In my book, there is really only one true American muscle car left on the market… and that is the Dodge Charger (4-door)/Challenger (2-door). Both the Mustang and Camaro are technically pony cars, and both are getting closer and closer to high-performance sport coupes. While the Charger still offers a true muscle car experience with a snarling V8 motor under the hood that makes you want to drag race one stop light to the next.
The vehicle comes in a number of different variants, but most of the trim levels deliver a HEMI engine under the hood. The Legendary engine dates back to the 1950s, but obviously it has been modernized over the years.
The Dodge Charger Daytona I had the pleasure of driving came with a naturally aspirated 5.7L V8 Hemi, which produces 370hp. You can get the same engine in the R/T trim level, but then you don’t get the performance exhaust or the cool Dayton graphics on the exterior or interior.
The Daytona seats feel extra special because the alcantara center inserts and the “Daytona” embroidery.
The contrast Daytona package graphics don’t actually make you go and any faster, but they do add about 50 “visual” horsepower. It makes to car go from cool to bad***.
The Subaru BRZ has been around since 2012, so I have driven the car a number of time. Each time, I am still surprised by how much fun the BRZ is to drive. The same goes for the Toyota FRS because it is basic the same car. The vehicle was manufactured as a joint venture between the two companies – taking the best of Subaru and the best of Toyota engineering.
The car hasn’t changed much in terms of performance or overall design, with the exception of the BRZ getting a few small visual enhancements and new color options. I consider this a good thing! I can’t count on my fingers or toes how many times I have seen a manufacture produce a stunning car, but ruin the ascetics because they want to give people something new to buy. A great example: Nissan gave us the Datsun 240Z in 1969, a lightweight sports coupe that handles great. The car instantly became an icon with its timeless design and high revving (Prince) engine. A few years later, Nissan gave us the 260Z and then the 280X. Each generation gained a few pounds and got bigger. Thankfully, Subaru/Toyota has stayed true to the original design… a lightweight sports coupe that handles great. I hope the next generation of the BRZ/FRS adheres to this same philosophy. We need more true sports cars in the world.
So back to the current generation Subaru BRZ. As I said before not much has change, or has it? They say clothes make the man, so some would argue that paint color makes the car. Maybe not… But I am still in awe by the 2017 BRZ I tested. The special edition Yellow BRZ series makes my toes tingle just by looking at it. I love the color, especially when paired to the black wheels and red brake calibers. It excites you before you even get into the car!
Once you get inside, the car feels even more special with yellow accents and thick yellow stitching. These two items really dress up the car. Otherwise it is the usual BRZ trim and interior. Although that is not a bad thing, because the BRZ’s interior gives you a true sports car feel – right down to the alcantara sports bucket seats.
My driving impression of the car is still the same… this little Subaru / Toyota love child was made to hit twisty canyon road and the track. From the moment you hit slide the 6-Speed manual transmission into first gear and hit the gas, you feel as if you are driving a race car. It is a special sensation that you don’t get anymore with most street cars.
When Mercedes-Benz puts the AMG badge on a car, you know it means business! Yes, the C43 AMG doesn’t have a legendary bi-turbo V8, but it has AMG power, prestiege, exhilaration for a relatively cheap price.
Traditionally when you see an AMG badge on a Mercedes, you can nearly double the price tag. But that is not the C43 AMG. It is starting price is only $12,000 more than the base C coupe… and it is worth every penny. AMG transformed a boring compact coupe into an addictive sports coupe that begs you to smash the accelerator. The car goes 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, which doesn’t make it a rocket, but it is plenty fast for around town or on the highway. The addictivness comes is variable sports exhaust, which with the press of a button, makes the car go from quite estate car to super car like sound. In addition to upgraded exhaust with the C43 AMG, you also get a sports tuned suspension, a torque vectoring system, and bigger brakes for added performance.
While some may say that the C43 AMG is “just a sports package” or “that it is just for people who want the prestige of an AMG, but can’t afford the real thing,” I strongly disagree. The C43 AMG offers a true AMG experience while also delivering decent fuel economy (27mph Highway). Who doesn’t want better gas mileage from their daily driver?
