Saturday Road Test – Porsche Cayman S

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2014 Porsche Cayman S

In a word – Perfekt

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – In my 11 plus years of test driving cars the ones that stirred my soul are the few that call to you from the driveway.

They are restless beasts not at all happy dozing in the early summer sun like econo hatchbacks.  All have traits that appeal to those who feel a day behind the wheel on exquisite country roads is something to be savored. Yet many have little quirks that hold them back from the top spot on the honor roll.

A few, and I mean a very few, are perfekt – or German for perfect. Enter the Porsche Cayman S, in this case covered in an eye catching Aqua Blue metallic.

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It seemingly gains entrance to your brain and nervous system and like a good professor urges you to hone your skills to a heretofore unimaginable level.

The six-speed manual shakes hands as I will soon with a car buff friend I have known for more than 50 years. It is like you have shifted this stick for a lifetime, yet you are heading down the street for the first time.

The multi-adjustable leather clad seats grab you all around, the large signature Porsche tach stares you in the face from the center pod, the sport steering wheel is right sized, and all controls come readily to hand and have a high quality feel.

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Yet you are stuck in town traffic and the 3.4 liter flat six that is mounted just ahead of the rear axle wants you to enjoy its 325 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque that surfaces between 4,500 and 5,800 rpm. Top track speed is a soul stirring 175 and the run from 0-60 crops up in just 4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. Porsche says “forward thrust is measured by your heart rate.”

Yes it is fast, but what sets the Cayman apart from the rest is the engineering and design that tickles your funny bone on wonderful “Porsche” roads, like Route 9 from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland. Scissor sharp bends abound with steep grades and generally light traffic – perfect for giving the Cayman a workout worthy of your military basic training instructor.

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The electromechanical steering system gives superb feedback about what the rubber is up to as the six emits a snarling testosterone satisfying sound as the Cayman carves up the countryside. From the rear, the exhaust system joins in the mechanical symphony. The German word for exhaust? “der Auspuff.”

Soon it was time for the Cayman to turn heads during a pit stop at the one and only store in the West Virginia valley town of Paw Paw. (Love that name.)

The total experience is exactly what lovers of sports cars dream about. Shift, clutch, engine, seats, controls, in short, everything that matters is perfectly sorted out and hits all the nerve endings of those who firmly believe that cars are more than mechanical devices for heading to the supermarket for margarine.

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You simply have to drive one to fully appreciate what the crafty German engineers have been up to. In fact, the Cayman has made this writer’s short list of cars that enthusiasts simply have to drive before they enrich the coffers of the local undertaker.

Is it cheap? Of course not! Does Brad Pitt accept a movie role that pays minimum wage?

The test car came with $23,875 worth of options, many of them performance oriented, with the notable exception of the $6,730 Burmester High-end Surround Sound System with 821 watts and a dozen independently controlled speakers.

I will fess up and admit that the mechanical sounds were so enjoyable it was only toward the end of the test week that I finally turned the system on and must rate it as one of the best I have heard, and I am picky about sound.

At any rate, all those options raised the price to $88,625. A base Cayman goes for $52,600 but I think it would be hard to find one on a dealer’s lot.

So, you may ask, would I take a well optioned Cayman over a 911? After winning the lottery, I would have to drive them back to back.

Due to the intrinsic handling virtues of a mid-engine car I might well go with the Cayman. Yet, no one could argue that this would be one of those rare and lovely times in life when there is no wrong answer.

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say I have been a fan of Porsches since I first rode with my step-dad in his 356 model too many years ago. He owned a number of them over the years, and despite my being lured away by such vixens as the ’63 Corvette split window and the Triumph TR-4 over the years, my heart always came back to Osnabrueck, Germany.

And yes, I even loved my 914!

Notes:

If one were to drive the Cayman in a daily commute, as nice as the stick was to work with, I would choose the 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), which features a manual and an automatic mode. For two reasons: Gearshifts take place in milliseconds with no interruption in the flow of power and it delivers even faster acceleration. And how many cars can you own that have a  Doppelkupplung?

The test car came with a Sport and Sport Plus mode that changes engine dynamics for performance driving. I loved the Sport Plus setting for even more “intense” road holding and the throttle-blip function on downshifts.

