What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. This week, we’re drinking Caipirinhas; however, instead of sticking with the classic lime-and-mint concoction, executive editor Todd Lassa found a great twist in this week’s The New York Times from the Raines Law Room in Manhattan, which adds a very popular Michigan ingredient: cherries. It’s called the Cherry Caipirissima. In a cocktail shaker, press three pitted and halved cherries, half of a lime cut into quarters, and 3/4-ounce of simple syrup, with a muddler. Add two ounces of white rum and the crushed ice from six cubes. Shake it until the shaker gets frosty cold, then pour it all, including the ice, into a rocks glass.
Finally, a Beautiful BMW: This past weekend, BMW unveiled the Gran Lusso concept coupe, at the Villa d’Este concours in Lake Como, Italy. Although I wasn’t able to see it in person (pity, that), the car looks absolutely stunning in pictures. This is easily the best-looking BMW in a long time. What’s curious is that it was designed by Pininfarina, rather than in-house. Just as was the case with the Jaguar B99 show car by Bertone not long ago it shows that sometimes outsiders have a better take on how to design for a brand than the company’s internal staffers do.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Zoom-Zoom Times Five: This week, I bought a 1997 Mazda Miata. For those of you unaware, that means there are now five Automobile employees who own an example of the best-selling roadster — four first-generation cars and one second-generation Mazdaspeed Miata. (Not counting an editor’s wife who owns a third-generation 2008 Miata.) That’s a ringing endorsement and should make it abundantly clear that we love the MX-5. It’s a thrilling rear-wheel-drive sports car, it’s affordable and reasonably easy to work on, and it’s a convertible for enjoying the summer, so what’s not to love?
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Keyshawn Johnson is Definitely not a ‘Belieber’: Here’s a word of advice to Justin Bieber: when you have two former NFL players (and neighbors) on your case about reckless driving, it may be time to listen up and slow down. TMZ reported that former receiver and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson chased the singer, who was driving a Ferrari, in his Prius in an effort to confront the youngster about speeding through neighborhoods. Bieber allegedly ran inside his house and refused to come out after Johnson followed him to his door. Former NFL running back Eric Dickerson, also a neighbor in the Calabasas, California community, offered these insightful words to the musician: just slow it down, Biebs.
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
Cool Cruising: I drove the Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG roadster home from the office on Tuesday night at 11 p.m. The ambient temperature readout said it was still 78 degrees, the skies were clear, and the freeway was relatively empty. It was the highlight of my week. I drove the car again today at lunch, in sweltering 87-degree humidity, with the top down, and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. I’m different from most of my sun-worshipping colleagues who think the hotter the better when the convertible top is down. Whether it’s a simple Mazda Miata or a $177,000 AMG Mercedes roadster, top-down at night is my preference. And what about midday? Top up, A/C and cooled seats keeping me chill.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
A Convert: Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being Chevrolet’s guest at the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. The race was one for the record books — and not just because of the multitude of lead changes and high speeds, but also because it was my first IndyCar race. I quickly found myself getting up to speed on the driver standings, picking a driver to root for (Canadian James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport), and getting caught up in all of the race-day activities. The best part? Getting to watch the majority of the race from the end of the pits and being almost close enough to reach out and touch the cars as they headed back to the track. I have the feeling this won’t be my last IndyCar race, that’s for sure.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
A GR8t Dual-Clutch: Last Friday we showed up at a private estate in Malibu and were given a chance to drive the 2014 range of Audi R8s. During the day, we drove Mulholland Highway through the Santa Monica Mountains in the 550-hp Audi R8 V10 Plus and tried not to be intimidated by the car’s price tag of $179,645. It was both as at ease and as easy to drive as we expected, but we were surprised by the dual-clutch, seven-speed, automated manual S tronic transmission. First, we were surprised that a dual-clutch design could withstand so much power, as the required engineering is far from easy. Second, we were surprised that it is considered to have the quickest shift action of any dual-clutch design on the planet. And finally, we were surprised that Audi designed and built it, not Ricardo (which does the Bugatti Veyron’s transmission), not ZF (which does the Porsche PDK), and not Getrag (which does Ferrari’s latest dual-clutch design). We’ll soon have a driving report about the Audi R8 range and especially the Audi R8 V10 Plus.
Awesome Avanti: The enthusiasm that contributor Bob Merlis has for cars of the 1950s and 1960s as well as the whole era of Mid-century Modern Design was on display when we photographed our story about the cars of Mad Men in his Palm Springs neighborhood. We didn’t get to see his recently refurbished Studebaker Avanti while we were there, but now he tells us that it’s going to be featured at the Gilmore Heritage Car Show in Hollywood on Saturday, which takes place at Farmer’s Market, a classic L.A. venue.
