2020 Subaru Legacy Touring XT – The Turbo Has Returned!

It’s undeniable that throughout the decades, Subaru has carved a niche for themselves by offering an entire lineup of AWD vehicles. From the affordable Impreza to the three row Ascent, the Japanese manufacturer is the go-to brand for consumers living in the Northeast and other regions of the United States where winter travel can be harsh. The Legacy has always stood out from its closest competitors, as unlike the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, AWD comes standard to put FWD biased sedans at a disadvantage when going head-to-head in the snow. Knowing their customers well, Subaru polled their loyal ownership group, and just like the Outback, they didn’t want major changes. However, where Subaru made improvements has certainly added more appeal towards the nameplate and could now become a desired option in the mid-size sedan segment countrywide.

At first glance, nothing appears to have changed despite the Legacy sitting on a new platform. A minimal facelift to the front and rear facias distinguish the 2020 model year from the 2019, but Subaru loyalists will be happy to know their favorite sedan is still recognizable and offers exactly what they want. This year though, there’s a new engine under the hood that has many journalists excited, and this new powertrain is going to give drivers a fun experience behind the wheel.

The 3.6L six cylinder engine that was found in the last generation Legacy is no more, and replacing it is a 2.4L turbocharged Boxer four cylinder engine that puts out 260 hp and 277 lb ft of torque. While horsepower gains are minor, the 2020 model gets a 30 lb ft of torque boost which will help get the Legacy to 60 mph in around six seconds. Despite the transmission being a CVT and disappointing car enthusiasts, it will mimic the shifts of an 8 speed automatic. Fuel economy numbers also improve from last years six cylinder as you can expect to receive 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

One of the criticisms some journalists have towards the Legacy is the loose steering that’s still present from last generation. Since we hear the word “turbo”, naturally enthusiasts will think it’s more sports car oriented with tighter steering and leaning in the direction of being performance driven. However that isn’t the case, and while journalists can complain we need to remember who Subaru is targeting. Their loyal consumer base isn’t looking for a sports tuned suspension and steering to have fun on backroads, otherwise the Legacy would be competing against its own sibling, the WRX. While I do agree that tighter steering would be more fun, the Legacy is really seen as a more practical Accord or Camry since it’s equipped with AWD to take on winter road conditions.

The interior for the Touring XT is where the significant improvements have been made. Inside you’re greeted by power adjustable Napa leather heated and ventilated front seats for both the driver and passenger. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised by the upgraded 11.6 inch tablet-like touchscreen that’s very similar in shape and screen layout as what you’ll find in new Volvo models. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on the XT Touring, and you’ll also get onboard navigation. Also equipped to go along with the infotainment screen, a 12 speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system will make listening to your favorite music more pleasant than if you were to option for a lower trim that comes standard with either 4 or 6 speakers.

Optional, a wireless phone charging pad, and even a CD player that can be found in the center storage compartment will bring past and present technologies together to help enhance the driving experience. Speaking of technology, a long list of safety features will be included, such as Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision braking just to name a few. You’ll also have a 180 degree front camera to go along with your back up camera with trajectory. A heated steering wheel and dual zone climate control will round out the technology and comfort features.

Subaru is one of very few brands to continuously make minimal changes to their cars, yet still see sales growth year over year. As the old saying goes, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. For Subaru the Legacy certainly isn’t broken, and with the already existing features that drew customers in before, the 2020 model year’s luxury and comfort improvements will most definitely make loyal owners come back to the dealers to trade in.

2020 Ford Explorer Limited – The Trim For Buyers On A Budget

Recently we got our hands on the all new 2020 Ford Explorer Platinum, loaded with almost every available option, V6 engine, heated and ventilated front seats, and power folding third row seats. There is no doubt that the changes Ford made to the Explorer are significant improvements from last generation, particularly for the interior. However, there are some features most consumers can live without, especially if they’re not willing to pay $60k+ on a new crossover. The 12.3 inch digital information display and upgraded 10 inch touchscreen are esthetically pleasing to look at, but practicality, versatility, and more importantly value for the price are usually factors that come into play when consumers go car shopping. With that being said, the Limited trim is the perfect balance between affordability and also offering a good amount of safety equipment and technology.

