All posts in “Cars”

Living up to its name | 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast First Drive

What’s in a name? In the case of the Ferrari 812 Superfast, a numerical reference to its 800-(metric) horsepower, 12-cylinder engine and a not-so-subtle hint at its capability for extreme rates of travel. Only Ferrari, notorious for joyously naming its flagship “LaFerrari,” could get away with the moniker. But once you get past the super-obvious nomenclature, it becomes hard to argue with this on-the-nose model name.

If you’re lucky enough to have sampled the standard F12 and one of the 799 F12 TDFs offered to Ferrari’s most loyal clients, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the 812 Superfast’s personality, which involves a blend of the TDF’s edginess and the F12’s comfort and usability. Even within the rarified world of supercars, the 812’s athleticism is impressive despite its veil of approachability. More power, to the tune of 789 horsepower (versus the TDF’s 769) combined with weight loss of 132 pounds make it the highest-performance standard production model Ferrari in history. (For reference, the TDF trims an even more impressive 242 pounds, ditching niceties like sound insulation.) Along with mechanical and aerodynamic improvements, the elevated power-to-weight ratio enables it to hit 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 211 mph.

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast

The main attraction is, of course, the 6.5-liter V12, which boasts 75 percent new parts and undergoes a series of mods to raise its output while (thankfully) retaining its naturally aspirated soul. A stroked version of the F12’s 6.3-liter mill, the V12 features new pistons, new con-rods, a reinforced crankcase, and a trick new direct-fuel-injection system that runs at a staggering 5,076 psi. The system is capable of changing the shape of fuel droplets as they’re injected into the combustion chamber, adjusting for around-town drivability or balls-to-the-wall performance. A revised air intake system incorporates a new plenum and bigger air inlet with wider throttle valves for better breathing. Silver lining: CO2 emissions have been reduced thanks to the new injection system and reduced friction from new 5W50 engine oil.

Each of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission’s gears has been shortened, which has the virtual effect of producing an extra 50 horsepower – as if the mighty V12 was wanting for oomph. Upshifts can now happen 30 percent quicker, and the engine’s ability to rev-match for downshifts occurs 40 percent faster. Aiding the 812’s performance are revised aerodynamic profiles via a panoply of vents, ducts, vortex generators, and diffusers. With the goal of reducing drag while maintaining downforce, airflow is manipulated via passive elements at the front diffusers and three active flaps at the rear.

The powertrain tweaks seem tiny compared to the big news in the chassis department: Ferrari’s first use of electric steering (EPS). What took so long in an era when performance brands like Porsche are now several generations into their EPS technology? Ferrari says it considered the tech for the 488 GTB, but it wasn’t dynamically satisfying enough to warrant production. With so many systems digitally interfacing in the 812 – from traction/stability control and magnetorheological dampers to the electronic differential – Ferrari says it was finally time for the steering to became part of that dialogue. “The steering system now has a seat at the vehicle dynamics table,” says lead Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone, which begs the inevitable question: Is the steering feel good enough to warrant the change? More on that later.

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast

Unlike Ferrari’s famously purposeful mid-engine cockpits, the cabin of the front-engine 812 Superfast feels spacious and fairly airy, with good forward visibility. Inherited from the GTC4 Lusso is the so-called twin-cockpit feature, which adds an 8.8-inch touchscreen above the glove box displaying navigation, drive mode setting or instrumentation info. The system works well enough and can easily be switched off, leaving a dark panel surface that blends well with the leather-lined interior. But the hot seat is the one behind the prancing horse-clad steering wheel.

The central focus from the driver seat is a large yellow tachometer that sits dead ahead. The dial is a reassuring reminder of Ferrari’s performance intentions despite the 812’s distinct grand-touring elements – the front-engine configuration, the surprisingly roomy seats, and the refined infotainment system inherited from the Lusso that includes twin hi-resolution five-inch screens.

Bring the massive V12 to life via the steering wheel-mounted start button, and the 812 fires with a deliciously loud thrum. The titanium exhaust system is slightly quieter at lower rpms in Sport mode due to sound regulations, but in the Race setting the system opens up to the F12’s more raucous volume levels. Set the manettino to Sport, and the engine’s tremendously flexible powerband makes it easy to lope around town with minimal gearshifts. There’s incredible pull from low rpms thanks to the engine’s Mack Truck-like displacement and continuously variable intake, and with 80 percent of torque available from 3,500 rpm the run to max revs at 8,900 rpm is pin-you-to-your-seat giggle inducing.

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Up the ante by clicking the manettino to Race, and you’ll still get enough electronic intervention to keep you from kicking the tail out; I endured one well-mannered lap at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track before switching to the CT off setting, which enables tail-happy corner sliding with a safety net of stability control. This is hero mode at its finest: With so much power so easily accessed at your right foot, flawlessly executed power slides makes you feel like a certified drift master. The task requires more daring than ever because the 812’s four-wheel steering system adds stability at higher speeds; the act feels even riskier due to wider front tires that dig in more firmly, having grown from 255 mm to 275 mm (the rears remain at 315 mm).

While the 812’s power feels eminently manageable thanks to the naturally aspirated engine’s intuitive throttle response, it isn’t until ESC is switched off that the truly beastly nature of the car emerges. In what we’ll call Man-Up Mode, the 812’s personality shifts; the V12 responds without the politeness of electronic intervention, easily charging the vehicle ahead and even more easily sliding the tail out. More mechanical grip requires higher corner speeds to break the Pirellis’ grip loose; when that happens, quick countersteer is in order to keep the front end in tandem with the rear. Incidentally, Ferrari engineers say that during this state of oversteer, the electronic steering system is designed to slacken the steering in one direction, just like when the tires break loose with a hydraulic setup. The real-life feeling is appropriately realistic. Though the electronic steering feels slightly heavier and incrementally less lucid and transparent than the outgoing setup, the feedback is communicative enough not to raise significant red flags about its artificiality. There is, most certainly, a difference between old and new, but the difference is not strong enough to warrant storming the castles of technology, especially when they indeed have finally become a part of the vehicle’s ever-complicated electronics systems.

