Archive for the ‘Exotic Cars’ Category

Pebble Beach: In Case You Missed It

Used by permission of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. All rights reserved

Photo courtesy Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. All rights reserved.

This weekend, the 58th Pebble Councours d’Elegance gave car lovers more than 200 reasons to lust after what they cannot have. The annual car show attracted competitors from 27 states and 12 countries, once again making it one of the most elite and well-attended shows in the world.

Although there was plenty of eye candy to keep onlookers oohing and ahhing at the 18th hole on the Monterey Peninsula’s Pebble Beach golf course, at the end of the day, only one car can be named “Best in Show.” And this time around, that honor went to John and Mary Shirley from Medina, Washington.

The Shirleys bought their 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta four years ago. It had already enjoyed a rich history – throughout the 1930s, the 8C 2900B was Alfa’s most prestigious touring car. Less than three dozen of the cars were ever completed and put on the road.

This particular car is even more unique, however. While most of the 8C 2900B models were bodied by Carrozzeria Touring, this is one of six that was privately commissioned to be built by Berlinetta, and its good looks landed it in several ads run by Alfa.

As if that’s not enough, John Shirley says the car’s attributes go beyond its obvious beauty.

“This car has an intriguing history,” he says. “It won the first race at Watkins Glen in 1948, and though the car’s been driven quite a bit, it’s never been wrecked.”

Even with its exquisite lines and perfect body, the Shirleys knew their Alfa faced some stiff competition. But at the end of the day, the 8C 2900B simply proved unbeatable.

“It takes an amazing level of elegance for a closed car like this Alfa to win here,” acknowledged Sandra Kasky Button, Concours chairman. “It requires the ultimate in style, grace and proportion. This car has all of that.”

Just look at this car. Who can argue with her?!

Online Shopping Continues to Grow – But Not For Luxury Cars

Posted in: Exotic Cars, General

Bentley in showroomMore and more wealthy Americans are turning to the web to get their shopping done, but when it comes to luxury cars, they’d rather hit the showroom floor.

That’s the final word from a study conducted by the Luxury Institute, which found that, while shopping online for luxury goods is way up, only about one-fourth of us are comfortable buying our cars that way. The study, which surveyed households with an average net worth of $2.9 million, provides some interesting insight into high-end shopping.

Luxury shoppers appear to be much more at ease buying real estate or big-ticket jewelry items online; nearly 40 percent are content to do so. And nearly two-thirds of people with annual incomes of $150,000 or more are OK with buying fashion apparel or finding wealth advisors online. But when it comes to cars – well, the showroom experience just can’t be beat. Maybe it’s that new car smell.

“These highly tactile, big-ticket luxury items are generally better experienced rather than simply presented on a website,” explains Milton Pedraza, Luxury Institute CEO. However, that doesn’t mean luxury players don’t need a presence on the web.

Nearly two-thirds of all high-end shoppers go directly to the web to get more information on their purchases before they buy. So while today’s consumers are reluctant to make online purchases beyond $10,000 (the average comfort threshold for online purchases was about $3,294), the overall shift toward more online activity is making its way to higher end purchases.

So does that mean it’s only a matter of time before you’ll buy that new Aston Martin online? Time will tell. As Pedraza noted, it’s hard to truly get the “wow” effect from a web site; nothing beats walking into the showroom and driving off with a brand new steering wheel in your hands. This could be one experience that even technology can’t replicate – or replace.

Study: New Cars Are Losing Their Luster

Is that new car smell losing its thrill? Could be, according to a new survey released by J.D Power and Associates.

The 2008 APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) Study shows that drivers are less thrilled with their new car purchases than they were a year ago. But it isn’t necessarily the cars themselves that are to blame. Instead, drivers point to prices at the pump, which have gone up 27 percent since last year’s survey.

“The increased cost of filling their vehicles … leads to a greater level of dissatisfaction with fuel economy than in the past,” notes David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Manufacturers that deliver more fuel-efficient vehicles…stand a better chance of delighting their customers.”

And there definitely were some delights to be found. Although Honda fared the best, capturing the highest level of satisfaction in three categories, luxury marque Porsche held its own with top ratings in two categories. It took home the APEAL award for its Cayman in the “Compact Premium Sporty Car” category and for the Cayenne in the “Compact Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV)” division.

