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CARS

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

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The classic all-American four-seat performance coupe. A convertible is also a certainty. The sixth-generation model will draw inspiration from the Euro-styled second-gen Camaro RS (1970–1981).

Why It Matters: Today’s model has thrived as a roomier, more affordable alternative to the Corvette, and as a source of pride to the haters of  Ford, Dodge, and imported rear-drive coupes.

Platform: The Camaro moves to GM’s Alpha component set (Cadillac ATS and other future GM models) to save significant weight and cost.

Powertrain: Expect eight-, six-, and four-cylinder offerings, the last to fulfill rising mpg obligations while fighting a growing list of four-cylinder-equipped foes, including the SRT Barracuda, Subaru BRZ, Scion FR-S, Ford Mustang, and Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

Competition: See above.

What Might Go Wrong: GM designers could misinterpret Camaro’s thin sales lead over Mustang and neglect critically needed interior upgrades.

Estimated Arrival and Price: Late 2015 as a 2016 model, with a base price in the mid-$20,000 range

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2016 BMW M8

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What It Is: The BMW M8 is the first supercar from the blue-spinner crew since 1981, when the last of the 453 BMW M1s were sold. The M8 coupe will feature a few retro design cues, but also state-of-the-art gasoline-powertrain technology. The structure and body  will use lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber, aluminum, magnesium, and even titanium, in pursuit of a 2760-pound target weight.

Why It Matters: As BMW downsizes its mainstream models and introduces electric cars, it runs the risk of degrading its sporting image. A car like the M8 would burnish the reputation of BMW Motorsports.

Platform: The new M8 will be built on the platform of the i8, a futuristic carbon-fiber plug-in hybrid that uses some 5-series components.

Powertrain: An upgraded version of the M5’s direct-injected 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo, coupled to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. BMW engineers are talking 600 to 650 horsepower.

Competition: Audi R8, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Porsche 911 Turbo.

What Might Go Wrong: BMW boss Norbert Reithofer is not a fan of this car, but the head of BMW M GmbH, Friedrich Nitschke, is. The top boss could cancel the project at the last minute. The reason: The M8 doesn’t strictly comply  with BMW’s 21st-century technology strategy, which focuses on alternative powertrains and smart connectivity.

Estimated Arrival and Price: Due in BMW’s centennial year of 2016, the M8’s target price is 250,000 euros, or $330,000 at current exchange rates.

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2014 Maserati Ghibli

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This is Maserati’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7, a midsize sports sedan that’s the core part of a ballsy plan to go from producing 6000 cars in 2012 to 50,000 in 2015.

Loosely based on Maserati’s new, much larger Quattroporte luxury sedan, it comes with a two different V6s, a 345 hp version with rear-drive, and as the S Q4 with four-wheel drive and 404 hp. There’s also a diesel for Europe, but it won’t be coming here yet. We’ve driven it and you’re not missing much.

That Ghibli name sound familiar? It’s been used before, first on a pretty front-engined GT in the 1960s, then on another square-edged V6 coupe in the wilderness years of the 1990s.

Do yourself a favor and find the extra $10k for the Q4S. The basic 345 hp Ghibli posts 0-62 mph in 5.6 sec, but only really delivers the goods in the upper half of the rev range. It’s not just the SQ4’s 0.8 sec advantage that’s so appealing either, but its effortless mid-range performance too.

And far from being a killjoy, the S Q4’s rear-biased four-wheel drive system only sends enough torque to the front axle to make you feel like a hero. Both cars have a 50:50 weight distribution and feel sweetly balanced; both have hydraulic steering that’s heavy but only moderately talkative; and both have a ride that can get caught out with sharp ridges.

The Skyhook adaptive dampers are optional with both engines, but the standard passive setup is close to Skyhook with the sport button pressed, so only shell out if you need the extra comfort, not better handling.

You just know Maserati is holding the best stuff back for now, like the 523 hp V8 from the Quattroporte that will eventually make an AMG rival of the Ghibli. The Maserati name might sound exotic, but to succeed in this market, the Ghibli has to get the sensible stuff right, too. So interior room up front is strong, and passengers in the back get a much better deal than those in a Mercedes CLS when it comes to headroom.

