BMW X4M Competition, A Track Car For School Bus Dads

Off to school or on the track, the 2022 BMW X4M Competition does it all! Behind the wheel of the new BMW X4M Competition, the driver truly embraces that track car feeling, with tight steering, stiff suspension, and great throttle response, even when in the sacrilegious Comfort Mode. This truly is the ultimate version of the ultimate version of a magnificent sport-focused SUV, or Sport Activity Coupe, as BMW calls it.

With around 70 more horsepower than its closest competitor from Zuffenhausen, the Porsche Macan GTS, this X4M Competition provides more bang for the buck than the flagship Macan both in terms of bang (503hp vs. 434hp) and buck, with a base price of $73,400 versus $79,900. With all that money saved, you can even make it to the bank half a second faster than the GTS with a 0-60 of 3.7 seconds. 

Although diehard BMW M Power fans might complain that this M-fied X4 doesn’t sport the big V8 of its bigger X siblings, BMW’s trademark straight-six gets the job done more than adequately. The M Competition model features adjustable dampeners and suspension to select the handling feel depending on your road conditions and driving style. The X4 we had was also equipped with optional 21″ forged wheels for improved handling and acceleration due to their lighter weight. Although we kept this X4 M Competition in Comfort Mode for the majority of our driving experience, as we believe this is the setting the majority of X4 M Competitions will spend their life in, we noticed very little body roll, even during spirited driving.

The driving experience is further bolstered by a comfortable interior highlighted by supportive, highly-adjustable sports seats, fantastic technology and an immersive audio experience courtesy of the Harman Kardon sound system. The vehicle also featured plenty of space for all the kids’ toys in the trunk, while our team’s “average-sized adults” easily fit in the backseat without any leg cramping or twisted necks from the sloping “coupe” roofline. Although rear passengers were quite comfortably at stoplights, our team did note an unusually-harsh ride quality for an SUV. This is after all, a focused, sports-oriented SUV, so as long as you know not to expect buttery-smooth transportation, and backseat passengers know to anticipate a sporty ride even in the most approachable Comfort setting, this BMW is, overall, an excellent compromise between a hardcore performance package and everyday family-friendly usability without the six-digit price tag usually associated with high-performance SUVs.

Mercedes Maybach GLS 600

In a word, this vehicle can be summarized as quality. The perfect vehicle for the discerning lady or gentleman who prefers to prioritize refinement over flash, the Mercedes Maybach GLS 600 is without par in terms of luxury driving. Extremely well engineered, this vehicle is designed for comfort but can be an athlete when called upon. It is truly impressive how this behemoth of a vehicle handles; cruising with buttery smooth 4 liters of V8, and pumping out 550 horsepower, it is faster at 0-60mph than a Ford Mustang in spite of its hefty size and weight. The Maybach GLS 600 also has advanced air suspension, so when put into “curve mode,” it will tilt itself into a corner to improve handling and make for an even more seamless ride inside. Considering its size and heft, you’d never anticipate it would be so quick to turn a corner like a motorcycle. It is also worth noting that with features like Stop and Go Assist, the Maybach GLS 600 can basically drive itself in rush hour traffic. It won’t navigate, but it will stay in the lanes and follow the vehicle in front without driver involvement when in bumper to bumper traffic. 

The Maybach GLS 600’s closest competitors are the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls Royce Cullinan. When compared with the Bentley, the Mercedes has around the same price point but features better technology, and delivers a smoother ride. It is also more understated, which is a positive if you’re just trying to cruise around town in comfort and not attempting to be a show off. I also thought the interior was much nicer, with less plastic and more leather, wood, and aluminum. 

When compared with the Rolls Royce Cullinan, the interior is about 90% as luxurious, but again the Mercedes has better tech and is also half the price: $160,000 versus $400,000. The vehicle glides over bumps like a Rolls Royce, making it as smooth and supple of a ride as this leading competitor. I would honestly profess that the only big difference between the two is that the Mercedes lacks the pomp and circumstance associated with the Rolls Royce, so again, if you’re just looking for a quality vehicle and not interested in the flash, the more cost-efficient Mercedes might be the vehicle for you. 

