The new 2010 Lexus IS-F is the brand’s first attempt at creating a performance machine to rival the German juggernaut. The car started life as an IS350, so we didn’t have high hopes for it right off the bat. The normal IS is a reliable and capable sports sedan; boring and plain in mostly every way. Then, it found the steroid cabinet.
The IS-F is very interesting to say the least. It’s got bulging front fenders, a 416 horsepower mountain of power, an eight-speed transmission, and a hard ride that would scare away most Lexus owners.
A useful car to Lexus? No, not even close. As pointless things go, the IS-F is on top of the pile. But, it makes a little sense when you remember that the one major flaw with the company was that it could never rival the Germans and their high-performance sedans. The sort of cars that sell in small numbers, but help automakers land big spots on automotive magazines and websites, like this one for example.
Take a visual trip with us down to Florida. Ignore the hot sun, sticky humidity, alligators, hurricanes, and all the other stuff that makes the state terrible, and focus on the retirees. What sort of car are they driving at 10 miles per hour below the speed limit? If you guessed a Buick, you would be right. We would have also accepted Cadillac and Toyota.
That’s the image that most people get when they think of the Buick brand. Grandparents above the age of 65 driving around in boats dressed up in the shape of a car with a suspension so soft and leather so plush that you could mistake it for a yacht. That is the exact reason why General Motors nearly went belly up.
The message coming from automotive enthusiasts finally sunk in to GM’s thick skulls and they presented us with the new Buick Regal, basically an Opel Insignia with a new badge. So, does this new sedan shake off the old image, or should we leave it at the retirement home when the test is complete?
Americans love their wagons. Actually, that’s not true in the slightest. Americans hate wagons for some odd reason. Instead, they love crossovers that are about as fun to drive as a horse and buggy. Nonetheless, Cadillac thought it would give the wagon thing a go, hoping that they could succeed where BMW and Mercedes failed. For those anoraks out there, this is the first time in the company’s 106-year history that they have built a wagon, or estate as some call it.
While some estates offer maximum cargo space, the Cadillac went for a more stylistic approach. It’s only 1.25-inches taller and about 200 pounds heavier. It’s like wearing flip flops in the winter, simply a fashion thing and not practical in any way. The look is deceiving though, as Cadillac has stretched the taillights to a total of three feet. They’ve also added roof racks and, of course, no Cadillac would be complete without chrome.
There is no doubt in our minds that the Mini Countryman will split opinions more than U.S politics. For some, this machine will be a savior. It will be for people who found the Mini Cooper a tad too small and a bit impractical. For others, it’s a pointless new development from a company who continues to try and force different variations of a legendary car down our throats.
The new Mini, made by the German automaker BMW, has always had some issues. We all know it’s a small car, but some have managed to package room and space in a small frame. Mini must have forgotten how, as the interior of the Cooper is a tiny place.
Mini gave us the Clubman in order to solve our size needs. Sadly, this was an abomination of the great Mini name. It accomplished the goal of size and practicality, but at a terrible price. It’s like bulking up on Big Macs and fried foods. Sure, it will accomplish the goal, but you’re not going to attract anything with eyes and you probably won’t live long. So, how does Mini bring a larger vehicle to the market without losing the normal characteristics?
With the real World Cup far behind us, we thought we would host our own world challenge, minus the annoying horns. Okay, yes, the cars do have horns in them, but none of them could be worse than those vuvuzelas.
We took four cars from four different countries in a serious attempt to see which country produced the best performance machine, and to give some self esteem back to the countries that were knocked out of the football tournament. We gave it our all to get four vehicles that were similar in mostly every way. Performance, power, styling, driving dynamics, and build quality inside and out were all examined with a fine tooth comb.
So, it was off to the car dealers to grab our wheels for the test. From the good old United States we have the new Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, America’s most powerful and most ostentatious sports car. From the fatherland, we have the classic Porsche 911, but this one has a turbo up its backside. From the land of the rising sun, we have the technical wonder, the Nissan GTR. Finally, from our home land, the United Kingdom, we have James Bond’s preferred choice, the Aston Martin DBS.
