The Truth About Cars » sports cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 07 Dec 2014 13:37:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » sports cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Paris 2014: 2016 Audi TT Roadster Bows http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-2016-audi-tt-roadster-bows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-2016-audi-tt-roadster-bows/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=924785 You’ve seen the Audi TT Sportback. Now, it’s time for the 2016 Audi TT Roadster to shine at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. The 2016 model rides on the MQB platform with a wheelbase that has gained 1.5 inches over the current TT, while the overall length is just an inch shorter. Weight comes in […]

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You’ve seen the Audi TT Sportback. Now, it’s time for the 2016 Audi TT Roadster to shine at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

The 2016 model rides on the MQB platform with a wheelbase that has gained 1.5 inches over the current TT, while the overall length is just an inch shorter. Weight comes in at 2,910.1 lbs. with manual transmission and front-wheel drive, and the chassis is stiffer thanks to solid steel tubes inside the A-pillars, steel ribbing in the sills, and various V braces throughout the underside.

The soft-top is 6.6 lbs. lighter than the top now in play, can be operated up to 31.1 mph, takes up little of the TT’s 9.9 cubic-feet of trunk space, and can open or close within 10 seconds.

Up front, the U.S. market will receive a 2-liter turbocharged engine delivering 230 horses, 310 in the TTS model. A spoiler deploys at speeds above 75 mph.

Finally, a revised Quattro system puts more power to the back, allowing for safer, more controlled drifts on low-friction surfaces.

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Amid All That Bad News, Lotus Sales Are Actually Up 46%, Sedan & Crossover ‘On The Table’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/amid-bad-news-lotus-sales-actually-46-sedan-crossover-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/amid-bad-news-lotus-sales-actually-46-sedan-crossover-table/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:43:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=919602 With news that Lotus won’t be selling any 2015 model year cars in the United States, minuscule sales in their home market of the UK, and announcement of the impending layoff of about a quarter of the firm’s global workforce, many observers think that the company Colin Chapman founded 62 years ago is circling the […]

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Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales

With news that Lotus won’t be selling any 2015 model year cars in the United States, minuscule sales in their home market of the UK, and announcement of the impending layoff of about a quarter of the firm’s global workforce, many observers think that the company Colin Chapman founded 62 years ago is circling the drain. While there are certainly dark clouds in Lotus’ financial picture, having booked about $447 million in loses over the previous two fiscal years, there is some silver lining some of those clouds. Worldwide Lotus car sales are up dramatically.

Of course when you’re starting with a baseline of selling just 1,232 cars in a year as Lotus did last year, selling just a few more cars can result in dramatic percentage increases, but the fact remains that from the start of the current fiscal year in April through the month of August, Lotus’ global sales are up 46% to 914 cars during that period. As U.S. dealers will have to make do with existing stock of new unsold 2014 (and some 2013) cars until a FMVSS complaint car is offered in 2016, European Lotus dealers have had a pretty good year so far with sales up 21% through August for a total of 450 cars.

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Lotus Engineering’s aluminum intensive 2006 APX crossover concept.

The fact that American consumers will have to make do with old stock is really nothing new in Lotus history. The company has almost always had spotty distribution and a weak dealer network in the States. Following Chapman’s death the company went through a number of U.S. distributors, though I believe currently American distribution is handled by a wholly owned subsidiary.

The number of dealers in the U.S. and worldwide will be one issue that new Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales will be addressing, according to an interview he gave with  Automotive News Europe. Talking about the Hethel based specialist and engineering firm’s dealer situation, Gales’ comments bear light on Tim Cain’s TTAC post about Lotus’ weak sales in the UK.

“Even in the UK we don’t have enough dealers. If you look in London there is not a single one. There is no dealer in Paris, no dealer in Madrid, none in the north of Italy, none in Hamburg, none in Berlin,” he said. “Our sales network basically did not provide enough coverage for our sales ambition.”

The plan is to follow the addition of nine new Lotus stores around the world in the last six months, including in Iran and the Philippines, with up to 20 new dealerships this fiscal year.

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Gales also said that the current lineup of the Elise, Exige and Evora will continue. “The current range has still got a lot of life left,” Gales said, though he stressed that he company will be focusing on making those cars lighter and faster. New models based on Lotus’ scaleable platform made of bonded aluminum extrusions will be introduced “in the next two years”.

Though the Lotus CEO never mentioned the word Porsche, he also indicated that the company may be following the German sports car maker in offering profitable vehicles that aren’t sports cars, saying that Lotus brand values that use lightweight practices to produce fun, engaging driving dynamics along with good fuel economy don’t just need to be restricted to sports cars. “These values can be attached to any segment you can imagine,” Gales said. He was more specific with Autocar, telling them that a Lotus crossover or sedan is very much on the table.

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While the notion of a Lotus sedan or worse, a crossover, seems to depart from what the brand means, it should be pointed out that at the time of founder Colin Chapman’s death, Lotus was working on an executive four door sedan. Also, in 2006, Lotus Engineering showed the APX, the Aluminium Performance Crossover as a showcase for Lotus’ Versatile Vehicle Architecture.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Editorial: The Best Laid Plans Of Lotus And Men http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-best-laid-plans-lotus-men/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-best-laid-plans-lotus-men/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:35:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917850 Reports of the demise of Lotus in America have been greatly exaggerated. Lotus will revive the Evora for a 2016 model year run, complete with up-to-spec airbags, while dealers will be held over by whatever remaining inventory is left from the 2014 model year (or earlier). The big question for Lotus USA is whether that […]

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Reports of the demise of Lotus in America have been greatly exaggerated. Lotus will revive the Evora for a 2016 model year run, complete with up-to-spec airbags, while dealers will be held over by whatever remaining inventory is left from the 2014 model year (or earlier).

The big question for Lotus USA is whether that will be enough to sustain Lotus dealers in the USA. Without a retail network, Lotus can’t sell cars – but the dealers need something to sustain them, even if volumes are low (according to Automotive News estimates, Lotus sold about 112 cars in America, year-to-date). Service and parts sales aren’t likely to be sufficient, though it’s conceivable that the vast majority of Lotus franchises are not stand alone entities.

Even so, this presents the question: will selling a few track day specials and left over Evoras be able to sustain the Lotus retail network in the United States. At best, whatever other brands the dealer is selling will be subsidizing the Lotus operations. At worst, it will present dealers with cash flow problems due to having to move a lineup of year old or non-street legal cars.

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A Love Letter To The American Performance Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/a-love-letter-to-the-american-performance-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/a-love-letter-to-the-american-performance-cars/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:57:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=896986 If you ask Jack Baruth, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is probably the finest sports car on sale today. And with the addition of a new 8-speed automatic (a feature that will be more popular than many enthusiasts will care to admit), the C7 will add gains in performance and fuel economy. The 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile […]

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If you ask Jack Baruth, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is probably the finest sports car on sale today. And with the addition of a new 8-speed automatic (a feature that will be more popular than many enthusiasts will care to admit), the C7 will add gains in performance and fuel economy. The 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile sprints shed a tenth of a second each: 60 mph comes up in 3.7 seconds, while the 1/4 mile is covered in 11.9 seconds. Highway fuel economy is up 1 mpg to 29 mpg. Yes, these are incremental improvements, but it’s also amazing that you can buy something with supercar performance and highway fuel economy within spitting distance of a mid-size V6 sedan.

Beyond the ‘Vette, the array of American performance cars on sale right now is staggering. If you like muscle cars, you can have your pick of a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger, where even the weakest variants offer 300+ horsepower V6 engines that are quick enough to run with the V8 Mustangs of ten years ago. At the upper end, you have big block pony cars that come with more power than most Italian exotics, available at prices well south of the six figure mark.

