Tag - Review and Road Test

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Coupe: Supercharged torque makes for one snakey ‘Stang.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Coupe

When I was about 12 years old I had a couple of neighborly brothers who used to tinker with the most ludicrous little contraptions. From their shed placed in the back yard of their home I witnessed many marvelous inventions come to life, including a 600cc ATV-engine powered go-kart, a backwoods tree-destorying Ford LTD with full bush bars, and a three-wheeled ATV that had seen more abuse than Whitney Houston. Sure, these toys were interesting, hillbilly gas burners meant to either get you in a lot of trouble or a lot of hurt, but it was what was in their driveway that mesmerized me for years.

Being 12 years old you tend to fixate on certain cars in your neighborhood. For me it was a two-tone green and silver 1992 Ford Mustang 5.0 Coupe. Other than aftermarket American Racing wheels and a rumbling exhaust, it wasn't even particularly interesting by today's standards. But, hearing the thumpity-thump of the 302 cubic inch Windsor V8 being smashed through the gears was an audible symphony at the time. I never did to get to ride in the car, though I still wish I had to this day.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Coupe

Five years later, the same Mustang clad in the exact same wheels as I had first seen it was for sale for $5000. Coming on in age, the clear coat was peeling, the exhaust starting to sound rough and rattly, and the interior showing the bolsters had been put to use on more than one occasion. I passed on buying it knowing that it's days were numbered due to long-term neglect.

So, when a red 2011 Shelby GT500 showed up in my driveway, it was a throwback to my childhood. The GT500 is way more car than the old 5.0 that I grew up around. But, at least I could pretend that it was the old 'Stang that had tickled my ear drums years before.

It's fast. Snakey fast.

When a refreshed Mustang landed in 2010, many of the powerplant options had been carried over from the previous generation, including the iron block 5.4L supercharged V8 used in the 2007-09 Shelby GT500. It was reworked in 2010 to produce 540 hp and 510 lb·ft of torque compared to 500 hp and 480 lb·ft the year before. But, 2011 brought a new, full engine line up, including an aluminum block 5.4L supercharged V8 pounding out 550 hp and 510 lb·ft of torque.

Being aluminum instead of iron also helped Ford trim the fat from the engine by an amazing 102 lbs and also improved fuel economy enough to exempt the Shelby from gas guzzler taxes. Ratings put fuel economy at 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway. But, with that much power on tap and many chances to exploit it, we got a real world number closer to 12 mpg.

2011 Ford Shelby GT500

Acceleration is amazing with the supercharged V8 able to make peak torque at fairly low RPMs. Even with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control nannying the 3.73 LSD, the Mustang slides just enough to make your heart skip a beat without getting you into trouble. Standard 14 inch front discs by Brembo and 11.8 in rear discs slow the Shelby down quickly when the radar detector starts beeping at you while the SVT tuned suspension and Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2 P265/40ZR19 front, P285/35ZR20 rear tires, part of the optional SVT Performance Package, make sure you stay glued to the road or track.

Damn, it looks good...and sounds good too.

To say the Shelby is just a Mustang with a big, supercharged motor plunked into the engine bay couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, many of the body bits are specific to the GT500, including the Gurney Flap decklid rear spoiler and mesh grille. Optional 19 inch front, 20 inch rear painted aluminum wheels are exclusive to the SVT Performance Package, while 19-inch wheels are available all around as standard.

Other details include the cueball shift knob (which is actually very comfortable to shift) along with Shelby and GT500 branding inside and outside the car. The Shelby definitely looks the part of 'roided up pony car.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Coupe

Inside the cabin is comfortable, ready for hard track days or long stretches of highway. Controls are standard Ford fare...which is no longer a bad thing. Everything is well laid out and very easy to use. The included Sync system with navigation is also incredibly predictable and well designed.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Coupe

The level of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) has also been reduced since MY 2010. However, that does not reduce the amount you hear from the engine, with the rumble easily making it to the driver's ear and causing him or her to squeeze the accelerator pedal just that little bit more. If you have the windows down you will be blessed with even more auditory delights as you prowl the streets looking for your next snake bite victim.

Its not a sports car. Its a Grand Tourer. And that's a good thing.

Sports cars are harsh, unforgiving, performance focused vehicles that usually leave the driver and passengers with lots to be desired in the comfort department. The GT500 leaves you wanting for nothing as the plush yet supportive seats cuddle you like a cloud cuddles angels. The SVT suspension does it's job without being overly harsh or jarring. And the entertainment system and Sirius Travel Link gives you all the information you need, including traffic and weather forecasts, for any long or short hauls (unfortunately, it won't tell you what is around turn 2 at your next track day).

