The last (and only) great station wagon, Mercedes E450 Wagon

There was a time in America where families pilled into a station wagon for their annual family road trip. It was big, comfortable, and fuel efficient. Memories were created at each stop, and each mile offered a relaxing way to come together as a family. There was also plenty of room for luggage and the family dog. Outside of road trips, Moms could use the family wagon to take the kids to soccer practice, and Dads could use the family wagon for home improvement projects. All of this was later replaced with minivans and then by SUVs. While both of these modes of transportation are great from a utility standpoint, nothing compares to the drivability, fuel economy, and comfort of a station wagon.

For a week, I got to experience the forgotten love of a station wagon in the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon. Because of its low riding architecture, the E450 Wagaon drives a sedan. It is quite and superiorly stable at high speeds. 100 mile commutes are no more fatiguing than a short trip to the grocery store. The vehicle glides with ease under the power of a 362 horsepower inline-6 cylinder. It is by no means a sports car, but it is peppy. And around corners, there is no fear of rolling over.

I rarely fall in love with 4-door vehicles, but I absolutely smitten with the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon’s interior. The designo package with quilted stitched seats and nappa leather on the dash delivers an S-Class quality interior with utility of a 3-row wagon. It also rides like a buttery smooth S-Class, with adaptive air suspension. Its load-leveling and adjustable ride height ensure the drive and passengers a leisurely drive no matter what you are hauling. My test vehicle also had optional massaging seats, like on the S-Class. Which means after a long day of sitting at the office, you can refresh yourself while waiting in the carpool line at your child’s school.

The E450 Wagon’s only real competition comes in the form of the Audi A6 allroad and Porsche Panamera Sport Turisumo. Both are fantastic vehicles, but the Audi misses the mark in terms of stateliness, and the $98,000 Porsche is more of a sports cars than a luxury vehicle. If I were a Dad, the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon would be the vehicle I would buy.

Too much horsepower??? Never! 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody Review

The Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody may have way more horsepower than the rear wheels can handle, but it makes the car all the more fun to drive. Off the line, this 800 horsepower (797 to be exact) visceral cat will leave every 12 year old boy from here to Detroit grinning ear to ear. It is the last true iconic American muscle car.

With that much horsepower, the only safe way to test the vehicle’s limits is on a closed road. The real-wheel-drive Hellcat Redeye can easily go sideways if you are not careful. Plus with a reported 0 to 60 mph time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of over 200mph, you can easily loose your license on public roads. Luckily for me, the city of Pompano Beach offered to loan me their airport for a few hours for testing. So in old-fashion Top Gear style, I got to work.

Under the hood of the Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody is a supercharged 6.2L V8 HEMI engine. Even though it has “the most powerful mass-produced engine in the world,” it isn’t actually the quickest sedan. That is because all of the power is going to the rear wheels versus an all-wheel-drive platform like on the less powerful BMW M5 for example. However, real-wheel-drive cars are always more fun to drive. This means when trying to launch the Hellcat Redeye as fast as possible, you either need a delicate foot or launch control. Or you just say the hell with it, and you have fun burning tire tread and creating smoke. During my comprehensive testing at the Pompano Beach airport, I couldn’t actually get the car to do 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, my tests came closer to 3.8 seconds with launch control. But I think that was because I was on a set of well used Pirelli tires. A fresh set of sticky rubber could easily make up the difference.

I also couldn’t get “the fastest sedan in the world” up to 200 mph, but that is just because I didn’t have a long enough runway available. Because of the sheer force of acceleration when the rear tires lock into grip, I have no doubt that this un-earthly machine can take you 1/3 of the way from breaking the sound barrier.

At the end of each tarmac run, my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head due to the Hellcat Redeye’s massive Brembo six-piston brakes. The force is matched to what you can expect from a Ferrari race car, but enhanced due to the 4,600 pound weight of the vehicle. During the entire test, I didn’t experience an ounce of brake fade even though I could feel them working hard to slow down this friend sedan from 150+ mph to 0 mph.

The comparatively heavy weight of the Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye means that the now standard widebody is a must for corners. Its ultra-wide tires allow the Hellcat Redeye to claw around corners. The car doesn’t feel nimble, but it could handle its own around a race track against the finest competition. The Hellcat Redeye Widebody with the majority of its weight in front, is naturally a understeer car. It pushes on each corner. However if you can drive by the seat of your pants, you can easily get the rear end to swing out, offering you and your passenger the ride of your lives.

Typically you would be looking at north of six figures for any vehicle with over 500 horsepower. But you can pick up the 800 horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody for less than $80,000. Sure the interior is filled with plastic trim, but this is a car you can take to the drag strip, use on a road course, drift competitively, and pick the kids up from school all in the same day. I call that a win!

A special thank you to the City of Pompano Beach for letting me borrow part of your airport for testing and photos. As always, thank you to Dodge for loaning me the 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody to drive for a week. I hope I didn’t burn too much rubber 🙂

Exploring the Kia K5 GT Line

In November I reviewed Kia’s affordable luxury trim levels on the 2021 K5 sedan. You can find it here, along with driving impressions for the vehicle. But today, I want to share with you details on the Kia K5 GT Line trim. It uses the same 180 horsepower engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, and suspension as the LX, LXS, and EX trim levels, but you get a sportier appearance. This includes black 18″ wheels, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, as well as different seat materials and a flat bottom steering wheel.