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast

Having explored the 812’s limits on the track, the road becomes an appropriate place to dial back the drama and explore the grand-touring side of the car’s personality. That said, the V12 makes it all but impossible to switch on the Bose-powered stereo system, which is just as well. The mellifluous internal-combustion song is all but impossible to ignore, as is the addictive feeling of thrust as it sweeps the tachometer up toward its 8,900-rpm redline. Leave the gearbox in automatic, and shifts are remarkably smooth and well-timed. Hit a twisty road and click the manettino to Race, and the shift strategy is just as good as you’ll find on Porsche’s near-perfect PDK system, holding the revs in just the right range for strong-spirited driving. When switched to manual mode, the shifts get a tad less smooth, but the feeling of control is unparalleled; there’s virtually no lag between tactile input and cog swap, and a new feature enables the driver to hold down the left paddle during hard braking, which triggers multiple shotgun-quick downshifts. Neat.

In fact, “neat” just might be the operative word when piloting the 812 on twisty roads; despite its relatively lengthy 107-inch wheelbase and longish snout, the Ferrari manages to tackle switchbacks with zero drama. Ride quality is controlled and firm but never busy, and the so-called Bumpy Road setting offers a bit more compliance over the potholed bits. Even in the relatively restrictive Race mode, power is routed from the electronic differential to the road with seamless ease; no tire slip, no problem. And within the cabin, the mood is modulated because harnessing the engine’s immense power is far less stressful than you might expect, thanks to the intuitive feedback from the throttle, brakes, and steering.

If you could sum up the predominant mood following a day of driving the Ferrari 812 Superfast, it just might be a feeling of supreme satisfaction. With an endlessly smooth and powerful V12 under the hood, an accommodating cabin, and surprisingly agility, the 812 manages to achieve superlatives across a seemingly improbable spread of the performance/comfort scatter plot: It’s effortlessly quick, impressively athletic, and surprisingly comfortable. The only elements that seem to open themselves to criticism are abundance of slats and vents that break up the F12’s otherwise sculptural shape, and a bit more plastic trim on the interior than befits a $308,000 car. Apart from those quibbles, there really isn’t anything on the Ferrari 812 that isn’t super.

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Video shows point of impact in Richard Hammond’s Rimac crash

Following Richard Hammond’s scary crash in a Rimac Concept One, more and more details have been coming out concerning the crash. In particular, video was released on various YouTube channels, including the one above from Nature Pictures, showing just how and where things went wrong. Watching the video, you’ll notice that Hammond comes it pretty darn hot into a tight corner overlooking a hill. There’s a slight kink right before turning hard left, and as Hammond turns slightly right, you can see the tail of the car kick out a bit. He steers back left hard and gets on the brakes, but doesn’t have traction, so he hits the guard rail. From there, the car goes down the hill.

Mate Rimac, founder of the eponymous Croatian electric sports car company, spoke to Croatian car news site Vidi Auto, and told them that the car traveled about 1,000 feet horizontally and a bit over 300 feet vertically from point of impact. He said he didn’t know what speed Hammond was going when the car wrecked.

What we gather from the video and other information surrounding the crash is that the car wasn’t really at fault. It appears that Hammond got a little out of his element and couldn’t get control of the car back in time to avoid an accident. It also happened in a location where going off was significantly worse than if the course was a flat racetrack with plenty of run-off. This isn’t a condemnation of Hammond’s driving skills either, as anyone could have just as easily wrecked in the same way. These are simply the risks that come with driving a fast car on a tight course with elevation. Mistakes happen, and those mistakes sometimes lead to dangerous consequences. Fortunately, everyone involved seems to have come out all right.

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Everything you missed at the Pixar Motorama car show


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Pixar Studios is the place where they created everything from Toy Story to Monsters Inc. to Finding Nemo to Wall-e. And Cars — all three of the Cars movies. But it’s not like Universal Studios where you can buy a ticket, walk in and see everything from Jaws the shark to a thrilling Fast and the Furious chase to a Norman Bates lookalike dumping a mysteriously body-shaped object into the trunk of his car. No, Pixar is as secret a place as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and you’ll never get in. Until now. Consider us your little Oompa Loompa.

The Pixar Motorama started out as a small company car show for employees to show off their cars.

“Jay (Ward) and I started doing Cars way back in the early 2000s,” recalled Pixar chief John Lasseter. “We started doing all the research. So this history of Motorama weaves right into the history of the movie Cars.”

About the time they were working on the original Cars, Lasseter and Pixar creative director Jay Ward started noticing that many of their employees had cool cars. Ward had a side hobby of putting on hot rod shows. So they decided to have Ward organize a car show for Pixar employees on the Pixar grounds. Employees would park their cars on the walkway and on the lawn outside of the headquarters building at lunch. It was a popular event. 

Chrysler 300C

The Chrysler 300C was also a character in Cars 3

And then it grew. And grew.

“We started it and (held) it every year and now it’s gotten so big that we do it every two years,” said Lasseter.

This year they decided to hold the show on the same day that Cars 3 was being released nationwide. So the show, which had been a fairly small, sedate affair, became much bigger. The grounds were packed, cars were spread all over the lawn and along the walkways and families of employees crowded in. It was great.

As usual, there was manufacturer participation. Nissan brought a GT-R, Aston Martin brought a DB11, McLaren brought a 720, Porsche brought a beautiful black 911, AMG brought a blue GT, there was a beautiful new Corvette. Those were all on what Ward calls “the main bricks,” outside the entryway to Pixar’s Steve Jobs Building.

