“Have you driven the new Jetta Hybrid?” popped up in my Faceache message box. It came from Captain Leslie, an E-3 Sentry driver, consummate professional, a current Jetta TDI pilot (with a manual), and friend from a tour in the Middle East and Oklahoma City. Unable to resist her profile smile, I went in search […]
Posts By: Mike Solowiow
According to the “Infinite Monkey Theorem”, if you lock three monkeys in a room with typewriters for infinity, eventually they will produce Hamlet. By the same measure, should you lock three engineers in a room for infinity, eventually they will produce the perfect car. Ford has seemingly absorbed this philosophy through their European division, however, as most theorems go, instead of a the perfect car, they produced “Aston Martin Rapide part Deux, the Budget Restrained Sequel”.
Hello TTAC! For those who wondered where I went, I’m back from my global tour with the USAF. I am back in my native West Texas, attending Texas Tech University in pursuit of a Mechanical Engineering degree. As a break from finals, I test drove the best selling car in the US, with a decidedly continental Captain Solo slant. Thus far, I have consumed two overpriced lattes and wandered around Lubbock for 45 minutes in an attempt to organize my thoughts and come towards an unbiased conclusion about the baffling Toyota Camry.
Coming home from work, I tend to get used to seeing various prototypes driving around, and cutting me off, after all, I’m only in a little white Peugeot 205 GTI, barely worth mentioning when it comes to the sheer amount of exclusive metal running around the Nurburgring. However, today, I spied some prototypes that you never see during the day running freely around city streets, namely, the testers from BMW and Porsche. Reclusive beasts they are, Dale Lomas from Bridge-to-Gantry, and my friend was able to nab several shots of the latest salvos from southern Germany while I only managed one hazy shot from an iPhone while trying not to pilot my little Pug into a lightpole.
The glare I received from the 997 GT3 RS driver was classical mix of shock and anger. His confused facial expression was not the result of me cutting him off, blocking his driving line, or any other error of vehicular piloting. I simply rocketed past him upon the exit of Aremberg on the Nurburgring due to two factors: I knew the track better, and I was behind the wheel of the second most impressive offering from Renaultsport, the Clio 200 Cup. (Read More…)
I discovered the French sense of humor piloting the new Renault Megane 250 Cup through the Scottish Highlands. When I inadvertently induced a lift-off oversteer situation, I found myself staring at an oncoming tractor through a strategically placed EuroNCAP 5-star crash rating sticker on the windscreen. The team at Renaultsport might have made one of […]
Dave Garrad personifies the word “hoon”. When I first met him in the smoke and beer filled haze of the Gemutliche Ecke (Translation: Comfy Corner) in Adenau, Germany, he was attempting a maneuver called The Lunge. There’s never a dull moment around Dave. Naturally, I immediately considered him for the last English caretaker of TTAC’s Ford Sierra project, before its journey to Germany and (ultimately) Houston. Upon our (Panther-lovin’) man Dereck’s delivery of the Sierra to his abode northeast of London, Dave remarked at how glorious the brown upon brown scheme truly was. His wife Helen refuses to ride in the chocolate-toned thing, lest her unborn baby develop unnatural tendencies.
No story should ever start, as this one does, with “my First Rover Metro.” The implication that there are more Metros to come is all too obvious, and could probably be best categorized as a “cry for help.” In any case, my first Rover Metro was a teal 1995 1.1L Kensington edition, purchased for £60 from a friend in Bishop-Stortford. The Kensington edition meant I got shards of carpet over the door panels, and the kind of pizzazz that only an engineer from Coventry would be able to come up with. The Metro lasted only 19 hours in my hands before a brake failure led to its demise into the back of a yellow Hyundai. My second Rover Metro was a 1997 Tahiti Blue 1.1L Ascot edition*, which meant I got full wheel covers and blue piping in the velour. This only accelerated my descent into the world of English motoring, where I found joy and fulfillment in the death rattle of a Rover K-series engine.
*astute readers will recall that both vehicles are technically Rover 100’s, but are always remembered in pop culture as the Metro.
I’m going drifting. I’m going drifting dressed in the finest English brown velour ever to roll out of Dagenham, England. I’m going drifting in what this week’s Curbside Classic should have been, a 1983 Ford Sierra. And with that, I rejoin TTAC after a long hiatus due to our wonderful country sending me to various deserts to hunt for Osama bin Laden.