Here is one reason the handling is so great. Sensors record all wheel and body movements. This enables intelligent adaptation of damper stiffness for the selected mode, optimizing contact between each individual tire and the road for even less roll and pitch.

All of the electric goodies work to produce not only outstanding handling, but a ride that is firm but not rigid.

The instrument pod to the right can give you “g” read outs.

Passengers will never guess that the engine is just 11 inches behind them.

There was no charge for the “Smoking Package.”

You will want to pop for the 18 way adjustable Adaptive Sport Seats Plus. They are grabbers.

 

Auto News for June 13

Ford found some errors in the way fuel economy was calculated in six models, is reducing their economy claims by one to five miles per gallon, and compensating owners of those cars. Most economy estimates will be reduced by one to five miles per gallon. The biggest reduction came for the Lincoln MKZ hybrid that drops 7 mpg to 38 mpg. Ford will send rebates to more than 200,000 owners that will range from $125 to $1,050.

Argonne National Laboratory EcoCAR 2

 

And speaking of mpg, how about a nice round number – 50! That is what Ohio State University students got from a modified Chevy Malibu to win the EcoCAR 2 competition backed by Argonne National Lab and the energy department. Judges said the hybrid model reduced critical emissions by one half over the base vehicle.

McLaren said its upcoming track only model will be named P1 GTR in memory of the car that captured the 24 hours of Le Mans two decades ago.

Jaguar-Land Rover has announced the creation of a Special Operations division that will focus on high performance, ultra luxury, and limited run collector editions. This could be interesting to say the least. Working on present and future vehicle portfolios, “the team will create halo vehicles ranging from high luxury to extreme performance,” the company said.

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A 1950 Healey Silverstone, one of just 105 of the sports car’s ever built will be auctioned off in Great Britain. The car was designed to be at home on country roads and race tracks. It captured the 1949 Alpine Rally when it was driven by Healey himself. Estimates are the car could sell for up to $180,000.

 

Auto News for June 12

GM CEO Mary Barra will make another appearance on Capitol Hill, this time before a House subcommittee regarding those faulty ignition switches. She will be joined by Anton Valukas who authored the internal investigation of same. The two will appear next Wednesday and are expected to face some sharp questioning.

If you don’t use the drive thru at Starbucks you may soon be able to go inside and recharge yourself and your smart phone. Starbucks will try out wireless phone chargers on the west coast. All you do is put the phone down on a designated spot on a table and recharge – or dark roast for you and the phone.

Recently we told you about the auto dealer in Nebraska that had thousands of vehicles damaged by an intense hailstorm. Now the Woodhouse Auto Family in Blair, Nebraska, says people are flocking to their outlets to take advantage of sharp markdowns on the damaged cars and trucks. Automotive News reported that demand is such that e-mails and phone messages may not be returned for up to three weeks. Sticker prices have been reduced by $1,000 to $15,000.

The VW Jetta offers the best lease deal these days according to Kelley Blue Book. It is followed by the Buick Verano and the Nissan Altima. When it comes to financing and cash back deals, the leader is the Ford Expedition XLT, the Toyota Prius and the Ford C-Max. It is worth noting that the Mustang is also on the list with up to $3,000 cash back on the outgoing V6 model.

How is this for an audio system in your wheels? Sixteen active loudspeakers, 7 tweeters, 7 midrange, 2 separate subwoofers, and 1,200 watts of power. Vehicle Noise Compensation comes as standard equipment. Each system comes with high-end, over-ear headphones finished in the same brushed aluminum as the car’s speaker grilles. All is this part of a special limited edition Bang & Olufsen edition BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and M6 Grand Coupe editions. I would what the 1812 Overture would sound like?

 

Auto News for June 11

Highlights from GM’s shareholders meeting:

CEO Mary Barra said the company hopes, by the end of the second quarter, to estimate the cost of compensation for victims of the faulty ignition switches.

It is unlikely there will be any further firings linked to the switches.

Only 29 shareholders showed up for the meeting in Detroit.

Chairman Tim Solso gave Barra a vote of confidence.

Toyota is recalling about 766,000 vehicles in the U.S. to replace a possibly defective airbag inflator. It originally ordered the recall in 2013, but found that serial numbers provided by the supplier were incomplete and did not include all of the potentially involved inflators. Owners of the affected vehicles will be notified by mail.

