TB

TB’s journey into automotive journalism has been a long road. The road is paved with piles of car mags under the bed, Porsche posters in glass frames, and pushing the limits of whatever car he is driving.

His car passion started out like many other kids, with an obsession for mechanical toys from day one. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1982, Tom’s family moved to Chicago in 1985.

There, he discovered an *amazing* new candy called Skittles, which was brand new at the time and not available anywhere in the South yet. He sent bags to his old pals in Charlotte.

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs was filled with Construx, big-wheels, two-wheeler bikes, R/C cars, Ariens lawn-mowers and neighborhood sports year-round.

Auto shows were a feast of gathering bags and bags of the newest brochures. Cut out and made into collages, the auto show was heaven. Weeks of bulletin boards and Blu-tac bedroom wall art would follow.

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The Nissan 370Z was the first model to get the comprehensive Nismo upgrade from the revered tuning arm of the Japanese auto giant. Long housed in an anonymous mid-rise factory with only a bright red door to signal something special inside, the Nismo team is spreading its wings with further upgrades to normal Nissan models.

The best-known work from these honorable speed demons is, of course, the GT-R . As we will see, this is not a team who adds some stickers and a lightly revised ECU to cars that don the "Nismo" badge.

The pitfalls of creating a performance spin-off series are many. Too much change and the price can nearly double, cutting volume by four in the process. The previous Cadillac CTS-V suffered such a fate.

On the other side of the spectrum; too little enhancement, and the car is dismissed as badge and stickers job by those in the know. So there is a fine line to walk between the loaded 370Z Touring’s $38,000 price and the $43,000 base of the Nismo version.

After some seat time and some driving videos (viewable below), the 370Z Nismo is unlike any other Z-car driven to date. It features extensively restyled bodywork from every angle, a far lower ride height, and exhaust drums so large they might be packing oil reserves.

For those with allegiance to only hardcore performance, the 370Z Nismo really trumps the equivalent Genesis Coupe R-Spec s and Camaro s of the performance world. An apt comparison would be to the previous Ford Mustang Boss 302 that was basically a Laguna Seca time attack special.

The spec sheet of the 370Z shows how busy the Nismo team was in revamping the Z-car to its standards. This is far more than a body and paint shop; this car is purpose-built from the body-in-white chassis upward by Nismo.

Click past the jump for the full TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO, including a few videos of driving impressions.

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Off-roading can be just as challenging, scary and life-changing as a high-speed track session with a supercar .

With supercars, the chances of a costly mistake are present but manageable. The tracks are typically perfect, the guard rails are there to keep you out of the trees in the case of a spin out, and generally, backing off the throttle is enough to recover control before anything goes *crunch*.

Off-roading, however, brings a real chance that poor driving or the wrong car will result in serious damage to both that driver’s confidence and the car’s rolling ability.

While most racetracks are filled with other cars to help you get home after putting yours into a wall, the situation out on desolate off-road trails is much more grim is something really breaks. Being stranded becomes a real possibility, with bad results almost a sure thing.

After popping three tires and cracking an alloy rim of the 18-inch wheels and 35-section tires of my (poor, abused) Subaru Legacy GT wagon in Oak Ridge, Tennessee a few years ago, I had to limp down the mountain on two hideously-bent donut spare steel wheels. Tires sheared off long before, so it was a clunky and scary ride to a place that a tow truck could find me.

It was this moment I finally realized something: as with everything challenging, to go off-roading the right way, you need the right tools.

Those tools have adjustable suspensions, huge wheel travel, and tires so knobby that a 65 mph cruise on the highway sounds like a Monster Truck.

Great A/C, comfy seats and mechanical reliability are also key parameters for this list.

Click past the jump for the full Top-Ten Best Off-Road SUVs, featuring everything from Bowler Land Rovers to the Nissan Xterra .

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The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is finally out of its doldrums of quad-oval lights and messy body kits. The AMG Hammer is well and truly reborn with this latest generation of ultra-fast, luxurious and stylish new E63 models.

The E63 now wears the trendy sheetmetal to challenge even the sporty M6 and the Audi RS7 . Understated appeal has always been an AMG E-Class feature, but the new styling enhancements mean that the E63 is extremely serious, attention-grabbing and highly entertaining to enjoy up close.

Despite a subtle sedan shape, even blind people know that a very special car is approaching as the E63 AMG gurgles into earshot. This engine maintains much of the previous staccato machine-gun fire noise from the last cars’ naturally-aspirated engines.

In 2014, the E63 — for the first time — gains 4Matic all-wheel-drive as standard in the U.S. to go along with this beastly twin-boosted V-8, and a cabin whose luxury and comfort are contenders for world’s best.

Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model, including a few videos of the car in action as it slams through the gears on full throttle.

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Something that is really incredible about the Olympic Games is how enthralling it can be to hear the winning athletes talk about their sport. Even if the sport is something the viewer has never done or even seen, hearing an expert break it down can really bring it to life.

That is the mood from Brian Darwas in the latest promo for his mastercraft custom car shop, Atomic Hot Rods . He walks us through his vision for the hot rod ’s final state: authentic and real are the goals, so much that a bystander cannot tell if the car was made into a hot rod in 2002 or 1952.

There’s a real art to his craft and a beauty to bringing dead cars back to the roads. The best part of this expert promo video? The car (or one quite similar) featured within is for sale. A one-of-a-kind 1932 Ford Roadster with an all-steel Brookville Body is currently on the market from Atomtic Hot Rods.

Click past the jump to watch the promo video, featuring Brian Darwas and Atomic Hot Rods.

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Guess who got his paws on a 2014 Corvette Stingray out in the wild this week?

The joy of hooning this hotly anticipated sports car was spoiled only by having to give it back to Chevy at the end of the day.

Are the touted enhancements to the cockpit, performance and road stance enough to put the C7 on the radar of young enthusiasts for the first time in decades? Or just a bald fatty special like the C5?

Much as the pace and V-8 bellow was to be admired in the C5 and C6, the Vette was too Plastic Fantastic to cause much of a sensation to the uninitiated. The old Vette’s key buyer group of Wal-Mart-shopping "rich" people certainly would not help any car’s cool factor.

But the C7 feels about a million miles from those two Extenze-popping machines.

Despite screeching performance and the all-conquering ZR-1, the C6 Vette was mired in image hell based on some of its buyers. An interior so low rent that catching crabs was a real possibility only confirmed suspicions that America’s Sports Car was just for creeps and perves.

Big, big changes for the C7 line. In a dream scenario this week, we found ourselves set loose in the C7. It was the meat of a day that also included a frightening hour in the Nissan GT-R (that left me trembling with delight) and a brief intro to the lumbering and oddly off-putting SRT Viper GTS .

But what to do in that Nirvana moment: a full tank of gas, the brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C7, and a heavy right foot? We cooked the tires, did a few straight-line blasts, and took as many pictures as the camera would hold.

Luckily, the impression this incredible car left is etched in the memory with the staying power of a brain tattoo.

Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, with nearly 75 all-new, high-resolution images of the production model we sampled.

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The new Pathfinder is lighting up the sales charts with its seven seats and a newly luxurious, efficient and smooth driving experience. Far from going soft, the Pathfinder is still able to do all the truck-like things that made its previous body-on-frame models so memorable.

The TopSpeed Garage is much classier with the 2014 Pathfinder Platinum in "valet 1st position" out front.

Have kid-friendly features totally stomped out the lenedary toughness of the chiseled hardbody Nissan SUV’s from the 1980s? The irrelevance of this question is pretty clear. This is a business, and Nissan knows it.

We’re thrilled to report that the Pathfinder has not lost its way.

Guiding the trails like it did as one of the first semi-premium, imported SUVs in the 1980s, the Pathfinder is on a new trail now — a much smoother trail. One that has dual video monitors in back, a sliding/reclining second row to stretch out with the wireless headphones, and even a heated rear seats for the ultimate in couch potato lounge amenities in back.

But what about the irritating and non-premium character of most previous CVT automatics?

As confessed CVT haters and without rug-rats (yet), our expectations were quite mixed before the 2014 Pathfinder Platinum rolled into the TopSpeed Garage . The latest CVT automatic is standard and truly is a new breed of lightweight and economical transmissions, and we took a quick video of a brake torque launch to show how snappy this new Xtronic box is.

Click past the jump for the full TopSpeed Garage review of the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4x4, by far one of the most impressive seven-seat crossovers on the market.

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The swinging 60s just brings up this roasted and muddy air of sex, sweat and drugs. Enough to intoxicate even the plastic hippies among us, the 1960s is rapidly becoming the most profitable segment of the classic supercar market.

And for good reason. Simple leather is mixed with gasoline until emotions boil. This list spans such greats as the Ferrari 250GT California Spider LWB Competizione to the 365 GTB/4 Daytona . And what a long, strange trip it was between those two masterpieces.

The birth of the Porsche 911 , the Aston Martin DB5 , the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40, the Maserati Ghibli Spyder and many more.

All of the cars from this era are rich in prose. Sean Connery’s name pops up repeatedly, and so does Steve McQueen and Sir Paul McCartney. These were mens’ men in a time of changing morals on a global scale.

But the coupes and ragtops these gents preferred are really fit for the ages. So throw on some Aviators and slip into your slimmest racing loafers.

Click past the jump for a sunny-Sunday donut run in the Top-Ten Best Supercars from the 1960s.

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Infiniti’s name change is starting to take hold with the QX50 and QX80 officially carry over from their previous nameplates aside from the new badges. The name change is hard to swallow. Let’s just get that in the open.

Not only are the new names confusing, but they ditch all the old short-hand for model and engine size. One upside I know from starting my career as an Infiniti dealer runner is to call the pronounce the name differently. QX4 became "Q by four" - and so QX50 could be called "Q by 50." Still not exactly peachy to say, but I digress.

The EX37 is now the QX50 for 2014, and comes in four flavors of trim and rear- or all-wheel-drive traction from about $35,000. Where does this model fit with the new Infiniti Q50 that is leading the brand?

Style-wise, the crossover QX50 was never really the centerfold of its first-gen FX cousins. Even so, it is an even closer replica of a G35 wagon that was never offered stateside. Near-perfect weight distribution, a 325-horsepower engine and a swanky seven-speed automatic are still the main benefits of this sporty crossover.

Quality and interior luxury is up there as well, but certainly not space, with no quoted figure for the seats-down luggage capacity, one has to fear the worst.

How does the 2014 QX50 stack up versus the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class , the Audi A4 Allroad or the cute BMW X1 ?

Click past the jump for all the details from Infiniti on the freshly-renamed QX50.

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Dream cars are such a regular and normal part of every car guy and gal’s life growing up. Waiting for that license, dreaming about the wild places you will go and friends you might meet. For generations of enthusiasts until the 1950s, however, such dreams were so unattainable they were foolish.

The only non-mass-market car around was the coach-built Phaeton from Rolls-Royce , Mercedes-Benz or Duesenberg .

Such was the gulf between the rich and poor at the time that it makes today’s 99-percent protests seem as ridiculous as they are. In those days, the ratio was more like 99.99999 percent versus the 0.00001 percent.

You can probably guess which group we and most young car shoppers would fall into. And it is not the one with the nines.

For a generation of hot-shot former military officers, pilots and engineers: coming home from the battle fronts of Europe and the Pacific had whet their appetites for speed. The enormous volume of men and women enchanted by steel machinery during wartime was unprecedented.

But coming home, the cars these speed demons found were lumbering, great heavy beasts with no power and little cornering ability whatsoever. These men were chasing the rush they felt in fighter bombers - but in a stylish and affordable package.

The Corvette from 1953 was the answer to these wishes and much, much more. Initially just a throw-away concept for the Motorama events, such was the demand that Chevy had no choice but to produce the car for sale.

But those shapes could never be made in steel! And never made in time to get the car to eager buyers. So a stop-gap solution was born to make the panels out of fiberglass over a ladder frame chassis. Little did the fabricators know, this template would underpin America’s sports car for the next 75 years or more.

The Chevrolet Corvette C1 is a very special automobile. Collected here are three incredible examples of this ground-breaking achievement for affordable dream cars ever since.

Click past the jump for this debrief of the 1953-1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1.

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The latest Dodge Charger Pursuit just spanked its two arch-rivals in another high-speed test session by the Michigan State Police , whose data and recommendations are highly regarded in the law enforcement community. And can you blame them for choosing the only model running a Hemi V-8 to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic?

You read that right. The latest Charger is not only on the police order books as a rear-drive V-6 and V-8, but now also with the V-8 to all four wheels.

This is big news because it effectively makes the Charger Pursuit as one of the fastest cars on American highways — year round. With a powertrain and seamless AWD system offered for the V-8, the Charger is hotter than ever below its menacing panels.

No big changes outside since the 2012 refresh brought and updated nose and the full LED racetrack of brake lights in back. Even so, the numerous combinations of police-ready trims are enough to make even a grown man tinkle himself a little when viewed in the rearview mirror.

Such a mean grille surely lets any driver know that a big ticket is coming. Why? The Charger is most popular among money-generating State Highway Patrols versus the boring Tahoe and Taurus Interceptor PPV ’s run by suburban mall cops.

The big Charger Pursuit in your rearview means no chance of escape. The old Pursuit Hemi was able to char the freeways at 160 mph-plus top speed, with a 60 mph sprint now projected to be as low as 5.7 seconds for the AWD Hemi.

What red-blooded cop would turn down this as a daily driver?

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Dodge Charger Pursuit, with details on its newly-available AWD on the potent Hemi V-8.


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