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.
Exotic Convertible Of The Year: Rolls Royce Dawn Black Badge
In a land like Miami, where Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars fill the streets, there is only one way to stand out: drive a Rolls Royce. But this isn’t just any Rolls Royce, it is a Black Badge with blacked out wheels, blacked out grill and a blacked out Spirit of Ecstasy. The Dawn serves the award not just for its rarity and coolness factor, but its use of exotic materials and its magic carpet ride suspension.
Sporty Convertible Of The Year: Porsche Boxster GTS
While its big brother, the 911, has the racing pedigree… the Boxster has stolen the hearts of everyone who has driven it. For sheer driving pleasure, the Boxster GTS is the clear winner of the sporty category. Its nimble handling, snappy power delivery, and aggressive styling will leave you and your passenger grinning from ear to ear.
Compact Convertible Of The Year: Mazda MX5
While the MX5 should arguably be in the sporty class, it was placed in the compact class due to its size and price point. However even as a compact convertible, it wins its class. The MX5 consistently hits on all four cylinders due to its fun nature, great fuel economy, and affordable price point. It is a great all-around value.
Pickup Truck Of The Year: Jeep Gladiator
This may seem like a first, but it is not. There have been a number of convertible like pickup trucks. The beauty of the Jeep Gladiator though is that it offers the open air enjoyment of driving a Wangler with the utility of a RAM. Now you can hit the beach in the morning and haul furniture in the evening with one vehicle.
Panoramic Car Of The Year: Genesis G70
This was a tough class to judge, because there were a lot of great contenders. I think the G70 ultimately won because of its exceptionally well appointed interior, stylish design, and competitive price point.
Panoramic Utility Vehicle Of The Year: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
No other SUV ignited this much passion when sitting behind the wheel. Alfa Romeo breathed a racing pedigree into the Stelvio when its engineers made it a Quadrifoglio. The Ferrari designed engine paired with a great exhaust and a solid platform make the Stelvio a fantastic grocery getter. It is a car that turns heads as you drive by and pushes heads back when you smash the gas pedal.
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.
Also helpful for long trips, the Nissan Rouge Sport comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But the vehicle is now also available with a 9-speaker Bose Sound System.
If you want one too, you can buy the 2019 Nissan Rouge Sport starting at $22,340. The range topper all-Wheel-drive SL starts at $29,410. Considering the luxury amenities and standard features, the SL is the way to go.
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.
Small cheap cars are rarely hardly anything to get excited over. The only exception is a used sports car and your first car. While most parents will opt to get their child a safe used car for their first vehicle because of the cost, the Nissan Versa offers new car reliability, technology, and safety for user car money. And now the upcoming 2020 Versa is getting even better. Nissan invited me to the 2019 Tortuga Music festival earlier this month to get a quick scoop.
The exterior styling has been improved, but it undoubtedly a Versa. What you won’t see is that the new Nissan Versa is most substantial. The exterior proportions have been stretched in order to give occupants more room in the cabin. Also a new upgraded interior will make you question if this really is the cheapest new car on the market. You can get the current generation Nissan Versa for under $13,000 – pricing hasn’t been released for the new 2020 model year.
What we do know is that the Nissan Versa will arguably be safer than most used cars on the market. That is because it comes standard with a number safety tech and it is available with “Safety Shield 360.” This low cost package delivers automatic emergency braking, high beam assist, rear cross traffic detection with rear automatic breaking, lane departure warning, and blind spot warning. You will be hard pressed to find these safety features on a used car for less than $20,000.
Plus the Nissan Versa comes with a new car warranty!
Visit your local Nissan dealer for more information on the upcoming Versa or stay tuned to Nissan’s social media channels for the full release of specifications and pricing.
The term “American Muscle Car” is clearly open for interpretation. Many would argue that the latest Ford Mustang GT350 or Camaro ZL1 fit the bill. I disagree, because both of those vehicle’s roots are in the pony car era. Plus the Mustang and Camaro are seemingly becoming more and more like a traditional sports car versus a muscle car. The difference being that the muscle cars are all about raw power and acceleration at the drag strip versus road handling.
With no true competitors on the horizon, Dodge has outshined itself once again with the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody. It checks all of the muscle car boxes with nearly 800 horsepower and over 700 pounds of torque under the hood – 797hp if you want to be exact. It is obviously the quickest production muscle car on the planet, however its 0 to 60mph time of 3.4 seconds isn’t earth shattering when compared to today’s modern super cars. The fault lies with its rear wheel drive drivetrain versus all-wheel-drive which delivers superior traction off the line. However once the rear tires begin to stick, the Hellcat Redeye rockets with a quarter-mile time of 10.8 seconds at 131 mph. But in all honesty, who wants a muscle car with rear wheel drive? How will you do burnouts?
