Capsule Review: 1984 Audi 4000 S Quattro

Living in Breckenridge, Colorado, you need some sort of All-Wheel Drive setup. Snow remains the small town’s primary reason to exist. This explains the multitudes of Subarus, Audis, Volvos, and SUVs all equipped with four wheel motivation. Most drive away blissfully unaware of how recent this feature came to market (as little as 27 years ago). In 1980, Audi introduced the first permanently engaged all-wheel drive system in the Audi Quattro. Prior to this, all vehicles had a part-time system where only two wheels were driven most of the time, requiring driver intervention should the going get slippery. Audi changed all this by putting one driveshaft inside the other, saving space and weight and making it possible for a complex, permanently engaged system to function on a small car. Vorsprung durch Technik, baby!

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Capsule Review: 2009 Acura RL

When a car salesman tells you an expensive model’s pointless, nine times out of ten, it’s pointless. If he proffers this opinion in the depths of a recession, with new car sales lower than Bernie Madoff’s morals, it’s a dead cert. I’ve experienced this vehicular vertigo twice in the last week. First, when contemplating a zero-mile Honda Civic Mugen Si gathering dust in an otherwise empty former Saturn showroom. Second, whilst sitting in an Acura RL, moments away from an extended test drive. The salesman told me flat out that the Acura TL is a better car than the RL, hinting that anyone who buys an RL is a sap. As I’ve rated the TL as a one-star car, where do you go from there?

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Capsule Review: Lexus LS600h L

Driving Lexus’ top-of-the-line luxobarge, I couldn’t figure out why I liked it. Seriously. The LS600h L is everything I don’t like about a car: huge, heavy, amorphous, numb, floaty-drifty and over-complicated. And yet… there was something subconsciously seductive about the big rig. I asked my step-daughter Sasha why she’d taken a shine to the world’s most expensive hybrid. “Because I can sleep in the back,” she replied. Three minutes later she was sheltering in the arms of Morpheus. Narcoleptic Lexus meme confirmed. So I amped-up the critical analysis and noticed a slightly crashy edge to the suspension and some wind noise on the driver’s window. Ha! The Big L isn’t even a perfect, four-wheeled slug of Ambien CR. To reality check my impressions, I floored it. And backed off. And pressed a couple of buttons. And floored it. And backed off. And then it hit me: the LS600h L has the world’s finest automobile engine.

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Capsule Review: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport (Manual)

Our illustrious Editor-in-Chief predicts the death of the manual transmission. The “stick-shift is toast,” Farago says, in his own special way. I disagree. If you want to go fast, get a paddle shift automated manual, a la Nissan GT-R. Time and again, the little levers have proven to be the fastest way to get around a track. Want easy breezy beautiful Orange County commuting? Get a traditional automatic. But if you want to maximize the man machine interface, nothing beats a manual. Three pedals can enliven the most leaden of automobiles. To wit: the Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport.

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Capsule Review: 1958 Maserati 3500GT

See, this guy in Lexington, KY died of cancer around 1962, and he left a Maserati to his only remaining relative, an uncle in his ’80’s living in Louisville. Uncle hadn’t driven a stick shift in 30 years but had just bought a new Cadillac, so he goes back to the dealer and says, “Get rid of this thing for me, willya?” The Cadillac salesmen looks at the Maserati, they look at each other, and one of them says, “Hey, I bet Dr. Dean would be interested.” And that’s how my father picked up a Maserati 3500GT for about two grand.

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Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy

Seven days and I’ll be back in the United States, having bid my farewell to the Middle East (but knowing I will return). As the countdown commences, I eagerly anticipate driving something without a Toyota badge on it, and possibly buying something interesting with all the money I have saved eating government food (and some sand). These past many months I have pored over eBay, Autotrader, and mobile.de (German used car site, check it out, forbidden gems!). After looking at the multitudes of steel out there, I wondered something… what could I get that would have oodles of character, the shades of a future classic, and not cost too much. So I present, Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy:




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Capsule Review: 1998 Audi A4 (B5)

60 Minutes nearly killed Audi in North America. After “Unintended Acceleration in the Audi 5000” aired in 1986, Audi sales dropped from 74k sales a year in 1986 to less than 12k by 1991. Sales remained constant until 1996, when Audi debuted a car that would finally tackle the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-Class head on. With its still unusual all-wheel drive system, classic German styling and interiors that set the industry standard, the A4 single-handedly revived sales in North America. An Audi fan since birth (when I was driven home in an Audi Fox GTI), I viewed them from afar; Roswell’s nearest Audi dealer lay eight hours away in Dallas. So I rejoiced when I signed the paperwork to purchase the first of the 5-valve V6 powered A4 quattros. Little did I know the next year would be filled with Germanic Sturm und Drang.

