Ferrari 612 Scaglietti Review

Four-Seater Ferrari

This large and luxurious four-seat coupe is one of the fastest, most exclusive four-seaters around.
by Jim Gorzelany and Matthew de Paula



Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Larger and lighter than the 456M it replaced, the four-seat 612 Scaglietti is Ferrari’s most expensive model and the first to boast a chassis and body made entirely of aluminum. This is said to cut the vehicle’s weight by about 40 percent — versus a standard steel setup — and allow exceptional rigidity for a more refined ride and improved handling over the model it replaced.

The 612 Scaglietti carries over unchanged for 2006. Its engine and drivetrain are in the tradition of classic Ferraris: a large, twelve-cylinder up front driving the rear wheels. A version of the 5.7-liter V12 engine that is in the two-seat 575M Marinello puts out a landscape-blurring 540 hp and enables the 612 Scaglietti to reach 62 mph in 4.2 seconds with the standard six-speed manual transmission. The car can reach a top speed of 199 mph.

With a fuel-economy rating of just 10 mpg city/17 mpg highway, the car is subject to a federal gas-guzzler tax.

The understated styling is courtesy of famed Italian design house Pininfarina, which has a long history of designing Ferraris.

The engine is mounted entirely behind the front axle, and the transmission is in the rear of the car for optimum weight distribution (46/54 percent weight distribution front-to-rear with a driver onboard). This allows superior handling.

An optional sequential-manual “F1” six-speed transmission offers manual gear changes with paddles mounted behind the steering wheel — right paddle for upshifts, left paddle for downshifts — or can be left in automatic mode. A sport mode allows better acceleration by holding gears longer so that the engine can rev all the way to redline.

An adaptive suspension varies its calibration according to road conditions, firming up during spirited driving and softening over rough roads. A sport setting stiffens the suspension for the most spirited driving. Likewise, the car’s stability and traction control systems have a sport mode that allows more freedom to drive aggressively before intervening.

As befits its lightweight underpinnings, the 612 Scaglietti’s 2+2 interior is trimmed in aluminum, with impeccably handcrafted leather upholstery throughout. The contoured front sport seats are power-adjustable with a unique headrest design that can be raised and lowered electrically in conjunction with the seatbelt. The rear seat is large enough for two adults to be comfortable on short trips, and the trunk will fit several pieces of luggage.

The instrument panel features large, legible dials and a small screen to the left that displays ancillary information such as engine and oil temperature, or trip information like the number of miles driven. A head unit by Becker is clunky and slow and spoils an otherwise good sound system featuring Bose speakers. Even more odd, though, is the fact that the optional navigation system doesn't come with a color screen. Rudimentary line drawings of roads and intersections — no maps — are displayed on the small dot-matrix screen of the Becker head-unit. Fortunately, directions can be announced by a computerized voice.

Like most exotic cars, the 612 Scaglietti can be customized with any exterior color and interior trim of a client's choosing. Options include a full-size spare tire, special 19-inch wheels, run-flat tires, parking sensors and custom-fitted, six-piece leather luggage designed by Pininfarina. Pricing for these was not available.

Cadillac CTS-V Review

The wickedly fast Cadillac CTS-V is easily one of the best Cadillacs ever. In an effort to take advantage of its recent vogue, Cadillac decided to build high-performance versions of several of its cars. Collectively called the V-Series, they are meant to be high-powered, tight-handling, all-around track-tuned performers in the vein of the European performance marques, such as BMW's M series and Mercedes-Benz's AMG lineup.





2006 Cadillac CTS-V 4dr Sedan Shown

The CTS-V was the first Cadillac to get the V treatment, and it's no exaggeration to call it an enthusiast's dream. Based on the CTS entry-level luxury sedan, the CTS-V has exclusivity stamped all over it. The throaty V8 may get all the publicity, but the CTS-V looks, sounds and drives like a very special car.

As you'd expect, though, the Cadillac CTS-V does share a few inherent flaws with the regular CTS, including an awkward interior design and mediocre interior materials. These attributes will likely be addressed with the second-generation CTS-V, which is expected to follow the launch of the new '08 CTS.

Current Cadillac CTS-V

The Cadillac CTS-V comes in one body style and trim. It is a powerful, rear-wheel-drive midsize luxury sedan. The V6 engine from the standard CTS has been swapped out for a 400-hp 6.0-liter V8, which is the same engine found under the Corvette's hood. A six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential are standard. There is no automatic transmission option. Put the pedal down hard and you can expect to move from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds.

But the performance upgrades go far beyond the bigger engine. Additional highlights include a tightened suspension, massive Brembo performance brakes and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with performance tires. Antilock brakes and a driver-adjustable stability control system (StabiliTrak) are standard. More subtle adjustments include a strengthened engine cradle and hydraulic engine mounts.

There is a level of sophistication that extends from the performance construction down to the interior features. You get all of the CTS upscale features as standard, including HID headlights, climate control, sport seats and a premium Bose audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer. Even navigation comes standard. Options are limited to paint colors and run-flat tires.

Cadillac has done its best to gussy up the CTS's normally dull interior to make the V-Series sedan feel special. The original instrument cluster has been replaced by more upscale dials and computer readouts, which even spit out real-time driving dynamics, such as lateral G-forces. There are also aluminum and satin chrome accents on the dash. The more heavily bolstered front seats are comfortable and supportive during aggressive driving. As in the regular CTS, the backseat is spacious, which makes the CTS-V more useful on an everyday basis than similarly priced compact rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.


In road tests, our editors found the Cadillac CTS-V to be the automotive equivalent of a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. It just oozes enthusiasm and begs to be driven hard. Whether you're pushing hard in a straight line, around long curves or sharp corners, the CTS-V does everything you want from a high-level sport sedan and then some, though its drivetrain exhibits the sort of raggedness that sets it slightly below the standards of its European rivals. But no excuses need to be made for the handling, which is precise and predictable in all conditions.

Cadillac XLR Review

Yet another entry from Cadillac to show the world it's serious about competing with the top European and Japanese luxury brands, the two-seat Cadillac XLR roadster is the company's flagship vehicle. Though it shares the same platform as the current Corvette, the XLR variant is not a simple case of corporate badge engineering. It's more of a grand touring machine than a hard-edged sports car, as the Caddy's responses are softer and comfortably refined. It also uses a more subdued 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower V8 engine rather than the Vette's edgier 6.0-liter, 400-hp V8 power plant.




2008 Cadillac XLR Convertible

The use of lightweight components like aluminum suspension pieces and composite body panels keeps the Cadillac XLR from being a bloated luxury two-seater. In addition, the standard Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system automatically firms up or softens the suspension based on driving conditions, ensuring generally smooth and responsive maneuvers. The combination of bold, angular styling outside and distinctive eucalyptus-wood cockpit accents gives the XLR a sophisticated presence. Further, the XLR's power retractable hardtop roof allows the comfort and security of a coupe when the top is raised.

As impressive as it is, the Cadillac XLR roadster is not quite the "standard of the world" just yet. Though its styling and Cadillac badge will appeal to those looking to roll up to the valet in something different from the status quo, the XLR comes up short in terms of maximum performance and interior detailing when compared to its German rivals. But if those qualities aren't your top priority, and you're not overly impressed with the rest of the XLR's competition, this Cadillac convertible is worth considering.



Current Cadillac XLR

The Cadillac XLR is a two-seat luxury roadster featuring a retractable hardtop roof. The standard XLR comes with just about all of the luxury features you'd expect, including 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, adaptive xenon HID headlights, heated leather seats with plenty of power adjustments, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless startup, a head-up display, a navigation system and a Bose audio system with satellite radio and a CD changer. There are also a couple special variants, the Passion Red Limited Edition XLR and the Platinum Edition XLR, that feature unique exterior paint and other minor trim enhancements.

A refined yet muscular 4.6-liter V8 powers the XLR, and a six-speed automanual transmission transmits the Northstar V8's 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. We've found the XLR to be a spirited performer, with 0-60-mph sprints taking less than 6 seconds and high-speed cruising that's generally hushed and effortless. Full-throttle shifts result in little hesitation, and the sound of the engine at speed is as good as or better than any V8 in its class. Antilock disc brakes are standard safety items, as are run-flat tires, a tire-pressure monitor, stability control, head/torso side-impact airbags and rear parking sensors.