Since the Limited trim is only available with a four cylinder engine and a hybrid V6, performance is not likely a top priority for you as you’d most likely upgrade to the ST. Functionality and having a third row crossover that fits your lifestyle is probably what’s most important, and the Limited trim is going to fill that role in more ways than one.

Coming standard, the Limited trim is equipped with Ford’s CoPilot 360 assist which is going to provide a list of safety features such as: Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear View Camera, Lane-Keeping System, Automatic Emergency Braking, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, and a Voice Activated Navigation System. One of the highlighted features that won’t be available on the XLT trim which sits below the Limited is the 360 degree top view camera. If you’re familiar with or own the last generation Explorer, the sheer size of this mid-sized crossover could make parking a bit of a challenge. To put the Explorer’s size into perspective, it has the same width as the first generation Ford Expedition. With a 360 camera to go along with your front view and rear backup camera, getting out of parking spaces or navigating through tight streets will be much easier. A vehicle this size deserves to have this camera technology, and thankfully Ford decided to offer this on the 2020 model year.

Normally I get caught up in the exterior of every vehicle I review, but it’s the interior where owners are going to benefit the most with the new RWD based platform Ford is using on the Explorer. Inside you’ll immediately notice a difference in arm room once you get behind the wheel, despite there being no difference in terms of width from the 2019 model. However it’s the replacement of the gear shift lever with the rotary dial that will make the interior seem more spacious. The center console will be less cluttered and you’re going to feel much more at home with the new cabin.

The Limited trim receives the upgraded speakers from Bang and Olufsen, along with heated and ventilated leather seats to add comfort for the driver and front passenger. For an additional $1700 you’ll get a twin panel moonroof that will bring in natural light and make the interior look bigger. A power lift gate comes standard across the Explorer product line, and for cargo room the 2020 model will get 18.2 cubic ft of rear cargo space. With all these features included you’re looking at a price tag below $55k and close to $7k cheaper than the Platinum trim.

While $50k is no drop in the bucket, the additional safety technology alone is worth it. Leather seats and upscaled technology in the cabin isn’t always necessary and you can certainly live without them, but if the base model and XLT trim just doesn’t offer enough, going with the Limited would be the smart choice.

At the end of the day, the 2020 refresh for the Explorer will no doubt draw loyal Ford owners in. The company truly listened to the owners, and all the minor and even major changes were all made to improve upon a successful crossover that was still lacking that entry-level luxury feel. Heading into a new decade, Ford has positioned themselves to be at the top of the segment, and to fend off the Japanese rivals who’ve gained a strong foothold in the crossover market these past 10 years.

Certified Pre-Owned and Clean CarFax Can Be Deceptive

Buying a car, whether brand new or used can be a very exciting time, especially if you’re a young consumer buying your first ever vehicle. What should be a stress-free and easy purchase, if you’ve already decided on the car that suits you best, usually ends up being a long, drawn out process. The used car market often has very desirable options that on paper and even the photos that dealerships post online seem to be great deals. However, this isn’t normally the case as with automotive purchases you never buy a car sight unseen.

Before eventually buying a brand new 2019 VW GTI, I spent weeks visiting dealerships’ used car lots to try finding my next car. What I saw stunned me, and has forever changed my outlook on car buying and was certainly an experience that for future purchases, if I decided to buy used, will require a list of what to look for before even considering to sit at a negotiating table. So here’s a few basic things I learned from my recent car buying experience that will help young consumers, especially if you’re on your own or don’t have connections to a trusting mechanic or an experienced friend who knows the ins and outs of car buying.

