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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Is Mercedes Going To Set The Fastest Ever Nurburgring Record?

It has been reported that Mercedes-AMG’s upcoming Project One will break the six-minute barrier at the Nurburgring.

We need to start out with a disclaimer that none of this information is reliable, so please find a grain of salt big enough to melt the iceberg that sank the Titanic. With that out of the way, let’s look at the rumor and what it might mean.

PostHeaderIcon Frankfurt Was All About Electric And Autonomous Cars, But The Future Isn’t Here Yet

It seems like with every auto show cycle, excitement over electric power and autonomous capabilities grows just a little bit more. This year’s Frankfurt Motor Show is proof positive of that – between new concepts from Audi, Mercedes, Renault, Honda, BMW, and Jaguar, among others, you’d be forgiven for thinking our battery-powered, robo-driven future is all but confirmed at this point. Of course, this raises a number of questions: how long till we get there? Will I still be able to drive my own car? Will internal combustion completely bite the dust?

Well, I’m here to put things in perspective – while many of these major automakers are adamant that self-driving, electron-powered passenger vehicles are just over the proverbial horizon, it’s likely the changes will be relatively gradual. So don’t worry – it’s not like Dieter Zetsche is gonna snap his fingers and in an instant turn your Camaro into something resembling the EQA Concept.

First up, let’s talk about electric power. EV producers still have a ways to go before battery-powered vehicles overtake gas-powered vehicles in terms of convenience (and convenience is essentially why we all have cars anyway, right?). After all, long charge times and range anxiety are still very much a thing, and although both are seeing significant improvements as of late, the ICE still has a significant advantage. What’s more, unless the U.S. follows in the footsteps of China and Europe and decides to ban new gas- and diesel-powered vehicles in the next few decades, stateside consumers will likely continue to enjoy explodey juice options long into the foreseeable future, even as the rest of the world goes electric.

The same goes for autonomous vehicles. Once again, we see self-driving tech making huge strides in the past few years, but large-scale adoption is still many decades away. Making it all work in a lab is one thing, making it work in the real world is quite another, especially with unpredictable factors like human drivers out there to challenge the algorithms.

Don’t get me wrong – the self-driving EV’s are indeed coming, and with them, all the benefits (environmental, safety, etc.) you’d expect. They’re just not quite ready yet.

PostHeaderIcon Here’s Why Mercedes Is Doing the Right Thing with the Hydrogen GLC F-Cell

Hybrid and all-electric cars are slowly integrating among conventional production vehicles, but automakers still have some challenges to overcome. While hybrids are still relying on gasoline to work, electric cars still need better range and larger refill networks. Sure, we have quite a few capable EVs, like everything Tesla makes, the Chevy Bolt, and the new Nissan Leaf, but range can still be an issue in large countries and most continents outside the United States. But this is where Mercedes’ new solution, the hydrogen hybrid, comes in.

Unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the company’s latest F-Cell model is built around the GLC crossover, and it’s slated to go into production. And unlike other green attempts, this vehicle pairs plug-in battery power with hydrogen fuel cells for what could become the most sustainable zero-emissions solution. It’s not yet ready to hit dealerships, mostly because there’s no hydrogen infrastructure, but the Germans have a plan, and this project could become feasible in five to six years. So why do I think that hydrogen power is a better solution that electricity?

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Hybrid All The Things

In case you didn’t hear, Mercedes-Benz just released the world’s very first hybrid hydrogen car. Dubbed the GLC F-Cell, the technology involved is mighty impressive indeed – in addition to a traditional fuel cell power source, which converts hydrogen into electricity and water vapor, the GLC F-Cell comes equipped with a large plug-in lithium-ion battery pack that adds another 30 miles of all-electric range when fully charged. Working in concert, the two power sources aim to complement one another by offering both the quick-fill convenience of hydrogen with the long-range capabilities of a hybrid system. It makes a lot of sense, even if H2 power is still a longs ways off from widespread adoption, and given the industry-wide tendency towards ever-greater numbers of hybrid offerings, it got us thinking – is there anything that wouldn’t benefit from hybridization?

