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    2014 Review Wrap-Up: Sports Stuff


    • Doing Sport Three Different Ways; the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Ram 1500 R/T, and Lexus LS 460 F-Sport


    Next up in the 2014 review wrap-up is sporty cars. Originally I was going to call this sports cars, but only one can be considered it. The other two happen to be sporty takes on standard models.

    First: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT

    For an automobile to remain true to its mission for a quarter-of-a-century is an amazing feat. Such is the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. When it first was shown back in 1989, it promised to bring fun and sporty driving that roadsters from the fifties and sixties, but with better reliability. Throughout its three generations, the MX-5 Miata has achieved this, along with a loyal and rabid fan base. With a new MX-5 Miata coming over the horizon, I wanted to give the third-generation model a final spin. Well a 2015 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT arrived for a week to do just that.

    Mazda decided to stick with the shape from the first-generation MX-5 Miata and make evolutionary changes to it. I think this is a wise decision as you can tell there is a direct lineage from first model to the current one. The front end has a rounded shape and the smiling grille that has been a key part of Mazda’s last-generation designs. There is also a lip spoiler which comes as part of the Grand Touring trim level. Along the side are some the largest wheel flares I have ever come across on a vehicle. Its a nice touch as it makes the Miata that much more distinctive.

    2014 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 4

    Now the third-generation Miata is special because it introduced a power hardtop. The hardtop gives the Miata a coupe look when it is up and provides extra sound deadening. Putting the hardtop up or down only takes around ten seconds. One note, the hardtop when folded does take up a majority of trunk space. So pack really lightly if you decide to take a trip in one.

    Getting inside the Miata is a bit of an acrobatic act as the way you have enter involves folding your legs and then lowering yourself into the seat. Once you are settled in, you feel that you have become one with the vehicle thanks to the low seating position which means all controls are in easy reach. The leather bucket seats provide a multitude of adjustments so you can your find your perfect spot. The dash is nothing fancy with black plastics and aluminum trim which helps reduce distraction while driving. Standard on the Grand Touring is a Bose sound system. The system sounds great when you are puttering along in the city or along a back road. But if you decide to hit the freeway, the sound system has it work cut out as it has to try to drown out an abundance of road noise.

    Power comes from a 2.0L MZR four-cylinder paired with the optional six-speed automatic. This combination produces 158 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Go for the six-speed manual on the Grand Touring and it nets you an additional nine horsepower. Those numbers are somewhat worrisome when you also take into account a curb weight of 2,619 pounds for the power hardtop model. But once you slip behind the wheel and get moving, those thoughts of being underpowered wash away. The engine has to be worked to use all that power, but Mazda made sure that you enjoyed doing it by making the engine pop and rev freely, giving you the thoughts of driving a sixties roadster.. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and provided crisp shifts. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. My week saw an average of 25.1 MPG.

    2014 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 13

    Of course the real story of any Miata is its handling. I heard all of the superlatives and cheers about the MX-5 Miata’s handling, and I have to say those claims are very much true. The Miata is a joy around curves as the suspension keeps the vehicle steady and makes sure no body roll makes an entrance. Steering was excellent thanks to the right amount weight and feel. This is a vehicle that wants to be pushed and it rewards you when you decide to. When you decide to drive the Miata on a daily basis, the ride does let in a few bumps.

    After spending a week with the MX-5 Miata, I was sad to see it go. Mazda has been able to keep the spirit of the original Miata with the third-generation model. With excellent handing characteristics, the addition of a power hardtop, and a design all its own, it shows why the Miata has been able to last as long as it has.

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Mazda

    Model: MX-5 Miata

    Trim: Grand Touring PHRT

    Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VVT Four-Cylinder

    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 158 @ 6700

    Torque @ RPM: 140 @ 5000

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/23

    Curb Weight: 2,619 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan

    Base Price: $30,550

    As Tested Price: $32,735 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Premium Package - $1,390

    Next: Ram 1500 R/T


    The past ten to twenty years in the pickup truck market has seen an explosion in trims and model variations. You can get a standard work truck with the vinyl seats or go all the way for a luxury model with such amenities as heated and cool seats, and dual-zone climate control. But one area in the marketplace that has been neglected for sometime is the sports truck. Models such as the Chevrolet 454SS, Ford Lightning, and Dodge Ram SRT-10 really don’t exist anymore. But Ram wants to let you know that sport truck is still a thing and it comes in the form of 1500 R/T Regular Cab.

