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Porsche Cayman

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured


Top 10 summer night rides

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Club

Bright stars dazzling against an obsidian sky on a hot August night are a surefire recipe for summer romance. There is just something about fresh air and open sky that sets my heart racing.

As an automotive enthusiast, it is also a guaranteed excuse for driving well into the night and forgetting about sleep for awhile. Nothing keeps me awake like the feeling of wind on my face, a boundless sky above my head and the cocooning effect of night as it encircles the car at highway speeds. Here are several of my favourite rides for starry sky summer night driving.

Audi TT

Audi’s compact two-door machines appear as slinky sports coupes or daring convertible roadsters with curvy skin stretched tautly over exaggerated wheels. The TT 2.0T FSI model features a standard six-speed S-Tronic sequential automatic transmission. The TT 3.2 stokes the 3.2-liter V6 working 250 hp with either a six-speed manual or six-speed S-Tronic automatic gearbox. The top-tier TTS coupe and roadster get a high-performance 2.0-liter FSI turbo four engine drawing 265 hp with the six-speed manual or S-Tronic sequential automatic.

Chevrolet Corvette

Chevy’s sports car offers a coupe and convertible or the Z06 fixed-roof hatchback plus a ZR1 supercar stocking the new LS9 supercharged 6.2-liter V8 rated at 638 hp. Z06 carries race-honed gear like carbon-fiber composite fenders and a 7.0-liter LS7 V8 whipping up 505 hp through a six-speed manual gearbox. Corvette Coupe and Convertible use the LS3 6.2-liter V8 pumping 430 hp in concert with a six-speed manual or electronically controlled six-speed Paddle Shift automatic. Corvette the coupe has a removable roof panel, while the convertible’s fabric lid operates manually or with optional power controls.

Chrysler Sebring Convertible

The mid-size Sebring Convertible by Chrysler in a slick design offers choices for the power retractable roof; cloth or steel. Sebring as a drop-top splits into three versions; entry-model Sebring Convertible LX, the upscale Touring edition and a deluxe Limited, and each adds exterior trim elements and interior equipment for differentiation as well as a different powertrain. The convertible’s strongest powertrain goes to the deluxe Limited edition, which employs a single-cam 3.5-liter V6 worth 235 hp. Sebring’s airy cabin sparks with stylish appointments, while some clever concepts make life comfortable aboard.

Infiniti G37 Convertible

The first-ever drop-top G-car from Infiniti is here now as a 2010 model. Dressed in stunningly smooth skin and rigged with a three-piece automatic retracting hardtop, it features a coupe-like roofline when blocking the sun. Powertrain for the G37 Convertible is a dual-cam 3.7-liter V6 with 325 horsepower mated to a 6-speed manual, or the new seven-speed electronic automatic transmission. Infiniti’s sporty convertible showcases enhanced audio and climate systems to maintain a comfortable cabin environment even on the chilliest night in August.

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep’s rugged dirt warrior is tough, versatile and simple, with best-in-class off-road capability. Two 4WD transfer cases appear with Jeep’s CommandTrac part-time system or the RockTrac device for off-roader Rubicon with locking front and rear differentials, electric axle lockers and electronic disconnecting front sway bar. High-torque muscle flows from a 3.8-liter V6 hitting 202 hp with standard six-speed manual gearbox or optional four-speed automatic. For added safety Wrangler has standard HSA and ESP, with available TSC (Trailer Sway Control).

Mazda MX-5

Mazda enhances the year-round comfort and security of the MX-5 Miata by offering a power retractable hard top (PRHT). It’s the quickest-closing power top in the business, as the push-button conversion from hardtop coupe to airy convertible consumes only 12 seconds. Just touch a toggle switch and watch the roof pleat at two seams and fold in three sections to stack behind the cockpit in the same space where the soft top stows. Unlike other folding hard tops which tuck into the trunk, Miata’s PRHT does not consume any space in the trunk. Power comes in the form of a 2.0L inline 4-cylinder with 167 hp and 140 lb.-ft of torque.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

The 2+2 sports convertible by Mitsubishi runs with the label of Eclipse Spyder. It uses styling, structure and mechanical content of the Eclipse sporty coupe. Eclipse Spyder GS is the entry edition with a 2.4-liter in-line-four rated at 162 hp with a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic linked to Sportronic shift control. Eclipse GT-P has a 3.8-liter V6 with 265 hp and either a six-speed manual or five-speed electronic automatic with Sportronic shifting.

Saturn Sky

With this as the nameplate, need we say more for a summertime drive? Saturn’s two-seat roadster convertible is gorgeous, with rippled skin stretched like flexed muscles over a long and broad structure which features a prominent prow, mid-ship cockpit and roly-poly rump. A convertible top tucks into the rear compartment and leaves only smooth lines on the deck. Sky’s 2.4-liter Ecotec in-line-four engine delivers 173 hp. Mechanical assets include a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) chassis and independent suspension designs front and rear using lightweight aluminum for upper and lower control arms. GM’s StabiliTrak skid controls and a limited-slip differential apply as standard equipment, plus XM satellite radio service.

