To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, the legendary Bentley is releasing a couple of special models in their Mulsanne and Continental ranges. Inspired by the company's six victories at the event, the Bentley Le Mans Limited Editions will boast a unique numbered badge, clock face, headrests embroidered with the Le Mans badge and unique wheels. There'll be a host of paintjobs and interior finishes to choose from, and all are exclusive to North America.
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.
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.
Thunderclap of amazing claim the makers, and we're inclined to agree. Under the hood of the 2014 Cadillac CTS is a twin-turbo engine capable of generating 420hp and its eight-speed automatic paddle shift transmission is one of the best on the market. Its athletic prowess is further enhanced by its part-aluminum ultra-lightweight chasis. Magnetic Ride Control is now available on all models too.
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.
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.
How does nought to sixty in three and a half seconds sound? The monstrous 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG 4Matic houses a 5.5 liter AMG V8 BiTurbo engine that will not only give most supercars a darn good run for their money, but will outperform a good few motorbikes too. All-wheel-drive as standard and available as a sedan or wagon.
So beautifully shaped, it's almost liquid-like, the 2014 Infiniti Q50, the replacement of the G37, is available as a gas-electric hybrid powertrain or 3.7 liter V6 with a choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive. Boasting sports car credentials, but with room for the family, its interior standards include intelligent key technology, active noise control, Bluetooth hands-free calling and a choice of aluminium or real maple wood trim.
We're big fans of Audi at GearCulture, and the 2013 Audi RS6 Avant has us very excited. The hood hides a 4 liter TFSI V8 twin scroll supercharged engine, 560 hp and it will get you to 60mph in 4 seconds. At an impressive 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor, it's not only faster, but 40% more eco-friendly too. The sport suspension, exhaust, dynamic steering, 21 inch wheels and carbon fiber ceramic brakes means it'll be one of the smoothest rides out there.
A thunderclap of a motorcar and the fiercest sedan that the company has ever produced. The 2014 Jaguar XFR-S boasts a supercharged 5 liter V8 engine with 550hp and the 8 speed ZF transmission will get your from stop to sixty in a little over 4 seconds. There'll only be 100 made for the US, so you'd better get in quick.