First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima

 
The 2016 Altima may look nearly identical to the 2015 model, but it is what’s inside that counts. Upgrades include a new grill with active shutters to improve areodynamics and fuel efficentcy, a sportier suspesion, and an enhanced cabin with increased sound proofing material. I can’t get over the how quite this car is!

The 2016 Nissan Altima is available with two engine options: A 4-cylinder engine that gets almost 40 mpg, and a peppy V6 that produces 270 horsepower. New for 2016 is an SR variant, that adds a sportier suspension, paddel shifters, and unique wheel. Nissan uses a CVT transmission in all Altimas, so you get smoother shifts, but you are sacraficing performance.

  
Updated safety technologies make the 2016 Nissan Altima one of the safest cars in it’s segment: An optional forward emergency braking system is able to bring the Altima to a complete stop, rear cross traffic alert warns you if a car is approaching while backing out from a parking spot, and blind spot warning alerts you if a car is driving in your blindspot.

At a starting price of $22,000, this best Nissan Altima yet! 

The BMW M3 is a powerhouse!

IMG_1415

The 2015 BMW M3 is a compact luxury on steroids; every thing gets enhanced over the 3-Series: A more powerful engine with nearly 250 more horsepower, bigger brakes, stiffer suspension, and a louder exhaust.

One thing you will also notice right away, is that the new BMW M3 is a sedan. Traditionally (prior to 2014) the M3 was a four passenger coupe. In 2014 BMW transitioned its model system: Odd numbers are sedans / wagons and even numbers are coupes / convertibles (both two-doors and four-doors). Adding M performance to the new 3-series sedan was a really smart decision. It offers buyers who want a true sports car, but need a backseat and four doors. The only other four door sports car that comes to mind is the Porsche Panamera, but its longer wheelbase and weight means that it wouldn’t be as agile as the M3 on the racetrack.

IMG_1405

Under the hood of the 2015 BMW M3 is twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that makes 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It is also an update over the previous generation. Prior M3s offered a 4.0L V8 that produced 414 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This new six-cylinder may be smaller, but it is a lot faster! 2015 BMW M3 goes 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds. That is faster than the current Audi R8, Porsche 911 and Alfa Romeo 4C. But lets not forget, this is a four-passenger with four doors.

FullSizeRender-5

The 2015 BMW M3 I tested had all of the performance bells and whistles, including BMW’s M Carbon-Ceramic Brakes. The package improves brake performance under high temperatures and reduces the overall vehicle weight by 42 pounds; it’s exactly what you need for the racetrack. The M3 with the M Carbon-Ceramic Brakes package delivers incredible stopping power when it is dry – it is the quickest stopping vehicle I have ever driven – but be really careful in the rain. On the fifth day of testing the M3, a nice rain shower came through town and I quickly realized that stopping performance went from amazing to poor. It wasn’t the tires, the rain had cooled the rotors and pads, which reduced the effectiveness of the brakes. It also caused them to squeal often… but as soon as the rain passed, the brakes went back to normal and delivered impressive performance.

FullSizeRender-6

“Life is too short to drive boring cars.” I don’t remember who said it, but they were right. The joy of driving the 2015 BMW M3 is enhanced if you get the 6-speed manual – In my opinion, it is one of the best modern day manual transmissions you can buy. The gearbox shifts easily and the clutch is stiff enough so you easily know when it catches, but not so stiff that it wears your foot out. The best part of BMW’s new manual transmission is active rev-matching. No more heal-to-toe downshifting! As soon as you place the car into gear, the RPMs will rise to the appropriate speed. So all you have to do is let the clutch out.

FullSizeRender-4

It was really hard to say good bye to the 2015 BMW M3. It was fun to drive, super quick, very nimble, and it comfortably fit myself and three friends… It is the perfect four-door sports car.

BMW_logoFor more information on the 2015 BMW M3, contact your local dealer or click here to visit BMW’s website.

Introducing the iM and iA from Scion

Scion has recently introduced two new vehicles to the United Stated market, a fuel efficient sedan and a sporty hatchback. Both come standard with a number of premium features that are options on most of the competitors.

The Scion iM

This hatchback has a great exterior styling with 17″ alloy wheels and a sport body kit standard. Under the hood is a peppy 1.8L 4-cylinder that delivers 37 mpg. It is available with a 6-speed manual transmission or a CVT transmission; my vote would be to opt for the manual if you are considering this car. The iM comes standard with multitude of premium features, such as a 6″ touch screen display, dual zone automatic climate controls, and a backup camera.
  