Michael Jordan, Senior Editor
Maserati on Whiteface: Eight years ago last week, I drove a Maserati Quattroporte to my honeymoon in the Adirondacks. One of our favorite places to take the car was Whiteface Mountain. The peak’s face is a lot whiter a lot later in the year right now, receiving a whopping three feet of snow last Sunday. I’m glad I didn’t have to drive the sleek, summer-tired Maserati in that mess.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Nice Guy Finished First: I’m still happy about Tony Kanaan’s first Indianapolis 500 victory in 12 starts at the Brickyard last Sunday. Indy always is a nail-biter, though this year’s race set records, with 14 drivers trading 68 lead changes, and TK led the last two laps under yellow after Dario Franchitti’s crash into the wall. Add in the story of Kanaan’s good luck charms; Alex Zanardi’s Paralympics gold medal and the good luck charm returned after nine years from a woman who got it from Kanaan when she was fourteen and in the hospital having suffered a stroke, and you’ve got a sport that should have much higher TV ratings.
Mr. Roboto, Chauffer: More recently this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines for autonomous vehicles and their “drivers,” as outlined in Jake Holmes’ Rumors post. NHTSA outlined five levels of autonomy (marked “0-4”,) and they seem incomplete and almost quaint. The 2014 Acura RLX, the new Mercedes E-Class and upcoming S-Class combine active cruise control and lane-departure control to steer through gentle road curves and in stop-and-go traffic for up to ten seconds. Already, these cars score at least a 2.5 on NHTSA’s scale.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
A+ Aston With A Potential Minus: I had the pleasure of driving an Aston Martin V12 Vantage last week. It was absolutely brilliant. I enjoyed every minute of it. This week that car was replaced by the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. The S adds more power (not that the V12 Vantage lacked that in the first place) and replaces the six-speed manual with a six-speed automated manual transmission known as Sportshift III. Hopefully the new transmission keeps the V12 Vantage fun to drive. I don’t think it’s impossible to keep driver involvement with two pedals, but it’s certainly more difficult. Previous experiences with Aston’s automated manual transmissions don’t leave me optimistic. At least I’ll always have the memories of shifting the manual transmission in Aston’s hot rod Vantage.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Too Big, or just the Ticket?: We have a Lexus LS 600h in our fleet at the moment, and when I walked over to it the other night after work I was immediately taken by its sheer mass. The LS measures 205 inches (more than 17 feet) from nose to tail, and when you drive it you are always aware of its size. Squeezing into a small parking space takes a deft touch, and beware if you come at it from the wrong angle (as I did). I didn’t even bother to pull the LS into my somewhat crowded garage, as I knew that it likely wouldn’t fit or, if it did, would require me to contort myself in order to get out. And it’s not just the Lexus. The long-wheelbase BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and Audi A8L all match or exceed the dimensions of the Lexus LS. While each and every one of these cars exudes luxury and is a joy to drive on long trips, where extra roominess and a smooth ride are always appreciated, I prefer something a little smaller for everyday driving – something that can fit in my garage, for instance. On the other hand, there’s a Jaguar XJL due to enter the fleet soon, and I don’t think I’ll be taking a pass whenever I have a chance to drive it. Call me fickle.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Fast Six: Over the holiday weekend, the sixth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise took the number one spot at the box office. In six days, “Fast & Furious 6″ has earned $27.6 million more than the franchise’s last film did in the same amount of time, and it is on track to have another good weekend. Come Monday, its worldwide gross will be nipping at the heels of Fast Five’s total global earnings—after only ten days. No doubt this will be the most popular Fast & Furious film yet, but I didn’t need numbers to tell you that. When I saw the movie on opening night, every seat in the theatre was filled. And during the movie, everyone cheered. The crowd seemed particularly keen on the Flip Car, a hand-fabricated, 500-hp go-kart with rear-wheel steering (sidenote: It must’ve pained Paul Walker to follow the script and say that the Flip Car, powered by an LS3 V-8 engine, was a turbo-diesel). The screams of delight only got louder when a preview of the next film (and its new A-list actor) popped up before the credits. The plot is ridiculous, the cars are even more over-the-top, but who cares? Fast & Furious 6 is a car movie for people who know jack about cars and car culture. So don’t be high and mighty, don’t preach, “It’s no Senna.” Obviously, but success in the mainstream means more opportunities for smaller, artistic automotive film projects to make it to the silver screen.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor