a Civic Type R. For duty in the Accord, it makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft (less power but more torque than the Camry). Working together with a 10-speed auto, the 2.0-liter helps the top-spec Accord scoot to 60 in 5.7 seconds, according to our First Test.

Hyundai made a bold choice with the new Sonata by offering an upgraded engine with similar power output to the base powerplant. The 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four makes 10 less hp but 14 more lb-ft of torque compared to the 2.5-liter non-turbo four-cylinder in lesser Sonatas, the selling point being the turbo engine’s similar efficiency and superior power delivery, not its total output. Peak torque arrives early at 1,500 rpm (compared to 4,000 rpm with the 2.5-liter), which makes the turbo car feel much quicker around town.

Because Hyundai deemphasized the turbo engine’s peak performance figures, it’s not nearly as quick as the Honda or Toyota. The 1.6-liter makes just 180 hp and 195 lb-ft—way less than the Camry or Accord. In our Sonata prototype review, the Sonata Limited took 8.2 seconds to complete the 0–60 run, leaving it far behind the more powerful Camry and Accord. For those looking for a stronger Sonata, the upcoming Sonata N Line will make at least 275 hp.

Efficiency – MPG and Range

Let’s talk efficiency. It’s one of the strongest arguments for choosing a sedan over a comparably sized crossover or SUV, and these three examples perform pretty well. Both the Camry and Accord return 26 mpg combined, which is pretty respectable considering their power and acceleration numbers. The Camry has a larger fuel tank (15.8 gallons vs. 14.8 in the Accord) so its range is longer, at 411 miles to the Accord’s 385.

Due in part to its smaller, less powerful engine, the Sonata is the most efficient car in the group. The EPA hasn’t yet published fuel economy figures for the new Sonata, but Hyundai is estimating 31 mpg combined. We don’t know exactly how large its fuel tank will be, but based on the previous generation’s 18.5-gallon tank, the new car will have an approximate range of 574 miles. That would leave the Camry and Accord in the proverbial dust.

Price

Buying a Hyundai has long been a value play, but does the trend continue with the new Sonata? To be candid, we don’t know yet. Hyundai has yet to release official pricing for the Sonata, but the Sonata Limited prototype we drove had an estimated price of $33,000, an increase of $900 over a comparable previous-gen example.

The Camry and Accord have been on the market for some time, so their pricing details are no secret. A Camry XLE equipped with the V-6 will run you $34,500, and an Accord Touring will set you back $36,100. Is that price delta enough to justify a stronger powerplant and quicker acceleration? We’ll have to wait and find out.

The post 2020 Hyundai Sonata vs. Camry and Accord: Just the Numbers appeared first on MotorTrend.

Nissan Formula E Race Car Channels Japanese Heritage for Season 6

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 1:16pm

Continuing its participation in the increasingly popular Formula E series, Nissan used the eve of the Tokyo Motor Show to show the redesigned race car that will compete in the next season.

Nissan’s Formula E car has a new Japan-inspired look for season six of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship series. The red, black, and white design was inspired by a Japanese kimono and the color scheme will also be used on the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC, a performance version of the Leaf with a dual electric motor. The final design came after a call to about 40 in-house designers to submit concepts.

“As we approach the beginning of our second season of Formula E competition, our design team proposed a new look, one that celebrates our Japanese heritage and vibrant technology DNA,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president for global design. “We used our iconic Nissan racing red, black, and white colors layered diagonally in a kimono pattern, which creates a dynamic and powerful impression.”

While the car has changed, the drivers have not, with Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland returning to form the Nissan e.dams team and show off Nissan’s electric car technology and use the lessons learned to advance the electric car lineup the automaker is rolling out.

For season six, the powertrain was updated to meet new regulations. It replaces the dual electric-motor system used in season five which drove Nissan to second place in the championship with six podium finishes, six pole positions, and 16 Super Pole qualifying appearances, and a win during the final race weekend in New York.

“With a major change to a single-motor solution, we had plenty to do in the off-season. We’ll use everything we learned from season five to improve our package, with an even greater emphasis on battery and energy management,” said Michael Carcamo, Nissan’s global motorsports director.

Season six of Formula E will kick off next month in Saudi Arabia. Fourteen races will be held in 12 cities.

The post Nissan Formula E Race Car Channels Japanese Heritage for Season 6 appeared first on MotorTrend.

Race Car Driver Marino Franchitti’s Thoughts on the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:00am

Over Marino Franchitti’s racing career, he’s driven some pretty serious race cars. After he cut his teeth in 996-era Porsche 911 GT2-RSs and Ferrari 360 Modena GTCs, he’d later go on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring twice piloting Honda and Riley-Ford prototypes, and race in Le Mans behind the wheel of the Ford GT and the unforgettable Nissan DeltaWing. Given his experience with race cars, we tossed him the keys to a brand-new 715-hp 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and caught up with him after his laps to see what he thought.

MotorTrend: What’d you think of driving the DBS and the race and just in general? 

Franchitti: I’ve driven the Aston Martin DB11, so I had some preconceived ideas about the DBS, which weren’t honestly that great. You know Matt Becker [formerly of Lotus, now Aston’s chief engineer] has been at Aston there for a while, and he’s had a hand in the handling of this car, and from the first lap of the DBS this morning, I couldn’t believe that there’s any architecture shared with the DB11, they’re so different. You wouldn’t even know that it’s a turbo—it’s just got that big V-12 torque. It’s just a lovely place to be. Love that driving position, the steering wheel… 

Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the BDC fleet? Get the full story HERE, and watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

MT: You like the squircle?

MF: I do! I’ve always liked it. I don’t really think about the shape—I’m used to really weird-shaped steering wheels. All I think about is the grip, which I love, the position, and sort of how natural it is for me to turn them up sideways.

MT: You also had the chance to race the DBS against some other high-performance street cars for a secret editorial project. How’d the Aston do there?

MF: The race, first of all, was a huge amount of fun, but the car really held its own. I kind of got bogged down a little bit behind the Ford, but I think the DBS had the legs on that over a lap. The Aston really held its own, and it shouldn’t here. It’s a grand tourer. It’s made for eating continents, not for flying around a really tight and twisty track like Laguna Seca, but it still did it really well. I felt myself sort of getting more and more engaged with it every single lap, and I just wanted to keep driving it. I think they did a wonderful job with it. I think it’s good news for the future of Aston to see where they’re going with chassis development. 

MT: Especially considering the cars they’re coming out with, like the Valkyrie.

MF: Yeah! I think obviously Matt Becker is a genius. And you drive the DBS, and you’re, like, OK, [Becker’s] thought of so positively for a reason. You see it straight away. Night and day difference between old Aston and new. As I said, I wasn’t expecting that much having driven the DB11. I had low expectations, but you can’t compare them; they are completely different cars. Really nice. 

MT: One favorite thing about the DBS?

MF: Well, the torque. I mean, it just moves the air. It’s unbelievable.

MT: Least favorite thing? Or, one thing that you would change?

MF: I’d probably put a wider tire on the rear. I’d give it some more tire only because I’m a bit scared. I mean, you get dialed in, but at first it’s intimidating!

The post Race Car Driver Marino Franchitti’s Thoughts on the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera appeared first on MotorTrend.

The 13 Most Fun-to-Drive SUVs Under $50,000

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:00am

SUVs are no longer the lumbering behemoths they used to be when they first appeared. Many now have excellent road manners and inspire the driver to carve up their favorite winding roads. Depending on their size, they’re still practical and viable as family vehicles, allowing you to satisfy the head and heart (and spouse) all at once. Here are some of the most fun-to-drive SUVs available from small urban runabouts to large three-row models.

Jaguar F-Pace – $46,225

 

When it first arrived, the Jaguar F-Pace seduced onlookers with its shapely exterior design and sporty driving dynamics. Fast forward a few years later and the sultry SUV still turns heads and provides drivers thrills on their favorite road. Jaguar recently added an updated 2.0-liter turbo-four in two flavors, giving you more ways to get your ideal F-Pace.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio – $43,840

Think of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio as the sports car of SUVs. There’s no reason for it to handle so beautifully and stay connected with the driver but it does both so well and we love it for that reason. Even with the base 280-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four, the Stelvio offers quick acceleration, which combined with its innate handling ability easily makes it one of the most fun SUVs to drive.