On the lawn adjacent to that were the Concours cars. GM brought a Turbine car. Jay Leno had two cars, members of the Petersen Automotive Museum brought their own collectibles, including ancient Alfas, Ferraris and Maseratis. The Blackhawk Collection brought a custom car. There was an original Prince sports car that looked like a Ferrari LM. John Lasseter brought his 1948 Chrysler Town & Country convertible (“It’s like your living room couch,” he said. “It’s so glorious.”)

One corner of the Concours lawn featured characters from the Cars movies: The King, Sarge, Doc Hudson and Junior Moon. 

Nissan GT-R

Nissan brought a GT-R

On the walkway were all the employee cars. Our favorite is still Brad Winemiller’s Westfalia camper, but we did like the Porsche Speedster, too.

But the public will never be invited in. So dust off your resume and contact Pixar HR. Can you write? Can you animate? If so, you may be Pixar material!

Jay: It’s a pretty nice show for employees.

John: Or if you’re a friend of Jay.

Jay: Or friend of John. Friend of Jay, works both ways.

Then they both dutifully plugged Cars 3.

“Cars 3 opens today,” said Lasseter. “Everybody go see it. You’ll love it. You will love it!”

The Lamp

The Pixar Lamp

2017 Nissan GT-R Driver’s Notes: Picking up pizza in a supercar

I forgot how much fun the 2017 Nissan GT-R can be, even for mundane tasks like running errands and picking up pizza. A blindingly red-and-black model spent a few days in our short-term fleet this week, and in this prolific era of angry sports cars, Godzilla still delivers.

The refresh includes light yet noticeable interior and exterior changes. The front end gets a new hood, spoiler, and bumper, and new style lines make it look tougher. Vaguely like a sea monster, I think. Inside I was surprised how nice the car is. This model is done up in burnt orange leather with black hard points, and it looks and feels premium. The layout and gauges are simple. You don’t adjust the steering wheel – the whole cluster moves up and down – it offers a bit of a racecar vibe. The 3.8-liter V6 engine also is tuned for more power, pushing out 565 horsepower (up 20 from before) and 467 pound-feet (four more). Nissan says it’s the biggest change since 2009, and it feels like it.

I tested a Premium model with the optional Premium Interior package, which included hand-stitched leather ($4,000). Add in the GT-R logo floor mats ($295) and the sticker came to $115,980. It’s a handsome devil. Here are my other random thoughts:

  • It’s still a head-turner. You don’t see that many GT-Rs in metro Detroit – it’s more Corvette and Hellcat country – and people take note. The red coloring underscored its menace (the images above are from a test in Europe).
  • It sounds good. Not crazy like some burbling, maniacal muscle cars, but lay on the throttle and this thing gets loud and angry. I did this in the parking lot of Autoblog Tower to waste gas.
  • There’s so much power here. With all-wheel-drive you get cocky. The brakes are strong with little pressure. Only the heavy steering gives you pause.
  • The six-speed dual-clutch is decent for the most part, usually kicking down smoothly. It can get a little too aggressive, like when I braked, then accelerated quickly and it clunked through a shift.
  • Visibility is pretty good. The long hood and seemingly faraway corners aren’t intimidating. It’s kinda fun to have all of this car around you.

No track test for me. I took it home, and after a long day at the office it did wonders to clear my thoughts. Then I volunteered to go pick up a pizza, and I went past half a dozen closer places to get the kind we wanted. Driving the GT-R also provided motivation.

So yeah, muscle-car Monday was enjoyable, and Nissan is wisely keeping its signature performance machine updated (modern might not be the right word) and competitive. And yes, it’s great for running errands.

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Aston Martin Vantage AMR is road-going follow-up to AMR Pro

Two months ago, Aston Martin launched its new AMR line of vehicles with a pair of limited-edition cars. One was a slightly warmed-up Rapide sedan called the Rapide AMR, and the other was a track-only Vantage with a race-car-derived V8 called the Vantage AMR Pro. Now the company has released a third, or third and fourth depending on how you’re counting, model that splits the difference. The new Vantage AMR, sans the Pro part, is available with either a V8 or a V12, and can be had as either a coupe or convertible.

What make the Vantage AMR special are limited production and aesthetic upgrades. Only 300 examples will be made, 200 of which will have the V8, while the other 100 have the V12. The V8 doesn’t make any more power than the standard model, but the V12 produces an extra 30 horsepower over the standard model for a total of 595. Aston Martin also offers an optional titanium exhaust to improve the sound of these engines and reduce weight, but it doesn’t change output.

Observers of these Astons will be able to spot them by their special paint schemes with a center stripe down the middle. The cars can be had in white with an orange stripe, black with a blue stripe, blue with a red stripe, or silver with a gray stripe. There’s also a “Halo Pack” that includes a green paint scheme similar to Aston Martin’s GT racing cars, complete with a lime green stripe. There’s also a no-cost option to add an Aston Martin badge painted in the colors of the Union Jack. Every color combination comes with a color-coordinated interior, too.

2018 Aston Martin V12 Vantage AMR with aero kit

Just because this is a very rare Aston Martin doesn’t mean there aren’t any options. On the contrary, there are quite a few, mostly concerning appearances. On the outside, carbon fiber side skirts, headlight housings, and grille are all available. An aerodynamics kit is also available that adds a big rear wing, front splitter, and front canards for additional downforce. Lightweight forged wheels are also available. Inside, the carbon fiber decoration continues with available seats, instrument surround, window sills, and grab handles.

Depending on whether you’re converting Euros or British pounds, an Aston Martin Vantage AMR will start between about $125,000 or $143,000. That doesn’t really matter, though, since the Vantage AMR won’t be offered in the US. It will only be available in the UK, Europe, China, and the Asia Pacific region. Middle Eastern buyers can also pick one up, but only the V12 variant.

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McLaren lops top off 570S without a performance penalty

McLaren will have fully fleshed out its 570 range with the introduction of this new 570S Spider, which will make its public debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. So now there’s a 570 for the long-distance driver (570GT), sun worshiper (570S Spider), and the hardcore sports car fanatic (570S). Unlike the 570GT, though, the 570S Spider has almost no reduction in performance compared with the hardtop 570S.

