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Monday, February 2, 2009

Racism, Fear, and Ignorance: Why Marijuana is Illegal

Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You'll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

You'll also see that the history of marijuana's criminalization is filled with:

  • Racism
  • Fear
  • Protection of Corporate Profits
  • Yellow Journalism
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
  • Personal Career Advancement and Greed
These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

Please click here for the rest of this article:

Hulu: We're evil, and proud of it

Note: Spoiler alert, if you haven't seen Hulu's Super Bowl ad.

Google's "don't be evil" motto has been the target of the occasional critic. Hulu, however, has declared in its hyped-up Super Bowl TV ad that it is evil--and it's not making any apologies.

The Web video hub, a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., promised to "reveal its secret" in the Super Bowl ad created by agency Crispin Porter & Borgusky, which was running on NBC on Sunday evening. It was an important debut for Hulu, as many television audiences had likely never heard of it. Indeed, when I tried to watch the ad on the Web for the first time, Hulu's servers were overloaded, indicating server demand was high.

But eager nerds who were hoping for a big announcement of new content or a hardware tie-in were probably disappointed: the "secret" was decidedly tongue-in-cheek. We hope.

The ad, called "Alec in Huluwood," stars veteran actor Alec Baldwin, currently in the cast of the NBC show 30 Rock, narrating a 60-second spot that takes place in what appears to be an underground laboratory facility beneath the famed Hollywood sign.

"You know they say TV will rot your brain?" Baldwin asks as he descends in an elevator. "That's absurd. TV only softens the brain like a ripe banana. To take it all the way, we've created Hulu."

The thinking, per Baldwin's monologue, is that if there's loads and loads of TV content available on the Web, you can't possibly escape it ("I mean, what're you going to do? Turn off your TV and your computer?") And Hulu, he says, was created with sordid ulterior motives: "Once your brain is reduced to a cottage cheese-like mush, we'll scoop them out with a melon baller and gobble them right on up."

A tentacle slips out of Baldwin's suit jacket. "Because we're aliens, and that's how we roll."

Guess my "Hulu is people" theory wasn't that far off.

Comcast suspects 'foul play' in Tucson Super Bowl porn feed

Brian Pedersen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona

Comcast believes the pornography that interrupted its feed of the Super Bowl Sunday night was the result of foul play, a company spokeswoman said Monday morning.
“Our initial investigation suggests this was an isolated malicious act,” spokeswoman Kelle Maslyn said in a statement emailed to the Star. “We are mortified by last evening’s Super Bowl interruption and we apologize to our customers. We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine how this happened.”
It is still unclear how many viewers were affected by the clip, which lasted about 30 seconds, and featured full male nudity, Maslyn said.
Comcast is Southern Arizona’s second-largest cable subscriber, with more than 80,000 customers in unincorporated Pima County, Marana and Oro Valley.
The interruption was only seen by Comcast subscribers who received a standard definition signal, Maslyn said, while those who watched the game on high-definition televisions were not affected.
Comcast is working on a plan to compensate customers, but nothing has been set in stone, Maslyn said.
The pornography clip was from Club Jenna, an adult cable television channel.
The Arizona Daily Star newsroom was flooded with calls from irate viewers who said that the porn cut into the game with less than three minutes left to play, just after Arizona Cardinals player Larry Fitzgerald scored on a touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to put the team in the lead.
Callers said that the clip showed a woman unzipping a man’s pants, followed by a graphic act between the two.
The Super Bowl was being shown locally on KVOA. The station sends its signals — both standard definition and high definition — to Cox Communcations, which then sends the signals to Comcast, station president Gary Nielsen said.
KVOA’s signal didn’t have porn on it when the station sent it over to Comcast, Nielsen said. He said his station has received no complaints from viewers who watched the game on Cox, on satellite providers such as DirecTV or Dish Network or from people who saw it through an over-the-air signal.
“This did not emanate from us,” Nielsen said. “We are dismayed that this had to happen.”
Comcast has set up an e-mail account to take feedback from concerned customers. The address is
Customers can also call 744-1900, though the Star newsroom received several calls Monday morning reporting they could not get through to Comcast by phone.

