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.

Polestar 2

This totally electric vehicle starts at a price of just under 40k, which is a true bargain for an electric vehicle that is this well-built. The Polestar 2 is extremely solid, making even simple things like shutting the door have a nice, concrete feel to them. 

The car accelerates well, and the electric drive terrain provides instant torque, which is a nice feature for smooth driving. The vehicle also comes equipped with 408 horse power, so it’s a powerful drive for an electric vehicle. I tried the long-range, dual motor version, which can spring from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. This was surprising for the heaviness of the car, which weighs in at 4680 pounds, though it doesn’t feel heavy when going around a corner because it’s surprisingly well-balanced and composed. 

The Polestar 2 can achieve about 270 miles per charge, which isn’t bad, though it’s no Tesla; speaking on Tesla, while they do offer superior range and are quicker off the line, I would say the build quality, fit, and finish of Polestar 2 is lightyears ahead of its main competitor, the Tesla model 3 or Y. 

The only thing I didn’t like about this car was the infotainment center, which was clunky and not intuitive. For example, the tire pressure monitor system came on, but instructed to open an app to check which tire was low instead of showing the correct tire on the display. Other than this minor inconvenience, however, this was a great vehicle for anyone considering buying an electric car. 

Hyundai Santa Cruz

The first thing I will say about Hyundai’s new pickup truck, the Santa Cruz, is that it is designed to be less of a utility vehicle and more of a sport vehicle to compliment those with an active lifestyle. Its driving style is like that of an SUV, with supple road manners, however the open bed in the back to accommodate things like salty surfboards, muddy dirt bikes, and anything else you’d not want dirtying up your upholstery, is a great feature for those with messy outdoor hobbies. 

Just from a comfort perspective the front and rear compartments both have a decent amount of space to stretch out in; the seats also feature heating and cooling options, which is a nice touch, especially for the adventurer who might be traveling during extreme temperatures for escapades such as snowboarding or water-sports. Additional great features include a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and large dual-screen display options. 

The Santa Cruz gets about 27 miles to the gallon of gas, and up to 281 horse power drive terrain, making it a decent drive for a truck that prices in at just under 25k. An apt description came from a coworker of mine who described it as “this generation’s El Camino,” which I stand by as accurate. All in all I would recommend this truck for any adventure hobbyist in need of a comfortable ride with a storage bed to accommodate messier pastimes. 

BMW M440 Grand Coupe

For a 4 door coupe, as it’s referred to by BMW, I’d say this is one of the best looking on the market. The sleek and stylish design is indicative of its sporty profile; with a peppy 320 horsepower, and twin turbo inline 6-cylinder motor, this car was good looking and also fun to drive. The all-wheel drive did have a noticeably rear-wheel drive bias, which you can feel when going fast around a corner. 

The ride quality offers a nice balance of sport and luxury, making it a respectable choice for long drives, but also a breeze to handle around corners. The near perfect 50/50 weight distribution enhances the handling characteristics as well; overall, this was a very driver-first vehicle. 

Speaking again to the style, I liked the sleek lines and new age design queues, as well as the controversial front grill, which looks better in person than in images, especially when the car is a darker color, in my opinion. The sloped rear with hatch back is a great look as well as a convenient feature when trying to haul something, since you can put the seats down and open the hatch, versus a normal sedan where you’re limited by the trunk height.

The interior technology is also top-notch, with an intuitive infotainment center design, which can be accessed via touchscreen display or rotary dial knobs. My one complaint was regarding the real leather seats, which came with a protective coating that makes them more durable, but unfortunately gives them a slick, plasticy feel as well. 

The closest competition for this car is the Audi Sportback. If you’re considering between the two, my note of consideration would be in favor of the BMW M440’s better handling and drive. An improvement over the last generation, this latest and newest generation of the series 4 is like a return to BMW’s alleged peak in the mid-late 2000s and a comeback of the quality performance of the ultimate driving machine. 