The Scion iA

I am being totally honest here… I am not a fan of the exterior styling of the Scion iA; it looks awkward… but I am a big fan of the way it drives. The iA feels solid behind the wheel. There is little very little play in the steering, the ride quality is good, and the manual gearbox shifts smoothly.

The Scion iA comes with even more premium features, including a 7″ touch screen display, a low-speed pre-collision safety system, and keyless entry with push start. The fuel economy is even more impress with 42mpg on the highway.

Both vehicles are not going to brake speed records, but they are an incredible value at $16,459 for the iA and $19,225 for the iM.

Contact your local Scion deal for more information about the iA and iM.

The Lexus LS460 Is Elegant And Refined

IMG_0213-1

Lexus’ flagship vehicle, the LS460 is one of the most elegant vehicles you can buy for under $75,000. The exterior is stately, with a long body and a long front fascia. It is a reminder of one of the golden eras of automotive, when large cars ruled the road. Drivers of the Lexus LS460 sedan can lean back and enjoy the road with the peace of mind that they are driving a very reliable, safe, and comfortable vehicle. With its smooth ride, you feel calm and relax sitting behind the wheel.  Continue Reading →

First Drive: 2016 Nissan Maxima

IMG_0087

The 2016 Nissan Maxima comes from a long line of mid-sized cars from Nissan, but this one is different. This is the first Maxima that has me saying wow!

The exterior styling is beautiful and a 300 horsepower motor is impressive, but what really has me excited is the interior. The available quilted leather seats make you take a double-take on Nissan badge in front. They are absolutely beautiful. I have seen quilted leather seats in a diamond pattern before on Ferrari, but never on a Japanese car, or for that matter on a non-luxury brand. To back it up is real aluminum or wood trim on the doors and dash.

IMG_0084

Nissan calls the 2016 Maxima a four-door sports car. I appreciate the association, because this car was designed to be both fun and luxurious. The car rides smoothly and is quite while you are putting around town. But as soon as you give it a little gas, the engine starts to breath, and you can hear a nice rumble through the exhaust. Like I mentioned before, the 2016 Nissan Maxima comes with 300 horsepower motor (standard). The engine is paired with a Continuous Varible Transmission, which isn’t my favorite, but this CVT does a fantastic job. It offers a quick response and does a great job of simulating a traditional automatic gearbox. The paddle shifters give you greater control and adds a little fun to the driving experience.
Nissan had an independent testing program compare the 2016 Nissan Maxima on the race track with the BMW 3 series and Audi A4… Guess which car has the fastest lap, the Nissan.

If you are looking for a sporty sedan that is also a great value, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is your car. With such style, performance and luxury, I am surprise this car doesn’t have an Infiniti badge on it!

You can’t go wrong with the 2015 Subaru Legacy Limited

IMG_0930

When I think of luxury vehicles, I think of premium features such as heated leather seats, laser guided cruise control and an all-wheel-drive system. Does the $26,000 to $30,000 Subaru Legacy Limited have that? Check, check and check. This vehicle is packed with luxury amenities, technology and safety at a non-luxury price. 

The exterior of the Subaru Legacy Limited boasts a sleek design along with an array of color options, including several metallic colors as standard options. You also get 18″ aluminum-alloy wheels standard, but no design options- they remind me of propeller blades.

Powering those wheels is a 2.5L Subaru Boxer engine with 175 hp and 174 pounds of torque. Boxer engines are unique because of their flat engine design. It allows the vehicle to maintain a lower center of gravity, which means better handling. Flat engines are also better balanced than their inline and V counterparts, so you feel less vibrations from the engine. The layout should sound familiar to sports car enthusiast… Porsche uses a flat engine design on all of there 911s, Boxters and Caymans.

Another unique feature of the powertrain is the symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. The vehicle will intelligently provide equal power to all four wheels. But when it proactively detects one wheel slipping, the Subaru Legacy will automatically shift power to the other three wheels in order to maintain traction. This improves both handling on curvy roads and stability on wet surfaces.

IMG_0927

The 2015 Subaru Legacy Limited truly is a great value. The car offers it’s occupants a well appointed interior, complete with leather seats, faux wood trim and dual-climate controls, standard. For around $2,000 you can upgrade your Legacy Limited with a 7″ touch screen navigation system, power moon roof, keyless access and a Harman Kardon 576-watt audio system… Which is a bargain! BMW charges over $800 for the Harmon Kardon sound system by itself… For around $2,900, you get all that, plus safety features such as adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and a lane departure warning system.

If you are not sold on the Legacy yet, consider the re-sale value. It was recently awarded the “best resale value in its class” by Kelly Blue Book. And it is an IHS Top Safety Pick+.

KBB_Logo2015 TSP+

Meet the Panamera 4S, a Porsche with few compromises

W2Z0354

I have been a Porsche purist since I was 6 years old. I saw a red 1992 Porsche 911 coupe at my kindergarten graduation and instantly fell in love with the perfectly sculpted headlights, the shape of the fenders, and uniquely positioned rear engine. After the graduation ceremony, I asked my great grandmother if she would buy me my first car when I turned 16. She replied “of course” and asked what kind of car I wanted… My response: “a Porsche.” Ten years later, I didn’t get a Porsche for my 16th birthday, but I have been a fan for over two decades.

In 2002, when Porsche introduced the Panamera, I thought it was silly. Porsche is the creator of high performance sports cars (and an SUV called the Cayenne). “The two vehicles could never live up to deserve the Porsche crest.” Boy was I wrong! The Porsche Panamera 4S is all Porsche, but with few compromises. Behind the wheel, your adrenaline kicks in as you hug corners with precision and then aggressively accelerate on the straightaways. But in the backseat, the kids, the family pet and your luggage are safe and sound.

W2Z0435

The Porsche Panamera 4S is almost two feet longer car than the 911, but it doesn’t feel like it. Looking forward you would think you are behind the wheel of a 911. The car is so well balanced, you forget the longer wheelbase and the fact that you are driving a front engine car. The car handles beautifully. The advanced all-wheel drive system delivers most of the power to the rear wheels, while giving just enough to the front wheels to keep you perfectly alined.

When you step on the gas pedal, you are instantly pushed to the back to your seat while 420 horses propel you from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The model I tested includes Porsche’s PDK (dual-clutch transmission). With it, the Panamera 4S shifts as fast as you can push the paddles on the steering wheel. The feeling is absolutely incredible! The PDK transmission also makes the car three tenths of a second faster on and off the track. If you have the need for speed, the Porsche Panamera 4S is rated for 177.7 mph on the track.

Three drive modes are available: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. Each one can be tailored to your driving preferences. In Sport mode, the car opens up the exhaust, stiffens the suspension, and changes the gearbox timing. I drove in this mode 90% of the time during my one-week test. The car was aggressive, but comfortable enough for everyday driving. Sport Plus mode intensifies Sport mode by giving you an even stiffer ride, more direct steering, and harder shifts. It also lowers the height of the car to improve aerodynamics and lower the car’s center of gravity. Sport Plus mode isn’t for everyday driving – The car maintains high RPMs, which causes the car to jerk while shifting at slow speeds and it rides extremely rough. With that said… Sport Plus mode is a must for racing enthusiasts.

W2Z0326

The adjustable quad-exhaust on the Porsche Panamera 4S brings out the car’s true colors: In Sport and Sport Plus modes, you can hear the turbo-charged V6 engine roar as you step on the gas; it also increases airflow to deliver peak performance. In Comfort mode, the engine volume is suppressed to give passengers a quite ride.

photo-2

The Porsche Panamera 4S combines luxury and performance into one sleek package. Inside the car, you feel as if you just stepped into the cockpit of a fighter jet – the car is filled with airplane themed toggle switches and buttons. The leather wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, and brushed aluminum trim add to the sporty look.

Comfort is a priority with the Panamera 4S, you will find heated and cooled seats for the front and rear passengers, as well as multiple climate zones. You can easily fit four adults in the car without having to adjust the front seats. If you want a surplus of legroom, an executive version of the car adds an additional five inches to the rear.

The Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system featured a 7-inch touch screen display for controlling the radio, navigation system, and apps. It also comes with a special performance display to view, store and evaluate lap times. Using the system is intuitive, but it will take a while to get use to the controls. To my surprise, I found a handheld phone in the center console. By placing a SIM card into the PCM system, you can activate the car’s built-in cell phone. This was an awesome feature back in the 1990’s because it offered handsfree calling through the car’s sound system and improved cell reception, but its completely unnecessary in an age with Bluetooth technology. Calling friends and family over Bluetooth using my iPhone worked great!

The Porsche Panamera 4S car is ready for a cross country road trip or a day at the track. It is equally suited for both tasks.

photo-3

The Perfect Car…

The Porsche Panamera 4S gives you the experience of a 911, but with the practicality of owning a four-door sedan… In essence it is the perfect car. So the question is: For $98,000, should I buy the Panamera 4S or buy the equally priced 911 Carrera 4S? If you are buying a daily driver, get the Panamera. If you are buying a fun weekend car, buy the 911. Both are amazing cars.

————————————————————————————-

A special thank you to Porsche North America for loaning me the Porsche Panamera 4S for a week.

Photography by Kyle Coburn and myself.