What You Should Fill Your Two Car Garage With

If you had such strong brand loyalty that you had to fill your two-car garage, what car combinations would they be? Here are mine. Tell me what you would fill your garage with!

  • BMW i8 and X5 M: For the moment, the closest thing to a spaceship you’ll get is the BMW i8. It has liberal use of carbon fiber, and it’s fast enough for most of us mortals. The X5 M is fast, luxurious, comfortable, and can haul a lot of people or random things you get. The funny thing is that the i8 gets better fuel economy than the X5 M, and the X5 M is almost as fast as the i8. Sounds like a good combination to me!
  • Cadillac CTS-V and Escalade: Cadillac aimed for the throat when they introduced  the CTS-V in 2004. That hasn’t changed one bit, and we should be grateful. The CTS-V uses a barely-detuned version of the Corvette Z06’s LT4 motor. If you need to haul a bunch of people in the lap of luxury, go for the Escalade. The Escalade radically changed the SUV game in 1999. This might be even better than the BMW combination.
  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Colorado Z71: The Corvette Z06 is the automotive equivalent of a fighter jet that an inexperienced pilot can dogfight in. The Z06 will hold it’s own against a flat-out racecar on a track, but you can daily drive it. However, you’d be better off daily driving the Colorado Z71. Get the Colorado with the Duramax diesel engine, and you’ll get great fuel economy and have more fun than with a gasoline-powered Colorado in the process.
  • Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and F-150: You’ll get the utmost in performance with the Mustang Shelby GT350. Road & Track named it their Performance Car of the Year. I can’t say the 2017 F-150 SVT Raptor is the perfect garage-mate for it because it hasn’t come out yet. You’ll have to make do with the F-150, which is a great truck in it’s own right. Plus, good luck carrying anything bigger than a shopping bag or briefcase in your Mustang.
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Grand Cherokee SRT-8: Few unmodified cars can do as well off-road as a Jeep. However, when you build one towards the heavens to explore places few others have been, they tend to be horrific on the street. See, the solution to that is to have a Grand Cherokee SRT-8 for actual streets. If you’re only going to drive a Jeep on the streets, it might as well have 475 horsepower…
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and E63 AMG wagon: Mercedes has a giant killer on their hands with the spectacular AMG GT. We shall see if it will topple the giant that is the Porsche 911. Either way, the AMG GT is a fantastic driver’s car. In fact, Motor Trend named it their Best Driver’s Car. If you need more utility than a two-seat supercar can offer you, but still want to go fast, get the E63 AMG wagon. It’s slower than the AMG GT, but you can take the whole family with you.
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Macan Turbo: Unless you go out and buy a legitimate race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the closest you’ll get. It’s street legal, so you can drive it to the track. It won’t be at all fun with potholes, speedbumps, and road imperfections, so fill out your garage with a Macan Turbo. If you squint hard enough, you could convince yourself it’s just a hatchback with really big wheels.
  • Tesla Model S P90D and Model X P90D: I’m sure that most of us would love to own a Tesla. The Model S was a groundbreaking car. The Model X is pretty damn cool as well. I’m still holding out for the Model 3, and would love to see a Tesla Roadster version 2.0, but this would be the perfect electric garage.
  • Volvo S60 Polestar and XC90 T8: I’ve always been a fan of Volvos. However, very few of their cars are truly exciting. However, the S60 Polestar is by far the sportiest car that Volvo has offered in a very long time. The XC90 rivals Range Rovers in terms of luxury, but at a much lower price. Go for the T8, and you’ll have a 400 horsepower hybrid to play around with. How can you not love that?
  • Mazda Miata and Miata Cup Racer: It’s just like with Jeeps. If you buy one to build it up to win races, you should have a stock one to drive around. With the ND generation (4th generation) of the Miata, you can get a stock Miata for daily driving, and a full-out race car. The Miata Cup Racer costs a tad more than $50,000, and a loaded stock Miata goes for around $30,000. While not everybody can afford both of these Miatas, it’s likely that nobody on this list could buy the combinations of cars I’ve listed.

The Best Cars for This Holiday Season

Yes, this is a holiday tradition for me. I love picking out cars that are perfect for this holiday season. I know that none of you will run out to the dealer and order one as soon as you’ve finished reading this post, but I can keep wishing, right?

  • Ford Focus RS: If you want a hot ticket into the performance car world, this is it. It’s got AWD sending somewhere around 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a six speed manual transmission, this car is definitely going to be eating Corvettes and Honda sportbikes all day long in the canyons and some race tracks. It’s going to be one fun ride. Car & Driver was lucky enough to take a ride in one, and I’ll be a tad bit jealous at them for a while. They said it’s an experience few cars can replicate.

    It looks like a legitimate rally car without all of the stickers, doesn’t it? The fans will be right behind you, don’t worry about that!
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Any version of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado is going to be one of the best trucks on the market. It won the 2016 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. I should also mention it won the 2015 Truck of the Year award as well. The engine that I would recommend is the 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine. It gets 26 mpg combined, according to Motor Trend’s “Real MPG” testing procedures. That’s almost as good as my Mazda 3! According to the Real MPG program, a Colorado with any of the available engines (a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a fantastic 3.6-liter V6) will have class-leading mpg. That’s really saying something. If you go for the Duramax, it will tow 7,600 pounds, and will get better mileage than any other Colorado engine. Oh, and it will be much smoother and rewarding to drive. The Colorado, and it’s GMC twin, the Canyon, both received a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Chevrolet designed the Colorado to be a daily driver for any kind of driver, so it should come as no surprise that it drives like a fullsize sedan with a light rear end. If I was going to recommend any one truck, this would be it.

