Category - News

Driven: 2015 VW Jetta 1.8T SE

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Astute readers may recall that back in August, Volkswagen invited me to fly to Virginia to drive a smattering of their new and refreshed 2015 Jetta, Golf and GTI models. Well, one of those Jettas must have been really enamored with me, because it followed me back to Florida and showed up on my doorstep. Will a week with the Jetta do anything to dull the luster I saw in it over those Virginia hills? Read on to find out. SAMSUNG CSC As I reported a few weeks ago, the Jetta has once more become a pleasurable compact to drive. It carries itself like a larger, more upscale car, damping harsh bumps into distant memories before they ever hit the cabin, muting wind noise, and displaying a general smoothness and slickness that would justify a higher price tag than the Jetta demands. While this 2015 does sport slightly revised fascias front and rear, it doesn’t look noticeably different from the sedan that debuted four years ago. It’s still clean and handsome, though, and has aged remarkably well considering that visually, it still fits in with the rest of VW’s newer lineup. SAMSUNG CSC With nearly all of its former demons exorcised (rear drum brakes swapped for discs, torsion beam rear suspension ditched, thirsty 5-cylinder replaced), the remaining place VW needed to focus its attention was inside. This 2015 brings a soft-touch dash top and various chrome and piano black trim pieces that lift what was once a mostly coal-bin-black affair. SAMSUNG CSC Equipment levels have also been improved, and feature content on our mid-level SE w/ Connectivity tester ($23,145) is generous for this class. Heated leatherette seats, a power sunroof, remote entry with push-button start, a touchscreen stereo with Bluetooth audio streaming, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are bundled with the turbocharged engine and 6-speed automatic to create a compelling, reasonably-priced package. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC The new 1.8T that Volkswagen started installing in the Jetta last year is a honey of an engine, feeling far more powerful and torquey than its on-paper stats suggest. It’s never wanting for poke, from essentially idle speed on up, and even at the top of the rev range it doesn’t feel out of breath. The fact that it’ll run happily on regular unleaded is an added bonus. SAMSUNG CSC If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear the 6-speed automatic hooked to the 1.8-liter EA888 was a dual-clutch unit – such is the way it’s programmed to shuffle smoothly between gears, though it does have a propensity to find 6th gear and stay there unless you’re hoofing it. The 1.8T has enough torque to cope with low revs in top gear, but if maximum forward thrust is desired, you’re better off leaving the transmission in the “S” setting or taking control manually. SAMSUNG CSC For the rare new car shopper that prefers to row their own gears, VW has added a tempting 1.8T Sport model to the 2015 lineup that includes 17” alloys (up one inch from our tester's), sport suspension, heated sport seats, navigation, fog lights, a black headliner, contrasting stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shifter and handbrake, and a rear spoiler – over and above the equipment already included on the SE w/ Connectivity. All of that comes at a price of $21,715 for a 5-speed manual or $22,815 for a 6-speed automatic – making the Sport the apparent bargain of the Jetta lineup for those willing to scour the option sheet for its existence. SAMSUNG CSC While the 1.8T Sport would be the trim level most likely to capture my dollars, it’s difficult to argue against our SE tester or indeed any of the 2015 1.8T and 2.0 TDI Jetta models. By offering more driving verve – and greater equipment levels – than the rest of the compact field, VW has righted its initial misstep and finally made the Mk6 the car it always deserved to be – a Jetta. SAMSUNG CSC [gallery ids="10943,10942,10940,10939,10938,10937,10936,10941,10944,10935,10934,10932,10931,10933,10929,10930,10927"]  2015 VW Jetta 1.8T SE w/ Connectivity Base price: $23,145 Price as tested: $23,145 Options on test car:  None Powertrain: 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front wheel drive – 170 horsepower, 184 lb-ft torque EPA-estimated fuel economy: 25 mpg city/ 37 mpg highway Volkswagen provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.

