It’s big, bold, and beautiful. After spending a week with the Cadillac Escalade, I can understand why it is the vehicle of choice for celebrities to be driven around in and soccer moms to drive. With a length of 203 inches (224 inches on the ESV model) few SUV’s come close in sheer size and none have the prestige of Cadillac brand.
There is no doubt that this vehcile can be intimidating to drive, but after a few days behind the wheel, it quickly grew on me. Having such a large vehcile means that you as the driver have room to stretch out. Instead of sitting in a coach airline seat while you drive, you are sitting in the first class cabin.
The driver and front passenger get to enjoy unusually larger seats along with a gigantic center armrest – no more numbing elbows. The surfaces are covered in luxury materials such as soft leather, open pore wood, alcantara and brushed aluminum. Turning the steering wheel while driving around town is effortless, which makes the massaging seats even more enjoyable. Unfortunately finding the button to turn on the massage seats though is a chore. It is located next to the seat controls at the base of the seat with limited settings. What isn’t a chore though is charging your phone… A wireless charging pad (case required for the iPhone) is affixed to the top of the center consol armrest. Simply place your phone on top of it and it magically starts charging.
Another really inovative feature on the Cadillac Escalade is the backup camera system, which is magically projected into the rear view mirror. It creates an intuitive way to see what is behind you. The placement be very useful if you are hauling large objects or have tall people in the back, prohibiting you from seeing the cars behind you. The backup camera works great in both day and night driving conditions. If the light omitted bothers you, with a flip of a switch, you can deactivate it and the rear view mirror goes from high-tech to low-tech.
Second the third row passengers get some goodies to play with too. Three video screens paired with wireless headphones keep everyone entertained. And if surfing the internet is more your thing, the Cadillac Escalade features a 4G LTE hotspot thanks to OnStar. To keep those devices charged, multiple cigarette outlet and household two-prong outlets are scattered throughout the cabin.
All of these features, luxury amenities, and the size, make the 2017 Cadillac Escalade the ultimate people mover. It is ready to tackle anything, from driving executives around town in style to taking five kids and the dog on a family road trip. The best part is, you can pick one up starting at $73,395. Note that the vehcile I tested was fully loaded and price at around $96,000.
Daily driver and roadster rarely fits into the same sentence unless you are a complete car enthusiast. That’s because roadsters traditionally trade comfort for the ride of a lifetime. Some classic roadsters such as the Jaguar XK120 roadster didn’t even have rollup windows! And if you think that is unpleasant, the Porsche 550 Spyder didn’t even have a top! Those lavish features were meant for “convertibles.” Modern roadsters have power windows and most have automatic cloth top.
Mercedes-Benz, staying true to the motto “The best or nothing,” has brought comfort back to the roadster – first with the SLK in 1996 and now again, 20 years later, with the SLC.
The car’s best feature is its retractable automatic hardtop. It allows the SLC to transform within seconds from a roadster to a sporty coupe. You literally get the best of both worlds! There is no more saying that roadsters are too noisy on the highway or that they are too hot during the summer (or too cold during the winter for my northern friends). Some might argue that modern rag tops are just as well insulated as hard top convertibles – they might be – but I don’t think so. When I am driving with the top up on a rag top, I am constantly wishing in the back of my mind that the weather was nice enough to put the top down. When I drove the Mercedes SLC43 AMG with the top up, I kept thinking to myself how great the coupe experience is.
Also rag top roadsters such as the Porsche Boxster, Jaguar F-Type, and Audi TT don’t look nearly as good with the top up as the Mercedes SLC43 AMG does. Now there are a couple drawbacks to having a hardtop convertible: 1) It weighs more because of the mechanical mechanisms. 2) You typically have less trunk space. With that being said, this is your daily driver and not a track car, so weight is less of an issue. In terms of trunk space, the SLC43 AMG does have less room than the 718 Porsche Boxster (with its two trunks), but I was able to fit more groceries in my SLC tester car than I was in the Jaguar F-Type convertible I tested last year.
The interior quality has also been kicked up a notch with the SLC43 AMG versus the competition. I instantly fell in love with its saddle brown leather interior with white stitching. As part of the AMG variation, the SLC I tested also had a semi-alcanta flat bottom steering wheel to accentuate the performance aspects of the vehicle. With a 362hp 3.0L V6 biturbo engine and a 9-speed gearbox, the Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG is no slouch. It will do zero-to-sixty in less than 5 seconds. The rear-wheel-drive SLC43 AMG also handles surprisingly well thanks to a well tuned AMG Sport suspension. I specific rear-wheel-drive because one of its unnamed German competitors (the Audi TT) has a front-wheel-drive bias for its all-wheel-drive system.
