Eric Killorin

Tue Sep 13 2016 21:24:54 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

New gen Mustang has styling cues similar to Euro sports cars... I love it!

Eric Killorin

Wed Oct 19 2016 16:10:32 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Our CleanTechnica tour de Southern California was a weekend chock full of electric vehicles to such an extreme that I went from not having seen a Model X in public to seeing them in what seemed like every other parking lot we looked in. Our first real encounter with the Model X was some quality time with Teslarati Founder Gene Liu’s beautiful black-exterior-with-white-interior X at the Unplugged Performance BBQ & Tour.

We had time to see what junk could be packed in the frunk, what the white interior looked like up close and in person, and even had a chance to try out the seats in the very back … which are typical of 3rd row SUV seats — tight, but still fine for adults to cram into for short rides if you have to. I’ve not been in an SUV that has rear seats that are as roomy as those in the front, and I wouldn’t expect that kind of accommodation for the third row, as the number of times someone actually rides back there is generally extremely infrequent.

Zach in the back of Gene’s Model X | Image Credit: Kyle Field
After a crazy whirlwind of a weekend, we were treated to some quality time with the Model X, as reader Don Baumhefner and his son Max drove down from the Bay Area in Don’s brand new Model X on Sunday for us to poke around in (which Zach already shared his thoughts on).

Luxurious Ride

The first thing that hit me about the X — especially after having driven the S for a few days straight just prior — was the smooth, floating feel of the suspension. To qualify my comment a bit, my Model S has spring suspension but I’ve also driven a loaner Model S that had air suspension and they both had a very sporty, tight feel to them, much like other sporty luxury cars. The S keeps the driver in tune with the road with a tighter feel to the suspension that’s really noticeable on corners and at freeway speeds.

In contrast, the Model X has a more luxurious suspension to it that’s in a class of its own. Conventional SUVs have more plush suspension but feel top heavy, with the top of the car leaning more around corners, bouncing a bit on larger bumps and the like. The X has a secret weapon in the batteries, as they act as a counterweight to the suspension, keeping the bulk of the weight of the car at the very bottom of the car, which changes the entire feel. It’s as if Tesla took the heart and soul of a sports car and gave it just a bit more room in the cabin … and raised it up a bit without compromising on the quality of the suspension.


This was the resounding theme that stood out to me when driving the X, and it affected my mental posture in the car as well. In the S, I have a more eager, anticipatory mindset … ready to go, with the posture of the car and the silent lightning hiding behind the accelerator pedal just waiting for me to give it a green light … like a caged tiger (just ask Zach). The suspension of the X translates into a more relaxed feel that instead says, “come in, chill out, let’s just cruise home in silent comfort.” Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer the chill ride of the X compared to the eager power of the S and I blame the suspension for the difference. (Note from Zach: I actually agree … and did not expect that to be the case beforehand.)

Elevated Seating Position

Beyond the fluffy, floating-on-clouds sensation of the drive, I appreciated the slightly higher vantage point of the X. It’s high enough to provide a better view but not so high as to be awkwardly aloof from what’s happening down below. I had enough of the improved visibility that SUVs offer while also being able to see what was going on around the car. Many SUVs I’ve driven have poor visibility and I appreciated the stance of the X in comparison.

Choreography of Rear Seats

This is a minor point and up there with the falcon-wing doors for me … but I loved watching the various ways the middle seats would dance around at the touch of a button. Need to get in the back? One side and the middle angle forward just enough to optimize room for entry. Need to fold the 3rd row seats down to make more room for storage? The middle seats would move forward just enough to allow the headrests from the rear seats to clear them as they folded down.

Along similar lines, I’m generally not a fan of motorized movement in seats, doors, etc, and the X packs a lot of that in. Obviously, the falcon-wing doors are a huge part of this and are beautiful, the rear seats, the rear lift gate … and the front doors. In my brief time playing with the car, I did enjoy the way the front doors opened with the front handle being an actual button that is depressed to trigger the doors to open up, but I’m curious about the durability of all these moving parts.

My personal preference is to have more mechanical parts, as they tend to last long and fail gradually, whereas electronic components and actuators are either working … or not working … with nothing in between. This might be something that just takes a bit of time to get used to, and definitely feels a bit like the future, but I would need a month or two to see if it’s something I would get used to and enjoy or if it would lose its luster.


Roomy Rear Entry

The falcon-wing doors are one of those features that people seem to either love or hate. For me, they definitely have a “wow” effect to them which is nice, but they are honestly a bit too showy for me. I don’t like a car that screams high tech … or really anything. I just want a car that works. Having said that, they are extremely functional, and having 2 kids in a garage with 2 cars, I could see these doors being fantastic for improving access in and out of the 2nd row (and 3rd row) seats — both in our garage as well as many tight parking spaces around town.

Autopilot for Days

While this is more of a general statement on current-gen Tesla gear, Autopilot is great. Don had not made up his mind about it yet, but I’m all for it. I would love to go on a long trip, slap the car in Autopilot, and just go. That sounds like a fantastic way to travel long distances, as I could read, write, watch a movie, or just kick back and talk without having to worry about the whole driving thing.

The only reason I’m not completely sold on Autopilot today — and why I wasn’t willing to kick down the extra $20,000+ for a newer car with the feature — is that we are currently in various iterations of beta hardware. Basically, I know that the hardware we have today will not allow for completely autonomous driving in the future. And with that … I will have to buy another car in the future for fully autonomous driving. So … while it’s great and amazing and I would get a ton of value out of it, I’m fine waiting a few years for the solution that truly is next gen, that will allow me to literally sleep while the car drives me to … whereever.



Safety is another general feature of Tesla but this truly is huge. The fact that just about every Tesla presentation out there starts with global warming, then safety, shows an amazing focus on what really matters. Tesla isn’t just trying to sell cars — it is selling cars that disconnect emissions from the point of use in a vehicle and allow for a cleaner future that people can control. I can (and did) buy an electric car and some solar panels, and boom … my transportation and home energy emissions drop to nearly zero. It’s fantastic, and I love that Tesla is focused on what matters … first.

Safety is huge because it’s not fun, it’s not sexy, but with 30,000 people dying on US roads each year, I would rather be in a car that’s going to keep me safe than not. If a Tesla Model 3 is otherwise completely equal to a Chevy Bolt (I’m not saying that the two cars are) but the Model 3 is 5 star safety rated across the board, you’ll choose the Tesla every time. It’s important, and I’m glad that Tesla is raising the bar when it comes to safety.


The Model X is the best SUV on the road today, hands down, and I didn’t even mention the instant torque that throws you back in your seat, the supersplendulous windshield, the Supercharging, zero tailpipe emissions, the silence of electric cars, the regeneration that happens when braking, the comfortable seats, the huge touchscreen, the great service, the amazing buying experience, the fuel savings, all the innovation they pack in … I could go on, but I think you get my point.

For me, the Model X isn’t different enough from the Model S to warrant an upgrade, but it is a strong enough contender (for me) to consider it the next time I’m looking for a car.

Eric Killorin

Tue Jan 13 2015 23:52:49 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

If you’re not excited right now, you really should be. Ford’s blue collar supercar - itself a spiritual successor to the old GT40 - now has a descendent, and this is it. As we had been expecting, this stunning two-door coupe has a mid-mounted 3.5-litre ‘Ecoboost’ V6, which thanks to a pair of turbochargers kicks out “more than 600hp,” all of which is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

At the car’s core is a carbon fibre passenger cell, which is clad in carbon fibre body panels. The front and rear subframes, meanwhile, are made from aluminium. All this should result in one incredibly light supercar; Ford is promising “one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car.”

It gets torsion bar and pushrod suspension, plus an adjustable ride height. 20-inch alloy wheels fill each corner, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 boots with a compound and structure designed specifically for the car. The set of carbon ceramic brake discs it sports should ensure face-rearranging stopping power.

Step inside the cockpit - accessed via a pair of upwards-swinging doors - and you’ll find a pair of seats which are directly integrated into the carbon passenger cell - another weight saving measure.

The best part of all this? It’s going into production. Next year. The launch of this car will rather deliberately coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s triumphant 1966 Le Mans outing, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

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Eric Killorin

Wed Sep 10 2014 16:10:31 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Volkswagen XL1

Eric Killorin

Fri Jan 31 2014 01:42:17 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

USA #1

Eric Killorin

Mon Jan 06 2014 21:45:57 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Interior view of the Cadillac Elmiraj concept.

Eric Killorin

Sat Dec 07 2013 16:10:08 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

I haven't driven an R8 for a few years. This V10 Plus with the new dual-clutch gearbox is way more civil than the last model. The transmission is less vicious and much smoother than the previous single-clutch gearbox. The old one featured violent shifts that would throw you forward and then slam you back into the seat following gear changes. Shifts in this R8 are nearly imperceptible. Seriously, with your foot to the floor, this all-wheel driver accelerates hard but is completely smooth, even through two, three or four changes.

Tapping the sport button increases the throttle sensitivity, and it must open an exhaust valve, because the car was definitely louder. But it's not nearly as loud as a Mercedes-Benz AMG engine or the Jaguar supercharged V8 in the F-Type.

Audi has some killer sheetmetal with this car. If Ferraris and Lamborghinis are a 10 on the exotic scale, this is surely a 9. There were people taking pictures, asking about it and laughing when it took me five minutes to find the gas cap release. The front and rear only received minor changes for the new generation, which added a little flair to the head and taillights. The carbon fiber sideblade is still there, looking as great as ever. The only suggestion, and this came from a friend, was a glass roof. I then added “how about a Targa top?”

I was a bit disappointed in the steering. It didn't feel direct enough for me. You almost have to cross your arms over around a 90-degree corner when you don't need to in most super sports cars. I don't know if it tightens up in sport mode, if it does I couldn't tell. The car does settle down in normal mode with the automatic shifting engaged, making it feel very tame. Like the old one, you could almost be convinced you're in an S6, except for the height and view.

In Audi's sedans you can sit low, which makes you feel surrounded by the vehicle. Even though the R8 is super low to begin with, it feels like you're sitting higher in the cockpit. It's not bad, just a little different, and front visibility was surprisingly good.

So, I think buyers will like the fact that the car can settle down and act like a sedan -- a super sweet-looking, fast, low, sedan. So Audi might get a few buyers who want that option. And I'd bet set a winter tires would make this car loads of fun in the snowy stuff. It's really a supercar that you could drive almost all year, as long as you don't need too much luggage space, or care about gas. I averaged about 12.5 mpg.

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: The last time I flung around a 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus, I was at a tight racetrack in Italy last year and blasting through the Alps. Hard to believe that was more than a year ago, but I'm definitely glad to see it again on Autoweek's home turf.

Highlighting this car is a new, in-house developed dual-clutch S-tronic gearbox that takes the place of the not-so-smooth single-clutch R-tronic that the R8 was straddled with since the car launched. Personally, I would be getting my R8 with the gated six-speed manual every time, but the reality is that roughly 60 percent of R8s sold here in the United States are examples with two pedals. Before that meant the R-tronic and while it was OK when you were driving the daylights out of the car, it was awful when you drove normally around town. To get the transmission to perform a shift that was anywhere close to smooth, you had to lift off the gas, shift and then get back on the gas. And those shifts weren't quick, which is normally the case with single-clutch units like BMW's old SMG and even the box that's in the Lexus LFA when just puttering about.

With the dual-clutch S-tronic, all the complaints of jerky operation go out the window. Not only are shifts remarkably smooth in manual and full-auto modes, but it boasts optimized launch control and can skip gears, unlike the R-tronic, which had to sequentially engage each gear, enabling the new trans to be much quicker.