Watch All Super Bowl XLIII Commercials (Videos)

here are all the Superbowl commercials, in one easy location...

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A V10 Does the Body Good

2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Action

2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Rear

2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Engine
2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Detail 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Dash 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 - Front Interior

Since it first appeared as the Le Mans Quattro Concept at the Frankfurt auto show way back in September 2003, the Audi R8 has lived up to its hype and then some. But now we finally get to have a go at the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 — the version of the R8 that we have always been waiting for, really.

Does it bother us one bit that this R8 with a V10 is just a longer and curvier Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4? Oh, yeah, sure, that really bothers us. Are you nuts?

We have driven this thundering, all-aluminum, all-wheel-drive 518-horsepower Porsche-stalker with immense pleasure over the likewise immensely pleasurable seaside hills of southern Spain. Audi has been telling us that the R8 would become a glorious combination of German practicality and Italian exuberance, and this drive in the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro shows us that the Bavarian company has delivered on this promise beyond our wildest expectations.

There's a reason why the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10's signature color is white, the traditional color of Germany in motorsports. This is more than just a fast car; it's a statement about Germany, about Audi. All that stuff about engineering with spiritual purpose? The hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of millions of dollars Audi has spent racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the last decade?

Here is where it has led us.

Attitude, Kid
If ye be a shrewd one, you'll catch the dual oval exhaust tips gaping out the back of the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10. The humble R8 with its 4.2-liter V8 — 5,500 of which were built by Quattro GmbH and delivered worldwide in 2008, about as many as the total number of 2008 Ferraris to hit the street in the same time period — has stacked twin exhausts on each side. But in this case, two mouths make more rumble than four. The V10's exhaust voice is unmistakably more basso than baritone, though, and even with a redline of 8,700 rpm versus the redline of 8,250 for the V8, we couldn't make the thing really scream in the lower gears during runs through the Spanish countryside. Just like the Lamborghini V10, the exhaust sound swells in girth and not much in height.

The engine's dimensions don't vary much from the V8 model — the V10 measures just 3 millimeters taller and 4mm longer. This engine is wider than the V8 by just over an inch, though, and this is because the wider side blades (i.e., air scoops) take in more air for cooling and, frankly, just add more badass-edness to the way the V10-powered R8 looks.

Besides the big-mouthed oval exhaust tips, the V10-powered version of the R8 makes its presence known with glossy black intake slots that now number just two instead of three. Audi also hopes you notice the world's first complete array of automotive LED lighting elements — the headlights, taillights, indicators and positioning lights all use LED lights. LEDs have a virtually limitless life span, and Audi's technicians insist that LEDs are less fatiguing to the human eye, provide better illumination in general and consume less energy. (Some of this might be true, but when a car thus equipped raises its nose in our sight lines, we are bedazzled for an instant and cannot be held responsible for what happens in that blinded moment.)

The 10-spoke wheels are lightweight, forged pieces with a Y theme, but their impact is really meant to be primarily visual. And in conjunction with the car's pronounced rocker sills, they help give the Audi R8 V10 the right touch of evil.

Empowering Owners
We can't really say a single scandalous thing about the dry-sump 5.2-liter FSI V10 engine that's nestled in a carbon-look magnesium cradle within a lighted glass case behind the driver's head. At 569 pounds, this V10 engineered by the Audi-VW Group weighs just 68 pounds more than the 4.2-liter V8. The V8's output of 414 horsepower at 7,800 rpm bounces to the V10's 518 hp at 8,000 rpm, while torque increases from 317 pound-feet between 4,500 and 6,000 rpm for the V8 to a peak of 391 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm in the V10 after a relatively flat and fun run from 3,900 rpm.