Inside, the Cadillac XLR boasts an upscale cabin complete with rich eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum accents in addition to comfortable leather seating -- altogether clean-looking, modern and warm. State-of-the-art technologies abound, too: A head-up display shows vital information such as speed, fuel level and audio status on the windshield, adaptive cruise control automatically maintains a preset distance between the XLR and the car in front, and a large touchscreen mounted high in the center stack helps keep the dash free of numerous single-use buttons. Our editors found fit and finish to be excellent, save for a few pieces of metallic trim that seem tacked-on rather than cleanly integrated.



As fast as the XLR is when pushed, those expecting a true Cadillac sports car will be disappointed. Acceleration, though certainly quick, is not as forceful as its corporate cousin, and the XLR's softer suspension tuning results in noticeable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nosedive under heavy braking. Even with its adaptive suspension's split-second response, the Cadillac XLR still feels less willing to tackle turns than the more athletic European contenders. On the open highway, the roadster hits its stride, delivering an undisturbed ride with effortless tracking.

Ferrari 599 Review

2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano 2dr Coupe

Somewhere in America I know there’s someone grinning like an idiot as they hold their phone to their ear. I’ve no idea who they are, but they’ve just received the metallic, shrieking blare of the 599 GTB Fiorano’s 6.0-litre V12 repeatedly ripping up to 7,000rpm.




All via mobile technology and a quick flex of my right ankle. Only Ferrari can do this. Only Ferrari can make someone ask their friend hold their phone to the tailpipe of a car and get them to ask me to give it some. I’m more than happy to oblige. Whoever you might be, I hope you enjoyed it.

But the rasping, metallic cacophony of the V12 is only the half of it, and truth be told it’s actually quite quiet inside the 599 GTB Fiorano on the road. It’s the performance that’s so sensational. The 599 can reach 62mph in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence. Impressive, but if the driver had kept it pinned they’d be doing 124mph, wait... Now. Depending on how quickly you read, that’s 3.7 and 11.0 seconds respectively. That’s scarcely believable performance. That’s pace that’s no longer merely supercar quick, but up in the heady realms of cars like the Carrera GT, the SLR and McLaren F1. It’s hardly surprising then to find that under the Ferrari’s long bonnet nestles an engine that, save for a few alterations, is

Sure, nobody needs a 6.0-litre, V12 with 620bhp and 608Nm of torque. But Ferrari’s development goals for the 599 GTB Fiorano were simple: create a car that’s able to provide the sort of performance and excitement of the F40. That’s messing with supercar royalty, and on paper, it’s right up there. The 599 GTB’s 0-62mph time betters it, as does its 205+mph top speed. Not that I’ve ever driven an F40, but I know several people who have and they all say the same thing; it’s an animal. The 599 GTB Fiorano couldn’t be more different then. Never has so much power been so civilised, so utterly exploitable. I can say with absolutely certainty that I’ll never drive a 599 GTB again with as much conviction as I did on the SS62 from Fornovo di Taro to Berceto.

It’s the road where Enzo Ferrari took part in his very first road race. And it’s sensational. An early start means it’s completely clear, the winding, bucking stretch of tarmac a tough adversary to any car, let alone such a wide one with such a surfeit of power. But Ferrari has ensured the 599 GTB has the measure of this challenge. A combination of elements allows it to monster this road, and any others you might consider. Firstly the 599 GTB’s all aluminium structure means its both light and strong, that Enzo derived engine sitting low and far back behind the front axle along. Some 85% of the 599’s mass is located within the wheelbase ensuring excellent weight distribution.

For the record it’s split 47% front 53% rear, the bias slightly rearward over its 575M Maranello predecessor’s 50/50 distribution. The styling, beautiful but resolute in the deep Rosso Monza of my car, is honed to produce downforce at speed. Even the flying buttresses at the rear have purpose, that being to channel air over the rear. The flat underfloor assists too, sucking the 599 GTB onto the road. Most significant though is the Fiorano’s suspension, the ‘SCM’ Magnetoreological damping key to the 599’s incredible agility. Linked to the Manettino steering wheel dial you to choose your preferred setting for the Fiorano’s electronic control systems.

They’re numerous, including the settings altering the thresholds for the CST and F1 Trac traction and stability systems. It also controls the speed of the shifts on the F1-SuperFast paddle shift six-speed transmission. Sport is suggested as the best compromise for the road. But Race feels right on these roads. Despite the challenging surface the 599 GTB’s body control is extraordinary, those trick dampers managing to contain roll in the corners while soaking up vertical movements caused by the less than perfect undulating road surface. Bumps that should push the 599 off line, or have it bucking are shrugged off, the 599 flowing on these difficult roads with quite astonishing deftness. It’s difficult to comprehend at first, the 599 goading you to try to unsettle it. You’ll not.

The quick incisive steering turns in with determination. The first few inches of the wheel’s movement faithfully placing the 599’s nose exactly where you want it. There’s plenty of feel at the rim too, though it could do with a bit more meatiness to the weighting. Once turned in it remains neutral through even hairpin tight bends, its beautiful balance clear whatever the radius of corner. Winding off the lock it’s easy to steer through the remainder of the bend with the rear wheels and power, the CST and F1 Trac allowing a degree of oversteer. In ‘Race’ it allows quite a lot. It also speeds up the shifts of the F1-SuperFast transmission. Slamming through the gears at 100 milliseconds it’s Ferrari’s fastest paddleshift transmission aside from Schumacher and Massa’s weekend playthings.

Keep the accelerator buried, tug back on the right paddle and before it’s even really registered you’re reaching for it again as the gear is devoured by the V12 ripping up to its heady 8,400rpm redline. For smoothness changing gears it’s best to momentarily lift, but there’s something gratifyingly feral about letting it register your shifts with a quick jerk, the downshifts smoothed and announced by a sharp, shrill blip from the throttle. The optional carbon ceramic brakes never fade, though the pedal needs a good shove to get them working. The pedal movement initially proves unexpectedly long, unlike the rest of the 599 the brakes take some learning, lacking the precision feedback of the rest of the controls. A bit more bite at the top of the pedals movement would instil more confidence.

While I’m on the 599’s few negatives the F1 paddles either need to reach further around the wheel’s circumference, or move with it. As they are you’re often tugging mid air exiting a corner taking off steering lock. There’s a bit of wind noise at speed too, and the carbon fibre and leather trim creaks like an old rope swing. The digital display and rev lights on the steering wheel are too much, the shrieking engine and rev counter doing the job better than any disco lights. Small complaints on what’s perhaps the most accomplished Ferrari ever. Prices have yet to be announced, but a two-year waiting list in the UK suggests buyers simply don’t care.









Jaguar XK-Series Review

The Jaguar E-Type or XKE is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful, iconic cars of all time. Introduced in 1961, it has been lusted after ever since, appearing on teenage boys' bedroom walls, grown men's garages and in movies like the "Austin Powers" series, where it served as the international man of mystery's Shaguar. More than three decades since the XKE went to cat heaven, its spirit lives on in a new breed of sleek Jaguar coupes and convertibles. The latest Jaguar XK-Series maintains classic design cues like the oval grille, but adds a thoroughly modern all-aluminum body and high-tech features designed to better defend Britain against German competition.





2008 Jaguar XK-Series XK Convertible

After 22 years of the unloved Jaguar XJS, the XK name and spirit were revived in the late '90s with the stunning XK8 coupe and convertible. Powered by an all-new 290-horsepower V8, it was quick and capable of keeping up with the best of the sub-$100,000 luxury coupe rivals of the time. As its 10-year life wore on, however, the competition predictably began to surpass the XK8 and the high-performance XKR in terms of refinement and comfort.

For 2007, the Jaguar XK ditched the "8" in its name and dusted off several layers of old-school Jaguar heritage to reveal an all-new, more modern coupe and convertible. Sharing components with the XJ sedan's aluminum structure, the XK is lighter and more rigid -- actually 50 percent stiffer -- than the old XK8, Jag says. Its interior is a drastic departure from the typical Jaguar look, with a modern dashboard design featuring a more intuitive control layout. The biggest interior change is the availability of alloy trim in lieu of wood – although some may argue that a Jag without wood is like Tom Selleck without the mustache.


Current Jaguar XK-Series

The new Jaguar XK and supercharged XKR are available as a two-door coupe and convertible. The standard XK comes with a 4.2-liter V8 churning out 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque, while the XKR's supercharged version of the same engine pumps out 420 hp and 418 lb-ft of torque. Both models come standard with a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for automanual control. Jaguar's old "J-gate" shifter has finally been replaced with a new design that could perhaps be called a Backwards L Gate or Upside-Down 7 Gate.

The XKR adds sportier interior trim, 19-inch wheels (versus 18s), a firmer suspension, retuned steering, larger front brakes and exterior modifications like an aluminum mesh grille. The XK's standard stability control program is reprogrammed for the XKR to allow the driver more leeway and the option of shutting it off completely.

