Tag Archives: Cars in the Wild

Cars in the Wild

FullSizeRender (1)Even over my cell phone’s weak, tinny speakers, the Corvette’s supercharged V8 sounds all lumpy and cammed and gorgeous. “Dad, you HAVE to listen to this.” He huddles over the phone along with my cousin Jared as I hit ‘Play’. In the video, the striking blue ‘Vette idles with a heavy snarl, then exhales under revs with a tearing, ripping bellow and slows idles back down into a meaty whubwhubwhubwhub. “Oh man. That car sounds like it’s about 200 feet deep,” he says through a grin.

FullSizeRenderThe standard Corvette needs no introduction, but I think this model does. Pictured here is the seventh-generation (C7) Stingray Z06, the first ‘Vette to wear the ‘Stingray’ badge since the third-generation car in 1976, and the most powerful car General Motors has ever produced. Reserved especially for Corvettes, the Z06 moniker derives from a long lineage of hot Corvettes dating back to the mid-1960’s, and denotes the cream of Chevy’s performance know-how. When a one of these cars rolls by with that badge, it means something special. This particular Z06 is adorned with the (confusingly named) Z07 package, and makes a crazy 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque from its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine. Give it the beans, and the Z06 rips from zero to 60 mph in three seconds dead, and abuses the quarter-mile run in just over 11 seconds. I don’t care what definition you use, this is a really, really fast car. If you opt to spec your car out in Z07 trim, things get even more wild – it transforms into a fully operational battle station, complete with carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon fiber body panels and aero kit, super sticky tires, and a revised suspension setup.

In FullSizeRender (3)the flesh, the Z06 is so aggressively styled it’s actually a little intimidating – give it a sideways glance and it’s easy to imagine the ‘Vette whipping out a switchblade and wanting to start some trouble. It’s all wide hips, big wheels, scoops, cuts, and wings. There is no confusing this car with a wannabe track toy. Every opening on the Z06 is functional – the carbon-fiber slats on the hood suck heat away from the engine, the front splitter pushes the nose of the car into the pavement, while the vertical wing out back keeps the rear tires planted at speed, and the various other holes and protrusions funnel cool air to where it’s needed most.

With the Z06, Chevy took the already capable Corvette platform and slathered on every go-fast bin in the warehouse to create not just a fast Corvette, but a world-class supercar that can hang with (or embarrass) the best cars in the world. The Z06 looks the business, has the performance to back it up, and arrives with zero pretensions of dominance, because dominance is already understood. Poseurs will inevitably buy this car, as they do with any car of this magnitude, but the essence of the Z06 is pure: it’s a supercar that demands skill and respect to extract it’s true performance. It also represents the rare but wonderful occurrence where a global behemoth like GM shows what it is capable of by setting the bureaucracy aside, buckling up, and putting the pedal to the freaking metal.

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Cars in the Wild

It’s fascinating how automobiles can embody human emotions and ideas. For example, if you wanted to define “finesse” in the automotive realm, cars like the Lotus Elise or Mazda Miata would fit the bill perfectly. Both are lightweight, nimble, and give a sense of connection and fluidity like few others can. When describing the essence of those cars, Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s famous philosophy, “Simplify, then add lightness” couldn’t ring more true. The car featured in this edition of Cars in the Wild, the Dodge Viper R/T 10, is exactly none of those things.

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If the Elise is a scapel, the Viper is a rusty sledgehammer; if the Miata is a happy Terrier who’s eager to frolic and play, the Viper is an irritated pit viper who’s thinking about making a lunge at your face. The early Dodge Vipers contributed greatly to the stereotype that America’s supercars are really only good for going in straight line. Refined? An exquisite handler? A predictable gentleman’s racer? These things the Viper is not. But, IMG_2202what it may lack in traditional measurements of performance, it more than makes up for in character and excitement. I mean, just look at it – that hood! Those steamroller tires! The center exit exhaust! You get the impression that Dodge just kind of slid some money across the table to a group of wild eyed engineers and said, “Well, it needs to say Dodge on the car somewhere, and having it actually work would be great, but other than that, have fun.”