    It looks really sharp, doesn’t it? This is the Trail Boss model, which adds knobby tires, a lightbar, and skid plates.
  • Volvo XC90: Some of my older readers will remember and love the Volvos of the 1970s and 1980s. They were big tanks of cars, designed with utility rather than sexiness, yet they were so exquisitely built that people bought them over a Mercedes-Benz. Something as simple as the XC90’s key shouldn’t be worth mentioning, yet this one is wonderful. It is made of the same Nappa leather that covers it’s three comfortable rows of seats. Volvo is a really small player in the U.S. Toyota made nearly three times as many Priuses as Volvo sold cars. BMW sells seven cars for each one that Volvo sells in the U.S. You might be surprised to hear that the only engine that you can get with the 2016 XC90 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Before you get up in arms about that, just know that it cranks out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. How does it do that? A gigantic turbocharger and a small supercharger that steps in when the turbo is spooling up. It gets 22 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It’s far quieter than the also-new Honda Pilot, which has a screaming V6 that will scare the deer off the road. AWD is standard. Right now, the only powertrain upgrade is to the T8 model, which Volvo claims to be the first seven-seat plug-in hybrid. It makes 313 horsepower from the same engine, but has an electric motor powering the rear wheels, bringing total power output to 400 horsepower. It has some seriously long gearing (80 mph in 3rd gear). Yeah, Volvo is still going after hauling families over hauling some butt. The XC90 has a gigantic touchscreen that Motor Trend called “almost Tesla-like.” A Volvo wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t have more safety features than a crash cart in a hospital. All seven seat belts have pyrotechnic pretensioners, and the front seat frames have energy absorbers to cushion vertical forces during impact. It has a bunch of really great features, but I’m going to skip over most of them. One final safety feature worth mentioning is that the XC90 will automatically activate the brakes if the driver attempts to make a left turn into oncoming traffic. You’re on your own if you somehow make a right turn into oncoming traffic, though. Just like the Tesla Model S was a pivotal car for electric cars in 2013, the Volvo XC90 is a game changer, a moonshot for SUVs.

    I don’t care what people say about it – I think it looks really nice for something it’s size.
  • Subaru WRX: This list wouldn’t be complete without a Subaru on it. Of course I chose the WRX. While Subaru doesn’t make it as a hatchback anymore, which is a true shame, it doesn’t make the WRX any less spectacular. It’s got that wonderful Subaru boxer engine growling howl, and is probably the perfect all-weather car. It can handle it’s own on just about any surface. Good luck keeping up with one with summer tires on a racetrack, or one with winter tires in inclement weather. It’s a stylish jack-of-all-trades.

    It doesn’t look like much, but I can tell you it looks mighty intimidating with that gaping hood scoop and wailing four-cylinder.
  • Audi A3: It starts off at nearly $31,000, so the opening bid itself is a good proposition to buy one. It’s a good-looking car by all means, but it doesn’t advance Audi’s design at all. The car gets more fun to drive as you add on the speed. It just gets really expensive, so keep that in mind when you pile on the options.

    See what I mean? It looks nice, but it’s no huge design advancement for Audi.

That’s it for this list. I know it’s shorter than ones in years past, but I think these are all solid choices. You can’t go wrong with any of them. I wish you all a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season. As always, I will be taking a week off about next week, but I’ll update you on Friday about that, don’t worry!

The Best Sleepers Sold in America in the Past 25 Years

Many people like to own cars that are beautiful and naturally garner attention. They drive cars like Aston Martins and Jaguars. There are also a lot of people who can’t afford cars like those, but still want their cars to grab attention, so they drive cars like Subaru WRX STI’s and Ford Mustangs. Those cars are loud and proud of it. They grab attention through their noise. It just comes down to a matter of personal choice, and that’s fine.

Many people really like having a car that has great performance, but doesn’t attract throngs of people and law enforcement. Their cars of choice are seemingly Plain Jane cars on the outside, but that doesn’t mean that their performance capabilities are any less than something like an STI.

Here, in no particular order, are the absolute best sleepers that have been sold here in the past 25 years.

  • GMC Syclone/Typhoon: Some of my readers grew up in the 1990s. It was a technological revolution, and also a time of rebellion and shattering societal norms. GMC’s decision to build the Typhoon and Syclone was probably one of their best. 280 horsepower isn’t very much horsepower for a truck, but all the way back in 1991, it meant 60 mph in five seconds. That’s right on pace with a modern Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang. Thank the 350 lb-ft of torque and the AWD system for that. Most people won’t know what they are looking at. They will see an old truck or SUV that is pretty darn small. That punk in the Honda Civic next to them will have no idea that it will blow his doors off at the stoplight. Trust me, you’ll have to have a bona-fide performance car to beat a Syclone or Typhoon in a drag race. Plus, they are very reliable – Jay Leno daily drove one for years without any problems.

    One of the most legendary trucks, let alone sleepers, of all time. It looks so innocent!
  • Mercedes-Benz S600: Even people who know nothing about cars know about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. They know it’s expensive and luxurious, but nothing past that, really. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice the W220 (chassis generation, just like people know generations of the Ford Mustang as the Foxbody, the SN 95, the S197 and S550) anymore. It still looks dapper, but at this point, it’s generic enough that it flies under the radar with ease. Only us car people will know what they are looking at. Any S600 is going to be quick, but the 2003 update made it something fearsome. The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 snarled out 493 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It’s the banker’s hot rod, just like the Hudson Hornet was in the 1950s. Oh, and if you put a straight piped exhaust on the S600, it sounds like a Formula 1 car.

    While it still looks nice, the average person would brush it off as just another Mercedes-Benz. However, any Mercedes with these wheels will blow the doors off of just about anything.
  • Mercury Marauder: Ford’s Panther platform always had potential for performance, but Ford was always interested in selling Crown Victorias, Grand Marquis and Town Cars to retirees, limo companies, law enforcement agencies and taxi companies that they left most of the performance potential untapped to enterprising tuners. That all changed in 2003. The Mercury Marauder was a souped-up Grand Marquis that had a lot of parts borrowed from the Crown Victoria P71 (Police Interceptor Package). It also borrowed some go-fast goodies from the Mustang. Very few people could tell the difference between a Grand Marquis and a Marauder, but under the generic sheetmetal, the Marauder was something to be feared. It had a 302 horsepower V8 and a heavily improved suspension. It didn’t drive like a Grand Marquis or a Crown Victoria. The entire point of the car was to show the world “Why not?”