For this top ten, we are going to set the price cap at $120,000, if you can call that a cap. That should eliminate most of the extreme vehicles, but keep the basic Porsches and so on within the limits.
What kinds of things are we looking for with high-end sports cars? Obviously, they need to be fast with agile handling and excellent driving dynamics. The car needs to look stunning with a functional yet stylish interior. It would also be great if it could stand the test of time, so reliability is also a factor.
So, entry-level sports cars aren’t good enough. You make too much money to be seen in a Mazda MX-5 or a normal Ford Mustang. Your successful self needs something powerful and exciting. Well, there is plenty of choices in the market.
To be as precise as possible, there is actually an overwhelming amount of choices in the market, with each car being a little different. There are German performance coupes, American muscle, and Japanese street rockets. These machines have the same sort of mind-bending power, but the way each puts that power down is as different as Apollo and the Space Shuttle.
Due to that reason, we had a hard time putting machines like the Dodge Challenger in same category as the Porsche Boxster. How can you compare two machines that are so vastly different? Sure, we could have, but it just wouldn’t have worked. So, after the jump we have three - even though the title says ten - different top fives. The price cap is $60,000.
We broke it down like this. At the top we have four-door performance machines that use amazing power with epic grip and practicality. Then we have the coupes. Don’t get these coupes mixed up with the Corvette-type coupes because these European cars are tuned for a mixture of speed and cornering ability. Finally, we have the American straight road muscle. Cars that run the quarter miles as naturally as a sports analyst getting a prediction terribly wrong.
Canary Wharf in London is a modern business center, similar to La Defense in Paris. It was built up out of nothing and, as the buildings grew, the people flocked in. This was modern London and everybody wanted a taste. The area around the wharf has everything from expensive shops and restaurants to high-rise apartments. It has everything that anybody could possibly want except a history.
The normal Lexus convertible would fit well in this area. It’s not really a performance hardtop like its rival, the Infiniti G37 Convertible. The convertible Lexus is more at home cruising the avenues around the boutiques and making its way to party after high profile party, all while making the driver and passenger look good.
Thankfully, Toyota managed to inject a little life - which they don’t do often - into the convertible Lexus, as the SC430 was awful. It’s still no performance machine, but the IS250C is sure trying hard.
We have always been a bit confused with Ford. The Detroit born automaker has become a huge sensation in Europe. One example of this old world takeover was the Mondeo. This sedan was so intensely popular that it spawned a new nickname, ’Mondeo Man’. Have you ever seen a Ford here in the United States that was that popular? We think not.
There are more examples of this as well. The Fiesta, Focus, Ka, and the ever famous Transit van have been dominating the European market for ages. Finally, with some persuasion, Ford is going to bring a few of those wonderful models to the United States.
The Fiesta has been in the shadows for most if its pre-release life. Ford has decided to attack the young audience with Facebook pages and all of that other nonsense. In our opinion, Ford needs to stop all this and get out in the mainstream, and we want to help.
So, here we have a lime-green Ford Fiesta with a five-speed manual transmission just waiting to be taken out on the roads, and we were more than happy to oblige. Yet, who wants a normal review, those are so dull. Awaiting the Fiesta was the gang of small hatchbacks that have already established there turf; the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and the Honda Fit. Now we have a proper test on our hands.
Take a step back from the SLS AMG and take a look at the old SLR McLaren. It was more of a cruiser than an all-out performance vehicle, but it was pretty good nonetheless. Pretty good, as it turned out, wasn’t good enough.
Mercedes and McLaren took the SLR back to the garage and put their engineers to work and out popped the SLR 722. Taking a fast car and making it faster is the German way and they are at it again with their latest model. Unlike before though, the new SLS AMG GT3 isn’t road legal. This thing is a pure adrenaline pumping race machine.
We liked the basic SLS more than most performance vehicles on the market, including the Lexus LFA, so we should like this new version even more. Sadly, we have no idea how it drives because we aren’t racing drivers, even though we like to think we are sometimes. That’s not going to stop us though, as we take a look at the SLS GT3 and the LFA.