This particular car is a second generation model, produced between 1996 and 2002. Under that endless hood lies a colossal 8.0-liter V10, which can trace its roots back to the first-generation Viper’s Lamborghini-designed engine. Despite its monstrous size, the engine actually only develops 415 horsepower. Still, these second-gen Vipers were a marked improvement in every way over the original car. It’s faster and lighter, and while it looks similar, there were enough changes to warrant calling it a new generation model. The Viper mauls its way to 60 mph in about four seconds (which is properly quick, even by today’s standards), and runs onto a 185 mph top speed. And, while crisp handling dynamics are not this car’s forte, cornering and performance limits are high enough to make it worthy of the supercar mantle.

IMG_2201As the Viper has evolved, not only has it finally become more refined, but the performance threshold has continued to climb. Much of this is due to the car’s success in a variety of racing series. The current-generation Viper comes packing an even larger engine (8.4-liters!) and makes 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. With the help of carbon fiber and aluminum, it is lighter and sharper than any versions before it, and with dollops of leather and plenty of Fiat money, it’s now more comfortable and upscale than any other Viper as well. While time and development have improved it’s maturity, it’s core DNA still reflects the original car’s recipe of intensity and brute force over delicacy and finesse.

There is no shortage of supercars that are superior to the Viper – some accelerate faster, others are better on a racetrack or have a more prestigious pedigree – with nearly all costing many times more. But, few can pull off the level of panache and intensity of this legendary all-American bruiser. The Dodge Viper, like the Chevrolet Corvette, brings a unique brand of performance to the table at a price that people other than oil tycoons and Crown Princes can afford. Flaws and all, the world would be a far duller place without the Viper, and that’s why we love it. *cue billowing American flags and fireworks*

Cars in the Wild

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The Audi R8 first appeared on the scene back in 2007 and promptly blew everyone’s collective mind. Audi is known for fast cars, but the R8 was their first foray into the savagely competitive supercar market, and its sublime chassis, all-wheel drive grip, sonorous 4.2-liter V8 engine, and striking looks made it an instant classic. To quench the demand for an R8 with even more power, Audi gifted the R8 with a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10 to create the stunning R8 V10.

I have nothing but enormously fond memories of the Audi R8 V10. Last summer, I was fortunate/blessed/insanely lucky to spend an entire week with one on an epic road trip from Massachusetts to Tennessee on the Yuppie Rally. (You can check out the chronicles from that ridiculous adventure here.) My dreams are still haunted by the gritty, ripping baritone exhaust note, holding white knuckled onto the steering wheel as I’m hurled towards the 8200 rpm redline. Take that experience, add a fistful more horsepower and a generous helping of carbon fiber and track readiness, and you have the car pictured above – the R8 V10 GT.

Only 333 of these cars were ever produced, and a mere 95 of them made their way to the States. That makes this Teutonic titan rarer than a Ferrari Enzo, at least ten times more scarce than a Lamborghini Murcielago, and nearly as uncommon as the Bugatti Veyron. Its 560 horsepower mid-mounted V10 propels the R8 GT to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and keeps churning until 199 mph. The normal R8 V10 is by no means a slouch, but the GT brings things to entirely new heights. Along with the bump in power, the GT also benefits from a hefty weight savings and enhanced aerodynamics in the form of winglets on the front bumper and a carbon fiber rear wing. But enough of that: want to hear how it sounds? Thought so.

This particular car was scooped in Manchester, NH. I must find this car. You’ll be the first to know when I do.

Cars in the Wild

The first time I ever saw a Ferrari was on a family vacation in Lake George, New York when I was about 17 years old. It is indelibly burned into my memory: A red Testarossa growling through downtown Lake George on a warm summer night, downshifting for a red light, me running into the middle of the street to stand behind it with my mouth agape.

Since they started making roadcars, Ferrari’s bread and butter has been cars like the Testarossa—low, wide, mid-engined, two seat sports cars. That is, until now. Welcome to the most unorthodox Ferrari ever made, the FF.

