Maserati Levante S – A Fun Crossover That Gets No Love

It appears the cool thing to do in 2018, or really ever since the Maserati Ghibli and Levante hit showrooms, is to find a way to critique or bash the vehicles for interior and overall design quality. While I have reviewed a 2014 Ghibli in the past and was disappointed after years of building an expectation that never met reality, I can honestly say that is not the case for the Maserati Levante. In fact, I’m going to argue that it’s the complete opposite, especially for the 2018 model year. I can already see the eye rolls, but the Levante is one vehicle that you have to test drive and experience for yourself, rather than just parroting what a car reviewer is spewing on YouTube.

When the Levante hit the market back in 2016, there were a few flaws that would later be corrected. One being for the base model that front and rear parking sensors did not come standard, which was one major complaint especially when you’re paying more than $70k for a luxury crossover. Next would be that if you wanted to shift into reverse, the Levante would refuse to do so, and instead would shift into drive or park. This is something I didn’t encounter during my time with the 2018 model, and speaking of the current model year, front and rear parking sensors do come standard for all trims of the Levante.

Having read and watched many reviews prior to spending time with the sports crossover, there was a level of low expectations, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking this might turn out to be the Ghibli all over again. The minute I stepped inside and put the Levante in sport mode, that’s when everything changed. To drive a crossover that not only sounded like a sports car, but handled and drove like a luxury crossover immediately put a smile on my face. Where critics do give the Levante favorable ratings is the driving experience, and for good reason as your time behind the wheel isn’t boring and mundane like other vehicles in this segment.

The Levante I was testing was a fully specced $106k S GranLusso that came with Zegna silk and leather seats. They were some of the most comfortable bucket seats I’ve ever sat in, which certainly helped make the drive memorable. For a larger crossover, the Levante handled impressively well, and in tighter corners felt glued to the roads with very little, if any body roll. The gear shifts were almost instantaneous when using the paddle shifters, and for the first time, a test drive in a crossover was actually fun.

Obviously being an FCA product, the same infotainment system that can be found in a Chrysler was in the Levante. What I’ve never really understood was why this was that big of a problem, as Apple Car Play and Android Auto are offered, you get navigation, and you’ll also receive Sirius XM Radio and Travel Link. The one valid critique is that to access the heated and ventilated front seats there’s no button in the center console and instead to turn that feature on and off you have to use the touchscreen.

The smaller touches that can be seen in Dodge products is another problem most people have with the vehicle, but it’s something you begin to overlook when getting behind the wheel. That’s where Maserati may have the edge on competitors. The driving experience is nothing like other luxury crossovers from German automakers because you feel more engaged, and when the valves open in sport mode it will be irresistible to just drop a gear and leave the car that’s in the rearview mirror far behind you. The V6 engine that comes with 424 hp is going to surprise a few of your fellow commuters, and whether you want to have fun or go for a leisurely cruise on backroads, the different driving modes are suitable for either style of driving.

Pricing is one of the larger issues consumers have with the Levante, which is certainly a valid point. As a certified pre-owned crossover after the initial hit of the depreciation, the Levante then becomes a potential sought after vehicle that could be the better option for buyers in this segment.

Overall, Maserati’s first crossover isn’t a bad vehicle. Does it have flaws? Absolutely, but it’s nowhere near disappointing and if you can deal with the FCA infotainment system, you’re going to have one of the best sounding crossovers on the road today.

Here’s the full review for the 2018 Maserati Levante S GranLusso. Is it worth the price and a vehicle that should garner more respect in the automotive community? That’s up to the consumer and the individual.

The BMW E39 5 Series – A Car That Changed The Automotive World Forever

It’s 1996 and you’re sitting in your living room watching the Olympics. During a commercial break, BMW’s award winning commercial for their redesigned BMW 5 Series shows the streets of New York City flooded with water, but most notably boats floating up and down city streets with the E39 540i navigating its way trough maritime traffic. It’s possible that at this point in time, the viewers who saw this commercial that summer had no idea of the ramifications the 5 Series would have on the automotive industry, while also ushering in an era of European luxury cars dominating the market.

