Bavarian Motor Works’ sportiest sedan series dates back to 1975, with the BMW 3-series. Back then you were limited to a carbureted inline 4-cylinder motor producing 74 horsepower or an inline 6-cylinder producing 141 horsepower. They were not rocket ships, even for 70’s standards, but fans quickly adored the 3-series’ suburb weight distribution and excellent handling.
Today’s BMW range varies between a 180 horsepower turbocharged inline 4-cylinder (320i) and up to a 425 horsepower inline 6-cylinder (M3). You can’t go wrong across the line up though, because they all have near perfect 50/50 weight distribution for improved handling. This paired with a sporty design will turn a boring commute into an exhilarating adventure; one where you must ace every apex on your way to the office.
The vehicle I get to test this week is the 330e. It is the plug-in hybrid version of the pack. Don’t let the term plug-in hybrid fool you though. In terms of power, it sits in the middle of the range with 248 horsepower and 310 pounds of torque. Because BMW paired their 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion powered electric motor, you get instant torque. Versus a traditional gasoline engine which achieves peak torque at high RPM. From a stoplight, this combination makes the car feel much quicker than a gasoline only engine. Continue Reading →
New for 2019, Subaru has given us a vehicle that seats the whole family. The Subaru Ascent is the brand’s first three-row SUV. It is a logical next step for the company as American’s are clamoring towards larger vehicles. Subaru’s line up now offers a something for every stage of your life: A Subaru BRZ or Impreza for when you are in your 20s. A Legacy or Crosstrek for your 30s. A Forester for when you have your first kid. The Subaru Ascent for when your family gets bigger. The Subaru WRX STI for when you and your wife become empty nesters. And then the Subaru Outback for when grandkids come into the picture. Continue Reading →
When I received an invitation from Chevy to travel to Wyoming and test the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado last week, I was excited for more than one reason. I knew that there was going to be a new and improved truck along with amazing scenery, but I didn’t realize that Chevy would actually let us put the vehicle through its paces in the real world. We got to test the various trim levels of the Chevrolet Silverado off-road, on the highway, in the city, towing things, and on the job site. It is essentially the same the truck, but different personalities.
The LT Trail Boss trim level on the Chevrolet Silverado was designed for customers who consider themselves off-road adventurers. New for 2019, it comes from the factory with a 2-inch suspension lift in order to give you more ground clearance. It also comes with a locking rear differential and skid plates should you decide to go rock crawling. To help out with the mud, 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires comes standard. During my real-world tests, the truck offered a high-level of driver confidence while venturing on rocky trails with steep elevation. The Trail Boss comes with a high and low speed transfer case standard, but the 5.3L V8 motor with an eight-speed automatic transmission (LT Trail Boss) delivered so much torque at low RPMs that the low range gears were not necessary. I will admit, I was a little nervous driving the Chevrolet Silverado off-road because I didn’t want to break this beautiful truck. But after seeing a Chevrolet engineer jump a Trail Boss with no damage, I can attest that the Silverado truly is “built like a rock.”
The LTZ and High Country trim levels were designed for owners who want the capability of a truck, but the driving dynamics and comfort of a premium sedan. Most of my testing with these two trucks were on the highway or around town. The High Country is the nicest of the two vehicles with the most standard features, as well as, a few exclusive features. But both trim levels deliver a polished exterior look; one that would make you proud to drive it to a fancy dinner party or equally suited to arrive at an executive board meeting. The interior of these two vehicles are dressed in leather – standard. Faux wood trim was tastefully placed throughout the cabin of High Country Silverado that I tested. Just by looking at it, you wouldn’t think that it was fake, but I would like to have seen real wood trim on a truck that costs $65,000 to buy. The driving dynamics of the LTZ and the High Country are significantly improved over the previous generation and the ride is noticeably smoother over the lower tier trim levels. Both vehicles drove more like a luxury sedan than a truck. They felt well planted at highway speeds with no vibrations and road noise was minimized. I credit the Silverado’s latest suspension tuning, dramatically improved aerodynamics (the drag coefficient was reduced by 6), and the use of advanced construction materials to lower the truck’s weight (by 450 pounds) as the main contributor. The LTZ and the High Country come standard with a 5.3L V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission, but the crème de la crème is the 6.2L V8 with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It is a modified version of the same engine that powers the Corvette. It also gives you up to 12,200 pounds of towing capacity. If you are going to haul a trailer, I strongly recommend checking the “Surround Vision” option on the order form. Multiple cameras are placed around the vehicle in order to make hitching a trailer and maneuvering easier.
The “Work Truck” trim level is your bare bones option for the job site. While there are no thrills with this Silverado model, it is a great value – priced at around $30,000. It offers up to 63 cubic feet of cargo volume in the bed, which is reportedly 20% more than the competition. Additionally, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado model uses a higher-grade steel for the truck bed in order to increase durability by 47%. There is also 12 fixed tie-downs in the bed to secure what you are hauling – this up from 8 tie-downs on the 2018 model. If you are working with power tools on the job site, a 120-volt power outlet and storage bins are handy options.
