Monthly Archives: August 2014

Supercharge guides Audi S4 to lofty level

The 2014 Audi S4 quattro in Boulder Canyon. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2014 Audi S4 quattro in Boulder Canyon. (Bud Wells photos)

Grip the small, flat-bottom sport steering wheel, push down the accelerator pedal and feel the immediate surge of power in the 2014 Audi S4 quattro.

Audi has replaced the S4’s former V-8 engine with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission (a 7-speed automatic is optional), churning out 333 horsepower and 326 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 3,850-pound sedan, in dynamic drive mode, was an impressive handler with precise steering in a drive up Boulder Canyon to Nederland and back on Saturday.

The supercharged power, belt-driven, comes on more smoothly than does the exhaust-driven turbocharging systems.

In developing the new engine for the S4, Audi engineers tested the supercharging setup against that of twin-turbo configuration; the supercharger drew favor for more responsiveness, as well as the fact it is more compact for a better fit between the cylinder banks. It is an Eaton Roots-type supercharger with two water-to-air intercoolers integrated into its housing.

Underhood, once for V-8, now houses supercharged V-6
Underhood, once for V-8, now houses supercharged V-6

Turley’s in Boulder was the choice for a late-morning brunch stop for four of us. Kim Parker was treating Ruth Davis, honoring her grandmother’s 94th birthday. Jan, of course, was my seatmate.

While a basic Audi A4 quattro begins in price around $35,000, the S4 review model carried sticker value of $56,045. The difference, primarily, is the supercharged V-6 engine compared with the A4’s turbocharged 4-cylinder, and the superb upgraded handling package in the S4. A tendency toward a bit of understeer in the A4 is overcome with the dynamic drive mode, which tightens steering and shores up suspension.

Titanium-finished five-arm rotor-design wheels (19-inch) were part of a $1,300 black optic package which added attraction to the misano red pearl exterior. The S4 rides on Continental ContiSportContact 255/35ZR19 tires.

Inside, S sport seats with deeply bolstered backs were dressed up in leather and alcantra. Relatively lengthy rear seat cushions added comfort in the rear. Supporting navigation with voice control were premium sound audio, AM/FM/Sirius/CD with SD card reader and music interface with iPod cable.

Three hundred miles of driving, half of that enroute to Nederland and back, averaged 22.2 miles per gallon. The S4’s EPA estimate is 17/26. Here are the ’14 Audi S4 quattro specifications:

  • Wheelbase 110.7 inches
  • Length 185.7 inches
  • Width 72 inches
  • Height 55.4 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,847 pounds
  • Track 61.1inches front, 60.6 rear
  • Ground Clearance 7.1 inches
  • Turn Circle 37.7 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 333/326
  • Transmission 6-speed manual
  • Steering electromechanical speed-sensitive
  • Fuel mileage estimate 17/26
  • Fuel mileage average 22.2
  • Fuel Tank 16.9 gallons
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Cargo Volume 12.4 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 4/50,000 powertrain

Competitors BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V sport, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Assembly Plant Ingolstadt, Germany Parts Content Germany 75%, U.S./Canadian 1% Base Price of Lowest Model $34,700; Base Price of Review Model $48,100; Destination Charge $895; Sticker Price $56,045.

The large grille identifies an Audi.
The large grille identifies an Audi.

Back then . . . 1994, Elway’s Dodge Viper


John Elway in an original 1992 Dodge Viper in 1994. (Colorado Car Book)
John Elway in an original 1992 Dodge Viper in 1994. (Colorado Car Book)




Twenty years ago this summer, in 1994, I interviewed John Elway regarding his Dodge Viper, one of 189 numbered models of the original Viper. Excerpts:

John Elway, owner of the ultimate performance car – a rare Dodge Viper – won’t part with the car. He and Rod Buscher, his partner, will sell you a performance car – a Toyota Supra Turbo, a Nissan 300ZX or a Mazda RX-7. But the Viper? Forget it. Elway would sooner just buy a Dodge dealership then get rid of the Viper. Buscher said they really would like a Dodge dealership, or Ford or General Motors, “but these days there are few available.”

The V-10-powered Viper is the quickest production car sold in this country. I’ve not driven one; the quickest I’ve driven this year have been the Toyota Supra Turbo, the turbo-powered Saab Aero and the Chevrolet Corvette. Elway bought his Viper from Doug Moreland at Cherry Creek Dodge in 1992 when only 189 numbered models were sold. He’s driven the car only 965 miles, “most of that has been taking the kids for rides,” he said. “They (Jessica, Jordan, Jack and Juliana) really enjoy the car.” Elway’s main means of transportation is a Mercedes-Benz 500SEL four-door. His wife Janet switches between a Mazda MPV minivan and a Toyota Camry wagon.