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Released in 2011, the FF (which stands for “Ferrari Four”, as in four seats and four-wheel drive) is about as unconventional for the most revered name in motoring as you can get. It is the very first all-wheel drive Ferrari, and instead of a svelte two seat configuration, a slightly ungainly hatchback designed body was penned instead. As you can imagine, when Ferrari first revealed the FF, the purists went nuts. They cried, “Whaaaat?!? Ferrari is making a car that ISN’T a dedicated asphalt shredding track weapon? Blasphemy!” This car is Ferrari’s response to an ever changing and evolving marketplace. With the FF, the company is now able to reach into previously untapped markets to scoop up customers who may have never purchased a Ferrari because of the cars’ inherent practical limitations.

And the result? Epic. The FF may look more pedestrian than the 458, F12, or the Enzo, but don’t be fooled. Along with its ability to fit, like, stuff and people inside, it arrives packing a 6.3-liter V12 engine, the largest capacity engine Ferrari has ever created, 651 horsepower, and crushing on road performance. It even passed one of the toughest crucibles of them all—the withering yet hilarious opinions of TV’s most famous trio on Top Gear and it went onto win the show’s “2011 Estate Car of the Year” award. (‘Estate’ translating into ‘station wagon’ for us ‘Muricans).

And it isn’t just Top Gear that is singing the FF’s praises—Harry Metcalfe of EVO magazine fame took loan of an FF for a week, putting 2000 miles on it and driving through nearly every situation possible—hustling down motorways, tearing up backroads, long road trips, even taking it for a spin around his farm. The car’s innovative four-wheel drive system allowed Harry to literally take the FF offroading. Blimey, Ferrari seems to have pulled it off. Check out the excellent video HERE.

The FF is by no means the most lustworthy or visually appealing Ferrari ever made, but it is an immensely capable machine and a total game changer for the Prancing Horse. Bravo!

Many thanks to Dan Szczesny for the photo!

Cars in the Wild

Oh, irony, how I love thee. While out hooning an ATV around Wisconsin cornfields with my cousin Jared, we stumbled across this fifth generation Dodge Coronet—produced between 1965 and 1970—abandoned in the woods, tire well deep in sand and dirt. Literally, a car in the wild. My first reaction upon seeing the Coronet was sadness—who would abandon such a vehicle to the relentless clutches of time and decay? My second thought was, “Could  there possibly be a more perfect candidate for a Cars in the Wild post?”

I’d like to think that this particular Coronet ended up fading peacefully into the Wisconsin landscape because its former owner would rather keep it than ship it out for scrap metal. It’s still a sad ending for such a classic car, but it certainly did make for an interesting find. As I’ve discussed before, I’m not a huge fan of older cars, but I do appreciate them and know that many paved the way for the current generation of machines that I deeply adore.

Back in the mid-60’s, you could have ordered your Dodge Coronet in range of different flavors. There was this four-door iteration, and it was also available as a two-door coupe and a station wagon. In 1968, Dodge completely overhauled the Coronet and also released the Coronet Super Bee as a compliment to the Plymouth Road Runner. The addition of the famous Super Bee name to the Coronet gave the car special visual upgrades, as well as a 390 horsepower 440 V-8, upgraded suspension, special wheels, and a fiberglass hood. In 1965 when the fifth generation was introduced, the Coronet became the best selling model in Dodge’s lineup, and the Coronet soldiered on until 1976 when it was renamed the Monaco.

But enough of that learning and factual nonsense, here’s a video of a Coronet Super Bee doing a burnout. That’s better.

I salute you, abandoned Dodge Coronet. May your journey to the great drag strip in the sky be filled with wide open roads, new paint and primer, and shiny memories of your glory days. And no mouse nests.

Cars in the Wild

I understand if you don’t know what car this is. This is undoubtedly the rarest and most interesting car yet featured on Cars  in the Wild. Some cars are so transcendent that you don’t have to know a single thing about them but the minute you see one, you know it is something special. When a Rolls-Royce or a Lamborghini drives by, people without a shred of car geek in them turn to gaze longingly then quickly text their car obsessed buddies. And, there are some cars that being seen driving in them is one of their primary purposes (I’m looking at you Rolls and Lambo). This is not one of those cars. Yes, the giant wing will cause deep boy-racer envy and every cop on the road will do a double-take when the see the flashy red paint, but the Noble M400 is about as far from a poser performance car as you can get.