In road tests and reviews, we've found the regular Jaguar XK to be a little disappointing in terms of acceleration; the coupe's 0-60-mph time of 6.4 seconds is about a second slower than some competitors' times. Both XKR models are expectedly much quicker, going from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. When driving calls for something other than a straight line, both XKs display impressive composure through high-speed sweeping turns. On tighter roads, though, they lack a nimble feel. One final aspect to consider before a purchase would be reliability. In the three XKs we drove, we discovered electrical gremlins involving the touchscreen interface that operates navigation, stereo and climate functions.


Past Jaguar XK models

They say cats have nine lives and quite appropriately, it takes a long time for Jaguar coupes and roadsters to die. The XKE survived from 1961-'74 before being replaced by the very different XJS, which languished in mediocrity for 22 years before being mercifully put out of its misery. By comparison, the 10-year-old XK8 was practically a kitten when it was replaced by today's XK.

The 1997 Jaguar XK8 debuted in coupe and convertible body styles, with the XKR arriving in 2000. The standard 290-hp 4.0-liter engine was Jaguar's first-ever V8 and only the fourth all-new engine in its history. We were impressed with its low-end torque and found that it accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. We also thought it was "a hoot to drive" with effortless acceleration, precise steering and a supple suspension.

Inside, the XK8 featured a classic Jaguar look with lots of Connolly leather and walnut trim. Although it began to look antiquated later in life with unintuitive controls and subpar materials, in the retro-crazed late '90s, it was certifiably chic. The car's cramped interior dimensions and small trunk were never in style, however.

In 2003, the Jaguar XK-Series engine was upgraded to 294 hp and 303 lb-ft of torque (from 284 lb-ft), sending the coupe from zero to 60 in 6.1 seconds – which is better than the current model. That year also saw a new six-speed automatic and more than 900 other mostly minor changes, none of which touched the still-attractive sheet metal. After that, the XK8 prowled about through 2006 without any significant updates.

The high-performance XKR featured a supercharged version of the 4.0-liter V8, making 370 hp and 387 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph in the coupe was accomplished in 5.1 seconds. The 2003 revisions also applied to the XKR, including a power boost to 390 hp and 399 lb-ft of torque.

Prior to the XK8, Jaguar offered the XJS coupe and convertible. The latter appeared in 1989, replacing the odd "Cabriolet" model, which featured a Jeep Wrangler-esque retractable roof that maintained the window frames. By 1990, a 262-hp 5.3-liter V12 was the standard engine. It was briefly replaced in 1993 by a 4.0-liter inline-6 making only 219 hp, but a new 278-hp, 6.0-liter V12 emerged in 1994 to complement the standard six-cylinder. A four-speed automatic replaced the ancient GM TH400 three-speed auto in 1993. In 1992, a new head- and taillight design debuted.

The XJS was actually heavier than today's XK, making it all the more slow, ponderous to drive and generally undesirable. Also, with its 1970s-era interior and Jaguar's notoriously poor reliability from this era, used-car shoppers should avoid the XJS as if it were a rabid cat in heat.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo Review

2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo LT Coupe

The Chevrolet Monte Carlo traces its roots back several decades to the height of the muscle car era, when Chevy sought to entice customers with a sporty, upscale rear-drive V8 coupe that provided a balance of performance and comfort in a stylish package. From those early years -- which included big-block SS (Super Sport) editions -- the Monte Carlo evolved toward a more luxury-oriented persona, saw significant downsizing (to optimize fuel efficiency) and soldiered on as a popular rear-drive sport coupe until 1988, when it was replaced by the Lumina coupe.




Following a lengthy hiatus, the Chevy Monte Carlo emerged once again in 1995. However, by then it had been softened and saddled with a carryover front-wheel-drive platform and V6 engines that barely hinted at the performance of years gone by. It was, in essence, a Lumina coupe.

The current-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe debuted in 2000 with more distinctive styling and updated underpinnings from the Impala sedan to better meet the needs of today's buyers. Significant changes in 2006 have helped the Monte Carlo come nearly full circle back to its original mission with sportier chassis tuning, improved driving dynamics and more power in SS models, while freshened interior and exterior styling offer a sculpted and pleasing contemporary appearance.

Although much improved in the past few years -- including a return to available V8 power in SS trim -- we feel that other performance sport coupe competitors like the Mustang offer a more satisfying choice as long as you don't mind giving up some interior room. In reviews, our editors say the Monte Carlo is primarily a comfortable cruiser that's more at home in the fast lane than on twisty mountain roads. If the latter is your preferred driving environment, you may want to consider other brighter, more focused alternatives.

The current-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which received a major update for the 2006 model year, is a midsize two-door coupe that comes in three trim levels: the base but reasonably well-equipped LS, the more upscale LT and the performance-oriented SS. Under the hood of LS and LT models is a 3.5-liter V6 with 211 horsepower, while the SS boasts a responsive 5.3-liter V8 with 303 hp. Impressive numbers, yes. But we'd like them even better if they powered the rear wheels like Monte Carlos of years ago, especially in the case of the SS. A front-engine/rear-drive layout is typically preferable for optimum weight distribution and balanced handling, especially when that engine is a heavy V8.

Overall, this Chevy Monte Carlo is a spacious sport coupe that offers buyers a reasonably good comfort/performance trade-off for a relatively low sticker price. The V8-equipped Monte Carlo SS suffers from a nose-heavy feel, however. If quick reflexes are on your wish list instead and you don't mind tighter quarters, we suggest you consider one of its smaller but more nimble sport coupe competitors.

Used-car shoppers interested in a late-model Monte Carlo will likely encounter the previous-generation model, which was available from the 2000-'05 model years. Based on the then-new Impala platform and wearing distinctive, fresh sheet metal with heritage styling cues, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo was originally offered as an LS with a 3.4-liter V6 engine making 180 hp, or an SS with a 200-hp 3.8-liter V6. A driver-side airbag -- as well as traction control and OnStar on SS models -- was added as standard safety equipment in 2001, and all models received four-wheel disc brakes, traction control and remote keyless entry in 2003. In a bid to boost its performance image, Chevrolet added a 240-hp supercharged engine option for the SS in 2004.

Previous to this model, there was the Lumina-based Monte Carlo, which became available for the 1995 model year in LS or Z34 sport trim levels. Those wishing to hit the fast lane are advised to stick with the 210-hp 3.4-liter twincam V6 in the Z34. Detail improvements carried the Chevrolet Monte Carlo through the next several years, though only the most eagle-eyed used-car shoppers are likely to appreciate the differences.

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti Review

Four-Seater Ferrari

This large and luxurious four-seat coupe is one of the fastest, most exclusive four-seaters around.
by Jim Gorzelany and Matthew de Paula



Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Larger and lighter than the 456M it replaced, the four-seat 612 Scaglietti is Ferrari’s most expensive model and the first to boast a chassis and body made entirely of aluminum. This is said to cut the vehicle’s weight by about 40 percent — versus a standard steel setup — and allow exceptional rigidity for a more refined ride and improved handling over the model it replaced.

The 612 Scaglietti carries over unchanged for 2006. Its engine and drivetrain are in the tradition of classic Ferraris: a large, twelve-cylinder up front driving the rear wheels. A version of the 5.7-liter V12 engine that is in the two-seat 575M Marinello puts out a landscape-blurring 540 hp and enables the 612 Scaglietti to reach 62 mph in 4.2 seconds with the standard six-speed manual transmission. The car can reach a top speed of 199 mph.

With a fuel-economy rating of just 10 mpg city/17 mpg highway, the car is subject to a federal gas-guzzler tax.

The understated styling is courtesy of famed Italian design house Pininfarina, which has a long history of designing Ferraris.

The engine is mounted entirely behind the front axle, and the transmission is in the rear of the car for optimum weight distribution (46/54 percent weight distribution front-to-rear with a driver onboard). This allows superior handling.

An optional sequential-manual “F1” six-speed transmission offers manual gear changes with paddles mounted behind the steering wheel — right paddle for upshifts, left paddle for downshifts — or can be left in automatic mode. A sport mode allows better acceleration by holding gears longer so that the engine can rev all the way to redline.

An adaptive suspension varies its calibration according to road conditions, firming up during spirited driving and softening over rough roads. A sport setting stiffens the suspension for the most spirited driving. Likewise, the car’s stability and traction control systems have a sport mode that allows more freedom to drive aggressively before intervening.

