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Translogic 163: Acton Rocket Skates

  • Translogic 163: Acton Rocket Skates
  • HIGHLIGHTS: 2014 LA Auto Show
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG S 4Matic stands out in the LA crowd
  • 2016 Mazda CX-3 is the newest KODO designed crossover

Michael Harley

2016 Audi S6

Posted Nov 18th 2014 11:57AM

Enhancements Improve, But A Gentleman's Character Prevails



Minutes after spending time in the refreshed 2016 Audi A6 in Germany, we were tossed the keys to its enthusiast-tuned sibling, the Audi S6. In similar manner to its lesser brethren, the S6 has also been updated for the 2016 model year with a new look, a boost in power and additional technology.

Its aggressive demeanour is heralded by a redesigned signature single-frame grille, resculpted bumpers (front and rear) and new lights on both ends – the Matrix LED headlamps fitted to our European test car are impressive, but the US DOT has ensured that we won't see them (pun intended) for now. The cabin appointments have gone even further upscale, and the enhanced MMI infotainment system now runs more fluidly thanks to a faster NVIDIA graphics chip. The primary instrument cluster, facing the operator, has been redesigned to offer its own duplicate display to ease the driver's workload.

Under the hood, the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre TFSI V8 is bumped to 450 horsepower (a gain of 30), while torque remains the same at 406 pound-feet. The standard gearbox is Audi's seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch unit, sending power to all four wheels through the automaker's rear-biased Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

Posted Nov 10th 2014 12:00PM

Creamy Complex Powertrain Delivers The E-Assisted Goods



Think of the electric motor in the facelifted 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid as the cream filling in an Oreo cookie. Under the hood of this plug-in hybrid crossover is a 333-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with a 95-hp synchronous electric motor sandwiched between it and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. The clutched powertrain allows pure combustion, pure electric or a combination of both to drive all four wheels through Porsche's permanent all-wheel-drive system.

Differentiating itself from the Panamera S E-Hybrid sedan, which shares the same basic powertrain and stores energy in a 9.4-kWh battery, the Cayenne crossover is fit with a more robust 10.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that delivers an estimated pure-electric driving range of up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) at speeds of up to 125 km/h.

To be one of the very first media members to sample Porsche's latest fuel-efficient crossover, the automaker flew us to Frankfurt, Germany, to test the five-passenger Cayenne S E-Hybrid on its home turf... READ MORE

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL / Porsche AG

2016 Audi A6

Posted Nov 6th 2014 12:00PM

Boosted Power And New Gearbox Transform This Teutonic Sedan

2016 Audi A6 2.0 TFSI

After dodging light traffic for more than 10 miles (16 kilometres) at speeds never exceeding 85 miles per hour (135 km/h), the left lane of the derestricted autobahn ahead of us finally opens wide. This is the opportunity we've been waiting for, and we bury the accelerator against its stop and hold it there. The transmission attached to the turbocharged four-cylinder of our 2016 Audi A6 drops a couple gears and begins an arduous battle against aerodynamic drag.

The sleek sedan cuts through the wind effortlessly up until about 125 mph (200 km/h), after which the speedometer needle slows noticeably as the outside world continues to blur. By 145 mph (230 km/h), there's no longer a discernible feeling of acceleration, yet the bright-orange speedometer needle continues its climb. Finally, the speedometer nearly reaches 160 mph (258 km/h) before we are forced to firmly brake and return to saner speeds because of traffic looming ahead.

Automakers routinely host us in Europe and elsewhere to sample their wares in a much less restrictive driving environment. Which explains why we find ourselves standing in Dresden, Germany, a stunningly beautiful 800-year-old city along the Elbe River, overlooking Audi's latest executive express.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2015 McLaren 650S

Posted Oct 27th 2014 12:00PM

Making The MP4-12C A Distant Memory

2015 McLaren 650S

Otolith organs are the tiny acceleration-sensing parts of your inner ear that are extremely effective at telling your brain when you are changing velocity. They make easy work of elevator rides, subway cars and most roller coasters, but the organs are completely overpowered by the 2015 McLaren 650S – the acceleration from its twin-turbocharged V8 leaves them dazed and confused, an overwhelming, dizzy sensation topped off with a bout of queasiness.

The British automaker did not intend its MP4-12C successor to be nauseating – despite its effectiveness in this role – but the explosive way the rear-wheel-drive supercar puts its power down is absolutely mind-boggling. We've driven countless other exotics, but it's hard to point to a single example that changes velocity as quickly, and as capably, as this $330,000 (as tested), carbon fibre, street-legal racer. (The 650S starts at $287,000 in Canada, but as with any car like this, the options are the real killer.)

Some would consider a $1-million winning lottery ticket the key to happiness. We'd argue that spending five days with a Mako Blue McLaren 650S – barf bag poised in lap – is a much more gratifying prize... READ MORE

2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

Posted Oct 20th 2014 11:57AM

Well-Seasoned Beauty Gets Shiftier

2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

Aston Martin previewed its most powerful, quickest-accelerating and fastest production roadster ever at this year's Pebble Beach Concours. The 2015 V12 Vantage S Roadster is essentially a convertible version of the V12 Vantage S Coupe, which we reviewed last year, a model that drops the automaker's most potent powertrain into its smallest chassis.

Unlike the outgoing V12 Vantage Roadster, this new S model boasts a more powerful engine, a new transmission, new adaptive suspension and more luxurious appointments along with freshened styling. While last year's beloved six-speed manual gearbox is gone – a thought that continues to bring tears to our eyes – everything else about the updated roadster piques our interest. We recently spent a full day in the mountains and deserts surrounding Palm Springs with a China Grey (with red carbon fibre accents) version of the British automaker's latest.

