Behind the Wheel

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

Experience the Lincoln Black Label Program

  
Lincoln takes luxury to the extreme with the Black Label Program. On select Lincoln vehicles, customers will enjoy a concerige service with premium level amenities. The primary benifits include having a specialist come to your home or office to order the car, VIP service at participating dealerships, and an exclusive culinary menu at select fine dinning resturants. Lincoln’s Black Lable program is the “Black Card” of the automotive industry. In addition to the amenities, Linoln offers an assortment of inteior themes that are exclusively available to Black Label buyers: Oasis, Center Stage, Modern Hertitage, Indulgence, Throughbred, and The Muse. These themes add premium woods, extra soft leathers, and an alcantra headliner. It turns the average luxury SUV into a ulta-luxury SUV.

The Lincoln Navigator: Classy, Luxurious, and Practical.


The Navigator is Lincoln’s flagship vehicle. It represents old school luxury, something most other automotive manufacturers have lost. 

The 2015 model year is a refresh of the third generation Navigator. The design isn’t overpowering, it’s not complex, and it’s not boastful; its elegant and refined.


The interior of the 2015 Lincoln Navigator is inviting. It is like walking into your living room. The center console isn’t over encumbered by a million buttons, each one is intelligently placed so you can enjoy the drive without distractions. 

  
The leather seats are supple and offer good backsupport. The driver and passangers are surrounded by real wood trim, which sets this vehicle apart from many of its other premium competitiors. 

  
Multiple entertainment options are available, including a premium audio infotainment system with Microsoft Sync. The system is absolutly incredible! Voice commands allow you to control nearly every fuction of the vehicle, including the radio, navigation and climate controls.

  
This is a solidly built first class suite on wheels, but it is also flexible. The third row folds flat with the touch of a button. Now you are able to fit extra cargo, such as a couch from the furniture store. The versitility of the 2015 Lincoln Navigator make it a solid choice for drivers with a large family: it is roomy, luxurious, and reasonably priced at $61,000.

Contact your local Linoln dealer for more information on the 2015 Lincoln Navigator.

First Drive: The 2016 Hyundai Tucson

 
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson has big shoes to fill… The 2015 Tucson was the “highest ranked small SUV by JB Power.

At first glance of the upcoming Hyundai Tucson, I thought that the styling resembled a german luxury compact SUV. Then, when I got behind the wheel, my impression changed to an American compact SUV. Turns out, both observations were correct…. The exterior of the 2016 Tucson was designed by Hyundai’s German design team, and the exterior was designed by the American design.

After a wonderful dinner with Hyundai’s product manager, I learned that this is common practice for Hyundai. The American, German, and Korean design teams faceoff to design each new vehicle concept.

  

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a completely new compact SUV. In addition to a new exterior and interior, a new drivetrain is available. The 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo provides ample power and great fuel economy at 33 mpg on the highway.

I was impressed with Hyundai’s use of a dual-clutch transmission in the Tucson. Dual-clutch transmissions are more expensive to build, but they offer the performance and economy benefits of a manual transmission with the ease of use of a traditional automatic.

  
The interior of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson feels solid. Long smooth arches gives the dash and center consol an almost futisric look. The design is consistent with most of Hyundia’s other vehicles. Premium options include ventalated leather seats, as well as, a panoramic sunroof.

I quite surprise with how spacious the cabin felt for a compact SUV. Both the front and backseat felt cozy. Most passangers will have plenty of leg room.

Hyundai was inovative with the cargo area on the 2016 Tucson. Suprisenly, it offers more cargo volumn than many mid-size or large SUVs – more than the Porsche Cayanne.

Technology wise, the new Hyundai Tucson is available with all of the usual bells and whistles: 8″ touchscreen display, Bluetooth, navigation, and a backup camera. There is only one USB port, which is a disappointment. Hyundai makes up for it with multiple power plugs in the vehicle.

  
This compact SUV is a bargain with a starting price of $22,000. It feels solid, looks great, and practical.

For more information on the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, contact your local dealer or click here to visit Hyundai’s website.

A week with the Rolls-Royce Wraith

 
Since 1907, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars have been braking the mould of engineering and craftmanship. Their pedigree places them as one of the most iconic brands in the world. Renowned for luxury, but also with a history for performance. In the 1930’s, Rolls-Royce ruled the land, air, and sea – Having held simultaneous speed records for all three challenges. 80 years later, we are under a new era for Rolls-Royce. The brand is owned by BMW, but the company continues its tradition of making “the world’s best automobiles.”