BMW X3 – $41,950

Even when equipped with the base 2.0-liter turbo-four the BMW X3 is among the most fun-to-drive SUVs on the market. The base suspension setup offers a nice ride and handling balance, making it a great daily driver for consumers looking for something agile yet comfortable.

Jaguar E-Pace – $40,945

Jaguar’s smallest SUV, the E-Pace, drives more like a hatchback than it does an SUV, a testament to the British brand’s penchant for sporty vehicles. With all-wheel drive standard, the Jaguar E-Pace has plenty of grip and its sporty suspension makes it a legitimately fun SUV to pilot around turns.

Acura RDX – $38,595

The latest Acura RDX brings back the brand’s mojo with a new platform and a powerful turbocharged engine paired to an in-house-developed 10-speed automatic transmission. With its combination of a wonderful ride and handling balance, spacious interior, and a full suite of safety features, the Acura RDX is one of the most well-rounded luxury compact SUVs available.

BMW X2 – $36,400

With its low-slung roofline and wide stance, the BMW X2 looks ready to carve up a winding road. Currently one of the smallest SUVs in the BMW lineup, the X2 is also one of the most fun to drive, offering tight handling and an available 302-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four in the X2 M35i. Just make sure you can deal with the stiff ride.

Audi Q3 – $35,695

The Audi Q3 is a premium subcompact SUV with sporting intentions, offering car-like agility in spite of its extra ground clearance. With all-wheel drive and a 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four standard, the Q3 has stability and power to go with its pleasant road manners.

Volvo XC40 – $34,695

The most youthful SUV in Volvo’s lineup is the subcompact XC40, which can be had in two-tone exterior color schemes to make it pop some more. In R-Design guise, the Volvo XC40 gets a sport-tuned suspension for better handling, especially on all-wheel-drive-equipped models, which also comes standard with a 248-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four.


Mazda CX-9 – $33,325

For a three-row SUV, the Mazda CX-9 is surprisingly athletic. It happily snakes through winding roads with ease and its communicative steering keeps the driver connected to the road. The available all-wheel drive system keeps the big SUV stable and its 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo-four, which also generates 310 lb-ft of torque, provides plenty of motivation.

Mini Countryman – $29,750

One of the entries in the subcompact SUV segment, the Mini Countryman proves you can have a small, practical utility vehicle that’s fun to drive. As part of its 2020 refresh, the Mini Countryman gains a more potent JCW performance model packing a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful Mini models currently on sale.

Mazda CX-5 – $25,395

Long considered the enthusiast’s choice in the compact SUV segment, the Mazda CX-5 offers sporty handling, excellent steering, and great body control. It recently gained an optional 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo-four, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, making it one of the most powerful SUVs in its segment.

Mazda CX-3 – $21,435

No, the Mazda CX-3 won’t set your hair on fire with its 148-hp 2.0-liter I-4 but, considering it weighs under 3,000 pounds and has a great chassis it will still put a smile on your face. With its agile handling and communicative steering, the Mazda CX-3 is one of the most fun-to-drive and engaging subcompact SUVs available regardless of the drivetrain layout you choose.

Hyundai Kona – $21,195

The Hyundai Kona is one of the newer entries in the growing subcompact SUV segment, arriving as a 2018 model. Since then it has proven its credentials with its engaging handling and available 175-hp 1.6-liter turbo-four. When equipped with the optional all-wheel drive system, the Kona turns into your personal rally car that’s ready to tackle any winding road you throw at it.

The 13 Most Fun-to-Drive SUVs Under $50,000
  • Jaguar F-Pace – $46,225
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio – $43,840
  • BMW X3 – $41,950
  • Jaguar E-Pace – $40,945
  • Acura RDX – $38,595
  • BMW X2 – $36,400
  • Audi Q3 – $35,695
  • Volvo XC40 – $34,695
  • Mazda CX-9 – $33,325
  • Mini Countryman – $29,750
  • Mazda CX-5 – $25,395
  • Mazda CX-3 – $21,435
  • Hyundai Kona – $21,195

The post The 13 Most Fun-to-Drive SUVs Under $50,000 appeared first on MotorTrend.

The McLaren Senna is Faster 0-100-0 Than These Fast Cars Are 0-100

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:00am

The McLaren Senna wasn’t built for straight-line performance—so why is it so quick? Although its carbon-fiber body is contoured to generate aerodynamic downforce, it’s still among the most brutally accelerative vehicles we’ve ever tested, hitting 100 mph in 5.1 seconds thanks to its 789-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. Stopping from that speed is equally stupendous, 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic brakes grabbing to a standstill in a mere 3.4 seconds. Those combine for an 8.5-second 0–100–0 cycle, the best in MotorTrend testing history.

You need context to appreciate how shockingly quick that is. Compare the Senna to any of these sporty cars, which are still accelerating to the triple-digit mark by the time McLaren’s masterpiece has hit it and come back to a stop. None of these cars are slow by any means, but the Senna simply leaves them in the dust.

Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the BDC fleet? Get the full story HERE, and watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

Volkswagen Golf R: 14.0 Seconds

Vee-Dub’s Golf R is an icon of hot hatchback performance, cramming impressive horsepower into a compact five-door package. With all-wheel drive and a clever differential distributing that juice between the wheels, the Golf R launches well and feels plenty quick. It hits 100 mph in 14 seconds flat, nearly triple what it takes the Senna—keeping the throttle floored for that long in the McLaren would require a runway or wide-open autobahn.

Honda Civic Type R: 12.2 Seconds

Arguably the pinnacle of front-wheel drive performance, the Honda Civic Type R captured a Nurburgring lap record, as well as our hearts. Its turbocharger- and VTEC-equipped motor sends power down with minimal torque steer, and sticky tires provide solid traction. With a big wing, aggressive bodywork, and true track-day chops, it might like to argue that it’s sort of like a micro-Senna. The Senna just laughs as it absolutely demolishes the CTR in every measure.

Kia Stinger GT: 11.7 Seconds

The Kia Stinger might be the epitome of approachable sport sedan performance; it’s a car we drove and enjoyed for a whole year in our long-term test fleet. With its twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive, it’s more than quick enough for daily driving. That’s not a use case the Senna was conceived for in the slightest, and the Stinger has over ten times the cargo volume. But we might give up a year with a sensibly quick daily for an hour of open track with the mighty McLaren.

Mercedes-AMG G 63: 10.4 Seconds

Mercedes’ infamous G-Wagen is aerodynamic in a different way than the Senna, which is to say not in the slightest. It’s basically an upright box, but it still punches through the air with impressive efficacy, especially in AMG spec. Also factoring in its 5,821-pound curb weight, the G 63’s 10.4-second 0–100 run is amazing on its own, but still more than double the Senna’s. The McLaren’s been stopped for several ticks by the time the G 63 passes through the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds at 108.9 mph.

Toyota Supra: 9.9 Seconds

The jury is still out whether the Supra lives up to the legend of its predecessors, and the hype leading up to the Mk V’s reveal. Still, it’s pretty damn quick, cracking the magical 10-mph-per-second barrier leading up to 100 mph. That’s more than enough for any reasonable car enthusiast. Sure, the Supra will put a smile on the face of most anyone who drives it, but it’ll never make anyone cuss and shout like the Senna will.

Bentley Continental Supersports: 9.3 Seconds

With a name like Supersports, you’d expect this brawny Bentley to be plenty quick—and it is. With a nice, round 700 hp generated by its twin-turbo W-12 engine, this Brit launches to 100 mph rapidly, in a bit under 10 seconds. Despite the power and speed, it’s built for a completely different purpose than the Senna, which walks away from its British countryman. And although its front brakes are even larger than the Senna’s, they have a lot more work to do hauling the 5,319-pound bruiser down to zero.

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350: 9.0 Seconds

That the Mustang GT350 hits 100 in 9.0 seconds is extremely impressive considering it’s a manual transmission vehicle; the number is testament to the driver’s skill at launching and shifting gears. For 2019, Ford Performance made changes to the GT350’s brakes, particularly their ABS calibration. With those updates it stops from 100 mph in just 95 feet and 3.6 seconds, barely more than the McLaren. Still, the Mustang’s combined 0–100–0 run of 12.6 seconds is well behind the Senna’s.

