Skip to main content

We obsessively cover the auto industry

98 New Articles in this week Hide Featured

2014 Audi R8 V8

  • 2014 Audi R8 V8
  • 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe named Best In Show at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
  • HIGHLIGHTS: Pebble Beach Concept Cars Display
  • 2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic

Michael Harley

2015 Acura TLX

Posted Aug 5th 2014 12:00PM



Immediately after landing at Washington's Dulles airport, an Acura representative handed me the keys to a 2014 TSX with fewer than 300 kilometres on its clock. The four-cylinder engine started and I pointed its signature beak towards a destination in Middleburg, VA. It was a curious move by the Japanese automaker, especially considering that I had flown no less than 3,700 kilometres to drive the discontinued vehicle's ostensible successor, the all-new 2015 Acura TLX.

Yet spending a solid 40 minutes with a sparkling-new version of the outgoing model that still smelled showroom fresh, allowed me an opportunity to scrutinize the dropped sedan and remind myself why it had never really blown me away – it was good at doing many things, but truly great at doing none.
Time with the TSX also started me thinking about the Acura TL, the second model that the TLX will effectively replace. I have better memories of the slightly larger sedan, especially the SH-AWD 6MT trim – it's a solid driver's car – but it, too, fell short in areas where competitors, including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, excelled.

As I pulled up to the hotel a short while later, it became clear that Acura had some work to do. Its task over the next 48 hours would be to persuade me that its clean-sheet TLX was not only a worthy replacement for the TL and TSX, but a competitive player in this fiercely contested segment... READ MORE

2015 Acura TLX Drive Test at the Mojave Desert

News Source: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2015 Porsche Macan S

Posted Jul 31st 2014 11:57AM

Stuttgart's Entry-Level Crossover Is Everything But



I'd be willing to bet that 99 per cent of all Porsche Macan owners will never take their vehicle on a track or see any more off-roading than a dirt path to a summer cottage, yet I maintain that there is no better venue to explore the absolute outer limits of the automaker's newest small family transport than on a racing circuit and an off-road course. It's testing at each extreme of the vehicle's operating envelope, with both challenges requiring very different capabilities. With that in mind, and looking forward to dirty floor mats and corded tires, I jumped at the opportunity from Porsche to wring out its new Macan S at Willow Springs International Raceway, located in Southern California's high desert.

The range-topping Macan Turbo (base price $82,200), with its 400 horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 gets most of the glory these days. But many, including myself, would argue that its slightly less powerful sibling, the Macan S, is actually the pick of the new litter. Despite having 60 fewer horses under the hood and giving up six-tenths of a second in the sprint to 60 miles per hour (96 km/h), it costs a massive $27,900 less – money better spent on equipment that improves the crossover's ride comfort and capability, or perhaps a well-used Boxster for weekends.

Despite a reasonably attractive starting price of $54,300 (plus $1,115 destination), very few Porsche buyers will leave the showroom with a base model. My Dark Blue Metallic Macan S tester was equipped with a slew of mechanical upgrades, including air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), Sport Chrono Package and 21-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels. A Premium Package and a few other miscellaneous options bloated its price to well over $75,000. That's a very steep price for the premium compact crossover segment, but it's still less than a base Macan Turbo.

Rather than toss us keys in the Willow Springs paddock, Porsche delivered its Macan models to us scribes in Pasadena and then routed us over Angeles Crest Highway towards the track, which is located near Edwards Air Force Base. This generously provided me with another three or so hours behind the wheel, most of it on twisty two-lane mountain roads that were a nice preamble before our track and off-road excursions... READ MORE

News Source: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL / Porsche

2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype [w/video]

Posted Jul 28th 2014 11:57AM

2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype

It only takes about half a lap of the Millbrook Proving Grounds for me to become convinced that Infiniti must build this car.