If you are looking for a comfortable high performer without shelling out six-figures chances are the GT500 is something that will be of interest to you.

Prepare to Believe: A Weekend with the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Sport and the 2010 Kia Soul Sport

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Call me skeptical. Go ahead; it's a label I wear with pride. I'm a half-ass Catholic with a solid education, and though I chose to pursue the arts instead of the sciences, I evaluate the results of both disciplines with a critical eye. Blind faith is another matter entirely (unless we're talking about the spectacular Magic Hat brew, which is a notion I can fully support). So a couple years ago, when I was a bit more naïve and a steadfast Euro devotee, I chuckled at my auto industry friends' (and Kia's and Hyundai's) insistence that the Korean manufacturers were poised to take the auto landscape by storm. Time passed. My worldview matured, though not my willingness to indulge fundamentalism. The Soul and Genesis landed, and I was intrigued. I wanted some seat time in them, and delivered upon me was the perfect excuse for a road trip: a pilgrimage to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We'd wanted to see the place for a while, inspired by "Esquire" editor A.J. Jacobs'  fabulously funny book "The Year of Living Biblically." Though my interest was piqued, I blame my husband and his irrational man crush on Mr. Jacobs. (If we ever get a car named after a food, we'll probably be tailing Alton Brown.) For those unfamiliar with this $27 million blatant disregard for scientific knowledge, it is dedicated to demonstrating that the earth is about 6000 years old, according to a literal interpretation of the Bible. If we are willing to suspend disbelief, the museum's premise results in the revelation that dinosaurs coexisted with humans because we were all created on the same day. The museum's backer? The fundamentalist organization, Answers in Genesis. Here I sit back as the jokes write themselves. We got the cars together, and the drive down was tantalizing, the two of us, weaving through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, admiring ourselves and each other. The Genesis, especially, inspired lust, greed and envy; I often found myself the subject of curious stares from onlookers. In Chicago, two sweet young things threw their Acura in reverse at a stoplight to get a better look, and at one point, I was approaching a fresh-looking bright red car from behind and thought to myself, "Damn, what's that?" before realizing it was another Coupe Sport.  As we progressed southward, the auto landscape grew sparser. We knew we were close when we piloted the only two Korean cars for miles.  The Creation Museum is beautifully designed to make its visitors feel shameful about the world we inhabit. It starts with a short film that gives the timeline of the world's beginning according to Genesis. From there, visitors are shuttled to the opening exhibit, Natural Selection is Not Evolution, to which there's not much more than its unwieldy title. To convince us that Science is Bad, we were treated of a diorama of two wax paleontologist figures unearthing dinosaur bones, side by side. The Creationist paleontologist found a 6000-year-old skeleton; the scientist's dino, however, was billions of years in the hole. In this museum, shiny placards automatically and without question present a cogent argument. The moral of the story, so often quoted throughout the museum to explain the disconnects between science and faith? "Different starting points, same facts." Not convinced; want another? "Today, linguists recognize languages fall into distinct 'families' of recent origin." Sure, "recent" is a relative term to the Creationists, but that sound byte is a better explanation of why we brought the Soul Sport and Genesis Coupe together. KiaEgg Relatively speaking, of course, both brands are young. To Kia, this is an advantage; its target market for the Soul has attention spans too short to remember its disastrous early attempts in the American market. Kia's said its goal is to strengthen its identity; the Soul, a particularly charming visual standout amongst the Asian take-out boxes, is a solid step forward. Hyundai, Kia's parent company as of 1997, has undertaken quite a task, nurturing its foster to respectability while quietly dissociating itself, hoping to challenge European luxury. Out of this ambition came what Hyundai calls its game changer, a rear-wheel-drive sport compact based on its luxury sedan of the same name (which, to be fair, was also called a game changer).   Continuing through the museum, we reached the Dinosaur Den. Despite its guffaw-inducing signage ("Biblical history is the key to understanding dinosaurs! There were probably about fifty different dinosaur kinds on the Ark!") this exhibit is pretty but overall unimpressive to anyone who's been to a real science museum, anywhere, ever. Though the designer of the exhibit, Buddy Davis, collected nice paychecks working for secular museums before collaborating with Answers in Genesis, the fault doesn't like with him. Quite simply, the signage is riot-inducing. Dinosaurs were originally vegetarians? Sure. The fact that fossils prove dinos and humans did not coexist is irrelevant? Yup. And to think, according to a May 2007 Salon article, this place opened without a penny of debt thanks to private donors. At least natural selection's improved our transportation options, further demonstrated by the next exhibit, a model of Noah's Ark as it might have looked under construction. We can't even be snarky about taking the transportation comparisons this far. You'll get a better Big Bang for your buck with both the Soul Sport and Genesis Coupe. True, they might not be financed by wealthy Christians, but our base trim Soul Sport started at $18,590; our Genesis Coupe cashed in at $26,750. KiaFull The Soul is the triceratops of our pair, sturdy, reliable and pleasingly angular. Though the interior's ripe with aesthetic pleasures, it's cluttered and perhaps a bit gimmicky, with a lot of gadgetry occupying a small cabin. One of the more charming aspects of the Soul was its traditional key, requiring an actual turn to start the ignition. A surprise, given the expectations of Kia's desired market for the car, but altogether welcome. The tactile experience of key in hand immediately brings a more intimate relationship with the car, a feeling that lingered throughout the trip. The cabin's small though not cramped; the $700 power sunroof opened things up nicely. The backseat's almost, but not quite, a better place to be than the front. It's reasonably spacious; you want your friends to pile in. It's supremely comfortable; it seems justified to lounge around for lounging's sake. Sloth, we love it. KiaInterior Our tester was Shadow Metallic, a barely black finish that sacrifices a lot of the exterior detail. On a dull and isolated stretch of highway, I found myself behind an Alien Green example, which brought to my attention