Certified Pre-Owned and Clean CarFax Are Deceptive

For over a decade CarFax has branded themselves as a service and website to help bring transparency to used car buying. While it’s a great tool that can steer you in the right direction and keep you away from cars that have been in accidents, are lemons, or have salvage titles, many cars fall through the cracks. A vehicle may be “clean” on the outside and no accidents have been reported, but day-to-day wear and tear or even minor cosmetic damage will not show up on the CarFax.

In conjunction with CarFax reports, dealerships will sell Certified Pre-owned cars that are still under factory warranty, which together make these cars appear to be ideal purchases. However, this is where deception comes into play as dealers boast a 120 point inspection. Yet from personal experience, a vast majority of the VW GTI’s I saw in person clearly weren’t inspected, or at least from a customer’s perspective fell short of expectations from a car you assume is clean.

One GTI SE that checked all the boxes appeared to be “the one”. Lighting and performance packages were equipped on the car, and being an SE it had leather seats and a power moonroof. With a friend, we drove 70 miles to the dealer and feeling excited, I truly believed I was walking out of the showroom with a deal that day. I should note that even in the pictures the dealer provided on the website, the steering wheel was worn out a bit, which I was a little concerned about since the car only had 36k miles on the odometer.

When we arrived, the car was cleaned and prepped (called the dealer before hand, never do this for a used car) and at least on the driver’s side of the car everything looked good. However, when we did a personal inspection, on the rear quarter panel of the passenger side there was a sizable dent that was alarming to find. There was minor curb rash, but that was on par with most GTI’s I had looked at. In person the steering wheel was more worn out than the pictures had shown, and looking at the engine bay there was a disturbing amount of engine corrosion that shouldn’t be present on a three year old car with less than 40k miles. I’d argue that to some degree a “Clean CarFax” and Certified Pre-Owned for this vehicle was false advertising. This car was abused, and just from the cosmetic damage alone, I had to walk away from that GTI.

Never Call The Dealer Before Arriving To Check Out The Car

Mentioned above with the first GTI, you should never call the dealership to see if the car is still available. Now, for the GTI 70 miles away it was necessary just from the standpoint that it was an hour and half drive and it would have been a wasted trip if the car had sold. Since the car was prepped and cleaned when we arrived, it was more difficult to find scratches in the paint, and from a few feet back the car looked almost in showroom condition. That clearly wasn’t the case as we got closer to inspect the exterior, and as I said earlier, the rest is history.

On the same day, my friend and I were driving back to the Boston area when another potential prospect crossed my radar and we decided to make another trip to a local VW dealer. Making sure it was available, we called while on the highway so that we weren’t going to waste more time. This proved to be a mistake as it gave the dealer time to plan what would be the worst scheme to try getting me into a bidding war with another “interested buyer”.

You’ve probably heard the famous line, “someone else is interested in buying the car”. It’s a lie. After test driving the cleanest GTI I had come across in weeks with no curb rash and almost spotless interior, the other “potential buyer” magically showed up. What tipped me off immediately was when the sales rep handed him the keys and he drove off without a dealer employee in the car with him. Dealers never do this, which is why the fake customer was an employee who wasn’t wearing branded clothing. After about 10 minutes the other “buyer” shows up and is ready to “bid” which was an attempt by the dealership to pressure me into buying that day.

Despite this GTI being clean with 17k miles on the odometer and right around $21k, I left for a number of reasons, with being disrespected at the top of the list of why I walked away. Never let your emotions get the best of you, and don’t fall into these traps dealers use if they suspect you’re young and inexperienced. Luckily for me, I’m accustomed to the auto industry and wasn’t phased or felt pressure to make a deal, but best of all, I wasn’t taken advantage of.

Be Leery About 1 Owner Lease Vehicles

Two GTI’s that would eventually shift my interest towards a new car were brought in from out of state. Both low mileage, one owner lease vehicles looked to be very promising options. One from Pennsylvania, the other from Tennessee. Living in Massachusetts, it didn’t dawn on me at first as to how and why these two GTI’s made their way up to the Northeast. While the CarFax was clean and both Certified Pre-Owned, quickly the same cosmetic issues that made me walk away from the first car, became apparent almost instantly. One had significant curb rash, with a chunk of the tire on the outside wall missing. I’m not a mechanic, but judging from the severity of the curb rash, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the GTI would have needed a realignment.

While the CarFax didn’t specify whether both were auction cars that were purchased by local dealers, it could have certainly been the case especially in the condition both were in. Lease vehicles aren’t always clean or taken care of by their owners, which is why even with lower mileage, you have to be on the lookout for mechanical issues and cosmetic damage.

While I could have overlooked some of the minor things, I wanted a clean car. It became evident after weeks of searching that buying used just wasn’t going to work out. Despite having a few more horror stories, this time trying to secure a brand new Rabbit Edition GTI, I can truly say I’m happy with my decision to go new. Yes, I could have found a more fun car with all the features I wanted, but after a few months of ownership of my Cornflower Blue GTI, I have absolutely no regrets.

I hope some of my experiences and some of the things I dealt with help with your car buying process. More experienced professionals who’ve purchased numerous cars in their lives probably have a much longer list of what to look for, but if you’re a young car buyer with limited resources and connections to acquire the car you want, these three basic things to watch out for will steer you in the right direction, and most importantly will keep you away from getting taken advantage of.

Car Dealership News In The Boston Area

Over the last few months some dealerships have closed, moved, or plan on opening sometime in 2019. Having searched around, I couldn’t find any news for some companies that either closed or exchanged ownership, so here’s a post summarizing what has transpired over the last 3-4 months.

New Alfa Romeo and Maserati Dealership Set To Open in Brighton

Coming soon, Boston Motorsports will be opening an Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and used exotic dealership at 1650 Soldiers Field Road right next door to Acura of Boston. This will be the fourth dealer in the Boston area to offer these two Italian brands, and is conveniently located 10-15 minutes outside of Boston.

Here’s the link to an article from the Boston Herald

Auto dealership revs up for Brighton liquor store site

Herb Chambers Infiniti of Boston Moves To Medford

Once located right next door to Herb Chambers Honda of Boston on Commonwealth Avenue, Infiniti of Boston recently moved to 60 Mystic Ave in Medford where York Kia was, which is now permanently closed. The location is going to provide more room for inventory and is going to be convenient for customers who live in the suburbs just outside of Boston, as the three other Infiniti dealers inside the Rt 495 corridor are in Danvers, Norwood, and Hanover.

Central Kia of Norwood Has New Ownership

When traveling down Rt 1 in Norwood you’re going to notice that the Kia Dealership right next door to Central Alfa Romeo is now owned by the Dan O’Brian franchise. Dan O’Brian who now has three Kia dealerships after acquiring his third location in Norwood, is a franchise with two locations up in North Hampton and Concord, New Hampshire.

I couldn’t find any news as to why Central Auto Group sold their Kia dealership, but from what I’ve gathered over the last 6 months, it’s very possible that we start seeing more sales and acquisitions of car dealerships across the Commonwealth from a number of different franchises over the next 5-10 years.

Colonial Buick GMC in Watertown, Ma Is Permanently Closed

This one came as a bit of a shock to me, as last year I filmed a review of a Buick Regal TourX at the dealership. It appears that they closed sometime around November of 2018. So far there’s been no indication of whether a new car dealer will move in or not, but for the time being, the land is being used as an overflow lot for CitySide Subaru in Belmont, which is also a dealer under the Colonial Auto Group ownership.

2019 Kia Forte EX – The Compact Car Isn’t Dead Yet

The year 2020 is on the horizon and for many, the compact car is an afterthought due to the high demand in crossover SUV’s. Ford has decided to no longer make sedans or hatchbacks and instead focus solely on crossovers and pickup trucks, which some believe is the growing sentiment in the automotive industry and the type of future that consumers will soon have to face. However, there’s brands like Chevrolet, Toyota, and Honda who are still committed to cars and have no intention of ending successful models for the sake of following a growing trend in the market. Then you have Kia who releases the all new Stinger which became an immediate hit, and now they hope the completely redesigned Forte shares the same success.

