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Hop back to the distant (or not so distant) days of high school. Remember the complex universe that is class dynamics? Each class had its typical individuals. There was that all-around kind of guy. Perfect looks, perfect grades, perfect girlfriend. Maybe a little boring, but who cares when you can passionately discuss Fermat’s last theorem at your own leisure?
Then there was the troublemaker: not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but always a lot of fun to hang out with during sleepless nights. Not that your mom would approve.
But tucked away into the darkest, farthermost corner of the classroom was that quiet kid that could stay utterly silent for days, and when he finally had something to say, he murmured it a hushed tone that even the teacher ignored. This, believe it or not, brings us neatly into the subject of the new Fiat Bravo. Read More >
Today’s tester is a Red Alfa Romeo. So I really shouldn’t be telling you how its name is derived from the cities of Milano and Torino. I shouldn’t be revealing that it’s based on the Fiat Punto and I really needn’t elaborate about its underhood gadgetry, because in days of yore, “Red” was all you needed to know about an Alfa Romeo. On the other hand, to paraphrase Dylan, things have changed.
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Retro cars sell on looks. Take the Chrysler PT Cruiser as an example – automotive perfection it wasn’t, and yet it sold like iPods on a Black Friday. Others, like the Mini Cooper, proved that retro cars can look like the past and drive like the present. But worth driving or not, almost every retro car introduced over the last few years has been a marketing sensation, bringing easy revenue and much-needed customers into an otherwise dull product line, and reviving deserted showrooms. No surprise, then, that upon reviewing the stellar sales of the Ford Mustang, Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen New Beetle, Fiat’s chiefs in Torino decided that it was time to launch a true Italian vendetta. It didn’t take long to find inspiration: the instant choice was the Fiat 500.
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I’m anything but a Trekkie, but a recent drive in the Tesla Roadster made me think of the Starship Enterprise. To be more precise, the Enterprise a second after warp speed has been deployed. Imagine for a moment that your brain is Captain Kirk and the “gas” pedal is Scotty. When Scotty receives the warp factor order and flips the fast switch, something very weird and very breathtaking happens. On the Starship, as in the Tesla.
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There’s a big difference between myself and Lotus founder Colin Chapman. When I change a flat tire, I find that I have two lug nuts left over. Chapman could create fully functioning sports/racing cars out of the detritus found in the average kitchen junk drawer. One-handed. While sipping tea. The Lotus Seven—later Super 7—is perhaps the best-known and longest-lasting example of his Frankensteinian genius. Debuting in 1957 and running on to 1973 (when Caterham Cars grabbed the baton), the 7 has undergone decades of continuous development. Yet is essentially the same vehicle that Chapman created. And none the worse for it.
Review: 2009 Caterham 7 Car Review Rating
After a few seconds in the Mindset, I was thinking: Whoa, this thing is fast. And Goddamn, it feels good. And then I remembered a movie I hadn’t thought of in a decade, and it struck me: this doesn’t seem like 2009, this is more like Gattaca. You know: the sci-fi movie starring the Studebaker Avanti, Rover P6 and Citroen DS Décapotable—all running with electric motors. They are breathtakingly, inimitably beautiful cars. In the movie, they only make a whirring noise. It’s all very 2030, and somehow, it works. Of course, if you had an electric droptop DS at your disposal, then why would you drive a Swiss-made, electric Mindset? But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, what is this car about?
My first car was a 1970s–era Opel Rekord. It was one of the most beautiful cars GM ever made. It was also roomy, reliable, as well as cheap to own and service. Those typical brand values made Opel a star player in Europe, and demoted Ford and many others to the status of also-rans. Later, Opel lost the reliability and beauty part of the plot. Is today’s Rekord – the Opel Insignia – good enough to lead an almost-dead company to the future?
Review: 2010 Opel Insignia 2.0 Diesel Car Review Rating
Dante Giacosa’s original 500 was an industrial design master class for mobilising Italy’s poor after the war. Fiat’s nuova 500 springs from no such noble sentiment; it is meant to convince the foccacia buying classes there is an alternative in the baby premium market to the ubiquitous neue Mini.
Review: Fiat 500 1.3 Multijet Car Review Rating
Why did Maybach put a speedometer in the rear of the cabin? The salesman’s line: “so you can tell the driver to slow down.” I don’t think so. Plutocrats don’t get to be plutocrats by ambling about, caring about the hired help’s driving record or hiring chauffeurs who can’t drive safely. [NB: Mohammed Al Fayed wasn't a plutocrat.] My explanation: velocity equals distance over time. Maybach figured its patrons would want to note their speed, check the flanking clock and calculate when they’d get to where they’re going. In other other words, Maybach owners would want to know when they’re going to leave their Maybach. The roof-mounted speedo embodies the luxury limo’s underlying philosophy. Maybach. The ideal conveyance for people who’d rather be somewhere else.
Review: 2006 Maybach 57S Car Review Rating
Per Wikipedia, the Marxist theory of False Consciousness claims, “material processes in capitalist society are misleading to the proletariat.” Trabants aside, it’s pretty clear that the founders of Communism would love today’s Smart ForTwo. It’s the one-dimensional vehicle that denies its occupants the luxury of time, space and value. But it’ll pop eyeballs like Gisele Bündchen in a Target. It didn’t hurt that my tester had the blessings of noted Mercedes tuner, Carlsson Autotechnik. Too bad it didn’t help.
Review: 2009 Carlsson Smart ForTwo Car Review Rating
Walked into a HUMMER dealership lately? The poster child for everything wrong with the automotive industry went from a vibrant, stylish lounge for conspicuous consumption to a somber, museum-like tribute to modern architecture and failed business models. It’s a sad combination of soaring heights and eerie, uncomfortable silence. This also describes the Hummer H3T Alpha to the proverbial T: the brand’s failed promises of functionality and fashion for a premium price culminate into the worst product rollout of the 2009 model year.
Review: 2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha Car Review Rating
As the salesman retrieved the key for the demo GranTurismo, I approached the trunk of the sleek silver siren sitting on the showroom floor. Even though I was opening the Maserati’s boot rather than its bonnet, I felt like a pre-teen rifling through a copy a Playboy while the drug store owner helped Mrs. Myers with her prescription. The fact that the Maserati’s electric rear lid opened at all was heartening. And then I saw it: a blue box. Genuine Maserati parts. Fumble, fumble. Uh-oh. A trickle charger. A classy, digital battery booster, but a direct link to the most troublesome car I’d ever owned (a British two-seater named after a man called Trevor). It seems that Maserati’s latest product for the American market is still a bit… problematic. But not for the reasons you might think.
Review: 2008 Maserati GranTurismo Car Review Rating
“Consultant” is the new way to say “unemployed.” But, from time to time, it can be quite lucrative to consult on various vague enterprises. Such was the case a few years ago when I found myself with the urge and the ability (temporary, alas) to add something truly outrageous to my personal Island of Misfit Cars. A racing buddy of mine mentioned to me that Spyker was bringing their “demo car” through Detroit. There might be a deal or two to be had. And that’s how I found myself opposite-locking a $296k car across two lanes of Troy, Michigan’s “Big Beaver Road” at the top of second gear, idly contemplating my personal liability in any potential collision while my corporate babysitter clawed feebly at his door like a kitten kneading its mother’s stomach.
I had come into the turn way too fast. The tires broke free. “Oh God, no, I am going to crash this lovely little bus.” And then I found myself in a perfectly controllable four-wheel slide, drifting through the turn at 45mph, glee in my heart. It was probably 1964, and I was driving my father’s pride and joy, a type 40 Bugatti. But not one of the stogy little sedans. This was one of two subscale body prototypes for the ultimate Bugatti, the Type 57S Atalante. The recent fuss over a barn find in England brought our Bugatti fresh to mind…
Guys are funny: we lust for beautiful, fast cars with which we hope to impress the neighbors, the guys, and the other sex. But memories are not made of pistonheads’ wet dreams. Looking back, the memorable machines I had were more mutt than thoroughbred: the go-anywhere, never-let-you-down, unpretty, everyday companion. Like the pickup trucks you Americans love, or the iconic 2CV, Renault R4, and VW Beetles we Europeans have in our collective memories. The Fiat Panda has always been on my short list of potential cars-as-buddies: cheap, reliable, fun to drive, unpretentious. So, I was curious: is the 4×4 version of the Panda a faithful mutt, or just another automotive dog?
Review: 2008 Fiat Panda 4X4 Car Review Rating