Project Brabham Looks to Crowdsourcing for WEC LMP2 Effort in 2015

We're excited to see the Brabham name returning to racing next year through their new crowdfunded race team project for their FIA WEC LMP2 entry next year. David Brabham is leading the charge with this unique open-source, fan-funded project and believes that this new model will bring fans closer to the action. For a full rundown of the project, check out http://www.brabham.co.uk or the IndiGoGo funding site at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/project-brabham

Ferrari Reveals Ferrari 458 Speciale A Ahead of Paris Motor Show

Ferrari 458 Speciale A
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Maranello, 25th September 2014 – Ferrari is pleased to announce the Paris Motor Show world debut of the 458 Speciale A (A as in Aperta). The new limited edition special series is a celebration of the dazzling success of the various versions of the 458, a model that has collected an array of international motoring media awards and track victories, not least a double WEC title and category wins in classic endurance races, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Dedicated to just 499 Ferrari collectors, the 458 Speciale A is the most powerful spider in Prancing Horse history, effortlessly marrying extreme performance with the sublime pleasure of drop-top driving. Its aluminium retractable hard top, which takes a mere 14 seconds to deploy or retract, helps reduce the weight difference with the Speciale coupé to just 50 kg. The 458 Speciale A sports the most powerful naturally-aspirated road-going V8 engine ever built by Ferrari. It punches out a massive 605 cv (135 cv/l specific power output) and 540 Nm of torque at 6000 rpm yet only generates 275 g/km of CO2 emissions. The three international Best Performance Engine awards the V8 has won are acknowledged on a special plaque in the cockpit. The new car sprints from 0-100 km/h in just 3.0 seconds and has a Fiorano lap time of 1’23”5. These superb results are thanks in great part to its front and rear active aerodynamics, the rigidity of a chassis that incorporates 10 aluminium alloys, and Side Slip Angle Control (SSC) which guarantees unparalleled sporty driving in all conditions, underscored by the seductively exhilarating signature Ferrari soundtrack. As is the case with all Prancing Horse cars, the 458 Speciale A’s sculpted forms are absolutely performance-oriented. In fact, a series of innovative and original bodywork solutions has made the 458 Speciale A the most aerodynamically efficient Ferrari spider ever. The 458 Speciale A is being premiered in a unique triple-layer yellow livery with a Blu Nart and Bianco Avus central stripe as well as five-spoke forged wheels in Grigio Corsa. The cockpit has a distinctive racing-inspired look: lightweight yet exclusive materials have been adopted throughout and, of course, crafted with Ferrari’s signature artisanal sophistication. This is particularly true of the finish of the dash, the moulded door panels and central tunnel in an exclusive blue carbon-fibre (also used for the treadplates) as well as the newly-designed seats in Alcantara© with contrasting stitching and 3D technical fabric. TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION SUMMARY
Engine
Type V8 – 90°
Total displacement 4497 cc
Max. power output 605 cv at 9000 rpm
Maximum torque 540 Nm at 6000 rpm
Weight
Dry weight 1340 kg
Weight-power ratio 2.21 kg/cv
Performance
0 - 100 km/h 3.0”
0 - 200 km/h 9.5”
Fiorano lap time 1’23”5
Emissions (ECE + EUDC combined cycle)
CO2 emissions** 275 gr/km
**with HELE system

