Richard Rowe

If you’ve never seen this name before, it isn’t for lack of sheer volume. Since he began writing professionally in 2009, Richard’s stuffed the web with approximately a million words a year on subjects ranging from automotive tech to the environment, from economics to politics. In terms of word count, that’s the King James Bible about seven times over, the entire Lord of the Rings series nine times over, and every issue of Hot Rod Magazine since 1992. Or, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, times the number of female Kardashians, probably including Bruce Jenner. And he still can’t figure out how to use pronouns when writing about himself in third person (Richard, not Bruce Jenner). His role models include Benjamin Franklin, Hannibal Barca and Courtney Love.

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Mythbusting: American vs European vs Asian Cars

Mythbusting: American vs European vs Asian Cars

Here’s how the world works: Asia’s known for high value, compact cars that handle well; America builds cheaper versions of European cars that are fast in a straight line but can’t go around a corner; and Germany...Germany is responsible for the fact that I can’t seem to write a single article without making at least one WWII reference.

But, that story is old and well-known — much like the well-known automotive paradigm we’ve all become accustomed to over the years. But the stereotypes that we’ve gotten used to over the years don’t entirely bear out under closer inspection. That’s true looking back over history, and even more so today. Yes, there was a time when America was known for luxury and handling, Europe straight-line speed and Japan tough trucks. But time marches on, and today is a lot more like the distant past than the decades most of us might remember.

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the myths and stereotypes we’ve built up over the years, and check how they compare to modern reality. For sure, the 2009 recession shook the settled order like a snow-globe of expectations, and we’re in a different world now. How different?

Depends on how you look at it.

Continue reading for the full story.

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The 5 Best Performance Cars for Dog Owners

The 5 Best Performance Cars for Dog Owners

According to the internet, some little outfit called "Autotrader" just released its list of the best cars for dog owners. There was a Volvo and an Audi. Not too bad. Then a Honda minivan, and a couple of soft-UVs. And of course, the inimitable Kia Soul. Good enough.
If you’re feeling a little more...exuberant...Gayoh.com suggests a Mazda Miata, which is somehow both wrong, and completely contextually correct. But somehow a bit less so than the Nissan Juke Autotrader recommended. Huh.

Autotrader’s criteria included a low ride height, rear lift-gate for doggy entry, a rear cargo area, fold-flat rear seats and a few others we’ll get into shortly. Ours are more along the lines of rubber carpet for easy clean-up after slalom maneuvers, Alcantara inserts to keep Schnauzer from the glove compartment under braking, and enough power to pin Scooby to his seat while accelerating into the carpool lane. Consumer Reports, we ain’t.

Because at the end of the day, the real best vehicle for dogs will always be a 1976 Ford van. Anything other than that is a compromise. So, since we’re compromising anyway, might as well do it in the name of fun for driver and dog alike.

Continue reading for my somewhat, um... unorthodox version of a common and important topic.

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Top 10 Military Technologies Used In Cars

Top 10 Military Technologies Used In Cars

They say the Devil takes all of man’s best ideas, and turns them to evil intent. They also say that blowing stuff up is awesome, and military equipment is some of the coolest stuff on Earth. Cars...well, they’re a little bit of all of the above.

This article’s pretty straightforward: Topspeed’s list of the Top 10 military technologies to find their way into automobiles. Why 10? Because five wasn’t enough to cover the best ones, and "practically everything ever invented" wouldn’t fit within word count. Indeed, from fuel cell to front bumper, the average car is absolutely packed with ideas that were formed in the crucible of war. Even the wheel itself probably started out on war chariots back in the Bronze Age.

But this article’s going to focus on military innovations within America’s wartime history. Meaning, pretty much since there’s been an America. Even that list could go on for decades; the Devil’s been pretty busy of late. But, we’ve got self-driving hybrid supercars going 300 mph now, and Lamborghinis modeled after stealth fighters. So, maybe it all worked out for the best.

Here’s the list.

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The Honda Type R Through The Ages

The Honda Type R Through The Ages

The Big Red "R" — sorcery, available from any Pep Boys for $4.89. Sticking one to your trunk lid will instantly make it a JDM piece. The Big Red "R" will add 90 percent to the value of your car, turn automatics into five-speed manuals, and make more power than an SR20 in a 2009 Honda S2000. It’ll allow any Kia to corner like the Batmobile, and front-drive Toyotas to wheel-stand like a 70’s Dodge Charger RT. The Big Red "R" is quite simply, magical.

But behind that magic lay the secret of The "R’s" true power: a mystical force known as "Sochiro Honda." Some say he was a half-demon born in the forests of Japan, and raised by evil spirits to master the ways of speed. Others say he hailed from parts unknown, challenging any who passed to contests of skill and absorbing their power — his soul now awaits The Chosen One in a long-lost, titanium VTEC actuator.

All we know is, Honda sure built some bad-ass cars...and The Big Red "R" was on all of them.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Exit, the Dragon: China's Economic Meltdown, and What it Means for Our Auto Industry

Exit, the Dragon: China’s Economic Meltdown, and What it Means for Our Auto Industry

Global capitalism. Say what you will — it is a cesspool. Capitalism is a disgusting mass of greed and self-service, benefitting primarily the wealthiest, most corrupt and most powerful among us. It’s self-limiting, self-defeating, and self-corrupting. Global capitalism is a cesspool. But it’s our cesspool, and America knows it like no other. We were born there, after all.

What we know as modern free-market capitalism got its birth certificate the same year America did: 1776, when Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations. That book shook the world, and forever changed how we would regulate economies and approach global trade. By the time our Constitution was ratified 11 years later, without a doubt, the guys who wrote our founding documents framed it with accommodation of Smith’s ideas in mind. The Constitution wasn’t quite written around free market trade. But there’s no disputing that capitalism is at least part of our national DNA.

China, on the other hand...well, put it like this: Going from a completely insular, self-contained, 5,000-year-old monarchy to an anti-capitalist commune does not prepare one’s immune system well for the cesspool that is global trade. When your most reliable economic indicator is the daily number of stock brokers leaping from skyscrapers, something has gone seriously wrong in the matrix.

So, with China’s economy stuttering to a standstill, and the yuan down 3.6 percent overnight to the dollar, the question today is: What does all this mean to us? All right, that’s not the question. There are others. But here in the heart of the cesspool, we’ve learned to focus on the one. Let’s get to it.

Note: Main Image via Yaxue Cao

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The Evolution Of The Supercar

The Evolution Of The Supercar

"In the beginning, there was the 1966 Lamborghini Miura. And it was good." That’s the standard dogma, the canonical story. But does the evolution of the supercar really begin with the Miura...or end there?

The Miura was a groundbreaking car, for sure; it was luxurious, fast, mid-engined, cutting-edge and a high-end exotic. Sounds like the first supercar, right? But that configuration wasn’t created fully formed from an Italian’s rib. It started out in a primordial soup of ideas...this legendary Lamborghini was ultimately shaped by its environment. And the truth is, the Miura may be much closer to the end of its evolutionary line than the beginning.

Supercars have long come to represent the razor’s edge of technology. They’re not just the fastest or most luxurious cars on the road; supercars above all else represent the latest and greatest technologies on offer. They drive the progress, the evolution of all automobiles by throwing the latest mutation into the crucible of competition, ensuring that only the strongest of ideas survive.

In this article, I’m going to trace the evolution of the supercar all the way from its primordial form up to the carbon-fiber, hybrid monsters on offer today. Along the way we’ll visit that "first" supercar. But really, the Miura is just a newer branch on one very tall evolutionary tree. This story ends where others might begin it...and begins at the end of an era.

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2016 BMW 320d ED Sport

2016 BMW 320d ED Sport

Diesel has had a hard time catching on in the world. It’s not that it isn’t fantastically efficient, or doesn’t offer stellar performance potential. Ask Gale Banks or Wayne Gerdes (both world record holders in top speed and fuel economy) about diesel’s performance potential. But the simple fact is that frugal isn’t sexy, and sex sells cars. Cars sell on big, loud and stupid awesome as much as anything else — and BMW at least seems to be slowly adapting to that reality.

The 3 Series has long been a Bimmer staple, and diesel models have been favored by those who want BMW chassis dynamics but care more about fuel economy than straight-line performance. The last 320d certainly did provide some of the best of both worlds, but it still wasn’t quite enough to take advantage of the carbon taxation incentives offered in the civilized world. A of couple years ago, BMW upped its efficiency game with the 320 EfficientDynamics package, which used a combination of efficiency refinements to drop the 320d down a tax bracket.

But in spite of saving the average European driver a whopping $87 a month in taxes alone, the 320d ED failed to impress in the sex appeal department. No more, though. As with most of life’s problems, this one proved easy to solve with little more than the addition of a snazzy body kit.

Continue reading for the full story.

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2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR

2016 Volkswagen Golf TCR

On its best days, badge engineering is usually a cynical exercise in marketing and recycling of used chassis. On its worst day, it makes for brand-killers like the Cadillac Cimmaron and Catera. But every once in a great while, when the stars align just right and Venus is in the proper stage of ascension, re-badging a used chassis might just get you something beautiful and glorious. A car that feels like what it was always meant to be — a car like the VW Golf TCR.

While we here in the States eagerly await the new 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, Volkswagen has unveiled one pretty sweet re-badging job. The car you’re looking at is, in no uncertain terms, a 2013 Seat Leon Cup Racer with a new Golf body. No more, and certainly no less. Of course, it’s also still a Golf, because the Seat itself is a re-badged Golf. So maybe this is just a case of a car returning to its brand. Still, this is one sick little race-ready ride for those who just can’t wait to represent Wolfsburg on the race track.

Continue reading for the full story Volkswagen Golf TCR.

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Top 5 Used Cars that Teen Drivers Won't Hate

Top 5 Used Cars that Teen Drivers Won’t Hate

For helping to find the best cars for teens, the internet is completely useless. (Um, present company excepted.) Of course, you probably already know that, having likely found this article in your Google search results among similar lists compiled by people who have long forgotten life before mortgages. Oh, yes, Forbes — do tell how every teen would simply love a 2012 Kia. Because that’s totally a thing that your average 16-year-old could afford to buy and insure, and it will never wind up hidden in shame at the back of the biggest parking lot available. Yup. Rock on, old people.

But, maybe that’s being a little unfair to parents. Fact is, most teens will end up with hand-me-downs anyway, and you want them to have something that’s reliable, practical and above all, safe. The sobering reality here is that automobile accidents are by far the No.1 killer of people 15 to 19 years old. Forget suicide, murder, poisoning and drugs like The Reefer — car accidents typically kill more teens every year than all of those things combined.

