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Audi R8… How Does it r8 with You?

Cars November 4, 2017

Audi R8

While Tesla may have cars that perform like they’re from the future, whenever I think about the look of a future car I think of the Audi R8. Audi Sport GmbH’s 2-door roadster sports car has sleek lines, a simple design, and plenty of power. The longitudinal mid-engine and quattro permanent all-wheel drive only add to the futuristic features of the Audi R8.

Manufactured since 2006, the Audi R8’s aluminum monocoque (or put more simply, the “skin” of the sports car) and space frame (meaning the truss-like structure, which is configured in a geometric pattern) also do splendid job of making the vehicle appear as if it has arrived from a time not yet realized. It is also the first production vehicle to utilize full LED headlamps.

The Audi R8 was announced in 2005, after the concept car, the Audi Les Mans quattro concept, made appearances at both the 2003 Frankfurt International Motor Show and the 2003 Geneva International Motor Show. This is not to be confused with the racing car, the R8 Le Mans Prototype.

To make an Audi R8, the factory in Neckarsulm relies on less than one hundred workers and ninety-five lasers, which together put out anywhere from eight to twenty-nine cars a day. After the final 5-second laser inspection okays the vehicle, it can be sent to dealerships in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

There are several variations on the Audi R8, including but not limited to the R8 Spyder (which had the feature of a retractable cloth roof), the R8 e-tron (the electric version of the Audi R8 which is slightly smaller than the original), the R8 GT (this version weighed less than the original and had more engine power, meaning it could reach speeds of up to 199 mph), the R8 Grand-Am (a racecar version that debuted in Daytona in 2012), and a police car version.

Since the Audi R8 is a mid-engine vehicle, it comes with wider tires on the back axle, either 18 or 19 inches, and they come from either Continental or Pirelli. It is also interesting to note that the R8 uses LED lighting for the daytime running lamps, or DRLs. This dedication to using advanced technology, slick design, and quality materials have made it a popular car ever since it appeared in 2006.

It has won multiple awards, including “Best Handling Car” and “Fastest Car In The World” (Autocar, Fifth Gear) and “Car of the Year” (Autobild, Automobile Magazine, MSN, and European Car), in 2006, 2007, and 2008. It was even awarded the “Classic Car of the Future” prize by Motor Klassik.
If you have any remaining doubt as to the car’s future potential, the R8 e-tron was launched using a PS3 game called Vertical Run, in which players had to collect electric energy and avoid crashes to reach top speeds. In 2014, the Twitter campaign #WantAnR8 collected footage of virtual test drives to create an advertisement along with several recording artists. With the R8’s presence in game shows, video games, social media, and racing, its impact on the world will only become more marked as time goes on.

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Tesla S… It’s About the Future

Cars November 3, 2017

If you’re interested in the future, concerned about the environment, or look forward to new technology, you’ve probably heard of Elon Musk and Tesla. The electric car company’s Tesla S, introduced in 2012, is still on the cutting edge of electric vehicle technology, with the added bonus of earning the highest score possible for automobile safety (a 5.0 from the NHTSA).

The Tesla S 100D also has the distinction of attaining the highest EPA range of any electric car, averaging 341 miles between charges. It also became the first electric vehicle to reach the top of the charts in new car sales, doing so in Norway and Denmark. Though the U.S. makes up 57% of its market, the Tesla S, Asia, Europe, and Canada have all contributed to the growing popularity of this model.

After the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla S is the most sold electric car in history, and is the recipient of such awards as the 2012 Time Magazine’s 25 Inventions of the Year and Consumer Reports’ Road Testing, the 2013 World Green Car of the Year, Automobile’s Car of the Year, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, and the 2015 Car & Driver’s Car of the Century Award.

So what’s all the fuss about? What does the Tesla S have that other electric cars lack? Perhaps its full-sized status as a five-door luxury liftback, rear-motor, rear-wheel drive, and various version (based on battery size, motor size, and equipment), and its electric powertrain (designed specifically as an electric powertrain, not merely switched with an internal combustion engine) make it an excellent investment.

