Who will be this generation’s Henry Ford?

Today’s world of automobiles is filled with great achievements. People are working to create flying cars, energy-efficient engines, reliable batteries, self-driving vehicles and much more. Innovation never comes to a halt in this ever-progressing industry. With all that’s going on, it gets harder by the day to pinpoint the people behind it.

A quick look at the history of the automobile, however, will reveal to you the men and women behind everything. Women? You might ask. Yes, Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. Automotive pioneers spanned from inventors and designers, manufacturers, culture innovators to technology developers. In our journey to reach a thousand miles, they made the first steps.  Continue Reading →

Audi Etron: It is finally here!

Audi is very excited about the upcoming production launch of their new all-electric vehicle, the Audi Etron. So excited, that they flew me as well as 200 of their favorite automotive journalists to San Francisco for the World Premier Party. Obviously, the Audi Etron is not the first electric vehicle to hit the market. Competitors like Tesla, Nissan, Mercedes-Smart, and Chevrolet beat them to the punch. But in my opinion, it is the best overall. Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, but they revolutionized it and made it mainstream. Now it is Audi’s turn to make another mark on the world…

Its Development:

I have been following this vehicle for three years; since its concept car debut at the International Motor Show in Germany to the unveiling in the USA. From concept to production, the vehicle hasn’t changed drastically too in terms of styling or the proposed benchmarks. But the technology is lightyears ahead. In 2015, the technology to make Audi’s vision of an electric car wasn’t available. This is why Audi went to the race track with Formula E. From there, they were able to test and develop high-efficient electric motors and complex lithium-ion battery systems that could be utilized on your daily commute. Additionally, Audi collaborated with its sister company, Porsche, for the development of the Etron. Porsche is working on its own lineup of electric vehicles; most notably the Mission E series of grand touring vehicles. The combined intellect of these two German powerhouses can only mean a quality product.

It doesn’t look funny:

This can be both a plus and a minus, depending on your opinion. Every electric vehicle on the market looks weird. They are designed to represent the future, and for its drivers to make a statement: I am ultra-high-tech, I am ultra-trending, or I care deeply about the environment. After all, what you drive says a lot about you. The Audi Etron breaks the mold. Unless you look closely, the Audi Etron looks like a typical Audi SUV/Crossover. It is for individuals who want a great looking vehicle that is also electric.

It is a great vehicle:

Tesla makes great electric vehicles, but the Model S, Model 3, and Model X are only great because they are electrified. If a gasoline motor was placed under the hood, I bet most journalists would say that Tesla’s have a futuristic design, but the materials used feel cheap. The Audi Etron on the other hand, feels like a proper German luxury vehicle. Every element exuberates quality and precision. The interior of the vehicle I previewed featured a spacious cabin with leather seats and real wood trim. Authentic aluminum accents dressed up the interior to give it a modern look.  If you placed a gasoline motor under the hood, I would still like the car just as much.

Its benchmarks are solid:

Most of the technical specifications for the Audi Etron are still under wraps. But we do know all of the essentials. The Audi Etron has a 0 to 60mph time of 5.5 seconds. It isn’t a rocket ship, but the vehicle can accelerate quicker or as quick as about half of the Audi fleet. The Audi Etron can also do proper SUV things, like going off-road. The vehicles air suspension system will raise the ride height for off-road use, and its two-electric motor quattro all-wheel-drive system is designed to perform on snow, mud, and rocks. It can also tow up to 4,000 pounds. So that means you don’t need a second vehicle to tow your boat, camper, or race car. Audi hasn’t released official range specifications, but I heard a rumor at the World Premier Party that the Etron has a range of around 300 miles on a single charge. That is on par with best electric vehicles currently on the market.

It is priced well:

Audi told us during the event that the Etron is going to start at a base price of $74,000. This makes the Etron a good value when you compare it to the Tesla Model X or the Jaguar i-Pace, which starts at $83,000 and $69,000 respectively. And a significantly good value when you consider all of the standard equipment on the base model Audi Etron.

It is a tipping point:

Going mainstream is significant milestone in any trend. I think the Audi Etron will be the catalyst to make electric vehicles go mainstream. In its current state, electric vehicles are kind of a fad. But if Audi can position this technology as an everyday alternative versus a lifestyle, I think we will start to see more everyday vehicles have an all-electric lifestyle. I am a proud petrol head, but there is no doubt that electric drivetrains were once the future and quickly become the present.

Audi hasn’t released an official launch date, but I was told that it is coming soon. Audi dealers are already taking deposits on the Audi Etron. So you better hurry if you want to be amongst the first owners in the USA.

The BMW 330e makes being green fun again!

Bavarian Motor Works’ sportiest sedan series dates back to 1975, with the BMW 3-series. Back then you were limited to a carbureted inline 4-cylinder motor producing 74 horsepower or an inline 6-cylinder producing 141 horsepower. They were not rocket ships, even for 70’s standards, but fans quickly adored the 3-series’ suburb weight distribution and excellent handling.

Today’s BMW range varies between a 180 horsepower turbocharged inline 4-cylinder (320i) and up to a 425 horsepower inline 6-cylinder (M3). You can’t go wrong across the line up though, because they all have near perfect 50/50 weight distribution for improved handling. This paired with a sporty design will turn a boring commute into an exhilarating adventure; one where you must ace every apex on your way to the office.

The vehicle I get to test this week is the 330e. It is the plug-in hybrid version of the pack. Don’t let the term plug-in hybrid fool you though. In terms of power, it sits in the middle of the range with 248 horsepower and 310 pounds of torque. Because BMW paired their 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion powered electric motor, you get instant torque. Versus a traditional gasoline engine which achieves peak torque at high RPM. From a stoplight, this combination makes the car feel much quicker than a gasoline only engine.  Continue Reading →

Subaru Ascent: Room For The Whole Family

New for 2019, Subaru has given us a vehicle that seats the whole family. The Subaru Ascent is the brand’s first three-row SUV. It is a logical next step for the company as American’s are clamoring towards larger vehicles. Subaru’s line up now offers a something for every stage of your life: A Subaru BRZ or Impreza for when you are in your 20s. A Legacy or Crosstrek for your 30s. A Forester for when you have your first kid. The Subaru Ascent for when your family gets bigger. The Subaru WRX STI for when you and your wife become empty nesters. And then the Subaru Outback for when grandkids come into the picture.  Continue Reading →

First Drive: The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado Delivers More Of Everything

When I received an invitation from Chevy to travel to Wyoming and test the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado last week, I was excited for more than one reason. I knew that there was going to be a new and improved truck along with amazing scenery, but I didn’t realize that Chevy would actually let us put the vehicle through its paces in the real world. We got to test the various trim levels of the Chevrolet Silverado off-road, on the highway, in the city, towing things, and on the job site. It is essentially the same the truck, but different personalities.

The LT Trail Boss trim level on the Chevrolet Silverado was designed for customers who consider themselves off-road adventurers. New for 2019, it comes from the factory with a 2-inch suspension lift in order to give you more ground clearance. It also comes with a locking rear differential and skid plates should you decide to go rock crawling. To help out with the mud, 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires comes standard. During my real-world tests, the truck offered a high-level of driver confidence while venturing on rocky trails with steep elevation. The Trail Boss comes with a high and low speed transfer case standard, but the 5.3L V8 motor with an eight-speed automatic transmission (LT Trail Boss) delivered so much torque at low RPMs that the low range gears were not necessary. I will admit, I was a little nervous driving the Chevrolet Silverado off-road because I didn’t want to break this beautiful truck. But after seeing a Chevrolet engineer jump a Trail Boss with no damage, I can attest that the Silverado truly is “built like a rock.”

The LTZ and High Country trim levels were designed for owners who want the capability of a truck, but the driving dynamics and comfort of a premium sedan. Most of my testing with these two trucks were on the highway or around town. The High Country is the nicest of the two vehicles with the most standard features, as well as, a few exclusive features. But both trim levels deliver a polished exterior look; one that would make you proud to drive it to a fancy dinner party or equally suited to arrive at an executive board meeting. The interior of these two vehicles are dressed in leather – standard. Faux wood trim was tastefully placed throughout the cabin of High Country Silverado that I tested. Just by looking at it, you wouldn’t think that it was fake, but I would like to have seen real wood trim on a truck that costs $65,000 to buy. The driving dynamics of the LTZ and the High Country are significantly improved over the previous generation and the ride is noticeably smoother over the lower tier trim levels. Both vehicles drove more like a luxury sedan than a truck. They felt well planted at highway speeds with no vibrations and road noise was minimized. I credit the Silverado’s latest suspension tuning, dramatically improved aerodynamics (the drag coefficient was reduced by 6), and the use of advanced construction materials to lower the truck’s weight (by 450 pounds) as the main contributor. The LTZ and the High Country come standard with a 5.3L V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission, but the crème de la crème is the 6.2L V8 with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It is a modified version of the same engine that powers the Corvette. It also gives you up to 12,200 pounds of towing capacity. If you are going to haul a trailer, I strongly recommend checking the “Surround Vision” option on the order form. Multiple cameras are placed around the vehicle in order to make hitching a trailer and maneuvering easier.

The “Work Truck” trim level is your bare bones option for the job site. While there are no thrills with this Silverado model, it is a great value – priced at around $30,000. It offers up to 63 cubic feet of cargo volume in the bed, which is reportedly 20% more than the competition. Additionally, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado model uses a higher-grade steel for the truck bed in order to increase durability by 47%. There is also 12 fixed tie-downs in the bed to secure what you are hauling – this up from 8 tie-downs on the 2018 model. If you are working with power tools on the job site, a 120-volt power outlet and storage bins are handy options.

I was told that truck buyers are very loyal customers and often never switch brands – I can respect that. So, for current Chevrolet owners, the 2019 model is a worthy upgrade over the 2018 model. The truck delivers more in every way. For new truck buyers, my advice is to ask your friends why they love their trucks. Then take a test drive in the all-new 2019 Chevy Silverado.

The 2019 Jaguar E Pace Is Leading The Pack

This is not a statement to be taken lightly: The 2019 Jaguar E Pace R-Dynamic is the best compact performance SUV (or crossover) on the market. And using the next few paragraphs, I am going to tell you why…

Performance – Let’s face it, no one is going to (regularly) take their performance SUV or CUV on the race track. Most of the time it will be spent in rush hour traffic or if you are lucky, on mountain roads. So, performance specs are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. If they did, this article would be about the Porsche Macan Turbo with 400 horsepower. The Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic only has 296 horsepower in comparison, but it comes in a smaller and lighter package. This makes the car feel much nimbler and infinitely more fun to drive. The Jaguar’s steering is feels extremely precise and delivers excellent throttle response when in dynamic mode. Dynamic mode also allows the vehicle’s differential to deliver 100% of the power to the rear wheels and then gradually shift power to the front should the computer detect any slippage. The 2019 Jaguar E-Pace has an old-fashioned automatic transmission (the Porsche Macan has a dual-clutch), but the E-Pace has 9 gears to deliver optimum power.

Luxury – Every touchpoint in the Jaguar E-Pace feels ultra-premium. This is especially noticed in the cabin, where high-quality aluminum, leather and plastic materials are used. Jaguar paid close attention to details, to ensure even simple items like the turn signal lever exudes excellence. My test vehicle embraced a particularly sporty style, with red and black leather scattered throughout the cabin. The interior was clearly styled after Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. You know it means business because it is the only other vehicle to have those design cues. This is stark contrast to come of its competitors. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio for instance delivers incredible performance, but the interior feels cheap in comparison the Jaguar E-Pace. The backseats of the Jaguar E-Pace are cramped, but not sports car cramped. Adults are able to fit comfortably for short trips, but this isn’t the performance crossover SUV to get if you plan to have adult sized backseat company on a regular basis. Headroom was fine, but the legroom is marginal. This should be expected though because of the E-Pace’s short wheelbase… it is a blessing (performance) and a curse (luxury).

Price – My test vehicle was priced close to $60,000 fully loaded. While this may seem expensive, competition from BMW, Maserati, and Mercedes can top out at a much higher price point. But they don’t deliver nearly as many smiles on the road. With that being said, typically the larger the vehicle the more it costs, and the E-Pace is on the smaller side.

So, if you are in the market for high-performance compact SUV and interior space isn’t a concern, the Jaguar E-Pace should be on the top of your list. The driving dynamics are second to none, it comes in a refined package, and its price point is well deserved.

The CT6 Hybrid Is The Cadillac Of Cadillacs

The introduction of the CT6 in 2015 marked Cadillac’s return to the full-size luxury segment. Historically driving Cadillac represented that you have “arrived.” I am sure you have heard of the phrase: “This is the Cadillac of [Insert Product Category Here.]” For decades, showing up in a big luxury vehicle was a status symbol, but the brand needed a new image in the mid 2,000s as consumer’s tastes had changed. The transformation resulted in the company focusing on smaller and sportier versions of their sedans, as well as, their growing SUV/CUV lineup. Their top of line luxury vehicles were forgotten.  Continue Reading →

Infiniti QX80: Still a modern-day Land Yacht

When I first drove the Infiniti QX80 in 2014, I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of the vehicle’s size and the plushness of the Infiniti QX80’s interior. Its size and available creature comforts remind me of the gigantic boats from the 50s and 60s. But now you have 4-wheel-drive and heated seats. Infiniti has made a number of updates to this vehicle in the past four years, most notably to the exterior. The 2018 Infiniti QX80 has a more athletic body with sharper lines and a new front facia. The overall shape has been sculpted, but its design language remains congruent with the evolution of the vehicle. As like the QX80 from yesteryear, it is a big, beautiful and sexy machine.

They say that it is what is on the inside that counts. Under the hood is 400hp 5.6L V8 that makes this 5,600-pound car feel peppy (when compared to other vehicles in the full-size SUV segment). The motor also gives the QX80 the ability to tow 8,500 pounds; so, the land yacht is well suited to haul your water yacht to the lake every weekend. Behind the scenes, Infiniti added a few nifty safety features to the vehicle. My favorite is the hydraulic body motion control system, which uses an adjustable hydraulic suspension to minimize body roll. The system magically works by quickly adding pressure to either side of the vehicle based upon which way you are turning. Thus, improving the vehicle’s handling characteristics and decreasing the likelihood of this heavy SUV rolling over should you abruptly have to swerve in order to avoid an accident. My second favorite safety feature is the Infiniti QX80’s predictive forward collision warning. The computer is able to monitor the relative distance of both the car in front of you as well as the vehicle directly in front of it. Based upon the distance between all three vehicles, the QX80 will warn you in advance of a possible forward collision. This is an unnecessary technology for the QX80 because you tower over almost every vehicle on the road, effectively giving you a bird’s eye view of your surroundings… but it is a really cool technology and more vehicles should have it.

The interior of the 2018 Infiniti QX80 is strikingly similar to the QX80 I drove four years ago. The only change I could spot was a new gear lever. Some may argue that an update is due, but to be honest, I love the interior design! It is beautiful with a leather wrapped dash, doors, and seats. The wood trim appears to be carefully carved to shape. Special detail was given to the steering wheel – wood outlines the exterior rim, while leather dresses the inside of the wheel for enhanced grip. The wheel feels reminiscent of a classic British steering wheel due to this configuration. The optional saddle brown leather seats paired with diamond quilted stitching on my test car enhanced the European flavor when siting behind the wheel. Like the previous QX80, the seats on the 2018 model are oversized; giving you the notion that you have a football field of space to stretch out and enjoy the ride. This applies to primarily the front and second rows of seats, but the third-row seats are also quite comfortable. I wouldn’t mind hanging out back there for a family road trip. Should your little ones grow tired on the journey, my test vehicle featured two screens on the back of the front headrests and wireless Bose headphones to deliver a cinematic experience.

Like I said previously, not much has changed for this big and beautiful land yacht in the past four years. But it is still one of the best full-size SUVs that money could buy, and now it is even better. The only sting is that a well-equipped version of the Infiniti QX80 will cost you over $80k.

Is Something Missing On The 4-Cylinder Jaguar F-Type?

Jaguar owners are a special breed of people. They are proper and refined, yet athletic. I often times picture a gentleman or madam who is casually driving along a country road to attend a polo match. But then when no one is watching… he or she will smash the gas pedal in delight. After all, Jaguar’s motorsports heritage dates back to the 1950s. Traditionally you would hear the roar of a V12 or V8 command the road in anger as the gas pedal hits the floor, but this is 2018. Emissions regulations are forcing companies to produce smaller and more efficient engines. But at the same time there is pressure for manufactures’ to squeeze more power from each cylinder in order to stay competitive. Hence the reason 4-cylinder turbos are becoming more and more popular in performance cars like the Porsche 718, Ford Mustang, and Alfa Romeo Giuila.  Continue Reading →

The Limited Edition Subaru BRZ tS Is Every Boy Racers’ Dream Car

The Subaru BRZ is hands down one of my favorite cars to drive. It is not as quick off of the line as most sports cars, but it is arguably more fun. The BRZ’s unique feel instantly turns any shopping mall parking lot into the Le Mans circuit. The best part is… you can drive it hard without breaking any traffic laws. It is thrilling, but yet you don’t have to get carried away with how fast you are going.  Continue Reading →