Standard equipment includes leather trim, reversing camera and an eight-speed ZF automatic, while extended leather trim, adaptive dampers, 19, 20 and 21in wheels, a 1280w Bowers and Wilkins sound system, and even electrically adjustable pedals are just waiting to be plucked from the options list. One of the best touches in the car is the huge gearshift paddles made from real metal, not some cheap plastic facsimile. Yes, we’re looking at you Jag.

One option not on the list but probably worth lobbying your dealer for is a bulkhead-foam delete checkbox. Both engines make a great noise, just not enough of it. You can’t help but feel that people watching from the sidewalk are getting a better deal.

The Ghibli is an interesting attempt to break the German stranglehold on the premium car market. Is it the best car in its class? No, but it’s a serious contender, and it has soul, that unquantifiable quality that has traditionally helped Italian carmakers part fools from their money. This time though, the rest of the package is strong enough that being a fool is not a prerequisite.

Ghibli: 2979cc 24v twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 345 hp
Torque: 369 lb-ft
0-60 : 5.6 sec
Ghibli S: 2979cc 24v twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 404 hp
Torque: 406 lb-ft
0-60: 4.8 sec

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2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

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Alfa Romeo is celebrating the launch of its new 4C sports car with the launch of a special 4C Launch Edition. It will be offered exclusively in the European market where it will be priced at €60,000 (about $79,000 at the current exchange rates) and only 400 units will be produced. Orders are officially opened today during the car’s presentation at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

The new 4C Launch Edition will be offered in just two exterior colors: Carrara White or Alfa Red. When compared to a standard 4C, the new Launch Edition will be distinguished by a carbon-fiber aerodynamic kit that includes new spoilers and side-view mirror covers, a new rear aluminum diffuser with dark finishing and bi-LED headlights with dark surround. The model also receives new alloy wheels sized 18 inches up front and 19 inches at the rear. The wheels are combined with brake calipers in a specific color and, for an even sportier feeling, Alfa Romeo also added a new racing exhaust system with a BMC air cleaner.

For the interior, the new 4C Launch Edition adds sports seats in Alcantara, plus red stitching on the steering wheel trim, handbrake, mats, handles and sports seats when customers opt for a red exterior paint.

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2014 Audi R8 V-10 Plus

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The Audi R8 has always been a starter supercar, a toe into the high-g waters. It doesn’t wear an exotic badge, and it won’t trigger too many adverse assumptions about your manhood. Other supercars are riskier, wilder, more dangerous, less defensible. They test you by draining their batteries while at rest in the garage. They demand that you regularly remove the engines for new spark plugs. Just how invested are you in the whole supercar lifestyle, anyway? Do you even own an Ed Hardy shirt?

2014 Audi R8 Starts at $119,150; Spyder Starts at $132,650

Indeed, most supercar owners are more like zookeepers than drivers. Actually driving one is the rare reward for all the feeding, protecting, and preening. The R8 isn’t like that, though. For all of its lofty perform­ance and aluminum construction, it behaves pretty much like a normal Audi. Lovers of Italian metal often find the R8’s restraint a shortcoming. We don’t.

For 2014, the R8 V-10 gains a new Plus model. Not to be confused with the ladies in a Lane Bryant ad, Plus here refers to the extra 25 horsepower that Audi coaxed from the 5.2-liter V-10. Basically, it’s the Lambor­ghini-grade unit found in the Gallardo LP560-4. Firmer springs and dampers, inspired by the rarely-seen-outside-captivity R8 GT, are seriously stiff, bordering on annoyingly bouncy. We’d much rather live with the standard R8’s supple magnetic shocks.