With a performance oriented mindset, luxury accommodations, and the benefit of having both a convertible and coupe, the Mercedes-Benz SLC is my pick for the best daily driven roadster… The top seals the deal!
I wrote a First Drive review on the Genesis G80 a few years ago, back when it was called simply the Hyundai Genesis. The vehicle hasn’t changed much outside of the rebadging. It is still the same great car with german like styling, but it is more affordable and has double the warranty. When compared to the competition, for a little over $50,000 you can get a fully loaded G80 with ventilated leather seats and a 311 horsepower 3.8L V6 motor OR a base E-Class with vinyl seats and 240 horsepower 2.0L 4-Cylinder motor.
Obviously a lot of people are driven (punt intended) by the Mercedes badge, which is why the G80 is no longer technically Hyundai product. Genesis has spun off into its own manufacture. If you want to buy the car though, you will still be forced to visit a Hyundai dealer until Genesis starts building their own dealerships. You won’t have to visit the dealership for oil changes though because the marque has created “Genesis Service Valet.” The program offers owners the opportunity to have a service professional pickup your vehicle for service and deliver a loaner vehicle complimentary. You also get free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
Now on to the good stuff… The interior of the Genesis G80 is suburb. The seats are wrapped in Nappa leather and the dash featured genuine wood trim – Nappa leather is an expensive option on the German competition. The seats are also heated and cool, and the steering wheel is heated. Above the dash you will find a full-color heads up display so you no longer have to look at the speedometer to check your speed. The Genesis G80 is a fairly quite ride on the highway, until you crank up the 17-speaker Lexicon Surround Sound system. While Lexicon doesn’t have the brand name of Burmester or Bang & Olufsen, it does deliver a comparable sound – standard issues on the G80 of course. It seems that Hyundai executives told their engineers to buy a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, and an Audi A6, then to make a car that is just as good, but cost less.
I am start this review of a Jaguar sports car in an unusual way… by admitting that I am a Porsche enthusiast. When Jaguar created the first generation F-type cars, their mission was to create a 911 killer. Jaguar came close with a striking design and the best sounding exhaust note you will find on a stock production car, but it wasn’t a 911 killer or a Boxster/Cayman killer even. The regular F-Type is a car you take out for a relaxed Sunday drive along the country side or on a road trip while looking bad to the bone while driving it. It is stylish, sophisticated, and comfortable. Porsche sports cars on the other hand are all about performance, especially the S models.
But now there is a new Jaguar F-Type available, one that truly is able to slay the German Beast, and it is is called the SVR. This limited production vehicle created by Jaguar’s “Special Vehicle OpeRations” department is capable of 200MPH. With a 0 to 60 time of 3.5 seconds versus 3.8 seconds on the 911 4S PDK, the Jaguar F-Type SVR truly is a 911 killer on paper. These numbers are all thanks to Jaguar’s ability to increase the horsepower to 575, increase the torque to 516, add all-wheel-drive for improved traction, and reduce the car’s weight by using lighter materials. It also comes equipped with carbon ceramic brakes, so you can stop almost as fast as you can accelerate.
Note: Carbon ceramic brakes are constructed using different compounds versus traditional steal brakes. These advanced materials decrease stopping distance and reduce heat build up, which prevents brake fade.
While lots of horsepower and quick acceleration times are a science, how a car makes you feel is an art form. This is another win for the Jaguar F-Type SVR. It is one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven – and I drive a new car every week. The way the car hugs corners and then accelerates out of a turn with a snarling exhaust note roaring out of the back is exhilarating! Then as you stomp one the brake pedal, you come to an immediate halt while experiencing a symphony of high performance internal combustion in the form of crackles and pops. The car gives you the sensation you are driving faster than you are because it engages all of your senses. And to make you feel confident behind the wheel, Jaguar has added torque vectoring by braking into the drivetrain. Even when the rear wheels brake loose around a turn, you feel as if you are in control of the entire process.
Note: Torque vectoring adds to the turning forces of the car by applying the brakes or power to select wheels, thus increasing the speed of which you can safely go around a corner.
The final piece of the puzzle if comfort and luxury. What is the point of driving a sports car if your body aches every time you get out of the car? Things like adjustable suspension and adjustable exhaust give the driver the option of peacefully cruise around town or hitting every apex on a curvy road as hard as possible. In addition, the seats were well engineered for both support while driving fast and comfort for long hauls. I took a day trip around Lake Okeechobee with no back issues whatsoever.
