Historically, Germany has always had the monopoly on entry-level luxury sport-sedans for the simple reason, as much as we hate to admit it, that they've always done it best. So we were rather excited about the opportunity to spend a week with our very own home-grown upstart, the 2013 Cadillac ATS, to see whether it could cut the mustard against the likes of the glorious Audi A4, Beemer's legendary 3-series and the iconic Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We certainly liked the look of it, which was a good start.
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Staying true to Caddy's design heritage, there are no swooping curves or pretentious lines with the ATS, its myriad details are pleasantly understated. Up front, the prominent grill is nestled between a pair of headlights with vertical daytime running that's mesmeric. The rolling shoulders and reduced stance, which provides a low center of gravity, offer an air of growling menace, complimented by an elegant back-end which incorporates Cadillac's signature vertical tail lights and center mounted brake light that ingeniously doubles-up as a spoiler, the benefits of which you can really feel in the handling.
Engine choices include a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 202HP up to a 3.6-liter V6 with 321 stallions. We were given the 2-liter 4-cylinder with a twin scroll turbo direct injection, mated to 6-speed automatic transmission. It generates 272HP and 260 feet-pound torque and gets from stop to sixty shy of six seconds, which is a whole lot of fun. We found the MPG respectable, getting around 20 in the city and a further ten stretching her legs out on the highway.
The ATS feels nimble and eager to please, with great responsiveness and excellent steering. It's a vehicle that you always feel well in control of, obedient like your loyal four-legged friend. Line her up, and she'll go there with no hesitation, and with plenty of road feedback. Switch to Sport mode for bit more zip, it'll lower the MPG a little, but hey, with a ride like this, you gotta have your fun.
Inside, Caddy have outdone themselves. Premium finishes include luxurious French-stitched leather seating and carbon-fiber trim. The vibe is akin to a jet-fighter cockpit, with the alluring glow of the CUE, Cadillac's table-like controller, giving off a soft blue hue from the center console. It's a vast improvement on the cumbersome knobs and buttons of the previous models. Like your very own Flight of the Navigator, CUE works all manner of features such as the audio, navigation, phone calls and temperature. It can even access your smartphone apps. The positioning of the sensor which brings up the menu when tapped is ideal, and the haptic feedback to let you know when a selection has been made also works well. However, we did feel that the swipe, tap and pinch function was slightly off, there always appeared to be a split-second delay with the requests which could be off-putting. Touch sensitive buttons complement the CUE nicely and the icons are a breeze to understand at a glance.
A host of safety features include a warning in the form of a red flashing above the dash light should you continue to press the gas with stopped cars ahead, a lane-departure alert and adaptive-cruise control (which we didn't get to use). The blind spot assist offers further peace of mind as does the back-up camera along with three-side detection front and back parking assist for those tight city squeezes. When the sensors around the car are triggered, there comes a buzz of haptic feedback which is built into the seat. CUE can also be operated via an inbuilt rocker switched affixed to the steering wheel, or even via the Natural Voice Recognition system to input street addresses, tune the radio and take and make calls. It leaves your hands free to concentrate on the most important thing when in control of the car.
To sum up, it's car you'll be proud to be seen in, luxurious, athletic and chocked full of gadgets. Though we had a couple of minor issues with CUE, overall it's a great system and at the very least has laid the foundations for even more impressive wizardry come the next generation. You can pick up the basic model for $33,990, but for all the perks and quirks expect a $55,000 bill. But better than a Beemer? Well, it'll certainly give the Europeans pause for thought. Over to you, Germany.
A thundering, rip-roaring animal, the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 houses a 7-liter LS7 V8 engine with 500HP and 470Lb-ft of torque. The intake valve and connecting rods are forged from titanium and the 6-speed manual transmission features close-ratio gearing for optimum power. It looks so magnificent that it's the kind of car Hollywood would choose to turn into a cool robot for a blockbuster science-fiction movie. Oh wait, they did.
An automobile built for the racetrack with looks to match. The 2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT boasts a fine tuned 5-liter supercharged V8 engine that will generate 550hp and 502 pound-feet of torque. Features include carbon ceramic brakes, a stupendous rear wing, ventilated hood, active exhaust and Pirelli Corsa tires. If you see this in your rear view mirror on the freeway, move over fast.
The most focused, agile and responsive XJ ever made, according to its makers and there's plenty to back them up. The 2014 Jaguar XJR is equipped with an improved direct-injected supercharged 5-liter V8, with a whopping 550HP and 502 lb-ft of torque. It'll reach a top speed of 174mph, the first 60 in a more-than-respectable 4.4 seconds. Of course, the interior is as sumptuous as you'd expect from a Jag, with leather upholstery, suede trim and carbon fiber veneers.
