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All-Wheel-Drive vs Four-Wheel-Drive: Know the Difference


Four-wheel-drive used to be synonymous with mullets off-roading in the minds of most consumers. Like many buzz-worthy specs originally developed for enthusiasts and professionals, though, some variant of the general principle was soon rushed into vehicles of all stripes by manufacturers. It’s a shift muddin’ diehards still cuss about over tallboys at dusk, but there’s no denying that a new generation of sure-footed cars with better handling in tricky conditions has benefited drivers everywhere.

Today, finding the perfect match between driving ability, fuel consumption and price first requires a honest evaluation of your own motoring needs. With that soul-searching behind you, understanding the differences between various four-wheel-drive (4WD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) offerings (and everything in between) will make buying your next ride that much easier.

Know Your Terms

Loosely speaking (in automotive terms), torque is the twisting force produced by a car’s engine. Torque is multiplied and split up between wheels by various gears in the transmission and differentials, which send torque from the driveshaft or transmission to the drive wheels. Applying torque to the wheels is what moves your car from A to B; granted, there’s a force — a.k.a. friction — that prevents your tires from simply slipping along the road. That last bit is important because it illustrates the relationship between friction, traction and torque. Friction is required for traction, and traction is required to harness torque. The most powerful engine in the world won’t move you an inch if your tires lack traction. Wheel slip results when the torque applied to a tire exceeds its available traction (often, at red-light drag races).

Traction control is one innovation that has helped limit tire slip in modern vehicles — even the two-wheel-drive variety. This technology leverages the same sensors used by anti-lock braking systems to measure wheel speed and determine whether any wheel under power has lost traction. Remember, if the amount of torque sent to a wheel exceeds the friction it has with the road, it’ll slip. By braking select wheels when slipping is detected, these systems can limit the amount of torque sent to a wheel and reduce wheel slip in the process. In certain cases, reducing engine power to slipping wheels is also required to get things under control. Traction control systems are unquestionably beneficial, but it’s important to remember that they only work to prevent wheels from spinning and can’t actually increase traction. That’s where 4WD and AWD come in.

Open Differentials
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Before diving into the benefits of pushing power to all four wheels of a vehicle, it’s important to first understand how the two-wheel-drive systems found on most cars work and where they fall short. When a vehicle is in motion, its wheels rotate at different speeds when making turns. This is because the inside wheels travel a shorter distance during a turn than the outside wheels. The front wheels and back wheels likewise travel at different distances and speeds in turns. This simple fact of physics poses a problem for wheels under power from the engine, since the left and right wheels are linked together by an axle so that the car’s engine and transmission can turn both together. A differential is a type of gearbox found on the front and rear axles that deals with this issue by supplying power to a set of wheels while still allowing them to rotate at different speeds.

The differential found on basic two-wheel-drive vehicles is known as an “open differential,” and it distributes power across both wheels following “a path of least resistance”. This design is highly effective on typical surfaces like dry pavement, but it can result in real problems on poorer road conditions. For example, if one wheel on an axle hits a patch of ice while the other remains on dry pavement, an open differential will direct all available power down the path of least resistance, which in this scenario is the wheel with the least amount of traction. The additional torque applied to this wheel results in wheel slippage. Getting moving in these cases involves a sore back until both wheels on the axle gain traction again.

Part-Time 4WD

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Though the name might seem counterintuitive, Part-Time 4WD is a feature found primarily on SUVs and trucks designed to handle demanding off-road environments. Unlike Full-Time 4WD or some all-wheel-drive solutions, these systems allow drivers to normally operate the vehicle in 2WD during everyday driving scenarios (which is more fuel efficient and puts less wear and tear on the vehicle), or switch into either a 4WD high or a 4WD low gear for particularly bad traction scenarios via a selector switch. The presence of a 4WD low gear, combined with a more basic design and implementation, generally makes Part-Time 4WD a superior option to AWD alternatives when really veering off the beaten path — granted a driver knows what they’re doing.

4WD mode works in the simplest terms thanks to a dedicated transfer case, which splits the power between the front and rear axles. Specifically, it locks the front driveshaft to the rear driveshaft, forcing equal amounts of torque from the engine to both axles, causing the front and rear axle of a car to rotate at the same speed. This provides greater traction to drivers since it ensures power will continue to flow to the wheels on an axle with traction should wheels on the other axle slip. By the same token, though, switching back to 2WD on normal road conditions is critical to prevent potential damage from a condition known as “drivetrain binding” — when a vehicle’s axles cannot rotate at different speeds to accommodate the different distances wheels travel during events like turning.

There are several other innovations beyond simply sending power to all four wheels that enhance many Part-Time 4WD vehicles’ traction abilities by solving the woes of open differentials. A limited-slip differential or LSD (not that kind, you Deadhead) is one such solution that automatically directs some available power to the path of more resistance (a.k.a. the wheel that’s not slipping) to provide grip on poor roads, and it works in the background without any input from the driver. But it doesn’t prevent wheel slippage entirely.

So-called automatic limited-slip differentials (A-LSD), also known as electronic limited-slip differentials (e-LSDs), are activated by drivers via a button or switch and provide the same traction benefits as a typical LSD using a different methodology, with a few notable enhancements. Instead of relying on clutches to evenly distribute drive-wheel power, these systems rely on the automatic intervention of the braking system to transfer power between the wheels. But unlike basic traction control (mentioned earlier), A-LSDs also don’t require a reduction in engine power to work and can shift power back and forth from the left and right wheels as each wheel’s level of traction varies.

Locking differentials kick things up a notch further by allowing users to manually activate a locking mechanism inside the differential. A locked differential forces each wheel on an axle (vs. just the axle, as is the case in basic Part-Time 4WD) to rotate at the same speed, no matter their tractional differences, which gives a wheel that may have more traction a better chance of freeing the driver from a slippery situation.

PROS

  • Gives traction when needed, while switching to 2WD improves fuel economy and reduces wear on the drivetrain in normal conditions.
  • Since it’s generally less complicated and of an older design from an engineering standpoint compared to other systems, it’s easier to build and therefore less expensive, lowering initial purchase cost. Its simplicity also tends to make it more rugged.
  • In extremely difficult terrain, drivers can engage an extra-low 4WD gear for improved torque.
  • LSDs, A-LSDs and locking differentials act as the ultimate trump card in poor conditions by better directing engine power from “wheels that slip, to wheels that grip”.

CONS

  • Doesn’t provide extra traction and handling improvements in everyday driving situations.
  • A driver has to actively turn on 4WD to take advantage of it and remember to turn it off after.
  • Creates the potential for uneven tire wear.

Full-Time 4WD

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“Full-Time” means some portion of the engine’s power is spread across each of the wheels, all of the time. These systems are becoming increasingly popular in SUVs and unlike the Part-Time 4WD systems mentioned above, they eliminate the risk of drivetrain binding thanks to a center differential, which allows each of the vehicle’s axles to receive at least some amount of power at all times and still rotate at different speeds during a turn. While Full-Time 4WD systems are convenient (since all of the wheels are always under some degree of power without any action from the driver), they still have faults. Fuel economy naturally takes a hit, and there is inherent wear on the drivetrain. Just like a blustering high roller in Vegas buying drinks for any female in a 30-yard radius, Full-Time AWD continues to shower each of the wheels with some portion of power, even those with zero chance of gaining traction.

Some center differentials boast a locking feature to partially overcome this problem, which splits engine power equally between the front and rear axles (not the wheels, as with a locking differential on part-time 4WD vehicles mentioned above). A Full-Time 4WD car with a locked center differential thus behaves in many ways like a Part-Time 4WD vehicle in 4WD.

