New for Advance Auto Parts from the Advance Auto Parts Blog

Ford produces ultra-limited run of 2015 Shelby GT350 — 137 total!

2015 Shelby GT350 picture

Photo credit: Autoweek

 

According to the good folks at Autoweek:

It was reported last month that Ford was planning to limit production of the Shelby GT350 and GT350R in 2015 — a few thousand were rumored to be on the build schedule. Turns out this is going to be a far rarer machine, though: Just 100 examples of the GT350 will be built, 50 with the Technology Package and 50 with the Track Package. The 350R will be even more limited, with just 37 examples being produced.

Interestingly, the article points out how this ultra-limited production run ranks in terms of Shelby’s history: “Those production numbers would make the 2015 Shelby GT350 even more exclusive than the 1965 model, of which 562 units were built. The company is building the 37 Rs to pay homage to Shelby’s original run of competition versions of the car.”

The article also lays out some specs: “The 2015 Shelby GT350 debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show late last year with “more than 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque,” Ford says, from a 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V8. We saw the racier GT350R a few months later when it premiered at the Detroit auto show next to the new Ford GT. The R is lighter, faster and stiffer all around.”

Pricing hasn’t been revealed, but Autoweek thinks that it will be: “somewhere near the Chevy Camaro Z/28’s starting price of $73,000 wouldn’t be out of the question … before your local dealer adds his 300 percent markup.”

The GT350 and GT350R go on sale this fall.

The article goes on to list these option pricing details, pulled from the Mustang 6g Forum:

2015 GT350 Option Pricing (MSRP):

Tech Package = $7,500

Track Package = $6,500

Navigation = $795

Painted Black Roof = $695

Triple Yellow = $495

Over the top stripes = $475

2015 GT350R Option Pricing (MSRP):

R Package (over base GT350) = $3,500

SVT Touring Package = $3,000

Navigation = $795

Read the full story at Autoweek.

Tuner Culture: A Brief History

Drift car pictureWhat is tuner culture?

It’s a lot of things to a lot of people.

You can say it started in Japan, or America, or even Germany. There’s always another side to the story.

You can say it’s only about certain engine or suspension modifications, but you know there are some awesome mods out there that you’ve haven’t even heard of.

You can say it’s only about particular brands or body styles, but there’s a tuner forum for practically every model ever built.

Ultimately, tuner culture is where the cars we love meet the limits of our imaginations.

That’s something worth celebrating, and here at Street Talk, we want to do our part. Let’s take a look back at the origins of tuner culture and how it came to be an integral part of the automotive landscape.

International Motivations

If you want to go way back in the day, the Indiana-based Roots brothers were hot-rodding blast furnaces in the mid-19th century. They needed a better way of melting iron with hot air, and an air pump with rotating impeller blades proved to be an excellent solution. That’s where the phrase “Roots-type supercharger” comes from, if you didn’t know.

But the Roots brothers never supercharged a car motor, because they lived out their lives in the horse-and-buggy era. That task fell to German engineer Gottlieb Daimler — the surname might ring a bell — who in 1885 was the first to apply the Roots’ forced-induction principles to the internal combustion engine. As for the turbocharger, it was more of a team effort, coming into its own from World War I through the 1920s as a performance-enhancer for airplane engines around the globe.

Of course, forced induction only represents one branch of tuner history. If you want to talk about naturally aspirated performance, you’ve got to give the USA its due — as early as the 1930s, American tuners were dropping hopped-up Ford “flathead” V8s and such into anything with four wheels. Later, the Italians and Japanese would perfect the art of the high-revving naturally aspirated engine, from Honda’s screaming inline-fours to Ferrari’s legendary wailing V8s. In Germany, meanwhile, Porsche turned the flat-6 engine into a museum piece that has lately struck the fancy of American tuning firm Singer.

Today, it seems like anything’s possible under the hood. But the truth is that modern tuners are standing on the shoulders of engineering giants, from all corners of the globe.

Fashion Forward

Another aspect of the tuner scene that we take for granted is the emphasis on cutting-edge style. But there’s plenty of history here, too.

For the American aesthetic — think side-outlet exhausts, power domes on the hood, that sort of thing — you’ve got to go back to that hot-rod scene, say from the 1930s to the initial postwar years, and follow it through to the muscle-car era of the ’60s and early ’70s.

When it comes to slammed Civics and Integras and that sort of thing, you’re looking at the results of parallel movements in Japan and Southern California. Starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s, newly prosperous middle-class kids in both locales had access to a wave of affordable Japanese compacts, and their exuberant fashion sense spawned a movement that the manufacturers themselves came to embrace (see, for example, Honda’s Type R factory street racers).

Then there’s the German tuner sensibility, which tends to err on the side of subtlety and refinement. The body kits preserve the stock design language rather than reinvent it, while the custom exhaust systems amplify the engine note without overwhelming it. German manufacturers have gotten in on the action with their own in-house tuning operations, most notably BMW’s M division and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.

If you look around today, though, what’s striking is the cross-pollination on all sides. A tuned 2015 BMW M4 might be bright orange with a huge wing on the back, while a modded 2015 Ford Mustang might be as sleek and restrained as an Aston Martin. Globalization has hit the tuner scene, and if you ask us, we’re all the richer for it.

Freedom of Expression

At the end of the day, the tuner scene is about the driver. Factory cars come off the assembly line built to a specification; tuned cars are built to your specification. It’s no wonder, then, that aftermarket tuning has risen to such prominence in the automotive era. Our cars are a big part of how we present ourselves to the world, and tuning is our chance to make a unique statement. That’s a universal desire, no matter where you’re from, so it’s fitting that the tuner scene itself is a historical melting pot.

Where do your tuning influences come from? Tell us your story in the comments.

Editor’s note: Hit up Advance Auto Parts for your performance needs and more. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

12 Hours of Sebring: Corvette finishes first

Sebring corvette

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Check out our exclusive coverage and photos from the recent 12 Hours of Sebring in 2015.

Let’s face it. The Chevy brand couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

Chevy took the 12 Hours of Sebring by storm at the 63rd annual racing event held on Saturday, March 21 in Sebring, Florida. Corvette Racing dominated, securing the podium for the Daytona Prototype field and sneaking in a solid first place in GTLM.

Sebring 17 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Besides pleasing ‘vette fans, the combination of a Chevy bowtie and a stellar weekend will undoubtedly make corporate happy. After all, Corvette’s racing heritage boosts sales.

Corvette’s win was a Porsche loss

In GTLM, the #3 Corvette took first place partially because of equipment failures on the leading Porsche RSR during pit stops near the end of the race. Staying at the front through 12 hours with blazing hot track temps and numerous cautions is no easy feat – and, in this case at least, the Porsche wasn’t up to the challenge.

Sebring 4 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

The reality is that there is no shortage of driver challenges in a race like this that can knock a great team out of the running. The winning formula typically consists of effectively timing pit shops, executing flawless driver changes, staying out of traffic and avoiding costly mistakes caused by fatigue.

Sebring 9 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

In 2015, on the Sebring race track that once served as Hendricks Army Airfield, it was Corvette Racing that took home the trophy and bragging rights. 2016? It’s anyone’s guess.

 

 

More photos from Sebring 2015:

Sebring 13 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Sebring 6 photo

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Sebring 11 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Sebring 14 photo

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Sebring 8 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

Sebring 1 picture

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

 

 

Exotic Car Festival returns to Celebration – and Advance was there

Celebration Exotic car 1 picture

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Advance Auto Parts returned to picturesque Celebration, Florida for the 2015 Celebration Exotic Car Festival. You may remember our 2014 coverage of the festival and the spectacular gathering of modern classics present for the show.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

As we’ve come to expect from this event, we were stunned. Six of the most sought after Ferrari “halo cars” were present; the 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo and FXX–plus the car that former Top Gear presenter James May referred to as “The Ferrari, The Ferrari.”

