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2012 Nissan GT-R Preview

When the rumored R35 Skyline started its development, many enthusiasts couldnt believe that there was still room to improve the greatst Japanese Muscle car.  When the GT-R debuted though the performance ability was blistering and impressed everyone in the industry.  That was in 2007 when the Nissan GT-R was turning lap times of 7 minutes and 38 seconds around the Nurburgring.

With an additional 45 HP and shaving 12 seconds from its 2007 lap time, somehow, Nissan has managed to improve on what has already been called an unimaginable level of performance.  The last official lap time recorded was 7:26.70 but an even quicker lap of 7:24.22 this year.  2 seconds over a track as long as the ‘ring is mind boggling. 

Here it is, the all new and somehow improved 2012 Nissan GT-R:

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2011 Scion tC: Test Drive

Let me start by saying that this will not be your average car review. In fact, none of the reviews on Up-Shift will be. We’ve always been a group of driving enthusiasts, so the driving experience is always what is most important to us. That’s why I can say that after being let down by my test drive of the first-generation tC, I really wasn’t looking forward to driving the 2011 2nd Gen car. One thing I have learned from my adventures in automotive journalism though, is to never judge too quickly. After just one accumulated hour of driving in the 2011 Scion tC, I was again forced to change my opinions. In fact, looking back on my week with the 2011 model, the negatives were quite few.

The first mistake you would make when approaching the tC is to judge this book by its cover. Ok, you’re thinking it and I’m thinking it, so let’s just come right out and say it: the car is pretty ugly. Many people I showed the car to agree that the styling of the vehicle is simply off.

In my opinion, the original styling of the first generation tC was amazing. The car looked fantastic and all I ever wanted was for there to be a RWD version. For some reason though, 9 times out of 10 when you saw one on the road, it was being driven by a female. My wife even test drove one. Thus the first gen tC’s reputation as being a bit of a “chick car”. It’s understandable, then, that Toyota would make such a huge styling change in an effort to move away from that image and provide a sportier and more masculine-looking vehicle.

The most noteworthy feature that is mentioned repeatedly is the rather flat roofline. It’s such a departure from a typical arched roofline that it stands out like a sore thumb. This also gives the appearance of very long doors. However this is no optical illusion; the doors of the new model are very long indeed. But so are its windows which I was very pleased with thanks to the wide-sweeping field of vision they provide.

While we’re on the subject of visibility, some consideration had to be given to setting the side mirrors. The 2011 tC is the first car I have driven in a while that has a driving position that sits so low. This requires the mirrors to be angled up more than you would with the average car, leaving you with less ground to look at while backing up. It also requires a quick second glance to double check the mirrors before changing lanes. One thing I highly suggest is pulling in to a parking spot that faces a wall. Pulling in to parking spaces is a good way to get to know where the front of your vehicle is and will give you an idea of how far to the sides you can see with your mirrors. This little procedure is probably the quickest way to learn with the tC.

At this point you might get the impression that I’m not a fan of Scion’s new coupe. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the rest of this article will be dedicated to how awesome everything else about this car is and why I say you should definitely put the 2011 tC in your top three if you’re looking for a sporty coupe to put in the driveway.

Again, as an enthusiast that likes a driver-centric ride, I am more focused on what is important to a driver. So, if we’re being realistic, which you know we always are, you’re hardly ever going to take a lawn chair out to your front porch to sit and stare at a car like this. In fact, once you drive the tC, you’ll find every excuse to get behind the wheel. I was actually begged this week to take our other car, an ‘04 Mazda 3, instead of the Scion. I honestly never enjoyed getting out of the car. I very much looked forward to getting into it.

 

When the key is inserted and turned to the on position, you are greeted with a wonderful light show and needle dance which is just an opening act to an impressive headlining concert called starting the engine. A great sound is something that always pushes an enthusiast’s buttons. So, the fairly deep (though slightly constrained) throatiness from the 2.5L V4 says “Hello!” and lets you know right from jump street that your button is in for a lot of pushing.