Naturally, given the association hybrids enjoy with green sensibilities, sports cars might seem like an odd segment for the application of hybrid technology – at least until you read up on the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Ferrari LaFerrari. The Mercedes-AMG Project One is another, more-recent example of hybrid power used in the name of speed.

Indeed, hybrid systems seem to do just about everything better – they go farther, go faster, and go more efficiently, all good stuff. However, no technology is perfect, and these systems still have their disadvantages. For starters, they add weight, and a lot of it. Those batteries and electric motors aren’t exactly trivial when it comes to extra mass. Secondly, they add a good deal of complication as well, which means more stuff to break or go wrong, which can be a problem when shooting for affordability.

However, in terms of power performance and efficiency and greenness, hybrids are just better. And with more automakers throwing their hat into the hybrid ring, we can bet there will be significant advances in terms of weight reduction and simplification. Indeed, like early production turbocharged engines, hybrids are looking more and more like a panacea for many of the industry’s ills.

What do you think?

PostHeaderIcon The BMW i8 Makes Me Feel Old

The BMW i8 is a beautiful car. It attracts attention like a light bulb attracts moths. Open the butterfly doors, and heads really start to turn. All eyes are on the sexy supercar and whoever is about to slide out. Is it James Bond? Maybe a real-life celebrity? No, it’s just me and my 30-year-old joints that somehow feel 60 when crawling over the i8’s high and wide doorsill. It’s a move best left to those who hit the gym more than the buffet. Yeah, it definitely takes some practice to gracefully exit the i8. Getting in isn’t much easier, either – that is, unless you’ve got the choreography down tighter than the folks in Cirque de Soleil.

Embellishments aside, the i8 can be challenging to enter and exit, especially for the first time. The open butterfly door and low roof provide a couple great spots to induce a migraine and the high doorsill and low-slug dashboard mean you’ve got to fold up before sliding in. Making the exit routine challenging is the height difference between that doorsill and the seats. Like other cars with a carbon fiber tub, the seats sit low and far inboard, making the journey out a game of endurance and stretching.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take long before I figured out the best way to get into the i8. After opening the door, I sort of led with my right foot into the footwell then sat on the doorsill. Then with a grip on the steering wheel, I slid inward with my left leg trailing behind. Impressively, my short(ish) arms were easily able to reach the door handle to pull it closed.. Once inside, the i8 feels awesome, and for the most part, would be comfortable in an all-day roadtrip.

Getting out takes a different strategy. Pushing the electronic release on the door and giving it a slight nudge with the left elbow sends it skyward. (The doors are impressively light and well-sprung.) I then use the same elbow to push against the doorsill to pry my butt from the seat and on to the sill. At that point, I can swing my left leg out of the car, followed by a pivot and then my right leg. With some practice, it becomes second nature. After all, nobody wants to buy a supercar only to look like the guy in the video below!

Stay tuned for more on my time with the 2017 BMW i8

PostHeaderIcon How Do We Make Racing More Exciting?

The lights go green, and in unison, a swarm of high-dollar machinery springs to life, engines roaring, tire smoke rising into the atmosphere, front aerodynamics springing ahead in full-throttle acceleration. Out of nowhere, a challenger appears for the lead, dicing through traffic and saddling up to the car in pole position. Juking left then right, the challenger flashes the lead car’s mirrors, but he’s undeterred, and the pack slides into a single-file line behind him. Suddenly, an overambitious back marker locks up his brakes, careering into an unsuspecting driver mid pack, and out come the flags…

Exciting stuff, no doubt. But how do we make motorsport even more engaging than it already is? It shouldn’t be too hard, right? After all, even though the cars have all advanced light years ahead of those first competition vehicles of the early 20th century, the basic format isn’t all that different. Sure, there’s rally racing, stock cars, formula cars, endurance racing, and the like, but hey – we’re already well on our way to 2018, so what can be done to up the entertainment factor?

Continue reading to learn more about making racing more exciting.

