Thanks to SiriProxy, iPhone 4S users have been figuring out ways to start cars, queue up Plex, and adjust the thermostat just by telling their phone to do it for them. Now we're seeing video of an even bigger home automation hack, with a hacker known asphildman14 closing his curtains, turning on his overhead fan, and dimming several lights just by asking Siri for assistance. phildman14 noted on YouTube that it's based on an iPhone app he wrote that lets him perform the same controls, but now he's been able to hook Siri in to do everything by voice. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like phildman14 has posted the code he's used for this hack, but it seems pretty heavily customized for his particular setup anyway. Still, we're getting ever closer to the day when we can just tell our phones to do whatever we want.
At 160 years old, the America's Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport. The America's Cup has evolved into one of the world's leading sporting competitions -- featuring the best sailors on the world's fastest boats, the wing-sailed AC45 and AC72 catamarans.
The new America's Cup World Series opened its inaugural season in August 2011 and continues with events around the world. In the summer of 2013, the 34th America's Cup begins with the Louis Vuitton Cup July 4-September 1, followed by the America's Cup Finals September 7-22.
For more information, visit www.americascup.com
The BMW Z4 is a two-seat roadster with a retractable hardtop. With the top up, the Z4 is like a coupe, offering the benefits of a hardtop: better security, superior chassis rigidity, less obstructed rearward visibility, better interior isolation and better protection from the weather. Drop the top, and it's a roadster.
For 2012, the sDrive30i has been replaced by the sDrive28i sporting BMW's new TwinPower four-cylinder turbo engine.
The Z4 offers the driving character you expect from BMW and it will be familiar to any fan of the brand. The performance and feel of balanced precision is there in every Z4.
While some will choose a Z4 based solely on the badge and others solely on style, over time they will learn the real reasons, both objective and emotional, behind the car and why they want to keep it. Others will appreciate the performance and technology without regard to style, and yet others will shop merely because they've been waiting for a folding hardtop roadster from Munich.
The BMW Z4 has the classic two-seat roadster look, but features a modern two-piece power retractable hardtop. The result is an elegant looking car that blends the sportiness of a coupe with the enjoyment of a convertible.
Power for the sDrive28i comes from a 241-hp 2.0-liter direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic, or an advanced double-clutch seven-speed transmission. Standard features include Driving Dynamics Control which allows the driver to change the vehicles characteristics between normal, sport, and sport+ mode, adaptive brake lights, and a two-piece lightweight-aluminum hardtop.
The BMW Z4 reminds us of a more intimate and engaging version of the 6 Series cabrio. The folding hardtop offers the best of coupe and roadster forms with few of the drawbacks of either.
We think the Z4 is the best sports car in this class, excepting the Porsche Boxster.
Barricaded against the financial storms, Americans aren’t exactly whistling “Here Comes the Sun.”
Convertible sales have slumped as the economy has suffered, especially for those two-seat summertime playthings that suggest the livin’ is easy. Roll down your depressed block in a new red convertible and a neighbor may smack you. Your brother-in-law may ask for a loan.
After holding steady at roughly 2 percent of the market through 2008, convertible purchases have fallen ever since, to just 1.3 percent in 2010 and 2011, according to J. D. Power & Associates.
Yet automakers keep their most carefree models coming, banking on a time when superegos soar and buyers re-turn, eager to reaffirm the American dream of blowing too much money on a new car.
“Carefree” certainly describes the Mercedes SLK, which for the two preceding generations has been as frivolous as they come — what Paris Hilton might have driven if she hadn’t been able to afford her $450,000 Mercedes McLaren SLR.
From the SLK’s beginnings, Mercedes paid lip service to sports-car values. Still, the original model in particular came off as a distracted debutante, more interested in catchy accessories than in catching Porsches.
Arriving here in 1997, the Mercedes did inspire a wave of convertible copycats with its motorized retractable hardtop. These well-insulated roofs add weight and steal cargo space, but make a convertible easy to live with year-round in the country’s cooler regions.
For the second-generation model, the useful weather gimmick was the Airscarf, with a heater fan in the headrests that would toast your nape and noggin on chilly days.
