Home Authors Posts by Chris Berke
So how do you begin to review your first car that’s valued at over 5 times your net worth? You get in, turn the key, and pretend that you always drive a supercar on your day off. However, this isn’t just any bruiser built for the track, this is a gentleman’s cabriolet. It’s an elegant intertwining of Italian style and Italian muscle. This is the 2010 Maserati GranCabrio.
Win: That Sweet, Sweet Exhaust Note; Extra Fast
Score: Incredible Piece Of Machinery; Did I Mention the Exhaust Note?
From the moment you get into this car you can tell it was built with elegance in mind. The seats were made of a very comfortable white leather that were fully adjustable to put the driver in “relax” or “race” mode. The dash consisted of the same white leather that was perfectly accented by brown leather and wood grain with just the right amount of black buttons that really pop. And to top it off, there is a very pretty, but mostly useless, analog clock right in between the air vents. I’ve test driven so many vehicles that just seem to be a jumble of buttons without any consideration of design or style so it was very reassuring to immediately see what the extra dollars get you.
Now the part that we really care about. How does it feel to drive a Maserati? Well I was told by the owner that I could really feel the difference in how this car responded depending on if it was in drive or sport mode but let’s be honest, I just left it in the latter. I kept off the gas for a little while not only because I wanted to get a feel for the vehicle, but because I wasn’t sure how mean it could get. Also, seeing everyone look at a young twenty-something in a Maserati during rush hour on a Wednesday was pretty awesome too.
Once I got on to *place unnamed street here* my heart started to flutter because traffic was getting scarce. This is it. Time to see, and hear, and feel my first supercar open up. When I slammed my foot down I could instantly feel the 4.7 liter V8 kick in all 433 horses and I could hear the baffles open up in the pipes to let out the most gut wrenching exhaust note screaming out of the back end. I was flying past other cars as if they were standing still! Soon I was going 1XX mph and it felt like I was only going 50… well it took the same amount of time as a normal car would to get to 50.
I knew I had to slow it down because that was the responsible thing to do and because what better time would there have been to test out the massive brakes? The huge calipers grabbed the giant discs and it wasn’t long until I was back to the speed limit. I used the remainder of my test drive to enjoy the warm fall air and to listen to some classic hip-hop on Sirius’s Backspin station. It took the rest of the night to recover from an experience that is impossible to replicate on paper.
Throughout the entire evening I kept checking the clock because I didn’t want the test drive to end. The GranCabrio offers so much excitement at any speed. Heck, even looking at it is more exciting than driving most cars that are on the road. Driving the Maserati is an experience I will never forget and it completely validated what my perception of a “dream car” is. The 2010 Maserati GranCabrio isn’t just a fine Italian supercar, it’s a work of art.
Ok so I’m way behind on this but it is definitely worth the post to raise awareness for projects like this. Minddrive is an after school program for at-risk kids in the Kansas City area that want to learn to build a car. The theory behind the course is that it teaches the kids responsibility while also learning about math and science in real life situations. Each year they rebuild a car and convert it to an all electric platform. In fact, they built the world’s most efficient electric car back in 2010!
This year Minddrive rebuilt an old 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and converted it to electric power. On top of that, they decided to take a trip from Kansas City to Washington D.C. fueled only by social-watts. What’s a social watt you ask? It appears to be a conversion of how much power the car is allowed to use in relationship to how many social follows and shares they get on the internet. This tour lasted Minddrive 7 days and they arrived in D.C. on June 7th.
Programs like this are essential for all young adults because it allows them to get involved with something they love early and often. You can bet SFAR will keep an eye on Minddrive 2014 and who knows, maybe they’ll head West instead of East this year and we can track them down. Check out the video below!
This is it. It’s finally here. A brand new car that I’m genuinely excited about is here and I have been waiting over 9 months to sit behind the wheel. This has built up so much hype of offering so much car for such a small price tag. This is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
Win: Head-Turning Style, Price
Loss: Limited Back Seat Space
Score: Maximum Luxury for Minimum Price
Why am I so excited? Because this is the first Benz I could go out and buy tomorrow and not have serious buyer’s remorse the next day. Mercedes has been labeled, in my generation’s eyes, as this elusive luxury vehicle that late 30′s bank executives buy to show off to their friends. Now, a 20 something college grad can buy one to show off to their friends. So the question is, did Mercedes-Benz sacrifice all of its Mercedes-ness to build an affordable, luxury vehicle?
Well they definitely didn’t skimp on the exterior. Looking down that gaping nose with the giant Mercedes logo tells you that this car means business. The style continues down the side with bold lines and a similar curved profile like Mercedes’ own S-Class. As expected, the engineers at Mercedes even know what a hubcap is so each model comes standard with at least 17″ alloy wheels. And to top it off, the CLA250 has some of the coolest taillights in the industry.
The looks continue to impress on the interior as well. You get the same instrument cluster as you do in other Mercedes models and they’ve even mounted a screen with a large display for your audio…standard! There is now gear lever between the seats so you get a lot more storage and almost everything can be controlled right from the steering wheel area. My favorite parts are the wood grain accents and the retro looking air vents. The only downside I could find is perhaps a lack of room for your extra tall friends in the rear seat.
Alright, alright, so Mercedes made a car that looks good for under $30,000 but how is it to drive? Pretty damn good! A 208 hp turbocharged inline-4 and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission comes standard on the CLA and you can drive it as hard or as soft as you want. You can set the engine to turn off at stop lights to maximize your mpg’s or you can grab on to the paddle shifters and maximize your fun. It’s even quite nippy through the corners and the tires are Mercedes approved so you know they’ll keep you on the road. Again, I’m only talking about the base model but you can add all of Mercedes’ premium driver assistant features to make this an even better and safer car.
And finally, who’s going to buy one? I want one, a lot, and I definitely fit the demographic. Or do I? Jeff Driver at Luxury Auto Mall told me that the first couple to test drive their CLA was around the age of 80! It doesn’t surprise me at all. The car has head-turning looks, 5-star features, above average mpg, and it’s exciting to drive. In fact, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 might be Mercedes’s greatest achievement yet.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade has been revealed and the question is if it is still as cool as it was in those rap videos I watched when I was in middle school?
At first glance it is. It’s got a much stronger and pronounced grille, it rolls on 20′s (standard), and it has full LED lighting front and back. The chassis has been stiffened and Cadillac has added a magnetic suspension that can change dampening in milliseconds. There has even been a lot of body work done to differentiate it from GMC’s Yukon and Chevy’s Suburban.
The interior is where this new Cadillac really comes alive. Just like the 2013 XTS we drove earlier this summer, the Escalade has adopted the CUE touch screen system as well as most of the new style dash. The rest of the interior is completely redesigned for the full sized SUV and I have to say, the dark brown on black is the only color is should come in because it looks fantastic! Other features include Bose’s noise cancelling technology and adaptive cruise control.
Under the hood is a 6.2 liter V8 that is good for 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. That is a nice number because it means your new Escalade can also pull your new yacht. You can also expect active fuel management that switches to 4 cylinders when the extra power isn’t being used. That will help with the mpg’s even though this vehicle is gigantic.
Inside and out, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade seems to have much better styling, better handling, and more power. I am not a big SUV person in general but throw on some window tint and the right set of rims and you will definitely have my attention. The Cadillac Escalade, in my head, is still worthy of the rap video throne.
In lieu of the brand new 2014 Durango and the upcoming Anchorman 2 movie, famous 70′s news anchor Ron Burgundy has teamed up with Dodge to produce some very informative commercials. Now by informative, I mean not that informative but very funny.
If you have ever seen Anchorman then chances are you already love these commercials. Word on the street is that Dodge’s marketing team and Will Ferrell’s team made over 70 of these commercials over just a couple of days. Most of them contain Ron Burgundy explaining an average thing like glovebox space or horse power but when it comes to MPGs, he struggles. The are all delightfully hilarious and they get me more excited for Anchorman 2 than the do for the Durango but oh well. Will it increase Dodge’s YouTube hits? Definitely yes. Will it sell more Durangos? I’m not sure.