Joining the Exclusive World of Porsche GT

After 20+ years of wanting, 5+ years of savings, 2+ years of searching, and 9 months of waiting, I am now officially a member of the Porsche GT club. My ticket in is a custom ordered 2022 718 GT4. While it is not really a club, getting your hands on a brand-new Porsche GT car is harder than getting into most country clubs. Here is why, and my journey to getting my dream car:

Porsche’s GT road car division is headed by Andy P, aka “Mr GT.” His job is to take Porsche sport cars and make them into street-legal race cars for the road. His partner in crime is Thomas L, who leads Porsche’s Motorsport division and is responsible for the race cars you see on TV. Think 24 Hours of LeMans, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The two teams work together to create near identical cars for different purposes: one that is street legal and one that will be raced competitively. This required process works in harmony because FIA rules dictate that GT-class cars have to be built based upon road going cars with limited modifications. I was told by several manufacturers that building race cars and their road going counterparts is a loss leader. “Most people buying $100k+ cars don’t want to daily or even weekend a track car, because they are terribly uncomfortable.” But manufacturers have to do it. The most recent GT marriages include the 911 GT2 RS and GT2 Clubsport, the 911 GT3 and GT3 Cup Car, the 718 GT4 and GT4 Clubsport. Both the street legal and race ready GT cars are likely not very profitable for Porsche because they are low-volume vehicles, but they represent a marketing play to get people to pay attention to brand through motorsports. Race GT cars on Sunday, sell regular cars/SUVs on Monday. This means that for the rest of us gear heads, we can get an insanely great track cars directly from manufacturers at a seemingly bargain price. A seemingly bargain price because true Porsche factory race cars designed for the World Endurance Championship will cost you $300,000+. This motorsports pedigree combined with the fact that all Porsche GT cars are limited production vehicles (even if they are not numbered), means that Porsche GT cars are the most sought after models in the 718 and 911 line up.

My journey towards GT ownership started when I was in high school, drooling over a Porsche race car (996 GT3) in a magazine. However it was only in the past few years that I started really thinking about getting one. I was on my first Porsche, a super low miles 986 Boxster S with RUF upgrades, but I was craving something more. Something faster around the race track and autocross circuits. The GT4 is what my heart desired because I like the modern mid-engine layout and Motorsport pedigree. As a racing aficionado, it is super cool to know what you are driving won a championship. I intend to do amateur auto racing with my GT4, so the motorsports pedigree is extra special. The GT4 costs $60k less than the GT3, however they both (991 GT3/RS) share suspension, brakes, drivetrain components. So in my book, it is the best bang for the buck Porsche you can get… if you can get one!

My first stop on the road to ownership was the closest Porsche dealership to my office. There, the salesman told me that I needed to be a long term high value Porsche GT customer for them to accept a custom order on a new GT4. He offered to sell me a used car instead. My next stop was the Porsche dealer closest to my house. There the salesman told me that he would sell me a GT4, but I need to give the dealership a $30k premium. Both dealers made me feel like I wasn’t worth their time. I proceeded to contact two more nearby dealers with similar answers. I asked a couple friends with GT cars about how they got there cars: one paid $100k over sticker to get his GT2 RS and the other was forced to buy his GT3 used.

By this time, I was thinking that buying a brand-new custom-ordered GT4 just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was even considering alternatives as I didn’t want a used car nor be price gouged. However a friend who works for a different automotive manufacturer suggested that I contact Jamie from Porsche Naples. Jamie was eager to make my custom order GT4 dream come true. He was transparent about the process and enthusiastic to talk to me. To top off the incredible experience, Jamie is also a true car enthusiast, so the buying process was like working with a friend versus a sales guy. Porsche Naples is located only a few miles from my Dad’s house, but I would travel cross country to replicate the buying experience at Porsche Naples.

In July of 2021, I pulled the trigger and placed a deposit on a 718 GT4. The next step was to play the waiting game for an allocation. Dealers get a limited amount of GT cars every year, so an allocation is Porsche’s way of saying we reserved a car for you. Every dealer get a different allocation set based upon sales history.

Four and half months passed when in November of 2021, Jamie called with the good news: You are getting a 2022 model allocation! I was beyond excited to be getting the vehicle. I had a good idea of the spec I wanted, but Jamie also made valuable recommendations to enhance the car’s appearance. For instance he convinced me to get yellow seat belts to match the yellow door straps. Looking back, I am really glad I checked that option box! What I ordered is a bespoke car with wheels, seats, interior trim, stitching, and materials tailored to my tastes. And of course being a GT car, pretty much all of the performance options were standard equipment.

