It is the forgotten hero. It is one of the best kept secrets in the automotive industry, which makes it even cooler. Its drivers are performance enthusiasts, stylish, and daring to standout from the crowd. I am talking about the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I don’t see more Alfa Romeo Giulias on the road. You get authentic Italian design for less than $40,000. And with the optional Quadrifoglio trim level, you get a Ferrari derived engine with 505 horsepower for less than $75,000. It is the bargain of the century when it comes to a taste of Italian automotive excellence.
My test vehicle for a week was the Giulia TI. The all-wheel-drive version, which enhances grip while cornering and offers improved 0 to 60 mph times. Although, I suspect the rear-wheel-drive version would be more fun. Out of the box, the TI trim level has a 280 horsepower turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine. The car feels peppy, with the torque peaking at low RPMs.
Alfa Romeo’s motorsports pedigree, dating back to the 1920s, shines through on the Giulia. It is available with column-mounted paddle shifters controlling the 8-speed gearbox, you get a four leaf clover badge with the Quadrifoglio trim level, and all vehicles offer near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Also standard on all vehicles is a carbon fiber driveshaft. This is something you would expect to find on a car 10 times the price.
The interior is pretty nice too! It comes in an assortment of color choices and trim options. The controls are intuitively placed, with the ignition button cinematically placed on the steering wheel – very cool! There is quite a bit of plastic pieces for a car at this price point, but the Giulia makes up for it with carefully placed aluminum details.
But the best thing about this car is that no one else has one. Its exotic and rare appearance means that you will be the talk of the office water cooler crowd. Did he get a raise? Or in today’s world, the Monday morning Zoom meeting.
The brand is known for its active lifestyle, with a hint of motorsports pedigree. All of which contributes to the affection of Subaru customers. Rarely will you find someone that has only bought one Subaru vehicle. Customer testimonials often times include the phrase, “This is my 3rd Subaru” or “My entire family drives a Subaru.” I am honestly not surprised since Subaru makes a vehicle for every stage of life:
First Car: Subaru Impreza
At $20,000 new, the Subaru Impreza is the smart choice for first time new-car buyers. It is affordable and easy to drive. It is also safe, with standard EyeSight Driver Assist on all models. This piece of technology has been found to reduce rear-end crashes by up to 85%. The suite include automatic pre-collision braking the lane-keep assist to avoid at speed accidents.
First Job: Subaru Crosstrek or Legacy
At $22,000 new, both of the vehicles deliver a more “grown up” look and level sophistication. From both the sedan and hatchback, you get all-wheel drive, plus design elements that offer a premium feel. The Crosstrek is the sportier, outdoorsy option. My recent Crosstrek test car featured blue and yellow design accents. While the Legacy delivers more of a suit and tie type of vibe. My recent Crosstrek test car showcased a luxury car styled dash, doors, and seats.
First Management Position: Subaru WRX or BRZ
Just because your are the boss, it doesn’t mean that you have to be a square. The Subaru WRX traces its motorsports roots to rally racing. You get that feeling all the way through for a package that starts at $27,495. With the Subaru BRZ, you get small nimble sports car for $28,845. It is the only Subaru without symmetrical all-wheel-drive, but you still get that famous boxer engine with a low center of gravity. Do you know who else makes a sports car with a boxer engine? Porsche!
First Kid, Second or Third Kid: Subaru Forester or Ascent
Both of these SUVs offer enough room for the whole family, plus their toys. The Forester offers 5 passenger two rows of seating, along with 76 cubic feed of cargo space for $24,795. While the newest member of the Subaru family, the Ascent, give you three rows of seating for up to 8 passenger. The Subaru Ascent can also tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Retirement: Subaru Outback
With your golden years ahead of your, it is time to sit back and explore. The Outback is the perfect size vehicle for road trips in my opinion. It is large enough to be comfortable and carry all of your luggage, but small enough to be easy to drive. With the rear sets down, you can easily carry a month’s worth of luggage for you and your spouse. My most recent test vehicle was super comfortable for ~$35,000, but the Outback starts at only $26,795. Of course it was equipped with a 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine, leather seats, and a sunroof.
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.
In a world were folks are clamoring for crossovers and SUVs, the Hyundai Venue delivers a compact affordable option designed for young drivers. It’s bold two-tone paint option remind me of a Range Rover, yet you can get a well equipped new Venue for less than $20,000. With it for the price point, your kids will love the 8” touchscreen infotainment center with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You will love the fact that it comes standards with the latest safety equipment, which includes lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and a blind spot warning. With level of style, easy of drivability, and standard equipment, I challenge you to find a better used car for $20,000. Plus it comes with a 5-year 60,000 mile warranty.
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.