PostHeaderIcon Losing Love For The Volkswagen Passat

A 2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line finds itself in my driveway this week. This mid-size family hauler offers tons of interior room for four people, or five in a pinch. The trunk is massive, too, holding 15.9 cubic feet of cargo. Mix that with the handsomely minimalistic exterior, an as-tested price around $24,000, and 34 mpg on the highway from its 1.8-liter turbo-four, and the VW Passat makes a strong case for itself. I even sang high praises for the upper-trimmed Passat I drove at its launch event in Vermont and the last time a Passat spent time at my house. But somehow, this go-round has me falling out of love. It mostly centers on the Passat’s ergonomics behind the wheel and a brake feel that’s less than ideal.

Hoping in the driver’s seat for the first time in my tester quickly revealed the negatives. First, the tilting and telescoping steering column doesn’t extend far enough out. Adjusting the seat to where my feet and legs are properly positions on the pedals leaves my arms extended to reach the wheel. That means I have to scoot the seat closer to the dash, which decreases my leg room and moves the center armrest further away from my elbow. With a dress shirt on, my arm constantly slides off the armrests tapered front edge. And no, the armrest doesn’t extend forward. This basically leaves me in a less than comfortable seating position without a center armrest and reaching for the steering wheel like I’m too young to drive.

Adding to my frustration, the Passat’s brakes are annoyingly sensitive when coming to a stop. At highway speeds, it’s fine. Smoothly depressing the pedal results in a decent initial feel and stopping force, say when adjusting to traffic speeds. Trying to smoothly decrease braking pressure below 20 mph, however, is met with an inconsistent braking force and within roughly a half-inch of pedal travel. It’s near impossible to accomplish a smooth stop. Being stuck in stop and go traffic only made my frustration grow.

While the 2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line does have its annoying qualities, it still represents a good value stuffed in a classy wrapper. Of course, I’ll have more to say about the Passat in my full driven review coming soon.

PostHeaderIcon The New 2018 Nissan Leaf Might Be The Best Replacement for the VW TDI

Last night Nissan finally unveiled the all-new 2018 Leaf, and it’s a massive improvement over the old car. The biggest news for EV fans will be the new 150-mile range. That’s nearly double what the original Leaf launched with. It’s even easier on your wallet with a starting price under $30,000, making it nearly $700 cheaper than the current model. But the best improvement is the all-new electric motor. The old car made a useable, but unimpressive 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. But the new 2018 car makes 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, and that is more amazing than you realize.

Let us put those power numbers into perspective. The Volkswagen 2.0L TDI engine, the best “performance” fuel-economy engine on the market before the Dieselgate scandal destroyed everything, produces 150 horsepower and 238 pounds of twist.

Nissan just made a viable alternative to scorned TDI buyers.

True, the TDI had some other advantages like a massive 600+ mile range before needing to be refueled, but on a pure day-to-day performance perspective, the new Leaf might work. If you bought a TDI to make your daily commute, and you still want something that is good for the environment while providing the same level of thrust, maybe you should call your Nissan Dealer.

Yes, we do know that other alternatives like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 have even more power and performance, but those cars also have much higher price tags. We aren’t sure about you, but we feel like people buying $26k Volkswagen’s might not be able to afford the $38,000 asking price of a Bolt.

But what do you guys think? Is the new Nissan Leaf good enough to be a real competitor in the market now? And if you are a former TDI owner, please let us now, and be sure to give us your thoughts on this new car.

PostHeaderIcon What Makes A Civic Type R?

The entry of the 2017 Honda Civic Type R into the U.S. market is big news – both for Honda fans and the hot hatch segment. The new Type R will only add fuel to the already large flame burning between the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI. Needless to say, Honda had to bring its A-game. Turning the 10th-generation Civic into competitive hot hatch wouldn’t be an easy task, but the Type R had to perform as good or better to be taken seriously. Well, thanks to time behind the Type R’s wheel, both on the track and bombing down mountain roads, it’s clear Honda has built a worthy rival for its global counterparts.