Audi TT RS: 8.9 Seconds

When Audi applies an RS badge to its Quattro-equipped cars, awesome launches are guaranteed. With a blatty turbocharged five-cylinder and dual-clutch transmission banging off seamless shifts, the TT RS is a hilariously quick little sports car. Its inclusion here, therefore, really illustrates the Senna’s incredible performance. The Audi’s within a breath of 100 mph by the time the McLaren’s found it and come back to a stop.

Corvette Grand Sport: 8.7 Seconds

We posited that the Grand Sport is the best iteration of the C7, blending the Z06’s sticky chassis with the Stingray’s accessible LT2 V-8 power. This version of C7 found 100 mph in 8.7 seconds when equipped with the eight-speed automatic; the manual was hardly behind in 8.8. Still, America’s classic sports car is no match for Britain’s carbon-fiber conqueror.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: 8.5 Seconds

There’s a fair amount of Ferrari DNA in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. After all, its 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 is derived from the house of the prancing horse. That this shapely high-rider rips to 100 in just 8.5 seconds is awesome, and acceleration was only part of the laudation laid upon it by judges in last year’s Best Driver’s Car. Still, praise is no substitute for hard numbers—while the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is ultra-quick, the Senna is so much more so.

The post The McLaren Senna is Faster 0-100-0 Than These Fast Cars Are 0-100 appeared first on MotorTrend.

Best Racer’s Car: The Story Behind the First-Ever BDC Grand Prix

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:00am

Welcome to the first MotorTrend Best Driver’s Car Grand Prix: six of the best road cars racing wheel to wheel on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Why? Well, we got to thinking that although the data taken from our hot laps with Randy Pobst is fascinating, multiple laps with other cars in close proximity might yield very different results.

Sometimes Randy emerges from a contender sweating. It’s taken every ounce of his skill to extract the optimum time. Think of the McLaren 720S last year. Could that pace be replicated with the added pressure of other cars sharing track space and also right on the limit? Maybe the strain would start to show on the cars, too. Sure, those impressive-looking brakes might endure an out lap, hot lap, in lap cycle, but what about a longer session and without running in clean, cool air?

The MotorTrend Best Driver’s Car Grand Prix would be all about consistency, confidence, and endurance. It sounded like a hell of a lot of fun, too. Amazingly, the car companies we asked all approved of this damn-fool stunt and consented to our running more than $1 million in sheetmetal around the track simultaneously.

The rules are simple. Three laps, with the grid run in reverse order, fastest car at the back, slowest car in pole position.

Our front row is the much-hyped Toyota GR Supra driven by three-time Formula Drift Champion and Drift This co-host Chris Forsberg, beside the 715-hp Aston Martin DBS Superleggera driven by endurance racer and 12 Hours of Sebring winner Marino Franchitti.

Next back are the Jaguar Project 8 and Shelby Mustang GT350 nestled alongside each other piloted by Axel Stein and Patryk Mikiciuk of the German and Polish affiliates of MotorTrend, respectively. This is an international Grand Prix, after all.

Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the BDC fleet? Get the full story HERE, and watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

In row three, hailing all the way from Georgia, is our very own Randy Pobst in the Porsche 992 Carrera S. Finally, there’s me, the token Brit, in a flame-spitting McLaren 600LT. (Sorry, no Senna. McLaren wisely had second thoughts but sent along a proper substitute as an apology.) I’m way off the back of the grid to make things as “fair” as possible. Yeah, someone doesn’t want me to win.

We have front-, mid-, and rear-engine contenders, driven by drifters, racers, and motor journalists; more than 3,200 hp generated by six-, eight-, and 12-cylinder engines; and the simply awesome Laguna Seca as our playground.

This is the MotorTrend Best Driver’s Car Grand Prix. Watch it only on MotorTrend On Demand!

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2019 Best Driver’s Car Day 2: What Goes Up Must Race Down

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:00am

The second day of Best Driver’s Car began right on schedule. All nine judges and (more important) 12 cars arrived on time, as did three members of the California Highway Patrol. Good part is, the officers were on our side, as we had a slithery 4-mile hill climb of State Route 198 permitted for video and photographic purposes, and as such we would have their assistance in intermittently closing the road.

Hey, man, safety first. Well, OK, maybe not exactly safety, but we wanted to eliminate the possibility of an innocent party being involved if something went wrong. Self-inflicted injury? It’s a dirty job filled with risks, but 12 of the best new performance, sports, and supercars ain’t gonna drive themselves. Yet.

Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the BDC fleet? Get the full story HERE, and watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

Due to some inside baseball mishegas, instead of our usual cadre of 12 judges, for 2019 we went with only nine. For some reason, I was very worried about this fact until I realized that having only nine judges looping per road closure meant that each run took only 75 percent as long as in years past. Work smarter, not harder, and all that. Was the outcome in any way impacted by having fewer drivers driving the car? Naw. If anything, it made us a more efficient unit and saved a bit of wear and tear on the cars. Oh, right, the cars! Let’s get to it.

After one run, the Mercedes-AMG came down the hill with smoke billowing from its brakes. Not a good sign, but if you’ll allow me the fleeting pleasure of tossing one of my colleagues under the proverbial bus, Scott Evans was driving, and, well, he does that.

Smoking brakes aside, the AMG rocked on 198. “Sure, it’s heavy and solid as a bank vault, but it tears up the asphalt as though it’s mad at the earth,” Mark Rechtin said. “Its baritone engine note is menacing, its cornering fleet and nimble like Lawrence Taylor at his peak, and its brakes confident (though a bit thin and prone to igniting under intense labor). Plus, it has great rear-seat room and a thunderous stereo to regale your passengers with Wagner as you blast toward your destination.”

I’m sure Rechtin would play something else if you asked nicely. Angus MacKenzie said much the same: “Stunningly fast both up and down Route 198, the AMG GT 63 S feels like a genuine four-door sports car, not a sedan gussied up to look like one.”

The car that I found most shocking was the Bentley. There was a time when even inviting a Bentley to Best Driver’s Car caused a flurry of nasty internal emails (“Too big!” “Too luxury!” “Your mama!”). But, I assure you, the third-generation Continental GT—the one riding on the Porsche-engineered MSB platform—will forever quash that argument.

We were caning the 4.0-liter V-8 version, which makes only 542 horsepower as opposed to the 626 ponies of the 6.0-liter W-12 edition. Now, here’s the point where I normally say, “Sure, the power is down, but the GT V8 weighs so much less.” Only it doesn’t. The big 12-banger only weighs 91 pounds more than the green guy we have. Laughably, the Lamborghini Urus SUV weighs but 3 pounds more than the GT V8. Despite that, what a machine! To me, the Continental drove like a Nissan GT-R wrapped up in 14 cows’ worth of green leather.

I suppose I shouldn’t get too much further without mentioning the $992,816 British elephant in the room, the Senna. Here’s what Chris Walton had to say (and this man has been driving and testing cars professionally for nearly 25 years): “I never thought I’d see a Senna, much less drive one, unleashed, on a closed road, without a McLaren handler riding shotgun. On Route 198, the Senna was a life-changing drive.”

Perhaps Walton was alone in his bewitchment? Let’s ask pro driver Randy Pobst, who should be well jaded about such things: “I was utterly seduced by the extreme power, sounds, stick, and wild-child road attack of the outrageous Senna.” As for MacKenzie, the most tenured guy on staff: “Dancing the McLaren Senna over the lumps and bumps on Route 198, the corners come in a wide-eyed rush as I learn to trust the hand-of-god downforce and truly epic brakes.” Even editor-in-chief Ed Loh was impressed: “The Senna was my first run up the hill, a drive I normally take relatively easy, to refamiliarize myself with 198. I ran up the hill in Sport and pushed myself. But the car? Not one bit. I saw 144 mph at the straightaway at the top of the hill and used that as a marker for the day. Never got within 10 mph of the Senna.”