Driven: 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO

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2014 370Z NISMO, we hardly knew ye. Just last year, we were touting your revised underbody spoilers, wheels and rear wing, and now as we ring in the 2015 model year, Nissan has quietly ushered in a new 370Z NISMO with revised underbody spoilers, wheels, and a rear wing. My, how things change. Still, whether you’re discussing MY13, 14 or 15, the car beneath the body kit remains the same burly, 350-horsepower 2-seater with a stick and rear-wheel drive. The stuff S:S:L dreams are made of, no? Read on to find out… SAMSUNG CSC Perhaps because of the rapid change the auto industry has exhibited in the five model years since the current Z was introduced, the NISMO has a delightfully “old school” feel to it. The interior is wonderfully simple – cloth seats and not a single touchscreen to be found. Instead, you get a slew of gauges (though I’d happily change out the dash-top voltmeter for something more useful). You can only get the powertrain one way – a 6-speed manual driving a big, naturally aspirated V6. That is, until next year, when a 7-speed automatic becomes available. SAMSUNG CSC Power delivery is heady, though due to the VQ37’s high-revving nature, it’s easy to mistake as being a bit light on low-end torque. We can probably thank the widespread nature of powertrain “pressurization” elsewhere in the industry for that: we’ve gotten spoiled by the instant torque hit that turbocharging now provides. But in its defense, the naturally aspirated 3.7 powering the NISMO develops its power in a smooth, linear fashion, and it sounds sweet doing it. In fact, on a special model like this, we’d even accept a bit more exhaust sound being let into the cabin. SAMSUNG CSC Nissan’s much discussed but rarely copied “SynchroRev Match” auto-blip system is standard equipment on the NISMO, and while it might be easy to write off as gimmicky in concept, in practice, it’s fantastic. Perfectly judged every time, it frees up your right foot to focus on modulating those beefy 4-pot, 14-inch front brakes. The shifter’s throws are relatively short and smooth, though the clutch is heavily sprung and a bit tricky to release smoothly, partly due to the angle your leg’s at from sitting on the floor. After a day’s acclimation, though, it became second nature. SAMSUNG CSC The hydraulic power steering is heavier than in recent electrically-boosted cars, and sends honest-to-God feedback through the suede rimmed wheel – it actually wriggles with info, enough so to make even a modern Porsche jealous. Handling limits are quite high on the road, but the chassis balance tends more toward “drift” than “push” when space allows you to surpass those initial grip levels. The Z is as happy to cut its tail out as it is to play a corner neat and tidy; happier, in fact. SAMSUNG CSC Speaking of Porsche, most of us have probably seen the Chris Harris video comparing the FR-S/BRZ and 370Z with perhaps the most compelling used sports car on the market, the Cayman S. Mr. Harris’ conclusion was that dynamically, the FR-S and Cayman play in a different league than the Z, though for outright performance, the Z’s on-paper stats make a case for themselves. The market and price points for the sports cars mentioned in that video are somewhat different here in the US to Chris’s native UK. After all, over there, the Z and GT86 (FR-S) are priced somewhat similarly, though over here, they’re further apart. We’ve also got a smattering of domestic ponycars that occupy a similar market space, but we’ll leave them out of this discussion for simplicity’s sake. SAMSUNG CSC I feel qualified to weigh in on Harris’ comparison, for a few reasons. You see, I’ve owned two out of the three vehicles in question. And with them, I’ve been lucky enough to check off just about every big automotive “bucket list” item imaginable, which has given me a pretty good understanding of what they’re like under the skin. My Cayman S saw frequent autocross outings, a track day at Sebring, and various long-distance road trips, including one to the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina (thanks again for the speeding ticket, Tennessee). The FR-S, which I’ve owned since May, has also been regularly flogged at autocrosses (but no track days thus far) and has seen its share of spirited miles. When we were in Germany last summer, I was able to rent its European cousin, the aforementioned GT86, and flog it around the Nurburgerkingring and Autobahn. To say I’ve spent some time in the cars would be an understatement. SAMSUNG CSC My time in 370Zs has been more limited. I’d only driven them briefly before this occasion, and to be honest came to much the same conclusion as Harris did – decent performance for the money, but lacking a certain X factor that brought it to the next level of specialness. After my time in the NISMO package, though, I’m prompted to say that it brings back that “specialness” lacking in the base car. There’s a real sense of occasion about it. The interior, for example, is a far more special place to sit than is my FR-S’. And I can’t help but feel that, while its place as a driver’s car (and a damn fun one at that) has been cemented, the FR-S as an “object” falls short of the NISMO and the Cayman. It’s less of a thing to desire and admire, and more just a really entertaining appliance. Walking out to the Cayman each day felt special, and even though its styling is a bit more tongue-in-cheek, I got the same feeling seeing the Z in the parking lot after a long day. SAMSUNG CSC Is it worth it to wait for the slightly restyled 2015 NISMO edition? That’s a call only the buyer can make, but in my eyes, it’s sound judgment to go for the current car, unless your needs specifically call for navigation or an automatic transmission, neither of which are available on the 2014. The fact that a well-timed purchase will probably result in a handsome savings off the sticker only further solidifies my recommendation of the current car. It's a blast, and it deserves a sports car buyer's attention. SAMSUNG CSC [gallery ids="10901,10902,10903,10904,10912,10913,10914,10916,10919,10918,10915,10917,10911,10908,10909,10910"] 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO Base price: $43,810 Price as tested: $46,370 Options on test car:  Bose package ($1,350), Carpeted floor mats ($125), Trunk mat ($95), Illuminated kick plates ($200), In-mirror rearview monitor ($790) Powertrain: 3.7-liter V6 engine, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive – 350 horsepower, 276 lb-ft torque S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 20.4 mpg Nissan provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.