New York auto show: Sonically underwhelming?

I went to the New York International Auto Show to listen. Weird yes, but I'm the audio guy, and nowadays high-end cars all have high-end audio systems. These cars go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I was hoping to hear some decent sound. That didn't happen.

The nice folks at the Bentley Motors display put me in a spectacular Flying Spur Speed ($252,000). The car has a 6-liter W-12 engine with twin turbochargers, 6-speed automatic transmission, and a claimed top speed of 200 mph. The interior was lavish beyond belief, with truly gorgeous wood and leather that puts your average Mercedes to shame. Rock stars and sports heroes know how to live!

The sound? I'm sure the engine sounds fabulous, but they wouldn't allow me the honor of blipping the throttle. Ah, there was a Naim audio system in the car, and I'm a fan of Nain's home gear, but the Bentley's sound system was nothing to get jazzed about.

The $6,900 Naim audio system sports 15 speakers, including dual subwoofers. Just don't kid yourself, it's not remotely on par with a credible home system. I thought the in-dash display was sort of tacky. Naim would never put such a thing in its home systems.

Next, Rolls-Royce cars, like this awesome Phantom Coupe pictured at the top of this blog ($437,000), now have Lexicon audio systems. Too bad I didn't get to hear it. (Maybe the Bentley guys told them about me, just kidding.)

The Mini Cooper people were a lot friendlier, so I checked out the sound in their 10 speaker MINI Hi-Fi Sound System. Considering it adds just $500 to the car's bottom line, it was pretty good.… Read more

Women prefer men in sexy cars (men prefer sexy women)

It's a venal world.

People scrambling over each other to reach that muddy dollar lying on the sidewalk. And uncontrolled competition to secure a lover who will make others envious of our powers of seduction.

Researchers at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff wanted to believe differently. Or, at least, I want to believe they wanted to believe differently.

They showed women pictures of the same man in two different cars: a silver Bentley Continental and a Ford Fiesta (think small, dinged, possibly driven by an academic). Women aged 21-40 expressed a vast preference for the gentry in the Bentley.

I wanted to weep when I read this. Every profile I have ever read on tells me that women want a sense of humor, not a sense of Beemer. But no. It seems that a purring motor is the way to make a female turn feline.

Your faith in humanity may well be restored when you discover the researchers tried the same ruse with men--with very different results. The men couldn't give a broken sprocket if the woman was driving a stolen Lada. All they were interested in was...oh, go on, just guess. You know the answer.

This information drove the researchers to some brutal and depressing conclusions. The Institute's Dr. Michael Dunn told the "Telegraph": "Females focus on questions of wealth and status because if the male possesses those, that male would be in a better condition to rear healthy offspring."

You may consider a little purple pill when you hear that even when women make more money and have extremely attractive, um, cars, they still seek out men with even greater status (and, presumably, Mercedes) than their own.

Dr. Dunn, clearly a brave and happy man, even ventured to declare that women are the shallower sex. "Let's face it--there's evidence to support it," he said. … Read more

Bentley goes green as Rolls-Royce shrinks Phantom

Two icons of British luxury (owned by German companies), Bentley and Rolls-Royce, showed off new thinking at the Geneva auto show this week in the form of two new concept vehicles.

Bentley, sensing that it is now fashionable to go green, attempts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by refining its Continental model into the Continental Supersports, at the same time coming up with the most powerful Bentley yet. Rolls-Royce, in its quest for a new model in 2010, comes out with the 200EX, a car that, while exhibiting many features of the Phantom, is much smaller.

Bentley hints at its fastest car ever, with a green twist

For a superhigh-end automaker with a long history, Bentley keeps itself busy. The company launched the Brooklands coupe in 2007, and last year tweaked its Continental GT, appending the word Speed to the model name. Now Bentley teases us with tidbits about an extreme Bentley due to be launched at the 2009 Geneva auto show.

Bentley bills this mystery car as its fastest ever, then adds an environmental spin by noting it can run on biofuels. OK, a flex-fuel vehicle isn't exactly the most innovative technology, but Bentley has to do something to show it's responding to upcoming … Read more

Photos: Luxury cars over 200 grand

There are luxury brands--Mercedes-Benz and Lexus come to mind--then there are luxury brands, cars with the leather from a herd of cows and wood from a whole forest. Spyker, Ferrari, and Bentley all showed off hand-crafted cars at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show. These cars feature beautiful and unique styling, high-performance engines and driving gear, advanced cabin tech, and prestigious brand names. The prices they command put them in the realm of sheiks and movie stars.

See photos of serious luxury cars.

See all coverage of the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Bentley Azure T, the world's most elegant convertible

Bentley has taken its Azure luxury convertible and upgraded, well, everything. The result is the Azure T, what Bentley is calling the world's most elegant convertible. Talk about lofty ambitions.

The "T" is a performance designation that Bentley has been using since 1996 to discern what are essentially hot-rod versions of what it deems as flagship vehicles. Of course, when you're talking about Bentley, the term "hot-rod" is relative. Extensive use of real wood, metal, and leather--as opposed to plastics--all but ensure that there will never be a superlight, high performance Bentley. No, settling … Read more

Luxurious Bentley laptop

In the past, we've seen laptops named after high-end sports car manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, but what about the luxury car enthusiast? Well, the wait is now over: Ego has announced the Bentley laptop. In keeping with the tradition of the hallowed British brand, the laptop features a hand-stitched leather lid cover and a curved metal case painted the same colors as the car. When closed, the laptop can be carried by its handle, which is also reminiscent of the door handle of the automobile.

Otherwise, you're getting a pretty standard laptop, featuring Windows Vista 64-bit … Read more

Photos: Exotic cars

The stuff of calendars and posters, exotics are cars you will rarely see in real life. Lucky indeed is the individual who gets to see a Bentley Continental GT Speed or a Spyker C8 Aileron drive by on the street. We've gone through our auto show photographs to select rare new production cars.

Click here for photos of exotic cars from recent auto shows.

Bentley and Naim partner for 'world's best in-car sound system'

We have Lincoln and THX, Acura and ELS, Lexus and Mark Levinson, and now, Bentley and Naim. Even automakers in the stratosphere of luxury brands feel the need to partner with an established audio company. Naim, a name you probably haven't heard if you aren't a hard-core audiophile, is a British manufacturer of very high-end handmade stereo equipment. Bentley's press release claims this system is the "world's best", but we would like to be the judge of that. All we need is for Bentley to send us a car.

To design the systems, Naim … Read more