Of course, there’s a counterpoint to the Senna love. “My favorite moment on 198 was getting out of the Senna and handing the keys to someone else,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “Actually, driving it up and down 198 was phenomenal—truly otherworldly. Babying it on fumes to King City and back for gas sucked. Hot, loud, uncomfortable. As an unabashed Viper lover, I’d normally say these things build character, but somehow the Senna takes the fun out of that.”

I’m more on Team Seabaugh vis-à-vis the Senna. Yeah, man, the performance is bonkers. But $600,000 more bonkers than the escaped mental patient McLaren 720S? I don’t think so. Rest assured, there was much disagreement. I wish I could leave you with what Evans wrote, but it’s literally uncut profanity. Let’s just say the car moved him.

If there were a trend to be spotted in 2019, it’s that our friends over in England are building some outstanding performance machines. Forget about the million-dollar McLaren and the Verde Bling Bentley, and check out the $300K Aston Martin DBS Superleggera. I mean, just look at it. Since day one, I’ve been saying Marek Reichman’s masterpiece is the most beautiful car of the last 25 years. Great thing is, the Superleggera drives pretty dang sweet, especially once you find the annoyingly buried/hidden traction control menu and get it into Track mode.

As Loh said, switching into Track mode “flips the DBS from WWF to UFC.” To which Pobst added, “The gorgeous Aston DBS surprised me by its giant step forward in sporting drivability for a big luxury coupe from the brand, and pavement-wrinkling torque.” Amen to that torque!

Sticking with Britain, the Jaguar impressed, too. Especially its brakes, which even Evans couldn’t immolate. From Loh: “The Project 8 surprised me the most. It was born to attack roads like 198, with its unceasing uphill thrust, punctuated by snarling upshifts and otherworldly traction through corners.”

At some point we scarfed tripas and asada tacos from our friends at King City’s own Tacos la Potranca de Jalisco. (They’ll perform roadside catering anywhere in California.) Most of the non-taco talk involved two cars that had emerged as our favorites: the wonderful Shelby GT350 and the we-knew-it-would-be-good-but-not-this-good Porsche 911.

“After experiencing the first three corners of supreme grip and confidence from the Shelby, I suspended the idea I was in a Ford product,” Rechtin said. “For the rest of the run up and down the hill, I put myself in the mindset of driving an exotic car because the GT350’s performance was to that standard. And it still excelled even when measured against cars costing thrice as much, never mind against previous Dearborn efforts.” Taking vehicular lust to a new level, Seabaugh wants to marry the Shelby and have its baby.

Speaking of inappropriate metaphors, here’s Walton on the Porsche: “Sweet, buttery, velvety, liquidy goodness, my goodness. It’s unfailingly up to the task, and that gives me unlimited confidence. Wow, what a car.”

That’s basically what every judge had to say about the 992 iteration of the 911. Think I’m being lazy? Here’s MacKenzie: “The 992-series 911 is thrillingly fast, telepathically responsive, and wonderfully communicative—all 911, all the time, yet more approachable and trustworthy at the limit than ever before.”

So the issue becomes, how do you pick a winner between the excellent American and the wunderbar Porsche? A racetrack and our pro driver would settle it the very next day.

Day 2 standings

1          Porsche 911 Carrera S
2          Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
3          ↑ McLaren Senna
4          ↑ Jaguar XE SV Project 8
5          ↑ BMW M2 Competition
6          ↓ Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4Matic+
7          ↓ Bentley Continental GT V8
8          Lamborghini Urus
9          ↓ Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
10        ↑ BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
11        ↓ Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
12        Toyota GR Supra

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Refreshed 2020 Nissan Titan XD Gets More Safety Tech, Loses Diesel Option

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 5:44pm

Hot on the heels of the face-lifted 2020 Titan, the larger 2020 Nissan Titan XD debuts with a refreshed look inspired by the Titan Warrior Concept like its smaller sibling. For 2020, the Nissan Titan XD will only be available as a crew cab with a 6.5-foot bed and four-wheel drive as standard. Two-tone exterior colors and 20-inch alloy wheels also come standard. In terms of size, the 2020 Titan XD will be larger than a full-size truck but smaller than a true quarter-ton pickup like a Ford F-250.

Powering the 2020 Nissan Titan XD is the same updated 5.6-liter V-8 with 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque found in the smaller Titan. The gas engine’s output is up 10 hp and 19 lb-ft from last year’s model. A new nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the old seven-speed unit. The nine-speed also has a shorter final drive ratio of 4.083 to 1 versus the seven-speed’s 3.692 to 1. If you’re looking for a diesel option, you’re out of luck; Nissan announced earlier this year that it was discontinuing its 5.0-liter turbodiesel V-8 option, co-developed with Cummins, with the launch of the refreshed Titan XD.

Like the smaller Titan, the 2020 Nissan Titan XD gets a unique front fascia depending on the trim level. PRO-4X and Platinum Reserve models take the design differentiations one step further with their unique tailgate designs, featuring black and chrome accents, respectively. Inside, the 2020 Titan XD gets an updated infotainment system with an optional 9.0-inch touchscreen. All trims also get a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display.

Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 driver assistance suite comes standard, bundling together forward collision warning, front and rear automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning. Adaptive cruise control and the Around View Monitor are optional.

When it goes on sale early next year, the 2020 Nissan Titan XD will be available in five trims.

Source: Nissan

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Bloodhound Shows The Car That Will Attempt 1,000 MPH

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 3:23pm

The Bloodhound Land Speed record project has been around under various names for more than 10 years now. It was announced in 2008, and the intention then is the same as it is today: go 1,000 mph on land, in a car. Over the last decade the Bloodhound team has been working toward that singular objective, and today they revealed the car that will undergo testing at the Hakskeenpan desert racetrack in Northern Cape, South Africa.

After reports of the project’s death in December of last year, a new buyer stepped in, and less than 12 months later we have our first look at what the finished version of the car could look like. This is the first time the car has been seen in “desert spec” with its brand-new bespoke, precision-machined solid aluminum wheels. They measure just over 35 inches in diameter, weigh 198 pounds each, and are designed to withstand forces of up to 50,000 g. More technical details can be found here, as many of the mind-blowing numbers this machine makes haven’t changed in the last several years.

More than 150 pressure sensors around the car will compile data while the car is running at high speed and contribute to computational fluid dynamic models to measure what kind of stresses the car will be under during the high speed run. The forces will be massive, no doubt. Test driver Andy Green, who has already claimed a land speed record, will experience forces of up to 3 g (three times his own body weight) during acceleration runs.

As part of the effort to (literally) clear the way for the 1,000-mph run, the Northern Cape Provincial Government and members of the local Mier community removed more than 35,000 tons of rock and dirt from more than 236 million square feet of dry lake bed to make sure the surface the Bloodhound runs on is flat and smooth. It’s the largest area ever cleared for a motorsport event, and the stage is now set for the Bloodhound LSR to undergo some testing.

Bloodhound expects a world record attempt in 12 to 18 months.

The post Bloodhound Shows The Car That Will Attempt 1,000 MPH appeared first on MotorTrend.

CARB Filing Suggests 2020 Mazda CX-30, Mazda3 Will Share Engine Options

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 2:51pm

It’s been more than six months since the 2020 Mazda CX-30 debuted at the Geneva auto show. Since then we’ve seen what engines it will get in other global markets like Europe where it’s already on sale. Now, thanks to a filing on the California Air Resources Board (ARB) website, we’ve finally got clues as to what we could expect to find under the hood of a Mazda CX-30 in North America.

According to the filing, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 will come with two engine options, a 2.0-liter I-4 paired to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission or a 2.5-liter I-4 coupled exclusively to the latter. We suspect that the smaller 2.0-liter will be offered in Canada but not the United States just like in the recently redesigned Mazda3. In that car, the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I-4 makes 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. It’s slightly more powerful in the CX-5 and Mazda6 where it’s rated at 187 hp. The filing also doesn’t indicate the addition of cylinder deactivation, which was first added to that engine two years ago.

Mazda has yet to announce a firm time frame for the arrival of its Skyactiv-X 2.0-liter I-4 in North America. The engine is now offered in the Mazda3 and CX-30 in Europe so it can meet strict emissions regulations. In its current state, it makes 178 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. It is currently the most potent powertrain option available on the Mazda3 and CX-30 in the European market.

