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Jay Leno explains why the 2002 Pontiac Firebird is an overlooked gem

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2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 on Jay Leno's Garage

Several names from the 1960s’ golden age of muscle cars have been revived in recent years, but one is likely never coming back—the Pontiac Firebird. This episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” features one of the last Firebirds, a 2002 Trans Am WS6.

The Firebird was launched in 1967 as a twin to Chevrolet Camaro, sharing General Motors’ F-Body platform. By the dawn of the 21st century, both the Camaro and Firebird had gone through four generations and were about to be phased out. While the Camaro was revived for the 2010 model year (and remains in production today), 2002 was the last year for the Firebird. The Pontiac brand followed it into oblivion a few years later.

While the styling was thoroughly modern (for the period, at least), Pontiac relied heavily on nostalgia. The Trans Am had been the top performance variant of the Firebird since its introduction in 1969. Pontiac no longer offered the iconic “Screaming Chicken” hood decal, substituting bulging ram air hood scoops. The WS6 package was also a callback, having first appeared in 1979.

2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 on Jay Leno’s Garage

In 2002, the Trans Am WS6 was powered by a 5.7-liter LS1 V-8, which made 325 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It was available with a 6-speed manual transmission, and the WS6 package added suspension upgrades and slightly more horsepower and torque than the base Trans Am. Leno’s car is a coupe with a T-Top, but you could also get a Trans Am convertible in the car’s final year.

Leno got his Trans Am as payment for driving the pace car at the 2002 Daytona 500. That car was—you guessed it—a Trans Am, but with a louder yellow exterior. Leno said he specifically asked for the more toned-down dark blue color.

Watch the full video for more on the Firebird’s swan song, and see why Leno thinks the final Firebird was “the best one they ever built.”

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2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring brings the go without the show

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2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

The stealthy Porsche 911 GT3 is getting less in search of more.

On Tuesday Porsche revealed the 2022 911 GT3 Touring with two transmission options and a less flashy design that will cost $162,450 when it arrives in U.S. dealers in the spring of 2022.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

Spotting a 911 GT3 with the Touring Package won’t be hard. The 911 GT3’s bodywork, including the vented hood, front bumpers with gaping intakes, and center-mounted dual exhaust all remain. The stark differences are the lack of massive rear wing, which has been replaced with an automatically extending rear spoiler, and a front bumper painted in body color. It’s the undercover GT3.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

Inside the Touring Package gives the GT3 interior a slightly more luxurious look and feel with extended leather upholstery. The door panels and front of the dashboard feature special surface embossing that standard GT3 lacks.

A subtle GT3 Touring logo located on the rear deck lid, and silver window trim and exhaust tips will distinguish Touring Package cars. For those who don’t want the flashy silver, a satin black finish will be optional.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

As with most Porsche models, the GT3 with the Touring Package will be open to a level of personalization. The interior can be optioned with contrasting leather colors and Porsche will offer a full range of paint colors.

Nearly all of the GT3’s options, including exterior wheel and paint colors, dynamic LED headlights, active safety tech, carbon ceramic brakes, front axle lift system, seats, Sport Chrono package, and Bose sound system will be available on the GT3 with the Touring Package.

What hasn’t changed is the powertrain. The standard GT3’s naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-6 pumps out 502 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The best part is the 9,000-rpm redline. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will be standard while a 6-speed manual transmission will be a no-cost option (except in California where noise regulations prohibit this transmission option in the GT3 Touring). The standard GT3’s staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels and tires carry over.

Porsche didn’t release performance specifications, but expect a similar 0-60 mph sprint of 3.2 seconds with the PDK as the standard GT3 (that climbs to 3.7 seconds with the manual transmission).

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Audi E-Tron GT comes with three years of free fast charging

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2022 Audi E-Tron GT

The 2022 Audi E-Tron GT will come with three years of free DC fast charging on the Electrify America network, Audi announced Tuesday in a press release. The automaker will also offer a “white glove” service for home-charger installation.

Funded by Audi parent Volkswagen Group as part of its diesel-emissions cheating settlement, Electrify America is growing into the largest public fast-charging network outside Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger network. Electrify America plans to have about 800 locations in operation by the end of the year, Audi noted. Tesla operates more than 1,000 Superchargers in the U.S. 

The E-Tron GT is capable of fast charging at up to 270 kilowatts, allowing it to recover approximately 180 miles of range in 22 minutes, Audi claims. However, most fast-charging stations can’t charge a car at 270 kw, so for now E-Tron GT owners won’t be using full charging power in most cases.

As with the E-Tron SUV, Audi will also coordinate installation of an AC home charging connection for owners. For the E-Tron GT, it’s partnering with Qmerit, the same company General Motors tapped to offer similar services to Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV owners.

2022 Audi E-Tron GT

Customers can have Qmerit install a 240-volt NEMA 14-50 outlet for use with the 9.6-kw charge cord that comes standard with the vehicle. That cord includes connectors for a standard 120-volt household outlet (known as Level 1 charging) or the 240-volt outlet (Level 2), but only the latter will likely charge an E-Tron GT in a reasonable amount of time.

Alternatively, E-Tron GT owners can buy an Electrify America HomeStation charging station, with the same 9.6 kw of power, but added features like wi-fi connectivity, which allows owners to monitor charging via a smartphone app.

Audi will offer the E-Tron GT in two configurations. The standard version has 469 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque (522 hp and 472 lb-ft with temporary overboost using launch control); it can do 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and has a maximum 238-mile range. The RS E-Tron GT performance model ups output to 590 hp (637 hp with overboost) and 612 lb-ft of torque. Audi quotes 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds, and a maximum 232-mile range.

Pricing starts at $99,900 for the E-Tron GT and $139,900 for the RS E-Tron GT (excluding the inevitable destination charge). Both are expected to reach dealerships this summer.

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2021 Audi RS 6 Avant blends massive performance and mass appeal

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2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

As a formerly shy child myself, I do not hold it against my neighbor’s daughter that she hadn’t spoken any words to me in the five years we’ve lived in the same building. She’ll usually sort of hide behind her mom as we exchange pleasantries, then give a little wave on the way out.

Until last week that is. I was behind the wheel of the 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant and we passed each other as I pulled into the shared garage underneath our building. The two sets of windows on their Subaru Outback rolled down simultaneously. Her mom went first, saying “that thing is…” before trailing off with a nod. Then the child leaned forward out of her booster seat, gave me a thumbs up and said “great car.”

She ain’t lying.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The wagon’s throaty exhaust note and handsome looks were a worthy wrecking ball to bring down the wall of silence between us. Apparently, the RS 6 Avant isn’t just an enthusiast’s dream, it speaks to all ages. It’s a special car, a part of a dying breed of performance vehicles draped in V-8 excess that make no apologies for their poor fuel economy. The RS 6 gets 17 combined mpg—worse if you let it off the leash frequently, as I did.

Settling into the RS 6 Avant feels familiar. I tested the 2021 RS 7 earlier this year, and the two cars are twins that differ in appearance. The DNA is the same; the powertrain, suspension, and interior hold constant, just with a slightly different body on top. The RS 6 Avant is 0.5 inch shorter in overall length, but 2.5 inches taller in height, and a mere 22 lb heavier with a curb weight of 4,960 lb. Audi did not provide a direct measurement of the RS 6 Avant’s cargo room, but said it should be spot on with what you get in the A6 allroad. If that’s that case it also has a bit more cargo room than the RS 7, at 30.0 cubic feet vs. 24.6 cubic feet.

As you might expect, the two feel nearly the same behind the wheel. I spent much of my week with the car trying to figure out exactly where the differences lie, testing them on identical roads and with identical cargo (both easily swallow a pair of golf club bags). But rather than finding a difference in the vehicles, I found more of a difference in myself. I enjoyed Audi’s RS formula more the second go round.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The RS 6 Avant’s best attribute is still its engine, a fire-breathing twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque in the RS 6 (matching the output of the RS 7). That’s enough power to get the RS 6 Avant from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 190 mph (without my test vehicle’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes it’s limited to a measly 155 mph).