Here are a couple of my favorites but you can see all of them on Dodge’s YouTube channel.
Ron Howard’s biographical action movie “Rush” delivers everything in the title plus more. “Rush” is based on one of the biggest Formula 1 rivalries of all time and celebrates James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the height of their feud. What started as a petty measuring contest during a Formula 3 race in 1970 turned into an all out battle of nemeses.
Throughout their Formula 1 careers, Lauda was known for his technical precision, hard work ethic, and being, well, kind of an asshole. Hunt, on the other hand, was known for being carefree, an aggressive driver, and also kind of an asshole. Together they pushed each other to the limit until Lauda suffered from a terrible accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. A control arm broke on Lauda’s Ferrari and he crashed into the guard rail which immediately set his car on fire. Lauda suffered from third degree burns on his head and toxic fumes in his lungs. Over the next 6 weeks, Lauda watched Hunt dominate the races in his McLaren until, against the doctor’s orders, he returned to the track to ensure he was the 1976 Formula 1 champion.
“Rush” is two hours of fast paced action and very cinematic F1 racing. It is also filled with endless amounts of classic automotive advertising and cars. Ron Howard does a great job of portraying the movie from both perspectives of the two racers so that, by the end, you don’t know who you’re cheering for. Both Lauda and Hunt may have started as enemies but without each other, neither would have succeeded.
Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Lauda.
The actual Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
Niki Lauda is chatting with Lewis Hamilton on his recent move from McLaren to Mercedes.
Hot hatches have not been very popular in the U.S. until very recently and I think it’s because of two factors; they’re not very big and they don’t have a V8 engine. I mean, why buy a sports car if it isn’t loud and unpractical, right? Well, in the last few years big American companies like Ford have recognized that a car can be very fast AND fuel efficient. There’s a reason auto tuning brands like Fifteen52, Hennessey, and Gymkhana superstar Ken Block have turned to hot hatches and that reason is the 2014 Ford Focus ST.
Win: Exhaust Note, Aggressive Looks
Loss: Shift Knob, Vertical Vents (I just don’t like them)
Score: Sets the Standard for Hot Hatches
The 2014 Ford Focus ST rolls off the lot with a turbocharged 2.0 liter inline 4 that produces 252 hp, 18″ wheels with summer tires, a sport tuned suspension, performance disc brakes on all 4 corners, and a high performance exhaust system. That is a fine recipe for a high performance track car but there’s a catch; you also get 5 doors, tons of cargo space, a quiet, comfortable ride, and over 30 mpg on the highway. Not really a catch is it? On paper, it sounds like the Ford Focus ST gives you the best of both worlds so you can bet I had to get my hands on the wheel to test out that claim.
The best part about the interior is that it compliments the exterior. I really enjoy that it feels like the same car on the inside as it is on the outside. You get Recaro racing seats that hug you but are still comfortable, aggressive gauges on the console (including 3 more on the dash specific to the ST), racing pedals, a MyFord Touch screen, and, the best part, the ST models only come in a manual transmission. You really get the feeling that you can go compete in an Autocross event and then stop by the grocery store on the way home without any hesitation.
Once I fired it up and got on the road, it was clear that this was your everyday average hatchback. But that’s a good thing because that’s how it should feel in town. Once I got it out on a circular on-ramp to the interstate the Focus ST really started to come alive. The acceleration was fantasticly quick and the exhaust note would make the hairs stand up on any motor-head. Before I knew it I was pushing over 80 mph and the acceleration was still climbing. However, I backed off because I didn’t want to have that conversation with the police on why I’m speeding in a car I don’t even own!
Sioux Falls Ford representative Nelson Zephier told me that the Focus ST has a unique Torque Vectoring system. Since this car is front wheel drive and has around 270 torques, it is important that this car stays on track. The Torque Vectoring makes active use of the brakes so the front wheels don’t spin out or pull left/right when you really put your foot down. You can also feel it kick in when you take turns at higher speeds. Sometimes it’s fun to get the wheels squeeling but the Torque Vectoring system keeps the car ranking high with safety and control.