Google ‘Noble’ and you have to scroll for several pages before you reach the company’s homepage at NobleCars.com. Based in Leicester, England, Noble has been producing cars in small batches since 1999 with only a handful of different models since its inception. The M400—the track oriented version of the Noble M12—features a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that puts out 425 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. What’s most significant about this car, and rings true of Noble’s in general, is the staggering level of performance it delivers for a comparatively small fee. Brand new during its production run from 2004 to 2007, the M400 would run you about $70,000. It may not have the swagger of an Italian exotic, but in return for your hard earned money it will obliterate the run to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds (as fast as a Ferrari Enzo), and pull well over 1.0G on the skidpad. Check out a fun Fifth Gear comparison test with the M400 HERE, and a 2007 review from Car & Driver HERE.

The thing I like most about the M400, however, is that you have to know what this car is in order to buy one. This is not a car you cruise around in to pick up chicks or flaunt your wealth in—although the ride is reportedly very good, which should bode well for delicate female bottoms. Whoever owns this car must understand cars on a different level than someone who buys, say, a Lamborghini Gallardo. While the Lambo is a ridiculously capable performance car, there is a certain brain wave pattern a person must exhibit to purchase one that I don’t think exists for the M400—call it a mix of vanity/bravado/macho. I’d like to assume that the owner of this car (I must meet them!) enjoys track days, knows the Formula 1 champions for the past decade, relishes replacing the M400’s clutch and sipping aged classic Scotch. If I see this car on the road, you can bet I’m going to do everything I can to get them to pull over so I can find out if my assumptions are correct. Is that sketchy? Whatev.

Cars in the Wild

In my feeble brain, the general rule of thumb has always been that the more expensive and powerful a car is, the more I want it. Doesn’t matter if it’s new age or old school, if it makes a ton of power, looks the business, and causes my wallet to wilt in fear, that’s the car I have to own. Take Ferraris for example. Sure, you can tune your GT-R or Audi or Evo to make more power than, say, the Ferrari 458 – there will always be people with a faster car than you, no matter what you drive – but there is something about that emblem, that power, that noise, and that name that makes me want to mash the loud pedal to the floor and ride its sonic waves all the way to Valhalla. Its a strange thing then, that there is a small, inexpensive, and comparatively slow car being featured on this edition of Cars in the Wild. Welcome, everyone, to the car that defies my own status quo – the Subaru BRZ.

Here’s the deal – The BRZ makes 200 horsepower, does the 0-60 mph shuffle in a shade over six seconds, and costs around $26,000. Those figures don’t exactly make me tingly all over, if I’m honest. So if that’s the case, why is this car being featured in the most honorable segment of the most prestigious automotive website in all the land? Because the BRZ does something many high-end sports cars and the great majority of inexpensive cars don’t – it drives. The BRZ was never meant to compete with Chevrolet Corvettes or BMW M3s or Porsche 911s. The premise on which it was built is the same as the one that underpins the legendary Mazda MX-5 (Miata) and the nimble offerings from Lotus – low weight, sublime handling, and the tactile driving experience over bloated belt lines and prodigious horsepower.

200 horsepower may not seem like much (and it isn’t), but when it’s responsible for motivating a relatively svelte 2600 pounds and the whole package has a balanced and progressive chassis, you’re left with a controllable and enjoyable driving experience that focuses on mastering the craft of driving. The BRZ was born from a most unlikely corporate marriage between Subaru and Toyota which actually resulted in the creation of two sister cars to the BRZ – the Scion FR-S and the Toyota GT-86. Here in the US, we only receive the Scion and Subaru versions, while the Toyota badged model is relegated to the European market. The Subaru-sourced 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine sits deep in the BRZ, giving it a terrifically low center of gravity. The fastidious attention paid to balance, weight, and handling by the car’s engineers makes the BRZ a unique and compelling rival to cars like the the Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang, and the V-6 Chevrolet Camaro. Need proof? Check out this fantastic comparison from Drive on the BRZ and the Mustang HERE.