The heart of the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye is a supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8. It is detuned version of the Dodge Challenger Demon engine. With the primary difference (in my opinion) is that the Redeye is designed primarily for everyday use versus track use. Another thing the Hellcat Redeye has going for it over the Demon is that you can buy one today. The Dodge Challenger Demon is sadly no longer in production. This means that the Hellcat Red Eye is the start of the show!
My week with the Hellcat Redeye was primarily consumed with meetings, however it also included a boys weekend at my friend’s ranch in Sebring, Florida to watch the 12 Hours of Sebring Race live. I was shocked by how many people were enamored by this car. During my road trip to Sebring, I had kids give me thumbs up while driving and adults ask me about every detail of the car as I filled up the tank at a gas station. Upon arriving at the boys weekend, I was welcomed with a slew of questions about the Hellcat Redeye by my friends. They all wanted to drive the car or at least ride in it. These are the same guys who have brand new Porsches, Audis, Jaguars, Corvettes, Mustangs, and AMG Mercedes in their garage. I gratuitously have my friends rides, with mixed reactions. Some exuberantly wanted an encore ride, while others wanted to escape the cabin in terror due to the shear magnitude of the Hellcat Redeye’s muscle car performance. Everyone was safe and no laws were broken, however a few childhood fantasies were unleashed.
A muscle car certainly isn’t for everyone. They chug gasoline, are loud, and primarily built for straight line performance. Even with the wide body spec on the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, you still felt the weight transfer going around a corner due to the massive engine. But all these factors contribute to the millions of smiles you, your family, your friends and on lookers will enjoy as you cruise around town.
The 2019 VW Tiguan may look like your average stylish compact crossover, but it features a hidden gem. One which I only discovered during my last day with the vehicle… a 3rd row.
Normally a childless 30 something year old sports car enthusiast wouldn’t get excited about something like a 3rd row. And normally I wouldn’t, but the Tiguan wasn’t designed for me. It was created for young families.
Over the past 10 years, I have seen countless friends go from a sports sedan to a compact SUV when they get their first child. Then go from a compact SUV to a full-size SUV when they get a second kid or their child starts making friends in school; extra seats are needed for the carpool club.
Since VW added a 3rd to the Tiguan, new parents can make the compact SUV last a few years longer. This a blessing because I hear kids are expensive!
The problem with most electric vehicles is that the only the noteworthy thing about them is the fact that they are electric. Cars like Tesla are prime example. All three Tesla vehicles that I have tested felt cheap inside, which is crazy for a $100,000 vehicle!
A car should be able to hold its own whether it is electrically charged or petrol powered. And this is where Jaguar comes into play… the iPace is a joy to drive.
Behind the wheel, I kept forgetting that I was driving an electric vehicle. My senses told me that I was driving a Jaguar. A car manufactured by a brand with a racing pedigree, while also being a brand renown for their fit and finish. A brand that the Queen of England has endorsed.
The Jaguar iPace in its truest form is a sports sedan. It hugs corners like a sports sedan and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds like a sports car. It is not the fastest EV, however, it is one of the most thrilling daily drivers you can purchase. I consistently found myself “playing around” both on the highway and city streets.
Despite is 4,702 pound weight, the Jaguar iPACE felt very agile and balanced, with only a small bit of understeer. You want understeer on this type of vehicle because it is proven to be significantly safer than oversteer in untrained hands. The steering was well sorted and crisp. It didn’t provide as much feedback as I would have liked for a Jaguar, but it also didn’t feel video game like either.
At highway speeds, the Jaguar iPACE zipped along beautifully and felt very stable. Power always seemed readily available, although I noticed my battery levels exponentially decrease the faster I went. The vehicle is rated for a range 234 miles, but I felt anxiety planning for a 150 mile day trip. I made the trip but I didn’t have too much extra juice to spare. And then once I got to my destination, I had to charge the 90 kWh battery pack.
It is no surprise that luxury is paramount with the Jaguar iPace. The fit and finish of each element on my prototype test vehicle exuberated English craftsmanship with fine buttery leathers. But unlike Jaguar’s of yesteryears, the iPACE felt high tech at the same time with multiple displays for systems management and entertainment. However, the displays didn’t seem cumbersome or give you the impression that you are driving a spaceship.
My entire experience felt like I was in a car, a car that so happens to be powered by two magnetic electric motors.