As befits its lightweight underpinnings, the 612 Scaglietti’s 2+2 interior is trimmed in aluminum, with impeccably handcrafted leather upholstery throughout. The contoured front sport seats are power-adjustable with a unique headrest design that can be raised and lowered electrically in conjunction with the seatbelt. The rear seat is large enough for two adults to be comfortable on short trips, and the trunk will fit several pieces of luggage.

The instrument panel features large, legible dials and a small screen to the left that displays ancillary information such as engine and oil temperature, or trip information like the number of miles driven. A head unit by Becker is clunky and slow and spoils an otherwise good sound system featuring Bose speakers. Even more odd, though, is the fact that the optional navigation system doesn't come with a color screen. Rudimentary line drawings of roads and intersections — no maps — are displayed on the small dot-matrix screen of the Becker head-unit. Fortunately, directions can be announced by a computerized voice.

Like most exotic cars, the 612 Scaglietti can be customized with any exterior color and interior trim of a client's choosing. Options include a full-size spare tire, special 19-inch wheels, run-flat tires, parking sensors and custom-fitted, six-piece leather luggage designed by Pininfarina. Pricing for these was not available.

Cadillac CTS-V Review

The wickedly fast Cadillac CTS-V is easily one of the best Cadillacs ever. In an effort to take advantage of its recent vogue, Cadillac decided to build high-performance versions of several of its cars. Collectively called the V-Series, they are meant to be high-powered, tight-handling, all-around track-tuned performers in the vein of the European performance marques, such as BMW's M series and Mercedes-Benz's AMG lineup.





2006 Cadillac CTS-V 4dr Sedan Shown

The CTS-V was the first Cadillac to get the V treatment, and it's no exaggeration to call it an enthusiast's dream. Based on the CTS entry-level luxury sedan, the CTS-V has exclusivity stamped all over it. The throaty V8 may get all the publicity, but the CTS-V looks, sounds and drives like a very special car.

As you'd expect, though, the Cadillac CTS-V does share a few inherent flaws with the regular CTS, including an awkward interior design and mediocre interior materials. These attributes will likely be addressed with the second-generation CTS-V, which is expected to follow the launch of the new '08 CTS.

Current Cadillac CTS-V

The Cadillac CTS-V comes in one body style and trim. It is a powerful, rear-wheel-drive midsize luxury sedan. The V6 engine from the standard CTS has been swapped out for a 400-hp 6.0-liter V8, which is the same engine found under the Corvette's hood. A six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential are standard. There is no automatic transmission option. Put the pedal down hard and you can expect to move from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds.

But the performance upgrades go far beyond the bigger engine. Additional highlights include a tightened suspension, massive Brembo performance brakes and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with performance tires. Antilock brakes and a driver-adjustable stability control system (StabiliTrak) are standard. More subtle adjustments include a strengthened engine cradle and hydraulic engine mounts.

There is a level of sophistication that extends from the performance construction down to the interior features. You get all of the CTS upscale features as standard, including HID headlights, climate control, sport seats and a premium Bose audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer. Even navigation comes standard. Options are limited to paint colors and run-flat tires.

Cadillac has done its best to gussy up the CTS's normally dull interior to make the V-Series sedan feel special. The original instrument cluster has been replaced by more upscale dials and computer readouts, which even spit out real-time driving dynamics, such as lateral G-forces. There are also aluminum and satin chrome accents on the dash. The more heavily bolstered front seats are comfortable and supportive during aggressive driving. As in the regular CTS, the backseat is spacious, which makes the CTS-V more useful on an everyday basis than similarly priced compact rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.


In road tests, our editors found the Cadillac CTS-V to be the automotive equivalent of a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. It just oozes enthusiasm and begs to be driven hard. Whether you're pushing hard in a straight line, around long curves or sharp corners, the CTS-V does everything you want from a high-level sport sedan and then some, though its drivetrain exhibits the sort of raggedness that sets it slightly below the standards of its European rivals. But no excuses need to be made for the handling, which is precise and predictable in all conditions.

Cadillac STS Review

Though it has grown into an entirely different species, the luxury performance DNA of the Cadillac STS can be traced all the way back to the special range-topping Seville hardtop coupe of the 1950s. At that time one of the fastest, flashiest and most luxurious cars on the road, it evolved and re-emerged several decades later as the buttoned-down Seville luxury sedan, capable of sharing company with Europe's finest.





2008 Cadillac STS Luxury Sedan Shown

Handsome, contemporary styling, tighter build quality and a new high-performance STS sport model set the stage in the early 1990s, and the addition of a sophisticated and powerful new DOHC Northstar V8 engine and detail refinements throughout the decade made the most of -- and tended to somewhat mask -- its limiting front-drive architecture, the STS's one performance Achilles heel. As it entered the new millennium, however, Caddy's flagship had aged and lost some of its appeal as trimmer, more sophisticated, and in most cases, rear-wheel-drive European and Japanese competitors overtook it in terms of refinement and performance.

Evolution gave way to revolution in 2005 as Cadillac dropped the Seville moniker in favor of its alpha-centric naming strategy, coinciding with a quantum leap forward in technology, build quality and overall refinement. Based on GM's global Sigma rear- and all-wheel-drive platform and utilizing powerful new V6 and Northstar V8 engines, the Cadillac STS is once again capable of taking on all comers.

If you're in the market for a finely tailored luxury sedan with the power, roominess, comfort and value to outpace many of its smaller German and Japanese rivals, we recommend that you take a serious look at the Cadillac STS.

A full-size luxury sedan in its physical dimensions, the Cadillac STS is priced in line with premium midsize sedans and available with a V6 or V8 engine. Common features on all models include leather seating, 17-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, a Bose sound system and OnStar. Popular options include a navigation system, a head-up display and heated/ventilated front seats grouped in two available Performance and Luxury trim packages.

The two available engines -- a surprisingly responsive 3.6-liter V6 rated at 255 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, and a 4.6-liter Northstar V8 that generates 320 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque -- both feature variable valve timing and electronic throttle control. A five-speed automatic transfers power from the V6, and a six-speed automatic helps V8-equipped STSs achieve impressive acceleration and fuel economy for this class.

In reviews and road tests, our editors have found the strengths of the Cadillac STS to be its nimble road manners, powerful engine options and high-quality audio system. Downsides include an interior that lacks the quality of materials found in competing high-dollar sedans, along with seats that some might find overly firm.


Those in search of a satisfying balance of performance and economy may want to focus on the basic V6/rear-drive model, while STS shoppers looking for maximum performance in all conditions can lean toward the all-wheel-drive V8 version. No longer hampered by the compromised front-drive layout of old, all STS owners now enjoy world-class performance and value fully competitive with the best of the rest from around the globe.

The Cadillac STS officially debuted for the 2005 model year. Only minimal changes have occurred since. Those interested in a used model previous to this date will want to check out the front-wheel-drive, fifth-generation Seville-based model produced from 1998-2003.

Cadillac STS-V Review

In a luxury sport sedan market that's traditionally dominated by German carmakers, the Cadillac STS-V makes a tremendous impression. A model from Cadillac's V-Series line of ultra-performance vehicles, the STS-V is based on the STS large sedan. With its supercharged V8 producing 469 horsepower, it's the most powerful car Cadillac has ever produced. The car also comes with upgraded hardware for improved handling and braking and minor styling changes to differentiate it from regular STS models.





2007 Cadillac STS-V Sedan Shown

The focus on performance doesn't come at the expense of luxury. Just like the standard version, the V-Series sedan is comfy, plush and loaded with a generous amount of premium features. Overall, we're quite impressed. Though the Cadillac STS-V doesn't quite match some competing models in terms of maximum performance or prestige, we still think it's a very viable choice for a big-bore luxury sport sedan.

Current Cadillac STS-V model

A special-edition, high-performance vehicle, the Cadillac STS-V sedan is available in one trim level only. (Cadillac says it limits production to help exclusivity.) Standard equipment highlights include heated front and rear seats, a navigation system and a 15-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer.

Distinguishing the STS-V from the standard STS are larger wheels (18-inchers in front and 19s in the back), massive Brembo brakes, a larger front grille for improved airflow, additional brake ducts, and additional aerodynamic and stylistic enhancements.

For motivation, the rear-drive STS-V is equipped with a supercharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that pumps out a startling 469 hp and 439 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 is accomplished in 5.1 seconds. A highly responsive six-speed automatic transmission (with manual shift control) is standard.