But the biggest change is the newly available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic called S tronic. A $7800 option on all R8s, it replaces the clunky automated-manual transmission known as the R tronic. With the S, part-throttle upshifts are free of any twitchiness, giving the auto R8 the manners to live in traffic. For maximum acceleration, the S tronic offers launch control that holds the engine at 4500 rpm before engaging the first-gear clutch. The R8’s owner’s manual suggests finding a clear, empty road before using launch control, as it might cause unwanted attention. Good advice. Accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds with the quarter-mile passing in 11.4 seconds at 126 mph certainly got our attention. That’s two-tenths quicker to 60 and in the quarter than the
The Plus versions also get standard carbon-ceramic brakes. A bit grabby at first, the brakes felt considerably better after a few 148-foot stops from 70 mph. Audi claims that all the Plus’s neat-looking carbon-fiber trim inside and out isn’t just there for peacocking; it actually saves weight. On the scales, our dual-clutch example weighed in at 3689 pounds, 66 less than that last automated-manual R8 V-10.
Other changes for 2014 include front and rear LED lights, a revised grille design, and round exhaust tips. Our Plus arrived with the $5000 full-cowhide interior and cross-stitched seats. Aside from the harsh ride, the Plus has a thick veneer of  luxury that is commensurate with its $174,795 base price. Choosing the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Plus model will set you back at least $182,595; a regular-issue V-10 starts at $155,450.

As the rational supercar, the R8 provokes rational thoughts. Thoughts such as: Are Plus models really worth the extra $19,345? Extra horsepower is good, and so is reduced mass, but the ride is tiring. Hmm. A 525-hp R8 is still seriously quick. When you nail it, discerning a Plus from a non-Plus will be like trying to tell if you’ve been smacked in the head with a 3-iron or a 4-iron.

While we dearly love this aluminum bolide, the Plus version strikes us as the least logical version of  the world’s most ­logical supercar.

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

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High Country is for pickup buyers who want to make a statement other than, “I’m going to work.”

General Motors revealed today an upscale crew-cab package of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country that includes 20-inch chrome wheels, a saddle-brown leather interior and Bose audio system.

The new model is aimed at competitors such as the Ford F-series King Ranch, Ram Laramie Longhorn and Toyota Tundra 1794.

“We see that portion of the market growing, and we want to be there,” Chevrolet trucks marketing manager Maria Rohrer said.

A special High Country badge featuring a mountainous background is emblazoned on both front doors and the front-seat headrests.

“What we wanted to do was get a little bit of a Western theme to it, if you will,” said Lloyd Biermann, Chevy marketing manager.
Full-size pickups generate $8,000-$10,000 in profit for automakers, and the Silverado High Country could exceed that.

GM marketers declined to reveal exact pricing for the vehicle, which goes on sale in the fourth quarter. They said it would cost more than $40,000, but less than the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali, which starts at $47,425. By comparison, the Ford F-Series King Ranch starts at $43,805.

Trucks in this segment can easily top $60,000 when packed with all possible options.

The standard 2014 Silverado crew cab, which will reach some dealerships later this month, starts at $32,710.

Biermann said GM’s research indicates that 30% of pickups sell for more than $40,000. “Obviously, you can make money up there,” he said.

Rohrer said she expects the Silverado High Country to make up 3% to 5% of total Silverado sales. GM sold 418,312 Silverado units in 2012.

She said GM would continue to sell the Silverado LT, which accounts for up to 70% of Silverado sales, as well as the LTZ version and the Z71.

The standard Silverado High Country will come with GM’s redesigned small-block 5.2-liter, 8-cylinder engine with 355 horsepower that averages 23 miles per gallon with two-wheel-drive. Four-wheel-drive is available and likely to be more popular.

GM launched production on the redesigned version of the standard Silverado and GMC Sierra in Silao, Mexico, last week. It will also be produced at GM’s Fort Wayne, Ind., assembly plant. Heavy-duty versions will be made in Flint.

The High Country is expected to sell well in Texas, where pickups are plentiful and often regarded as status symbols. Biermann said the target customers are people who “want to be able to reward themselves just a bit because they’ve made it.”

Although pickup owners are fiercely loyal to their chosen brands, GM said it believes the premium segment is different. Customers seeking an expensive pickup “may be a little less brand loyal,” Biermann said, and “a little more open to switching.”

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2014 Jaguar F-Type First Drive

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I tend to think it’s the latter, and the 2014 Jaguar F-Type presents a convincing case in support of that tendency.

