Fun Factory Performers

February 27th, 2020

By Don Armstrong

Main-stream automakers have been turning out performance vehicles since the 60’s but today’s factory racers are hotter than ever. Here are a couple examples that should get your blood pumping just looking at them.

Ford F-150 Raptor
Photo credit: NWAPA / Josh Mackey

Ford F-150 Raptor
The Baja 1000 is one example of extreme off-road racing and is where Ford’s F-150 Raptor was developed.

Power comes from a twin turbo, 450-horsepower V-6 engine. No, not a V-8. A new 10-speed automatic transmission handles the gear changes to its computer-controller 4-wheel/all-wheel drive system – when the tires are on terra firma. Controlling the Raptor’s rough and tumble suspension are Fox Racing shocks at all four corners, also adjusted electronically. Because of the extensive power and traction, tires tend to rotate on the wheels, so Ford has optional bead-lock rims available.

The interior gets special body-hugging seating, with Raptor Easter eggs throughout the cabin – in case you needed to be reminded that you are not in grampa’s old grocery getter.
The minute you climb up, strap-in, hit the ignition and put it in gear, you know you are in something like no other. The ride is solid and takes on big city potholes like they don’t exist. The power curve and transmission shifts are confidence-building adrenaline rushes.
Pricing starts at $53,205

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392
It’s not the Hellcat, with 707 supercharged horsepower, but it does have 485-horses and it’s not nearly as expensive – $38,995. That’s $20,000 less than the Hellcat.

The naturally aspirated R/T Challenger 392 Scat pack comes with many of the same “bad boy” body cues as its more powerful Hellcat brother. And let’s face it, that’s just as important as horsepower. You know – walk-the-walk.

What really draws our attention is the options list. With no fewer than 11 colors, a Wide Body variation, choice of manual or automatic transmissions, myriad of graphics, wheels, tires, spoiler and more, so creating a Challenger 392 Scat Pack that is unique to you is a cinch.

The Uconnect Infotainment system is simply the best on the market and the “Performance Pages” within will have you selling your PlayStation.

Some may dismiss this car as an old heavy weight, but there is something to be said about feeling safe in this rocket ship. Owning a Scat Pack will not only satisfy your need for speed but will tell everyone else, “get out of my way.”

Fun Fall Rides

October 1st, 2016

2016_golf_gti_3935By Don Armstrong

This is a great time of year to buy a new car. Summer is over, weekend road trips are calling and end-of-year closeout prices abound. In this issue of Bay Area Houston, we offer a couple of fun cars that would be a perfect fit for exploring Texas backroads.

Volkswagen Golf GTI
When a car doesn’t necessarily look like a hot rod, we sometimes call it a “sleeper.” In the case of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, we think that title fits. And what car guy doesn’t like to fool another car guy?

The heart of the GTI is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 210-horsepower engine. Like the Fiat, there is an automatic transmission available, but why? This car begs you to row its 6-speed manual transmission through twisty, hill-country byways.

2015_gti_3940This hatch/sedan has a straight-forward interior design that compliments this fun, but practical, runabout. Comfortable seating and soft-touch materials add to the sporty look. One complaint that dogged last year’s model was its infotainment system. That has been addressed through voice-to-text messaging and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration including a USB port.

Completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, all of the 2016 – 2017 body panels remain the same.

Base price for the Volkswagen Golf GTI is $24,995. There is a 292-horespower version call “R.” It begins $35,655. Good luck finding one.

fiatx124xextFiat 124 Spider
This latest addition to the Fiat lineup should appeal to everyone who has ever dreamed of owning an affordable, 2-seat sport car.

The Fiat 124 Spider is built on Mazda’s new MX-5 Miata platform, but don’t think this is just a rebadging. The 124 is 3 inches longer up front, to accommodate the Fiat power plant, and 2 inches in the rear, for proportionality. Its sheet metal is also unique to Fiat and, in our opinion, a bit sharper.

fiatx124xintPower is generated by a 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 164-horsepower through a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission and delivered to the rear wheels. If you don’t know how to drive a do-it-yourself transmission, please learn. The automatic, although capable, just doesn’t cut it for this type of car.

Most of the interior is shared with the Mazda but the quality of materials seems slightly better and increased sound deadening is most appreciated in the Fiat.

Pricing starts at $24,995. You’ll want the one with extras that goes for about $30,000.