The 2018 Subaru WRX is a stiff, but rewarding, performance sedan

Though technically a sedan, the Subaru WRX is really a sports car — it just happens to have four doors. Subaru sought to make the WRX even more usable for daily life, including the addition of new safety technology and an updated infotainment touchscreen system. The WRX sees subtle exterior changes for 2018, including revised front styling and a redesigned front grille that’s now a bit more aggressive. The WRX’s low body work, rear lip spoiler, integrated hood scoop, side vents, and quad exhaust all hint at its performance, but it’s never over the top; that’s left to the more hardcore WRX STI. Subaru updated the WRX’s interior for 2018 to make it more livable. This includes a new infotainment system, which seems like it’s lifted right out of a previous-generation Toyota Camry, and that’s not a bad thing. The cabin’s layout is simple with easy-to-use controls, but it’s not particularly upscale. At times, it feels pretty drab, especially compared with the rival Volkswagen GTI. Our test model came with the optional Recaro performance bucket seats, including an eight-way power driver’s seat. It’s part of a performance package that also includes upgraded performance brakes. These seats bolster well, but they’re a little tight. Dealer Specials:An additional trip computer is located atop the center console that’s operated via a toggle above the main touchscreen. It includes performance stats such as the status of the turbocharger as it cranks up the boost on the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine, which makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent through a six-speed manual transmission to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive. The WRX is also available with a continuously variable transmission, which is a curious choice for a performance car, but it still manages power from the engine well. The WRX is also offered as the hardcore STI. It comes with a Continue Reading

Track day with Chevy: Behind the wheel of the Corvette Grand Sport, Colorado ZR2, Bolt EV and more

Between powerful trucks, reimagined classic sports cars and a zero-emission vehicle that’s surprisingly fun to drive, Chevrolet’s lineup of new vehicles for 2017 and 2018 is as diverse as they come. Highlighted by flashy, high performance vehicles such as the off-roading Colorado ZR2 and the Corvette Grand Sport and bolstered by quality daily drivers in the redesigned Traverse and Equinox crossovers, Chevy’s new product lineup takes aim at all corners of the consumer market. To get a closer look at the latest bowtie badge offerings, I attended Chevrolet’s Find New Roads Tour as it made its northeast stop at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey. Normally limited to regional dealers, the event was opened to the media to give us some wheel time inside the brand’s latest offerings. 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD The tour began with the Silverado 2500 and Colorado ZR2. Both are pickup trucks but the similarities end there. As one of two heavy-duty offerings from Chevrolet’s truck lineup, the Silverado 2500 is the type of pickup on which the side steps are not only beneficial but darn-near necessary for climbing into the cabin. Once situated in the throne-like driver’s seat, I was tasked with rounding a track and weaving through traffic cone slaloms while towing a Chevy Equinox on a flatbed trailer. Fortunately the 3,400-pound SUV did very little to hinder the 2500’s forward progress; with 910 lb.-ft. of torque (a 19 percent boost from last year’s model) I was up and running with no hitches beside the one linking truck and trailer. Outfitted with an all-new 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine, the Silverado HD can pull 14,500 pounds, so a measly compact crossover was no problemo. More impressive than its ability to accelerate with that much weight behind it, was the Silverado’s ability to fight Continue Reading

2015 Lincoln MKC blends performance and panache in petite package

When you think of a Lincoln, you think of a big, black, cushy, cruiser of a car with a gigantic back seat and an enormous trunk. The new 2015 Lincoln MKC isn’t anything like that. Instead, the MKC is a compact crossover SUV demonstrating remarkable athleticism and stylish sophistication, while simultaneously signaling a clear and unmistakable shift in what a Lincoln can be. Lincoln began its current transformation with the 2013 MKZ midsize sedan. The new 2015 MKC is the second big step in the right direction for this luxury division of Ford, soon to be followed by a restyled 2015 Navigator full-size SUV, a redesigned MKX midsize crossover SUV, and a new full-size luxury sedan that will replace the current MKS model. Each remains based on a Ford-badged vehicle, though Lincoln looks to distance its products with unique styling and details. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE.  Take the new MKC, for example. Can you tell at a glance that it is based on the Ford Escape? The relationship between the two is not immediately evident, because the Lincoln MKC shares none of its exterior styling, and few of its dimensions, with its Blue Oval brother. The Lincoln’s cabin is special, too, featuring a push-button transmission located on the dashboard, available open-pore wood trim, and premium Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather on the mid- and upper-level versions of the MKC. What’s not unique to Lincoln’s new small crossover SUV are its powertrains. A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard, generating the same 240-horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque that it makes in other Ford and Lincoln models. A new turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine debuts in the MKC, one that will ultimately be shared with other Ford and Lincoln models – including the redesigned 2015 Mustang. Equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger to help eliminate turbo lag, the new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine Continue Reading