Volkswagen Eos

This name in Greek mythology applied to the goddess of the dawn and the VW named Eos makes the sun come up with push-button ease to convert from a hardtop coupe to open-top convertible. The sleek two-door, with seats for four in a well-stocked cabin, uses the Rabbit/Jetta platform with FWD and a turbo-charged engine. The 2.0-liter four-in-line turbo produces 200 hp through a six-speed DSG Tiptronic automatic. Eos trims levels include Treadline, Comfortline and a Special Edition Silver-Red. New options include the Technology Package with bi-xenon HID (high intensity discharge) headlamps and rear PDC (park distance control) guidance.

Volvo C70

The sleek two-door C70 works as a swoopy coupe or breezy convertible with the conversion from hardtop to drop-top occurring with push-button ease. Extensive safety systems are aboard, including inflatable curtain-style air bags concealed in side doors. Engine is Volvo’s 2.4-liter five-cylinder light-pressure turbo boosted to 227 hp. An automatic five-speed is available, or the manual six-speed. Aluminum inlays now dress the center console and doors, handle surrounds and a Premium Package adds fine leather to the seats. The Dynaudio Package brings Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound audio with 12 Dynaudio speakers.

Jeff Voth, Editor-at-large Y! Canada Autos

Most appealing cars of 2009

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Club

Sales at Porsche and Volkswagen may be sluggish–Porsche sales in June were down 66 per cent from last year; VWs were down 18 per cent–and both have been embroiled for months in tense merger discussions. But when it comes to raw appeal, their cars still own the hearts and minds of American drivers.
The Porsche Cayenne won the premium SUV segment in a recent buyer satisfaction study of 2009 model-year vehicles, and Porsche placed first for the fifth consecutive year as the industry’s most appealing brand. Four Volkswagen vehicles (the CC, GTI, Passat and Tiguan) earned top spots as the most appealing cars in their classes.

In Pictures: The Most Appealing 2009 Cars

Some domestics, long thought to struggle with design and performance, also fared well. The Dodge Challenger won the Midsize Sporty Car category; Cadillac and Lincoln placed in the top 10 brands overall.

Behind the Numbers

The annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study identifies what 80,900 purchasers and lessees of new 2009 model-year vehicles liked and disliked about their cars during the first 90 days of ownership. Questions focused on vehicle design, content, layout and performance; responses were gathered between February and May of this year. Scores are out of a possible 1,000 points. The industry average is 779.

The study evaluated how well vehicles performed relative to consumer expectations. This year found a ‘significant level of improvement in terms of appeal’ across the board, the report concluded, due in large part to increases in fuel efficiency and the lower price of gas.

Porsche scored 869 out of a possible 1,000 points. Jaguar, Cadillac,Audi and BMW rounded out the top five brands listed. Mercedes-Benzhad two segment-winners in the S-Class and SLK-Class, and its sister brand under Daimler, the Smart Fortwo, won the Sub-Compact Car segment.

Tony Fouladpour, a spokesman for Porsche, says that a distinction honouring design, far from being trivial when compared with accolades honouring durability or quality, can directly affect a company’s bottom line.

‘It demonstrates that passion, that relationship that owners have with their vehicles,’ he says. ‘So for us it’s a very important award.’

A car’s appeal is becoming more and more important to struggling automakers. Overall sales are down 39.2 per cent year to date for domestics; they’re down 32.2 per cent and 26 per cent this year for Asian and European brands, respectively. Forecasters say U.S. sales won’t exceed 10 million units in 2009, down more than 6 million units from the high in 2006. But for individual domestic winners in particular, high appeal scores could hint at better things to come, says David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.

‘The domestics historically have sometimes struggled with this but increasingly are coming out with very strong products and much better launch-execution than in the past,’ Sargent says. ‘They are in many cases launching better than the Japanese.’

Daring to Be Different

Likewise, the $21,119 MINI Cooper, winner of the Compact Car category, proves design can give an edge to vehicles not renowned for quality. Despite its recently low ratings in J.D. Power’s quality survey and lower-than-average ratings in its 2009 dependability study, Cooper sales in the U.S. are down less than 20 per cent this year, much less than the national average of 35.4 per cent, and less than the Smart Fortwo (down 24.8 per cent), Volkswagen New Beetle (down 43.7 per cent) and Audi A3 (down 37.5 per cent.)

A perennially high placement on consumer satisfaction surveys and a famous rally-car style–two factors directly related to design–have driven those sales, Sargent says.

Indeed, Craig House, 62, who owns a 2002 MINI Cooper S and two classic Minis, loves the cars so much he paid the deposit for the newly redesigned Mini a full two years before the car hit showrooms. At that point, he hadn’t even seen a photo of what the new version might look like.
But for a true enthusiast like House, who happens to be the president of the Oregon Mini Society, it didn’t matter.
‘What really sold me on the new car was the fact that BMW designed it,’ he says. ‘I knew it was going to be an excellent car.’

In Pictures: The Most Appealing 2009 Cars – Hannah Elliott