A Torsen limited-slip center differential does an even better job of putting power where it’s most needed in Full-Time 4WD vehicles. It features a unique gearset that locks if it senses a torque imbalance between a vehicle’s two axles and then transfers power to the axle with traction. The particular ratio of power that a Torsen can shift between the front and rear axles varies. In the case of Toyota’s vehicles, it can direct up to 53 percent of available engine power to the front axle if the rear starts spinning. If it’s the front wheels that are spinning, on the other hand, up to 71 percent of all engine power can shift to the rear axle to get you and backseat full of sugared-up kids out of a jam.

PROS

  • Gives drivers added traction and improved handling in all driving situations, without the risk of drivetrain binding.
  • It’s always on and doesn’t require any action from the driver.
  • Systems equipped with Torsen center diffs are the ultimate solution for putting engine power where it’s needed most, lowering the risk of getting stuck even further.

CONS

  • It’s less fuel efficient and puts more wear on a vehicle’s drivetrain.
  • Often requires advanced drivetrain equipment that can increase initial vehicle cost relative to more basic 4WD systems.
  • They’re generally more prone to damage compared to simpler, more rugged Part-Time 4WD systems.

Full-Time 4WD Multi-Mode

Full-Time 4WD Multi-Mode systems can operate in Full-Time 4WD mode, just like other Full-Time 4WD systems. Drivers have the added bonus, though, of switching to 2WD when additional traction isn’t necessary. This system is generally harder to find and is usually only used on higher-end SUVs.

PROS

  • Gives drivers added traction and improved handling in all driving situations if desired, but it can be turned off should fuel economy and drivetrain wear be a concern.

CONS

  • Often requires advanced drivetrain equipment that can increase cost relative to more basic 4WD systems.
  • They’re generally more prone to damage compared to simpler Part-Time 4WD systems and more expensive compared to regular Full-Time 4WD systems.
  • Available on only a limited number of typically lower-powered vehicles.

AWD

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The most basic definition of an all-wheel-drive vehicle is one that can send some percentage of engine power to the non-primarily powered wheels when needed. (Today, this is an oversimplification for most new cars driving off of the lot, but we’ll go with it for clarity’s sake.) AWD systems were originally made popular by European sports cars in the ’80s after drivers found their added road grip boosted handling. The most basic implementations are usually found on front-wheel-drive cars, though this is far from being always the case.

Today, AWD is available on all kinds of vehicles and offers many of the benefits provided by more traditional 4WD systems. But this isn’t a “Potato” “Po-tah-to” situation, and they aren’t the same thing. Mechanically, AWD systems incorporate a front differential, center differential and the transfer case into one compact component, which makes it more suitable in smaller, lightweight vehicles with lower levels of ground clearance. Despite the word “all,” cars with basic AWD still typically send the majority of power only to one axle. For example, in the case of the Porsche 911, only 5 percent is typically pushed to the front axle while 95 percent is directed to the rear. In these cases, a series of sensors monitor wheel slip and automatically shift power to wheels where there is no slippage, without any action need from the clueless driver screaming T-Swift at the top of their lungs.

The best AWD systems leverage software and wheel sensors to detect wheel slip as fast as possible. They then react by activating traction control to reduce or eliminate wheel slip while re-routing engine torque to the wheel with the best grip on the road. AWD with dynamic torque control found on cars like the Toyota RAV4 are a riff on this theme and utilize an electro-magnetic coupler or (ECU). During normal driving, the RAV4 defaults to front-wheel-drive for improved fuel economy while still sending power to rear wheels during turns for improved cornering and driving performance (up to a maximum of 45 percent rear and 55 percent front torque distribution.)

Lock mode, on the other hand, essentially acts like Full-Time FWD on the RAV4 at speeds below 25 MPH by directing 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels. Sport Mode provides smoother torque transfers between the front and rear wheels to improve steering by maximizing the traction of each wheel. Braking in a straight line is also enhanced in this mode by stopping torque to the rear wheels, allowing ABS and vehicle stability control to work unmolested.

While it’s somewhat of a sweeping statement, AWD systems generally excel at “all-weather” driving, not “all-terrain” driving.

PROS

  • Gives drivers added traction and improved handling in all driving situations if desired.
  • It’s always on and doesn’t require any action from the driver.
  • Available on a wide range of vehicles beyond trucks and SUVs.

CONS

  • Lack of a transfer case means engine torque cannot be geared down to a very low range for rigorous off-roading.
  • Compared to other systems, it’s less adept at pinpointing power to the wheels that grip vs. the wheels that slip.

Real-World Performance

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Understanding the science and engineering behind each of these systems is informative, but no amount of book smarts can replace a test drive to discern what system is right for you. Our recent experience with Toyota’s entire cross-over and SUV lineup in Breckenridge made it abundantly clear that competent drivers armed with even basic AWD can comfortably navigate less-than-ideal road conditions — and we didn’t even follow a cardinal rule of using snow tires. AWD cars can manage the slushy terrain to the local Starbucks just as competently as the mighty Canyonero and save fuel in the process. In short, justifying the expense of Full-Time or Part-Time 4WD over more basic AWD options simply as a necessity for “surviving” your neighborhood makes much less sense than it used to.

There are obviously adventurous lifestyles and harsher environments where owning a more robust system is a reasonable investment, though. The 4WD solutions found on true SUVs (your Aztec doesn’t count) are all capable of pushing drivers well beyond the paved safety of Main Street. But while their advanced drivetrain systems and various enhancements like Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC), Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Crawl Control are taking more of the hassle out of going off-road, they should never override common driving sense. Driver experience and competence is still the biggest single factor in avoiding disaster. No option package or a decal on the bumper will ever change that fact.

Some point out that when it comes to buying a car, it’s hard to put a price on the single moment where a good traction system could save your bacon from a bad situation — and for the most part, we’d agree. You can’t put a price on safety, but shelling out isn’t a get-out-of-a-ditch-free card either. Your first concerns should center around driving ability, size, fuel efficiency and creature comforts. Only once the field is narrowed should you consider the various drivetrain options available and start the honest conversation of “Is it worthwhile?” No matter what you wind up picking, our advice is to study up on good winter driving skills, focus on regular maintenance, and work on improving your decision-making behind the wheel first. After all, at the end of the day, it’s the man behind the machine, not the other way around.

One of the Best Modern Applications of AWD

The blue and white roundel on the M2’s trunk might as well be a target. Read the Story

A Vintage Car You Should Know: The Saab 96

If you were to spectate a European rally event during the early 1960s, you’d have heard the distinct buzzing, brapping yelp of a certain two-stroke engine bouncing off the hills and trees and echoing through the valleys. The source of the ruckus: a round, teardrop-shaped coupe from a then-obscure little automaker called Saab. The car was called the 96, and the driver was Erik Carlesson, a “moon-faced, 250-lb Swede” (Autoweek’s words, not mine) with an exuberant driving style. The pairing was unorthodox but successful: Carlesson and the 96 won a number of notable rallies, including multiple first-place finishes at the Rally Monte Carlo and RAC Rally in Wales.

Technically speaking, the 96 was not Saab’s first car; it wasn’t even it’s second (that’d be the 93). But the 96 and its rally wins helped put the emerging automaker on the map. But its roots can be traced to the airplane builder’s foray into the automotive industry, the 92. The 92 was far from a smashing success when it initially debuted in 1950, but it did provide the Saab brand a unique and impressive platform on which to build. It featured a three-cylinder two-stroke engine, a front-wheel-drive (thus relatively spacious) layout and an aerodynamic body formed with the assistance of a wind tunnel, at that time a technology mostly reserved for airplane manufacturing.

Like the 93 before it, the 96 was an update on that original 92 platform, this time to the tune of updated mechanicals, a bigger engine and styling tweaks. Most notably, the early version of the 96 received a larger two-stroke engine which was eventually replaced by a four-stroke V4 in 1966. And while the 92 and 93 sold in the tens of thousands of short productions runs, the 96 saw much more success: it stuck around for 20 years after its debut in 1960, and Saab managed to move over half a million units.

Of those hundreds of thousands of 96s, the one pictured here, which I drove, is one of the very last examples ever made. In 1980, the 96’s last year of production, Saab ended on a high-note, introducing a special model called “Jubileum,” which consisted of 300 limited-run models that were specified identically, but all to perfection. The mechanicals were no different compared to the regular 96 — its 68-horsepower V4 engine and four-speed manual remained — but the car received a brilliant powder blue paint job, special alloy wheels, special trim and upgraded blue seats, basically taken from the Saab 99.

It’s about as obscure a car as you could possibly get, but for Saab enthusiasts, it’s a grail-tier car. Marc Vernon, who owns this model, has owned a total of 11 in his lifetime; given that the 96 was not imported to the U.S. after 1973, its presence here in Chicago is all the more remarkable. Vernon had been on the hunt for a late model 96 from Europe when he came across a Jubileum for sale on “a sort of Swedish Craigslist.” According to Vernon, the seller responded to an email inquiry two weeks later to say that specific car had sold but that, as luck would have it, he had another Jubileum for sale. After a ten-month buying, inspecting and importing process, the car arrived at Vernon’s door.

When Saab officially went defunct in 2012, its fanbase was devastated, though few were truly surprised. There was an endearing weirdness to Saab and its approach to carmaking — half brilliant, half flummoxing — that made it lovable but did little to sustain it as a viable business. But drive a 96 and you can see why enthusiasts remain loyal to the dead marque: quirks abound, like seatbelts that loop through a latch (rather than buckle) and c-pillar winglets that supposedly aid in aerodynamics.

Arguably the thoroughly weird 96’s strongest selling points are its engine and drivetrain. Even into the 60s, Saab was selling road car powered by two-stroke engines with only seven moving parts, but even in that context, the V4 is a bit of a quirky choice. The only other automakers to ever put a V4 into a car are Ford (only in Europe), Lancia, Matra and ZAZ, a Ukrainian carmaker that I swear absolutely exists.

What’s more bewildering is the way the V4 puts its power down: through a freewheel, which disconnects the engine from the driveshaft when your foot lifts from the throttle. The freewheel device is actually an essential piece of a two-stroke drivetrain, as it prevents the engine from oil starvation when the car’s fuel-oil mixture isn’t being sent to the engine. Where it definitely isn’t essential is on a four-stroke engine like this one, where engine lubrication isn’t dependant on throttle input.

Still, Saab decided to keep the freewheel from the two-stroke drivetrain intact for its four-stroke V4 model. There is, however, a benefit to this: you don’t need to use the clutch to change gears. There is a clutch pedal that must be used to get the car moving into first from a standstill, but from there you simply take your foot off the gas, then slide the column-mounted shifter into the next gear. Imagine that: Saab created one of the first (sort of) semi-automatic transmissions, seemingly by accident.

Of course, because this is Saab, there’s a more inconvenient downside, which is a lack of engine braking, since the transmission won’t slow the car down on its own. This means you’ll wear through your brakes more quickly and, on an operational level, you’ll need to anticipate stops a bit more than usual. But because this is a Saab, its all part of the charm.

There’s a rhythm to it all that must be navigated smoothly: roll onto the throttle; hear the boxer-like V4 reverberate throughout the cabin; lift off your foot and slide the shifter down into second; hit the gas, lift off; up and forward into third; then down for fourth; then start pressing into into the brakes to stop for that intersection looming a half-mile ahead. Good driving is deliberate driving, and the 96 rewards you for being deliberate.

It’s a fool’s errand to drive fast in a 96 because the car isn’t fast, at least not inherently. The Saab 96’s success in rally came not from brute power, but an ability to retain grip and composure on slippery surfaces like gravel and snow. Because I was driving on perfectly dry tarmac (and because I’m not even remotely close to possessing Carlesson-level skill) I didn’t really get a sense as to how it can handle in those conditions, but the car’s history of rally success is convincing enough to me.

Honestly, I’m not sure that you buy a car like this for some exceptional driving thrill (though don’t get me wrong, it is fun). Rather, the highlights of the 96 boil down to its blatant Saabness. That may seem like a cop-out conclusion, but the Saab 96 is the product of an automaker marching to the beat of its own drum, sparing no fucks along the way. That attitude may have very well killed Saab in the end, but it left us with a car — an entire lineup of cars, really — with irrefutable character and blatant disregard for the status quo.

2019 Porsche 911 Speedster

There’ll be only a few of these, so act fast if you want one. Porsche has now unwrapped the open-top 2019 911 Speedster. This was the concept car the automaker unveiled back in June, now greenlit for production.

The gorgeous two-seater model is going to be built as part of the line’s 70th anniversary, and it’ll also mark the end of the current-generation 911. Porsche is only making 1,948 units, though (owing to the fact that the first 356 was made in 1948), and the car will come in a Paris is Guards Red colorway, exactly like the 1988 911 Speedster.

Porsche based the car on the 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet body shell then added a more aerodynamic windshield angle and shorter side windows. It should be noted that this isn’t just a minor revamp; Porsche Motorsport in Weissach developed this car, meaning it’s a more hardcore 991 iteration than you’d initially think. You’ll find 911 GT3 parts in the chassis, plus carbon fiber on the the fenders, the hood, and the engine cover. Meanwhile, the exhaust system and six-speed manual gearbox come from Porsche’s GT unit.

The 911 Speedster boasts a 500-horsepower flat-six engine, which was borrowed from the track star GT3. The six shifts through a six-speed manual transmission. The car also debuts Porsche’s new Heritage Design Packages, which should give customers a lot more personalization options.

Porsche is set to begin production during the first half of 2019. Pricing has yet to be determined, but this is a limited-edition model, so don’t expect it to be cheap.

LEARN MORE HERE

Photos courtesy of Porsche

The Suzuki Jimny Isn’t Sold in the US, and That Really Stinks

Suzuki abandoned the American car market in 2012. Let’s be honest. You weren’t burning a candle for the Japanese automaker. We won’t quiz you on what models were on offer. The important point is this means there is just about zero chance the new Suzuki Jimny will make an appearance in the United States. That stinks. It’s an awesome car. It could have filled a niche in the American market.

Car folk love the Jimny, with good reason. In a car market that awards mediocrity at everything, the Jimny excels at something. It is a simple, tough, purpose-built off-roader with a true 4×4. It won’t offer the comfort of a Range Rover. But, the little guy will go everywhere a Range Rover can go and a few places where it can’t. It’s built to withstand a mud-splattered beating day-in and day-out for a decade or more.

Normal folk love the Jimny too. It’s cute. It’s boxy. The small off-roader is a proven commodity. About the chicest classic car one can own is a vintage (and probably artfully customized) Land Rover Defender or Toyota Land Cruiser. The Jimny is the closest modern production car in spirit, if not in appearance, to those classics.

There’s a hole in the market for the Jimny. The Jeep Wrangler has no competition. Jeep has ramped up the profit margins by making the Wrangler a de facto luxury car. Sure, you can buy one for under $30,000 if you forego a hard roof and avail yourself of the “air conditioning bypass” option. That cost of entry improves little with age. Wranglers have the highest resale value of any cars in the U.S. What if the Jimny was there to offer similar looks and similar off-road chops for a cut-rate price?