I’m used to quick and peppy little sport compacts. In fact, I cut my teeth on them. So, I am used to the type of fun and seemingly endless grunt that was delivered by the tC. However, I am also used to having to wring every ounce of performance from small and underpowered low-compression engines. The 2AR-FE equipped tC comes with a 10.4:1 compression ratio. A ratio more commonly found on sport-tuned track cars. The 173lb-ft of this 2.5L gives you its business very early in the rev range, thanks to its much larger displacement. 180hp has no problem keeping this engine responsive at highway speeds. When it comes time to stand and deliver, the tC does so with no questions asked; all while keeping its promise of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

It seemed that for an entire 7 days the tC almost literally begged to be driven, and I didn’t give it an easy go of it. But even though I put the car through its paces every single day, I still ended up with a quarter of a tank of gas left. Let me stress this next statement. I know of no other car for sale right now that can be driven the way I did the tC for an entire week without needing to take a trip to the pump! In today’s world with the explosive growth of gas prices, this factor in and of itself is priceless.

I was also heavily impressed with the tCs scrub radius. Never heard of a Scrub Radius, huh? If you’re reading a review on this site, you’re a rather serious car enthusiast. So why should you care about it? Well, I won’t bother you with the details, but let’s just describe scrub radius as the amount of friction created on your tires’ contact patch when turning the steering wheel. You see, every tire has a limited amount of grip it can produce because its contact patch is limited. If a car has a high scrub radius it creates a lot of friction instead of traction. So the amount of available grip is basically eaten up, thanks to a poor suspension design. How do you know if you have a high or low scrub radius? Just sit with your vehicle stationary. Take one finger and try to turn the wheel. If you’re having a hard time, you have a high scrub radius. If your wheel turns with very little effort, you’re in a finely-tuned, purpose-built machine, much like the Scion tC.

This also means that the tires can do their job of taking the car around corners with far more grip and a much more confident feel, and any steering adjustments that you make are translated effortlessly. Feedback from the road is more direct and precise, allowing you to feel far more of the road than you could with the previous model or its competitors. This design is coupled with 18×7.5 255/45R18 tires, equipment you would expect to find on much more expensive, high-performance sports cars.

That combination of features, in my opinion, is the biggest reason to suggest to anyone who wants an extremely fun, yet very affordable, sport compact – take a serious look at the Scion tC.

 

The car we tested was equipped with an Alpine Premium HD Radio, iPod Ready CD deck, Bluetooth Hands-free system, Floormats and a Cargo Mat, a super expensive Rear Bumper Appliqué, and an XM Satellite Radio Kit. $1,422 worth of optional equipment as well as the $720 destination charge brought the price to $21,417. Now, one of the rules we set very early on when we established Up Shift is that a great vehicle should deliver a total package for no more than $20K. If you can do without the toys, the base price of $19,275 for the 2011 tC weighs in just under the limit. For only an extra $30 a month in payments though, you can be forgiven wanting to enjoy the finer things in sport compact life.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I really wasn’t looking forward to my week with the 2011 Scion tC. I came away blown away with what Scion has been able to produce. Don’t be surprised if you see the tC again, later this year, as a strong competitor for Up Shift’s Car of The Year.

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McLaren MP4-12C GT3 Breaks Cover to Complete First Tests

The first McLaren MP4-12C GT3 to be built by McLaren GT – a new company that brings together the expertise of the McLaren Group and CRS Racing – has successfully undertaken its debut tests at the MIRA proving ground facility and Silverstone Circuit in England. McLaren GT has also appointed a new test driver to its team, 26-year-old Portuguese racing driver Álvaro Parente. The initial shakedown tests undertaken with the 12C GT3, whereby new components are calibrated and bespoke aerodynamic body structures are appraised for the first time, will be followed by comprehensive tests scheduled throughout March and April at a number of FIA* certified circuits across Europe. News on the development programme, full driver line-up and planned competition for the 12C GT3 will be confirmed after these tests are completed.

Tesla Motors Launches New Washington, D.C. Store

 

It’s just after 5 AM on February 4th and I have an email in my inbox letting me know that Tesla Motors, after much anticipation, is opening their new location in Washington, D.C.  They want to know if I would like to “take another spin in the car”…

First of all, there is no way I would turn down another opportunity to drive what is quite possibly a turning point in automotive history.  Second, I had been looking for more of an opportunity to talk about the people and company that is Tesla Motors instead of just chatting about blinding performance.  After talking with Tesla VP of Communications, Ricardo Reyes, I found that they are focused at taking a serious, customer-centric stab at changing the face of automotive industry. 

