The Truth About Cars » Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 31 Aug 2015 20:30:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-chevrolet-camaro-ss-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-chevrolet-camaro-ss-track-test/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104209 It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in […]

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan.

Currently GM offers six versions of the Camaro, from the relatively mild-mannered 323 horsepower 3.6 liter V-6, to the journalist jailing supercharged 580 HP ZL1. This doesn’t include the nearly 17 convertible and specialty variants. This particular Summit White version is a 2SS model with leather interior, a 426 hp 6.2 liter V-8 and 6 speed automatic transmission. Building this car on Chevy’s website comes in a hair under $40K.

Slipping into the wide leather seats, the Camaro immediately reveals its size. It’s not a big car but quite portly at around 4,000 lbs and it feels like it with the over-boosted power steering and long travel brake pedal. That’s not a complete negative because the reality of this car is it will spend it’s life on a daily commuter’s grind with an occasional stoplight blast to remind the owner they bought the V-8.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

However, the track is where the Camaro surprises you. Even with the over-boosted steering and marshmallow power brakes, the Camaro can actually handle itself on a track. In the first turn the SS seems to magically shed 1,000 lbs. It is by no means a track car, but becomes unexpectedly nimble. Where the overbuilt nature of the Camaro comes into play is its ability to repeat this activity for three straight days.

The first trick, of course, is to completely disable the traction control. Either hold the button or press it twice to completely turn it off, otherwise the yaw control will apply the brakes. It won’t upset the car, but it will add wear to the almost overtasked four-wheel discs.

Instead, you learn to use the tires, but be warned that those tires will not last. The SS comes from the Oshawa plant equipped with staggered P245/45R20 front and P275/40R20 rear high-performance summer tires. These are capable shoes, especially in the light of the Camaro’s most likely fate. However, if you are in the market for this and you’re going hit the track, invest in a spare set of rims and tires. This is no different than with the Mustang GT or even the Challenger — they are all fast cars, but they are not Miatas and will consume wear items. Even harking back to their earliest appearances in the late ’60s Trans-Am series, track versions of these cars need upgraded shoes and brakes. Fortunately, there is a host of companies, including GM Performance, that make this an entertaining late night Internet search and endless fodder for web forum debates and bench races.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Alongside those debates about the best wheels, tires and the worthiness of a GM brake system versus a Wildwood upgrade, you will see discussions on engine enhancements. You don’t need them. The 6.2 LS, even in this form, is plenty. You won’t set any track records, but the 420-foot pounds of torque is more than enough to put you in well over your head.

Leading a pack of supercars could be overwhelming, yet a well-driven SS managed to hold its own. The car would push through turn 2 but slide right onto the outside for a blast into turn 3. With a suspension load, the SS would use the whole track for exit then build a solid head of steam through 4 without lifting and settling on the outside of the entry into 5. Turn 6 was the Camaro’s moneymaker. The trick was to take the exit of 5 all the way to the far side for the 6 entry, hit the apex and roll into the throttle hard. Let the rear wheels spin through the limited slip, stepping the rear slightly out, and glide to the exit. Without fail, this would put a car length on the aggressively driven Nissan GT-R following behind. The right sweeper of turn 7 would give the AWD cars a chance to catch as the Camaro pushed the front end to drive to the outside, but the SS would be impossibly well composed and balanced through the 8/9 combo. Hard into 10a with a hint of trail braking and before letting the big dog run down the the Phoenix Flat, textbook entry for turn 11 and onto the front straight, hard braking up the hill for turn 1.

Gingerman Raceway

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. This would be the SS’s job for three straight days. That is actually where you begin to respect the Camaro. Yes, there are lots of well-built cars that you can drive to the track, enjoy all weekend and drive home, but the SS was here to lead a pack of 9 supercars totaling almost 4,500 horsepower — five of them equipped with all-wheel drive. This was a real trial for the big white whale, and it was honestly up to the task. It is not a supercar. It is just a solid, fast car.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

If you have 40 grand and a need for the occasional backseat you could do worse than the Camaro. Staying out of the option box could keep the cost closer to $35K. That would leave you some room for the modifications you would eventually make. After all, you’re a gearhead, and it’s a great time to be one.

General Motors contributed nothing to this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, lives in Atlanta and is racing his a tape covered Honda Civic in the 24 Hours of LeMons this month at Autobahn in Joilet Illinois. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on InstagramTwitter and Vine at M3ntalward.

