First Drive: 2015 Lexus RC F
There’s something about straight-line acceleration that’s exhilarating when you’re driving a car with balls, so the memory of flooring the Lexus RC F on the straightaway at the track at the Monticello Motor Club is seared into my brain. This all-new sport coupe from Lexus has some serious power with 467 horsepower that can go from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. The engine also produces a memorable growl that’s sure to put a smile on your face as you gain speed through the straightaway.
Lexus gave us the opportunity to test the RC F along with the RC F Sport at the picturesque Monticello track that features 18 turns per lap, so we got to test much more than the straight-line speed. For our safety, however, they added some cones and an S curve in the middle of the straightaway so we wouldn’t get too carried away with speeds we couldn’t handle going into the hard right curve.
As for those curves, the handling of the RC F was pretty amazing as it gripped the corners effortlessly at high speeds. Lexus has built a car that’s fun to drive regardless of your skill level. I pushed the F as hard as I could around that track and frankly had a blast.
The RC F is the most powerful Lexus V8 performance car ever and is a worthy successor to the 416 horsepower Lexus IS F launched in 2007 and the LFA carbon-fiber supercar that featured a V10 engine with 552 horsepower. If you’re looking for a performance coupe you have to check this one out.
In addition to the F model Lexus is also introducing the RC 350 featuring a 306 horsepower V6 along with an F SPORT model with Electronic Suspension Damping and Rear-Wheel Steering. We had the opportunity to drive the F SPORT at the Monticello track as well, and while it obviously can’t match the more powerful and more expensive RC F in terms of performance, it’s still an impressive vehicle that was quite fun to drive on the track.
Both the RC F and the RC 350 feature the signature Lexus spindle grille, with the F and F SPORT models looking more aggressive in a black mesh pattern. I love this new look for Lexus and it’s definitely changed the image of the brand. Also, the F SPORT models are bringing younger buyers to Lexus. As you can see from the photos above this is a beautiful coupe that will get plenty of attention.
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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai keeps moving forward. That’s the big takeaway from my drive of the all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata on a beautiful summer day in Michigan. Hyundai has been on a roll with its bold, fluidic structure design language, and now we’re seeing an evolution as Hyundai introduces a more sophisticated and refined version of that design with the new Sonata.
Hyundai refers to the design evolution as its Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language. Everything starts with the new front facia of the Sonata, with cleaner lines and sharper edges. The previous model gained attention by looking trendy while the new Sonata looks more elegant. The new design makes the Sonata one of the more attractive mid-sized sedans on the market and it will likely get more attention from professionals.
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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis
Hyundai stopped just short of calling its redesigned 2015 Genesis a luxury performance sedan. The Korean automaker opted to call the car a midsize premium sedan.
Nonetheless, the automaker said that German luxury brands, as well as Lexus and the newly resurgent Cadillac, are Genesis’ main competitors. In order to really compete with midsize offerings from the automakers, the new sedan has to offer a bunch of comforts and engineering prowess.
First, there’s the look. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis has a single-frame hexagonal grille. In other words, the sedan has a distinct face, low hood and short rump. It looks very athletic.
It also took Hyundai’s fluidic design to the next level, or 2.0 in Hyundai-speak. The lines are flowing, sharp creases are evident from stem to stern, and they end at the trunk with distinctive tail lights and either dual or quad exhausts.
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First Drive: 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible
Last summer I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray on the backs roads of Monterey. It was a thrilling experience and you can read about my impressions of this amazing sports car here. The Corvette team more than met the challenge of creating the seventh-generation Corvette that would also be worthy of reviving the Stingray name. The new design is striking and the performance surpasses the already high standards achieved by the Corvette team.
With the removable hard top, any new Corvette owner can enjoy the experience of driving this great vehicle while enjoying the fresh air and beauty of the surrounding scenery. But the Corvette convertible makes that experience even more convenient of course, and I recently got to experience the thrill of driving this beast of a sports car with the top down in the mountains surrounding Palm Springs when we were invited to test drive the new convertible.
All convertibles are fun on a nice day, but the experience in the new Corvette Stingray is quite different when you consider the 455 horsepower engine with 460 lb.-ft. of torque. The Z51-equipped models are able to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 119 mph, achieve 1.03g in cornering grip and stop from 60 mph in 107 feet. Factor in the incredible handling and the various drive modes, having the top down with this vehicle gives you quite an experience as you navigate the roads. I had a beautiful day in the area near Palm Springs and it was a challenge to keep my eyes on the road with the stunning scenery surrounding me.
