Thursday, May 31, 2012

The List #0051: Build a Car

Building your own car is another activity that viewers often request we cover on The List. Assembling a kit car or doing a ground-up restoration of a relic barn find seemed like obvious choices, but weren't very practical. So we donned our thinking caps and came up with a cool alternative to the normal concept of building your own car: assembling your own Local Motors Rally Fighter at the company's micro factory near Phoenix, Arizona.

Building your own Rally Fighter is part of the purchase price when you order one of these crowd-sourced off-road coupes from Local Motors. For $74,900 you get the vehicle along with the experience of helping them build it, as well as your accommodations and meals.

We've driven the Rally Fighter before, but haven't taken you behind the scenes like this to see what the process of buying one is like and how they're built. Jessi and Patrick are going to do that for us, so hit Play to see what this updated notion of building your own car is really like.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2013 Porsche Boxster S, Seeking Porsche's Purest Sports Car

2013 Porsche Boxster S, 
Seeking Porsche's Purest Sports Car

In 1996 when Porsche only offered the 911 Carrera for sale, choosing its purest sports car was easy. But today, Porsche offers five different models and the answer is rather muddy. None of its high performance vehicles, from coupe to roadster and sedan to sport utility, are easily dismissed, as each is capable of shattering the 60 mph benchmark in under five seconds and topping out at over 170 mph.

On one hand, determining the quickest is easy (911 Turbo S). And it takes only a moment to calculate the most expensive (Panamera Turbo S) or the one with the greatest cargo capacity (Cayenne). But on the other hand, how does one determine the company's purest sports car – the least distilled embodiment of performance motoring and maneuverability?

To help answer that nagging question, we flew to Barber Motorsports Park to spend a full day behind the wheel of the company's all-new third-generation Porsche Boxster. (As you may recall, we had a first crack at the little roadster back in March in Europe, but we wanted to get our mitts on a North-American-spec car for local impressions).

Nearly 20 years ago at the 1993 Detroit Auto Show, Porsche introduced the world to its Boxster Concept. The small silver roadster, with a mid-mounted flat-six and a soft top, was a big departure from the automaker's current lineup (Porsche was only selling the 911, 928 and 968 at the time – and two of those would shortly disappear). With styling evoking memories of the classic 550 Spyder and promises of agile handling and a lower cost of entry, the public quickly embraced the lightweight two-seater.
2013 Porsche Boxster S side view
2013 Porsche Boxster S rear view2013 Porsche Boxster S front view
The first-generation Boxster (Project 986) was manufactured from model years 1997 to 2004. The second-generation model (Project 987) was not all-new, but a significantly updated version of the original platform that ran from 2005 to 2008. The Boxster was upgraded and modernized again in 2009. Add up all the variants, including the more recent lightweight Spyder, and more than 240,000 Boxsters have rolled off the assembly line in the past 15 years.

Every panel on the new Boxster has been resculpted, yet the new skin is instantly recognizable as another Boxster.

Hot on the heels of the all-new 2012 Porsche 911, the company has introduced the 2013 Boxster, or Project 981. The all-new and completely redesigned third-generation model is so significantly different from its predecessors that it makes the previous generation upgrades (from the 986 to the 987) appear embarrassingly trifling.

Aesthetically speaking, every single panel on the Boxster has been resculpted, yet the new skin is instantly recognizable for what it is. The new look is unquestionably much more masculine in execution, borrowing many of its aggressive character lines from the 2004-2006 Porsche Carrera GT supercar. Spotters will immediately note the new shape of the headlights, the door-mounted mirrors, large side scoops and integrated rear lip spoiler. Signature Boxster traits, such as the electrically operated pop-up rear spoiler and central exhaust outlets remain as they have for more than a decade.
2013 Porsche Boxster S headlight2013 Porsche Boxster S wheel detail
2013 Porsche Boxster S rear spoiler2013 Porsche Boxster S taillightPhysically speaking, the Boxster's wheelbase has increased by 2.36 inches and its track is wider (the front track is up by 1.57 inches while the rear is up by .71 inches). The windshield is flatter, with its base moved further forward. The third-generation Boxster also sits .51 inches lower than its predecessor. But most importantly, and despite being torsionally stiffer and meeting more stringent safety requirements, the new model is lighter by at least 55 pounds – making it the lightest sports car in its class. The Boxster S with PDK dual-clutch gearbox, the heaviest model in the lineup, weighs a mere 2,976 pounds. The lightest is the Boxster 6MT, tipping the scales at just 2,888 pounds.

The Boxster S with PDK, the heaviest in the lineup, weighs a mere 2,976 pounds.

As expected, the cabin has also been updated to reflect Porsche's modern ergonomic theme (launched with the Panamera in 2009). The three-ring cluster remains, but there is a new multi-function digital display on the right. Gone is the old and aged center stack, replaced with a taller console that houses a larger multi-function screen and a sea of buttons, but unlike the heavily optioned Panamera, many are just blank plugs. The new look is fresh, interesting and upscale, yet it remains all Porsche – the ignition key is to the left of the steering wheel and a large analog tachometer prominently takes center stage.

It seems as if most luxury convertible manufacturers are moving toward electrically operated hardtops, except Porsche. The folding soft top remains, but it has been completely redesigned with an even larger heated glass window and improved acoustic absorption. The lightweight frame is constructed with magnesium and aluminum, as to not upset the center of gravity, and the whole mechanism automatically opens or closes (the locking mechanism is now automatic too) in less than nine seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. For the record, that is very quick.

Mid-mounted in the chassis and hidden cleanly out of view is one of Porsche's classic flat-six 'Boxer' engines. Last year's base engine displaced 2.9 liters, but the new model arrives with a direct-injected, 2.7-liter flat-six developing 265 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Boxster S is fitted with a direct-injected, 3.4-liter flat-six rated at 315 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 266 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm. A traditional six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with Porsche's seven-speed Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (dual clutch transmission) PDK optional. (The seven-speed manual transmission, standard on the new 911 Carrera, is not offered on the new Boxster.) As has always been the case, all Boxster models are exclusively rear-wheel drive.

The seven-speed manual transmission, standard on the new 911 Carrera, is not offered on the new Boxster.

We could go on for another two thousand words describing the new Boxster's subtle engineering tweaks, enhancements and various equipment offerings. But the real question on everyone's mind is... how does it drive?

Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Alabama, is home to arguably the best motorcycle collection in the world (check out the Barber Motorsports Vintage Museum) and the Porsche Sport Driving School (where we attended the Porsche GT3 Cup Experience last year). As we are very familiar with its impeccably manicured 2.38-mile purpose-built road course (16 turns and over 80 feet of elevation changes), we couldn't wait to get on the track.

Customers will be offered the third-generation Boxster in four different models when it arrives in showrooms in early July: Boxster 6MT, Boxster PDK, Boxster S 6MT and Boxster S PDK. (The sublime Boxster Spyder was a second-generation model that is no longer in production.) Base price for the standard Boxster is $49,500 while the Boxster S starts at $60,900 (add $950 for destination fees).

Base price for the standard Boxster is $49,500 while the Boxster S starts at $60,900.

To simplify things, Porsche only brought Boxster S models to Barber (several with some retro-cool wrapped vinyl livery, like the Gulf car in our lead image). Each was fitted with a variety of optional equipment, the most important being the PDK gearbox, 20-inch wheels, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) and the Sport Chrono Package. The average sticker price, optioned in this manner, was just over $80,000.

We slipped behind the wheel of a Boxster S in the hot pits with an open-face helmet strapped on our head. Despite the soft top being in the closed position (we were running the air conditioning on this warm and humid day) there were no clearance issues, even with our six-foot, two-inch frame. And, thanks to nearly an inch of increased legroom, we were sitting very comfortably.
2013 Porsche Boxster S on track
Our left hand twisted the key and fired up the engine, and we felt it rumble in our backside. Our right hand moved the transmission lever into Drive, moved rearward several inches, and then hit the Sport Plus button (damping is firmer, steering is quickened and the thresholds for stability control are raised). We left everything else alone.

By our third lap we were starting to have fun... then it started to rain.
2013 Porsche Boxster S on track
The first lap was at a moderate pace, an orientation lap for lack of a better description, but we picked up the pace quickly. By our third lap we were starting to have fun... then it started to rain. Not drizzle, not sprinkle and not shower – but pour – huge raindrops that splashed an inch off the ground when they impacted the pavement. It took but 30 seconds to soak the pavement, and after one minute, there was standing water in the corners. The water was coming down in buckets, but we stayed out. Thankfully, the soft top Boxster, like most modern convertibles, is as rainproof as a fixed-roof coupe.