Before dissecting this commercial and then fast forwarding to the present day, 1996 was a year of transition for the American auto market. Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda are continuing to grab market share away from Ford, GM, and Chrysler due to their cheaper and practical cars, which is creating a seismic shift in consumer behavior as even in the mid 90’s, Americans were still loyal to auto manufacturers based in Detroit. As history tells us 20 years later, this transition will continue at a rapid pace leading to Toyota and Honda becoming prominent brands in the US Market.

It’s in this same year that BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Porsche unleash two seater convertibles: the Z3, SLK Class, and the Boxster. The Z3, already receiving notoriety after being featured in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye”, arrives at BMW showrooms shortly after the release of the movie. The Porsche Boxster will soon play a significant role in the German brand’s emergence in the US, and is just one of the few surprises Porsche is going to release within the next 10 years. The Mercedes Benz SLK is often the forgotten one out of the three, mostly due to the Z3 getting the spotlight, but also by the new millennium the redesigned SL is going to take center stage, overshadowing the SLK’s existence.

However, there’s still one segment Ford and GM own with a tight grip, and that’s the luxury sedan market. Lincoln, Mercury, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler (to an extent) are the old giants that stand in the way, and BMW is ready to accept the challenge with their E39 5 Series.

Back to analyzing the commercial, the boats signify the American luxury cars of the day. We can joke about the modern day Challenger being a boat, but the Lincoln Town Car and Continental, Mercury Grand Marquis, Cadillac Deville and Fleetwood were all bigger cars with boxy exteriors. Seeing the BMW weave through traffic with ease was meant to show it’s maneuverability, and not be a huge car that couldn’t get out of its own way. The last statement made in that commercial was, “Why float through life, when you can drive?”. This would resonate with younger consumers who really had a limited selection of luxury cars to choose from, especially if they didn’t want to drive cars their grandparents and aging parents owned.

The E39 540i/M5 wasn’t just a four door performance car that even today we marvel at, but the E39 in general was a luxury sedan that would reshape the automotive industry forever. In 1996, Mercedes Benz and Audi hadn’t found their way yet, but they too would be emboldened to compete with BMW by the end of the decade. This would then lead us to almost 18 years of competition between the German brands, which eventually dragged Jaguar, Maserati, and Volvo into the mix by 2014. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

The 540i that was shown in that commercial was priced at $50k, but the 5 Series in 1996 had a base price of around $38k which was right in line with American luxury sedans. While the US economy was very different 22 years ago, the slow progression to European luxury cars dominating the market can easily be attributed to the E39 5 Series, and it was the beginning of bigger and better vehicles from Germany that would continue to put nails in the coffin of American automotive giants that ruled for over 60 years.

BMW E39 540i
BMW E39 540i

Too often we look at the E39 from a performance aspect, and some believe that the Chevrolet SS is the only car since 1996 that most resembles the E39 5 Series. However, when it comes to defining a luxury sedan, that’s where BMW reshaped an entire segment. Luxury cars in the 90’s were boats, much like their predecessors before them. While cars were slowly downsizing, the E39 accelerated the change by not only being smaller than a Lincoln or Cadillac, but also being sporty. If we walk into dealership showrooms today, luxury cars come with optional sports appearance packages and engines putting out impressive horsepower numbers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to go back 20 years and attribute that to the 540i.

Indirectly, the success of the 5 Series kickstarted the beginning of an arms race between the German auto manufacturers which then got the rest of Europe involved by the late 2000’s to early 2010’s. Mercedes Benz and Audi started producing sleek cars to compete against BMW, Jaguar then replaces the S-Type with the XF and later the XE enters showrooms, Maserati releases the Ghibli, Alfa Romeo reemerges in the US with the Giulia, and now under the ownership of Geely, Volvo is ready to be a legitimate threat to German manufacturers with a very impressive redesigned S60.

Jaguar, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Volvo were really niche brands, and even today they still are to an extent. I’m not going to downplay the effect crossovers have had on these brands, which is a story for another day as BMW and Mercedes Benz could be the patriarchs of a luxury SUV craze that swept through an entire industry with the X5 and ML Class hitting the market in 1998-1999. However, the E39 has certainly played a role, whether directly or indirectly, in the decision to produce four door sports cars that also have luxury car qualities, and the Audi B9 S4 is the perfect example of that.

