The BRZ could be one of the best kept secrets for track work.

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I have driven the Subaru BRZ a bunch of times, both as a Subaru and as the Toyota FRS variant. Biggest difference between the two is that the Subaru version has a slightly fancier interior. The vehicles are basically one in the same because the BRZ was a combined effort between Subaru and Toyota. The two companies set out to build a low-budget low center of gravy two-wheel drive sports coupe that would keep you grinning from ear to ear as you apexed each turn of a country road.

In my previous reviews of the BRZ, I discussed its road handling characteristics, its performance characteristics, and its interior design. So for this story, I want to highlight BRZ’s track work, or lack of track work to be specific. I say lack of track work because I have seen the Subaru BRZ (or Scion/Toyota FRS) on the track less than a handful of time. This is shocking because I am on track at least a dozen times a year with SCCA and PCA. The BRZ could be one of the best kept secrets for track work, because the car handles exceptionally well and it is low cost. Miata’s dominate the amateur racing world for that very same reason, but the Miata is convertible, which inherently isn’t as a safe or as rigid as a coupe. There are also dozen of performance mods for the BRZ that are seemingly low cost – you can check them out first hand at almost every Cars & Coffee outing.

So for those of you looking for your next track car, I urge you to take a second look at the Subaru BRZ. It is a peppy little sports coupe with the heart of a go-kart.

The SLC43 AMG is the perfect daily driven roadster!


Daily driver and roadster rarely fits into the same sentence unless you are a complete car enthusiast. That’s because roadsters traditionally trade comfort for the ride of a lifetime. Some classic roadsters such as the Jaguar XK120 roadster didn’t even have rollup windows! And if you think that is unpleasant, the Porsche 550 Spyder didn’t even have a top! Those lavish features were meant for “convertibles.” Modern roadsters have power windows and most have automatic cloth top.

Mercedes-Benz, staying true to the motto “The best or nothing,” has brought comfort back to the roadster – first with the SLK in 1996 and now again, 20 years later, with the SLC.

The car’s best feature is its retractable automatic hardtop. It allows the SLC to transform within seconds from a roadster to a sporty coupe. You literally get the best of both worlds! There is no more saying that roadsters are too noisy on the highway or that they are too hot during the summer (or too cold during the winter for my northern friends). Some might argue that modern rag tops are just as well insulated as hard top convertibles – they might be – but I don’t think so. When I am driving with the top up on a rag top, I am constantly wishing in the back of my mind that the weather was nice enough to put the top down. When I drove the Mercedes SLC43 AMG with the top up, I kept thinking to myself how great the coupe experience is.

Also rag top roadsters such as the Porsche Boxster, Jaguar F-Type, and Audi TT don’t look nearly as good with the top up as the Mercedes SLC43 AMG does. Now there are a couple drawbacks to having a hardtop convertible: 1) It weighs more because of the mechanical mechanisms. 2) You typically have less trunk space. With that being said, this is your daily driver and not a track car, so weight is less of an issue. In terms of trunk space, the SLC43 AMG does have less room than the 718 Porsche Boxster (with its two trunks), but I was able to fit more groceries in my SLC tester car than I was in the Jaguar F-Type convertible I tested last year.

The interior quality has also been kicked up a notch with the SLC43 AMG versus the competition. I instantly fell in love with its saddle brown leather interior with white stitching. As part of the AMG variation, the SLC I tested also had a semi-alcanta flat bottom steering wheel to accentuate the performance aspects of the vehicle. With a 362hp 3.0L V6 biturbo engine and a 9-speed gearbox, the Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG is no slouch. It will do zero-to-sixty in less than 5 seconds. The rear-wheel-drive SLC43 AMG also handles surprisingly well thanks to a well tuned AMG Sport suspension. I specific rear-wheel-drive because one of its unnamed German competitors (the Audi TT) has a front-wheel-drive bias for its all-wheel-drive system.

With a performance oriented mindset, luxury accommodations, and the benefit of having both a convertible and coupe, the Mercedes-Benz SLC is my pick for the best daily driven roadster… The top seals the deal!

You can find more information about the Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG by visiting your local deal or by clicking here to visit the Mercedes-Benz website.

New Name, Same Great Car! The Genesis G80

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I wrote a First Drive review on the Genesis G80 a few years ago, back when it was called simply the Hyundai Genesis. The vehicle hasn’t changed much outside of the rebadging. It is still the same great car with german like styling, but it is more affordable and has double the warranty. When compared to the competition, for a little over $50,000 you can get a fully loaded G80 with ventilated leather seats and a 311 horsepower 3.8L V6 motor OR a base E-Class with vinyl seats and 240 horsepower 2.0L 4-Cylinder motor.