Nissan to reveal the next chapter in its passion for performance

 

And here’s a much as we know about that wild looking teaser photo released by Nissan. “On Monday, June 16, Nissan will reveal the next chapter in its story to an audience that has always shared a passion for performance.”

El “Taxi del Mañana” de Nissan, hecho en México en exclusi

That same company had a big win in New York City. It can proceed with a $1-billion contract to supply Gotham with its taxi cab of the future. Some taxi drivers fought the idea that they had to buy only Nissans but a judge has upheld the contract award. It will now supply the city with 15,000 minivans with features not available on the old Crown Vics.

Speaking of Ford, it has generated a lot of headlines since announcing its upcoming aluminum F-150. Now a study from Ducker Worldwide predicts that most pickups will use aluminum instead of steel by 2025. The idea here, or course, is to reduce weight and improve mpg.

This is for real. Ford and H.J. Heinz are exploring the use of tomato fiber for durability for potential use in vehicle wiring brackets and storage bins. Heinz is looking for ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than two million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually. The research is said to be in its early stages, and the right salad dressing has yet to be determined.

Alfa 4C

Maybe Alfa just might return after all. Eighty-two dealers have been selected in 33 states with California, Texas and Florida getting the most. They will offer the 4C coupe and “Launch Edition” when, the company says, the brand “returns to North America this year.” Alfa expects to eventually have 300 dealers in North America.

 

 

Auto News for June 10

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When it comes to worldwide luxury car sales, BMW held on to the lead over Audi in May. Mercedes was third. The Detroit News reported that BMW delivered about 1,000 more vehicles than Audi last month.

GM holds its annual stockholders meeting in Detroit today. Families of some of those killed in accidents tied to the defective ignition switches plan to demonstrate outside the meeting site, GM headquarters at the Ren Cen.

A research report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees little change in market share for automakers in the next four years. The report predicts GM will hold on to 17.9 percent of the auto market followed by Ford at 16.2 percent and Toyota at 14.4 percent. The biggest changes are half percent gains for Honda and Ford.

Website CarGurus.com did some research and found if you are concerned about resale value in your new vehicle, you should buy a pickup. The Ram truck topped the list when it comes to retained value followed by the Nissan Titan and the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado. The Dodge Challenger was the top car when it came to resale.  Luxury cars took the biggest hit when it came to depreciation.

AutoMD.com found that women would rather go the dentist than take their vehicle in for repairs. Most feel they are overcharged for repairs and a more transparent experience is needed. “Consumers simply don’t trust that they are paying an appropriate price for a repair …” said AutoMD’s Brian Hafer. A total of 2,400 car owners were surveyed nationwide.

Waiting anxiously for cars that do the driving for you? A survey of globe auto executives finds that 68% think self-driving cars will be available by 2025. Just-auto.com said one quarter believed they would be on the market by around 2020.

If you search nightly for reruns of “The Dukes of Hazzard” you will be pleased to know that Tom Wopat and John Schneider will be featured in a new ad campaign for Auto Trader.com. The boys apparently will conclude they need new wheels to stay a few steps ahead of the sheriff.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – 2015 Kia K900

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2015 Kia K900

Going After the Big Guys

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – It doesn’t seem possible. Kia is already celebrating its 20th anniversary in the U.S. and there is a lot to celebrate.

Kia posted an all-time monthly sales record in May with 60,087 units sold and a hefty 14.8 percent increase year-over-year. The big numbers were led by the Optima, Soul and Sorento in that order.

With that solid base “the next logical progression of Kia,” in the words of Executive Vice President Michael Sprague, was to move upscale into the luxury market.

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Enter the K900 aimed at consumers who look around the neighborhood and see lots of Mercedes and BMWs and feel like something different – A car that can stand up to the others when it comes to a luxury environment inside and beat many of them with standard and available options.

It is a large car, some 200 inches long and riding on a nearly 120 inch wheelbase. In overall length it comes in close to the Mercedes E class and the BMW 6 and 7 series.

Where consumers will really see the size of this car is when they sit in the second row. There is limo like room there and if you check the right boxes those seats also recline, keep your bottom cool, with shades to block the sun if a nap is in order.

