topspeed garage

topspeed garage

The Ram truck has been around since its nameplate was officially used on the 1981 Dodge pickup. Dodge trucks dating back to 1933 were known for their ram hood ornament, so the mascot went from decoration to the trucks’ name. Big news happened again in 2010 when the Fiat Chrysler Group moved the Ram lineup outside the Dodge umbrella, making the Ram its own brand. Now in its fourth generation, the Ram truck is breaking ground on uncharted territory. That uncharted ground includes innovations like dumping the traditional leaf-spring rear suspension design in favor of a smoother-riding, five-link with coil springs and introducing the industry’s first V-6 turbo-diesel in a half-ton package. The diesel aspect has garnered the Ram some notable attention from both the auto industry and the truck-buying public.

In fact, more than 8,000 EcoDiesel trucks were ordered by Ram dealers in the first weekend the books opened — a number than represents nearly half of the Ram 1500’s normal monthly production run. Sin Sin ce that February weekend in 2014, Ram EcoDiesel sales have exceeded the automaker’s expectations and have contributed to Ram’s overall sales increase over last year.

So what’s the big deal about a diesel, you ask? Well, I squeezed 33 miles per gallon out of my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel tester I recently had. Sure, that was with me babying the throttle down the highway, but by the week’s end, the dash still showed an average of over 24 mpg. That’s the big deal. Not to mention my tester was equipped to pull 9,200 pounds at the hitch and haul an impressive 1,620 pounds in the bed.

Skip on down fore the complete run-down of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

When people talk about cars that symbolize America, they usually talk about trucks or muscle cars . For my money, though, there is nothing more American than a Jeep Wrangler . Born from the Willys MB that conquered the land during World War II, the modern Wrangler still embodies the same virtues of rugged simplicity from all those decades ago.

At least, that is how it looks from an exterior design point, but the newest Wranglers have satellite navigation, heated leather seats and even hard tops now. Has our march toward comfort finally taken the edge off the most capable off-road vehicle to come from an American company? Is the Wrangler still willing to get dirty and climb through mud and rocks to get somewhere?

I recently spent some time with a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X to find out. As the Rubicon , it has the most aggressive off-road equipment, but it has also been loaded with as many creature comforts as possible too.

So who broke first, me or the Jeep?

Continue reading to find out more about the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X

As the largest sedan that Buick sells as of 2014, the LaCrosse has a very important role to fill. Buick has long been a brand associated with affordable luxury and refinement. If the biggest and best sedan it makes can’t make par, there is very little hope for the brand as a whole. When 2014 rolled around, Buick revealed a full-model refresh that had a more modern exterior design and improved interior ergonomics. Now for 2015, Buick looks to build on that platform by enhancing the list of available standard technology and features.

Is the new exterior design and equipment enough to help this Buick stay competitive? Has America finally produced a car that is good enough to go toe-to-toe with the best that Japan has to offer and win? With powerful V-6 engines abd optional AWD, Buick is swinging for the fences with this car.

I took delivery of a top-level 2015 Buick LaCrosse to give it a full run for its money. I think you may be surprised to find out what I thought.

Read on to learn more about the 2015 Buick LaCrosse

When it comes to track-day toys, there is no shortage of companies vying for your money. Lots of companies like Caterham make Lotus Seven clones, the Ariel Atom provides good looks and brutal performance and the KTM X-Bow puts motorcycle acceleration into a four-wheel package. But what if instead of making an all-new car and then fitting it with a hodge podge collection of parts, you took a car that was already great and just gave it an ultra-light track-toy body?This is the Exocet from Exomotive.

For all intents and purposes it is merely a Mazda Miata that has gone on a 1,000-pound diet. It has the same wheelbase, weight balance and seating position as the world’s favorite roadster, but thanks to a tube frame chassis it weighs less than a pair of large motorcycles. You still keep that same Miata handling and reliability, you just get a lot more speed and grip.

To put it another way, it’s F@#%&*@ epic.

Read on to find out more about the Exomotive Exocet built by Flyin’ Miata

What happens when you take the stiffest and most refined Miata ever built, and then have Flyin’ Miata cram a fire-breathing small block V-8 under the hood? You get one of the best cars I have ever driven. Period.

This is Atomic Betty and she has stolen my heart.

With more than 400 horsepower and an equal measure of torque, Atomic Betty takes the power and thrust of a Corvette , and cuts a few hundred pounds. The results are staggering to say the least. Despite the insertion of the large engine, very little of Betty has been altered, and from the exterior she looks like a stock NC Miata to 99-percent of onlookers. If you prefer the idea of a “sleeper,” Betty is about the best you can get.

Best of all, the weight balance has barely been changed and overall weight gain from the new engine is less than putting a full-size male in the passenger seat. That means that same handling and crispness of the Miata remains, there just happens to be almost three-times as much power at the call of your right foot.

Hell. Yes.

Continue to read more about Flyin’ Miata’s V-8 powered NC Miata Atomic Betty.