Notes: The use of adjustable suspension on street cars allows you to transform the ride from soft for a comfortable ride and tight for improved handling. The use of adjustable exhaust allows you to close the baffles in the exhaust system for a quite experience or open the baffles for increase horsepower along with a loud exhaust note.
True luxury comes into play as soon as your open the door of the Jaguar F-Type SVR. The red leather doors and seats of my test car were jaw dropping with diamond quilted stitching. Black leather on the dash and ceiling accented the red leather seats to give it a sporting feeling. Carbon fiber trim throughout the vehicle and an alcantar wrapped steering wheel further enhanced the effect.
So the question is, if I had $130,000 – $150,000 to spend on a sports car, would I buy the F-Type SVR or a Porsche 911?
The Jaguar F-Type SVR all the way! It is faster, more comfortable, and better looking.
The Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet is a status symbol in the truest form, but it also delivers the ultimate luxury convertible experience on four-wheels. Some will argue that Bentley Continental GT V8S and Rolls-Royce Dawn deliver are in a league of their own because of their posh manufacture marques, but I think the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet delivers an unprecedented driving experience. Mercedes has created a fusion of modern technology and old-world ultra luxury, combined with true AMG high performance.
The standard drivetrain is a handcrafted AMG 5.5L Bi-Turbo engine paired with a AMG 7-speed automatic transmission and a AMG Performance all-wheel-drive system. This shoots the 4,817 pound car from 0-to-60 in 3.8 seconds. That is faster than a Porsche 911S! Stopping this beautiful machine isn’t a problem, because it comes with 6-piston AMG high-performance brakes. Cornering isn’t this vehicle’s strongest suit (when compared to a traditional sports car), but it feels remarkably nimble when compared to the Rolls-Royce Dawn that I recently tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Its agility comes from an adaptive sports suspension system that allows drivers to stiffen or loosing the suspension based upon your driving style – stiff on a curvy road and soft while cruising around town. This is definitely the ultra-luxury car to get if you want to have a little fun with it! If found myself constantly switching back and fourth between comfort and performance modes while testing this car for a week in Ft Lauderdale. I also found myself stomping the gas peddle and enjoying the roar of the exhaust every opportunity I got.
Luxury is synonymous with the S-Class brand, and you can tell that no expense was spared when crafting the S63 AMG Cabriolet. Detailed stitching outlines every piece of nappa leather on the seats, armrests, doors, and dash. Also on the center armrest is the AMG crest, which is subtle reminder that the ultra-luxury vehicle you are driving can beat half the cars on the road in a drag race. Another reminder of this vehicles high-performance prowess is the alcantara and Nappa leather steering wheel, which mimics racing steerings with a flat bottom. Oh by the way… the steering wheel, seats, and armrests are all heated. The two front seats also feature Mercedes’ exclusive “air scarf” heating element. A tiny space heater is positioned above your shoulders to provide a little something extra on those cool days with the top down. So how do you top that? The S63 AMG Cabriolet is available with massaging seats.
My only complaint with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet – and its not even my compliant, it was my 5’4″ girlfriend’s complaint – is the backseats. They are beautifully dressed in perforated Nappa leather with detailed contrast stitching, but the backseats are “unbearable” to sit-in for long periods of time. You would expect an S-Class to have an amazing backseat, but I guess most Cabriolet owners don’t sit in the back.
Now back to the title of this story… “You Have Arrived” with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet. I say this because I am 30 years old and everywhere I went, people treated me different in the S63. I instantly got more respect from other drivers on the road, with many randomly giving me a thumbs up. I also got better service at restaurants. In once instance I immediately got a table even though there was a line for seating because the hostess saw me pull up in the car. At the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show, the parking valet attendant put the car upfront and didn’t charge for parking even though a big sign read $60 for valet parking. All of these things could be a coincidence, but I give the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet all the credit. The car you drive makes a statement wherever you go, and this one says that you have finally arrived…
The Datsun (Nissan) 240Z is often times regarded as one of the best Japanese sports cars ever produced. Many call it “the best” not just because it was able to dominant the race track against Corvettes and Porsches, but because it was able to bring an overhead cam engine, disc brakes and independent suspension at an affordable price + it is really fun to drive!
You could buy a Datsun 240Z for around $3,500 in 1970, and that is exactly what my Father did. He purchased the first Datsun 240Z in St Louis, Missouri as his daily driver. After getting the bug to race a couple years later, he then turned it into the 1972 SCCA Mid-America Regional Championship Car. Shortly after the championship win, the car sat retired in my Father’s garage in St Louis for over 40 years.