Remember the days when compact cars were purchased for being economical, whether that be for fuel efficiency or affordability? Now cars like the Kia Forte EX bring much more than just an appealing sticker price and good fuel economy; they also offer some comfort features that even 5-10 years ago would be considered a dream to have in a car aimed at young and first time buyers. Features like heated and ventilated front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, a touchscreen with a navigation system, and rear backup camera with trajectory can be found on the EX trim of the Forte.

What some in the automotive industry are speculating is that with less competition in the compact car and sedan segments, manufacturers can spend much more time on the smaller details. Cars like the Kia Forte and Ford Focus were at one time cheap cars that got good gas mileage with no expectations of having any sense of entry level luxury. The 2019 Forte is certainly nowhere near a luxury car, but for around $27k to get that many tech features, including wireless phone charging, compact cars have come a long way since 2000.

This begins to raise the question whether the sedan and compact cars really are dead or on the way out. Over the last 30 years there have been major swings in consumer behavior, sometimes being due to the economical climate in the United States. We’ve seen big cars get phased out for a while, we’ve seen the rise and fall of the large SUV which is slowly making a return, the almost near death of mini-vans, and the re-introduction of a station wagon in Buick’s lineup for the first time since the mid 90’s. The pendulum swing is inevitable as people in general want to be different than their neighbors, so at this point it’s just a waiting game to see when momentum shifts in a new direction.

In the meantime, compact cars are silently being improved, offering affordability and tech features along with the pre-existing practicality that should appeal to younger buyers. Working in the 2019 Forte’s favor is the bold and aggressive appearance that sports similar design cues to the Kia Stinger. While the Forte’s small 2 liter four cylinder engine only gets 147 hp and the lack of AWD may not give you the Stinger feel, you’re going to have a car that is sleeker than most in its class. The weak spot the Forte has is the CVT. Kia has said it’s not a traditional CVT and they’ve worked on making it mimic shifts you’d experience in an automatic, but the engine drone isn’t appealing to hear when accelerating. However, the Forte does come with three different driving modes, and when put into sport mode, the transmission does shift faster which certainly limits the drone you’ll experience.

There has been speculation of an SX trim that should bring more horsepower and hopefully a different transmission, but so far there hasn’t been any news, which is to be expected as the 2019 model year is beginning to hit showrooms now.

Inside, the heated and ventilated seats unfortunately aren’t real leather, but that shouldn’t be expected in a car in this particular segment. To have ventilation is an eye opener because that isn’t a feature that’s common in most compact cars heading into 2019. Some of the interior design does resemble Mazda, especially with the touchscreen no longer being integrated into the center console, and is now higher up towards the dashboard. For the instrument panel you’ll get both analog gauges and a digital information display that’s becoming widespread across all vehicles in every segment.

As technology continues to trickle down to more affordable vehicles like the Kia Forte, these cars then become more appealing. The only negatives that compact cars are facing is the lack of versatility and AWD. The Forte only gets about 18 cubic ft of cargo room while crossovers will provide more room and AWD, which consumers then perceive the smaller cars are providing much less value. As mentioned before, the current US economy supports the decision for car buyers to go bigger with crossovers, and no matter what direction the stock market goes in by the beginning on next decade, consumer behavior will inevitably change. To some degree, their purchasing decisions might be affected by what their friends and neighbors are doing and clearly that’s what happened with crossovers.

Is there still a future for compact cars and sedans? Some car brands believe so, and without competition from rival manufacturers, they can continue to improve these vehicles making them enticing to consumers of all ages. Now the only question is, how long must we wait before cars have everything we want, from performance to practicality. That day may not come at all, but brands like Kia aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.

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.