The Spider has the same 562-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8, and it still catapults the car to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. It also has the same top speed of 204 mph with the top up. With the top down, it’s reduced to 196 mph. McLaren also says the Spider is just as stiff as the coupe, and the slightly longer rear spoiler helps keep downforce the same. Heck, fuel economy stays the same, too, at 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. You know, if you cared about that kind of stuff.

That’s not to say there isn’t any penalty for adding a convertible top. The Spider weighs 101 pounds more than the standard 570S. That’s not insignificant, but it probably won’t make much of a difference unless you’re on the track.

In exchange, you’ll be able to soak up rays and exhaust noise through the open roof. It won’t take long to let in the light either, since the top goes up or down in just 15 seconds. The rear window also acts as a wind deflector and can be electrically raised or lowered, whether or not the top is up.

The 570S Spider is available to order right now, starting at $208,800, so it will cost about $10,000 more than the coupe. The Audi R8 Spyder and Porsche 911 Turbo S cost less, too. But on the flip side, you’ll pay over $50,000 more for a Ferrari 488 Spider or Lamborghini Huracan Spyder.

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Jamie Foxx unveils his shiny gold Veyron

So, Jamie Foxx is doing pretty well for himself these days. He got a sweet new gig hosting a game show called Beat Shazam on FOX, his latest film Baby Driver got rave reviews at a pre-release screening at South by Southwest, and his relationship with Katie Holmes seems to be taking off. Since things are going so well in his life, he decided to treat himself to a nice new wrap for his car.

Of course, being an international film star and multi-millionaire, Foxx doesn’t have just any car, nor does he go for just any wrap. For the past couple of years, Foxx has been rolling a black-on-blue Bugatti Veyron, a car that even in stock form turns heads anywhere. I guess Foxx wanted to make his car even more ostentatious, and recently had it done up in a chrome gold wrap. He posted a picture of the Veyron in all its flashy glory on Instagram the other day, and it’s quite a sight.

Foxx also posted a little message to his fans along with the picture:

“I was feeling solid gold today when I drove in for work … #bugatti can’t wait for u guys to see the show #beatshazam people won life changing fortunes. And the back stories of the contestants will melt yo heart #foxxonfox may 25th on fox as part owner and executive producer it’s exciting to see it come together. Thanks to mark Burnett (survivor the voice etc) and Jeff Apploff the great!”

Good for him. Sounds like everything’s coming up Jamie!

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These Lee Ferraris are just a hint at this weekend’s San Marino Motor Classic


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The Southern California collector-car scene is lucky to have a guy like David SK Lee around.

Lee’s first car as a youth was a humble 1978 Datsun pickup truck — an affordable and efficient vehicle, to be sure, but it gave no hint of the great collector Lee was to become. As he built his business over many years, he kept in mind the cars he wanted to someday own. He liked a lot of cars, but Ferraris were always at the center.

And Ferraris are still at the center. Two months ago, he won Best in Show at Concorso Ferrari in Pasadena with an achingly gorgeous 275 GTB4 2S. He brought five Ferrari supercars –- including a real GTO — to Concorso Italiano last year. And exactly a year ago, he brought those same five to the San Marino Motor Classic, a show held almost in his backyard in San Marino, California.

David Lee's P1 GTR

David Lee’s P1 GTR – not a Ferrari Photo by Ted7

This year, Lee will bring eight beautiful cars to San Marino, some of which we’ve seen before and some we haven’t. Our favorite may be the yellow 2017 F12 Tour de France. Or it may be the 1967 330 GTS CV. Or the 2015 LaFerrari. Maybe we can’t decide. The photo gallery above shows all the cars he’s bringing. Scroll through it. It includes non-Ferraris: a McLaren P1 GTR, Pagani Huayra Da Vinci and Porsche 918. Lee is always humble and pleasant. People talk to him about watches (his business) and cars with equal welcome.

But Lee’s cars make up just a handful of the over 300 that will be parked on the lawn for the seventh annual San Marino Motor Classic, a concours held on the ginormous lawn of Lacey Park in San Marino. The show runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11.

Among the rest of the field are everything from Abarths to Volkswagens. With Brass Era, Preservation and rows of CCCA American and European Classics, it’s like Pebble Beach without the those pesky sea otters. Except that at San Marino, there are also hot rods, muscle cars and (progress!) a class of Japanese cars.

You can order tickets online here for $25 or pay $30 at the gate. Who wants to wait all summer to drive all the way up to Pebble? 

Take a Ford GT factory video tour with Forza Motorsport

A lot of time, effort, and money goes into building the new Ford GT. The car is hand-assembled by Canadian automotive engineering and manufacturing company Multimatic at its facility outside of Toronto. Turn 10 Studios, the company behind the Forza Motorsport video-game series, has ordered a car of its very own. Follow along with studio manager Alan Hartman and vehicle art director Gabe Garcia as they tour the Ford GT assembly line.

Their video gives some some insight into the car and the people at Multimatic. While the exterior may not have the flair of Maranello or Sant’Agata Bolognese, the factory line looks close to those of some Italian manufacturers. The car is mostly assembled by hand, meaning it takes about nine full days to build from start to finish. One car is finished a day, and with a full run of 1,000 cars expected, the people at Multimatic have years of work ahead of them.

Turn 10’s Ford GT will be one of the Heritage Edition models, with a paint scheme that recalls the original GT40s at Le Mans. Fans of the Forza series voted online, and according to Hartman the Heritage Edition was the overwhelming favorite, though he appears to be quite fond of Ford’s Liquid Red paint and carbon fiber wheels. Watch the video for more cool details, including the final inspection and the high-pressure leak test.

