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Polaris Slingshot hits the road on all three wheels [w/videos]

  • Polaris Slingshot hits the road on all three wheels [w/videos]
  • 2015 BMW M3 squares off against Alpina D3 in gas vs. diesel throwdown
  • HIGHLIGHTS: Importfest 2014 takes over downtown Toronto
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype [w/video]

Michael Harley

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

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost

Posted May 16th 2014 12:57PM

Welcoming Back A Turbo Four After Almost 30 Years



Earlier this week, Ford invited us to Charlotte, NC, to ride in an all-new 2015 Mustang fitted with its turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder. It's the first forced-induction, four-cylinder ponycar for the Blue Oval since the sun set on the 1986 Mustang SVO. We jumped at the opportunity, as only a handful of people have ever been in the passenger seat of this new car, and most automotive media won't get as close as we did until this fall.

As we revealed in our Deep Dive, Ford will slot this new turbocharged four as premium powerplant between its naturally aspirated 3.7-litre V6 and the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. At last mention, the automaker said the direct-injected, all-aluminum engine will develop 305 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, returning the best fuel economy of the three powerplants in the process. History buffs will note that those figures are appreciably stouter than the 200 horses and 240 lb-ft that the '86 SVO realized out of the same displacement, and the latter's figures were hugely impressive at the time. On paper, the new EcoBoost four looks to be a good fit for most owners who want to balance performance with efficiency – we were eager to see how it felt from the passenger seat.

Click here for our riding notes and impressions.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL, Ford

2015 BMW M4 Coupe

Posted May 12th 2014 12:59PM

Rising To The Next Rung Up The Ladder

2015 BMW M4 Coupe

Launched out of the seat by a huge, unexpected dip in the road, yet still held largely in place by the smooth webbing of my safety belt, I clench my teeth waiting to come back to earth. A tenth of a second later, the M4 Coupe touches down and my body is slammed into the leather seat cushion. All of the air is forced out of my lungs upon landing, but the BMW's chassis, suspension and steering appear unfazed. Pleasantly surprised, I mash the accelerator to the floor in giddy pursuit of the car in front of me – an absolutely identical 2015 BMW M4 coupe.

A cavorting game of cat-and-mouse on a desolate twisty canyon in southern Portugal is an excellent way to explore the real-world driving dynamics and performance of BMW's all-new M4 Coupe. But to truly push it to the limit – without having to worry about oversize depressions in the asphalt – requires a dedicated racetrack. Graciously, my hosts have rented the famed Autódromo Internacional do Algarve racetrack, or Portimão circuit, for an afternoon of automotive debauchery.

It's hard to believe this passes for work.

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