Category - News

Jaguar Gave, and Jaguar Hath Taken Away….

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In a rare bit of music to our ears, Jaguar just announced at the 2014 LA Auto Show that their gorgeous F-Type will come one step closer to claiming our hearts by adding a 6-speed manual transmission option to the 2016 spec sheets. Hallelujah! But wait just a minute....there's a trade off to be made. A few trade offs, actually. The first is pretty minor - the F-Type's previously hydraulic power steering rack is now electrically boosted instead. That news is hardly shocking; in fact, what's more shocking is that the 2015 F-Type still had hydraulic power steering in the first place. It now joins the ranks of other sports cars that have made the same move - the Corvette, Cayman, Boxster and 911 are all on that list. Nice company to be in, so we'll reserve judgment until we try it. Manual_S_Caldera_Red_05_LowRes That new 6-speed manual won't be available on every F-Type, either - just the V6, rear-wheel-drive models. Of course, those happen to be supercharged V6s pushing out either 340 or 380 horsepower and capable of running to 60 MPH in just 5.5 and 5.3 seconds, respectively, so we can forgive the lack of manual availability on the macho V8 "R" coupe and convertible models. Although, we'll admit an F-Type with 550 horsepower and a manual transmission would be pretty damn special. Here's hoping Jaguar changes their minds on limiting the manual's availability to the V6 at some point in the future. AWD_R_Storm_Grey_06_LowRes More troubling, though, is news of the F-Type's newly "available" all-wheel-drive. You see, while you can still have your V6-powered F-Type in rear-wheel drive guise, the rear-wheel drive V8 models have been done away with altogether. That means no more lurid, smoky, 550-horsepower F-Type R slides- though it will presumably be easier to put down the V8's prodigious power with the addition of front half-shafts. The move to AWD has, predictably, added some weight - roughly 150 pounds depending on model - though that small performance deficit will be easily clawed back by the ability to put the power down more effectively. Jaguar claims a 3.9-second 0-60 run for both F-Type R models, though even that figure is probably conservative by a few tenths. AWD_R_Storm_Grey_02_LowRes Luckily, the F Type remains as stunning as it ever was - Jaguar has left the styling alone. Time will tell if the rear-wheel drive V8 configuration makes an appearance on a future, hotted-up F Type model - we hope it does, and while we're at it, let's add in six-speed manual availability, too. Hey, we can dream, right? AWD_R_Glacier_White_01_LowRes

Driven: 2015 Chevy Suburban LTZ

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If early sales numbers are any indication, GM’s new line of large SUVs has already proven an absolute slam-dunk success for the manufacturer. Anecdotally, I see them absolutely everywhere, and the data supports this – deliveries in September alone for the entire range (Yukon, Tahoe, Escalade and Suburban) totaled nearly 19,000 units. That’s an almost 50% uptick from the same month last year, and a result not only of American shoppers’ apparently renewed confidence in buying large SUVs, but also the quality of the product being offered. Compared to the Escalade ESV I drove last month, the Suburban pictured here is nearly $25 grand cheaper, but no less impressive. SAMSUNG CSC Despite sharing a platform, the Escalade ESV and Suburban couldn’t be further apart in character. About the only traits they share are their cavernous interiors and a distinct ability to feel smaller than they are once on the move. But the Suburban is the friendlier proposition of the two. Where the Escalade shouts about its style, power and authority, the Suburban is understated – its looks don’t draw attention, and when they do, passersby are likely to conclude there’s a family man (or woman) behind the wheel. As preposterous as it sounds, I found the Suburban to be an ideal urban commuter vehicle. Hear me out… SAMSUNG CSC Despite its size, it’s actually quite easy to maneuver. Well-placed parking sensors and cameras make it a doddle to back into and out of spaces, as long as you’re possessed of a modicum of spatial awareness. The ride is serene and remains unfazed by craters or expansion joints, helped in large part by our tester’s 20” wheels rather than optional 22s. It’s also exceedingly quiet, comfortable, and easy to see out of. However, none of this shocked me. Really, the thing I was most surprised by was the efficiency of the thing. Seriously. SAMSUNG CSC Cylinder deactivation and a steady right foot helped eke out an 18.3 mpg average over my week with the ‘Burb, which was over mixed highway and city conditions. That’s damn impressive for a vehicle of this size, especially when you consider that the more or less identically-sized Escalade ESV only managed 15.5 mpg in the same conditions. Does that make the Escalade’s mileage a deal breaker? Probably not – to most drivers, the difference will equate to less than $100 a month – hardly a worry for the folks shopping these two. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC Most of the mileage disparity is down to the Suburban's smaller engine. The 5.3 V8, seen elsewhere across the “1500” series truck models in GM’s lineup, is 65 horsepower and 77 lb-ft shy of the 6.2 in the Escalade. You’d think that would make the Suburban seem sluggish in comparison, but it doesn’t. In fact, our 2WD LTZ got out of its own way just fine, and has enough grunt to happily pull an 8,000 pound trailer. It hasn’t got quite the same gusto as the Escalade when you trounce on the gas, but in day to day driving, you’re unlikely to notice a difference. SAMSUNG CSC Elsewhere, the 5.3 and 6-speed automatic transmission exhibit the same qualities that endeared me to this combo in the Silverado and Sierra 1500s. The cylinder deactivation feature, which cuts power to half the engine during light load situations, operates seamlessly. The only indication you get that you’re running on four-cylinder power is a green indicator on the dash that flips from “V8” to “V4”. The 6L80 HydraMatic shuffles between gears without hesitation, and never seems to get caught out. Manual changes are handled by a rocker switch on the column-mounted shifter, if you’re so inclined. SAMSUNG CSC As in the Escalade ESV, interior space is plentiful. Seven adults fit with both ease and comfort – something that cannot be said for most 3-row SUVs, and even some minivans. There are plenty of storage cubbies and thoughtful touches scattered about, including the filing-cabinet center console and 110V AC power outlets, both features lifted from the more workaday 1500 pickups. All the modern electronic safety and convenience options that could be reasonably expected at this price point are fitted here, including heated front and second row seats, cooled front seats, power-folding second and third row seats, two-row MyLink DVD displays, forward collision alert, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. While our loaded tester’s $66,395 sticker price certainly isn’t what you would call “cheap”, it does represent a significant value against many smaller import rivals. Now that those rivals can no longer ding the Suburban for truckish driving dynamics and abysmal fuel economy, they’re going to have to work a lot harder to make a case against the great American full-size SUV. SAMSUNG CSC [gallery ids="11031,11032,11033,11051,11050,11049,11048,11047,11046,11045,11044,11043,11037,11042,11036,11035,11041,11034,11040,11039,11038"]   2015 Chevy Suburban LTZ 2WD Base price: $62,695 Price as tested: $66,395 Options on test car:  Sun, Entertainment and Destination package ($3,305), Crystal Red metallic paint ($495), 20” chrome wheels ($400), package discount (-$500) Powertrain: 5.3-liter VVT V8 engine w/ cylinder deactivation, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel-drive – 355 horsepower, 383 lb-ft torque S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 18.3 mpg Chevy provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.

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