19 Muscle Cars from ’68

SCAN0044   1968 found me at Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Miss., training in airborne radar and Doppler repair work—work I later performed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Along the beachfront in Biloxi, all the girls wanted to ride in another G.I.’s green ’68 GTO convertible, while I spent time alone in my blue Beetle………..

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2015 Hyundai Genesis RWD Sedan

IMG_0115The Hyundai Genesis, the company’s full-size entry-luxury offering, has been built since 2008, and is currently in its second-generation configuration.  For 2015, the automobile was extensively re-designed and somewhat enlarged, and such a vehicle is what I was presented to test this last week.  The unit was painted Pamplona red (maroon) metallic and was fitted with a leather beige interior.  STI-Denver was the press firm that delivered it to my home.

During the week, I drove the car extensively, including all around Denver looking at condos with my family.  Thus, I got to drive on several of the streets and freeways in Colorado’s biggest city, and was pleased with the handling and highway manners of the Genesis.  I found the shifting of the eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic to be a pleasure, and acceleration is good – reportedly zero to 60 in about 6 seconds with the 311 horsepower V-6 providing the grunt.  Paddle shifters on the Genesis peek out from each side of the steering wheel and work fine with dashboard updates on current gear selection.IMG_0074

IMG_0014The suspension setup is tuned by famed auto-maker Lotus, and the new model reflects the enhanced engineering that has been added.  I understand that springs, bushings, motor mounts – even the power steering – were effected by Lotus.  Guidance at highway speed is very good, and handling on the grooved-cement surface on Interstate 25 works out great, thanks in part to the 245/45R18 Hankook Ventus S1 Noble mud & snow radials.  The tires surround two-toned, fifteen-spoke premium alloy wheels.  Road noise seems to be pretty much at a minimum, and a lot of Colorado sunshine can flow in thanks to the panoramic sunroof.  A shade can be deployed to keep it darkened in the Hyundai, and sunshades are on hand for all three rear windows – electric in the rear glass.

The Genesis styling for 2015 is something that the firm is proud of, I’m sure.  I liked the looks, my friends and relatives did, and the automotive press has been quite impressed, as well.  An ample amount of chrome is installed on all sides, and the taillights look at lot like the Lexus GS (I know well – they were both sitting here for a time in my driveway).  The manufacturer has styled the Genesis with a large, Fusion-style (Jag?), nickel-finished grill with six big horizontal bars.  Stainless steel exhaust finishers are out back and the entire roof and fin on top are blacked-out.

The Genesis contains a lot of technology inside this five-passenger, rear-wheel drive sedan when equipped with the Signature, Tech, and Ultimate packages, as they are marketed by Hyundai.  Examples include lane departure warning, IMG_0069imminent collision warning, radar smart cruise control, blind spot monitor to include an icon in the head-up display in the windshield (icons, actually – one for each rear corner), navigation system with 8″ screen, and lane-keep assist.  Also inside the Genesis are the usual heated and air conditioned seats, electric tilt/telescope, Lexicon stereo, memory seating, and pushbutton starter.  Outside, the trunk opens when the operator stands behind the car (in possession of a key) for three seconds.  I liked the seating up front and my passengers in Denver were pleased in all of the other seat locations.

There is no doubt that the Genesis will be a hit in this new configuration.  At under $50,000.00, it is a great value for those willing to give up the four rings, tri-star, or the propellor emblem on the hood and trunk of their car.  I had a blast driving the Genesis, and can recommend it to prospective shoppers.

WINDOW STICKER – M.S.R.P. $49,950.00, including $4,000.00 for Signature package, $3,500.00 for Tech package, $3,500.00 for Ultimate package, and $950.00 for freight.IMG_0042



2014 Lexus GS450h Hybrid Sedan Review

IMG_0021The Lexus GS is a mid-size luxury car sold by Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota.  Its design was originated by Italdesign Guigiaro over a quarter century ago as a simplified, European-looking offering.  The GS is the car that I was loaned to test this last week.  The car is called a GS450h, and the “h“ stands for hybrid drive train, made up of a 306 horsepower Atkinson-cycle V-6 and two electric motor/generators.  Total horsepower of the gasoline/electric package is 338, and the power is delivered through a continuously variable automatic transmission.  Although not officially designated a “sports sedan”, this 4,147 lb. car can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.  Top speed is reportedly a governor-limited 136 mph.