With Supercharger stations popping up in the U.S. and Europe, the car is able to drive longer distances without causing the driver anxiety about being able to get home without a charge. In 2016, most American states have Supercharger stations, and it is expected that this will continue until they are plentiful enough to supply more drivers with the capability of driving an electric car.

There is also the controversial, limited autopilot feature (installed in the Tesla S since 2014), which includes a camera, radar, and ultrasonic acoustic location sensors, all of which provide a complete buffer around the entire vehicle. The wireless technology allows for limited self-driving and parking capabilities, and paris with the adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning to reduce car crashes by 40%.
Though the first fatal crash instigated a lot of talk about autopilot technology, it was determined that the driver was at fault, not the technology. Although the technology has not advanced to the point of a completely self-driving car (which Elon Musk states is because of software limitations and requires a narrow, advanced AI to be developed), the Tesla S is about as far into the future as we can go at this point.

With as much pollution and environmental health hazards as we are faced with today, the purchase of a Tesla S begins to make a lot of sense. The kinks are being worked out, so to speak, and the price will continue to lower, making it more and more affordable to those of us who do not make six figures a year. Of course, if Elon Musk has anything to do with the future of Tesla, we can look forward to even more radical vehicles in the future.

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Dodge Challenger … Classic Muscle

Cars October 9, 2017

What began as a full-size, two-door sedan marketed and sold to prospective new car owners in the late 1950’s, the Dodge Silver Challenger (so named because of the chosen color – there were no other color options for the Challenger at the time) has reinvented itself through four generations, becoming a 2-door notchback coupe, muscle car, and a citizen of the world, when production moved from the U.S. (Los Angeles, California, and Hamtramck, Michigan) to Okazaki and Aichi, Japan, and Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Though it has changed hands over the years (from Chrysler Corp to Mitsubishi Motors to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), the Dodge Challenger has kept its image as a competitor with both the Mustang and the Camaro.

Designed by the likes of Carl Cameron, Jeff Gate, and Brian Nielander, the Challenger started with the option of a “Getaway” L-head straight-six engine or the “Red Ram” V8, with a standard three-speed manual transmission (though automatic was an option). After the Mustang was relesased as the first ever “pony car” in the mid 1960’s, the Challenger was positioned to become “the most potent ponycar ever” and switched from competing with the Mustang to the more luxurious Mercury Cougar and the Pontiac Firebird.

Later, the Dodge Challenger turned into a muscle car, with an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission, 6.4 liter Apache V8 engine, and six-piston front Brembo brakes with two-piece 15.4 inch vented/slotted rotors. There are also two new variants on the Challenger, the SRT Hellcat and the SRT Demon. The Hellcat has a supercharged engine and 20-inch aluminum wheels, making it a devil to catch on the raceway. The other new variant, the SRT Demon, debuted at the New York Auto Show in April 2017. It has a 6.2 liter V8 engine and a 2.7 liter supercharger. This variant is street legal, but its unique tire from Nitto was built for the drag strip. This makes the Challenger SRT Demon the first production car to have such tires. It is slated to appear in 2018.

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Chevrolet Corvette, All-American Classic

Cars October 9, 2017

An all-American classic, the Chevrolet Corvette has held many jobs over its illustrious career, including pace car for the Indianapolis 500 (thirteen times), endurance racecar (in Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans for instance), NASA sponsor (Chevrolet set up a program that allowed astronauts to purchase slightly used Corvettes at a low price), and movie star (appearing in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon as the character “Sideswipe”).

Once made in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri, the Corvette now calls Bowling Green, Kentucky its home, and has been given the title “Official Sports Car of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” Named after a warship with later designs inspired by Mako sharks, the Corvette has evolved over seven generations to become one of the most beloved sports cars in America.

Despite its reputation (and record) as a car for men undergoing a mid-life crisis, the Corvette is trying to put this tale to rest, instead marketing itself as a young person’s car, appearing in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 as a pace car for a twefth time, and introducing a version of itself to gamers in Gran Turismo 5.

The Corvette also spends plenty of time garnering awards from magazines, organizations, and websites, including placing 16th in Edmunds.com’s “100 Best Cars of All Time”, “Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century” by the Society of Automotive Engineers, Car and Driver magazine’s “Best All Around Car” (nine out of eleven years), and first in the “100 Coolest Cars” from Automobile Magazine.

