First Drive: The 2022 Infiniti QX55 Is Dressed To Impress

With styling cues that pay homage to the very first performance crossover, the QX55 is a showstopper in the modern crossover/suv world. The vehicle is structurally very similar to the QX50, but the QX55 is sleeker and more modern. It is essentially the “sport coupe” version of the QX50. The vehicle looks like a proper Infiniti with bold line, enhanced by chrome trim and LED lights in the front and rear. Specifically the piano key tail lights.

The interior elements of the Infiniti QX55 compliments the striking exterior lines. My favorite color combination is black on red, because it exemplifies the sporty look of the vehicle. The modern elegance of the QX55 was bolstered by aluminum trim details and soft touch plastics instead of old-school wood trim. There is also 3 digital displays to showcase navigation, audio, and climate control all at once. Most people work using multiple monitors, so it is fitting to have multiple display at your finger tips inside the vehicle.

While the Infiniti QX55 is one of the most beautiful crossovers on the market, the looks don’t match the driving dynamics. It feels planted on the road and it is no slouch, but the 268 horsepower turbo-charged 4-cylinder motor was underwhelming for such a sporty looking vehicle. To make matters worse, the QX55 uses a CVT transmissions which offers a smooth power delivery, but lacks the drama of a traditional automatic or dual-clutch transmission. Also the steering felt a little numb. However, if you don’t care about 0 to 60 mph times, then the QX55 is winner.

The cherry on top of the Infiniti QX55 is its standard equipment and price point. For less than $50,000, every QX55 comes standard with a leatherette interior and 20” wheels. For reference, 20” wheels are a $4,000 option on the Porsche Macan. The QX55 also comes standard with all-wheel drive and an assortment of technology and safety upgrades that are often times options for other vehicles. Notable upgrades include leather seats and a 16-speaker BOSE sounds system.

For luxury buyers that want to challenge the norm, while being on the forefront of style and technology, the Infiniti QX55 is a solid choice.

One Size Fits All: The New Land Rover Defender

My one week with the new Land Rover Defender was nothing short of fantastic. That is because the new Defender does everything really, really well. Typically with factory built extreme off-roaders, manufacturers have to have compromises. The iconic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon for instance can conquer any terrain, but it doesn’t feel planted like car at excess highway speeds.

What you drive says a lot about you, especially in a white collar professional setting. Getting out of an F150 Raptor in a suit and tie, looks weird. It is like guys wearing dark denim shorts. So if you are dressing for success, your vehicle should too. With all of its British charm, I was able to easily rock a blazer with the Land Rover Defender everyday and not be embarrassed in the parking lot or around clients. The Defender’s unique exterior style looks sophisticated with a hint of sport. It is stylish, even amongst rows of $100,000 SUVs from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, and Bentley.

The interior of the new Land Rover Defender is brilliantly designed with a modern look and sporty accents, such as exposed bolts and body color trim. The build quality of the interior felt solid, with each piece held firmly in place and minimal gaps. All of the materials felt like they were made with high-quality properties. Even the doors has a nice solid feel with you closed them. The only thing I didn’t like is Land Rover’s use of synthetic materials for the seats, dash, and doors on the Defender. I would have expected a $70k+ vehicle to be equipped with at least leather seats. My co-workers and other occupants didn’t mind. In fact they quite enjoyed how spacious and airy the backseat felt.

My test vehicle was equipped with an inline 6-cylinder motor that pumps out nearly 400 horsepower and over 400 pounds of torque. And with a 0 to 60 time of 5.8 seconds, this means the Land Rover Defender is almost as fun on-road as it is off-road. The Defender felt peppy despite its curb weight exceeding 5,000 pounds. It was fun zipping around town in a perfectly sized SUV; small and agile enough to navigate congested city streets, but big enough to feel safe. The ride quality was suburb at any speed thanks to its adjustable suspension. Even at excess speeds on the highway, the Defender feels incredibly planted and comfortable, like it is designed for a 1,000 mile road trip. With a first and second row seating only configuration, the Defender has enough cargo space for a month long vacation.

The Land Rover Defender actually walks the walk and talks the talk. It is not just post SUV pretending to be an off-road *cough Bentley Bentayga cough.* The Defenders proper off-road pedigree shines through with an adjustable ride-height of 11.5” and 38 degree approach angle. It also has locking differentials and a low-speed transfer case. Plus its rugged construction, makes it better suited than anything else on the market, including its posh big brother, the Range Rover. The only thing that comes close is the Wrangler, but the Defender won’t beat you up on the trails. For novice off-roaders, Land Rover’s terrain response system will automatically adjust the cars settings based upon sensor readings. The Land Rover Defender can even go through 34” of water with ease. So next time you have to cross a shallow river, choose the new Defender over a boat.

This vehicle is so good, the new Land Rover Defender might just find a permeant home in my driveway.

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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.

The 2020 Corvette Is The Only Super Car You Need

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

C8 vs C7 Corvette

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

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

The New Corvette vs The Super Car World

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

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

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

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

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

Power Up to the High Performance 2.3L Ford Mustang Convertible

If you can’t afford (or handle) the GT350 or the GT500, the regular Ford Mustang GT is undoubtably the weekend car to get. All three variants feature an overhead cam V8s the melts your soul at each press of the gas pedal. The only problem is that all three GT cars don’t make great daily drivers. Not because they are uncomfortable, but because all three engines are thirsty. You may remember reading one of my previous stories where I did a cross country road trip in a Mustang GT. It was fun, but pocketbook wasn’t happy.

Fuel economy is where the 4-cylinder 2.3L variant of the Mustang shines. You can drive all day long on a single tank of gas. Unfortunately, I never thought the base 2.3L really deserved the Mustang badge. Every instance behind the wheel was underwhelming. And up until now, I missed the previous generation’s naturally aspirated aluminum V6 engine with 300hp.

But now there is a new turbocharged 4-cylinder motor in town, and it is called the High Performance 2.3L. Same 305 pounds of torque, but it has 20 more horsepower thanks to a larger twin-scroll turbocharger. It also comes with a larger radiator, a stiffer suspension (for better handling), 19” wheels, and adjustable exhaust to accommodate the improved engine performance. The increase to 330 horsepower is noticeable, but the engine also sounds different. It is more muscular and exciting. Not the same as a V8, but a proper engine sound. Drivers have two transmission options: a 10-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. Thank you Ford for saving the manual. This clutch on the manual is reasonably soft, but tactile enough to feel when the engine catches. Gear shifts are smooth and short.

The convertible version of the High Performance 2.3L Mustang makes a great daily driver due to the balance of performance, fuel economy and comfort. Nothing beats driving around topless on a cool sunny day. However I was slightly disappointed to hear that convertible Mustangs still don’t have a pop-up roll bar. This means that weekend driving enthusiasts can’t use the car for track days. Otherwise, this car is sublime for less than $40k.