The new SLK further lowers the bar for technical significance with its optional Magic Sky Control, which turns a huge roof panel from transparent to a dark-blue tint at the touch of a button. But the feature seems overpriced at $2,500, especially when a $50 sliding shutter would achieve much the same result. (Buyers can also choose a standard body-color steel roof or, for $500, a panoramic roof with a permanent tint.)
The Magic Sky trick holds your interest for about five minutes. Fortunately, the car beneath it has finally grown up to command respect on its own terms.
Aside from a somewhat disappointing transmission, this SLK looks and feels like a real Mercedes roadster, not a waffling compromise between performance and luxury. Finally, you won’t mind parking this junior partner alongside its mentor, the roughly $100,000 SL-Class that has been a symbol of Mercedes aspiration since the 1950s.
The SLK’s biggest problem, I’m convinced, was that it was never comfortable in the SL’s shadow, always trying to match that car’s well-bred grand-touring manners, rather than finding its own friskier path.
But recently, Mercedes’s newfound commitment to high performance has produced a grittier sports car: the 563-horsepower SLS AMG, whose gullwing doors trace a direct line to the revolutionary 300SL of the mid-1950s.
And while I’d never suggest that the little SLK can assault the tarmac like the exotic USD $185,000 SLS, I do detect a trace of that supercar’s heady spirit, a sharp metallic tang on top of the usual strawberries and cream.
The SLK’s appealing new body received bouquets from sidewalk critics in New York and Boston. The design nods directly to the SLS with its blunt, extruded nose and supersize tristar shot through with a single chrome fin. The stretched hood and pert bubble of a greenhouse are familiar SLK cues, but the car looks richer and more masculine, with SL-style haunches and a pair of aluminum-trimmed roll hoops rising like pyramids from the rear deck.
The origami roof, so groundbreaking 15 years ago, now folds in 20 seconds, shaving two seconds off last year’s time and five from the original version’s. Also new is the Airguide wind deflector, a $350 pair of clear plexiglas triangles that pivot from the roll bars.
With the top raised, there’s a class-leading 10.1 cubic feet of trunk space, about 20 percent more than the BMW Z4’s. Folding the top reduces the space to 6.4 cubic feet, slightly more than a Mazda Miata’s. You will still have to pack efficiently.
The upgraded interior also adopts SLS cues and philosophy: conservative, genuine luxury that eschews overheated gimmicks. A racy flat-bottom steering wheel and lustrous wood rim could be misconstrued; is this supposed to be a Ferrari or a Lexus? But here, the mixed message works.
A second SLK that I tested featured a $2,500 Sport package that included a more sculptured body, a metal-trimmed steering wheel, 18-inch AMG alloy wheels and “solar red” cabin lighting.
Air flows through four jet-turbine-style metal vents; the console is smartly trimmed in either wood or aluminum. The excellent sport seats incorporate magnesium frames for strength and lightness. Those seats are wrapped in sun-reflective leather — an innovation first offered by BMW — that significantly reduces surface temperatures in sunlight, helping to avoid roasted thighs on blazing afternoons. The SLK is far from cheap, starting at USD $55,685, yet the deluxe cabin helps to justify the price.
The SLK also adopts the latest Comand control interface with a seven-inch screen. New in the SLK, the Attention Assist system monitors driving patterns and suggests a rest stop if the pilot shows signs of sleepiness, like small steering corrections.
Compared with last year’s V-6 model that had the same 3.5-liter displacement, an increase of 2 horsepower (to 302) might seem a holding pattern. But press the gas pedal and the new engine’s benefits — including direct injection and an especially high 12.2:1 compression ratio — are heard and felt.
The new V-6 sets its cylinder banks at a narrower 60-degree angle (versus 90 degrees previously), eliminating the need for a balance shaft to quell vibration. Fuel economy has jumped to 20 m.p.g. in town, 29 on the highway, up from 19/25.
(This March, the V-6 model will be bookended with two new versions: a starter-model SLK250 with a 201-horsepower turbo 4-cylinder, and for power users, a limited-edition 415-horsepower SLK55 AMG with a 5.5-liter V-8. The brutish AMG model will be civilized somewhat by a fuel-saving stop/start system and cylinder deactivation).
Yet the V-6 version is plenty fast for most convertible cruisers. An urgent, galloping rasp accompanies a 5.4-second sprint from 0 to 60 m.p.h., as tested by Car and Driver, and a computer-limited top speed of 155 m.p.h.