The Lexus GS series of cars has been around since 1993, and is now in its fourth generation configuration for 2014.  Lexus, headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, sent as its first automobile to America the big LS series in 1989.  The company currently manufactures Japan’s top-selling make of luxury automobiles.  The GS models come in a V-6 sports sedan, a high-performance F Sport sedan, and the hybrid (h) model that I tested.

Highway manners of the GS450h are excellent, with an assist from the blind spot monitor to keep the driver out of trouble.  Ride on the Dunlop 235/45R18 SP Sport S100 all-season radials (on 18”, eighteen split-spoke alloys) is silent and responsive, and the driver can select from four drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+.  In winter the driver can select “snow”, and there is an “EV” (all-electric) selection to made, too.  Lots of options, and lots of performance in the Sport+ mode, especially so for a hybrid vehicle.  While in Sport+, the car provides more shock damping, tighter steering, and improved throttle response.  And all these handling and power characteristics are present in a car that delivered right at 30 mpg for me all week.  Official ratings are 29/city and 34/highway (31 combined).SAM_3587

SAM_3564The M.S.R.P. of the GS450h is $59,600.00 (base), and options include a luxury package for $5,695.00, blind spot monitor for $700.00, premium Mark Levinson stereo for $1,380.00,  hard-disk navigation setup for $1,735.00, power trunk for $400.00, and intuitive park assist for $500.00.  Total list price with $910.00 for freight comes to $70,920.00.  That luxury package includes heated and cooled, 18-way power front semi-aniline leather seats, heated bamboo and leather steering wheel, LED headlamps, and rear-door manual sunshades (an electric sunshade is present in the back window).  The 330 watt stereo includes 17 speakers with 7.1 surround sound architecture.  The screen for the navigation is gigantic, at 12.3”, with split-screen capability, and controlling its applications is done with a mouse on the console.

The GS450h came with Riviera Red paint and the interior was black.  The paint seemed to be two feet thick, and the styling excelled, mostly up front.  No tailpipe finishers were present at the rear, in somewhat of a curious styling move (hybrid?).  But the car is an eye catcher, for sure.

The Lexus GS450h was a treat to test all week, providing this reviewer
with an extra “measure of pleasure’, and the car deserves a good look from the luxury car-buying public.


2014 Lexus GS350 F Sport AWD Sedan


Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, has been producing the GS series of sedans since 1993.  The new 2014 model that I drove this last week represented the manufacturer’s fourth generation offering, and it came in Obsidian (black) metallic with black leather seating.  The GS Lexus sedan is a midsize performance car with all-wheel drive.  SAM_3553

The power train in my test car consisted of a 3.5 liter V6 with 306 horsepower and 277 lb. ft. of torque.  Behind it was a six-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and paddles on the steering column.  The F Sport package on this car included graphite finished 19” alloy wheels (with Bridgestone Turanza EL400, 255/40R19 radials), Adaptive Variable Suspension, Dynamic Rear Steering, and oversized brakes.  It accelerates from zero to sixty in under six seconds and reportedly has a top speed of 131 mph.

SAM_3550The M.S.R.P. of the Lexus is $58,990.00, including freight ($910.00), blind spot monitor ($700.00), F Sport package ($5,695.00), and navigation system with 12.3” screen ($1,735.00).  I mentioned some of the F Sport upgrades, but the package also included special grill, rear valence, and trunk fin styling adornments, making the car a striking visage.

Ruth and I drove the Lexus to both Denver and Ft. Collins, and Ruth commented on the sumptuous but sporty ride out on I25.  Of course, the blind spot monitor helped her husband keep the big sedan out of the way of other motorists.  Wheelbase of the car is 112.2”, overall length is 190.7”, and it weighs 3,970 lbs.

