M, RS, V, F, AMG. The alpha alphabet represents five manufacturers’ best efforts to create something unique, exciting and memorable from their more prosaic mainstream motors. The resulting “performance tuned” sports sedans are so powerful, so capable, so versatile, that they’re the ground based equivalent of the all-weather fighter jets that battle for control of the skies. While the shibboleth “there’s no such thing as a bad car” applies here, there are always going to be winners and losers. And it’s our job to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Posts By: Mike Solowiow
Breathe. Remember this when you drive the Cadillac CTS-V. No matter what happens, continue to breathe, lest you fall victim to what us aviators call G-LOCing, or G-Force Loss-of-Consciousness. Steady, rhythmic breaths will help your body cope with the stresses induced by a four-door sedan capable of hurtling your fragile, carbon based body into speeds that challenge the Theory of Relativity. Entering hyperspace, where the gravity wells of passing stars actually start to affect the navigation system of the CTS-V, you might forget this simple fact, pass out, and crash the American built sports sedan that beats its German competitors into submission.
Living in Breckenridge, Colorado, you need some sort of All-Wheel Drive setup. Snow remains the small town’s primary reason to exist. This explains the multitudes of Subarus, Audis, Volvos, and SUVs all equipped with four wheel motivation. Most drive away blissfully unaware of how recent this feature came to market (as little as 27 years ago). In 1980, Audi introduced the first permanently engaged all-wheel drive system in the Audi Quattro. Prior to this, all vehicles had a part-time system where only two wheels were driven most of the time, requiring driver intervention should the going get slippery. Audi changed all this by putting one driveshaft inside the other, saving space and weight and making it possible for a complex, permanently engaged system to function on a small car. Vorsprung durch Technik, baby!
When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.
Trying to eke out the best mileage whilst in a major city proves difficult. Trying to get the best mileage possible while on the Strip in Las Vegas proves downright impossible. No matter, as my car has Oklahoma plates and I’m in the biggest tourist destination in Nevada. So I consign myself to appear confused and lost as I trundle down to the Mandalay Bay for their awesome buffet.
For this section of the trip to make any sense, I must tell you a story, an important story allowing you a view into one of the Air Force’s most hallowed legends. The story of a bourbon whiskey called Jeremiah Weed, a fighter pilot, a young lieutenant, and how it all involves a Porsche Cayenne and a pursuit for hypermileage….
My hypermiling techniques failed; my overall average dipped to 43mpg over the leg from Gallup, New Mexico into Las Vegas, Nevada. However, despite my overall drop in economy, fate conspired against me (I’m a victim of coicomstance! Nyaaaaaaaaa). Strong head winds, snow, traffic, fast food, blown tires and deer; they all conspired against my pursuit of incredible fuel economy. Despite today’s trials, the dirty Jetta TDI Eco-Racer caused quite a stir as it limped into the valet lane at the Bellagio Hotel, more likely due to the strangeness of a magnet laden Volkswagen rather than outright coolness.
When the aircraft touched down in Oklahoma after a 36 hour journey from Abu Dhabi, my entire unit clapped in elation. We couldn’t stop smiling as we deplaned the plane, and my Commander shook my hand and say, “Welcome back, thanks for all you did, and don’t do anything stupid on your vacation.” So what better to do to celebrate my return to the greatest nation on the Earth, than create a race!
Our illustrious Editor-in-Chief predicts the death of the manual transmission. The “stick-shift is toast,” Farago says, in his own special way. I disagree. If you want to go fast, get a paddle shift automated manual, a la Nissan GT-R. Time and again, the little levers have proven to be the fastest way to get around a track. Want easy breezy beautiful Orange County commuting? Get a traditional automatic. But if you want to maximize the man machine interface, nothing beats a manual. Three pedals can enliven the most leaden of automobiles. To wit: the Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport.
Seven days and I’ll be back in the United States, having bid my farewell to the Middle East (but knowing I will return). As the countdown commences, I eagerly anticipate driving something without a Toyota badge on it, and possibly buying something interesting with all the money I have saved eating government food (and some sand). These past many months I have pored over eBay, Autotrader, and mobile.de (German used car site, check it out, forbidden gems!). After looking at the multitudes of steel out there, I wondered something… what could I get that would have oodles of character, the shades of a future classic, and not cost too much. So I present, Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy:
60 Minutes nearly killed Audi in North America. After “Unintended Acceleration in the Audi 5000” aired in 1986, Audi sales dropped from 74k sales a year in 1986 to less than 12k by 1991. Sales remained constant until 1996, when Audi debuted a car that would finally tackle the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-Class […]
I stood there with a look on my face as if I had been bitch-slapped by a Charlie’s Angel. What was this glorious ode to a time when spandex was the cutting edge of fashion and posters of Xanadu were still on theatre walls? I couldn’t get over the swoopy Mustang II knock-off lines, the flared nostril quad headlights, and the paint; the glorious, sparkling gold paint that arced through the black body, complete with matching gold rims. I had stumbled upon something most people have forgotten, a 1977 Buick Nighthawk, a special edition Skyhawk, parked beside Route 66, begging for someone to take her home.