    Doesn’t look like much, does it?
  • Volvo V70 R: Station wagons haven’t been the preferred method of kid schlepping in many years, which is a true shame. Even when they were popular, they weren’t cool. Any station wagon that has a Volvo badge on it is going to be recognized as safe, but nobody ever drives a Volvo aggressively. Now, chuck all of what I have just said out of the window. Never think or speak of it again. The Volvo V70 R had an inline five cylinder engine that cranked out 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque that went to the wheels via a Haldex AWD system. It hit 60 mph in under six seconds, which made it ideal for the dad who wanted a Mazda Miata with room for his wife and their kids and dog.
  • Saab 9-2X Aero: While the Subaru WRX is a great car in it’s own right, it’s the exact opposite of a sleeper. It’s loud and it attracts more attention than the cute girl in high school. If you liked how the WRX drove, but wanted something more toned down, look no further than the Saab 9-2X Aero. It used to be that there was no option like the Saab 9-2X Aero. Then some brilliant mind at GM decided that they needed to dive into the compact luxury car market. The result was the Saab 9-2X Aero. It was based off of the WRX, but the interior was much more premium, the car wasn’t nearly as loud, the looks were toned down, but at heart, it’s still a Subaru WRX.

    It’s just a luxurious Subaru WRX. It’s really compact, which is great if you live in a city.
  • Mazdaspeed 6: In the midsize sedan segment, many cars will put you straight to sleep. The Mazda 6 has never been one of those cars, and as such, is always my first suggestion for a family sedan. Even though it’s fun to drive, it’s still nothing special at the end of the day. However, Mazda decided to throw practicality and sensibility out the window. They handed a Mazda 6 over to the brilliant minds over at Mazdaspeed, and let them work their magic. The result was a 270 horsepower, turbocharged, AWD sedan with a six speed manual. Pure brilliance. It could hit 60 mph in under 5.5 seconds, yet looked like an average Mazda 6 to the untrained eye. And yes mom, it still has all the practicality of a family sedan. It just happens to be far faster than any other family sedan.

    It looks like just another family sedan. However, anybody who has read this post knows what’s up with this car.
  • Chevrolet Cobalt SS: The Chevrolet Cavalier was a truly terrible car. While it’s replacement, the Cobalt, was a vast improvement, it wasn’t a good car by any stretch of the imagination. It was an inexpensive car that catered to those who needed a brand-new economy car despite the fact that a three-year-old Toyota Corolla was a much better car. It sold well. Chevrolet somehow managed to redeem the Cobalt. The Cobalt SS was probably one of the greatest pocket rockets to ever race around. It was unexpectedly fast, and incredibly adept on any race course or autocross course. A 205 horsepower version came out first, but the real gem was the 260 horsepower turbocharged version. Even with a gigantic rear wing, nobody expects a Chevrolet Cobalt to be that fast. One way to make it even more of a sleeper is to remove the wing and put on non-SS Cobalt wheels. Talk about a sleeper of epic proportions!

    It looks like just another Chevrolet Cobalt, but with big wheels. Acceleration is best achieved by flat-footing it (where you keep the gas pedal planted, and shift without lifting).
  • Ford Taurus SHO: While the original Ford Taurus was a great car, the original Taurus SHO (Super High ) is a legend in the performance sedan world. The current generation does not look at all like a performance car. It’s a comfortable cruiser and a good police car, but it looks like nothing special. Part of what makes the current SHO such a sleeper is that the automotive press basically wrote it off when it was introduced. Even in the SHO trim, it’s meant for being an effortless cruiser, not a canyon carver. This doesn’t mean that you should try and do a stoplight drag race with one. An SHO can hit 60 mph in just over five seconds to 60 mph.

    If you’re a fan of fullsize sedans and the word stonking fast, look into getting a Ford Taurus SHO.
  • Chevrolet SS: Even though this is a list of sleepers sold in America over the past 25 years, the Chevrolet SS truly deserves to be on the list of all-time sleepers. How many cars can claim the accomplishment of having basically nobody know they exist? While some reviewers would consider it a flaw that the SS blends in with all of the boring cars, it’s actually a good thing. 99% of the people you pass in the SS will think it’s a Malibu, if they even notice it at all. They are wrong because it has a 415-horsepower Corvette engine, a six-speed manual and a magnetic suspension sourced from the Corvette. It’s the car that’s so anonymous that no cop will pull you over.

    Really looks like nothing, doesn’t it? Here’s to hoping that the FBI has good taste in cars and starts using these!

The Best $40,000 SUVs You Can Buy

Until about 2012, one could easily delineate between a luxury SUV and a mainstream SUV. It’s different now. Big players in the luxury SUV market (BMW and Mercedes-Benz) have started to move some vehicles down market in the hopes of snagging sales that would typically go to a mainstream manufacturer. Mainstream heavy hitters like Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda are moving up market in the hopes of wooing buyers from the luxury brands. Let’s say you want an SUV but have a budget of $40,000. This can get you a lot of car. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a luxury SUV or a mainstream SUV. There are many good SUVs to choose from. Here are my picks.