It all starts with the bones of Honda’s 10th-generation Civic, which debuted back in 2015. Even the base car was designed with a stronger structure for added rigidity, knowing in two years’ time, the Type R would need the extra strength. The same is true for the Civic hatchback, which is new for 2017. But Honda didn’t stop there. Engineers added even more structural adhesives to bind the bodywork together. A stiffer yet lighter suspension with adaptive dampers, bigger wheels, and stickier tires were added, too. And of course, Honda dumped that 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for something with a bit more power – a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 132 more horsepower and 133 pound-feet more torque. Add to that the aggressive yet functional aerodynamic features and heavily bolstered front bucket seats, and the Type R’s pedigree begins to take shape.

Continue reading for more info on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.

PostHeaderIcon Carbon Fiber Interior Trim – Performance Statement, Or Fake And Uncool?

It seems like just about any car out on the road with any semblance of sporting intentions has the option for carbon fiber trim in the interior. Once relegated to the fastest of the fast, carbon fiber is becoming more of a fashion statement with every passing production cycle. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Never mind the plodding 0-to-60 mph time and yawn-inspiring handling – if it’s supposed to be sporty, then let’s all be reminded with acres of faux fiber in the cabin. Sometimes it works, but by and large, the trend is leaning towards the ridiculous at this point. Making matters worse is the carbon fiber tape you can buy from the aftermarket to slather across your dash and center console. Because as we all know, the fastest performance machines on the planet all have bubbling vinyl in the cockpit.

You’ll have to pardon the attitude here, it’s just that this is one trend I’ll be happy to see finally put to bed. Thing is, like I stated before, sometimes it works – Koenigsegg, for example, seems to have a pretty good handle on it, as does Pagani. But I guess that’s the problem. As long as those dream cars are rocking carbon interiors, the rest of us will continue to strive to make believe our four-cylinder commuters are fire-breathing 200-mph monsters.

Which begs the question – is fake carbon fiber trim acceptable, or trash? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

PostHeaderIcon Everyday Life With the 2017 Honda Civic Type R

Honda’s new Civic Type R is a beast on the track. Its 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque are more than enough to push this 3,100-pound car toward speeds anyone besides a pro driver should feel comfortable with. My time with at The Ridge Motorsports Park proved that much. Yet, despite the Civic Type R’s race-bred underpinnings, it’s still a Civic hatchback. That means it should be easy to live with, easy to drive slowly, and easy to throw cargo into. So, how’d it do?

Wonderfully. The Civic Type R still offers a pleasant driving experience around down. The light clutch and short-throw shifter are just as enjoyable on the street as on the track. And despite their heavy bolstering, Honda’s front bucket seats are comfortable to get into and easy to get out of. They remain supportive over a long drive, too. The rear seats aren’t touched in the Type R transformation, so they remain spacious for the Civic’s class, yet do lack a center armrest and air vents.

But the value really arrives when it’s time to haul stuff. The Civic boasts a class-leading 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second- row seat. Fold the 60/40-bench flat, and the Civic Hatch has 46.2 cubic feet of room. The hatchback’s rear opening is wide and tall, allowing for ungainly items like furniture and boxes to easily slide in.

When it comes to storing everyday items like drinks and cell phones, the Civic offers tons of options. The center console is ingeniously designed with a deep container under the armrest. It houses three cup holders – two of which are mounted midway down on a slidable track. The third is way down low, perfect for those Trenta-sized Starbucks drinks. A small storage cubby ahead of the shifter is great for phones and knick-knacks. A cable pass-through lets charging cables run into the lower tier area where Honda locates the USB and 12-volt charge ports. Large door pockets add to the usable (and reachable from behind the wheel) storage space.

On the downside, the Civic Type R rides on 245/30ZR-20 performance wheels and tires. While great on smooth pavement, the 30-series sidewalls offer little cushion from potholes and bumps. This leaves the active dampers with all the work of quelling uneven pavement. Road noise is prevalent, too, imitating mostly from the rear of the interior. Long drives on older pavement might spur on a headache from those sensitive to booming noises. I don’t remember noise being an issue in the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback EX-L Navi I previously tested, so it’s likely a trade-off for the added lightness and stickier rubber needed to make the Type R perform. In truth, these negligible complaints won’t turn away those eager customers. The Type R isn’t trying to pass as a Cadillac, after all.