Elway, the top quarterback in the National Football League, said he tries to spend at least two days a week at his dealerships. “With my other commitments, that’s about all I can do and still have time for my family,” he said. We didn’t talk football, but at the end of our conversation when I suggested we cover some ground, he in his Viper and me in the Corvette I had borrowed, Elway said: “I’ll pass.”

Plan to use C-Max to see Todd falls flat

The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi, shut down by a punctured tire. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi, shut down by a punctured tire. (Bud Wells photos)

A Sunday test of the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in would have been perfect – a drive to Coors Field in Denver for the Colorado Rockies’ retirement of Todd Helton’s No. 17 jersey.

A flat tire, though, threw a wrench into that.

Somewhere along the streets in a Saturday morning drive of a couple miles to Panera Bread, with Jan and her mother, Ruth Davis, as my passengers, the short end of a 5-inch hex (or allen) L-wrench pushed its way through the inner sidewall of the C-Max’s right rear tire, a Michelin P225/50R17.

No air was yet escaping, but the problem revealed itself by the noise of the long end of the wrench scraping the road surface each revolution of the wheel.

The culprit, a 5-inch hex L-wrench.
The culprit, a 5-inch hex L-wrench.

So, we headed toward home, for, you see, the C-Max has no spare tire. The car’s large battery pack fills the rear area where a spare would normally be stored.

What the C-Max does have, in place of a spare, is a sealant compound in a canister and an air compressor to inflate the tire; the temporary mobility kit is beneath the front passenger seat.

Even with that, we were stymied again, for Ford says the kit can be used only to seal punctures within the tire tread, not in the sidewall.

Arriving home, with the right rear tire near-flat, I parked the Ford in my garage.

Sitting next to it, in Jan’s reserved spot, was the C280 4Matic sedan (with spare), which carried Jan and me, along with Dale Wells, to Denver on Sunday for the tribute to Helton, and the doubleheader win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Ford Roadside Assistance rescued the hobbled C-Max on Monday.

The C-Max, a compact wagon based on the architecture of the Ford Focus, was introduced two years ago as a gas/electric hybrid, as well as the Energi version, which gets extended range with a plug-in electric system.

Ford says the Energi will run up to 21 miles on fully electric power before the hybrid setup kicks in. The one I drove Friday and Saturday averaged 47.4 miles per gallon for 65 miles, of which 18 were fully electric charge. The battery pack can be recharged overnight.

The C-Max carried a sticker price of $37,220; base price is $32,920. The price boost added navigation, premium audio, rearview camera and power liftgate.


A Coors Field view of Todd Helton’s retired No. 17, beside those for the late Jackie Robinson and Keli McGregor. (Jan Wells photo)
A Coors Field view of Todd Helton’s retired No. 17, beside those for the late Jackie Robinson and Keli McGregor. (Jan Wells photo)






’14 Stingray shows 7-speed manual, rev match

The 2014 Stingray, seventh-generation Corvette. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2014 Stingray, seventh-generation Corvette. (Bud Wells photos)


I was there (in Detroit) in January 2013 when General Motors unveiled “the new Vette.” Nineteen months later, I’ve driven it.

To drive the 2014 Corvette Stingray Coupe is damned exciting; that’s an understatement, particularly for the fact the 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine is mated to a 7-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching technology.

All Stingrays with 7-speed manuals come with the rev match, which, engaged by paddles on either side of the steering wheel, blips the throttle to match engine rpm to the wheel speed for a seamless downshift. I remember as a high schooler double-clutching the 3-speed manual in my ’48 Ford V-8 to avoid grinding of the gears; oh, how those duals bellered. Same with the Vette; of course, my recollection was the dark ages; the Stingray is today’s high-tech scene.

Driver cockpit for the new Stingray.
Driver cockpit for the new Stingray.

As the clutch is pushed and the shift lever is moved to a lower gear, the driver hears the instantaneous bump of the rpm, then an amazingly smooth shift – no shake, no shudder.

The 2014 Corvette C-7 is the seventh generation, showing up 60 years after the original 1953 C-1.

I was one of 1,200 persons who filed in out of the rain at the old Russell Industrial Center in Detroit on the night of Jan. 13, 2013, for the unveiling of the new Corvette, to be known as the Stingray. It was the eve of the North American International Auto Show. Such a crowd, shoulder to shoulder much of the evening, yet I bumped almost square into and had a nice, short visit with Bob Lutz, the former GM car boss.

