Power Up to the High Performance 2.3L Ford Mustang Convertible

If you can’t afford (or handle) the GT350 or the GT500, the regular Ford Mustang GT is undoubtably the weekend car to get. All three variants feature an overhead cam V8s the melts your soul at each press of the gas pedal. The only problem is that all three GT cars don’t make great daily drivers. Not because they are uncomfortable, but because all three engines are thirsty. You may remember reading one of my previous stories where I did a cross country road trip in a Mustang GT. It was fun, but pocketbook wasn’t happy.

Fuel economy is where the 4-cylinder 2.3L variant of the Mustang shines. You can drive all day long on a single tank of gas. Unfortunately, I never thought the base 2.3L really deserved the Mustang badge. Every instance behind the wheel was underwhelming. And up until now, I missed the previous generation’s naturally aspirated aluminum V6 engine with 300hp.

But now there is a new turbocharged 4-cylinder motor in town, and it is called the High Performance 2.3L. Same 305 pounds of torque, but it has 20 more horsepower thanks to a larger twin-scroll turbocharger. It also comes with a larger radiator, a stiffer suspension (for better handling), 19” wheels, and adjustable exhaust to accommodate the improved engine performance. The increase to 330 horsepower is noticeable, but the engine also sounds different. It is more muscular and exciting. Not the same as a V8, but a proper engine sound. Drivers have two transmission options: a 10-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. Thank you Ford for saving the manual. This clutch on the manual is reasonably soft, but tactile enough to feel when the engine catches. Gear shifts are smooth and short.

The convertible version of the High Performance 2.3L Mustang makes a great daily driver due to the balance of performance, fuel economy and comfort. Nothing beats driving around topless on a cool sunny day. However I was slightly disappointed to hear that convertible Mustangs still don’t have a pop-up roll bar. This means that weekend driving enthusiasts can’t use the car for track days. Otherwise, this car is sublime for less than $40k.

2021 Jaguar F-Type: More Refined Than Ever

It is hard not to love the Jaguar F-Type, especially the 2021 F-Type convertible. It has everything you want in a daily driver grand touring car. And now, it is even better: The lines are more sculpted, interior offers large screens, it has better technology, and the car is seemingly more ferocious behind the wheel.

The Jaguar F-Type is in every possible way, a true gentleman’s car. Jaguar is known to be driven by bad boys, but I could just as easily see James Bond driving around in one.

Under the hood of my 2021 test car is a death defying 380 horsepower supercharged V6. However it is also available with a 575 5.0L V8 that will outpace even the most ruthless villains. And to help you drive like the hero of your own James Bond film, it comes with torque vectoring. This F1 derived piece of technology uses a computer to individually control braking at each wheel while going around a corner. The end result is improved control at high speeds.

The interior of the Jaguar F-Type is naturally dressed in leather and aluminum. Cockpit style gauges and controls beautifully wrap around the driver. It creates a very comfortable environment for the driver, no matter if you are cruising along on a country road or sitting in rush hour traffic. Two large displays, one on the dash and one on the center console, provide all of the details needed for a spirited or leisurely drive. Thanks to an even larger infotainment display than the previous generation, you can have two windows open on the screen. This comes in very handy while both navigating and changing the satellite radio station.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jaguar F-Type’s exhaust note. The roadster sounds as good as it looks. In fact, it sounds better than anything else in its price class, especially the V8. The snarling exhaust, combined with the ease of driving and its magnetic looks make the 2021 Jaguar F-Type one of the best daily driver roadsters that money can buy. Even at the $65,000 starting price tag. However, if you have the coin, the $85,000 V6 or the $105,000 V8 are the better buys.

The Corporate Executive’s Sports Car: Mercedes AMG GT 63S

There is an unspoken rule in corporate America that the most senior leader within a group always drives. I don’t know where it came from, but it applies to driving to work lunches, sales meetings, and business trips. So what happens when an executive is a performance enthusiast? Him or her is often left with two choices: Get a Porsche Panamera or BMW M5. But now there is a new and more extreme kids on the block, the 4-door Mercedes AMG GT 63S.

Out of the bunch, the Mercedes AMG GT 63S is the only one that feels like a true sports car. For starters, the noise and silhouette of the car look like an elongated 2-door Mercedes AMG GT. And then when you get to the back of the car, you will notice a jaw dropping rear wing. It makes an elegant statement that the car means business without looking like a boy racer in the company parking lot.