If you want something a bit more European, Ford will sell you not one, but two turbocharged hatchbacks that are widely regarded as the top of their class. There are a myriad of sedans in all kinds of flavors, from the pseudo-Euro Cadillac CTS and ATS to the unmistakably American Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and the under-appreciated Buick Regal GS. And let’s not forget the formidable Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which makes the AMG and M SUVs obsolete by virtue of its existence.

I was born an import guy, and have long worshiped at the altar of VTEC. JDM parts, drifting and Sport Compact Car were my holy sacraments. But the last year has been a sort of Damascene conversion for me. The most exciting cars have, in my opinion, been coming out of Detroit, and they’re no longer the one-trick ponies..err, pony cars that I remember from my youth, good for straight line performance, big torque and little else.

For someone of my means, it’s hard to think of something more compelling than the Fiesta ST, which can hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds while returning as high as 40 mpg on the highway. If I were a wealthier man, than the C7 would be what I’d want – but I’d take the 7-speed manual. I’m not quite ready for two pedals yet.

Perhaps I lack the context and years on this planet to make this judgement call, but I can’t think of an era where the American performance car has been so well-rounded, dynamically capable and competitive against the global offerings of the performance car world. Let me know what you think.

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US-Spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 Unveiled At Pebble Beach http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/us-spec-jaguar-f-type-project-7-unveiled-pebble-beach/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/us-spec-jaguar-f-type-project-7-unveiled-pebble-beach/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=894002 Unveiled at this weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the U.S.-spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 will make its home in a few garages beginning next spring. Autoblog reports the limited edition roadster — developed by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations — will leave showrooms in 2015 for a base price of $165,000. A tribute to […]

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Unveiled at this weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the U.S.-spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 will make its home in a few garages beginning next spring.

Autoblog reports the limited edition roadster — developed by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations — will leave showrooms in 2015 for a base price of $165,000. A tribute to the D-Type, the Project 7 will have a 5-liter supercharged V8 delivering 575 horsepower to the back, pushing the cat to a limited peak of 186 mph with a nil-to-60 charge out of the gate in 3.8 seconds.

As for what color to paint your roadster, the Project 7 can be had in either Glacier White or Ultra Blue, with British Racing Green, Ultimate Black and Caldera Red as optional colors.

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New or Used? : Why Are Old Corvettes So Cheap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 04:32:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846233 O.K. Steve Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? . Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless? I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the […]

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O.K. Steve
Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? .
Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless?
I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the very early 1970’s when it was a neat car.
He built it from various junked and wrecked ‘Vettes at a specialized Corvette junkyard . We rode it very hard and it was a good , fun car that took quite a beating right until he drank himself to death .
I see the 1990’s (I think) four valve versions undamaged in Pick-A-Part Junkyards all over California. They are low mileage (under 150,000), zero damage, nice paint etc. ~ how is this possible ? .
I’d think they want to sell them whole and not part them out. But no one wants them?
Steve Says:
If only it were so.
I would be more than happy to drive a late model Corvette through the winding roads of North Georgia. Unfortunately, I have found them to be among the worst types of vehicles for my travels.
They are flashy, easy to drive too fast, and cops seem to enjoy hanging around them on highway jaunts.
That 84′ Corvette you were looking at may very well be the worst Corvette of the last 30 years. The quality was downright abysmal for what was, way back then, the first year of the C4 launch. The 1984 model was built in the thick of the Roger Smith era. There were very few good GM vehicles made during that time, with the most expensive models often getting shot and neutered quality wise well before they left the factory floor.
I’m willing to bet that Corvette at the used car lot was worth more dead than alive. By the time you see these vehicles at the auctions and the car lots,  they have suffered years of neglect.
It’s sad because, at least to me, that generation of the Corvette may truly be one of the most beautiful vehicles of that time period. They were gorgeous. But I never would want to keep one, or recommend it to someone who wants a sports car worth keeping.
The flip side of the coin is that the newer C6 Corvettes tend to be pretty reliable. I mentioned this in a recent Yahoo! Autos article, and if I were in the market for a used sports car, a C6 Corvette would definitely be a  top pick.
Old sports cars that had quality issues are now, just old crappy cars. A lot of 10 year old family cars will go faster than that 1984 Corvette without the quality control issues issues that come with a Reagan era ride.  Speed is often times a given in this day and age, and with America’s aging population, sporty two door cars are just not as in demand as they were back when the C4 was first released.
There is one big plus to the used Corvette marketplace that is shared with other niche vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 and the Jeep Wrangler. 
They are usually not daily drivers. Most of these vehicles spend their time inside a garage and are used during weekends or whenever the owner gets that longing to enjoy their ride.  Corvettes tend to be lower mileage garage queens, and the powertrains are rarely stressed.
In the used car market, there is almost always a lot of them out there. Not because they aren’t worthy of ownership. It’s just that the demographics and long-term reliability of Corvettes have changed dramatically since the days of that 1984 Corvette. Today’s Corvettes are the sports car version of a cockroach. They can outlast their owners, along with most modern day bugs of the German variety.
Oh, and as for the C4 you saw, do yourself a big favor and don’t look back. I have yet to see one from the 80’s that didn’t drive like a bucket of bolts.

 

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MG Motor Considering Roadster, US Market In Long-Term Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832922 The last time MG sold roadsters in the United States, Jimmy Carter was President, ABSCAM (minus the efforts of Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) entered its final phase, and CNN had newsreaders instead of “news VJs.” Should the Sino-British brand be able to assemble a roadster worthy of those 1960s and 1970s classics, […]

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The last time MG sold roadsters in the United States, Jimmy Carter was President, ABSCAM (minus the efforts of Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) entered its final phase, and CNN had newsreaders instead of “news VJs.” Should the Sino-British brand be able to assemble a roadster worthy of those 1960s and 1970s classics, however, a new MGB might board a container ship bound for the U.S. in the future.

Edmunds reports exploratory design work for a sports car under the MG name has been placed on the 2014 schedule book in SAIC’s Shanghai design studio, with one of the possibly proposals being a roadster such as those in the brand’s history, as well as the spiritual successor found in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The starting point for whatever is drawn up is the 2012 MG Icon concept.

In the meantime, MG Motor is looking to design and produce a wider mainstream collection, with design and engineering split between Shanghai and Birmingham, England. Eventually, this could lead to a return to the U.S. market, which is considered a long-term goal for the brand and its owner.

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BMW and Toyota Will Jointly Develop Sports Car Platform. New Supra to Result? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-and-toyota-will-jointly-develop-sports-car-platform-new-supra-to-result/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-and-toyota-will-jointly-develop-sports-car-platform-new-supra-to-result/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 11:30:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=690274 We already knew that Fiat and Mazda are jointly developing s sports car platform, Now, BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper that the German automaker and Toyota will jointly develop and share a new platform for sports cars. “We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important […]

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We already knew that Fiat and Mazda are jointly developing s sports car platform, Now, BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper that the German automaker and Toyota will jointly develop and share a new platform for sports cars. “We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important is that there will be two different vehicles that are authentic to the two brands,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Diess as saying.

In June of 2012, BMW and Toyota signed a technology agreement covering cooperation on lithium-air batteries and lightweight technology. At the time the two companies said that they were looking into the possibility of creating a joint platform for an all new midsize sports car. That feasibility study was expected to be completed by the end of 2013. We’re at the end of 2013 and based on Diess’ comments, the study likely said that it’s feasible.

The newspaper said that Diess declined to provide details on specific models that would come to fruition from the agreement.

That hasn’t stopped speculation. Based on comments made in August by Toyota’s chief engineer of the GT86/FR-S sports car shared with Subaru, Tatsuya Tada, many think that Toyota’s share of the tie up with BMW will be a successor to the Supra. There are rumors that Toyota will reveal the next Supra at the big North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

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Derek And Doug’s Fantastic Crap Wagons: Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crap-wagons-mitsubishi-3000gtdodge-stealth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crap-wagons-mitsubishi-3000gtdodge-stealth/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 14:55:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490100 Doug writes: Ah, the 3000GT: possibly the car that’s most commonly believed not to be front-wheel drive, even though it is.  That’s an accolade it shares with the 1997-2003 Audi A8, by the way.  And while both cars offered all-wheel drive versions, you’d never know the 3000GT did by looking at Atlanta Craigslist. Indeed, nearly […]

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Doug writes:

Ah, the 3000GT: possibly the car that’s most commonly believed not to be front-wheel drive, even though it is.  That’s an accolade it shares with the 1997-2003 Audi A8, by the way.  And while both cars offered all-wheel drive versions, you’d never know the 3000GT did by looking at Atlanta Craigslist.

Indeed, nearly every 3000GT on Atlanta Craigslist is either a base model (161 horsepower – honestly) or an SL.  The SL had 222 horses, but it was still no trackday monster since it weighed about as much as Skylab.  (Not to mention the aforementioned front-wheel drive issue.)

All the 3000GTs on Atlanta Craigslist are also in tough shape – and by “tough shape” I either mean “needs work” or “automatic.”  This 1994 model is both, offering both the four-speed auto and a wide variety of inexplicable graphics down the side.  It’s only $1,000, but the ad says it “does not run.”  Mileage is unlisted.

That one’s the low end of the spectrum.  The high end is this ’97 model with the five-speed stick and only 87,500 miles, priced at $8,500.  The catch: it’s still the SL, it still heavy and front-wheel drive, and – most importantly – it isn’t red.  And red, ladies and gentlemen, is crucial to the 3000GT ownership experience.

It’s the same story in the world of Dodge Stealth, the 3000GT’s heavily aged mechanical twin.  Don’t be fooled if an ad says it’s the “R/T” model: that designation doesn’t mean all-wheel drive or twin turbos.  To get that, you have to upgrade to the R/T Turbo, of which there’s only one on Atlanta craigslist: this car.

I’m not much for modifying, but this thing looks pretty good.  Only 60,000 miles, brand new clutch, well maintained, and clearly owned by an enthusiast, and only $8,500.  But wait!  What’s that I see in the background?  Are those… palm trees?  Ah, yes: the car is wearing Puerto Rico plates.  So it’s $8,500 plus shipping, and the owner’s manual will be in Spanish.

The 3000GT/Stealth crop isn’t very desirable, sadly – and that’s true even if you go on pay sites like AutoTrader.com.  The nice cars that are out there command big asking prices.  And if there’s such a thing as a 3000GT/Stealth enthusiast, they probably get them.  Assuming, of course, they have all-wheel drive and two turbos.

Derek writes:

Skyline. Supra. The Z-Car. RX-7. NSX. These are the Japanese sports cars that will forever live on in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, no matter how many times they’re killed off and resurrected. The Mitsubishi 3000GT and Dodge Stealth never made it that far.

I have a vivid memory of the mid-1990s magazine ads showing the 3000GT VR- Spyder with its folding hardtop in motion. I had never seen  anything like that before, and I wouldn’t until Mercedes-Benz debuted the SLK. Turns out nobody really wanted to pay $57,449 for a Mitsubishi, no matter how much the roof looked like a ’59 Galaxie.

Mitsubishi didn’t sell cars in Canada until the late 1990’s, but there seems to be a decent supply of 3000GTs in the Toronto area. There are no Spyders for sale locally, but there are VR-4 models with all-wheel drive, twin-turbo powertrains and 4000 lb curb weights. This 1992 model has less than 100,000 miles for just $6,800 and it’s an honest-to-goodness VR-4.

If an American car is too common, how about a real Japanese domestic market car, with right-hand drive, some careful engine modifications and a horrendous bodykit? These cars were sold as the “Mitsubishi GTO” in Japan, and obviously, a name change was required for North American sales.

Still hankering after a droptop? Well there is one alternative. It’s a Dodge Stealth, and there’s no folding hard top. I know you’re probably thinking “there was no Dodge Stealth convertible, who the hell is this know-nothing kid and what did they do with Niedermeyer?” but someone apparently went to the trouble of having a coach-built convertible conversion done to a Stealth. The lone flaw I can see is that it’s an automatic. The yellow-painted valve covers and the cornball chrome wheels are, in my opinion, the perfect amount of 1990’s kitsch that can let you get away with driving this car ironically. Or, look at it this way: it’s the same price as a base Elantra and only marginally faster.

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The Best Dash Cam Footage: Sebring 1965 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 17:04:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485649 Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Remember When Japanese Cars Were REALLY Cool? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/remember-when-japanese-cars-were-really-cool/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/remember-when-japanese-cars-were-really-cool/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:10:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481756 Times are tough if you’re into Japanese cars. The sportiest Honda is a hybrid with 15-inch wheels. The coolest Toyota is a Subaru with 150 pound-feet of torque, while the fastest Toyota is a horse race between a three-row SUV and the Camry. And, despite the efforts of the American car-buying public, Mitsubishi still exists. […]

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Times are tough if you’re into Japanese cars. The sportiest Honda is a hybrid with 15-inch wheels. The coolest Toyota is a Subaru with 150 pound-feet of torque, while the fastest Toyota is a horse race between a three-row SUV and the Camry. And, despite the efforts of the American car-buying public, Mitsubishi still exists.

Sure, there are some bright spots. The Impreza WRX, for example, is still cool, despite Subaru’s attempts to make it look like a hood-scooped version of every other compact car. And the Nissan GT-R is awesome, even though experts like automotive journalists and Porsche employees will tell you it lacks “soul.” But there was a time not so long ago when there were more than just a handful of cool Japanese cars.

To the Past!

To get there, we have to go back to the mid-1990s, an era which included societal bright spots like AOL chat rooms and Tickle-Me Elmo. (Who, despite all the jokes, leads an enviable life considering how happy he gets by simply being tickled.)

Back then, the state of the automotive industry was depressing. AMG primarily existed in the form of a powerful C-Class with a slow-witted automatic transmission. The BMW M3 was hilariously underpowered and dramatically overpriced, which earned it rave reviews from Road & Track. And the Ford Mustang had panel gaps larger than the human birth canal.

In other words, it was just like today.

There was, however, one major difference: every single Japanese automaker built a sports car that was beautiful, powerful and desirable.

The Cars

When I say “every Japanese automaker,” I’m not exaggerating. The only Japanese brand to sit out the mid-‘90s sports car fun was Suzuki. Instead, Suzuki focused its efforts on the two-door X-90 SUV, which was launched in purple and had T-tops. Really, it’s a wonder they’re not still around.

The most memorable ‘90s sports car was, of course, the Acura NSX. Mid-engined and gorgeous, the NSX was Honda’s only entrant into the ‘90s Japanese sports car game. The Honda brand instead took its usual “wait and see” approach, which led to the late arrival of the S2000. A similar strategy brought the 2003 Pilot to market about twelve years after the Ford Explorer went on sale.

The most beautiful ‘90s Japanese sports car was the Mazda RX-7, which may actually be the pinnacle of automotive design. If you don’t hear this car talked about today, it’s because you don’t know the lingo: the ’93-’95 RX-7 is now referred to solely as the “FD” by kids with flat-brimmed baseball caps whose only driving experience comes in their mom’s Ford Windstar.