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Yes, the Jimny has its flaws. It’s relatively loud. It’s bumpy. The steering is soft. It has no trunk space with the seats up. Even with a curb weight of just 2,400 lbs (less than a Fiat 500), 100hp and 96lb-ft of torque from the 1.5-liter engine are not much. The Jimny will feel somewhere between moderately and woefully underpowered on the highway. That sounds unbearable. That’s also almost the precise description of the base model YJ Wrangler I had in high school, the most fun daily driver I have owned. I say almost because the heat on the Jimny probably works.

So, we have a charming, plucky little off-roader that looks like a Defender, is a beast off the pavement, is as bullet-proof as a Subaru, earns plaudits from critics and commoners and comes in at a low price point. With the right marketing, it’s hard to see how that wouldn’t be successful. Though, if Suzuki knew how to market cars to Americans, they would still be here.

With tariffs and technological change afoot, the present seems about the worst time to re-enter the U.S. car market. American Jimny fans will be left to cruise Instagram and wait 25 years to import one or emigrate.

Read our review of the last-generation Jimny here: The Suzuki Jimny Is the Best Bad Car I’ve Ever Driven

The 10 Best Manual Transmission Cars You Can Buy Today

The manual transmission is not extinct yet. But, every year it becomes more endangered. The sad truth, for those of us diehards, is the stick serves little purpose. Electric and automated cars of the future won’t have them. Automatics outperform manuals in many cases; many automatics are now also more efficient. Too few people buy manuals to justify the R&D investment required for a company to offer separate transmissions. Even stick stalwarts such as BMW, Audi and Subaru hastened their retreat in 2019.

What sticks do still offer is a more fun and intimate driving experience. For certain vehicles, that experience remains paramount. Robust, loyal customer bases scoff at “flappy paddles” and demand some ungoverned third pedal amusement. Some manufacturers oblige them. Here are ten such awesome cars you can still buy with a manual transmission.

2019 Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche’s PDK (dual-clutch) transmission is an engineering marvel. It may be the best you can buy in a road car. It’s no surprise Porsche has been phasing out manuals on higher-end 911s. PDK is the only option for Turbo and RS versions. The GT3, however, still has a stick option, because American enthusiasts keep buying and demanding them. Porsche, for what it’s still worth, still makes a darn good manual gearbox. Save your arguments about what constitutes a proper Porsche for the message boards. The real issue is whether you want your laps a few ticks faster or your every day driving a few ticks more fun.

Engine: 4.0L flat-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 500
Torque: 339 lb-ft
Weight: 3,116 lbs
0-60: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 198 mph
Base Price: $143,600

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

No sensible person would spend north of $120,000 on a Corvette. No sensible person would need 755hp and 715lb-ft of torque injected straight into their rear wheels. How many sensible people are fun to hang out with? The ZR1 looks fast and sounds maniacal, and, unlike some of its predecessors, handles both straight lines and corners with well-engineered aplomb. There’s a particular itch that only the roar of an American V8 can scratch. The one persistent knock on the ZR1 is the eight-speed automatic not quite being sharp enough for this car. Not a problem if you get the stick.

Engine: 6.2L V8
Transmission: 7-speed manual
Horsepower: 755
Torque: 715 lb-ft
Weight: 3,560 lbs
0-60: 3.0 seconds
Top Speed: 212 mph
Base Price: $121,000 base

2019 Jaguar F-Type R-Dynamic

Jaguar won’t produce another icon quite like the E-Type. But, the F-Type looks gorgeous and well-proportioned, it makes a lot of noise and it is a testament to pure, unadulterated impracticality. It hits the right Jaguar note of disreputable sophistication. The F-Type is more of a raucous cruiser than a track demon. For most buyers, that will be more than enough. The rub with rowing your own gears in an F-Type is it is only available in the V6. You can’t get it in the V8.

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 380
Torque: 339 lb-ft
Weight: 3,492 lbs
0-60: 5.3 seconds
Top Speed: 171 mph
Base Price: $82,050

2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Jeep did the right thing with the recent Wrangler revamp. Instead of reinventing it for the modern cross-compatible platform era, Jeep made the Wrangler better at being a Wrangler. It’s a superior off-roader than the last generation. It delivers better on-road feel. It’s more practical for a family. It even gets better fuel economy. The unique driving feeling is critical with the Wrangler. That feeling, unless you do an extraordinary amount of slow speed rock climbing, should come with a stick. The Allies won the war with a manual Jeep. You can make it through a stop-and-go rush hour.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 285
Torque: 260 lb-ft
Weight: 4,579 lbs
0-60: 7.5 seconds
Top Speed: 100 mph (limited)
Base Price: $41,445 (Base)

2019 BMW M3

BMW advertises itself as producing “the ultimate driving machine.” The M3 may be the best embodiment of that mission. It is a potent but practical performance beast. It has enough space and not quite enough power to be overbearing for a daily driver. The suspension may be a bit stiff, but, in a world where you own an M3, you need a reminder now and again that life isn’t perfect. With the still awesome M5 dropping the manual and incorporating all-wheel drive, the M3 remains the BMW purists’ choice, for now.

Engine: 3.0L twin-turbo inline-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 425
Torque: 406lb-ft
Weight: 3,575lbs
0-60: 4.1 sec
Top Speed: 155 mph
Base Price: $66,500

2019 Ford Mustang GT Bullitt

Ford does not mess with the Mustang’s success. It looks great. It’s loud. It will go fast in a straight line. It’s not quite precise enough to hang with its sports car competitors in the corners. But, unlike most of those cars, a Mustang comes at a price point the everyman can afford. Are Highland Green paint, a white cue ball shifter, a scintilla of extra horsepower and a whiff of Steve McQueen’s coolness worth paying a substantial premium over the standard GT? Probably not. But, the Bullitt edition gets the shout out here for one main reason: it only comes with a manual transmission.

Engine: 5.0-liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 480
Torque: 420 lb-ft
Weight: 3,705 lbs
0-60: 4.0 seconds
Top Speed: 163 mph
Base Price: $46,595

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD PRO

Some truck manufacturers offer a token manual on a 2WD work truck. Toyota goes all out with the Tacoma. You can do the shifting yourself on a six-cylinder and in the most premium TRD Pro trim. With the Taco, you want the manual to maximize responsiveness from its underwhelming feeling engine. The Colorado ZR2 has been breathing down the Tacoma’s neck for ultimate bro truck status. Toyota has responded, outfitting the latest TRD Pro with two inches of lift, satin black wheels, a cat back exhaust and, of course, the ever-popular snorkel.

Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 278
Torque: 265 lb-ft
Weight: 4,445 lbs
0-60: 7.1 seconds
Top Speed: 120 mph
Base Price: $42,660

2019 Volkswagen Golf R

The Golf has been on best all-around car lists for decades. It’s the ideal balance of fun, practical and affordable. The Golf R is the hottest of hatchbacks, for those who feel the GTI does not offer quite enough of a tingle, and it comes with a manual. So does the corner-dominating GTI. So does the base model Golf. Expanding the family? VW can offer you two Golf wagon variants, the Sportwagen and the AllTrack, that both offer sticks for significantly less money. Maybe the DSG is a hair faster, but who is standing there with a stopwatch?