Obviously a lot of people are driven (punt intended) by the Mercedes badge, which is why the G80 is no longer technically Hyundai product. Genesis has spun off into its own manufacture. If you want to buy the car though, you will still be forced to visit a Hyundai dealer until Genesis starts building their own dealerships. You won’t have to visit the dealership for oil changes though because the marque has created “Genesis Service Valet.” The program offers owners the opportunity to have a service professional pickup your vehicle for service and deliver a loaner vehicle complimentary. You also get free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

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Now on to the good stuff… The interior of the Genesis G80 is suburb. The seats are wrapped in Nappa leather and the dash featured genuine wood trim – Nappa leather is an expensive option on the German competition. The seats are also heated and cool, and the steering wheel is heated. Above the dash you will find a full-color heads up display so you no longer have to look at the speedometer to check your speed. The Genesis G80 is a fairly quite ride on the highway, until you crank up the 17-speaker Lexicon Surround Sound system. While Lexicon doesn’t have the brand name of Burmester or Bang & Olufsen, it does deliver a comparable sound – standard issues on the G80 of course. It seems that Hyundai executives told their engineers to buy a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, and an Audi A6, then to make a car that is just as good, but cost less.

I could go on an on about the value Genesis gives you with the G80, but the best way to experience is to visit your local deal or click here to visit Hyundai’s (I mean Genesis’) website.

 

The Jaguar F-Type SVR is a Porsche killer

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I am start this review of a Jaguar sports car in an unusual way…  by admitting that I am a Porsche enthusiast. When Jaguar created the first generation F-type cars, their mission was to create a 911 killer. Jaguar came close with a striking design and the best sounding exhaust note you will find on a stock production car, but it wasn’t a 911 killer or a Boxster/Cayman killer even. The regular F-Type is a car you take out for a relaxed Sunday drive along the country side or on a road trip while looking bad to the bone while driving it. It is stylish, sophisticated, and comfortable. Porsche sports cars on the other hand are all about performance, especially the S models.

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But now there is a new Jaguar F-Type available, one that truly is able to slay the German Beast, and it is is called the SVR. This limited production vehicle created by Jaguar’s “Special Vehicle OpeRations” department is capable of 200MPH. With a 0 to 60 time of 3.5 seconds versus 3.8 seconds on the 911 4S PDK, the Jaguar F-Type SVR truly is a 911 killer on paper. These numbers are all thanks to Jaguar’s ability to increase the horsepower to 575, increase the torque to 516, add all-wheel-drive for improved traction, and reduce the car’s weight by using lighter materials. It also comes equipped with carbon ceramic brakes, so you can stop almost as fast as you can accelerate.

Note: Carbon ceramic brakes are constructed using different compounds versus traditional steal brakes. These advanced materials decrease stopping distance and reduce heat build up, which prevents brake fade.

Jaguar F-Type SVR Brakes

While lots of horsepower and quick acceleration times are a science, how a car makes you feel is an art form. This is another win for the Jaguar F-Type SVR. It is one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven – and I drive a new car every week. The way the car hugs corners and then accelerates out of a turn with a snarling exhaust note roaring out of the back is exhilarating! Then as you stomp one the brake pedal, you come to an immediate halt while experiencing a symphony of high performance internal combustion in the form of crackles and pops. The car gives you the sensation you are driving faster than you are because it engages all of your senses. And to make you feel confident behind the wheel, Jaguar has added torque vectoring by braking into the drivetrain. Even when the rear wheels brake loose around a turn, you feel as if you are in control of the entire process.

Note: Torque vectoring adds to the turning forces of the car by applying the brakes or power to select wheels, thus increasing the speed of which you can safely go around a corner.

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The final piece of the puzzle if comfort and luxury. What is the point of driving a sports car if your body aches every time you get out of the car? Things like adjustable suspension and adjustable exhaust give the driver the option of peacefully cruise around town or hitting every apex on a curvy road as hard as possible. In addition, the seats were well engineered for both support while driving fast and comfort for long hauls. I took a day trip around Lake Okeechobee with no back issues whatsoever.

Notes: The use of adjustable suspension on street cars allows you to transform the ride from soft for a comfortable ride and tight for improved handling. The use of adjustable exhaust allows you to close the baffles in the exhaust system for a quite experience or open the baffles for increase horsepower along with a loud exhaust note.