When compared to the more traditional Maybach Sedan, I would say this is definitely more of a driver’s vehicle as opposed to feeling akin to a vehicle oriented towards chauffeuring. You feel like you are driving a normal ultra-luxury vehicle versus a limo. Speaking of chauffeuring, I have to mention the very luxurious backseat complete with a champagne chiller and space for two flutes. The backseat also comes outfitted with luxurious massage chairs and convenient work trays so your passengers can be productive or enjoy an adult beverage while on the go. While drinking in the vehicle can only truly be enjoyed when the vehicle is being driven by a commercially licensed driver, the vehicle can also be ordered with a 3 row bench instead at no cost; with this edition the seats are collapsible providing more versatility of use as well. I also really enjoyed the interior lights as well as the heads up display with 3 individual screens. 

While definitely designed to be a street vehicle, no SUV would be complete without off-road capabilities, and the Maybach GLS 600 is no exception. The vehicle comes standard with an off-road recovery, (bounce mode), system designed to get you out of sticky off-road situations. The system uses the vehicle’s air suspension system to quickly raise and lower the vehicle, hence, “bounce mode.” My coworkers and I enjoyed cruising around with it so much this past week, it earned the nickname “baller bounce.” Another great feature of this vehicle, which makes it perfect for gals in heels or small kids, was the retractable step that extends and retracts when entering/exiting the vehicle. 

Overall this is a great vehicle for those who prioritize ride quality over flash. If you’re considering an ultra-luxury SUV, I would highly recommend looking at the Maybach GLS 600! 

Subaru Forester Wilderness

Created to be Subaru’s off-road division, and aimed at giving thrill-seekers more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, the Subaru wilderness badge implicates a set of features uniquely designed with the adventurer in mind. The Subaru Forester Wilderness in particular includes upgraded ground clearance of an additional 9.2 inches, which is perfect for driving on bumpy or uneven terrain, and includes revised gear ratios for improved low-speed approach; it also comes with Subaru’s standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, however over the standard Subaru Forrester, the Subaru Forester Wilderness will tackle even tougher terrain and help you go even farther on your adventure. 

The exterior is also more rugged and chiseled, giving it a look like it is on par with its namesake and is ready to conquer the wilderness – or any environment. The interior is also of a more durable caliber; made with water-resistant upholstery, it is easy to clean and so perfect for any adventure, no matter how muddy. I also appreciated the embossed headrests and special decals, which further enhanced the brawny look, which corresponded well to the rugged exterior. 

The closest competitor to this car is likely the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, which is a little on the cheaper end, and at 271, has a higher horse power than the 182 of the Subaru Forester Wilderness. So, if you’re on the market for an adventure vehicle, I’d recommend checking out both before making any decisions. 

BMW X4

As with the recent trends, SUVs and crossovers are becoming sleek coups on stilts, and the BMW X4 is no exception. While it sports a very modern, stylish visual, the BMW X4 is still reminiscent of the classic BMW look and high-performance feel that BMW drivers have come to expect. Borrowing styling cues from its big brother, the 473 horse power X4 M, the BMW X4 that I tested featured the M sport package, giving it that quintessential BMW character and drive. 

Under the hood, you’re working with 248 horse power, and 4 cylinder twin turbo, which is ample power for getting around town and beyond. With a smooth steering capacity, the car also feels very natural around corners; I really like how it handles. The ride quality was good even in stop-and-go traffic, as well as on the highway and around the city. While not aggressive, the steering wheel has solid feedback, making even jagged turns a breeze. 

Another great feature is the fully digital instrument cluster with customizable viewing modes. Additionally, the infotainment center offers touch screen display as well as a dial on the center console, which controls the radio navigation and Apple car play. I was a fan of the combination dial/touch screen because you can easily rest your hand while changing stations. Other details I appreciated about the BMW X4 were that it is available with colored break calipers, (which look really cool), and the interior trim options, which include red leather seats, and carbon fiber, and aluminum accents. 

The Lincoln Navigator is JetSet Luxury on Wheels

Just a heads up, this entire post might be about the stellar interior of this luxe automotive because W.O.W… Trimmed with real wood and outfitted in super soft authentic leather, the inside of this car fronts a decadence on par with a first class jet. Those who have aims at the “jet-set” lifestyle, but can’t bankroll a private aircraft of their own, (so, most of us…), can make believe they can fly in this earthbound stand in of paralleled opulence. 

