Audi – From Quattro to Class and Luxury

The three major German luxury brands; Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Audi have built a tradition over the last 20-25 years that has resonated with a large percentage of consumers in the United States. Mercedes Benz is “The Best or Nothing”, BMW is “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, but mostly Audi’s only claim to popularity is it’s Quattro AWD system that is certainly needed in the Northeast and other colder regions of the country. This is why year after year, Audi is third in overall sales behind Mercedes Benz and BMW because in warmer climates AWD isn’t necessary.

With it being the holiday season, it’s time for the annual “Season of Audi sales event” where the brand associates their vehicles with cold and snow conditions to advertise the Quattro AWD system. Meanwhile BMW and Mercedes Benz, who lean more towards the luxury and performance aspects of the vehicles in their lineups, have always been looked upon as being the more premium brands out of the three German auto manufacturers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Mercedes Benz has enjoyed many years of having the best interior, while BMW takes pride in their performance. However, as we look to 2019 and beyond, the status quo has significantly changed where Audi has taken great strides in a variety of ways with their updated A6, A7, A8, and all new Q8.

Audi Q8 Interior
Audi Q8 Interior

As mentioned earlier, Quattro was Audi’s main selling point and may still be moving forward, but it’s the redesigned classy and luxurious interior that should get a lot of attention from consumers. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is without a doubt unrivaled as the 12.3″ digital information display is the most extensive system on the market. Its high resolution in combination with Google Earth being the navigation system that can be your full display in front of you is not found in any rival vehicles.

It’s when you move over to the center console and infotainment system that you realize you’re sitting in a premium luxury vehicle. New for 2019 is dual touch screens. Yes, you read that right. There’s now two touch screens in the A6, A7, A8, and Q8 that I personally haven’t seen in a vehicle since I reviewed a 2018 Range Rover Velar. The primary screen is where your radio controls, car settings, and navigation system will be, while the secondary screen controls your dual zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and also is where you’ll find the buttons for your drive mode selector.

For the most part, Audi never really had complex infotainment systems in the past, and overall the interiors were rather simplistic compared to Mercedes Benz. Now it’s a completely different story where you could make the argument that Audi is at least second in the most comfortable interior category as their changes overshadow Mercedes Benz’s minor facelift inside.

With winter essentially already here, it’s that time of year when you’re getting out of work at 4:30 or 5pm and the temperature reads 20 degrees, the sun is already down, and there’s traffic for miles. This is where a luxury car becomes a very welcoming sight. What Audi has done for their 2019 models is make a driving environment that’s not only comfortable, but also luxurious to the point that you’ll find yourself not wanting to let go of the steering wheel. The interior is what you expect from a $60k+ vehicle and the major upgrades that Audi implemented into their cars is going to make waves when consumers visit auto shows this winter. For me personally, I find that Mercedes Benz’s minor touchups pale in comparison to their German rival, and if Audi continues to progress in luxury and class Mercedes may longer be looked at as being the benchmark for first class comfort.

A new decade that is quickly approaching has already made car brands think futuristic. The amount of technological advances, along with the continuously added comfort features are ready to meet and pamper consumers in the 2020’s. Audi is taking a big step forward, and at the very least, has made strides to be on par with Mercedes Benz and BMW. The future for the German auto manufacturers is setting up to be fun, and the new era that awaits us will change how we define luxury and class.

Has the Crossover Craze Opened The Door For A Sedan Renaissance?

Ask any car enthusiast what their thoughts are on crossovers taking over the automotive industry and they’ll all reply with a worrying comment that it’s the end of cars and sedans. While the average consumer has become addicted to crossovers and brands who once only produced cars like Porsche, Jaguar, and Maserati catering to that demand, has certainly concerned gear heads. When Ford announced they were no longer selling the Fusion, Focus, Fiesta, and Taurus in the US, that’s when speculation went rampant that other manufacturers would follow suit. Despite the perception of dark times and the dominance of SUV’s, there’s been a small glimmer of light coming from unexpected brands who’ve made sedans once again appealing.