Expanding into the concept car arena, the Corvette has been re-imagined by the likes of Harley Earl (introducing a prototype which became the first Corvette), Bill Mitchell (credited with the Stingray), Larry Shinoda (who is responsible for the Mako Shark designs), and Zora Arkus-Duntov (who designed the Aerovette). The latest iteration of the vehicle combined design elements from both the 1963 and 1968 models.

For a look at some of these historic Corvettes, enthusiasts can visit both the Bowling Green Assembly Plant (opened in 1981) and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which opened in 1994. The Corvette Hall of Fame (sponsored by the museum) also retains space there, adding a few memberes each year to the list of people who have contributed to the Corvette’s ongoing creation.

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Porsche 918 Spyder

Cars October 9, 2017

Porsche 918 Spyder

When most people think of hybrid cars, they typically think of of the Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, or the Ford Fusion. Some might know of the upper-level PHEV like the models that Audi, BMW, and Mercedes have added to their array of luxury vehicles. But what most people may not know is that Porsche’s 918 Spyder is, in fact, a PHEV — that is, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

The 918 Spyder (of which only 918 were made, and all between 2013-2015), designed by Michael Mauer, is a two-door roadster, a sports car capable of reaching a max speed of 210 mph. It has not one, not two, but three sources of power — a 4.6L V8 engine, and two motors (if you’re wondering about the difference between engines and motors, it is simply that motors run on electricity and engines run on some type of combustion. The words are sometimes used interchangeably).

With a 7-speed PDK dual clutch transmission, a 6.8kW liquid-cooled lithium ion battery (with a range of 420 mi), the 918 Spyder has plenty of torque and power, reaching speeds of over 200 mph; it can also go from 0-60 in under 3 seconds.

In fact, the 918 Spyder is a street-legal version of the RSR, the racing Spyder introduced in 2011. The 918 can hold its own, however. It became the first series production street-legal vehicle to break the 7 minute barrier at Nurburgring by 14 seconds (in 2017, the Porsche 911 GT2 RS went even further by shaving off another ten seconds, keeping the record in the family, as it were).

The 918 Spyder’s racing abilities aside, its hybrid build (the second from Porsche) also has a great perk in government incentives. While most of the inclusion of hybrids with an incentive are in North America, Asia, and Europe, there are a growing number of governments concerned about global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution. Tax breaks, discounts on registration, or exemptions from customs duties are offered around the world for owners of hybrid vehicles, which can help offset the upfront purchase cost.

But even hybrid vehicles have issues, and the 918 Spyder had several recalls in 2014, including issues with rear-axle control arms, front lower control arms, and wiring problems. Despite these setbacks, the 918 Spyder and other hybrid vehicles have become more popular in recent years due to the increased awareness of environmental issues.

So is a hybrid car worth the trouble? That question remains up in the air as people discuss the pros and cons of owning a hybrid versus a regular vehicle, though hybrid technology has vastly improved over the last decade. With vehicles like the 918 Spyder, which eases the worry about getting stranded with a dead battery (since it has a backup gasoline engine), and more on the way, it might be time to consider purchasing something that will save the environment — and will still look amazing in your driveway or riding down the highway.

If you’re in the United States, Germany, Canada, or China, you may get to see one of these beautiful vehicles. Take a peek and consider whether the future is gas-powered, electric, or hybrid.

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Dodge Viper – Goodbye?

Cars October 8, 2017

Dodge Viper

With the end of 2017 approaching, it’s time to say goodbye to the Dodge Viper. That’s right – Fiat Chrysler is closing the curtain on 24 years of production on the Viper. Though the official reason is said to be low sales figures, there are rumors that the real reason is the Viper can’t comply with requirements that would add side curtain airbags to the vehicle. Whatever the reason, I’m going to be sorry to say goodbye.

The first time I saw a Dodge Viper, I was watching my brother play the computer game The Need for Speed. I was mesmerized by the slick, curved frame, the power, and the ferocity of the Dodge Viper. Later, whenever we spied one on the road (a rare occurrence in our part of the world), we would excitedly point and shout, then watch as it zoomed away.