But the Cadillac STS-V is world-class in ways beyond its under-the-hood muscle. It has been outfitted with a sport-tuned suspension. And compared to a standard STS, V-Series sedan's steering is quicker. The result is that it handles like a car half its size while providing meaningful feedback to its driver. A limited-slip differential, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control are all standard on the STS-V. Other safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags. A tire-pressure monitor and rear park-assist system are also standard.

The STS-V's long wheelbase means there's generous legroom in the front and back. The interior is upscale and handsome, with finely stitched seats and accents of wood and aluminum, though it's still not quite at the top level of quality found in some European luxury sedans. The trunk is also smaller than what one might expect for this class of car.

In reviews, our editors found the Cadillac STS-V to be powerful in every situation. It rockets off the line, but the real allure is what happens afterward. Passing power on the highway is effortless and easy. And even when you don't have the accelerator pedal pinned, the STS-V's handling abilities make it fun to drive. It's true that it's a bit out of its element on tight, twisty roads. This isn't a downfall, but rather an inherent characteristic of its size and genre. In general, the STS-V strikes an excellent balance between high-performance capability and everyday luxury driving.

Cadillac XLR Review

Yet another entry from Cadillac to show the world it's serious about competing with the top European and Japanese luxury brands, the two-seat Cadillac XLR roadster is the company's flagship vehicle. Though it shares the same platform as the current Corvette, the XLR variant is not a simple case of corporate badge engineering. It's more of a grand touring machine than a hard-edged sports car, as the Caddy's responses are softer and comfortably refined. It also uses a more subdued 4.6-liter, 320-horsepower V8 engine rather than the Vette's edgier 6.0-liter, 400-hp V8 power plant.




2008 Cadillac XLR Convertible

The use of lightweight components like aluminum suspension pieces and composite body panels keeps the Cadillac XLR from being a bloated luxury two-seater. In addition, the standard Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system automatically firms up or softens the suspension based on driving conditions, ensuring generally smooth and responsive maneuvers. The combination of bold, angular styling outside and distinctive eucalyptus-wood cockpit accents gives the XLR a sophisticated presence. Further, the XLR's power retractable hardtop roof allows the comfort and security of a coupe when the top is raised.

As impressive as it is, the Cadillac XLR roadster is not quite the "standard of the world" just yet. Though its styling and Cadillac badge will appeal to those looking to roll up to the valet in something different from the status quo, the XLR comes up short in terms of maximum performance and interior detailing when compared to its German rivals. But if those qualities aren't your top priority, and you're not overly impressed with the rest of the XLR's competition, this Cadillac convertible is worth considering.



Current Cadillac XLR

The Cadillac XLR is a two-seat luxury roadster featuring a retractable hardtop roof. The standard XLR comes with just about all of the luxury features you'd expect, including 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, adaptive xenon HID headlights, heated leather seats with plenty of power adjustments, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless startup, a head-up display, a navigation system and a Bose audio system with satellite radio and a CD changer. There are also a couple special variants, the Passion Red Limited Edition XLR and the Platinum Edition XLR, that feature unique exterior paint and other minor trim enhancements.

A refined yet muscular 4.6-liter V8 powers the XLR, and a six-speed automanual transmission transmits the Northstar V8's 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. We've found the XLR to be a spirited performer, with 0-60-mph sprints taking less than 6 seconds and high-speed cruising that's generally hushed and effortless. Full-throttle shifts result in little hesitation, and the sound of the engine at speed is as good as or better than any V8 in its class. Antilock disc brakes are standard safety items, as are run-flat tires, a tire-pressure monitor, stability control, head/torso side-impact airbags and rear parking sensors.

Inside, the Cadillac XLR boasts an upscale cabin complete with rich eucalyptus wood trim and aluminum accents in addition to comfortable leather seating -- altogether clean-looking, modern and warm. State-of-the-art technologies abound, too: A head-up display shows vital information such as speed, fuel level and audio status on the windshield, adaptive cruise control automatically maintains a preset distance between the XLR and the car in front, and a large touchscreen mounted high in the center stack helps keep the dash free of numerous single-use buttons. Our editors found fit and finish to be excellent, save for a few pieces of metallic trim that seem tacked-on rather than cleanly integrated.



As fast as the XLR is when pushed, those expecting a true Cadillac sports car will be disappointed. Acceleration, though certainly quick, is not as forceful as its corporate cousin, and the XLR's softer suspension tuning results in noticeable body roll during hard cornering and plenty of nosedive under heavy braking. Even with its adaptive suspension's split-second response, the Cadillac XLR still feels less willing to tackle turns than the more athletic European contenders. On the open highway, the roadster hits its stride, delivering an undisturbed ride with effortless tracking.

Cadillac XLR-V Review

There are a few lucky car shoppers out there who can afford the very best the automotive world has to offer. For those hoping to go really fast and be coddled while doing it, Cadillac created the XLR-V convertible. The V at the end of the car's moniker indicates that it's a performance variant of Cadillac's XLR, but it could easily stand for viciously quick and very luxurious.





2008 Cadillac XLR-V Base Convertible

Viciously quick comes courtesy of this Cadillac's supercharged V8, which will send you hurtling from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds. You won't find any assembly lines at the Wixom, Michigan, facility in which the high-performance engine is made. Taking a cue from European ultraluxury manufacturers, Cadillac has given each V8 a personal touch, with each being built from start to finish by a single craftsman. Very luxurious is the end result of the wealth of standard features offered by the Cadillac XLR-V roadster. Satellite radio, keyless ignition and a voice-activated navigation system are all part of the lineup.

The XLR-V's features list brims with opulence, but unfortunately, the same can't be said for its cabin. Abundant wood and metallic accents are a good start, but aesthetics ultimately miss the mark, thanks to generic-looking switchgear and unspectacular leather. For a car that costs about $100K, this is a profound disappointment. Cabin dimensions in this convertible are also tight, resulting in a cramped environment for taller drivers. Another shortcoming is the car's lack of cargo room.

It should also be said that while the Cadillac XLR-V offers a memorable and engaging ride, you'll find more refined driving dynamics in its European competition. Still, for those seeking a less common American alternative, this singular Caddy could prove to be a pleasing choice.

Current Cadillac XLR-V

Designed to facilitate wind-tousled tresses and sun-kissed cheeks, the Cadillac XLR-V is available only as a two-seat convertible with a retractable hardtop. Aside from its high-performance innards, this V is distinguished from its less spirited sibling by virtue of styling cues like a unique front grille and a sculpted hood designed to accommodate the V8's supercharger.

Only one trim is available, but -- as befits the car's nearly six-figure price tag -- it's fully loaded. Perks like Bluetooth phone connectivity, heated leather seats and adaptive cruise control (which automatically maintains a preset distance between the roadster and the car ahead of it) are all standard. The XLR-V's power-retractable hardtop can go from closed to open (and vice-versa) in about 30 seconds.

Pop this Caddy's rather menacing hood and you'll find a supercharged 4.4-liter V8 with the goods to kick out 443 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. A broad torque band keeps this might readily accessible; the engine is able to deliver 90 percent of peak torque between 2,200 and 6,000 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability directs power to the rear wheels.

The Cadillac XLR-V's cabin is attractive, but attractive simply isn't good enough for a car in this price range. Aluminum accents add a nice gleam to the steering wheel and instrument panel, and there are pleasing amounts of burnished exotic wood in evidence -- you'll find it on the shifter knob, steering wheel and parts of the door and center console. But compared to what's available from other cars populating this rarefied bracket, the overall look and feel of the Cadillac's interior is a little disappointing. There's also not a whole lot of room available. The vertically gifted will find getting comfortable in the driver seat a challenge, and tight cargo room limits versatility.


Once settled, however, drivers will find themselves swept away on a wave of raw power. The car is responsive and quick, eager to leap to attention at the slightest tap of the throttle. Its Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension (which automatically adjusts the suspension to reflect driving conditions) is tuned to be sportier than that of the XLR, but thanks to careful attention paid to handling dynamics, the car's ride is never abusive. The only real detracting attribute is the car's steering, which we have found to be overly heavy.

Chevrolet Corvette Review

Often referred to as America's only true sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the world's best known and longest-running nameplates. Oddly, it had a rather humble beginning, starting life back in 1953 with a straight-6 engine and a two-speed automatic transmission. The first few years saw the fiberglass-bodied two-seater from Chevrolet earn praise for its handling but criticism for its relatively tame performance. (At the time, it was soundly outgunned by a variety of European sports cars in terms of performance.)