And after decades of being comfortably numb, Mercedes has lately discovered something called steering feel: this roadster hugs curves and humps over rough pavement with serene body control, which is nothing new to anyone who’s driven the company’s pricier models.
What is new is the SLK’s sense that the driver should feel the good stuff happening below. That feedback never reaches the level of a Porsche Boxster — there’s still a sense of luxurious Mercedes isolation — but this SLK has a surprising appetite for spaghetti-strand curves.
Too bad the fun doesn’t extend to the transmission. The 7G-Tronic automatic works acceptably up to a modestly sporty pace. It offers the latest functions: skipping past several gears — say, from sixth to third — when you floor the accelerator, or detecting grades to avoid busy shifting on hills. But the transmission is a ditherer when you need to drive assertively. Shifts can be syrupy or abrupt, even in the Sport setting. In the manual paddle-shift mode, the gearbox often downshifts unpredictably, unbidden by the driver’s hand.
On challenging roads in upstate New York, the transmission, along with a too-jumpy throttle, tended to trip up the SLK’s balance; the Mercedes automatic poses no challenge to the lightning-quick dual-clutch automated manuals from Porsche, Audi and BMW. It’s the one area where Mercedes seems to have lost its nerve, tuning the SLK’s gearbox for everyday comfort rather than serious performance. And it’s especially perplexing because, of late, Mercedes transmissions have been uniformly satisfying.
The other disappointment is that unlike the Z4, Boxster, Audi TT or Chevrolet Corvette, there is no manual-transmission alternative. Enthusiasts will have that choice again in the spring, but only with the 4-cylinder, an engine that seemed uninspired when I sampled it in the new C250 sedan.
Garnished with pricey options, the SLKs I tested reached $65,245 and $67,125, roughly in line with the Boxster S, the Z4 sDrive 35i and the more powerful Corvette convertible and Audi TT RS.
In the current bearish market, buying Mercedes’s two-seat hair-tousler might help to lift consumer confidence, at least on your own block. Just don’t show it to your brother-in-law.
THE TT RS is a significant addition to the 2012 Audi line, and not just because this juiced-up little sports coupe is seductively quick and agile.
The car also marks the return, after a short hiatus, of the RS badge that signifies ultrahigh performance. It also signals Audi’s intention to finally get serious, after years of off-again, on-again production of RS models, about competing against the likes of BMW’s M performance line and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division.
Many automakers have special departments or subsidiaries that produce very powerful “halo” versions of their most sporty models. Audi’s equivalent unit, called quattro, has generally taken a more conservative route with its RS enhancements, eschewing the sportiest cars while hot-rodding relatively mundane sedans and station wagons.
Despite steep prices for these wolves in sheep’s clothing, Audi says the RS models always sell well. Audi says about 56,000 RS models have been sold worldwide since 1994.
But the TT RS is what quattro calls “our first thoroughbred sports car.” For now, it’s a model lineup of one, but a veritable stampede of RS thoroughbreds will be coming. The company has set a goal of a “100 percent increase in sales by 2015. New top models. New projects. New technologies.” While the A5 coupe and convertible might seem leading candidates for an RS makeover, Audi has declined to say which models will get the treatment.
An RS transformation principally takes place in the engine compartment, although the chassis, suspension, wheels, tires, brakes and aerodynamics also receive a tweak or two.
For the TT’s RS makeover, the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder motor has been replaced by a racing-derived 2.5-liter in-line 5, also turbocharged. Horsepower output — just 211 in the base model, 265 in the S version — is increased mightily to 360. Peak torque, which is 258 pound-feet in the base model, jumps to 343. Zero to 60 m.p.h. acceleration times contract to 4.1 seconds, Audi says, from 5.3 seconds.
Despite the power surge, mileage is still respectable enough — 18 city, 25 highway — for the TT RS to serve as an everyday driver.
The TT RS is sold in Europe with a dual-clutch gearbox, and as a convertible, but the North American version comes only as a coupe with a 6-speed manual.
The all-wheel-drive setup includes the latest version of the Haldex multiplate-clutch torque-distributing system, which gives the TT RS the feel of a rear-drive car until there is need for more grip. The system is said to be proactive rather than reactive: it anticipates wheel slippage and reapportions torque to the wheels that need it most, even before traction is lost.
