Figuring 340 horses from the 5.7-liter, V-8 HEMI wasn’t enough, Chrysler turned the 300C over to its Street and Racing Technology unit. Its first step: boring out the cylinders to provide 6.1 liters of displacement, a 6400 rpm redline and 420 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Oh, and another 85 horses. That brings the total to a whopping 425 hp.
Even more remarkable: The 300C SRT8 has a base price just south of $40,000 and should be in showrooms this spring.
The SRT8 gets a number of exterior design changes to set it apart from the rest of the clan. Most obvious are the body-colored bumpers, door handles and mirrors, as well as special SRT badging. A more practical change comes in the form of redesigned front and rear fascia to provide air ducting for brake cooling.
Whoever said you shouldn’t mess with success didn’t work for SRT. The gang at Chrysler’s tuner division changed virtually everything about the already great V-8 HEMI that powers the 300C. From the block to the intake to the exhaust, everything gets reworked. All of these improvements get an anticipated 0-to-60 time under 5 seconds and a quarter mile in under 14 seconds, according to Chrysler. In a nice tip of the cap to the original HEMIs of the ’60s and ’70s, the engine gets an orange-painted cylinder block and black valve covers. The only transmission offered is a five-speed AutoStick providing fully automatic or manual shifting.
Suspension, Tires & Brakes
Lots of Mercedes-Benz technology went into the 300 from the outset. But all that extra power prompted some changes. The SRT team used larger anti-sway bars, Bilstein dampers and Brembo four-piston disc brakes fore and aft. The 20-inch forged aluminum wheels are shod with Goodyear F1 three-season tires. The overall ride height has been lowered as well.
For the price, the 300C already comes with a nicely appointed interior. It’s not exactly Mercedes quality, but Chrysler clearly is spending a few more bucks to upgrade interiors, something Detroit’s other two automakers could learn from. Upgrades for the SRT8 include suede seat inserts, an adjustable pedal cluster and textured leather trim on the steering wheel, shifter and door pulls. And a speedometer that reaches 180 mph.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.chrysler.com
When Bentley’s Continental GT debuted last year as the luxury automaker’s “entry-level” coupe, the fastest and sexiest Bentley ever was the hottest car on the market. It quickly sold out of its first-year production run, leaving such luminaries as addled rocker Ozzy Osbourne scrambling to buy one.
Even as dealers continue to talk of getting premiums on the new 2005 model, Volkswagen-owned Bentley is raising the stakes with a super-luxe treatment from its Mulliner custom coachwork division.
The new Mulliner Driving Specification package which Bentley says was driven by customer demand for a sportier look includes 20-inch, two-piece alloy sports wheels; sportier treatments inside; indented hide for the roof headlining; diamond-quilted hides for the seats, doors and rear quarter panels; and a choice of piano black or dark-stained burr walnut veneer.
The Continental GT lists at $155,990; the Mulliner treatment adds a mere $11,000. Here’s a quick look at what else you get with the Continental GT.
Based on the VW Phaeton’s steel platform, the Continental weighs in at a hefty 5,358 pounds. Atop that frame sits a Bentley body like no other: a beautifully aerodynamic two-door that is thoroughly modern though retains Bentley styling cues from decades past. One look and you know wht they say you ride in a Rolls, but you drive a Bentley. This car screams, “Drive me!”
If the exterior has you fooled, just slip inside and you will know you are in a Bentley. With the Mulliner Driving Specification, the cockpit now features drilled alloy sport pedals and a new gear level featuring a Bentley-logo knob and aluminum surround. Exquisite leather also gets the full winged logo treatment, as well as the classic Bentley diamond-quilted hides found in the Arnage T.
The 6-liter, twin-turbo W-12 produces an impessive 551 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 479 pound-feet of torque at a mere 1,600 rpm, more than enough to compensate for the car’s heft. If you want Ferrari-like acceleration look elsewhere; but if 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph is sufficient, then the Continental will get you where you need to be on time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.bentleymotors.com
If that’s truly the case, then the arrival last year of the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne comprises the perfect one-two combination. To keep costs down, the companies shared development costs, engineering resources and production efficiencies. While neither automaker would call the SUVs the same, they are certainly kissing cousins.
The new vehicles are big and risky bets by both carmakers. The Cayenne moves Porsche beyond its revered status as a premier maker of two-seat sports cars into the hottest auto segment, providing the added financial safety of a broader product line. As former Porsche Cars North America CEO Fred Schwab says, the Cayenne is a “bet-the-company SUV.” Working in Porsche’s favor: 40 percent of its customer base also owns SUVs. The Touareg, along with the upcoming Phaeton sedan, marks VW’s foray into the luxury car segment under its own badge (it owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce). Maker of the world’s top-selling car the decidedly unluxurious Golf VW wants a piece of car buyers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for luxury.