So, there’s a fine balance to strike here. As a parent, you don’t want to put your kids in a deathtrap or encourage them to be self-destructive hooligans. But as a teenager, it’s pretty much your full-time job to be a self-destructive hooligan. About the only thing both parties can agree on is that they don’t want to spend a fortune in buy-in, insurance and gas.

So, here’s Topspeed’s list of five vehicles that tick everybody’s boxes — or at least make for a decent compromise. We’re going back 20 years, primarily on the basis that hand-me-downs and buying cheap are primary considerations for most people. But unlike most people, we’re also going to take into account style, customization opportunities, how the car fits into the average teen’s lifestyle, and (deep breath) even sportiness. In short, all the stuff that goes into picking out a car that teens won’t hate.

Continue reading for the full story.

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2015 Fiat 500 "I Defend Gala 2015" One-Off Edition

2015 Fiat 500 "I Defend Gala 2015" One-Off Edition

"The very rich are different from you and me," Fitzgerald once wrote. Let’s hope so. Let’s really hope so.

If you could capture and amplify the thoughts of most people upon seeing this Fiat, the collective "What the Hell??" would be heard around the world. This year, Fiat arrives at what is probably the world’s greatest and richest charity event. They do so with a one-off car destined for the auction block; the attendees will hopefully assist with checkbooks at the ready.

In the meantime, let’s take a moment to step back and truly appreciate one work of art(?) that could truly stand to make a difference in the world — especially to the lives of people who are very different from you and me.

Continue reading to learn more about the Fiat 500 "I Defend Gala 2015" One-Off Edition.

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2016 Morgan AR Plus 4

2016 Morgan AR Plus 4

They say Porsche’s been building the same car for decades. But next to Morgan, Porsche looks like Lexus 2050. So tightly has Morgan held to tradition that not only do its new cars look like they might have been designed in 1950, they’re built like it, too. As of right now, Morgan is the only car company in the world to build its frames out of wood. Yes, wood. As in, the stuff that used to be trees; in this case, ash trees harvested locally from the Malvern Hills. Now that’s tradition.

Of course, you’d expect a car company so deliberately steeped in the grandiose past to plan something big for a notable commemoration. This year marks the 65th birthday of the company’s most successful model, the Plus 4. While 65 years old is technically old enough to collect a pension in England, Morgan’s limited run of 50, Cosworth-powered AR Plus 4 proves that this dapper old chap isn’t quite ready for the retirement home yet.

Continue reading to learn more about the Morgan AR Plus 4.

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The 5 Most Important Cars in the Evolution of the Hot-Rod

The 5 Most Important Cars in the Evolution of the Hot-Rod

The world today is full of all kinds of incredible hot rods. Open the pages of any magazine, and you’ll see everything from low-buck, stripped-down street thrashers that specialize in straight-line acceleration, to mega-dollar, high-tech dyno queens set for glory on the autocross. You might see a brand-new fuel injected Camaro side-by-side with a primer-gray Chevy Nova, or a chromed-out rail job parked next to a monochrome musclecar. On the surface, these vehicles seem to share very little in common, other than the fact that they’re all hot rods.

This hobby has evolved quite a lot over the years; it’s split and schism’d enough times to have a real family tree, with each modern hot rod having a distinct genealogy of its own, True, some of the branches of the family tree wound up pretty short. But other progenitors went on to sire long and proud family lines.

Here’s my list of the most important hot rods of all time; the ones that changed history, created new forks on the family tree, and left a bit of their DNA behind in all that would follow.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Traxxas Summit Vs. Full-Sized 4WD

Traxxas Summit Vs. Full-Sized 4WD

Let’s face it — it’s not easy being an off-road RC truck kind of person. Off-roader RC vehicles don’t have the crowd-drawing awe factor of RC airplanes, which at 500 feet of altitude at least look plausibly full-scale. Dirt buggies don’t have the poncy F1 appeal of road racers, those studies in design sophistication and engineering. Off-road trucks are just bashers — pure, pointless, unadulterated fun sure to draw the ire of those too boring to see the value in juvenile hooliganism.

But even we juvenile delinquents aren’t immune to getting smarter with age — and neither are our toy makers. Traxxas got into the basher business a few decades ago, and quickly catapulted the ready-to-run scene from cute little hobby shop toys to full on psychotic racers. Recently, we published an article on one of the company’s latest dalliances into non-dirt applications: the mind-blowing XO-1 Supercar. AKA, "The fastest thing ever to come out of a box since .50 cal BMG ammunition." (Incidentally, also popular in Texas.) There, we compared the XO-1 to its full-scale electric counterpart, the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D — and they scored a lot closer in a lot of ways than you might expect.

But don’t think for a second that Traxxas has forgotten its dirty, rocky roots. In this article, we’re going to compare their latest Summit off-roader to some of the best full-scale off-roaders on the market today, to see how small-scale tech has kept up with stuff we can actually sit in. It probably won’t shock you to learn that a lot of the big, dumb simplicity that makes great off-roaders truly great has transferred over. But in the details, you may be surprised to discover exactly how high the "summit" of full-scale tech reaches in this very short-scale truck.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Self-Driving Cars II — How They'll Change Everything

Self-Driving Cars II — How They’ll Change Everything

This is Part II of a two-part article on the long-run timeline and impact of that "disruptive innovation" known as "self-driving cars." If you haven’t read the first part yet, now would probably be a pretty good time. Otherwise, a lot of this isn’t going to make much sense.

Robot cars have been a long dream coming. In the last article, I went over the timeline from 80 years back, when they were first envisioned, to about 55 years from now. That’s a good bit further than most experts have gone as far as establishing timelines; and this article will go a lot further than any have gone in every other way. All the way to our own dream — our own Futurama.

In the last article, comparing self-driving cars to an asteroid crashing into the Earth probably came off as a wee bit hyperbolic. Fair enough — I’ll stipulate that. It’s not as though faster cars and new highways in and of themselves represent a turning point in human history. Nothing especially disruptive about that. But that’s barely the tip of the iceberg; there’s a whole world of consequences, good and bad, sure to follow within our lifetimes. Hard to believe now, but these robots could end up undoing everything about our future as we thought we knew it.

Mostly, by undoing our cultural past — all the way back to the Industrial Revolution.

How’s that for "disruptive?"

Read on to find out what the robots have in store for us, and where our economic future ends with them in charge.

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Self-Driving Cars, Timeline

Self-Driving Cars, Timeline

Disruptive innovation. Disruptive. Innovation. You know, I think that might be my favorite two-word phrase of all time. Better than “first car” or “first kiss,” better than “Buick Regal,” “I do” or even “Your place.” There’s just something about those words that sings true to everything right (or at least constructively anarchist) in my being.

“Disruptive innovation.”

Punk rock.

An innovation is said to be “disruptive” when it forces a rapid enough change to an entire market that those involved will either be forced to adopt an entirely new business model, or shut doors forever. It creates entirely new markets and value systems by designing for a new set of consumers, and eventually drops prices for existing consumers. Some examples might include the Model T for automobiles, Wikipedia for traditional encyclopedias, LEDs for light bulbs, computer printing to movable type, and of course (here’s looking at you, kid), the internet. Disruptive innovation is like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs; it’s London burning and plague rats rolled into one – particularly if you happen to get caught on the wrong side of it.

Here in this century – nevermind electric cars or clean energy – self-driving cars will almost certainly prove to be the most disruptive innovation since the steam engine. Or at least the Model T. Not just to the automobile industry, either; to every industry with which automobiles are even tangentially connected, including mining, manufacturing and of course, energy. That might sound like hyperbole, but you can bet that the guys with the big wallets take this looming disruption very seriously indeed.

You have to wonder if the dinosaurs did the same – just before it was too late to matter.

In this two-part article, we’re first going to look at the surprisingly long timeline of the self-driving car, from the first radio control systems proposed all the way back at the 1939 World’s Fair, to the ultimate evolution of its visionary concept. We’re going to go way past the “Level 4” self-driving systems most people imagine when they hear the words “autonomous car,” and crank this disruptively technological dial all the way up to 11. You might be surprised at how close we already are to unbelievable things, how much closer we’re getting to the almost unimaginable, and how much we already owe to those who imagined those things first.

The second half of this article will be something like the second half of the “Future of Electric Cars," published last month. In the second part, we’re going to go into the social (and more importantly) economic aspects of the self-driving systems we’ll have soon. There’s a reason manufacturers and oil barons are terrified of these things; you’ll find out exactly why they fear this particular asteroid so much in the second half.

Then again, it’s not as though they didn’t have plenty of warning. Unlike the dinosaurs, auto manufacturers have seen this fireball coming for almost a century. And that’s where we start – with the first glimpse of one disruptive innovation, and a techno-punk vision that will shape our future.

Continue reading for the full story.

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What Kind Of Headlights Are Best?

What Kind Of Headlights Are Best?

It’s been a long, dark road since the earliest days of car lighting, when the best you could hope for was a decent gas lamp that wouldn’t blow up when lit. Of course, back then, the weak glow of a flame in a jar was perfectly adequate for travel on dirt horse tracks at trotting speed. Since then, cars have gotten a lot faster, but human reaction time has remained about the same. That’s necessitated a whole new generation of lights to see further down the road and give us time to react to hyperspeed problems.

But more than that, headlights have become a kind of functional fashion statement — a "look at me" way of telling the world we’ve got the latest and greatest tech under the hood. It should come as no surprise then that the people who specialize in high-tech and high speed (the Germans) have provided us with the majority of headlight advances over the years; Bosch, specifically, has become a name brand in seeing where you’re going.

Yes, it seems like we’re forever coming up with new and better ways to cast photons down the road ahead of us. So which ones are best, which are pointless, and which are only around so you can tell people your car has frickin’ laser beams in its eyes?

Read on.

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How Do You Hypermile?

How Do You Hypermile?

In just the last week, we’ve seen three separate fuel economy records fall and go permanently to rest. Probably the biggest and most important, the record for non-hybrid fuel consumption on a long-distance trip. After trekking across 48 states and 8,233 miles, the driver of a certain bone stock 2015 VW Golf diesel managed a truly stunning 81.7 mpg — in a car rated for 32 city and 44 highway mpg. And who, might you ask, managed this incredible feat of skill and determination? Why, that would be Wayne Gerdes — the very man who coined the term "hypermiling" so many years ago.

The idea of driving a car for maximum fuel economy isn’t entirely new, but it did catapult into notoriety some years back with the birth of hypermiling. As our newest extreme motorsport, hypermiling quickly (and quietly) found a home among engineers, scientists, and other people who enjoy talking about things like adiabetic efficiency and the First Law of Thermodynamics.