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Capsule Review: Geo Metro

Car haters love it. Car lovers hate it. The Geo Metro has come to represent the uncomplicated wet dreams of piss poor eco-weenies, and a bare bones deathtrap on wheels for the SUV faithful. It’s surprising that this car has elicited such strong reactions over the years given that it never rang up the sales charts in the first place. However, thanks to cheap gas and the return of the “tax gas out of the ass” brigade, I decided to drive one for a full week. And not just any one. A rare, non-optioned, rust free version that is as common in rural Georgia as an unsubsidized peanut farmer. To be perfectly honest folks, the Geo Metro wasn’t that good and it wasn’t that bad. It was… well…



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Capsule Review: 1977 Buick Nighthawk

I stood there with a look on my face as if I had been bitch-slapped by a Charlie’s Angel. What was this glorious ode to a time when spandex was the cutting edge of fashion and posters of Xanadu were still on theatre walls? I couldn’t get over the swoopy Mustang II knock-off lines, the flared nostril quad headlights, and the paint; the glorious, sparkling gold paint that arced through the black body, complete with matching gold rims. I had stumbled upon something most people have forgotten, a 1977 Buick Nighthawk, a special edition Skyhawk, parked beside Route 66, begging for someone to take her home.

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Capsule Review: 1989 Plymouth Grand Voyager

Who really debuted the first ever mini-van? The title remains hotly contested, between Renault’s Espace, and ChryCo’s Caravan/Voyager twins (not to mention the VW Microbus). But to North Americans and Europeans, that’s a moot point; both were first in their respective markets. The 1984 off-spring of Lee Iacocca came from Chrysler’s S-Platform, a stretched version of the K-Car chassis. (Yes, the very chassis that saved the Pentastar brand with its first-ever federal bailout.) By rejecting the normal rear wheel-drive layout of the time, the Voyager came off as a modern marvel. It boasted a transverse-front wheel-drive layout, flexible seating, good fuel economy, a smooth ride and car-like handling– something that took the other two Detroiters several years to figure out.

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Capsule Review: 1986-1989 Honda Accord

Next time you’re driving, look around. Provided you’re one of TTAC’s North American readers, chances are you’ll see at least one third-gen Accord humming along happily– despite its tatty cosmetic condition. The late ’80’s Accords showcased perhaps the finest demonstration of Japanese manufacturing capability; Honda crafted a sedan rivaling the legendary Toyota Hilux’s affinity for destruction-resistance.

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Capsule Review: Honda Odyssey

Although I am a long-time critic of long-term tests of hideously over-equipped press cars, raising as they do the questions about Motor Trend’s objectivity, I can see the value of knowing how well a vehicle performs over the long-haul. So, as TTAC’s refocusing its efforts on those four-wheeled thingamabobs known as “cars,” I thought I’d weigh-in with a little encapsulated commentary on the family Honda Odyssey. Before I do so, I want to take this opportunity to tell the world that I have hatred in my heart for Honda’s Majesterial Rhode Island dealer. Suffice it to say, I have sworn off the entire brand because of the treatment received. Ahem. Michelin PAX tires. They blow.

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Capsule Review: Mercury Sable

She beckoned me. She betrayed me. Like a transvestite with a svelte smooth body, exposed by ungodly rough stubble underneath her lip. The 1990 Mercury Sable had a perfect silhouette that was maligned by two hundred parking lot dings and scratches on her lower front bumper. An older lady had given her some brutal blows to that lower psyche of hers over the years and now it was my turn at the wheel… so to speak. Little did I know that this first encounter would be just the beginning of The Crying Game. This particular example of a Mercury Sable was as unique as it was dichotomous. 47,000 original miles in 18 years. But a base model with a fecal brown exterior. The equally repugnant plaid brown interior did the vehicle no favors. But Hell. For $600 I’d just be willing to cover her up in a paper bag and drive her around town for a while.

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Capsule Review: 2005-2008 Mitsubishi Colt

You already have Schadenfreude, Rucksack, Kindergarten, Fahrvergnügen. May I offer another useful German compound word? Verschlimmbesserung. Meaning: making something worse (in the process of trying to improve it). Car companies are good at Verschlimmbesserung, as proven by the Mitsubishi Colt.

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Capsule Review: 1981 Mercedes 240D

Mercedes-Benz sold more diesel fired sedans than petrol in North America to the tune of 4 to 1. While the 300D turbo models put out a decent power curve, and proved the more popular car in power obsessed America, the 64bhp 240D models found their place as the “entry-level” Merc for the masses. Crank windows, M-B Tex interior, and even a passenger side mirror as an option, the 240D was built for mass transit Europa instead of plush luxury Americana. However, the requisite Merc-ness still pervaded the car from the real wood trim, to the solid thunk when closing the doors (that’s still there, 30 years later). In 1981, a Mercedes, no matter what price level was still a Mercedes, anything less would be unimaginable.