The EPA fuel mileage estimates of the GS are 19 and 26, city/highway, and a combined rating of 21 mpg.  During my week driving the Lexus in mostly a city setting, the calculation was 21.5 mpg.  The V6 performs well, and delivers a throaty roar upon hard acceleration.

Riding in the GS is especially comfortable due to the supportive bucket seats with perforated leather black trim and 16-way adjustability.  The driver chooses from three driving modes with a console mounted dial – Economy, Sport, and Sport Plus.  The Sport Plus tightens up the steering and throttle/transmission response; plus it changes the speedometer backlighting to red.  It is a five passenger sedan with a large back seat and a 14.3 cubic foot trunk._DSC3592

The options on the Lexus included a power rear sunshade, USB stereo connection, satellite radio, sunroof, power tilt/telescope, 12-speaker stereo, navigation with 12.3” (!) screen, Bluetooth, and backup camera.

Overall, I would recommend the GS350 to the discerning, performance-oriented buyer with a few extra dollars on hand.  It was a blast to drive around for the week I had it in my possession.


2014 Volkswagen Turbo Beetle R-Line Sedan

DSCN3704    I remember the first time I laid eyes on a Volkswagen Beetle, in Grant, Nebraska in about 1963.  A young man in town named Charlie Brixius had purchased a used one (perhaps a 1959), and made quite a splash driving it up and down Main Street over and over.  We all did that back then – gas was cheap, the pace was leisurely, and that was the place to be seen.  The U-turns were made at the same intersections on the north and south end of this town of 1,000 population, and some of the guys out cruising were lucky enough to have a girl sitting in the middle of the front seat for the ride.  SAM_3526

Charlie never had a girl sitting in the middle of his front seat, because the “bug” had two bucket seats in the front of the four-passenger, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive VW.  Neither did I, as I rode a Honda 50 scooter/cycle.

DSCN3707 Volkswagen Beetles were built from 1938 to 2003, and  over 20 million have been manufactured and sold worldwide since the inception of the car in Germany.  A man named Porsche designed the car, and along with the rear engine placement, the car was air cooled, without coolant or a radiator.  SAM_3525

What is commonly called a “New Beetle” with coolant, a front engine, and front-wheel drive, has been marketed on and off since 1997.  Such a car is what was brought to me a week ago for testing, a 2014 Turbocharged Reef blue metallic unit with “R-Line” equipment specified, including a spoiler, “twister” alloy wheels, extra gauges, aluminum pedal covers, and special badging.

Power for my test car was supplied by a 2.0 liter, 210 horsepower (207 lb. ft. of torque) four cylinder gas engine with an EPA mileage rating of 24/city, 30/highway, 26 combined MPG.  The transmission on hand was a six-speed automatic with a manual option that shifted into higher gears in a hurry, but seemed sturdy and somewhat enjoyable.  For having a turbocharger, the engine had a definite grumble to it, belying the high RPM turbo operating in the power department.  Turbochargers whir at about 150,000 revolutions per minute – roughly 30 times as fast as the engine.  They are nice in Colorado, spinning faster at our DSCN3708altitude and mitigating power loss that can be associated with naturally-aspirated (i.e. fuel injected) engines.

Inside the Volkswagen, a Fender premium stereo was on hand as well as sunroof, heated leather buckets, Bluetooth connections, navigation, pushbutton starter and satellite radio.  The theme inside was two-toned black and blue and somewhat kicky.  Styling was great with ten spoke polished alloys and attractive black trim work low on the outside.  SAM_3523

Acceleration of the VW was fine, road manners were on target, and handling/guidance were acceptable.  It’s a pretty quiet sedan and visibility is fine.  List price was $32,215.00 for the 2014 that I drove and that included freight.  It has a niche market and doesn’t sell over 400,000 per year (in the U.S.!) like the old days, but still has a nice following and a fan in this reviewer.