German auto manufacturers like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz have committed themselves to producing crossovers in every segment of that market. It could be argued that while new models of SUV’s are being released almost every two or three years, their sedans have become quite stale, and are more of an afterthought and just a filler in their lineups. This has certainly exposed a weakness in what was once a German dominated luxury sedan market, and now there’s new players in the game ready to check in that are slowly turning heads.

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60
2019 Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 was always priced in the mid $30k range, yet never got any attention because of an outdated generation that lasted almost a decade. With a complete redesign, the S60 now shares a similar appearance to it’s bigger sibling, the S90. Most importantly however, this Swedish sedan is now beginning to raise questions whether paying $40k for a base model BMW 330i or Mercedes Benz C300 is even worth the cost. With a price tag just under $36k, the S60 has the 330i beat by almost $4,500, which allows consumers to add packages to their S60 that might offer more features than what they’d get on a BMW 3 Series.

When adding the Audi A4 into the equation, the comparison in terms of price and standard features then become more interesting. However, Volvo still has the A4 beat because when we start looking at $40k+, the S60 T6 then comes into play, offering 316 HP and AWD. Optional technology and comfort features for the Volvo adds similar technology that can be found on the A4, making this a very tough decision for car buyers in this segment.

Also new for this generation is the 400 HP hybrid T8 engine that can be found in most vehicles in the Volvo lineup. Volvo claims the S60 T8 will do 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, and it’s going to be interesting to see how consumers perceive this performance sedan, as Swedish cars have never been known for their straight line speed.

The redesigned S60 is a breath of fresh air and has certainly taken this Swedish mid-sized luxury sedan to a completely different level than its predecessors, but it’s not the only sedan entering the market that’s ready to make a big splash.

Genesis G70

Genesis G70
2019 Genesis G70

Much anticipated the last few weeks has been the arrival of the Genesis G70 models at dealerships. The all new entry level sedan for the Genesis brand is going to start just under $36k, and just like with the Volvo S60, undercuts its German rivals by almost $5k. But excellent pricing takes a back seat on this one, as the G70 comes with an optional manual transmission which should appease car enthusiasts. This good news could have been better had the manual transmission been paired with the optional 3.3L V6 engine that gets 365 HP instead of the 2 liter four cylinder engine, but as the saying goes, “You can’t have it all”.

The cost for a manual transmission on the Genesis G70 will set you back almost $46k, but you’ll get nappa leather seats and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. Standard features for the G70 include: power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and some safety features such as emergency automatic braking.

In an age of crossovers, Genesis’ decision to release another four door luxury sedan in their lineup to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes Benz C300 is almost a throwback to what the automotive industry used to be. Before the days of crossovers, luxury brands would compete with each other in all segments of sedans, and between Volvo and Genesis adding legitimate competition into the mix of German luxury sedans, this is like reminiscing back to the old days.

Kia Stinger GT

Kia Stinger
Kia Stinger

The argument could be made that the Stinger GT isn’t a luxury car, and that’s completely understandable. However, the last few years we’ve seen the rise of sportbacks from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz that’s begun to take the automotive design of four door cars by storm and has influenced the appearance of the current Honda Accord. Where the Stinger GT is priced, it takes on the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 430i Gran Coupe and out performing both with it’s 3.3L V6 engine that gets 365 hp. This is the same engine that is offered on the Genesis G70.

The Stinger GT, for the time being and maybe even 5-10 years from now, could be a car we remember as being a risk taken by Kia that actually succeeded. While the Stinger was in the works for years, you could question whether brands like Kia are seeing the opportunity to sneak into the sedan segment and slowly take market share away from German luxury automakers who seem more focused on crossovers at the moment.

Genesis, Volvo, and Kia are taking the unconventional approach and putting time into the sedans they’re releasing. Despite Volvo having a crossover for every segment, they didn’t abandon their mid-sized sedan, and instead improved it unlike the current BMW 3 Series and Mercedes Benz C300. On a side note, BMW is working on the next generation 3 Series, and I’m interested to see what changes they make to take on new upcoming rivals. But this renaissance of sedans doesn’t just pertain to luxury or performance cars; this is quietly happening elsewhere.