Running strictly by the numbers, the F-Type falls a lot closer to the Grand Tourer class than it does to any classical (or even fairly modern) definition of a “sports car.” But behind the wheel, the F-Type’s spirit, the feeling it evokes in the driver, rails against classification with two-ton tourers.

Weighing in at 3,521 to 3,671 pounds, with a footprint that’s 6 percent larger than the 2013 Porsche 911’s, the F-Type is no minimalist enthusiast’s machine. With up to 495 horsepower on tap–and 340 horsepower in its least-powerful form–it’s also not a lesson in momentum maintenance and apex speeds.

But between the balanced street-tuned suspension, throaty exhaust notes, abundant torque, balanced chassis, and massive grip, the F-Type ultimately validates Jaguar’s claims of a return to the sports car game–whatever the numbers say, whatever the time lapse since the last one.

The Entry Point To F-Type

There are three main flavors to the 2014 F-Type: the base model, named simply “F-Type,” the F-Type S, and the F-Type V8 S. Between the three, the primary differences are engine output or type; optional equipment availability; and suspension configuration.

The base F-Type, starting at $69,000 (though it can quickly rise from there) sports a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine rated at 340 horsepower. Good for 5.1-second 0-60 mph runs and a top speed of 161 mph, the base F-Type comes standard with 18-inch wheels and cloth seats. It’s the lightest of the group, weighing 3,521 pounds, but it misses out on the Adaptive Dynamic Suspension system, which improves not only ride quality, but handling, in the V6 S and V8 S, where it’s standard.
The base F-Type also misses out on Jaguar’s very well-tuned performance electronics system, available only on the S and V8 S. With a Configurable Dynamics option offering control over throttle and transmission response, steering weight, and suspension settings (for Adaptive Dynamics-equipped cars), the F-Type lets you tailor the car’s driving feel to fit your uses.

But what’s it like behind the wheel? In base form, the F-Type is quick, but not particularly inspiring. The low-end torque is good, but, given the car’s weight, not great. Once you muscle past the 3,500-rpm mark, however, things liven up greatly.

If you’ve opted for the two-mode exhaust system (our test car was fitted with it) the sound wakes up even more, right around the same transition point. Going from quiet and understated (if a bit pedestrian) the sound comes alive, giving even the base F-Type a pleasant bark, particularly on upshifts and downshifts.

When it’s time to wipe away the perma-grin installed by straight-line pedal mashing and start turning corners, the F-Type is equally happy to oblige.
In base form the F-Type gets Continental ContiSportContact2 “max performance” summer tires. Those tires are good, but, ultimately, not great. Grip is fine, and the tires are communicative in the auditory sense, but there’s little feedback returned through the wheel.

Part of the blame there lies with the Jaguar’s steering, however. As a non-electric power steering setup, you might think there are no good excuses for less-than-awesome feel. You’d be right, but that doesn’t mean that’s what you get with the F-Type.

In fact, you get decidedly non-awesome, rather numb steering feel with the F-Type, particularly in base form. Part of the blame for this shortfall also undoubtedly lies in the F-Type’s not-so-trim weight. Even approaching 50/50 weight distribution–with passengers, again–that means there’s the better part of a ton over the front contact patches. Mid-engine and rear-engine cars (and light front engine cars) are often lauded for their steering feel–feel that is, in part, due to the relatively lightly loaded front axles, and, consequently, tires.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to steering, however; steering weight is good, and the variable ratio is quick and intuitive–the cars reactions are nearly as quick as the driver’s. The inherent balance of the F-Type, from its spring and damper rates to its near 50/50 weight balance (again, with passengers), the F-Type is well-poised. It’s just a bit less communicative about what’s going on with the front end than we’d like to see in a sports car.

The Mid-Point Of F-Type

Stepping up to the middle of the F-Type range, you have the $81,000 F-Type S. Not to be confused with the F-Type V8 S, the F-Type S is powered by essentially the same 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine, just in a higher state of tune, the (V-6) S is good for 380 horsepower and 4.8-second 0-60 mph runs.

Best of all, the extra power and torque in V6 S trim relieves the car of its sub-3,500-rpm dead spot and gives it a lively, quick feeling in all conditions. The bark, too, is sharper.

Uncork the F-Type V6 S in Dynamic Mode with the “googly eyes” dual-mode exhaust button switched on, and I challenge you not to smile. Most will break out in giggles.

In F-Type V6 S form, Pirelli PZero tires on larger 19-inch wheels take over grip duty–and the improvement is immediately noticeable. Steering communication is more abundant thanks to less sidewall flex, though, overall, feedback remains muted.

But the chassis itself appreciates the extra grip and readily puts it to use. The communication lacking through the steering wheel is made up for by the input coming back through the seat and pedals; in cornering, the balance of the car is easily discernible. Power out of a corner and you’ll sense the impending tail-out attitude just before it happens; hammer the brakes and the car dives just enough, maintaining stability while slowing with force.

The Adaptive Dynamics suspension system takes much of the credit here, too, offering up to 500 adjustments per second to adapt to the driver’s inputs and the road itself. Modern adaptive damper systems have come a long, long way from their rather recent origins, and the F-Type’s system is among the most seamless.
But the F-Type is, by sports car standards, heavy. In V6 S form, it weighs 3,558 pounds. That’s more than 300 pounds heavier than the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. And the 911 has 20 more horsepower. And a back seat.

The Pinnacle Of F-Type

There’s more to the F-Type yet, however: the $92,000 V8 S. Powered by the familiar 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 found (in similar form) in other Jaguar products, the F-Type V8 S generates a stout 495 horsepower.

Tipping the scales at 3,671 pounds, it’s also the heaviest F-Type, but 150 pounds heavier than the base model is a relatively small penalty to pay for all of those ponies.

Surprisingly, at least to me, the V8 S doesn’t feel any less nimble or ready to run than the V6 S. The extra weight–83 pounds in this case–is simply too little to notice; there’s no additional penalty in feel.

That leaves the throaty V-8 engine to add a definite element of awesome, roared by its quad-tipped exhaust and then immediately seen on the rapidly rotating speedo needle. Jaguar quotes the 50-75 mph acceleration time of the F-Type V8 S at just 2.5 seconds–a full second quicker than the base F-Type. I believe it.

I also believe the V8 S’s 186 mph top speed–very quick indeed for a sub-$100,000 convertible. It’s surprisingly easy to get a significant fraction of the way there without realizing it, too.

With its abundant power and speed, the F-Type V8 S can almost feel more like a compact grand tourer than a sports car, particularly once the road opens up and straightens out. In this scenario, it has the composure and pace of a dedicated continent-crosser. But as soon as the curves return and the sight lines shorten, it perks its ears, eager for the challenge.

Because of these V-8 factors, we also believe Jaguar’s estimate of about half of U.S. buyers opting for the top-of-the-line F-Type V8 S, the rest split fairly evenly between the base and V6 S models.

Enough Brains–What About Beauty?

The F-Type has been almost universally acclaimed as a beautiful car. Why? It has headlights, a grille, fenders and flares, just like every other car.

Because of the proportion and shape of those elements; because of the organic curves and ratios; because of the attention to detail. But also because of something less easily quantified, some essence, that is uniquely Jaguar.

Jaguar Director of Design, Ian Callum, admits there are few direct cues to Jaguar’s illustrious sports car past–in fact, the idea was to design in an entirely new direction, but with the ethos that inspired those past designs.

That ethos was put in place by Jaguar founder William Lyons; its core tenet: to do something new, original. In that, the F-Type succeeds, even while it relates to Jaguar’s other new cars, particularly the XK.

Inside, the idea was the capture the spirit, if not the detail, of the earlier cars as well. While the cockpit is entirely modern in look and feel, the choice of a shift lever (or joystick) instead of the round dial selector found in other Jags, as well as the shape and location of the knobs and toggles along the center stack, were all chosen to give an impression of mechanical simplicity–despite the advanced electronics they control. The interior, like the rest of the car, is also extensively customizable.
While the design is exquisite, somehow quintessentially Jaguar yet also new and modern, how does the package that design’s wrapped around stack up?

The answer: Fairly well–though there are a few issues.