Nissan’s ‘90s Japanese sports car was the 300ZX, which they wisely decided not to call an Infiniti despite its near-$40,000 MSRP. While there was a 320-horsepower twin turbo model, available T-tops, and even a 2+2 variant, I think we can all agree the high point was that commercial where GI Joe picks up Barbie in a scale model to the tune of Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me.”

Even Toyota entered the ‘90s sports car world, debuting the beautiful “Mark Four” Supra for the 1993 model year. Base models used a 220-horsepower six-cylinder, but the Supra Turbo was the one to have thanks to 320 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. Although Supra production ended in 1998, Toyota has mentioned the possibility of a successor at every single auto show since.

Of course, no discussion of mid-‘90s Japanese sports cars would be complete without mentioning the Mitsubishi 3000GT, which shared its platform with the Dodge Stealth and its curb weight with a Gulf Coast oil rig. Base versions of the 3000GT were front-wheel drive, while the turbocharged VR4 powered all four wheels. Bizarrely, a hardtop convertible was also manufactured and sold new for – I swear this is true – nearly $70,000. Somehow, this is the same company that made the Endeavor.

Subaru brought up the rear of this segment with a wedge-shaped sports car called the SVX. With a naturally-aspirated flat-six, the SVX was low on power – a problem Subaru attempted to remedy with an excess of windows. Interestingly, this didn’t help, and neither did the ensuing transmission problems that dogged virtually every car.

What Happened?

For one, each car had a weak spot. The NSX, for instance, used a DOHC version of the Acura Legend’s V6. This didn’t sway Ferrari buyers who were accustomed to high-revving V8s. The last-generation Supra was way too expensive, and – in addition to its curb weight – the 3000GT suffered from the pitfalls of a cash-strapped Mitsubishi. As for the RX-7, we all know about its apex seals, which sounds kind of like a racing team started by a sea lion.

Of course, those are relatively minor quibbles. The real reason Japan’s sports cars died is because we, the consumer, didn’t want them. After years of buying Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs, America turned its back on the Japanese challengers, issuing a loud and clear message to Japan: We don’t want your fun cars. We want your dull, three-box sedans.

And we’ve been stuck with them ever since.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Automobile Magazine’s Must-Read Essay On The Future Of Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2012 17:30:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465611 Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive […]

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Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.

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The Hurricane Diaries: Storm Ruins The Rotary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/the-hurricane-diaries-irene-ruins-the-rotary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/the-hurricane-diaries-irene-ruins-the-rotary/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465387 When Hurricane Irene hit New York last August, it caught the entire Northeast off its game. Natural disasters are anathema to the bustling lifestyle of a city, and an abeyance to the flowing blood and tears on which it runs. Public transportation grinds to a halt. Supermarkets are depleted of supplies just as quickly as […]

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When Hurricane Irene hit New York last August, it caught the entire Northeast off its game. Natural disasters are anathema to the bustling lifestyle of a city, and an abeyance to the flowing blood and tears on which it runs. Public transportation grinds to a halt. Supermarkets are depleted of supplies just as quickly as they are flooded by frantic consumers. Cabin fever hits apartment-dwellers staggeringly hard, creating microcosms of Stockholm syndrome in between the floorboards.

And we were all pretty prepared for Irene’s potentially devastating effects. With the memory of Hurricane Katrina looming large in the background, New York’s five boroughs shut down in advance of the foreboding deluge. With no subways running and airplanes grounded indefinitely, the impending storm offered a moment of precarious contemplation. Cue the end-of-the-world music, and wait for the rain to begin to drip from your balcony-cum-fire escape. Most people obeyed, and spent the following 24 hours indoors, dry and away from the mess.

But what about the automotive journalists, whose collective livelihood depends on gratuitous burnouts in the parking lot of the grocery store? We are a stubborn and contumacious bunch. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of our mandate to drive, report, and decide — hurricanes included. Few people are aware of the asterisked clause in Murphy’s law that applies directly to professional drivers: On the week that you are scheduled for a high-performance machine, disaster will surely cut short your fun.

I tried to trick the forces of nature by booking a two-day trip to Los Angeles right before the storm began. I was scheduled that week to drive one of the last Mazda RX-8s in the Northeast press fleet, for a column I used to write about cars not sold in the Middle East. I planned to drive the RX-8 for the first five days and simply garage it for the storm.

Then came the email that my flight was canceled, and L.A. was on hold. The sweet, rip-roaring, Wankel-engined powerhouse was sitting patiently outside while I retooled. Irene’s approach was definite, though dubious in timing. Hours after the New York Daily News and others predicted the worst, a drop of rain had yet to fall. If rain was slated to come down in Noahide proportions, time still remained. I flirted with the idea of using the RX-8 to execute a heroic story of rescue: “Rotary to the Rescue,” in which the mighty Mazda would outrun the 110-mph storm winds on a quick jaunt to Washington D.C. I had all but reserved a night at a red-roofed, lit-up motel, when it began to rain. The Mazda and I retreated to the safe, high ground of family outside the city for the night.

It rained, and it rained hard. New York sat silently, and no one dared leave the security of their own dwellings. Even the deliverymen, who represent an unstoppable force of nature known only to the First World, parked their electric bicycles. Like all storms, Irene left a path of devastation in her wake as the city slept, cutting power and blowing down shelter. Luck was on my side, and my home lost no power and was only barely affected.

Curiously, I set out the next morning toward familiar haunts, which were all closed. No bagels. No coffee. There were newspapers, but they told a story I wasn’t believing. Was New York City really knocked out and powerless? Against much caution, protest, and warning, I fired up the RX-8 and drove back in.

It was as close to starring in an end-of-the-world movie if I’ve ever tried. The outermost lanes on the parkways smelled dank from the stagnant floodwater. I decided to take the western approach, along the Henry Hudson Parkway, to observe the view along the Palisades and confirm that the superstructure of the George Washington Bridge was still standing.

The road was eerily quiet. For the first time in my life that I could remember, I saw not a single other car on the road. The toll takers at the Henry Hudson Bridge saw my sinuous, red RX-8 pull up and nodded quietly as I handed over the fare. As I changed for first gear, I noticed the road ahead littered with leaves, but little debris or moisture. I awkwardly adhered to the 50 mph speed limit, anticipating a blocked entrance to the city that would forestall my effort to survey the city.

The approach to Manhattan, through the Bronx, was transformational and empty. I lowered the windows and let the RX-8 howl and scream its way to the 9000-rpm redline. On any other day, an empty stretch of highway would entice reckless hoonage. I felt cosseted by the Mazda’s telepathic steering and unflappable chassis, and refused to try anything funny — though, like a superhero babysitter, I knew the RX-8 would ultimately save me, should I err. Unlike a Miata, which prides itself on unflappability on the track but feels light enough to be swept away by a hurricane-scale wind, the RX-8 remained solidly planted.

The Upper West Side was still when I began to make my way southeast through a maze of streets. I picked up a friend — who often joined me on press car adventures — who dared to bravely prowl the city streets with me in the RX-8. Our discussions, which usually centered around the car itself, turned to the motionless city. Suddenly, I had no taxis to pass, or pedestrians to gently warn with my horn. Humankind was hibernating.

We made it from 96th Street to Lincoln Center in a matter of minutes, and hit Union Square just shortly after. The city became my playground, and offered multiple, consecutive excuses to spool up the engine at the stoplights to hear the engine roar. I threw concerns of single-digit fuel economy, and the toils of owning an RX-8, to the omnipresent wind. It was the day before the day after tomorrow, and I was riding out the storm in the most noble way possible.