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Another Corvette Z06 Engine Fails, This Time In Journalist’s Hands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/another-corvette-z06-engine-fails-this-time-in-journalists-hands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/another-corvette-z06-engine-fails-this-time-in-journalists-hands/#comments Sat, 18 Jul 2015 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1119353 While track testing the latest Z06 Corvette, Gary Gastelu of Fox News experienced an issue that’s becoming a trend for Chevrolet’s supercharged sports car: engine failure. “After a few lapping sessions, the engine in mine unceremoniously called it quits,” reports Gastelu in his review. Unfortunately the cause is still unknown in this instance, though engine […]

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While track testing the latest Z06 Corvette, Gary Gastelu of Fox News experienced an issue that’s becoming a trend for Chevrolet’s supercharged sports car: engine failure.

“After a few lapping sessions, the engine in mine unceremoniously called it quits,” reports Gastelu in his review.

Unfortunately the cause is still unknown in this instance, though engine failures are increasing in occurrence for the 650-horsepower Corvette.

Late last year, Corvette Forum’s member “Lawdogg149″ had the LT4 V-8 in his Z06 implode after only 891 miles on the clock. The failure was with the valvetrain, though root cause of the failure wasn’t reported. GM instructed the dealer servicing the car to return the engine to the mothership unopened for further analysis. The Z06 received a new powerplant covered under warranty.

GM Authority stated as many as three failures have been mentioned on Corvette Forums as of June 2015.

Other issues have been reported, such as reduced power after hard launches or track use, in order for the engine to “survive for 100,000 miles as well as allow the Z06 to meet stringent US emissions regs,” reported Jalopnik last year.

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2015 Lamborghini Huracán Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lamborghini-huracan-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lamborghini-huracan-track-test/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104033 A short time ago, I left you with my impressions of the Porsche 911 GT3. Even now, I am still in love with that car (Tiffany…call me). However, love is blind and everyone’s a critic. Just after the publication of that piece, I got a text from a buddy who published an outstanding review on […]

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2015 Lamborghini Huracán

A short time ago, I left you with my impressions of the Porsche 911 GT3. Even now, I am still in love with that car (Tiffany…call me). However, love is blind and everyone’s a critic.

Just after the publication of that piece, I got a text from a buddy who published an outstanding review on the Lamborghini Huracán. It simply declared “No way a GT3 can keep up with a Huracán.” Well my limited resources were never going to make that track test happen, but I do have access to a pair of Huracáns…

So, why not see what the hype is about?

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Let’s just get it out of the way; this is not a rehash of Baruth’s write up in Road & Track. This is my lesser driving ability and writing talent on a shorter racetrack filtered through my time with the new baby Lambo. The shorter track is key, because when JB was giving the Lambo the business, I also received a text photo of a recorded 176 MPH saved on the dash. I don’t have enough track or skills to match that.

Not that I wouldn’t try…

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

I have always liked Lamborghinis. I would even bet money my first exposure was the same as yours: The opening scene of “The Cannonball Run” with Tara Buckman exiting the black scissor door and expressing her opinion on the then 55 mph speed limit.

I liked them, but I never loved them. They seemed to be beautifully designed but delicate machines. They never really had the track cred of their Italian neighbors and certainly not the collection of titles from my beloved Stuttgart crew. I never drove one until 2014 when I got behind the wheel of a trio of Gallardo’s at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. I got a chance to drive both the AWD and rear wheel drive versions. They weren’t bad cars, but even with my svelte 6-foot runners frame, fitting inside became challenging and, after a while, somewhat painful as my helmeted head was always slightly tilted.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

So when I was first exposed to the Huracán, I dismissed it as a modern Gallardo and went back to dry-humping the GT3. However, Saturday morning found me behind the wheel of the big red beast. You already know this, so chalk it up to verification, but it fits people. Not just taller people, but short ones as well. The Gallardo was not only painful for tall folks, but challenging for short ones; the seat simply did not have the range of motion. This one is much more usable.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That doesn’t mean the Lambo has gone all “normal.” The dash is still an aggressive liquid crystal display, even for the center gauges and environmental control display combo. Both theHuracán and Aventador were inspired by the shape of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, so jagged corners permeate the styling. Unlike the McLaren, which feels almost sterile in comparison, the Huracán is unapologetically a Lamborghini, like all before it. That’s a good thing.