The 2014 Ford Focus is an awesome machine. There are very few cars that can offer this amount of performance that will not make you feel guilty because you don’t have room for kids or luggage. Coming in at around $25,000, it’s also quite the bargain. There are plenty of extras to add on but one of my favorites is that you can save money by still getting the great MyFord Touch screen without navigation. This is definitely a car I could see myself buying in the future. If not for practicality, then definitely for fun.
|5-Door, 5-Pass, Front Engine, Front Wheel Drive
|2.0 liter eco-boost engine produces 252 hp and 270 ft-lb torque
|23 CITY / 32 HWY
|Ford only offers a manual 6-speed on the Focus ST. We are very happy about that!
In honor of the incredible Breaking Bad finale, here is the incredibly cheesy Breaking Bad car scene where Walt and Walt Jr. (Flynn) get a brand new Chrysler 300 and Dodge Challenger respectively. Tired of his Pontiac Aztec that was dented with bad memories, Walt decided to sell it to the repair shop and finally spend some of his money on something for himself. Although he could have went with any car in the world, he chose the Chrysler 3o0 and that totally fits Heisenberg.
It seems like Chrysler has taken advantage of one of the most popular shows on TV because you can see that almost all of the new vehicles you see in the final seasons are all Dodge or Chrysler. Also, how badass is it to have a drug kingpin in one of your cars on TV?
What did you think of the final episode of Breaking Bad?
The Need For Speed movie trailer is out and it is a bit of a head scratcher. It shows a bunch of cars, then Aaron Paul (Jessie Pinkman from Breaking Bad), then some cars, then a funeral, and then some cars. I am not sure what the plot is but I am sure of this: Need For Speed promises epic cars and epic car chases. That’s what the game is all about isn’t it?
How Aaron Paul’s character has a Buggatti Veyron but does the big chase scene in a Ford Mustang is beyond me but hey, at least the movie will have lots of eye candy!
In another edition of “life’s not fair”, Jay Leno’s Garage just released their 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder video. Here you can watch Jay Leno chatting with Porsche’s German representative and then taking the 918 out for a cruise. I really like this video because you get to see every angle of the car with all the doors/hood/trunk opened and closed. You also get to here Porsche’s rep droll on about driving strategies and types of braking but if you’re interested in cars and technology, it’s pretty awesome.
If you don’t know about the 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder already, click here to see it crush the Nurburgring record.
Edmunds recently took the C7 Corvette Stingray and the E92 BMW M3 Lime Rock Edition out to the track for a little competition. If you were to compare only the fact that they are both 2 door coups and have similar V8 engines, this is a fair test. Edmunds tested the 0-60 time, the quarter mile time, braking distance, slalom, and skidpad G’s. The Corvette came out slightly ahead on everything and therefore is the better car? Right?
Not exactly. The BRAND NEW Corvette Stingray did outperform the BMW M3 that was at the very end of its life cycle so on the track, the BMW held up very well. Also, no offense to Chevrolet, the M3 is more of a luxury sports coupe while the Corvette, especially the Stingray, is very purpose built for the track. As we all know, the newly announced BMW M4 is on its way so it will be exciting to see how that fares against the Stingray on the same tests!
Saab isn’t down for the count, not yet, but they are still far from being back in action. A recently finished preproduction Saab 9-3 has been built Saab‘s new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), and it is an electric car!
NEVS has taken a lot of influence from pervious Saab 9-3′s and previous electric prototypes built by Saab so it’s no surprise that the new 9-3 looks just like a 9-3. I think it is a good idea the NEVS decided to keep the Swedish name because no one wants to say, “I drive a National Electric Vehicle Sweden 9-3.” NEVS has also kept production, so far, in Sweden at the Trollhattan plant. This new Electric Saab 9-3 should roll off the production line early next year and there is no word of an American release yet.