Read on for more pics and our review.

2015 BMW X6

Posted Oct 16th 2014 12:00PM

2015 BMW X6

Most everyone would agree that BMW offers a range of very attractive and well-proportioned coupes, sedans, crossovers and wagons. Yet there is one member of its family that has always struck us as a bit odd: the X6.

Proudly coined "The world's first Sports Activity Coupe" by its German maker, the X6 features a wedge-shaped body with a characteristic sloping roofline that appears to squash the heads of its second-row occupants. The crossover rides high off the ground, with a pronounced gap between its chassis and oversized wheel/tire package, capped by short overhangs on both ends. Although curious to the eyes, its overall styling is masculine, and its stance aggressive.

Whether you consider the X6 to be attractive or an eyesore – opinions seem about equally divided – there is nobody at BMW questioning its business model. As of today, the automaker has sold more than 260,000 copies of its five-door crossover, which is why it has flown us to Spartanburg, SC, to sample its second-generation 2015 BMW X6.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL / BMW

2015 Ford F-150 [w/videos]

Posted Oct 3rd 2014 11:58AM

2015 Ford F-150

To learn more about the all-new 2015 F-150 and get an early read on its potential hero-or-zero status, we flew to the heart of full-size pickup truck country, San Antonio, TX, to spend a day driving, towing and playing in the mud with an assortment of Ford's innovative new trucks.

First, a caveat – while we feel we have a reasonably good handle on the new F-150 after attending this first-drive event, we are far from ready to pass definitive judgment on the success of this radically new rig. Our time in the various models was lamentably limited and we felt rushed. With so much at stake and with so much to talk about and experience, we had zero alone time with the vehicle – there were Ford folks shadowing us at every moment.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let's get back to the elemental issue at hand: aluminum. Switching to this material is part bravery and part monumental risk. Ford's challenges stretch far beyond engineering, sourcing, manufacturing and cost control concerns to things like consumer acceptance, crash repair methodology and even insurance ramifications. The use of aluminum has never been attempted before on this scale, let alone in the hard-working pickup truck segment. There will be no bigger gamble in the auto industry this year from any manufacturer. The 2015 F-150 has the potential to be a game changer or, with a few subtle miscalculations, one of the biggest bungles in automotive history.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL, Ford

2015 Toyota Yaris

Posted Oct 1st 2014 12:00PM

Refreshed To Sell Confidence And Value, Not Innovation And Technology

2015 Toyota Yaris

Advertising firms have done an admirable job convincing consumers that the easiest way to find a best-in-segment car or truck is by looking at a few key metrics. In the most elementary terms, the vehicle with the highest horsepower, most gears in its transmission housing, lowest acceleration times and best fuel economy most certainly must be the class benchmark.

Yet as the commercials and billboards continue to drive that deceitful message, Toyota is betting shoppers in the subcompact segment are a bit more discerning. The Japanese automaker has just launched its updated 2015 Yaris, a three- and five-door offering that bucks the innovation and performance trends by offering what Toyota feels that entry-level buyers actually desire – reliability, practicality and a low sticker price.

It's sweltering in the tropical Hawaiian sun as I check out the deeply refreshed 2015 Yaris SE. This five-door hatchback, a range-topping version of the company's subcompact "sporty hatch" (Toyota's words, not mine), builds on the new-in-2012 generation by wearing new front and rear fascias, redesigned headlights and some attractive new wheels for the upcoming model year.

Overall, I like what I see. The front clip, with new LED daytime running lights, projector-beam headlight lenses and an oversized piano-black grille adds some character and aggression to a formerly nondescript vehicle. The wheel designs are big improvement, too, as their twisted spokes suggest motion even when standing still. The rear treatment, basically a new urethane bumper cap and redesigned taillamps, isn't as exciting as the front, almost appearing less sporty overall with the deletion of the chrome exhaust outlet, but it ties the package together. (It's interesting to note that the reverse lights have been moved from the taillamp cluster to a single unit at the bottom centre of the bumper – one would think its much lower height would be less effective in terms of overall illumination.)

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

2015 Honda CR-V

Posted Sep 30th 2014 12:00PM

Meaningful Mid-Cycle Refresh Leaves This Cute-Ute All Grown Up

2015 Honda CR-V

Predicting the future direction of Honda's compact CR-V would have been difficult based on the Civic-derived model that first arrived on our shores for the 1997 model year. The newcomer, selling alongside the body-on-frame Passport (a hastily rebadged Isuzu Rodeo), was a cute compact crossover with four doors and an awkward curb-side hinged tailgate thanks to its Japanese home-market design. The five-passenger CUV offered generous interior room, but its wheezy 2.0-litre four-cylinder, with an output of just 126 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque, required 11.7 seconds to bring the 3,153-pound (1,430-kilogram) vehicle to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometres per hour). Rear drum brakes didn't help much in the stopping department, but Honda offered safety-minded consumers optional anti-lock brakes on the premium trim.

Nearly two decades after its introduction, the CR-V has matured in spectacular manner. The refreshed 2015 Honda CR-V, now in its fourth generation, is dimensionally within two inches of its ancestor in overall length and nearly identical in height and wheelbase. That consistency of dimension is impressive in this age of size and segment creep, and it stands as a testament to how 'right' Honda engineers got the model's original packaging. Of course, the CR-V hasn't stood still – nearly everything else about the best-selling compact CUV has improved in leaps and bounds.

But Honda is not the only player in this hotly contested segment today, so the automaker has taken the unusual step of updating its fourth-generation model just a few years after its introduction in an effort to keep it seated on the podium. To learn more about the automaker's improvements, and form our own impressions, we spent a day driving the CR-V in sunny Southern California.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL, Honda

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