Since then, it’s been almost enough to simply look at the sharp lines in the Stingray. The chance to drive one finally came last week, in a two-passenger coupe finished in velocity yellow tintcoat and with a roof panel that can be lifted off with the release of three latch handles. And, another fine touch, the addition of custom-painted yellow brake calipers in the wheels, a $595 option. The Stingray’s sticker was $62,465.

A drive-mode dial selector in the center console lends the Stingray driver access to five modes, including weather, eco, tour, sport and track, with changes in each mode noticeable for shift patterns, throttle control, suspension stiffness, rigidity of chassis, steering tightness, traction control and exhaust sound.

I did most of my driving in Touring and Sport modes. Touring is the default or normal set, Sport firms up the suspension and tightens the steering and display gauges for oil pressure and oil temperature. The Track mode is for the race track. Eco is for more mild response and fuel-efficiency, while Weather is geared for better takeoff in snow and rain.

While in the Eco mode, the Active Fuel Management system allows the small-block V-8 to effectively turn into a more fuel-efficient V-4 in low-load driving situations, such as cruising along a flat highway. With the shutdown of 4 cylinders, the engine becomes a 3.1-liter 4-cylinder; an incline or the least bit of added pressure to the accelerator instantly resumes the 8-cylinder power. At highway speeds, the switch to 4-cylinder power isn’t noticeable.

Chevy Corvette engineers claim that full use of the Eco mode will often deliver fuel mileage as high as 30. Would a person really want to buy this wonderful machine, which some consider a world class sports car, and leave it fully in the Eco drive? Probably not. My overall average was 19.4 mpg, which included acceleration tests and use of the rev match system.

Black-painted aluminum wheels are 19-inch in front and 20 at the rear, with Michelin tire sizes of 245/35ZR19 in front and P285/30ZR20 in the rear. Do the math on those – they’re low, low-profile performance tires.

Yellow-painted brake calipers are a highlight.
Yellow-painted brake calipers are a highlight.

The only other 7-speed manual in the sports car world is the Porsche, with its 911 Carrera. The Vette’s 460 lb.-ft. of torque is about the same as the ratings for the Jaguar F-Type S and the Nissan GT-R, though the Jag and Nissan top it in horsepower, with 495 and 545, respectively.

The Stingray setup will run 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds; add its four-outlet, tuned exhaust at the center of the rear bumper, and, no, it’s not a quiet interior.

The 2014 Corvette is an inch longer in wheelbase and overall length than the ’13 version.

Bose touchscreen audio with Bluetooth, USB and input jack, along with GT leather bucket seats, dual-zone air conditioning, Z51 performance package, driver information center and the removable roof panel were standard items. Almost $8,000 in options on the Stingray review model included magnetic ride control, multimode exhaust, spoiler, the yellow tintcoat, the black wheels and sueded microfiber-wrapped seat inserts, steering wheel and shifter.

Also available in the new Stingray is a paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

Here are the ’14 Corvette Stingray Coupe specifications:

  • Wheelbase 106.7 inches
  • Length 176.9 inches
  • Width 73.9 inches
  • Height 48.8 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,342 pounds
  • Track 63 inches front, 61.7 rear
  • Ground Clearance N.A.
  • Turn Circle 37.7 feet
  • Drivetrain Rear-wheel-drive
  • Engine 6.2-liter V-8
  • Horsepower/Torque 455/460
  • Transmission 7-speed manual
  • Fuel mileage estimate 17/29
  • Fuel mileage average 19.4
  • Fuel Tank 18.5 gallons
  • Wheels 19-inch front, 20-inch rear
  • Cargo Volume 15 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/100,000 powertrain
  • Competitors Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type, Nissan GT-R, Dodge Viper
  • Assembly Plant Bowling Green, Ky.
  • Parts Content U.S./Canadian 75%

Base Price of Lowest Model $53,900; Base Price of Review Model $53,900; Destination Charge $995; Sticker Price $62,465.

The Stingray with its roof panel removed.
The Stingray with its roof panel removed.
The new ’14 Vette’s stylish side view.
Four-outlet exhaust alters tone with driving mode.
Four-outlet exhaust alters tone with driving mode.


Most distinctive front ever for a Corvette.
Most distinctive front ever for a Corvette.









’15 Lexus RX350 long a party favorite

The 2015 Lexus RX350 at City Park in Denver. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Lexus RX350 at City Park in Denver. (Bud Wells photos)

Through the past 15 years, in discussing the Lexus RX sport ute, it’s been interesting to me that no one ever says anything uncomplimentary about it.