Jaguar also fared well, earning a perfect score in “Overall Performance and Design.”

Luxury models that got the thumbs-up from satisfied drivers were the Lexus IS 250/IS 350/IS-F (Entry Premium Car); the BMW 5 Series (Midsize Premium Car) and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (Large Premium Car).

Joining the Porsche Cayenne in the Premium MAV category was Land Rover‘s Range Rover, which topped the list for Large Premium MAVs.

The survey goes hand-in-hand with J.D. Powers and Associates’ Initial Quality Study, which was released about three weeks ago and focuses on problems experienced by new owners during the first 90 days of ownership. To see how your favorite auto manufacturer fared, click here.





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Let Your Lambo Play Dress-Up

Posted in: General, Lamborghini

As we all know, accessorizing is the one thing that separates women from the animals. And from men.

However, there’s no reason to limit your accessorizing to your shoes, handbags and jewelry – there are many great ways to dress up your car as well. And if you happen to have a Lamborghini Gallardo in the garage, you’re in luck.

STRUT, the California-based luxury aftermarket auto accessorizer, has added a new collection of car jewelry to its offering. This time around, they’re offering carbon fiber and stainless steel appointments to let you customize your Lambo. Although they don’t have anything to offer first-year Gallardos, STRUT’s new collection includes two grilles with carbon fiber surrounds and stainless steel diamond-woven mesh bearing the STRUT shield for Gallardos built between 2004 and 2008. They also have matching side, rear hood, rear intake and bumper vents to add to the personal touches.

The result of these additions – besides making it a bit more personal – are a meaner profile and a distinctively different look to your Lambo. (Beats the heck out of a customized antenna ball or a bumper sticker!)

The Lamborghini Gallardo jewelry collection is $25,000 for the carbon fiber/stainless steel set and $35,000 for the limited edition titanium collection.

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Building a Better Bentley

Posted in: Bentley, General

Not that anyone was complaining about the luxury of its current and/or previous models, but now Bentley has announced plans for a new and improved car.

The British automaker has announced that, beginning in 2009, the Flying Spur lineup will be joined by its most powerful four-door to date – the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. Combining the cabin comforts of the Flying Spur with the driving performance of the highly acclaimed Contintental GT Speed, this latest addition is a 12-cylinder powerhouse with 600 horsepower that will top out at around 200 miles an hour, besting the Flying Spur’s top number of 195. It will also outperform the standard Spur in the 0-60 showdown, hitting the mark in 4.5 seconds, which shaves .4 seconds off the standard Flying Spur’s 0-60 performance. (Good to know if you’re in a hurry.)

Bentley has lowered the ride height, which will help the car hit its full velocity potential on the open road, and the Speed also boasts a reworked chassis that provides tauter handling and better steering response. With so many racing elements incorporated, designers also gave the car improved agility and body control … and then added thicker anti-roll bars to both the front and back of the car. Not that you’ll need them, of course – but it’s good to know they’re there.

As expected, this car isn’t designed just for superior performance, but for ultimate style and elegance as well. It has the familiar Bentley curves and styling cues, but subtle design shifts make the Flying Spur Speed stand out on the road. The dark-tinted radiator and air intake grilles are designed to emphasize the performance offered by this beauty, and it also sports wide exhaust pipes and unique multi-spoke alloy wheels – which are available either in bright silver or darkened tungsten. Bentley has also supersized the 19-inch tires offered on the Spur to 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeroes.

Like the rest of the car, the Speed’s interior also shows a darker side of Bentley, but it works exceptionally well. With expected but well-executed touches such as the gear lever in knurled chrome and hide, it is as beautiful as anything Bentley has ever put on the road. Carrying out its dark side, even the engine cover is black.

Around town, you’ll be getting about 10 miles to the gallon, although on the highway you can expect to squeeze out around 17 mpg.

Bentley’s official word on the Flying Spur Speed, according to Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn from their Board of Engineering, is that it “advances its Bentley performance credentials while delivering outstanding refinement and comfort through our unique application of advanced technology and traditional craftsmanship.”