exterior textures and contours, like the subtly rounded squares comprising the rear hatch, that had previously escaped notice. Upon comparison, I noticed the Sport's subtle front and rear fascias and more aggressive side sills, which nicely complemented the 18" 5-spoke wheels. Airbags, ESP and a tire pressure monitoring system rounded out the options and features. While peppy and perky, the Soul Sport is not what a reasonable person would consider fast. The 2.0 inline-four puts out 142 hp, which resists harsh input but can be sweet-talked, to an extent. Once we achieved 80 mph, it held with ease on the flat Indiana highways, but attempts to coax a little more speed were met with cheerful resistance and a rapidly dwindling fuel readout (which bothered me until I noted the scant 12-gallon tank). No matter; we were still coasting by the roadworthy farm implements with aplomb. The five-speed manual transmission is easy and forgiving if somewhat sloppy; second gear was already well worn and prone to grind with less than 10,000 miles. The clutch, notably light with a wide range of release, made for a comfortable if slightly unsettling drive; it was difficult to sense the right point to ease off and I constantly expected some kind of admonishment, but the car kept bubbling forth. HyundaiFull In our little game, then, the Genesis Coupe would be some other "dinosaur kind": athletic, agile, though not altogether frightening. Our tester was a touch more subtle than we expected, the glimmery Nordschleife Gray finish raking over 19" alloys. The HID headlamps evoked a watchfulness that was feline, or perhaps avian, but in this corner of Kentucky there's no way in hell dinos were descended from birds. Approach the car and it unlocks, and the push button start gets things underway. The 2.0 turbo four-banger is quick to accelerate; sexy, sexy Brembo brakes stop on command. The optional Track package provides the brakes as well as stiffer suspension and a limited slip differential. It was, on occasion, difficult to shift the Genesis into reverse. The gear was hard to find and the lever occasionally hit the gate. We loved the solidity of the shift collar, though. The turbo engine revs pretty high, constantly demanding the driver's attention. Cruise control's at your disposal, but that's no fun. Driver and passengers are well protected with ESP and traction control, antilock brakes, and front, side and side curtain airbags. HyundaiInterior Yet there are all manner of distractions in the cabin, good and bad. This car embraces its driver with excellent tactile quality. The dash is soft to the touch, fingers nestle gently in the leather-wrapped wheel, and to my delight, the end of the turn signal stalk felt like a piece of Pez candy along the edge of my fingertip. The high-bolstered seats feel like being caressed from behind; in nearly five straight hours of driving, they didn't pinch, numb, or cause me to slouch. Power locks and windows are complemented by a power sunroof; the black and red color scheme is accented by metalgrain trim and aluminum pedals. The Infinity premium AM/FM/CD/satellite setup was perfectly serviceable but somehow lacking panache. If the interior's got a considerable downfall, it's a lack of easily accessible storage or cubby space; my phone, when plugged into the iPod adapter cord, was prone to sliding around. We couldn't help but feel if the first generation Tiburon had achieved even a sliverof the Genesis' spiritual presence, Hyundai's upward climb may have been a bit easier. And here we reach the cultural portion of our program, the Walk Through Biblical History. It's the most comprehensive part of the museum and explains how we arrived at the world's current state, ensures we realize how horrible we are for existing in and contributing to the world's current state, and tells us how it's all going to end. This isn't for the faint of heart. Creation was first, of course. We heard about the six days of creation and seventh of rest; as we gazed at a life-sized Adam in the garden, a narrator told us how he lent his rib for Eve. We had to chuckle, though, at a scene of Adam surrounded by a lamb, some jungle cats, and a penguin, with a placard explaining, "Adam named fewer than two hundred animals. Naming all these animals would require only a few hours, at most." How the hell do they know how long it would take, we ask? But, being Speed:Sport:Lifers, we were more concerned about the cars. Kia and Hyundai, it seems, grew more proficient at the naming game as time passed. Lots of floor space was dedicated to Corruption, illustrating the temptation and subsequent moral collapse of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were famously, shamelessly, fabulously nude before the ingestion of that awful fruit, and were commanded to don clothing as part of their punishment. I suppose it's irony, in the Alanis Morissette kind of way, that the Genesis afforded me one of the most redeeming moments of our trip, a rare bit of bare-skinned freedom. Our drive from Chicago passed with virtually no discomfort, much to my surprise and pleasure. Just a few miles from our hotel, though, my left heel started to tingle, pinched by the back of my beat-up sneaker. I steadied the wheel with my right hand, reached down with my left, and slipped off my shoe and sock. This was an act of desperation and a bit of faith; driving a manual without shoes has always caused unbearable discomfort. The Genesis, though? The clutch was tender and responsive though a bit jumpy, and driving barefoot was a revelation. Thanks, Hyundai, for not punishing me for Adam's sin. The Catastrophe segment told us about the flood, in excruciating hypothetical detail. We so truly hate to skip over a feature the museum thinks is crucial, but we didn’t find out if either car floats and we know they can hold only a few of your closest friends, not a menagerie. We are happy to report, however, the Soul and Genesis are both watertight. We were led through Confusion down a dim hall with illustrations depicting the spread of humankind and its impact on society; in the Museum's words, "Scripture abandoned in the culture leads to relative morality, hopelessness and meaninglessness." We beg to differ: the beauty of many languages and our ability to spread out across the world, nearly anywhere we'd like to go, is a punishment? And obviously, dim red light is symbolic of complete and utter reprehensibility, so the Soul's screwed. We love its Mood lighting feature, red LEDS that can be set to pulse regularly or breathe to the beat of the music. The Soul's stereo is awesome and provides our modern distractions through an AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite/USB/aux-in buffet delivered through six speakers. Bring on the aural gluttony, we say. If pop culture results in the downfall of humanity, the Soul must shoulder some of that blame. (And if we needed any more evidence that the Soul is a rolling den of urban sin, we've spotted quite a few doing taxi duty in Chicago. How often do those drivers bask in red lights?)