I usually don’t get excited about cars that get a refresh. But the new Hyundai Sonata has peeked my interest. While it visually looks similar very similar, it is not. Hyundai has reworked almost every exterior element on the front of the car. It has new grill with sleeker lines that remind me of an unnamed luxury car. It’s stance is more aggressive, and it is complimented with a reworked rear end. It has got an all-new trunk, bumper and tail lights.
The interior although they say it is new, you can’t tell the difference unless you are comparing the two vehicles side by side. But what is noticeable different is the driving dynamics. The feel of the vehicle is enhanced by new steering and suspension systems that give the driver more feedback while also delivering a smoother ride. Another impressive item related to the car is a new transmission. Even though you will never (don’t quote me) see a Hyundai Sonata on the drag strip, you still want to have fun with it. The transmission has been reworked to deliver quicker shifts when you hit the gas pedal hard, but still offer smooth transitions between gears when cruising casually. I also noticed less lag between shifts while manually selecting a gear using the paddle shifters.
For those concerned about fuel economy, both models of the Hyundai Sonata I tested got over 30mpg. If you are interested in performance, you have your choice of a 1.6L twin-turbo 4-cylinder that produces 178hp, a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that produces 185hp, or a 2.0L twin-turbo that produces a respectiable 245hp.
Overall, Hyundai did a fantastic job of enhancing an already great product. Even though a well equipped Hyundai Sonata is priced at under $25,000, it still offers premium luxury features. A 7 inch touchscreen infotainment system, power and heated front seats, automatic headlights, and blind-spot detection are all standard features on the SEL trim. If you want to add the $1,000 Tech Package to your options list, the car can nearly drive itself… you get automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
My last review on this site was of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class; a ultra high-tech luxury sedan that semi-autonomously drives itself on the highway. This week’s car is week also a luxury sedan, but with the Jaguar XFS, you will want to do all of the driving yourself! This mid-sized sedan was designed for the driving enthusiast – those who would choose to take the long way home as an excuse to get more time behind the wheel.
The Jaguar XFS keeps the brands heritage of building high performance cars. Yes, the car has a 3.0L Supercharged V6 that rockets it from 0-60 in 5 seconds, and it uses a lightweight aluminum architecture. But… what really makes the car so great is the feeling you get while driving on a curvy road. The driving dynamics are performance bred. You are able to actually “feel” the road (in sport mode) as your tires start to slide while you are breetheing on the throttle in a turn. The level of engagement reminds me of what you would expect from a BMW 5-Series, but with a higher level of refinement. The seats are more plush, the dash is elegantly sophisticated, and materials used are fit for the royal family – yes the Queen of England has been spotted driving herself in a Jaguar XF wagon.
So what’s not to love??? Finding a legitimate complaint about the Jaguar XFS is like finding a needle in a haystack, but I did find one… the lack of Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Jaguar has their “InControl” smartphone connectivity system, but the intergration is not as good as Apple’s or Google’s. So if you are tech geek, you might want to wait for Jaguar’s next update. Rumor has it, Apple Car Play is coming soon.
To say that the all-new Mercedes Benz E-Class is the best E-Class ever made isn’t too far of stretch, because the model gets arguably better with each new generation. But I will go a step further and say that the all-new E-Class is also the best mid-sized luxury sedan on the market – The title was previously held (in my opinion) by the Audi A6.
When you step inside the new E-Class, it is easy to mistake that you are stepping into an S-Class because the interior of the E-Class mirrors the S-Class. It is just as stunning on fully optioned models, just slightly smaller. The first thing you will notice are two gigantic digital screens, one to show the vehicle’s instrument cluster and one to two the infotainment center. The screens at matched with either real wood trim or real aluminum. Then as you slip into the seats you will feel premium leather seats (if optioned) followed by a gentle massage on your back and bottom (after a activating it on the infortainment screen). I have to hand it to Mercedes, they are the only manufacturer with a “real” massage chair built into the seats. I have tried massaging seats from everything from Ford to Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes is the only manufacture where I would pay extra for the seats.
The in-car technologies are a mirror of the flagship S-Class Mercedes as well. There is radar guided cruise control as well as an active lane-keep assist. These two options make the E-Class Mercedes “close to” a semi-autonomous vehicle. I say “close to” because you are still required to have your hands on the steering wheel, but you just barely need to touch it. During the week I tested it, I had a business trip from Ft Lauderdale to Orlando, FL. After getting on the Turnpike, I let the car drive itself on the 200+ mile journey. The car turned as the road turned, slowed down as the car in front of me braked, and speed up as the speed limit increased. You heard that right, the new Mercedes E-Class can read speed limit signs and dynamically adjust your speed accordingly. The car worked beautifully with one exception…. later that week I was on a two lane country road on my way to a charity event. I had a pickup truck in front of my and a semi-truck behind me. The E-Class was basically driving itself when the pickup truck decided to slow down and turn left into a convenience store. This shouldnt be a problem, but because the Mercedes couldn’t accurately detect the lines in the road, it started following the truck left. I quickly had to grab the wheel, as I was driving in the wrong lane with a school bus headed right for me. To top it off, the semi-truck started to pass me as the car drove it self into the other lane. Luckily I was an alert drive and abruptly slowed to get behind the semi-truck. So while the E-Class’ semi-autonomous driving functionality is great, please remember that they are an aid and not intended to allow the drive to take a backseat. Other than this one time nerve wrecking experience, the system was spot on.
So here is the big question… should you get a fully loaded E-Class for around $75,000 or upgrade to a base S-Class? Outside of size, they are very close products now. The E-Class fully-load is slightly smaller and easier to drive. The S-Class rides better and has a much larger backseat. So my pick is the E-Class for the city and the S-Class for the highway.
Visit your local Mercedes-Benz dealer or click here to go to the Mercedes-Benz website.
The WRX you see pictured above is every kids fantasy – they are a car enthusiast. While some love the WRX STI and other hate it because of the “rice burner” image, gear heads around the world respect it because Subaru built one heck of a car. It come standard with a turbo-charged 4-cylinder boxer motor that is good for over 300 horsepower and symmetrical all-wheel-drive. But this isn’t Subuar’s standard all-wheel-drive system…
Using a toggle switch along the center console, you can control how much power is distrubed amongst the front and rear wheels. If you are trying to do donuts or get the maximum power; direct all of the power to the rear wheels. If you are driving in a rally cross race or in the rain, shift the power back to all four wheels. This level of control for an all-wheel-drive system is very impressive. I can’t think of another manufacture with this degree of control – not even Audi has it.
An additional benefit of Subaru’s advanced all-wheel-drive system is that on STI models, “true” Active Torque Vectoring is standard. I want to emphasis “true” torque vectoring because most modern sports cars only offer simulated torque vectoring. The concept of torque vectoring was pioneered by McLaren for Formula 1 racing. The idea is to force the outside wheels to spin faster than the inside wheels while going through a turn in order to make the car turn sharper. All-wheel-drive cars like the WRX STI (as well as the new Accura NSX, Lamborghini Huracan, and Audi R8) will shift power to the wheels from one side to the other, while cars like the Porsche 718 and 911 have to rely on using the brakes to slow the speed of the inside wheels. Obviously if you are using the brakes, you are scrubbing off speed and slowing down.
Ok, enough with all of the high performance racing talk. The Subaru WRX STI also has a mean bark and snarling approach. Even while sitting still, the car looks fast! It is hard to miss the gigantic rear wing of an STI. While I am guessing it is mainly for show, because the car tops out at around 155mph, but still looks really cool. That paired with large disc brakes and an enourmous hood scoop, the WRX STI looks like it a special vehicle – or one that spent a lot of time in a performance shop. Speaking of performance, check out that quad tip sport exhaust system that makes the car sound great and look bad ***.
P.S. Thank you Subaru for bring this to us in a manual transmission.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.