Earlier this year the Folks over at Nissan North America helped me get the car running and transporting it to my Dad’s home in Naples, Florida. So when Nissan sent me the 370Z Convertible to test for a week, I raced (figuratively) across Alligator Alley for a photo shoot.
The “Z” has changed a lot in the past 40 years! It has gotten more expensive with a starting price of $29,000. but the 370Z is a lot quicker thanks to a 332HP V6 and a six-speed manual gearbox. For reference, the original only had 151HP and a four-speed manual gearbox – my Father’s engine was highly modified and featured a five-speed manual gearbox from Datsun Racing in Japan. Another neat feature of the 370Z’s six-speed manual gearbox is that it offers rev-matching standard, which means you no longer have to master heel-to-toe footwork when downshifting. Nissan offers one of the most (if not the most) affordable vehicle with rev-matching. Behind the wheel of both vehicles, you start to feel as if you are one with the car as you tackle each turn on a curvy road. It may take a minute to find it, but once you do, it becomes easy to feel the transfer of weight between all four tires as you decelerate and accelerate out of sharp turn. Like the original, the 370Z offers true sports car experience for an affordable price when you compare it to the Corvette Stingray or Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman.
The “Z” has gotten a lot more comfortable too! The new one rides better, is better insulated, and quieter. The interior has also been very nicely upgraded: The leather appointed seats offer both heating and ventilation options, while also delivering nice bolster support. The instrument cluster ingeniously rises up and down with the steering position, so you always have a perfect view of the tachometer. And speaking of gages, the instrument cluster pays homage to the original 240Z with its use of three round dials on the center of the dash. The analog gages are paired with an LED display on the instrument cluster, and LED clock on the center of the dash, and a touch-screen infotainment center on the dash.
The only thing that drives me crazy about this pairing, is that the car’s LED clock and the infotainment center clock are not synced. Which means that owners will have to set both clocks each time day light savings times comes and goes.
While the new 370Z and the old 240Z are uniquely original, they both offer timelessly classic good looks and the spirit of driving a fun sports, without breaking the bank. Visit your local Nissan dealer or click here to learn more about the Nissan 370Z.
In a mid-size performance sedan world dominated by the Germans with BMW M5, America has risen through the ashes to bring us the Cadillac CTSV. A 640 HP Supercharged V8 monster that moves as loud as it roars.
It is monster that seductively entices the driver to go faster while it intimidated passer buyers. This car was built for the performance enthusiast who can no longer drive a Corvette, because he (or she) needs to start taking the kiddies to school.
But there is no settling here, because the Cadillac CTSV has a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds which is on par with the Corvette Stinray Z51. It also has the same 6.2L Supercharged engine that goes into the Corvette Stingray Z06.
Unlike the Corvette though, the only transmission option is an 8-speed traditional automatic. It can be manually controlled using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel or set to fully automatic mode. I didn’t get a chance to test this vehicle on the track, but automatic in sport mode was my preferred serting because I noticed a tiny lag when trying to up shift using the paddles.
The Supercharged 6.2L V8 gives it the heart of a Corvette, but the interior gives it the style of a Cadillac.
The interior is race inspired, with a leather and micro-fiber Recaro Racing seats, as well as, a micro-fiber wrapped steering wheel and gear selector. But the interior also boosts a timeless style with its use of chrome and leather on the doors and dash.
The “Cue” infotainment center, like on all Cadillacs, is eloquently controlled using a series of touchpad buttons. The only downside of these button is when you are using a radar detector and the cord brushes up against a touchpad button, the energy running through the cord engages the control. The end result was my radio volume mysteriously turning all the way up as I enjoyed a sweeping turn. Other than that, annoyance, I love this car!
The Cadillac CTSV is the perfect car for those who desire a sports car, but need room for family. It’s closest competitor is the BMW M5, but I would stick with the CTSV unless you want to blend in at the country club.
All of these things can be said about a sports car, but what makes a sports sedan different from a sports car is the fact that four people can actually fit in it. It is just as well suited for a track day as it is picking up your two kids from school.
BMW has dominated the sports sedan segment with the 3-series. But what is lacked in creature comforts it made up for in terms of performance.
Now there is a new Sheriff in town, the Jaguar XE. It is here to steal BMW’s lunch money, and in my opinion, it has. The XE is backed by Jaguars racing pedigree and the ultra-fun to drive F-Type sports car. It is also backed by Jaguar’s XJL ultra-luxury sedan. So the vehicle is able offer the rare combination of true luxury and true performance. You won’t find that at Mercedes (unless you opt for an AMG) or Audi (unless you opt for an S or RS). Both brands trade comfort over performance unless you are willing to spend almost six figures. This combination of luxury and performance for under $50k gives the XE a clearly defined audience: driving enthusiasts who need a luxury car.