Sitting atop the R8 range now is this V10 Plus model that's 110 pounds lighter than the standard V10 thanks to things like forged-aluminum wheels, carbon-fiber side blade, front splitter and rear diffuser, carbon brakes, and a conventional suspension in place of the magnetic suspension. And finally there is a revised engine management to squeeze an additional 25 hp from the 5.2-liter V10 for a stout total of 550 hp.

All that power was a nice thing to have over a weekend that saw me shuttling my best friend to the church to get hitched. Everything was going fine until he forgot something at home, requiring us to turn around, retrieve the package and thus put us behind schedule. As the digital clock on the center screen climbed closer to my required delivery time, I began to sweat a bit, remembering that the night before I promised Bridezilla that I would have the groom to the church on time.

The good news is that we made it on time and I can confirm that the R8 V10 Plus' acceleration is brisk with power building all the way up to redline. Gearbox shifts are quick on both up- and downshifts; sounds lovely when you have the right pedal pinned. And high-speed stability is solid.

When I wasn't trying to avoid the wrath of a woman on her wedding day, the R8 V10 Plus was again lovely. I've spent a lot of time in R8s throughout the years, and I remain a big fan. The one thing about this car is that it's not a car that feels brutally powerful. Instead, it offers a refined performance to make it feel like more of a precision instrument instead of a blunt, brutal object.

Steering is direct and weighty in my opinion, which is just the way I like it. The set suspension is firm and keeps car stuck around corners with very little to no roll that I can pick up on. There's some damping for bumps and ruts tuned into the suspension, but it's for sure a little rougher. I could live with the ride quality on a daily basis and I suspect the majority of folks could, too.

With the cooler weather, the carbon brakes were squeaky almost all the time, but they are strong to slow matters immediately.

If there is a complaint that I have about the car, it's minor and involves the infotainment software. It isn't the latest stuff from Audi and is a little slow.

But the R8 remains nearly a perfect everyday supercar in my mind. On top of the more than respectable performance and easy to drive nature, there's a decent-sized trunk up front and it's fairly comfortable. There would definitely be one of these in my dream garage.

2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus

Base Price: $182,595

As-Tested Price: $191,445

Drivetrain: 5.2-liter V10; AWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual

Output: 550 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 398 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,660 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 13/22/16 mpg

AW Observed Fuel Economy: 14.0 mpg

Options: Diamond-stitch full leather package including napa leather seats, full leather package, contrast stitching, diamond-stitched interior ($5,000); Bang & Olufsen sound system ($1,800); black Alcantara headliner ($1,300); Sepang blue pearl effect paint ($650); Audi music interface including iPod cable ($100).

Eric Killorin

Wed Nov 27 2013 17:15:49 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Eagle plans to supply repops of the famous "low drag" Etype Jaguar for a nose-bleed $970K!

Eric Killorin

Thu Oct 10 2013 19:00:41 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Jalopnik weighs in on the ten most expensive vehicles to operate.

Eric Killorin

Tue Aug 20 2013 14:44:57 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

On this episode of Ignition, Kim Reynolds heads to Pamplona, Spain to have a look at some of Jaguar's classic entries in the sports car realm, and also to get his hands on their latest convertible sports car, the F-Type. The F-type has an all-aluminum body and a new all-aluminum, 3.0-liter supercharged direct-injection V-6 based on the 5.0-liter V-8, with balance shafts, a dual independent variable cam timing system, and a Roots-type twin vortex supercharger mounted in the engine's vee. Jaguar has given us three different versions, the V6, V6S, and V8s, to play with, so we're taking them out to the mountains of Spain to see which one best represents Jaguar's new spiritual E-type successor.