Translation? This car has the performance power to blow other cars off the road…and the stylng elegance to knock your socks off in the process.

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What’s Sexier – A Porsche or a Prius?

OK, the answer to that question may seem obvious, but you might be surprised.

According to a recent poll, called the Challenge X Survey, about 88 percent of women said they would be more likely to stop and strike up a conversation with guys who are driving the latest fuel-efficient car as opposed to someone cruising around in a hot new sports car. What’s more, about 80 percent of car buyers here in the U.S. say they would rather spend quality time at a party talking to someone in a fuel-efficient auto rather than an exotic sports model.

This kind of information could cause quite a stir among males planning a mid-life crisis – in the past, they’ve been able to buy a Corvette (or some other life-affirming symbol of their manly power) and call it good. But in light of this new information, what’s a guy to do?

Does this mean that they’ll be trading their Hummers for Hondas? They just might, once they discover that more and more women are turning their attention toward cars that are green instead of admiring those fast, mean machines. What’s more, most respondents in the 18-to-43-year-old category said they consider it a fashion faux pas to buy a car that’s not environmentally friendly.

This, of course, poses questions for those tooling around in the kinds of cars that would only be green if you painted them. What does it mean for their future? That remains to be seen.

Until automakers start producing hybrid and electric vehicles that are as sleek and sporty as their gas-guzzling counterparts, auto enthusiasts are in a challenging position. Yes, I want to save the polar bears … but I’m also infatuated with the Bentley Continental. Fortunately, several automakers are trying to follow in the footsteps of the California-based Tesla Motors and give us some sexy yet environmentally friendly cars. Honestly, it just can’t happen soon enough.

A few years ago, a guy (who drove a minivan) tried to convince me that the car you drive has nothing to do with who you are. But we all know that it says as much about you as the music you listen to, the clothes you choose to wear and the style of home you live in. That’s not a shallow indictment of an individual’s strengths and shortcomings, but rather an outward indication of what matters is most important to them.

Perhaps what this survey is saying is that it really is what’s inside – or in this case, under the hood – that counts. What we need now are more cars that take that inner beauty and look as good on the outside as they do under the hood.

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Bugatti Veyron – The Sexiest Car You’ll Never Drive… Or Will You?

Posted in: Bugatti, General

Calling the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 a beautiful car is a lot like saying Samantha on Sex and the City has “had a few boyfriends.” The Veyron so far exceeds the expectations of most sports cars that it is truly in a class of its own. This stunning mid-engined racer sports a W16 under the hood and an elegant two-tone exterior with sleek, fluid lines that give it instant grace and beauty. The oversized grill gives a nod to its racing roots, while everything else about this car exudes modern elegance. And flat-out speed.

With only 300 of these 1,001-horsepower cars planned for production, however, the chances of sitting in one – let alone driving it – seemed slim at best. For most of the world, the only experience they’ll have with the Bugatti is through web images accompanied by such staggering facts as its top speed (over 250 mph), it acceleration (0-100 in 5.5 seconds) and its price tag (around $1.2 million).

However, for those who really have to add “Driving the Bugatti” to their own personal Bucket List, Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car has a deal for you. They’ve added a gorgeous blue-and-white Bugatti to their stable, and you can spend a day inside this dream car for just $25,000.

At just over $1,000 an hour, it’s cheaper than a good divorce attorney and a lot more fun to spend time with. And who knows – maybe if you just can’t part with it after a day on the road, they’ll give you a special deal on a weekly rate.

Let me know how that works out for you.

Inside the Audi R8

Posted in: Audi R8, General

When I was in my mid-20s, I drove an Audi – mostly because it was the ’80s, and you were pretty muchAudi front required to drive either an Audi or a BMW in order to keep your “cool” license from being revoked. But I have to say that my memories of that Audi are nothing like the experience inside the Audi R8.

For starters, this car looks nothing like your standard road-ready Audi. With styling cues drawn from the LeMans Quattro, the R8 represents the carmaker’s perfect execution of grace and style – something that is evident from the first glance. An aggressive grille gives this race-inspired sportscar immediate authority on the road, and it backs up that styling with 420 horses under the hood. Even the headlights have an eye-catching appeal, as if the R8 is staring back at you, daring you to jump inside and take it out for a spin. The LED daytime running lights circling the headlights – not unlike Boy George’s eyeliner in the aforementioned ’80s – give further distinction to this car’s design. It’s one of those cars that looks fast even when it’s standing in the parking lot.