In addition to having gorgeous accents of premium leather and wood, the car is super spacious; even the backseat supports total relaxation with a sumptuous stretch of first-class level legroom. The seats are also fully adjustable and truly customizable. Not just lumbar support, these bad boys are alterable from the bolsters to the shoulders, and the independent seat angle control for the seat bottom and back are perfect for even the pickiest riders. Those with long legs can also adjust the length of the bottom seat to ensure premium comfort while driving, and the massage feature allows for a relaxing rubdown on the way home from a stressful day at the office. 

As far as driving is concerned, this luxury SUV makes cruising around super easy with premium features such as adapted cruise control with automatic stop and go, and lane keep assist technology. It was an effortless driving experience; even in heavy traffic the car felt almost as though it was driving itself at certain points, and the smooth ride made me feel like I was floating. 

Other favorite features include the panoramic vista roof, which expands the feeling of space and has the added benefit making riders feel as though they are in an SUV luxury convertible. Most of the controls are also very intuitive, so maneuvering around apps and dials is a total breeze. 

All in all, while this car is probably sub-par to the enchantment of a Rolls Royce magic carpet ride, it is a close cousin so far as drive and comfort are concerned, and is definitely better for your budget, starting at below $100k. If you’re on the market for a luxury SUV, I would highly recommend the Lincoln Navigator. 

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer Lives Up To Its Name

Designed with the doer in mind, the Chevy Trailblazer combines off-road features with a compact design perfect for on-road maneuverability. The little brother to the Chevy Blazer, this car carries on the legacy as a more portable version of its more substantial relative, without sacrificing much in terms of features – or storage space for that matter. In addition to a 60/40 split second row folding seat, the cargo space also features a complete fold-flat front seat on the passenger side perfect for transporting anything from a kayak to a Christmas tree. 

Typically front-wheel drive, this car comes equipped with selectable all-wheel drive for instances of uneven or slippery terrain when you need to activate the system to get enhanced traction, and a nine speed automatic transmission combined with a four cylinder turbo charged engine team up to ensure economic fuel usage, often getting up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway. 

From a safety standpoint, the car comes standard equipped with some excellent features including automatic emergency breaks and lane keep assist with lane departure warning. It is also outfitted with ten airbags and has a rear camera for easy reverse faced driving. 

Besides its notable storage space, compact size, off-road capabilities, and advanced safety features, this car is a stylish one, with the two-tone exterior adding a modern classic flair. All in all I would say this car lives up to its name in that it is suitable for the adventurer and the trailblazer in both its features and capacity, and at a price point starting around $21k, it won’t break the bank on its way out either. 

The Audi Q5 Sportback Is More Of A Good Thing

The trend now days to drive SUVs, but what do you get when you want to stand out from the crowd? The answer is simple, an Audi Q5 Sportback. It is nearly identical to the Q5, however the roof slopes more aggressively in the rear to give you coupe-like look. This small, but noticeable change makes the Q5 look very sexy.

Interior wise, it is still the same Q5 with standard leather seats, a high-tech looking instrument cluster, and intuitive controls. I really like Audi’s new design language, which I think will keep the Q5 looking modern for years to come.

Even with the structural change of having a sloped roof line, the Audi Q5 Sportback has just as good of visibility as the regular Q5. It is easy to navigate city streets, as well as park the vehicle. On two occasions, I had two full-size adults in the rear. Both passengers commented that they ample legroom and headroom, which is often times a major concern for couple-like SUVs. These same passengers commented on the lack of headroom in other press cars I recently drove.

There is a ~4,300 premium for the Audi Q5 Sportback, however you can’t put a price tag on style. It is also important to note that the Sportback comes with a number of optional features standard, so the price premium is negligible. Plus everything about this mid-size CUV/SUV feels extra special because of the roofline.

2021 Kia Sorento X-Line Snapshot

When it comes to delivering the best bang for your buck, Kia is unmatched. This is seen across the entire Kia lineup, but I was particularly impressed with my recent test drive of the Kia Sorento. The exterior looks typical of an economy mid-size SUV, so the striking element was its interior.

The seats on my X-Line test car were dressed with diamond quilted stitching, and paired with faux wood trim. The luxury feel was enhanced with two large digital displays offering an array of customizable screens for instrument readings, stereo options, and navigation.