I was told that truck buyers are very loyal customers and often never switch brands – I can respect that. So, for current Chevrolet owners, the 2019 model is a worthy upgrade over the 2018 model. The truck delivers more in every way. For new truck buyers, my advice is to ask your friends why they love their trucks. Then take a test drive in the all-new 2019 Chevy Silverado.
This is not a statement to be taken lightly: The 2019 Jaguar E Pace R-Dynamic is the best compact performance SUV (or crossover) on the market. And using the next few paragraphs, I am going to tell you why…
Performance – Let’s face it, no one is going to (regularly) take their performance SUV or CUV on the race track. Most of the time it will be spent in rush hour traffic or if you are lucky, on mountain roads. So, performance specs are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. If they did, this article would be about the Porsche Macan Turbo with 400 horsepower. The Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic only has 296 horsepower in comparison, but it comes in a smaller and lighter package. This makes the car feel much nimbler and infinitely more fun to drive. The Jaguar’s steering is feels extremely precise and delivers excellent throttle response when in dynamic mode. Dynamic mode also allows the vehicle’s differential to deliver 100% of the power to the rear wheels and then gradually shift power to the front should the computer detect any slippage. The 2019 Jaguar E-Pace has an old-fashioned automatic transmission (the Porsche Macan has a dual-clutch), but the E-Pace has 9 gears to deliver optimum power.
Luxury – Every touchpoint in the Jaguar E-Pace feels ultra-premium. This is especially noticed in the cabin, where high-quality aluminum, leather and plastic materials are used. Jaguar paid close attention to details, to ensure even simple items like the turn signal lever exudes excellence. My test vehicle embraced a particularly sporty style, with red and black leather scattered throughout the cabin. The interior was clearly styled after Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. You know it means business because it is the only other vehicle to have those design cues. This is stark contrast to come of its competitors. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio for instance delivers incredible performance, but the interior feels cheap in comparison the Jaguar E-Pace. The backseats of the Jaguar E-Pace are cramped, but not sports car cramped. Adults are able to fit comfortably for short trips, but this isn’t the performance crossover SUV to get if you plan to have adult sized backseat company on a regular basis. Headroom was fine, but the legroom is marginal. This should be expected though because of the E-Pace’s short wheelbase… it is a blessing (performance) and a curse (luxury).
Price – My test vehicle was priced close to $60,000 fully loaded. While this may seem expensive, competition from BMW, Maserati, and Mercedes can top out at a much higher price point. But they don’t deliver nearly as many smiles on the road. With that being said, typically the larger the vehicle the more it costs, and the E-Pace is on the smaller side.
So, if you are in the market for high-performance compact SUV and interior space isn’t a concern, the Jaguar E-Pace should be on the top of your list. The driving dynamics are second to none, it comes in a refined package, and its price point is well deserved.
The introduction of the CT6 in 2015 marked Cadillac’s return to the full-size luxury segment. Historically driving Cadillac represented that you have “arrived.” I am sure you have heard of the phrase: “This is the Cadillac of [Insert Product Category Here.]” For decades, showing up in a big luxury vehicle was a status symbol, but the brand needed a new image in the mid 2,000s as consumer’s tastes had changed. The transformation resulted in the company focusing on smaller and sportier versions of their sedans, as well as, their growing SUV/CUV lineup. Their top of line luxury vehicles were forgotten. Continue Reading →
When I first drove the Infiniti QX80 in 2014, I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of the vehicle’s size and the plushness of the Infiniti QX80’s interior. Its size and available creature comforts remind me of the gigantic boats from the 50s and 60s. But now you have 4-wheel-drive and heated seats. Infiniti has made a number of updates to this vehicle in the past four years, most notably to the exterior. The 2018 Infiniti QX80 has a more athletic body with sharper lines and a new front facia. The overall shape has been sculpted, but its design language remains congruent with the evolution of the vehicle. As like the QX80 from yesteryear, it is a big, beautiful and sexy machine.
They say that it is what is on the inside that counts. Under the hood is 400hp 5.6L V8 that makes this 5,600-pound car feel peppy (when compared to other vehicles in the full-size SUV segment). The motor also gives the QX80 the ability to tow 8,500 pounds; so, the land yacht is well suited to haul your water yacht to the lake every weekend. Behind the scenes, Infiniti added a few nifty safety features to the vehicle. My favorite is the hydraulic body motion control system, which uses an adjustable hydraulic suspension to minimize body roll. The system magically works by quickly adding pressure to either side of the vehicle based upon which way you are turning. Thus, improving the vehicle’s handling characteristics and decreasing the likelihood of this heavy SUV rolling over should you abruptly have to swerve in order to avoid an accident. My second favorite safety feature is the Infiniti QX80’s predictive forward collision warning. The computer is able to monitor the relative distance of both the car in front of you as well as the vehicle directly in front of it. Based upon the distance between all three vehicles, the QX80 will warn you in advance of a possible forward collision. This is an unnecessary technology for the QX80 because you tower over almost every vehicle on the road, effectively giving you a bird’s eye view of your surroundings… but it is a really cool technology and more vehicles should have it.