It still doesn’t feel quite as snappy off-the-line as I’d like, there’s a hint of hesitation when you slam the throttle. But once it gets out of first gear, the wagon pulls and keeps pulling well past 80 mph. The RS 6 Avant doesn’t really squat down on its rear wheels under acceleration, even hard acceleration, so it feels like you’re not moving all that fast since the whole process happens with such little drama. But a quick glance at the head-up display shows the numbers flying by and the RS 6 Avant’s soundtrack of low rumbles and burbles quickly rises up to match.

After I drove the RS 7, I wrote “as prodigious as the RS 7’s power output is, its handling isn’t in the same league. It’s not sloppy, it’s just heavy.” I still think this is true; the power is the star here. But what I came to appreciate more was the RS 6 Avant’s superb balance, despite its heft.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The RS button on the steering wheel toggles between RS1 and RS2 drive modes that can be customized through the center screen. I turned the stability control to “Sport” for RS2, which lets the car get a little loose before the nannies kick in, which, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to safely test on public roads. There’s so much grip, that to get the RS 6 Avant to step out would require some real carelessness, and I wasn’t about to engage in that type of driving on the Angeles National Forest’s mountain roads, where mistakes can mean disaster.

That balance inspires confidence. I took each winding corner with a bit more vigor, and the RS 6 Avant’s exhaust snorted appealingly as I rolled back onto the gas at each apex. With all that weight, the tires do begin to protest if you carry too much speed and the RS 6 Avant tends to understeer.

Learning this tendency helped me find the best way to drive the RS 6 Avant: get the braking done early, take a late apex to give yourself more run out, and get on the power as soon as possible. The wagon shines most here. The AWD system is so adept at moving power to the right spot at the right moment that you can get on the gas earlier than you think. You can’t drive this way In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle or you’ll send it spinning. But here, it’s practically point-and-squeeze on corner exits. With all that raw power, it’s an extremely satisfying sensation.

The steering could be better. It’s very accurate, but it doesn’t offer the amount of feedback and responsiveness I’d like midcorner. However, this car is so balanced that even with that bit of vagueness, it still feels rather planted and stable. I’d also like a more-aggressive transmission setting that would hold gears longer, though this can be accomplished with the paddles shifters. The transmission’s shift logic feels a hair behind Porsche’s PDK and the BMW 8-speed automatic, but those two set the bar exceedingly high.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

When you’re not driving the RS 6 Avant hard, it’s still plenty good. The softer suspension settings give it a compliant ride around town. The interior offers top-grade luxury, with four extremely comfortable seats (don’t sleep on the rear buckets) and that wagon-sized cargo area that swallows up cargo with ease. Drivers are well advised to carry a microfiber cloth to wipe down the multimedia and climate control screens. Those sleek surfaces are a crime-scene investigator’s dream, holding any and all fingerprints for a long time.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

This level of luxury and performance carries with it a matching price tag. The RS 6 Avant starts at $110,045 (including destination), undercutting the RS 7 by $5,000. My test vehicle added the options, the highlights of which were the excellent carbon-ceramic brakes ($9,000), a carbon-fiber package ($6,350) that also includes 22-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero summer tires, and a sport exhaust ($1,000). Interestingly, adaptive cruise control and active lane control are not standard and they have to be added in as part of a $2,250 safety package. All in, my test vehicle cost a cool $131,645, which puts it in direct confrontation with the BMW M5, though it is slightly cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 4-Door Coupe.

Picking between the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 is impossible in some regards, given their similarities and nearly identical nature. If I had to pick one, I’d take the RS 6 Avant because I enjoy its brutish, yet classy style just a bit more—like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a tuxedo. Still, I’d be just as happy in an RS 7.

Though the sun may be setting on V-8 powered performance cars, the forthcoming performance variant of the RS 6 Avant will act as a bridge to the future. It will add a plug-in hybrid system to the car, similar to the one in the Porsche Panamera if rumors are to be believed. That system will enhance both performance and efficiency, and hopefully add some of that off-the-line burst that the car needs to feel more lively. I can’t wait to show my neighbors.

Audi provided a loaner RS 6 Avant for Motor Authority to bring you this first-hand report

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