2008 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

Thankfully, a V8 engine option debuted in 1955, and by the late '50s, the Chevy Corvette could hit 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. The intervening decades have seen the Corvette pass through multiple generations. Each decade has brought its own Corvette theme, including the muscle-bound '60s, the highly stylized '70s and the electronically aided '80s. More recently, the Corvette has improved enough in the refinement department that many finally consider it worthy to compete against the world's best.

Highlights of the Corvette's timeline include the '57 Fuelie (the nickname for the optional fuel-injected 283 V8), the '63 Sting Ray split-window coupe, the '65-'67 big blocks (427-cubic-inch V8s), the high-revving LT-1s of the early '70s, the ultra-high-performance ZR-1s of the early '90s and the fast yet user-friendly C5s (fifth generation) of the late '90s. Of course today's Corvette, an outright bargain when compared to sports cars from Europe, should be acknowledged as well. The current Corvette offers the performance of an all-out exotic at a third to a quarter of the price.

Current Chevrolet Corvette

Debuting in 2005, the current Chevrolet Corvette (known as the C6) is by far the best yet. As with past Vettes, a coupe and convertible are offered. Performance is exceptional, with the 0-60-mph sprint taking less than 5 seconds, the quarter-mile taking less than 13 and top speed in excess of 180 mph. That's for the standard Corvette. The Z06 version is even more thrilling, hitting 60 in the low 4s, the quarter in the low 12s and running on up to a top end approaching 200 mph. The standard Corvette comes with a 6.0-liter, 400-horsepower V8 coupled to either a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic. The Z06 comes with a 7.0-liter V8 with 505 hp mated to a six-speed manual.

The newest Chevrolet Corvette is equally impressive in terms of its improved build quality and increased daily driver usability. The cockpit boasts friendly ergonomics, supportive seats and excellent fit and finish. As before, the car's hatchback body style provides massive cargo capacity, which stands at 22 cubic feet in the coupe. A choice of three suspensions (standard, optional Magnetic Ride Control with Sport and Touring modes and track-ready Z51) for the regular Corvette mean there's a setup for everyone, from casual enthusiasts to hard-core apex clippers -- and all provide a fairly smooth ride. The Z06, in spite of its immense capabilities, is still docile enough to handle the daily commute without making the driver grit his teeth every time he faces stop-and-go traffic or a rough section of pavement.

In reviews from our editors and posted consumer commentary, the C6 garnered high marks and universal praise for its combination of strong performance, razor-sharp handling, comfortable ride, eye-catching style, affordability and relatively impressive fuel economy. Complaints were minor in comparison, centering on the manual transmission's clunky gearchanges, along with the cabin's mediocre cupholder and storage provisions, ho-hum interior materials and underwhelming Bose audio system.






Past Chevrolet Corvette Models

The previous Corvette (the C5) was built from 1997-2004 and marked the Corvette's transition from a capable but flawed (in terms of comfort and ergonomics) to world-class sports car. Easier to get in and out of than the C4, the C5 also boasted a new chassis that had nearly 50/50 weight distribution between the front and rear axles, a more compliant suspension, a much roomier cockpit with more supportive seats and a new "LS1" 5.7-liter V8 that made 345 hp. The transmission choices were a six-speed manual and four-speed automatic.

With a 0-60-mph time of fewer than 5 seconds and a top speed of around 175, there wasn't much that could touch this Vette short of a few big-dollar exotics from Europe. That first year saw just the hatchback body, whose styling drew barbs for its rather large hindquarters. But the benefit of the big butt was more than 20 cubic feet of cargo capacity under the rear hatch. A convertible joined the lineup for '98 and the following year brought a fixed-roof coupe. For 2001, the mighty Z06, a reincarnation of an earlier "Z06" performance package from the '60s, debuted, bringing 385 hp to an already impressive chassis. As if that weren't enough, the Z06 gained 20 hp the very next year.

Enthusiasts looking for a sports car they can live with day in and day out would be well advised to seriously consider a Chevy Corvette from this generation. Pros and cons are mostly similar to the current generation, and although the C5 has been criticized for spotty build quality, this Corvette still offers the most bang for the buck in the used sports car marketplace.

The fourth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, or C4, is the other model that non car-collectors will likely be interested in. It was available for the 1984-'96 model years. The flamboyant style of the previous generation was replaced with a leaner look, and a racetrack-ready suspension featuring lightweight alloy components debuted as well. First-year cars should be avoided, as the 5.7-liter V8 made just 205 hp with its troublesome "Crossfire Injection" setup, while the suspension was much too stiff for daily driver duty. Subsequent years saw the debut of a convertible, more power and suspension refinements. By 1990, the Corvette was a well-sorted sports car with precise handling and respectable performance from its 250-hp engine. That year also saw the debut of the ZR-1 supercar, which could run the quarter-mile in the low 13s and hit a top speed of around 175 mph, thanks to its 375-hp, 5.7-liter V8. For '92, the standard Corvette gained more power via the 300-hp LT1 V8. The ZR-1's output shot up to 405 hp for '93. The last year of this Corvette's generation saw the availability of a 330-hp version of the LT1 V8.

Although the C4 is regarded as desirable in terms of performance for the price, its awkward ingress/egress, cramped cockpit and stiff ride make it a weekend toy for all but the most ardent enthusiasts.

Chrysler 300 Review

2008 Chrysler 300 C Sedan

There's currently no category within the Edmunds.com Most Wanted awards for "best returning-to-glory car." But if there were, the Chrysler 300 would certainly be a strong candidate to win. A proud and prestigious vehicle during the 1950s, the 300 fell into anonymity during the '60s and then pretty much disappeared from the automotive landscape for more than 30 years. Only with the current model has Chrysler revived the accolades and respect that once surrounded this proud nameplate.




Thanks to its distinctive styling, roomy interior and powerful performance capabilities, the latest Chrysler 300 has become a popular choice in the large sedan segment. The 300C trim level, in particular, is an impressive vehicle thanks to its powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine. It's bracketed by two affordable V6-equipped models on one end and the high-performance 300C SRT8 on the other. According to our editors, nearly all 300 models should serve consumers well.

Current Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 is a large five-passenger sedan with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It's been designed to appeal to consumers desiring something with a bit more personality than a regular family sedan or an alternative to popular Japanese or European entry-luxury sedans. Some of the 300's underlying mechanicals are derived from Mercedes-Benz technology, and it's a platform sibling to the Dodge Magnum and Charger.

The 300's styling is unmistakably American. The large chrome grille, double-lens headlights, high beltline, bulging fenders and large wheels give it a strong presence on the road. A long 120-inch wheelbase shortens up the front and rear overhangs and opens up plenty of occupant space on the inside. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions, and the 300 offers more legroom than most of its competitors. Its overall interior design has been described as simple but elegant. The dash area effectively combines sporty, semi-retro and luxury motifs.

There are currently five styles of the Chrysler 300 to choose from: base, Touring, Limited, "C" (labeled the 300C) and the 300C SRT8. Though budget-oriented consumers might be attracted to the base model's low price, we suggest stepping up to either the Touring or the Limited, as these trim levels come with the type of standard features expected for this class of car. The 300C and SRT8 versions are the performance-oriented models. The main difference between the two is that the SRT8 version has been tuned and equipped for maximum performance. For rear-drive Touring and 300C models, Chrysler also offers the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series. This model rides on a 6-inch-longer wheelbase and provides additional legroom for rear-seat passengers.

For power, the base 300 relies on a 178-horsepower 2.7-liter V6 connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Limited have a 3.5-liter, 250-hp V6 and a five-speed automatic. The top-shelf 300C and 300C SRT8 feature a V8 engine. The 300C's makes 340 hp and the SRT8 boasts 425 hp. The SRT8 also features a stiffer suspension setup, more powerful brakes and a larger wheel and tire package. Most 300s are rear-drive, but Chrysler does offer all-wheel-drive versions of the Limited and 300C.

In Edmunds.com reviews of the Chrysler 300, the car has fared quite well. Our editors have commented favorably on its masculine good looks, powerful V8 engines, long list of safety features and value for the dollar. Negatives are few but focus on the meager output of the base model's V6 and the car's poor outward visibility. Those desiring maximum fun will no doubt be pleased with the 300C SRT8; it can hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.7 seconds.

The current 2008 model has been updated with some additional features and freshened exterior styling, but shoppers of used Chrysler 300s will still find the sedan quite appealing. The car debuted for the 2005 model year. Models built for 2007 received a few extra features as compared to earlier years; this was also the first year for the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series.


