Subaru makes a vehicle (or two) for every occasion

The brand is known for its active lifestyle, with a hint of motorsports pedigree. All of which contributes to the affection of Subaru customers. Rarely will you find someone that has only bought one Subaru vehicle. Customer testimonials often times include the phrase, “This is my 3rd Subaru” or “My entire family drives a Subaru.” I am honestly not surprised since Subaru makes a vehicle for every stage of life:

First Car: Subaru Impreza

At $20,000 new, the Subaru Impreza is the smart choice for first time new-car buyers. It is affordable and easy to drive. It is also safe, with standard EyeSight Driver Assist on all models. This piece of technology has been found to reduce rear-end crashes by up to 85%. The suite include automatic pre-collision braking the lane-keep assist to avoid at speed accidents.

First Job: Subaru Crosstrek or Legacy

At $22,000 new, both of the vehicles deliver a more “grown up” look and level sophistication. From both the sedan and hatchback, you get all-wheel drive, plus design elements that offer a premium feel. The Crosstrek is the sportier, outdoorsy option. My recent Crosstrek test car featured blue and yellow design accents. While the Legacy delivers more of a suit and tie type of vibe. My recent Crosstrek test car showcased a luxury car styled dash, doors, and seats.

First Management Position: Subaru WRX or BRZ

Just because your are the boss, it doesn’t mean that you have to be a square. The Subaru WRX traces its motorsports roots to rally racing. You get that feeling all the way through for a package that starts at $27,495. With the Subaru BRZ, you get small nimble sports car for $28,845. It is the only Subaru without symmetrical all-wheel-drive, but you still get that famous boxer engine with a low center of gravity. Do you know who else makes a sports car with a boxer engine? Porsche!

First Kid, Second or Third Kid: Subaru Forester or Ascent

Both of these SUVs offer enough room for the whole family, plus their toys. The Forester offers 5 passenger two rows of seating, along with 76 cubic feed of cargo space for $24,795. While the newest member of the Subaru family, the Ascent, give you three rows of seating for up to 8 passenger. The Subaru Ascent can also tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Retirement: Subaru Outback

With your golden years ahead of your, it is time to sit back and explore. The Outback is the perfect size vehicle for road trips in my opinion. It is large enough to be comfortable and carry all of your luggage, but small enough to be easy to drive. With the rear sets down, you can easily carry a month’s worth of luggage for you and your spouse. My most recent test vehicle was super comfortable for ~$35,000, but the Outback starts at only $26,795. Of course it was equipped with a 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine, leather seats, and a sunroof.

Power Up to the High Performance 2.3L Ford Mustang Convertible

If you can’t afford (or handle) the GT350 or the GT500, the regular Ford Mustang GT is undoubtably the weekend car to get. All three variants feature an overhead cam V8s the melts your soul at each press of the gas pedal. The only problem is that all three GT cars don’t make great daily drivers. Not because they are uncomfortable, but because all three engines are thirsty. You may remember reading one of my previous stories where I did a cross country road trip in a Mustang GT. It was fun, but pocketbook wasn’t happy.

Fuel economy is where the 4-cylinder 2.3L variant of the Mustang shines. You can drive all day long on a single tank of gas. Unfortunately, I never thought the base 2.3L really deserved the Mustang badge. Every instance behind the wheel was underwhelming. And up until now, I missed the previous generation’s naturally aspirated aluminum V6 engine with 300hp.

But now there is a new turbocharged 4-cylinder motor in town, and it is called the High Performance 2.3L. Same 305 pounds of torque, but it has 20 more horsepower thanks to a larger twin-scroll turbocharger. It also comes with a larger radiator, a stiffer suspension (for better handling), 19” wheels, and adjustable exhaust to accommodate the improved engine performance. The increase to 330 horsepower is noticeable, but the engine also sounds different. It is more muscular and exciting. Not the same as a V8, but a proper engine sound. Drivers have two transmission options: a 10-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. Thank you Ford for saving the manual. This clutch on the manual is reasonably soft, but tactile enough to feel when the engine catches. Gear shifts are smooth and short.

The convertible version of the High Performance 2.3L Mustang makes a great daily driver due to the balance of performance, fuel economy and comfort. Nothing beats driving around topless on a cool sunny day. However I was slightly disappointed to hear that convertible Mustangs still don’t have a pop-up roll bar. This means that weekend driving enthusiasts can’t use the car for track days. Otherwise, this car is sublime for less than $40k.

