Rolls-Royce Wraith: Moment of Introspection
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It’s symptomatic for Rolls-Rolls to look backwards before moving forward when the time for contemplation of new model is imminent. With a storied history ““ after all its founder Charles Stewart Rolls was only 25-years old when he co-founded the company and, as a young pilot, became the first man to double cross the English Channel non-stop ““ and a reservoir of creativity at its disposal the British automaker of bespoke innovations proudly staged the world debut of its dynamic new Wraith recently at the 83rd Geneva International Motor Show.
Wraith, titled after a mystical Scottish spirit, represents new potential direction for Rolls-Royce and extends its level of luxury, refinement and hand-craftsmanship, but also presents unique positioning defined by power, style and drama. Originally conceived in 1938, the rebirth of the current fastback and its perfectly engineered features and technical contour introduces a younger demographic to the Rolls-Royce brand. The sleek and vigorous Wraith is purely driver oriented with its Ghost-based 6.6-liter V12 that now outputs 624-horsepower (European spec), allowing it to reach 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. With this in mind the majestic gran turismo becomes the most powerful Rolls-Royce in the history of the company.
Hallmark coach doors see their way into the Wraith to unmask its rich cabin composed of Phantom-grade leathers and Canadel Panelling wood veneers. A bespoke touch of imagination is displayed by way of the lustrous night roof lining conceived by the hand stitching of 1,340 fibre optic lamps. For enthusiastic owners who position themselves directly behind the wheel, innovative technology dubbed Satellite Aided Transmission applies GPS mapping algorithms to forecast the driver’s next move using current location-base and drive characteristics, and then magically pre-chooses the most suitable gear from the 8-speed automatic ZF transmission appropriate for the impending topography ahead. Remarkable!
Expect deliveries by the end of the year to early 2014 with a current European price of â‚¬245k. Further pricing details for additional markets such as the U.S. will be revealed at a later date. It’s currently a moment of introspection for Rolls-Royce as they position themselves for supplementary growth, heightened levels of performance, and inflated expectations from their loyalists. (click “Next” above or below to see more reviews)
2013 Land Rover Range Rover: Epic Devotion
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It goes without saying, “you can take a lion out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the lion.” This was my initial judgment when Land Rover elected to showcase the technological and adventurous capabilities of their all-new 2013 Range Rover ““ which voraciously manhandled the mountainous terrain of Utah’s most innermost environs ““ to a group of world travelers and automotive nomads. Yes, it’s still as opulent as a penthouse on 5th Avenue, yet none of the stately British SUV’s grizzly characteristics have been lost to the redesign. It simply performs honorably within both extremes of today’s conveyance modes”“pleasurable and authoritative!
“Short on demand” is an understatement when referring to popularity of this salient utility vehicle. Calls and e-mails from entertainers, pro athletes, artistic curators and businessmen and women all marveling at the recently unveiled icon kept Land Rover quite busy as the company positively diffused the social chaos. Even Range Rover owners I personally know questioned the possibility of upgrading their now outdated SUVs. A poetic “get in line,” was my only piece of advice at the time. I wish I had better news.
Of course the silhouette of the 2013 model is noticeably recognizable as the latest Range Rover, yet leads Land Rover into a modern world where sophisticated pleasantries meet digital footprints. Characteristic heritage lines pay homage to the original Rovers while the rest of the body has evolved majestically. “Designing the next generation Range Rover, following over forty years of success, came with a huge responsibility to protect the DNA of such an icon,” said Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer. “Our design team worked incredibly hard to capture the elegant proportions and pure surfaces which have been a feature of the best Range Rover designs.” A choice of eight unique wheels come in sizes varying from 19s to 22s while Brembo 6-piston calipers bring the 4,850 to 5,137 pound vehicle to a halt. As well, you may opt for two unique contrast roof colors, 37 exterior hues, and 17 interior colors to set your vehicle apart from the masses.
Moreover, its all-aluminum unibody is 39% lighter than the previous steel body it replaces. This increases fuel economy and adds more performance and agility to a vehicle historically known for conquering bedrock in lavish fashion. A bit soft in the front, designers focused on streamlined, wind-slicing factors to maintain the Rover’s newfound performance capabilities. In fact, it’s 10% more aerodynamic than the prior model since most of the Land Rover’s angular lines have been rounded off. Sustainably, 85% of the Range Rover’s parts are recyclable, 50% of the aluminum is from recycled componentry, and the carbon trail from its leather production has been reduced by 46%. Who says luxury can’t be green?
Interesting enough, I recently spent some time behind the wheel of an original 1972 Range Rover, which was intentionally built for the U.S. market. It featured a 130-horsepower 3.5-liter V8, 4-speed manual gearbox and the world’s first permanent 4WD. Yet, it didn’t make it to North America until 1987 due to strict regulations. But the symbiotic relationship between that vehicle and the 2013 model remains intact as both honor traditional Land Rover DNA.