The next unapologetic aspect of the car is the 602 horsepower V10 bomb behind the driver.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Holy.

Freaking.

Crap. (This is not what I said, but we both have jobs we’d like to keep)

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That outburst came from a client who had literally only driven one car her entire life: A 1967 Camaro with a well worn 327 cu V-8. So when I asked her to step on the gas and roll onto the track, she literally stomped on the accelerator. The stability control and AWD kept the car pointed forward, but just barely. The demonic howl was enough to interrupt the classroom session next to the track…on the second floor.

The eight-speed transmission clicks off shifts as smoothly and seamless as you would expect, either with the side-mounted paddles or left to its on capable devices. The only possible drawback is the occasional unwillingness to downshift when left in “Strada,” which if you are on a track you shouldn’t do. However, if you are in the right seat, next to a college sophomore who has never driven anything more powerful than Mom’s Honda Pilot, you absolutely leave the car in “Strada.” Don’t worry. The acceleration is still more than enough to cause an audible gasp. Even more impressive is the Huracán’s rolling start. A well-executed entry onto Hallett’s turn 12 and full application of throttle would build speed so quickly, every client I rode with would lift before the marker ½-way down the main straight.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Even in New Jersey, at Englishtown’s impossibly tight track with very boisterous locals, I never had to verbally tell anyone to lift down the short straightaway. This is still a Lamborghini and it still scares people. They just did it on their own. The gap from this car and your very fast M3 is farther than the gap between the same M3 and my 1966 El Camino.

In this light, I began to understand Jack’s claim about the Huracán. It is explosive and accelerates like nothing you have experienced. It’s wildly expressive, more communicative than you expect, and scarier than most can imagine. It is blisteringly fast and outrageous as every Lamborghini should be.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That’s where I depart from the narrative. The Lamborghini Huracán is indeed staggering. It is the definition of a “supercar” and, in that sense, light years beyond the 911 GT3 — even the GT2. The Audi guts inside are far more reliable than anything featured in “The Cannonball Run” or the litany of knock-offs and sequels. The styling will always command attention from downtown Dallas to your local Cars and Coffee.

As advanced and capable as it is, on a tight track, it’s not a race car. Even under Audi’s stewardship, Lamborghini’s lack of a racing heritage shows. The car will eat 458 Italia’s without breathing heavy, but the Ferrari will always feel more like a driver’s car. The Nissan GT-R cleans up any mess you make like your mother when you have the flu, but the Huracán will effortlessly stomp it to oblivion.

None of that matters, because the Lamborghini Huracán is not a car for the track or to beat other cars. It is an amazing achievement. While most of these specimens will spend too much time in garages or cruising South Beach, the Huracán is a truly great car. You could actually live with one of these everyday, but it was built for one very narrow niche.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

The Lamborghini Huracán is a car for fans of the Bull. It is the fulfillment of a visual and audio promise made in 1981 when we saw those scissor doors open for the first time. It is a car built for those who truly love Lamborghini, and honestly, it’s about damn time.

Photography by Nick Boris.

Lamborghini contributed absolutely nothing to this review. It was researched over 18 separate days in at tracks in Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey coaching with Xtreme Xperience, burning their gas and using up their tires while driving and riding in their collection of exotics. Christian was compensated by Xtreme Xperince, but they had no influence over the outcome of this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. Next month he will be racing with those madcap Baruth brothers in Michigan. You can follow that impending debacle on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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2015 Toyota Prius, Track Tested Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060434 You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves […]

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2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves of New Jersey. They endured fatigue, crippling expense, and hair-raising 100-mph off-track excursions to challenge their inner demons and define themselves.

This is not their story.

This is the story of the Prius they drove. Over 1,600 miles. From Ohio to New York to New Jersey to Philly and back to Ohio.

Plus fifteen laps on a racetrack.

2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance:

  • I thought the Prius was absolutely brilliant, and I’m going to give you ten reasons why.
  • I also thought the Prius was depressingly cheap and annoyingly outmoded, and I’m going to give you five reasons why.
  • My opinion about the Prius has been changed forever.
  • My opinion about the bulk of Prius owners remains unchanged.

Alright, let’s get to it. This is the TTAC of 2015, so instead of telling you a sordid tale about a bottle-blonde working girl named Natalya who stood next to me and told her date, “I’m worth the money” as I watched Mike Stern, Anthony Jackson, and Lionel Cordrew just kill it at 55 Bar in the Village last Wednesday night, we’re going to have a listicle.