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True luxury comes into play as soon as your open the door of the Jaguar F-Type SVR. The red leather doors and seats of my test car were jaw dropping with diamond quilted stitching. Black leather on the dash and ceiling accented the red leather seats to give it a sporting feeling. Carbon fiber trim throughout the vehicle and an alcantar wrapped steering wheel further enhanced the effect.

So the question is, if I had $130,000 – $150,000 to spend on a sports car, would I buy the F-Type SVR or a Porsche 911?

The Jaguar F-Type SVR all the way! It is faster, more comfortable, and better looking.

Visit your local dealer to learn more about the Jaguar F-Type SVR or click here to visit Jaguar’s website.

“You Have Arrived” with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet

The Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet is a status symbol in the truest form, but it also delivers the ultimate luxury convertible experience on four-wheels. Some will argue that Bentley Continental GT V8S and Rolls-Royce Dawn deliver are in a league of their own because of their posh manufacture marques, but I think the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet delivers an unprecedented driving experience. Mercedes has created a fusion of modern technology and old-world ultra luxury, combined with true AMG high performance.

The standard drivetrain is a handcrafted AMG 5.5L Bi-Turbo engine paired with a AMG 7-speed automatic transmission and a AMG Performance all-wheel-drive system. This shoots the 4,817 pound car from 0-to-60 in 3.8 seconds. That is faster than a Porsche 911S! Stopping this beautiful machine isn’t a problem, because it comes with 6-piston AMG high-performance brakes. Cornering isn’t this vehicle’s strongest suit (when compared to a traditional sports car), but it feels remarkably nimble when compared to the Rolls-Royce Dawn that I recently tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Its agility comes from an adaptive sports suspension system that allows drivers to stiffen or loosing the suspension based upon your driving style – stiff on a curvy road and soft while cruising around town. This is definitely the ultra-luxury car to get if you want to have a little fun with it! If found myself constantly switching back and fourth between comfort and performance modes while testing this car for a week in Ft Lauderdale. I also found myself stomping the gas peddle and enjoying the roar of the exhaust every opportunity I got.

Luxury is synonymous with the S-Class brand, and you can tell that no expense was spared when crafting the S63 AMG Cabriolet. Detailed stitching outlines every piece of nappa leather on the seats, armrests, doors, and dash. Also on the center armrest is the AMG crest, which is subtle reminder that the ultra-luxury vehicle you are driving can beat half the cars on the road in a drag race. Another reminder of this vehicles high-performance prowess is the alcantara and Nappa leather steering wheel, which mimics racing steerings with a flat bottom. Oh by the way… the steering wheel, seats, and armrests are all heated. The two front seats also feature Mercedes’ exclusive “air scarf” heating element. A tiny space heater is positioned above your shoulders to provide a little something extra on those cool days with the top down. So how do you top that? The S63 AMG Cabriolet is available with massaging seats.

My only complaint with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet – and its not even my compliant, it was my 5’4″ girlfriend’s complaint – is the backseats. They are beautifully dressed in perforated Nappa leather with detailed contrast stitching, but the backseats are “unbearable” to sit-in for long periods of time. You would expect an S-Class to have an amazing backseat, but I guess most Cabriolet owners don’t sit in the back.

Now back to the title of this story… “You Have Arrived” with the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet. I say this because I am 30 years old and everywhere I went, people treated me different in the S63. I instantly got more respect from other drivers on the road, with many randomly giving me a thumbs up. I also got better service at restaurants. In once instance I immediately got a table even though there was a line for seating because the hostess saw me pull up in the car. At the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show, the parking valet attendant put the car upfront and didn’t charge for parking even though a big sign read $60 for valet parking. All of these things could be a coincidence, but I give the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet all the credit. The car you drive makes a statement wherever you go, and this one says that you have finally arrived…

Visit your local dealer for more information about the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Cabriolet or click here to visit the Mercedes website.

The Nissan 370Z Holds True To Its Roots

The Datsun (Nissan) 240Z is often times regarded as one of the best Japanese sports cars ever produced. Many call it “the best” not just because it was able to dominant the race track against Corvettes and Porsches, but because it was able to bring an overhead cam engine, disc brakes and independent suspension at an affordable price + it is really fun to drive!