In a way, this engine recalls the great V12 and V16 engines of the Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s, the spiritual forbears of Audi, in that tractable power is more important than the silly whoop, whoop of a light-flywheel engine. If you've ever heard the smooth, swelling note of one of the Auto Union racing engines designed by Dr. Porsche, you'll never forget it, and indeed the sound of this direct-injected 5.2-liter V10 from either inside or outside the car is worth the price of admission.

Audi tells us that the 3,583-pound R8 V10 equipped with its R tronic six-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission (a conventional six-speed manual transmission is also available) will accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.9 seconds compared to the 4.6 seconds it takes the 3,450-pound R8. The 3,320-pound Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 with the same powertrain as the R8 V10 (except with 552 horses) gets the same job done in 3.7 seconds. (Do you see the potential for internal squabbling taking shape among Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt and Sant'Agata Bolognese? Boy, we do.)

Even though we feel that Audi's 15-inch ceramic brake discs should be standard equipment here instead of optional, we're not arguing with what we feel through the brake pedal while testing this car's conventional brakes, as the bite from the eight-piston front calipers is crisp and sure and there's no sign of brake fade from the steel rotors.

Not surprisingly, the power and torque delivery for this V10-powered Audi is just as sensational as it is for the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. The aggressive 15 percent front/85 percent rear torque split between axles for the R8's all-wheel-drive system works magic, combining the traction of all-wheel drive with the handling characteristics of rear-wheel drive.

Dynamics R Us
Latched into this car's sport seats, we feel fast even before we launch. The combination of support for your shoulders and lower back is just right, so the seats help us anticipate a hard, long-distance drive with pleasure. Meanwhile, the entire practical interface for the driver is familiar stuff from the base R8, with only the instrument dials changing to reflect the higher revs we can reach for, not to mention a top speed of 196 mph. The top of the gearshift knob, speedo and tachometer also come etched with a red accent circle.

Audi has wisely specified its magnetorheostatic damper system as standard equipment for the R8 V10 and we cherish it all over again in this case. The rates for the dampers, springs and bushings have been stiffened to account for the added weight (distributed 44 percent front/56 percent rear), yet the car feels familiar as an R8 — tractable, easy to drive, even comfortable. The suspension can be left in the default mode to adapt as it feels necessary to our needs along the Spanish trail, or (the way we most frequently like it) you can choose a more stiff-legged setting to take advantage of the 1.2g of cornering grip Audi says this car can achieve with its 235/35R19 front and 295/30R19 rear tires. Transitions into and out of said multitude of curves on the Spanish highway are handled smoothly but with real authority.

Audi refers to the driver's cocoon as the "monoposto," conjuring up racing images for the marketing department to play with. This R8 V10 is, after all, the base material from which Abt Sportsline and Audi have built up the new R8 LMS GT3 racing car that is being put into the hands of privateers for endurance racing this season.

With a slightly wider front track and the standard lightweight 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels carrying low-profile Pirelli P Zero tires, plus an improved power-to-weight ratio over the R8 V8 (6.8 pounds per hp vs. 8.3 pounds per hp for the R8 V8), plus the trick AMR suspension, plus the very stiff all-aluminum body structure, we feel confident enough to fling this car around, and it responds readily and with minimal body roll (although not quite like a Ferrari 430 Scuderia when it comes to aggressive body control, if that's your thing).

In a straight line, hot throttle and braking can remind us that there's some added weight behind our head, but that's par for the course when you add two cylinders back there. Besides, this car feels more substantial and mighty for all of that. And the added heaps of power and torque pretty much negate any detrimental effects of additional heft anyway.

That Transmission
At this point, Audi fully understands that we prefer the standard six-speed manual transmission in lieu of the un-incredible overall behavior of the R tronic single-clutch automated manual toggle-shifter. Even though Audi originally foresaw an installation mix of 70 percent R tronic and 30 percent manual transmission in the R8, you can actually switch those percentages now and be closer to the correct number.

To our way of thinking (or driving), the R tronic's tendency to upshift automatically below the redline and then furnish a programmed gear kickdown under throttle while exiting curves or overtaking (both while in Manual mode without the Sport button lit) are not desirable things in this caliber of car. Keeping the Sport mode lit like a beacon to your driving enthusiasm is the only current solution to these issues.

When we ask about a dual-clutch transmission for the R8's future, our Ingolstadt contact says, "The problem is, the sheer investment required to make the S tronic dual-clutch isn't viable for the R8 business case." Apparently the investment for a dual-clutch transmission compatible with the V10's torque and midengine packaging could be anywhere between $40 million and $100 million, so Audi is holding off until the worldwide economy finally gets its pants back on. So, we live with the R tronic until the second-generation R8 in 2013 or so. It can get its shifts at speed down to one-tenth of a second, but it is simply unsophisticated as an instrument for all-around driving.

Bigger Motors, Open Tops
While Europe gets its Audi R8 5.2-liter FSI V10 delivered starting in late May of this year, an Audi spokesperson tells us that those of us in North America will be waiting for ours until early October. It'll cost $182,499 in Europe.

Quattro GmbH has been cranking out the R8 at maximum capacity — the aforementioned 5,500 units in 2008. The R8 V10 will make up 35 percent of the next 5,500 units over the first-generation R8's life cycle, while the upcoming R8 roadster (in both V8 and V10 models) is expected to be the body configuration of choice for more than 50 percent of these clients.

One more anonymous source in the know tells us that Audi is not stopping at this already exceptional V10-powered R8, either. While the Audi R8 V12 TDI diesel concept car that we drove briefly last spring has now been officially killed off, Audi boffins are experimenting with an even faster supercar that will dare to go head-to-head with the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640.

It's taken Audi awhile to deliver the supercar that it's been promising us, but the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI V10 appears to be just the beginning of a true German presence in the exotic car market. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz tried and failed to crack this barrier, so all credit to the romantic engineers at Audi.

Nissan Announces Qazana Crossover

As the beginning of the European auto show season nears, Nissan has whet our appetite with a very limited reveal of its Qazana concept, which will be the centerpiece of its display at the Geneva Motor Show next month.

Very little is known about the Qazana, as Nissan has provided little more than a sketch and a few basic details. The vehicle will likely be a crossover and will slot below the European-model Qashqai SUV, which is built on the same platform as the Murano. The Qazana will be a five-door hatch, though the second-row doors will be rear-hinged. It appears that this is the vehicle that Nissan was referring to last summer when the company announced that a crossover will replace production of the Micra compact car with at its Sunderland, U.K., plant. The vehicle was expected to go on sale sometime in 2010 or later. Nissan says the Qazana will be low and sleek with wide wheel-arches, but little else has been revealed about the look of the vehicle.

"The difficulties currently facing the car industry have been widely documented, and Nissan has not been immune," said Trevor Mann, Nissan's senior vice president for manufacturing, in an interview with CAR Magazine. "As a result we have had to make some difficult decisions, but the reason we have done so is to secure a long and positive future for the plant. Qazana points the way to that future and gives an indication of the unique and exciting car we will be producing in Sunderland next year."

Joining the Qazana at Geneva will be the NV200, a smaller version of the NV2500, as well as the European debut of the 370Z, the Cube, the Pixo, and a new version of the X-Trail.

Source: Nissan, CAR Magazine

BMW M Division Sales up 50% in 2008; model expansion promised for 2009

BMW's high-performance M division has bested its 2007 sales results by 50% in 2008, the automaker reported today. A total of 24,186 units were sold last year globally, with U.S. customers putting 10,663 M cars in their garages -- a 70% increase over the previous year.

The German market saw a 37% bump in sales to 2,777 cars, whereas sales in the U.K. moved up 20% to 469 units. Canada posted the biggest jump (130%) to 1,114 cars moved out of showroom floors. Helping out the cause worldwide was the all-new M3 in coupe, sedan and cabriolet forms which sold 17,993 examples in its first production year.

Buyers searching for M-car looks, but not M-car pricing spent their funds on the division's optional Sport Packages (up 7% to 156,139 sold) and BMW Individual options (up 30% to 30,000 vehicles outfitted).

