Panoz Unveils a New Heartthrob

Posted in: Exotic Cars, General

PANOZ MOTOR SPORTS GROUP ABRUZZI

Alright, ladies – we now officially have something new to lust after. And no, I’m not talking about the latest Taylor Lautner pics.

Instead, the new object of our desire comes from the well-known name of Don Panoz, founder of the Panoz Auto Devolopment Company. In the past, Panoz has brought us such great rides as the Esperante GT and the racetrack-only Panoz GTS. Now, Panoz has raised the bar with the breathtaking Panoz Abruzzi “Spirit of Le Mans.”

The car will be officially unveiled next month at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France – an event that Panoz won four years ago. As a nod to the revered race, Panoz is producing just 81 Abruzzi models – the same number of Le Mans races since its inception in 1923 until the race in 2013. Each automobile is linked to a specific Le Mans race, with the chassis number also containing that specific race date, the initials of the winning drivers and the history of that year.

Of course, the first thing to catch your eye is the stunning design. While this 600-horsepower front-engine machine looks like it means business, its sleek and sexy design also promises pleasure.

And this limited edition masterpiece isn’t just easy on the eyes, it’s easy on the environment as well. The Abruzzi’s environmental design and construction includes the implementation of the REAMS® – Recyclable Energy Absorbing Matrix System – which marks the first time REAMS has been used on a road-going automobile. The multi-layer composite system is lighter than carbon fiber, but just as strong, and is dent-resistant, shatter-proof and recyclable.

And honestly, isn’t that what we’re all looking for: Something that’s strong, sexy, handles well – and can be recycled when we’re done with it?

Kia Plugs in to Great Concept

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

kia-rayIn the interest of full disclosure, first let me say that I’ve never been inside of a Kia. In fact, until the Korean-based auto manufacturer introduced the Soul in 2009, I’d never given their cars so much as a passing glance.

So no one was more surprised than I was when the introduction of their new concept hybrid completely stopped me in my tracks.

The Ray, which is making its debut at the Chicago Auto Show right now, shows a promising future for hybrids. While I’m still chomping at the bit to see a sleek and sexy electric car go into mass production (Tesla, are you listening?), hybrids are going to play a major role in our acceptance of non-gasoline-powered autos. And with Ray, Kia shows it is on the right track.

While its eco-friendly design speaks directly to the heart of environmentally conscious consumers, it’s the Ray’s style that is even more surprising. I’m not saying that their previous vehicles have been uninspired, but let’s just say they’ve had a tendency to blend in with the rest of the cars on the road. They began changing that with the Soul, which has given Nissan’s Cube a run for its money, and now they’ve stepped it up to a new level.

Even though it’s a four-seater, Kia’s Ray bears faint resemblance to any of its four-door family sedans. (The lines are clean and flowing; this car looks faster standing still than many of its models look on the road!) Riding low to the ground, it’s curvaceous and aerodynamic, giving a great blend of form and function. Inside, the white interior is designed to reflect the sunlight rather than absorb it, and the eco-friendly recycled materials used within are also designed to keep interior temperatures low and reduce air-conditioner use.

The “green” features on this car are extensive and impressive, going beyond its gas/electric power combination. If there’s a downside at all to this car, it would be that it is only a concept, so we’ll have to wait for this one to go into production. From its solar cell-powered lighting and climate control systems to its “cool car” technology to reduce air conditioning load and greenhouse emissions, the Ray shows a lot of promise.

You just might call it a Ray of hope.

Ditch the Prius; Porsche Unveils Hybrid Racer

Posted in: Hybrid cars, Porsche

porsche-hybridPorsche has given us a lot of reasons to love it over the years. But now, the company is taking that love affair to the next level with the launch of its 911 GT3 racecar.

The new GT3, which boasts a unique hybrid technology created specifically for racing, has two electric motors on the front axle. Unlike hybrid daily drivers, which rely on heavy batteries, the 911 GT3 hybrid has an electrical flywheel power generator that sits next to the driver to deliver energy.

As a racecar, the Porsche 911 boasts an enviable racing pedigree that includes more than 20,000 wins, and the introduction of this hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show next month will open a new chapter for the marque.

Even better for us non-helmet wearing drivers is the hope that this technology will eventually make its way into the road-ready sports cars that we love so dearly. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Lamborghini Inspires Ultimate Car Phone

Posted in: Lamborghini

TAG Heuer MERIDIIST Automobili Lamborghini Luxury Mobile PhoneFor the well-accessorized woman, nothing beats matching your phone to your car. And Tag Heuer is about to make that easier for Lamborghini enthusiasts.

