Behind the Wheel

Sharing my experience behind the wheel of a new car each week. Also exclusive access at auto shows and press events.

The New Sonata is on a whole new level!


I usually don’t get excited about cars that get a refresh. But the new Hyundai Sonata has peeked my interest. While it visually looks similar very similar, it is not. Hyundai has reworked almost every exterior element on the front of the car. It has new grill with sleeker lines that remind me of an unnamed luxury car. It’s stance is more aggressive, and it is complimented with a reworked rear end. It has got an all-new trunk, bumper and tail lights.

The interior although they say it is new, you can’t tell the difference unless you are comparing the two vehicles side by side. But what is noticeable different is the driving dynamics. The feel of the vehicle is enhanced by new steering and suspension systems that give the driver more feedback while also delivering a smoother ride. Another impressive item related to the car is a new transmission. Even though you will never (don’t quote me) see a Hyundai Sonata on the drag strip, you still want to have fun with it. The transmission has been reworked to deliver quicker shifts when you hit the gas pedal hard, but still offer smooth transitions between gears when cruising casually. I also noticed less lag between shifts while manually selecting a gear using the paddle shifters.


For those concerned about fuel economy, both models of the Hyundai Sonata I tested got over 30mpg. If you are interested in performance, you have your choice of a 1.6L twin-turbo 4-cylinder that produces 178hp, a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that produces 185hp, or a 2.0L twin-turbo that produces a respectiable 245hp.

Overall, Hyundai did a fantastic job of enhancing an already great product. Even though a well equipped Hyundai Sonata is priced at under $25,000, it still offers premium luxury features. A 7 inch touchscreen infotainment system, power and heated front seats, automatic headlights, and blind-spot detection are all standard features on the SEL trim. If you want to add the $1,000 Tech Package to your options list, the car can nearly drive itself… you get automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. 

For more information about the new Hyundai Sonata, visit your local dealer or click here to visit Hyundai’s website.

The Jaguar XFS, She is a fierce cat!


My last review on this site was of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class; a ultra high-tech luxury sedan that semi-autonomously drives itself on the highway. This week’s car is week also a luxury sedan, but with the Jaguar XFS, you will want to do all of the driving yourself! This mid-sized sedan was designed for the driving enthusiast – those who would choose to take the long way home as an excuse to get more time behind the wheel.


The Jaguar XFS keeps the brands heritage of building high performance cars. Yes, the car has a 3.0L Supercharged V6 that rockets it from 0-60 in 5 seconds, and it uses a lightweight aluminum architecture. But… what really makes the car so great is the feeling you get while driving on a curvy road. The driving dynamics are performance bred. You are able to actually “feel” the road (in sport mode) as your tires start to slide while you are breetheing on the throttle in a turn. The level of engagement reminds me of what you would expect from a BMW 5-Series, but with a higher level of refinement. The seats are more plush, the dash is elegantly sophisticated, and materials used are fit for the royal family – yes the Queen of England has been spotted driving herself in a Jaguar XF wagon. 


So what’s not to love??? Finding a legitimate complaint about the Jaguar XFS is like finding a needle in a haystack, but I did find one… the lack of Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Jaguar has their “InControl” smartphone connectivity system, but the intergration is not as good as Apple’s or Google’s. So if you are tech geek, you might want to wait for Jaguar’s next update. Rumor has it, Apple Car Play is coming soon.

Visit you local Jaguar dealer for more information on the XSF or click to visit the Jaguar website.

The Best Or Nothing… The All New Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan

To say that the all-new Mercedes Benz E-Class is the best E-Class ever made isn’t too far of stretch, because the model gets arguably better with each new generation. But I will go a step further and say that the all-new E-Class is also the best mid-sized luxury sedan on the market – The title was previously held (in my opinion) by the Audi A6.

When you step inside the new E-Class, it is easy to mistake that you are stepping into an S-Class because the interior of the E-Class mirrors the S-Class. It is just as stunning on fully optioned models, just slightly smaller. The first thing you will notice are two gigantic digital screens, one to show the vehicle’s instrument cluster and one to two the infotainment center. The screens at matched with either real wood trim or real aluminum. Then as you slip into the seats you will feel premium leather seats (if optioned) followed by a gentle massage on your back and bottom (after a activating it on the infortainment screen). I have to hand it to Mercedes, they are the only manufacturer with a “real” massage chair built into the seats. I have tried massaging seats from everything from Ford to Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes is the only manufacture where I would pay extra for the seats. 


The in-car technologies are a mirror of the flagship S-Class Mercedes as well. There is radar guided cruise control as well as an active lane-keep assist. These two options make the E-Class Mercedes “close to” a semi-autonomous vehicle. I say “close to” because you are still required to have your hands on the steering wheel, but you just barely need to touch it. During the week I tested it, I had a business trip from Ft Lauderdale to Orlando, FL. After getting on the Turnpike, I let the car drive itself on the 200+ mile journey. The car turned as the road turned, slowed down as the car in front of me braked, and speed up as the speed limit increased. You heard that right, the new Mercedes E-Class can read speed limit signs and dynamically adjust your speed accordingly. The car worked beautifully with one exception…. later that week I was on a two lane country road on my way to a charity event. I had a pickup truck in front of my and a semi-truck behind me. The E-Class was basically driving itself when the pickup truck decided to slow down and turn left into a convenience store. This shouldnt be a problem, but because the Mercedes couldn’t accurately detect the lines in the road, it started following the truck left. I quickly had to grab the wheel, as I was driving in the wrong lane with a school bus headed right for me. To top it off, the semi-truck started to pass me as the car drove it self into the other lane. Luckily I was an alert drive and abruptly slowed to get behind the semi-truck. So while the E-Class’ semi-autonomous driving functionality is great, please remember that they are an aid and not intended to allow the drive to take a backseat. Other than this one time nerve wrecking experience, the system was spot on.


So here is the big question… should you get a fully loaded E-Class for around $80,000 or upgrade to a base S-Class for around $96,000? Outside of size, they are very close products now. The E-Class fully-load is slightly smaller and easier to drive. The S-Class rides better and has a much larger backseat. So my pick is the E-Class for the city and the S-Class for the highway.

Visit your local Mercedes-Benz dealer or click here to go to the Mercedes-Benz website.

The Subaru WRX STI was built for BIG KIDS

What’s the difference between a kid and man? Jay Leno once said that it is the cost of their toys, I couldn’t agree more.

The WRX you see pictured above is every kids fantasy – they are a car enthusiast. While some love the WRX STI and other hate it because of the “rice burner” image, gear heads around the world respect it because Subaru built one heck of a car. It come standard with a turbo-charged 4-cylinder boxer motor that is good for over 300 horsepower and symmetrical all-wheel-drive. But this isn’t Subuar’s standard all-wheel-drive system… 

Using a toggle switch along the center console, you can control how much power is distrubed amongst the front and rear wheels. If you are trying to do donuts or get the maximum power; direct all of the power to the rear wheels. If you are driving in a rally cross race or in the rain, shift the power back to all four wheels. This level of control for an all-wheel-drive system is very impressive. I can’t think of another manufacture with this degree of control – not even Audi has it.

An additional benefit of Subaru’s advanced all-wheel-drive system is that on STI models, “true” Active Torque Vectoring is standard. I want to emphasis “true” torque vectoring because most modern sports cars only offer simulated torque vectoring. The concept of torque vectoring was pioneered by McLaren for Formula 1 racing. The idea is to force the outside wheels to spin faster than the inside wheels while going through a turn in order to make the car turn sharper. All-wheel-drive cars like the WRX STI (as well as the new Accura NSX, Lamborghini Huracan, and Audi R8) will shift power to the wheels from one side to the other, while cars like the Porsche 718 and 911 have to rely on using the brakes to slow the speed of the inside wheels. Obviously if you are using the brakes, you are scrubbing off speed and slowing down.


Ok, enough with all of the high performance racing talk. The Subaru WRX STI also has a mean bark and snarling approach. Even while sitting still, the car looks fast! It is hard to miss the gigantic rear wing of an STI. While I am guessing it is mainly for show, because the car tops out at around 155mph, but still looks really cool. That paired with large disc brakes and an enourmous hood scoop, the WRX STI looks like it a special vehicle – or one that spent a lot of time in a performance shop. Speaking of performance, check out that quad tip sport exhaust system that makes the car sound great and look bad ***.

Visit your local Subaru dealer for more information on the 2017 Subaru WRX STI or click here to visit the Subaru website.

P.S. Thank you Subaru for bring this to us in a manual transmission.

The Mini Cooper gets a little bigger with the Countryman

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Just like how Porsche gave us the Cayenne SUV for enthusiast who love Porsche, but has out grown 911, Mini Cooper has given us the Countryman. Mini has taken every we love about the Mini Cooper and enlarged it. The Countryman is longer, wider, and taller. Enthusiasts finally have a vehicle they can take the kids to school in! Tall backseat passengers are now able to stretch out instead of curling into a ball, and with the seats down, you are now able use a Mini Cooper to buy furniture…. I bought a small conference cable for my office in it.

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The Countryman certainly fits the bill for being Mini’s biggest and most expensive vehicle. It priced at $26,000 for a base model, but the options ad up. My test vehicle cost nearly $40,000 to buy. But it was well worth the price for features such as premium leather seats, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and a large touch screen display. The only thing I didn’t like about the interior was the pseudo “heads up display.” I could never get the thing properly adjusted for my ride height and I am only 5’8″.