Toyota and Honda

Earlier this year I raved about the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6. A sedan that gets 301 HP, an optional two-toned exterior with red interior, and paddle shifters. A sedan that got absolutely no love in the car community has certainly garnered some attention by drivers who want to have some fun behind the wheel, but not necessarily desire the stares from fellow motorists. The design is sleek, almost resembling a Lexus, which is most likely Toyota’s goal, and for the first time making this sedan attractive to consumers in any age demographic.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight

For the 2019 model year, Honda is reintroducing the Insight. Remember the days when this hybrid was a small two-door, computer mouse-shaped alternative energy vehicle in the early 2000’s? Or when the second generation took on the appearance of a Toyota Prius to try making strong gains in the hybrid segment? Well now it’s a four-door sedan that I’d argue is the best looking hybrid under $30k right now.

Built on the same platform as the Civic, the Insight gets many design cues from it’s compact vehicle relative which should draw in consumers who are on the fence of whether to purchase a gas powered car or make a commitment to hybrid technology. Highlighting the features on the Insight is its exceptional fuel efficiency with the LX and EX trims getting 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. The Touring trim will get slightly lower numbers due to the upgraded 17″ alloy wheels, but with a base price of just over $22k for the LX, this is one hybrid that’s going to the Prius a run for its money.

Despite the claims made by some automotive journalists and car enthusiasts, the four-door sedan isn’t going away anytime in the near future. If anything, the crossover craze has opened the door for manufacturers to not rush their products, and instead continuously improve the sedans they have in their lineups. Toyota still sells 200,000+ Camry’s per year, and Nissan has similar numbers with the Altima. There’s been no steep decline in the sales of these models over past decade, which should indicate that there’s still a demand for sedans in a crossover dominated automotive market.

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.

Auto Sales Get Decimated In October – A Sign Of Things To Come?

The month of October was not friendly to most car manufacturers, as overall sales in the United States dropped 6%. This sharp drop can be attributed to volume sellers who saw declines that haven’t been posted in quite sometime. Is this a reason for concern moving forward? Is a slowing auto market going to be the new reality that manufacturers will face for at least the short term? New car sales have been slowing over the past few months, but October’s sudden drop in overall sales is nothing that should be taken lightly.

It should be noted that October of 2016 had two fewer selling days than October of 2015, but with some of the percentages that were posted, not even two extra selling days could change the outcome of a bleak new car market.

Fiat-Chrysler Massacre

It has not been a good year for the Fiat-Chrysler group, and October magnifies the downward trend in sales for most of the brands. Chrysler posted a decline of 44.7%, Fiat down 24.3%, Dodge -16.4%, and Jeep -6.6%. Three out of the four brands listed are down on the year for new car sales, while Jeep is still maintaining an increase of 9.7%. With Dodge ending the Dart and Chrysler no longer producing the 200, sales figures being down was to be expected, but for the auto group as a whole, there’s not much excitement for any of the brands, besides Dodge which produces the Challenger and Charger.

BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo and Land Rover Experience Sales Decline

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Volvo and Land Rover, two manufacturers who are both up on the year in new car sales in the United States, saw sharp declines in the month of October. Volvo, a brand that has been revived thanks to the all new S90 and completely redesigned XC90, experienced a 14.6% drop in sales. Land Rover saw a decline of 23.2% in October. Despite the sharp drop in sales in the United States, Volvo and Land Rover are still having a fantastic year overall, and shouldn’t be too concerned about the final quarter of the year, unless lower sales figures overall in the automotive market becomes a trend.

BMW may be the biggest surprise for lower volumes in sales, not only for October, but for the year of 2016. Down 18.4% last month, and down 9% for the year, BMW is the only brand out of the big three luxury manufacturers in Germany that has experienced declines. Mercedes Benz and Audi are still strong, and while sales were flat in October, the loss of two sales days could be a contributing factor. Volkswagen on the other hand has not recovered from Diesel Gate, and with a loss of 13.5% on the year and another double-digit loss last month, it just continues to get worse for the German auto brand.

Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche Have Strong October

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Not everyone is reeling from the October blues, there are car brands that had a fantastic month with Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche having double and even triple digit increases in sales. The British are leading the way and Jaguar’s 226% sales increase can be attributed to the F-Pace and XE, which have both taken their respective markets by storm. The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first attempt at making an SUV, and so far it has been a great success, while the XE, which is the British’s answer to the BMW 3 Series, is seeing strong sales since it’s arrival to the market earlier this year.

Bentley’s impressive gain of 158% in sales last month is all thanks to the Benteyga, which is Bentley’s first ever SUV. In October, the Benteyga contributed more than 33% of sales for the Bentley brand. While the British luxury car maker is down on the year by 6.8%, the entrance into the luxury SUV market has yielded strong sales figures, with the Benteyga making up about 50% of Bentley’s sales in the US since it’s debut on the market in August.

Maserati, much like Bentley and Jaguar, has seen strong sales numbers since entering the SUV market as well. The Levante, which also brought in about 33% of sales in October for Maserati, has received raved reviewed by journalists and consumers. Maserati has hit a home run with their luxury SUV, and that is starting to trickle down to other cars in the lineup. The Ghibli had a strong month alongside the Levante, leading to Maserati’s 11.8% increase in sales for the month of October.

Porsche had the best month out of all German brands in October, with luxury SUV’s again being the main contributor for strong sale. Up 10.7% in October and 3.2% for the year of 2016, Porsche has seen tremendous sales figures and it’s the Cayenne and Macan that is carrying the once sports car dominated lineup.

Strong sales across the board for luxury brands could be a good sign, despite the slowing of overall sales in the market. While Fiat-Chrysler, BMW, Volvo, and many others struggled in October, there’s no reason to panic just yet. If the fourth quarter of 2016 continues a downward trend and that transitions into the new year, then there would be a legitimate reason for concern. As for right now, we can only hope that October isn’t the start of a trend, and that the holiday season and the incentives that come with it could motivate consumers to buy in November and December.

2017 – The Year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar: Alfa Romeo Giulia

We’re nearing the end of 2016 which can only mean one thing; new car unveilings! Car shows start touring across the United States and consumers from Massachusetts to California can take a close look at new cars that will be on dealerships’ lots this upcoming year, and for some models, hitting the showroom before the new year. 2017 is shaping up to be the year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar, as all three manufacturers have extended their product lines to compete in markets that were once considered foolish to enter. These models include the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Maserati Levente, Jaguar XE, and Jaguar F-Pace.

Over the next few days, we will go over each model that these three manufacturers have already added or are adding to their lineups. So let’s start off this series with the all new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

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Car enthusiasts are excited and anxious for Alfa Romeo to officially mark their return to the United States with the arrival of the Giulia. With the 4C introducing consumers to the Alfa brand, the Giulia is what will put the Italian automaker on the map in the American car market. Their answer for the BMW 3 Series and M3, Alfa Romeo is putting a lot of pressure on themselves to hit a home run with the Giulia Quadrifoglio, not only in terms of reliability, but performance as well.

Car and Driver’s review seems to echo most journalists, and also enthusiasts, who are well aware of the Italian’s electrical and mechanical issues.

The car is impressive. Well, mostly. We did find a surprising number of electrical idiosyncrasies in the cars we drove in Italy, from freezing display screens to a check-engine light. We also found the interior trim did little to dismiss stereotypes about Italian build quality, with some cheap-feeling switchgear and a center console that deflected under gentle pressure. We’ll wait to reserve our final judgments until we have more time behind the wheel, but the Giulia Quadrifoglio seems well prepared to battle the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac. It outguns all but Mercedes’ C63 S by a fair margin and—based on our limited first exposure—delivers more emotional appeal, too. This is one comparison test that we’re really, really looking forward to.

The most appealing aspect of the Giulia is the Ferrari powered V6 engine that puts out 505 hp. Unfortunately Alfa Romeo recently said that a manual transmission will not be offered in the United States, which has already disappointed many. On the bright side, the Giulia is not sharing the same platform as the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 and instead is built on an Alfa Romeo designed RWD platform making this car unique to the Fiat-Chrysler brand. In terms of performance, it appears that BMW and Cadillac have some serious competition with the Italian’s arrival to the market, and now Mercedes Benz might have a legitimate contender for the C63 S.