Thankfully, the firm ride is about the only trade-off for upgrading to the Type R over the standard Civic Hatchback – at least in terms of everyday livability. The big wing and aggressive aero bits might make it a target for speeding tickets. Just ask one of the journalists at this press event…

PostHeaderIcon 10 Great Cars Nobody Cares About

It is the year 2017. The crusade on the car as we know it is in full swing. As a result, our roads are filled with crimes against humanity such as the Toyota Prius. Furthermore, the United Kingdom decided to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 [1]. Germany is also considering a similar plan [2]. Many major cities, predominantly in Europe, are going car-free in places.

As a result, this makes the world a very dull place for those of us who love cars. The majority of the population cares less about acceleration or handling and more about gas mileage and stupidly overly complicated infotainment systems. Hence why more people drive about in Honda Civics and Toyota Priuses than cars that are somewhat interesting, such as the BMW 3 Series or a Saab of some sort. As a result, many exciting cars are overlooked by the majority of the population, even by us car enthusiasts. So, here is a list of 10 superb cars that time has forgotten.

PostHeaderIcon Bentley’s Rotating Display in the Continental GT Will have you Feeling Like James Bond!

The third-generation Bentley Continental broke cover the other day with a brand-new design and a ton of cool features. Inspired by the cool EXP 10 Speed 6 concept on the outside and powered by a new W-12 engine that cranks out more power than most Ferrari-built V-8s and V-12s, the new Continental GT also boasts a new interior packed with a huge amount of luxury features and technology. But, while the new Koa wood veneer and the “diamond-in-diamond” upholstery are pretty impressive, it’s the Rotating Display that blew me away.

While I’m not a big fan of fancy gadgets, I must admit that the Rotating Display is one of the main reasons why I’ve fallen in love with the new Conti GT. Let’s face it, it’s the kind of feature you’d find in one of James Bond’s car, along with machine guns hidden behind the headlamps. And known James’ weakness for British cars, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the grand tourer in the next film. So why am I so excited it about this? Well, I like clean dashboards with massive wood veneers as much as I enjoy high-resolution screens. Having both was impossible until now, so it’s like a dream come true.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon We Need More EV Performance Cars

In case you missed it, BMW just released details on the updated 2018 i3,
and the big headline isn’t the tweaked exterior styling or new interior color schemes. For any reader of this website, the most important part of the refresh is the addition of the i3s, a slightly sportier iteration of the all-electric eco-box bearing a little more power (up 184 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque compared to the regular i3’s 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque) as well as a lowered, stiffer suspension, and more aesthetic aggression. While not exactly a game changer, it’s a good sign of things to come. You see, the world needs more EV performance, and even the greenest of EV revolutionaries should be pushing for more battery-powered speed machines.

“Why’s that?” you might ask. “I thought it was all about efficiency and hypermiling and responsible commuting with that crowd.” While all these things are indeed important in the EV community, a focus on speed brings with it all kinds of benefits. For starters, faster EVs naturally lead to further battery development. If you’re constantly on the go pedal, you’re gonna be draining the battery mighty quick, which means there’s further incentive to stuff more range into every pack. This is doubly so in something like an EV racing series, which is a natural progression when you’ve got tons of popular performance cars out on the road. Indeed, it’s something we’re already seeing with the Tesla Model S, which has thus far challenged the gas-burning competition at the drag strip and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and even gained its own racing series with Electric GT. The point is this – racing is good for the breed, no matter the end goal.

Furthermore, new EV performance cars also help to expand the segment, drawing in new customers and challenging preconceptions of what an EV “should” be. Just look at what Tesla did with the Model S. Now there’s proof EV’s can be quick, sexy, and luxurious, and additional performance EV’s would bring in even more of the traditional gearhead audience.

As they say, winning is winning, even if it’s by way of electrons rather than dino juice. We need more EV performance cars.

PostHeaderIcon How Much More Driver Assistance Technology Will you Tolerate?

Technology is supposed to set us free, make life easier for us, and ultimately led us to a futuristic lifestyle where there is no war, no need for money, no poverty, and no auto-related deaths. And, while that possibility is there in the long term, the introduction of new technologies is making us so dumb that it’s getting out of hand. First, let me touch base on the whole rear seat reminder situation. Now, I know this has been around for a while, with the 2016 GMC Acadia being one of the first and another 20 GM vehicles following shortly after. Nissan also has its “rear door alert” that ultimately saves the same purpose – “Hey, don’t forget you have a kid back here.” Seriously, though? Do you need to read that again? Who the hell really forgets their kid on accident? Is that really what the human species has been dumbed down to? Devolving to the point that we no longer have that basic instinct to protect our children at all costs? Come on, People – even some of the dumbest animals in the world have this natural instinct, and here we are at the top of the food chain leaving kids in hot cars to die. And, sadly, that’s not where the lack of attention span stops.

A recent report by the IIHS reports that technology like Lane Departure Warnings really are saving lives, and things like autonomous emergency braking systems are cutting back on front-to-rear accidents. That’s great that lives are being saved, but I have to ask you: Why in the world is this necessary? As a species that has been driving for over 100 years, how have we gotten to the point that we don’t pay attention enough to warrant such systems? Isn’t the point of driving to pay attention to your surroundings? I’ve been driving for a good 20 years now, but I know that was the basic principle taught to me way back then. Where the hell did we go wrong? Well, apparently, it happened somewhere because the IIHS reports that single vehicle, sideswipe, and head-on crashes have dropped by 18 percent and injury rates by as low as 24 percent. And, apparently, fatal accidents have been reduced by 86 percent in cars with lane-departure warning systems. Those are impressive numbers, but still, it goes to show just how out of touch we humans are with what we’re doing. Don’t stop reading… there’s more.

PostHeaderIcon Getting Ready For Winter With FWD

So the old Scoobaru isn’t the greatest place at the moment. It’s got a leaking transmission, and while I won’t go into the technical details, it’s gonna need some loving before it’s back to running in tip-top shape. You know, the expensive, time-intensive sort of loving. In all honesty, I’m not totally sure when it’s gonna be back up to snuff, and with the winter months closing in fast, I’m a little nervous. I live high in the mountains of northern California, and while the skiing is great, AWD is really the optimal transportation solution four months out of the year. But when power at all four corners isn’t an option, whatddya do? You work with what you got. Luckily, what I’ve got is a second car – my spouse’s Mazda6. It’s a lovely sedan, great for long trips (especially compared to the loud, brash, harsh Subaru), and it’s a definite smile-maker in the corners. But how will it handle in the snow, and how do I make the most of FWD during the winter months?

These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with as I work on getting the Subaru back online, and luckily, I think I’ve got a few answers. Read on for some tips and tricks for making FWD work in the snow

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Why I’d Skip the BMW M5 For The M550i

Hopefully you’ve read my thoughts on the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive I recently spent a week with. If not, you should. Hopefully you’ve also read the opinions of our fearless editor, Robert Moore, on whether the new 2018 BMW M5 is a waste of money compared to the M550i. If not, again, you should. But having spent time with BMW’s slightly less M-ified 5 Series, I wanted to chime in on the topic. Buckle your seatbelts, you might not like my answer.

My confession wouldn’t feel out-of-place in an AA-style meeting: “Hi, I’m Mark and I love horsepower and speed. Oh, and find comfort in tire smoke and going 140 mph down the back straight at Monticello with a V-8 screaming in my ear.” Yeah, I’m that guy. So, it might come as a surprise to hear that I’d buy the M550i over the M5 nine times out of 10. Why? It’s simple: The M550i is a better all-round daily driver that looks just as good as the M5 and has just as much usable horsepower for public roads. See, here’s the thing. I’m not the guy who needs the ultimate version of something to feel self-worth and gratification. My ego would be just fine not having that M5 badge affixed to my BMW. I’m also a realist with a strong suspicion I wouldn’t be autocrossing my five-passenger, full-size sedan every weekend. That’s what Miatas and Corvettes are for. And with the money I’m not spending in the M5, I can buy a mint Miata and throw speed parts at it. And let’s face it, two cars are better than one.