When perusing the interwebs in search of car reviews and videos (which happens probably more than it should), I naturally default to Googling stuff like “Lamborghini” or “drag racing” or “epic burnouts”. It’s a rare day that I take the time to read or watch something about a car that costs less than several houses and makes fewer than a whole kingdom’s worth of horse-power. That changed, however, with the BRZ. I appreciate it in a different way than I appreciate cars like the Ferrari 458 – it’s a compelling, exciting and inexpensive sports car born out of an inspiration rather than from a marketing team or a budget committee. Thank you, Subaru/Toyota/Scion for making this car. I. Must. Own. It.

Cars in the Wild

There is nothing like a Porsche. There are plenty of manufacturers in the same market, other cars in the same category, but no one does it like the boys from Stuttgart. Some of its competitors are better, while many others get their doors blown off, but the people who own Porsches and drive them and race them are Porsche to the core. The purest iteration of the Porsche language is embodied in the 911, the iconic sports car the company has been making since 1963. And of the innumerable variants of the glorious 911 stands the GT3 – the pure, track focused version of Porsche’s purest automobile.

The GT3 follows a pretty genius marketing plan – charge more and give customers less. Sounds sheisty, but it isn’t. The only things you get less of are weight, distraction, and time spent on each lap of your favorite race track. This particular example (doesn’t it look epic in black?) was spotted at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weekends ago during the 24 Hours of LeMons race. Mounted at the back of the GT3 in quintessential 911 fashion, is a 3.6-liter flat-six engine that develops 415 horsepower and manhandles the ever important dash to 60 miles per hour benchmark in 4.1 seconds. Interestingly, Road & Track Magazine recorded a 60 mph run in 3.8 seconds. Competitors and posers will be admiring the size of the GT3’s diesel rear wing all the way up to the car’s top speed of 193 mph.

But, this car isn’t focused only on outright speed – world class handling and neatly slicing a race track to ribbons are the GT3’s true calling. There are very few cars with the balanced nature, communicative feedback, and pure tenacity of a GT3 on full attack. For as much as Top Gear is the outlet TDC turns to for videos and commentary, auto-geek Chris Harris (@harrismonkey) composes some of the most insightful car reviews you can find anywhere. Check out his breakdown of the GT3 by clicking HERE.

Another great thing about Porsche is they are always creating newer and faster variants of their already bonkers cars. Recently they created the GT3 RS 4.0, a car that makes pretty much everything else a few classes up and down the social ladder wilt with terror. A colossal 4.0-liter flat-six that makes 500 horsepower has been shoehorned into the back of the 4.0, resulting in low-3 second sprints to 60 mph. The 4.0 also inherits a range of parts and technology from Porsche’s racing program which make it a barely street legal racecar. Check out another excellent Chris Harris on the GT3 RS 4.0 video HERE.

Thank you, Porsche, for making cars like the GT3 – they are the stuff of dreams!

Cars in the Wild

One of my all time favorite automotive quotes comes from freelance auto journo Andrew Frankel (@Andrew_Frankel). His experience  driving the almighty Bugatti Veyron for the first time is still the best I’ve ever read: “When I finally stopped accelerating I had to slow down and do it all over again, just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by Porsche 911, Ferrari F430 or Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Veyron will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes. Time and distance fuse into one unintelligible fog in your head. In the public road environment, there has never been anything like this.”

I would be so bold as to take that one step further and rewrite it for this week’s Car in the Wild, the Nissan R35 GT-R. “… Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by a Porsche 911 Turbo/GT2/GT3, Ferrari 430/458/FF, or pretty much anything else you can think of, the GT-R will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes… In the public road environment, nothing can touch the GT-R’s shattering performance for such a bargain-basement price. Supercars costing three times more than the GT-R are robbed blind.”