Don’t let the looks and plush amenities fool you, this is still a Mini Cooper. And rightfully so, it is fun to drive. Not a much fun as the smaller scale Mini Cooper, but this car boogies around town. Under the hood of the S and JCW models is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that moves the car from 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds. But even more important is the handling. Multiplying the size of the Mini Cooper made it loose its “go-kart” like handling, but with the optional adjustable damper system and 4-wheel drive system, it know-how to hug corners like a proper Mini Cooper.

For more information on the Mini Cooper Countryman, visit your local Mini dealer or click here to visit Mini’s website.

The new Q7 is a big leap for Audi


I liked the old Audi Q7 because it was big and comfortable, but I never loved the styling. It looked too feminine with its soft lines and bubbly shape. As a guy, I could never see myself driving it as my own personal vehicle. I know I am being bias, but what you drive says a lot about your personality. With that being said, the old Q7 was one of my favorite “mom cars.”

Everything has changed with the new Audi Q7. It is now one of my favorite “dad cars.” It is masculine, it is aggressive, and it is modern. Audi has given us a wider stance with a big large grill in the front. We have a more modern design with sharper lines going from front to back. The led headlights and the directional tail lights remind me of a futuristic car from the movie Tron.

It has also got some power… Under the hood of my test vehicle is 3.0L turbocharged V6 that produces 333 horsepower and can tow 7,700 pounds. It will also get you from 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds. If you are more interested in fuel economy than performance, the base engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that is good for 252 horsepower and 25 mpg on the highway. I am begging for Audi to bring back their diesel engines to the United States. The old Q7 diesel was good for over 400 pounds of torque and got suburb fuel economy.

When comparing the Audi Q7 to it’s competition, such as Porsche, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes, they have been focused on making evolutionary minor changes to their vehicles. Yes the cars keep getting better year after year, but I feel like Audi is progressing forward at a much more rapid pace. If is refreshing to see an automotive manufacture take this big of a leap forward with exterior and interior design.

Contact your local dealer to get a look inside the all-new Audi Q7 or click here to visit Audi’s website.

An Icon Reborn: The Lincoln Continental


No other American luxury sedan is as iconic as the Lincoln Continental. The vehicle’s legacy dates back to the late 1930’s. It was the ride of choice for Heads of State. Celebrities would be chauffeured in Continentals for premier parties and oscars. Its success continued on and off until since then, but the last great Continental (in my book) was 1969. President Kennedy was famous for driving around in one.

Fast forward to today… and the Continental is back! It has got classic styling with high-tech packaging. This is first time in a long time that I have been this excited about Lincoln’s flagship sedan. The vehicle has a nostalgic feeling to it, but it can easily compete with the features and comfort of a modern S-Class.


The seats made a lasting impression on me, even after recently having driven a Mercedes S Class. I love the way you can independently contour the top and lower back supports to offer a customized seat shape. You would also independently adjust the seat length and height between the left and right sides. No other car on the market offers this degree of control.


The rest of the interior stood out as well. The combination of blue leather and aluminum trim gave the Lincoln a unique look, one that was special in this segment of vehicles. The infotainment system felt a little generic when compared to other Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the lineup, but it is tried and true.


Backseat passages will enjoy luxury accommodations as well, but no so luxurious as to where you feel like you are driving a limousine.


My final compliment to Lincoln for the recreation of the Continental is in regards to the attention to exterior details. I love chrome trim door handles that blend seemlessly into the the body design. Well done, Lincoln!

Visit your local dealer for more information on the 2017 Lincoln Continental or click here to visit the Lincoln Motor Company website. 

The Lexus RC Turbo is a “Little Duece Coupe”

The term “Duece Coupe” originally referenced a 1932 Hot Rod Ford, because of the model year. But I think it is more befitting of Lexus’ newest RC model, the 2.0L RC Turbo, because it has a 2.0L motor, plus I got to test it in the heart of Ford territory, Michigan.

All of the characteristics and styling of the more powerful RC 300/350/F are here, but now the RC features a fuel efficient rear-wheel drive option. At 32 MPG, I was able to drive the car across the entire state of Michigan and back (~350 miles) on a single tank of gas – and it doesn’t have a big tank. While the RC Turbo has half of cylinders and almost half the horsepower (241hp) as the RC F (467hp), it still has pep to its step. Plus since it is performance inspired, you can keep the momentum going as you hug a twisty road – enhanced by the adaptive variable suspension. It brakes well too with 11″ ventilated discs. Another item to note is that 18″ wheels are standard.


Because of the Lexus RC Tubro’s plush interior, it makes a well suited grand tourer. The heated and ventalited seats were perfect for my long trek across the state. I would almost describe them as “unusually comfortable” for its segment because the contour of the seats fit my back well. Being a Lexus, of course they were made from high quality leather. I point this out because most the German competition (excluding Audi) have leatherette seats. 