Happy Labor Day from the USA! Pickup trucks started life as common work vehicles, but they have more recently evolved into the preferred luxury vehicle for well-to-do blue collar workers, as well as white collar works who don’t mind getting themselves dirty.
One of my most recent test vehicles was the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited EcoDiesel. It is the most luxurious truck on the market; it is in a league of its own. So I am not quite sure if I should compare it to other trucks or a big luxury sedan designed for heads of state, like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. To be fair, this is a $72,000 pickup truck.
Like you would expect on a luxury sedan or suv, the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited that I tested featured a cabin wrapped in leather: on the dash, doors, seats, steering wheel, and armrests. The seats are both heated and cooled. Wood trim is tastefully presented on the dash and doors. Additionally, fancy stitching in unique patterns brings an arguably new level of sophistication for a 4X4. I personally think the stitching is a little much, but I think buyers of this truck will like it.
The vehicle is enhanced with the latest technology: a gigantic touch screen infotainment display, 360 degree cameras for parking, automatic emergency braking. Oh and by the way, the truck can use computers to park itself.
Also like you would expect on a luxury sedan or SUV, the 2020 RAM 1500 Limited EcoDiesel has adjustable ride height and comfort settings. You can raise the entire truck for off-road use, you can raise the back for hauling a trailer, you can lower the truck to make it easier to get into, or soften the suspension for a comfortable ride. When at highway speeds the RAM 1500 Limited will automatically lower itself in order to improve fuel economy.
The $5,000 optional 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 powertrain on my test vehicle supplied me with nearly unlimited driving range, at 32 mpg with an unusually large gas tank. The engine only has 260 horsepower, but it delivers 480 pounds of torque.
Because this is in fact a pickup truck designed for work, RAM made sure the 1500 Limited can get the job done. It can be optioned to have full off-road capabilities, complete with a low-speed four-wheel-drive system. You can also two up to 12,750 pounds.
And in case you missed geometry class, there is a job site cheat sheet hidden underweight the center console’s storage compartment.
So whether you are a blue collar laborer building homes, or a white collar worker who needs to haul his boat to the lake, you can get the job done in luxury and style.
Unsolicited Bonus: As a thank you to all of the laborers who build this country’s homes, office buildings, and infrastructure, RAM Trucks is offering a sales event of up to $4,500 off the price of a 2020 RAM 1500.
Tires are tires… or so they say. As a young, broke college kid, I dabbled in used tires, and wrapped my wheels in whatever I could find. Paying $300-$400 for high-performance Michelin or Pirelli tires versus paying no more than $50 for a used tire just seemed like a no-brainer. It worked – having a car with three or four different brand tires did the job of getting me around campus, so I didn’t bother putting more thought into it.
It was not until I splurged on upgrading the stock 18 inch wheels on my 120k mile E46 M3 to 19 inch Competition wheels did I actually consider mating new rubber with new wheels. Splurging was splurging, so I went with the tire-shop recommended Toyo Proxies all around, via an aggressive, staggered fitment, 10mm wider than stock in the front and the back. The result? Handling was a thing of beauty, driving was a pleasure, and finally, I started getting the hang of this idea of new vs. used tires, and actually bothering to match all four. Click Here To Continue Reading
This year, I have been lucky enough to try all three Genesis sedans. The G70, G80, and G90. Each one was put through their respective paces, based upon performance, luxury, and value.
This car has its sights set on performance. Its closest competitor is the BMW 3-Series, however the regular 3-Series has grown soft. Whereas Genesis has gone full-throttle with delivering an engaging driver experience. You get actual feel through the steering wheel and drivetrain to create a symbiotic relationship between the drive and vehicle.
There isn’t an M offering for the G70, but 365 horsepower with the 3.3L twin-turbo V6 is more than adequate for the average sports sedan enthusiast. And for quicker lap times, plus stability on road, the G70’s all-wheel-drive system is available with F1 derived torque vectoring. The system dynamically transfers power independently between each wheel to help you turn faster. My test car was peppy and fun to drive.
This is the Genesis to get if you want a sporty, but semi-luxurious ride on your daily commute.
With an interior that is equally attractive from the front as it is the rear, the Genesis G90 is the car to get for a true luxury experience. Front occupants will be able to drive the vehicle effortlessly, while rear occupants will be able lounge in style. It is a car that I would almost rather be chaffered in than drive. The Genesis G90 makes a great alternative to the Mercedes S-Class sedan, particularly if you want a car this size without having to spend $100,000. The G90 starts fully equipped at $72,950 with a V6 engine. Or you can get 5.0L V8 engine for just $79,200. The engine size if your only paid option, everything else is standard equipment options.
My test vehicle offered a ride supple enough that I could drive across the English channel, and still be refreshed enough to take the Queen out to lunch.