Like the Veyron, there are few superlatives left to describe the GT-R; they’ve all be consumed ad naseum by anyone who has ever driven one. Its world crushing performance continues to baffle even the most seasoned automotive journalists years after its launch. One of the most interesting things about the GT-R is when you look at it on paper, it doesn’t seem like it would eat some of the best cars on the planet for lunch. A twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 under the hood produces “only” 480 horsepower and is responsible for hauling around a rather portly 3,800 pounds. The end result, however, is quite frankly a little ridiculous — this $85,000-ish car sprints to 60 miles per hour in the mid 3-second range, and continues running onto a top speed of 193 miles per hour. Those figures embarrass some of the finest thoroughbreds from anywhere in the world. Subsequent updates to the GT-R increased horsepower to 540, and dropped the 0-60 mph time to a stunning 2.9 seconds. There are only a handful of cars you can buy that are capable of cracking the 3-second barrier, and this incredible performance comes from the same company that produces the Leaf electric car and the Titan pickup truck.

The GT-R certainly isn’t the prettiest car on the road, but it definitely does pack a deadly punch. Since it’s introduction in 2007, the GT-R has been a champion both on and off the track winning multiple racing titles as well as the 2009 International Car of the Year award, and Car of the Year awards from magazines like Top Gear, Motor Trend, and Evo. Admittedly, a lot of Top Gear videos get posted on TDC, but it’s usually for a good reason. Following that tradition, here is yet another hilarious Jeremy Clarkson segment, this time reviewing the GT-R. Enjoy.

In the TDC Dream Garage, there will be a plethora of precious machinery from all over the world — gleaming red Ferraris, bombastic yellow Lamborghinis and naked carbon fiber Paganis from Italy, decadent Bentleys and Rolls-Royces from England, and savagely purposeful BMWs and Porsches from Germany. Amongst them will be an alpine white Nissan GT-R from Japan, bristling with technology and an insatiable Napoleon complex, always looking to land a knockout punch on cars far above its pay grade.

Cars in the Wild

When the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 first hit the world stage back in 2007, it had about the same affect as when Nissan unleashed its new GTR—people looked at each other in stunned disbelief and said, “It can do what? And it costs how much?” The Zr1, like the GTR,  serves up a heaping platter of world crushing power and performance for substantially less coin than its European rivals. And, unlike more cultured and refined cars like the Ferrari 458 or Porsche GT2, the ZR1 serves up its power in typical American fashion—it takes that heaping platter, smashes it in your face, then punches you square in the gut. The ZR1 is raw, barely refined, and elects to dispense its heavy ordnance with reckless abandon rather than calculated precision. Need proof? See HERE, HERE, and HERE. And dear, sweet Lord, the sound it makes! Listen to THIS!

Sorry for the crappy photo - yet another reason to upgrade to the iPhone.

The ZR1 develops 638 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine, making it the most powerful engine General Motors has ever produced. And unlike so many powerful American cars before it, the ZR1 can actually handle. Like, go around both left and right hand corners. It handles so well in fact that it currently holds the ninth fastest time at the famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany with a blistering lap time of 7 minutes and 19.63 seconds. Only dedicated track cars or soul-shatteringly expensive exotics like the Gumpert Apollo have set faster times than Chevrolet’s American bruiser.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em! http://pictures.topspeed.com/IMG/crop/201006/2011-chevrolet-corvette-z-5_1600x0w.jpg

One of the best parts about the ZR1 is that while it is an all-around better car than any of the Corvettes before it, it’s still sensationally vulgar. From the steamroller sized rear tires, to its massively flared wheel arches, to the clear plastic cutout in the hood that allows you to see the supercharger, from every angle the ZR1 looks like a steroid-popping gym meathead with a torn muscle shirt, practically begging you to watch as it flexes its rippling biceps.

And that’s all the more reason to love this car. It’s bombastic style along with its shattering performance, “reasonable” pricetag (just north of $110,000), and dynamic revolution of the American musclecar make it one of the most desirable cars on the road today, and will forever have a reserved spot in the TDC Dream Garage. America, f**k yeah!