2021 Jaguar F-Type: More Refined Than Ever

It is hard not to love the Jaguar F-Type, especially the 2021 F-Type convertible. It has everything you want in a daily driver grand touring car. And now, it is even better: The lines are more sculpted, interior offers large screens, it has better technology, and the car is seemingly more ferocious behind the wheel.

The Jaguar F-Type is in every possible way, a true gentleman’s car. Jaguar is known to be driven by bad boys, but I could just as easily see James Bond driving around in one.

Under the hood of my 2021 test car is a death defying 380 horsepower supercharged V6. However it is also available with a 575 5.0L V8 that will outpace even the most ruthless villains. And to help you drive like the hero of your own James Bond film, it comes with torque vectoring. This F1 derived piece of technology uses a computer to individually control braking at each wheel while going around a corner. The end result is improved control at high speeds.

The interior of the Jaguar F-Type is naturally dressed in leather and aluminum. Cockpit style gauges and controls beautifully wrap around the driver. It creates a very comfortable environment for the driver, no matter if you are cruising along on a country road or sitting in rush hour traffic. Two large displays, one on the dash and one on the center console, provide all of the details needed for a spirited or leisurely drive. Thanks to an even larger infotainment display than the previous generation, you can have two windows open on the screen. This comes in very handy while both navigating and changing the satellite radio station.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jaguar F-Type’s exhaust note. The roadster sounds as good as it looks. In fact, it sounds better than anything else in its price class, especially the V8. The snarling exhaust, combined with the ease of driving and its magnetic looks make the 2021 Jaguar F-Type one of the best daily driver roadsters that money can buy. Even at the $65,000 starting price tag. However, if you have the coin, the $85,000 V6 or the $105,000 V8 are the better buys.

The Ultimate Laborer’s Pickup Truck: RAM 1500 EcoDiesel

Happy Labor Day from the USA! Pickup trucks started life as common work vehicles, but they have more recently evolved into the preferred luxury vehicle for well-to-do blue collar workers, as well as white collar works who don’t mind getting themselves dirty.

One of my most recent test vehicles was the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited EcoDiesel. It is the most luxurious truck on the market; it is in a league of its own. So I am not quite sure if I should compare it to other trucks or a big luxury sedan designed for heads of state, like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. To be fair, this is a $72,000 pickup truck.

Like you would expect on a luxury sedan or suv, the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited that I tested featured a cabin wrapped in leather: on the dash, doors, seats, steering wheel, and armrests. The seats are both heated and cooled. Wood trim is tastefully presented on the dash and doors. Additionally, fancy stitching in unique patterns brings an arguably new level of sophistication for a 4X4. I personally think the stitching is a little much, but I think buyers of this truck will like it.

The vehicle is enhanced with the latest technology: a gigantic touch screen infotainment display, 360 degree cameras for parking, automatic emergency braking. Oh and by the way, the truck can use computers to park itself.

Also like you would expect on a luxury sedan or SUV, the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited EcoDiesel has adjustable ride height and comfort settings. You can raise the entire truck for off-road use, you can raise the back for hauling a trailer, you can lower the truck to make it easier to get into, or soften the suspension for a comfortable ride. When at highway speeds the RAM 1500 Limited will automatically lower itself in order to improve fuel economy.

The $5,000 optional 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 powertrain on my test vehicle supplied me with nearly unlimited driving range, at 32 mpg with an unusually large gas tank. The engine only has 260 horsepower, but it delivers 480 pounds of torque.

Because this is in fact a pickup truck designed for work, RAM made sure the 1500 Limited can get the job done. It can be optioned to have full off-road capabilities, complete with a low-speed four-wheel-drive system. You can also two up to 12,750 pounds.

And in case you missed geometry class, there is a job site cheat sheet hidden underweight the center console’s storage compartment.

So whether you are a blue collar laborer building homes, or a white collar worker who needs to haul his boat to the lake, you can get the job done in luxury and style.

Unsolicited Bonus: As a thank you to all of the laborers who build this country’s homes, office buildings, and infrastructure, RAM Trucks is offering a sales event of up to $4,500 off the price of a 2020 RAM 1500.