Past Chrysler 300s

Like fossil records, the Chrysler 300 has a long but patchy history. It came into being in the mid-1950s as a way to showcase Chrysler's new "Hemi" V8 engine. The first 300 was introduced for 1955 and was based on the New Yorker two-door hardtop. Its 5.4-liter V8 developed 300 hp. After that, Chrysler began affixing sequential letters at the end of "300" for each year as well as offering different body styles, including a convertible. The 1957 300-C is typically considered the most beautiful and desirable of these early cars. The Hemi engines were discontinued in the 300 after 1958, but Chrysler continued to use the letter designations up until the '65 300-L. After that it was the plain 300. In total, there were seven generations of this car before it was dropped after the 1971 model year.

The 300 name was briefly resurrected in 1979 for a special version of the rather awful Cordoba. It would then take another 20 years before Chrysler decided to roll out the 300 moniker again. This was the 1999 300M. Unlike previous 300s, this was a front-drive sedan only. Based on the second generation of Chrysler's "cab forward" LH platform, the 300M used a 3.5-liter V6, making 253 hp (that's net horsepower, a far more conservative standard than the "gross" rating used prior to 1972) and mounted longitudinally in the engine bay. It was built through the 2004 model year.

Chrysler Crossfire Review

2005 Chrysler Crossfire Limited 2dr Roadster Shown

When the Chrysler Crossfire concept was first introduced at the 2001 North American International Auto Show, there was genuine interest and excitement from both the motoring press and the public. Here was the first tantalizing fruit of the DaimlerChrysler merger that would combine German engineering and American style. A production model was announced, and the first Crossfires started to appear a few years later.




Available as a two-seat coupe or roadster, the Chrysler Crossfire is largely based on the first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK. Its exterior design still attracts attention after nearly four years of production. Part of the reason for this is that sales -- while initially white hot, cooled off quickly thereafter. Crossfires are a relatively rare sight on the road, and even heavy incentives have failed to boost sales significantly.

There are a variety of reasons for the Crossfire's lack of success. Edmunds editors have noticed that the Crossfire's steering response is lackluster. This is mostly due to the use of the previous SLK's less-than-precise recirculating-ball steering, which is inherently less accurate than a rack-and-pinion setup. Additionally, the vehicle's ride quality can often seem harsh, particularly on the SRT6 version.

Slow sales can also be attributed to an interior that doesn't look as rich as the car's exterior styling would suggest. Finally, there's the Crossfire's lack of utility. Two-seaters have a very limited appeal, and the Crossfire was introduced into a very competitive arena. While we still consider it an attractive vehicle to look at, the Chrysler Crossfire is simply outclassed by other vehicles in terms of luxury, brand cachet and/or performance.

Current Chrysler Crossfire

The Crossfire is available in coupe and convertible body styles. Both body styles are available with either a base V6 or in high-performance supercharged SRT6 guise. Base models are powered by a 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 215 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic. Edmunds editors have complained about a relative lack of low-end torque from this engine.

Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 models receive no such complaints, however, as they are powered by a supercharged version of the 3.2-liter V6. This engine delivers 330 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The sole SRT6 transmission choice is a beefed-up five-speed automatic. The SRT6 also gets enhanced suspension components to complement the added power, so expect a harsher ride.

The base Crossfire coupe and convertible come equipped with power windows and door locks (and a power top for the convertible), dual-zone climate control and the expected safety features such as multiple airbags, antilock brakes and stability control. Step up to the Limited trim for heated leather seats, an upgraded Infinity stereo and an optional navigation system.

Unique to the base Roadster is an optional Special Edition package that includes Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat exterior paint, Dark Slate Gray cloth seats, SRT6-style cast-aluminum wheels, a black windshield surround and satin silver door handles and side louvers. In addition to its engine and suspension upgrades, the SRT6 models add 18-inch wheels up front and 19-inchers out back and napa Pearl leather seats with Alcantara suede inserts with enhanced bolstering.


Past Chrysler Crossfire models

The Chrysler Crossfire was introduced in the summer of 2003 as a 2004 model, as a coupe only. The 2005 model year was a busy time for the Crossfire, as a convertible model was introduced in the summer of 2004 and the high-performance SRT6 versions were introduced in the fall of that year. In addition, and in response to pricing complaints, a base model was added, with the Limited model getting most of the higher-priced features. For the 2006 model year, a Special Edition package became available on the base model that includes exclusive Inferno Red paint and unique exterior styling enhancements.

Dodge Viper Review

The Dodge Viper was conceived as a modern interpretation of the classic muscular American sports car. Debuting as a concept in 1989 to huge consumer enthusiasm, everything about the production Dodge Viper was perfectly over the top, including its cartoonish styling, giant 335/35-series rear tires and thumping 400-horsepower V10 engine.



2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Convertible

With lots of tail-wagging power and no face-saving electronic driving aids, the original RT/10 Viper roadster was certainly a supercar that didn't suffer fools graciously. Eventually, however, minor concessions to "luxury" appeared in the second-generation Viper roadster, such as real windows that replaced the clear vinyl side curtains.

But Viper fans had nothing to fear, for the Dodge sports car remained obnoxiously loud and fast. And despite the release of a GTS coupe and simultaneous upgrades for the entire line, the first two Viper generations represented much the same car for an entire decade.

The Dodge Viper's next era kicked off in 2003 with a third-generation redesign of Chrysler's icon -- the SRT-10 roadster became a true convertible with a top that folded down all the way versus the soft targa panel of the previous RT/10, and the Viper SRT-10 coupe returned a few years later featuring the previous coupe's "double bubble" roof and dramatic rear styling. An astounding amount of power is delivered over a broad range; to handle it the Viper uses a beefed-up transmission and massive brakes. Compared to the original, newer Vipers have a longer wheelbase, a stiffer chassis and revised suspension tuning, which give the car greater dynamic precision.

A new SRT-10 Viper is on the way for 2008 with, of course, even more power -- 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque to be exact -- from a fully revised engine displacing 8.4 liters. The new engine and additional hardware updates are meant to counter the Viper's nemesis, the Corvette Z06, which undercuts the Viper on price and beats it in terms of versatility. But the charm of the Viper is its raw edge and lack of polish. For the Viper enthusiast, there's no other way it should be.


Current Dodge Viper model

Recently updated, the Dodge Viper sports car is offered as a two-seat coupe or roadster. Standard equipment includes racing-style seats, power-adjustable pedals, keyless entry and a 300-watt audio system with in-dash CD changer. An 8.4-liter V10 engine delivers 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission and a standard limited-slip differential. Performance numbers are quite impressive, as the Viper can reach 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. Containing all this power are massive Brembo brakes and 18-inch front- and 19-inch rear forged-alloy wheels.

Though modern cars are increasingly equipped with the latest safety features, the Viper remains true to its visceral roots. There are neither side-impact airbags nor traction or stability control. Inside, the cabin is a collection of hard plastic panels and parts pin switches. Seat comfort is surprisingly good, but entry and exit, particularly on the coupe, is tricky.

Fresh off the showroom floor, the Dodge Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world. Its mammoth V10 pushes it to triple-digit speeds in the blink of an eye, and it keeps right on going. Pushing this Dodge to the limit still requires the skill of a seasoned driver, but even rookies will admire the car's unbelievable racecar-like capabilities. While not comfortable and well-rounded enough to be an everyday driver, the Dodge Viper remains a no-nonsense supercar for those who can afford to add one to their stable.


Past Dodge Viper models

The original Dodge Viper debuted for the 1992 model year. At its heart was a 400-hp, truck-based engine with lighter-weight aluminum substituting for cast iron. Inspiringly one-dimensional, the first Viper continued on with only minor power tweaks and an optional hardtop with sliding side curtains until the second-generation Viper debuted as a more powerful GTS coupe in 1996 -- now a bit more civilized, with dual airbags and air-conditioning.

As the Viper matured into its second generation, paint schemes were shuffled and the RT/10 roadster received much of the updates applied to the GTS coupe. Also crossing in 1997 were the coupe's adjustable pedals and revised exhaust system, which changed from side- to rear-exit. In 1999 the Viper received bigger wheels, optional Connolly leather inside, power mirrors and a remote release for the coupe's glass hatch. A track-biased Viper ACR trim level also became available that year. Used Viper shoppers might also want to note that a fairly significant feature -- antilock brakes -- did not become available until 2001.

The third-generation Dodge Viper, the SRT-10, has been available since 2003. At its debut, the V10 was 8.3 liters in size and generated 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. At the start, only the roadster was available. Detail changes only to colors and trim for the next couple years -- including a special "Mamba" package in 2004 for only 200 vehicles -- were followed by a return of the SRT-10 coupe in 2006 and a 10-hp increase. There was no '07 model, as Dodge was preparing for the '08 model's changes.