Trunk space, for one, is minimal. Even apart from the space stolen by design to stow the Z-fold soft top, the floor of the trunk is quite high, and the suspension towers intrude at the sides. The result is a space that’s barely suitable even for smaller bags, and not deep enough to contain much in the way of a real suitcase–a potential issue for those wanting a weekend getaway car.

The cockpit, too, is a bit short on space. In a car with a footprint 6 percent larger than the 911–which offers a backseat and a reasonable front trunk–you’d expect ample leg room. Not so. In fact, the shortage of leg room requires a more vertical seating position (at least for taller drivers) than is truly comfortable, as the seatback runs into the rear bulkhead. For passengers, it’s worse, as the floorboard doesn’t extend as far forward as it does for the driver’s pedals.

Knee room is tight, as well, making for a bit of discomfort for long-legged drivers (like myself) on longer drives. The rest of the cockpit, however, is as spacious as it should be–shoulder, hip, and headroom are good. The seats, in particular the upgraded leather-wrapped sport seats, are fantastic. Adjustable side bolsters and lumbar support make for a highly tunable seating position, from relaxed and cruising to snug and sporty.

But the biggest issue with the F-Type, for some, will be the lack of a manual transmission.

The eight-speed Quickshift transmission in the F-Type is a rather athletic take on the slushbox concept, with quickened shifts and a 100-percent lockup that skips the torque converter once out of first gear. But it’s clearly not a manual–and not a dual-clutch either.

The Quickshift’s actual gear changes are quick, indeed–on the order of dual-clutch quick–but there’s a lag between driver request (via paddle or center console joystick) and transmission action. It’s a noticeable lag, even in Dynamic Mode. In some cases, the transmission simply doesn’t respond, perhaps thinking better of your ill-informed manual shift point. Whatever it is, it’s a touch balky and difficult to use in manual mode.

Fortunately, it’s quite good in fully automatic mode. So good, in fact, in Dynamic Mode, that you’re unlikely to wring any thing more from the car shifting on your own except frustration. When left to its own devices, the Quickshift in the F-Type downshifts intelligently, upshifts quickly, and avoids interfering in corners thanks to its Corner Recognition software.

The F-Type: Sports Car Or Something Else?

The question I started out with–the question that remained with me through much of the day and a half driving the 2014 F-Type–is whether the car can truly be called a sports car.

The answer, raw and subjective as it is: it can. It’s not a minimalist, pure execution of the theme, but it’s a sports car. A luxurious, (mostly) comfortable, beautiful, powerful sports car.

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2014 Dodge Durango

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As Allpar predicted, the 2014 Dodge Durango is getting a late start, but it will be worth it: all buyers will get eight-speed automatic transmissions that boost acceleration and gas mileage, the electronics have been upgraded with new gee-whiz features, and creature comforts have been refined. The Durango will give minivans a run for their money, especially for people who want to tow their classic Challengers or Chrysler boats.
The Dodge Durango is now an eight-speed-only vehicle, using the state-of-the-art ZF HP8 transmission. Instead of using the electronic shifter of the Grand Cherokee, Charger, and 300, though, Durango uses the Ram’s shifter-knob, which makes it easier to change gears by touch. The knob has definite positions for park, reverse, neutral, and drive; shifting up and down is handled by standard paddle controls on the steering wheel
The transmission’s wide gear spread provides stronger gas mileage by allowing high top gear ratios, while enhancing performance with a lower first gear; the large number of gears in between helps to make shifting smoother, and to assure that the engine is always within its optimal range. With the V6 engine, Dodge Durango now has a best-in-class driving range of more than 600 miles — around the distance from New York City to Detroit.

The engine that benefits most from the eight-speed is the award-winning 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6, with 290 horsepower and 260 l-ft of torque; Rallye buyers get an extra five horsepower. Dual cam phasing helps bring an exceptionally flat torque curve, so that over 90% of peak torque is available from 1,900 rpm to 6,400 rpm. This engine is standard for every Durango.

The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, only available on Limited, R/T, and Citadel, has best-in-class 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, with best-in-class towing capacity of 7,400 pounds (with AWD, 7,200 pounds). Gas mileage has improved by up to 5%.