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA250/GLA250 4Matic: While it might look like a hatchback with a body lift, it’s really more than that. Some of us might remember the Mercedes C230 crapback of the early 2000s that was about the same price. Man, was that thing awful! The GLA250 starts at $32,225, and the GLA250 4Matic (AWD) starts at $34,225. That’s a lot of wiggle room for options. You can get the Multimedia and/or Premium packages, both of which give you such goodies as navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, a rearview camera and heated front seats. That’s a pretty good deal. Throw in the fact that it’s a sporty little crossover, and you’ve got a good deal. You’ve got a mini crossover that is posh and carries the Mercedes-Benz cache. 
  • Audi Q3: The Q3 is another mini crossover, but it’s a very good one. It starts at $34,625 with FWD, and starts at $36,725 with AWD. A good deal for a Q3 would be a FWD Q3 Premium Plus, which starts at $34,625. You get such goodies as HID headlights with LED accents, a panoramic glass roof, leather seats and upholstery, heated front seats and keyless entry/start, all of which are standard. At this point, you can still easily add the Technology and Sport packages without cracking the $40,000 mark. If you need AWD, add on $2,500.
  • BMW X1 sDrive 28i/X1 xDrive28i: The BMW X1 is the cheapest BMW sold in America. It starts off at $32,195 for the sDrive28i and $33,995 for the xDrive28i. It’s a bargain BMW. The result is that you can get a lot of options for less than $40,000, especially with the RWD sDrive28i. You can even get the Sport Line, Technology, Lighting and Driver Assistance packages without cracking $40,000.
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport: Even though the Land Rover Discovery Sport SE starts off at a hefty $38,065, it comes with a lot of bang for the buck. Maybe it won’t break down a ton. It comes standard with a nifty AWD system, an 8-inch infotainment screen, a 5-inch TFT screen for the driver, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera with backup sensors, four (yes, four) USB ports, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control. Throw in navigation ($800) and Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl smartphone apps ($430), you’ll have a sticker price of $39,745.
  • Lexus NX 200t: The NX 200t starts off at $35,405 with FWD, and $36,805 with AWD. It’s a really well-priced crossover for the money. However, you can’t get very many options, because just about everything is bundled into some sort of package. The best deal for the NX 200t would be an AWD NX 200t with the Navigation Package, which includes Lexus’s Enform apps, and it will even stay below $40,000.
  • Lincoln MKC: This is Lincoln’s newest entry into the luxury world. For the past five years or so, they’ve been blundering around the woods with a bag over their heads. None of their cars have been successful lately, and that’s a problem for them. They hope to change that with the MKC. It starts off at $33,995 for FWD models and $36,490 with AWD. It has a lot of standard features including an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, two USB ports, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s even more wiggle room with FWD MKCs, and for a touch under $39,000, you get navigation, a panoramic sunroof, leather and a hands-free liftgate.
  • Lincoln MKX: Yeah, I know. Two Lincolns in a row. Yowza. The MKX is larger than the MKC, but it’s still a good buy, even if it costs $39,025. You won’t have any wiggle room with this one, but that’s OK. You get the Ford/Lincoln SYNC infotainment system, a rearview camera, a 10-speaker high-quality audio system and keyless entry/start. Just because you go for the base model doesn’t mean that you will be sorely lacking in power. The standard engine in the MKX is a 3.7-liter V6 that is expected to crank out 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine that’s in the base-model Ford Mustang.
  • Acura RDX: Acura has long been a heavy hitter in the bargain-basement fun-to-drive luxury segment. Even though the RDX has gone up in price, it’s still an incredibly good buy. It comes standard with LED headlights, a premium ELS sound system, a power liftgate, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity, all for just $36,190 with FWD models. AWD models are a tad more at $37,690. Even getting the Technology Package will keep the price below $40,000 in FWD models. If you buy an AWD model, you can get the AcuraWatch safety features. The problem is that you can only get one or the other, as getting both packages will crack the $40,000 mark regardless of whether you have FWD or AWD.
  • Volvo XC60 T5 E-Drive/XC60 T5 AWD: Volvo has long been known for their bang for the buck. Their best-selling crossover comes standard with many great features such as City Safety automatic emergency braking, a 7-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels. The FWD T5 E-Drive starts off at $37,395, while the AWD T5 AWD starts off at $38,895. The XC60 is right at the same price as many other comparable luxury crossovers. You won’t be able to get many options in the XC60, unfortunately, as many options are bundled into expensive packages that will send the sticker price well over $50,000.
  • Volvo XC70 T5 E-Drive/XC70 T5 AWD: The Volvo XC70 was one of the first crossover wagons to go on sale. Since then, it’s been a staple in the Volvo lineup. It starts off at $38,095 for the T5 E-Drive and $39,595 for the T5 AWD. It doesn’t come with a ton of standard or optional features. It’s also not the best-seller in Volvo’s lineup, as it’s showing it’s age. Volvo has tried to spice it up with a recent refresh and new powertrain options, but buyers would rather buy an SUV than an aging wagon.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great value. It starts off at a cheap $30,990 for RWD models and $32,990 for 4WD models. It offers a great combination of luxury and proven off-road capability. It comes standard with Fiat Chrysler’s amazing UConnect infotainment system, keyless entry/start and a 7-inch TFT display. Because it starts at such a low price, you can buy gadgets and goodies, or step up to higher trim levels. If you want navigation or the optional turbodiesel engine, be prepared to fork out more than $40,000. The navigation system doesn’t come with a package. You have to step up a couple of trim levels. Oh, and it’s built like a gigantic LEGO set. You can easily swap in better suspension, wheels, and just about anything you could think of.
  • Jeep Renegade: The Jeep Renegade is the replacement for the awful Compass and Patriot. It starts off at $18,990 and goes all the way up to $26,990. While it might be the cheapest new Jeep, it’s also in Wards Auto’s 10 Best Interiors for 2015. A fully loaded Renegade won’t even come close to $40,000, which is a good incentive for value-oriented buyers. It offers class-above equipment, a very nice interior and the Trailhawk models have decent offroad capability.