Despite the paranoia that the Giulia might end up like many Alfa Romeos that have proceeded it in the past, there’s a lot of hope and excitement for the future. The Italian automaker is hitting the right chord among consumers. They’ll be offering a base model with the price still to be determined, but early estimates are around $40,000, which is within the range of the BMW 3 series, Audi A4, and Mercedes Benz C-Class. A 280 hp 2.0L 4 cylinder engine paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission, and RWD and AWD drivetrains as options, Alfa will have a cornerstone to build from, giving them a good chance of capturing market share rather quickly once it arrives in showrooms in November.

Take it which ever way you want, but Alfa Romeo built the Giulia with absolutely no parts from the Chrysler brand. Completely Italian inspired, Alfa has the chance to distance itself from being considered a product of the Fiat-Chrysler brand, which would be an ideal perception they want from consumers as Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep have had many issues in it’s history since the acquisition by Fiat.

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Alfa can start off fresh and hit the ground running once the Giulia enters the US market. The Italians are hoping for a successful launch as the their sedan will set the stage for phase two, when the crossover SUV known as the Stelvio, joins the Giulia in Alfa Romeo dealerships’ showrooms in 2017. This is now their time to shine, and as car enthusiasts, we can only watch and wait to see if this return to America is a success.

Is Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz Styling Becoming Lazy?

Remember when you were walking back to your car with groceries and saw a Mercedes Benz and knew exactly what model it was? Have you seen two Audis parked next to each other and could distinguish the difference between the two from a distance? Do you also remember when BMW’s numbering system actually made sense? Those were the days. Now German automakers just extend or shorten the length of models, stick on a different number, and sell it with some added gimmicks or lower price tag. Anyone else see a growing problem from the German luxury market?

Needless to say, the interiors that Mercedes Benz offers is in a league of its own. A comfortable and welcoming environment could make the idea of living in an S-Class sound reasonable. Audi’s updated cabin that’s now noticeable in the 2017 Q7 and A4 will put them in the upper echelon when it comes to stylish and luxurious interiors. But when you take a look at the outside of most of the models the big three German manufacturers offer, you begin to realize just how lazy automotive design has become.

Starting with BMW, the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series all had a slightly different face a few years ago. You could tell they were from the same family, but the siblings were not identical. Today with the recent addition of the 4 Series, the two door coupe and convertible are essentially the sportier versions of the 3 Series sedans. But it doesn’t stop there. With the 435i Gran Coupe, BMW has effectively created a dilemma where a four door has been given a number that was supposed to symbolize the difference between the coupes from the sedans. There’s no value proposition that the Gran Coupe offers, in fact you pay more for what is a 3 Series with an extended trunk.

Lately, car enthusiasts have had to ask themselves, “What is Mercedes Benz doing to their lineup?” There was once a time when the C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class were all distinctive. As recent as 2014, the C-Class and E-Class from front to back were completely different, with the C-Class clearly being more of an entry level sedan, and the E-Class having a very upscale presence, both in terms of the exterior and interior. Now with the 2017 models hitting showrooms, the C-Class sedan, and more noticeable with the coupe, have the same body style as the S-Class. The redesigned E-Class has become the middle child, having a very similar appearance to it’s bigger and smaller siblings. Mercedes Benz has defined the term “German luxury” for the past decade; there was no reason to make carbon copies of their models

Audi might just be he laziest of them all, despite BMW and Mercedes Benz attempts to claim the thrown on producing identical cars. Park an Audi A6 and A8 next to each other, same color and year, and you’ll have a 50% chance of guessing the correct model. If you subtract the A7, TT, and SUVs from the Audi lineup, you’re left with three sedans and one coupe that all have similar body styles and faces, but only differ in size. At some point, an executive at the corporate level must take a look at the lineup and think, “Maybe we need to stop being so mundane”.