The rear end of the Mercedes AMG GT 63S is backed up by a quad-exhaust that produces an earth shattering rumble in full performance sport+ mode. 663 horsepower can then be released from an AMG hand assembled 4.0L bi-turbo engine with zero lag. This, in combination with a 9-speed gearbox, delivers super car 0-to-60mph accelerations times as quick as 3.1 seconds. That is only a couple tenths of a second closer than a Ferrari 488 GTB. And yet, this 4-door executive sedan can comfortably accommodate four adults on a road trip with luggage. Click Here To Continue Reading

Mercedes AMG GTR is the Ultimate Roadster: 1 of 750

In 2020, roadsters represent the most fun way to get around town on a beautiful day. They use to be the best way to get around the race track too because of their light weight nature. Less steel / aluminum = less weight. But as cars started getting faster and faster, engineers learned the affects of drag at high speeds and discovered that coupes are significantly more aerodynamic. On top of that, consumers began wanting automatic convertible tops, which negated the weight savings due to the electric motors. After that, manufacturers then started putting their most power engines only in coupes; leaving drop top gear heads like myself with less powerful engines.

Mercedes-Benz apparently disagrees with the pack, and has released their AMG GT Convertible in GTR in spec. The “R” stands for race. The boys in Stuttgart deserve an extra 27 pints of beer for this one. It delivers the same 4.0L AMG biturbo V8, suspension components, forged wheels, carbon ceramic brakes, and the same active-aero dynamics as the coupe variant.  My particular favorite is the carbon fiber spoiler paired with the “solar beam yellow” metallic paint, so stoplight drag races know you mean business. It is boy racer in all the right ways. I just don’t know if I could pony up $9,900 for a paint color.  Click Here To Continue Reading

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.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary: An Historical Tribute To The 240Z

In 1970, the original Datsun (aka Nissan) 240Z quickly became a halo car for all Japanese manufactures. It proved that Japan wasn’t just a country for small economy cars; that they could make vehicles worthy to compete with best in-class sports cars from American and European automotive manufactures… The only way to beat them at their own game was to dominate them on the race track. My Father wasn’t the legendary John Morton or Bob Sharp, but he did race his 1970 Datsun 240Z with SCCA and won the 1973 Mid-Am Championships. I remember hearing stories from my Father, reminiscing about how he would easily win road course races against Corvettes and Porsches despite having less horsepower. The small and agile 240Z was able to outmatch the competition due to hits handling characteristics and comparatively modern overhead cam engine plus disc brakes. The 240Z’s race wins by Z drivers throughout the country made the car famous, but the engaging driving experience is what made cult following for Z cars.  Click Here To Continue Reading

Get It While You Still Can: the 2019 C7 Corvette Grand Sport

The 2020 Corvette is ushering in a new generation for America’s sports car. The C8’s mid-engine design means better handling around corners and improved grip off the line. The Corvette will finally and truly be able to keep up with the best from Porsche and Ferrari thanks to its new architecture.

Those in favor of the latest and greatest will love the mid-engine C8, but let’s not forget the C7. It represents the pinnacle of front-engine sports cars with a 60+ year heritage. And since this is the last generation of front engine cars using the Corvette name plate, it will surely become a collectible.

Upon first approach, the long sweeping hood paired with hood scoops and side scoops scream race car. They are a visual tease to the 6.2L naturally aspirated V8 lying under the long hood, just behind the front axel. The pushrod engine pumps out 460 horsepower and 465 pounds-of-torque, which can be paired with either an 8-speed automatic or 7-speed manual transmission. This will be your last chance to get a new Corvette with a manual transmission, so get it while you still can. Dual clutch transmissions, like on the 2020 C8 Corvette produce better lap times due to quicker shifts and reduced power loss, but they lack the emotion connection of manually sliding through the gears one by one. Click Here To Continue Reading

2019 Ford Mustang GT: It’s No Longer The Middle Child

Unlike Ford Mustang GT predecessors, the latest Mustang GT edition doesn’t have middle child syndrome. It is no longer simply “a more powerful Mustang, but not as cool as the Boss or Shelby.” The 2019 Mustang GT can now stand on its own. Yes, the powertrain on the Mustang GT has (almost) always been a true force to be reckoned with, but the newest model has visual and audible sensory cues that make it a special car in its own right.

Under the hood is 460 horsepower V8 with dual overhead cams. This can be paired with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic. My recommendation is the 10-speed automatic because it offers quicker shift times and better fuel economy – You still get that feeling of raw power due to the aggressive shift patterns. To get power to the rear wheels, multiple TORSEN limited slip differentials are available based upon your need for quick acceleration or top speed. Either way, you are looking at a car that will do 0-60 in less than 4-seconds. That is Corvette and Porsche territory.  Click Here To Continue Reading

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.  Click Here To 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.  Click Here To Continue Reading