Although no specifics were stated, BMW plans on expanding its range into a new vehicle segment (i.e. the much-spied X6 M SUV). "In the course of 2009 BMW M GmbH will once again be expanding its range of high-performance sports cars, carrying over the characteristics so typical of M to yet another vehicle segment. "

Here's the portfolio breakdown:

M3 Coupe - 10,571
M3 Sedan - 3,253
M3 Convertible - 4,169
M5 - 2,465
M6 Coupe - 1,102
M6 Convertible - 1,158
Z4 M Roadster (August 2008 production end) - 699
Z4 M Coupe (August 2008 production end) - 739

Source: BMW

First Test: 2010 Mustang GT

Twenty-one hundred rpm. That's about the perfect engine speed at which to launch the new 2010 Ford Mustang GT -- at least one equipped with the optional $1495 Track Package, which includes a shorter 3.73 rear axle, a significantly racier ratio compared with the standard 3.31 or even the available 3.55.

Spark the gas, and the 315-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8's 24 valves grumblingly sigh to life. A "Good Morning," it seems from Ford's significantly revamped racehorse.

Notch the Tremec 3650 five-speed manual into first gear, drop the clutch just right at 2100, and the rear 255/40 Pirelli PZero summer tires (also part of the Track Pack, along with 19-inch alloys) twitter for a couple beats and then spin in virtual silence until 40 mph, when a forceful one-two shift snaps another chirp from the mitt-size contact patches.

In only 4.9 seconds, the Mustang GT is moving at a speed of 60 mph. Compared with last year's Bullitt, a car that donated its more potent powertrain and rear axle to the 2010 GT, that time represents a 0.1-second improvement, in other words, the quickest sprint Motor Trend has ever coaxed out of a stock Mustang GT. Less than nine ticks later, at 13.5 seconds, the GT eclipses the quarter mile at a speed of 104.2 mph, or 0.2 second quicker and 1.5 mph faster than the no-longer-so-bullet Bullitt. The landscape, ostensibly, is blurring out of focus. that a Smokey ahead?

Slide your right Nike from throttle to brake, depress with sufficient might to wake up the ABS, and the performance friction compound brake pads (another component of the Track Pack) will squeeze the four-wheel discs with enough fervor to erase 60 mph in only 108 feet-just as abrupt as a BMW 128i and 19 feet shorter than the Bullitt. Better yet, the binders are easy to modulate and seem calibrated for your foot's force.

The cop proves a false alarm. Lucky timing, as the road is beginning to squiggle at a heart-pounding rate. A set of esses ahead, the steering rouses to attention, arcing right and left with fluid precision. The slightest dead spot resides on-center, but otherwise the helm and its 15.7:1 ratio communicate clearly. So does the Track Pack chassis, whose unique struts, rear lower control arm, and rear anti-roll bar, not to mention stiffer dampers and rear springs, minimize body movement to levels previously unseen in a factory Mustang GT. Maximum lateral grip is a tenacious 0.95 g. The Bullitt could muster only 0.87. The new GT still rolls more than, say, the 0.99 g Nissan 370Z, but its lateral limits are easier to approach and more rewarding to experience than in the Bullitt or GT500.

Technical editor Kim Reynolds, who shaved 0.9 second off the Bullitt's figure-eight time (26.4 seconds at 0.52 g) in the new GT (25.5 at 0.70), says, "This is the most surprising and sure-footed Mustang I've ever driven. Mid-turn bumps don't unsettle the chassis and understeer is minimal." For spirited motoring, the track-tuned suspension is a welcome cohort. For cruising, though, its busy nature, certainly over uneven pavement, can grow tiresome.

Obviously, the 2010 Mustang hit the gym hard in the off-season. Whether moving north-south or east-west, the new GT is a swifter, more agile thoroughbred. The numbers don't lie. Nor does the bulging body, whose sculpted sheetmetal appears leaner and meaner compared with that of the '09 model. The look is as mature as it is menacing.

Inside, the digs are more inviting than last year's lower-rent accoutrements. The matte-finished soft-touch dash, cleanly executed center stack, and cool gauges with steel-blue backgrounds and high-contrast white arcs all signal a more premium portfolio. The freshly shaped door inserts are also more appealing, but their glossy, hard plastic facade is a bit of a letdown.

The Shaker 500 audio system and SYNC system with Bluetooth, however, are not, and help justify the $3000 pricetag for our tester's Premium trim. Even at $34,330, which includes the $395 Safety Package (anti-theft system, wheel locks) and the $595 Comfort Package (power passenger seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated seats), our GT Premium with Track Package still costs less than a comparably equipped Z.

Ford recently announced it lost $5.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, bringing the total hit for the year up to $14.6 billion. At a time when the Blue Oval is hurting like a Madoff investor and its flagship coupe is up against such formidable competitors as the new Z and upcoming Chevy Camaro and Hyundai Genesis Coupe, at least it is offering a musclecar for which enthusiasts can proudly pony up. Burning cash and rubber never smelled so sweet.

Base Price $28,845
Price as tested $34,330
Vehicle Layout Front engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
Engine 4.6L/315-hp/325-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-8
Transmission 5-speed manual
Curb Weight (dist f/r) 3572 lb (53/47%)
Wheelbase 107.1 in
Length x Width x Height 188.1 x 73.9 x 55.6 in
0-60 mph 4.9 sec
Quarter mile 13.5 sec @ 104.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 108 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.95 g (avg)
MT figure eight 25.5 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy fuel econ 16/24 mpg (est)
CO2 Emissions 1.03 lb/mile (est)
On Sale In U.S. Currently

2011 MacLaren P11 Spied

With the final run of 75 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLarens being produced now—in topless speedster form, no less—the McLaren shop will have some build space to fill soon, and this is the car that will occupy it. Initial reports had the car debuting later in 2009, perhaps at the Frankfurt auto show, but now others are suggesting that the first public viewing will be delayed until sometime in 2010, with production to begin in 2011.

Intended as a competitor to the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 and Ferrari F430, the upcoming McLaren—code-named P11—will be powered by a mid-mounted V-8 rumored to be sourced from Mercedes-Benz and producing 550 hp or more. Although reports suggest turbocharging is a possibility, the 6.2-liter AMG V-8 manages up to 518 hp from the factory, so turbos aren’t a necessity unless McLaren is aiming for, say, 600 hp. A V-10 has also been mentioned as a possibility, but that power level would probably be well within reach for a force-fed version of the 6.2-liter. Zero-to-60-mph times should be below four seconds, and top speed is expected to exceed 200 mph.

Nothing is known yet about the gearbox, but we expect to see an F1-style, paddle-shifted sequential manual, and witnesses report hearing mules rip off lightning-quick shifts.

Through extensive use of carbon-fiber construction, the P11 is expected to weigh in at around 2500 pounds, giving it a power-to-weight ratio far superior to its proposed competition—just 4.5 pounds per horsepower, compared to 6.9 and 6.1 for the Ferrari and Lamborghini, respectively.

The price of entry is rumored to be anywhere from $215,000 to upwards of $290,000. With the cost of F1 racing—McLaren’s other primary business—spiraling ever higher and the residual cachet the company name still carries from the McLaren F1 of the ’90s, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the price settle towards the higher end of that scale.

Ultimate Volkswagen Golf R20 coming to States

It’s no secret that we love the Volkswagen GTI—it's a three-time reigning recipient of a 10Best Cars award, after all. But even the 210 hp of the upcoming sixth-generation 2010 replacement model leave the GTI at a distinct power disadvantage in its class.

In the recent past, VW’s answer for power junkies has been the R32—a GTI with a 3.2-liter V-6 shoehorned into its engine compartment. Heavier than the GTI and equipped with all-wheel drive, the R32 failed to deliver significant performance improvements despite its 250-hp rating. We liked it, but were disappointed by the marginal performance benefits over the base GTI.

Six Becomes Four—Plus a Turbo

Meet the new R-series Golf. It will feature basically the same direct-injection 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that you find in the GTI, tuned to an impressive 270 hp. Power will be transmitted to all wheels. Zero-to-60 times should be in the low- to mid-fives, and while the regular GTI tops out at a drag-limited 149 mph, the new R version will hit its governor at 155, with a theoretical top speed 10 mph or so higher.

Unlike the R32, the new R model will offer performance greater than the GTI’s, with the slightly increased weight and resistance of the AWD system easily offset by the leap in power and torque. We expect a choice of manual and dual-clutch transmissions, each with six forward ratios.

Essentially, the Golf R features the Audi S3’s powertrain. We have driven that car extensively; think WRX performance combined with Audi refinement. It’s worth noting that the new Golf MkVI, upon which this R version will be based, is more sophisticated than the Audi A3/S3.

The exterior of what we believe will be called R20 Turbo is distinguished from the GTI by an even more aggressive front spoiler, complete with three distinct air intakes, a more aggressive rear spoiler, and two center-exit exhaust pipes. Three doors will be standard, but VW will most likely also offer a five-door variation. Our artist’s renderings show a possible look for the three-door R20.

It’s Coming Here!

This ultimate Golf will go on sale in Germany in late 2009, and after some internal back and forth, VW has decided to offer the R model in America.

VW will first show the R-series Golf on May 21 at the ADAC 24-hour race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Volkswagen will also launch an R version of the sporty, Golf-based Scirocco. Equipped with the same engine as the R20, it will be front-wheel-drive. Torque steer will be managed by an electronic differential VW calls XDS—and a prayer.

So far, no Scirocco is slated for a U.S. launch. But the Golf R is, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Production Version of Aston Martin Rapide Revealed

The 180-mph super-sedan that Aston Martin will pitch against the Porsche Panamera has been revealed for the first time.

This is the first official image of the Aston Martin Rapide, downloaded from the final version of the car's computer design drawings.

First seen at the 2006 Detroit auto show, the production Rapide is nearly identical to the 196.9-inch-long concept. It uses a long-wheelbase version of the DB9's aluminum platform.

Most noticeable of the styling differences is the exaggerated swage line running along the front wing and door, similar to a feature proposed but not used on the V8 Vantage when Henrik Fisker ran Aston design.

Otherwise, the Rapide's skin follows the handsome, swooping look of the concept but with crisper shoulders and hood creases. Insiders say this shows the future styling direction favored by design chief Marek Reichman.

The nose of the car also has a cleaner look with a single, wide lower air intake. The concept and prototypes have inlets that flank the sides of the lower air intake.

Aston's engineers have stretched the DB9's wheelbase by 10 inches, taking the Rapide's overall size to nearly 197 inches, the benchmark length for luxury sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz S-class.

Despite the swooping roofline, the Rapide is about 2.5 inches taller than a DB9, an increase that ensures the styling retains its balance yet also offers practical rear headroom.

Aston has worked on the concept's design to ensure that the rear cabin is as usable as possible. The package is designed to seat a smaller person and will be trimmed with two individual buckets on either side of the transmission tunnel.

The rear doors hinge with a swan-neck design similar to that of the front doors, but they open to a larger angle to improve the limited footwell access found in the concept.

Similarly, the electric motors for the front power seats are repackaged to allow rear passengers to slide their feet under the front seat.

The Rapide concept was a hatchback and so is the production car. There is a parcel shelf so cargo can be hidden from view.

Under the hood is a slightly more powerful version of the DB9's 6.0-liter V12, rated at 480 hp, and mated to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission with Aston's Touchtronic control.

The Rapide will be about 287 pounds heavier than a DB9, weighing in at around 4,277 pounds. That might blunt acceleration slightly, but the Rapide will still be rapid with a top speed of more than 180 mph and making the 0-to-60 mph run in about 4.5 seconds.

The new car's launch is penciled in for a either the Frankfurt motor show in September or the Los Angeles auto show a few months later. The price will slot between the DB9 and DBS at around $200,000.