The Fiat 500 first saw life back in 1957 as the Fiat Nuova 500 and was an inexpensive little city car that became extremely popular throughout Italy. Its small, two-cylinder engine displaced roughly 500cc — hence the name — and produced a modest 13 brake horsepower. It enjoyed a ragtop roof that slid rearward and a pair of suicide doors. In comparison to today’s cars, the original Fiat 500 was a toy, only standing chest height to the average person. Production ended in 1975 and the 500 name laid dormant until 2007 when the current version became available in Europe.

The Fiat 500 swam the pond in 2010, marking the first time Fiat sold vehicles in the U.S. since 1984. The return happened, thanks to Fiat’s purchase of Chrysler and the two automakers’ global alliances. The car has remained unchanged for the most part, except the additional Abarth trim level new for 2012. That sporty trim added a ton of go-fast, have-fun goodies to Fiat’s spunky little run-about.

I recently spend a week getting to know the Fiat 500c Abarth. You’ll notice the ‘c’ in the 500’s name, well that signifies it carries a ragtop roof, just like the original Fiat 500 did. This 500, however, has 147 more horsepower than the original, a sweet exhaust note, and a superb five-speed manual gearbox. This thing is like the Mazda Miata of Italy — the tossable plaything that begs to be driven hard.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth

What happens when Flyin’ Miata gets a hold of an old Mazda press loaner and the supercharger kit that was designed for the Super20 concept? It creates an all-out targa rally car , of course. Meet "Nancy," the supercharged and rally-prepped 2006 Mazda Miata MX-5 .

Nancy started life as a test bed for NC-generation parts, but after the application of the supercharger kit and a full suspension upgrade, she got wrapped in a racing livery vinyl and Flyin’ Miata took her racing across Canada in the 2011 Targa Newfoundland.

I got to spend several days, a few hundred miles and some track time with this incredible machine. Did Flyin’ Miata ruin the balance and fun of the Miata with all of its racing upgrades, or is Nancy merely a better version of an already great car? Read on to find out.

Continue reading to find out what I thought about Flyin’ Miata’s Nancy.

The venerable Corolla has been a mainstay in Toyota’s U.S. lineup since its introduction in 1968. Toyota’s longest-running nameplate has undergone numerous alterations over the years, but has always remained a stalwart of the compact sedan segment. In 1997, the Corolla surpassed the Volkswagen Beetle as the best selling nameplate worldwide. That tradition continues today with the updated 2014 Toyota Corolla .

I recently spent a week getting to know a Corolla equipped in the LE Eco trim — the Corolla’s most fuel-efficient trim package. Equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, electronic power steering, skinny tires, and a Continuously Variable Transmission, the Corolla earns an EPA economy rating of 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined.

Coated in a deep Evergreen color, the Corolla did a great job at keeping its fuel-conscience end of the bargain. My weekly total average topped just over 31 mpg, besting the Corolla’s EPA city rating. A light throttle and careful driving quickly saw the average increase on slower highway jaunts, making the EPA’s estimates seem obtainable.

The Corolla proved to be a reasonable yet rather tossable set of wheels during its week stay, though there were a few quibbles about NVH.

Click past the jump for the full review of the new 2014 Toyota Corolla

In the world of high-end luxury sports sedans, Porsche is a relatively new player. While Porsche debuted a sedan concept in the 1980s the brand never created a sedan. The Panamera itself debuted in 2009 and it has quickly started to amass sales in the segment. After a recent facelift, Porsche has decided that it want’s to push the Panamera into new and exciting classes by offering the new E-Hybrid.

Based on the technology that was developed during the creation of the 918 supercar, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid that promises unsurpassed fuel economy and emissions, while still providing the luxury and performance suggested by the crest on the hood.

I recently took delivery of such a machine and spent a week beating on it to see if it could live up to the hype. From fuel sipping highway cruises and battery run-down tests, to a trip up one of the most grueling road in the U.S.

What I learned was a bit more than surprising, but you’ll have to read on to figure out what I really think

Read more about the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hyrbrid

U.S. Highway 129, cutting through the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, is a ribbon of tarmac that spans the gap from Tennesee to North Carolina. The section of the road that cuts through Deal’s Gap is known as the Tail of the Dragon, and it is regarded as one of the best driving roads in the world. With 318 turns in a span of only 11 miles, it is easy to see the appeal. Still, with so many sharp hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs on one side, the Dragon is not to be trifled with. Since 1995, nearly 40 people have lost their lives on this tiny strip of asphalt.

Despite being only an hour from my house, I have never tackled the Tail of the Dragon. Sitting in my driveway is one of the latest and most advanced toys from the house of Porsche, a 2014 Panamera S e-Hybrid . What better vehicle to tame the Dragon with than a plug-in hybrid that is over 16-feet long and costs more than my house? Best yet, I got news that a plug-in charging station had just been installed at the top of the mountain and nobody had used it yet.

I took it as a sign that I needed to be the first. I pointed the big Porsche south and went hunting for Dragons.

Read on to see how my first trip to U.S. 129 went.


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