We expect the 2020 Mazda CX-30 to officially make its North American debut at the 2019 Los Angeles auto show. In terms of size, the CX-30 slots between the subcompact CX-3 and the compact CX-5. Key competitors include the Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Rogue Sport, and the upcoming Chevrolet Trailblazer.

Source: California Air Resources Board

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2020 Subaru Crosstrek Priced Slightly Higher, Gets Safer

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 12:28pm

The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek now comes standard with the EyeSight driver assistance suite when equipped with a CVT, all for a relatively small price increase. Standard Crosstreks see a $250 hike, bringing the grand total to $23,155 for a base model with the six-speed manual. Plug-in hybrid models, which returns as a single trim, starts at $36,155.

Subaru’s EyeSight suite bundles together automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and lane departure and sway warnings. You can further expand it on higher trims via option packages (standard on the Limited trim and hybrids) that add blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. Other changes include the addition of the SI-Drive selector on the gas-only 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, which adds Intelligent and Sport modes, and an engine start/stop system on models equipped with a CVT. Automatic climate control now comes standard, too.

Powering the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is a 2.0-liter flat-four with 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. Hybrid models use the same engine but adds an electric motor and an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. That allows it to travel up to 17 miles in EV mode. Total combined output from the hybrid system is 148 hp. Max range with the fuel tank and battery topped off is EPA-estimated at 480 miles. The gas-only Crosstrek is EPA-rated at 27/33 mpg city/highway with the CVT and 22/29 mpg with the manual.

Source: Subaru

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Top 15 Cheap Cars With 300 HP for Less Than $40K

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 8:00am

The horsepower war is alive and well in the auto industry. Once upon a time, 300 hp was a number reserved for the most superlative—and expensive—cars. But these days, when 700 hp is the unspoken minimum requirement among mega-muscle cars and supercars, horsepower comes relatively cheap. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get 300 hp. If you’re looking for cheap cars with 300 hp, here are a few great options all starting under $40,000.

2019 Infiniti Q50 V-6 | $39,425 | 300 HP

Infiniti’s entry-level sedan offers a turbo-four and a 400-hp V-6, but the sweet spot is its V-6 making 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. We’ve praised the Q50 for its spacious interior and generous cargo bay, although the infotainment system is showing its age. This entry makes our list of cheap cars with 300 hp, but just barely, as prices start at over $39,000.

2020 Chrysler 300S | $38,140 | 300 HP

Despite its dated interior, the Chrysler 300S is as stylish as it is powerful. It comes standard with a 3.6-liter V-6 producing 300 hp, but a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 boosts output to 363 hp.

2020 Subaru WRX STI | $37,895 | 310 HP

Drivers will enjoy the impressive handling and all-wheel-drive grip of this brash sedan. After some initial lag, the STI surges forward with confidence with the help of a 310-hp 2.5-liter turbo flat-four engine. Unfortunately, it lost out to the Honda Civic Type R in our sport compact comparison.

2019 Honda Civic Type R | $37,230 | 306 HP

It’s hard to believe a front-drive car can perform this well. The Type R packs a powerful punch with a 306-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but that’s only part of the story. It also features a superb chassis and engaging manual transmission. As we noted in one review, it “feels like a detuned rally car.”

2019 Buick LaCrosse V-6 | $37,095 | 310 HP

Yes, a Buick can be powerful. Not only does the LaCrosse make 310 hp with its optional V-6 engine, it also handles surprisingly well for its size. But the sedan may not be for sale much longer in the U.S., as production ended at GM’s Detroit–Hamtramck facility in February.

2020 Toyota Avalon | $36,755 | 301 HP

This sedan makes 301 hp from its V-6 engine, but unlike other cheap cars with 300 hp, it has no sporting intentions. That is, unless you opt for the new TRD version with a sportier suspension. Generally, though, the Avalon is best known as a comfortable cruiser with a premium cabin filled with soft-touch surfaces and available Yamaha-sourced wood trim.

2020 Nissan Maxima | $35,145 | 300 HP

The Maxima is more of a comfortable cruiser than a sport sedan. That said, the Maxima won’t leave you wanting for power. It boasts a 3.5-liter V-6 making 300 hp.

2020 Chevrolet Impala | $32,495 | 305 HP

GM is shifting its resources from sedans to SUVs, but the Impala still has its merits. Not only does the 3.6-liter V-6 deliver 305 hp, but drivers will enjoy comfortable seats, a controlled ride, and solid handling considering its size. However, it’s unclear if these positive traits are compelling enough to stop consumers from switching to crossovers like the stylish Blazer.

2020 Dodge Charger | $31,390 | 300 HP

Combining muscle car performance with the space and comfort of a traditional sedan, the Charger is a welcome anomaly. The standard V-6 makes 300 hp. V-8 versions are also available for different budgets, from the 370-hp version to a supercharged Hellcat HEMI with 707 hp. Among cheap cars with 300 hp, this one is a particularly good value.

2020 Nissan 370Z | $30,985 | 332 HP

Even though it has gone a decade without a major update, the 370Z is still fun to drive. Packing a 3.7-liter V-6, the model makes 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque in standard guise, or 350 hp and 276 lb-ft when buyers upgrade to the Nismo trim. Yes, you can still get it with a six-speed manual. To celebrate five decades in the U.S., the sports car gets a 50th Anniversary edition.

2019 Dodge Challenger | $29,590 | 305 HP

The Challenger has a lot to offer, and you don’t need the 797-hp Hellcat Redeye to have fun. Even the base model makes a healthy 305 hp in standard guise, and V-8 versions start from 375 hp. Along with powerful engines, the Challenger benefits from a smooth ride and surprisingly spacious back seat.

2020 Ford Mustang | $28,410 | 310 HP

Although the V-8 version is more potent, the EcoBoost Mustang strikes a nice balance between performance and value. The base Mustang makes an impressive 310 hp and 350 lb-ft, not from a V-6, but from a 2.3-liter turbo-four engine. The High Performance package is worth it, adding an extra 20 hp to the engine and an active exhaust with quad tips. When we tested an EcoBoost Mustang, it went from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 | $27,990 | 335 HP

The Camaro earns its rightful place in muscle car history. The coupe boasts precise steering and little body roll, not to mention great engine choices. Although we like the energetic turbo-four, the V-6 makes a potent 335 hp. For even more power, there’s a V-8 with 455 hp. Despite the added juice, the Camaro V-8 is still a steal, starting under $35,000 for the 2020 model year.

And a few cheap SUVs with 300 HP… 2019 Chevrolet Blazer V-6 | $34,495 | 308 HP

The Blazer shares more than its looks with the Camaro. From its agile road manners to its interior design, the Blazer feels sportier than it should as a midsize SUV. We clocked the RS model hitting 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse | $30,995 | 310 HP

Often overlooked, this large crossover boasts surprisingly good handling and a buttery smooth nine-speed transmission. It also has plenty of cargo space, although it has a slightly cramped third row. The V-6 engine makes a healthy 310 hp.

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World’s Greatest Drag Race 9! Watch 12 of the Fastest Production Cars Compete

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:00am

Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the BDC fleet? Watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

“Because we can” is the reason we gave for doing World’s Greatest Drag Race the first time, eight years ago. Now it’s more like, “Because we’d be crazy not to.”

We love it, you love it, and apparently so do the fine airmen of the 30th Space Wing, headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base; this is the third year in a row they’ve agreed to host our madness. This explains how we ended up with our 12 Best Driver’s Cars lined up and revving on the clean, grooved concrete of America’s fourth-longest runway.

Last year we doubled down on WGDR by taking five of the drag race competitors twice the distance to a half-mile stretch and adding Roadkill star Mike Finnegan’s Hemi V-8-powered ’55 Chevy (nicknamed “Blasphemi”) to the mix. Window-blowing, hood-scoop-shattering shenanigans ensued.

How do we improve upon that combination? By taking the entire 12-car field to the half-mile and adding a German comedian, a Polish car collector, and the world’s luckiest Australian dentist to the mix. Yes, we put the aforementioned colleagues from the German and Polish affiliates of MotorTrend, Axel Stein and Patryk Mikiciuk, behind the wheels of the AMG GT 63 S and Bentley Continental GT V8. For fun and for free dental work for the rest of my life, I let my cousin Quang take my spot in the drag race in the fun but relatively slow BMW M2 Competition (editor-in-chief privilege in full effect).