Ten Reasons The 2015 Prius Is Absolutely Brilliant. Number Six Will Blow Your Mind.

1. No tumblehome. The sides of the third-generation Prius are actually concave. The side windows reach straight up from a surprisingly low doorsill to a squared-off meeting with the roof. This car feels hugely roomy and comfortable to me, more so than any other car with its footprint on sale today, and that’s why.

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2. Reasonable driver position. There’s plenty of room to be had between the door card and the floating console. The blank space ahead of you, where the instrument panel would be in, say, a Ferrari F12berlinetta, is grey plastic adorned with a “Synergy” waveform pattern that also appears in every glass divider in the lobby of every mid-price hotel in America. And maybe it’s because I’d driven a ’99 Camaro SS right before getting into the Prius, but the distance to the windshield base was positively reasonable.

3. The vision thing. There’s no “DLO Fail”, as our own Sajeev Mehta would say. The front quarter windows are useful for parking. The rear quarter windows have heating elements on them. Driver vision is clear and nearly unobstructed. And the rear double window in the hatch – holy fuck, man, when was the last time you drove a car that let you see the license plate of the car following you? This is the opposite of the face-down-ass-up thing that most modern sedans have. Love it.

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4. Uninvaded space. The Prius had room for three people, their luggage, their race equipment, and a carbon-fiber Rainsong jumbo on which I played “Ramble On” after practice on Friday. “Jesus,” my brother said, “make that stop.” The packaging just plain works for both people and luggage.

5. You can turn the DRLs off. Every car in the world should offer this feature. Combined with the “EV mode”, to be discussed shortly, this would make the world’s greatest night-time drive-by vehicle ever. Room for a Bulgarian AK-47 clone in the back? Check! The ability to roll silent? Check! No DRLs to alert your rivals? Check!

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6. The hybrid powertrain, as implemented in this car, is beyond reproach. From Columbus to Manhattan, the Prius returned about 51 mpg despite being asked to cruise at 80-90 mph. But it was on the road to Chinatown that I had my own road-to-Damascus moment. Exiting the Holland tunnel, I pressed the “EV mode” button. The engine didn’t turn on until we arrived at the hotel and had to wait for the valet. No fuss. No drama. Half an hour on the battery, stopping, starting, listening to Father John Misty on the crank-up. It would have been two gallons’ worth of gas in anything else.

What Toyota has done with this Prius is simply brilliant. You can watch the energy displays if you like, but you don’t need to. Only once was I caught out by the Synergy Drive; making a left turn onto a crowded four-lane, I pumped the throttle to sneak into a hole between two cars and was unexpectedly braked by the Toyota’s decision to cut the engine. That’s it. That was the only time I didn’t like the system in the space of 1,600 miles. I’m a believer.

7. The quiet aero. True, my current fleet of vehicles, containing two Porsches, two Honda motorcycles, and a car (the Honda Accord) which has been infamous for road noise since 1976, tends to damage my idea of what a quiet car is. Still. This Prius has less wind noise than anything else I’ve ever driven. You can have a reasonable conversation at 90 mph.

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8. The handling. Yeah, it’s on those low-roll Avids, which aren’t great. But when I took the Prius around New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning course, the Prius was a capable and friendly partner. It can hit 96 mph on the front straight before recovering sixty watt-hours braking at the “4” mark. You can rotate it – wait, I’m laughing as I type – you can rotate it at turn entry on the Synergy Drive recovery mode of the brake pedal. No, it’s not fast, but it’s not undriveable. More importantly, the Prius ended its tour of the track with a firm brake pedal, no worrying heat smells, and two bars of battery left in reserve. Hey, it’s got two controversial F1 technologies: a CVT (hey, Williams!) and battery energy recovery (hey, every F1 team during KERS development except Williams!) The only caveat: The stability control doesn’t like high-G maneuvers at freeway speeds.

9. The air conditioning. Oh what a feeling, to sit in the Prius on a hot Jersey day and just let the battery run the A/C for you while the engine sleeps. Guilt-free motoring at its finest.

10. The stereo. Best cheap-car stereo I’ve heard in a while. The dynamics of it won’t cause my friends at Stereophile to pen any rapturous tributes but at least it’s loud enough for a 43-year-old man who has been deafened by years of unmuffled club racers and Benelli shotguns operated indoors.