That might not sound like the most exciting company in the world — but there was a lot of science, a lot of technical stuff and a lot of trial and error in the beginning. All very science-y. But now, after many years and many records fallen, hypermiling’s anorak forefathers have finally cracked the code of how to regularly double the average car’s gas mileage with driving technique alone. In truth, the specifics are all still very technical, and techniques will still vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle, and road to road. But here’s a basic primer to get you started on doubling your fuel economy with nothing more than patience, brains and precision driving.

Continue reading for the full story.

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2016 Stella Lux

2016 Stella Lux

You don’t see too many turning points in the world of automotive history — most often, incredible and impossible developments tend to fly under the radar until some major manufacturer adopts them. It’s not fair to the devolpers, but that’s generally the way it happens. Every once in a while, though, something magical happens, and we get to bear witness to history turning in real time. We get in on the ground floor of impossibility, and get to see the faces of the people weaving it. This may be one such case.

The Dutch never have been afraid to go way out there in the pursuit of greatness — making possibly the best case for drug legalization there is. Hailing from the Netherlands Eindhoven University of Technology, this group of students have accomplished what many have long considered impossible by building the world’s first "energy positive" electric vehicle. That is, an electric car that produces more energy than it uses — a rolling power station.

And better yet, this rolling power station is no cramped, single-seat, three-wheeled x-pod. It’s got four seats, four wheels, five doors, a trunk, and goes plenty fast enough to keep up with traffic on the highways. In short, this rolling power station is a real car.

Here’s how this 22-strong group of flying Dutchmen built the impossible.

Continue reading to learn more about the Stella Lux.

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Jeremy Clarkson Made his Last Lap At Top Gear Test Track

Jeremy Clarkson Made his Last Lap At Top Gear Test Track

It is, officially, the end of an era. Not "official" in the sense that the BBC has announced Jeremy Clarkson is forever gone, but in Clarkson’s own announcement on Twitter of having completed his last lap of the Top Gear test track. After finally recieving word of his firing from the BBC, Clarkson arranged a last lap of the track — and auctioned off the passenger seat for charity. Fair warning: Direct quotes from Clarkson ahead. If you’ve got a problem with F-bombs, now’s the time to seek shelter.
Ed’s note: In the interest of decency, we will paraphrase the F-bombs. But far be it from us to hinder Jeremy’s inimitable style, so in the interest of accuracy, you’ll see where they all went.

Jeremy participated in a press conference before the event, held to raise money for Roundhouse Arts in Camden. What followed was a British curse-fest worthy of The Long Good Friday, directed almost exclusively at his former employers. "I didn’t foresee my sacking but I would like to do one last lap. So I’ll go down to Surrey and I’ll do one last lap of that track before the (F-bombing) bastards sack me." He added afterward "I’ll be a bit tearful when I do it, but (F-bomb) it, let’s do it."

Let’s indeed.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Pavegen - See How Walking Charges A Tesla: Video

Pavegen - See How Walking Charges A Tesla: Video

In other news today, scientists have recently discovered that the unique vibrations of anthracite can cure arthritis, magnets can increase your fuel economy, and Bigfoot recently got engaged to a trans-phobic badger named Lucille. Grainy film at 11.

Yes, the world is full of fantastic claims and mythical inventions. Seems like everybody’s got that next great world-changing idea — or at least has an uncle who knows somebody who once saw a 200 mpg carburetor. In a world where no wolf goes un-cried, it’s easy to get caught up in cynicism when someone releases a video of something that seems too good to be true, because it usually is. But sometimes, the unbelievably great is unbelievable simply because it is that great. It does happen from time to time. Unique solutions always seem weird at first; someone probably would have thought the same of solar cells 120 years ago. And yet, here they are, seemingly powering everyone but the United States.

So, is Pavegen the next big thing, or the next magic magnet bracelet? Hard to say — but it’s definitely cool enough to warrant a look. And nobody wants to be that doofus who said solar cells would never take off.

Continue reading for the full story.

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The 5 Most Popular Car Colors

The 5 Most Popular Car Colors

Tastes change over the years, just like times and people. Back in the day, when cars were something of a novelty and paint tech was in its infancy, the palette ran from pure primary colors to something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

But over the years, as paint tech evolved and cars got cheaper and more commonplace, subtler metallic and Earth tones showed up to add a bit of interest without overwhelming the senses. For sure, there have been times and places when the roads once again began to look like a box of crayons — but even during the "high impact" days of the 1960s, cool blues and utilitarian whites were far and away the most common shades.

Today, subtle shades still dominate — but tastes have changed, and exactly how they’ve changed varies from place to place and market to market.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Tesla P85D vs Traxxas XO-1

Tesla P85D vs Traxxas XO-1

It’s a question that both electric car and RC car fans have been asking for decades: "If we’ve already got all these great electric radio-control race cars, why are auto manufacturers constantly trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of electric car design? Why doesn’t someone just take a 1/10th scale electric racer, and make it 10 times bigger?" Seems like a simple enough solution, doesn’t it? But making small things bigger often takes someone who isn’t afraid to think big: enter Elon Musk.

In this article, we’re going to compare two cars that at first blush seem very different — but look a bit closer, and you’ll find that they have a lot more in common than not. Both are high-dollar, top-echelon electric cars with surprisingly similar chassis architecture. Both use all-wheel drive, stupid-powerful electric motors, lithium batteries, sophisticated electronic controls and advanced aerodynamics, and both are far and away the fastest, coolest and most desirable vehicles in their niches. They even share the same iPhone compatibility, and eerily similar "digital dashboards."

So, is the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D a scaled-up Traxxas XO-1 Supercar, or is the Traxxas a 1/7th scale Tesla? How different and how similar are these cars, exactly? The answers might surprise you.

Continue reading for the full story.

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What Would The Avengers Drive?

What Would The Avengers Drive?

To some of us here at TopSpeed, the world may be all about cars — but from time to time, the world on which we drive needs protecting from some great and cosmic evil. Be it suspension-caving potholes, rising sea levels, terrorist plots, or interstellar space gods bent on wiping out all life in the universe to win the affections of Death herself; sometimes, we just need a hero. And when that day inevitably comes, it would be nice to know what those heroes will be driving.

I’m a huge comic fan — have been for many years. But then again, so are a lot of people these days. Thanks largely to the Batman films and Marvel Cinematic Universe, people around the world now know more (on average) about the Marvel canon than ever.

If all goes well, and the Power Cosmic is with us, this will be the first in a series of articles — an "Ultimate Crossover," if you will, between the heroes and villains of Marvel/DC and the cars they’d drive here on Earth-616. We’re starting with the MCU Avengers, on the basis that they’re kind of a big deal right now; especially given the coming transition into Phase III films, and the complete print reboot slated to follow Battle World.

Wait...did none of that mean anything to you? Don’t worry. Because the whole point of this Ultimate Crossover is to bring together the two most obsessive-compulsive groups on Earth (gearheads and comic fans), and smash everyone up into an overwhelming orgy of nerd-tastic nitpicking concerning details somehow both bitterly contentious and gloriously irrelevant. At this point, we’re really just a few gamers short of "There Will be Blood." Though that’s probably also about as inevitable as a Stan Lee cameo.

Ground rules: All vehicles have to be production models no more than 5-ish years old. They have to have at least four wheels (so no motorcycles, because who cares about motorcycles), and must be available for sale to the general public. Those are the unalterable, indisputable, not-up-for-debate rules. Now watch as I blatantly violate at least one of them in this very article.

So, if you like this bit of scribble, and our Ultimate Crossover Series, feel free to comment, share, and let me know what characters from the Marvel/DC universes you’d like to see in future installments. I’m thinking either X-Men or MCU villains next. Be sure to speak up in the comments.

Let the pointless nitpicking commence!

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How Do Magnetic Shocks Work?

How Do Magnetic Shocks Work?

Things in the automotive world usually move pretty slowly, and it’s rare that any one manufacturer will completely catch everyone else out on a particular technology. But when Skunkworks-silent engineering combines with excellent patent protection, the result can be either an industry-wide revolution, a comedy of errors as others attempt to catch up, or both.

Youngsters might take electronically adjustable dampers for granted today — but it wasn’t long ago when a set of Edelbrock IAS shocks represented the pinnacle of suspension control technology. Yes, back in that ancient era known as "the 1990s," the idea of electron-quick suspension response seemed the stuff of sci-fi pipe dreams. But somewhere between Sliders and X-Files, a little American company (previously known primarily for floaty, retiree-spec luxo barges) brought to the mass-market a revolution in handling equipment.

That left the public speechless; partly in shock, but mostly because nobody could figure out how to pronounce "magnetorheological dampers."

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Batman's New Ride Officially Unveiled — Is it a HYBRID??

Batman’s New Ride Officially Unveiled — Is it a HYBRID??

The Batmobile has always been kind of a cultural barometer, and every generation has its own. This car has become such a cultural icon that even spell-check recognizes "Batmobile" as a legitimate word — go ahead, try it. Batman’s gone through a lot of rides from his original (red?) Hudson Hornet, through to Christopher Nolan’s incredible "Tumbler" tank. It was a convertible Lincoln Futura in the psychedelic ’60s. It was a Corvette in the ’80s; and the 1990s animated series brought us a sinister streamliner said to have inspired the world-changing 2003 Cadillac Sixteen Concept. In Batman Forever — well, let’s not talk about that one.

Many cried foul when Nolan brought the Batmobile back as a sky-hopping armored tank with massive steamroller tires in 2005’s Batman Begins. But in retrospect, we can see that was just another example of The Dark Knight’s ride serving as a cultural barometer. At least, considering the number of armored vehicles that were on the news in 2005.

But times change, and the Batmobile changes with them. At the 2015 Las Vegas Licensing Expo, we got our first glimpse of the Batmobile due to appear in 2016’s Dawn of Justice. Let’s take a closer look, and see what this generation’s Batmobile might say about its time.

Continue reading for the full story.

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What Would Steve McQueen Drive Today?

What Would Steve McQueen Drive Today?

Forget James Dean — he couldn’t drive. Forget James Bond — he wasn’t even real. Forget any James you please, because even 35 years on, Steve McQueen is still the yardstick of cool for gearheads worldwide.

Kids today might look at people like the late Paul Walker as being icons of motoring stardom, but Walker was merely a would-be inheritor of McQueen’s crown. He knew it, too — remember O’Connor’s nickname in the F&F series? That would be "Bullitt," a direct reference to Steve McQueen and the most famous car chase ever put to film.

McQueen’s impact extends a lot further than Hollywood, too; it’s probably no coincidence that almost every model of car he ever owned or drove has been brought back to production, never went out of production, or still exists in the form of a modern successor. Sadly, Steve himself is no longer with us. Though it is worth mentioning that he probably went out in the most gearhead way possible: from years of exposure to asbestos-lined fireproof racing suits. Hard core.