The lack of creativity and originality is frightening to say the least. Yes the Mercedes Benz AMG’s, BMW M-Series, and Audi S-Line make our mouths water and we crave more power, but at the end of the day, the German automakers are beginning to lose their speciality. Right now we’re living in an era where the i8, R8, and GT-S are the only iconic cars that we’ll look back on and remember. Twenty years ago, the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz 190E Cosworth were attainable sports cars that we could all enjoy. Today there’s not a special car within the reach of the average American.

German cars will always be looked at as the very best in luxury. However, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a car that is unique. Jaguar and Volvo are beginning to find a foothold, and once their new and updated lineups are completed, the Germans will have stiff competition coming from Britain and Sweden.

Maserati and Jaguar Are Ready To Take The Stage

The perennial powerhouses, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz could be on the verge of a luxury market share war with the British and Italians very soon. For far too long, the big three German automakers have gone untouched, growing their lineups by adding vehicles that reach every market sector in the automotive industry. With models consisting of bigger or smaller versions of their siblings, the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and A8, Mercedes Benz C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class, and BMW’s 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series, all have similar, or downright lazy styling in terms of exterior. The time has come for a fresh design from other automakers, and ones that aren’t based in Germany.

It’s Jaguar and Maserati’s time to shine, and with new models ready to hit the market this year for both automakers, the British and Italians are ready to make a huge splash. Maserati unveiled their new and first ever SUV, the Levante, which starts at $72,000 and we should expect to see Maserati’s newest addition to the lineup in September. Jaguar is only months away from offering the new XE and first ever SUV, the F-Pace, in showrooms across the United States, which is expected to be in June. It seems as though the pieces are coming together for Jaguar and Maserati, and once they’re in place, they’ll be off an running to take on much larger companies.

The new Jaguar XE will be priced starting at $34,900, which will immediately take on the Audi A3, Mercedes Benz CLA, and BMW 320i, which are all in the same price range. Since the XE can exceed a $50,000 price tag, it will also be a direct competitor to the A4, C-Class, and 3-Series. In terms of power, the XE will get a 240 hp 4 cylinder turbo engine and also a 340 hp supercharged V6 on the higher trims. This will put them right in line with their German counterparts, as the new Mercedes Benz C450 AMG will top the list with a 362 hp bi-turbo V8.

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The new F-Pace comes with two different engine types; A 180 hp 4 cylinder diesel, or a 340 hp turbocharged V6. Pricing starts at just over $40,000, which will take on the Audi Q5, Mercedes Benz GLE, and BMW X3. Because Jaguar is basing their SUV off the F-Type, the F-Pace is performance driven. This is not your typical soccer mom SUV, and in fact, dads can now have fun with the grocery getter, as the F-Pace is capable of going from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. While this is not advised, it can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, so the young guy in a sports coupe might not have such an easy time leaving you in the dust. On higher trims, the F-Pace can exceed $50,000, but thankfully the V6 can be paired with any trim level.

As of right now, we don’t know the performance that the Maserati Levante will have. We can only speculate that it will receive a similar engine to the Maserati Ghibli, which would be a 345 hp twin turbo V6 on the entry level trim, and possibly the 404 hp twin turbo V6 on the higher trims, but that’s purely speculation. The Levante is set to take on the BMW X6 xDrive50i and Mercedes Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe which are beginning to roam the streets. Another automaker which hasn’t been discussed that will also get their turf impeded on by the Levante is Porsche. Still more of a niche manufacturer, Porsche and it’s compact SUV the Macan, will now have to take on a new competitor in its class. The performance SUV market is going to get real interesting by the end of this year, and it will be exciting to see who ends up on top after this is all said and done.

Jaguar and Maserati can no longer be looked at as small time players in the high-end luxury market. While Maserati will stay above $70,000 on all their models, Jaguar will now be entering new territory by offering a model within the $35,000 – $40,000 price range. Soon, consumers will be able to choose from other countries besides Germany to find the best the luxury market has to offer. As it turns out, Porsche’s decision to introduce an SUV to sports car only lineup, set the stage for other manufacturers to do the same. Now Jaguar and Maserati can compete on bigger scale and begin to take market share away from the German powerhouses.

The Poor Man’s Exotic: Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar F-Type

I know what you’re thinking, Boston Auto Blog the Jaguar F-Type is already priced near $100,000, which can buy you a Lamborghini Gallardo. Yes, while the new Jaguar F-Type R already exceeds six figures, the argument can be made that this Jaguar could be considered an exotic. However the 2014 models are beginning to hit the used market, and great deals are out there for the taking. Your wait for the British performance car to depreciate in value might be shortened as you can get behind the wheel of this amazing car right now if you’re in the financial position to do so.

It will require some searching and traveling depending on your location, but there are 2014 Jaguar F-Type’s on the market for as low as $55,000. Mileage on the tachometer is around 6,000 – 12,000 on the lower end of price range spectrum. These models aren’t just base trims either, you’ll find the S trim within the $55,000 – $60,000 price range, which means you’ll get 40 extra horses under the hood for a total of 380 horsepower and supercharged V6 engine. Since these are 2014’s, you’re limited to the convertible, as the coupes didn’t hit the market until 2015.

If you want to spend more than $60,000 and closer towards a $70,000 price tag, the V8-S trim is available, giving you a whopping 495 hp. Unfortunately, the 2015 F-Type R is still near the six figure mark, and to find a coupe you’ll be looking at spending $80,000. With that being said, the 2014 convertible is still a solid choice at this price range. You’re getting European performance at a relatively low cost, especially if you look at other options in this price range. While the Alfa Romeo 4C, Lotus Evora, older Porsches, and Chevrolet Corvettes on the market could satisfy anyone’s hunger and desire for speed and performance, there is no denying that the F-Type’s roar alone makes it a serious consideration for those looking at sports cars to have fun with in the summer.

Unlike the other cars that I’ve talked about as being a “Poor Man’s Exotic”, Jaguar offers leasing programs for the F-Type. Prices vary, but $699/month appears to be the consensus. Now, I understand that leasing isn’t very popular due to mile limitations and the fact that the car isn’t really yours, but it is an option worth mentioning.

In appearance, the Jaguar F-Type resembles the Ferrari California T, which is why it should be considered a “Poor Man’s Exotic”. While the F-Type’s predecessor, the XK, has some affordable options on the market right now, both cars differ to a certain degree in terms of perception, where figuratively the XK is more of a car you go to the golf course with, and the F-Type is for having fun on the open roads.

“It’s Good To Be Bad” should be taken literally, because this bad cat is very fun to drive.

Don’t Look Now But Jaguar Is On The Prowl

Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar F-Type

Across the pond, there’s a luxury car manufacturer ready to steal market share in the compact sedan and SUV markets. No, they’re not from Germany, but from a town in the West Midlands of England. Jaguar is back and with a vengeance as the 2017 XE and F-Pace are ready to shake things up in a German dominated automotive segment. Two vehicles that will put Jaguar on the map in the entry level luxury market in the United States are set to be released in 2016. Is Germany ready for another battle against Great Britain, this time being in the automotive world?

Starting prices for both the XE and F-Pace are extremely competitive with the competition, and the prestige that comes along with owning a Jaguar could have an affect on consumers’ buying decisions next year. The base model XE starts at $34,900, and the F-Pace, $40,900. Along with the badge, owners will also get performance to go along with luxury, as the compact sedan will get 240 hp, with the option of receiving 340 hp with the XE S. The F-Pace will come with a V6 and 380 hp on the higher trims, making SUV’s the ultimate grocery getter for the car enthusiast with a family.

British cars are often looked at being very expensive, prestigious, and high class luxury, and with these two new additions to the Jaguar lineup, some people question whether the lower prices changes the perception of the brand. One could argue that it enhances the Jaguar brand, as British luxury, performance, and styling, are now available at a more affordable price. Their tagline, “It’s good to be bad” is not just a jab at Aston Martin and James Bond, but it’s a mission statement and identity that reaches out to the younger consumer who wants to feel power, both literally and figuratively.

Good things are happening for the British automaker, as the F-Type is the foundation that created the XE and F-Pace. The engineering behind the two door sports car is now the soul of Jaguar, and they’re implementing that styling and performance into all their models. BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi better start looking over their shoulders, because the big cat is on the prowl, and now has the ability to pounce on its competitors.