A new Eco Mode optimizes the throttle, transmission shift schedule, deceleration fuel cutoff, and, in V-8 models, Fuel Saver Technology (which includes shutting off four cylinders when they are not needed). A button on the center stack allows drivers to disengage Eco Mode.

More than 5,500 welds, including 4,100 mm of arc welding, add torsional stiffness to the Dodge Durango’s unibody construction. 52% of the structure is high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, with more stiffness from closed-section front and rear cross-members.

Durango’s four-wheel independent suspension uses isolated suspension cradles, with optional skid plates. The 2014 Durango has larger sway bars than the 2011-13 models, with 10% stiffer shock and spring rates, and twin-tube shocks supplementing the multi-link rear suspension. The 2014 Durango also has higher cooling capacity than past models, with standard trailer-sway control.

V6-powered Durangos have electro-hydraulic power steering (EHPS), with speed-dependent boost levels. The system delivers fuel savings of up to 3.5% over a pure hydraulic system.

The Durango has two all wheel drive (AWD) systems, one for each engine. The V6 has an MP3010 single speed transfer case for full time all wheel drive, set with a 50/50 torque split. The Hemi-powered AWD Durango has a low-range MP3022 transfer case with a neutral position, for light off-road use, or to aid in moving a boat or trailer; the neutral position allows the Durango to be flat-towed easily. The transfer case has a 2.72:1 low-range ratio, and a variable torque split. 20-inch wheels are optional.

The Dodge Durango’s drag coefficient is approximately 0.35. Interior quietness is further improved by extensive use of acoustic materials, including laminated front-door glass, and by a double wall separating the engine compartment from the cabin.

Optional bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps include auto-leveling to adjust the beam area for slight changes in elevation. Four-inch projector fog lamps are standard equipment on all Durango models.

As predicted, the 2014 Dodge Durango brought Chrysler’s class-exclusive customizable 7-inch digital instrument cluster, 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with Uconnect Access services, and other sophisticated new features.

The Dodge Durango marks the debut of Uconnect Access Via Mobile, an extension of Chrysler Group’s suite of Uconnect Access services. Its easy-to-learn interface and easy-to-view 8.4-inch touchscreen allow customers to enjoy their personal Internet radio accounts and stream audio content into the new Dodge Durango using their own mobile device data plans. Uconnect Access Via Mobile seamlessly integrates Internet radio apps Aha by Harman, iHeartRadio, Pandora and Slacker Radio. (More info: Uconnect Access Via Mobile)

Dodge Durango has a built-in wireless connection for emergency services; it connects occupants directly with local emergency-service dispatchers with the push of the 9-1-1 button. The “ASSIST” button summons help from Chrysler Group’s roadside assistance provider, the Vehicle Customer Care Center or Uconnect Customer Care Center.

Optional theft alarm notification uses a smartphone app to alert registered customers via SMS or e-mail whenever their vehicles’ security alarms are activated. Additional Uconnect Access security features include the ability to remotely sound the horn and flash the lights, or remote-start and lock and unlock, via the Uconnect Access smartphone app.

There are two new center-stack touchscreens, in 5 inches or 8.4 inches, both handling audio, climate, and phone operation, from navigation to heated seats, with redundant mechanical controls.

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2014 SRT Viper TA: Ralph’s Revenge

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When Motor Trend tested the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the SRT Viper GTS some months back, the results didn’t sit too well with SRT boss Ralph Giles.

Determined to gain back a measure of revenge, SRT decided to expedite the build of the car it deemed as capable of wasting away the ZR1’s glory. And so, at the New York Auto Show, SRT will be bringing the latest Viper incarnation, the Viper TA.

The “TA” stands for Time-Attack, which shows you the reason why SRT decided to build the car in the first place. It comes with a host of new improvements to the suspension and handling, critical areas where the SRT GTS fell short of in its throw-down with the ZR1.

But the question is, does it all matter, or does the ZR1 just have the Viper’s number?
Not a lot of exterior changes were done to the Viper TA from the standard model. It does come with a new Crusher Orange paint, which looks pretty awesome on the sports car. Plus, a number of 2D TA logos can be found just behind both front wheels with a black Stryker logo on the front fascia and a new set of matte black, ultra-lightweight Sidewinder II wheels.