Dodge Charger Review

Popularized by NASCAR dominance and later a hokey TV show, the Dodge Charger is one of America's most revered performance nameplates. Originally an icon of the muscle car era, the Charger has recently been reborn as an affordable performance car -- and it's one of the better ones available in this expanding market niche.




2008 Dodge Charger Sedan

The Dodge Charger debuted in the mid 1960s as a response to America's growing interest in average cars with above-average performance. This two-door coupe boasted aggressive fastback styling and big V8 power (including Chrysler's famed 426 Hemi). As with similar vehicles of this time period, however, the Charger's glory quickly faded after 1970 due to rising insurance and gas prices, higher emissions standards and changing consumer tastes.

The current model may not be the two-door muscle car you remember from the '60s (to the chagrin of traditionalists, it's a sedan), but it does a fine job of being a modern interpretation. As a bonus, the latest Charger has a usable interior and plenty of standard equipment. Think of it as a muscle car the whole family can enjoy.

The current Dodge Charger debuted for the 2006 model year and is based on the same Mercedes-derived platform used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. As such, the Charger has four doors and is a bit larger than the average midsize sedan. Its front-end styling is much more aggressive than that of its siblings, and the rear roof line slopes downward in a coupe-like fashion.

There are three trim levels: base SE, the performance-themed R/T and the powerhouse SRT-8. Even the SE is reasonably well equipped in terms of features and has a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 under the hood. The R/T comes with a 5.7-liter "Hemi" V8 good for 340 hp, and there's an available Daytona R/T package that adds additional performance hardware and a few cosmetic extras. A five-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels is standard on the SE and R/T.

The Charger SRT-8 is a product of Chrysler's special SRT (Street and Racing Technology) performance division. It's the fastest of the Charger models and comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 capable of 425 hp. Backing up the powerful V8 are other SRT features like a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes and a modified front fascia. This model comes with a specially calibrated five-speed automatic transmission.

Because of its bulk, the Charger isn't as nimble as some other similarly priced performance coupes or sports cars. But it has earned favorable commentary in reviews for its secure handling, powerful V8 engines, and roomy and comfortable interior. For a consumer interested in a reborn muscle car, the Dodge Charger is an excellent choice.

The Dodge Charger's heritage runs deep. First introduced as a 1966 model, this Coronet-based coupe had a unique look, with a sweeping fastback and concealed headlights. But it's the second generation of the Charger that was most popular. This was the one that served as the basis for the winged and race-wining Charger Daytona of 1969 and, later, the bright orange "General Lee" from the 1980s television show, The Dukes of Hazzard.

Less popular were three successive generations of Chargers. Third- and fourth-generation models from the 1970s were emasculated by new emissions regulations. A fifth generation, made available from 1982-'87, was a variation of the front-drive Dodge Omni 024 economy hatchback. Near the end of its production, there were sporty, turbocharged versions modified by Carroll Shelby that culminated in the Shelby Charger GLH-S.

Ferrari 599 Review

2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano 2dr Coupe

Somewhere in America I know there’s someone grinning like an idiot as they hold their phone to their ear. I’ve no idea who they are, but they’ve just received the metallic, shrieking blare of the 599 GTB Fiorano’s 6.0-litre V12 repeatedly ripping up to 7,000rpm.




All via mobile technology and a quick flex of my right ankle. Only Ferrari can do this. Only Ferrari can make someone ask their friend hold their phone to the tailpipe of a car and get them to ask me to give it some. I’m more than happy to oblige. Whoever you might be, I hope you enjoyed it.

But the rasping, metallic cacophony of the V12 is only the half of it, and truth be told it’s actually quite quiet inside the 599 GTB Fiorano on the road. It’s the performance that’s so sensational. The 599 can reach 62mph in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence. Impressive, but if the driver had kept it pinned they’d be doing 124mph, wait... Now. Depending on how quickly you read, that’s 3.7 and 11.0 seconds respectively. That’s scarcely believable performance. That’s pace that’s no longer merely supercar quick, but up in the heady realms of cars like the Carrera GT, the SLR and McLaren F1. It’s hardly surprising then to find that under the Ferrari’s long bonnet nestles an engine that, save for a few alterations, is

Sure, nobody needs a 6.0-litre, V12 with 620bhp and 608Nm of torque. But Ferrari’s development goals for the 599 GTB Fiorano were simple: create a car that’s able to provide the sort of performance and excitement of the F40. That’s messing with supercar royalty, and on paper, it’s right up there. The 599 GTB’s 0-62mph time betters it, as does its 205+mph top speed. Not that I’ve ever driven an F40, but I know several people who have and they all say the same thing; it’s an animal. The 599 GTB Fiorano couldn’t be more different then. Never has so much power been so civilised, so utterly exploitable. I can say with absolutely certainty that I’ll never drive a 599 GTB again with as much conviction as I did on the SS62 from Fornovo di Taro to Berceto.

It’s the road where Enzo Ferrari took part in his very first road race. And it’s sensational. An early start means it’s completely clear, the winding, bucking stretch of tarmac a tough adversary to any car, let alone such a wide one with such a surfeit of power. But Ferrari has ensured the 599 GTB has the measure of this challenge. A combination of elements allows it to monster this road, and any others you might consider. Firstly the 599 GTB’s all aluminium structure means its both light and strong, that Enzo derived engine sitting low and far back behind the front axle along. Some 85% of the 599’s mass is located within the wheelbase ensuring excellent weight distribution.

For the record it’s split 47% front 53% rear, the bias slightly rearward over its 575M Maranello predecessor’s 50/50 distribution. The styling, beautiful but resolute in the deep Rosso Monza of my car, is honed to produce downforce at speed. Even the flying buttresses at the rear have purpose, that being to channel air over the rear. The flat underfloor assists too, sucking the 599 GTB onto the road. Most significant though is the Fiorano’s suspension, the ‘SCM’ Magnetoreological damping key to the 599’s incredible agility. Linked to the Manettino steering wheel dial you to choose your preferred setting for the Fiorano’s electronic control systems.

They’re numerous, including the settings altering the thresholds for the CST and F1 Trac traction and stability systems. It also controls the speed of the shifts on the F1-SuperFast paddle shift six-speed transmission. Sport is suggested as the best compromise for the road. But Race feels right on these roads. Despite the challenging surface the 599 GTB’s body control is extraordinary, those trick dampers managing to contain roll in the corners while soaking up vertical movements caused by the less than perfect undulating road surface. Bumps that should push the 599 off line, or have it bucking are shrugged off, the 599 flowing on these difficult roads with quite astonishing deftness. It’s difficult to comprehend at first, the 599 goading you to try to unsettle it. You’ll not.

The quick incisive steering turns in with determination. The first few inches of the wheel’s movement faithfully placing the 599’s nose exactly where you want it. There’s plenty of feel at the rim too, though it could do with a bit more meatiness to the weighting. Once turned in it remains neutral through even hairpin tight bends, its beautiful balance clear whatever the radius of corner. Winding off the lock it’s easy to steer through the remainder of the bend with the rear wheels and power, the CST and F1 Trac allowing a degree of oversteer. In ‘Race’ it allows quite a lot. It also speeds up the shifts of the F1-SuperFast transmission. Slamming through the gears at 100 milliseconds it’s Ferrari’s fastest paddleshift transmission aside from Schumacher and Massa’s weekend playthings.

Keep the accelerator buried, tug back on the right paddle and before it’s even really registered you’re reaching for it again as the gear is devoured by the V12 ripping up to its heady 8,400rpm redline. For smoothness changing gears it’s best to momentarily lift, but there’s something gratifyingly feral about letting it register your shifts with a quick jerk, the downshifts smoothed and announced by a sharp, shrill blip from the throttle. The optional carbon ceramic brakes never fade, though the pedal needs a good shove to get them working. The pedal movement initially proves unexpectedly long, unlike the rest of the 599 the brakes take some learning, lacking the precision feedback of the rest of the controls. A bit more bite at the top of the pedals movement would instil more confidence.

While I’m on the 599’s few negatives the F1 paddles either need to reach further around the wheel’s circumference, or move with it. As they are you’re often tugging mid air exiting a corner taking off steering lock. There’s a bit of wind noise at speed too, and the carbon fibre and leather trim creaks like an old rope swing. The digital display and rev lights on the steering wheel are too much, the shrieking engine and rev counter doing the job better than any disco lights. Small complaints on what’s perhaps the most accomplished Ferrari ever. Prices have yet to be announced, but a two-year waiting list in the UK suggests buyers simply don’t care.









 

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