Marmaduke: Why it’s so hard to talk about suicide

The first time I contemplated suicide, I was trapped inside the walls of my battered blue Mitsubishi Galant, 11 hours into a 14-hour drive south on US Interstate 35.The sun was long gone, and I was squinting against the glare of the headlights bobbing around me in every direction. I remember I was in the left lane. I so badly wanted to jerk the steering wheel to the right.When I got to my sister’s house in south Texas three hours later, my fingers stiff from clenching the wheel while I tried to convince myself that my family and friends would miss me, I pasted on a smile and gave her a hug. The thoughts I’d had in the car never came up.I didn’t know how to talk about them. So few people do.RELATED:Chris Fine and Brooke Lee of SummitStone Health Partners came to the Coloradoan office on Thursday to present a truncated version of what SummitStone calls mental health first aid training. It was interesting and informative and you should really check out the takeaways here. But what struck me most about the presentation – and about the last few months my colleagues and I spent reporting on Larimer County’s suicide rate of about 25 deaths per 100,000 people, nearly double the national average – is just how hard it is to talk about suicide, even for the people who want to have the discussion.Case in point: Journalists. Who’s better equipped to initiate a community-wide discussion about one of Fort Collins’ most tragic problems?But eagerness doesn’t mean ease. Working on this project for the last two months, I thought constantly about the times in my life when thoughts of suicide chased me. I thought of the times I tried to talk a suicidal family member off the ledge. I thought of the text message I got from a severely depressed friend one night four years ago: “Jacy, I’m on my way to the hospital. I want you to know that I love you.” (He survived.)FORUM:I’m sure I’m one of many Continue Reading

2012 Lamborghini LP 550-2 Spyder pushes drivers into the red zone

Call me pazzo, but I’ve liked, not loved, each of the five Lamborghinis I’ve tested in the last 8 years. On the track, each were absolutely beautiful machines - stupefyingly fast, able to hold corners at ridiculously high speeds, and always augmented by that unmistakable, gorgeous Lambo belch ‘n’ roar. On the street, though, the cars felt bulky. Their brakes grabbed at low speeds. Their steering wheels were ever-so-stiff. Not that I wasn’t knocked out, mind you. It’s just that they were exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, especially after a day-long jaunt. The 2012 LP 550-2 Spyder, however, is a street-ready ultimate fighter. Its seats are comfy. Its brakes aren’t hasty, responding instead to subtle foot pressure, light taps or a to-the-floor-stomp. Steering and handling are user-friendly. In short, it’s a ball of Italian fire and my 4-day test provided a raw, thrilling, primal supercar experience.  The heart of the LP 550-2– a 5.2-liter, ten-cylinder engine achieving a blistering 550 horsepower – has been retuned and its characteristics optimized for rear-wheel drive, delivering a perfect and breathtaking synthesis of high-revving pleasure, explosive pulling power, exuberant temperament and powerful melody in all keys. It’s not my imagination that it’s a lighter car, either, as it weighs just 3,351 pounds and catapults itself from zero to 60 in just 4.2 seconds, with a top speed of 198 MPH.    The vehicle further flaunts its goods with a rear axle with a 45-percent locking differential and an e-gear transmission via steering wheel paddles augmented with an ESP stability control system. You can get rid of the stability system, though, by pressing the CORSA button allowing larger drift angles and gifting yourself an intense, fully dynamic supercar experience. The high-end, signature characteristics of the Gallardo chassis are fully retained, too – its pleasing Continue Reading