  • Buick Enclave: It’s certainly not the newest three-row crossover on the market, but it’s a very good one, despite having been introduced all the way back in 2008. You can get it in base model form for $39,975. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, a rearview camera, remote start and a power liftgate. I’m speaking from experience when I say you should seriously consider it. It’s quick, quiet, and incredibly comfortable for every passenger. It has a lot of space, and gets decent fuel economy for something so large.
  • Buick Encore: Despite being tiny in size, the Encore is a pioneer in the subcompact luxury crossover market. It was also the first of its kind in the segment. It starts off at an incredibly affordable $24,990, and even fully loaded falls far short of the $40,000 mark. It’s got a quiet interior for the segment. It’s a good choice for large city dwellers who need a car, but need it to have space but be small.
  • Ford Edge: Even though it doesn’t have that luxury cache to it, the Ford Edge offers plenty of luxurious amenities. Even if you don’t want to spend more than $40,000, you can get an Edge Titanium with AWD and gadgets such as SYNC with MyFord Touch, navigation and a Sony audio system. You could also get a sparsely-optioned Edge Sport with it’s twin turbo V6 and navigation if you want more power.
  • Ford Explorer: You don’t need to get the Ford Explorer Limited to be well-equipped in one. While the Explorer starts off at $31,645 for FWD models and $33,645 for AWD XL models, your best bet is the $34,345 XLT, which has many more standard features than the XL. Getting the XLT nets you rear parking sensors, keyless entry/start and a 10-way power driver’s seat. You can also get navigation, SYNC with MyFord Touch, remote start, a nine-speaker audio system and heated front seats without coming close to $40,000.
  • Nissan Murano: The 2016 Nissan Murano has a design that certainly isn’t for everybody. It’s aggressive and daring. You can make it even more daring with vibrant paint colors. Even though it looks upscale, you don’t need to go for the range-topping Platinum model to have a well-equipped Murano. The base model Murano starts off at $30,445 with FWD and $32,045 with AWD. Both the SV and SL models offer plenty of conveniences and gadgets including navigation, NissanConnect apps, remote start and two USB ports. While an AWD Murano SV will set you back $39,435, you get a lot of good stuff with it. You get all of the standard SV features, plus Nissan’s Around View camera feature, a premium Bose audio system, leather upholstery and seats and adjustable ambient lighting. That sounds like a good buy to the adventurous, but value-oriented buyer.
  • Nissan Pathfinder: It’s no longer the rugged offroader that it used to be. It’s now more of a mall-roader. It starts off at $30,515 for FWD models and $32,205 for AWD models. The SL trim is the best out of the vast range of models, due to its standard remote start, a power liftgate and leather seats and upholstery. However, other tech goodies will be out of reach, due to the fact that they are stuck in expensive packages.
  • Hyundai Tuscon: The 2016 Tuscon is completely redesigned. In every trim, especially the Limited model, the Tuscon offers value, class-above features and a dizzying array of electronic wizardry in one incredibly stylish package. Regardless of drivetrain choice, the Tuscon Limited doesn’t even come close to $40,000. If you check each and every option box, you will have everything from a 4.2-inch TFT display to navigation to such safety features as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Hyundai has long been known to pack immense value into their SUVs. The Santa Fe Sport is no exception. It starts off at $25,845. Regardless of whether you get it with FWD or AWD, or different engines, it’s still a very good buy. You can check just about every option box and still not be close to $40,000. For anywhere from $30,000-38,000, the Santa Fe Sport will give you an Infinity Logic 7 audio system, navigation, a panoramic sunroof and a hands-free power liftgate. That sounds like a lot of value for not very much money to me.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe: The Santa Fe is just the three-row version of the Santa Fe Sport. It remains a very compelling buy in its segment. It starts off at $31,295. It comes with a host of standard features including blind spot warning, keyless entry/start and a hands-free power liftgate. Those come with the $36,545 GLS model. However, you can’t get navigation with the GLS, as that comes with the expensive Ultimate Package, which crakcs $40,000.
  • Toyota Highlander: The wildly popular Toyota Highlander is a good buy. It starts off at $30,650. The $37,870 FWD XLE and $38,935 AWD XLE models are the best buys. The XLEs come with the Entune infotainment system, which includes navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen, keyless entry/start and heated front seats thrown in for good measure. Throw in the legendary Toyota reliability and you’ve got yourself one helluva good deal.
  • Kia Sorento: Kia and Hyundai both are well-known for their value injections in every vehicle. The Sorento is the sister to the Santa Fe. The Sorento starts off at a reasonable $25,795. You can get a nicely optioned Sorento EX with either FWD or AWD, or a V6 or turbocharged four cylinder. The standard features on the EX are many, so I’ll just list a few. You get a nifty 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, a 7-inch TFT screen, an Infinity Logic 7 high-quality audio system, keyless entry/start and leather seats and upholstery.
  • Honda Pilot: The newly-released 2016 Honda Pilot looks promising to me. It’s got more space than before, better looks than before, and has more features than any other Honda SUV. It starts off at an affordable $30,875 to boot. For the best bang for the buck, go with the EX-L trim with navigation, as you will get the LaneWatch system, Honda Link with an 8-inch main screen and a power liftgate for just a tad under $40,000, even with AWD. That sounds like a good deal to me. 
  • Mazda CX-3: Talk about something that really punches far above it’s weight! It starts off at an incredibly affordable $20,840, but even fully loaded, won’t go past $30,000. The best one to get is the range-topping Grand Touring model. It has a beautiful interior filled with white/black leather/suede upholstery, an amazing infotainment system and a delightful Bose audio system. Throw in some fun driving dynamics for good measure, and you have a winner.
  • Mazda CX-5: The Mazda CX-5 is basically the sports car of the compact SUV segment. It brings goodies that were previously unobtainable to the average person into reach. These goodies include a neat infotainment system and LED headlights. A base model CX-5 starts off at $22,675. While a fully-loaded one won’t come close to $40,000, a $33,655 compact crossover is a bit pricey. But, you will get such safety aids as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Many of the CX-5’s competitors don’t even offer these gadgets. Don’t get the smaller 155 horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder (it’s a great engine), rather, go for the more powerful 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four cylinder. The smaller engine doesn’t have much of a noticeable fuel economy advantage over the bigger engine.