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 288
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Weight: 3,334 lbs
0-60: 4.8 seconds
Top Speed: 150 mph (limited)
Base Price: $40,395

2019 Subaru WRX STI

Subaru hit a brilliant concept with the WRX: take an Impreza; turbocharge it; stiffen the suspension. Paint it an alluring blue and add a spoiler and some flashy good rims. Make it just cheap enough that a normal kid can dream. The WRX is the car everyone wanted at 16 and the car that will reawaken the spirit of that 16-year-old in everyone who buys one. The WRX is the exception to Subaru’s current rules: safety, efficiency and borderline glacial acceleration. With the Japanese automaker not wanting to work EyeSight around a manual, it may soon be the only Subaru left with one.

Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 310
Torque: 290 lb-ft
Weight: 3,446 lbs
0-60: 5.3 seconds
Top Speed: 160 mph
Base Price: $36,595

2019 Mini John Cooper Works 2-Door

The nostalgia train has slowed a little. The Mini is no longer that miniature of a vehicle. Still, what you have here is a relatively small, reasonably priced, precise handling BMW hatchback with pep in its step and a manual transmission. However decadent your fantasy car garage becomes, there may be room for one of these in British Racing Green with some white bonnet stripes. Or, perhaps you wait until 2020 for the limited edition GP version.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 228
Torque: 236 lb-ft
Weight: 2,845 lbs
0-60: 6.0 seconds
Top Speed: 153 mph
Base Price: $31,900
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Porsche 911 GT2RS Clubsport

Porsche Reveals ‘Track-only’ GT2 RS Clubsport    

As if the ‘regular’ Porsche 911 GT2 RS wasn’t enough of a race car already – having set Porsche’s’ production car lap record at the Nurburgring earlier this year – Porsche has gone and made an even more unyielding, track-only (not road legal) version of their top-of-the-line 911.

Formally known as the Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, it was revealed at the 2019 LA Auto Show alongside the next generation 992 Carrera S and Carrera 4S. In case you are confused, the GT2 RS Clubsport is still entirely based on the current generation 991 GT2 RS and shares no direct relation to the incoming iterations.

In fact, the Clubsport is everything that’s already great about the current GT2 RS, with a little dose of more where that came from. That ‘more’ actually comes from less, as in less weight. The Clubsport is 155 kg lighter than its street-legal counterpart due to a more spartan interior and some lighter components. The car comes standard with a roll cage and retains other necessary assists, such as stability control and anti-lock braking system.

Though official figures haven’t been released yet, it is expected that the Clubsport will yield higher downforce figures – thanks in part to a new, gargantuan rear-wing – while its lighter weight, huge steel rotors with race-spec calipers, and beefier tires will allow it to accelerate, brake and negotiate turns with even greater sharpness. The competition-spec carbon steering wheel used is borrowed from the GT3 R, and will ensure that steering responds to driver input with absolute precision, while allowing the car’s settings to be adjusted on-the-fly. A six-point race harness keeps the driver snug in their racing bucket seat, and should allow the car to pass safety at weekend track events.

Porsche continues to employ the same engine used in the road car – a 3.8L twin-turbocharged flat six which produces 700-horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque. The engine remains mated to the same 7-speed PDK transmission as well.

With the 991 making way for the aforementioned 992, the GT2 RS Clubsport will likely be Porsche’s one-hell-of-a-parting-gift, and the ultimate conclusion to the current generation 911. There will only be 200 units made, and each will demand a base price of $478,000 USD.  

Porsche is currently communicating with racing governing bodies for the homologation of the GT2 RS Clubsport into sanctioned motorsport events, which hopefully means we will see the car in international racing series. “We are currently holding very productive talks with the race organiser SRO,” according to Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche’s Vice President of Motorsport and GT cars.

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The 8 Best All-Wheel-Drive Cars on the Road

Winter is coming. In many parts of the country, it’s already here. Prepping for winter is a major reason all-wheel-drive cars have become popular. Technology has improved to the point where there isn’t a performance cost – all-wheel-drive is as likely to appear on your supercar as your crossover SUV. Here is a list of the premier AWD vehicles by segment.

Best… Subaru Outback: Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited

The Subaru Outback is in a category of its own. Any all-wheel-drive list would be incomplete without it. In many ways, the Outback was the ur-crossover: it combined the handling of a car with serious all-terrain capability. Considering Subaru’s now standard EyeSight technology and the copious cabin and cargo space, the Outback is the ultimate practical family vehicle. Other manufacturers lift wagons and slap some cladding on them to compete with the Outback. The only trouble with the Outback is it’s a vehicle to get you to your fun. The 2.5L base model, with ponderous acceleration, is not that fun to drive. How do you resolve that? Upgrading to the 3.6L six-cylinder engine with 254hp for a much more responsive car. The trouble is you’ll pay up front and with reduced efficiency at the pump.

Engine: 3.6L Flat-Six
Transmission: CVT
Horsepower: 254 hp
Torque: 247 lb-ft
Weight: 3,893 lbs
0-60: 7.1 sec
Top Speed: 139 mph
Base Price: $34,995

Best Sports Car: Porsche 911 Turbo S

Porsche produces precisely engineered supercars. Their practicality distinguishes Porsche from other manufacturers. Porsches are comfortable. Porsches are robust. Most 911 owners won’t use their car as a daily driver for investment reasons, but they could. The 911 Turbo S will do everything you expect from a $190,000 sports car. It has 580hp. It accelerates from 0-60mph in just 2.8 seconds. But, with all-wheel drive, it can also go well beyond what you’d expect. The 911 Turbo S will not just get you to the ski slopes; it can drive up the slopes. One could argue AWD makes this car a bit too accessible to be a “proper 911.” But, that sweet 911 message-board cred won’t count for much when you wind up in a ditch.

Engine: 3.8L Twin-Turbocharged Boxer 6
Transmission: PDK Automatic
Horsepower: 580 hp
Torque: 516lb-ft
Weight: 3,528lbs
0-60: 2.8 sec
Top Speed: 205 mph
Base Price: $190,700

Best Electric Vehicle: Tesla Model S P100D

Tesla has been in the headlines. You’ll read much about its dear leader, its stock price and its ad hoc methods of reaching Model 3 production targets. Forget all that. We’re here to discuss the Model S, the sedan that redefined the electric vehicle. Tesla describes its acceleration as “ludicrous,” which is an apt description. Motor Trend clocked it at 2.28 seconds, their fastest production car on record. When not doing that, the P100D Model S can achieve a 315-mile range on a full charge. It also has a 17-inch touchscreen, autopilot and over-the-air software updates if you’re into the newfangled things. It’s easy to see how driving this car could be addictive, perhaps too addictive. Ensure your friends are ready to stage an intervention when you’re loitering in coffee shops clad head to toe in Tesla gear waiting for someone to ask you about your Tesla.

Engine: Dual Motor AWD
Transmission: 1-speed Direct Drive
Horsepower: 680hp
Torque: 791lb-ft
Weight: 4,891 lbs
0-60: 2.5 sec
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
Base Price: $122,000

Best Sedan: Mercedes E 63 AMG S

Most Mercedes-Benz cars are elegant. A few are downright diabolical. The E 63 AMG S merges the two. Its 4.0L handcrafted bi-turbo V8 unleashes an astounding 603hp and 627lb-ft of torque. The German sedan will accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds and reach a governed top speed of 186mph. Under less mental driving conditions, the E 63 AMG S will deactivate cylinders for better fuel economy. Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD will offer all the grip a sensible driver could want. If you’re not so sensible? Mercedes still has you covered. The E 63 AMG S can be switched into a 100-percent RWD “drift mode” to let you shred the hell out of (hopefully someone else’s) expensive tires.