To experience the Green Oval’s latest franchise player, Automotive Rhythms was invited to Utah where the altitude is high and mountainous terrain predominant. In true Land Rover fashion, we headed out in a constellation as various model ranges within the Range family trailed one another. It was a beautiful scene to say the least. My drive partner and I selected a Havana colored Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography ($130,995) with 510-horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque emanating from its 5.0-liter aluminum V8. The combination of weight savings (up to 926 pounds), a new 8-speed ZF automatic transmission and a new suspension allows the vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. On open roads the Range felt quicker than any Rover I have previously driven, especially with paddle shifters which allow you to control the rpm of the imperial SUV. In comparison, the naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 found in the standard $83,545 Range Rover and $88,545 Range Rover HSE outputs 375-horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque and reaches 60 mph from a standstill in 6.5 seconds. Keep in mind a Range Rover Supercharged without the $31,000 Autobiography package starts at $99,995. Once you experience the signature amenities it is tough going backwards. The Autobiography appends specific technologies such as:
- Full Semi-Aniline Leather Seats
- Rear Seat Entertainment Package ($2,400 stand alone option)
- 18-way front seats with massage
- Reclining rear power seat
- 19-speaker and 825 watt Meridian Surround Sound System ($1,850 stand alone option)
- 21″ Alloy wheels
- Blind Spot Monitoring with Closing Vehicle Sensing and Reverse Traffic Detection
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Soft Door Close
- Park Assist
- Much, much more
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2014 Acura RLX
Written by Arv Voss
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Acura just debuted their new 2014 RLX flagship, which will replace the RL model lineup. The RLX is the most powerful, spacious and technologically advanced Acura sedan ever and will be available in 5 levels of trim: the base RLX which will start at $48,450; the RLX Navi starting at $50,950; the Tech RLX priced at $54,450; the RLX Krell model which starts at $56,950, and the flagship RLX Advance model beginning at $60,450. An RLX Sport Hybrid is scheduled to bow in the not-too-distant future.
The all-new Acura RLX is positioned in the luxury sedan category and is based on the grand concept of “Takaburi” which translates as Exhilaration packaging and focuses on Smart Exhilarating luxury. The RLX fathers a longer wheelbase than the outgoing RL and is also wider and taller than the RL. It reaches into the high-end luxury sedan market with an array of advanced safety, driver-assistive and infotainment technologies. The performance philosophy subscribes to “Inomama” which also means “At the will of the driver.”
Power for all RLX models is provided by a transversely mounted 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine with Direct Injection, Earth Dreams Technology, Variable Cylinder Management and drive-by-wire throttle. The engine develops 310 horsepower at 6,500 rpm along with 272 pound feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. A 6-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift paddle shifters, Sport mode and Grade Logic Control gears provide force to the front wheels with Precision All-Wheel Steer featuring Agile Handling Assist.
Visually, the all-new Acura RLX blends a sleek overall shape, an “aero-fused” cabin silhouette and close tolerances for the wheel wells and body-panel gaps for heightened elegance and aerodynamics. The styling begins with a dynamic front-end featuring the RLX’s signature Jewel Eye LED headlights, a substantial presence that imparts a look of power and confidence while also proving highly aerodynamically efficient. This provides powerful down the road illumination and advanced pedestrian safety features. Decisive character lines begin alongside the hood sweeping over the front wheel arches then along the body sides, which feature lines that subtly rise along the lower body sides while changing the light reflections and creating a visual signature for the RLX.
The cabin is wide and aerodynamic allowing for a roomy interior and a quiet ride quality as air slips smoothly over the cabin’s flush-mounted available acoustic glass and other drag-and turbulence-reducing design details. Wheel-arches use a much smaller gap to the tire than on the RL, resulting in a poised integrated and finished look for the profile.
My test 2014 Acura RLX Advance was a production ready model that sported a metallic Black exterior finish and a Charcoal and Gray interior with polished wood trim accents. The base price was set at $60,450 which came to $61,345 after adding the Destination and Handling charge.
Acura portrays the all-new RLX as the epitome of Smart Luxury, but the term seems to lack substance and doesn’t really reflect the car’s true intended image. Essentially, it is a spirited, luxury sedan that performs well, is comfortable, and given the content of the Advance model certainly justifies the price tag. Actually, driving the RLX defines its place in the segment, though the styling could and should reflect a higher level of emotional response from onlookers. It is not unattractive, mind you, but its flagship status would benefit from a greater styling differentiation, setting it apart from its stablemates.
The press launch driving experience began in Calistoga, CA and took in several scenic and challenging back roads in Napa and Sonoma counties with some freeway driving thrown in for good measure. We ended at Sonoma Raceway where autocross comparisons were set up between luxury models from both BMW and Mercedes Benz, as well as on track exercises. In an Active Cruise Control system comparison with the Lexus GS the RLX proved superior.