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Capsule Review: 1970 911 Porsche 2.2S
In 1965 Porsche introduced the 901, the 2-plus-2 successor to the 356. The car, designed by Butzi Porsche in 1963, wasn’t a clean sheet or revolutionary design. Even so, Porsche later changed the name to the iconic 911 due to a dispute with Peugeot, which claimed ownership to all cars with “0” as the middle digit.The early 911s were under-powered and gasp… underdeveloped until they lengthened the wheelbase in 1969, and gave it more power.The extra grunt arrived in 1970 via increased displacement, in the form of the 2.2-liter engine.

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Capsule Review: 1967 Chrysler Imperial

I signaled to the engine room to increase power as I hefted the helm over to full starboard to clear the iceberg curb. Just like the ill-fated Titanic, I failed; however, unlike the ill-fated luxury liner, my interstate bound ship of dreams shrugged off the concrete obstacle with only a slight disturbance of the ever present floating waft. Never had I piloted a vehicle so large and vast feeling as my Avocado Green Metallic 1967 Imperial, made by Chrysler. At 224in long, and over 5600lbs of pure American uni-bodied steel, puts the similar sized Hummer H2 to shame in its ability to show of its largess. At least the Hummer has a modicum of efficient design, not so the Imperial, one of the shining examples of the de facto “Detroit Schoolhouse of Design.”

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Capsule Review: Audi Q7 TDI

First, the upsides. When I helped a pal who owns a kindergarten schlep some cinder blocks, I got unprecedented, appreciative smiles from a group of young mothers (I disapprove of porno jargon, so I won’t use the term “MILF”, but you know what I mean). I was expecting to see a lot of hate, but the only person who screamed at me was a fuzzy-bearded hippy. The TDI has oodles of low-end oomph, so it provides the particular pleasure you get from driving something that is both massive (2.4 metric tons) and muscular, especially when it’s full of stuff. This Q7’s 0 – 60 time of 8.6 seconds belies its 500 NM’s of torque. Basically flawless handling intensifies the elephant-on-dancing-shoes effect. And even when I drove it Teutonic-aggressively, I got at least 16 MPG.

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Capsule Review: Porsche Cayman

There’s only one thing wrong with the Porsche Cayman’s handling: the seats. The standard fitment chairs on the entry-level hardtop Porker (i.e. the non-S Cayman) are nowhere near supportive enough for the G-forces a spirited driver can easily and confidently generate. Drive a Cayman and you will know that darting about isn’t just for dragonflies anymore. But then, if you’re the kind of passionate pistonhead who craves cornering, you probably won’t be interested in our test car. Not ’cause of the smaller engine (245hp vs. the S’ 295hp). There’s plenty of poke once the revs crest three grand. Nope, it’s the Tiptronic gearbox that rankles.

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Capsule Review: 1985-1990 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
GM leased the IROC-Z name for the Camaro from the International Race of Champions starting in 1985 thru 1990. To befit this racing pedigree, the Camaro came…
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Hyundai Ix55: Worst Alphanumeric Name Ever?
Yes, we all hate the alphanumeric nomenclature, snaking over the auto industry like poison ivy. And with only so many letters and numbers, we always expect s…
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Capsule Review: 1987 Dodge Shelby Lancer
The best thing about the 1987 Dodge Lancer Shelby was the turbo lag followed by eye peeling acceleration. My dad always looked over at me, grinning with a wi…
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  • Jeff S The Cybertruck is one of the most hyped vehicles in decades.
  • Nrd515 This is all I could think of seeing this. I saw it in the theater with my dad about 59 years or so ago:https://www.popcorncinemashow.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Mr-Sardonicus-1961-01.jpg
  • Art Vandelay I have no illusions tha my Challenger was going to be a car I wanted to own 10 seconds out of warranty. Fun, sure. Fun in 8 years? Hard pass based on the 2 years I had it
  • ToolGuy Weren't some of the most powerful engines in the M4 Sherman air-cooled? (And supercharged.)
  • ToolGuy "I installed oil temp and cylinder head temp gauges on various vehicles I was driving, so I could monitor how the engine was doing. I switched from my normal 20W50 and dropped to 15W40 oil and put down thousands of miles. Within that time, I saw a noticeable decrease in oil temps and even cylinder head temps while driving in different situations."ToolGuy has great admiration for your use of the scientific method in conducting original research.