Engine: Handcrafted 4.0L Bi-turbo V8
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Horsepower: 603hp
Torque: 627lb-ft
Weight: 4,587lbs
0-60: 3.3 seconds
Top Speed: 186mph (governor limited)
Base Price: $105,395

Best Wagon: Volvo V90 CC T6 AWD

Volvo produces premium practicality. The Volvo buyer shares common concerns with the Subaru buyer but needs a more sophisticated aesthetic and that little bit of extra pampering. The V90 Cross Country wagon hits that note perfectly. It’s like a Subaru Outback, but fancy. Motoring editor Nick Caruso believes the V90 CC is the ideal car on the road today. The turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder T6 engine delivers power (316hp) and torque (295lb-ft). Its AWD system is tuned to master all reasonable terrains and weather conditions. Volvo produces the safest cars on the road. A base price north of $50,000 isn’t cheap. But, this car feels like it should be much more expensive.

Engine: 2.0L I-4
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 316hp
Torque: 295lb-ft
Weight: 4,232 lbs
0-60: 5.9 sec
Top Speed: 131mph
Base Price: $56,100

Best Sport Sedan: Audi RS3

Audi changed the game for racing and, by extension, road cardom with its World Rally Championship-winning all-wheel drive, turbocharged I-5 Quattro in the early 1980s. Nearly 40 years later, a turbocharged I-5 paired with Audi’s Quattro AWD continues to be a devastating combination with the RS3. With 400hp and 354lb-ft of torque, the sporty little German sedan will accelerate from 0-60mph in about 3.5 seconds and reach a governor-limited 174mph. Phenomenal grip is great, whether it is in adverse weather conditions or favorable conditions on a track. Who said an exciting Audi was an oxymoron?

Engine: 2.5L I-5 Turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Horsepower: 400hp
Torque: 354lb-ft
Weight: 3,593
0-60: 3.5 sec
Top Speed: 174mph (limited)
Base Price: $54,900

Best Crossover: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Car people don’t like crossovers. Cars that do everything decently tend not to do anything particularly well. Crossovers are functional but boring. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the crossover for car people. It looks like an Alfa Romeo on the surface and is powered by a Ferrari under the hood. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the world’s fastest production SUV, with a sub-eight-minute lap around the Nurburgring. Getting from 0-60mph in only 3.6 seconds, it is quicker off the line than its sedan sibling the Giulia Quadrifoglio. When you want to turn the volume down, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio returns to being a charming, comfortable and nimble kid hauler.

Engine: 2.9L Twin Turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 505hp
Torque: 443lb-ft
Weight: 4,360 lbs
0-60: 3.6 sec
Top Speed: 176mph
Base Price: $79,995

Best Hot Hatchback: Volkswagen Golf R

When you need a hot hatchback, it’s best to stick with the classic that invented the category, the VW Golf. The Golf R is the hottest variant. VW had a performance variant for the Golf, the GTI, which could make a claim to be the best all-around car. VW added about 60hp to create a super-performance version, the Golf R. Spot on steering and handling. The option for a manual transmission. Like the Audi RS3, VW’s 4Motion AWD gives it spectacular grip. It is $40,000-plus for a Volkswagen that does not look that much different from a standard Golf. But, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things low key, especially when driving quickly.

Engine: 2.0L Turbo I-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic
Horsepower: 288hp
Torque: 280lb-ft
Weight: 3,373 lbs
0-60: 4.8 sec
Top Speed: 150mph (limited)
Base Price: $40,395

The 10 Best SUVs Under $50,000

This list of the 10 best SUVs under $50,000 serves as a guide to one of the most popular consumer automobile segments and includes important terminology and recommendations for almost every driver.Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Audi E-Tron Formula E Race Car

Back in September, Audi unveiled the e-tron, the brand’s first mass-market electric car that’ll take on Tesla’s Model X. Fast forward to today and we now have a variant for the race track, the still all-electric e-tron FE05 Formula E series.

The car hits the tracks Dec. 15, using the same “Gen2” design used by all other teams. All Formula E cars use the same 52-kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack, the FE05 included. It can hit zero to 62mph in just 3.1 seconds and can reach a top speed of 149mph, Audi says. It’s also fairly light — just 1,984 with the driver onboard, courtesy of Formula E rules.

While Formula E imposes rules designed to create a level playing field for all, this time, teams were free to design their own electric motors and other components as they saw fit. In Audi’s case, it hopes to gain an advantage through greater efficiency with its in-house motor design. And because Formula E cars don’t rely too much on aerodynamic downforce for performance, the designers had a field day on making them, well, look insanely cool. Audi says 95% of this car uses new components, and its designers found a way to shed 10% off the total weight.

The fourth season’s Audi powertrain was widely perceived as the most efficient in the FE field, which gave it a boost in races. However, it did suffer from reliability issues in the first four rounds of the 2017/2018 championship. It’ll be interesting to see how fat this car goes this Dec. 15 when the next Formula E season kicks off.

LEARN MORE HERE

Photos courtesy of Audi

Hennessey’s “Goliath” 2019 Chevrolet Silverado

American tuner Hennessey now comes out with its own six-wheeled version of the all-new Chevrolet Silverado, nicknamed Hennessey Goliath 6×6.

The car began life as a Trail Boss Z71 model, but now it’s gained a third axle with an additional pair of wheels (all six run on automatic transmission), which means it also has a new suspension system as well. Hennessey says it lifted the truck by eight inches to help it course through anything that stands in its way.

You’ll find more upgrades upon closer inspection. Among them is the 6.2-liter V8 engine (same as the base vehicle) with a 2.9-liter supercharger. That’s if you want to boost the Silverado’s horsepower to 705 at 6,200 rpm and 675 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm.

Outside, you’ll find that Hennessey created a grille specific to this model. In addition, there’s also a roll bar in the bed. Also, you’ll find BF Goodrich 37-inch off-road tires for the 20-inch wheels. However, there’s no information yet on whether the company did some tinkering in the interior, too.

Planning to get your hands on the Hennessey Goliath? Bear in mind that it’s not going to be easy. Production of the custom car is underway, to be sure. However, Hennessey is only making 24 examples worldwide, costing $375,000 apiece. Optionals include Brembo brakes on all three axles, a custom-designed interior, and an upgraded V8 engine. That’ll bump the horsepower to 808 if you’re mad for speed.

The best part about all this is that Hennessey’s latest handiwork is actually approved by Chevrolet, which means customers will be able to order the vehicle at participating Chevrolet dealers knowing that Chevrolet itself gave the go-ahead.

SEE MORE HERE

Photos courtesy of Hennessey 

All Is Right in the World. 1966 Broncos Are Being Built with Ford’s Blessing

Getting a major manufacturer’s permission to build licensed models they no longer make is near impossible. Companies like Superformance are the only outfit with proper licensing – and the official blessing of Carroll Shelby – to develop Cobras and the GT40. Meanwhile, Porsche still makes Singer Vehicle Design jump through hoops to avoid trademark infringements and barely recognizes the brand’s existence. Which is why Gateway Bronco inking a deal with Ford to build, recreate and resto-mod 1966 and 1977 Broncos all the more amazing.

Gateway Bronco started back in 2016, but this new licensing agreement strengthens the bond between the small builder and the big manufacturer. Gateway Bronco offers three models. Each commission starts with a donor car which then goes through a frame off restoration before being rebuilt using modern components to defend against rust (something early Broncos suffered from, horribly). Each receives an updated chassis and suspension tunes to improve the ride both on and off-road.