A gorgeous blend of the coupe and X3, the BMW X4 Concept retains the iconic kidney grilles, bordered with black gloss chrome. Sloping fenders add to its athletic prowess, as do the funky 21-inch light alloy wheels with a bi-color finish. It'll be powered by Beemer's XDrive all-wheel system and word is that its engine will be along the lines of the X3's with a 3-liter diesel also in the running.
We all go through that revaluation stage as we approach our 30th birthday. Take stock of our lives, wonder what improvements we can make and what dead wood needs to be shed. As it approaches its third decade of existence, it seems that even the 2014 Toyota 4Runner is no different. Not that it had that much dead wood to lose, but there are certainly some cool additions. The most rugged of mid-size SUVs has gotten stronger, smarter and sexier to boot.
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There are three models available: the SR5, the luxurious Limited and the raring-to-go-off-road Trail. You can choose from 4x2 or all-wheel drive and the standard engine is a 4-liter 279HP V6 with an automatic five-speed transmission. Its 278 pounds-feet of torque is optimized by Dual independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence. Expect 17mpg in the city and four or five more on the highway, depending on your choice of drive. Standard throughout the range is a towbar with a 5,000lb capacity and a roof-rack up top.
The double-wishbone independent front suspension, along with variable flow rack-and-pinion steering makes for great handling and the four-link rear suspension makes for a smooth ride too. Opting for the 4x4 means you’ll get the A-Trac system which distributes driving force to any wheel touching the ground, handy for off-road shenanigans. Hill assist comes as standard and for the Trail add the CRAWL and multi-terrain select systems to the list.
As for the wheels, the Trail and SR5 ride on 17-inch alloys with an all-new design while the limited boasts 20-inch alloy treads finished in a cool matte black. Up front sits a muscular grille between a pair of smoked headlamps that offer an air of gorgeously majestic menace. You get more bling for your buck with the Limited model, its grille is chrome plated, as are its side moldings, rear bumper and roof-rack. New additions to the 4Runner’s paint-job are Super White, Altitude Black Metallic, Barcelona Red Metallic and Nautical Blue Metallic. It’s equipped with a smart key system, and a 120V outlet and a pair of 12s are fitted as standard.
Inside, the SR5 and Trail are furnished with Soft Touch door trim and steering wheel and shift-stick finished in leather. The SR5 also houses a cool highly visible Optitron instrumental panel for the speedometer, tachometer, voltage reader and fuel and temperatures gauges. Its Eco-Driving feedback system allows you to keep track of your consumption while on the go. The Trail has an easy-to-reach overhead console for its off-road controls, along with a compass and outside temperature display. Both the models have standard fabric-trimmed seating while those who opt for the Limited will be rewarded with sumptuous leather. In all three, the second row of seating folds flat. The Trail and SR5 come with the marvellous Entune multimedia system, and premium goodies of the Limited include a 7-inch monitor, 15 speakers and navigation.
As always, the 4Runner promises to keep you safe with a host of features such as Toyota’s standard Star Safety system with Vehicle Stability Control, anti-lock brakes and brake assist. Eight airbags are fitted as standard, covering you from all directions. Among the Limited’s extras are Automatic Collision Notification, an SOS button, Roadside Assist, and, should you be unfortunate enough to have your brand new gleaming ride pinched, the Stolen Vehicle Location system will track it down in no time.
Achingly cool and bursting with character, the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 404 Unimog is as tough as it is old. An icon of off-roading, this unstoppable beast features among many things, portal axles, front and rear differential locks, shift on the fly 4x4 and a whopping 17 inches of ground clearance. With an astonishing low center of gravity, it puts even the likes of the Land Rover Defender 90 in the shade. Here's your chance to own a true motoring legend.
The ultimate sports sedan has had a "green" makeover, with the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Enjoy the perks of a Porsche with your eco-conscious in tact, for this boasts a 95hp electric motor with a range of 20 miles and a top speed of 84 miles per hour. When that runs dry, switch to the 3-liter twin turbo V6 that will do 167 mph, the first 60 in just over five seconds. That bit's not so green, though.
Performance wise, this maker has few peers, though they haven't always produced the most aesthetically pleasing of rides. Untill now. The Subaru WRX Concept is an angular, angry, menacing looking beast of a ride. A muscular sedan, its roof is comprized of carbon fiber to reduce weight and lower its center of gravity and it boasts a turbocharged engine, intercooler and quad tailpipes. Let's hope it doesn't remain simply a concept.
It's kind of difficult to not always gush over Audi, especailly when they keep rolling out rides like this. The 2014 Audi RS 7 is a sizeable 5-door coupe that houses a twin-turbo V8 engine of 560hp. It'll take you to sixty in around 4 seconds and reach a top speed just shy of 190 mph. Features include mammoth disc brakes, air suspension and dynamic ride control. And it looks beautiful too.