This is clearly the most beautiful car in Audi’s stable, and they’ve put just as much emphasis on inner beauty as outer appeal. The interior is a rich racing-style cockpit, but it doesn’t cling so tightly to its racing roots that it loses its charm as a daily driver. It’s surprisingly spacious, and though it has been widely compared to a Lamborghini, the seats of the R8 are larger, comfortable and definitely more adjustable – something that smaller drivers appreciate immediately. If you’ve ever struggled to see over the wheel of a Lambo, you’ll appreciate the four-way adjustable support of the R8’s seats.Audi R8

The dash is another thing of beauty, from the flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel to the sportily designed gauges. This car has more dials than a watch shop, but you’ll find yourself fascinated with such gadgets as the five-function trip computer (which tells you everything short of how far it is to the next bathroom stop) and the “speed warning device,” which you can expect to use fairly often if you’re enjoying this car properly.

Not content to offer the standard heated seats, the Alcantara leather interior has three settings and the side sections of the seats are heated as well. Throw in the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, and you’ve got everything you need for the ride of your life.

On the road, the sportscar engineering shines. The mid-mounted V8 has a top speed of 187 mph, but the numbers really don’t matter; the handling does. It has remarkable acceleration and handles more like a smooth sedan than a stiff racecar. Although it comes with a manual six-speed transmission, our test car had the R tronic transmission, which gives you options of shifting with a joystick or with the paddles mounted on the steering wheel. We tried both ways and all we discovered was that we wanted a lot more time to play around with these options.

The Audi R8 has earned kudos from every major automotive magazine – and rightfully so. It looks like a beast but drives like a dream. Starting price is around $109,000 – and if this isn’t enough car for you, maybe you can hold off until Audi makes good on the R8 TDI V12 Concept diesel it began showing off earlier this year. But for those who want to enjoy the ride and look good doing it, the Audi R8 is a perfect 10.

Down Memory Lane

Brigitte Bardot

While the entertainment world flocks to the Cannes Film Festival this week, it’s a great time to look at the role that one particular car played in Cannes more than 50 years ago.

Back in 1955, actress Brigitte Bardot turned heads even more than usual when, instead of arriving at Cannes by train, she pulled up in a French-made Simca. And, as the media of the day noted, she wore a “summer dress that unveils her shoulders.” Not exactly a Britney moment, but racy enough for the day, I guess.

It’s unclear when Bardot began her association with Simca, but it appears that the two enjoyed a long and mutually satisfying relationship. In 1954, the car company gave the screen star this prototype of its Weekend convertible. She continued using that car in advertisements for the company, including this undated magazine photo (top) which shows her “Enjoying the open air in her Simca Weekend.”

Bardot loved the Simca Weekend convertible so much that she kept it until 2004. Today, it enjoys a place at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, where the handmade dove-gray car sits alongside some 400 other rare and unusual autos. The serial number on this sleek vehicle, which loosely resembles a Fiat, is 001.

The bottom picture is the car as it appears today at the museum.

Accepting No Substitutes

Posted in: General, Porsche

That\'s me in a 2007 Porsche Twin Turbo...

Apparently, Tom Cruise was right on the money when he uttered those much-quoted words: “Porsche. There is no substitute.” (Risky Business, 1983.)

According to a survey released earlier this month by New York City-based Luxury Institute, wealthy U.S. consumers still see Porsche as the world’s most prestigious luxury automotive brand. The poll was part of the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index survey, and asked the opinions of 1,642 Americans with an average net worth of $3.7 million.

Porsche might have led the pack, but was followed closely by Lexus and Mercedes. Surprisingly, no Italian brands made the survey’s top 12. Other brands that did make the cut with consumers were (listed alphabetically) Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln and Volvo.

If you don’t have a Porsche of your own, and this has given you the need for speed, go visit my friend Ron at DFW Elite Auto and he’ll hook you up with a Porsche for the day.