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Though crucial to Christian history, the Christ and Cross displays had little to do with our mission. We moved right through to Consummation, which was an interesting exhibit because it's yet to happen. Even the Creation Museum can't convincingly pretend they know the effect of the curse being removed, and we'll give them a bit of credit for acknowledging such. Likewise, we give ourselves tons of credit for admitting we don't know the yet-to-come achievements of these cars. For all the attention lavished on Genesis, how disappointed we were that the human soul warranted not a single mention in the museum. I'd so hoped for a throwaway reference to bring our whole weekend together – our modern world of lost souls, who will save your soul, Fossil Soup for the Soul. Alas, it was not to be, as the Creation Museum is thoroughly unconcerned with other elements of biblical doctrine. (Interesting aside: I was pondering this very subject while rereading "The Year of Living Biblically," and stumbled upon a passage describing Jacobs' quest to fulfill an obscure commandment, the sacrifice of a red cow. His research led him to a Mississippi minister and cattle breeder hoping to produce the perfect red bovine specimen, who also happened to be a Kia salesman. I resisted the urge to contact him for comment; he allegedly talked Jacobs' ear off.) Here we return to our mission statement: different starting points, same facts. An Asian lunchbox much like those that came before it, and yet another Asian luxury chaser. Both are standouts in their classes, and both are true to their creators' intentions. Kia sees its sales steadily increasing thanks to more appealing new offerings and higher ratings (to say nothing of the dedication of one Southern cattle farmer). Meanwhile, Hyundai is prepping to debut another ambitious model. Next year's Equus, a full-size designed to take on the Mercedes S-Class, shoulders great expectations, but its path's been paved by the Genesis in both coupe and sedan forms. So, what did the Creation Museum teach us? Merely, that transportation's evolved. From the cars, we learned that the Genesis is everything, and the Soul has less relevance to faith than we'd thought. And, though we walked out believing in both, we'll stick with science.