For anyone who hasn’t taken the SUV plunge, the Cayenne and Touareg offer amazing performance along a remarkably broad range of price points. An entry-level 2004 Touareg starts at about $35,000 while the heartier and recommended V8 starts at $41,000. The 2004 Cayenne S starts at $55,000 while the ’04 Turbo can easily add up to $95,000 with options. Below we take a look at the Touareg, which has made just about every Top 10 list (including being named Motor Trend’s’ 2004 SUV of the Year) and the Cayenne Turbo, which is, well, a Porsche and the fastest SUV on the planet.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
The Turbo a $33,000 price bump from the base S model boasts a twin-turbo, 4.5-liter V8 delivering 450 hp at 6000 rpm, enough to get the Cayenne’s 5,100-plus pounds from 0 to 60 in slightly more than 5 seconds, just a step behind a nonturbo 911 Carrera. Top speed: 165 mph.
While the Cayenne may lack a Porsche’s classic looks, from the front, the family resemblance is obvious. Ride height has a range from 4.56 inches up to a maximum ground clearance of 10.75 inches and automatically lowers as the vehicle’s speed increases (1.5 inches lower at 130 mph).
The exterior may be unfamiliar, but the inside is pure Porsche. Copious amounts of leather and suede are accented by aluminum trim and the familiar Porsche instrumentation. Five people fit snugly with room behind the rear seats for a modest amount of luggage.
The entry-level model’s V6 delivers only 220 hp but is surprisingly responsive thanks to a sharp six-speed automatic transmission. Wisely stepping up to the V8 gets you the same 310 hp engine that powers the Audi A8. VW plans to offer a version with the Phaeton’s 414 hp W12 engine.
The name may be silly (say TOO-regg), but the look is refined, taking cues from the Passat. Overall size is on par with far pricier offerings from BMW, Lexus and Range Rover. Underneath, you get 11.8 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford 22.8 inches of water for really rainy days.
Once inside, you are treated to a pleasing mix of real wood, aluminum, leather trim and sensible instrumentation. Don’t expect to haul the soccer team around: the Touareg seats only five. But it is still spacious, thanks to unibody construction, which allows for a lower floor.
Believe it or not, the Lexus LS is about to embark on its fourth generation. The sedan that forever changed the luxury car market in North America gets major improvements from sheet metal to drivetrain to interiors.
As you will gather from its new moniker, the LS460 sports an even larger V-8 engine, displacing 4.6 liters while generating 380hp and 370 lb. ft. of torque, thanks in part to a duel fuel induction system that combines port and direct fuel injection. The larger engine is linked to a first-ever eight-speed automatic transmission; together, they get you from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds.
The list of special features on the LS460 is too long to print, but highlights include a 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with a hard drive that holds 4,000 digital songs, a hands-free parking system that requires minimal driver input and climate sensors that measure cabin and passenger body temperatures.
“I’ve been afraid to ask where that sensor goes,” quipped Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Press at the car’s debut.
The long wheelbase version at 203 inches comes with optional reclining rear seats with an ottoman with a built-in massager. All of this is wrapped in a new skin that is surprisingly daring for a Lexus-badged vehicle. No pricing has been set.
Mercedes-Benz also has overhauled its flagship sedan, the best-selling car in its class and the prototypical executive sedan. The ninth-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class, unveiled in the latter half of last year, is a sensible evolution from the previous model, sporting a little more aggressive look, a slightly bigger size and a new entry-level model (the S350).
The first thing you will note about the new S-Class is the much-needed update in its exterior styling, giving it a sleeker look reminiscent of the gorgeous CLS-Class four-door coupe. But more notable is the upgrade under the hood.
While the new entry-level S350 will get the 3.5-liter, 268-hp V-6 from the SLK350, the S450 and S550 sport all-new V-8s. The S450 gets a 4.6-liter version pumping out 335 hp and 339 lb.-ft. of torque; the S550 lands a 5.5-liter version rated at 382 hp and 391 lb-ft.
For the executive in a hurry, the S600 boasts an improved 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V-12 generating a nifty 510 hp and 612 lb.-ft. of torque. The new V-8s are paired with an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission, while the S600 keeps a five-speed auto tranny.
The S550 will hit showrooms first, followed by the 350 and 600 models. MSRP is expected to range from about $75,000 to $130,000.
