This is not a paid review. I did not receive any compensation for telling this story.
Like most automotive journalists, I drive a press vehicle as my daily driver. It is awesome driving the latest and greatest, including vehicles ranging from family wagons to super cars. But being a car guy and a track day enthusiast, I have to own at least one car.
A little over 5 years ago I purchased an out of state 2001 Porsche Boxster S with 20,000 miles on the odometer and detailed service records from the previous owner’s local Porsche dealer. Having drank the manufacturer cool-aid, I thought the dealer was the best way to go. So for five years, my baby went to the dealer for regular oil changes, brake flushes, and minor wear and tear item repairs. I knew that I was likely paying more, but I was also getting the free lattes and cookies, a Porsche loaner vehicle, and the piece of mind that the mechanic working on my car should be a Porsche expert… but the later is not always the case.
A month before the annual Porsche Parade (The Porsche Club of America’s National Convention), I noticed a consistent harsh noise every time I made a high speed tight left turn while applying the throttle. This noise was especially troublesome because I was planning to enter my Boxster into the club’s autocross race during Porsche Parade. So I dropped my baby off at the local Porsche dealer in South Florida to be diagnosed and they gave me a shiny new Macan to drive. A week later the dealership’s Service Advisor called me up and said that my issue was related to suspension components. $2,000 later my vehicle was fixed and ready to be picked up. Assuming that my Porsche was in tip top shape, I drove leisurely on the way home and my car sat in the garage for a couple weeks.
Fast forward to Porsche Parade week… it was finally time to test my skills in the autocross competition at Palm Beach International Raceway. Every left turn, my stomach twisted as my car screeched a harsh noise. I instantly knew the problem was NOT fixed. Luckily the Porsche community is an amazing group of individuals, and one of my friends at Parade recommended a local independent mechanic who is experienced with working on first generation Boxsters. I was hesitant to make the jump, but I was disappointed that my local dealer, who should know everything about my car, didn’t fix the problem the first time – especially after having my car for over a week.
The following Monday I visited Foreign Affairs Motorsport and met with Bobby, the owner’s son. You could immediately tell that they are true gear heads, with automotive memorabilia and motorsports trophies on nearly every wall of the front office. Their passion is Porsche, but other European brands were also in their shop: a Lamborghini, a Bentley, and several BMWs. I told Bobby what my Porsche’s symptoms were and the history of the problem. To my pleasant surprise, he asked me to take him for a ride in order to reproduce the noise – the dealer never offered this. We drove the vehicle around the block and Bobby almost immediately had an idea of what was causing the problem – it wasn’t a suspension noise. He then put my car on the rack and conferred with his head mechanic. Two years ago, a Porsche 911 Turbo was experiencing the same problem on the race track. The culprit was that the transmission mounts went bad on one side. How could the dealer have missed that? Bobby brought me into the shop and showed me how with his hands he could giggle the section back and forth. The root of my problem was a $1,000 transmission mount issue versus a $2,000 suspension problem.
During his team’s inspection of my vehicle, the mechanic also noticed that my water pump was leaking and that I had a small oil leak. Without asking, Bobby personally showed me the leaks. My local Porsche dealer never let me into the active shop. While both problems were minor, both could lead to catastrophic engine problems in the future. How could my local dealer have missed this too??? I guess they were too focused on selling me a new Porsche.
After this experience, Foreign Affair Motorsport has my business for life. With that being said, there are two instances where I wouldn’t use them: 1) If I am driving a new car where the parts and labor are covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. 2) If I am driving a vehicle that they don’t service. I.E. American and Japanese cars.
Tips for picking an independent mechanic:
- Check the shop’s references. Do you have a family member or a friend who has had good experiences with the shop? If not, check the shop’s Yelp reviews.
- Go to a shop that specializes in your type of vehicle. Do they have similar vehicles on the racks or parked outside? Don’t just look at their website, a mechanic who is use to working on your vehicle will be able to troubleshoot the root of the problem quicker.
- Pick a shop that wants to educate you. Does the mechanic show you the bad part? Does the mechanic offer preventive maintenance advice in order to prevent major problems in the future.