The first design was introduced in 1988, but it took three years to create a full-size pre-production car, and another year to begin selling the Dodge Viper. It served first as a pace car in the Indianapolis 500, serving to whet the appetites of vehicle enthusiasts, who began buying the rear-wheel drive sports car in early 1992. It came with a V10 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, but no side windows, exterior door handles, or a roof.

Most of these decisions were made so that the Viper was lighter on its feet, so to speak, especially with an engine weighing a whopping 711 pounds. It could go from 0-60 in under five seconds, and reach top speeds of 165 mph. Later, the car was available with extras like air conditioning, larger wheels, and a fiberglass roof.

The Dodge Viper went through several redesigns over its 24-year career, including several special editions, like the Dodge Viper Voodoo (unique interior and exterior colors), 1:28 Edition ACR (28 of these were made, only to be sold out in under an hour. They come with a monogrammed car cover, the “extreme aero package” and carbon ceramic brakes), and the racer ACR-X, which is not street legal.

Several famous people own or have owned a Dodge Viper at one time. The list includes car enthusiasts like Jay Leno, musicians (Jon Bon Jovi, Joey Fatone, and Reba), actors and comedians (Chris Farley, Roseanne Barr, Charlie Sheen), and even astronauts (Buzz Aldrin) have joined the Viper fan club.

The Viper is, itself, famous, having become a celebrity for a season of NBC’s “Viper”, which ran during 1994. The season was syndicated and ran for three more years before being taken off the air in 1998. The Viper has another claim to fame: it holds over twenty-five race records, including fastest 1990’s car, fastest lap, and fastest American car.

With such a great track record, it’s not too sad saying farewell to the Dodge Viper. It’s still inspiring conversions and new vehicles, and will for a long time to come. I may, however, have to go root around in our storage and see if I can find a copy of The Need for Speed and relive some of the glory days.

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Chevrolet Corvette – AKA The Sting Ray

Cars October 6, 2017

What began as a privately-funded racing concept car designed by three enthusiasts (one of whom was GM’s youngest hire at the time) fortunately did not stay that way, becoming a nearly unanimously hailed vehicle for its power and handling when it arrived in the 1960’s. Decades later, the Sting Ray is still winning awards (in 2014 it won the Automobile of the Year award from Automobile Magazine, and placed as one of the top ten Car & Driver Magazine Ten Best List vehicles) and inspiring concept car designers close to home and abroad.

In 1960, the lightweight Sting Ray placed first in the SCCA National Championship. Along with its lightweight body, the Sting Ray became a sort of test for new technical developments such as the addition of aluminum materials and a four-speed manual transmission. The car managed to catch people’s eyes not only for its groundbreaking features but also because of the company it kept. It appeared in the film Clambake, which also starred Elvis Presley as its driver.

In 2009, the concept Sting Ray was revisited for the Centennial celebration of the Corvette, debuting at the Chicago Auto Show to honor Corvette’s 50 years in business. It also landed a starring role in Hollywood, appearing as the character “Sideswipe” in Michael Bay’s Transformers film franchise, specifically Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The Sting Ray concept cars aside, there have been four generations of the Sting Ray made as leisure vehicles (Though there are six generations, only four of them also wore the label Sting Ray). Available as a 2-door coupe or convertible, this sports car has a V8 engine and plenty of options for transmission, all the way from 3-speed manual to 8-speed automatic. It ranges between 3,000-4,000 lbs at curb weight, and between 174-179 inches long. Its wheelbase measures between 96 to 107 inches.

Apart from turning heads as a hollywood star and a daring sports vehicle, the Sting Ray has also garnered attention for its futuristic inclusions, such as the C7’s use of Aerogel, which prevents heat from the transmission tunnel from entering the cabin. Aerogel, of course, being a project that was developed by NASA. The new generation Sting Ray also incorporates LED technology, carbon fiber, and hydro-formed aluminum.

The 2015 Sting Ray took the upgrades even further, including a Performance Data Recorder, which is comprised of a camera (high-def), a telemetry recorder and an SD card. There are four modes to choose from when recording: Track, Sport, Touring, and Performance. This information can be viewed either on the car’s touchscreen or at a computer for further analysis of speed, g-force, and other performance metrics.