The K9 is a greyhound when it comes to performance. It should with a refined 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm teamed with a very responsive 8-speed automatic. Look for a 0-60 run in about 5.5 seconds and a driver selected “Sport” mode that holds gears a bit longer, handy when slow moving farm tractors are ahead on back roads.

One bugaboo was the unintuitive shift lever, copied out of the BMW. To engage reverse from park for instance, one moves the lever forward rather than back.

In a week’s worth of driving I racked up 16.5 mpg, within the EPA rating of 15/23 mpg city/interstate and 18 mpg combined. Okay, I admit the 420 hp was addictive.

The ride is very soft compared to its European rivals, and the K900 is clearly aimed at consumers who want a smooth ride and don’t care how many g’s the car can post in handling tests. Some vibrations were fed back to the interior on rough country roads. Kia does not offer the air suspension option of its platform mate, the Hyundai Equus.

What the K900 does best is eat up interstate miles while offering complete comfort to the driver and his or her seatmate.

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There is a huge amount of room up front, especially elbow room.  Drivers face a 12.3 inch TFT instrument panel that was an easy read. The heads-up display can do more than tell you when you might attract the attention of the fine folks with the blue lights – turn-by-turn navigation, blind spot detection and lane departure information are all available.

Switching to the sport mode changes the instrument panel to digital for both tach and speedo, a nice touch.

The relatively easy to program navi system is contained in a 9.2 inch display controlled by a center console knob and surrounding soft touch buttons – all in all a most Audi-like MMI style. Its many features are exhaustively detailed in a rather thick book, which lives alongside an even bigger owner’s manual. Yet unlike other luxury cars I have driven, the entire package does fit in the globe box.

Design wise it would appear Kia has a hit here. It turned heads everywhere I went, even in upscale neighborhoods and I would guess very few grasped it was a Kia. The sexy 19” chrome alloy wheels helped the cause as well.

In addition to a long list of standard equipment that included a sunroof, 3-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather seats and “genuine wood accent trim” the test car came with a $6,000 VIP Package that I would recommend, or as my car buff step-dad would have said, “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

That brought to the party 60/40 power reclining rear seats, a 16-way adjustable driver’s seat with air lumbar support, driver’s seat extension, power headrests and soft close power door latches, and a surround view monitor among other goodies.

With a $900 delivery charge, that brought the MSRP of the test car to $66,400. Comparing base price to base price, the only fair way to do it, the Kia at $59,500 most closely matches with the BMW 535d XDRIVE at $59,825 or $54,500 for the Mercedes E450 luxury sedan.

Is that a lot of cash for a Kia? Yes and no. If one can live with the boulevard ride and the somewhat frustrating shift pattern, there is a lot to like here. A long list of amenities, an extended 10-year, 100,000 mile limited power train warranty, 5 years of roadside assistance, with scheduled maintenance free for 3 years or 37,500 miles along with a loaner.

In the end, it all comes down to what you are looking for in your first, or next, set of wheels in the luxury class. If you pop for the K900, do give the boss and your mother-in-law a ride in the rear seat.

Instant affirmation baby, INSTANT.

 

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Auto News for June 6

If you are out shopping for a new vehicle, would you opt for a loan that stretches for 66 months? Many are according to Experian Automotive. In fact, the average loan lasts 66 months for the first time according to the company. And the number of loans lasting 73 to 84 months is on the rise. In the first quarter, the average monthly payment reached its highest point on record at $474.

BMW has released details of its 2015 X6 “Sports Activity Coupe” including the first rear-wheel drive model in the lineup. It will be powered by a turbo inline six good for 300 horsepower. The X5 is produced at the BMW plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina and will arrive in showrooms later this year. Pricing has not been announced.

2015 Outback

Subaru’s 2015 Outback model will carrying a starting price of $24,895, an increase of about $500 but Suby said that includes more standard equipment.  Chief among them is a new and needed infotainment system. The Outback Premium model will start at $26,995.