The Viper TA does come with an advanced exterior aerodynamics package, featuring carbon-fiber components that include front splitters, a rear spoiler and a carbon-fiber rear applique that not only adds accentuates the rear width proportions of the sports car, but also provides performance improvements as well.
Interior

The interior package for the Viper TA isn’t extensive, but it’s also not something you can just sneeze at. It also comes with the same premium ballistic fabric racing seats from Sabelt that the standard Viper has, as well as options to accommodate either a 3- or 6-point harness for the racing belts.

Meanwhile, the Crusher Orange color applied to the body of the Viper TA can also be found on the interior in the form of accent stitching on the cloth seats, instrument panel center stack, console, pull brake, shifter boot, shifter head, steering wheel and upper doors.
Performance
The engine powering the Viper TA isn’t different, too. It comes powered with an 8.4-liter V-10 overhead-valve engine that produces 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. The latter, in particular, is very impressive because that’s the highest level of torque any naturally aspirated sports-car engine in the world produces.

Performance numbers have yet to be released but Motor Trend did some testing and found out that it’s the fastest Viper on the block, capable of hitting 60 mph in 3.3 seconds with a quarter-mile ET of 11.3 seconds at 129.3 mph. As for top speed, we expect it to also be north of the 206 mph mark set by the standard model, possibly even hitting 210 mph.
Suspension and Handling
The biggest difference between the standard Viper and the Viper TA lies in the suspension, as the latter comes with one that has been uniquely tuned and upgraded specifically for on-track use.

The installation of a two-mode Bilstein Damptronic suspension system may not be a sexy addition, but with firmer levels of damping and a smaller spread between modes than what you can find on the current Viper models, that difference makes for improved handling for the Viper TA model.

A host of other suspension components have been retuned for the specific purpose of improving the sports car’s on-track credentials. Shock dampers, springs and road-racing-derived stabilizer bars were all given the ’ol bump in class, while the standard aluminum structural X-brace was taken out in favor of a lighter carbon-fiber brace that ties the four corners of the engine compartment together. Again, not exactly standard fare, but the 50-percent improvement in torsional rigidity and stiffness ensures that this baby can handle the rigors of some of the meanest race tracks in the world.

Finally, the car’s brakes were also improved, thanks to a tie-up with Brembo and the co-development of a system that increases thermal capacity and optimizes heat dissipation providing improved extreme use.
Pricing

No word on pricing yet but we expect the Viper TA to retail north of the $120,000 price tag of the Viper GTS. What we do know is that only 33 units will be made which makes it all that more exclusive.
Competition

It’s no secret that Viper built the TA model as a response to Chevrolet’s Corvette ZR1, especially after the latter spanked the Viper GTS at Laguna Seca, drawing the ire of SRT boss Ralph Giles.

Well, Giles now has an opportunity to redeem SRT with the Viper TA and if you want to see how this track-focused Viper did against the Corvette ZR1, we invite you to watch this Ignition episode from Motor Trend to see whether the Viper TA does strike back against its nemesis.
Conclusion

Well, the Viper TA did it. Professional driver Randy Pobst managed to clock a time attack lap time of 1:33.62 at Laguna Seca, besting the ZR1’s then record time of 1:33.69.

Ultimately, that’s all Giles probably cared about and if you’re in the same line of thinking as he is, that’s probably all that matters too.

The ZR1 threw down the gauntlet and the Viper TA picked it up and run away with it.

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Aston Martin DBS

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Base Price: $282,000-$306,000*
Body Type: Coupe, conv What’s New: The 2013 DBS soldiers on unchanged as Aston Martin readies the new Vanquish, which will supplant the DBS as its flagship coupe. Last year, the DBS’ stability control was revised to help put all 510 of the V-12’s horses to the pavement, and the Volante convertible returned packing a 13-speaker Bang &Olufsen audio system. Aston’s top GT can be ordered as a two-seater or a 2+2 and with a 6M or 6A.

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