When I got a phone call that Rolls-Royce was sending me a Wraith for a week, I thought I was dreaming. The Wraith is Rolls-Royce’s most powerful production car ever built.

  

Under the hood is a monsterous 624 horsepower V12 engine. The motor is paired with a satilite aided transmission – you heard right, satilite – the transmission uses GPS to know the road ahead. If you are driving the car hard and approaching a turn, the Rolls-Royce Wraith will automatically downshift for you before you get into the turn… The car thinks for you.

At a curb rate of over 5,000 pounds, most people would think this SUV sized coupe wouldn’t be quick off of the line… but they’re are wrong. The Wraith can do zero to sixty in 4.4 seconds. That is faster than the Porsche 911!

  

Of course the best part of the Rolls-Royce Wraith is its luxurious interior. The seats, dash, and doors are wrapped in bull’s leather. Most other manufactures use cow leather, because it is cheaper. Cow’s leather stretches overtime and causes creases. Rolls-Royce only uses bull’s leather, because bull’s leather is stronger and doesn’t stretch. The vehicle I drove was a bespoke model, which means that it uses custom materials, and it makes it a one-of-a-kind car. This beauty featured ostrich leather on the center consol, 1″ lambs wool floormats, and teak wood trim on the doors. The doors on Rolls-Royce are particularly special, because they are the suicide doors (notice the photo at the very top). The doors open from the front, which it make it easier to get in and out of the car. But, unless you have someone to close the door for you, it is extremely difficult to close the door for yourself. Rolls-Royce has a solution… motorized a doors! With the push of a button, your door closes for you.

  
Another opulent feature of the Rolls-Royce Wraith is the night sky headliner. 1,340 LEDs re-create your favorite constellation in the night sky.

The whole point in owning a Rolls-Royce is how refined it gets you from point A to point B. Driving the Wraith is like “floating on a cloud.” You don’t feel the bumps in the road, you don’t hear the wind noise, and you don’t realize that you are moving until you look out of the window. The Wraith is nearly silent, even at highway speeds. I caught myself going faster than I had intended on multiple occasions. The car is a joy to cruise in – I could drive it for hours up and down A1A or 95. It is by far the best Rolls-Royce to drive yourself in.

I will admit, being a 28 year old guy, I felt a little weird driving a $400,000 car for a week. One of my friend’s commented that it looks like I stole Dad’s car… The Rolls-Royce Wraith draws a lot of attention. I had people ask me all sorts of questions: How can someone so young afford such a nice car? Can you give me money? Are you a celebrity? The Wraith is definitely over the top! It makes a statement and sets you apart from all of the other drivers on the road.

  
A Rolls-Royce wouldn’t be complete with out its mascot, the Spirit of Ectasy. She pops out of the grill when the car is turned on; and at night, she lit with brilliant white LEDs for all of the world to see. 

Let’s talk about the Pros and Cons of driving a Rolls-Royce…

Pros: 1) You get a lot of attention. 2) You know you are driving the world’s best luxury car. 3) The seats and ride are so comfortable, you feel refreshed getting out of the car after a long trip.

Cons: 1) You get a lot of attention. 2) You need to be carful where you park – theives like to steal the hood ornament, fans like to take pictures with the car, and envious drivers might try to key the car.

  
There is no question that the 2015 Rolls-Royce rules the road. Its superior ride, beautiful design, and vast number of factory customizations makes it the most luxurious car money can buy.

So the question is, is the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith worth the $400,000 (with options) price tag? I say yes!

Contact your local Rolls-Royce dealer for more information or click here to visit Rolls-Royce’s website.

Learn From The Best At The Land Rover Experience Driving School

 
I recently took a 2,000+ mile road trip in my Porsche (You may have seen the photos on Twitter). From Ft Lauderdale to the Smokie Mountains, to the Biltmore Esate in Asheville, to Charleston, I enjoyed top down driving and scenic roads. The highlight of my adventure was visiting the Biltmore Estate. It is famous for being the largest home in the USA, but what most peole don’t know is that it is also the proving grounds for Land Rover’s world renowned off-road academy.

If you are an off-road enthusiast – by any means – then the Land Rover Experience Driving School should be on your bucket list. When I arived, I expected to meet a Land Rover representative who was going to try to sell me on why the new Range Rover is the “best off-road vehicle ever created.” Instead, I was introduced to a thrill seeking off-road proffessional intstructor. His terrain expereince included everything from rock deserts to arttic mountain climbs.  

The school doesn’t teach out to drive a Land Rover with sophisticated technology; it teaches you how to properly drive an off-road vehicle. The first thing my instructor did was to take me to an open field and show me the capability lines on the 2015 Range Rover – how steep of a hill can it climb or go over without bottoming out. By understanding the capability lines of our vehicle, you can determin the best route to take. Next we discussed how to properly steer the vehcile while off-roading. Normal steering positions are thrown out the window, because you never want to cross your arms. If the airbag goes off and your arms are crossed while making a sharp turn, then your hand will hit you in the face. Instead, you want to constantly reposition your hands towards the bottom of the steering wheel. We went on to discuss power managment and hill decent (without hill decent control active). These basis techniques should be applied no matter what type of vehicle you are driving, whether it be a $24,000 Jeep Wrangler or $150,000 Range Rover Autobiography.

 

After a couple hours with all of the technology off, my instructor taught me how to drive with the technoogy on. “Technology doesn’t replace technique,” said my instructor. He was right. The techniques I learned with the technology off made me a better off-road driver. I know how to better control my vehicle over difficult terain, how to navigate a tight trail without scratching my vehicle, and how to judge my vehicles limmitations without testing them.

 Following an afternoon of intense training, my driving instructor gave me a graduation gift… A private tour of the US Land Rover Heritage Collection! While it may look like a garage full of old Land Rovers, this collection is unique. It contains one the first Land Rovers ever built, as well as, two Land Rovers that drove arround the world. All of the Land Rovers in the collection are in working order and (somewhat) regularly hit the trails, when they are not on display.

Visit the Land Rover Expereince Driving School website for more information or ask me a question about it on Twitter.

The Lexus LS460 Is Elegant And Refined.

Lexus’ flagship vehicle, the LS460 is one of the most elegant vehicles you can buy for under $75,000. The exterior is stately, with a long body and a long front fascia. It is a reminder of one of the golden eras of automotive, when large cars ruled the road. Drivers of the Lexus LS460 sedan can lean back and enjoy the road with the peace of mind that they are driving a very reliable, safe, and comfortable vehicle. With its smooth ride, you feel calm and relax sitting behind the wheel.

The interior of the Lexus LS460 is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and comfort. The seats, doors and armrests are wrapped in soft leathers. When I say soft, I mean ultra soft – as soft as the leather on a Rolls Royce. Because of the size of the LS460, you have plent of room stretch out: The seats are really wide, you have a large armrest, and ampile headroom. It is like sitting on your living room sofa! The seats are both heated and cooled. If you can’t decide which setting to you, the Lexus LS460 is the first car I have seen with an auto mode. The seats will automatically heat or cool based on the car’s climate control settings, which is super convenient for when it is hot during the day and cold during the night.

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Backseat passangers will also enjoy unusually large accommodations. The backseat has just as much legroom as the front – so even the tallest gentlemen will be happy riding in back.

The Lexus LS460 also makes create use of technology inside the vehicle. The Lexus Enform infotainment system paired with the Mark Levinson 19-speaker sound system delivers a best-in-class entertainment experience – explosive sound and the ability to access AM/FM Radio, Internet Radio, Satellite Radio, and audio from your phone via bluetooth. A subtle, but noteworthy feature of the infotainment system is the use of low-power bluetooth. This allows your phone to go into a low-power mode when not in use, and will significantly increase your battery life.

The Lexus LS460 is available with a number of high-tech safety features: A blind spot monitor with cross traffic detection helps while on the highway, but also when backing out of a parking space. A pre-collission system with all speed dynamic radar cruise control is available – The system is engineered to detect imminent frontal collisions and automatically prepare brake assist. Lane Keep Assist uses a camera to monitor lane markings, and will warn you if you start to drift. If you don’t adjust the steering wheel, Lane Keep Assist will take preventive measures and steer you back into your lane.

Just because the Lexus LS460 is a big luxury sedan, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring to drive! The sedan I tested featured the F-Sport Package, which adds a limited-split rear differential, 19 inch alloy wheels with Brembo Brakes, and an adjustable air suspension system. Under the hood is 4.6L V8 that produces 386hp. It’s enough power to propel the car from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds – That’s as fast as the new Porsche Cayman!

Lexus-LogoContact your local Lexus dealer for more information on the 2015 Lexus LS460 or click here to visit Lexus’ website.