    2014 Ram 1500 RT Regular Cab 7

    Ram has got the basics down on the 1500 R/T. The R/T comes when you order the Sport trim level with the standard cab and 6’4” bed. Exterior changes include a blacked-out mesh grille, a new hood with faux air vents, twenty-two inch chrome wheels, and dual exhaust pars. Donning a red paint job, the R/T gives the Ram 1500 a mean look. Inside are a set of bucket seats wrapped in cloth and leather, and dash layout familiar to anyone who has been in a recent Chrysler product. This means an eight-inch screen for the UConnect infotainment system and a compressive gauge package. Getting in truck was a little bit of a hassle as its quite leap to get in. A set of step bars would be nice feature for this truck. But once inside, it was easy to get settled and understand where everything was.

    Power for the R/T is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired up with an eight-speed automatic. Despite a curb weight of 5,106 pounds, this powertrain is able to get the Ram 1500 moving at a rapid rate. 0-60 will take you around the mid-5 second area. The eight-speed automatic provides lightning fast shifts and keeps the truck in the zone of power. I should also mention the noise of HEMI makes you want to push the go pedal that little more to enjoy the sweet sounds. Don’t expect to win any fuel economy awards though. The 1500 R/T is rated at 15 City/22 Highway/17 Combined. I got 18 MPG during my week.

    2014 Ram 1500 RT Regular Cab 10

    As for the ride, the Ram 1500 R/T has to be one of the smoothest rides I have ever experienced in a truck. Thanks a to multi-link, coil spring setup in the rear, bumps and imperfections were mostly ironed out. Even when the Ram was called in to haul a freezer and a wood lathe, the suspension was able to keep the truck level and provide a comfortable ride. Don’t expect the R/T to be a handling champ. Ram didn’t lower the suspension, which means you’ll have a bit of body roll. Also the steering is a bit slow and somewhat light in feel. But for many buyers, this isn’t a big deal.

    While the marketplace for sport trucks has dwindled a bit, the 2014 Ram 1500 R/T shows that you can still make a decent case for having a fun truck that can still do its fair share of work. Now if we could only convince them about stuffing the 6.4L HEMI into it…

    Disclaimer: Ram Provided the 1500 R/T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Ram

    Model: 1500

    Trim: R/T

    Engine: 5.7 HEMI V8

    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 395 @ 5,600

    Torque @ RPM: 410 @ 3,950

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/22/14

    Curb Weight: 5,106 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Saltillo, Mexico

    Base Price: $35,105

    As Tested Price: $38,595 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Uconnect 8.4N AM/FM/BT/ACCESS/NAV - $500.00

    Convenience Group - $495.00

    Spray-In Bedliner - $475.00

    Remote Start and Security Group - $350.00

    Class IV Receiver Hitch - $335.00

    Rear Sliding Windows - $140.00

    Next: Lexus LS 460 F-Sport


    Most of the luxury manufacturers have a high-performance model of their flagship sedan to entice those who want a bit of sport along with the amenities of a flagship. Mercedes-Benz is the best known with their S-Class AMG models, followed by the Audi S8 and Jaguar XJR. The latest one to join the fun is Lexus with the LS 460 F-Sport. Is it possible for a company known for producing some of the softest and most comfortable vehicles to embrace the sporty side?

    The LS hasn’t changed much since we last looked at it in our review of the 600h L last year. What has changed is what the F-Sport package adds. Up front, the spindle grille gets a new mesh insert and larger air intakes. A set of nineteen-inch multi-spoke wheels hide a set of large, Brembo brakes. Around back is a new bumper with chrome exhaust ports. These changes do give the LS a sporty outlook. Although, I not sure if red suits LS as it makes it look a bit gangly. White or black suits it much better.