The ‘entry-level’ model, called Fuelie, goes for $120,000. It gets a 347 Stroker V8 up front, either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission and a classic leather interior; customers can choose between classic or cut fenders. The $150,000 Coyote Edition offers much of the same but instead of the big carbureted Stroker, you get a modern 5.0-liter V8 from the Mustang. Go one more step up the ladder to the $180,000 Modern Day Warrior trim and the six-speed transmission from the Ford Raptor handles gear shifts.

If you desperately want a vintage Bronco, there are plenty of examples out there that come in way below $120,000. However, you can bet those used and restored Broncos don’t come with full support from Ford, from which Gateway now benefits. Even as we await the impending release of a new Bronco, it’s nice to see Ford recognizing enthusiasts supporting the classics.

Opinion: BMW Should Replace The Mini Cooper With A 2002 EV Remake

The 2002 was one of BMW’s most iconic vehicles. The boxy little sedan was quick, well-balanced, and agile. It was well-proportioned. It was comfortable. It offered tremendous visibility. It could whup a GTO. It was a precisely engineered German middle finger to bloated, lazy American car manufacturers. It defined what BMW would become in the coming decades.

Loved by enthusiasts and general car folk, the car still has cultural resonance. John Krasinski drove a clean blue 2002tii in Amazon’s Jack Ryan, when he wasn’t sculling, cycling to work, or deploying his prodigious intellect as a deus ex machina. He motored his highly distinctive vintage car right up to a safe house while being tracked by terrorists because he was just that much of a discerning badass.

We’ve seen revivals of lesser cars like the Beetle, the Mini and the Fiat 500. It’s time for BMW to remake the 2002, aka the “Whispering Bomb,” and do so as an EV.

In this time of manufacturer upheavals, BMW will have to do something about Mini (which it owns). American sales have been down double digits in October and November, particularly among the non-Countryman versions. BMW is considering selling Minis out of BMW dealerships to save costs.

Mini Cooper’s nostalgia train has run its course. The car is nearing its 20th year in production. A new generation emerging would be the car’s fourth. What resonance the Mini Cooper still has is less about the brand and more about what’s going on underneath the Cool Britannia styling: a quick, agile and well-handling BMW. Why not dispense with the shtick and make (or faithfully remake) a small, awesome BMW instead?

The 2002 concept should work for the EV era. Nostalgia would generate initial buzz. A chuckable, scaled down BMW sedan with a ton of torque from an electric motor is something just about anyone would want to drive. Now, imagine if it were available at an affordable price point. Lift it a little and put on some more aggressive tires for a rallying version. I’m just throwing out some ideas here – great ideas.

Sure, trends would have BMW stick to sport activity vehicles, SUVs, light trucks or whatever one wants to term them. That’s what is selling. But, that trend seems ripe to be disrupted. If Lamborghini embarking on an “SUV” racing series is not a sign we’ve reached “peak” crossover, what is?

It seems clear where the luxury end of the EV spectrum is heading. Our social superiors will be lording around stoplights in absurdly spec’d performance beasts. But, the affordable EV market, indeed whether there will be an affordable EV market vs. ride-sharing, will be defined by whatever manufacturer can produce a capable and fun car at an affordable price point. BMW stumbled onto magic once before, why not try to recreate it?

The Best Gifts for Car Lovers

It’s a common misconception that car lovers only want or need gifts with three- and four-digit price tags. While yes, an affordable vintage car or a well-designed watch wouldn’t go unappreciated, gifts that are $50 and under can still strike a chord with the motoring enthusiast in your life.

Petrolicious Tee

There are fewe better ways to profess your love of cars than to wear it across your chest. Sure, there are some incredibly tacky ways to do it – this tee isn’t one of them.

877 Workshop Keychain

Keys are a constant in the life of a car lover; therefore, key chains are an absolute necessity. The car lover can put all their keys in one with a sturdy and stylish 877 Workshop Keychain.

Velomacchi Tool Pouch

Whether you’re on a bike or in your car, a full tool box isn’t exactly the most practical way to carry your essential tools. The Velomacchi Tool Pouch lets you keep your most used and critical sockets, ratchets or extra bolts and washers in a compact pouch under your seat, in the trunk or even in the glove box.

Sunday and Sons Jersey Tee

Sunday and Sons is “driven by the passion of cafés racers, flat trackers, bobbers and scramblers… with the ambition to create an elegant and comfortable style.” As a lover of motorcycles, that’s an easy mantra to get behind.

TitanLight Waterproof Lighter

Camping off the back of a motorcycle or out of the back of a trusty overlander is one of the most enjoyable pastimes a motoring enthusiast can take part in — but only if they’re properly prepared. Instead of rubbuing two sticks together, the TitanLight Waterproof Lighter is a much less frustrating alternative. The machined aluminum body not only looks good, it’s also lightweight and durable — essential qualities for any overlanding gear.

Pintrill × Gear Patrol Air-Cooled Coupe Pin

There’s more than one way to show your love for cars. You can always go the overt route with flags and banners. Or, you can employ a dose of subtle class with a Pintrill × Gear Patrol Pin.

Heritage Lensatic Compass

One look at the Heritage Lensatic Compass and you might think, although it looks incredibly classy and well made, it’s a bit archaic. Consider being out on the trail with no service or, worse yet, with a dead smartphone battery. Suddenly that handsome, archaic piece of brass is your best chance of getting home.

Roav Viva by Anker, Alexa-Enabled 2-Port USB Car Charger

Integrating Amazon’s Alexa into your life is incredibly easy these days. You probably have your home covered already, but plug the Roav Viva by Anker into your car and you have a two-port USB charger, in-car navigation, voice-activated dialing, music streaming and all the other voice assistant perks you’re used to.

Nomad Universal 1.5 Meter Charging Cable

Instead of untying the knotted mess of charging cables stored in the glove box, just carry one: the Nomad Universal 1.5 Meter Charging Cable. The multi-tip charging cable is a USB A to Micro USB base with USB Type C and iPhone tip converters.

MotoGeo Coffee and Mug

There’s nothing like a hot, fresh cup of coffee in front of the morning’s campfire a few days in to an epic ride. No one knows this better than MotoGeo, which is why its own coffee and stainless steel coffee mug make the perfect road trip companions.

Candy Lab Drifter 87

The beauty of Candy Lab cars and trucks is in their simple, clean design, which evokes mid-century romanticism few other modern toys can. The Drifter 87 is fit for car lovers of any age, but get it for someone as ‘desk art’ and you can still be damn sure they’ll be making ‘vroom’ noises before the work day is over.

YI 2.7″ HD Wide Angle Dashboard Camera

By now, we all know dash cams are more than just tools for making Youtube gold in Russia. But the market is prety crowded these days – finding one as compact as the YI 2.7-inch, that’ll take care of all your on-road recording needs is a rarity.

Leather Honey

When it comes to the car lover’s leather interior, you can bet they want it staying as supple and soft as possible throughout their ownership. Conditioning all sorts of leather since 1968, Leather Honey is one of the best conditioners available, especially since it rings in under $20.

Gear Patrol Magazine

Perfect for whoever is manning the back seat. Inside its 200-plus pages, we explore what it takes to turn an office chair into a thing of beauty, an accidental invention into a culinary essential and a 1970s French automobile into one of the most evocative cars of the last century. Plus much more.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign production version shown, will cost over $1 million

The final design for a production Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign is done, and Nissan has officially opened the order books for the limited-run vehicle. Thankfully, the production version is just as stunning as the prototype because Nissan didn’t change much of anything.

This blue/gold color combination shown here is but an example of what a customer could special order for the 50th anniversary GT-R — you can have whatever you want. Interior colors and packages will be completely customizable as well. The base price for the GT-R50 is $1,126,799 converted from Euros — and that’s before you add any options. That number is over $100,000 more than the first estimate Nissan gave us back in July of this year. We don’t imagine that price increase will bother any of the über-rich who plan to buy one of these anyway.