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Porsche’s most powerful 911 Turbo S is a 500-unit limited edition

In true Porsche tradition, the company has developed yet another variant of its 911 Turbo line, and unsurprisingly, it’s a very limited edition model. The new 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series will live up to its name as only 500 examples of the car will be produced. It also can boast to be the most powerful 911 Turbo S the company has produced, as it makes 27 more horsepower than the “basic” Turbo S for a total of 607. Torque doesn’t change at 553 pound-feet of the stuff, and the top speed of 205 mph remains the same, too.

This exclusive Turbo S model will be instantly recognizable thanks to an array of exterior upgrades fitment of the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur “Turbo Aerokit” that includes a rear wing, engine cover air scoop, and other aero bits around the car. It also has exposed carbon fiber stripes on the hood and roof, custom wheels with Golden Yellow Metallic accents, and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur badging. The car is also available to be painted in the ostentatious Golden Yellow Metallic, as well as more subdued hues.

Inside, the gold theme is continued with 18-way adjustable leather seats that feature a top black layer of leather perforated to show yellow stripes from the additional layer of leather below it. Stitching also comes in the golden color, and the carbon fiber trim has had gold-colored copper woven into it. Each of these 911 Turbo S models will also have a badge inside denoting its limited-production status, and they come with a titanium chronograph watch. Custom luggage is also available for extra cost.

As for the cost of the car, Porsche hasn’t set pricing for the United States, but it has priced it for Europe. Over on the Continent, the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series will cost €259,992, which comes to about $291,250 at current exchange rates. That’s also roughly $100,000 more than the base price of the standard 911 Turbo S.

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Aston Martin has a second mid-engined car coming

Aston Martin is expanding its exotic car horizons beyond GT cars into the realm of mid-engined sports cars. We’re not talking about the upcoming Valkyrie hypercar, though. Instead, we’re talking about a more mainstream mid-engined supercar designed to take on the Ferrari 488, Lamborghini Huracán, and McLaren 720S. Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, stated this specifically when discussing future product plans with Auto Express.

According to Auto Express, Palmer said the car will be a competitor the 488, and will launch in 2020 as part of a plan to release a new model every year from now until 2023. Before the mid-engined car will be the rest of Aston’s new GT line and the DBX crossover, and following the Ferrari fighter will be a pair of Lagonda models and the DB12. The 2020 launch date is a full year sooner than we were expecting for a sub-Valkyrie mid-engined car.

Palmer cites a few reasons for going mid-engined. He explained that it’s the segment standard, and that it’s ideal for weight distribution. He also noted that going mid-engined will help bridge the gap between the top-tier Vanquish GT car and the Valkyrie. That’s a gap with loads of room for another model, too, since the Vanquish will likely be comparable to the Ferrari F12berlinetta, which costs a bit over $300,000. The Valkyrie, on the other hand, will go for $3 million and have performance comparable to the LaFerrari and the Koenigsegg One:1.

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‘Demented acceleration’: Dubuc Tomahawk EV 0-60 in 2 seconds

Last we heard from Dubuc Motors, it was trying to raise capital through a crowdfunding campaign for its wildly out-there Tomahawk electric supercar. Well, the company is still taking on investors, and has announced that the Tomahawk will go into production next year. Oh, and it does 0-60 miles per hour in 2 seconds.

With four electric motors, the all-wheel-drive EV produces 800 horsepower and a tarmac-warping 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It has a balanced, 50/50 front/rear weight distribution and adjustable air suspension, and it’ll pull a respectable 1.2 Gs in a corner. Its “demented acceleration,” as Dubuc Motors cofounder Mike Kakogiannakis so aptly describes it, is the highlight here. That two-second 0-60 time is available in the car’s Race mode. In Street mode, that sprint extends to four seconds.

If you’re concerned about driving range, you probably want to keep the launches to a minimum, but Dubuc says the Tomahawk’s 100-kWh lithium-ion battery will provide a driving range of 370 miles. That’s probably helped by its low weight, thanks to the car’s extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum.

The Tomahawk combines performance with luxury with four leather racing seats, and leather and carbon fiber accents throughout the cabin. It has touchscreen navigation with mobile connectivity and hands-free controls. It also offers a live, 360-degree camera, collision avoidance, and automatic emergency braking.

No word yet on price, but for one of the fastest cars in the world, we doubt that your fuel savings from switching to electric will make up for whatever price premium the Tomahawk commands.

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I spent a weekend with a SEMA show model: the Hellwig Rule Breaker Titan XD


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The Hellwig Titan Rule Breaker is that most American of vehicles: a SEMA show truck. Meant to titillate and beguile attendees at the big aftermarket parts show in Las Vegas every year, SEMA show trucks look pretty robust. Still, you wonder how long that show-body shine would last out in the real world. Well, I was about to find out.

Hellwig has specialized in sway bars, airbag kits and “helper” leaf springs since 1946. The company was started by Rudy Hellwig, then run by son Don; now Don’s son Mark and granddaughter Melanie White run it. So that’s four generations, if you’re good at math. In that time, Hellwig has made suspension products for everything from trucks to tanks — the latest creation being the Nissan Titan XD-based beast you see parked on this page, fitted with a Lancer cabover camper. Imagine if Hunter S. Thompson had driven to Vegas in one of these instead of the Great Red Shark convertible. 

Hellwig Rule Breaker Titan XD

The Hellwig Rule Breaker Titan XD was made for off-road overlandering.

Ideally, I’d want to take something like this on a desert trip with lots of abusive four-wheeling where I could try out the off-road tires, 4WD and the 3 extra inches of ground clearance. Instead, I wound up car camping on pavement like some kind of yuppie poseur. Sometimes life doesn’t let you off-road.

That’s really too bad because Hellwig has put together an efficient combination of living space and cornering ability. Faced with getting the gigantic Lance 650 slide-in camper into the 2016 Nissan Titan XD bed without having the whole truck flop over on its door handles every time it went around a corner, they looked to their own and several other parts catalogs. Even though the XD has a 2,500-pound payload capacity, that’s in a straight line. The thing with the Rule Breaker is it has about half the SEMA parts catalog on it to keep the camper in the bed and the Titan upright. The Hellwig stuff includes a Big Wig (get it: Hellwig, Big Wig? haha) forged, adjustable sway bars, Big Wig 2,800-pound airbags and Hellwig EZ-990 two-leaf Helper Springs. You’d think that would be enough to wrestle the Rule Breaker around corners. But no.

LGE-CTS Motorsports in San Dimas, California, installed a Stage 3 ICON Vehicle Dynamics suspension with remote-reservoir coil-overs with compression-damping control-valve technology, uniball upper control arms and rear lift blocks, all good for a 3-inch lift. They also added Falken LT325/65R18 Wildpeak ATSW tires. Finally, a set of Torklift Fast Gun tie-downs and Talon frame mounts secured the Lance camper in the bed. This rig is secure!

Big Wig Sway Bar

Big Wig sway bar in action.

As with all SEMA show vehicles, there are about a million other products added. Their makers have no doubt all been promised worldwide fame for their inclusion — everything from the T-Rex grille to the Magnaflow exhaust — but there’s just no room here to list them all.

Thus equipped, off I went. The Titan XD drivetrain was left stock because 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque is probably enough. Indeed, the rig didn’t really cry out for more oomph. Power and torque were a good match for the beast, if not an overwhelming match. You do get to/have to listen to the diesel rattle all day long while driving, but some buyers love that. I managed to get 12.6 mpg for the weekend, almost all on the freeway at 65 mph.

remote resevoir

That’s the remote reservoir of the remote-reservoir shock.

Underway, side-to-side motion and roll was, indeed, well-controlled, so all those parts were doing their jobs. However, there was some fore-and-aft motion, creating a chugging feel when going over bumps or rain gutters as the almost 11-foot-tall camper bobbed fore and aft. It was similar in feel to having a trailer tug and bump a tow vehicle. I imagine this would be exaggerated off-road. The Hellwig guy said no one had ever noticed anything like that, ever. I guess I must be crazy.

As luck would have it, it was pouring rain that particular weekend (didn’t we used to have a drought?) So while the others in our camping group — those who didn’t have SEMA show trucks — flopped around in their flimsy camping tents from Big 5, yours truly was watching “Spaceballs” in the Lance camper’s luxury.

Of course, a few areas for improvement make themselves known when you take a SEMA show vehicle out into the real world: The wheels scraped the wheel wells at full turn; Water dripped off the front edge of the cabover camper consistently enough to leave some sort of chemical deposits all along the top of the windshield just above the driver’s line of sight. Rear vision was by side mirrors only; the two convex mirrors helped to see if anyone was right next to the vehicle when making lane changes, etc., but backing up was partly done by faith. Luckily nothing bad ever happened. A rearview camera would be money well spent to protect your investment here. And at $118,871, it’s a heck of an investment.

overland view

The world’s yer oyster.

That Lance 650 camper had some good features, too. It was fully self-contained with stove, sink, bathroom and shower. You would never have to leave its confines until the food ran out, and even then you could just order pizzas. The rear door had a combo lock — an excellent idea because no one needs a key or anything to keep all your stuff secure. Tell everyone in your camping group the combo and you’re set for a secure weekend. The door’s separate inner screen door, however, was constantly hung up on its own separate release latch, which you couldn’t get to when opening the outer door; once you undid the combination to the outer door, you then had to yank and bang the inner door to free it from its flimsy latch. Dumb. Inside, the bathroom door does not go all the way up to the ceiling. Instead, there’s a pointless top doorframe that scrapes and scalps the noggin of anyone over about 5’8” or so. Taller people have rights, too, man.

While there is huge room in the cabover bed area, this configuration of Titan, with four doors, means there is less room for the camper. A regular-cab Titan would leave more room for your Lance. Thus, it was cramped in the back for cooking, eating and hanging out. On our rainy trip, we spent a little more time inside than we would usually have.

Then there was the problem with the Lance 650’s drains. The water from the sink overflowed almost immediately out of the drain and flooded the bathroom floor. So I drove the whole rig to a dump station 8 miles away, drained both tanks and figured the problem was solved. Nope. Sink water again backed up into shower floor almost immediately. The truck’s owners never explained this. So I just stopped using the sink and the bathroom the whole rest of the trip. Maybe I could have sourced a drain snake and a plunger and gone to work on the plumbing, but this was more work than I wanted to do on a leisurely weekend.

Sailboats, campers, motor homes and even airplanes all have their foibles. Part of the “joy” of having one is trying to figure out what’s broken and then fixing it. Helps if there are others standing around offering idiotic suggestions.

So was this worth six figures? Maybe Rule Breaker meant it broke the laws of physics by cornering with a huge and heavy load. As far as I could tell, that was the whole point of this exercise: to get something this heavy and this tall to go around a corner. It did this with aplomb. The wild bumblebee graphics seemed to draw a crowd of admirers at both the campground and the dump station — the latter I wound up visiting twice. The combination high-lift look and indomitable appearance were much appreciated by truckers and off-roaders across the state. It was practical: The Hellwig guy said you could have the camper disconnected and sitting out of the truck on its electric jack stands in 10 minutes. Just park the camper then go exploring in the truck. It’s an appealing prospect.

Hellwig and Lance brought an F-150 camper truck to SEMA in 2015. Can’t wait to see what they have this year.

On Sale: You have to build your own

As Tested Price: $118,871

Drivetrain: 5.0-liter turbotdiesel V8, six-speed automatic, 4wd

Output: 310 hp at 3200 rpm, 555 lb ft at 1600 rpm

Curb Weight: 7750 (AW est.)