While the Kia Sorento also drives above its weight class. The ride quality is comparatively comfortable for the economy mid-size SUV segment, and it steers very nicely for the $43,000 price tag.

It is a great contender for budget conscious families who want to elevate their game without draining their pocketbook.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Carries On The Tradition

The Ford Bronco Sport is the tamer brother in the “Bronco Family” of vehicles (that can be a good thing). By the way, yes the Bronco name plate is no longer just a model, but also sub-brand of purpose built off-road vehicles from Ford. Similar to Mustang being the on-road performance brand.

While the new regular Ford Bronco is designed to be an extreme and versatile off-road vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler, the Bronco Sport is designed to be a little more civilized. It is akin to the Jeep Cherokee. Both of these SUV’s will get you out of the mud and sand, or through a snow storm using 4X4 drive modes and locking rear differentials. However I would leave rock crawling to their muscular brothers. By default, the Bronco Sport is front wheel drive. The rear wheels only engage when the vehicle’s computer detects a loss of traction. Even when you press the 4X4 “lock button,” the Bronco Sport is front wheel bias. This is likely due to the fact that the Bronco Sport shares many of its drivetrain components with the Ford Escape.

The Bronco Sport has dynamite exterior look. One that makes you feel adventurous, like you can conquer any mountain. But what is great is that it can also comfortably fit a family of four with luggage. Its off-road manners are equally as good as its on-road manners. Think of it as the perfect car to take on a Boy Scout camping trip to another state. You will look like a cool Dad and keep up on the trails without having to sacrifice comfort or interior space.

My pre-production test vehicle was quite bare, but nothing felt cheap on the vehicle. All of the materials were high quality, even the cloth seats and use of interior plastics. All of the controls are intuitive, and the on screen visuals of the instrument cluster and central infotainment system cool. Occupants get a nice little animation of a Bronco every time you start the vehicle – it makes the Bronco badge feel all the more special.

The Bronco Sport starts at around $27,000. So if you are in the market for an everyday off-road vehicle, suitable for both weekend adventures and commutes to soccer practice, the Bronco Sport is definitely worth a test drive.

The first ever 4XE: The Jeep Wrangler Goes Electric

The future is electric vehicles, there is no doubt about that. Certain parts of the European Union, as well as California have gone on record banning the sales of gasoline powered vehicles at a future date. Electric vehicle are great when it comes to saving the planet and lowering your cost per mile, but they are terrible for road (or off-road) trips. If you are in the middle of nowhere, an electrical outlet is hard to come by. Also, electric vehicles take forever to charge. This is why I am a fan of electric plugin hybrid vehicles. It gives you the freedom to use both gasoline or electric depending on your needs.

Luckily, Jeep has recognized the dual-purpose practicality of the Wrangler and has given us a vehicle that an act as an electric car around town, and act as a gasoline vehicle when in the middle of nowhere. To test how well it works, Jeep sent me the Wrangler Rubicon 4XE. The “E” stands for electric, because you can drive this Jeep at highway speeds for up to 20 miles without a single ounce of pollution. Past the 20 mile mark, a powerful, but fuel efficient gasoline motor picks up the pace by both driving the wheels and charging the batteries. The batteries are also able to charge using regenerative braking. The system worked flawlessly for me, with smooth transitions for both braking and power types (gasoline vs electric). I frequently forgot that I was driving on electric. In Hybrid Mode with a fully battery, the Jeep Wrangle Rubicon 4XE will intelligently switch between electric and gasoline drivetrains based upon maximizing fuel economy. When aggressive on the throttle, electric motors act as turbo chargers to give you that extra bit of pep.

To highlight the specialness of the Wrangle Rubicon 4XE, Jeep gave this vehicle cool blue touches on both the interior exterior: special decals, blue outlines on the lettering, blue tow hooks, and thick blue stitching on the interior. This Jeep feels extra uniquely special, which is refreshing because most hybrid versions just “borify” a vehicle. The only downside of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4XE is the cost. My test vehicle was priced at just over $61,000, which is super reasonable for a sporty plug-in hybrid, but really expensive for a Wrangler that is going to traverse through mud and go rock crawling in the desert.