I turned on the radio to learn that the brunt of the devastation had hit the lowest-lying areas of Brooklyn. I dropped my passenger off at her apartment and considered proceeding out there just to see if anything had really happened. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a mother and two children leaving their apartment for the first time in what appeared to be days.

My mission, though ill-defined and questionably executed, was complete. When all else grinds to a halt, I firmly believe in the saving power of the automobile. What I had planned as a review of the last of Mazda’s rotary-engined halo car had taken on new meaning, before the RX-8 itself rode off into the distance, with no plans to return. It would be a suitably excellent car with which to spend the final hours of the ending of the world.

Mazda provided the RX-8, insurance, and a tank of fuel with no prior knowledge that a hurricane would curtail plans for a full review
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Capsule Review: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2013-ford-shelby-gt500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2013-ford-shelby-gt500/#comments Tue, 30 Oct 2012 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454584 Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. […]

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Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. She likes cars, long boarding, and gangsta rap. Tonight, she’s traded her usual, Ralph Lauren-catalog attire (not-so-snug pants, a button up men’s dress shirt) for a dress that can only be described as one yard of Tensor Bandage that somehow made its way out of the factory with a muted floral print.

I’m hardly complaining, though it’s clear that she’s not used to wearing this kind of garment. I tell myself that it’s all because of my strong jawline, cleft chin and thick, flowing locks, but that’s a yarn of self-deception long enough to knit Jackie a twin to the sweater I’m glad she left at home.

It’s the car.

Jackie is comfortable looking at brake calipers and superchargers, but the dress is fighting her attempts to check out the machinery tonight. “Turn around,” she tells me, “I don’t want you to see me adjusting my underwear”.

“That dress is ridiculous.” I’m trying really hard to do the gentlemanly thing and focus on the car.

A pause. I’m facing away from her, but I can imagine her eyes running along the length of the racing stripes that trace the Shelby’s sillhouette. The car isn’t running, but I can hear the crackling and pinging of the cooling drivetrain against the humid, lifeless air of the August night.

“Not as ridiculous as the car,” she replies. “How fast did you say it is?”

Five point eight liters. Six hundred and sixty-two horsepower. There’s not much out there that’s more powerful than the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. The Lamborghini Aventador. The Ferrari FF. Maybe one or two megabuck hypercars that will be gobbled up by our BRIC-nation overlords.

Jackie and I will not go much faster tonight than we just did. A quick blast into “lose your license” territory occurs in 3rd gear at around 3000 RPM – there is still so much power left on the table, I feel…impotent. “That did not feel like [exact speed redacted],” Jackie says, with the sort of contempt usually reserved for a prom night that’s come to a premature conclusion.

In 2012, where “green” is our secular religion, “carbon emissions” are a mortal sin and we worship at the altar of sustainability while flagellating ourselves about everything from our consumption habits to our role in the world, it truly is a miracle, in the most theistic sense of the word, that this car exists. A supercharged V8, a 6-speed gearbox, a 200 mph top speed, 10 mpg in town and an aesthetic so jingoistic it would make even the most ardent soaring-eagles-America-firster wonder if it needs toning down. If President Obama is forever identified with the Chevrolet Volt, then this car is Pat Buchanan’s likely chariot, a swift exit from the Nixon Administration into the severe right wing with all cylinders firing seven thousand times a minute. And yet, somehow, somewhere at Ford World Headquarters, someone approved this for production.

And still, it is thoroughly modern. A trip to Mosport, 60 miles away on the freeway, in 6th gear at 80 mph with the A/C blasting, returned 25 mpg. I played my music through my iPod via the dreadful touch-screen SYNC system (which I am unapologetic in declaring it to be the bastard spawn of Satan. It is awful, always has been, always will be, and it never, ever works for me). The 2013 model is an enormous improvement over the last one I drove, a 2011 that made “only” 550 horsepower. Despite being down over 100 horsepower over the 2013 GT500, that car was an absolute bastard to drive. As I wrote back in 2010

The new car leaves it in the dust. The 2013 Shelby doesn’t pop its booty sideways like the old car did. The new tires and improved traction control see to that. It just gallops forward while the exhaust bellows like a scalded silverback gorilla. There’s not even any audible supercharger noise. But what the hell am I supposed to do with it? Giving me the keys to this car is like Ford asking me to come shoot tin cans in their back yard, with the stipulation that I can only use a Stinger missle to knock them down. It is so powerful in any gear that anyone that needs to be passed is just vaporized by the omnipotent V8.

And this is ultimately what makes the Shelby GT500 so compelling, especially to “the generation that doesn’t care about cars”. The performance is astounding but irrelevant. The styling can be had on a $22,000 Mustang V6. A better drive can arguably be had with a Boss 302. But nowhere else can you give such a middle finger to the zeitgiest. It doesn’t want to check in via Foursquare at the Mexican-Korean fusion place. It doesn’t care about Car Free Sundays, or dubstep music or the newest celebrity chef. Exploding away from a stop light, hanging out the window, with a cigarette between our lips, without fear of the cops, or fear of another day of indentured servitude unpaid internships, or having to compose a response to the latest text message from our significant other. Morals are relative, the middle class is shrinking, God is dead, our lives are lived in public, and a small part of us yearns for an era we never knew, where marriage, 2.5 kids, and a mortgage was not only attainable, but attained early.  We’ve never had more freedom or opportunities, but we still find ourselves yearning for a past era, where things weren’t as fluid or permissive; it’s why we throw “Mad Men” themed dress-up parties where the guys get a free pass to make misogynistic remarks, pinch the girls’ rears and watch them giggle with guilty glee as they hand out baked treats and push feminism into the attics of their psyche.

The orgiastic past may recede before us, but this car – our one link to that bygone epoch – keeps getting better and better.

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Suspension Truth #1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles – The Psychology of Suspension Tuning http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/suspension-truth-1-planes-trains-and-automobiles-the-psychology-of-suspension-tuning/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/suspension-truth-1-planes-trains-and-automobiles-the-psychology-of-suspension-tuning/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:11:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457801 Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad.  An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back […]

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Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad.  An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back when I had my 1997 Miata, I ordered a set of coilovers from Shaikh, based on his reputation for creating suspension setups with a previously unheard of balance between ride and handling. The Fat Cat coilovers are one of the few products I’ve ever bought that were able to live up to the hype. Over the next few weeks, Shaikh will delve into the science of suspensions, and provide his own analysis of a number of production cars.

What’s your least memorable train ride? Simple question, right? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume all of them. Unless a screenwriter threw you into an adventure film without your consent, it’s what we’d expect. This brings to mind a popular driving metaphor – ‘handles like it’s on rails.’ That’s our ideal in suspension tuning, to be glued to the ground and also as comfortable as possible. Easy when you’ve controlled every degree of freedom as with a train track and groomed earth beneath.

But what about your least memorable plane flight? Again, I’d hope most of them. How about the most memorable one – turbulence anyone?  Whether chop, CAT, or simply bumpy air, turbulence can be annoying, as in delayed beverage service, or utterly terrifying. The unpredictable, jerky movements of an airplane caught in Mother Nature’s fury sharply draws your attention to the immediate environment. You aren’t relaxed anymore, thinking about the miles of air between you and the ground. You have to trust in your pilot, crew and the plane itself to handle the situation, working in harmony to return you safely back to Earth.

