topspeed garage

topspeed garage

There are few things in this country more American than a NASCAR race. Sure, apple pie and baseball might outrank it, but neither of those can compete with stock cars thundering around a track at 200 mph while continually riding on the brink of catastrophe as they race just inches away from a concrete wall and other drivers gunning to win. So when the opportunity arose to become deeply immersed in the culture during the recent All-Star race, I jumped at the chance.

It all started a few months ago with an email invite from Toyota. It read something along the lines of, “how about joining us at the NASCAR All-Star race and tours of the Joe Gibbs Racing Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame?” My reply went something like, “Heck yeah, I’ll be there!”

I decided to skip the crowded airports for a 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and a seven-hour drive through the heart of the eastern seaboard. I viewed this almost like a pilgrimage; setting out on a roadtrip for a destination of racing importance located in the rolling hills of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Once on the road, my choice of chariot was immediately affirmed. Unlike my last Lexus experience, the front seat was perfectly molded, padded, and bolstered. The more I drove, the more the car seemed to shrink around me, making tight maneuvering a thing of ease. The stout 3.5-liter V-6 offered plenty of grunt while the tight steering and sport-tuned suspension made each corner a memorable event.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and about my time spent at Joe Gibbs Racing Center

For all of the press and hype surrounding the Toyota GT 86 and the Subaru BRZ , not a lot of people know or have given love to the third model of the bunch, the Scion FR-S.

All that’s about to change because the Scion FR-S has arrived. For those that have shed rivers of tears when they found out that neither the GT 86 nor the BRZ were headed Stateside, news that the FR-S will arrive in America is tantamount to a post Thanksgiving blessing.

Now, we’ve actually seen a concept version of the FR-S - called the FR-S Concept - at the New York Auto Show , so it really didn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us that the sports coupe was coming to the US, but seeing the concept and seeing the production version are two different things.

It doesn’t even matter that we’re not getting the GT 86 and the BRZ. We have the FR-S, and just like a child that comes to us, we’re going to shower it with as much love as we can possibly give.

Updated 05/15/2015: Scion today announced prices and updates for the 2015 FR-S sports car set to go on sale just in time for summer. Updates for the 2015 model year include: a more rigid front suspension and re-tuning of the rear shock absorbers, larger exhaust tips and for the interior an updated panel with a carbon fiber look. The model will also get auto on/off headlights. Prices for the 2015 FR-S will start from $24,900 for the six-speed manual version and $26,000 for the six-speed automatic one.

Find out more about the Scion FR-S after the jump.

Minivans are strange beasts, wielding a two-edged sword of unmatched utility and a soccer-mom stigma. That stigma is hard to get past for some, but once the shear versatility and people-hauling capabilities have been explored, it’s hard to consider the minivan anything less than spectacular. I spent a week behind the wheel of Chrysler’s Town & Country to experience the conundrum for myself.

I’ve driven a number of rather interesting vehicles in my line of work, so I was admittedly a little weary about piloting the mom-mobile. However, as luck would have it, a minivan was just what I needed during the week. Up first was hauling my two-year-old around town for the week. The double DVD screens truly came in handy as a loveable mouse kept her attention off the “are we there yet?” statements. Next was chauffeuring a large group of friends to a social event. We had room to spare and all were comfortable.

Finally a family trip to the beach confirmed my suspension the Town & Country could do it all. With the third row folded flat, fishing poles lying between the second row captains’ chairs, and gear for the day packed all around, the Chrysler proved its worth. What’s more, the van’s front wheel drive also proved confident in the loose sands of Daytona Beach.

Click past the jump for the full review.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 decked out in the range-topping High Country trim and powered by the largest V-8 offered by The General . While the High Country competes with the gaudy western-wear cowboys from Ford and Ram , the Chevy pulls off the John Wayne look with a touch more class and refinement.

Missing is the dinner-plate belt buckle styling with embroidered seats and barbed-wire floor mats. In their places are simple saddle-colored leather seats with matching leather stitched atop the dashboard, door panels, and armrest. The look is just subtle enough to remind occupants of the truck’s western flair without choking them with the motif.

While the overall theme of the truck isn’t outlandishly equestrian, the Corvette-derived 6.2-liter, V-8 engine under the hood has no shortage of horses — 420 to be exact. Only a handful of parts separate the Silverado’s powerplant from that found in the new C7 Stingray , and after pressing the accelerator, that becomes clearly evident. Though the truck weights double the Vette, the 6.2-liter still motivates the truck with ease, hitting 60 mph in just six seconds.

Click past the jump for the full review

What comes after hump-day? The TopSpeed Podcast , of course!

Happy Thursday everybody, and welcome to EPISODE 010! of the TopSpeed Podcast. This week is special for a few reasons aside from our milestone number. Firstly, Justin is gone on vacation, so we brought in a special guest, Logan Utsman. Logan is an old friend and colleague of Mark and myself, and he is a proper hoon to boot. We hope you enjoy hearing him.

If you hated him, let us know that too. We will be sure to have him drawn and quartered for offending the masses.

Secondly we have a hybrid video podcast that has photos in it too. The first part is great news, the second part is less so. Thanks to some shaky internet, my recording PC dropped the video feed about halfway through. I filled the rest of the podcast with some photos from my personal portfolio to provide some visual entertainment. You can see the video after the break.

As for the show, our Weekly Wheels features a return of the Lexus ES 350 , a look at the Audi A3 TDI , and I discuss my time flogging some new Cooper Tires on a track with the Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series .

News coverage includes a thorough look at Chrysler’s big five-year plan , what it means for SRT , Dodge and Ferrari , plus the return of the Grand Wagoneer and the official announcement of the Maserati Alfieri . The BMW i3 also makes an appearance in our news segment.

Our Q/A segment features more automotive destruction, a short look at the best lime-green hatchbacks you can buy, the oldest cars we have driven, and we speculate on dream drag races.

As always, we finish with Own, Drive, Burn. This week we have a trio of Ferrari models.

Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or concerns. You can reach us in the comments below, on Twitter @TopSpeedPodcast or by email: Podcast@TopSpeed.com

We are also on iTunes. If you wanted to subscribe, rate or leave us a review we would really appreciate it.

See you next week you crazy kids.

Weekly Wheels: Lexus ES 350, Audi A3 TDI, BMW 328i

Hosts: Christian Moe, Mark McNabb, Logan Utsman

Watch the video version after the break!

The Lexus ES 350 is an interesting car. It combines the niceties of a luxury sedan like wood trim, heated and cooled leather seats, and large amounts of posh with the humble underpinnings of a basic, daily commuter. That’s not to say the car is bad, but it certainly creates an interesting combination. I recently spent a week getting to know the ES 350 pretty well and I came away with mixed emotions.

Based on the Toyota Avalon platform, the four-door sedan affords plenty of legroom both front and rear with generous amounts of hip and shoulder room as well. Its ride falls somewhere between luxurious and sporty. It somehow tastefully walks the fine line between the two, never offending the senses nor outright pleasing them.

Come to think of it, non-offensive is a good way to describe the ES 350. It coddles its occupants from its garage within the gated community to the theater or museum with no fuss. It’s torquey 3.5-liter V-6 does a swell job of propelling the car forward without exerting an exceeding number of revs while its six-speed transmission shifts like warmed butter — firm but not hard; soft but not squishy.

The amenities list on my tester was long. In fact, the panoramic glass roof and 18-inch wheels seemed to be the only notable features missing. The remaining options made for a comfortable ride with enough gadgets to satisfy my inner geek. I did have one complaint about my ES 350 , and it centering on the most important human-car touch point within the vehicle.

Click past the jump for the full review

Few companies cater to the petrol-head quite like Porsche . Sure Ferrari provides excitement, and Lamborghini is the maestro of theater, but Porsche has cornered the market on feel and precision.

Beyond that, Porsche also seems to demonstrate a peculiar, un-German ability to create cars that are very pretty. Not the sensual beauty the Italians have mastered, but still pretty.