Yes, Ferrari’s newest hypercar, the Ferrari La Ferrari, was present. Most people consider themselves lucky to see just one of these types of cars up close and in person, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime treat to see all six of these cars together.

Celebration Exotic car 9 pic

Erik Baeumlisberger

The La Ferrari and FXX may have been showstoppers, but a not-too-shabby Porsche 918 Spyder was also on display alongside a McLaren P1. Other notable participants included an LS1-swapped DeLorean, Porsche GT3 RS, Jaguar XJ220 and America’s-own supercar of the 1980s and 90s: the Vector.

CE5 car engine

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Celebrity appearances and movie tie-ins

Celebrity appearances and movie tie-ins have become a trademark of this event. This year, we were treated to a screen-used 1970 Dodge Charger from the Fast and Furious franchise along with a life-size replica of Dominic Toretto, courtesy of Madam Tussauds Wax Museum.

CE5 7 picture

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Also part of the 2015 event was a performance by The Beach Boys featuring John Stamos (Uncle Jessie) and a Happy Days reunion with Henry Winkler (the Fonz), Anson Williams (Potsie) and Donny Most (Ralph Malph).

Celebration Exotic car show

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Since its inception 12 years ago, the Celebration Exotic Car Festival has raised more than $1 million for charities, which include Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

We look forward to checking it out in 2016!

For now, check out more amazing car photos from the event:

CE14

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Dodge Challenger SRT Runs 10s in its First Time Out — Unmodified!

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat pictureAccording to Torque News:

This past weekend, 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat owner Ricci Cavallaro took his stock Mopar muscle car to Pittsburgh Raceway Park for the first time and with nothing more than Nitto NT05 tires, his first run down the track was an incredible 10.97 at 129 miles per hour. Then, he followed it up with two more runs in the 10 second range.

Long-time Mopar fan Cavallaro—who is not a professional driver—took his new supercharged muscle car to PRP, taking advantage of the good weather and a well-prepped track, and it paid off better than anyone could’ve predicted.

That’s insane, especially for a mostly unmodified vehicle!

Check out the full story on this spectacular SRT at Torque News.

Watch Ricci’s first incredible 1/4 mile pass here:

Engine Gaskets: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Felpro gasket photo

Get the inside track on engine gaskets and a few of their failings, courtesy of The Mechanic Next Door.

Gaskets. How can these relatively inexpensive, somewhat simple vehicle components perform such a crucial role, stand up to torturous temperature and pressure extremes, and wreak so much wallet-emptying havoc if and when they do fail? As it is with most vehicle systems, the answer lies in physics and mechanical engineering.

What they are supposed do

Whether it’s the head gasket on a 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme or the gasket on the end of a garden hose, gaskets – when they work properly – are supposed to form an impenetrable seal between two surfaces, thereby preventing fluids or gases from mixing or escaping. Your vehicle literally has hundreds of gaskets, from the seal around the doors and windows keeping air and water out, to the gaskets on the thermostat housing, valve cover, head, intake, exhaust, and numerous other places.

Gaskets are supposed to be designed and manufactured to withstand contact with a variety of chemicals and tolerate temperature extremes without degrading or suffering any loss of performance, even with long-term use. They’re also designed to compress under pressure so that the gasket molds itself to and matches any imperfections in the surfaces being sealed. And, thanks to being engineered to exact specifications, they help ensure that they are an appropriate match to the surface being sealed and that the materials they’re constructed from can withstand the physical forces they’re exposed to, including pressure and temperature.

Spectacular failures

Despite, however, the best intentions and designs, gaskets can and do go bad. When they do, the results are often spectacular, and very expensive to correct. One need only look to certain Subaru models and years, the third generation of GM’s 60-degree engine, or the V-6s in several Toyotas to see the ugly picture gasket failure paints.