0-60 MPH: same day

Observed Fuel Economy: 12.6 mpg (AW)

Pros: You can go anywhere and watch TV when you get there

Cons: Huge, hard to park, costs over 100 grand

RM Sotheby’s sells 911 RSR for over $2M, 918 for over $1.5M

In the lead-up to RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba sale, the auction house revealed it had some pretty amazing machines lined up. Among them was a 1993 Porsche 993 RSR 3.8 that was only ever driven 6 miles. Three of this generation’s most potent hypercars also were slated to go across the block: a Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach, a McLaren P1 GTR, and a Ferrari LaFerrari. Interestingly, only two of these four cars sold, but they went for hefty sums.

The almost-never-used 911 RSR went for a whopping $2,254,492. The Porsche 918 Spyder was sold for $1,628,244. The RSR fit right in with RM Sotheby’s estimate, while the 918 exceeded the estimate by about $100,000. Both Porsches also ranked among the 10 top selling cars at the Villa Erba auction, with the RSR selling for the third highest amount behind a pair of pre-war French cars, and the 918 was fifth highest.

These pricey Porsches also show why buying limited production models to flip for profit would be appealing, which is an issue that Porsche is currently trying to resolve. Fortunately for Porsche these cars likely weren’t bought for profit making. The RSR was owned for many years before being sold, and the owner of the 918 managed to put on an impressive 6,800 miles before selling.

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Under the skin of Mercedes-AMG’s Project One hypercar

Last year, at the Paris Auto Show, AMG head Tobias Moers told us about the Project One hypercar. The months since this announcement haven’t tamped down our amazement about what Mercedes-AMG is up to. The renderings you’re looking at are straight from AMG, released right as our man in Europe is heading into a technical briefing on the car. While we wait for his full report, let’s ogle this incredible hardware.

We were told to expect a Formula One-derived powerplant, and by golly that sure looks like one. There’s a carbon fiber air inlet perched atop a V6 hybrid power unit mounted amidships, and flanked by a snake’s nest of headers. The exhaust system sits on top of a structural rear transaxle, an automated manual of course. There’s an electric turbocharger, which is part of a very exotic MGU-H system – it can essentially harvest kinetic energy from exhaust gas spinning the turbocompressor, and also reverse flow to spool up the compressor when needed using stored energy. Speaking of which, there’s a high-voltage Li-Ion battery just behind the front axle.

project one

That front axle will be electrified, with no mechanical connection to the V6 engine. So it’ll need juice to run, likely a mixture of MGU-H energy and also power harvested from the MGU-K system, which is basically a conventional hybrid generator physically connected to the engine. Well, conventional in theory; this generator’s likely to be as exotic as the rest of the car. That assessment extends to the inboard suspension, a complex arrangement of pushrods and transverse coilover units, although the rear pairs exotically-mounted shocks with the classic Mercedes-Benz five-link arrangement.

This is not, of course, unadulterated F1 tech. The engine is likely to be less strung out, only revving to around 10,000 RPM than what a real F1 car can spin at, to increase the engine’s lifespan. That being said, Moers is on record as saying that the engine will need a serious overhaul at around 31,000 miles. Assume that this will be extensive and extremely expensive, not that a Project One buyer’s going to have trouble paying for the service. After all, the car’s expected to cost $2 million when it goes on sale.

We’ll have much more detail coming soon, but until then enjoy this intimate look at an upcoming hypercar.

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Jaguar with claws: 592-hp XE SV Project 8 Collector’s Edition

A few years ago, and to much fanfare, Jaguar launched the F-Type Project 7. It was Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) unit’s first Collector’s Edition car. It now has a successor – with four doors. Jaguar has announced the XE SV Project 8 Collector’s Edition, which will get its official debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Project 8 is as a 592-horsepower sedan that the automaker is calling “the most extreme Jaguar ever.” It’s powered by a specially tuned version of the company’s 5.0-liter V8 engine, which will make it Jaguar’s most powerful vehicle ever put into production. It will be limited to just 300 examples hand-built at SVO’s Technical Centre in Coventry. As for how much it’ll set you back if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations Managing Director John Edwards says Project 8 “is conceived for enthusiasts and the most discerning collectors. The price for such an extreme performance sports car available in strictly limited numbers will reflect that.”

Engine tuning is just one of the upgrades to the Project 8, but, for now, Jaguar is remaining vague about other alterations to the XE. Edwards says the car “takes aerodynamics and performance engineering to another level,” and there’s no reason not to take him at his word. The British automaker says it’ll let us know more about the car on June 28, just two days before its official introduction. For now, though, we can enjoy the teaser video from Jaguar, above, which shows the XE SV Project 8 in a particularly sporty camouflage wrapper testing on the Nürburgring.

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Check out the first (and hopefully annual) ‘The Californian’ motorcycle show


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Is it just that we’re getting moto-happy, or are more and more cool motorcycle shows popping up in Los Angeles? Perhaps both.

On Sunday, we hopped on a BMW R nineT and rode over to the first and — hopefully, optimistically — the annual “Californian,” a two-wheeled motorcycle concours held on the infield of Santa Anita horse-racing track. While this inaugural running of the show was not exactly packed, it was a show with a lot of promise. (We were there for the first “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering” in Carmel and that one had an awful lot of elbow room, too.)

Why do we think this one will succeed? First: location. Concours are supposed to be places where ladies can wear huge, floppy sun hats and elegant sundresses. There are always a lot of those in abundance at Santa Anita. Second: The day of the show was the same day as the Preakness Stakes, which was shown on screens all around Santa Anita, in between the track’s own races. So there was a lot of action all around the motorcycle show. Sometimes those daylong concours can wear on you or — more specifically — on the significant other you talked into attending. Third: gambling and alcohol! You can enjoy both at Santa Anita. And fourth: the motorcycles themselves. There were about 30 or 40 spread out on the infield lawn, representing an eclectic mix of old and new. Bikes ranged from an authentic Indian hillclimber that was about 90 years old to a new Jay LaRossa custom that was only a few weeks out of the shop. In between were plenty of the Honda CB remakes the youth are into now, as well as a smattering of custom Harleys and other cool one-offs.