At the end of the day, no matter which car you want to pinpoint as the culprit for the modern day four door luxury sedan, the E39 5 Series challenged the status quo, making luxury cool for younger consumers and not just a vehicle for aging Americans 65 and older. The performance side of the 540i/M5 certainly helped grab attention from drivers who wanted an exhilarating and engaging driving experience. This car’s massive impact on the automotive industry shouldn’t be overlooked, and as car enthusiasts who now have a variety of luxury sports sedans to choose from, we owe that to the E39 5 Series.

Under Geely, Lotus Could Be A New Player In The Crossover Game

It appears that to make a grand entrance in the automotive world of the 21st century you must unveil an entire line of crossovers. For the British car maker most renown for their small and light sports cars, crossovers are the key to their future success. Geely, who not only saved, but revitalized Volvo to being a serious competitor for German auto manufacturers in the crossover segment, now has ambitions to do the same for Lotus.

What’s really interesting about this development is not the fact that Geely has plans for two crossovers and a full sized SUV by 2022 for Lotus, but that these vehicles will be built on the same platforms that are used for the Volvo XC60 and XC90, and possibly the XC40 depending on the size of their new crossovers. Automotive brands have shared platforms for a while, but I’d venture to say this is unprecedented for the simple reason that Lotus and Volvo are two completely different companies and that the ownership group isn’t Ford, GM, and Volkswagen. Geely is changing the game right before our eyes, and these new crossovers may not just share the same body.

There’s very little information out there pertaining to what Lotus’ crossovers will look like or what we can expect for performance, but there has been some speculation that the same engines that are put into Volvo’s might be under the hood of Lotus vehicles early next decade. For instance, the XC60 and XC90 come with three engine options, with the T8 eAWD Plug-in Hybrid engine getting an eyebrow raising 400 hp and 472 lb ft of torque.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves with performance, Lotus has expressed that their DNA will be incorporated into the next generation of vehicles for the British manufacturer. This would suggest that these crossovers may be light and easily maneuverable, which is certainly not an attribute Volvo shares with Lotus. This would then raise the question on whether we’ll see a T8 put into a Lotus crossover or we should expect the XC40’s T4 and T5 engines that from a historical point of view, would make more sense for a brand that has sold lightweight and low horsepower sports cars, unless the Evora 400 is the bench mark moving forward.

Outside of platform sharing, this is all purely based on speculation and we have two or three years before we’ll find out the specifications of these new models. Many will probably roll their eyes at the idea of having yet another crossover on the road, but if Lotus is being completely honest with us about maintaining their DNA, these new vehicles might have some personality in a segment filled with soulless daily drivers.

2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 GT – Is It A Sports Sedan?

Since 2011 the Volkswagen Passat’s design hasn’t changed much, and while some might consider the appearance, both inside and out, a bit outdated, at least VW continues to offer a V6 engine. In a time when turbocharged four cylinder engines dominate the mid-size sedan market, there’s very few that come with a traditional V6. The closest competitor that comes to mind is the Toyota Camry XSE; a car that boasts a 301 hp V6 engine. Despite slightly less horsepower, the Passat GT undercuts the Camry in price by $6k – $9k, giving consumers an affordable option if the four cylinder Passat and Jetta just isn’t enough.

For performance, the 2018 Passat GT comes with a 3.6L VR6 engine that gets 280 hp and 258 lb ft of torque, and is paired with a 6 speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds is right in line with the Toyota Camry XSE, Honda Accord Sport 2.0, and Chevy Malibu Premier 2.0. Some of the slight differences compared to the other Passat trims is that the GT is lowered by 0.6 inches and gets 19 inch Tornado design wheels. It also comes with the more aggressive R-Line front and rear bumpers, black roof, black mirror caps, and two-tone leatherette seats with contrast stitching. A GTI-inspired front grille will set the GT apart from other Passats, and when combining that full appearance package with LED front headlights and tail lights, the Passat looks more refined and sporty.