Those are the best SUVs and crossovers you can buy for under $40,000. They are all great choices, depending on what you are looking for. Of course, I highly recommend you test drive at least some of them before you settle on one!

I apologize for the extreme delay in posting. I’m just crawling out of the pit that is midterms.

How Porsche DNA is in Your Car

Porsche and the rear window wiper are forever linked in the annals of automotive history, and for good reason.

While rear window wipers were accessories as far back as the early 1940s, they never became commonplace for a variety of reasons that I’ll talk about in a bit.  Italy became slightly interested in them in the mid-1950s.  Ferrari installed a pair of them on a 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Europa by Pinin Farina.

Interest had picked up sufficiently that, in 1957, rear wipers made their next public appearance at the 1957 Salon de Genève on the new Lancia Flaminia Berlina, another Pinin Farina creation.  While they were highly praised for their functionality by the press, nobody quite caught onto the idea.  This should come as no surprise: outside mirrors, which greatly aid rear visibility were considered superfluous to Italians.

Eight years later, a wealthy German industrialist contacted Porsche with a request.  He wanted a wiper installed on the rear window.  Porsche set about developing a rear window wiper.

You can only imagine what other Porsche enthusiasts thought when they saw this fine gentleman cruising the boulevards with his fancy new car and it’s rear window wiper.  The factory began to receive an increasingly large number of requests for similar installations. The demand was so great that Porsche offered a dealer-installed or DIY retrofit kit. This wasn’t even enough – Porsche decided to make it a factory option in 1966.

The early rear wipers were rudimentary at best, but they did the job.  The early wiper arm pivot shafts had bushings angled inward and outward, which enabled it to be mounted to the edge of the air intake recess on the existing engine lid.

In 1967, as the rear wiper option gained massive popularity, engine lid pressing dies were slightly modified to incorporate integral mounting pieces for the rear wiper installation. This eliminated the need for the angled adapter bushings.  These were included on both sides of the engine lid to accommodate both left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive applications.

Volvo took note of Porsche’s little invention, and added one to the 145 in 1969.  The time for rear window wipers had finally arrived.

By the time the OPEC oil crisis arrived in the mid-1970s, rear wipers had become commonplace on hatchbacks, station wagons, and off-road machines like the Chevy Blazer and Ford Bronco.  These body styles were perfect applications for the rear window wiper: because of the lack of a rear deck (a trunk), a rear window is bound to collect more dirt and grime than a sedan or pickup truck’s.

Since 1965, Porsche has remained a devout follower of the rear window wiper, offering it on every single fixed-roof production car after the 911, with the exception of the 914, as it had a recessed rear window and long rear deck, which eliminated the necessity of a rear window wiper.

It doesn’t matter how old the Porsche is to make this option desirable.  It goes far beyond a functionality statement.  It’s a perfect visual metaphor of the classic Porsche essence and character that has carried through today.

You can still feel the original Porsche character today.  The 356 and 911 (through the 993 generation), with their air-cooled reliability (their engines were souped-up VW Beetle engines), rear-engine traction, fully-independent suspension with incredibly long travel, and generous ground clearance meant that these were not cars to be taken lightly.  They were not smooth-road sports cars like the Triumphs of the same era.  They were truly all-weather, go-anywhere-on-any-road cars.  This set them far apart from the other sports cars of the era, which generally had low ground clearance, borderline-at-best weather sealing, limited traction, horrifically unreliable everything, and marginal-at-best cooling systems.

It should come as no surprise to you that early Porsches were even better for all-weather capabilities than most standard sedans when the weather got yucky.  Those early Porsches don’t care about the meteorological conditions or terrain.  They will get a driver and their passenger to almost any destination in comfort.  They truly have the functionality of a Swiss Army knife.  The stark functionality of a rear window wiper expresses this.

Almost every Porsche that went rallying was fitted with a rear window wiper until high-speed rallying and weight reduction made them somewhat obsolete.  Anybody who has ever gone rallying or bombing up and down a fire road knows just how important a rear window wiper is, especially after a big slide.

Most Ferraris, Jaguars, and Corvettes are taken out when the weather is nice.  It’s always been that way.  Porsche owners have never been afraid of taking their Porsche out when it’s rainy or snowing.  A rear window wiper, in addition to it’s functionality, signals to the casual observer that they are gazing upon a car that earns it’s keep.  While it’s great to have a car that wins trophies, how often is that car driven?

To the uninitiated Porsche enthusiast, a rear window wiper would seemingly ruin the looks of the car.  Let me explain it this way: a Porsche with a rear window wiper is like seeing Sean Connery as James Bond in black tie slipping a steel Rolex Submariner onto his wrist.  It’s a seemingly incongruous functional instrument that seems out of place, but it hints at capabilities at his beck and call.

1955 Ferrari 250 GT Europa

 

1957 Lancia Flaminia Berlina

1965 Porsche 911

1967 Porsche 911

 

1969 Volvo 145

 

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

1976 Chevy Blazer

 

Porsche 914-6

James Bond

The 12 Stunning Detroit International Auto Show Debuts!