Late last year the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh decided that Porsche had done so much in the field of design, that it deserved to be recognized. They then began the laborious task of collecting an eclectic assortment of metal from the brand’s storied history; from the Type 64 of 1938 up to the 911 GTS R Hybrid race car .

As a man with a slight fetish for German autos, the exhibit intrigued me. The NCMA is only a six-hour drive from my house, through some of the most beautiful roads and scenery in the U.S., and I had just been granted the keys to a 2014 Porsche Cayman S .

It was a recipe that sounded like a Porsche enthusiast’s perfect weekend.

Read on to find out more about my journey, the Cayman S and the NCMA exhibit.

Thundering around town in a three-row SUV isn’t typically an exciting event. Slow and cumbersome with loads of body roll and understeer can make for a rather uninspiring trip. Then again, the refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango isn’t a typical SUV.

Coated in Granite Crystal Metallic paint with matching 20-inch rims, blacked-out windows, color-keyed bumpers and grille, and that ‘racetrack’ LED taillight fixture out back give this bad boy a snarling bad attitude. Equipped with the Rallye Appearance Package, this Durango seems to hold up an inappropriate gesture to any sneering onlookers.

Get on this bad boy’s good side, however, and you’re coddled like a king – even in the third row. The revised interior for 2014 is much improved over last year and includes numerous refinements. There’s an all-new steering wheel with standard paddle shifters controlling the standard TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic, a reworked center stack with the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system, and a large seven-inch TFT display within the gauge cluster.

Though this Dodge is refreshed for 2014, all the good stuff from its 2011 total makeover is still present. The killer exterior looks, the loads of room in the second and third rows, its two optional engines, and all-wheel-drive set-up are among the most notable features in the Durango’s returning repertoire.

I recently spent a week with this beastly SUV, doing everything from commuting around and hauling kids, to blasting around cloverleaf interstate on-ramps. Head past the jump for my full run-down.

Click past the jump for the full review

Under the shadow of BMW’s Spartanburg manufacturing plant nestled in the rolling hills of South Carolina, I found myself ripping through corners of back county highways in the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis. And though the plant only produces BMW’s popular SUVs and crossovers, the Genesis’ intent to conquer giants became blatantly obvious the farther I traveled through the sweeping hills.

The roads along my path were littered with hairpin turns and switchbacks followed by long straights with varying pavement conditions. Besides the few locals traversing the trail and that one tractor creeping along behind a blind curve, the road was nearly mine. The Genesis’ new, more rigid chassis and upgraded suspension system with a driver-selectable Sport Mode rode tight with a very balanced feel that inspired confidence.

The steering in my RWD tester felt light yet properly weighted while its variable ratio kept my inputs in check. With the car weighing in at 4,138 pounds, I was amazed at how well the Hankook tires griped the road without howling complaints. Only under mid-corner power was I able to induce noticeable understeer. I’m no Mario Andretti, but I was giving it the beans. The Genesis just tracked like it was on rails with almost no body roll.

Click past the jump for the full report on the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis

For 2014, Mitsubishi gave the Outlander a full overhaul, and you couldn’t ask for a more comprehensive overhaul. The Outlander has lost all that made it unique in the crossover SUV realm and inherited a rather boring look. In fact, it looks totally out of place in Mitsubishi’s lineup, to be perfectly honest. The Outlander wasn’t all bad though, as the tester that I received had a lot of options added, which made for a nice week driving it around.

Under the hood of my tester was the base 2.4-liter four-pot that only produced 166 ponies and 162 pounds of twist. Why Mitsubishi didn’t send it with the optional V-6 is beyond me. The 224 horsepower and 215 pound-feet would have likely made for more fun and a quieter ride. Not that the V-6 isn’t underpowered in its own right.

The Outlander is really a love it or hate is type of vehicle. Traditionalists likely enjoy its normal styling, but generation X and Y likely think it is too boring to compete. Can its features overcome the sharp looks of the Toyota RAV4 and the larger third row in the Kia Sorento ?

Click past the jump to read the full Driven review to find out.


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