I have survived, although my Hilux did not after one ill-placed Taliban rocket sent shrapnel through the radiator. I also relish returning to write for one of the finest audiences I know, the Best and Brightest.
The Porsche GT3 RS with its wildly painted orange wheels was not going to let me past, despite my flashing headlights of protest. Why should he? I was in a mild-mannered Carrera S, devoid of any go fast wings or air ducts. I resigned myself to trying to gain momentum over him before we entered the Flugpatz, where the wider bit of road would provide a much safer passing zone and keep me from joining the purple Peugeot 206 we had just passed at Hatzenbach in the Armco barriers. I needn’t wait so long, as in my mirror, four “angel-eye” rings glared at me from the nefarious BMW M5 ‘Ring Taxi. I put on my right-turn signal, let her pass, and then squeezed the accelerator in order to whip past the Orange Swedish Porker. Let the games begin, for I was on my 100th lap, and it was time for a joust with Sabine Schmitt in our Deutsche Chariots of Terror.
Ecco! Ferrari edition Fiat 500 prototype spotted in the wild. It’s preproduction, 180bhp, Ferrari authorized (with Ferrari shifter), for only 40,000€. It was supposed to be covered up, but being an American, I accidentally pulled the cover off trying to get a BMW CSL out. It was sighted at a racing company in Kelburg, next to the Nurburgring. The owner of the racing shop said it’s overpriced, but drives like a demon.
Last year, Fiat delivered 200 Fiat 500 Ferrari editions to Ferrari dealers for customers to use as courtesy cars while their F430 Scuderia (or whatever) was in for service. However, what was parked casually in the corner, is something completely different. Abarth, in conjunction with Ferrari (styling) tuned this little beast up from its original 100bhp to the screaming 180bhp claimed. A Renault Clio Cup, Megane R26.R, and similar creations all run low 8-minute Bridge-to-Gantry times with a good driver, so a sub-8 minute BTG time for the wickedest 500 yet should be possible… with slicks, and not the street tires fitted to this prototype.
The propaganda literature that accompanied the little batch of sleeping pills—complete with a waiver absolving the USAF of all liability—promised that I would awake refreshed and ready to battle desert ninjas. Sure enough, I awoke alert. But mentally, I wasn’t all there. I was fully aware of my full potential, and could access it at will, but there was a disconcerting disconnect. No, I didn’t drive the Cayman PDK in this altered state. It’s the same feeling created by the German two-door. Yes, the paddle-shift Cayman is a full-on Porsche. It offers precise handling, a jewel of an engine and magnificent brakes. Yet the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe stood in the way of the Porker’s legendary man – machine interface. It created dynamic doubts that I’ve never experienced in a Porsche before.
In order to show visiting US Air Force Academy cadets the wonders of Europe, I ditched my Carrera, whose back seats are merely a nice gesture, for a lumbering Mercedes-Benz GLK. After four hours of driving the speed limited Autoroutes, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, to throngs of drunk rugby fans celebrating the USAP win that day. Leaving the Mardi Gras spectacle we wandered around the veritable maze of streets that constitute the Seventh Arrondissement. Dodging rugby hooligans whose intentions seemed suspect (as some of us were wearing the opposing team colors), I never expected to stumble upon something so beautiful, so elegant, so alien as a 1955 Bentley S1 Fastback Mulliner parked on a curb in a hidden away section of Paris.
I realized I was airborne when my steering inputs had no effect on the direction of my Carrera. At the point the ass-engine configured rocketship started its atmospheric re-entry, several things went through my mind. If the rear-end breaks loose, do I keep my foot down? What happens if I lose it? Am I going to crash? When the rear tires made contact with terra-nurburg, and I was able to counter steer in a brilliant fashion (what really happened was Porsche Active Stability Management once again made me a driving god), all thoughts of impaling my Porker into the Armco ceased,. Once again, I was driving the dream and having the time of my life on the most legendary driving circuit in the world, the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
I love the way the Volkswagen CC looks. It’s a perfectly proportioned pastiche of everything I admire about BMW, Mercedes and Audi design. The CC is as handsome as the priced-to-fail Phaeton, only more so. Inside, the seats alone are worth the price of admission: firm yet endlessly supportive. The CC’s toy count is high, the price affordable. And, yet, something’s missing. Other than reliability. It’s that vital mojo that makes the Jaguar XF such a joy to behold, and the Mercedes-Benz CLS the ultimate boulevardier. Let’s call it . . . an automatic gearbox.