Eric Killorin

Thu Jul 18 2013 20:59:15 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

On this episode of Ignition, Kim Reynolds heads to Pamplona, Spain to have a look at some of Jaguar's classic entries in the sports car realm, and also to get his hands on their latest convertible sports car, the F-Type. The F-type has an all-aluminum body and a new all-aluminum, 3.0-liter supercharged direct-injection V-6 based on the 5.0-liter V-8, with balance shafts, a dual independent variable cam timing system, and a Roots-type twin vortex supercharger mounted in the engine's vee. Jaguar has given us three different versions, the V6, V6S, and V8s, to play with, so we're taking them out to the mountains of Spain to see which one best represents Jaguar's new spiritual E-type successor.

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Eric Killorin

Mon Jul 15 2013 22:42:18 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

It would cost a cool $100K+ to buy back my old 1966 E-Type roadster or more if the next guy gave it a ground-up resto. For about the same bucks you can have the new Jaguar F-type. It does everything better and goes like a scalded cat. Time to tap into my IRA!

Eric Killorin

Thu Mar 28 2013 16:27:51 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

2014 Honda Odyssey has a built in vac! At the 2013 New York auto show, Honda brought out its popular Odyssey with a new wrinkle. This time in partnership with Shop-Vac, the Odyssey includes a built-in vacuum that can reach from the front to the back.

Eric Killorin

Tue Mar 05 2013 01:07:18 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Have an extra $4.6M to spend - then I have a car for you!

Celebrating 50 years in business in the automotive industry is no small feat. We’ve all seen them come and go. Yet, Lamborghini lasts and in great style.

Witness the new Lamborghini Veneno. She’s a 740 horsepower 6.5 liter V12 monster, with a seven-speed transmission, a top speed of 220 mph, and a 0-62 time in less than three seconds. However, is you are spending near $5M for a car, I don’t think that you are interested in these specs. Undoubtedly you are more interested in exclusivity and bragging rights. Consider that a given.

I’m struck by it’s angular design and wonder if it will endure (think Cadillac XLR). However, the Gallardo has been a great seller despite it’s similar styling. I’m reminded of automotive origami. So many folds.!slide/1579

Eric Killorin

Sat Mar 02 2013 22:02:57 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

The parade of Mini variants continues. What started as one retro fashion item has spawned a whole line of Mini cars, from the original Cooper to the helmeted Coupe. No one ever thought Mini could make an SUV, but the Countryman line is already getting a spinoff. Car and Driver reports that Mini will build a Countryman Coupe, which will go on sale next year.
Mini has been hinting at a Countryman Coupe since it showed the Paceman concept (pictured) at the 2011 Detroit auto show. Aside from the name change, the production Coupe will look almost exactly like the Paceman. The car’s styling is pretty straightforward: it’s a Countryman, minus two doors. This is the best looking application of the helmet-like roof previously seen on the standard Countryman and the Mini Cooper Coupe.
Under the new sheetmetal, the Countryman Coupe will probably be identical to its four-door sibling. That means a choice of front or all-wheel drive and six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The Countryman’s range of engines will also carry over. These include a 1.6-liter inline-four with 121 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque, and a turbocharged 1.6 with 181 hp and 192 lb-ft. A more powerful John Cooper Works version is also likely.
Does Mini need a second crossover? The Countryman is kind of big for a “mini” vehicle, but it offers practicality combined with the same retro styling Mini fans love. Mini sold 16, 683 of the crossovers last year, making it the brand’s second best selling model (after the original Hardtop, of which 29,658 were sold). A two-door version will be less practical, but it could attract people who want a truly mini-sized car with all-wheel drive.
The Countryman Coupe will make its official debut in September at the Paris Motor Show. It will go on sale early next year as a 2013 model.