The Detroit International Auto Show always has a lot of cool new debuts.  As one might expect, a LOT of new American metal debuts there.  But, foreign cars are also starting to be debuted at Detroit more and more.  Enjoy my top 12 debuts

  1. 2015 Ford F150:  With the majority of the 2015 Ford F150 made out of aluminum, the 2015 Ford F150 lost almost 700 pounds.  In terms of design, Ford clearly heard the raving about the Atlas Concept.  The 2015 F150 looks almost exactly like the Atlas!  In terms of engines, Ford’s taken the liberty of making smaller, more powerful engines the norm for the F150.  The base engine is a 3.5-liter V6 (the same one residing under the hood of the Explorer).  Ford also dropped the thirsty 6.2-liter V8 from the lineup.  The only available V8 is the splendid 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 shared with the Mustang.  The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 stays, but the EcoBoost has a smaller EcoBoost sister engine.  The smaller EcoBoost engine displaces a seemingly small 2.7 liters, yet makes as much power as the outgoing 3.7-liter V6.  All four engines will be mated to Ford’s six-speed automatic, but don’t be surprised to see the 10-speed automatic being co-developed with GM come into the mix sometime soon.  I can’t wait to see the 2015 F150 in person!
  2. 2015 Chrysler 200:  Chrysler’s been hit hard the last five or six years.  First, it’s bankruptcy.  Then, it’s being bought out completely by Fiat, then it’s just about every model coming out of the Auburn Hills factory being blasted with hate mail from every single automotive magazine in the U.S.  Chrysler’s trying to make up that image.  The design of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is simply stunning.  Based on the Dodge Dart’s platform, the 2015 Chrysler 200 will be instantly recognizable to anybody who has seen a 2013 Dodge Dart.  Chrysler’s trying to make the 200 easier to live with.  It’s got standard pass-through storage, better ergonomics, and most things in the cabin are electronic.  The 9-speed automatic that is used in the Jeep Cherokee will be standard across the line.  A 2.4-liter TigerShark 4-cylinder engine borrowed from the Dodge Dart is standard.  The step-up engine is a 295-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6.  I don’t know about you, but Chrysler just might be able to make an extremely competitive car in an extremely competitive segment.
  3. 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe:  Cadillac’s seen a massive resurgence in past years.  The 2008 CTS won Motor Trend’s 2008 Car of the Year trophy, and the 2013 ATS and 2014 CTS have both been praised for their good looks and fun-to-drive factors.  Just about everything is shared with the ATS sedan.  That’s a good thing.  The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine has 295-lb-ft of torque available at 3000 RPM.  Amazingly, the ATS coupe is said to weigh just 45 more pounds than the ATS sedan.  Cadillac’s even partnered with AT&T, Verizon, and T Mobile to ensure that the ATS Coupe has 4G LTE hotspot connectivity.
  4. 2015 BMW M3/M4:  BMW’s become obsessed with turbocharged engines.  Not only do they offer more performance, but they reduce weight and give better fuel economy.  The 2015 M3/M4 have a twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine that makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 425 horsepower.  The standard transmission is a six-speed manual (score for the purists), and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission borrowed from the M5 is optional.  BMW says that they cut 175 pounds compared to the E90 generation M3, so the 2015 M3/M4 should weigh about as much as an E46 M3.  The M3/M4 look extremely aggressive.  The front ends have massive air intakes, a bulging power-rise hood, and a wider front and rear track compared to the standard 3/4 Series models.
  5. 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZO6:  The 2015 ZO6 makes 625 horsepower (13 less than the ZR-1), and it has an 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts faster than a Porsche PDK transmission.  Chevy’s offering THREE aerodynamics packages borrowed from the C7.R race car, and it has the seven-speed manual transmission from the regular Stingray standard.  GM says that the 2015 ZO6 shattered course records at the Milford proving grounds on its FIRST time at the track!
  6. 2015 Ford Mustang:  Since I’ve already covered the 2015 Ford Mustang, I won’t spend too terribly much time on the 2015 Mustang.  Ford won’t answer many questions about the 2015 Mustang, which means that they’re still working on it.  Whatever.  It looks great, and I expect it to handle much better, as it’s been redesigned from the ground up!
  7. 2014 Porsche 911 Targa:  Finally, Porsche’s come out with the return of the iconic 911 Targa.  The 911 Targa doesn’t have the sliding top like previous Targas.  The Porsche 911 Targa is sure to bring back fond memories for many.  Because it’s a Porsche, expect to be set back at least $100,000 for a Targa 4S.  I can’t wait to see the 2014 911 Targa in person!
  8. 2015 Subaru Impreza WRX STI:  Subaru has made it’s reputation for making pocket rockets.  The 2015 WRX gave some hope for enthusiasts.  It’s equally at home rocketing down a gravel road or zooming around a track.  The STI improves on that.  It makes 305 horsepower (it uses the same engine as the previous generation), but it looks a whole lot better than the previous generation.  It looks more like a DTM race car combined with a WRC rally car.  Subie won’t tell ANYBODY how much the STI will weigh.  That’s a shame, because previous Subaru WRX STI’s have been plump.
  9. Kia GT4 Stinger Concept:  I think that I can safely agree with everybody here that Kia seriously needs to stop making amazing-looking concept cars until it decides to build them.  The GT4 Stinger has four seats, a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual.  Naturally, one’s mind drifts towards the Subaru BR-Z and Scion FR-S, the natural competitors to the GT4 Stinger.  Before Kia shoves this car into some secret bunker at the 38th Parallel, they need to build this car.  The engine is essentially a depowered version of the 400-horsepower engine used in the Pirelli World Challenge Optimas.  Kia, are you reading my thoughts?  If you are, BUILD THIS CAR!
  10. Toyota FT-1 Concept:  Toyota’s trying to appeal to enthusiasts.  The last car that did that?  The Supra.  Toyota’s FT-1 looks stunning, and it’s even available in Gran Turismo 6!  Toyota won’t tell what’s under the hood.  We all know that the Supra engine is dead.  Lexus is experimenting with high-powered 5.0-liter V8s in the IS F, and I could easily see the IS F’s engine under the hood of this stunning concept.  Even if Toyota doesn’t build this car, it still shows what future Toyota styling might look like.
  11. Volvo XC Concept Coupe:  Volvo’s made it’s living with industry-leading safety advances, but safety doesn’t sell millions of cars.  So, Volvo’s started cranking out extremely promising concept cars.  Considering that Plug-in Hybrid is etched into the fenders, it’s obvious that the XC Concept Coupe is definitely a hybrid.  Volvo stresses the fact that the XC Concept Coupe has “rich XC Heritage.”  Considering Volvo’s been making SUV’s since 1997, one could agree that the XC Concept Coupe would look stellar as a shooting brake.  
  12. Audi A8 L Security:  Some fullsize  luxury sedan buyers want theirs to be bulletproof.  Audi’s joined the fight against gunfight victims with the A8 L Security.  The A8 L Security is beefed up to an extreme.  It takes 450 man-hours to make all of the bulletproof components for the A8 L Security.  It is able to withstand sub-caliber machine gun fire, and buyers can even opt for an emergency exit system that blows the hinges off the doors, as well as a fire suppression system and an emergency fresh-air system.  The extra weight will substantially hamper performance, but the driver and passengers can get out of a sticky situation safer.

