First Drive: The 2022 Infiniti QX55 Is Dressed To Impress

With styling cues that pay homage to the very first performance crossover, the QX55 is a showstopper in the modern crossover/suv world. The vehicle is structurally very similar to the QX50, but the QX55 is sleeker and more modern. It is essentially the “sport coupe” version of the QX50. The vehicle looks like a proper Infiniti with bold line, enhanced by chrome trim and LED lights in the front and rear. Specifically the piano key tail lights.

The interior elements of the Infiniti QX55 compliments the striking exterior lines. My favorite color combination is black on red, because it exemplifies the sporty look of the vehicle. The modern elegance of the QX55 was bolstered by aluminum trim details and soft touch plastics instead of old-school wood trim. There is also 3 digital displays to showcase navigation, audio, and climate control all at once. Most people work using multiple monitors, so it is fitting to have multiple display at your finger tips inside the vehicle.

While the Infiniti QX55 is one of the most beautiful crossovers on the market, the looks don’t match the driving dynamics. It feels planted on the road and it is no slouch, but the 268 horsepower turbo-charged 4-cylinder motor was underwhelming for such a sporty looking vehicle. To make matters worse, the QX55 uses a CVT transmissions which offers a smooth power delivery, but lacks the drama of a traditional automatic or dual-clutch transmission. Also the steering felt a little numb. However, if you don’t care about 0 to 60 mph times, then the QX55 is winner.

The cherry on top of the Infiniti QX55 is its standard equipment and price point. For less than $50,000, every QX55 comes standard with a leatherette interior and 20” wheels. For reference, 20” wheels are a $4,000 option on the Porsche Macan. The QX55 also comes standard with all-wheel drive and an assortment of technology and safety upgrades that are often times options for other vehicles. Notable upgrades include leather seats and a 16-speaker BOSE sounds system.

For luxury buyers that want to challenge the norm, while being on the forefront of style and technology, the Infiniti QX55 is a solid choice.

One Size Fits All: The New Land Rover Defender

My one week with the new Land Rover Defender was nothing short of fantastic. That is because the new Defender does everything really, really well. Typically with factory built extreme off-roaders, manufacturers have to have compromises. The iconic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon for instance can conquer any terrain, but it doesn’t feel planted like car at excess highway speeds.

What you drive says a lot about you, especially in a white collar professional setting. Getting out of an F150 Raptor in a suit and tie, looks weird. It is like guys wearing dark denim shorts. So if you are dressing for success, your vehicle should too. With all of its British charm, I was able to easily rock a blazer with the Land Rover Defender everyday and not be embarrassed in the parking lot or around clients. The Defender’s unique exterior style looks sophisticated with a hint of sport. It is stylish, even amongst rows of $100,000 SUVs from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, and Bentley.

The interior of the new Land Rover Defender is brilliantly designed with a modern look and sporty accents, such as exposed bolts and body color trim. The build quality of the interior felt solid, with each piece held firmly in place and minimal gaps. All of the materials felt like they were made with high-quality properties. Even the doors has a nice solid feel with you closed them. The only thing I didn’t like is Land Rover’s use of synthetic materials for the seats, dash, and doors on the Defender. I would have expected a $70k+ vehicle to be equipped with at least leather seats. My co-workers and other occupants didn’t mind. In fact they quite enjoyed how spacious and airy the backseat felt.

My test vehicle was equipped with an inline 6-cylinder motor that pumps out nearly 400 horsepower and over 400 pounds of torque. And with a 0 to 60 time of 5.8 seconds, this means the Land Rover Defender is almost as fun on-road as it is off-road. The Defender felt peppy despite its curb weight exceeding 5,000 pounds. It was fun zipping around town in a perfectly sized SUV; small and agile enough to navigate congested city streets, but big enough to feel safe. The ride quality was suburb at any speed thanks to its adjustable suspension. Even at excess speeds on the highway, the Defender feels incredibly planted and comfortable, like it is designed for a 1,000 mile road trip. With a first and second row seating only configuration, the Defender has enough cargo space for a month long vacation.

The Land Rover Defender actually walks the walk and talks the talk. It is not just post SUV pretending to be an off-road *cough Bentley Bentayga cough.* The Defenders proper off-road pedigree shines through with an adjustable ride-height of 11.5” and 38 degree approach angle. It also has locking differentials and a low-speed transfer case. Plus its rugged construction, makes it better suited than anything else on the market, including its posh big brother, the Range Rover. The only thing that comes close is the Wrangler, but the Defender won’t beat you up on the trails. For novice off-roaders, Land Rover’s terrain response system will automatically adjust the cars settings based upon sensor readings. The Land Rover Defender can even go through 34” of water with ease. So next time you have to cross a shallow river, choose the new Defender over a boat.

This vehicle is so good, the new Land Rover Defender might just find a permeant home in my driveway.

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2021 Chevrolet Traverse

This is the vehicle to get when your family is growing, but you don’t want something quite as expensive as a $50k+ Tahoe. The 2021 Chevrolet Traverse deliverers a large presence and 3 rows of seating at a price tag starting at $29,000. This means that little Timmy and his 6 friends will get to soccer practice and get pizza afterwards. Also, 27mpg means that road trips to grandma’s house in the 2021 Chevrolet Traverse won’t brake the bank either. The Traverse drives nicely and is comfortable for its class of vehicle.

The last (and only) great station wagon, Mercedes E450 Wagon

There was a time in America where families pilled into a station wagon for their annual family road trip. It was big, comfortable, and fuel efficient. Memories were created at each stop, and each mile offered a relaxing way to come together as a family. There was also plenty of room for luggage and the family dog. Outside of road trips, Moms could use the family wagon to take the kids to soccer practice, and Dads could use the family wagon for home improvement projects. All of this was later replaced with minivans and then by SUVs. While both of these modes of transportation are great from a utility standpoint, nothing compares to the drivability, fuel economy, and comfort of a station wagon.

For a week, I got to experience the forgotten love of a station wagon in the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon. Because of its low riding architecture, the E450 Wagaon drives a sedan. It is quite and superiorly stable at high speeds. 100 mile commutes are no more fatiguing than a short trip to the grocery store. The vehicle glides with ease under the power of a 362 horsepower inline-6 cylinder. It is by no means a sports car, but it is peppy. And around corners, there is no fear of rolling over.

I rarely fall in love with 4-door vehicles, but I absolutely smitten with the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon’s interior. The designo package with quilted stitched seats and nappa leather on the dash delivers an S-Class quality interior with utility of a 3-row wagon. It also rides like a buttery smooth S-Class, with adaptive air suspension. Its load-leveling and adjustable ride height ensure the drive and passengers a leisurely drive no matter what you are hauling. My test vehicle also had optional massaging seats, like on the S-Class. Which means after a long day of sitting at the office, you can refresh yourself while waiting in the carpool line at your child’s school.

The E450 Wagon’s only real competition comes in the form of the Audi A6 allroad and Porsche Panamera Sport Turisumo. Both are fantastic vehicles, but the Audi misses the mark in terms of stateliness, and the $98,000 Porsche is more of a sports cars than a luxury vehicle. If I were a Dad, the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon would be the vehicle I would buy.

2021 Chevrolet Colorado

I have driven this truck a few times over the years, and it has consistently remained by favorite pickup truck. That is because the 2021 Chevrolet Colorado offers the utility of a full-size pickup truck with the packaging of a small truck. It is easy to park in the city, while also being able to tow 5,000 pounds with a gasoline V6 or turbocharged diesel engine. It’s sporty size also means that hitting the trials are a lot of fun, especially with the Z71 or ZR2 off road packages.

Compared to its similar sized competition, I like the 2021 Chevrolet Colorado better. It feels more solid and expensively built; it doesn’t feel like a budget truck, even with a starting price of $25,000.

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Is The Best Mini-Van I Have Ever Driven

The title of this review is factual, but also deceptive, because I have only ever driven Pacifica mini-vans. The hybrid variant, in my opinion, is the best, because it is the most fuel efficient: 82 combined mpge. The added “e” to the mpg is because the Chrysler Pacific Hybrid can function as a fully-electric vehicle for up to 32 miles.

I must also omit that I have no kids or grandkids, so I am not the target audience for this vehicle. Thus the fancy 3rd-row seating, built in vacuum cleaner, and rear entertainment options made no difference to me.

While I had the car however, I did do a small home improvement project. The gigantic rear hatch and folding rear seats were awesome for transporting building supplies from the hardware store to my home. The lower access height for picking up heavy materials is a one up against typical SUVs.

Driving the Chrysler Pacific Hybrid around town and on the highway was easy. It has great visibility and offers a smooth ride. I wouldn’t call the experience exciting, but the vehicle has plenty of pickup.

I plan to keep my sports cars for now, but I can’t absolutely understand why mini-vans remain the king of family vehicles. They are comfortable, practical, and can take the place of a truck for house projects.

Too much horsepower??? Never! 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody Review

The Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody may have way more horsepower than the rear wheels can handle, but it makes the car all the more fun to drive. Off the line, this 800 horsepower (797 to be exact) visceral cat will leave every 12 year old boy from here to Detroit grinning ear to ear. It is the last true iconic American muscle car.

With that much horsepower, the only safe way to test the vehicle’s limits is on a closed road. The real-wheel-drive Hellcat Redeye can easily go sideways if you are not careful. Plus with a reported 0 to 60 mph time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of over 200mph, you can easily loose your license on public roads. Luckily for me, the city of Pompano Beach offered to loan me their airport for a few hours for testing. So in old-fashion Top Gear style, I got to work.

Under the hood of the Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody is a supercharged 6.2L V8 HEMI engine. Even though it has “the most powerful mass-produced engine in the world,” it isn’t actually the quickest sedan. That is because all of the power is going to the rear wheels versus an all-wheel-drive platform like on the less powerful BMW M5 for example. However, real-wheel-drive cars are always more fun to drive. This means when trying to launch the Hellcat Redeye as fast as possible, you either need a delicate foot or launch control. Or you just say the hell with it, and you have fun burning tire tread and creating smoke. During my comprehensive testing at the Pompano Beach airport, I couldn’t actually get the car to do 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, my tests came closer to 3.8 seconds with launch control. But I think that was because I was on a set of well used Pirelli tires. A fresh set of sticky rubber could easily make up the difference.

I also couldn’t get “the fastest sedan in the world” up to 200 mph, but that is just because I didn’t have a long enough runway available. Because of the sheer force of acceleration when the rear tires lock into grip, I have no doubt that this un-earthly machine can take you 1/3 of the way from breaking the sound barrier.

At the end of each tarmac run, my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head due to the Hellcat Redeye’s massive Brembo six-piston brakes. The force is matched to what you can expect from a Ferrari race car, but enhanced due to the 4,600 pound weight of the vehicle. During the entire test, I didn’t experience an ounce of brake fade even though I could feel them working hard to slow down this friend sedan from 150+ mph to 0 mph.

The comparatively heavy weight of the Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye means that the now standard widebody is a must for corners. Its ultra-wide tires allow the Hellcat Redeye to claw around corners. The car doesn’t feel nimble, but it could handle its own around a race track against the finest competition. The Hellcat Redeye Widebody with the majority of its weight in front, is naturally a understeer car. It pushes on each corner. However if you can drive by the seat of your pants, you can easily get the rear end to swing out, offering you and your passenger the ride of your lives.

Typically you would be looking at north of six figures for any vehicle with over 500 horsepower. But you can pick up the 800 horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody for less than $80,000. Sure the interior is filled with plastic trim, but this is a car you can take to the drag strip, use on a road course, drift competitively, and pick the kids up from school all in the same day. I call that a win!

A special thank you to the City of Pompano Beach for letting me borrow part of your airport for testing and photos. As always, thank you to Dodge for loaning me the 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody to drive for a week. I hope I didn’t burn too much rubber 🙂

Exploring the 2021 Kia K5 GT Line

In November I reviewed Kia’s affordable luxury trim levels on the 2021 K5 sedan. You can find it here, along with driving impressions for the vehicle. But today, I want to share with you details on the Kia K5 GT Line trim. It uses the same 180 horsepower engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, and suspension as the LX, LXS, and EX trim levels, but you get a sportier appearance. This includes black 18″ wheels, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, as well as different seat materials and a flat bottom steering wheel.

You won’t go any faster with the K5 GT Line, but you will look cooler. If you truly have a need for speed though, I would upgrade to the real K5 GT. It comes standard with 290 horsepower and sports tuned suspension.

2020 Vehicle Of The Year: Right Hand Drive Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Behind The Wheel’s award for Vehicle Of The Year was driven by a need to highlight that driving is much more than benchmarks. The enjoyment of getting from point A to point B is a priceless experience that far outweighs lap times or the bargain price of a car.

My pick for vehicle of the year is based upon my most interesting experience behind the wheel every year. Previous winners include driving the Porsche 911 GT3 RS around a race track, taking a Ford Mustang GT on a cross country road trip, and going rock crawling with Range Rover in Arizona.

This year’s winner is the right-hand drive 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. While in the UK on holiday, Rolls-Royce sent one to my hotel as transport to tour their factory. The experience of being chauffeured around London with my wife by my side was surreal. I almost always prefer to drive, but relaxing in the back with heated seats and lambs wool carpet on a cold day while soaking up the scenery as we drove up to Goodwood was magical.

I knew that all Rolls-Royce vehicles were true works of art, but the customization options from the factory are truly incredible. Master craftsmen can take any idea, any material, any color, and tastefully integrate it into the design of the vehicle. Their workshop is located on the same grounds as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a fitting place since Rolls-Royce once held the records for the fastest car, boat, and aircraft.

Rolls-Royce’s factory is state-of-the-art and precise in every aspect, however old-world attention to detail is seen throughout. For instance, the pinstripes on every specified vehicle is all done by hand. The seats are stitched and inspected by hand for locating even the slightest imperfections. The culture of their workforce is one of unity. Everyone is on the same team, and they even sit together in the cafe for every meal together – from workers on the floor to executives.

Following the tour, I got to drive the Cullinan on both narrow country roads through history towns and on the city streets of London. Despite its opulent size, the Cullinan was quite pleasurable to drive. The vehicle makes grand touring carefree, and you never want the journey to end. Driving the vehicle is just as magical as riding in it, because I was driving the quintessential english car in its natural habitat.

A Solar Powered Car? The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

To say the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a solar powered car is a bit of a stretch, but I am not too far off. Instead of a traditional sun roof, the production vehicle that I drove for a week featured a large solar panel on the roof. This allows the car to re-charge its batteries while sitting in the hot sun. Effectively allowing you to drive an electric vehicle up to 2-miles per day on solar alone. Hyundai did a great job with this; not only from an engineering side, but from an understated design perspective. It look like a sleek Hyundai sedan from a distance, which I like. Solar powered roof only gets noticed when you closely look at the roof. Click Here To Continue Reading