A Ferocious Beast Dressed in a Bespoke Tuxedo

Generally, when one thinks about monstrous V8s stuffed into daily-driver applications, Dodge and Chrysler come to mind. So, when we received this Cadillac CT5 V Blackwing, a GM product with a hand-built, supercharged 6.2 liter, 668hp V8 fitted to a midsized sedan, we knew we were in for something special. Everything, from the loud snarls and pops of the exhaust, to the mechanical whistle of the supercharger, to the silky-smooth 6-speed full manual (yes, a true 3-pedal manual mated to a V8!) transmission gives the sense that this car was designed and built by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. Not to mention, this is likely one of the few cars period, including supercars, which can reach over 200mph on a race track. 

While the carbon-fiber splitter, aggressive, flared wheel arches and rear spoiler & diffuser suggest to a casual onlooker that this is a special car, this CT5 still looks tastefully subdued and mature, unlike some flashier options from competitors. Thankfully missing are aggressive neon decals and stripes, and the plethora of badges that make some of the other offerings in this segment resemble kids’ sneakers. This is conservative and tasteful ensemble at home at a country club, at the front of any valet parking, and, with  a stomp of the right pedal, on any race track in the world.  

Unlike most supercars that require the driver to sacrifice practicality for performance, this CT5 Blackwing has three seats in back for taking the whole family for a ride, or as in our case, taking the entire crew out to lunch. The interior of our test car kept up the sporty image with carbon fiber trim and race-like, tri-color bucket seats in the front, with black and white leather trimmed with red. With the base CT5 starting at only $37,000, there are some disappointingly-base carryover interior panels that feel below-grade, but overall, the quality and tech makes the interior is a great place to spend time in. There is plenty of legroom and space for the two front passengers; however, with a full five in the car, we were admittedly a little cramped. The seating crunch might be to make space for the enormous trunk, which makes the car great for family road trips, or for storing race track gear. 

To bring all that supercharged might to a stop, our test car was equipped with the optional carbon ceramic Brembo brakes, which are designed to brake harder, faster, and dissipate heat better than steel rotors. Whether ceramic brakes are worth the $8k upcharge is up to the individual enthusiast looking to tame this beast. 

In the era of downsizing, turbocharging and electrification, being able to drive off the dealer lot in a 3-pedal manual V8 with supercar power and luxurious accommodations is a gem in itself. To be able to have all this for just over $115,000 (price is tested), is a truly compelling overall package from GM priced thousands below its German competitors.

BMW M3 Competition Review

“M,” the single most important letter in the BMW alphabet. The letter carries such heavy weight because it represented BMW’s Motorsport and performance devision. M cars set the performance standard for sedans, 4 passenger coupes, and SUVs around the world. Historically, M cars were built to go racing. Manufacturers, such as BMW, needed to create road going race cars in order to meet homologation standards, and that is exactly what the 2022 BMW M3 Competition represents – a road going race car.

While the M3 Competition Coupe might look similar to other 4-series cars from BMW, it is not. Under the hood is a 503 horsepower 3.0L twin-turbo inline-6 engine that will jet you from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. It is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is quick to shift, but it would be quicker if BMW offered it as a dual-clutch. With the M badge, you also get massive brakes, an aggressive suspension setup, motorsports derived differential. All of this comes standard at a starting price of under $80,000.

The danger of this hard-core BMW is that it begs to be driven hard. Every twisty road or highway on-ramp left me with a huge grin on my face. It is one of the few cars that still makes me want to take the long way when coming home after work.

My test vehicle featured an performance inspired interior that equally matched the BMW M3’s performance benchmarks. Carbon fiber, leather, aluminum, and performance textile seat inserts. This combination enhances the race car for the road feel you get when driving the BMW M3

The closest competitors to the M3 are the Audi RS5 and Porsche 718 GT4. The BMW M3 is quicker in a straight line, it is more practical with 4 doors and 4 seats, plus it costs less to purchase new. The GT4 on the other hand is more fun to drive, but not nearly as practical. The Audi RS5 is more comfortable than the M3, but it lacks the performance benchmarks and handling characteristics of the M3.

As an ultimate daily driver, the 2022 BMW M3 Competition takes the cake! It fits four adults comfortably and it can keep up with super cars around a race track.

The Corvette C7 Z51 vs C8 Z51: The comparison is Night & Day

The saying “newer is always better” rings true more than ever with the 2022 mid-engine Corvette (C8). Chevrolet broke decades of tradition by moving the engine from the front to the middle of the Corvette, but it made this evolutionary change for all the right reasons: performance, performance, performance. The Corvette, “America’s Sports Car,” has almost always relied on a big beefy V8 to win races: endurance, road course sprints, and drag races. They favored raw horsepower over modern engineering to dominate competitors such as Porsche and Ferrari. But now with the C8’s mid-engine layout plus a dual-clutch transmission, the standard Corvette has the horsepower plus the technology. In case you are unaware, the reason why the mid-engine design is so crucial is because moves the vehicles center of mass from the front of the car to the middle of the car. This allows for better rotation and more rear tractions, thus allowing you to go around a corner faster and accelerate faster.