Like I mentioned before, the Jaguar XE is available with a 340Hp Supercharged V6, paired with an 8-speed automatic. But it is not just the acceleration times that got my heart racing, it is how well the Jaguar XE sticks to a corner. The vehicle is tight, well balanced, and demonstrates little body roll. Jaguar utilized a lightweight aluminum architecture to keep the center of gravity low and offer drivers a near 50/50 weight distribution… and you can feel it in the car as you hug corners. To hug them even tighter, Jaguar introduced torque vectoring to compact sports sedan segment. The electronically controlled system dynamically controls the brakes on the inside wheels while cornering in order to spin the car faster. The XE is also available with a performance oriented all-wheel-drive system. I say performance because most all-wheel-drive systems, like the one found on entry level Audis, have a front wheel drive bais that delivers the majority of power to the front wheels. The Jaguar takes cue from LeMans race cars and is able to shift the power from 90-10 (front-rear) to 50-50 to 10-90 based upon road conditions and driving patterns.
All of this makes it the perfect car for a driving enthusiast who needs four doors.
Inside the Jaguar XE, you will find a poshly designed interior that came straight from Britain. The attention to detail is superb, right down to the rotary dial used to select the gear. The seats are firm, but comfortable. The star of the interior is a large touch screen display that is paired with a Meridian sound system to deliver high quality beats to your eardrums.
If you are in the market for a sports sedan, you no longer have to choose between performance and luxury… you now have the Jaguar XE, the perfect sports sedan.
Volkswagen’s flagship SUV is unfortunatly often times over looked in the luxury SUV segment. I say this because the streets of Florida are littered with BMW X5s, Mercedes GLEs (formal called the ML class), Audi Q7s, and Porsche Cayennes. But I rarely see a VW Touareg, despite its beautiful styling and plush interior. Dollar for dollar, the Touareg beats all of them.
The Volkswagen Touareg is unique amongst its VW brothers and sisters not only because of its price point (starting at 50k), but because the Touareg is targeted specifically against the luxury segment which includes its two cousins, the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne. The latter with which is shares its underpinnings with. The executive trim level cuts the margins even closer (starting at around $60k) because of all the standard premium equipment.
With both the exterior and interior, the Volkswagen Touareg Executive says the luxury. The exterior styling is beautiful with 21 wheels, and the interior compliments the exterior by using Vienna leather and wood trim – Although I am not sure if it is really wood. VW wanted to make sure occupants are at the optimal climate, by making the seats both ventalited and heated, and offering tri-zone climate controls standard of the Executive trim level. Additional features include Park Distance Control (Park Pilot), a 360-degree camera for parking, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Lane Change Assist.
Standard on all Touaregs is VW’s “4 Motion” all-wheel-drive system. It works similar to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system which uses a computer to transfer power between each wheel in order to provide drivers with optimum traction. I drove the Touareg on a combination of dry and wet surfaces and the system worked beautifully. I didn’t get a chance to test the Touareg’s terrain response system, which optimizes the all-wheel-drive system for off-road and snow use, but I heard from other journalists that is works well.
You get all of these features for cost of a barely equipped BMW X5, which makes VW Touareg Executive one hell of a bargain!
The only reason why I can understand someone buying a BMW, Mercedes, or Audi over the Touareg is vanity. Let’s face it, VW is “the people’s car.” It is a little hard to justify $60k for a VW when it is seen as the bargain German car manufacturer, but that can work in your favor. I like how the VW Touareg is luxurious, but understated. If an executive is driving a Mercedes, employees are likely think the executive is getting paid too much and that they are not getting paid enough. But if an executive is driving a VW, employees are likely to think they are on an even playing field… Just don’t give them a ride in it!
We all of the premium amenities, I urge you to give the VW Touareg Executive some love next time you are shopping for a luxury mid-sized SUV. It is true German Engineering without the German Engineering price point.
1. Alfa Romeo Guilia
I saw this car at the Frankfurt Autoshow last year and fell in love with it. Now it is for the US market to compete head to head with BMW’s M series and Mercedes’ AMG series vehicles. If you want a unique high performance sedan, this is your car!
2. Acura NSX
Acura (Honda, everywhere else in the world) has been teasing us with a new NSX for the past five years. Now it is finally here and a production ready prototype is on display at the Miami Auto Show. Get ready to see them on the streets of South Florida, because I know of at least one local dealer who delivered the car to a customer.
3. Genesis G90
4. Audi R8
5. Lexus LC500 Hybrid