The 2020 BMW X3 versus 2000 BMW X5
I will admit from the start, it has been a while since I have driven a BMW X3. I haven’t seen one in the press fleet down here in Florida in a long time. However, I was recently in Michigan for a week to escape the Florida summer heat and get some seat time in the X3… aka the baby X5.
The third generation feels much more substantial than previous generations. This time around the X3 felt more like the original X5, in terms of size, performance, and creature comforts…
Size & Weight
The 2000 BMW X5 weighed in at 4,800 pounds, and was 184″ long and 74″ wide. It was a trend setter in the SUV arena, because it was one of the first performance oriented SUVs – it could actually hug corners. In comparison, the 2020 BMW X3 weighs in at 3,900 pounds, and it is 2 inches larger and 1/2 an inch wider than the 1st generation X5. The increased size translates into a similar cabin space for occupants and more cargo room. The X3’s weight savings despite its proportion is thank to 20 years of BMW R&D into aluminum and other modern materials.
Performance & Driving Experience
Although the latest generation X3 is bigger than the first generation X5, the base X3 engine is less than 1/2 the size of the top-of-the-line X5 of the era. The original BMW X5 optionally packed a 4.4L V8 producing 282 horsepower and 324 torque. Where as the 2020 BMW X3 comes standard with a 2L twin-turbo inline 4-cylinder that pumps out 248 horsepower and 258 torque. The 2020 X3 doesn’t have a mighty V8, but it accelerates blistering fast in comparison due to the X3’s 8-speed automatic gearbox and weight savings: X3 0-60mph in 6.0 seconds, versus X5 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds. In terms of hugging corners though Click Here To Continue Reading
In 1970, the original Datsun (aka Nissan) 240Z quickly became a halo car for all Japanese manufactures. It proved that Japan wasn’t just a country for small economy cars; that they could make vehicles worthy to compete with best in-class sports cars from American and European automotive manufactures… The only way to beat them at their own game was to dominate them on the race track. My Father wasn’t the legendary John Morton or Bob Sharp, but he did race his 1970 Datsun 240Z with SCCA and won the 1973 Mid-Am Championships. I remember hearing stories from my Father, reminiscing about how he would easily win road course races against Corvettes and Porsches despite having less horsepower. The small and agile 240Z was able to outmatch the competition due to hits handling characteristics and comparatively modern overhead cam engine plus disc brakes. The 240Z’s race wins by Z drivers throughout the country made the car famous, but the engaging driving experience is what made cult following for Z cars. Click Here To Continue Reading
The 2020 Corvette is ushering in a new generation for America’s sports car. The C8’s mid-engine design means better handling around corners and improved grip off the line. The Corvette will finally and truly be able to keep up with the best from Porsche and Ferrari thanks to its new architecture.
Those in favor of the latest and greatest will love the mid-engine C8, but let’s not forget the C7. It represents the pinnacle of front-engine sports cars with a 60+ year heritage. And since this is the last generation of front engine cars using the Corvette name plate, it will surely become a collectible.
Upon first approach, the long sweeping hood paired with hood scoops and side scoops scream race car. They are a visual tease to the 6.2L naturally aspirated V8 lying under the long hood, just behind the front axel. The pushrod engine pumps out 460 horsepower and 465 pounds-of-torque, which can be paired with either an 8-speed automatic or 7-speed manual transmission. This will be your last chance to get a new Corvette with a manual transmission, so get it while you still can. Dual clutch transmissions, like on the 2020 C8 Corvette produce better lap times due to quicker shifts and reduced power loss, but they lack the emotion connection of manually sliding through the gears one by one. Click Here To Continue Reading
Both of these vehicles are the baby of the family. With the Porsche Macan being the little brother to the Cayenne, and the Range Rover Evoque being the little brother to the Range Rover Sport (plus Velar and the full-size Range Rover). I recently deemed that a showdown of Macan versus Evoque was in order since both of the vehicles are in the same compact sporty crossover segment.
While neither the Macan nor the Evoque are true sports cars, both vehicles are designed to outpace sports cars of yesteryear.
The Porsche Macan with its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and 248 horsepower inline 4-cylinder has been known to ring in quicker lap times than Porsche sports cars from the 1980s. I found the Macan to be well balanced and extremely nimble for a crossover. The steering was also very precise, especially for turn-ins on a tight course.
The Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic tackles performance with brute force in comparison. The nearly 300 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder presses your head back when you smash the gas pedal. Not rocket ship fast, but it is noticeably more cinematic than the Macan thanks to over 20 pounds of additional torque. Around corners, the Evoque didn’t feel as precise as the Macan and I seemingly experienced more body roll. Click Here To Continue Reading
The GLI for Volkswagen in many regards is the equivalent of the M3 for BMW. While the performance benchmarks are not quite the same, the spirit of taking the brand’s highest volume vehicle and making it thrilling to drive is all the same. In this case the GLI takes VW popular compact sedan, the Jetta, and turns the cool factor up to 10 for its 35th Anniversary.
Notable differences on the VW Jetta GLI 35th Anniversary Edition exterior are a striking blackout grill and 20″ wheels with a red accent piece. You will also quickly discover a seductive black rear spoiler, black painted roof, and mirrors. You also get red painted brake calibers to complete the look.
Inside the GLI I tested you will find a stylish new interior design language complete with red stitching and a flat bottom steering wheel to give the GLI an extra edge over previous generations.
The 35th Anniversary Edition of the Jetta GLI isn’t just all flash. Enthusiastic drivers will enjoy an upgraded 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces a respectable (for the type of car and price point) 228 horsepower. The GLI is unfortunately front-Wheel-drive only, however it does come standard with a limited slip differential.
The price as equipped was under $28,000, which seems like a bargain for such a cool looking car.
In read world situations, I found the car quite pleasurable to own (for a week). Multiple people took notice of the car. This includes the valet at the Ritz-Carlton, who gave me two thumbs up and asked inquisitively about GLI. He found the 35th Anniversary livery a rare site. I also found the vehicle to be surprisingly comfortable on long distance drives. The Jetta GLI has great visibility and felt very stable at highway speeds.
Now the question is… where do I sign as the 35th Anniversary Edition surely won’t be here long.
While most new (and used) car buyers are content with driving their beautifully equipped factory spec vehicle, there is a rare breed of automotive enthusiasts who love to personalize their car. Myself included. These individuals span from those who like to make minor upgrades that almost seem factory like, to individuals who fully trick out their vehicles so the model is barely recognizable.
The king of aftermarket parts and accessories (at least in the FCA world) is Mopar. Their heritage dates back to the 1930s; this makes them one of the oldest automotive accessories companies in the world. While the parts sold for Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge vehicles are technically OEM, Mopar offers enhancements with the enthusiasm of an aftermarket performance company. Essentially taking great vehicles and helping their customers turn the volume up to 100. The kicker is that because these are OEM parts, I was told that it does not void your vehicles original bumper to bumper warranty. So if you drive a late model FCA vehicle, it is really the only way to go.
To showcase how extreme Mopar can go, on rare occasions they will team up with their brother and sister companies to make a truly unique creation – a Halo Car if you will. That is the case with the vehicle I am reviewing today, dubbed the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Mopar Edition.
The two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon was already the best off road vehicle you can buy. It comes from the factory with heavy duty front and rear axles for rock crawling, front and rear locking differentials for mudding, a two-speed transfer case (high and low gear ranges), and 33 inch tires with thick treads. It also seemingly more rugged than its base model siblings. By the way, the latest Jeep Wrangler, the JL series, is also the best Wrangler to drive on the street. The ride quality is better and it feels more stable at high speeds. Click Here To Continue Reading
For the past 9 years, the Southern Automotive Media Association has hosted an event called Topless in Miami. It is an annual gathering of its members to determine what are the best convertibles on the market. The definition of a “convertible” has obviously changed over the years with the introduction of hardtop convertibles and “convertible like” vehicles such as panoramic vehicles, which are becoming more and more popular. However the spirit of the event holds true now more than ever… soaking up the sunshine is the best way to enjoy the streets of South Florida.
Here are this year’s winners and why I think they deserve the title:
Convertible Of The Year: Mercedes AMG GT C Roadster
This Roadster deserves a home run with classic Roadster styling, a knockout exhaust and racing inspired interior. It not only looks and sounds fast, but it rockets from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds thanks to 550 horsepower bi-Turbo V8 engine.
