How do you fancy owning your own underwater "limousine"? The U-Boat Worx-Explorer offers autonomy, freedom and 360-degree vision from its domed acrylic pressure hull. It can cruise at three knots and up to a depth of 300 meters and even boasts an air-conditioning system too. The only thing is, you'll probably need a yacht to go with it.
Thanks in no small part to a host of Hollywood celebrity endorsements, hybrid vehicles have stolen most of the green-motoring headlines in recent years. I've always been a big fan of hybrids, but having spent a week with the 2013 Chevrolet Volt for the daily urban-suburban commute, can totally see why it was the best-selling plug-in car of 2012. Come the end of the week, the keys were handed back reluctantly.
Read more after the jump.
A five-door hatchback, the Chevy Volt boasts nice curves, is bursting with personality and offers a fun, smooth and quiet ride. The ingenious design uses a primary motor, powered by a substantial lithium-ion battery pack, which ticks over until the juice runs dry. The sophisticated electric drivetrain, Voltec, powers the front wheels and when the charge is flat, automatically switches to a four-cylinder gasoline engine – eliminating the need to stop, plug-in and top-up. A single charge, says Chevy, should take you 38 miles, and combined with the 9.3-gallon tank, a more-than-ample 375. Peace of mind for green-minded drivers worried about those long hauls.
The Volt lasted a full two days on the streets of the Windy City, with heavy use of the heat and tech, averaging about 31 miles on the battery. Forty miles into the third day, the transition from electric to gas power was seamless, the silence of the electronics replaced by a barely noticeable purr. I headed to a commercial charging station to replenish the depleted battery at a high-voltage Level 2, 240VAC point, but the thought of twiddling my thumbs for four hours soon proved too much to bear and so I headed on home to leave her plugged into the 110VAC garage outlet overnight.
The Volt handles nicely, and even when running purely on electric, never feels underpowered. It keeps up with all the petrol guzzlers on the streets and highways, where it attracted the odd admiring glance. Certainly the handling is as good as the majority of hatchbacks I’ve tested and performance-wise, the Volt more than holds its own against a typical gas-powered sedan. The torque is satisfying, and though it could use bit more driver feedback, the steering, by and large, is responsive. For that extra zip, switch to the Sports mode. It uses a little more power but injects a little more fun into those monotonous commutes.
Inside, there’s plenty for the technophiles. My test vehicle boasted a keyless ignition with push button start, seven-inch color LCD screen instrumentation, steering wheel controls, a seven-inch center console touch-screen and touch-sensitive center stack controls. There was climate and cruise control, sumptuous heated leather/suede seats, Bluetooth connectivity, MyLink audio, OnStar and satellite navigation. I love a good tune and was mightily impressed by the thumping Bose speakers and but was disappointed that there was no back-up camera or parking sensors (spaces, when you eventually find them, can be a real squeeze in Chicago). However, inside it is pretty faultless. The cabin is well designed, the quality enhanced by sporty details and a total lack of that cheap-looking plastic that seems to plague so many of its contemporaries.
There are some nice practical touches too. There’s plenty of head and legroom in the front seats and the hatchback is generously proportioned with a 40/60 split folding rear seat. The Volt accommodates coffee-lovers and all the family’s beverage needs with a couple of cup holders up front next to the arm rest, two to the back sides and a central cubby.
The lack of parking-assistance aside, there were a couple of other grumbles. The split rear window can sometimes be confusing and there’s not really enough room in the back for two decent sized adults. I strapped a child seat in the back passenger side and my two-year old easily – and frequently – managed to kick the passenger seat. The cowl too, aerodynamically looks splendid, but it’s so low that it scraped every speed bump, side walk and parking space tire stop. Last, as cool as the touch-sensitive center console is, it’s button-heavy and can be difficult to use while driving.
At $39,000 for the basic and stretching beyond $43,000 fully loaded, the Volt isn't cheap. Also, if you opt for a Level 2 outlet installation in your garage, expect to pay a further two grand. On the plus side, it does include a generous 8-year/100,000 mile warranty, and thanks to its solid build quality, impressive performance, it will return its value over time. You’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet too of course, and it’s not like you can put a price on that.
Batmobile-meets-Knight Rider-meets-supercar, the Lamborghini Veneno may just be the slickest, coolest ride that we've ever seen. Ridiculously lightweight, the construction is mainly carbon fiber, both inside and out, and boasts a fast-shifting 7-speed transmission with permanent all-wheel drive. The 12-cylinder 6.5 liter engine will take you to sixty in less than three seconds. A racing car that's (just about) street-legal.
The next step in the automotive evolutionary change just occurred with the Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition. Lose the primate vehicle you’ve been driving and upgrade to the rear-wheel drive speedster with racing suspension and a 1750 turbo engine. This is what happens when the automotive industry gets up off of all fours and walks on two feet.
Details are scarce at present though we're certainly loving its menacing curves. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee will pack a powerful 3.2 liter V6 engine based on that of the Chrysler 3.6 liter Pentastar and a brand new 9-speed front wheel drive automatic transmission courtesy of ZF Friedrichshafen. Word is that production will begin in May.
If you think hybrid cars are slow, wait til you see the LaFerrari. Outfitted with a 6.26-liter, non-turbo, V-12 gas engine rate at 800 hp paired with a 163 hp electric motor, Ferrari's new limited-edition gas-electric hybrid supercar can go from 0-62 in less than 3 seconds, 0-124 in less than 7 seconds, 0-186 mph in 15 seconds. No price yet, but I'm sure it's going to cost a hefty sum to own one of these beast.
Another classy number from the German motoring giants. The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG boasts a 2 liter turbo charged engine capable of generating 360 hp that will do nought to 60 in 4.5 seconds, tailing off at 155 mph. A sporty five door hatchback, it incorporates the A-Class' suspension and steering systems and funky black wheels with contrasting red brake calipers. Kudos Mercedes. Again.
It houses one of the most advanced engines on earth, a 12 cylinder 552hl 6 liter powertrain that will thrust your from stop to sixty in less than 5 seconds, peaking at 194 mph. The interior of the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur is graced with polished natural wood veneers, soft, creaking hand-stitched leather and boatload of high-end technical wizardry. Quite simply, the epitome of luxury, class and style.
The curves have gone, replaced with an all-American lumberjack-like chiseled look and we love it. The 2014 Toyota Tundra will be available in a range from 4 to 5.7 liter V6 or V8 engines with a 5 or 6 speed automatic transmission and a top tow capability of a whopping 10,400 lbs. The inside has had a luxurious makeover, premium platinum trims are available, but our favorite is the saddle brown leather seats with contrasting suede trim, cowboy-style.
With a 6.2 liter V8 engine that will generate a mammoth 507hp and get you from stop to sixty in a shade over 4 seconds, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Edition 507 boasts specs to match its take-no-prisoners looks. The matte grey paint and black alloys add to its menace, with some nifty red calipers for a nice contrasting splash of color.