Volkswagen has marketed the V6 GT as an “American-born Sports Sedan”, which has led automotive journalists to test out cornering, straight-line performance, and braking in their reviews of the car. While VW has stiffened the suspension on the GT, it’s not a sports sedan, which is perfectly ok. I think many have misinterpreted or completely missed the point of the V6 GT, and instead of looking at it as a competitor to a Dodge Charger or any other sports sedans on the market today, it’s a step up from the four cylinder Passat, and may even be perceived as a more grownup VW GTI.

From the appearance alone, the GT trim has some design cues from the GTI and I can’t help but feel that Volkswagen is indirectly trying to appeal to the GTI owners who are ready to move on from the hatchback. The GTI is often associated with younger car enthusiasts who most likely don’t have a family of their own yet, but for those who do, it might be time to size up and that’s where the Passat GT comes into play. Let’s be honest, on a Saturday afternoon you most likely aren’t taking a Passat to the track, which is why this car fills the role of being a mid-size sedan you can have some fun in, while also being a good daily driver. On the other hand, Volkswagen has gone all in on the R-Line, which is why it could also be possible that introducing the Passat to a more sporty appearance is part of the plan to provide a whole new look to all models in the VW lineup.

Stepping inside you’re greeted by 8 way power adjustable heated two-toned leatherette seats. You’ll find faux carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, which I personally think is a nice touch. My only complaint, and a lot of this has to do with my time in the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium, is that there’s no digital information display. But again the GT is only an additional $2k more, so the upgrade in size and horsepower evenly balances out the downgrade in technology available and that’s something I could live with. You’ll get a 6.3 inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, and it’s a very straight forward system to use.

Volkswagen Passat V6 GT
Volkswagen Passat V6 GT interior

In the back, passengers will get a lot of legroom as the Passat is one of the leaders in its segment in this category. For rear cargo space you’ll get 16 cubic ft of cargo room.

Some of the safety features that come standard on the Passat GT is a rear backup camera, blindspot monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Overall the Volkswagen Passat V6 GT is a product of it’s time. With Toyota going more sporty with the Camry XSE and Honda having the Accord 2.0 Sport, VW had to respond to the growing trend in sport oriented mid-size sedans. We could debate for a while on whether the GT is the grownup GTI and whether that was even Volkswagen’s intention, but when a brand adds a sports appearance package that’s reminiscent of a popular model in the lineup and combines that with a V6 engine that could certainly grab the attention of maturing car enthusiasts, it’s definitely something worth noting.

Also with an aging design, Volkswagen had to bring something new to the table. Keep in mind, the all new Arteon will be hitting showrooms sometime in the fall, and seeing that VW is pushing the R-Line appearance package on the Passat and Jetta, the GT could be a sign of things to come for all models in the lineup from the German automaker.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z51 – An Exotic For The Everyman

Ask most car enthusiasts what their dream cars are, and a majority of them will answer with Lamborghini, Ferrari, or McLaren. These exotics are the driving force for many people to pursue endeavors and to push themselves to greater heights. On the path to success, sometimes the Ferrari has to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle or feel discouraged. The Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z51 is the exotic that has a similar price tag to a new Audi A4 and will give you the same enjoyment and smiles as any $100k+ Italian exotic.

Priced around $50k for a used Z51 and a price tag of just over $60k for a 2019 model, you’ll get a 6.2L V8 engine that gets 460 hp and 465 lb ft of torque that is paired with your choice of a manual or automatic transmission. A 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds will certainly keep up with other high performance cars on the road, and if you’re on a cruise with a great group of friends you won’t be getting left behind.

What is it about the Chevrolet Corvette that sets it apart from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Chevy Camaro, and Ford Mustang? It could be argued that in this day and age, 460 hp is nothing special, especially when the Hellcat comes with 707 hp. The C7 generation has brought exotic styling that right now is unmatched by other American auto manufactures, as the Dodge Viper is no longer in production and the Ford GT is far too expensive for the average consumer. While the Z06 has almost 200 more horsepower than the Z51, it’s the price that may be a stretch for most car enthusiasts, but the Z51 is that perfect balance that allows anyone to get behind the wheel of a car that can perform at supercar levels.

Chevrolet has always preserved it’s heritage with the Corvette, no matter how many changes they’ve made over the years. The Corvette is still the symbol of an American muscle car that any hard working American can step inside and have fun the minute they take to the streets. I’ve always felt that out of the muscle cars, the Corvette was the classy choice for a middle aged adult, but the C7 design has brought much more to the table that now appeals to a generation that is obsessed with exotics.