First Drive: Electric Chevrolet Bolt is roomy, agile

LAS VEGAS -- General Motors' first all-electric vehicle is not just a real car, it has surprising agility, a larger-than-expected interior and decent acceleration.Those were my impressions after a brief drive with the Chevrolet Bolt in a large parking lot across from the Las Vegas Convention Center this week.No one will confuse it with a Corvette or Camaro. That's not its goal in life.But in world of waning appetites for fossil fuel and growing interest in ride-sharing, the Bolt has a chance to find its niche.With a maximum speed of slightly more than 90 miles per hour -- I did not reach that in my modest trip -- the Bolt works quite well in urban driving where maneuverability is crucial.Bolt is slightly smaller and sits just a bit lower than the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore subcompact crossovers which have been received well in the U.S.Bolt design chief Stuart Norris explains that his team designed the car from the inside out. By tucking the battery pack beneath the floor and packaging the driver and passenger seats with a harder back and less foam than conventional seats, the Bolt team created ample leg room in the two rear seats.They also pushed the envelope with graphics for both the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and the 10.2-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash.There are about five or six choices for configuring the screen, including conventional entertainment features or more technical displays showing the battery pack's state of charge, the number of miles traveled and the miles left in its range."The Bolt is an opportunity to showcase some new ideas that can help it stand out," said Norris. One distinguishing feature is the option of using dark fonts on a white background."It does help minimize fingerprint smudging and some people find that it's easier to read," Norris said.There are four USB ports for charging mobile devices, as well as the 4G LTE connectivity now standard throughout nearly all GM's U.S. products.Much of Bolt's Continue Reading

Saturn minority report

2007 Saturn Aura XR Base price: $24,345 As tested: $26,769We shall all be wheezy and stiff in time and with luck one day, but you don't expect those time-earned handicaps in a brand-new car costing $26,769 loaded. Though the all-new Saturn Aura was voted "2007 Car of the Year" from Motor Trend magazine and equal accolades are pouring in from all quarters on the Web and in print, I found my XR's six-cylinder engine tepid on the highway, complaining loudly in an "Ow!' rather than an "Ain't it cool?" way when I mashed the accelerator during a recent four-day test. Things started well enough. The Aura's undeniably great-looking, with a vault-solid body, stainless steel chrome-tipped dual exhaust pipes, LED taillamps and an overall appearance of a car costing a lot more money.Inside, the optional Premium leather trim package is an unprecedented upscale step for Saturn, and the car's eight-speaker sound system with MP3 capability is above average and easy to use.But looks aren't the only reason people buy a car, and the Aura wimps out on some pretty significant details. Start it up, turn the wheel and you'll wonder if this thing even has power steering - it's that stiff. Handling is numb and you can't feel the road very well via your hands, even on a dry day, and it's not any better in the rain.One test journey took place on the soupy, 90-plus degree day we had on June 27, when the only greeting my apartment building acquaintances and I had for one another was "It's hot." I looked forward to cooling off in the car, but the Aura's air conditioner blew with as much gusto as an asthmatic mouse, even at full blast. Water rained from my forehead while waiting for the mechanism to chill the cockpit as I drove, thenI finally gave up and opened the windows on the highway. On the plus side, mileage is a better-than-decent 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway, and your transmission can be shifted manually using the paddles behind the steering wheel. There's plenty of Continue Reading

2016 Chevrolet Volt: The revolution will be electrified

The ★★★★ 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier extended-range electric car successfully answers the question that has bedeviled revolutionaries throughout history: What’s next?In the case of the all-new second-generation Volt, the answer is: More, better and for a lower price. For 2016, the compact that was already one of the most advanced and efficient cars on the road got a new architecture, electric motors, battery, engine and more, and its base price fell $1,175.The Volt competes with vehicles like the Audi A3 e-tron, BMW i3, Cadillac ELR, Ford C-Max Energi, Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid and Toyota Prius plug-in. Those cars are plug-in hybrids or extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs). The distinction between a plug-in hybrid and an E-REV matters more to engineers than drivers. All the cars allow the driver to use electricity to travel some distance before switching to power from a gasoline engine on longer drives.The original 2011 Volt was the first mainstream plug-in hybrid. It confused many people when it debuted. The term “plug-in” made them think of battery-only cars hampered by a short driving range and long waits to recharge. That wasn’t true, but along with political grandstanding by people trying to score points off General Motors for accepting government aid during the Great Recession, the 2011 Volt launched into stiff headwinds.The 2016 Volt’s EPA rating of 53 miles on electricity alone — up from 38 for the first-gen — beats all its competitors by a wide margin. The EPA-rated electric ranges of other cars in the segment are 17 for the A3 e-tron; 20 for the Ford C-Max Energi; 27 for the Sonata plug-in; 40 for the ELR; and 72 for an i3 with the optional range extender. The 2015 Toyota Prius plug-in was limited to 11 miles before the battery was exhausted and the engine had to take over. Toyota says the 2017 Prius Prime plug-in will have a battery range of 22 miles when it goes on sale later Continue Reading