I drove a 2015 RX350, finished in “fire agate pearl” (metallic brown) color, way out southwest in Jefferson County Saturday night to a well-attended baby shower gathering for Kara and Daniel Hansen. Lots of pink wrap and glitter.

It was a couples’ event and, as the evening progressed, a number of men and women mentioned what I was driving and passed on positive feelings they’ve acquired for the Lexus RX.

It is styled very nice, perhaps somewhat conservatively, and, after driving it for a week, I find little to complain about.

Oh, there is that noticeably meek recovery after braking at 75-miles-per-hour highway speeds; unless the driver shoves his foot deep into the accelerator, cars behind will begin to pass by the time the cruise control’s resume-speed feature gets into gear. Part of that, though, is in the name of higher fuel economy, and the RX averaged 21.6 miles per gallon for the week.

And, there’s the automatic transmission with six speeds and no paddleshifts, while many competitive makes have gone to 7, 8 and 9 speeds. This can be overcome, however, by opting for the RX’s F-Sport version, which is equipped with an 8-speed automatic.

And, the cushy Lexus can’t begin to compete with a Jeep or Land Rover in four-wheel-drive capability. It does, though, for snow and ice and other rough conditions, offer a manual-locking center differential activated from a switch on the center console.

The RX’s 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and full-time active torque control all-wheel drive is one of the smoothest powertrains out there, a great complement to its easy-on-the-eyes exterior. A pointy nose is highlighted by wide LED headlights and its spindle grille.

The RX, which performs very quietly, is of 107.9-inch wheelbase and 187.8-inch overall length, sized very closely to the Lincoln MKX.

Not only does the RX offer ample legroom and headroom in the rear seating area, it also has one of the roomiest cargo areas – 40 cubic feet.

New optional tri-spoke wheels are fitted with Dunlop GrandTrek Touring P235/55R19 tires. The midsize SUV has a relatively wide turning circle of 38.8 feet.

In addition to dual cupholders in the center console, a single cupholder for the driver is carved into the dash to the far left of the steering wheel. It sits, however, directly in front of an air/heat vent, blocking the cool flow in the summer. On the other hand, placed there, a very hot drink purchased in a drive-through coffee lane can be lowered to drinking temperature fairly quickly.

Among pricey options which raised sticker price of the RX350 from a base of $43,000 to $55,099 are Mark Levinson premium surround sound, navigation with traffic/weather, dual-screen rear-seat entertainment, heated and cooled front seats, head-up display, power-folding mirrors and wood/leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Also coming my way was the opportunity to drive the 2015 Lexus RX450h gas/electric hybrid SUV, which is marketed at a $5,000 to $6,000 higher price than the RX350.

The Lexus gas/electric hybrid drive setup beneath the hood of 2015 RX450h.
The Lexus gas/electric hybrid drive setup beneath the hood of 2015 RX450h.

The hybrid gets off the line and accelerates more quickly than does the RX350, and the 450h excels with rating of 30 miles per gallon for in-city driving. My overall average with the hybrid, including 75 percent in-town drives, was 26.7 mpg, 5 mpg above the RX350’s average.

Powering the hybrid is the same 3.5-liter V-6 gas engine as in the RX350, combined with front and rear high-output electric motors, mated to a continuously variable transmission. The 450h boasts one of the most responsive CVTs yet introduced; it, though, doesn’t match the RX350’s 6-speed automatic in performance. Driving modes include EV (electric), normal, Eco and Sport.

Sticker price on the 450h hybrid, not as loaded in amenities as was the RX350, is $58,315.

The RXs, gas and hybrid, are popular in upscale neighborhoods. On my occasional stops at the Cherry Creek shopping center, I always notice the abundance of RX vehicles in the parking lots there.


Here are the ’15 Lexus RX350 specifications:

  • Wheelbase 107.9 inches
  • Length 187.8 inches
  • Width 74.2 inches
  • Height 66.7 inches
  • Curb Weight 4,178 pounds
  • Track 64.2 inches front, 63.8 rear
  • Ground Clearance 7.3 inches
  • Turn Circle 38.8 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.5-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 270/248
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Fuel mileage estimate 18/24
  • Fuel mileage average 21.6
  • Fuel Tank 19.2 gallons
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Cargo Volume 40 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 5/70,000 powertrain
  • Competitors Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX, Porsche Cayenne, Lincoln MKX, Volvo XC60
  • Assembly Plant Miyata, Japan
  • Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $41,700; Base Price of Review Model $42,195; Destination Charge $910; Sticker Price $55,099.