Later this month, the luxury watch and accessories manufacturer will introduce the limited edition Meridiist Automobili Lamborghini mobile phone. Taking a nod from Lamborghini’s notoriously sleek lines, Tag Heuer has integrated several flourishes that will be noticed by discriminating Lambo lovers. For example, the battery cover bears the same signature that’s found on the engine block of the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 V12, and the trademark Taurus bull appears on the keyboard’s central button.

Like the car for which it is made, this phone isn’t just beautiful; it’s made for performance. The display is made from 60.5 carats of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and the battery life offers seven hours of talk time.

With only 1,963 pieces being sold worldwide – Automobili Lamborghini was founded in 1963 – you don’t want to wait to get yours. Find out more at meridiist.tagheuer.com.

Maserati Gets Ready for Spring

Posted in: General, Maserati

MaseratiAs the rest of us are bundling up for fall, Maserati is stripping down for the spring and summer. The Italian carmaker introduced its new GranTurismo Convertible last week in New York.

While Maserati has long been know for crafting gorgeous open-air cars, what makes the GranTurismo stand out is that this is the first convertible they’ve built for four people. And we all know what that means: Road Trip!

The GranTurismo – which will be sold in the U.S. as the GranCabrio – is built with functionality in mind, which means that back seat actually holds two adults comfortably. (Hooray! That means less whining from those who weren’t fast enough to call “Shotgun.”)

The automatic roof can be opened in just 24 seconds, and the fact that it’s a four-seater hasn’t detracted a bit from its racecar heritage. Designers have made this beauty every bit as sporty and sexy as its two-seat siblings. Customization options include 10 seat colors, six interior trims and six roof color choices, so you can truly make this your own.

What’s even better is that the trunk is equally spacious whether the top is up or down. (This is definitely shaping up to be the best car ever for a shopping trip!) And, that hand-built 4.7 liter V8 can go from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds and has a top speed of 176 mph, so getting from point A to point B is both stylish and speedy.

The only bad news is that, while you can place an order now, you’ll have to wait until Spring 2010 for delivery.

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Lincoln MKZ Goes Nuts for Luxury

Posted in: General

2010 Lincoln MKZ What could possibly make the 2010 Lincoln MKZ more luxurious than its predecessor? That’s exactly the question that executives asked, and I think you’re going to like the answer.

A new trim level with generous walnut appointments makes Lincoln’s newest sedan more luxurious than ever. The Executive Appearance Package, which expands the range of Lincoln’s options, also includes luxury leather-trimmed seats, uniquely stitched door trim, a genuine walnut wood console and instrument panel accents and premium front and rear floor mats bearing the Lincoln star.

The interior color choices for the Executive Appearance Package are Dark Charcoal or Cashmere, and while the exterior color choices aren’t exactly adventurous (black, platinum, silver, gray and red), this car manages to merge stately with sporty, thanks to thinner wraparound headlights and optional polished aluminum wheels.

For a great entry-level midsize luxury ride, the MKZ could be shaping up as the car to beat for 2010. It’s going to be hard to find this much elegance anywhere else for Lincoln’s asking price of $34,965.

Top, Drop … Let’s Roll!

Posted in: General

If you’re looking to drop the top this fall, Nissan might have just what you need.

The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, which will be offered in four different models, will roll off the showroom floor in September. And there’s lots to love about this car from the inside out.

nissan-roadster-top-drop-lets-rollBased on Nissan’s extremely well received 370Z Coupe, the Roadster brings the same kind of sporty style with touches that give it a personality all its own. It takes everything there was to love about the original – such as its classic “double cockpit” style interior – and opens it up to give it a sportier feel.

The comfort goes far beyond the seats, which have an eight-way adjustment for the driver and a four-way adjustment for the passenger. They also have integrated heating and cooling functions that keep you comfortable with the top down, regardless of the temperatures. As another example of comfort meeting class, the steering wheel has a sports-styled three-spoke oval design that fits more naturally in the driver’s hands, and the manual transmission shifter has been specially padded for a softer feel.

Making it easier than ever to enjoy the great outdoors, it only takes about 20 seconds to lower or raise the top, and an automatic latch system secures (or releases) the top without the driver having to do anything more than push a button. (Now – if only Nissan would find a way to make the rest of the things in our life work that easily!)

The Roadster makes the Coupe look like a family sedan in comparison, thanks to a shorter wheelbase that makes it appear more aggressive. It picks up 26 more horses under the hood, going from 306 horsepower to 332, and you can choose from a seven-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. You’ll also have some eye-catching color choices – Solid Red, Magnetic Black, Brilliant Silver, Platinum Graphite, Pearl White, Monterey Blue and Nissan’s special premium color, Black Cherry.

Pricing on this sportster is modest, starting at $36,970 and topping out at around $41,820. The only bad news is, as I said earlier, you’ll have to wait until September to get your hands on this one.

Good Karma Making the Rounds

Fisker Automotive’s Karma plug-in hybrid has a busy 2010 Fisker_Karma059[1NEW]month planned for August. Just 19 months after being unveiled as a concept car, it will make its world driving debut at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races on Aug. 15. The prototype is on tap to take two laps on the 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca course. Karma isn’t just making laps, it’s making history, as this marks the first time a plug-in hybrid vehicle appears on track at the event.

Fisker reps have a busy schedule that week; it will be on display at Concorso Italiano on Aug. 14 along with the Karma Sunset hardtop convertible concept, and the Sunset will be on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Aug. 16.

Mercedes Takes “Topless” to the Extreme

Posted in: General, Mercedes

mb-stirling-moss.jpg

As previously mentioned on this blog, Mercedes is winding down production of its beautiful, powerful SLR roadsters. The final models are rolling out the door in June of this year, and now we finally have a look at the finished product.

The final SLR – which stands for Sport, Light, Racing – is the SLR Stirling Moss, named after the legendary British racecar driver. Once called “the greatest driver to win the World Championship,” he earned victories both as a Formula 1 racer and at Le Mans. At 79, he’s still traveling the globe and continues to be in demand at automotive events worldwide.

As a nod to this driving legend, Mercedes has made its final SLR an exceptional find. It isn’t just the racecar-like styling that makes it stand out – but, as Mercedes-Benz Cars’ sales and marketing head, Dr. Klaus Maier, points out, “No other car is this open and this fast at the same time.”

That’s right – the $1 million-ish price tag doesn’t include a windshield, roof or windows. The supercharged V8 can leap from a dead stop to 62 mph in just 3.5 seconds. And of course it doesn’t stop there – the SLR Stirling Moss has a top speed of 220.

With a ride like that, it’s pretty clear you’re probably going to want a helmet or goggles to go with it. (Either way, your hairdo is screwed the minute you leave the driveway.) Honestly, this is one of those cars that is gorgeous to look at but probably looks better in someone else’s garage – kind of like a lot of husbands.

Still, the workmanship makes it something that’s impossible not to stare at. So gaze if you will, lust if you must – and then return to your own car of choice, thanking God for heated seats and windshields.

slr-side.jpg

Does This Ferrari Make My Butt Look Big?

Posted in: Ferrari, General

ferrari-california.jpgIf cars and their owners look alike, then the new Ferrari California should make itself at home in the garage of Kim Kardashian. Because, best as I can tell, both have one pretty significant feature in common. (And no, that feature is not “nice headlights.”)

Ferrari’s newest model, which was first unveiled late last year at the Paris auto show, has raised eyebrows for its very un-Ferrari-like styling. While we’re accustomed to Ferrari’s oh-so-sleek design – you know, the one that makes the cars look fast even when they’re sitting in a garage – the California looks a bit, well, rounder than its predecessors. One might say it’s got some junk in the trunk. Literally.

The unusual (by Enzo Ferrari’s standards, anyway) rear-heavy design was made to accommodate the convertible’s folding hard top – as well as the hydraulic equipment needed to move it up and down. The designers felt the need for a little luggage space back there, too, and while they were at it, they even threw in a back seat. As we all know, it’s impossible to keep packin’ in more goodies without having to let out the seams a bit. And that’s exactly what Ferrari has done.

That’s not to say the prancing pony has been tamed into something that will be lost in the sea of SUVs and Lexuses in the pick-up lane at your kid’s middle school. It’s still a hot little number, with a mid-front V8 and 460 horses under the hood.

So, while it may not have the profile of a racecar, there’s still something appealing about this bubble-butted beauty. If you don’t believe me, hop in, cue Sir Mix-a-Lot and be prepared to enjoy one of Ferrari’s most road-friendly rides.