After six days with the Prius, I was ready to buy one without question. Keep in mind that only the existence of my personal fleet would make such an idea palatable; I’m about as likely to buy a Chinese-made dress shirt as I am to make a car that can’t break 100 in the quarter my only vehicle. Still, for ninety-five percent of the driving that I do, the Prius makes more sense than anything else on the road. And trust me, after blasting out to the lead of a forty-one-car pack while the Bimmers behind you bang fenders loud enough for you to feel it in your chest, getting into a car that “turns on” with a beep is oddly comforting.

Of course, the Prius has problems, and here are five of them:

1. The dashboard is garbage. Forget the fact that it’s in the center. The displays themselves are a strange mixture of cheap monochrome LCD and monochrome segment LCD and backlit icons like you’d find on a God-damned ’79 Tercel. Every time you look at the display, you’re reminded of just how they found the money for the Toyota Synergy Drive in a $24,000 car. No Ford made after the Tempo looks this cheap inside.

2. The rest of the car is cheap, too. You can load these things up but my rental-spec “Prius One” lacked basic features such as a three-blink turn signal. It’s equipped like a base Accent despite costing half again as much. There’s no reason for it other than to push you upmarket to the five trim levels above. It’s exploitative and stupid in the best GM practice.

3. It also treats you like an idiot. Yes, we all know the kind of people who buy these things in droves: feckless, mouth-breathing Whole-Foods-shopping asexuals who treat the government like a surrogate parent and use phrases like “I’m not okay with that” and “Here’s why that’s a problem.” Some day it will be legal to cut those people down from horseback like a Dothraki, but in the meantime they have to be coddled by a car that BEEPS INSIDE WHEN YOU’RE BACKING UP. I know I’m backing up, damn it! I also don’t need the car to flash some tacky-ass additional display every time I touch the Volume button. I know I’m touching the Volume button, because I’m a functioning human. What’s worse: the “you’re-touching-a-button” display lights up when you touch the button, but you have to press the button more to get it to do anything.

4. The seats are fairly miserable. Front and back. They’re shaped oddly and made of mouse fur. Toyota knows how to make a great seat – the Lexus RC F that showed up at our race proves that. They just don’t give you one here.

5. It’s really slow. Yes, I know that’s part of the package. But I hate it. I don’t see why there isn’t some KERS-style maximum-discharge mode for when you really want to get up to that open spot in the lane next to you.

And that’s it.

A thousand miles in a Prius will make you a believer, as long as you understand what it is. It’s not a Swiss Army Knife, it’s not a Hellcat, it’s not a Tesla Model S. It’s the most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T. As such, it lacks both surprise and delight. If you don’t like it, get an Accord V6.

The Prius is not brilliant because it’s a hybrid. By and large, hybrids suck and it doesn’t matter if you’re referring to the Highlander Hybrid or the Panamera Hybrid. The hybrid concept only works when you apply it to the Prius, the same way that a double-clutch transmission is racetrack magic in a McLaren 650S but utterly miserable in your commuting Fiesta. The Prius isn’t brilliant because it’s a hybrid. It’s brilliant because it is designed for a single purpose – efficient transportation – and the HS-Drive is a part of that design. A Prius without the battery would be a better commuter than an Elantra with one. But as a single, unified system, the standard Prius is flat fucking wonderful.

If only I didn’t feel dirty after driving it, like I’d been caught reading a Jezebel article about The Top Ten Ways Men Are Stare-Raping You At The Gym or something. I think I can fix that. If you’ll excuse me, I have a superbike that needs some conspicuous wheely-ing.

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Track Test: 2011 Mustang V8 w/Brembo Brakes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/track-test-2011-mustang-v8-wbrembo-brakes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/track-test-2011-mustang-v8-wbrembo-brakes/#comments Mon, 17 May 2010 23:43:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356761 As I exit Turn Eleven at Summit Point Raceway’s twisty, concrete-lined “Shenandoah” course, I’m confronted with a rare opportunity to put my money where my mouth has been. In a review of the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, I perhaps foolishly opined that “C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be […]

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As I exit Turn Eleven at Summit Point Raceway’s twisty, concrete-lined “Shenandoah” course, I’m confronted with a rare opportunity to put my money where my mouth has been. In a review of the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, I perhaps foolishly opined that “C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be run nose-to-tail down long freeway sprints.” Now I’ve found myself fifty feet behind an enthusiastically-driven C5 Z06, and it’s squatting with full throttle up Shenandoah’s Bridge Straight. This will be a straight drag race, and for extra irony it’s going to occur on a road course. Four tires chirp. Sixteen cylinders sing. Forty to one hundred and ten miles per hour. Up a hill. Was I wrong? Can the mighty five-point-oh hunt for Corvettes?