But aside from a long legacy of cars, film and influence, we’re still decades removed from the last thing the King of Cool actually drove. With word afresh of his last ride (a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera) going up for auction in Monterey, now is as good a time as any to ask:

What might we find in Steve McQueen’s garage today?

Continue reading for the full story.

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Hammond and May to Turn Down $6 Million BBC Deal and Join Clarkson on Netflix

Hammond and May to Turn Down $6 Million BBC Deal and Join Clarkson on Netflix

"A faithful man shall abound with blessings, but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." That’s a quote from Proverbs, but it could just as easily have been from James May and Richard Hammond’s response to the BBC’s latest offer.

Continue reading to read the full story.

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Motion Pro II - World's Most Dangerous Driving Simulator

Motion Pro II - World’s Most Dangerous Driving Simulator

If you’re like almost every other person reading this, then as a kid you probably would have given anything to have one of those old arcade driving games in your living room. While everyone else spent their quarters on Mortal Kombat or Golden Axe, you honed the driving skills you knew would one day bring you glory on F1GP, Virtua Racing...maybe Crazy Taxi, on a light day.

But deep down, you always longed for that military-grade simulator sitting in your living room — every track and race car in the world at your disposal, complete with ultra-realistic force-feedback and IMAX screen. You wanted to feel the danger. A couple decades later, L.A.-based CXC Simulations answered that call — and its answer is "Be careful what you wish for."

Continue reading to learn more about the Motion Pro II.

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Castrol Reveals Titanium Strong Virtual Drift: Video

Castrol Reveals Titanium Strong Virtual Drift: Video

What you’re about to see is one hundred percent completely real. It’s not just footage of a guy with a silly virtual reality helmet on his head, intermittently edited with some way ridiculous CGI. The CGI in question is exactly what stunt driver Matt Powers really sees, in real time, while driving. So set aside your fully justified mistrust of the internet for a moment, and just take in the glorious awesomeness of "Titanium Strong: Virtual Drift."

Castrol’s been making a lot of headlines lately with its crazy internet ads featuring cars drifting in different places, from aircraft carriers to helicopter-borne chunks of road. All of them have featured a pretty healthy dose of CGI — so maybe it’s not so strange that Castrol would take the next logical step and get rid of reality altogether. At least for Powers himself.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Lamborghini Announces "Track and Play" For The End Of 2015: Video

Lamborghini Announces "Track and Play" For The End Of 2015: Video

They say life imitates art — and that’s often true. But as often as not, life in the world of the rich and famous seems to imitate fantasy. Most of us have played racing games of some sort, be it Gran Turismo, Forza or Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart’s Super Off-Road. As different as those may or may not be, they have all featured that ultimate in noob-saving devices: the real-time track map. Now, thanks to the power of money, Lamborghini can do the same.

All right, let’s not be too cynical about the "Automobili Lamborghini Track and Play." It is a super-cool accessory, and its technology isn’t that far removed from anything you might find in the typical iOS or Android cell phone. In fact, said cell phones actually play a role in the accessory package itself. How does it work? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Jay Leno Reviews 1964 Honda S600 Frankenstein Rat Rod: Video

Jay Leno Reviews 1964 Honda S600 Frankenstein Rat Rod: Video

Honda’s made its fair share of sports cars over the years; giant killers with a reputation for taking on the biggest boys in Europe with Japanese power, poise and practicality. You’ll probably remember best the most recent of Honda’s almighty go-karts, the S2000 that went out of production in 2009. It’s been the darling of tuners and hot-rodders for more than a decade, a kind of "man’s car" to the Mazda Miata’s...not that. But modern S-Series Hondas aren’t the only ones attracting builders and turning heads — case in point this sick, rat-rodded 1964 S600.

If the tiny S600 seems slightly familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen a perfectly restored stocker featured on Jay Leno’s Garage. This car is that Honda’s evil twin. Built for (as the owner claims) "around $5,000," the faded-and-rust-red S600 here is a true Frankenstein of motorcycle power, BMW drivetrain, Mazda suspension and just a bit of classic Honda sheetmetal on top.

This little beast might not have the looming presence of, say, a Viper — but its howling 12,000 rpm exhaust note certainly makes the point that bad things can come in the smallest packages.

Continue reading for the full story.

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EcoDiesel vs EcoBoost

EcoDiesel vs EcoBoost

So much of life is about choosing the right tool for the job – or at least, knowing what that job is before you choose the tool for it. Take the hammer, for instance. In theory, it’s just a weight on a stick, used for bashing things. But there’s a big difference between a ball peen and a sledge, between a recoil-less claw hammer and a deadblow. Not every hammer will do every job every time.

When Ford introduced its EcoBoost engine in 2009, the stated goal was replacement of all larger-displacement engines with smaller, cleaner, and more fuel efficient turbo powerplants. In some ways, they’ve succeeded; compared to ye olde sledgehammer diesel, the EcoBoost is a slick, high-tech, high-speed nail gun. It’s quick, easy to use, and as sophisticated as anything else that ever did the job.

But the EcoBoost design didn’t come out of nowhere – just the fact that we’re comparing these two very different tools should say something about how much of their designs they owe to each other. These two hammers are starting to look a lot alike. Even so, there’s still a difference. The question today isn’t so much "Which one is the right tool for the job?"

It’s "Which job?"

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Mad Max: Fury Road - Review

Mad Max: Fury Road - Review

There’s no other word for it; Fury “Road is a complete circus. Not "circus" in the P.T. Barnum sense, though that probably wouldn’t be entirely unfair either. More in the Roman sense, referring to places like the Circus Maximus, where chariot-borne gladiators engaged in high-speed duels to the death; brutal, fast-paced spectacles of color and thunder, played to the roar of enthralled audiences, delighting unapologetically in the absurdity of themselves.

Does that seem a little bit old-school? It shouldn’t. George Miller deliberately filmed Fury Road as a follow-up to The Road Warrior, and based a lot of the visuals and styling on the classic Japanese anime Akira. But he could just as well have drawn Fury Road from 80 B.C. than from 1980 A.D. From The Colosseum, with bits of Sparta, Greek naval warfare, and even a bit of Exodus thrown in for good measure.

So, how did Miller work this circus together for Fury Road? Was it really worth the three-decade wait? And how did Bane fare as Mel Gibson’s replacement? Read on.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Audi Brings New Genuine Accessories To Worthersee

Audi Brings New Genuine Accessories To Worthersee

It’s the little-known goal of all corporations big enough to pursue it — put competitors out of business as often as possible. It’s not intentional, it’s just a natural outgrowth of expanding into occupied markets. Right now, from Audi’s perspective at least, the biggest problem with aftermarket accessories is that they’re just that: after. After you leave Audi and wind up at Pep Boys, or your local speed shop, or an online marketplace.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite as cynical as that. Audi is a good brand, and its customers are some of the most loyal on Earth. Stands to reason that the average Audi customer would be happy to find the four rings on every gadget and doodad the well-equipped motorist might need or want. Get ready to lose your market share, Pep Boys — the Germans have landed.

Continue reading for the full story.

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Lyons LM2 Streamliner: Fact or Fiction?

Lyons LM2 Streamliner: Fact or Fiction?

“If you build it, they will come.” Somewhere deep in the heart of every gearhead lies the warmth of a belief. It’s a sort of faith in humanity, a certainty that says “If I just build the best of something, people will buy it.” Sometimes that’s true – but most of the time it isn’t. Kevin Lyons of New York certainly believes it is, and he may be proven right. But between him and the answer to that question lay two more nagging questions: Would his LM2 hypercar actually be the best at anything, and can he even build it?

When Kevin Lyons booked space at the New York Auto show, he told the public he’d be showing up with “America’s Bugatti” — a 1,700 horsepower, carbon-fiber hypercar capable of running 290 mph, hitting 60 mph in 2.2 seconds, running the quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds and coming in at the quite reasonable sum of $1.3 million. What show-goers got was a foam-and-fiberglass styling buck rolled off a flatbed. Big buzz-kill.

But that in itself isn’t a deal-breaker – lots of manufacturers show up to auto shows with styling bucks. Just not nine months before they’re slated to go into production, and not while they’re taking deposits for a car that may or may not work. So is the LM2 automotive vaporware? Is it a scam, a dream, or America’s Bugatti? And are those even the important questions? Maybe we should start with the three questions you have to ask when positioning any new car for sale: Will it perform as advertised, can it be built within budget, and can it be sold? Let’s see if we can’t answer them now.
Continue reading for the whole story.

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This Is Your Chance To Win A 2015 Ford Mustang

This Is Your Chance To Win A 2015 Ford Mustang

Back in the day, Mustangs caught a lot of flak for being "girls’ cars." Apparently they still are, because this one has to be the best girl’s car ever. First, because it’s a $45,000 2015 Mustang. Second because it’s part of a sweepstakes thrown by Ford’s own Breast Cancer charity, Warriors in Pink. But most of all, because if you’re the lucky winner of said sweepstakes, they’ll drop it off at your house — for free!

Ford has been involved in Breast Cancer charities for 21 years now, helping to raise awareness, funds for research, awareness campaigns for other charities, and helping those currently fighting breast cancer to live a little better until they win. Ford’s been involved for a long time in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure; which sadly, does not involve a bunch of Can-Am style Mustangs hammering around Laguna Seca. Though, how awesome would that be?

Until then, Ford’s footing the bill for its "More Good Days" Sweepstakes, which aims to raise public awareness for its website of the same name. The site’s mostly targeted toward the people who make a difference in a cancer warrior’s life — the family, friends and community support they rely on to have "more good days." They’re giving away four prizes a month for eight months; these include gas cards, Warriors in Pink gear, a flower arrangement, gift baskets, and gift cards for retailers and salons. But if you’re reading this, you probably don’t care so much about the free mani-pedi as the sweepstakes grand prize: A custom 2015 Mustang.

The website doesn’t say whether or not it’s a GT, but that’s probably a pretty safe bet given its $45,000 value quote. Besides, there’s no way Ford would give away a V-6 in an awesome, high-profile sweepstakes like this.

Everyone knows V-6 Mustangs are girls’ cars.

Continue reading for the full story.

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What Does Your Car Say About You?

What Does Your Car Say About You?

You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. Shoes aren’t like most clothes; most of us only own a few pairs, and we tend to wear the same ones or the same type every day. Clothes change by occasion, and they don’t necessarily have to be functional. Shoes, on the other hand, reflect who we are and what we do every day. They speak to our priorities, how we balance form and function, what we do for a living and as often as not what we make doing it.

Cars are a lot like that. Unless you’re Jay Leno, odds are pretty good you don’t have a different car for every day of the week (or year, as the case may be). That means you end up choosing a ride based on a lot of factors, most of which probably don’t have much to do with personal preference. Sure, a lot of us would love to walk around in Italian loafers — but when you need cheap steel-toed boots, that’s what you end up with.