In between these extremes is the spectrum of what an automobile suspension can offer.  As a driving enthusiast and amateur racer in my 20s, I only wanted suspensions that made my car handle better and go faster. Comfort was secondary and in fact I believed (as many do) that to be fast you must be uncomfortable. Ah, brainwashing by race companies and the follies of youth! Having trusted marketing hype from both automakers and aftermarket companies, I’ve come to see patterns in the past 15 years of my pursuit of Suspension Perfection. Ultimate speed and ultimate comfort. How are they linked, if at all? Can I make my trip to the race car unmemorably smooth and also have razor-sharp handling for a backroad jaunt, autocross run, track session or hill climb? What about safety, responsiveness and predictability?

Any automaker has to fulfill the task of keeping a vehicle on the road. They can do it in a bare-bones fashion, like a budget economy car that doesn’t inspire much confidence but gets you from point A to B. At the very high end, we have the Holy Grail: a buttery-smooth ride with incredible handling. Normally you pay superlative prices (Aston Martin, Ferrari, etc) for this achievement, but I’ve found that cost has very little to do with making an exceptional suspension. You need to understand the designer’s mandate, see if that matches your needs, then choose components (or a vehicle itself) that deliver. But we don’t get handled a personality test results for a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry or Porsche 911 Carrera. We have some bias based on past experience, what we’ve read, felt or been led to believe. But what really goes on in that murky black magic area of suspension design? By starting with an examination of the psychology behind a vehicle, why it exists, we can understand certain design choices then make targeted improvements to a production-based road car to the point it feels truly amazing.

Please note, this kind of suspension harmony matters whether one get groceries or chases championships. It’s been a fascinating process of discovering the truth of how grip produces both great ride and handling both. For a street-driven passenger car, how the suspension deals with the road, mile after mile, creates a somatic experience that can promote either ease or dis-ease. I’d rather see a driver smiling and relaxed after a trip than stressed and hurting. A relaxed (not numb), in-control driver is a safer driver and a happier human being. There’s also a very important somatic experience to the race car driver, who needs to have hyper-confidence in their machine’s responsiveness to dance it on the edge of adhesion.

One video in particular was very illuminating to me. It was of a journalist who had a chance to drive a few laps in a Formula 1 car. Once the lengthy process of preparing him for the experience was complete (simplified as it was in his not-very-physically-fit case), he took his laps, whooping the whole way through. Once he stopped the other reporters asked a seemingly rhetorical question ‘you just drove a Formula car! Wasn’t it really harsh?’ to which our lucky journalist gives a surprising answer: “No, in fact it was quite smooth once you were up to speed!”

Is it that really all that surprising to hear this truth? To give a driver confidence and ultimate speed, the proper suspension has to keep the tires in contact with the road. What’s good for the rather-soft tires (imagine driving around on a partially cooked egg) is good for the very soft driver.  Going stiffer than is necessary robs grip and induces more discomfort. The just-stiff-enough setup will reward the aggressive, competitive or racing driver in many ways.

We’ll continue our explorations next time with a topic that is even more subtle – what does it mean to have a “Sport Suspension” and do you really want one?

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Lotus Pulls Out Of Paris Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/#comments Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:21:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452802 Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles. The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit […]

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Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles.

The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – Britain’s de facto national motor show, now that the London show is gone – with vehicles from their past, present and future.

Lotus is going to be evaluating their direction in the coming months, now that Dany Bahar is gone. The six car lineup may not survive intact, but there are elements worth saving. A resurgence at, say, the Shanghai Auto Show wouldn’t be out of the question.

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Scion FR-S Sells Well, But It’s Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 16:55:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451602 So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion […]

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So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion FR-S did not sell poorly.

Rarely has a car generated such an avid fan base before any independent testing had been completed. In a market that’s been starved by the disappearance of the Toyota Celica, Acura Integra, Honda Prelude, and Mazda RX-8; insulted by the long hiatus of Ford’s performance-oriented Focus; and offended by the weight gain of Mitsubishi’s Eclipse, a lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports car is a gift at $25,000.

Not that they’re direct rivals, but so-called sports sedans like the Volvo S60, Lexus IS, Acura TSX did not sell as frequently as the Scion last month. Mini’s best-selling variant, the Cooper and Cooper S hardtop, sold 2601 times in June. Volkswagen sold 1508 GTI hatchbacks plus 447 copies of the Golf R. Subaru Impreza WRX sales jumped 72% to 1138. Scion tC sales climbed 4% to 2128. The rear-wheel drive BMW 1-Series found 701 buyers. Sales of the Mazda MX-5 Miata improved 30% to 659. Honda CR-Z sales slid 58% to 409 units. Besides the American muscle car trio, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe (numbers for which are folded into the Genesis’s 3374-unit total), and the curious Hyundai Veloster, 3232 of which were sold in June, the FR-S fared better than other sporting cars.

As the best-selling Scion in June, FR-S sales reached 2684 units. That’s 32% of Scion’s U.S. total. Incidentally, in its first Canadian sales month, the FR-S delivered 51% of Scion’s volume.

Would a potential FR-S buyer consider acquiring a Mustang instead? Regardless, sales of the Ford pony car surged to 10,263 in June. Chevrolet Camaro sales rose to 9123. Dodge sold 4009 Challengers, marking that car’s best ever June.

One car we know to be a direct rival of the FR-S is the virtually identical Subaru BRZ. 271 BRZs left dealers in May, another 818 in June. Subaru never intended the BRZ to be the comparatively high-volume car that Scion’s FR-S now clearly is.

But it’s early. And to quote another painful analyst phrase, “Only time will tell.”

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Mazda MX-5 Getting Refreshed Yet Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/mazda-mx-5-getting-refreshed-yet-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/mazda-mx-5-getting-refreshed-yet-again/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2012 18:14:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451011 Mazda will be refreshing the MX-5 for 2013, as they attempt to hold us over for the long-awaited “ND” Miata, due in a couple years, that will share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Spider. Although *some* uninformed enthusiasts claim that the current car is a heavier, uglier abomination not fit to carry on the […]

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Mazda will be refreshing the MX-5 for 2013, as they attempt to hold us over for the long-awaited “ND” Miata, due in a couple years, that will share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Spider.

Although *some* uninformed enthusiasts claim that the current car is a heavier, uglier abomination not fit to carry on the legacy of the MX-5, I couldn’t disagree more. The NC MX-5 is brilliant. Full stop. The only thing that puts me off is the goofy front fascia. Otherwise, it’s just about perfect, especially with the “dreaded” Power Retractable Hardtop. I would go so far as to say that it’s better in every single way than my beloved NA Miata, with no additional drawbacks.

The refresh is subtle, and helps diminish some of the “smiley face” character of the awful Nagare styling language, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s impossible enough to do away with that blight. The headlights, grill opening and air intakes are only slightly changed, but it does help. Even though the front is still ugly, I’d buy one over an FR-S. I suspect I’m not alone.

Thanks to The Car Lounge for the photos

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Sorry Folks, Dany Bahar Was On The Right Track, Even If You Hated Him http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/sorry-folks-dany-bahar-was-on-the-right-track-even-if-you-hated-him/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/sorry-folks-dany-bahar-was-on-the-right-track-even-if-you-hated-him/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 18:12:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447919 My biggest fear with the seemingly inevitable departure of Dany Bahar was having to read the contempt and gloating of the automotive media’s self-appointed product and management experts, whereby they claim vindication for shitting on Dany Bahar’s vision to do something about Lotus and their lack of profitability and his desecration of sacred “brand values”. This time […]

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My biggest fear with the seemingly inevitable departure of Dany Bahar was having to read the contempt and gloating of the automotive media’s self-appointed product and management experts, whereby they claim vindication for shitting on Dany Bahar’s vision to do something about Lotus and their lack of profitability and his desecration of sacred “brand values”.

This time last year, I became one of the few people to back Bahar’s plan, and I still stand by it. Conduct aside (and I mean, conduct that is actually questionable, not just being mean to Jalopnik when they asked him asinine questions), Bahar’s plan still makes sense. There’s a large segment of the population that hasn’t yet realized that the locus of profitability has shifted, and tastes in those regions necessitate a different way of thinking. That’s without taking into account that the extremely narrow range of cars sold by Lotus will only appeal to a very small group of wealthy people willing to put up with the sacrifices that come with driving the most pure sports cars in the world.

The Lotus plan involved creating a broader range of cars, including an Esprit that would finally become a real supercar, a next-generation Elise and a much to the horror of car nuts, a sedan – something that Chapman, whose cars grew more cushy and family friendly as he aged – wanted to produce before his death. Lest we forget that the Lotus Cortina and Lotus Carlton were born of utterly mundane stock yet have become automotive legends. Along with the new cars came a plan for greater branding and merchandise, something that has helped line Ferrari’s coffers after being implemented by, you guessed it, Dany Bahar. The Lotus branded gear was also much more tasteful and restrained than the Ferrari/Puma stuff that floods my local Foot Locker discount rack.

I always felt that so much of the hate directed at Bahar and his plan was just personal anger being projected onto him and the clientshe hoped to attract. Bahar was handsome, suave, wealthy and accomplished in many fields; he would be an easy target of hate for your typical scrawny, awkward and impoverished auto journalist, akin to how females can exhibit catty behavior towards their mental or physical superiors. Why else would he be branded an “over-coifed little shit“? Lack of automotive experience never stopped Stephan Winkelmann, Alan Mulally or hell, Soichiro Honda (who loved aircraft and motorcycles more than the automobile).

The other side of it was the resistance to any sort of change that is a deeply human trait not reserved for car guys. The Elise and Exige are sublime cars that are not only brilliant, but potentially affordable on the used market (and when new, cost far less than other exotics). The Lotus plan would move them into a whole other pricing category, but lest we forget that the planned 2015 replacement date would mean that those cars would have been on sale for nearly two decades. Not even the Acura NSX had such a long tenure.

The Lotus of the past had me futilely following my neighbor’s Racing Green Esprit S4 on my 10-speed as he roared down my street. It had me lie through my teeth, using an S2000 press car as a prop, just so I could test drive an Elise. In inspired my to peer through the glass of Gentry Lane Toronto’s workshop and take that picture at 1 AM on a Thursday night. It had me taking an unpopular position, against the grain of everyone else, because I believe so strongly that the brand still has so much to offer that a 4-door sedan and Lotus brand shoes wouldn’t have hurt it at all.

The alternative is a world without Lotus. It’s not that difficult to imagine. When Fiat is handing over development of an icon like the Alfa Spider to a struggling Japanese automaker like Mazda, it’s safe to say that we are not living in the world of Colin Chapman’s Magical Norfolk Workshop where building sports cars at a loss is a viable survival strategy. Whatever you may think of it, Bahar had a vision, and his job was to sell and market that vision. Now that it’s off the table, it’s easy for DRB-Hicom to give up and justify it by refusing to throw good money after bad. Long term thinking and a bold plan is necessary. And it’s got nothing to do with continuing to sell the Elise.

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Mazda Courts Jalopnik Readers With Next MX-5, Gets More Than They Bargained For http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/mazda-courts-jalopnik-readers-with-next-mx-5-gets-more-than-they-bargained-for/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/mazda-courts-jalopnik-readers-with-next-mx-5-gets-more-than-they-bargained-for/#comments Mon, 04 Jun 2012 16:29:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447446 I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong (though I tend to be right nearly every single time without fail. So there.). When I saw that Mazda had asked Jalopnik readers for their thoughts on the next MX-5, I oscillated between sheer terror (at the prospect of reading a bunch of keyboard jockeys telling engineers how to […]

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I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong (though I tend to be right nearly every single time without fail. So there.). When I saw that Mazda had asked Jalopnik readers for their thoughts on the next MX-5, I oscillated between sheer terror (at the prospect of reading a bunch of keyboard jockeys telling engineers how to do their jobs, i.e. every press launch) and total Schadenfreude.

The next MX-5 is more than likely “locked in” past the point of no return. Styling, engineering and powertrains are all but locked in, and not a damn thing can be done to change them, even though the next MX-5 will have to be tweaked a bit to become an Alfa Romeo. That’s a shame. Mazda might be wise to listen to some of the suggestions put up by Jalopnik’s readers.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in feeling apprehensive. Reader “tobythesandwhich” composed a brilliant satire

Well this can only end badly. Suggestions WILL Include: 
-1200lb weight 
-No safety features whatsoever. People don’t really hurt/die from car crashes. It’s a government cover up to try and control us 
-Must have at least 600hp and a turbo AND supercharger 
-Must be able to go off road and scale mountains 
-Must cost less than $5000. Because everything that costs more than that enters V6 Mustang territory 
-Must get at least 400mpg while maintaining constant aggressive driving 
-Must have pop-up headlamps, reverse opening hood, and give fuck-all about Pedestrian Safety Regulations 
-Must have an interior decked out in leather on leather on leather while having a 40000 watt stereo system that we’ll still end up bitching about because it weighs more than 2lbs 
-Must have a Manual Transmission with no less than 100 Gears. Us Jalops love to shift. And if you even consider offering an Automatic for the sake of keeping the model alive I (And the Jalopnik community) swear to god we will kidnap the families of the Designers. Then burn their houses down and fornicate their wives while wearing their slippers and robes.

Feel free to chime in Jalopnik. I know this is what you want.

In the end, most of the suggestions seem to be firmly grounded in reality, life experience and prior ownership – the kinds of things that auto journalists aren’t usually brimming with, even if they have owned a Miata or three.

Among the suggestions listed were a la carte optioning (a big yes, as anyone who has tried to order a CX-5 or Mazda3 can attest to), classic styling and enough room for a 6’2″ individual, wearing a helmet to clear the “broomstick test”. All of those, plus say, an inch more leg roof (tilt/telescoping wheel perhaps) would go along way to increasing comfort without making the car much larger or heavier.

Rather than catalog every single good idea, you might as well go and read the thread. My personal theory is that Mazda thought they could get some free publicity by “empowering” Jalopnik readers by “engaging in a conversation” about the next MX-5. Then they could promptly ignore all the suggestions, since the car was a done deal, and wait for the praise to roll in. Hopefully there’s still time for them to listen.

 

 

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Splitsville For AMG And Ducati http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/splitsville-for-amg-and-ducati/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/splitsville-for-amg-and-ducati/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 14:42:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440933 Once again, the temptation to create some sexually sugesstive headline like many other blogs is great – THIS IS THE AUDI THAT CUCKOLDED AMG’S DUCATI – is one that springs to mind. Instead, we offer you a dour, Germanic explanation of why things went south with Ducati and AMG. “Since the end of 2010 a […]

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Once again, the temptation to create some sexually sugesstive headline like many other blogs is great – THIS IS THE AUDI THAT CUCKOLDED AMG’S DUCATI – is one that springs to mind. Instead, we offer you a dour, Germanic explanation of why things went south with Ducati and AMG.

“Since the end of 2010 a successful marketing cooperation has existed between AMG and Ducati. The company takeover by a rival car manufacturer has understandably resulted in the end of any further collaboration. The takeover of Ducati was never our aim – our focus lies clearly in developing and producing premium performance cars and we will be concentrating all our energy on this.”

Far less dramatic and interesting, but surely, it comes from a place of bitterness after Ducati told AMG “it’s not you, it’s me”. Some are suggesting that the Ducati Diavel AMG could be a collectors item, but surely such an ugly bike will never reach those vaunted heights.