I have written about the Mercedes AMG 63 a number of times. For the past 20 years my consensus has been that the G-Wagen is the coolest looking luxury off-road vehicle that you can buy, and it would be my pick for rock crawling due to its rugged design. But I have always thought that previous generations of G-Class SUVs were over priced, especially the AMG versions. This was mainly due to an interior design that lacked a true luxury feel and the overall ride quality. Not much has changed for the G-Wagen in that past 45 years, until now…
The latest edition of the G-Class looks the same on the outside, but it is actually a completely new car: The vehicle is 4 inches longer and almost 5 inches wider. This results in improved driving dynamics. The larger stance makes the G-Wagen feels more solid at highway speeds than the previous model and it delivers less body roll when cornering. The vehicle still feels top heavy, but the perceived center of gravity has been lowered.
The longer and wider stance of the Mercedes AMG G63 has also made way for a revamped interior. While previous generations offered an interior fitting of a $40,000 c-class, the new G-Wagen offers posh interior fit for a $100,000+ vehicle. The design screens luxury with two large displays and supple leather on the doors and dashboard. Gone are the cheap plastic components in favor of brushed aluminum and wood trim. The seats are seemingly wider and occupants are no longer cramped with bumping elbows as the front armrest is almost 3 inches wider. Backseat passengers will applaud with almost 6 inches more of rear legroom.
No AMG variant Mercedes-Benz review would be complete without mentioning what’s under the hood. The G63 AMG comes with a handcrafted Bi-Turbo V8 that is good for 577 horsepower and 627 pounds of torque. Even though the new G-Wagen weighs an undisclosed “ton,” the AMG engine rockets the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds and to a top speed of 150mph.
My test vehicle garnered a price tag north of a $160,000, which clearly places it in Land Rover Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne Turbo territory. Between the three: Mercedes for image and off road durability. Land Rover for luxury. Porsche for overall driving dynamics.
Even wayback when the BMW i8 first debuted, it wasn’t considered a fast car by any means. It was quick for a car, but not quick for a $140k+ sports car. What kept people so intrigued was BMW’s use of a hybrid drivetrain and advanced use of carbon fiber for the body panels and chassis.
Fast forward to 2019 and the performance benchmarks are still on par with five years ago. They are slightly improved, but the car still won’t win any races. What is radically new for 2019 is the Roadster variant. The drop top transforms the i8 from a high tech grand tourer into a super car wannabe. With scissor doors, intelligent lines and rear speedster humps, it is the type of vehicle your 12 year old self would hang as a poster on the bedroom wall. It reminds me of the Lamborghini Countach because just looking at the BMW i8 Roadster makes you envy…. forget the fact that you are saving the planet.
Under the mid-engine hood is a twin-turbo 3-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor under the front hood. The two power plants combined deliver 369 horsepower and 420 pounds of torque. With a charged battery, the i8 Roadster will go from 0 to 60mph in 4.4 seconds. With a charged battery, the i8 Roadster will also go approximately 20 miles on pure electric and gets 76 MPGe. It takes about 3 hours to fully change the lithium ion batteries. So if your daily commute is short, the BMW i8 Roadster becomes an electric sports car that offers no range anxiety.
I am happy to report that the i8 Roadster lives up to its name. With a near 50/50 weight distribution, it lives up to its name. It is perfectly suited for carving canyon roads as it is your daily commute. In sport mode, the steering precise, it has great throttle response, and the i8 Roadster showed little body roll. In comfort mode the BMW i8 Roadster drives like a grand tourer. The only thing missing is adjustable lumbar support. Be forewarned, the BMW i8 and the i8 Roadster are not the cars to buy if you have a bad back. Because of the wide door sills, it can be hard to get in and out of – the same thing can be said of all modern McLaren vehicles. Plus after a couple hours in the car, my back would oftentimes grow tired. But I didn’t pull over on the side of the road and stretch, or go home early… the kid inside of me was enjoying to drive too much.
If you are looking for a flashy sports car that will turn just as many heads as a Lamborghini but have Germany reliability and be environmentally friendly, then the BMW i8 Roadster checks all of the boxes. Plus it is a car that will still impress your grand kids 30 years in the future.
Contact your local dealer or visit BMWusa.com for more information.
For young singles and couples looking for a versatile crossover on a budget, look no further. The 2019 Nissan Kicks should be on the top of your considerations list. When it comes to style, the Kick’s two-tone paint scheme got me more compliments than half of the sports cars I have driven this year. My test vehicle featured a blue body and white roof, which really makes it standout from the crowd. Alternative two-tone choices include orange + black, red + black, white + black, and silver + orange.
When it comes to safety features, the 2019 Nissan Kicks has got you covered. Automatic Emergency Braking is standard; in fact, it is the only vehicle at ~$18,000 in its segment to offer this safety feature standard. Essentially, if the vehicle in front of you slams on its brakes, your Kick will help you come to a complete stop if you don’t apply the brakes quick enough. Click Here To Continue Reading