During my most recent test of the C8 Corvette Z51, I had the pleasure of also re-testing the front-engine C7 Corvette Z51. The Z51 bit indicates that this is semi track-ready version, with bigger brakes, better engine cooling, and more aggressive suspension. Both of these vehicles also had optional magnetic ride.

Right away, I noticed that the C8 was quicker off the line than the C7. The C8 does have 40 more horsepower and delivers lighting quick gear changes via the dual-clutch transmission, but having the bulk of weight over the rear wheels also means better traction. The rear wheels will spin when you smash the gas pedal, but they lock much quicker.

Around corners, the C8 feels more planted than the C7. The perfectly balanced platform allows the car to turn-in better and instills enhanced driver confidence. Do I dare say that the C8 is the first Corvette that actually handles well? By contrast, the C7 was more of a point and shoot car: heavy braking coming into the corner, rotate the car, then heavy acceleration. Where as with the C8, you don’t have to brake as hard because it simply glides around a corner.

You can learn more about the interior quality of the C8 Corvette by reading one of my previous reviews, but the most important thing to note is that the fit and finish of a C8 1LT base model is better than a C7 3LT luxury model.

The base price of a C8 Corvette is only a few thousand more than the cost of when the C7 was new, however you can expect to pay a premium when buying a 2022 Corvette because it is in such high demand. With the C8 Corvette, it is not just Corvette enthusiasts who are clamoring to buy one, but also for the first time, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Jaguar, and McLaren owners who want a super car they can daily drive.

Jaguar F Type Convertible

While I may be partial for my appreciation of Jaguars and their rich motorsports heritage, which includes seven 24 hours Le Mans race wins, I have to say this is easily one of the most underrated sports cars on the market. The Jaguar F Type combines a voguish, chiseled look with top-notch engine power for a ride that is up to the minute in appearance and drives like an earthbound fighter jet. The car comes standard with supercharged 5.0 liter V8, and 444 horse power, though I would recommend making the leap to the upgraded 575 horse power engine for a truly dynamite drive. Both engine types come with 8-speed automatic and optional all wheel drive for improved traction, and the acceleration on the base model is a respectable 4.4 seconds. The perfect car for grand touring, this ride is also an excellent daily driver. 

My test vehicle was the F type convertible, which features a motorized top that instantly goes up and down with just the push of a button. Driving with the top down was a trip; as with most convertibles the sound of the engine was enhanced by heightened senses, transforming the throaty hum to a rippling grr – not to mention there is nothing better than the wind in your hair on a warm sunshiny day. 

While the trunk space is admittedly limited, it still had a wide enough berth to fit a set of golf clubs or a full trip’s worth of groceries. The interior was also fantastic, featuring supple leather doors, dash, seats, and steering wheel, and the seats offer heat and cooling capabilities. 

At $71k, this car could easily go for an additional $30k to price match with its affluent interior and beefy V8. The convertible is roughly $3k more, which is also a bargain considering most roadsters have a $5-10k premium. 

Ford Mustang 2021 Ecoboost Premium Convertible

With its needle sharp lines and totally bladed edges, this dapper automotive was a trip to take for a spin. Call me a sucker for a good-looking set of wheels, but there is something untouchable about cruising around in a rakish ride like that of the 2021 Ford Mustang. 

Looks aside, whether you’re coasting down the street with the top down or maxing out the speedometer on the race track, you’re sure to feel the power behind the compact 4 cylinder motor. While admittedly, revving the engine on this peppy little machine left me lingering for the throaty grrr of Ford’s entry level 6 cylinder engine from years past, the 2.3 liter, 4 cylinder motor can surprisingly pump over 310 horse power and has 350 pounds of torque behind the remarkably small engine. Additionally, the 4 cylinder is more fuel efficient, keeping you on the road longer with fewer stops by the pump. 

A few housekeeping items: while I didn’t ride in the back seat myself, I was informed the legroom there is almost nonexistent, so longer-legged friends might have to hop up front. On the bright side, the trunk space is ample for such a compact vehicle, so there’s plenty of room to stash your stuff. I’d also like to call out the remote start, which puts preemptive temperature adjustment in the realm of the possible, making a comfortable drive from start to finish as easy as pressing a button on even the hottest days or the coldest nights.

On a final note, I’d say if you’re stick-shift capable to spring for the 6-speed manual transmission over the 10-speed automatic, because in addition to being 20 pounds lighter, the manual transmission can be better for maneuvering, while I found the 10-speed automatic to be a little clunkier when shifting through gears. 

All in all this was a car with few complaints, though if we’re being honest it’s not my first choice when looking to buy a Mustang, for which I’d be more apt to spring for the Moch1 or the Shelby GT500 since they are faster and a better bang for your buck performance-wise. 