The interior of the 2018 Infiniti QX80 is strikingly similar to the QX80 I drove four years ago. The only change I could spot was a new gear lever. Some may argue that an update is due, but to be honest, I love the interior design! It is beautiful with a leather wrapped dash, doors, and seats. The wood trim appears to be carefully carved to shape. Special detail was given to the steering wheel – wood outlines the exterior rim, while leather dresses the inside of the wheel for enhanced grip. The wheel feels reminiscent of a classic British steering wheel due to this configuration. The optional saddle brown leather seats paired with diamond quilted stitching on my test car enhanced the European flavor when siting behind the wheel. Like the previous QX80, the seats on the 2018 model are oversized; giving you the notion that you have a football field of space to stretch out and enjoy the ride. This applies to primarily the front and second rows of seats, but the third-row seats are also quite comfortable. I wouldn’t mind hanging out back there for a family road trip. Should your little ones grow tired on the journey, my test vehicle featured two screens on the back of the front headrests and wireless Bose headphones to deliver a cinematic experience.
Like I said previously, not much has changed for this big and beautiful land yacht in the past four years. But it is still one of the best full-size SUVs that money could buy, and now it is even better. The only sting is that a well-equipped version of the Infiniti QX80 will cost you over $80k.
Jaguar owners are a special breed of people. They are proper and refined, yet athletic. I often times picture a gentleman or madam who is casually driving along a country road to attend a polo match. But then when no one is watching… he or she will smash the gas pedal in delight. After all, Jaguar’s motorsports heritage dates back to the 1950s. Traditionally you would hear the roar of a V12 or V8 command the road in anger as the gas pedal hits the floor, but this is 2018. Emissions regulations are forcing companies to produce smaller and more efficient engines. But at the same time there is pressure for manufactures’ to squeeze more power from each cylinder in order to stay competitive. Hence the reason 4-cylinder turbos are becoming more and more popular in performance cars like the Porsche 718, Ford Mustang, and Alfa Romeo Giuila. Continue Reading →
The Subaru BRZ is hands down one of my favorite cars to drive. It is not as quick off of the line as most sports cars, but it is arguably more fun. The BRZ’s unique feel instantly turns any shopping mall parking lot into the Le Mans circuit. The best part is… you can drive it hard without breaking any traffic laws. It is thrilling, but yet you don’t have to get carried away with how fast you are going. Continue Reading →
The Chevrolet Camaro holds a special place in my heart, mainly because the 1992 Camaro Z28 was my first car. Under the hood was a 5.0L V8, which was good for a little over 200 horsepower – not bad for the time. My car had a 4-speed automatic transmission but was available with a 5-speed manual. I was the coolest guy at Saint John Vianney High School (in my mind) with that car… It was fast, looked cool, and I could fit all three of my best friends in it!
Fast forward to 2018 and you have the Chevy Camaro SS with a 6.2L engine. The Corvette derived pushrod V8 is good for 455 horsepower and 455 pounds of torque. Off the line you can do 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat with the 8-speed automatic transmission and 4.3 seconds with the manual. That is Porsche territory for a vehicle that starts at $38,000. The vehicle is obviously no slouch when it comes to raw power, but the new Camaro also makes a decent road course track car. Powerful Brembo brakes are standard on the SS model, as well as, a drive selection mode to tailor the car’s driving dynamics based upon on-road or track use. The noticeable differentiators with each drive mode are throttle response, shift points (automatic), body roll (with optional magnetic ride), the exhaust note, and how much or little the stability computer will let you slide the rear end before it catches you. When going around tight corners, the Camaro SS felt heavy in the front, which lead to significant understeer. But thanks to the immensely powerful V8, you can gently create rotation by carefully applying throttle to the rear wheels. Continue Reading →
I am sure you have heard of the phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” This proverb has been accurate for most of BMW’s recent history. This is especially true for their current lineup because their vehicles tend to be polar opposites. The latest generation of Bimmers offer either Mercedes level luxury or Porsche level performance. You are either riding in comfort and style in their series models (IE 3-series,5-series,etc) or being bounced around like ping pong ball while you are grinning from ear to ear in their M cars (IE M3,M5,etc). If you haven’t noticed, BMW’s latest trend is to offer “M Sport” packages for their series models; Allowing a 180 horsepower 320i sedan to pose as a 425 horsepower M3. This is like allowing a sheep to dress in wolf’s clothing. The “M Sport” packages in most cases don’t offer any performance benefits while making the vehicle look like an M car. Thus the packages are a waste of money in my opinion.
So now we turn to this week’s vehicle… the BMW M550i. It is not an M5, but it is also not, not an M5. And don’t confuse it as a BMW 5-Series with an M-Sport package. The most accurate statement I can come up with is that the BMW M550i is an M5 with a “touring package.” Continue Reading →