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Eric Killorin

Fri Feb 08 2013 23:01:04 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

2014 Toyota Tundra

Eric Killorin

Tue Jan 29 2013 16:17:53 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

This comparison represents a peek into three heavyweight luxury German carmakers' state of the art. The Audi S7, BMW 650i Gran Coupe xDrive, and Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic represent a good chunk of their respective brands' best thinking. But what are these swoopy four-door coupes? (And for the record, we hate the abuse of language that takes place every time a 2-ton sedan is called a "coupe.") The cynical view is that the Germans invented a meal between breakfast and brunch. All three cars are variants of each manufacturer's midsize offering: The S7 is built off the A6; the Gran Coupe is based on the F12 6 Series (which is in turn based on the current 5 Series platform); and the CLS is born from the E-Class. So, each company has found a way to charge more money for essentially the same old mimosa and pancakes. Even if they are just the same old cars in fancy new suits, don't nice suits cost money? Not only that, but at least one of these lookers has been much improved versus the donor whence it came. Plus, aren't businesses in the business of making profits? In a sense, then, these three cars represent their respective makers' best foot forward. But they also highlight the club feet, as all three reveal their manufacturers' current weaknesses. Starting with the Benz, we're talking bad design, inside and out. Sure, the CLS is decent-looking, but this sleek, sloped-roof "coupe" segment is all about sexy metal appeal. Mercedes should know this, as the automaker invented it! But the Benz looks like a clenched fist, which may very well be sexy to the German mind-set. Compared with the other two contenders, the CLS comes off a little dumpy and a tad frumpy. The interior is about to be refreshed, and boy howdy, it needs it. The exterior is going to have to wait a while. The Gran Coupe, meanwhile, exhibits BMW's new favorite sin: sloth, in terms of porky weight (4603 pounds, the heaviest in our test by nearly 200 pounds more than the S7) and laggard throttle response. As for the Audi, the S7 is yet another chapter of too much weight hanging off the wrong side of the front halfshafts, resulting in numb steering feel and sketchy, make-your-palms-sweat understeer.