Even though the wipers could barely keep up with the quantity of water falling from the sky, we continued to run laps in the wet and probe the limits of adhesion and overall balance. The wide sticky tires (Pirelli P Zero 235/35ZR20 up front and 265/35ZR20 in the rear) did a commendable job in the muck, but we were still sliding quite a bit and getting frustrated in the process. We pitted to wait for the storm cell to pass.

The clock was ticking, so instead of just sitting around, we left the main track and headed for the parking paddock where Porsche had set up an autocross for us. For the next half hour, we tossed the agile little Boxster rapidly through the orange pylons on the drenched course – and never hit a single cone. Like the new 911 Carrera, the Boxster arrives with electromechanical power steering. And, like the new 911 Carrera, the precise steering is a non-issue.

The Boxster S with PDK will sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 173 mph.

After lunch, the track had dried and we were back in business. We took the Boxster out for countless more laps, each time probing its grip, handling and braking characteristics.

Horsepower is up just a bit from last year's model, but weight is also down, meaning acceleration has improved. According to Porsche, the Boxster S with PDK (and Sport Chrono Package) will sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 173 mph. It feels slightly quicker and it pulls well, but our focus was on its improved handling dynamics.

Those very familiar with the most recent Boxster (986/987 platform) will immediately note the additional stability that the stretched wheelbase provides on the corners. Previous-generation models were twitchy at the limit, especially when cornering at 9/10ths, and they would rotate quickly around their axis (seemingly right at the base of the driver's derrière). The new car is much more stable, rotating more slowly and in a much more predictable manner. Turn-in is still every bit as quick and crisp (weight distribution is 46-percent front/54-percent rear), but there is less need to dial in some corrective steer on the exit.

Porsche's Torque Vectoring (PTV) system is new to the Boxster and the optional technology allows the little two-seater to pull some wicked moves. Technically speaking, PTV varies the distribution of torque to the rear wheels and selectively applies individual brake calipers to rotate the vehicle cleanly around a corner. In practice, PTV can be felt as slight pulses in the vehicle's cornering attitude as the system makes its minor adjustments. As long as the driver holds the wheel with confidence and applies constant gentle power throughout the corner, PTV will work its miracles – it's so good that it's almost like cheating.

PTV can be felt as slight pulses in the vehicle's cornering attitude as the system makes its minor adjustments.

Extending the wheelbase also delivers advantages under braking, as Project 981 feels significantly more stable than its predecessor. This was most evident during a quick braking transition at high speeds (when the sudden act of deceleration transfers weight forward and makes nearly all vehicles momentarily unstable). Last year's Boxster would give a little twitch as its rear end adjusted itself, but the new model is much more tolerant of the maneuver.

Now is probably a good time to bring up PDK. The automated dual-clutch gearbox is one of the best in the industry, and Porsche has refined it even further for the new Boxster. Shift times are quicker and it is more responsive on both up and downshifts. It can be as gentle as a traditional torque converter automatic or as brutal as a sequential racing gearbox. In its firmest mode, our head slammed rearward when it grabbed the next higher gear. Under heavy braking, it dropped gears rapidly, like a Tommy gun, with the exhaust booming in response. The PDK gearbox is nothing to be ashamed about, but we still cannot fathom why Porsche still fits the lousy Tiptronic-era gearchange ears on the steering wheel (proper paddleshifters remain an option, but they should be standard).

All of these things, from the car's lower weight to subtle tweaks in the electronics, contribute to driver confidence. Improved driver confidence translates to quicker lap times. According to Porsche, the third-generation Boxster S will lap the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in 7:58 minutes – a full 12 seconds quicker than its comparably equipped predecessor.

The experts admitted that the heavier but more powerful 911 Carrera S picks up a few seconds per lap when raced against the third-generation Boxster S.

That time is quick, but won't strike fear in the hearts of current 911 owners, as their rear-engine sportscars are still quicker (according to the automaker, the 911 Carrera S, with 400 horsepower, laps the same circuit at Nürburgring in 7:40 minutes). Even on a much shorter and tighter course, such as the Barber Motorsports circuit, the experts admitted that the larger and heavier, but more powerful, 911 Carrera S picks up a few seconds per lap when raced against the third-generation Boxster S.