The Corvette Stingray convertible features an all-new, fully electronic top that can be lowered remotely using the key fob. With the all-new folding mechanism the top can be lowered in just 21 seconds. For even more convenience, the top can also be opened or closed as you’re driving at speeds of up to 30 mph. I tested it at low speeds and it worked great. The Corvette is also pretty quiet when the top is up. The designers focused on luxury and comfort with this new model, and the thick fabric top, along with sound-absorbing padding and a glass rear window, contributes to a quiet cabin and premium appearance.
As you can see from the photos, this beautiful vehicle looks fantastic as a convertible with the top down. The profile view looks great along with views from all other angles. I also liked the Stingray’s signature “waterfall” design which brings the car’s exterior color into the interior in the valley between the seats.
The coupe and convertible share identical chassis tuning and performance technologies along with nearly-identical curb weights, as the only structural changes for the convertible model are limited to accommodations for the folding top and repositioned safety belt mounts. With the all-new aluminum frame structure, no structural reinforcements were needed in the convertible. You’ll sacrifice some cargo space in order the have the convenience of the convertible, and it costs $5,000 more than the coupe.
“An important goal for the team was to create a more intimate and connected driving experience for the new Corvette Stingray,” said Mike Bailey, chassis vehicle system engineer. “Because they share common chassis tuning, power-to-weight ratios and structural rigidity, the coupe and convertible feel almost identical behind the wheel.”
As I said when I reviewed the coupe, the Corvette team hit a home run with this new Stingray, and now with the convertible buyers have another great option to choose from along with the Z51 performance package. And it doesn’t end there. The Corvette team just unveiled the new 2015 Corvette ZO6 for those enthusiasts who want to take their track experiences to an even higher level. But for most buyers, the base Corvette or the Z51 will offer a driving experience that will far exceed their expectations.
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First Drive: 2014 Chevrolet SS
The performance sedan has returned to Chevrolet with the introduction of the all-new Chevrolet SS. This badass, rear-wheel drive sedan features a 6.2L V-8 engine rated at SAE-certified 415 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque with paddle-shift six-speed automatic transmission and joins the new Corvette and Camaro in Chevy’s impressive performance lineup. The SS was designed and built in Australia by the team responsible for the Commodore and benefits from the global rear-wheel drive architecture that is the foundation for Holden’s VF Commodore, the Camaro and the Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle. I had the opportunity to drive the new SS on some great roads around Palm Springs and I enjoyed pushing it to the limit.
I love sedans with power so I immediately felt comfortable in the SS. The sedan is big and powerful but also impressively nimble as well. It performed as expected on straightaways with the kind of responsiveness and acceleration that will bring a smile to your face. But it also handled the mountain curves with ease as well. It marries the power of traditional muscle cars with the handling one expects from modern vehicles. The SS is fun to drive and you’ll love the sound of this vehicle as well.
The 6.2L LS3 small-block V-8 is paired with the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic with paddle-shift control. I was pleased to see the sport mode feature which is a necessary element in modern performance cars. It’s easy to slide into sport mode with the shifter on the floor and then drivers can also use paddle shifters or the floor shifter to manually control the gears. Some purists will lament the absence of a true manual option, and GM would not comment on future options, but there’s plenty here for performance enthusiasts to like.
The sport-tuned suspension gives you great handling when needed along with a very comfortable ride. The front suspension is a MacPherson-strut-based multi-link system with a direct-acting stabilizer bar, featuring a forward-mounted steering rack and dual lower links with individual ball joints at the outer ends. The rear suspension is a multi-link independent system with coil-over shock absorbers and decoupled stabilizer bar.
The muscular but clean design of the SS perfectly matches the performance characteristics. The SS is sporty but also understated in its design without any unnecessary flair thrown in. I like the front grille and also the dual-exhaust tips in the rear. I also like the styling of the rims, but I would have preferred an aluminum option as opposed to the shiny chrome rims.
The interior design is luxurious but also understated in a manner that evokes a sports car interior. I liked the horizontal dashboard and the prominent use of the SS logo and the controls are laid out in a logical manner. The clean, functional approach trumps any urge to push the design envelope which works well with the exterior design and performance car attributes. The interior only comes in black and the sunroof is the only option available. That shouldn’t be a problem as everything you would want is standard, including leather, eight-way power adjustable front bucket seats, in-dashboard touch screen that supports Chevrolet MyLink, navigation system, SiriusXM radio, Bose 220-watt, nine-speaker premium sound system, six months of OnStar and much more.
The SS is exactly the type of performance car we should expect from Chevrolet. This is Chevrolet’s first V-8, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan since 1996 and signals that the brand is heading in the right direction. The overall package from performance to design works beautifully and Chevrolet should have a hit on its hands with the SS. Priced at around $45,000 this car offers an impressive amount of performance and luxury for the money. Guys in particular will be drawn to this car, and if you’re into performance sedans you have to put the SS on your test drive list.
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