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.

Going green with the Land Rover Range Rover Hybrid

Luxury SUV drivers who want supreme off-road capabilities will be pleased to know that they can finally “go green” on their way to the next polo match. That is because the 2020 Range Rover is now offered as a plug-in hybrid. That means you have the option of driving the 2020 Range Rover P400e as you normally would under gasoline power with 25 MPGs, or you can drive it as a fully electric vehicle for up to 25 miles.

If you ask me, the 2020 Range Rover P400e is the best of both worlds, because it has all of the benefits of a luxury gasoline powered SUV combined with the benefits of an electric vehicle. For instance, the average driver commutes less than 20 miles per day. So if you plug the SUV into a wall outlet every night, you would never have to go to the gas station during the week. But for those weekend road trips, you never have to worry about range anxiety because their are over 100,000 gas stations in the United States.

Electric vehicles no doubt save fuel and are better for the environment due to reduced emissions. But, another key selling point is how quite electric vehicles are to operate. You no longer have a fire breathing gas guzzling motor making a bunch of racket. Instead, you drive down the road an absolute bliss. You want peace and quote in a luxury vehicle. So by all standards, the Range Rover P400e Hybrid should be considered Range Rover’s most luxurious vehicle. I am personally a petrol head, but the eerie sound of nothing is quite soothing under electric only drive mode.

The electric drivetrain component of the Range Rover P400e is also a benefit for off-road use because you have instant and linear torque. If you are rock crawling, you want to be able to give over a bolder slowly do you don’t damage the vehicle.

At a starting price of $95,950, the Range Rover P400e does command a $5,000 premium over the base engine model. But you do get more horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy. Plus like I said previously, the ability to never go to the gas station again for your normal commute is priceless.

The Lexus LC500 Surprises & Delights

My Father is an automotive enthusiast and a former SCCA Championship racer, so it is no surprise that he prefers a sports car for his daily driver. The only challenge is, like most people in their 80s, he is wants comfort in his old age. It is rare to find a truly comfortable luxury vehicle that also brings a little sports car excitement to the mix. 9 times out of 10, you are trading comfort for sport. He has been using Mercedes SL550 roadsters for the past 15 years as his daily driver. Which does the job when not wanting to drive a super car, but he was curious to find something new and more comfortable for everyday use. We looked at a few different options, including the new Aston Martin Vantage, BMW 8-Series, and the Maserati Gran Turismo. All great cars, but none of them were quite like the Lexus LC500 that I recently tested.

Ascetically, the Lexus LC500 is a sexy car with large 21″ wheels and a timeless flowing design. Do I dare say it is one of the best looking two-door cars on the market? It even looks fast with door handles that integrate into the body for improved aerodynamics. Looks are not everything; I have seen quite a few cars recently that look fast, but don’t deliver a punch with your smash the gas pedal.

In terms of performance, the Lexus LC500 comes standard with a naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 that pumps out 471 horsepower and 389 Pounds of Torque. The engine is mated with a 10-speed traditional automatic gearbox. This combination is way more than enough to be dangerous. The drivetrain also sounds dangerous with a throaty roar coming out of the back of the two exhaust pipes. Behind the wheel, the steering felt sharp in Sport S+ mode, and the vehicle tracks nicely around corners. You get a little understeer, but that is better than oversteer with this type of car. So the thrills are there, which isn’t surprising because Lexus has been working diligently to promote their sporty image and Toyota’s racing heritage.

What surprised and delighted me though was how civilized the LC500 becomes in Comfort Mode. It drives like Lexus’ big LS sedan. It is easy to forget that you are in a sports car when you are listening to smooth jazz on a Mark Levinson surround sound system and riding in a cabin that can be whisper quite at the touch of a button – thanks to the adjustable exhaust and a well insulated cabin. The interior of my test vehicle was wrapped from top to bottom in leather and alcantara for an ultra-luxury experience. Plus the ride and steering feedback are buttery smooth in Comfort mode, just like you would expect from a luxury sedan.

See this where the Lexus LC500 truly shines: It is a dragon slaying ninja with on ramps and on twisty roads. It is a “pass me the Grey Poupon” cruiser on freeways. While the Aston Martin, Mercedes, BMW, and Maserati deliver in terms of performance, you never truly forget that you are sacrificing comfort for speed. In comparison, this makes the LC500 one of the few true grand touring cars on the market; you can escape the displeasure of driving a high performance vehicle without having to change vehciles.