Shortly after getting my allocation notice, I received an email from Porsche with a link to track my build. The tracker detailed every step of my car’s journey, from building to delivery. The Porsche Tracker website and app made the order process more enjoyable because I could get semi-real time updates on my car. Whereas when ordering cars from other manufacturers, I had to bug the dealer to get updates. On the flip side, the Porsche Tracker made the wait seem longer because I was constantly thinking about the car. The app also estimates your delivery timeline, so you are just counting down the days.

In January of 2022, when my car was finally being built, I received photos of it moving along the assembly line. If you ever had a child, I equate these photos to the ultrasound images. You know the little guy is there, but you can’t quite hug him yet.

Fast forward to March, and my 2022 Porsche 718 GT4 finally arrived the dealer. It was on a Saturday, which meant that I had to wait until Monday for Porsche Naples to clean the car and do a final pre-delivery inspection. That Saturday and Sunday was like the night before Christmas; I couldn’t sleep in anticipation. When Monday, the delivery day, finally arrived, it was a surreal experience. I was almost shaking as I couldn’t believe my eyes. My very own, custom-ordered, Porsche 718 GT4 was ready to go home. Driving it off of the dealer lot was magical.

At the time of writing this story, I have owned the car for 5 days. It feels infinitely more special than I anticipated with its aggressive stance and rear wing. It is still being broken in, so I haven’t floored it, but I can tell that this GT4 is ready to roar. The 4.0L naturally aspirated flat-six engine sounds incredible putting around town, the dual-clutch transmission shifts in a blink of an eye, the steering is incredibly precise, and the car hugs corners like their is no tomorrow. I will be taking the car to its first track day in May at the famous Sebring Raceway, where it will really shine. After all, it was born to be a track car. I also plan on racing it in the Street Racing Made Safe Autocross Series Presented by Cosmo Tires at Homestead Miami Speedway.

What is odd is that I have tested multiple Porsche GT cars over the years as a journalist, including a GT3 RS on track, but this little GT4 beats all of them with excitement… maybe because it is mine 🙂


I want to send a big thank you to Jamie at Porsche Naples for helping me make my GT dream come true, as well as to Andy Preuninger (aka “Mr GT”) for developing such an enjoyable machine.

Note: I did not receive any compensation from Porsche Naples, Jamie, or Porsche North America for writing this article. I am simply a huge fan of their dealership after they helped me secure my dream car.

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.

Kia Sorento Hybrid

First things first, this car gets great gas milage. At 40 miles to the gallon in real world driving, you’ll definitely save a buck at the pump. 

The car is also extremely safe; in addition to Kia’s standard automatic emergency break it comes equipped with rear cross-traffic collision avoidance technology and is available with blindspot detection, so it’s perfect for drivers who prefer a few added protections while they’re on the road. Also featuring adapted all wheel drive with torque vectoring, the car has great corner control so is perfect for maneuvering around tight spaces. 

The hip and edgy design is a stylish bonus, and the spacious interior makes it a great option for big families or lots of friends. As a three-row SUV with plenty of space you’ll have all the room you need for a long road-trip or cross-country sojourn. 

I also appreciated the 10-inch touch screen display and Bose audio sound system, which made for easy GPS monitoring and provided high-quality listening for favorite tunes and podcasts while on the road. 

Spacious, stylish, and safe, this is overall a great ride. Starting at $34k, it is also a good bang for your buck, especially considering the amount you can save on gas. 

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! 

Ford Maverick

First things first: this car is a bonkers great deal. Starting at just 20k, it is easily the cheapest pickup truck on the market in the USA, and a great value for the price. With the plethora of modern features, such as automatic rollup windows, a backup camera, a remote control key, and working AC, it is nicer than a 50k luxury pickup from 20 years ago and will be in better condition to boot. The lane change alert is a nice modern safety feature as well. 

Speaking on modern features, the touchscreen digital display with Apple Car Play and Android Auto are convenient for use, and a nice touch to the no-frills interior, which has a modern design and is surprisingly luxurious for the simple plastic and cloth from which it is made. The inside was also surprisingly spacious for a pickup truck; one of my coworkers hitched a ride in the backseat and commented on the relatively ample legroom and roomy seating. 

The truck is on the smaller side for pickups, which is limiting for utility, but makes driving and parking significantly easier. It drives like a small SUV, feeling planted on the ground even at highway speeds. 

This truck also comes with a variety of engines, including hybrid, though all get great fuel economy. It is by no stretch of the imagination a luxury vehicle, however, for a basic utility vehicle it is perfect for cruising around town or as a secondary vehicle for hauling.