During a day of Audi-sponsored testing on a racetrack here, the TT RS resisted attempts to unsettle it. Even driven sloppily — a personal specialty — the all-wheel-drive system seemed to sense which wheel would need maximum torque to keep the car from losing traction. Getting the tail to step out at all was a challenge. At the ragged edge of control, there was only the slightest sign of understeer; it was more of a four-wheel drift.
The magnetic ride system uses ride-leveling magneto-rheological shocks to keep the car’s angle of attack dead flat, even when it is pitched violently — another specialty of the writer — into the sharpest turns. The system includes a Sport setting that enlivens throttle response in track-day competition and opens the exhaust for lower back-pressure, greater horsepower and more of a grumpy, growly sound.
From 60 m.p.h., huge 14.6-inch front brake discs help to yank the TT RS to a stop in a jolting 114 feet. There was little evidence of brake fade, and scant change in the feel of the pedal, even after the car was thrashed around on black asphalt for several hours in 104-degree heat.
The performance modifications add about 150 pounds over the base TT. But the unloaded weight of 3,306 pounds makes the TT RS feel substantial rather than sloppy.
Because the four-wheel independent suspension has been retuned, the car rides slightly lower than other TTs. Other visual differences include a rear diffuser, a blacked-out grille, alloy wheels and other small modifications. Inside, the most notable difference is a pair of really well-bolstered sport seats. The performance steering wheel has additional functionality, like a lap timer.
After the transcendent performance of the RS, returning to the merely mortal TT, or even the somewhat rowdier TT S, is a bit of a letdown. The throttle response of the TT S can seem almost indifferent to the driver’s prompting, compared with the eagerly responsive TT RS. The RS performance enhancements come with a $10,000 markup over the TT S (which at $47,875 is about $9,000 more than the base TT).
Mark Dahncke, an Audi spokesman, said the primary competitors were the highest-performing versions of the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and the Porsche Cayman R. Against those comparisons, the TT RS comes out as not only a more powerful choice, but also, at $57,725, a more cost-effective one. The BMW and Benz, however, offer a retractable hardtop.
But the TT RS is making itself scarce. Audi says only 1,000 are being produced each model year and only 200 of those — all coupes — are allotted to the United States. The initial allotment is spoken for, the company says, and perhaps that level of buyer interest will persuade the company to make the roadster more widely available.
1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin
Feel the Fury. The 2012 Honda Fury, that is. Honda surprised many when it broke from the norm with its factory chopper in 2010. The raked-out scoot has developed a devout sect of fans ever since. We’ve spent plenty of time in its saddle, riding it through the Valley of Fire outside of Vegas, where we were impressed with its smooth power delivery, seamless gearbox and deceptive handling. You wouldn’t think a bike with a 38-degree rake angle, 71.2-inch wheelbase and 200mm rear tire would be as rider-friendly as it is.
A quick peek at the 2012 Honda Fury’s spec sheet reveals an identical bike from last year. Its pulse is provided by a 1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin linked to a five-speed gearbox. We can vouch that the Fury has the smooth nature you’d expect from a Honda, though for our Honda Fury Project Bike we hopped it up with high performance pistons and cams courtesy of buddy Jim Guiffra of AFT Customs. Programmed fuel injection feeds the mill via a single 38mm throttle body. The 45mm fork juts out at a healthy 38 degrees and houses a 21-inch tall, 90mm thin front wheel. A single rear shock has adjustable rebound-damping and five-position spring-preload adjustability. Braking duties are handled by a big 336mm single front disc and a 296mm rear. Just like last year, ABS is an option for a cool grand more than the standard model’s USD $13,390 sticker price.
There’s a long list of Honda Genuine Accessories ready for riders to add their personal touch to their Fury, including a front spoiler, sissy bar, smoked Boulevard screen, braided lines, and tons of custom covers. Low and Mean has a great selection of aftermarket goodies for the Fury as well. The 2012 Honda Fury is available in three colors – Ultra Blue Metallic, Matte Black/Red, and Black.
We’re digging the Matte Black version with the frame highlighted in Red ourselves. It comes with a one year, unlimited mileage limited warranty and will be available in Honda dealerships around the beginning of the year.
Skull & Bones