So, what do cars say about the people who buy them? What’s the difference between a stiletto and a work boot, apart from the combination of leather and steel? Part of it is personal preference — but most of it is just a matter of what fits best. For this article, we’re going to look at different types of vehicles and the people who drive them.

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Koenigsegg Regera One Gear Transmission Explained: Video

Koenigsegg Regera One Gear Transmission Explained: Video

About a month ago, Topspeed published an article on the new Regera (pronounced "Re-YE-rah"); specifically, it’s transmission. Or lack thereof. Despite that, there’s still been a lot of confusion about how the Regera’s non-transmission works. To clear things up, we found this: A video from YouTuber Kyle.drive.s, aka Kyleengineers. In it, the professional race engineer and aerodynamacist explains a bit more thoroughly how the Koni Cirect Drive functions.

Just to review quickly: The engine connects to a "fluid coupling" device, which connects directly to an axle differential. On either side of the differential are a pair of 241-horsepower electric motors, which drive each wheel independently and directly. A third 214-horsepower motor drives the engine off the front of the crankshaft, allowing the 2016 Regera to accelerate on about 700 horsepower worth of electric power until the gas engine starts up. From there, the 1,100-horse gas engine pushes the car (assisted by the electric motors) to the car’s top speed.

All that’s covered pretty well by the first article. But in this video, we get an updated and slightly more in-depth look on how the whole system actually functions in real time.

Continue reading to learn more.

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TopSpeed's 10 Best Car Movies

TopSpeed’s 10 Best Car Movies

The other day, Topspeed posted a reprint of "The 10 Greatest Car Movies Ever," originally put together by "The Jennings Motor Group." According to the internet, Jennings is a group of Ford, Kia, Mazda and SEAT dealers in Northeastern England. They promise customer satisfaction, and we’ve got every reason to believe them. But as to their taste in car movies...employing that grandest of all British social commentaries...

BOLLOCKS.

Don’t get me wrong: I do appreciate that fully more than half the list is made up of American movies. Thank you, England. We also make excellent bacon and drone robots. Three of the 10 also make our Top Ten list, most notably the First Place entry. But come on, mates. Bullitt? That wasn’t a car movie. It was a detective story that had one good car chase, and only then because everything with Steve McQueen has a car chase. Same with The Italian Job and American Graffiti. Good movies involving cars, but not good car movies. Two cars, one race or one chase does not a car movie make.

Car movies are about the love of the machine; driving it, building it or just being around it. Of course character and story are important — they are in any movie. But a car movie is one where the culture of the characters is framed around the cars; not one where cars make a cameo appearance. More than anything else, a great car movie needs to remind us of what we love about automobiles: mechanical beauty, power, speed, sex appeal, rebellion and freedom.

With that in mind, here’s Topspeed’s list of the REAL Top Ten Car Movies of All Time.

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Mad Max: Fury Road - Preview

Mad Max: Fury Road - Preview

Admit it — you are aching to see the new Mad Max movie. Dying. As in, you’d give your last gallon of guzzoline and get into a chainsaw fight with the Humungus for the last ticket. Of course you would. We’ve only been waiting for 30 years to see what happened beyond Thunderdome. We’re not quite home yet; but if this newest preview is any indication, we’ll know the way soon enough.

Fury Road is a sequel 25 years in the making. Two things make it unique. The first is that it’s directed by the same guy who directed all three of its predecessors, George Miller. But the guy who made the role, Mel Gibson, has been replaced with Thomas "Bane" Hardy from Batman. So weirdly, this long-awaited sequel represents kind of an alternate universe, showing us what Mad Max’s original director would have done without Mel Gibson, and with 35 years of special-effects development.

The second thing that makes it unique is that Fury Road is an actual sequel, as in "Mad Max 4." It’s not a reboot, a prequel or a re-imagining; it takes place directly after the events of Beyond Thunderdome, in the same world on the same timeline. It’s weird that that should even be weird, but try to think of the last reborn movie franchise to do that. What? Tron: Legacy? Pretty narrow field either way.

Prepare to go back in time for the latest and most comprehensive look at Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s sure to be a lovely day.

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Kia K900 "King James Edition" Will Be Auctioned For Charity

Kia K900 "King James Edition" Will Be Auctioned For Charity

"Holy blasphemous basketballs, Bron-Bron!" Those were words I wrote two months ago, when LeBron James first began teasing pictures of his special King James Edition Kia K900 on his Facebook page. Now, two pieces of good news. First: They’re finally selling the King James Kia! Even better news: There’s only one of them. Thank GOD!

Kia is the new kid on the big-money block — and who defines nouveau riche like a professional baller? Kia enlisted LeBron as its "luxury ambassador" sometime back. That might seems like a bit of an odd fit, but Kia has been sponsoring the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for some time now. Primarily because it’s the NBA, and everything has to sponsored.

In an effort to convince the world that Kia’s 2013 MVP Award winner drives a Kia, the company built LeBron a full custom K900 that at the time was presumed to have been a dry run for production. It wasn’t. The King James Edition K900 remains a one-off destined for the auction block, to be sold for a fairly righteous cause.

Continue reading to learn more about the Kia K900 "King James Edition".

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Onboard The Ferrari FXX K With Sebastian

Onboard The Ferrari FXX K With Sebastian

What is it like to drive a real Ferrari FXX K? Everyone knows it can hit 60 mph in 0.52 seconds. It can beat a Veyron to 260 mph in reverse. The FXX K produces so much lateral grip that Ferrari has to use acid-etching paint to keep the red on in corners. The Ferrari FXX K racing variant can unscrew pickle jars on a slalom course, cause a redshift in sunlight under maximum acceleration, trigger fusion, grant wishes and get your girlfriend to stop stealing the covers at 2 a.m. At least, it can in the imaginations of people who will never see one in action — and Ferrari seems to prefer it that way. (Ed.: Richard does tend toward hyperbole a bit.)

Enzo himself never made any secret of the fact that he only sold street cars to fund his racing endeavors. But that’s always been part of the Ferrari experience; knowing that you’re not so much buying a car, as you are buying into the team. That’s been the case with every Ferrari ever made, including the LaFerrari.

The FXX K version of the LaFerrari, much like the FXX version of the Enzo that preceded it, is part of Ferrari’s Corse Clienti customer racing program. Which is another way of saying: "If you already own 10 Ferraris, pay us several million and we’ll let you drive this one around a track from time to time." That’s Ferrari’s way of keeping its F1 technology out of competitors’ hands — and the car out of the hands of auto journalists, who might spoil the fun by callously comparing it to other cars. So, the question now is: Is this new FXX K a classic Ferrari fleece job? Is it Maranello offering all carbon-fiber hat and no galloping horse?

Continue reading and see for yourself.

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Jay Leno Reviews 1948 Davis Divan: Video

Jay Leno Reviews 1948 Davis Divan: Video

Do you remember the Davis Divan? That’s okay — neither does anyone else. "Produced" from 1947 to 1949, the Davis was one of many crazy post-war designs intended to feed America’s massively expanding automotive marketplace. Like many others, it relied heavily on war-era engineering and aircraft styling. Unlike most others, though, it had three wheels, seated four abreast on a huge bench seat, and its creator ultimately went to prison for fraud.

You might have heard a similar story before: small car companies in the 1950s were the dot-com startups of their day. A few succeeded, most failed spectacularly, and at least a few saw their owners indicted for defrauding investors. Most notable was Preston Tucker, whose ill-fated Torpedo had three headlights. Used car salesman Glen Gordon "Gary" Davis also favored the number three; as in three wheels and three first names. Additional Davis numbers of note include $1.2 million raised selling dealerships to investors, 20 counts of fraud and grand theft, 16 running cars produced, and two years at a "work farm" labor camp in 1951.

Davis himself maintained his innocence and pure intentions all the way up to his death, and did ultimately wind up doing pretty well in the small auto industry. Very small — his most successful venture was the Dodge ’Em bumper car, which you’ve seem at every amusement park and carnival in your life. In fact, the wrap-around bumpers on bumper cars were inspired largely by the one on Davis’ original automotive ventures — the three-wheeled rolling sofa called "the Divan."

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What is the Perfect Car?

What is the Perfect Car?

There’s no such thing as the "perfect car." There — said it right off the bat. Not because I subscribe to the platitude that perfection is completely subjective, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder or any of that. Objective standards do exist. For instance, objectively, Scarlett Johansson probably looks better in a bikini than Steve Buscemi. Any dissenting opinion there? No? That’s because we can apply certain dimensional criteria, certain mechanical evaluations to determine who likely wears Spandex best. The same is true for non-human machines, like cars.

Even so, finding "perfection" that way means setting criteria, as opposed to expecting perfection as some kind of absolute. Absolute perfection is always an ideal. It’s kind of like the North Star. You can use it to navigate, to figure out which direction you’re going; but no matter how long you sail toward it, you’ll probably never get perceptibly closer. You’ve got earthly limitations in the here and now that kind of preclude the possibility.

So for this article, we’re going to stick to the earthly limitations of the here and now. We’ll look at our guiding star of ideal perfection first, just to get a navigation point. But from there, we’re on our own, left to sail those uncharted waters to find the closest thing to automotive perfection, sticking as closely as possible to the shores of today’s technology.

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2015 Ford Mustang Performance For Half The Cost

2015 Ford Mustang Performance For Half The Cost

How would you feel about spending half the cost of a 2015 Mustang GT on a slightly older Mustang that runs more than a full second quicker in the quarter-mile? How about an 11-second car that won’t lose a third of its value the first time you drive it, and will save you the cost of a decent 1990 Mustang GT every single year in insurance and financing costs alone? Sounds about perfect, right? One small caveat:
"Some assembly required."

The world would be a wonderful place if we could all afford to plunk down $40,000 to close to $50,000 on the latest and greatest Mustang. But here in the real world of potholes and mosquitoes, budget limitations do have a habit of slapping those ambitious prayers from our mouths. That’s okay, though. Because to paraphrase a certain country singer: Some of life’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. The rest are half-priced Shelby GT500 "clones."

The new-for-2015 Mustang, code-named S550, is an objectively significant improvement over the "old" S197 chassis. Noticeably lower, wider and smoother-handling than its predecessor, and with 435 horses to boot, the S550 does seem well-tailored for epic battle with them Chivvy boys. It’s a great car — just not as great as the previous-generation Shelby GT500, or even a "clone" version of the same.

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Furious 7 Film Review: Everybody Grows Up Sometime

Furious 7 Film Review: Everybody Grows Up Sometime

Experiencing Furious 7, three truths gradually dawn. First: That this is the very first film in the franchise. Not movie — there have been six movies in the series already. This is the first film. Second: From the theater parking lot to the film’s closing credits, something is very, very different this time. Something has changed, fundamentally. Third: What’s changed, most fundamentally, is us.