Yet in our experience, lap times, horsepower ratings and sticker prices don't define the purest sports car in an automaker's lineup. True enthusiasts are captivated by vehicles that communicate their actions, obey every command with precision, make them feel completely at ease and put a smile on their face. This is precisely where a small and lightweight roadster excels.

This article was found at:

Volkswagen Scirocco GTS commemorates 30-year anniversary of original

Volkswagen Scirocco GTS commemorates 30-year anniversary of original

It's been 30 years since the very first Volkswagen Scirocco GTS rolled off the assembly line. Featuring little more than a slightly reworked front valance and some trippy decal work, the original Scirocco GTS was likely most notable for the fact that it was the first in the family to rock a blacked-out B-pillar. Now Volkswagen is paying homage to the machine with a new Scirocco GTS.

Unveiled at the Auto Mobil International, the modern hatch rocks the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, complete with 210 horsepower, as the rest of the Scirocco range. A set of racing stripes spread from hood to lift gate lend the car a bit of sportiness, but the biggest changes can be found on the front and rear fascias.

Volkswagen tweaked both bumper covers with a unique design, and a new set of flared side skirts are part of the package as well. GTS trim also comes with those flashy five-spoke 18-inch wheels, and the keen-eyed among you may have spotted the familiar roof spoiler and rear diffuser. Both are lifted from the Scirocco R. Maybe GTS stands for GoT Stripes?

This article came from:

BMW opens a luxury brand store on Avenue George V in Paris

BMW opens a luxury brand store on
Avenue George V in Paris

BMW has opened a new "Brand Store" on Avenue George V in Paris, not just as a way to initiate tony walking traffic into the brand, but as a salvo in a "comprehensive programme" of luxury retail warfare. Said company CEO Ian Robertson, "We aim to be the benchmark in automotive retail."

The 800-square-meter (8,611 square feet) showcase "marks the launch of a new generation of BMW brand stores," part of a rather ominous and clandestine-sounding pair of initiatives called "Future Retail" and "Strategy Number ONE." Boiled down for laymen, the aim is obviously to get more people in BMWs by getting to more people in more places.

Mini retail stores will follow, as will more social media engagement, and dealers are getting Apple-esque Product Geniuses to "support customers with in-depth product knowledge.

Grand Opening of new BMW Brand Store in Paris

- BMW Group begins comprehensive programme to enhance customer retail experience
- Robertson: We aim to be the benchmark in automotive retail

(23.05.2012) Munich/Paris. The BMW Group celebrated the grand opening of its first new BMW Brand Store in the most luxurious area of metropolitan Paris in the Avenue George V tonight. The store was designed by the well-known, luxury retail architect, Eric Carlson and his team from Carbondale Architects and Version Architects.

With the grand opening of the 800m2 BMW Brand Store in the very heart of luxury retail, BMW is reaching out to shoppers with the objective of allowing them to experience the brand in their chosen environment. The new store was formally inaugurated by Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Sales and Marketing BMW, together with the Architect, Eric Carlson, and the Head of BMW France, Serge Naudin, as well as a large number of VIP guests from Paris. BMW George V marks the launch of a new generation of BMW brand stores as well as the beginning of a comprehensive programme at the BMW Group which the company refers to as "Future Retail".

Ian Robertson said in the French capital on Wednesday: "The world of retail has changed significantly – customer behaviour, needs and expectations have changed, as well as communication technology. As part of our corporate Strategy Number ONE, we critically reviewed our processes and customer feedback. We will now build upon our strengths and implement a comprehensive programme named Future Retail. This will entail a whole range of initiatives and tools designed to enhance the customer experience and to set new standards for retail in the automotive industry and beyond."

With Future Retail, the BMW Group has three objectives – first, to increase the number of possible contact points with customers and prospects, second, to increase the services and benefits offered in its retail channels, and third, to enhance the retail experience at all touch points.

Therefore, customers can expect to see a number of new BMW and MINI retail formats, as well as several initiatives in the near future. These include, among others, a new online presence and social media activities, as well as a more appealing showroom appearance. Some aspects can be experienced already, such as a virtual product presentation which has already been implemented in the BMW Munich and Zurich branches, as well as MINI Westfield in London.

BMW is also in the process of introducing an additional role to the dealers, namely a Product Genius. The objective here is to better support customers with in-depth product knowledge as well as enabling the customer to better utilize and configure products in accordance with their particular needs. As the Product Genius needs to be mobile, he or she will be equipped with a state of the art Information Management System on a tablet device, allowing, for example, product configuration and in-depth explanation of features supported by visuals and films.