Looking at head gaskets specifically, since those are the gaskets most drivers have heard about due to failures and the expense incurred in repairing them, and because most heavy DIYers know all too well the frustration and time commitment they demand, the reasons for gasket failure can be narrowed down to several of the most common.

  • Engine overheating
  • Deficient gasket design
  • Detonation damage
  • Improper torque
Subaru H4 engine picture

Some Subaru years and models are known for having head gasket issues, as are vehicles from some other manufacturers.

While some will debate whether the problem has ever actually been fixed, head gasket problems are no stranger to Subaru’s first-generation 2.5-liter engine found in many Imprezas, Outbacks, Legacy GTs, and Foresters around the ’96 to ’99 model years. The gasket in question here was a multi-layer one constructed of steel and coated with a graphite-type material. That coating can wear away over time as a result of contact with chemicals in vehicle fluids, and lead to a failed seal that allows coolant to seep into the combustion chamber.

GM’s problems with leaking intake manifold gaskets on the third generation of their 60-degree engine stretched from about the mid-90s to 2003 and led to several class-action lawsuits. Blame here was placed on the gaskets’ design and materials used that allowed the gasket to soften and lose its seal over time.

Toyota’s head gasket failures in the mid-90s on some of their 3.0 and 3.4 liter V-6s meanwhile were traced to the heads’ design and the fact that they are difficult to seal.

Ford Windstars, Dodge Neons, and many other manufacturers and models also experienced head gasket problems at one time or another, further illustrating the critically important role this vehicle component plays and the engineering challenges it presents.

What they’re made of

Depending on their application, gaskets are made of anything from cork, to metal, to rubber and beyond. Vehicle head gaskets are typically:

  • Layered steel – constructed from multiple layers of steel (MLS) and usually coated to further enhance their performance. They’re the type most often used in vehicles.
  • Copper – delivers a long-lasting performance for extremely durable gaskets
  • Composites – made from several materials, including possibly asbestos in some older applications, and usually considered a technology that’s less reliable and more commonly found on earlier vehicles

Don’t Blow a Gasket

A sure-fire way to avoid the time and expense of a head-gasket failure and subsequent replacement is to stay away from vehicles with known head-gasket issues that haven’t had the problem repaired or resolved. After that comes careful attention to changing vehicle coolant and oil at recommended levels to prevent prolonged gasket exposure to chemicals that may hasten its degradation; using the vehicle manufacturer-recommended coolant; maintaining proper torque on the head bolts; and watching for early signs of gasket failure, including white exhaust smoke or coolant mixing with oil, to prevent further engine damage.

Replacement

The head gasket itself isn’t expensive, costing only about $20 for a 1995 F150 with a 5.0-liter engine or $50 for the complete head gasket set. It’s the time that’s involved with replacing the head gasket that really ratchets up the expense ratio. Because head gasket repairs are easily over $1,000 and can climb another thousand or more beyond that, seek advice from a professional mechanic as well as a second opinion before committing to a head-gasket replacement. Depending on the problem, it’s also worth trying one of the numerous head gasket sealant products available to see if that brings temporary or even long-term relief.

Whatever the gasket problem, and fix, turn out to be, don’t blow a gasket because of the expense and frustration involved. It’s just another part of the joy and pain equation that is vehicle ownership.

Editor’s note: If repairing a blown head gasket is your next project, stop by Advance Auto Parts for the parts and tools you need to fix the problem. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

Crucial Cars: Ford Explorer

Ford Explorer pictureFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, the Mechanic Next Door talks about the comeback kid of the SUV variety, the Ford Explorer.

The Ford Explorer is back. Not that it ever went anywhere, but Explorer sales were declining steadily from their peak of nearly 450,000 new vehicles sold in 2000 to a low of just 52,000 sold in 2009. That nearly 90 percent reduction in sales over nine years certainly gave credence to the observation that there just didn’t seem to be as many Explorers on the road, and the feeling that perhaps Explorer was slowly but surely fading from the automotive landscape into the annals of Ford’s highly successful truck history.

And then 2011 happened, when Explorer sales increased more than 100 percent from the previous year and marked the start of a sales rebound that’s continued every year through 2014 – the latest year for which full-year sales data is available.

So who or what is responsible for the sudden and dramatic resurgence in Ford Explorer’s popularity? Blame it on the fifth generation.

Debuting with the 2011 model year and based on the concept vehicle that Ford unveiled at the 2008 North America International Auto Show, the fifth-generation Explorer was conceived by the same design engineer who held a similar position at Land Rover. Notice any similarities between the Explorer and Land Rover’s Range Rover?

But before looking forward to the latest installment in the fifth generation – the 2016 Ford Explorer – one has to look back to understand the Explorer’s roots, and popularity right out of the gate.Ford Explorer tow picture

The Explorer placed third in truck sales in 1991 – the very first year it was available, and Ford knew instantly they had a clear winner on their hands. If you’re feeling nostalgic, check out this official Ford video explaining how to use the new 1991 Explorer’s features – if you can get past the talents’ “stylish” wardrobe that is. Explorer replaced Ford’s other entry in the sport utility segment, the Bronco II, and was designed to compete directly with Chevrolet’s S-10 Blazer, even though Explorer wasn’t the first compact four-door sport utility to market. That distinction belongs to both the Jeep Cherokee and Isuzu Trooper.

Explorer wasn’t a new name either. Just six years earlier it could be found on Ford’s F-Series Trucks, serving as a trim package designation stretching all the way back to the late ‘60s.

When it debuted, the 1991 Explorer was available as either a two- or four-door model with two- or four-wheel drive in one of three trim levels available on the four-door – the base XL, XLT, or Eddie Bauer. The two-tone green and beige paint scheme available with the Eddie Bauer edition became nearly synonymous with those early Explorers as it seemed they were everywhere.

On the four-wheel drive option, Ford also offered the choice of automatic locking front hubs that engaged with just the push of a dash button, or the traditional hubs that had to be locked manually and the system engaged via a floor lever. As anti-lock brakes were still in their infancy, only the Explorer’s rear brakes were equipped with ABS.

Towing capacity on the first Explorer came in at a hefty 5,600 pounds thanks to a four-liter, 155-horsepower V-6 paired with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons behind the Explorer’s instant popularity were its decidedly car-like luxuries, including leather seats and high-end audio, that drivers were not expecting to find in a truck-like vehicle. That power, performance and luxury came at a price – about $22,000 for the four-door model back in the day. Compare that to a price tag of approximately $30,000 for a base, entry-level Explorer today or jump up to the big daddy of them all, the 2016 Platinum Explorer, starting at $52,600.Ford Explorer interior picture

With four generations and five models in the current generation preceding it, Ford took its time arriving at the 2016 Explorer. Outside, the Platinum-level Explorer impresses with its platinum grille, dual-panel moonroof, hands-free, foot-activated liftgate, and LED lamps, all riding on bright aluminum 20’s featuring painted pockets. Inside, it’s all luxury, all the time, with wood accents and “Nirvana” (do they take you there?) leather-trimmed seats with “quilted inserts,” (what does that even mean?), USB charging ports, a command center with so much technology in its display that it looks more like the cockpit of a small plane, three rows of seating for seven, and Enhanced Active Park Assist to take the stress out of navigating virtually any type of parking space.

Under the hood, three engine choices are available with the Platinum – a 2.3 L EcoBoost I-4, a 3.5 L TI-VCT V6 (twin independent variable camshaft timing), or a 3.5 L EcoBoost V6. Getting all that power to the ground is a six-speed, SelectShift automatic transmission and front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Twenty five years later, Ford hasn’t forgotten their roots, or what’s behind the Explorer’s enduring popularity – luxury, car-like features, towing and cargo capacities you’d expect to find in a truck, and a revamped style that helps you look good doing it all.

Editor’s note: Got projects? Count on Advance Auto Parts for the right parts and tools. Buy online, pick up in-store in 3o minutes. 

It’s tax time – get last-minute car deduction tips!

Truck with cash pictureThe question often comes up around here at the DIY Garage on what you can and can’t write off in regards to your vehicle at tax time.

After doing a little digging, we found this informative piece on a deduction made possible by the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, back in 2009.

According to H&R Block:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act lets you deduct state and local sales and excise taxes you paid on the purchase of a new:

  • Car
  • Light truck
  • Motor home
  • Motorcycle

The deduction is currently available on new vehicles bought from Feb. 17, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2014. You can deduct either of these:

  • State and local sales taxes, including those paid on a new vehicle
  • State and local income taxes

You can’t deduct both.

If you deduct sales taxes, you can either:

  • Save sales receipts and deduct actual sales taxes paid
  • Use the IRS’s sales tax tables to figure the deduction. You can find the tables in the Form 1040 instructions.

The deduction is limited to the taxes and fees paid on up to $49,500 of the purchase price of an eligible vehicle. The deduction is reduced for:

  • Married filing jointly with modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $250,000 to $260,000
  • Other taxpayers with modified AGI of $125,000 to $135,000

If your income is higher, you don’t qualify.

How will you spend your tax deduction?

If you’re lucky enough to get one, tell us what kind of DIY project you plan to take on in the comments below!

Top 5 Car Engines Shared Between Models

Our man Gearhead talks through his top interchange engines.

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to light an enthusiast’s hair on fire, it’s a purpose-built engine that doesn’t appear in any other car.

Car guys like me will geek out for hours about the Porsche Carrera GT’s 5.7-liter V10, for example, or any number of air-cooled Porsche 911 engines. Lamborghini’s distinguished line of V12s also comes to mind. If you know cars, you’re no doubt thinking of other candidates, too.

But there’s a flip side to that coin. Just because an engine is shared between multiple models doesn’t mean it’s a dud. In fact, some of the greatest engines ever have enjoyed multiple applications, because if something’s that great, why not spread the love around?

With that in mind, I racked my brain — or what’s left of it at this point — and came up with my personal Top 5 engines that have known more than one master. There are a lot of illustrious motors out there fitting that description, so it wasn’t easy to whittle ’em down. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Dodge Viper engine 8.0-liter V10 pictureDodge Viper V10

When Dodge brought out the Viper exotic sports car back in the early ’90s, they needed something that would shock the world. The radical styling was almost enough in itself, but the engineering team chipped in with an 8.0-liter V10 that made an even 400 horsepower — heady output for the day. Never mind that it sounded like a UPS truck; the Viper V10 was the stuff of dreams, and it helped make the car a legend virtually overnight.

Since then, the V10 has gone through a few iterations, now displacing 8.4 liters and pumping out a just-plain-silly 640 horsepower at last count. But that’s not all; it has also been borrowed by two other vehicles for limited-production use. The first, Dodge’s gonzo Ram SRT-10 full-size pickup truck, used an 8.3-liter version of the massive motor that was good for a truck-record 154 mph. The second, the Bristol Fighter, was an exotic British sports car that reportedly sold just 13 copies.

BMW S54 Inline-6 engine pictureBMW S54 Inline-6

So many great straight-sixes have come out of BMW’s factories over the years, but for my money, the 3.2-liter S54 is the greatest of them all. It debuted in 2001, appearing simultaneously in the E46 M3 and the Z3 M Roadster and Coupe. The S54 was limited to 315 hp in the latter pair, but it cranked out a full 333 hp in the M3.

With a sky-high fuel cutoff at 8,400 rpm, this engine loved to rev, yet it also had muscular midrange response that always felt like enough. The sound was nearly as thrilling, a metallic banshee wail that got more and more frantic as redline approached.

BMW gave the S54 new life when the 330-hp Z4 M Roadster and Coupe debuted in 2006, but it was brief, as both models bid adieu in 2008. Even today, I still cruise the classifieds looking for all of the above models. It’s on my engine bucket list, for sure.

Chevrolet LS7 V8 engine pictureChevrolet LS7 V8

When the C6 Corvette Z06 bowed for the 2006 model year, it came with a great big surprise under the hood. Displacing a full 7.0 liters, the LS7 was the biggest small-block V8 that GM had ever installed in a factory model. Unlike most small-blocks, the LS7 had an affinity for redline, making it ferociously fun when driven to its full potential. The noises were sublime, and 60 mph was yours in less than 4 seconds via the 6-speed manual transmission — no automatic was offered.

Now that the C7 Corvette Z06 has come out with its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, it looks like forced induction will carry the day going forward. But if you’re like me, you know there’s no replacement for displacement. Plain and simple, the LS7 is the best small-block V8 there ever was.

Thankfully, the C6 Z06 team wasn’t a selfish bunch. The LS7 has turned up in all kinds of places since it appeared, including the Corvette 427 Convertible (basically a Z06 drop-top), the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, the Hennessey Venom GT supercar and even a helicopter.

Mercedes-Benz M156 V8 engine pictureMercedes-Benz M156 V8

If you don’t think Mercedes-Benz and NASCAR belong in the same sentence, you haven’t driven one of the cars from the “AMG 63″ series. Ranging from approximately 450 to 580 hp, and technically displacing 6.2 liters, the M156 V8 was the first engine to be developed from start to finish by the performance wizards at AMG. You can certainly feel that hand-built touch. There’s endless thrust throughout the operating range, and the sound is astonishing — like a Detroit muscle car with impeccable manners. It’s impossibly well-behaved for such a beastly engine, but those noises betray its animal nature. Pity that Mercedes never saw fit to pair it with a manual transmission; otherwise, the M156 is a perfect 10.

What’s particularly awesome about the M156 is that it was made available across most of the Mercedes lineup, from the humble C-Class to the exotic SLS AMG sports car. Turbocharged V8s have since taken its place, but only recently, so there are plenty of low-mileage used M156 cars out there for the taking.

Volkswagen Golf 2.0T Inline-4 engine pictureVolkswagen/Audi 2.0T Inline-4

You don’t always need huge horsepower to have a good time. It took me decades to realize that, and the VW/Audi “2.0T” turbocharged 4-cylinder engine helped me see the light. There are actually a bunch of slightly different engines that fall under this heading, but you know what I’m talking about, right? Volkswagen has been putting a 2.0T in the GTI for about a decade, to take one example, and Audi offers a similar 2.0T in seemingly everything it makes. Whatever the setting, this engine serves up an amazing blend of refinement, fuel economy and smooth, spirited acceleration.

If there’s a better all-around engine that you can have brand-new in the $25,000 price bracket or thereabouts, I haven’t met it.

What’d I Forget?

A lot, I’m sure. My wife’s sure, too. Did any of your favorites get unfairly excluded? Let’s have it out in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Keep your engine running right with parts, tools and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Quick Spin: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

2015 Hyundai Sonata pictureRead our exclusive review of this latest model.

If you’ve read any of my columns, you’re probably aware that I’m a muscle car guy. A horsepower guy. Big numbers, fast times. You get the idea.

But I’m also a man who likes to give credit where credit’s due.

When the Hyundai Sonata was redesigned for the 2010 model year, everyone wanted to crown it king, but I had my reservations. Where others saw a revolutionary exterior with ultra-sleek styling, I saw some overwrought lines that were bound to age poorly. And amid all the noise about its futuristic interior with a Volvo-inspired “mode man” for the climate vents, I wondered why no one mentioned that mode man’s head didn’t even work.

Sheesh.

But now there’s a new model — the 2015 Hyundai Sonata — and this one’s got my attention. I still say the critics were too eager to embrace the previous model, but this latest effort is the real deal.

Here are three reasons why.

  1. It Looks Like Money

I saw a 2015 Sonata on the road the other day, and this rarely happens to me, but I really didn’t know what it was. Maybe a new Genesis, Hyundai’s full-on executive sedan? Or some other premium car that just hit the market? Nope — it was a Sonata. You know, the one that competes with Camrys and Accords. And with its LED headlight accents, crisp new contours (none of that swoopy stuff from the previous model) and strong trapezoidal grille, it was a revelation.

When you see a new Sonata in the flesh, I think you’ll agree that it just looks like money. It’s a car that would look good in any driveway; there’s nothing about it that says, “I settled for less.”

It’s a downright handsome automobile.

  1. It Drives Like a Luxury Car

Behind the 2015 Sonata’s wheel, I truly am reminded of the Genesis, which starts at about $40,000 but looks and feels like about $60,000. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement; if you’re on a mission to find some average-quality plastics in the Sonata’s interior, you’ll eventually come up with a few examples. But by and large, the Sonata comes across as decidedly upscale, from the cohesive flow of its dashboard design to its supple, well-damped underpinnings that keep road noise at bay. The steering’s more responsive than I’m used to in Hyundai products, and there’s a real confidence at higher speeds that belies the Sonata’s bargain pricing.

I’ll tell you something else I like — in well-equipped Sonatas, you get a 4.2-inch color trip computer along with an 8-in touchscreen navigation system, and they both look beautiful. I’m talking high-resolution graphics, smooth transitions between screens, you name it. They thought of everything. This really is Genesis-grade technology, and it puts those Camrys and Accords to shame, no doubt about it. You’ll pay for the privilege, of course, but even a fully loaded Sonata is still a good deal.2015 Hyundai Sonata 2 picture

  1. It’s Still a Great Value

So let’s talk pricing. Looking at Hyundai’s MSRPs for the 2015 Sonata, you can get into one for as little as $21,150 plus destination. That includes stuff like alloy wheels, those LED running lights, power everything, convincing “metalgrain” interior trim and 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth. An enticing Popular Equipment package ($1,150) adds automatic headlights, a rearview camera, a 10-way power driver seat, leatherette door-panel trim and a 5-inch color touchscreen. If you’re a sensible shopper, you could stop right there and be perfectly content for $22,500.

That’s what I call value.

2015 Hyundai Sonata engine pictureBut let’s say you want to go all-out and get the color trip computer and 8-inch touchscreen I mentioned. Say you want the optional turbocharged engine, too, because I sure would. Listen, 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque beats 185 and 178 any day, and that’s the difference between the “2.0T” turbo engine and the base, non-turbocharged 2.4.

So let’s zero in on the Sport 2.0T trim level, which incidentally throws in an exclusive flat-bottomed steering wheel, paddle shifters, xenon headlights, quad exhaust tips, a sport-tuned suspension and some other nifty touches. It’s the one I’d recommend if you want to treat yourself. You’ll also need the Tech package ($1,750) to get the upgraded screens, and that package tacks on a premium audio system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror for good measure.

Ready for the total tab?

How’s $30,325 strike you?

I’m ready to rest my case on that one. I’m telling you, I can’t think of a midsize sedan on the market that gives you more for the money.

Like I said, I’m a muscle-car man at heart.2015 Hyundai Sonata dash picture

But if I had to buy a family sedan right now, there’s no question where my hard-earned dollars would be going.

Your Thoughts

What do you all think of the new Sonata? Are you with me in thinking that Hyundai really turned a corner this time? Give me a shout in the comments, let’s hear it.

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