You could buy a Datsun 240Z for around $3,500 in 1970, and that is exactly what my Father did. He purchased the first Datsun 240Z in St Louis, Missouri as his daily driver. After getting the bug to race a couple years later, he then turned it into the 1972 SCCA Mid-America Regional Championship Car. Shortly after the championship win, the car sat retired in my Father’s garage in St Louis for over 40 years.

Earlier this year the Folks over at Nissan North America helped me get the car running and transporting it to my Dad’s home in Naples, Florida. So when Nissan sent me the 370Z Convertible to test for a week, I raced (figuratively) across Alligator Alley for a photo shoot.


The “Z” has changed a lot in the past 40 years! It has gotten more expensive with a starting price of $29,000. but the 370Z is a lot quicker thanks to a 332HP V6 and a six-speed manual gearbox. For reference, the original only had 151HP and a four-speed manual gearbox – my Father’s engine was highly modified and featured a five-speed manual gearbox from Datsun Racing in Japan. Another neat feature of the 370Z’s six-speed manual gearbox is that it offers rev-matching standard, which means you no longer have to master heel-to-toe footwork when downshifting. Nissan offers one of the most (if not the most) affordable vehicle with rev-matching. Behind the wheel of both vehicles, you start to feel as if you are one with the car as you tackle each turn on a curvy road. It may take a minute to find it, but once you do, it becomes easy to feel the transfer of weight between all four tires as you decelerate and accelerate out of sharp turn. Like the original, the 370Z offers true sports car experience for an affordable price when you compare it to the Corvette Stingray or Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman.

The “Z” has gotten a lot more comfortable too! The new one rides better, is better insulated, and quieter. The interior has also been very nicely upgraded: The leather appointed seats offer both heating and ventilation options, while also delivering nice bolster support. The instrument cluster ingeniously rises up and down with the steering position, so you always have a perfect view of the tachometer. And speaking of gages, the instrument cluster pays homage to the original 240Z with its use of three round dials on the center of the dash. The analog gages are paired with an LED display on the instrument cluster, and LED clock on the center of the dash, and a touch-screen infotainment center on the dash.

The only thing that drives me crazy about this pairing, is that the car’s LED clock and the infotainment center clock are not synced. Which means that owners will have to set both clocks each time day light savings times comes and goes.

While the new 370Z and the old 240Z are uniquely original, they both offer timelessly classic good looks and the spirit of driving a fun sports, without breaking the bank. Visit your local Nissan dealer or click here to learn more about the Nissan 370Z.

The Jaguar XJL is the full-size luxury sedan for car enthusiasts.


Rarely in life will you find a true blend of polar opposites. I say this because the Jaguar XJL is both a high end luxury vehicle designed to offer an elegant ride to the theater by your chauffeur, and a high performance vehicle that is designed to hug a twisted road. I didn’t always think this way…

My initial impression of the long-wheelbase sedan was skewed by previouslt driving the Mecedes S-Class sedan. I was expecting the Jaguar XJL to be a gigantic luxury car with private plane amenities and a smooth ride, but lacking the thrill of a performance vehicle. I was naive in thinking this way, because as soon as I got behind the wheel and drove the car a block, I remembered Jaguar’s racing DNA. The Jaguar XJL is big and luxurious, but it wants run! As soon as you apply an ounce of throttle, the supercharge 5.0L V8 pushed the car from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. Then as you hit a curved onramp, you feel the car gripping the road with little body roll. Don’t misread my thoughts, this is still a big and heavy car at 4,131 pounds, but that is nearly 700 pounds less than the S-Class thanks to Jaguar’s extent isle use of aluminum.


The interior is what you would expect from a $100,000 car built in the UK: Classic British styling paired with ultra-premium materials. Every detail, from the diamond stitched leather seats to massive wood trim was eloquently crafted. Annoying grid lock commutes are a thing of the past now, because the front passengers have heated and ventalated massaging seats. Rear seat passengers will have to slum it without the massaging seats, but they do have extended legroom thanks to the extra long wheel base on the XJL. 

I defintily wouldn’t complain about being chauffeured around in the backseat, but I would rather be driving this full-sized luxury sedan with stunning looks and exhilarating performance!

For more information about the Jaguar XJL, contact your local Jaguar dealer or click here to go the website.

The 2016 Camaro RS Converted Me…


Outside of a brief period in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Ford Mustang was my vehicle of choice in the “Pony Wars.” The Mustang had great styling and a strong culture behind the name. In the previous couple generations, the Camaro one upped the Mustang with independent suspension, but with premium leather and soft touch materials, the Mustang’s interior was far superior than the Camaro.

All of that has changed with the 2016 Camaro. Chevrolet stepped up there game with a modern interior fit for a premium sports car. The Camaro RS with a few small upgrades offers beautifully wrapped leather seats, also with a leather arm rest, gear shifter, and steering wheel. Chrome accents are masterfully placed to infused to give the interior a sporty and modern look. The large touchscreen display is at finger tips reach for audio, navigation, and other infotainment controls. I love the new climate controls; simply turn the center air vents up or down adjust the temperature.

Now take that premium interior and pair it with a V6 and you have the perfect sports coupe for daily driving. I say perfect because it gets great gas mile and has plenty of power to have fun with, 335 horse power to be exact. If you want even more fun, opt for the sport exhaust, which enhances the exhaust note. It makes the V6 sound better and louder than the V8, plus it offers a slight increase in horsepower… Who doesn’t love a good roar? The vehicle I tested was the 8-speed automatic varient, which Chevrolet claims shifts faster than a manual transmission and just as fast as a dual-clutch transmission. The vehicle is able to roll through the gears almost instantly in fully automatic mode, but I noticed a tiny lag when using the paddle shifters to control the gearbox.


Not seen, but easy to feel are the structural and suspension improvements to the 2016 Camaro. The new vehicle is 390 pounds lighter and the body 28% more ridged than the previous generation; this means improved handling and car control…. Finally a Camaro worthy of competing in an Autocross course.

In summary, the new Camaro has won over fanboys, at least this one! Find out more by visiting your local dealer or by clicking here to visit the Chevrolet website.

The Lexus RX is no longer a “Mom Car”

  
The term “Mom Car” is a very indearing term for me, because I love my Mom. As guy born in the 1980’s, I have seen Mom Cars shift from station wagons, to mini vans, to SUVs, and now to crossovers. The RX line was introduced in 1998 and quickly saw widespread adoption – it is one of Lexus’ best selling vehicles. While I have seen many guys driving the RX, it appears to be dominated by females drivers; likely due to the fact that the previous three generations had a very feminen design…. Thus why I call it a Mom Car.
There is nothing wrong with driving a Mom Car, but as a single guy who is approaching 30 years old, I want something fun in my driveway, something that is stylish, and something that makes a statement. The new Lexus RX 350 F-Sport is just that!

  
The new design is masculine, aggressive and sleek. Details going all the way down to the headlights and mirrors examplify the new sporty appearance.

The Lexus RX 350 F-Sport also has a little bite to its bark, with a V6 engine that produces nearly 300 horsepower and a locking differential (for off-roading).

  
The cabin of my press vehicle was carefully wrapped in red leather with aluminum trim. The vehicle’s interior poster says performance with sporty bucket seats, paddle shifters and a heads-up-display on the windshield.

I can definitely see myself buying this car! So much so, that I choose the Lexus RX 350 F-Sport over my Porsche Boxster S (my personal car) to take a girl on a date last weekend. It ended up being a wise choice because she complimented me on how stylish the vehicle was… And she drives a Range Rover.

So if you ask me… The Lexus RX 350 F-Sport is a winner for both guys and girls!

The 2016 Subaru Outback is a great value!

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There are two reason why I recommend people buy a Subaru: 1) Because they still make station wagons 2) Because they make one of the best all-wheel-drive systems. Subaru and Audi have pioneered all-wheel-drive fro decades – long before Mercedes, Ford, and BMW introduced their all-wheel-drive system for the masses. While all-wheel-drive may not seem important for drivers in the south (because we don’t see snow) it could mean the difference between staying on the road and sliding off during a heavy rain storm. All-wheel-drive is proven to reduce the risk of hydroplaning.

Now back to my first point, Subaru still makes station wagon. It saddens me to see manufactures pull the plug on station wagons… I know no one buys them, but they should. Station wagons offer the utility of an SUV with the road handling of a sedan. I am really glad to see that Subura has full line of wagons, including the Outback.

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The Outback is Subaru’s most expensive and most luxurious vehicle, starting at just under $25,000. What a value! The standard engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder boxer engine paired with symmetrical all-wheel-drive. But if you add $12,000 to the mix, you get a 3.6L 6-cylinder boxer engine, symmetrical all-wheel-drive, leather seats, powered moon roof, navigation, and remote start, plus Subaru’s EysSight emergency braking system. At around $37,000 I had to double check the sticker price. A similarly equipped Audi A4 Allroad will cost you over $45,000.

I recommend the Subaru Outback for buyers who want a premium station wagon without a premium price.