If two-door transportation is more to your liking, you are in luck this car-buying season. Two of Germany’s great performance automakers Porsche and BMW have seen fit to develop hard-hat versions of popular roadsters.
The Cayman S enters the Porsche line firmly between the Boxster S, which gave it birth, and the iconic 911, which gave it an engine. So what do you get when you cross a 911 with a Boxster?
Fifteen more horses, twice the stiffness and a base price of $59,695. That’s 10 grand cheaper than a 911, but nearly $6,000 more than the Boxster S.
With 11 fewer pounds than a Boxster, the Cayman S gets from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds in manual (a mere third of a second less than a base 911) and 5.8 with the Tiptronic automatic. In case you don’t have a calculator, that’s about $3,300 for each 10th of a second.
The mid-engine layout eliminates the back seat, but Porsche says the hatchback will accommodate two golf bags, which is useful if you are late for your tee time.
Our second new coupe comes from BMW in the form of the Z4 Coupe concept, which debuted last fall in Frankfort but is quickly on its way to American showrooms, not only as a standard model but also thank you, BMW as an M Coupe.
The Z4 Coupe, which gains structural rigidity from the addition of a hard top, will get a new 3-liter, in-line six generating 261 hp and an anticipated dash to 60 in 5.7 seconds. The look is sleek: the A-pillar curves its way through the roof to the rear end, where it merges with a hatchback in place of the roadster’s trunk. No price is set.
For drivers who prefer a little wind in their hair, the Jaguar XK Convertible made its debut in January as well. While the XK Coupe made the rounds late last year, it’s the drop-top everyone has been looking for; its sales have consistently outsold the hardtop.
And with this convertible adding a mere 88 pounds to the equation, you can see why. It’s only a 10th of a second slower than the coupe while getting from 0 to 60 in six seconds flat thanks to an all-new 4.2-liter V-8 pulling 300 hp. Mercifully, the much maligned J-gate shifter is gone in favor of a new six-speed auto with Sequential Shift and paddle-shifters on the steering wheel.
MSRP is $75,500 for the coupe and $81,500 for the convertible.
Just when you thought the SUV market couldn’t take any more competition, here come premium automakers with all-new models: Audi with the Q7 and Mercedes-Benz with the GL Class.
The Audi Q7 borrows the same platform as the successful Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, but offers more of the right thing (space for seven) and less of the wrong (hundreds of pounds of weight). It also offers great Audi engines and the Quattro all-wheel drive system.
The first model rolling off production lines will feature a 4.2-liter V-8 FSI engine that uses, essentially, variable fuel injection to maximize performance and economy. A 3.6-liter V-6 model will follow and, possibly, a V-10.
Options include a three-panel panoramic roof, four-zone climate control and adaptive air suspension. MSRP starts at $49,900 for the 4.2 model.
Just when you thought the three-pointed star was ready to retire the boxy G-wagon, the carmaker changed its mind, making the Mercedes-Benz GL Class its third SUV and first to offer optional seating for seven.
The GL450 should meet just about any family’s need, from standard Mercedes luxury inside to an optional and serious off-road package with low-range gear, locking center and rear differentials and larger tires. Power comes from a 325-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 matched to a seven-speed automatic with full-time all-wheel drive (4MATIC). No price has been set.
As long as we’re talking about giant SUVs, we should note that General Motors has seen fit to beef up the Cadillac Escalade, which now sports a 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8, six-speed auto tranny, power lift gate and power running boards. ESV and EXT version will follow. No price set.
We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the stunning concept cars that have been recently unveiled.
Toping our list is the head-turning Rapide concept from Aston Martin. The odd name is the only thing amiss with this crowd-pleasing sedan, which draws strongly on the sleek lines of Aston Martin’s DB9 coupe. Skeptics may wonder why Aston Martin needs a four-door, but all you have to do is look as far as Porsche’s 2009-targeted Panamera concept and Maserati’s gorgeous (and successful) Quattroporte to find your answer.
An increasing number of high-end buyers want more room along with their luxury and performance. And they are more than willing to pay for it. In the case of the Aston Martin, a cool quarter of a million should do the job.
Further out on the horizon is an all-new Infiniti G35, which was presaged in the Infiniti Coupe Concept unveiled in Detroit. The current G35 was MotorTrend’s 2003 Car of the Year, so there’s a lot riding on the next incarnation. If the concept is any indication, you can expect a more muscular yet refined look riding on 20-inch tires.
The powertrain remains a mystery, but expect an improved version of Nissan’s already strong 3.5-liter V-6. Just don’t expect to find it in showrooms before 2007.