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With over 3500 electric vehicles operating on the road today the company has established a toe hold on its goals of making every car electric.  A lofty goal if ever there were one.  However they currently supply battery packs and electric power trains to Toyota and Daimler/Mercedes.  They also have vehicles operating in the harshest of climates from the Arctic Circle to Arizona having logged almost 10 million electronically driven miles. 

True, hybrid electric vehicles have been around for ages helping to promote greener electric technologies.  However, having established themselves as the leader in electric vehicle technology, Tesla is taking the next step which is what this night was all about.    img_9479

Unfortunately it’s my understanding that once the Elise based Roadster is finished its contracted production run, it’s over.  For many it will be a sad bit of news but the truth of the matter is that the Roaster is simply one technology, modified to support another and in the long run isn’t considered to be the platform necessary to promote a permanent change in auto culture.  So the gears are moving to put a strong emphasis on the production of the Model S, a purpose built chassis designed specifically to support full electric vehicle technology.  To move forward with a system that will allow Tesla to get the most out of its technologies.  Having driven the roadster twice now it’s difficult to imagine what more they could extract in the way of performance however the numbers for the Model S hint at a shift from ragged edge performance to extended range and efficiency.

If you want a true electric vehicle with no compromises that is effective for the full range of daily uses Tesla will be your only option.  Making such a change to a vehicle like the Model S is why they will continue to be industry leaders in this field, simply because every other auto manufacturer will continue to try and adapt old chassis designed for propulsion by internal combustion.  And when the results of Tesla’s efforts take effect (i.e. making the technologies cheaper) most auto manufacturers will be off balance for quite some time and some kept that way possibly until we stop using petroleum based fuels. 

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I was honored to be included in such a moment in history.  For a long time electric cars have been discredited because of one fault or the other that have kept us from living our lives unchanged from an automotive standpoint, kept us from moving freely without compromise.  I truly believe though that Tesla’s establishing their Washington location is one more building block in the infrastructure needed to support its plans for the Model S which will go a long way toward changing the way we think, the way we look at the automobile and its capabilities and ultimately change the world itself. 

Here’s to a cleaner and more intelligent way of life.  Thank you, Tesla Motors.

Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 – A New Reference Among Super Sports Cars – New Video Available

With the Aventador LP 700-4, Automobili Lamborghini is redefining the very pinnacle of the world super sports car market brutal power, outstanding lightweight engineering and phenomenal handling precision are combined with peerless design and the very finest equipment to deliver an unparalleled driving experience. With the Aventador, Lamborghini is taking a big step into the future and building on the glorious history of the brand with the next automotive legend. The first customers will take delivery of the new Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 in late summer 2011. Available video includes general views, edited packages and new still images.
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McLaren Automotive and the Groundbreaking new MP4-12C: the Vision

The first MP4-12C production car entered the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) General Assembly Hall in Woking, England. A new £40m manufacturing facility, the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) is currently under construction adjacent to the MTC site, and will open in spring 2011. McLaren Automotive will transfer production of the 12C from the existing MTC assembly line to the MPC in April. A range of premium carbon-based high-performance sports cars from components that are bespoke, innovative and unique, will then start to be distributed to a dedicated network of 35 retailers in 19 countries around the world. With the new McLaren Production Centre fully operational, it is anticipated that McLaren will build up to 4,000 cars across its model range annually by the middle of the decade, a figure that will account for between three and four percent of the annual global market for premium sports cars.

New BMW E92 M3 Performance Exhaust

An M3 performance exhaust sounds like an oxymoron but BMW have done it yet again.

Made of Inconel Alloy, this new exhaust provides an amazing sound at nearly half the weight.  Because of its properties, Inconel construction allows the side walls of the M3 exhaust to be reduced from 1.5mm to .8mm, cutting nearly 20 lbs off the current exhaust.

M Performance parts are warranted for the New Vehicle Limited Warranty period when the installation occurs before the first delivery of a new vehicle. If the M Performance parts installation occurs after the first delivery, the accessory will be warranted for the balance of the New Vehicle Limited Warranty period or two years and unlimited mileage from the date of installation, whichever one is greater.

To be honest, the car has never sounded better.  But is it worth the $4,374?  See for yourself…

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Bentley Breaking The Ice…speed record

Four time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen achieved a new world record in the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible on the frozen waters of the Baltic Sea.

205.48 mph!

With AWD and a 6 Liter, 12 cylinders the Supersports convertible managed this feat on E85 bioethanol, demonstrating the companies dedication to C02 efficiency.  No easy task considering the minus 30 degree weather, sudden snow blizzards and potentially dangerous crosswinds.

How do you trust an over 2.5 ton missile?  Having se tthe record previously, Juha and a team of engineers set the car up with a fully welded roll cage and Pirelli Sotto Zero II 275/40/R20s.  Front and rear spoilers to provide optimum high speed stability as well as a rear bumper mounted parachute, in case of an emergency.

Having called this successful attempt an amazing feat, Bentley’s new Chairman and Chief Executive, Wolfgang Durheimer says that they will be celebrating the achievement with a very special “extreme” Bentley.  A limited edition of just 100 examples of this most extreme Bentley will be made and is scheduled to make its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1st.

GM Performance Parts to Auction First LSX454R Crate Engine

 If your a fan of big horse power you will want to tune into the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale event this month.

GM and the American Heart Association have partnered to auction off the companies production version of the LSX454R.  Thats right, I said production.  The LSX454R will be going into production as a crate engine.  Can you say “Gents Ready Made V-8s”?

Why so special?

Other than benefiting a very important cause the all-new LSX454R crate engine officially rates at 750 plus horsepower and 680 lb.-ft. of torque.

Developed by bringing together many of the specialized GMPP LSX parts racers are already using, including the robust LSX Bowtie block. It is a high-compression, solid-roller combination that uses new LSX DR 11-degree, six-bolt aluminum heads feature raised ports that provide tremendous airflow.  They are matched on the engine with an exclusive, all-new high-rise open-plenum intake manifold and a Holley 1,150-cfm Dominator carburetor.

GMPP engineers designed the LSX454R for the unique, high-rpm operations.  Which makes this a durable and usable 750 plus horsepower! 

GMPP’s presence at Barrett-Jackson also will include a display of crate engines, engine parts and project vehicles, including E-ROD emissions-compliant crate engine systems. The Lingenfelter custom ’55 Chevrolet pickup truck featuring the 5.3 E-ROD crate engine and the Superformance ’63 Grand Sport Vette with the LSA E-ROD crate engine will be showcased. Product experts will be on hand during the event’s Jan. 17-23 run, answering enthusiasts’ questions on how to build their own dream car.

The charity sale is scheduled for the evening of Friday, Jan. 21, and will be carried live on SPEED’s coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction. The engine carries lot number 1032.1 and bids can be submitted at the auction in person or online.

The all new production LSX454R Crate Engine

2011 Nissan Juke First Drive

I’m starting with a list of the Jukes negative aspects.  For all of you Juke haters it will be annoying, because it’s very short.  To all those who are excited about the Juke, don’t worry.  It’s kind of like pulling off a band-aid.  It’s over before you know it and you can get on with more important things.

First off let’s just state the obvious; it does have a face only a mother could love.  And the rear end is the same way.  No one can argue that.  But for some reason I really like the looks of the Juke, the same way that I love looking at Tilda Swinton…don’t judge.  There’s just something about them both that I find really attractive.

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Second of all, it’s just downright small.  One of the first things I did was jump in the passenger seat.  Not many reviewers think about that side of the car for some reason but I’ve had many opportunities to be in a passenger seat for extended periods so maybe it just stands out to me.  In order for me, a 5’10” AVERAGE SIZED guy…to be comfortable, I had to pull the seat all the way back.  Next stop was the rear seat behind it.  Like Vegas, it’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.  Spending any amount of time behind someone in the passenger seat of the Juke won’t endear you to this car at all.  Kind of makes the 6 large sized cup holders a little pointless.  Now here is why I don’t care about any of that.

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Many reviewers are talking about how the Juke will shake up the Crossover “Segment” when the truth of the matter is that The Juke really isn’t for the long family haul, or even for grocery getting.  In fact Nissan is in effect creating a new segment of Sports Cross.  Think Compact Utility Vehicle.  Throw in the obviously sporty influence added by the turbo and you have yourself a bonafied sports car. Here are the factors to consider.

When you sit in the Juke, regardless of what seat you’re in including the back, the first thing you notice is how firm yet comfortable they are.  Most cars are one or the other, super stiff because there maid of cardboard and fabric or ultra soft like sofa seats for a luxury ride.  The Juke brings a mix of both and support you with side bolsters meant to keep you centered in the seat.  Hmm…why would you need something to keep you in the middle of your seat?