The base RLX will come standard with the following:
- Precision All-Wheel Steering
- Jewel Eye LED headlights
- 18-inch noise-reducing alloy wheels
- Forward Collision Warning
- Lane Departure Warning
- Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control
- Electric parking brake
- Smart Entry with push button start
- A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
- Heated 12-way adjustable front seats
- Power tilt and telescoping steering column
- 8-inch color audio/information screen
- 7-inch On-Demand Multi-Use Display with audible and tactile feedback
- Bluetooth HandsFreeLink
- Acura’s ELS 10-speaker audio system with XM and HD Radio
- A power tilt/slide sunroof
- Power heated side mirrors
The RLX Navi adds:
- Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition
- Next-generation AcuraLink and Color Multi-Information Display
RLX Tech adds:
- 19-inch noise-reducing alloy wheels
- Michelin 245/40 R19 M+S all-season tires
- Premium Milano leather seats
- Blind Spot Information system
- Acura’s ELS 14-speakerStudio Premium Audio System
- Acoustic glass (windshield, front and rear door windows)
- Rain sensing windshield wipers
- Power retractable side mirrors
- Smart Entry (all four doors and trunk) with Push Button start.
The RLX Krell ups the offering with:
- Krell ultra-premium 14-speaker audio system
- Expanded rear door sunshades and a power operated rear window sunshade.
The top-of-the-line RLX Advance adds:
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow
- Collision Mitigation Braking System
- Lane Keeping Assist System
- Parking sensors (2 front/4 rear)
- Ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a rear seat foot light
In the final analysis, the 2014 Acura RLX Advance delivered better than satisfactory acceleration, precise handling characteristics and a comfortable ride quality. The 3.5-liter Direct Injection V-6 delivers more power with greater efficiency than the RL’s 3.7-liter port injection that it replaces. I only piloted the Advance RLX, but the basic mechanicals are the same for all other trim levels. Certainly, one can pay less for an RLX, but you also get less in terms of feature and equipment content. Let your budget be your guide. (click “Next” above or below to see more reviews)
2014 Kia Forte: A Little Sporty Ego
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Kia Motors continues to be one of the fastest growing automotive manufacturers in the United States. So how do you continue making waves in a sea of vehicles offering everything from mini coolers to interactive touchscreens that rival the latest handheld devices? Well, the Korean auto builder believes they have the answer with their Four Pillars of Communication approach consisting of 1) music 2) sport 3) pop culture and 4) connected life. This is evidenced in ad campaigns with NBA All-Star forward Blake Griffin, larger than life music loving Hamsters, and most recently Kia’s “Space Babies” campaign which aired during the Super Bowl, all of which touch upon the aforementioned strategy.
In addition to trend-setting marketing efforts, Kia wants to shake up the industry by integrating interactive technology into their vehicles such as free subscriptions for UVO (Your Voice) eServices, the company’s telematics and infotainment system. By providing a backdrop to the company behind Kia’s sporty little sedan, the 2014 Forte, we are better able to understand its intentions and specifications. Automotive Rhythms had the delighted pleasure of evaluating the vehicle during its national press introduction in Arizona not to long ago. We thoroughly enjoyed its attributes while test-driving along Arizona’s most scenic routes, mountains and daily urban scenes.
The new Forte features an all-new chassis for a longer, wider and lower stance hinting at its flashy ego and intentions. Offered in two models — the LX and EX — the Forte receives its styling cues from the swift cheetah combined with the pin-point precision of an archer, and is targeted squarely at the male demographic in their late 20s and early 30s. Powering this compact athlete are two available four-cylinder engines. The LX houses a 1.8-liter that cranks out 148-horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque with power pushing the front wheels through a standard 6-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed automatic gearbox. The EX steps up its game with a 173-horsepower 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder with a healthy 154 pound-feet of torque, which is mated to the standard 6-speed automatic transmission. Driving through hills and valleys the Forte held up well under these trying conditions without any noticeable engine strain.
Though I’m a true fan of the skilled exterior design, it was the interior that most impressed me. Truly inspiring for a compact sedan are chrome accents, a large and easy-to-read instrument panel, the optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen with Kia’s standard next-gen Google-powered UVO eServices, optional leather seating trim, and enough legroom in both front and rear seats to aptly accommodate Blake Griffin. Equally gratifying are the steering wheel mounted controls. One of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of technology to simply showcase for display purposes. This is not the case with the Forte where form and function combine for a visually pleasing and productive interior.
The optional Premium Package includes heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with air-cooled ventilation, a power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated steering wheel, and push button start with Smart Key. Optional FlexSteer enables the driver to select from Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes, which vary steering.
Keeping you safe from mayhem are dual front airbags as well as front seat and full-length side curtain airbags. Standard safety equipment also includes anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control. Given Kia’s Four Pillar strategy, pricing will surely be a significant selling point as their conquest to shake up the industry continues.
Kimatni D. Rawlins, founder and president of Automotive Rhythms Communications, LLC,