Cushy ’15 Kia K900 takes aim at S550, A8

The new Kia K900 luxury sedan at the general store in Glen Haven. (Bud Wells photos)
The new Kia K900 luxury sedan at the general store in Glen Haven. (Bud Wells photos)

I walked into the Colorado Convention Center one evening 3 ½ months ago, opening night of the Denver Auto Show, and far to my left, beyond the spacious Chevrolet display, was a long, sleek-looking sedan with a Jaguar-like grille.

It was no Jag, and I asked of those around me, “What is that beauty?” A clue to the answer was the fact it sat at the front of the Kia space at the show.

It was Kia’s new luxury car, the K900, aimed (believe it or not) at those European premium luxuries the Mercedes-Benz S550, BMW 740i and Audi A8, as well as Lexus’ flagship, the LS460.

My word, that’s a big step for the little Korean carmaker. Would you buy a $66,000 Kia?

I didn’t buy it, though I drove it last week, with Jan in the passenger seat beside me, up Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park. This big, rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered, 200-inch-long four-door handled the climb and the curves like it was on familiar home territory.

On the descent, I kept the revs high and the gears low, not with paddleshifters (there are none) but by pushing the Drive Mode button for more sporty settings and using the manual-shift gate.

Our return drive from Estes to Drake was via the Devil’s Gulch Road, which with lots of twists and a couple of hairpin curves tested the K900’s long wheelbase. The fully independent front and rear multilink suspension is soft, firmed up a bit with the sport setting. The comfortable sedan rides on Hankook Optimo P275/40R19 tires.

We stopped in Glen Haven, where the little community continues to rebuild from last fall’s flood devastation. The general store, known for its 25-cent coffee and large cinnamon rolls, reopened in June. Of course we carried home one of the rolls, to be split for breakfast the next morning.

We’ve driven this road in the winter, and wonder if a drawback in these parts to the K900 might be its lack of all-wheel-drive capability. Even Jaguar has added that to the drivetrains in its large sedans.

Underhood in the Kia is a 420-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 which boasts 376 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Kia officials hint that V-6 power will be added later in the 2015 model year.

The 4,555-pound sedan responds well to the big V-8, and carries an EPA fuel estimate of 15/23 miles per gallon. Dominated by the mountain drive, my overall average still registered around the 21 mark.

The K900 designation seems odd, in that all other Kia models are named – Cadenza, Forte, Optima, Rio, Sedona, Sorento and Sportage. Kia explains that Americans in the luxury market seem to prefer alphanumerical IDs, hence the K900. The K900’s luxury sibling from Korean co-maker Hyundai is known as the Equus, so take your pick on those two designations.

Walk up to the model I drove with key pod in pocket, and the folded-in side mirrors automatically swing out into driving position. It is the most amenities-loaded Kia ever built.

Rear-seat controls for reclining seatbacks, climate control.
Rear-seat controls for reclining seatbacks, climate control.

It has hydrophobic front door windows, rain-sense wipers, head-up display, rearview and surround-view monitors, smart cruise control, panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade and manual side sunshades, three-zone climate control, navigation with a 9.2-inch display screen and 900-watt Lexicon Logic surround-sound audio system.

The rear-seating area is a delight, from its spaciousness to the rear passengers’ controls for reclining the rear seatbacks, lateral-adjusting rear headrests, heated and cooled rear seats and, with push of a button, sliding the front passenger seat fore and aft.

It is finished in a rich-looking titanium brown exterior, with nappa leather and wood trim inside.

Here are the ’15 Kia K900 specifications:

Wheelbase: 119.9 inches

Length: 200.6 inches

Width: 74.8 inches

Height: 58.7 inches

Curb Weight: 4,555 pounds

Track: 63.8 inches front, 64.1 rear;

Ground Clearance: 5.7 inches;

Turn Circle: 37.5 feet;

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel-drive;

Engine: 5.0-liter V-8;

Horsepower/Torque: 420/376;

Transmission: 8-speed automatic;

Fuel mileage estimate: 15/23; average 21;

Fuel Tank:19.8 gallons;

Wheels: 19-inch;

Cargo Volume: 15.9 cubic feet;



5 years/60,000 miles basic,

10/100,000 powertrain;


Jaguar XJ,

Cadillac XTS,

Audi A8,

Lexus LS460,

Mercedes-Benz S550,

BMW 7 series;


Assembly Plant: Sohari, South Korea;

Parts Content: N.A.;



Base Price of Lowest Model $59,500;

Base Price of Review Model $59,500;

Destination Charge $900;

Sticker Price $66,400.