    2014 Lexus LS 460 F Sport 11

    Inside is the same as the exterior. The only real changes of note are new brushed aluminum trim pieces, F-Sport embossed seats, and aluminum pedals. The LS is nice place to sit in and the controls are in easy reach. But I think its aging quite fast, especially when you compare it to like of the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. Not helping matters is the Remote Touch interface which is slow to react and quite jumpy when moving around.

    Under the hood, you’ll find a 4.6L V8 with 386 horsepower and 367 pound-feet. Opt for the all-wheel drive model and those numbers drop to 360 and 347 respectively. Whichever way you decide to have your power sent to wheels, an eight-speed automatic is standard. Acceleration is very strong and power comes on very smoothly. However if you were expecting some theatrics from the V8 with loud noises, prepare to disappointed. The only real noticeable change from the standard LS to the F-Sport is new piping to channel some of the engine noise inside. The eight-speed automatic is barely noticeable when it shifts. On the fuel economy front, the LS 460 F-Sport RWD is rated at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. I saw 18.6 MPG during my week.

    2014 Lexus LS 460 F Sport 6

    Now the big changes the F-Sport brings to the LS deals with the suspension. The air suspension has been lowered by 20 millimeters and has been tuned for more sporty driving. Other changes include low-profile summer tires and a limited-slip differential. I can say there is a difference when you have the LS in the Sport or Sport+ setting when compared to the LS in normal. The suspension stiffens up a bit and keeps the vehicle stable when you decide to have a bit fun in the curves. However, the steering doesn’t have the weight or feel that is needed for a sporting sedan. It veers more to the light and numbness most owners of the LS are used to. As for day to day duties, the LS 460 F-Sport handles that about as well as a standard LS with a quiet and smooth ride.

    So the LS 460 F-Sport has shown that Lexus is capable of building sporty flagship up to a point. If they can work on the steering, they might have a real contender on their hands. Maybe that’s for the next-generation model.

    Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 460 F-Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Lexus

    Model: LS

    Trim: 460

    Engine: 4.6L DOHC 32-valve VVT-iE V8

    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 386 @ 6,400

    Torque @ RPM: 367 @ 4,100

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19

    Curb Weight: 4,365 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

    Base Price: $72,140

    As Tested Price: $88,080 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    F-Sport Package - $8,350.00

    F-Sport Comfort Package - $1,650.00

    Mark Levinson 19-Speaker Audio System - $1,580.00

    Pre-Collision System - $1,500.00

    LED Headlamps - $1,450.00

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    The new Miata looks like a lot of fun to drive. I know the older Miata was a joy too, absolutely beautiful cars with amazing handling for both Sunday driving and for track days.

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    Nice Articles. I like the way you cover the history of the model, the specs and features and then finish with your opinons of the car.

    My favourite would have to be the Miata. Looks like a fun little car that will pack quite a punch!

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    For me, the miata has always seemed somewhat feminine. I think it's just how small the cab is, maybe. I'm a big fan of Lexus, though. The sporty exterior and elegant interior make for a great car to show off.

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    I think that the Miata would be a pretty good car to drive around sports-wise. I like the way that you layed the structure of the article out. Very detailed.

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        Year-To-Date
                              February
      February
      %
      % MTD
        February
      February
      %
      % YTD
        2017
      2016
      Change
      DSR
        2017
      2016
      Change
      DSR
                              Mazda3
      6,846
      7,275
      (5.9)%
      (5.9)%
        13,469
      14,826
      (9.2)%
      (9.2)%
        Mazda5
      -
      60
      (100.0)%
      (100.0)%
        3
      130
      (97.7)%
      (97.7)%
        Mazda6
      3,598
      3,617
      (0.5)%
      (0.5)%
        6,898
      6,189
      11.5%
      11.5%
        MX-5 Miata
      1,108
      759
      46.0%
      46.0%
        2,037
      1,319
      54.4%
      54.4%
        CX-3
      1,279
      1,793
      (28.7)%
      (28.7)%
        2,463
      3,169
      (22.3)%
      (22.3)%
        CX-5
      7,836
      7,579
      3.4%
      3.4%
        15,904
      14,642
      8.6%
      8.6%
        CX-9
      2,157
      461
      367.9%
      367.9%
        3,748
      973
      285.2%
      285.2%
                              Total Vehicles
                                                CARS
      11,552
      11,711
      (1.4)%
      (1.4)%
        22,407
      22,464
      (0.3)%
      (0.3)%
        TRUCKS
      11,272
      9,833
      14.6%
      14.6%
        22,115
      18,784
      17.7%
      17.7%
                              TOTAL
      22,824
      21,544
      5.9%
      5.9%
        44,522
      41,248
      7.9%
      7.9%
                                                    Selling Days
      24
      24
            48
      48
                                                         