“It’s pretty cool,” said organizer Brady Nelson, whom we’d met a month or two ago at a track day event he organized at Willow Springs racetrack. “The Santa Anita management really liked it, too. So we’re looking forward to next year.”

So are we.

Rezvani Beast Alpha now just $95,000, but there are no frills

When it debuted last fall at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the California-built Rezvani Beast Alpha coupe was a carbon-fiber featherweight supercar powered by a 500 horsepower boosted, mid-mounted Honda K24 inline-four cylinder. It managed to have crazy “SideWinder” doors, carbon-ceramic brakes, and a full leather and Alcantara interior while keeping the weight down to 1,950 lbs. The only hangup was the $200,000 price tag. The good news is that the Beast Alpha now starts at $95,000. The bad news is that most of the interesting bits are now optional extras.

That includes the high-output K24. The $95,000 version only makes 400 horsepower from a supercharged 2.5-liter engine. The $159,000 Beast Alpha X swaps the supercharger for a turbo, raising the engine’s output to 525 horsepower. At 3.2 seconds, it’s also 0.3 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the standard Beast Alpha. Both engines have been tuned by Rezvani and Cosworth.

That sweet sequential gearbox is now a $15,000 option on both models. The adjustable suspension is now $2,500. Carbon-ceramic brakes are $8,500. Hell, the upgraded AP Racing brakes are still $3,700. That super convenient Apple CarPlay-equipped Alpine sound system is $3,500. Full leather interior? $3,500. Wait, you want leather seats, too? $3,700. Leather floor mats are $650. Apparently, “full leather” doesn’t actually mean full leather.

The two most egregious options are the $500 trunk and $7,500 SideWinder doors, both of which are only available on the more expensive Beast Alpha X. Yes, that means the standard $95,000 Beast Alpha can’t even be optioned with a trunk. You also have to step up to the Beast Alpha X if you want that svelte carbon-fiber body for a whopping 50-lbs saving over the aluminum and composite skin on the standard car.

If you build a Rezvani Beast Alpha X with all of the things that got us so excited to begin with, it’s actually slightly more than the original $200,000 estimate. You know what else you can buy for $200,000? Several supercars with full leather interiors.

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First US customer gets the keys to $1.9 million Lamborghini Centenario

Ferruccio Lamborghini’s 100th birthday party has now reached the United States.

The Lamborghini Centenario – the souped-up Aventador that celebrates Lamborghini’s founder – was delivered to its first US customer in Newport Beach, CA, the company said Thursday. The $1.9 million supercar was unveiled in 2016 to mark the 100th birthday of the industry leader, and it’s limited to a 40-car run that’s split between coupes and convertibles. Naturally, Lambo says they’re all sold out.

The first US car is a black and blue hardtop. The company says this one was custom built with a glossy carbon-fiber exterior. Inside, is the same color scheme set to leather and Alcantara. Lambo says the rest of the Centenario’s US customers will get their cars this year.

In case you’ve forgotten, the supercar runs a naturally aspirated V12 with 759 horsepower capable of hitting 62 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds en route to a top clip of 217 mph. Lambo builds each one to the personal tastes of the customer through its Ad Personam program.

“When Ferruccio Lamborghini began realizing his dream of creating the best supercars in the world, he wanted to reach a large audience through production, but he also wanted to keep the unique nature of limited-edition vehicles that clients are able to personalize to their own tastes and style,” Automobili Lamborghini America COO Alessandro Farmeschi said in a statement.

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Everything we know about the 2019 Lamborghini Urus

May 17, 2017: More spy photos have surfaced of the upcoming Urus SUV. This time we get a glimpse of the crossover being hustled at the Nürburgring. And we can tell it’s being pushed hard from the amount of body roll evident in the photos. Aside from the quick pace, these photos also give us a good look at the Lambo’s tail end.

The ultra-raked rear window and sharp angles of the concept have been preserved. The taillights have the same L-shape as the concept, too. There are some notable changes between the two, though. The most obvious change is that the exhaust tips have been moved to the bottom of the rear bumper, instead of higher-mounted units of the Urus concept. The rear diffuser is long gone, as well. The small rear window helps give the crossover a low look, but it also brings the metal part of the tailgate way up, adding quite a bit of visual mass.

May 15, 2017: Stefano Domenicali revealed to Automotive News Europe that the Urus will make an impressive 650 horsepower from the standard twin-turbocharged V8. This number tops that of the most powerful Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, platform-mates to the Urus. Domenicali did not reveal torque figures for the standard engine, nor specifications for the hybrid powertrain. However, we predict the twin-turbo V8 will make at least 600 pound-feet of torque.

February 10, 2017: Spy shots give us our first look at the production Lamborghini Urus. The overall shape is very close to the concept, complete with the steeply sloping greenhouse and aggressive angular lines. The wheel arches even have the same geometric shape as the concept. The grille, which looks just as aggressive as we expected, does have smaller openings, and a revised design reminiscent of the current Aventador S. This version also has roof rails that weren’t seen on the concept.

February 6, 2017: Lamborghini will start building pre-production Urus models this April according to a Digital Trends interview with Stefano Domenicali. It will be built in a factory that The Drive reports has been expanded and updated to accommodate production of the SUV. Since the Aventador and Huracan are limited to 3,500 units a year, we expect the same for the Urus.

December 29, 2016: Lamborghini’s research and development chief, Maurizio Reggiani, confirmed to Autocar that the Urus will be available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. He also explained that a twin-turbocharged V8 was chosen for the Urus because the large SUV needed plenty of torque. Not only that, but there are no plans to use turbocharging in one of the supercars in order to preserve the responsive feeling of those vehicles and their engines.

May 27, 2015: Lamborghini officially confirmed that it will build the Urus SUV. The SUV was first revealed way back in 2012 as a concept at the Beijing Motor Show. The company plans on introducing the production model in 2018 and it will be built at the Lamborghini factory in Sant’Agata. The Urus will also share major components and underpinnings with other VW Group SUVs including the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga.

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