This commercial for the all-new 2014 Toyota Corolla claims that “Style Never Goes Out Of Style” and they are almost 100% correct. The 60′s and 70′s Corollas were very well designed small coupes, the 80′s Corolla is one of the most iconic RWD tuner/drift cars of all time, and the brand new one has a much needed face lift that the aging model deserved. I just can’t help but notice that Toyota left out almost every Corolla from the late 90′s to well today. Weird huh?
I really like this commercial because it shows each generation of Toyota Corolla alongside its most popular demographic and popular music style of the time. The best part is when the new Corolla rolls out of the garage into 2014 and it’s nothing but bright colors, confetti, and dubstep blasting in the streets! Definitely watch that guys arms on the stoop… you’ll know what I mean!
Honda has put together the greatest tribute to any race car driver ever. The tribute video is a light and sound version of an amazing lap done by Ayrton Senna in 1989. If you like motor sports then there is no excuse not to know who Senna is but just in case, I’ll throw down a little history.
In 1989, a Brazilian man by the name of Ayrton Senna set the world’s fastest lap during the F1 Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying at the Sazuka circuit. This is a world famous race because it’s the one where world champion Senna and his McLaren teammate Prost got in an accident while battling with each other for first place. Prost ended up totaled while Senna swerved back onto the track and, with his amazing skill, won the race. Even though he had won, Senna was stripped of his win and had to hand over the title to Prost. Senna went on to win 3 world championships before his tragic death resulting from a crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Senna is arguably one of the best drivers of all time.
Now about the tribute. This was also back when Formula 1 racing was all car/driver and almost no technology. It just so happened that Honda introduced a telemetry system which is a technology that transmits driving data to a workstation. Honda used this technology for their McLaren Honda Formula 1 team before they released it to the rest of the world. This is the first time that all of the details from Senna’s lap are being released to the world and Honda did it with an incredible and accurate light and sound display of what the lap would have been like at the Sazuka circuit.
Watch this video in full-screen, HD, and with the speakers LOUD. I dare you not to get goosebumps!
For more info on Ayrton Senna, try Google or watch the awesome documentary “Senna” on Netflix.
As teased earlier this month, Jaguar has revealed their first ever Crossover (CUV) concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Jaguar C-X17 Concept is a head turner in every sense of the word. Jaguar themselves describe the car design as having, ”liberally infused sports car DNA,” and you can tell by the nose resembling the XJ and the tail resembling the new F-Type.
The Jaguar C-X17 Concept features a new unibody aluminum architecture which makes the chassis lightweight, strong, and extremely stiff. All of this is contributed by a high strength alloy created from recycled raw materials. This new design will also allow Jaguar to build different models on the same production line which screams efficiency. Jaguar hasn’t announced whether the C-X17 will be a reality but the first model to be built under their new engineering will be a luxury sedan in 2015.
Now let’s talk about looks. By far the coolest thing on the C-X17 is those fog lamps! All the lighting on the exterior is LED but I am so happy to see fog lamps finally receiving some design love. The other interesting thing is the sort of space-age tires they’ve built and judging by the design, they look to be built for road grip only. The interior has also received some modern day love with everything in the front and rear-seat console being touch sensitive. If the Jaguar C-X17 Concept does go into production within the next few years you can probably expect the exterior to be the same but the interior will definitely be “dumbed down”.
Check out the release video put on by Jaguar:
Sorry about the title, I just had to! But Jeep always has cool special edition vehicles and the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Polar is definitely one of the coolest! And I don’t mean that just because of it’s name.
This Wrangler Polar was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show and it was designed to be a “celebration of winter driving”. The Polar comes in silver-metallic and a bright-white but you will obviously want the hydro blue featured in these images. You also get 18″ black wheels, Trac-Lok limited-slip differential, step rail, black accents, and a black interior. The badges marked 78 degrees South and 106 degrees East are the coordinates for Vostok, Antarctica. I think Jeep is claiming that this vehicle will get you there and maybe there’s a prize!
Right now the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Polar is headed for European Market only but with available left or right hand drives, I would be surprise if a variation of it doesn’t end up stateside. It will also come in both Standard and Unlimited trims.
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