Make no mistake: Furious 7 is by no stretch some misty-eyed, maudlin wallow in days gone by. It is absolutely as fun, fast and full of over-the-top action as it ever was. But in every way, the series has matured. The cast, storyline, direction, cinematography and even the cars have taken on an element of almost gritty realism, a fantastically deliberate intensity far more akin to "Ronin" than any F&F before. Nevermind Ja Rule — a cameo from Liam Neeson wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Furious 7.

But in a much larger sense, there’s no way anyone who grew up with this series can walk out of it without thinking about the context. Both the context of the film itself, and themselves in context to it. In a very real way, with no hyperbole, this film may be a long-overdue look into the mirror for an entire generation. There’s a reason it’s only 10 points behind "Gone With the Wind" on Rotten Tomatoes.

However, as every longtime fan of this franchise knows, the real show always starts in the theater parking lot. So, that’s where this review begins.

Continue reading to learn more about the film.

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Powerplant Showdown Part II — Steam, Wind-up Cars & Everything Else

Powerplant Showdown Part II — Steam, Wind-up Cars & Everything Else

Meet “The Neverending Article.” It seems like a pretty straightforward proposition, right? Compare and contrast the major motivators out there today. No problem. And it probably wouldn’t have been, if we’d just stopped at Part I of this article, which focused almost exclusively on powertrain options available for the last 20 years or so. But here in The Future, the minute you think you’re done writing about one kind of powertrain, you’re right back to recycling the intro from the last article to open the next one.

But hasn’t that been the way of the automotive industry for the last century or so? Slightly modifying a product that was mediocre to begin with so it seems relevant compared to similarly mediocre products? The next iteration is rarely about net improvement so much as it is keeping up with the neighbors. It’s a Sisyphean task indeed, not recycling the same crap from last year; over-using the same tired approaches for decades, and pretending as though “new and improved” weren’t a suspiciously relative compliment at best.

In Part II of our Powertrain Showdown, we’re going to go over some of the “weirder” technologies out there. Though probably the weirdest thing about a lot of them is how recycled they actually are. Sure, taken out of context, some of these ideas seem a little bit out there in left field; but a lot of them have been around at least as long as today’s powertrains. It’s just that they, like hybrid and electric technologies, have languished in under-development from the century-long scourge of cheap gasoline.

But, you have to give antiquated piston-engine technology this: it did make writing about powertrains a pretty straightforward endeavor for a while. At least when you were done talking about gas and diesel, you were done talking. Unlike today, where our Neverending Article continues with Part II, and our boulder rolls right back down the hill again.

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What's REALLY Stopping the Electric Car?

What’s REALLY Stopping the Electric Car?

In the first half of this article, we looked at the "Seven Unexpected Reasons Electric Cars are the Future." "Seven" because it’s a prime number, "reasons" because we needed them, and "unexpected" because there’s a lot more to this story than just torque vectoring, environmentalism and the cost of getting from Point A to Point B. Even for all that good stuff, the electric car’s real, immediate impact on our society won’t have as much to do with saving polar bears and dollars as it will creating industries and saving jobs.

So, there’s a happy socioeconomic picture emerging here — but on the flip side, it’s that same socioeconomic strata that’s holding electric cars back. These days, most people think that battery technology is the primary thing keeping electrics from dominating the industry, and that’s true to an extent. But it’s also a red herring, because there’s plenty we can do today to usher in a new golden age of transportation — without breathlessly praying for the next lithium-air unicorn to show up. Or, at least for it to show up before our ice caps melt and half the world becomes a habitat for actual red herrings.

Technology only moves at a certain pace. Fall behind it and you miss out on opportunities. Push technology too hard, and you wind up with asbestos insulation. There’s a balance point in the middle where society has to adapt to make what’s known work, while planning ahead for the unknown. That’s where we are today with automobiles.

A good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools --- so for this second half, we’re going to look at the tools we have available today to get this job done. The technology is there; we don’t need new metals, high-tech composites or nano-materials to get where we’re going. The only tools we really need — a pen and a piece of paper — have been around for a good long while now.

So, what’s really stopping the electric car, and how do we get it started again? Continue reading.

(Incidentally, for our regular readers: I mentioned in the last article that this was originally the second half of the first, but got split in two for length. The version you’re reading now wound up long enough to justify splitting in half itself, making three parts instead of two. BUT…the readers’ votes are in, and you guys want it all. So, here it is…thanks for reading Topspeed, and see you in the Comments!)

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Tesla Home Batteries

Tesla Home Batteries

To be completely honest — and this is coming from the biggest admitted Tesla fanboy in the Southeastern United States — I just don’t really get the point with Tesla’s new Home Battery. Maybe it’s a West Coast thing. Like Katy Perry, 26-inch rims on Jeep Wranglers, or measles. But something about Elon’s newest non-automotive venture just does not make sense in this neighborhood.

Essentially, it’s a cool-running, lightweight, compact battery pack. But here’s the twist: It’s for your...HOUSE! Wait. House? Yes, just what everyone always wanted and could never do without: A big, rechargeable battery pack in their homes. It’s amazing nobody ever thought of this before, considering the fact that people have been doing exactly the same thing with cheap, sealed lead-acid batteries for the better part of a century now. Yeah. So, what’s the point here? Why does Tesla think this newest non-automotive venture will reach a market that’s had its needs met with cheaper battery technology for a hundred years or more? What’s the assumption here, Elon? Are houses suddenly worried about their power-to-weight ratio?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Or maybe Elon’s assumed assumptions aren’t the question here.

Continue reading for the rest of the story

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Lincoln Continental: A Look Back

Lincoln Continental: A Look Back

Times were hard for most people. Fresh off an expensive, drawn-out and disastrous war, in the aftermath of financial collapse, the population as a whole wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about buying big, American luxury sedans. Even though there were some true greats on the drawing board, most had to wait for a nation just entering its richest era to demand more prestigious transportation. Afterward, old ideas and names came back, and makes like Lincoln experienced a renaissance. That was the story in 1938...and again some 75 years later.

Of course, the difference between then and now is that the nation just entering its richest period isn’t the United States, but China. Say what you will about them, but the Chinese (like many current and former communist countries) absolutely love big, American luxury sedans — without a doubt, more than most Americans do. Makes like Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln have found a wonderfully enthusiastic market among people who spent decades quietly watching American presidents cruise those prestigious badges around the capitalist capitol. Or, in at least one sobering example, a certain city in the lower Midwest.

Now, having recently discovered money, they want their own.

And after a 14 year hiatus, Lincoln is ready to give it to them, in the form of a reborn Continental. Oh yes, there’s a load of irony in that...but the good news is that China’s long-rebuffed love of American luxury has triggered kind of a bounce-back on our own shores. For the first time since the dark days of the Smog Era, American luxury makes like Lincoln have become serious contenders to take the halo of quality from Germany. Maybe it’s taken a bit of outside perspective, a look to the present from the past, to remind us of of just how great some of our greatest once were...and could be again.

So continue reading to take a look back at one of them now: the inimitable Lincoln Continental.

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Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious Launch Trailer: Video

Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious Launch Trailer: Video

Maybe it’s fate. You never know who you’ll run into at just the right time and place. Say, for instance, you happen to end up in Europe this spring to do a little street racing. What are the odds you’ll happen to meet up with the world’s greatest gang of expatriot street-racing superheroes? “The Avengers with musclecars,” as someone recently called them. What are the odds? A little better than you might think.

A couple of years ago, XBOX’s hometown racing sim Forza began branching out into the world of free-roaming racing games with the “Horizon” spin-off. It was kind of a dangerous gambit for Forza, dipping into the Need For Speed-style “open map” street racing genre; apart from its crazy customization engine, Forza’s long been the “serious” motorsports sim. But good physics only sell so many copies…at some point, you just need some "fast and furious" fun.

The first “Horizon” took place in Colorado, kind of Forza’s take on the Nevada Silver State Classic open road race. The sequel takes place in Europe, as racing sequels are wont to do. Take for example the Fast and Furious series, which starting a few titles back expatriated itself across the pond. And most fans of the series would say that was the best thing that could have happened to it since a certain Charger first showed its front wheels to the sky. Well, the first time. Speaking of which…

Welcome to The Crew.

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Powertrain Showdown, Part I: Conventional Powertrains

Powertrain Showdown, Part I: Conventional Powertrains

Meet “The Neverending Article.” Sure, it seems like a pretty straightforward proposition: Compare and contrast the major motivators out there today. No problem, right? And it probably wouldn’t have been 30 years ago, when powertrain options were limited to your choice of either gas or diesel. However, the 21st century isn’t like the 20th. Here in the future, the minute you think you’re done writing about one kind of powertrain, another one comes along, and you’re right back to re-drafting your fifth introductory paragraph.

Keeping up is a Sisyphean task indeed; every time you think you’ve got that boulder to the top of the hill, a hydraulically driven spring accumulator shoves it right back down to the bottom. For as many times as we’ve run over the different methods of motivating an automobile, I’m pretty sure they’re halved compared to the number of times I’ve been run over by that boulder. But, that’s exactly what makes today so exciting.

In this article, I’m going to go over the pros and cons of the major powertrains on offer today: internal combustion (gas and diesel), hybrid and electric. Of course, these days, those are far from the only options on the table. With internal combustion engines having hit a likely impassable developmental wall (see “Seven Unexpected Reasons Why Electric Cars Are The Future”), we’re right back to the Wild West days of blue-sky thinking and anything-goes engineering. For a few of those, check out Part II of this article, “The Ultimate Powertrain Showdown – Weird and Wonderful.” That was originally the second half of this one, but it seems certain editors aren’t too fond of 4,700-word articles.

Still…what are you gonna do? Like the future itself, this is the article that never really ends. Like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill, or writers on their fifth page-one rewrites, it seems we’ve all got a load to push if we’re going to undo the mistakes of the past. But it’s a welcome burden. When you’re finished with this one, make sure to check out Part II…to watch that rock roll downhill again.

Continue Reading for the whole story

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Dodge Challenger Hellcat Performs One-Of-A-Kind Airlift Drift: Video

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Performs One-Of-A-Kind Airlift Drift: Video

Yes, it’s probably fake, and no, it’s not a commercial for the Dodge Challenger Hellcat., though you’d probably be excused for thinking it is. Despite the fact that the title clearly reads "Pennzoil Airlift Drift," this particular ad drips less with synthetic petroleum than the sight and psychotic soundtrack of this 707-horsepower car doing what it does best: Making noise and tire smoke.

For the first 53 seconds of this ad (for oil), we’re treated to a yellow Challenger Hellcat, sliding its way around what appears (from the opening shot) to be Detroit. Looking right down Woodward Avenue, no less — a street long-famous as the Big Three’s unofficial dragstrip and testing grounds during the 1960s. That makes it a pretty appropriate staging ground for the return of Mopar tire smoke and massive Hemi horsepower. Moreso than the last video like this, anyway.

** SPOILER ALERT **

At about 54 seconds, the Challenger takes a break from its tailsliding antics, and momentary silence descends in place of the Hellcat’s insane blower whine. It’s broken by helicopter blades, connected to choppers which proceed to "lift" a huge portion of Motown into the sky. There, suspended about 500 feet in the air, the Hellcat proceeds to blow off about $300 worth of Pirellis in a circular smokescreen both James Bond and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be proud of.

The "airlift" is CGI, of course...which is almost a shame, since that distracts a little from the very real spectacle of a bright yellow muscle car doing what we should all be doing in bright yellow muscle cars right now. Still, the "airlift" CGI isn’t as distracting the backdrop of the last "car drifting on a thing" commercial this company produced. That’s right — this Pennzoil ad came from same crew that brought us the "BMW M4 Drifts on an Aircraft Carrier" commercial from last year. Decide for yourself which one you like better...it’s below the Hellcat video.

Personally: The BMW commercial wins on technical execution and lighting, Hellcat video wins on...well, an extra 300 horsepower. And Pennzoil wins for funding an excellent commercial for Dodge.

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Seven Unexpected Reasons Why Electric Cars Are The Future

Seven Unexpected Reasons Why Electric Cars Are The Future

Sorry, Luddite friends — there’s little doubt at this point that the future of automobiles belongs to the electric motor, but for a lot of reasons you might not have heard before. Internal combustion engines (ICEs) were always a compromise to the economy of cheap and available hydrocarbons, designed to consume them in abundance to produce loads of power in a light, compact and comparatively cheap package. But times have changed since internal combustion took over at the turn of the last century. Gas isn’t as cheap and available as it once was, cars aren’t as light, cheap and compact as they used to be, and electric motor, battery and computer technology has advanced to the point that burning dead stuff for go-power has started making less and less sense.

Of course, there are still obstacles to overcome — we’ll get into those in a different article. But ever since the first hybrids started hitting the mass market a decade ago, electric motors have taken on more and more of the motive duty. It’s only a matter of time before they take over all of those duties. Some (including yours truly) will lament the passing of the days of snarling idles and cylinders screaming against redline explosion. But then again, we’re probably also the same group of people who’d have complained about the absence of "earthy-smelling" horse manure in New York circa 1920.

In this article, we’re going to talk about all the reasons why most of us will live to see electric drivetrains come to dominate the auto industry — going way beyond obvious stuff like better performance, cleaner air and fewer brown polar bears. You probably already know all of that as it is. It’s been written about a million times. But there’s a lot more to the story of why electrics will prevail, and very soon.

But, as a balm to my fellow Luddites: That might be the best thing to ever happen to ICE vehicles. After all, it’s not as though horses disappeared with the rise of ICEs...nor will horsepower disappear with their fall.

Continue Reading for the Seven Reasons

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2015 Aston Martin Thunderbolt Concept By Henrik Fisker

2015 Aston Martin Thunderbolt Concept By Henrik Fisker

The Norselands have long been known for boxes. Volvo has practically defined the rectangle as a design paradigm, second only to your average Lego in sheer perfection of corners. IKEA’s furniture is most famous for resembling the boxes it came out of, but at least it fits in well with the post-modern asceticism of North Atlantic architecture. Denmark, though — Denmark has long bucked the interlocking molds of its neighbors’ boxy practicality. Trust a Dane then to break those molds, reshaping everything we know about design by thinking outside the box.

Henrik Fisker first rose to prominence at BMW as the designer of the Z07 Concept, which ultimately became the Z8 coupe. It was in the Z8’s classic long-hood-short-deck proportions, and stretched-over-a-frame body panels that we caught the first hint of things to come. In 2001, Fisker joined Ford Motor Company, and immediately went to work re-designing the face of Aston Martin. That redesign, the DB9, was arguably the only good thing to come out of the entire Ford-Aston affair.

Fisker’s work (along with the Cadillac Sixteen Concept and Chrysler PT Cruiser) signaled the end of 90s styling, and wrote the book for a whole new generation of automobile bodies. Not content to rest on his well-deserved laurels, Fisker launched his own car company from sunny California, where he’s still making history by influencing fellow revolutionaries like Tesla.

History beckons, though, and now the Danish prodigy has a new take on the Aston design language he created. Enter, the Aston Martin Vanquish Thunderbolt.

Continue reading to learn more about the Aston Martin Thunderbolt Concept By Henrik Fisker.

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If Built, Lamborghini's SUV Will Debut Turbo Or Hybrid Powertrain

If Built, Lamborghini’s SUV Will Debut Turbo Or Hybrid Powertrain

Dolph Lundgren, prior to portraying Ivan "I will break you" Drago in Rocky IV, got a degree in chemical engineering. The same guy who once worked as a bouncer — that Swedish mountain of muscle with a 3rd degree black belt, has an IQ of 180. Remember that as you read about Lambo’s newest SUV, the Urus.

Like Dolph, the Urus comes off a bit like a brutish caveman; big, primitive, unsophisticated, stupid even. Maybe that’s why Lambo chose the unusual name. It certainly isn’t as sexy as "Reventon" or "Murcielago," which follow the recent Lambo scheme of naming cars after famous fighting bulls. Rather, the Urus (aka "Aurochs" or "Aurox") is the wild progenitor of modern domestic cattle. A big, nasty beast as sophisticated as a boulder, and about half as smart.

But all modern bulls share DNA, and so it is with modern Lamborghinis, SUVs and tractors. Recall, Lambo started out making tractors, and produced the LM002 military SUV from 1986 to 1993. The LM002 "Rambo Lambo" was at the time considered almost universally superior to the AM General Hummer, and not just because it was the fastest four-wheel-drive vehicle in history. It was only the price, fuel economy and (most importantly) production capacity and the promised availability of spare parts that won AM General a place in military history.

But the LM002, for all its brutish strength, was a bit dumb compared to its modern descendant, the Urus. If tractors were Lamborghini’s upright monkeys, and the LM002 was Cro Magnon man, then the now-confirmed-for-production Urus is Ivan Drago. Sure, it might look like a caveman...but with carbon fiber bones and a twin-turbo hybrid heart, this heavy hitter may end up being the smartest brute on the road today.

Continue reading to learn more about Lamborghini’s future SUV.

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Jay Leno Reviews The BAC Mono: Video

Jay Leno Reviews The BAC Mono: Video

Would-be racers the world over have had a dream for as long as there were dreams to have: A real, legitimate Formula One car for the street. Many have tried and failed (often in flames) to bring the Formula experience to public highways. Those that haven’t caught fire broke down. Those that didn’t break down crashed from lack of downforce, and those that didn’t crash never got driven because they rode like a pile of rocks in an avalanche. It seems, though, Britain’s BAC has finally cracked the code on bringing us true open-wheel fun for the street, without the nightmares of endeavors gone by.

In this video, Jay Leno test drives one of the first BAC Monos to reach our shores. Britain has enjoyed the Mono since 2011, and almost immediately The Stig chose it as his personal Car of the Year. Some say it’s because the Mono’s face reminds him of his mother’s. Others say it’s because it’s the second fastest street car ever to lap the track, behind Pagani’s Huayra. All we know is, it’s one Hell of an automobile — even if this "Formula One Car for the Street" is a lie, but an utterly brilliant, perfect one.

Continue reading about this beast.

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Citroen DS - A Look Back

Citroen DS - A Look Back

Those of her native land pronounce her name “Déesse” – “Goddess,” in French. She was said by structural philosopher Roland Barnes to have “fallen from the sky,” a sculptural beauty that for decades defined the City of Lights every bit as much as any fountain or arch. If you were fortunate enough to live in Paris in the 1970s, the The Goddess was a deliberately artful part of your daily life. Unlike almost any car before, she was styled to cut through the air, but unlike almost every aero-designed car since, she actually looked good doing it.

Beautiful as she was, this deity of French design was much more than just a pretty face. Like Athena, whose namesake city inspired so much of France’s architecture, society and government, the Goddess combined beauty with ingenuity, and sophistication with fierce individuality. When she came to Earth in 1955, she instantly made every other car of her time seem outdated by comparison.

She’s the one, the only…Citroen DS.

Continue reading to learn more about the Citroen DS.

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This Is what The 2025 Viper Could Look Like

This Is what The 2025 Viper Could Look Like

Dodge has always had a particular kind of demographic: people in their 20s, and people who think they’re in their 20s. It’s just kind of what happens when you specialize in fulfilling the most juvenile of automotive desires. So you’d think asking high-school students to design the Dodge of the future would be a no-brainer. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Mostly because people who think they’re in their 20s want the car they wanted when they actually were.

It’s a tightrope to walk, and Dodge has done it by specializing in modern interpretations of muscle-era dream machines. The Charger and Challenger are obvious examples; but even the Viper was created as an homage to Peter Brock’s Shelby Daytona Coupe of the 1960s. It’s not easy to tread that line between past and future — but Chrysler-Fiat may have found a few designers worthy of the task.

This year’s Chrysler-sponsored Detroit Autorama Design Competition was a little different than the last two. Previously, the competition was open only to Michigan high-school students; but new owners Fiat bid "benvenuti!" to all comers nationwide. The four finalists, and in particular the winner, 18-year-old Joshua Blundo of New Hampshire, proved the Italians wise in opening the national floodgates. His 2025 Viper truly does look like something we might see in 10 years or so, given the Viper’s design direction over the years.

Don’t doubt these precocious designers. Joshua isn’t the only one who’ll be in his late 20s when this beast hits the streets, assuming it does. All four are off to a fantastic start, crafting the look of things to come in the automotive world. And if this is a vision of the future, it looks like those of us who still think we’re their age then will find kindred spirits in the Mopar design department.

Continue reading to learn more about the Dodge Viper.

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Audi Prepares Electric SUV With +300-Mile Range

Audi Prepares Electric SUV With +300-Mile Range

One of the truisms of consumer technology is that it usually starts out in the industrial or military sectors, and stays there until it’s small and cheap enough for normal people to buy. Or, at least, until the market demands that it be made small or cheap enough to buy. That’s been true of internal combustion engines, computers, GPS and whole drive systems — drive systems like those used in one of the oldest forms of motorized transportation on Earth.