Change Agents: Daniel Kim lights up Lit Motors

SAN FRANCISCO – Daniel Kim may well become the Steve Jobs of personal transportation.Not that he'll ever tell you that. The soft-spoken 33-year-old founder of Lit Motors is far too polite for such braggadocio. But the fact of the matter is, Kim – who, like Jobs, dropped out of Oregon's Reed College – is barreling down an iconoclastic highway whose destination is a revolution in the way humans move about."My end goal is to have a big, positive impact on the world in terms of carbon emissions and providing a safer and more enjoyable commuting experience," says Kim, a one-time Land Rover mechanic whose venture recently was the subject of a flattering Harvard Business School case study. "One day, I hope that anywhere I travel, I'll see a C1. I know it can happen."The C1 is a two-wheeled, fully enclosed, all-electric vehicle that is a motorcycle in name only. Its game-changing technological leap sits under the single-passenger's seat: two powerful computer-controlled gyroscopes that constantly keep the vehicle upright, whether it is stopped or in motion.The way Kim sees it, the C1 is the perfect choice for the overwhelming percentage of U.S. commuters who drive to work solo and prefer the safety of a car but lust after the lane-splitting advantages of a motorcycle. But his vision is global. "If my travels throughout Asia taught me anything, it's that there, the world rides on two wheels," he says. "For them, these are just a safer, better set of wheels."Although the C1 may look like a vision from a Jetsons future – a sleek white egg mounted on massive black tires – Kim is aiming squarely for the present.He has enough funding from angel investors to spend this summer hunkered down with his staff of 15 constructing a production model for a January unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show. So far, he says Lit Motors has pre-order commitments for three-quarters of its first 1,000 C1s, which will roll out in 2014.The initial price point will Continue Reading

Volkswagen’s Golf R is the turbocharged antidote to common luxury cars

Full Car Details More Reviews The best thing the VW Golf R has going for it is the VW badge on the grill. It’s also the car’s biggest handicap. With 292-horsepower and all-wheel-drive, the Golf R is a rapid and effective sports car, with a level of power and sophistication you expect from an outright German luxury brand. Unfortunately, with a starting price north of $36-grand, the Golf R happens to also carry a German luxury car price-tag. Let’s stick with how this VeeDub drives, for the moment, and then we’ll get back to the marketing and value proposition side of things. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. From the outside, the Golf R is subtly and tastefully set apart from lesser Golf hatchbacks by larger front air intakes, quad exhaust tips poking out of the rear, and a set of very handsome 19-inch “Cadiz” alloy wheels. Generally speaking, however, you’d have to be a VW fan to quickly recognize this Golf has something special in its bag of tricks. That’s really the point of this car. Those who actually know what it is are the ones guaranteed to love it. Now, let’s punch the gas! All four wheels dig into the asphalt to propel the Golf R onwards to a 0 to 60 mph time estimated at 4.9 seconds. That sounds a little slow, based on our time with the VW. Strong acceleration is only part of the allure here, however. The controls all feel perfectly balanced, the dynamics are fluid and expertly honed, and the brakes bring this 3,400 lb. hatchback to quick stops. The handling, for example, doesn’t have any of the artificially hefty push-and-pull that often masquerades as ‘sporty feeling’ in many modern cars and crossovers. Power into a corner and the Golf R gets you through with absolutely no nervousness, no steering wheel twitch, and with a ride that remains firm but never punishingly stiff even on imperfect Continue Reading