David E. Davis Jr. was a man who not only told stories, but left some amazing ones in his wake. With the news of his passing yesterday, many members of the automotive media have already written and published obituaries online. And, while a collection of obituaries is usually a pretty grim read, there are so many people out there who knew DED, with so many great stories about his life to tell that these initial write-ups are really notable glimpses into a great life, well lived.
While the second-generation Ford Focus debuted last year, FoMoCo has gone and given the car some tasteful updates for the 2009 model year. A revised front end, larger wheels, and some minor chassis tweaks are enough to make this new Focus a bit better than last year’s car, though it might struggle when faced with the best of the import competition. Still, we were pretty pleased with our Focus’ behavior during its two-week stay in our test fleet.
For one reason or another, the Winding Road and NextAutos fleet has been graced with a whole lot of Mustangs over the past few months. Whether it be a simple GT, a stock Shelby, or a tuned up Roush, we’ve driven them all. However, nothing seems to compare to our latest Mustang iteration: the Saleen Dark Horse. This car boasts 620 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque, and a sub-four-second zero-to-sixty time, making it the baddest Mustang we’ve driven to date. Still, with a limited production run of only twenty-five cars, the Dark Horse will only be experienced by a select few, and we’re happy to have been part of that lucky group.
The Range Rover Sport is a vehicle that can go anywhere, do anything, and look trendy in the process. No, it’s not going to win any awards in within the Green crowd, but for the consumers who actually pay out for one of these (especially in Supercharged trim), it won’t matter. In our week with the Range Rover Sport, we found it to have more than ample performance, relatively good handling (for an SUV), and a pretty luxurious interior.
The Mazda RX-8 continues to have us puzzled as to why more of these aren’t on the road. No, the rotary engine isn’t four-season friendly, and neither is the car’s rear-wheel-drive, but when the weather is right, the RX-8 really shines. For 2009, a re-worked exterior sports a slightly more aggressive fascia, and while our Grand Touring model doesn’t have all of the beefy visual add-ons found on the R3 (a new model for ’09), we still had a lot of fun throwing this Mazda into bends and revving the twin-rotor engine way up past 8000 rpm.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve noticed a trend that more and more performance cars are steering away from traditional manual transmissions in favor of high-tech dual-clutch setups. For 2008, the top-dollar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR features a six-speed paddle-shift transmission, and while some of us would rather have a stick and a third pedal, there’s no denying that this tranny is really, really good. Still, at nearly $41,000, some of us would rather just stick with the softer Evo GSR, which has the same performance specs but at a lower cost.
The Hummer H3 is an interesting vehicle to drive in light of our nation’s fuel crisis. Off-road enthusiasts and Hummer loyalists appreciate the H3’s off-road capability and style, but the H3 is becoming tougher and tougher to see to new consumers and the automotive press alike. Our test car’s sticker price is just a notch below the $40,000 mark, and while that might seem like a bargain to some, we’d search elsewhere for our SUV needs.
After spending some time with Mercedes’ hot-burning C63 AMG, we thought it apt to give the rest of the C-Class range a shot to see if the new Benz C can all-around top other premium sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS. While we did enjoy our C300 Sport, we found the $45,000 as-tested price a little high, especially when a BMW 335i offers better performance for a more reasonable price. Still, much of the blame for the hefty price tag is down to heavy treading on the options list…
For 2009, Mercedes-Benz has outfitted all of its diesel vehicles with the latest in Bluetec technology. First pioneered in the E320, the ML-, GL-, and R-Class now get the cleanest version of Benz’s oil-burning 3.0-liter V-6. This engine is good for 210 horsepower and an extremely useful 398 pound-feet of torque. However, we were rather skeptical if this would be enough power to move the large R-Class family hauler with enough spirit to keep our enthusiast hearts beating. What we found was a rather pleasant people mover with ample power and a comfortable, luxurious interior perfect for long drives.
We at Winding Road and NextAutos frequently get the chance to sample luxury offerings from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, et cetera. And while all of those German manufacturers make wonderful vehicles, it’s a rare occasion that some Italian blood works its way into our test fleet. Our Maserati Quattroporte test car proved to be a sporty, elegant cruiser, and can turn heads in a way that none of the German automakers can.
While it may be a year old, the diesel BMW 5-series was never sold in America, but it’s still something we wish we could have the option to shop for in this market. Our friends at Bosch imported a Euro-spec 535d for us to test, featuring a 3.0-liter diesel inline-six capable of producing 286 horsepower and a whopping 428 pound-feet of torque. Our test car also adorned BMW’s M Sport appearance package, available on the European 5-series. This, combined with tinted rear windows and a badge-less rear end made this 5-series our stealth bomber of choice for cruising.
We at Winding Road and NextAutos are always eager to test the diesel offerings from global manufacturers and we were grinning with excitement when the folks at Bosch offered us the keys to a Mini Cooper with a 1.6-liter diesel engine. According to Bosch, this Mini will achieve fuel economy numbers in upwards of 50 miles per gallon, which will shame many hybrid offerings currently sold in the States.