This is the car to get if you will be driven often or you will be driving clients around town. It is a status symbol without the status symbol price tag.
If I were to spend my cold hard cash on a Genesis, it would be this one. With a recently updated exterior and interior for the 2021 model year, the Genesis’ G80 charismatic good looks will be sticking around for a while. Future model years will likely have minimal updates. My test vehicle was the 2020 model, which carried a near identical style since 2013. That previous 7 year run should also mean that the new 2021 Genesis G80 will hold its value well over time.
The 2020 G80 that I tested was the perfect size car. Not too big, where it feels like you are driving a boat. And not too small, where you can’t stretch your legs. It is kind of the perfect blend of sportiness and comfort. It seems like Genesis took the best from both the G70 and G90 in this case. But in actuality, the G80 was on the market long before the G70 or the G90.
In my mind, the Genesis G80 securely squares off with the Audi A6. But at a starting price of around $47,000, the Genesis G80 is priced at nearly $10,000 less for similar equipment. And you arguably get a better looking car with the G80.
The entire line up can be explored here – https://www.genesis.com/us/en/genesis.html
There is no doubt that electric cars are taking over. Tesla started the modern day electric war, but GM was the first to give us an everyday affordable EV – one that you could theoretically use as one an only car.
I want to stress affordable and only car in previous statement, because yes the Nissan Leaf is affordable, but its range is poor. The Leaf will go only go 124 miles per charge. BMW’s and Smart’s options are not any better. The Chevy Bolt on the other hand will go 238 miles per charge. Tesla’s model S will go 335 miles on a charge, but the Tesla costs over twice as much the Bolt: $82,000 versus $36,000.
The Bolt’s range is key to me for being a one car household. The 200+ mile range means that you can drive all over town or to the next town over without having to worry about mobile charging stations. With the Leaf and BMW electric vehicles I tested, I felt range anxiety. Versus with the Bolt, I was able to drive it all week on one charge – and I drive a lot!
Some may argue the Bolt looks too sci-fi for their tastes, even more so than a Tesla, but shouldn’t a car from the future look high tech. I enjoyed the minimalist design and the use of recycled plastics – it made me feel as if I was doing my part to help the environment. It has that Silicon Valley California vibe, which is a good thing. I could get use to the look…
The only thing I couldn’t get use to was ultra power saving mode. In this mode, you use the accelerator pedal (the gas pedal) to speed up the car by pressing it down as well as slow down the car significantly by lifting off the pedal. In this mode, the regenerative brakes are applied to charge the battery whenever possible – ie when you are not adding accelerating. Luckily you can turn this feature off and drive the Bolt like a normal car with the use both an accelerator pedal and brake pedal.
Visit your local Chevrolet dealer to test a Bolt out yourself or learn more about this all electric vehicle on Chevy’s website.
Despite what most of my automotive journalist colleagues say about the 2020 Cadillac CT4 V, the car delivers exact what we need from a Cadillac. On and off-the-record, they have critiqued its performance, styling, and choice of materials. It is easy to say that the Mercedes C43 AMG has a nicer interior or that the BMW M340i has more horsepower, but both of these vehicles’ has a starting price of $10k+ more than the CT4 V. As journalists who are lucky enough to drive a new car every week, we often forget price points… The CT4 V is crazy good for $45,000.
I will be amongst the first to admit that the 2020 CT4 V doesn’t deserve the “V” badge. The legendary ATS V and CTS V were “bad ass” cars. The ATS V produced 464 hp, as much horsepower as a Corvette. The CTS V had a Corvette Z06 motor under the hood pumping out 640 hp. In comparison, the CT4 V only has a wimpy 325 hp 4-cylinder engine. But to redeem your street cred, you can tell your friends that your CT4 V has more horsepower than a Porsche Cayman. And in sport mode, you can just as easily get the rear wheels to loose traction and create a nice little drift. Performance options are enhanced with the Brembo Brake package and Magnetic Ride to control the dampers.
Yes, the interior of the Cadillac CT4 V seems a little simplistic. And yes, the materials used don’t seem quite as luxurious as other cars in its segment. But a fully loaded CT4 V cost less than the base price of its competition. I also thought the infotainment controls are more intuitive than most of its competitors. For instance, there are four different ways to change the radio station – so take your pick between two knobs, touch screen display, or switches. Another plus is that the Cadillac CT4 V comes standard with leather seats, where as it is an upgrade on most Mercedes and BMW vehicles.
Americans want a small sporty sedan for running errands. We want something fuel efficient for sitting in rush-hour traffic. We want a status symbol that lets everyone in the office parking lot know we are a part of the management team. And we don’t want to take out a second mortgage. On all of these fronts, the Cadillac CT4 V delivers. It is a grownup‘s Camaro.