Maserati concept

The International Maserati gathering celebrating the firm’s 100th anniversary will begin in Modena September 18th and end in Turin on the 20th. It was way back in 1914 that three brothers opened the first car repair workshop in the basement of a building in Bologna that eventually led to the Maserati. The celebration will include visits to some well-known tracks, sumptuous dinners and a tour of Maserati manufacturing plants. Pictured is the Maserati Alfieri concept car.

 

 

 

Auto News for June 5 (part two)

In early trading on Wall Street, about an hour after Mary Barra’s report, GM shares were down 18 cents to $36.31.

 

P1 McLaren

For the first time, McLaren posted both an operating and pre-tax profit during 2013. It said the next sports car, codenamed P13, will available before the end of 2015. It will be priced below current models, will be mid-engined, and will carry two. It anticipates annual production of about 4,000. McLaren will also crank out a limited run of track-only editions of its P1. It will available only to clients who have ordered one of the 375 road legal versions. McLaren claims it will be its “most powerful car yet.”   The P1 is pictured.

Subaru said one of its WRX STI models has set a new course record for a lap of the famed Isle of Man TT Road Course. It achieved an average lap speed of 116.470 mph breaking the record of 115.36 set three years ago.

BMW said its 228i coupe will carry a starting price of $33,050 on up the ladder to $45,850 for the M235i xDrive coupe.

Audi said its 2015 top of the line A8 will start at $77,400 for the 3.0T model and rise to $137,900 for the long wheel base W12. It will arrive at local dealers this month. The 4.0-liter V8 gets a power boost from 420 hp to 435 hp.

Nearly 4,400 vehicles at two auto dealers in Nebraska were damaged when baseball sized hail fell during an intense storm. A large number of cars parked at the airport in Denver suffered similar damage.

Headline of the morning: “Inductive charging for electric vehicles to gain traction transforming infrastructure landscape.”

 

Auto News for June 5 Part One

 

GM CEO Mary Barra said this morning that 15 GM officials have been fired for their handling of the faulty ignition switch issue as she released details of an internal investigation of the matter in an appearance before workers at GM headquarters.

The automaker will create a compensation fund for victims.  The faulty switches have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes.

“I first want to take this opportunity to again express my deepest sympathies to the families that lost loved ones and to those who were injured,” Barra said.

“I realize there are no words of mine that can ease their grief and pain.”

She added that GM accepts “responsibility for our mistakes and commits to doing everything within our power to prevent this from ever happening again.”

And she called the report “brutally tough and deeply troubling” adding that it revealed “a pattern of incompetence and neglect.”

There was no conspiracy by the corporation to cover up the facts, the CEO said the report concluded, and investigators found no evidence that any employee made a trade-off between safety and cost.

Instead, the report blamed a “pattern of management deficiencies and misjudgments … that were passed off at the time as business as usual.”

No one in the company raised the issue to the highest levels of the company, Barra said.

“If this information had been disclosed, I believe in my heart the company would have dealt with this matter appropriately.”

Barra said more GM recalls are likely in the days ahead.

Auto News for June 4

The final figures are in and new vehicle sales hit a nine year high in May, some 1.6 million. Kelley Blue Book said analysts believe the good times will continue in June.

An internal investigation of GM’s response to faulty ignition switches is expected to clear CEO Mary Barra of any wrongdoing, according to sources cited by the New York Times. It said the investigation is expected to recommend corporate and personnel changes.

Ford has produced a concept car that may never make its way to showrooms, but one that lops off 800 pounds from the Fusion for increased fuel economy. Using light-weight materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber, the car could produce mpg in the upper 40s, according to the Detroit News. That would be with the 1-liter, three-cylinder engine.

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TRW is testing what it calls Emergency Steering Assist. If you swerve to avoid an obstacle, the system will calculate the optimal trajectory around it and additional steering torque will be applied to help follow the trajectory and stabilize the car. TRW insists that the driver remains in control of the vehicle – that the system will allow the operator to react faster and more accurately to help avoid a crash.

The analytics division of TrueCar is out with a study on what consumers perceive to be the highest quality brands and Honda and Mercedes Benz lead the list. Honda is trailed by Toyota and VW while the three pointed star is followed by Lexus and BMW.

One more sales note: Porsche reports a 17.3 percent increase in May for the best sales month ever. It said the new Macan crossover vehicle got off to the hot start on these shores while demand for the Cayenne outstrips supply.