Mercedes Benz CLS 500 | $67,000 base
Described by its maker as a “four-door coupe,” the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 is the most visually stunning car from the three-pointed star in 50 years.
Built on the E Class platform, this four-door indeed sports the sleek lines of a coupe, yet manages to provide sufficient room in back for two full-grown adults, thanks in part to scooped-out backs on the front seats. Once inside, you will be comforted by copious amounts of leather and wood trim, as well as four-zone climate control. If the looks don’t get you, Mercedes’ workhorse 5-liter, aluminum V-8 will. This smooth-sounding 24-valve unit delivers a seemingly low 302 hp, but thanks to a flat torque curve, it delivers more than enough power, especially off the mark with a 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds. The engine is mated to Mercedes’ ground-breaking 7-speed automatic transmission, which delivers smoother acceleration and better mileage. All of this rides atop 18-inch, low-profile, Continental run flat tires.
In the end, though, the CLS500 is as much about looks as anything else. And we can attest that it attracted more compliments and white-glove treatment from valets than just about any car we’ve tested in the last couple of years. It always feels good to be noticed.
Maserati Quattroporte | $101,000
The 2005 Quattroporte offers voluptuous curves reminiscent of another great Italian export: Sophia Loren. For that you can thank Sergio Pininfarina, who has put his ageless design skills back to work on a Maserati for the first time in 50 years.
The designer of every famous Ferrari for the past six decades, Pininfarina mixes equal parts elegance and aggression to create an instant classic. The power comes from a 4.2-liter, aluminum V-8 that delivers 394 hp and 333 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to launch its 4,255 pounds from 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds. Top speed: 171 mph.
BMW 3 Series | $31,000 base
A collective sigh of relief greeted the unveiling of the long-awaited fifth generation of the best-selling luxury car in the world. On the outside, the new 3 Series balances tradition with the new BMW look. Underneath, it reraises the bar with a more powerful inline six-cylinder engine tuned differently for the 325i and 330i models. The use of magnesium the only large-scale production engine to do so helps lower the engine’s weight 30 percent. Overall length is up by 2.2 inches (including 1.4 inches in the wheelbase), while width has grown a healthy 3 inches.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 | $66,000 base
With 505 hp, a top speed of 198 mph and a 0 to 60 time of 3.6 seconds, the new Z06 is the fastest, baddest ’Vette ever. Those numbers put it on even footing with the Ford GT and the new Ferrari F430. But at about $70,000, you could have a pair of Z06s for the price of the other supercars, if you could even get one. The Z06 was designed side-by-side with the C6R race car and thus shares much of its technology and construction tricks. All that speed comes from a new 7.0-liter, small-block V-8 that delivers 407 lb. ft. of torque at 4800 rpm and a weight of only 3,147 pounds.
Picking a favorite from this crowd was no easy task. But for some reason, we keep coming back to the Mini Cooper, brilliantly resurrected by BMW Group in March 2002.
It’s hard to look at a Mini and not smile. Sit behind the wheel and put it through its paces and that smile turns into a huge grin.
Skip the base model’s anemic 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and upgrade to the supercharged Cooper S (base MSRP: $19,500), which delivers 163 hp and 0 to 60 in under 7 seconds. That’s not all that impressive, but the Mini is not about speed; it’s about handling.
A “bulldog” build, multi-link rear suspension, rigid body and cornering brake control keep a tight grip on the road through the sharpest turns. And don’t let its size fool you. The Mini provides ample room for passengers and 5.8 cubic feet of trunk space (expandable to 21.4).
Ford Focus SVT | $18,500
Got a tree-hugger for a grad? The new 2.3-liter PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) engine reduces harmful exhaust gases and improves performance, though it is available only in limited areas. Like other cars in this group, the Focus boasts quick response and agile handling. The SVT hatchback features sport-tuned suspensions and a 2.0-liter, 170-hp engine, delivering economy and performance fun in one package.
VW New Beetle Convertible | $20,900
The original retro car reintroduced in 1998 finally gets the convertible it’s been needing. Who didn’t have at least one friend with a drop-top bug? If your grad is looking for a ragtop that can stand up to long distances, this is the car. The top folds easily (in about 12 seconds), yet provides solid insulation from wind and road noise thanks to three-layer construction. And for the safety conscious, OnStar telematics are now optional on the New Beetle.
Mazda RX-8 | $25,180
Don’t let the stunning looks especially the “suicide” doors worry you. Junior won’t break too many speed laws, although the twin-rotor Wankel engine delivers a respectable 238 horsepower and 0 to 60 in 6 seconds. Like the Mini, this car was made for driving, not racing. Remarkably even weight distribution and a sport-tuned suspension insure crisp handling in turns, while the overall ride proves pleasant enough for daily use.
As chief evangelist for Apple Computers Macintosh division, Guy Kawasaki was present at the creation of an entirely new kind of computer. But a funny thing happened on the way to the first great computer revolution: They had it all wrong.
Apple was out to make a better business computer, one that would run spreadsheets, databases and word processing, according to Kawasaki. By accident, it created just the opposite: the quintessential machine for the creative crowd. Apple made a number of critical mistakes that kept its revolution from taking hold, most important, its failure to pursue long-term market share at the expense of short-term profits.
Drawing on experience, Kawasaki has become the self-appointed chief evangelist for all revolutionaries. He has written a book, Rules for Revolutionaries, and formed Garage.com, an Internet-based venture capital organization that raises seed money for emerging, technology-based businesses.
Those efforts brought him to Cleveland in May to address venture capitalists and entrepreneurs participating in Innovest 99, the Midwests largest venture capital conference. Here are Kawasakis slimmed down rules for leading your own revolution.
1. Get off the curve that youre on and get on the next curve. Better yet, create the next curve. Do not, Kawasaki urges, think that you are riding the wave of the future. Thats what the ice harvesters thought before ice factories replaced them. Refrigerator makers replaced the factories. Whats next? Biotechnology-based solutions that eliminate the need for refrigeration.
2. Dont worry, be crappy. If you wait for your revolution to be perfect, Kawasaki says, youll be too late. Instead, once your revolution is an order of magnitude better than what exists, take action. His favorite example is that toilet paper is an order of magnitude greater than crumbled leaves. If you can claim the same revolution, you ship your product.
3. Churn, baby, churn. In other words, it is not OK to stay crappy. Its as important to move fast as it is to jump ahead. Microsofts secret, Kawasaki says, is its ability to churn. It is relentlessly making a better product.
4. Get ready to break down barriers. Ignorance. Inertia. Complexity. Price. These are all barriers to a successful revolution. To lead a successful revolution you must do one of two things: enable people to test-drive your revolution, or glom onto a bandwagon (such as the Internet) that will give it sufficient exposure.
5. Make evangelists, not sales. Evangelists create a cause out of a product or service, Kawasaki says. This creates a vision. They turn facts into emotion.
6. Let a thousand flowers bloom. The Macintosh computer was built to run spreadsheet, database and word processing programs, Kawasaki explains. It struck out on all three fronts. But it is far and away the leading platform for desktop publishing, thanks in large part to Adobe Corp.s groundbreaking Pagemaker software. Pagemaker was a field of flowers that grew into a forest that saved Apple Computer. When other people take your revolution and pervert it, he adds, thank God.
7. Never ask people to do something you would not do. If your product requires a four-week training program, you have a problem. If your free Web site requires users to fill in 60 fields of information to get access, you have a problem. Eat your own dog food, Kawasaki preaches. If you wouldnt put up with your own demands, why would others?
8. Eat like a bird. A hummingbird eats 50 percent of its body weight a day, Kawasaki says. Im not telling you to eat a lot. Im telling you to eat a lot of information. Read voraciously and read outside your area. You need to become a research librarian, or suck up to one.
9. Poop like an elephant. Take all that information youve gained and spread it out, Kawasaki says. Share it with people in the company and with your colleagues. But also share it with your competitors, because when you start a revolution, acceptance is more important than market share.
10. Think digital, but act analog. Use all the digital tools available to you, he says, but they are just a means to an end. For example, Ritz-Carlton Hotels uses sophisticated technology to track customer preferences. If you ask for your down pillows to be replaced because you are allergic, that information goes into a database. The next time you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, you will not get down pillows. They compile all these preferences and act on them without you knowing it. Revolutions are analog processes. The point is an analog relationship with your customer.
11. Never let the bozos grind you down. The more dramatic the revolution, the more the bozos will try to drive you down. In fact, the more bozos that attack you, the more important your revolution is. Some famous bozos: IBM boss Thomas Watson, who predicted the worldwide demand for computers would peak at five; Digital Equipment Corp. CEO Kenneth Olsen, who insisted there was absolutely no use for computers in the home; and Bill Gates, who once said 640k of memory ought to be enough for anyone.
How to reach: Garage.com, (650) 470-0950, www.garage.com; the Rules for Revolutionaries Web site is www.kickbutt.com (or www.kickbut.com for those whose corporate intranets dont allow access to sites using the word butt.)