Under sunny skies, Saturday’s 22nd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance went off without a hitch despite a schedule curtailed by one day, owing to Sunday’s expected rain showers. That still left hours of unfettered machinery-ogling on the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island’s pristine golf course, which is more than enough time to be left with the impression that this event remains one of the true automotive bucket list items. And even though my interests generally skew toward events that allow me to slide behind the wheel rather than merely observe, Amelia is the exception to that rule.
Author - John Kucek
Despite no longer cosying up to the warm bosom of the press fleet industrial complex, I still occasionally find myself behind the wheel of cars other than my own. Such was the case last week when I brought my own car, a C7 Corvette Z51, into the dealer for some warranty work and found myself sitting in the fortified bunker – aka cabin – of a loaner 2017 Camaro. Unlike the other sixth gen that I previously wrote up on these pages, which was option-laden but also saddled with the middling 2.0T Ecotec, this one featured nary an add-on save for the 3.6L LGX “High Feature” V6…a swap that made this drab-looking coupe immeasurably better to drive.
Friends, let me tell you about the promised land, because I’ve been there. The rental car promised land, that is. Imagine gleaming rows of current year luxury models and sports cars, from Mercedes E550s to BMW 335is to Toyota GT86s, even the occasional premium model like an M3 or 911. Impossible, short of a fly-by-night Las Vegas exotic rental outfit, right? Nay. The promised land exists, and perhaps unsurprisingly to most car enthusiasts, it’s in Germany.
If there’s one criticism that’s been consistently levelled at the pretty Audi 2+2 known as the TT, it’s that its genetic lineage isn’t as honed as that of its similarly priced competition. While that may sound harsh, or perhaps even a bit elitist, it’s true: the TT’s underpinnings are essentially shared with that of the humble VW Golf. A great econobox in its own right, but an econobox nonetheless. So how did that affect my enjoyment of the TTS pictured here?
I consider myself lucky to have driven a number of high-dollar sports cars during my relatively short time on this rock. I don’t say this to brag, even humbly, but merely to frame the forthcoming review as one hopefully grounded in reality. And when I say “high dollar”, I mean those in the $60,000 to $100,000 range. Which is certainly high dollar to me, and at two to three times the average new car transaction price, for most of the buying public, as well. But in the sports car world, it’s merely mid-range. Deep into six-figure territory (and beyond) lies nearly the entire Porsche 911 range, plus the McLarens, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis that are the stuff of car guy dreams. But there’s still a lot to be had in this middle ground of the merely expensive – witness the Corvette, M3/M4, Z4, Boxster/Cayman, Jaguar F-Type and Audi TTS (which I’ll be reviewing in a couple of weeks). And of course, the SLC43 seen here.
You’ve got to give it to Fiat – it takes chutzpah to take on the entry-level sports car segment, one fraught with dwindling historical sales and fickle buyers that tend to chase the latest shiny new metal. Perhaps it was this bleak category outlook that prompted them to reach out to Mazda with a partnership idea. The 124 Spider that you see before you is the product that resulted, and it’s quite special.