Adding to that appeal, the Z51 can be customized with Z06 appearance packages, and unless the people you drive by are knowledgeable about cars, from far away it could easily be mistaken for a Z06. Out of the box, the stock exhaust that comes with the Z51 sounds absolutely incredible. A few years ago SaabKyle filmed a Pure Sound video for the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z51, and if those 10 minutes don’t sell you, nothing will.

In an era of high horsepower numbers and exotic cars with striking looks that turn heads, the Corvette brings both and won’t clean out your entire bank account. In my eyes, the C7 is the last remaining american muscle car that in terms of looks, fits right in when cruising with Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and McLaren’s. Even better, it’s significantly cheaper, making the Z51 the perfect car to introduce you to high performance exotics.

The lifecycle of the C7 Corvette is coming to a close, but in a few decades, we will look back on this car as being a classic from our generation. Chevrolet got it right, and whether you own one today or 20 years from now, this car will always look great!

5 Reasons Why The Volkswagen GTI is the Perfect Car For Young Enthusiasts

For many car enthusiasts like myself, finding the perfect car can be extremely challenging. You want something cool and fast that will turn heads, but for some, you also have to be practical and live within your means. This is a problem many of us face, as you may have to compromise and try finding a perfect balance where you can have fun but also have a car that can be daily driven year round. Of course, this means cars that were once on your radar have been eliminated, and now it comes down to finding the best option available.

The Volkswagen GTI, whether you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, is one of the best examples of a car that satisfies the needs of enthusiasts, but is also functional for everyday use. Here’s 5 reasons why the Volkswagen GTI is the perfect car for enthusiasts looking to join a car scene while also having a daily driver.

Overall Practicality

If you’re living on a budget, you’re most likely not going to be that guy who has more than one vehicle in his garage, so focusing on sports cars that are great for car season but not the winter certainly isn’t an option. You’ll also probably be looking for something with a decent amount of cargo room and maybe even a car that’s fuel efficient. The Volkswagen GTI checks off all the boxes for practicality, as 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway is going to keep you away from the pump when traveling to car events or cruising on the weekends with a group of friends.

For rear cargo space, you’ll initially get 17 cubic ft of cargo room, but your max volume capacity is 54 cubic ft, which is one of advantages of going with a hatchback. When speaking of a daily driver, the GTI functions as a normal compact car and in the winter, a good set of winter tires will get you through even the worst New England snowstorms.

Affordability

The GTI is one of those cars that’s affordable both new or used. For a base model 2018 GTI S you’re looking at a price tag of around $26k-$28k. If you’re like me, you’re probably leaning more towards certified used unless you have every intention of modifying your car that could void your warranty depending on what you have in mind. The sweet spot for used seems to be in the $15k-$19k range.

Gets You Into Car Events

Obviously, one of the points in buying a sports or performance car is to become part of the community. A concern some new members may have is whether their car is unique enough to get in. What’s interesting about the Volkswagen GTI is that even when fully stock, it’s welcomed with open arms, and that’s because of the admiration many enthusiasts have for the hatchback, which is something we’ll get into in a minute. So if you don’t have any initial plans to modify the GTI as soon as you get your hands on one, you’re not going to be rejected when showing up to a local event.

Enthusiastic Group of Owners

When looking for the vehicle that will introduce you to the car scene, one aspect that often gets overlooked is the sub community that is created by a very enthusiastic group of owners for a particular model or brand. Some cars more than others have a great community that helps each other out, offers advice on modifications both esthetically and performance, and also hosts their own events that’s based on the cars they own.

The Volkswagen GTI has some of the most passionate owners I’ve ever met, and what’s great about this hatchback is that there’s a variety of mods that can be done to make your car perform and look better. Having a great group of fellow owners around you or even in a Facebook group page is going to give you ideas on how to make your GTI unique.

Understated Performance

For the 2015 model year, Volkswagen began offering 210 hp and 220 hp turbocharged four cylinder engines that come with an eye opening 258 lb ft of torque which is a significant increase from the MK6 generation. The MK7 also has a lot of potential through modifications, which could make the GTI a sleeper to an unsuspecting driver you pass by on the highway. Even at completely stock, you won’t be get left behind by other cars in your class, unless they have performance upgrades.