The real question is what happens when you take 12 cars and double the 1,320? We don’t regularly test acceleration to the half mile, so we didn’t know who would win when we first pulled onto the tarmac at Vandenberg. Sure, we had our guesses, but only in the race could we confirm for sure.

Which production car gets faster after the quarter? Which one runs out of breath? Once the 797-hp Hellcat Redeye hooks up, surely it shows its taillights to the field, right? Or is it the DBS Superleggera and its twin-turbo V-12 that most effectively uses its 700-plus horsepower? Will the track specialist Senna be held back by all of its downforce-inducing fins and wings? Will any of the cars capable of 200 mph even come close at the checkered flag? So many questions.

When you’re ready to bring to life the raw and righteous riot of 48 tires and nearly 7,000 horsepower igniting on the word go, head to MotorTrend.com/bdc to watch World’s Greatest Drag Race 9.

I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. But if you are, hit me up on Twitter @edloh, and I’ll send you some swag—if I believe you.

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Welcome to 2019 Best Driver’s Car Week! Five Countries, 12 Crazy-Fast Cars, One Winner

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:00am

Each year’s Best Driver’s Car field takes a different form. Last year, the story revolved around the three supercars that obliterated the existing WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca lap record for a street-legal vehicle. We also had the first-ever SUV in the field.

Often, Best Driver’s Car is a roster of that year’s two-door exotics. This year was … different. Sure, we had the equivalent of a street-legal race car in the McLaren Senna, but we also had a collection of more, shall we say, eclectic vehicles, including an SUV whose performance would have shattered the BDC field five years ago. We had a couple grand tourers in the venerable sense, some bahn-storming supersedans, and a certain tire-melting hooligan from Detroit that readers have begged us to include for years.

The 2019 Best Driver’s Car field priced out at $2,759,014. Granted, a cool million of that figure was the Senna, but although many of the sticker prices resided in the six-figure realm of the One Percent, we also had a couple vehicles reachable by The Rest Of Us. And as we all know, rooting for the underdog can be so much more fun.

Each of our 12 vehicles endured a battery of tests at our Fontana, California, proving ground at Auto Club Speedway. We then took a daylong winding route from Los Angeles up along California’s coast and through its central valley, parking ourselves at the foot of State Route 198. Thanks to the diligence of the California Highway Patrol and the patience of hundreds of inconvenienced motorists, we intermittently shut down 4.2 miles of this rolling, jolting, turbulent hill climb for a day, blasting exhaust notes off the surrounding foothills. From there, we trundled up to scenic Monterey, location of the aforementioned world-famous Laguna Seca, where our staff’s hottest shoe—champion racer Randy Pobst—set hot lap times that no mere mortal (including automaker test drivers) could ever hope to achieve.

The winner may not be the fastest in a straight line or the quickest around the racetrack. But it will be the best car to drive, both to the track and around it (stay tuned as we reveal the winner later this week).

Check in all week at MotorTrend for 2019 Best Driver’s Car stories, photos, and videos you won’t find anywhere else!

World’s Greatest Drag Race 9! Watch 12 of the Fastest Production Cars Compete

2019 Best Driver’s Car Behind the Scenes: We Rank Our 12-Car Field After Day 1

Want EVEN MORE from 2019 Best Driver’s CarSee the cars in action right here.

2019 Best Driver’s Car Contenders:

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Bentley Continental GT V8
BMW M2 Competition
BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
Jaguar XE SV Project 8
Lamborghini Urus
McLaren Senna
Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4Matic+
Porsche 911 Carrera S
Toyota GR Supra

Judges:

Ed Loh
Editor-in-Chief

Mark Rechtin
Executive Editor

Angus Mackenzie
International Bureau Chief

Chris Walton
Road Test Editor

Randy Pobst
Champion Racing Driver

Jethro Bovingdon
Head 2 Head Host

Jonny Lieberman
Head 2 Head Host

Scott Evans
Features Editor

Christian Seabaugh
Features Editor

The post Welcome to 2019 Best Driver’s Car Week! Five Countries, 12 Crazy-Fast Cars, One Winner appeared first on MotorTrend.

2019 Best Driver’s Car Behind the Scenes: We Rank Our 12-Car Field After Day 1

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:00am

I eased the gassed-up BMW M850i into the MotorTrend parking lot just before 7:30 a.m. We weren’t leaving until 8, but with the exception of deadlines, I have a real issue with being late.

It’s time for the 2019 Best Driver’s Car week! Want more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content on the Supra, Mustang Shelby GT350, Urus, and the rest of the fleet? Watch all the Best Driver’s Car videos you can handle HERE.

Parked sideways across three spots in the back lot sat the $982,816 purple and orange McLaren Senna. I nosed the M850i up to the odd-looking beastie, taking up an additional three spots, and sat for a moment to contemplate the diversity of the 2019 Best Driver’s Car field. A Toyota, a Bentley, a Lamborghini SUV, a Mustang (albeit a Shelby), a pocket rocket BMW, and a great big personal luxury coupe of a BMW. Plus, you know, the Senna.

Can we make this work? My thoughts (and the last moment I’d have to myself for the next week) were interrupted by photographer William Walker not so subtly pulling up in the never-subtle Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, a big ol’ American boat that produces 8 more horsepower than the 789-hp Senna. Slowly but surely, the rest of the gang turned up along with the rest of the dozen cars, all 6,938 horsepower and a couple Woodrow Wilsons shy of $3 million in sheetmetal and carbon fiber. Yeah, we’re good.

The plan for day one of this year’s Best Driver’s Car was to drive all the competitors from our HQ in El Segundo up to Paso Robles, the center of California’s Central Coast wine region. Why there? Paso is pretty close to where we’d be starting day two, the notorious State Route 198. Also, the yummy Firestone Walker Brewing Company taproom restaurant is pretty close to the hotel, and an army marches on its stomach. But I’m getting ahead of the program.

The drive was not to be a straight shot. The idea was that we’d stop every half hour or so and switch cars to give all nine judges seat time in as many cars as possible. This way we’d be able to see what the BDC contenders are like in the real world, or our close approximation of it.

Road test editor Chris Walton was tasked with coming up with a route that would attempt to avoid freeways as much as possible and take advantage of as many sadly taken-for-granted California back roads as we could in a single day. After we squirted up the 405 freeway and out onto Interstate 10 (executive editor Mark Rechtin alternately sulking and panicking in the uncompromising/deafening Senna while dodging erratic morning traffic), we emerged onto Pacific Coast Highway and aimed for Malibu.

I’ll never know exactly why, nor will I be able to explain it, but driving next to water is better than not driving next to water. That’s just how it is. Also, via the luck of the draw, I was assigned the perfect weapon and got to drive through Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, and much of Malibu in the kinda ocean blue Hellcat. What a treat.

Equal parts comfy, soft, hysterical, ridiculous, and awesome, the Hellcat is one of those cars that—even though we were all pretty sure it wasn’t going to win—we’d all like to see in BDC. For a variety of reasons, in our BDCs from 2015 to 2018, the stars never quite aligned. This year? Redeye Widebody, baby! We saved the best Hellcat for last, and as far as we know, it’s the last one we’re going to see. Anyhow, I was loving life.

We pulled over near Leo Carrillo State Park to switch cars. As our posse stood around Instagramming, a loud Camaro club/gang passed us. Mostly driving supercharged sixth-gen cars and/or ones that had been demuffled in some way, the Chevy boys wanted us to share in their joy of running PCH. Ahh, the intoxication of youth and cheap horsepower.

Once back underway, we came up on the Camaro club, similarly pulled off in a big turnout. “Jethro!” I shouted over the walkie. “Do a burnout.” Mr. Bovingdon just so happened to have rotated into the Hellcat Redeye, and he just so happens to be the kind of guy who turns traction control off every time he sits in a car. Jethro lit ’em up and produced the biggest, dumbest, most immature and glorious cloud of eviscerated tire you ever did see.