The first markets which are planned for the roll-out of Future Retail, including the Product Genius, are France, UK, China and the Netherlands.

Ian Robertson stated, "When it comes to recruiting and enabling the right people for the implementation of future retail, we will assist our dealers to attract, develop and retain the industry's best professionals. This is of particular importance for the role of the Product Genius. Throughout all of this and supported by an increased number of customer contact points with our brands, the dealer's role becomes even more essential – as our face to the customer and the provider of a true, personal and emotional, premium experience."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

California Highway Patrol switching to SUVs

When you think of a highway patrol car, you instantly think Ford Crown Victoria. And usually in California Highway Patrol black n' white trim. Since the Crown Vic went out of production last year, you see a few older models out on the roads that have been slowly replaced by the Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, or the Chevrolet Caprice (I know we haven't seen one yet either). But Ford also produces the new Explorer in a police package, and that's what the California Highway Patrol is leaning towards to replace their fleet and to keep it in the Ford family. The CHP maintains a fleet of 4,000 vehciles (give or take a few) and each year, they replace 1/3rd of that fleet with new vehicles.

Due to the ammount of gear that a trooper has to car with him or her on any given day is always increasing. And now with gear mandated by the Department of Homeland Security, the smaller patrol cars offered by the big three just won't cut it.

Of course they'll still be black and white....

Source: California Highway Patrol.

Meet the Evanta Aston Martin DB7

Coming to us from across the pond in the U.K. comes the re-imagined Aston Martin DB7 by Evanta Motor Company. Founded in 1995, Evanta specializes in the rebuilding, restoration, and in a case like this, the building of classic British sports cars. This DB7 has been completely built from the ground up wearing the body of a distant relative, the DB4. While it may look like a DB4, it is still powered by the DB7's V12. It also carries many modern essentials like air bags and air conditioning.

This is a very exciting twist on a very beautiful car to begin with. If you want it, you'll have to act fast as this is the only one made, and like the only to ever be made.

Media release:
The proportions and lines are breathtaking. Its impossible to tell that this is in fact a modern ECU driven, Tiptronic, V12 monster with air conditioning and air bags. Full race roll cage is hidden underneath the stunning interior, which is finished in luxurious Oxblood red leather.

The flawless paintwork is finished in correct Aston Martin solent silver, which has a delicate hint of blue. Wheels are 16" wires with appropriate race tyres.

The car retains the modern instruments of the DB7, yet the fusion of a vintage DB4 dash, DB4 seats and period trim. The blend where old meets new is a stroke of genius. This rare,elegant yet powerful car is the only one available on the planet.

Source: Evanta Motor Co. Ltd.

Italian auto industry rocked by earthquake.

Northern Italy was rocked by yet another earthquake today. One that has literally shut down the Italian auto industry. At least for the next couple of days. The quake was centered about 40 kilometers north of Bologna Italy. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, and Maserati all are either headquartered or have factories in that area. So far, Maserati is the only manufacturer that is showing damage at their factory. All have ceased operations for the day to allow workers to go home and be with their families. Details are still emerging, so we will keep you posted on this as more details come out.

Source: Autoblog.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My First Car

My first car was a read beater: a 1981 Honda Prelude that had been totaled out twice before. It was three different colors and shook like crazy once it got above 50 miles per hour. The dash lights didn't work, which meant driving at night I would have to estimate my speed. The cassette player ate any tapes you would put it in. The car had been owned by a smoker before, which meant if the lavish sheepskin-covered seats got wet, they would reek like an ashtray. Even better, the turn signal stalk hung by wires from the steering column, meaning I would have to pick it up, insert it into the steering column at just the right angle, and then hold it in place until I had finished signaling a turn.

I don't have a picture of my first car, but at the time I hated it so much I wanted to forget all about it. Looking back on it, I never had to worry about girls liking me because they wanted to be seen riding in a flashy car. I never had to worry about locking the thing, either. Sure, so traveling on the freeway wasn't fun in the car, but I didn't go on the freeway very often anyway. I wouldn't want to own the car again, but it was good for the stage of life I was in at the time.

Lamborghini Mechanic.

This is just a really cool photo that I wanted to share. It makes a great computer background.

Lamborghini Driving Academy Imola 2012

Automobili Lamborghini's photostream