The Potential Is There For Toyota To Be A Fun Brand

For almost the past 20 years, Toyota has been looked upon as being the reliable, safe, and least fun brand in the automotive industry. Appealing to the average consumer rather than giving at least some attention to car enthusiasts can either be seen as smart from a business perspective, or a mistake by not creating an excitement that would extend to all car buyers. From an enthusiast’s perspective, utter the word “Toyota”, and there’s two cars that come to mind. The Supra and the Prius. Vehicles from two different extremes and eras, marked as either a car most recognized from Fast and Furious, or the hybrid that’s the bane of car lovers existences.

Toyota has made attempts through commercials the past three years to seem more exciting, as they released an ad for the Camry where two brothers are racing on the streets of Monaco. At the time, it didn’t make any sense why a brand that’s not recognized as being race oriented in the United States outside of Nascar, would try to change the direction of a brand despite the vehicles being no different than their predecessors. That all changed late last year with the introduction of the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, and since then the brand that brought us the Supra and MR2 seems to be heading into 2020 with the potential of being a very fun and exciting automotive manufacturer once again.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE
2018 Toyota Camry XSE

Starting with the Camry XSE, Toyota surprisingly stuck with a V6 engine that gets 301 hp instead of following rival brands who are moving in the direction of turbocharged 4 cylinder engines. The XSE trim also comes with an optional two-toned exterior and red sports seats, which just feels really out of character for a Toyota vehicle. The only drawback is that fully loaded, the Camry’s price is around $40k, which many consumers have voiced their discontent as they believe it’s too high of a cost.

Around the same time the new Camry was hitting showrooms, Toyota added the GT86 to the brand, which was formally known as the Scion FR-S. A small coupe that has a cult following, it’s actually a fun and attainable car for young enthusiasts, and adding to the appeal is the list of aftermarket parts and modifications that can be done to the GT86 to enhance performance and appearance. Honestly, this little coupe is a throwback to what JDM culture was all about in the 90’s. I would never go as far to say that it’s this decade’s Honda Civic, but the GT86 does give you that sense of being a pure Japanese compact sports coupe.

Back in late March at the New York Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all new Corolla hatchback which will come with an optional manual transmission. At this point, their vision for the next few years is becoming more clear as boring may no longer be an adjective associated with the brand. A few minutes later, the re-designed RAV4 was also unveiled and that’s when the energy in the room was lifted to a whole new level.

The new RAV4 is much more rugged than last generation, taking on the appearance of the Highlander, which was a very smart move by Toyota. For 2018 and beyond, crossovers are no longer just a family vehicle as the automotive industry is moving towards bringing either sporty or off-road elements to a segment that is actually quite bland. Toyota decided to go with more of the off-road look, which is a jab at Jeep. They’re also setting themselves apart from Ford, GM, and Honda who really haven’t drastically changed the styling of their crossovers. While it could be perceived as a major risk, Toyota could certainly be a legitimate player in stealing market share from rival brands in the crossover segment.

Lastly we have the long awaited arrival of the Toyota Supra which details have been leaked pertaining to performance and pricing. The new Supra is rumored to get a turbocharged inline 6 that gets 335 hp and 369 lb ft of torque, with a 0-60 time of around 4.5 seconds. Unfortunately as we all feared, it’s not going to be cheap. From the leaks, a starting price of $63,500 is to be expected. We won’t find out for sure until the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, but to know that the Supra is making a return is definitely something to look forward to.

The last 10-12 months for Toyota has certainly been exciting. Unfolding in front of our eyes the emergence of an auto brand that was once looked at as being dull or not cool to now being rather interesting and also a bit of a mystery. What is Toyota’s long term vision and plan? Is sports cars something we can expect from the brand moving forward, or is this a five year window of hope and change but then will fizzle out by the time we get closer to 2025? There’s so many questions that haven’t yet been answered, but for the time being, let’s take in the complete shift in culture at Toyota and enjoy every minute of it.