You won’t go any faster with the K5 GT Line, but you will look cooler. If you truly have a need for speed though, I would upgrade to the real K5 GT. It comes standard with 290 horsepower and sports tuned suspension.

2020 Vehicle Of The Year: Right Hand Drive Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Behind The Wheel’s award for Vehicle Of The Year was driven by a need to highlight that driving is much more than benchmarks. The enjoyment of getting from point A to point B is a priceless experience that far outweighs lap times or the bargain price of a car.

My pick for vehicle of the year is based upon my most interesting experience behind the wheel every year. Previous winners include driving the Porsche 911 GT3 RS around a race track, taking a Ford Mustang GT on a cross country road trip, and going rock crawling with Range Rover in Arizona.

This year’s winner is the right-hand drive 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. While in the UK on holiday, Rolls-Royce sent one to my hotel as transport to tour their factory. The experience of being chauffeured around London with my wife by my side was surreal. I almost always prefer to drive, but relaxing in the back with heated seats and lambs wool carpet on a cold day while soaking up the scenery as we drove up to Goodwood was magical.

I knew that all Rolls-Royce vehicles were true works of art, but the customization options from the factory are truly incredible. Master craftsmen can take any idea, any material, any color, and tastefully integrate it into the design of the vehicle. Their workshop is located on the same grounds as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a fitting place since Rolls-Royce once held the records for the fastest car, boat, and aircraft.

Rolls-Royce’s factory is state-of-the-art and precise in every aspect, however old-world attention to detail is seen throughout. For instance, the pinstripes on every specified vehicle is all done by hand. The seats are stitched and inspected by hand for locating even the slightest imperfections. The culture of their workforce is one of unity. Everyone is on the same team, and they even sit together in the cafe for every meal together – from workers on the floor to executives.

Following the tour, I got to drive the Cullinan on both narrow country roads through history towns and on the city streets of London. Despite its opulent size, the Cullinan was quite pleasurable to drive. The vehicle makes grand touring carefree, and you never want the journey to end. Driving the vehicle is just as magical as riding in it, because I was driving the quintessential english car in its natural habitat.

A Solar Powered Car? The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

To say the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a solar powered car is a bit of a stretch, but I am not too far off. Instead of a traditional sun roof, the production vehicle that I drove for a week featured a large solar panel on the roof. This allows the car to re-charge its batteries while sitting in the hot sun. Effectively allowing you to drive an electric vehicle up to 2-miles per day on solar alone. Hyundai did a great job with this; not only from an engineering side, but from an understated design perspective. It look like a sleek Hyundai sedan from a distance, which I like. Solar powered roof only gets noticed when you closely look at the roof. Click Here To Continue Reading

2021 Kia K5: Luxury car styling for an economy car pricing

My 2021 Kia K5 press car is the best value sedan I have driven in a long time. You can get one for about $23,000 ,and if you hide the Kia badges, you would almost think you are driving a small Audi. On the exterior, you have well sculpted lines reminiscent of a fastback sedan.

Under the hood is a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic. Acceleration is adequate for everyday driving with 180 horsepower and 195 pounds of torque. However, if you feel the need for speed, a “GT” version of the K5 is coming next month with a 290 horsepower 2.5L Turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine. This is promising to out run most European entry-level luxury vehicles.

The interior of the K5 offers a driver centric cockpit, with faux wood trim and aluminum. My press car also had faux leather on the seats and steering wheel, but the material felt convincingly real. The K5 is also available with both heated and ventilated front seats, as well as a panoramic sunroof to keep you at the optimal temperature at all times.

The Kia K5 is available with the near standard issue drive safety technology, such as auto emergency braking technology, lane keep assist, blind spot collision avoidance and electronic stability control. As a driving enthusiast, most of these items are annoying when you want to fully control the vehicle, however these options should significantly reduce your insurance premium.

The only true fault I could find with the car is its infotainment center. It was very beautiful to look at, especially the radio app, but the interface was terrible to use. With a price tag of less than 30,000 for a fully equipped model, I can’t complain too much. Anything else this good looking overall would cost you $5,000 to $10,000 more.

Genesis G70, a true sports sedan Competitor

The Genesis G70 is a relatively new entry in the sports sedan arena. But what it lacks in pedigree, it makes up for in performance, style, and price.

For around $4,000 less than the cost of the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class, you get a 255 horsepower turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder motor with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Yes, you heard me right. The Genesis G70 is one of the few sports sedans left that are available with a manual transition. My most recent Genesis G70 test car came with an 8-speed automatic and a 3.3L turbocharged V6, pumping out 365 horsepower. Personally, I am not sure which one I love more. I have tested both engines, and both will make you want to take the long way home.

In terms of driving dynamics, the G70 reminds me of sports sedans from yesteryear. The latest entry level options from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi almost feel to plush to enjoy on a country roads. They make me want to sit back and relax while cruising the highway. Where as the G70 delivers that sports car like engagement between man and machine. You get solid feedback through the steering wheel plus the joy of changing your own gears with the 4-cylinder variant. There is no arguing that the 3 Series is better balanced than the G70, and arguably faster on the race track, but the G70 is more entertaining to drive.

As much as I like the Genesis G70, I wouldn’t want to buy one now. Last month, Genesis announced that they are coming out with a new G70 for 2021. It is my understanding that the platform and drivetrain will remain the same, however the new model will feature both interior and exterior visual enhancements. Based on the images I have seen, the 2021 G70 will be worth waiting till next year.

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.

2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia

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.

Subaru makes a vehicle (or two) for every occasion

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.