First Drive: 2016 Nissan Maxima

 
The 2016 Nissan Maxima comes from a long line of mid-sized cars from Nissan, but this one is different. This is the first Maxima that has me saying wow!

  

The exterior styling is beautiful and a 300 horsepower motor is impressive, but what really has me excited is the interior. The available quilted leather seats make you take a double-take on Nissan badge in front. They are absolutely beautiful. I have seen quilted leather seats in a diamond pattern before on Ferrari, but never on a Japanese car, or for that matter on a non-luxury brand. To back it up is real aluminum or wood trim on the doors and dash.

  

Nissan calls the 2016 Maxima a four-door sports car. I appreciate the association, because this car was designed to be both fun and luxurious. The car rides smoothly and is quite while you are putting around town. But as soon as you give it a little gas, the engine starts to breath, and you can hear a nice rumble through the exhaust. Like I mentioned before, the 2016 Nissan Maxima comes with 300 horsepower motor (standard). The engine is paired with a Continuous Varible Transmission, which isn’t my favorite, but this CVT does a fantastic job. It offers a quick response and does a great job of simulating a traditional automatic gearbox. The paddle shifters give you greater control and adds a little fun to the driving experience.
Nissan had an independent testing program compare the 2016 Nissan Maxima on the race track with the BMW 3 series and Audi A4… Guess which car has the fastest lap, the Nissan.

If you are looking for a sporty sedan that is also a great value, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is your car. With such style, performance and luxury, I am surprise this car doesn’t have an Infiniti badge on it!

You have “arrived” in the 2015 Cadillac Escalade

 
Cadillac is amongst the oldest automotive brands in the world. Over the past 113 years, Cadillac has established itself as the premier American luxury automobile manufacture. The 2015 Cadillac Escalade continues that tradition with a new modern design. More aggressive lines and a new front fascia give the new  Escalade a slick look.

I had the pleasure of driving the 2015 Cadillac Escalade for a week in South Florida. The SUV is a thing of beauty: its big, powerful, and ultra luxurious.

Despite its massive size, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade was easy to drive. The full-size SUV offers good visibility and a fairly tight turning radius. The ride quality it great and the steering is soft, so driving the Escalade isn’t fatiguing. A benefit of driving such a large vehicle is that most drivers are unusually polite – I can see why the driver of a Maita or small Toyota might be intimaded. The 2015 Escalade is a big and powerful vehicle.

  

While the outside of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade might appear intimidating, the interior is inviting. The seats, doors, and dash are wrapped in ultra-smooth leather. You will find real wood trim throughout the cabin, as well as, a alcantara headliner. The high quality materials remind me of what you might find on a corporate jet.

The new Cadillac Escalade is loaded with electronics. OnStar and Cue offer a high quality infotainment system, complete with premium audio and a four screen BlueRay player.

  
You can seat 7 people comfortably in the Escalade: two in front, two in the middle, and three in back. All seven passangers have plenty of legroom, AC vents, and are easily able to see the TV screens. It is perfect for the modern family – I tested is with my friend and his kids; everyone was happy (and quite) after an hour long car ride.

Because of the premium materials used and level of comfort, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade should get an award for best-in-class interior… It’s exquisite!

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade, with its sleek design and supple interior, make the perfect luxury SUV for large families and those who like to drive big cars.

For more information, visit your local Cadillac dealer or click here to visit Cadillac’s website.

The BMW M3 is a powerhouse!

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The 2015 BMW M3 is a compact luxury on steroids; every thing gets enhanced over the 3-Series: A more powerful engine with nearly 250 more horsepower, bigger brakes, stiffer suspension, and a louder exhaust.

One thing you will also notice right away, is that the new BMW M3 is a sedan. Traditionally (prior to 2014) the M3 was a four passenger coupe. In 2014 BMW transitioned its model system: Odd numbers are sedans / wagons and even numbers are coupes / convertibles (both two-doors and four-doors). Adding M performance to the new 3-series sedan was a really smart decision. It offers buyers who want a true sports car, but need a backseat and four doors. The only other four door sports car that comes to mind is the Porsche Panamera, but its longer wheelbase and weight means that it wouldn’t be as agile as the M3 on the racetrack.

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Under the hood of the 2015 BMW M3 is twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that makes 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It is also an update over the previous generation. Prior M3s offered a 4.0L V8 that produced 414 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This new six-cylinder may be smaller, but it is a lot faster! 2015 BMW M3 goes 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds. That is faster than the current Audi R8, Porsche 911 and Alfa Romeo 4C. But lets not forget, this is a four-passenger with four doors.