This vehicle also won the luxury convertible of the year award. Click Here To Continue Reading
I was sitting in the barbershop last week when my barber asked me: I am thinking about getting a new SUV. What do you think I should get, a Kia or a Honda? My response: Get a Nissan Rouge Sport, Anthony.
This wasn’t the answer he was looking for, but it is the correct answer in my opinion. See my barber, like many Americans leases his vehicle. So Kia’s incredible 100k mike warranty and Honda’s amazing reputation for reliability doesn’t offer any real benefit.
The 2019 Nissan Rouge Sport on the other hand, is a better value and an arguably a more fun vehicle to drive than the Kia Sportage or Honda CR-V. Plus the 2019 Rouge Sport offers three big improvements over the previous model year:
Starting with Nissan’s “Safety Shield 360” technologies which combine front automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and rear automatic braking with rear cross traffic alert. The system mitigates the likelihood of you running into someone, whether they are in front of you, to the side of you, or behind you. Anthony has a young daughter, so safety is paramount.
For those long trips to Disney World, the SL trim level (which includes leather seats) on the 2019 Rouge Sport comes standard now with ProPilot Assist, which allows the car to nearly drive itself on the highway. You can’t take your hands off of the wheel or take a nap, but sensors will keep the car centered in your lane and at the appropriate speed for cruising. Should the car in front of you slowdown, the Rouge Sport will also slow down. Click Here To Continue Reading
There are places in the world, like here in sunny South Florida, where there is an abundance of luxury vehicles. I am not talking a Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5 Series, I am referring to streets littered with Porsche 911 Turbos, Ranger Rover SVRs, and Bentley Continentals. You will also see quite a few Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini sports cars on the main boulevard every Friday and Saturday night. So how does one stand out from the crowd? The answer is simple…. Buy a Rolls-Royce.
I have driven and tested over a dozen Roll-Royce vehicles in the past ten years – each one unique to its future owner. That is because over 80% are commissioned bespoke vehicles. In some cases, like the Phantom, every vehicle off the line is Bespoke. IE a one-of-a-kind handcrafted piece of art. Some included rare woods, artisan stitching, and distinctive leathers, like Ostrich. While others featured unusual color schemes. And because 95% of these vehicles are one-offs, it’s driver and passengers are never keeping up with the Joneses… they are the Joneses.
The Rolls-Royce I most recently tested was the Dawn. It came in a magnificent shade of blue, with matching blue center caps on the wheels and a blue top. The white pinstripes and chrome accented the vehicle to give it (in my opinion) a nautical look.
I have made trips to the grocery store in a number of exotic cars, however none of them garnered as much attention as this Rolls-Royce Dawn. I drove the Dawn everyday during my one-week test, and everyday someone took a photo of the car or asked me about the car. I felt like a celebrity as my wife and I drove the Dawn to museum. When going to dinner in the Dawn, a parking attendant gave us a VIP spot in front of the restaurant and we seemingly got a table right away even though the restaurant was packed… it is better than having a Centurion Card (aka AMEX Black Card).
Driving a Rolls-Royce isn’t all about showing off. Even on a desolate road, the experience is like no other. The steering wheel delicately glides like butter as you navigate the vehicle along twists and turns. Bumps in the road are almost nonexistent. And the attention to detail of the stitched seats and hand carved wood on the dash reminds you to take pride in the fact that you are behind the wheel of “the best motor car” that money can buy.
Even though this 5,600 pound palace is designed to take away all of life’s troubles, you can still have a little fun with it. Under the bonnet (hood) is 6.6L twin turbo V12 with 563 horsepower. It is paired with a GPS guided transmission to make sure you are always in the proper gear. IE a lower gear if you are approaching a turn for optimal power. This dangerously smooth motor and gearbox propels you from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. If you are not careful, in the blink of an eye you can be doing well over the speed limit. These kind of benchmarks can be expected across the entire Rolls-Royce line up.
So for the person who has the means to buy all that he desires, the personalization of a Rolls-Royce will allow your individuality to live on for generations. It is uniquely yours from start.
Contact your local Rolls-Royce dealer or visit Rolls-RoyceMotorCars.com for more information.