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Maserati Builds Another Alfa Romeo Sports Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/maserati-builds-another-alfa-romeo-sports-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/maserati-builds-another-alfa-romeo-sports-car/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2012 18:19:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439831 Maserati will be lending a hand to baby bro Alfa Romeo when the brand launches its 4C sports car in 2013. Having previously been tasked with production of the ultra-low volume 8C, Maserati will handle the annual assembly of the 2,500 4C coupes, that will supposedly serve as a halo for Alfa’s U.S. re-launch (stop […]

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Maserati will be lending a hand to baby bro Alfa Romeo when the brand launches its 4C sports car in 2013. Having previously been tasked with production of the ultra-low volume 8C, Maserati will handle the annual assembly of the 2,500 4C coupes, that will supposedly serve as a halo for Alfa’s U.S. re-launch (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).

Automotive News reports that the 4C will retail for 50,000 euro, or roughly $66,000 on the continent. A U.S. price point hasn’t been decided on. The 4C is expected to weigh a mere 1873 lbs, and use a 4 cylinder turbocharged motor displacing 1.8L with direct injection. The 8C used a 4.7L Maserati V8. 1000 units, split evenly between a coupe and a roadster version, were built from 2007 to 2007. A small number were sent to the United States, but they were sold through Ferrari and Maserati outlets, price between $250,000-$300,000.

 

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At $25,495 Subaru BRZ Is $1,295 More Than Scion FR-S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/at-25495-subaru-brz-is-1295-more-than-scion-fr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/at-25495-subaru-brz-is-1295-more-than-scion-fr-s/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 15:54:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=438509 Today seems to be “Pricing Thursday”, the anticipated forerunner to Good Friday, and the one we’ve been waiting for has finally risen revealed pricing details. The Subaru BRZ, at $25,495, is only $1,295 more than the Scion FR-S and $100 less than the Subaru Impreza WRX. The extra price premium over the FR-S gets you GPS […]

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Today seems to be “Pricing Thursday”, the anticipated forerunner to Good Friday, and the one we’ve been waiting for has finally risen revealed pricing details. The Subaru BRZ, at $25,495, is only $1,295 more than the Scion FR-S and $100 less than the Subaru Impreza WRX.

The extra price premium over the FR-S gets you GPS Navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and HID headlamps. A Limited Package starts at $27,495 and adds Alcantara seating surfaces, heated mirrors and seats, dual-zone automatic climate control system, fog lights and a small spoiler. A 6-speed automatic adds $1,100 to both trim levels.

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Lotus And Mansory Team Up In World’s Most Vulgar Alliance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-and-mansory-team-up-in-worlds-most-vulgar-alliance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-and-mansory-team-up-in-worlds-most-vulgar-alliance/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2012 15:25:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=436639 A year ago, I penned a passionate defense of the new direction that was being taken by Lotus. In the piece, I chastised enthusiasts for their armchair criticism of Lotus management and their resistance to bringing out new vehicle to replace the nearly two decade old Elise (which would hit that mark by the time […]

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A year ago, I penned a passionate defense of the new direction that was being taken by Lotus. In the piece, I chastised enthusiasts for their armchair criticism of Lotus management and their resistance to bringing out new vehicle to replace the nearly two decade old Elise (which would hit that mark by the time a replacement rolled around in 2015) and their lack of faith in the stewardship of CEO Dany Bahar, the man who helped Luca di Montezemolo turn Ferrari around. Now it looks like I’ll have to retract those words and admit I was wrong.

Lotus and Mansory, an infamous “styling house” based in Germany are teaming up to produce customized vehicles in a bid to appeal to those with excess wealth and a dearth of taste. Mansory is far from your average aftermarket company. They’ve created some of the most gaudy, offensively brash vehicles crawling the roads of Moscow and Abu Dhabi – and I say this having defended even the Bentley EXP 9F.

For anyone unfamiliar with Mansory’s wares, here’s an example of one of their “customized” Mercedes SLS AMG models.

For the record, I still take issue with the legions of fanboys who decry Lotus abandoning its “brand values”, which are really just made up narratives created by suits to sell cars (and more importantly, merchandise). I still maintain that the new model lineup is important and good for the company, and that the diminishing sales of the Elise and Exige threaten the company with irrelevance of something new isn’t released soon. But the concepts, despite all the criticism weren’t bad cars. They may be derivative, or a bit lacking in panache or worse, used to project your own personal insecurities onto the bespoke-suited Dany Bahar, but they were not offensively tasteless like the Mansory cars are.

This collaboration is a naked ploy to sell cars in emerging markets where flash and wealth are treasured above discretion, taste or ability. While Bentley has diluted their brand by churning out a hundred million Continental GTs, there is still a real mystique with Lotus cars that gives them substantial brand equity (shoot me for using that term). An Evora is a Ferrari for most of the uneducated masses, and an Elise or Exige looks like something extraterrestrial, especially when painted in a signature bright hue like orange.

The 2015 (or whatever year it may be) Esprit would have been enough to stop traffic on its own. Even if it was a pastiche design like the newest McLaren, it looked exotic without being over the top – maybe that was the problem. I still think that the allure of Lotus and the low-slung profile would have been enough to draw the oligarchs and shiekhs to the showroom, but evidently someone in Hethel or Kuala Lumpur didn’t. Lotus cars have always been just the right side of outrageous – a lime green Exige S, the kitschy Esprit Turbos of the 80’s, festooned with gold decals and mesh wheels, the Europa’s bizarre, insect-like styling. But it was always tempered by the Elan, the Elite, the tasteful British Racing Green and yellow badges

That legacy is now gone with the Mansory lineup and cheap tie-ins with third rate rappers (who was once dubbed by a Wu-Tang member as “The Black Adrian Brody”). The press release proudly states how one Mansory collaboration, the Evora GTE “…has already prompted around 250 orders and leads between China and Europe and we expect it to have a very successful future as the top of the range Evora.” I’m not naive enough to think that Lotus should build the Elise in perpetuity and abandon new markets during a volatile economic era. I think change is a good thing. But this is too much change, too fast, in the wrong direction. It makes me fear that this is all just a diversion to distract from the fact that the real meat, the new product, is not going to come out on schedule – or at all.

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Ferrari: We Won’t Do Crossovers Or Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/ferrari-we-wont-do-crossovers-or-sedans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/ferrari-we-wont-do-crossovers-or-sedans/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 20:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431295 As Porsche prepares to launch yet another product that’s not a sports car, Ferrari has steadfastly ruled out diluting their brand with anything approaching a crossover or a sedan. The closest we’ll ever get is the all-wheel drive FF shooting brake (above). Ferrari CEO Amadeo Felisa made an explicit statement closing the door on anything […]

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As Porsche prepares to launch yet another product that’s not a sports car, Ferrari has steadfastly ruled out diluting their brand with anything approaching a crossover or a sedan. The closest we’ll ever get is the all-wheel drive FF shooting brake (above).

Ferrari CEO Amadeo Felisa made an explicit statement closing the door on anything that’s not a sports car, telling Automobile’s Georg Kacher “No, Ferrari won’t do a four-door sport sedan. We won’t do a crossover, either. That’s Maserati turf.”

While the Trident brand is saddled with bloated 4-door cars, Ferrari’s future offerings will get lighter and more powerful (thanks to KERS and forced-induction), but the legendary V12 may take a backseat to smaller engines. Felisa thinks that the adoption of V6 engines by Formula 1 will make it more acceptable to install engines with smaller cylinder counts in Ferrari’s future offerings.

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