Diesel-electric hybrid systems have been known performers in locomotives for almost a century now. Apart from the fact that diesels are more efficient than gas engines to begin with, they make much better generator engines. Gas engines are usually most efficient at or near wide-open throttle. Diesels are just the opposite, consuming fuel most efficiently while idling. Locomotive engineers figured out a long time ago that coupling a diesel generator to an electric powertrain was the cheapest way to burn hydrocarbons; and yours truly has been waiting on this for years. Finally, predictably, it was Audi (my favorite major car company) that brought to market a "solution" painfully obvious even in Ferdinand Porsche’s time. Or, if not then, at least when Audi itself used a diesel-electric car to win LeMans several times.

Yes, the "e-tron" Q7 is upon us — finally .

Continue reading to learn more about Audi’s future electric car.

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Goodyear's New Concept Tires

Goodyear’s New Concept Tires

Tire technology has always been something of a black art – even the word “vulcanization” refers to a pagan god long associated with sorcery and the fiery underworld. Prior to having a rubber-hardening process named after him, Vulcan was also the patron deity of alchemy – the practice of “transmuting” one substance or energy into another. Today’s chemistry and physics owe much to this “black art;” the First Law of Thermodynamics, for example, is little more than a restatement of alchemy’s “principle of equivalent exchange.”

Nobody’s saying tire tech is a “black art” in the sense of being occult – more in the respect that no matter how much they’ve advanced in the last century, tires have always looked pretty much the same, and performed the same job. The black art of tire development has long put improvements under the surface, with outward revolution the exception and gradual evolution the rule.

But every so often, something comes along to truly revolutionize everything we believe about what a thing is or what it does.

Meet the Goodyear BH03 Thermoelectric and TripleTube tires, introduced in Geneva last week.

Continue reading to learn more about Goodyear’s new concept tires.

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Koenigsegg Regera's Non-Transmission

Koenigsegg Regera’s Non-Transmission

"Something’s happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear."
So then, what about this new driveline that Christian K. has come up with? Let’s take a look.

First, don’t call the Koenigsegg Regera’s drive system a “gearless transmission.” Not because there’s no such thing as a “gearless transmission,” but simply because the Koenigsegg Direct Drive isn’t a transmission. A transmission, by definition, varies input speed to output speed. As you might have gathered from the name, the Koni “Direct Drive” doesn’t do that.

The Regera has a truly psychotic power-to-weight ratio. With 1,100 horsepower drawn from its 5.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 engine and 3,600 pounds to move, few vehicles on Earth can lay claim to comparable power-to-pound ratios. But faster is better, and doing it with less fuel is better still, so read on to unravel this new technology.

Continue reading to learn more about the Koenigsegg Regera.

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2015 Alpina B5 Bi-Turbo "Edition 50"

2015 Alpina B5 Bi-Turbo "Edition 50"

Imagine James Bond had a long-lost brother. The two started out with the same genes, had many of the same habits — but instead of a devil-may-care ladies’ man and secret agent, Brother Bond got his kicks playing the stock market and taking his socialite wife to drink wine at dinner parties. That’s Alpina. It’s M Sport’s more civilized brother. But don’t let the day job fool you — beneath Alpina’s respectable business jacket hides a weapon to make 007 swoon.

Like Mr. Bond, the Alpina B5 Edition 50 started out with pretty good DNA, in the form of a 550i sedan chassis. At the BMW factory, they install an engine built by Alpina, and then ship the car back to them to install the finishing touches. The result is a car built equally by both manufacturers, but wears the Alpina badge. That badge lays atop a car wholly distinct from its sibling in terms of character — but don’t take that to mean there isn’t some deadly rivalry involved.

These are the Bond twins we’re talking about here.

Continue reading to learn more about the Alpina B5 Bi-Turbo "Edition 50".

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Acura Prepares Lots Of Customization Possibilities For The New NSX

Acura Prepares Lots Of Customization Possibilities For The New NSX

Meet the Once and Future King.

It doesn’t always pay to be the first at everything — just ask everyone who ever left on a boat, never to be seen again. Honda was indeed sailing into uncharted waters when it released the original NSX — a budget-priced supercar that handles, idles and actually starts when you turn the key? "Variable valve timing?" What’s that? The NSX was in many ways an unwelcome revelation for sports car makers worldwide, a game-changer that forced hands and preceded a revolution in sports-car design, refinement and sophistication.

Honda paid for it, too. The original NSX was a critical wunderkind, a dadaist poke in the eye of "serious" sports car makers like Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and later, Lambo’s corporate cousin Audi. Almost immediately, those companies responded to the NSX by releasing new designs that were increasingly docile around town, faster and safer on the highway, and (most importantly) laden with horsepower, gadgets, computers and luxury options well outside of Honda’s budget ballpark. It’s not easy to justify a $100,000 surcharge for a badge alone.

Now, the Empire of the Rising Sun strikes back, rising to meet the Italians and Germans right in their own market. Ever wonder what Honda could have done with $100,000, and a point to prove? Yes, indeed — The Once and Future King is back to reclaim his throne. And this time, he’s coming with all the hardware he needs to meet the usurpers on level ground. Let the war begin.

Click past the jump to read more about the Acura NSX.

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2015 Kia K900 King James Edition

2015 Kia K900 King James Edition

Holy blasphemous basketballs, Bron-Bron! Yes, it’s true: NBA superstar LeBron James is officially selling Kias. Or designing them, anyway. That might seem like a bit of an odd combination, but fundamentally, Kia and new-money ballers like LeBron have a lot in common. From humble roots and reputations (both good and bad) mad on the mean streets, both have had their ups and downs. Both have made success almost overnight by taking their games to new levels, challenging the old guard and making a name for the new. Granted, only LeBron’s actually reached Hennessey Chalice status at this point — but Korea’s working hard to hitch their wagons to his platinum star.

Bling bling.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Kia K900 King James Edition.

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Chrysler Recalling Almost Half A Million SUVs

Chrysler Recalling Almost Half A Million SUVs

Every former relationship has its baggage, and leaves its scars. For some of us, given our taste in females, that’s pretty literal. For others, like Chrysler, there was never any leaving Mercedes without at least a few black eyes. Some have questioned whether Chrysler’s trade-up to Italian Fiat was a trade-up at all — but after this, those questions should be pretty well settled.

Last year, Chrysler issues a recall for 189,000 SUVs in the Dodge Durango and Jeep Cherokee lines for the 2011 to 2013 model years. As of Friday of this week, that recall has expanded to a whopping 656,000 vehicles worldwide. The core of the problem is a bad fuel pump relay in the Totally Integrated Power Module; the relay is subject to getting hot, deforming and failing, which cuts off the fuel pump and causes the vehicle to stall. Originally, they assumed the problem was limited to gas-engine models; however, further testing has shown that a further half-million or so foreign-market diesels could experience the same failure.

Still, all things considered, a bad relay isn’t that big a deal. Worse things have happened. So, why does it matter? Read on.

Continue reading to learn more about Chrysler’s new recalling.

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2015 Lexus LF-LC GT “Vision Gran Turismo”

2015 Lexus LF-LC GT “Vision Gran Turismo”

What happened to you, Lexus? Did you lose your meds? Get tired of all those Freemason jokes? Or were you always wearing leather bondage gear under that casual business suit? We’re sure there’s some sort of logical explanation here, perhaps having to do with changes in management or the public’s reception of the LF-A supercar. But one does not simply walk from the land of Smooth Jazz into Freak-on-a-Leash without people asking questions.

Not that we’re complaining. Even if this is just a case of medication in need of adjustment, there’s no doubt that this latest dip into stylistic psychosis has been a watershed time for Toyota’s usually straight-laced brand. It’s not that Lexus doesn’t know how to build fast cars — the brand did, after all, debut with the V-8 LS400. It’s just that this brand has historically proven to be the only one on Earth capable of starting with a Toyota Supra and making it boring . Yeah, looking at you, entire SC line.

These years of late, though...if we didn’t know better, we’d think some devil switched out Lexus’ Prozac for Red Hots and crystal meth. Evidence this, a car as psychotically named as it was styled: The LF-LC GT Vision Gran Turismo.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lexus LF-LC GT “Vision Gran Turismo”.

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2015 BMW M4 MotoGP Safety Car

2015 BMW M4 MotoGP Safety Car

Full disclosure: This article on BMW’s stunning, new M4 MotoGP Safety Car (or "Pace Car," if you’re American) contain references to the German WWII Focke-Wulf 190 fighter. You know, I love BMW as much as anyone, and generally avoid bringing up certain historical associations because of that... But with the Bavarians set to once again bomb around Europe on the power of water injection, there’s kind of no ignoring this snarling Wulf in the room. Read our full review of the 2015 M4 here.

Click "Continue Reading" to learn more about the 2015 BMW M4 MotoGP Safety Car.

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Subaru WRX STI SP3T Endurance Racer

Subaru WRX STI SP3T Endurance Racer

In "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure," George Carlin told Keanu Reeves "One great rock song can change the world." Somebody at Sony must have been listening then, because it was only a few years later that Sony/Polyphony released what must be considered "The Dark Side of the Moon" of racing video games: Gran Turismo.

Gran Turismo introduced Americans (and indeed much of the world) to such names as "Skyline," "Evolution" and of course, "WRX." It also sparked a renaissance among the younger generation for road racing, touring car racing, and especially endurance racing. It’s probably no coincidence that almost immediately after the game’s release, the organizers of the Nurburgring 24 Hour race threw open the flood gates to every class and kind of car imaginable.

Fast-forward some 20 years, and we have this: Subaru’s 2015 24 Hour NBR Endurance racer, which looks for all the world as though it were lifted straight from the game consoles of GT fanboys everywhere. There’s little doubt Subie’s making a statement with this one, considering the fact that they’ve unveiled it before releasing the car it’s based on for sale. Slated to race in NBR’s small-displacement/turbocharged SP3T class, the STI is a real contender for outright victory in Audi’s back yard. And you can bet that’s no game to them.

Click "Continue Reading" to learn more about the Subaru WRX STI Race Car.

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Ford Mustang Factory Tour: Video

Ford Mustang Factory Tour: Video

In this video from Shmee 150, we get a tour of one of America’s largest and most unique factories: Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in the beating heart of the Motor City. Apart from its sheer immensity, FRAP’s most notable feature is its on-site sheetmetal stamping facility. Normally, automobiles are produced in bits and pieces all over, and assembled in a central location. Not here. At FRAP, Mustangs and Fusions ("Mondeos" overseas) come in as massive rolls of sheet steel, and roll out as running automobiles. Massive presses and robots do the majority of work up till final assembly. That’s where you’ll find the rest of FRAP’s 1,700 or so employees, delicately going through the process of putting all those parts together into a flawless whole. That much is in the video — but it’s the history of the factory itself and the two cars it produces that makes the greater statement.

Read on past the jump.

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