Paleontologist

Kia Soul Gallery from Zerin's Review: [nggallery id=15]

Road Tested: 2009 BMW M3 Sedan

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Is there such a thing as having your automotive cake and being able to drive it too? If you drive any one of the handful of available sport sedans, then it’s possible to get a slice. Sliding behind the wheel of the 2009 BMW M3 Sedan however, I received a face full of Funfetti cake and pressing the gas pedal further only spreads the frosting wider across my smeared, “why-so-serious” gaping maw.

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The 2009 M3 is the aggressively-styled and powerful fraternal twin-brother to the standard BMW 3-Series sedan. While the 3-Series was buying time in a wind-tunnel, the M3 was off buying HGH. Everything is bolder on the M3 without going over the line; from the bulging hood and angry front fascia on back to the quad tailpipes, this sedan stands out. The design works very well to convey the appearance of speed before the START button is even pushed. Once that button is pushed, it is no longer merely an appearance - this M3 packs an impressive V8 factory of power. The growl from the exhaust ranges from a nice, relaxed burble up to a demonic roar which clashes perfectly with the glowing angel-eyes up front. Most often we equate a large rev range with four or six-cylinder engines but the massive kidney grilles in the front keep feeding this 4.0L 32-valve monster with air well past the 8,000 RPM mark. At times I feel like I am driving a five-passenger sport bike instead of a 3,700 lb. German cruise missile. All that heft is moved adeptly by the 414 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque this wonderful engine generates.

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I was expecting to find a six-speed manual transmission when I first opened the door to this car but found a unique knob with the following symbols: R, N, +, -, a diamond thingy, and D/S - with the iconic M logo below this hieroglyphic hodge-podge. This particular M3 is fitted with the M Double-Clutch Transmission which as the name implies utilizes two clutches for lightening fast shifts. All of the seven forward gears can be controlled by the car as a traditional automatic, or can be shifted manually via the shift knob or the steering-wheel mounted paddles. This system works very well, allowing me to shift more quickly than I could with a standard manual. However I do wish it was less complex. It has far too many settings for the speed at which the transmission responds. In automatic mode, I can choose between five settings. Switching over the manual mode, I have access to six settings with the sixth setting only available when stability control is turned off. Each setting is progressively quicker as well as noticeably more jarring. I only used two settings for most of my time in the car. I had it set to the full teeth-rattling mode quite often but I would also switch to the softest settings when I had passengers in the car. I do enjoy the M button on the steering wheel which quickly recalls the setting of the driver’s choosing but I also wish the system was whittled down to comfort, sport and M(ad).

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This BMW is an ideal car in that it is balanced in so many areas which make driving fun. It can roar to 60 mph in well under 5 seconds, winning most races in the ongoing stoplight-to-stoplight race series. However, I can use it to cruise lazily down the coast without feeling like the car needs to be driven hard. It is a great highway cruiser as well. When the time does come to push it, the M3 responds by shoving me further into the bolstered seats, clearing its throat with a growl, and blurring my peripheral vision into a darkening tunnel. If I were to stay on the gas pedal for too long I would be ripping through a ¼ mile in less than 13 seconds on my way to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Some find basic straight-line facts and figured boring … and the M3 offers something for these folks as well. Turning the wheel and pressing the gas results in controllable tail-out excitement when the stability control is turned off or a nicely executed corner with minimal intrusion when the nanny-systems are turned on. This sedan handles curvy roads like the knife used to cut the aforementioned cake. I am still expecting to see the ShamWow guy trying to sell me one during some late night TV commercial.

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At this point I could go on and on about the iDrive system. It has gotten much better in recent years. After a few minutes of learning my way through the system, I was able to navigate all the menus with relative ease. It is intuitive and is displayed on a well-lit screen. The sound system was also fantastic and came with the optional iPod/USB adapter. I took a very long drive in this car and good music through a great sound system makes the trip more enjoyable, though at times it was fun simply listening to the car itself. The 2009 BMW M3 Sedan starts at $54,850 and is actually the lowest priced of the three available body styles. The M3 is also available as a coupe or two-door convertible. The M3 shown here is heavily optioned with an as-tested price of $65,925. Jeff Glucker is the Road Test Editor for www.nadaguides.com and graciously shares his reviews with us here at Speed:Sport:Life ... be sure to check out the rest of their reviews and articles!