2018 Buick Regal TourX – The Station Wagon Is Back In The US

In the automotive market, 2018 has begun much like every year this decade. Crossovers are the vehicle of choice by consumers and with each passing year, brands introduce new models to appeal to the growing demand for small SUV’s that provide road clearance, cargo space, and for some, off-road capability. Throughout this era of crossover dominance, there’s been a sentiment festering in the hearts of some Americans who want station wagons to once again have a presence in car brands’ lineups. The good news is that their wishes have been granted by GM with the all new Buick Regal TourX.

For Buick, this is the first time since 1996 that they’ve offered a station wagon. At first glance the TourX has a very European look and that’s because of the collaboration between Opel and GM. In the UK, the TourX is known as the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer. Many often refer to the TourX as being a twin to the Audi A4 Allroad, and while they do share similar design cues in terms of appearance, there is absolutely no relation. However, this is a blessing for Buick, as any similarity to a well known German station wagon could yield high rewards in the near future.

Buick is offering their station wagon at a base price of $29k, with the most expensive trim, the Essence, topping out at around $42k. There’s only one engine option: A turbocharged four cylinder engine that gets 250 hp and 295 lb ft of torque, and is paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission. For the drivetrain, AWD does come standard on the Regal TourX. The most important specification on this station wagon however is just how much cargo room you get. With the rear seats up, the TourX comes with 35 cubic ft of cargo room, but when the seats are folded down, that room doubles in size, outclassing all competition in it’s price range.

A lot of that has to do with Buick going with a mid-sized station wagon, rather than competing against the smaller Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. The TourX provides more cargo room than the Audi A4 Allroad, and in fact is more in line with most crossovers in terms of interior dimensions, but is significantly cheaper. Buick’s goal is to take on the crossovers in it’s price range, primarily the Subaru Outback. While the TourX isn’t an off-roader by any means, it’s a viable alternative as a daily driver for consumers who want the sensation of driving a car, but still have the cargo room that can be found in a Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4.

Ultimately, the most appealing aspect of this station wagon is the fact that it offers European luxury for less than the German and Swedish competitors. While there are GM elements that make up the interior of the TourX, it can be said that it’s at least on par with crossovers in it’s price range, and I’d argue that the interior is better than what you’d find on a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

When taking a look at the TourX Essence which is the top trim, you’ll get leather seats, a heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, and an 8″ touch screen display. You’ll get a navigation system, along with up to date traffic reports, and even a 5 day weather outlook. A panoramic moonroof is optional, which brings in a lot of natural light and just gives the TourX a more luxurious feel. Optional packages include a number of safety features such as rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and front automatic braking.

Overall the TourX is a breath of fresh air in an automotive era filled with crossovers, especially in a price range at or below $40k. Hopefully in the near and not to distant future, American auto manufacturers build off what Buick is offering: 250 hp and AWD coming standard, no CVT transmission, and styling that is very appealing, even to consumers who aren’t in the market for a station wagon. Time will decide whether the TourX is the beginning of a new trend in the automotive world, but with other station wagons like the Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo V60 and V90, and the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack on the market, it could be argued that station wagons are creeping back into the United States.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 Dynamic – The Perfect Daily Driver

In 2017, car buyers have plenty of options to choose from. They can purchase a sedan, crossover, full sized SUV, or hatchback, but it gets even more difficult when you narrow it down to a specific category within the automotive market. For luxury sedans, consumers can go with BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Alfa Romeo, Lexus, Acura, and Jaguar, but for the person who wants a compromise between safety, luxury, and performance, the Volvo S60 is the ideal car that suits the needs of many Americans.

Monday I got to spend time with a 2018 S60 T5 Dynamic, courtesy of Volvo Village in Danvers, Massachusetts. If you’re familiar with the second generation S60, you know that over time its appearance has become more aggressive and sporty. Starting with the 2017 model year, the Dynamic trim was introduced, and with that brought a slight change as the 2018 I got to review had the 18″ Tucan Diamond Cut Black Alloy wheels that come standard.

Volvo has integrated sporty qualities to compliment the luxurious aspect on the S60 by providing sport seats standard that will literally hug you while you’re driving. Combined with the fact that they’re leather and heated, no matter what time of year or the weather, your experience behind the wheel will be an enjoyable and comfortable one. Adding on to the luxury appeal for the interior, you get a Harman/Kardon premium sound system, a navigation system, dual zone climate control, and a leather wrapped steering wheel.

Passengers in the back will be greeted with very comfortable and supportive bench seats that will keep them in place, and give them good leg room. They’ll have rear cup holders that fold down from the center seat, along with a storage compartment that can fit smartphones and other small items.

When it comes to Volvo, safety is the number one priority. Blind Spot Information System, Brake assist, Rear Park Assist Sensors, Rear Park Assist Camera, and anti-whiplash front head restraints highlight the safety features on the S60.

For performance, you’ll get a turbocharged 4 cylinder engine with 240 hp and 258 lb feet of torque. An 8 speed automatic transmission w/Geartronic comes standard, but paddle shifters are optional. When it comes to fuel economy, you can expect to receive 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Volvo also offers two drivetrain variants on the S60, FWD and AWD, with front wheel drive getting slightly better gas mileage.

The S60 I got to review was the base AWD trim with the heated front seats and steering wheel package. One of the options that Volvo offers include: the $1000 Sports Package that gets you paddle shifters, sports chassis, electric power steering personalization, and 19″ Portia Diamond Cut Alloy Wheels. The Technology and Vision packages offer additional safety features, such as Collision Warning w/ Full Auto Brake & Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Queue Assist, Lane Keeping Aid, and Driver Alert Control to name a few.

Overall the 2018 Volvo S60 T5 Dynamic is a great daily driver. You get safety, luxury, and performance, along with AWD as an option. The MSRP of the S60 I reviewed is $41k, but the front wheel drive variants start around $34k. It’s reasonably priced, making the S60 a serious competitor to the BMW 3 Series and others in its class. Volvo has made strides against their German counterparts over the past few years, and with their resurgence in the luxury market, Volvo can no longer be overlooked.

This Is What Being A Car Enthusiast Is All About

The final days of summer are upon us, which means the car season up here in Boston is slowly coming to a close. There’s only a handful of weeks remaining where the weather is conducive for car meets and Cars & Coffees, as the cold and snow aren’t too far away. With the impending end to an awesome car season looming in the back of our minds, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun and enjoy spending time with fellow car enthusiasts. On a late Saturday afternoon, a meet was organized at the best spot in Boston to take pictures and to just get away from the crowds at car events. This meet, while short lived due to the police kicking us out, turned out to be one of the best nights this summer.

Lamborghini Huracan Between to Corvettes
Lamborghini Huracan Between to Corvettes

Near the waterfront of the Boston harbor the fog rolling in off the water, combined with the industrial buildings and loading terminals, created an atmosphere that would have been expected on the set of a Fast & Furious movie. As the sun began to set, cars started arriving, including two Lamborghini Huracans, a Porsche 911 GT3, a McLaren 570S, C6 and C7 Chevrolet Corvettes, a Maserati Gran Turismo, and small groups of BMWs, Audis, and JDM cars. Familiar faces arriving with each car made this car meet a great time to just hang out and talk with friends. That’s what the car community is all about.

Long Beach Blue BMW M2
Long Beach Blue BMW M2

Chevrolet Corvette C7

Audi Crew
Audi Crew
Lamborghini Huracan
Lamborghini Huracan

To many non-car enthusiasts, excessive revving, and doing burnouts and donuts in empty parking lots are usually what they associate with when they think of late afternoon or evening car meets. That can’t be further from the truth or reality. When you have a group of great individuals who love cars and want to share their passion with fellow car enthusiasts, meets in exclusive locations tend to be the best. For about two hours we took photos, videos, talked, and met up with friends before the meet was ultimately shut down. Despite the early end, it was a great evening nonetheless.

I’m so thankful to be part of a community with awesome people that make late summer evenings fun. This is what being a car enthusiast is all about, and why our community is so close-knit. The Boston car scene may not be as big as Los Angeles, Miami, or Texas, but it’s the car owners and people that make us the best car community in the country.

Porsche 911 GT3
Porsche 911 GT3
Nissan GTR
Nissan GTR
McLaren 570S
McLaren 570S
Porsche 911 Turbo
Porsche 911 Turbo