As luck would have it, I was right behind him in the Shelby GT350, and I literally couldn’t see out of the car as I drove through the fresh cloud. Tee-hee! (In the interest of being comprehensive, Rechtin managed to perform an even more juvenile Hellcat burnout later in the day, but as I’m not sure about the statute of limitations on air quality violations in California, we’re going to keep that location a secret.)

After our pack politely rumbled through Ventura, next up was the incredible, winding Route 33, which rambles up through and out of Ojai, all the way until it connects with the 166. To understate it by two or three orders of magnitude, we had fun. “Driving the M2 aggressively in the twisties felt like caning the flanks of a willing racehorse,” special guest judge and pro racer Randy Pobst said. “Hyah!”

In fact, the great little BMW M2 Competition generated quite a bit of buzz. Problem is, this car finished third out of three behind a Porsche Cayman and a winning Toyota Supra in a comparison test just a couple months earlier. And by this car, I mean this car. “According to its VIN, this is the same M2 Competition we had for the 718 Cayman/Supra comparison,” Walton said. “But it feels like a sweetheart today: alert, pointy, planted. I can confidently trail-brake it into a corner.”

There was more continuity trouble, too. Namely, many of us felt there was something wrong with the Supra (though it had a different VIN from the test winner). “The Toyota Supra should have been quick and nimble,” international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said, “but it felt strangely discombobulated, ducking and weaving all over the road like a bloodhound on amphetamines.” I experienced the exact same thing. Hmm.

But for the most part, the cars shined. At one point on the tortuous Route 58, Pobst was chasing me and the yellow Porsche 911 from behind the wheel of the track-focused Jaguar Project 8. “You got it up on three wheels, Jonny!” Randy boomed over the walkie. Go me!

Then we heard an English-inflected Australian voice: “Anyone know how to put the Hellcat in Sport mode?” To our sheer amazement, Angus and the 4,500-pound Dodge were keeping up with us. And he was in Comfort mode. Our drive came to a halt when somebody (name redacted) put the Bentley Continental GT a bit too airborne over a sudden rise and thought he heard something break. Turned out, all was fine, but we slowed things down from there on out. Besides, we only had a few miles to go at that point.

Aside from the Hellcat, a few of the cars stood out, namely the Shelby (Walton: “Buttoned down and sporty in a way that no muscle car has a right to be.”); the gorgeous, slithery Aston Martin DBS (features editor Scott Evans: “Monstrously powerful engine. Hall of fame stuff.”); the AMG GT 63 S (Pobst: “So light on its feet, much more like a sports car than a sizable sedan.”); the Lamborghini Urus (Rechtin: “Essentially a lifted supercar that can carry three of your friends and many cases of wine. How is this not the best driver’s car?”); and of course the Porsche 992 911 (Everyone: “Incredible.”).

We rolled into Paso Robles, filled our faces with Firestone’s finest, and hammered out our BDC rankings for the day. Unless you’re insanely lucky, you have to drive to reach your favorite road or track, so it’s about the journey as much as the destination.

2019 Best Driver’s Car Day 1 standings
  1. Porsche 911 Carrera S
  2. Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
  3. Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye
  4. Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4Matic+
  5. Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
  6. Bentley Continental GT V8
  7. McLaren Senna
  8. Lamborghini Urus
  9. BMW M2 Competition
  10. Jaguar XE SV Project 8
  11. BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
  12. Toyota GR Supra

Can the Urus rise in our daily rankings? Will the Mustang Shelby GT350 hold onto a podium performance? Keep it to MotorTrend.com as we roll out more 2019 Best Driver’s Car content.

The post 2019 Best Driver’s Car Behind the Scenes: We Rank Our 12-Car Field After Day 1 appeared first on MotorTrend.

How Much Power Does the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Really Make? We Take it to the Dyno and Find Out

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:00am

I’m looking through a window, hands around my face, staring at a screen with all sorts of graphics and numbers that are too small to read. On the other side of the window, a red 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is strapped to the dyno with its rear wheels spinning very, very fast.

The double-paned windows are not enough to keep the engine note from reaching other parts of the facility. The speedometer on the screen reads 150 mph, but the front wheels are not moving at all. Once the engine noise winds down and the wheels stop spinning, the numbers we’re looking for pop up on the screen—558 hp and 515 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. “We’ve got a hot rod!” says international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie, who has been standing next to me all this time.

We’re in shock. A quick math check reveals that’s an estimated 656 hp and 606 lb-ft of torque at the crank if we assume a 15-percent drivetrain loss—way over the 495 hp and 470 lb-ft that Chevy claims. (That 15 percent represents the power consumed by everything between the engine crankshaft and the drive wheels, including inertia of all the spinning parts, power to run the hydraulic pump in an automatic or twin-clutch transmission, the drag that occurs when gears spin through lubricating oil, friction between the gear teeth, etc. It’s an educated guestimate frequently used across the industry for modern light-duty automatic transmissions—manuals experience slightly smaller losses; older or heavier-duty automatics slightly larger ones.)

Enjoy full Corvette C8 coverage—including MotorTrend-exclusive content—RIGHT HERE.

But let’s rewind. Earlier that morning, Chevrolet dropped the 2020 Corvette with VIN 10 at our headquarters in El Segundo, California, to perform a Real MPG test by our partners at EQUA. The early-built production car was shipped from the plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Milford Proving Ground in Michigan for a check before it made it down to Southern California. The Corvette was tested by MotorTrend the week prior at Fontana and a few days later at the Hyundai-Kia proving ground for our Car of the Year competition. The ’Vette spent every night under the vigilance of the Chevrolet public relations team and was handed back to the editorial team in the mornings. The evening prior to the dyno run, the Corvette was driven by an editor from Tehachapi, California, to our headquarters, where it was taken by the Chevy team for the night.

That sunny September morning, the EQUA technician told us he didn’t have the right equipment for the test—he needed a different set of tubes to seal around the exhaust outlets; the ones he had wouldn’t resist the higher temperature from a mid-engine sports car. Our Plan B? Take it to the dyno before the Corvette got on a trailer to go back to Michigan that evening.

Which is how Angus and I ended up staring through the glass at those surprising numbers. We asked the dyno technician to run the test in fifth gear after a call Angus and I had with Chris Walton, our road test editor, who estimated that fifth gear could probably be the closest 1:1 ratio. (A call with Chevy would later confirm that, but more on that later.) We decided to run the test again.

The massive fan starts to blow air straight at the Corvette as the rear wheels start moving. Our attention shifts to the screen—558 hp and 512 lb-ft at the wheels, almost identical numbers as the first run. Assuming a 15-percent drivetrain loss, those numbers go up to about 656 hp and 602 lb-ft. Still too high. What is going on?

Runs three and four are also done in fifth gear; the dynamometer reads 561 hp and 515 lb-ft, then 556 hp and 523 lb ft. That translates to 660 hp and 606 lb-ft and 654 hp and 615 lb-ft at the crank, respectively, assuming the same 15-percent drivetrain loss. We get Chris back on the phone.

The numbers are too similar. We don’t have the gear ratios, so Chris suggests we try sixth gear to see if the numbers change. The engine starts revving, wheels start spinning, and once again everyone is staring at the screen.

The numbers are different. The dynamometer reads 478 hp and 536 lb-ft at the wheels. Per our calculations, that means the crank is outputting about 562 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. Both numbers are still high, but why did the torque number rise instead of going down? The next run, our sixth, would be the last.

Our eyes are glued to the screen. The bright green numbers appear on the monitor, reading 478 hp and 544 lb-ft at the wheels. If we continue to assume a 15-percent drivetrain loss, this ‘Vette would be producing about 562 hp and 640 lb-ft at the crank. We’re all scratching our heads.

We couldn’t come up with a conclusion other than the engine makes a lot more power than the advertised 495 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. We call Chevy and ask them to set up a call with engineers and to provide the ’Vette’s gear ratios.

A short time later, Chevy PR provides the following gear ratios:

  1. 2.905
  2. 1.759
  3. 1.22
  4. 0.878
  5. 0.653
  6. 0.508
  7. 0.397
  8. 0.329

“There has to be another transfer gear ratio between these and the axle ratio, I guarantee,” MotorTrend technical director Frank Markus says. Using the rear wheel speed and tire size, Frank was able to estimate the output shaft ratios, but we waited until the call with engineers to confirm.