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The 2015 BMW M3 I tested had all of the performance bells and whistles, including BMW’s M Carbon-Ceramic Brakes. The package improves brake performance under high temperatures and reduces the overall vehicle weight by 42 pounds; it’s exactly what you need for the racetrack. The M3 with the M Carbon-Ceramic Brakes package delivers incredible stopping power when it is dry – it is the quickest stopping vehicle I have ever driven – but be really careful in the rain. On the fifth day of testing the M3, a nice rain shower came through town and I quickly realized that stopping performance went from amazing to poor. It wasn’t the tires, the rain had cooled the rotors and pads, which reduced the effectiveness of the brakes. It also caused them to squeal often… but as soon as the rain passed, the brakes went back to normal and delivered impressive performance.

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“Lift is too short to drive boring cars.” I don’t remember who said it, but they were right. The joy of driving the 2015 BMW M3 is enhanced if you get the 6-speed manual – In my opinion, it is one of the best modern day manual transmissions you can buy. The gearbox shifts easily and the clutch is stiff enough so you easily know when it catches, but not so stiff that it wears your foot out. The best part of BMW’s new manual transmission is active rev-matching. No more heal-to-toe downshifting! As soon as you place the car into gear, the RPMs will rise to the appropriate speed. So all you have to do is let the clutch out.

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It was really hard to say good bye to the 2015 BMW M3. It was fun to drive, super quick, very nimble, and it comfortably fit myself and three friends… It is the perfect four-door sports car.

BMW_logoFor more information on the 2015 BMW M3, contact your local dealer or click here to visit BMW’s website.

 

The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the best cars I have ever driven.

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The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is striking… It has got seductive Italian curves and a Ferrari-like exhaust note. I drove the car everyday for a week, and every time I got behind the wheel, I had someone ask me about the car. Six out of the seven days with the car, I had fellow motorist roll down their window and compliment me on the car. Most admirers hadn’t seen the car before, but knew the brand. One admirer thought it was a Ferrari, which isn’t that far off… The Alfa Romeo 4C comes from the Fiat-Chrystler family, which includes Ferrari.

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Alfa Romeo comes from a long tradition of using cutting edge technology to achieve engineering excellence. The 4C is no exception. It’s mid-engine design give it a perfect 50/50 balance. It’s light weight carbon-fiber tub places drivers low to the ground and lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity. Very few vehicles can match the handling of the Porsche Boxster GTS and the new Mazda Miata, but the Alfa Romeo 4C could run circles around them.

The Alfa Romeo 4C comes with robust powertrain, a 237hp twin-turbo 4-cylinder motor paired with a super responsive dual-clutch transmission. But the real kicker is that this little monster weighs less than 2,500 pounds. All this combined, gives the 4C a 0 to 60 time of 4.1 seconds. Wow! Fun Fact: The US version is nearly 350 pounds heavier than its European counterpart, due to US safety regulations. In terms of a stock sports car, this is probably one of the safest cars you can buy. The carbon fiber tub acts like a 360-degree shield to protect occupants, and the vehicle offers a concealed roll bar (just in case you flip it over).

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When the first reviews of the Alfa Romeo 4C came out, many journalists criticized the 4C’s interior or lack there of. I don’t know which trim level they were driving, but the vehicle I tested was nice really. The center console was made of hard plastic, but the other premium materials more than made up for it: a smooth leather dash, microfiber seat inserts, and beautiful red stitching on the seats, doors and dash. The exposed carbon fiber tub reminds drivers that you are behind the wheel of a car that is engineered for performance. Fair warning: the seats are super thin and a little uncomfortable. The car also doesn’t have power steering. But that is a good thing, because it keeps the weight down.

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With its heritage, radical design, and mid-engine layout, most passer-by-ers would think you are driving a $200,000 super car – it even has a engine preview window like on the Ferrari 458 Italia and on most Lamborghini’s – but the 4C isn’t a $200,000 car, its not even a $100,000 car! The Alfa Romeo 4C starts at $53,000. You get the thrill and attention of a Ferrari for a 1/5 of the price. Finally an Italian exotic that doesn’t break the bank!

I love everything about this car. The way it looks, the way it sounds, and most importantly, the way it drives. It drives like a proper sports car should. It is low to the ground, rough riding and you can feel every bump. The Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the best cars I have ever driven.

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For more information on the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, visit your local dealer or click here to visit the Alfa Romeo website.