DRIVE!: Now we’re cookin’!

Fiery under the hood and on the road, these sporty rides know how to burn rubber

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

I love Hell’s Kitchen: Watching Gordon Ramsey make snarky remarks as he collects aprons at the end of each culinary challenge brings joy to my sarcastic self — I like it when they cry. I also imagine the displaced wannabe tearing out of the parking lot in a fog of burning rubber.

But being accomplished chefs, they would probably choose some refined conveyance — like one of these.

Dodge Charger SRT8. Dodge conjured its magic from a chassis donated by a two-generations-old Mercedes E-Class. However, those leftovers are like Emeril Lagasse sending home his signature dish in sealed china. You won’t complain. The re-designed sedan’s heathen-eating high-gloss black grille, hood with functional black air exhauster, slammed roofline, 164 LEDs in the taillamps, and 4-in. round dual exhaust tips are but an appetizer.

A performance driver’s favorite table includes a heated flat bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, aluminum trim, aggressive seat bolstering, heated/cooled front buckets and heated rear seats. Hands-free texting comes with compatible Bluetooth devices while safety is enhanced by Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Rear Cross Path detection. The 19-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system cranks 900 watts.

Spicy heat comes from under the hood. A 470hp 6.4-liter HEMI V8 chucks the car from 0-60mph in the “high 4-second range” and delivers 23-MPG hwy thanks to cylinder deactivation during cruise and other technologies. A two-mode adaptive suspension system monitors driver inputs to automatically optimize performance. For a little coaching, owners receive one day of instruction from the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Prices start just under $47,000.


SEEING RED  |  You can have devilish fun with the high-powered sex appeal of the Mercedes AMG Coupe, top, or the muscle-car testosterone of the Dodge Charger, above. (Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz and Dodge)

SEEING RED | You can have devilish fun with the high-powered sex appeal of the Mercedes AMG Coupe, top, or the muscle-car testosterone of the Dodge Charger, above. (Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz and Dodge)

Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series Coupe. Let’s just start by saying Ramsey is the only chef in Hell’s Kitchen that will be in the market for this car. It’s all that and a perfectly-seared scallop, but comes with a sticker that puts the fear of Gordon in most shoppers.

The C63 AMG Black Series takes the steamy new C-Class Coupe and turns it into a heinously-aggressive street car. Aerodynamic enhancements, adjustable carbon fiber rear spoiler, winglets and an aluminum hood are not just for show. Nor, are the 2.2-inch wider front fenders, 3.3-in wider rear fenders, or 19-in. wheels. The air vents in front of rear wheels and large 6.3 badges add frivolous flash. There’s no rear seat, but Microfiber is everywhere.

As the most powerful C-Class of all time, the car runs with a 510hp 6.3-liter V8 engine connected to Mercedes’ SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports gearbox with four shifting modes, rev-matching function and stellar reaction times. One only needs 4.2s to move from naught to 60. Electronic stability modes and the sports suspension can be adjusted for more spirited shenanigans on a proper track. The C63 AMG starts just over $64,000.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens


“Top Chef’ comes (finally) to Texas … but you’ll have to wait to see Big D


REMEMBER THE A AL MODE | Simmons, Lakshmi and Colicchio feed a mega-sized ‘Top Chef: Texas.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

It’s been apparent to devoted viewers of Top Chef over the years that Texans know how to cook — especially those from Dallas. Right now, former all-stars Tiffany Derry, Tre Wilcox and Casey Thompson all have busy restaurants across the Metroplex, and other Lone Star competitors have made a mark. So it was with a collective “It’s about time!” when we learned Season 9 would be set in Texas.

But aside from being in Texas, there are few chefs from Texas in Top Chef: Texas, premiering Nov. 2. That means just as much attitude, but fewer bragging rights.

Well, almost.

“It’s Texas; they made it bigger,” one of the cheftestants says, amazed when 29 competitors arrive at The Alamo in episode 1. Of course, just because it starts off big doesn’t mean it will stay that way; in the Texas-sized two-part premiere, 14 chefs get eliminated on the way to a lean 15 cooks.

That’s a lot of personalities to juggle in a short time, and with so many chefs, you get few pings with the gaydar to pick out family, but the (few) gays stand out. Janine, despite her early pronoun-neutral coyness, is a fun chef with a good story, while Ty-Lor’s otterish prissiness gives a dash of fabulousness to the proceeding.

The first chef to make an impression, though, is Tyler, who stakes a claim as an early asshole; fortunately, we don’t need to spend much time with him. Some of the others show promise, but do they withstand the buds of Tom Colicchio, Padme Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and new judges Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Atcheson (neither of whom added much to the premiere)? Well, that’s the fun.

If you already like the show, the Texas setting is a plus, and if you don’t … well, shots of the Riverwalk probably won’t change your mind, or make you wanna see it anymore than the slew of other Texas-set reality series littering the airwaves. But it just might.

In addition to Ty-Lor, Chuy Valencia was on my radar as a talented cutie to watch, but for now, we’re confined to the kitchens of San Antonio. The show hits Austin, too, before ending the season in Dallas, so if you’re looking for local landmarks, you’ll have to wait ‘til after Thanksgiving.
Seems like a good idea. We’ll be thinking more about food by then.

Premieres Wednesday on Bravo at 9 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas