The Mini Cooper gets a little bigger with the Countryman

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Just like how Porsche gave us the Cayenne SUV for enthusiast who love Porsche, but has out grown 911, Mini Cooper has given us the Countryman. Mini has taken every we love about the Mini Cooper and enlarged it. The Countryman is longer, wider, and taller. Enthusiasts finally have a vehicle they can take the kids to school in! Tall backseat passengers are now able to stretch out instead of curling into a ball, and with the seats down, you are now able use a Mini Cooper to buy furniture…. I bought a small conference cable for my office in it.

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The Countryman certainly fits the bill for being Mini’s biggest and most expensive vehicle. It priced at $26,000 for a base model, but the options ad up. My test vehicle cost nearly $40,000 to buy. But it was well worth the price for features such as premium leather seats, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and a large touch screen display. The only thing I didn’t like about the interior was the pseudo “heads up display.” I could never get the thing properly adjusted for my ride height and I am only 5’8″.

Don’t let the looks and plush amenities fool you, this is still a Mini Cooper. And rightfully so, it is fun to drive. Not a much fun as the smaller scale Mini Cooper, but this car boogies around town. Under the hood of the S and JCW models is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that moves the car from 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds. But even more important is the handling. Multiplying the size of the Mini Cooper made it loose its “go-kart” like handling, but with the optional adjustable damper system and 4-wheel drive system, it know-how to hug corners like a proper Mini Cooper.

For more information on the Mini Cooper Countryman, visit your local Mini dealer or click here to visit Mini’s website.

Dress up your Jeep Cherokee with the Overland edition.

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The world Jeep and luxury usually don’t go together. That is because when I think of Jeep, I think of rugged all-terrain vehicles. In the rare instance I think of Jeep in luxury, I usually gravitate towards the Grand Cherokee. Jeep enthusiast now have a new luxurious option when it comes to their sporty off-road vehicles and that is the Cherokee Overland. I have written about the Jeep Cherokee before, in the form of a Trailhawk, but this a new breed.

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The Jeep Cherokee Overland feels luxurious with its supple leather seats and wood trim on the steering wheel, but I would’t quite call it a luxury vehicle… there are still a lot of plastics and it doesn’t quite ride like you would expect a luxury vehicle to ride. The Overland edition simply dresses up the Jeep Cherokee. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find one these cruising around in the swamp thanks to its optional 4X4 and select-terrain drive system. It is still a Jeep after all!

At 37,000 for the Jeep Cherokee Overland, personally, I would go for its bigger brother, the Grand Cherokee or opt for the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk because of its off-road capabilities.

Visit your local Jeep dealer for more information on the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland or click here to visit the Jeep website.

The new Q7 is a big leap for Audi


I liked the old Audi Q7 because it was big and comfortable, but I never loved the styling. It looked too feminine with its soft lines and bubbly shape. As a guy, I could never see myself driving it as my own personal vehicle. I know I am being bias, but what you drive says a lot about your personality. With that being said, the old Q7 was one of my favorite “mom cars.”

Everything has changed with the new Audi Q7. It is now one of my favorite “dad cars.” It is masculine, it is aggressive, and it is modern. Audi has given us a wider stance with a big large grill in the front. We have a more modern design with sharper lines going from front to back. The led headlights and the directional tail lights remind me of a futuristic car from the movie Tron.

It has also got some power… Under the hood of my test vehicle is 3.0L turbocharged V6 that produces 333 horsepower and can tow 7,700 pounds. It will also get you from 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds. If you are more interested in fuel economy than performance, the base engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that is good for 252 horsepower and 25 mpg on the highway. I am begging for Audi to bring back their diesel engines to the United States. The old Q7 diesel was good for over 400 pounds of torque and got suburb fuel economy.

When comparing the Audi Q7 to it’s competition, such as Porsche, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes, they have been focused on making evolutionary minor changes to their vehicles. Yes the cars keep getting better year after year, but I feel like Audi is progressing forward at a much more rapid pace. If is refreshing to see an automotive manufacture take this big of a leap forward with exterior and interior design.

Contact your local dealer to get a look inside the all-new Audi Q7 or click here to visit Audi’s website.

An icon reborn: The Lincoln Continental


No other American luxury sedan is as iconic as the Lincoln Continental. The vehicle’s legacy dates back to the late 1930’s. It was the ride of choice for Heads of State. Celebrities would be chauffeured in Continentals for premier parties and oscars. Its success continued on and off until since then, but the last great Continental (in my book) was 1969. President Kennedy was famous for driving around in one.

Fast forward to today… and the Continental is back! It has got classic styling with high-tech packaging. This is first time in a long time that I have been this excited about Lincoln’s flagship sedan. The vehicle has a nostalgic feeling to it, but it can easily compete with the features and comfort of a modern S-Class.


The seats made a lasting impression on me, even after recently having driven a Mercedes S Class. I love the way you can independently contour the top and lower back supports to offer a customized seat shape. You would also independently adjust the seat length and height between the left and right sides. No other car on the market offers this degree of control.


The rest of the interior stood out as well. The combination of blue leather and aluminum trim gave the Lincoln a unique look, one that was special in this segment of vehicles. The infotainment system felt a little generic when compared to other Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the lineup, but it is tried and true.


Backseat passages will enjoy luxury accommodations as well, but no so luxurious as to where you feel like you are driving a limousine.


My final compliment to Lincoln for the recreation of the Continental is in regards to the attention to exterior details. I love chrome trim door handles that blend seemlessly into the the body design. Well done, Lincoln!

Visit your local dealer for more information on the 2017 Lincoln Continental or click here to visit the Lincoln Motor Company website. 

The Lexus RC Turbo a “Little Duece Coupe”

The term “Duece Coupe” originally referenced a 1932 Hot Rod Ford, because of the model year. But I think it is more befitting of Lexus’ newest RC model, the 2.0L RC Turbo, because it has a 2.0L motor, plus I got to test it in the heart of Ford territory, Michigan.

All of the characteristics and styling of the more powerful RC 300/350/F are here, but now the RC features a fuel efficient rear-wheel drive option. At 32 MPG, I was able to drive the car across the entire state of Michigan and back (~350 miles) on a single tank of gas – and it doesn’t have a big tank. While the RC Turbo has half of cylinders and almost half the horsepower (241hp) as the RC F (467hp), it still has pep to its step. Plus since it is performance inspired, you can keep the momentum going as you hug a twisty road – enhanced by the adaptive variable suspension. It brakes well too with 11″ ventilated discs. Another item to note is that 18″ wheels are standard.


Because of the Lexus RC Tubro’s plush interior, it makes a well suited grand tourer. The heated and ventalited seats were perfect for my long trek across the state. I would almost describe them as “unusually comfortable” for its segment because the contour of the seats fit my back well. Being a Lexus, of course they were made from high quality leather. I point this out because most the German competition (excluding Audi) have leatherette seats. 

The infotainment center is easy to use. It is controlled using voice commands or a touch pad on the center armrest. The touch pad isn’t as intuiative as you would think, but once you get use to it, you will love it! Sound wise, beats are pumped out from an optional 17 speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The vehicle I tested this time didn’t have the upgraded sound system, but I heard it play on other RCs before.


Value always come into play when I look at sporty cars, and the RC Turbo is amongst the best! At a starting price of $40k, you will be hard pressed to find a more stylish luxury sports coupe that offers this many standard features. Also it is comforting to know you are driving a machine backed by Toyota (parent company of Lexus) so the car will last FOREVER. 

Visit your local Lexus dealer for more information on the 2017 Lexus RC Turbo or click here to visit the Lexus website.

The Mercedes Benz S-Class is the “King” of hybrid cars

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No other sedan is more iconic for German engineering and luxury than the Mercedes Benz S-Class. It has ruled the road for generations powered by gas and diesel drivetrains. But in more recent years, Mercedes has equipped the S Class as an optional plugin electric gasoline hybrid. And now it gets even better, because the 2017 Mercedes S-Class Sedan is available as what I consider to be an extended range plugin electric gasoline hybrid. That means you drive the S Class fully on electric at 70+ mph for over 20 miles – I got 27 miles on electric while driving on i95 to be exact. Of course driving fully electric on the highway on long commutes is kind of silly, because the engine eventually kicks and has to work overtime in order to recharge the batteries.

The value of making the Mercedes Benz S Class a plugin hybrid is for your short daily commutes. If your daily commute involves driving short distances (12 miles) around town, then theoretically you would never had to turn the gasoline engine on. And because it is a plugin hybrid, you can charge the vehicle at a low cost or for free at hundreds of charging stations. It gives Tesla a run for their money!

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Driving around town in fully electric mode was sublime. The entire S-Class range features an array noise insolation techniques, such as double pain windows, in order to create a nearly silent experience. But the Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is completely silent in electric mode. This enhances the already posh ambience of sitting in a vehicle where nearly every surface is covered in leather and the seats massage you as you drive. This level of craftsmanship and attention to detail are what has made the S-Class benchmark car.

It is not just all fancy drivetrains and luxury interiors Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is high-tech. Infotainment wise, you have standard features like a navigation system and satellite radio, but you also have access to internet radio stations. Your beats are pumped through a 24-speaker Burmester surround sound system. Everything is controlled using touch pads and dual 12 inch screens. This includes the vehicle’s semiautonomous features, which will keep the car in-between the lines on the highway and accelerate or decelerate based on traffic conditions.

No other hybrid vehicle offers this level of luxury and prestige, which is why the Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is “King” of hybrid and electric vehicles. Learn more by visiting your local dealer or by visiting the Mercedes Benz website.

The BMW X4 M40i is the family racer


Making an SUV handle well is an unsurprisingly difficult challenge. SUV are higher off the ground, which means a higher center of gravity. A higher center of gravity equals more body roll, which means less weight evenly distributed amongst the four tires while cornering.

But… BMW is surpassed the laws of physics. Thanks to a highly tuned sports suspension and heavy duty sway bars, the BMW X4 M40i glides across the road like it is a car – you feel well planted to the road with little body roll. In fact, this X4 handles better than the average sedan.