A couple of days later, engineers provide us two reasons for the discrepancy of power. The first one is that when the Corvette is cold, it actually produces more horsepower than when it’s hot. But that doesn’t make sense—we saw similar numbers after six runs, and the car was pretty hot by the end of the second run. The other explanation is that Chevrolet certifies most of its engines through the SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers, which follows a strict set of rules and standards to determine the horsepower and torque ratings. In other words, the SAE acts as an independent party that’s present during the engine tests and is the one who determines the final output ratings. Their testing does not involve a simple pull from idle to redline, either. Rather, rpm are slowly ramped up and allowed to stabilize before accelerating further. This process results in significantly more heat generation than any single pull from our six dyno runs. For that reason, the engineers say, it’s not uncommon for single chassis dyno pulls to register higher output (and it is extremely unlikely any car will ever generate less than rated output). According to Chevy engineers, this is an expensive process, given that someone from the SAE has to be present, but the automaker has done this for years, and it’s a procedure that it continues to follow with most of its engines in the U.S.

A quick check of the SAE database reveals that the certification test of the 6.2-liter V-8 LT2 engine with the optional exhaust system took place at the Pontiac Engineering Center in Michigan on April 9, 2019. Jordan Lee, chief engineer of the Corvette’s engine, signed the certification on July 15—just three days before the reveal in Tustin. The engine was rated at 495 hp at 6,450 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 5,150 rpm The vehicle code name 2020 Y2XX underwent three tests, and the power and torque graph looks similar to the one we had at the dyno.

Per the SAE website, only a few manufacturers certify their engines through them. General Motors dominates the list, and a few Ford and FCA engines have also been certified.

Chevy engineers also say that the drivetrain loss of a dual-clutch transmission, like the one in the Corvette, is less than 15 percent—but hesitated to give us an exact number (and even if it was zero loss, we still measured more wheel-horsepower than rated crank horsepower). They did provide the gears with the transfer ratio for the manual limited-slip differential and the electronic LSD. Our Z51 with an electronic LSD had a 3.454:1 axle ratio, and after applying the 1.459:1 transfer ratio the effective gear ratios are:

  1. 4.239
  2. 2.567
  3. 1.780
  4. 1.281
  5. 0.953
  6. 0.742
  7. 0.580
  8. 0.480

Turns out fifth gear is the closest 1:1. And the fact that the LT2 engine was certified by the SAE means that there could be more power getting to the wheels on our comparatively cool chassis dyno pulls.

Why the huge discrepancy with the numbers? We still don’t know. The dyno we used complies with the SAE J1349 procedures, and we’ve used it multiple times in the past. To prove there wasn’t a problem with the dyno, we ran a 2020 Ram 2500 Limited powered by the 6.7-liter turbodiesel Cummins engine, which produces 850 lb-ft of torque but is not SAE-certified. The dyno read 760 lb-ft at the wheels, which means there’s about 890 lb-ft at the crank, much closer to the numbers Ram claims.

One thing we know for certain: the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 provided for all our testing produces more power than what Chevy claims. The question is, will all subsequent production Corvettes match this one’s output? You can be sure we’ll be testing many C8 Corvettes to come, and we’ll endeavor to test retail customer cars as well as press cars. Stay tuned.

The post How Much Power Does the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Really Make? We Take it to the Dyno and Find Out appeared first on MotorTrend.

Problem Solved: How Volkswagen Improved Our 2018 Atlas SE’s Turning Radius

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 4:00am

Everyone loves a good mystery. The quagmire of why our long-term Atlas had the turning radius of a Greyhound bus frustrated me from the first time I tried to make a U-turn. Unfortunately, without any point of reference, I chalked up the Atlas’ lack of agility to the fact that it’s a large three-row SUV. But once I got behind the wheel of another Atlas, that experience shed light on the fact that not all was what it should be with our long-termer.

It turns out, we were right. After multiple visits to our local Volkswagen dealer could not remedy the situation, VW North America asked us to relinquish the keys for a week to see if they could diagnose the problem. What they found, according to our helpful VW PR contact, was that a prior to the Atlas joining the MotorTrend long-term fleet, “a replacement steering rack was fitted to the car and the correct software wasn’t implemented when the change was made.”

Along with a fresh set of tires, the implementation of the correct software made all of the difference in the world. Although we didn’t retest the retuned Atlas with our GPS testing equipment, I can tell you that our Atlas now feels like it turns and steers like the other Atlas SUVs I’ve driven. Along with the significantly improved turning circle, I think the overall steering feel has been improved, too. Then again, knowing that something has been fixed may be making me think that it feels better—after racking up over 25,000 miles with it being out of calibration, it sure feels better to me.

With my year with the Atlas ending, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I spent the better part of a year driving and evaluating the big VW with a fairly significant issue that affected my daily experience with it. With the short time I have remaining with the Atlas, I need to put more miles on it and take a hard look at the overall opinion I’ve formed.

Before our Atlas leaves, I recently had a chance to drive the new Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride (read the comparison here). Although both three-row crossovers offer a lot when it comes to comfort and the way they drive, they can’t hold a flame to the Atlas’ ability to swallow cargo. With the second and third rows stowed, the Atlas’ cavernous cabin can hold 96.8 cubic feet of stuff, more than the Telluride’s 87.0 cubic feet and the Palisade’s 86.4 cubic feet.

Read more about our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE:

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007 Aston Martin DBS Designed by Daniel Craig Costs $700,007

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:10pm

If you have money to burn, treat yourself to this ultimate in James Bond gadgets: a stunning Aston Martin DBS Superleggera designed by the latest 007, Daniel Craig. There’s no word on what Daniel Craig did to “design” this particular car, but the inky-blue beast is being offered in a run of just seven units, and each costs $700,007. Every example comes with a limited-edition, all-platinum Omega Seamaster Diver 300m.

The pricey stocking-stuffer is one of the latest “Fantasy Gifts” offered in the annual Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. Bond’s wheels join other presents for tony tastes including a Neiman Marcus–edition Moët & Chandon vending machine for $35,000, a Versace punching bag for $1,550, and a more affordable Bey Berk cigar humidor for $165.

The DBS Superleggera is powered by a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V-12 that delivers 715 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. It doesn’t include any fun gadgets like a passenger-seat ejector, but it’ll help you get away from baddies with a 0–62 mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 211 mph.

The Omega timepiece features a hand-engraved case back, and the bundle also includes tickets to the world premiere of the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die. Neiman Marcus states that 12 percent (or a minimum of $330,000) of the total proceeds from the Aston will be donated to The Opportunity Network, a business-matchmaking organization—one that appears to have no ties with Spectre, as far as we can tell.

The post 007 Aston Martin DBS Designed by Daniel Craig Costs $700,007 appeared first on MotorTrend.

Saleen GT4 Race Car Debuts With 450 HP and a $225K Price Tag

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:20pm

Saleen is no stranger to GT racing, and its latest offering aims to bring the competition experience to drivers of varying skill levels. The company on Thursday in Las Vegas revealed its GT4 concept race car, based on the Saleen 1 (a.k.a. the Saleen S1) and intended to compete in SRO Motorsport Group’s GT4 series. Saleen plans to build the cars in Corona, California, beginning in November, and will open them to customer orders once SRO homologates the model for competition.

Saleen revealed the turbocharged race car during a press conference and demonstration event held at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and it said it designed its GT4 to compete in various series around the world as well as with SRO. The GT4 concept is based on the racing version of the Saleen 1, which debuted in the 2019 Saleen Cup single-make arrive-and-drive series. The GT4 boasts changes from the standard production Saleen 1, including updates designed to comply with GT4 series specifications.

The GT4 concept features updates to its front splitter and fenders, plus a new rear diffuser to improve aerodynamics. Per GT4 specifications, a large rear wing adds downforce. The concept car also offers front and rear ABS and other GT4-specific equipment.

With its turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine producing 450 horsepower, plus carbon-fiber bodywork covering the mid-engine chassis, the GT4 version has plenty of potential to deliver one rip-roaring fun experience on racetracks. It won’t be cheap, but few race cars are: Each GT4 will start at $225,000.

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