After asking if there were any really nice country roads near my drive location I came across Ball Rd. which I believe was named after the set of equipment you need to drive on it.  In that environment the Juke lets you know exactly why Nissan built it.

In any one of the corners that day all you had to do was feed in just a little bit of the accelerator and the car actually hunkers a bit closer to the road and turns into the corner confidently.  A bit too confidently.  Also, because of how quickly the turbo spools you can easily find yourself going a lot faster than you want or intend to.  Any decent application of break actually starts to cause the Juke to very slowly yet very deliberately over-steer.  Normally any over-steer in passenger cars us tuned out by a manufacturer but for the Juke to be allowed this characteristic and for it to be as predictable as it was is superb.

This is all thanks to Nissans Torque Vectoring AWD or AWD-V.  Thru use of Wheel Speed sensors, Steering Angle sensors, Accelerator sensors, Yaw Rate sensor, a 4WD Controller and Compact Read Drive unit that acts as a differential the AWD-V is capable of going from a 50/0 front rear torque split to an almost infinite number of combinations between all wheels.  In a corner the outside rear wheel gets more torque to keep it planted which is what causes the car to hunker down and pull strongly thru a corner.

Add this technology to a turbo inline 4-cylinder that produces 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque and you have a very fun car indeed.  All while getting 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  Unfortunately I was having way too much fun with the Juke to realize those figures.

While back roads are fun, you aren’t really going to be on them all day.  Most of us have to put up with other drivers making a nasty thing called traffic.  And I have to admit, me and the Juke both share something in common when it comes to traffic.  We both hate it.  I dislike most drivers because most are pretty clueless about how to do it.  The Juke can’t stand it because it wants to start developing boost at 2,000 RPM.  It delivers full boost around 3,300k.  While in traffic you actually have to remind yourself to let off the gas pedal while driving the Juke.  It has more than enough juice on tap to get you moving but wants to keep it flowing well past when you no longer need it.  Great for passing and clearing intersections, not so much in light to light or stop and go traffic.

Then there are typical Nissan electronics to consider.  For whatever reason, it’s actually possible to turn off the car while it’s “in gear”.  I inadvertently did so when I finished my drive.  Please don’t do this and leave the car free to move about.

However I was impressed with one electrical feature.

It’s the silliest thing, but I can’t get over the way the words that tell you what button is what on the climate control actually changes to other words when switching from Climate Display to “D-Mode”.  They look like little tinted LCD screens that go from deep and rich amber to a glowing frosty white…in a button.  Nothing more than a flourish or a trinket, but one that I simply couldn’t get enough of.  I must have pressed those buttons some 20 times.

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There was one button though that I got absolutely annoyed with pushing over and over and over again.

In today’s “connected” world, hands-free technology is becoming more and more important.  So the Bluetooth connectivity in the Juke is especially important to take a look at.  Now I must say that when I got my phone paired up and established on a call me and my caller had nothing but praise for the experience.  Voices did not have to be raised to hear each other and the Juke gives almost no road noise to speak of.  On the other hand, you have to get to that point before you can enjoy it.

After pressing the hands-free activation button you are presented with menu options that help you get familiar with the system.  Then you press the activation button again and speak your command.  Then sit thru another list, press the activation button again and speak another command.  This repeats every time you decide to use the system.  Quite frankly if IM going to have to speak all of my commands anyway I would much rather avoid having to press a button every time I do it.  Much like the hands-free system I enjoyed in the Mitsubishi Outlander I enjoyed in November.

All in all the all new 2011 Nissan Juke is a joy to drive, screams individuality and surprises you at every turn…depending on how deep your foot is in the accelerator.  I have to be honest when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My love of cars over the years has been greatly refined and there are a few essentials I need in order to enjoy my driving experience.  Because of that I am a very picky person that is really hard to please when it comes to cars.  To be honest, with the Juke, I had to use two hands to count how many times I thought about sitting down at a table with a sales rep when I got back.

So do yourself a favor.  Go drive the Nissan Juke yesterday.  But please leave your checkbook as this is a very hard one to resist.

Visit the guys at for more information on how you can test drive the Nissan Juke and enjoy pictures from our test drive below.