It has got some nice power under the hood too! A twin-Turocharged 3.0L V6 that produced 355 horsepower. That paired with all-wheel-drive and an 8-speed quick shifting automatic gearbox will get you from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds.

The interior of the X4 M40i was quite nice. Leather seats with wood trim gave this performance enthusiastic family SUV a touch of refinement. While the meet gas and brake pedals along with a sporty steering while highlighted the performance aspects.

Thanks to a seductive exhaust note and a high quality Harman Kardon sound system, blissful tunes fill your ears as hit he back roads or pick the kids up from day care.

Visit your local BMW dealer for more information on the X4 M40i or click here to visit BMW’s website.

The Rolls Royce Dawn is the “World’s Best Luxury Convertible”

“There is no substitute.” 

“The Best or Nothing.”

“The Pursuit of Perfection”

All three of these automotive tag lines describe the Rolls Royce Dawn even though they belong to other manufacturers (Porsche, Mercedes, and Lexus respectively). After spending a week with the Dawn, I understand why people enthusiastically spend over $400,000 on an ultra-luxury car. It’s not just for the prestiege of owning a car from the iconic brand who once held the speed records for land, air, sea. Discerning millionaires and billionaires drive (or better yet, are chauffeured in) Rolls Royce Motors Cars because of the unparallel experience.


Quality

Nothing comes close to the level of detail Rolls Royce has placed into the Dawn. This is because over 90% of Rolls Royce vehicles are bespoke works of art. Every detail, from the type of exotic materials used to the embroidery of family crests, are handcrafted. The particular car I tested feature a sporty design with bulls leather read and black seats, and piano black wood trim. I was told that on average, craftsmen spend 80 hours just on the interior of each car – that is someone spending 8 hours a day for two weeks!!!

Comfort

Roll Royce calls their patented suspension system, “Magic Carpet Ride” for a reason. Driving a Rolls Royce feels like you are floating on a cloud. The vehicle glides over bumps like nothing was there in the first place. 

While all Rolls Royce vehicles have amazing rear passenger compartments, the Dawn was built for the owner to drive it. I put approximately 350 miles on the car and every minute was a surreal experience. 

Cruising down the boulevard or along a coast road with a cool breeze flowing through your hair is what the Dawn was designed for, but it quickly adapts to any situation.


Even when sitting for hours in rush hour traffic, it is a pleasure to drive the Dawn. You feel relaxed because you are sitting in an extremely comfortable and roomy seat, plus you are enjoying studio quality tunes from you favorite brands via the satellite radio. When the noise from the other vehicle start to bother you, simply push a button and the top closes in a matter of seconds, delivering a nearly silent experience.

The noise isolation on the Dawn is an impressive feat, because at full speed on the highway, you barely hear anything from the outside. Convertibles on the highway are typically a noisy affair when compared to hardtops – even modern convertibles. Rolls Royce Dawn breaks the mold, with the top up, it is quieter than most fixed roof vehicles.

Luxury

There isn’t a car manufacture that represents “true luxury” more than Rolls Royce. The Dawn I tested featured a multitude of unnecessary, but nice to have features – all of which enhance the experience of driving the “World’s Best Luxury Convertible.”

Example 1: Motorized doors. A distinguished gentleman (or lady) should never have to close his own door when entering a vehicle. So, Rolls Royce added a mechanism to close the front doors with a button.


Example 2: A Beautiful Mascot. Every proper motor car deserves mascot. Jaguar has a cat, Mercedes has a Star, and Rolls Royce has “The Spirit of Esctasy.” Unique to Rolls Royce though, their hood ornament mechanically pops in and out of the front fascia. It pops up automatically when you unlock the car. And when you lock the car, it automatically hides into a spot right above the grill. You can bespoke your car with the Spirit of Esctasy made using an assortment of materials, including crystal. If you want to highlight its beauty at night, and optional LED spotlight is available.


Example 3: Performance. Gas mileage is terrible on the Rolls Royce Dawn – I got less than 300 miles on a single tank of gas – this is thanks to a thirsty 6.6L V12 motor. What is more luxurious than having a V12 engine that can rocket your 5,776 pound car from zero-to-sixty faster than a Porsche 911? 4.3 seconds to be exact. 

Before I conclude this review of the Dawn. I want to give a shoutout to the Dawn’s discontinued bigger brother, the Phantom Drophead Coupe. It is the only convertible “nicer” than the Dawn. The Phantom Drophead Coupe took the passenger experience to another level. It was larger and featured a more refined backseat with options such as a champagne cooler. While the Dawn is all about the driver, the Phantom was about cruising in style while your man servant drives you into town. So if I had to choose between the two vehicles, I would take the Dawn… Which is why I say the the 2017 Rolls Royce Dawn is the “World’s Best Luxury Convertible” that money can buy.

Visit your local Rolls Royce dealer or go to www.Rolls-RoyceMotorCars.com to learn more.

The Cadillac Escalade Is Ready For Anything

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.

The SLC43 AMG is the perfect daily driven roadster!


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!

You can find more information about the Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG by visiting your local deal or by clicking here to visit the Mercedes-Benz website.