The infotainment center is easy to use. It is controlled using voice commands or a touch pad on the center armrest. The touch pad isn’t as intuiative as you would think, but once you get use to it, you will love it! Sound wise, beats are pumped out from an optional 17 speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The vehicle I tested this time didn’t have the upgraded sound system, but I heard it play on other RCs before.


Value always come into play when I look at sporty cars, and the RC Turbo is amongst the best! At a starting price of $40k, you will be hard pressed to find a more stylish luxury sports coupe that offers this many standard features. Also it is comforting to know you are driving a machine backed by Toyota (parent company of Lexus) so the car will last FOREVER. 

Visit your local Lexus dealer for more information on the 2017 Lexus RC Turbo or click here to visit the Lexus website.

The Mercedes Benz S-Class is the “King” of hybrid cars

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No other sedan is more iconic for German engineering and luxury than the Mercedes Benz S-Class. It has ruled the road for generations powered by gas and diesel drivetrains. But in more recent years, Mercedes has equipped the S Class as an optional plugin electric gasoline hybrid. And now it gets even better, because the 2017 Mercedes S-Class Sedan is available as what I consider to be an extended range plugin electric gasoline hybrid. That means you drive the S Class fully on electric at 70+ mph for over 20 miles – I got 27 miles on electric while driving on i95 to be exact. Of course driving fully electric on the highway on long commutes is kind of silly, because the engine eventually kicks and has to work overtime in order to recharge the batteries.

The value of making the Mercedes Benz S Class a plugin hybrid is for your short daily commutes. If your daily commute involves driving short distances (12 miles) around town, then theoretically you would never had to turn the gasoline engine on. And because it is a plugin hybrid, you can charge the vehicle at a low cost or for free at hundreds of charging stations. It gives Tesla a run for their money!

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Driving around town in fully electric mode was sublime. The entire S-Class range features an array noise insolation techniques, such as double pain windows, in order to create a nearly silent experience. But the Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is completely silent in electric mode. This enhances the already posh ambience of sitting in a vehicle where nearly every surface is covered in leather and the seats massage you as you drive. This level of craftsmanship and attention to detail are what has made the S-Class benchmark car.

It is not just all fancy drivetrains and luxury interiors Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is high-tech. Infotainment wise, you have standard features like a navigation system and satellite radio, but you also have access to internet radio stations. Your beats are pumped through a 24-speaker Burmester surround sound system. Everything is controlled using touch pads and dual 12 inch screens. This includes the vehicle’s semiautonomous features, which will keep the car in-between the lines on the highway and accelerate or decelerate based on traffic conditions.

No other hybrid vehicle offers this level of luxury and prestige, which is why the Mercedes Benz S-Class Plugin Hybrid is “King” of hybrid and electric vehicles. Learn more by visiting your local dealer or by visiting the Mercedes Benz website.

5 Reason To Buy The 2017 Subaru Impreza

 

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I have talked about the Subaru Impreza a number of times on my various blogs and radio shows, so this time, I want to point out the Top 5 reasons you should consider buying one of these great little cars!

  1. The Subaru Impreza has Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive standard: Subaru has been writing the book on advanced all-wheel-drive systems for 45 years. Surprisingly, the first Subaru’s using this configuration were not race prepped rally cars, they were average joe cars that you would take the grocery store or on a family road trip.
  2. Under the hood of the Subaru Impreza is a Flat Engine: Also more affectionally known as a “Boxer” engine. It is called Boxer because of its horizontally opposed cylinder. This is a superior design for performance cars because it allows the vehicle to have a lower center of gravity vs a straight or V motor. Porsche created a loyal following for Flat 4 and Flat 6 motors by using them in their sports cars and championship winning race cars, but most Subaru fans love them too.
  3. You are instantly part of the Subaru club: I never met a Subaru owner who didn’t love their car. Even in the rare occasions where you see a Subaru broken down on the side of the road, the owner will be standing there waiting over the car as if it was their first born child. So when you buy a Subaru Impreza, now you get to share your love of the car with millions of owners around the world.
  4. The Subaru Impress will last (what seems like) a life time: The Subarus are consistently ranked as one of the most reliable vehicles on the road by Consumer Reports. One of my friends in college had an Outback with over 300,000 miles on the odometer with no major repairs.
  5. The Subaru Impreza is a barging: For less than $20,000 you can buy a Subaru Impreza sedan or 5-door hatch back with all-wheel-drive and 2.0L boxer engine. For less than $30,000, you get a fully loaded Impreza with a moonroof, leather seats, and a Harman Kardon sound system. It will also come along with advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert.

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So there you have it! 5 reasons why you should trade in your old car and buy a 2017 Subaru Impreza. Next step is picking the color! Visit your local Subaru dealer or click here to visit the Subaru website for more information.