As is often said, there is no perfect car. Yet these three cars come closer to the Platonic automotive ideal than most. I feel justified and factual in stating that today's "loser" (for lack of a softer synonym) might just be the very best third-place finisher in Motor Trend history. I'd be thrilled to wake up and find its keys in a bowl near my front door. That third-place car is the Mercedes-Benz CLS550, the car that started it all. "Crazy how much changes in a year or so," said executive editor Ron Kiino. "The last time we compared a CLS550 (against the regular-flavor A7 and the Jaguar XJ -- "High Fashion and Misdemeanors," September 2011), it offered the best combo of sport and luxury. Now, I find myself ranking it third." The CLS has done nothing wrong. It's just that the competition artfully stepped up their games. A year ago BMW didn't even have an offering in this high-concept segment. And the A7, while pretty much OK (and quite easy on the eyes) just couldn't compete with the big Benz's overall might and refinement. Things have changed. Complete with AWD and a 402-hp, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8 (biggest displacement engine of the test), the CLS550's 0-60 and quarter-mile times were the slowest of the trio, with 4.4 and 12.9 seconds at 110.6 mph -- more or less even with a Ford Mustang GT, but definitely slower than the other two. The 445-hp BMW Gran Coupe clips 60 mph in 4.2 seconds before tackling the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at 108 mph. The Audi? It's steroidal sports-car-fast, friends, hitting 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and knocking off the quarter in 12.3 seconds at 112.1 mph. Pretty astonishing for a 4435-pounder with the smallest displacement engine of the test, a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that's probably underrated at only 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. And by probably, I mean absolutely, no question. Numbers matter, but being the slowest isn't the only reason why the CLS came in last. Out on the road, it was also the least impressive. "Feels a bit like a blunt instrument," opined associate editor Scott Evans. "The CLS550 is plenty nimble, but it's not completely graceful. Seems to throw its weight around rather than flow from corner to corner." I found the Benz a bit numb all around compared with the others. Like when you've been to the dentist and the Novocain's almost gone, but not quite. The CLS550 has very good power, heroic grip, and decent steering. It's fun to push hard for small stretches, but, perhaps because of an overabundance of sound insulation, the Mercedes is simply not lively enough for you to remember that you can thrash it. Plus, against the others, it was rather squishy. Said Kiino, "The chassis didn't feel as competent on our loop. The most roll and body move-ment of the three." Evans agreed. "Kind of pushy in sharper corners, and the stability control is overeager. Great touring car, but not the greatest dancer." The CLS did have the most comfortable seats and the best outward visibility, but at the end of the day, third place.
Second place goes to the Audi S7, with a big asterisk. Why? Kiino ranked it first. "C'mon, this is a 420-hp hatchback with AWD and a seven-speed dual-clutch with launch control. I give it the first-place nod, as it's the best combo of speed, luxury, style, and -- what differentiates it from the others -- utility." In fact, Scott and I (almost) agree. "This car is obscenely fast in a straight line. Luxury sedans with liftgates shouldn't be able to do this," said Evans. "It doubles down by being ridiculously quick in corners as well. The grip is fantastic and the weapons-grade torque absolutely flings you out of every turn." Compared with the CLS, the Audi feels fun -- as if Audi included a little devil sitting on your shoulder, whispering, "Do it, do it, do it faster! Now do it again!" But as much fun as the S7 is, Scott and I couldn't get past the sadly typical bad Audi steering feel. Comfort mode is lacking and Dynamic is overboosted -- there's no sweet spot. Ron described it as "numb but precise." Fair enough. But the mid-corner understeer can best be described as middling. But in this company, and especially at this price, it's unacceptable. Also, the faux carbon-fiber interior is a little silly and tacky. The S7 is a fabulous car, no doubt, but we found one that's better. Meet Goldilocks, aka the BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe. "This is what the F10 5 Series should have been from day one," opined Evans. "Forget this Gran Coupe nonsense -- just call this thing the 5 Series and let the current car quietly fade from memory." Scott went on to say that this "may be BMW's best car at the moment." I sure think it is, and have been referring to it as "my favorite BMW" since I first drove it back in August. As much as I like the looks of the Audi S7, there's simply something more seductive about the Gran Coupe. Even Ron agreed. "Highest curb appeal here, and the valets are more likely to put this one up front." More surprising is the Gran Coupe's interior, the best BMW's ever done by several kilometers. From the two-tone leather to the funky speaker grilles to the ballsy asymmetric center-stack treatment (how can you not love three separate rows of French stitching spreading up and out toward the windshield like some sort of vine?), almost every inch of the car's innards has been crafted to a standard higher than that of any Audi or Mercedes. More important, the Gran Coupe is the first car of its type (four-door coupes) with an interior as radical as its exterior.
Is the Gran Coupe as awesome on our favorite back roads as the S7? No. "The car has nice moves, but it's just not as sharp as the Audi," said Kiino. However, it's plenty sharp. Weight is an issue in sharp corners, of course, but not that much of an issue. "Drives smaller than it is," added Evans. "I found it easy to forget how fast I was going and how big this car is, until I hit a sharp corner. Otherwise, it's a pleasure to drive hard. Nice transitions; very smooth." Like all three competitors, the BMW is AWD. However, to me it felt the most RWD-biased. I also thought it had the best steering feel, as did Evans. "There's a nice weight to the inputs that feels pretty natural. More important, the steering feel is surprisingly good, especially considering that it's AWD and that recent BMWs have demonstrated poor steering feel." If this test were just about pure, back-road capability, the S7 would get the nod. But as the BMW is about 95 percent as capable as the Audi (identical 0.94 max g, too), but offers so much more in desirability, craftsmanship, and that all-important X-factor, we're calling it the winner. As stated, there are no perfect cars. But it's very seldom that I find myself so quick to forgive vehicular flaws. With the BMW Gran Coupe, that's absolutely the case. As such, "The Ultimate Driving Machine" just took on a whole new meaning.

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Eric Killorin

Wed Jan 16 2013 15:18:35 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Rear seating area Maybach limo.

Eric Killorin

Sun Dec 16 2012 15:49:09 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Contributing Editor Csaba Csere takes an in-depth and technical look into the 2013 Tesla Model S on the latest episode of Car and Driver: Tested.

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