    • By William Maley
      When it comes to hot hatchbacks, there is a line that floats around in my head from one of the earlier episodes of Top Gear.
      “I love hot hatchbacks as they offer drawback free motoring. You can put a chest of drawers in the back and then take it home at a million miles per hour.”
      The only hot hatch that has come close to this is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Not only is a hoot to drive, but you can carry your friends and stuff with no real issue. But what about the Volkswagen Golf R? It offers the space as the GTI, but with a more powerful turbo engine and all-wheel drive. But the Golf R also comes with a price tag that is nearly $10,000 more than Golf GTI. Is it worth the extra cost?
      The Golf R uses the same turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder found in the Golf GTI, but the wick has been turned up. The R’s 2.0L pumps out 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with either a six-speed manual (what my tester featured) or six-speed DSG. No matter the transmission, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system comes standard. Acceleration in the Golf R is an exciting experience. It only takes a brief moment for the turbo to spool up and then hold on. Power comes on a fast and steady rate. The six-speed manual is a bit notchy when changing gears. Like other Volkswagens equipped with the manual, the take-up point for the clutch is very narrow and you’ll have to have your foot almost off the floor to find it. It should be noted that the manual is over a half-second slower than the DSG - 5.1 vs. 4.5. But the manual does give you a bit more control with controlling the engine’s performance and making you feel that you’re playing a role. The 4Motion AWD system helps put the power down and keep the Golf R glued to the road when it’s dry. But the system really comes into its own when it is snowy. A few days into my loan and Mother Nature decided to drop a bit on snow in the Metro Detroit area. Driving through unplowed roads, the 4Motion system was able to keep the vehicle moving through some deep snow. One issue that arose was a too-eager stability control system that would come on every few seconds to combat wheelspin when driving through the deep snow - something you don’t want. At least Volkswagen was smart to equip the Golf R with a sports mode for the stability control to allow some wheelspin. This made all of the difference to keep the Golf R moving. Handling-wise? It is like a Golf GTI. Entering a corner, the Golf R feels composed and doesn’t show any sign of body roll. Steering is a bit disappointment as the R doesn’t have the weight or feel you would expect in a performance car. The ride is slightly firmer than what you find on the GTI as some bumps and road imperfections will make their way inside. There are adaptive dampers, but you’ll need to spend an extra $3,000 to get it (along with some other features). Personally, I find the standard suspension setup is ok for most people. Volkswagen has made some slight exterior changes for the Golf R such as a new slim grille, 19-inch wheels, a set of quad exhaust tips. On one hand, I wished Volkswagen could have done some more work to make the Golf R a bit more exciting to look at. On the other hand, the downplayed nature of the Golf R’s changes gives it the ability to hide its true nature. The interior of the Golf R is mostly the same as the standard Golf, which isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the traits that we like in the standard Golf such as high-quality interior, loads of space for passengers, and one of the easiest infotainment systems to use. The only changes Volkswagen did make are a set of sport seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, and carbon fiber trim. If there is one problem for the Golf R, it is the price. As I mentioned in the introduction, the base Golf R is about $10,000 more than the base GTI. For some folks, this is tall order as the GTI can you 85 to 90 percent of the Golf R’s performance at a reasonable price. But for others, that extra 10 to 15 percent the R offers is very much worth the extra cash. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf R, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Golf R
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L TSI DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 292 @ 5,400
      Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
      Curb Weight: 3,305 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany
      Base Price: $35,655
      As Tested Price: $36,475 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      N/A

      View full article
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