The 2020 Corvette Is The Only Super Car You Need

It is weird to think of the Corvette as a super car, especially considering the $60,000 starting price tag. But every bit of it delivers a super car experience. The engine has been moved to the middle, with nearly 500 horsepower placed behind the seats. The engineers did this to improve weight distribution, which affects cornering abilities and traction when accelerating off the line. Chevrolet redesign the Corvette for the 2020 model year with a clean slate. The only part carried over was a simple latch for the coupe’s removable roof panel. With two turns of the wrist and a little muscle to remove a carbon fiber body panel, you can transform the coupe into a targa.

C8 vs C7 Corvette

During my one-week test with the new 2020 Corvette (C8 Generation), I also had the privilege of driving last year’s Corvette (C7 Generation) for a day. In terms of looks, you can tell that both cars came from the same family, but that is it. The driving dynamics are drastically different. The C7 Corvette felt raw, with a loud exhaust and a bumpy ride. You really have to work the C7 when going around a corner fast to keep it on the road. In contrast, the C8 Corvette felt elegant and refined. The exhaust on the C8 in its loudest setting is quieter than the C7 in its quietest setting. The ride quality is superb in comparison to the C7 at mitigating bumps in the road. And while smashing the accelerator at a stoplight in the C8 isn’t quite as dramatic as the C7, the C8 Corvette accelerates much faster (2.9 seconds vs 3.7 second) despite having only slightly more horsepower. This is primarily because the mid-engine design puts more weight on the rear, thus delivering more grip to those wheels. While going around a tight corner fast, the C8 Corvette delivers immersive grip with loads of driver confidence. This is in part due to better weight distribution, as well as improved aero to create more downforce. Do I dare say that the C8 Corvette is the first Corvette that actually handles well? Both of the vehicles used for this test comparison were similarly equipped with the Z51 performance package.

The interior of the C8 Corvette was also immensely more refined than the C7 Corvette. Gone are the cheap plastics. They have been replaced with high quality plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, and leather components if you get the 2LT and 3LT trim levels. The seats in my test car were the upgraded GT2 seats. They were very comfortable, while also supportive for high speed driving. I took a day trip in the car, and I felt just as fresh stepping out of the vehicle as I was getting into it.

The New Corvette vs The Super Car World

For over 50 years, the Corvette was America’s sports car, competing against the Porsche 911 from Germany, the Jaguar E/F-Type from England, and the Toyota Supra from Japan. It was always considered one of the best performance bargains. But now that the engine has been moved to the middle like a super car, and it has around 500 horsepower, the 2020 Corvette arguably no longer competes in the Sports Car Market.

It has moved up to the Super Car segment, alongside the Audi R8, Acura NSX, Lamborghini Huracan, McLaren 720S, and Ferrari F8. The biggest difference between these pedigree super cars and the 2020 Corvette is price. All but the Corvette have a purchase price north of $200,000 with options. I speak from experience when I say it is nerve wrecking to park a $300,000+ car at the grocery store. As the custodian of weekly press cars, or even with my personal car, I cringe at the thought of an aluminum door getting dented by a lazy parker. Whereas a well optioned Corvette can be had for less than $100,000. At that price, I can drive the Corvette without fear. I don’t have to coddle the car, worried that a single scratch could cost thousands to get repaired. Also, the Corvette’s body is primarily made from fiberglass. So the body won’t easily dent like it would on an aluminum car.

The Corvette’s driving experience feels very much akin to its super car brothers. Its nimble handling turns in razor sharp. However the steering feels a bit dull when compared to the Audi R8, Acura NSX, and Ferrari 488 GTB. The Corvette feels just as well balanced though. I speak from experience having driven all three of those cars in the past month. However, it is not nearly as thrilling as the Ferrari to drive. The Corvette lacks cinema in comparison to the Ferrari, from the monument you start the car to the second you park it. In comparison to the Audi R8 and Accura NSX, it feels different, but just as special behind the wheel for half of the price.

In terms of performance, the Corvette is on the lower end of the comparative spectrum: The Ferrari F8 has 710 horsepower. The Audi R8 has 611 horsepower. The McLaren 720S has 710 horsepower. The Acura NSX has 573 horsepower. The Lamborghini Huracan has 630 horsepower. The 2020 Corvette Stingray only has 495 horsepower. Technically it is way down on horsepower versus its super car competition, however it will still do 0 to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. If you really NEED more power, stay tuned for Z06 and ZR1 versions of the Corvette. Both of these variants will surely still be less than the cost of any other modern super car.

Also, ff you like attention, you are going to love the 2020 Corvette Stingray. It is a new radical design, so the average person will think it is a Ferrari. I got that comment at a gas station more than once in a single week. And car enthusiasts will give you thumbs up, because you are among the first to spend your money wisely. I can’t think of a better way to spend $60,000 on a sports car, strike that… a super car.

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