The sedan I am piloting around the English circuit is a working prototype of the Q50 Eau Rouge Concept that made its world debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. As a refresher, the exquisitely painted, burgundy metallic, four-door show car is based on the production Q50, enhanced with Infiniti Red Bull Racing-inspired carbon-fibre bodywork, aerodynamic upgrades and – as we would come to learn at the Geneva Motor Show a few months later – fitted with a beastly twin-turbocharged engine shared with the parent company's spectacular Nissan GT-R.

Despite lacking the concept's gorgeously expensive paint, the vinyl-wrapped red prototype seen here is much more appealing than the static concept, as it is mechanically complete – it can be driven – thus explaining why I have traveled one-third of the way around the world to test this enthusiast-tuned, one-of-a-kind machine at one of Europe's premier testing facilities.

The Q50 Eau Rouge, named after the signature high-speed corner at Belgium's famed Spa-Francorchamps race circuit, is an intriguing program for a number of reasons. First, the Japanese luxury brand has never offered a flagship sport sedan of this magnitude. Second, the push came from Johan de Nysschen – the man tasked with turning Infiniti around who recently announced his departure from the company at the end of the month. Lastly, the working prototype was built by a small team in England, thousands of miles from Infiniti's Hong Kong headquarters, which allowed the program to move unimpeded by coagulating corporate culture. While launching the Eau Rouge program isn't as extreme as renaming all of its models, it would be easy to argue that this is a very radical move for the often-conservative Japanese automaker.

Image Credit: Infiniti UK

2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT

Posted Jul 10th 2014 12:00PM

2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT

Only one thing is going through my mind as I blast down the Autobahn at 170 miles per hour (274 kilometres per hour): If someone were to give me $100,000 today, I'd go buy a new Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT tomorrow.

I know there are a dozen other choices out there – cars that are more powerful, quicker around a road circuit and much less expensive, but you can keep your Corvette, your 911, your F-Type, your GT-R and your top-spec pony cars. My money would go towards this entry-level Brit with the metallic green paint and bright-yellow race-inspired accents.

Aston Martin has always crafted alluring – and expensive – automobiles. Yet this is the first time one of its offerings has come close to making sense to both the enthusiast's heart and to his or her accountant. It may sound absurd, but considering the GT's engineering, design, pedigree and hand-crafted execution, its US$99,900 sticker price (plus US$2,825 destination) makes it an absolute bargain.

To experience the new V8 Vantage GT, a model sold as the N430 in other markets, the British automaker invited me to attend this year's gruelling Nürburgring 24-hour race. Before I watched its race-prepared siblings lap the famed circuit for a full day (all four Vantage models that entered finished), I was handed the keys to my very own example – in Alloro green exterior paint with yellow club sport graphics – configured with a welcomed six-speed manual gearbox.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL, Aston Martin

2015 Hyundai Sonata

Posted Jun 30th 2014 12:00PM

Charting A Premium Course In A Crowded Segment


2015 Hyundai Sonata

Completely redesigning a vehicle competing in a fiercely contested segment requires delicately balancing styling, performance, safety, efficiency, innovation, passenger comfort and pricing, while simultaneously not alienating model loyalists. In other words, it's no simple task.

Automakers generally follow one of two paths. Some take a conservative approach and choose to raise each bar marginally, in an effort to appease all and estrange none. Others strategically take risks and focus on specific attributes in an attempt to shift perception about their vehicle.

With its all-new 2015 Sonata, Hyundai has taken the second approach when overhauling one of its best-selling vehicles. The Korean automaker has executed an impressive number of targeted improvements, yet it's also softened some of its predecessor's qualities in an attempt to demonstrate greater refinement and position its midsize sedan upscale. Whereas the outgoing car successfully aimed to establish itself as a credible contender in the midsize segment, the new model is gunning for customers that might otherwise be seeking entry-level models from luxury automakers.