Continue reading for more ramblings.

PostHeaderIcon Why I’d Skip the BMW M5 For The M550i

Hopefully you’ve read my thoughts on the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive I recently spent a week with. If not, you should. Hopefully you’ve also read the opinions of our fearless editor, Robert Moore, on whether the new 2018 BMW M5 is a waste of money compared to the M550i. If not, again, you should. But having spent time with BMW’s slightly less M-ified 5 Series, I wanted to chime in on the topic. Buckle your seatbelts, you might not like my answer.

My confession wouldn’t feel out-of-place in an AA-style meeting: “Hi, I’m Mark and I love horsepower and speed. Oh, and find comfort in tire smoke and going 140 mph down the back straight at Monticello with a V-8 screaming in my ear.” Yeah, I’m that guy. So, it might come as a surprise to hear that I’d buy the M550i over the M5 nine times out of 10. Why? It’s simple: The M550i is a better all-round daily driver that looks just as good as the M5 and has just as much usable horsepower for public roads. See, here’s the thing. I’m not the guy who needs the ultimate version of something to feel self-worth and gratification. My ego would be just fine not having that M5 badge affixed to my BMW. I’m also a realist with a strong suspicion I wouldn’t be autocrossing my five-passenger, full-size sedan every weekend. That’s what Miatas and Corvettes are for. And with the money I’m not spending in the M5, I can buy a mint Miata and throw speed parts at it. And let’s face it, two cars are better than one.

Continue reading for more ramblings.

PostHeaderIcon Pops’ Rants: The New BMW M5 Isn’t Worth the Premium; Audi’s Naming Strategy is Dumb

It’s Friday again, and I’m having a bad day. And I’ll probably have a bad weekend too because I just found out that FCA will shut down the Conner assembly plant in a few days. Why is this a big deal? Because the Dodge Viper will die along with it. Yeah, it’s no big surprise. The Viper had it coming, and we knew it would happen since 2015, but the thought of America’s greatest modern muscle car being killed off is depressing. And please don’t tell me about the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Challenger Demon, this is a sad day for American sports car enthusiasts regardless of what other performance vehicles you can get.

And, you know what bothers me more? The fact that FCA does nothing about it. Yeah, Chrysler claims the Viper has to die due to slow sales, but we all know that’s not the reason. It all has to do with new safety regulations, which require that all production models have side airbag curtains. And, you can’t fit them in the current Viper. It needs a new platform and a new design. So why isn’t FCA making a successor? It’s too expensive obviously, and it would rather go bankrupt with a bunch of crappy cars rather than a performance coupe. So many decades of experience and FCA still doesn’t know that an iconic car requires a lot of work. But enough about the Viper, it’s been a hectic week.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Mercedes Let Us Down with the Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet

Now that we’ve seen Mercedes’ “latest” concept, I have to say that I’m not impressed in the least bit. When we first saw the teaser video back at the beginning of August,(art177208) I thought for sure we would get the “big surprise” that Chief Designer Gorgon Wagener promised us. This concept was supposed to be an “icon for the brand,” but all I see is a lazy concept that was thrown together just a few weeks before it was set to debut… Did you forget there was a concept lawn at Pebble Beach, Mr. Wagener? Now I’m wondering if that teaser video from within the bowels of the Advance Design Center was actually the very first meeting to discuss the new concept.

With that said, I will say that the Vision 6 looks good as a droptop, but it definitely falls short of what was promised. In the video, it was even mentioned that the front end would be “different.” Of course, they were talking about in comparison to the Concept IAA, but still. In the end, the Vision 6 Cabriolet is every bit the Vision 6 with a standalone windshield and no roof. Of course, they did change the interior a bit to account for a slightly revised dashboard with a set of HVAC vents in the center – that’s something the coupe doesn’t have. It is also a bit less futuristic in comparison but still far on the red side of my “never-gonna-see-production” meter. The car itself is attractive, and I even love the scheme of the interior, but when I saw the similarities in Merc’s second teaser video, I should have known. But, I don’t want to be all negative, so let’s move on from this rant and talk about something good that comes from this specific concept.

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