Yes. It can. At least when said five-point-oh is equipped with the optional 3.73 axle ratio that, along with a pricey set of Brembo front brakes, makes up the entire list of options on our $32,800 test vehicle. No measurable gap appeared between the two cars before both went briefly airborne at the end of the sharply peaked Bridge Straight. Once we landed, the Z06 driver did the sensible thing and signaled for us to pass before the entrance to the Nurburgring-replica Karussell which is Shenandoah’s trademark feature.

The skeptical among you will point out that it’s not perfectly fair for your humble author, a victor of such exalted automotive events as the 2007 24 Hours of LeMons at Flat Rock, to go picking on advanced-group trackday drivers. You may be correct. Still, I think it’s worth noting that I ran a very similar 2010 Mustang GT 4.6 in essentially the same group of drivers last year and found myself Corvette chow every time the track went straight. This five-liter is a different animal: strong from idle to redline and NASCAR-frantic as the needle swings ’round the tach. It’s very nearly the perfect normally-aspirated trackday engine; no surprise, given its close-cousin status to the Ford “Cammer” Daytona Prototype mill.

The rest of the Mustang is, of course, a little less race-ready. The control surfaces in our no-frills model didn’t really please me. Everybody says they want a low-content Mustang GT, the same way that everybody claims to be holding cash in hand for a six-speed biodiesel-powered rear-wheel-drive sport wagon, but the folks who actually buy Mustang GTs buy them with plenty of options. That’s a good idea. Check every box on the form except the fabulous glass roof, since it adds a lot of weight in a very bad place for road-course handling.

The 5.0 was the subject of much trackside discussion this past weekend, most of it focusing on the optional Brembo front brakes. Here’s the best way to think about them: Go look at a Porsche 911 GT3. Evaluate the size of the brakes on that car. Now come back and look at these optional Brembos. Then consider that the Mustang outweighs the GT3 by a few hundred pounds. Get the idea? These aren’t the be-all and end-all of optional brake setups. True racing Mustangs use massive calipers front and rear. These brakes, which are identical to the GT500 stoppers and probably very similar to the items found on the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT-8, aren’t even close to what’s required for heavy-duty track use.

That caveat aside, these aren’t necessarily cosmetic items. Unlike the standard sliding-caliper Mustang front setup, the Brembos will take a genuinely hard lap or two before requiring some rest, and they never cook the brake fluid the way last year’s “Track Pack” pad option did. I added fifty feet of breathing room to my desired braking zones throughout the weekend and never completely ran out of stopping power. That’s good enough for most people, and those of us who want more have many aftermarket options.

The various chassis and aerodynamic improvements Ford touts for 2011 are not easily detected without a back-to-back drive in identical conditions, but the car as I experienced it was more than satisfactory for track rats of all experience levels. The P Zero tires aren’t super-grippy but they communicate honestly. Axle hop under wheelspin is minimal and it’s rare that one is forcibly reminded of the Mustang’s suspension layout. It takes a solid hit to a curb with steering already (mis)dialed-in to really experience the pop-and-slide motion so familiar to CMC racers everywhere.

The AdvanceTrac system has an “intermediate” mode where wheelspin is allowed and some degree of lateral motion can occur before intervention. It’s a pretty good compromise for trackdays. Disabling the whole system, as I did on the second day I drove Shenandoah, reveals a stable yet tossable big car that can be thrown around without fear.

I provided Mustang rides to a wide variety of people over the course of the weekend — attorneys, racers, even a TTAC reader. I believe that all of them stepped out of the car with a healthy respect for what Ford’s accomplished here. Even if you haven’t tracked a Camaro or Challenger and been unimpressed by those cars’ lumbering on-track demeanor, this 5.0 is likely to make a believer out of you. Just don’t brag too much ahead of time to your ‘Vette pals; it’s better to show than it is to tell.

Ford provided the vehicle and insurance for this test. TrackDAZE provided the space on the track and a rather decent lunch for two days. The author is a TrackDAZE instructor and can be requested by novice and intermediate-level drivers at any 2010-season TrackDAZE event.


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