News Source: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2014 Jaguar XJL AWD 3.0

Posted Jun 25th 2014 12:01PM

Traditional Chariot of Grandeur Gets A Few Upgrades

2014 Jaguar XJL AWD 3.0

A bit of British nobility floods the senses when piloting the 2014 Jaguar XJ. It's an emotional rush, a perception based on physical surroundings that influence the mind in much the same manner that a stein of pilsner tastes best when consumed in a German beer garden and no sand is softer than that found on a warm Caribbean beach. Jaguar has been assembling cars for nearly 100 years, and few automakers are as equally adept at capturing aristocracy and timelessness within the rich cabins of their luxury offerings.

Jaguar would have no concern if it were the only game in town, but that's far from the truth. The premium full-size luxury segment, which includes vehicles hovering just under or at the six-figure mark, is a contentious grouping that includes the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. Each of those brings its own game to the battle, and none are easy to dismiss.

To better understand the British perspective and evaluate its latest offering on a land without royalty, I recently spent a week with a long-wheelbase, all-wheel-drive Jaguar XJ in Southern California.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid

Posted Jun 5th 2014 2:58PM

2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid

Infiniti launched its seven-passenger JX crossover for the 2013 model year with the automaker's familiar 3.5-litre V6 as standard equipment. For 2014, the model was renamed the QX60, and a new variant packing a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain joined the lineup. (For those interested in the family lineage, the new arrival is a mechanical twin to the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, which we took for a Quick Spin last year).

Hidden beneath the hood of the QX60 Hybrid is a supercharged, 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder engine, rated at 230 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. The combustion engine is supplemented by a 15-kilowatt electric motor, fed by a small lithium-ion battery back (hidden under the rear cargo floor), which adds 20 hp and 29 lb-ft of torque to the mix. Added up, Infiniti rates the total system power at 250 hp and 243 lb-ft – numbers that fall just short of its combustion sibling (the 3.5-litre V6 in the QX60 is rated at 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque). The only gearbox is a continuously variable transmission that drives either the front or all four wheels, depending on what the buyer specs... READ MORE

News Source: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale

Posted May 28th 2014 11:57AM

2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale

I wasted my last hour with the 2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale pacing the polished concrete floor of Home Depot. My quest was to find an industrial-strength adhesive that would permanently bond me to the bright-red Italian's carbon-fibre racing seat. At that moment, I was determined to spend the rest of my life with this Ferrari – glued behind its F1-inspired steering wheel – selfishly dismissing trivial matters like eating, bathing and all future interaction with my wife and kids.

After reviewing literally hundreds of exceptional vehicles, many considered the finest enthusiast offerings each automaker has to offer, I had finally found my mechanical soulmate – the limited-production 458 Speciale. I somehow became convinced that cementing myself within its spartan cabin would ensure that our love affair would never end. My plan was ingenious, assuming the hardware store still had a large bottle of Gorilla Glue on the shelf.

Simply put, there is no better way to start a weekend than with a gassed-up Rosso Corsa Ferrari 458 Speciale parked in your driveway and instructions to "Enjoy!"

2015 BMW M3 Sedan

Posted May 20th 2014 11:57AM

The No-Compromise Four-Door Coupe

2015 BMW M3 Sedan

BMW's all-new M3 Sedan is dynamically nearly identical to its two-door M4 Coupe sibling: a stopwatch reveals that both are sub-four-second cars to 60 miles per hour (96 km/h), a racetrack proves that the mechanical twins are equally as adept on a road course and a full afternoon of driving on public roads demonstrates that each possesses talented everyday adaptability.

Yet after driving both BMW models back-to-back over two full days in Portugal, it's clear there are a few noticeable differences, both objective and subjective, that don't require instrument testing to reveal. All it takes is a few hours behind the wheel of both cars to conclude that one is slightly more agile, and the other a bit more twitchy. One has better outward visibility, while its counterpart is unquestionably more convenient.

It is the little things – subtleties attained through seat-of-the-pants observations – that eventually allow me to choose a favourite.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL, BMW

Loading

Loading