Road Tested: 2009 Infiniti FX50

The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a crossover SUV that thinks (and acts) like a sports car.
The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a crossover SUV that thinks (and acts) like a sports car.
Close your eyes and stick out your hand. I am going to put a set of keys in your palm and give you some quick stats about which car they belong to. A seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and downshift rev matching. This is linked to a 5.0L DOHC V8 engine pushing out 390 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque to an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. Dual stainless steel exhaust pipes bellow out a raucous symphony and large brakes to bring the large wheels and tires to a stop. What kind of car is this? Trick question, it's not a car; it is the 2009 Infiniti FX50 - a luxury crossover SUV. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-030 The keyless-entry fob is in my pocket so I step on the brake and hit the button marked START. The engine sounds like that of a V8 sports car. I put the seven-speed transmission into SPORT mode and the gear selector shows I am in first. I leave the parking lot - and feed it some throttle... I flick the right paddle, marked with a + sign, and the transmission responds quickly, like a sports car. The suspension is firm, like a sports car and keeps the FX50 flat as I take my first corner. The seat does a good job as it is heavily bolstered but still quite comfortable, like a good sports car. I have to stop the Infiniti so I pull over and step out - and that is the only time I realize I am not driving a sports car. [caption id="attachment_1784" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="This paddle makes good things happen – quickly."]This paddle makes good things happen – quickly.[/caption] The style is not for everyone, but I am a big fan. The exterior lines are more aggressive than the past generation of FX vehicles, and this new one has been called everything from a fast shoe to a bionic cheetah. I would simply call it sleek, stylish and a shape that lets anyone who look at it realize it is not going off-road anytime soon. From the 21" wheels to the quilted-leather interior, this car is built to entertain on-road, and it does so quite well. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-040 The interior is very comfortable with powered-bolsters and manual thigh support. The FX50 is also loaded down with plenty of tech goodies, some great - some I found intrusive. The11 speaker + 2 sub-woofer Bose sound system sounds crisp at both the high and low ends. The adaptive front lighting system provides a great view at night, and the headlights are auto-leveling so they are always pointing where you want them to. On the flip side of things, the Lane Departure Prevention system (LDP) is a bit odd for my liking. It senses when you are crossing over a lane that you shouldn't be and applies slight brake pressure to the wheels on the correct side of the vehicle to gently move you back into your lane. The system sounds great in theory but just felt odd in the real-world application.  The nice part however, was that the LDP defaults to off when you start the FX50. Another odd feature is the pre-crash seat belts which squeeze you into place when your first start up the FX. I am glad I didn't fully test this system but I could do without the reminder that it is there. Even if I wanted to crash, the rest of the advanced safety features would make it hard to do so. This Infiniti is fitted with a system that warns me about a pending front-end collision, it has another system that warns me if I am heading out of my lane when I shouldn't be, and it has an intelligent cruise control system which monitors vehicles ahead of me to adjust my speed. All of these are welcome systems but if I wanted to turn them off, Infiniti gives me that option. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-022 The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is filled with the same luxury and technology as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. It has very impressive power and love-it or hate-it standout styling. Accordingly, it has a price to match. The base price for the AWD model as tested here is $56,700.00. The FX50 I reviewed was fitted with the Sport Package, Technology Package, and the Mobile Entertainment System which bring the price to $65,015.00. Not a cheap vehicle by any means but right in line with the lesser-powered 2009 BMW X5, cheaper than the lesser-powered 2009 Audi Q7, and has a slight power edge over the similarly priced 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a true contender in the performance luxury crossover SUV market and a real pleasure when behind the wheel.

Fast Forward: 2009 Dodge Journey SXT Review

I don't know how we went from this to this, but I do know the Dodge Journey is Chrysler's attempt to keep their promises of future. Even after 'inventing' the first contemporarily packaged, attainable mainstream minivan in the 1980s, Chrysler continued to dream aloud through moonshot concept multi-purpose vehicles. The Dodge Epic, Plymouth Pronto, and Chrysler Citadel concepts employed emerging "Cab-Forward" architecture to maximize interior volume. Somewhere along the road to retail, cost-cutting and stagnance took their toll on ChryCo's bottom line. Bankruptcy ensued. Here we are today. In execution, the Dodge Journey feels like a Hyundai-built Ford Edge -- like the first-generation Chevrolet Equinox, engineered before GM gained "product religion." Ergonomics oddities abound, and its lagging powertrain fails to deliver power or fuel efficiency superlatives. However, hope hides in each cleverly concealed crevice. The Journey's suite of storage crannies proves that Chrysler is still staffed with real moms and dads who understand what it means to take a family roadtrip. If these creative engineers are given the tools and support to radically redefine automotive interior packaging, Chrysler could one day be a multi-purpose vehicle leader. Otherwise, the company will wither.