On a separate note, I have to go in for surgery next week.  During my time in the hospital, I will not have access to a computer, and I probably won’t be up to publishing anyways!  I don’t know how long I will be out for, but keep yourselves entertained with the Motor Trend Youtube Channel!  My favorite show is Roadkill.  I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do.  You can start watching the videos now at http://www.youtube.com/user/MotorTrend

Audi’s Allroad is Back and Hungry!

 

Just six years ago, any potential buyer for a family-friendly Audi station wagon could choose between the:  A4 Avant (wagon in German), A6 Avant, or the A6-based Allroad.  The Allroad was slightly higher than the A4 and A6 Avant’s, and was more fun to drive (but notoriously unreliable).

Determined NOT to let Volvo get out of sight, Audi has re-introduced the Allroad.  This time, it is based on the very reliable A4 platform.  Even though the A4 is a smaller car than the A6, the Allroad is actually a bit bigger than the older model.  It’s engine is much less powerful than the mighty 250 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V6.  The 300 horsepower, 280 lb-ft of torque V8 is still much more powerful than the much more fuel-efficient 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder that pumps out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

Also, the ride-height-adjustable air suspension isn’t available on the new model.  But, Audi has raised the A4-based Allroad 1.5 inches, compared with the normal A4 Avant.  Plus, it borrows the A5 coupe/convertible’s one-inch wider track, front and rear.  To keep the new Allroad competitive, Audi changed the tire size from a 245/40/18 to a 245/45/18.  You can still get the 245/40/18’s on optional 19-inch wheels.  Audi predicts most buyers will stick with the 245/45/18’s.  Audi has also changed the final driv ratio to compensate for the tall tires.

Even though those various mechanical bits are very exciting, Audi has to protect them.  So, stainless-steel skidplates come standard on the Allroad.  There’s also enough plastic cladding around both the bumpers to make a Tupperware jealous.  For those who don’t want to look like their car belongs to yet another Bear Grylls fan, Audi will paint all that plastic cladding body color for just $1,000 (it’s worth it to look rugged on the Allroad…)!

Inside the Allroad, the interior is pretty much the same as the outgoing A4.  But, some materials have been upgraded.  The electronics are state-of-the-art.  The MMI navigation and infotainment system can be had with a T-Mobile SIM card that wirelessly connects to Google Maps.  This will add $15 to $30 to your monthly payment, but the graphics and navigation are on par with the high-end private jets.  This little SIM card also allows for weather information, points of interest, and a few other features.  It’s well worth that extra money.

The Audi Allroad really doesn’t have much competition.  It’s only real competition is the Volvo XC70, which Motor Trend last tested way back in 2008.  The 235-horsepower, inline-six cylinder powered Volvo may look WAY cheaper on paper, but it doesn’t come with:  all-wheel-drive, navigation, leather interior, sunroof, and power seats (all of which are standard on the $40,900 Audi), you’ve added almost SEVEN THOUSAND dollars to the Volvo’s $33,825 base price.  Now, the Audi seems like a pretty good deal…

Even though the Allroad is bigger than the old model, it doesn’t feel like it inside.  Audi has always been in the top five for safety, and the Allroad is no exception.  All of its safety equipment seems to take away a lot of interior space.  While there isn’t much room in the back seat, you can go for a few hundred miles sitting on very comfortable seats, knowing that all the airbags in the back will protect you from death.  In comparison, the Volvo is bigger, being about five inches longer and wider.  But, the Volvo has about 350 pounds on the Audi (which isn’t a lightweight either).

At Motor Trend‘s test track, the whole test crew was impressed at how fast the chunky (ish) Audi is.  The Quattro all-wheel-drive system puts down all of those 258 lb-ft of torque with a lot of ease.  Since the Allroad is more focused towards touring, it doesn’t have the rear-wheel biased feel as the A4 Avant.  Instead, the center differential of the Quattro all-wheel-drive system has a 50/50% torque distribution.  Surprisingly, there is very little brake dive and body role in the Allroad.  The electro-mechanical steering may be a bit light feeling, but responds to a command almost instantly.  Michael Febbo of Motor Trend would like to see Audi Drive Select become an option on the Allroad someday.  Also, an Allroad S with the supercharged 3.0 liter V6 from the S4 would be nice.

But, the Allroad is still a pretty quick station wagon. 0-60 in 6.5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it is for a station wagon.  The Volvo XC70 hits 60 in a leisurely 8.9 seconds. In the quarter mile, the chunky Swede falls far behind, with a run of 16.7 seconds at 87.9 miles per hour.  The Audi will do the quarter mile in 15 seconds flat at 92.4 miles per hour.  That’s pretty fast for a station wagon.

The Allroad will go just about 90% of the places a CUV (compact utility vehicle) will go.  That’s pretty good for a station wagon.  It also handles like a station wagon (still pretty fu n to drive), looks like a CUV, and is a good car.  Overall, the Allroad is a good car for a family of four who is outdoorsy and needs some four-wheel-drive capability, without having to sacrifice the fuel economy and sport touring gains of a station wagon.  I’d recommend it to almost anybody in the market for a $40,000 station wagon.  Also, it’s a good compromise for automotive journalists who will miss the two station wagons and one hatchback option.  As I said before, it’s a great car.  How about this as a replacement to the old family car?