Testing the Cosmo MuchoMacho on B9 Audi S5

Tires are tires… or so they say. As a young, broke college kid, I dabbled in used tires, and wrapped my wheels in whatever I could find. Paying $300-$400 for high-performance Michelin or Pirelli tires versus paying no more than $50 for a used tire just seemed like a no-brainer. It worked – having a car with three or four different brand tires did the job of getting me around campus, so I didn’t bother putting more thought into it.

It was not until I splurged on upgrading the stock 18 inch wheels on my 120k mile E46 M3 to 19 inch Competition wheels did I actually consider mating new rubber with new wheels. Splurging was splurging, so I went with the tire-shop recommended Toyo Proxies all around, via an aggressive, staggered fitment, 10mm wider than stock in the front and the back. The result? Handling was a thing of beauty, driving was a pleasure, and finally, I started getting the hang of this idea of new vs. used tires, and actually bothering to match all four. Click Here To Continue Reading

The Bolt… It’s Electric!

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

There is no doubt that electric cars are taking over. Tesla started the modern day electric war, but GM was the first to give us an everyday affordable EV – one that you could theoretically use as one an only car.

I want to stress affordable and only car in previous statement, because yes the Nissan Leaf is affordable, but its range is poor. The Leaf will go only go 124 miles per charge. BMW’s and Smart’s options are not any better. The Chevy Bolt on the other hand will go 238 miles per charge. Tesla’s model S will go 335 miles on a charge, but the Tesla costs over twice as much the Bolt: $82,000 versus $36,000.

The Bolt’s range is key to me for being a one car household. The 200+ mile range means that you can drive all over town or to the next town over without having to worry about mobile charging stations. With the Leaf and BMW electric vehicles I tested, I felt range anxiety. Versus with the Bolt, I was able to drive it all week on one charge – and I drive a lot!

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 10.27.56 PM

Some may argue the Bolt looks too sci-fi for their tastes, even more so than a Tesla, but shouldn’t a car from the future look high tech. I enjoyed the minimalist design and the use of recycled plastics – it made me feel as if I was doing my part to help the environment. It has that Silicon Valley California vibe, which is a good thing. I could get use to the look…

The only thing I couldn’t get use to was ultra power saving mode. In this mode, you use the accelerator pedal (the gas pedal) to speed up the car by pressing it down as well as slow down the car significantly by lifting off the pedal. In this mode, the regenerative brakes are applied to charge the battery whenever possible – ie when you are not adding accelerating. Luckily you can turn this feature off and drive the Bolt like a normal car with the use both an accelerator pedal and brake pedal.

Visit your local Chevrolet dealer to test a Bolt out yourself or learn more about this all electric vehicle on Chevy’s website.

The Cadillac CT4 V is a grownup’s Camaro

Despite what most of my automotive journalist colleagues say about the 2020 Cadillac CT4 V, the car delivers exact what we need from a Cadillac. On and off-the-record, they have critiqued its performance, styling, and choice of materials. It is easy to say that the Mercedes C43 AMG has a nicer interior or that the BMW M340i has more horsepower, but both of these vehicles’ has a starting price of $10k+ more than the CT4 V. As journalists who are lucky enough to drive a new car every week, we often forget price points… The CT4 V is crazy good for $45,000.

I will be amongst the first to admit that the 2020 CT4 V doesn’t deserve the “V” badge. The legendary ATS V and CTS V were “bad ass” cars. The ATS V produced 464 hp, as much horsepower as a Corvette. The CTS V had a Corvette Z06 motor under the hood pumping out 640 hp. In comparison, the CT4 V only has a wimpy 325 hp 4-cylinder engine. But to redeem your street cred, you can tell your friends that your CT4 V has more horsepower than a Porsche Cayman. And in sport mode, you can just as easily get the rear wheels to loose traction and create a nice little drift. Performance options are enhanced with the Brembo Brake package and Magnetic Ride to control the dampers.

Yes, the interior of the Cadillac CT4 V seems a little simplistic. And yes, the materials used don’t seem quite as luxurious as other cars in its segment. But a fully loaded CT4 V cost less than the base price of its competition. I also thought the infotainment controls are more intuitive than most of its competitors. For instance, there are four different ways to change the radio station – so take your pick between two knobs, touch screen display, or switches. Another plus is that the Cadillac CT4 V comes standard with leather seats, where as it is an upgrade on most Mercedes and BMW vehicles.

Americans want a small sporty sedan for running errands. We want something fuel efficient for sitting in rush-hour traffic. We want a status symbol that lets everyone in the office parking lot know we are a part of the management team. And we don’t want to take out a second mortgage. On all of these fronts, the Cadillac CT4 V delivers. It is a grownup‘s Camaro.

2020 BMW X1 versus Mercedes GLB

I was lucky enough to get a back-to-back sampling of the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLB 250, each for a one week test. Both crossovers represent their respective German luxury automakers’ most affordable SUV offering. Both offer admission to the marque, while also delivering the full brand experience.

For the record: Technically Mercedes’ cheapest SUV offering is the GLA, however the GLA is more of a small station wagon on stilts. Akin to the Audi A4 Allroad. So the GLB is what you want if you want an SUV feel.

Luxury & Style

Both of my test vehicles exuded entry-level luxury, with leather seats and real wood or aluminum trim. However, the fit and finish on the Mercedes GLB was better. The design language felt brand new, and resembled styling from a modern S-Class Mercedes. The exterior felt sculpted. Whereas the BMW, while nice, the design language felt typical of a BMW from 10 years ago. It looks and feels very traditional, which isn’t a bad thing. Winner: Mercedes  Click Here To Continue Reading

Mini Cooper Electric

Finally, an exciting and affordable electric vehicle! The Mini Cooper Electric. Most EVs are slow and boring (Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt), or they are super expensive (Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S). This little car in neither. You get 181 horsepower and 110 miles of range for less than $30,000. Plus it looks like a cool car!

Now 181 horsepower might not seem like a lot of power, it actually isn’t this day and age. But remember, this is a small and agile vehicle. So you don’t need a lot of power to scoot this fun, little car around town. Also since this Mini Cooper is electric, you have instant torque, which makes it feel quicker than it is. In terms of weight, it is one of the heaviest Minis ever built. Lithium batteries weight a lot. However, you don’t feel the weight. The Mini Cooper Electric feels surprisingly well balanced when going around a corner. The handling characteristics are on par with its siblings, which are know for world-class handling. Even F1 World Champion James Hunt drove one for fun.

I had the Mini Cooper Electric for one week, and range anxiety was my only cause for concern with the vehicle. 110 miles is very respectable, however I don’t have a Level 2 or Level 3 charging station at my home or office. This means it took 4 days to fully charge the vehicle. For comparison, a Level 3 charging station would have charged the Mini Cooper Electric to 80% in 36 minutes. I would have this problem with any electric vehicle, so it isn’t Mini’s fault. It is just something you have to keep in mind if you purchase an electric Mini over a gasoline powered Mini.

One thing I loved about the Mini Cooper Electric is that it looks inside and out like a proper car. It isn’t a science experiment. In fact, the interior is identically to that of its gasoline sibling.

My advice is to get the Mini Cooper Electric if you have fast home charger and don’t take a lot of road trips. Otherwise, get the John Cooper Works Edition of the Mini Hardtop 2 door for $32,900.

The 2020 Range Rover Velar Delivers Even More: Now With Supercharged V8 Goodness

Look out Range Rover Sport, your little sister is getting an upgrade. The Velar is arguably the beauty queen of the Land Rover family. Its perfect proportions and minimalistic styling, make it worthy of a museum piece. Even the door handles pop in and out in order to not detract from its sleek lines. While the Range Rover Velar is a very capable off-road, its fun is better suited to wet or dry tarmacs. Leave it to the regular Range Rover or the Range Rover Sport if you really want to go rock crawling with their locking differentials and low-speed transfer cases.

My test vehicle for this review is the model range topping Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition. It is a brand new trim for the 2020 model year. The biggest standard equipment enhancement is the 5.0 L supercharged V8, which pumps out 550 horsepower and 502 pounds of torque. The engine transforms the Velar from a beautiful SUV, into a beautiful machine that eats sports cars for breakfast. That, combined with lighter wheels and a calibrated 8-speed gearbox, mean that the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. It sounds absolutely incredible when you smash the gas pedal thanks to a sports-tuned quad exhaust. Click Here To Continue Reading