The Sting Ray has also developed in several different directions to include various models and special editions, including the convertible, Atlantic Design (inspired by private jets), Pacific Design (inspired by weekend track event enthusiasts), the Twilight Blue Design, the Spice Red Design, Jet Black Suede Design (all with specific color design elements), and the Grand Sport Z15 and Grand Sport (Z25) Collector Edition.

The newest editions for the Sting Ray, arriving next year, are the Carbon 65 Edition (Z30), celebrating Corvette’s 65th anniversary, and the ZR1, although it has yet to be announced. It is, however, expected to show up sometime in 2018. Keep an eye out for this sure to be stunner.

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The Lamborghini Diablo: Need for Speed

Cars October 6, 2017

The Lamborghini Diablo Need for Speed

Though some people might shy away from something named as this car is, the Lamborghini Diablo proved popular enough to last for over a decade, from 1990-2001. With almost 3,000 units produced, the two-door, high performance sports car (available as a coupe or roadster) is still turning heads and impressing car enthusiasts around the world.

Its history, however, was somewhat troubled, as the original designer Marcello Gandini’s vision of sharp lines gave way to Tom Gale’s softer shaping (Gandini would later take his unique design and turn it into the Cizeta-Morodor V16T). After spending an alleged 6 billion lira on development, the Diablo was ready to roar.

The Diablo, like other Lamborghini models, took its name and inspiration from the sport of bullfighting. Named after the original “Diablo”, a bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the late 1800’s, the vehicle too was made to fight — or at least to compete on the market, especially with the Ferrari. Though the bull was famous for its fight with “El Chicorro” in Madrid in 1869, the Diablo Lamborghini became famous as a show-stopper first, and then a fighter, as the Lamborghini brand did not race as street legal cars until the mid 1990’s, though it surpassed the 200 mph mark, the first Lamborghini to do so.

With over a decade spent as the Countach’s successor, the Diablo itself went through a variety of changes, upgrades, and redesigns before being succeeded itself by the Murcielago. The Diablo VT, introduced just two years after the original appeared on the market, used all wheel drive and a viscous center differential, as well as adding front air intakes and enlarging the back air intakes. These and other minor changes (including a redesigned interior) were soon transferred to the original build, making the cars, at least on the surface, appear the same.

The Diablo SE30 and SE30 Jota appeared during Lamborghini’s 30th anniversary, as a street legal racing car and a circuit racing car, respectively. With less weight on the build and more power, the SE30 and SE30 Jota were sent to the racetrack and road roaring past their competitors and fans alike. The Diablo SV, introduced in 1995 at the Geneva Auto Show, was available in both SV and SV: Monterey Edition. The Monterey build was driven by Mario Andretti for a “Running of the Bulls” event in California. The SV has the distinction of being the flagship vehicle for the game Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit. Another version introduced in 1995 was the Diablo VT Roadster, complete with a carbon fiber targa top, larger air intakes, and fixed headlights, the last of which meant the Roadster was more aerodynamic.

In 1999, the Diablo models SV, VT, and VT Roadster received facelifts, with minor upgrades. 1999 was also the year the world was introduced to the Diablo SE35, a nine-car limited edition production celebrating the 35th anniversary of Lamborghini, and the Diablo GT, which was made exclusively for racing (only 80 were produced, and were only available in Europe).

The last hurrah for the Diablo was the production of the VT 6.0 and VT 6.0 SE, which led up to their replacement by the Murcielago. The VT 6.0 SE came in only two colors, one reminiscent of a sunrise (Oro Elios) and the other reminiscent of a sunset (Marrone Eklipsis).

Though the Diablo was never big in racing, there were two editions that did take part in the sport – the SV-R (noted as the first Lamborghini to be made for racing), which took part in the Lamborghini Supertrophy, and the GTR, which was driven by Paul Stokell and won the 2003 and 2004 Australian Nations Cup Championship.

Despite it being replaced, the Lamborghini Diablo lives on in the minds and hearts of collectors around the world, and will continue to be, as Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear stated, “…the biggest head-turner in the world.”

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