2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO — The return of the great American sedan.

Photographs by Jack Baruth It would be poetic to say that the return of the Great American Sedan was announced as the speedometer of the 2010 Taurus SHO swept past the one-hundred-and-twenty-mile-per-hour mark with the insouciant prowess of a young Mark McGwire taking practice swings in the batter's box. And it would be more than delightful to describe the way this big sedan trail-braked into an off-camber hairpin, smoking in sideways and providing my dry-heaving fellow member of The Press As A Whole the most panoramic view possible of the Great Smoky Mountains above the spectacular dashboard and sculpted bonnet while the steering spoke to me with crystalline clarity and the transmission snapped off two flawless downshifts. Or I could describe how, on a hill so steep walking it would be a challenge, the twin-turbo SHO squeaked its front tires for a nearly imperceptible moment before swapping drive to the back wheels and rocketing us up the slope with the force of a small-block Chevy. The truth of the matter, however, is that I knew everything I needed to know about the 2010 Taurus when I was handed a floppy-looking interior door skin. 10taurussho_69 There are more ways to skin a door than there are to skin a cat, you see. Entry-level cars use cheap plastics in big undifferentiated slabs. Camcords and Maltimas use a slightly better grade of material in a manner that does nothing to hide the essential plastic-ness of the interior. BMWs and Audis use mass-produced leather or Naugahyde panels set into a soft plastic door. If there's stitching, it's done by machine, and the leather is usually relatively low-cost stuff. Finally, Rolls-Royces and other high-end cars use top-end leather, stitched by hand and pulled around "forming blocks" to create a completely unique appearance for each panel. For the 2010 Taurus, Ford hand-stitched cost-no-object leather around individual blocks and assembled a multi-piece, hand-stitched leather door equal to the very best. Once. Then they used a very high-resolution sort of mold to capture every last individual detail, from ragged hand stitching to the way each individual door featured slightly different wrinkles from the leather around the corners of the armrest. With that done, they sprayed a special polyurethane compound into the mold. Presto! A precise copy of a hand-sewn door, right down to the way the stitches feel on the "leather". 10taurussho_65 It's an outstanding way to bring the interior appointments of quarter-million-dollar cars into a vehicle that starts at $25,995, and it's in a way emblematic of how the Taurus was developed. The car is positively slathered with new or new-in-the-class technologies, some obvious (the MyKey system that allows you to set a maximum speed for the valet key) and some not so obvious (the fact that the Alcantara-esque seat inserts of the SHO are made from recycled bottecaps). The styling is absolutely unique in the class, particularly from the rear, and the interior is a solid step above what you'll find in the competition, both in feature count and general aesthetics. What is the competition? It isn't the Accord or Camry, even though those cars have traditionally been the mortal enemies of Ford's mechanical bull. Fighting that battle is the Fusion's job now. Rather, think Avalon and Maxima on the Japanese side and Audi A4 and Mercedes C300 from the Germans. Ford uses the Audi A6 for benchmarking and comparison, but in terms of price this is an A4 competitor. The 1986 Taurus was a volume sedan that eventually became the best-selling car in America, but thisTaurus is something else. It's a premium car, aimed at the older consumer or the more style-conscious one. Boomers whose retirement savings have shrunk beyond comprehension lately will find that the Taurus, particularly in Limited trim, offers room, power, and aesthetics similar to that found in more expensive foreign sedans. Think of it as a budget indulgence.

We tested two cars: a white Limited FWD and a red SHO Ecoboost. The Limited was quiet, comfy, and stable well past the hundred-mile-per-hour mark on roads shiny with standing water. Deliberate attempts on our part to induce instability during high-speed hydroplaning were dealt with easily by simple design; the big lump under the trunk pulls the car straight and the suspension, which features a new "1:1 geometry" that allows the engineers to use equally-tuned shocks front and rear, is stable by default. What's the Taurus like to drive? Well, it's like a Lincoln MKS. Haven't driven one of those? Your loss, but let's use a few other examples. Think Audi A6, Nissan Maxima, or perhaps a nearly perfected variant of the underrated Chrysler LH cars. This is a well-sorted, quiet, rattle-free big sedan which easily matches the big Japanese front-drivers on NVH measurements. The real difference between Taurus and the competition comes from the interior, which has a wide, sloping dashboard, premium-looking instruments stuffed full of backlit, glass-like acrylics, and Ford's outstanding current generation of switchgear. It's easily the most upscale experience available anywhere for short of thirty grand, and this is even true of the cloth-seated cars, which have deep, characterful fabric of the type that was once seen occasionally on Mercedes-Benzes imported through the so-called "grey market". Rear-seat room, a particular virtue of the previous-generation Five Hundred/Taurus, continues to be excellent, while the front-seat passengers have the option of selecting BMW-style massaging seats with both heating and cooling functions. 10taurussho_64   The best front seat available in the Taurus lineup is the aforementioned bottlecap-suede variant in the SHO; not because it's any comfier than the others, but because it connects the driver to Ford's stunning new EcoBoost engine. This twin-turbo marvel, largely based on the existing Duratec but with changes designed to promote durability and heat resistance, turns the Taurus from a pleasant sedan to an electrifying one. In a straight line, there are very few other thirty-eight-thousand-dollar cars that won't be immediately presented with the SHO's tail lamps. Our drive through the twisty roads of North Carolina revealed the SHO's considerable strengths and not inconsiderable weakness. Let's start with the good stuff. Although the bones of the Taurus are somewhat related to the first-gen Volvo S80, there's very little Swedish reserve in the Ford's chassis. Instead, we have that rarest of things: a front-drive-platform (with all-wheel-drive added) big sedan that is light on its feet at speed. The EPAS wacky-electro-steering works pretty well at all speeds, providing trustworthy information about the road below. The all-wheel-drive is fundamentally a hack, being more or less the same transverse adaptation that sits under my wife's Ford Flex, but the transmission response has been sharpened and the result is a car that scampers out of corners regardless of steering-wheel position. It's no Mitsubishi Evolution, but it has torque that no stock Evo will ever have and the manumatic will run against the rev limiter all day without making an unwanted upshift. On back roads, it's a fast car despite the size. One black mark: the wheel-mounted shifter paddles are abysmal. The design isn't bad, and BMW uses something similar. The difference is that Ford's paddles are made of flimsy plastic, making it difficult to tell under stress whether the shift request actually clicked through. The good news: the computer is too smart to blow up the engine, so a motivated driver can slap them five or six times on every corner entry in the confidence that the car will grab the lowest appropriate gear for corner exit.

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Our backroad drive was the very definition of frustration. We started at the back of the pack and had to pass pretty much every poky journo in the group before pulling off for photos and repeating the process. It's just so easy to pass untalented drivers in the SHO: let the engine bring you past the next car ahead, point the nose, rotate the car into the corner on the brakes, floor the throttle early, let the AWD sort it out. The SHO's suspension is remarkably decent, although a triple-digit attack of a camber-changing corner combination exceeded the available damping and allowed both rear wheels to leave the ground for a terrifying moment while we struggled to control more than two tons of speeding Ford. The reality is that this isn't a razor-sharp cafe racer in the vein of the 1989 original. That car took its inspiration from the BMW M3, where this one is very much a 335i type of car: big power, big weight, luxury as the primary goal. And just like a 335i, it doesn't stop. The brakes are miserable. Let's restate that, just so nobody misses it. The brakes on the SHO are in no way up to the task. It's not just they aren't track-worthy. They aren't even ready for a fast road. This is a thirteen-second car with the same kind of brake hardware one might find on a Camry, and the mismatch is egregious. There is a "Performance Pack" coming with better brake pads, but what this car needs is the Brembos from the Shelby GT500, stat. Faced with fifty miles of fast road, a splendid EcoBoost motivator, and brakes that quickly let the pedal sink to the floor on corner entry, we cut pace between corners and used lighter, sharper applications to minimize heat buildup. But we still hoovered up traffic like the world's biggest Dyson. This is a very rapid car in the real world, made more so by the fact that the experience behind the wheel is just so soothing. Snuggled in the SHO's massaging seats, listening to the superb sound system, visually amused by the yes-it's-real-metal trim on the dashboard, it's easy to not realize that the speedometer is quickly creeping up into go-to-jail-for-a-long-time areas. This car would be faster from point to point than a Ferrari Testarossa, at least as long as the brakes held up, but it's as big as an S-Class. Think about that.

The 1986 Taurus carried the hopes of the Ford Motor Company on its shoulders. This 2010 model has a far more modest mission: to provide sedan buyers an affordable premium choice and to restore a bit of the tarnished luster to Ford's American passenger-car business. It's a small goal, but it's an important one. For more than half a century, the American Dream was symbolized by a stylish, powerful, domestic sedan in one's driveway. If any car can bring those days back, this is the one to do it. Don't believe me? Open a door and take a look.