My Father is still weighing his options on what his Mercedes SL550 replacement will be, but the Lexus LC500 will surly be a top contender. I suggest that you visit your local Lexus dealer if you facing a similar conundrum.

The BMW X3 has grown up!

The 2020 BMW X3 versus 2000 BMW X5

I will admit from the start, it has been a while since I have driven a BMW X3. I haven’t seen one in the press fleet down here in Florida in a long time. However, I was recently in Michigan for a week to escape the Florida summer heat and get some seat time in the X3… aka the baby X5.

The third generation feels much more substantial than previous generations. This time around the X3 felt more like the original X5, in terms of size, performance, and creature comforts…

Size & Weight

The 2000 BMW X5 weighed in at 4,800 pounds, and was 184″ long and 74″ wide. It was a trend setter in the SUV arena, because it was one of the first performance oriented SUVs – it could actually hug corners. In comparison, the 2020 BMW X3 weighs in at 3,900 pounds, and it is 2 inches larger and 1/2 an inch wider than the 1st generation X5. The increased size translates into a similar cabin space for occupants and more cargo room. The X3’s weight savings despite its proportion is thank to 20 years of BMW R&D into aluminum and other modern materials.

Performance & Driving Experience

Although the latest generation X3 is bigger than the first generation X5, the base X3 engine is less than 1/2 the size of the top-of-the-line X5 of the era. The original BMW X5 optionally packed a 4.4L V8 producing 282 horsepower and 324 torque. Where as the 2020 BMW X3 comes standard with a 2L twin-turbo inline 4-cylinder that pumps out 248 horsepower and 258 torque. The 2020 X3 doesn’t have a mighty V8, but it accelerates blistering fast in comparison due to the X3’s 8-speed automatic gearbox and weight savings: X3 0-60mph in 6.0 seconds, versus X5 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds. In terms of hugging corners though Click Here To Continue Reading

2019 Mercedes CLS: It can’t come soon enough!

While visiting Chicago on vacation earlier this month, Mercedes gave me a pre-production version of their upcoming CLS four-door sports coupe to drive around town. The good news is that it is an absolutely stunning example of Mercedes design and a worthy update to the Mercedes CLS nameplate. The bad news is that you likely won’t be able to get one until next year… and I want one in my garage now!

A Design To Excite

For Dad’s (or Mom’s) who need the utility of a four-door vehicle but don’t want to give up the emotion of driving sports coupe, the Mercedes CLS (and this segment) was born for you. Mercedes paratactically invented the “four door sports coupe” segment with CLS back in the early 2000’s. They were amongst the first to offer a luxury four-door sedan with a fastback like roof line and a limited b-pillar. Since then, brands like Audi and BMW have copied the style on their most sportiest family friendly models.

The CLS’ design language is meant to evoke excitement from the minute you look at the car – I even found myself taking a second look at the vehicle every time I parked it. The silhouette with its frameless b-pillar makes you think for a monument that you are driving a traditional two sports coupe. Whether you are going through a mid-life crisis with kids or you just haven’t grown up yet, the style will evoke a sense of pride in ownership that you likely haven’t felt since you were 16 years old.  Click Here To Continue Reading

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.  Click Here To Continue Reading

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.  Click Here To 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.

The BMW M550i Takes The Cake!

I am sure you have heard of the phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” This proverb has been accurate for most of BMW’s recent history. This is especially true for their current lineup because their vehicles tend to be polar opposites. The latest generation of Bimmers offer either Mercedes level luxury or Porsche level performance. You are either riding in comfort and style in their series models (IE 3-series,5-series,etc) or being bounced around like ping pong ball while you are grinning from ear to ear in their M cars (IE M3,M5,etc). If you haven’t noticed, BMW’s latest trend is to offer “M Sport” packages for their series models; Allowing a 180 horsepower 320i sedan to pose as a 425 horsepower M3. This is like allowing a sheep to dress in wolf’s clothing. The “M Sport” packages in most cases don’t offer any performance benefits while making the vehicle look like an M car. Thus the packages are a waste of money in my opinion.

So now we turn to this week’s vehicle… the BMW M550i. It is not an M5, but it is also not, not an M5. And don’t confuse it as a BMW 5-Series with an M-Sport package. The most accurate statement I can come up with is that the BMW M550i is an M5 with a “touring package.”  Click Here To Continue Reading