Nissan didn’t specify any change in performance from what it revealed to us at its debut. The car is essentially a GT-R Nismo with all the bodywork done by Italdesign. The 3.8-liter V6 gets the larger turbos from Nissan’s GT3-class race car, beefier internals, more aggressive cams and larger intercoolers. All this allows it to make an extra 110 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque over your run-of-the-mill GT-R Nismo.

Stronger differentials and axles are fitted to better handle hard launches. Bigger six-piston Brembo brake calipers up front and four-piston clampers in the rear bring it all to a stop, while active Bilstein dampers soak up the bumps.

If you want to get your hands on one of these, it’s not going to be easy. There are only 50 set for world production, and we can be sure that a fair amount will end up in Asia and Europe. Now’s your chance to buy a Nissan for over $1 million.

Related video:

1,000 Miles Through Michigan in a $600,000 Grand Tourer Trio

From Issue Seven of Gear Patrol Magazine.

WWhen I was a boy, I learned from my late uncle — the owner of a string of high-performance and very desirable cars — a trick for falling asleep. Think of something abstract, he told me, a manufactured, waking dream. You’ll quickly drift to dreamland. If you think of something real, like your next day’s schedule or a dinner party conversation earlier that evening, your mind can’t release into slumber. His method works well, as I’ve discovered through half a lifetime or more of restless and anxious attempts at sleep. But I recently ruined my go-to abstract dream-lullaby in the parking lot of a Northern Michigan Applebee’s.

It was after midnight. I was buzzed on Bell’s beer and waxing philosophical about the same cars I’d been pre-sleep dreaming about for decades — because I’d just driven them all 1,000 miles through my home state. “Eatin’ good in the neighborhood” hadn’t been my Last-Supper plan to commemorate circumnavigating most of Michigan. If our crew had wrapped the day earlier, perhaps we’d have found a venue more appropriate for the vehicles we’d just piloted and photographed for the previous four days. A venue where three magnificent, top-end, top-dollar, archetypal “baller” cars might not have been so out of place. Indeed, even if I had a dollar for every boneless buffalo wing I’d inhaled in my life, I couldn’t come close to a down payment on these cars. But price alone isn’t enough for a motor vehicle to achieve waking-dream status, anyway; no, these particular cars are a higher breed. They belong to the grand tourer genus, a nearly intangible echelon of vehicle that, especially in the age of the quickly evolving automobile, demands examination.

Grand tourers (in which one goes “grand touring”; also called “GTs”) are, in the automotive world, the epitome of style and design — the ultimate form of rolling luxury. To me, a car-geek kid turned car-geek thirty-something, that belief has always been canon. Ultra-luxury chauffeur-driven sedans and $1.5 million hypercars are, indeed, over-the-top indulgences, the most hyperbolic of automobiles. But a grand tourer is more than a machine with massive performance cred and a price to match. It’s more than a bejeweled luxo-barge. It’s more than a daily drivable golf-bag caddy, more than a technological powerhouse, more than a stunning work of design.

A grand tourer is, by necessity, all of those things in one. A grand tourer must have a larger-than-necessary high-performance engine and be comfortable enough for long-distance trips; it must have only two doors, with rear seats optional; it must maintain perfect proportions, with graceful lines and wide hips and a powerful stance. And let me be perfectly clear: grand tourers aren’t sports cars. They’re sporting cars.

Because it checks all these boxes, a grand tourer is partially a compromise by a thousand cuts. Throw all those extreme qualities into the same car then dial them up all the way, and you’ve got the beautiful antithesis of practicality. All grand tourers share specific characteristics, yet fall along a wide spectrum, ranging from very luxurious and complex on one end to simple and lithe on the other. To tell this story, we brought along three models — the Lexus LC 500, Aston Martin DB11 V12 and Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe — that represent waypoints along that spectrum.

I enlisted some of the best minds in the biz to help me test these cars and pontificate on the spectrum itself: crack auto journalists Eric Adams and Alex Kalogianni and the ferociously talented automotive photographer Dave “DW” Burnett. Eric and I have worked together for years now; his automotive, aerospace and tech reporting appears all over the Gear Patrol universe and beyond. Alex and I met recently on a similarly epic road trip through Europe; he is a formidable automotive expert, having edited, written and opined on video about the industry for years. Dave’s work graces the pages of such publications as Road & Track, Vanity Fair and many others. And, I discovered, they’re all hyperactive opinion factories.

So then how do each of these cars of ours avoid being, as Dave put it, “a finely tuned experience for people who maybe understand what going fast is like,” and instead allow a driver’s skill and enthusiast spirit to shine? We would exercise a combined 1,692 horsepower and around $600,000 worth of GT machinery over four days and 1,000 miles to find out. Not to choose a winner, but to understand the essence of the contemporary grand tourer.

More immediately, though, why put the Grand Tour Philosophy to the test in Michigan? Why drive three cars that have nothing to do with the state’s — let alone the country’s — deeply historic auto industry through the Motor City and beyond? Several reasons, mostly selfish: I’m proudly from Michigan (you could say I’m #PureMichigan, in fact); Michigan is unbelievably gorgeous on every level; Detroit was a great meeting point for us all; and… I kind of wanted to park an Aston Martin in my parents’ garage for a night. After all, I’d drifted to sleep on that notion for decades, and now I had a chance to make my hazy fantasy an acute fever dream.

Day 1 — Detroit to Muskegon, 200 miles

After pre-dawn alarms, taxis, a TSA drug dog incident, a few flights out of the greater New York area and a Detroit airport shuttle, we convened at an off-site parking lot where our touring trio awaited. Cold and still, the cars waited patiently but expectantly, like medieval war steeds just before a long campaign; we approached like sweaty and already travel-weary knights of the Grand Touring Table.

I’d promised Dave plenty of room for photo gear in the Mercedes — after all, as a sedan-made-coupe, I thought it would have a cavernous S-Class-sized trunk. So imagine our surprise when we found a sizeable back seat-accessible refrigerator taking up valuable storage real estate (“the most disappointing part of the trip for me,” Dave would claim later as we debriefed). We hadn’t started a single engine, and already the Benz was vying for the designation of most opulent, perhaps to a fault. The Aston, at 10 cubic feet, and the Lexus, at only five, have just enough trunk space between them for a moderate golf bag and a few duffels. But, coupled with the Mercedes’s adult-sized back seat — in contrast to the less-than-reasonable back seat space in the Lexus and the Aston’s complete lack of a rear seat — all the excess legroom gave us plenty of room to pack Dave’s gear and set off for the heart of the city.

After a quick briefing, we saddled up and took off immediately for Belle Isle, a 1,000-acre island park situated right between Michigan and Canada in the middle of the Detroit River. It was high noon and sticky-hot in the vast, still park where, among its meandering roads, we found an inactive marble fountain for our glamor-shot debut.

Alex, a Mustang owner, was immediately at home in the Lexus. “My short one-sentence review of the LC 500 is that it’s the most expensive Mustang I’ve ever driven,” he told the group.

Dave echoed his high praise: “The LC punches above its weight. We can take it on a trip like this with cars more than double its cost and it’s hanging.”

Indeed, in that way, Lexus has made the entry-level car of the GT pantheon, if you can consider $100,000 “entry level.” Were I personally unable to swing an Aston Martin, I’d pick up an LC 500 and feel fine about my purchase — at least partially because, at full tilt, its big V8 sounds like an insane gasoline-gulping banshee.

But if I could drop a quarter-million dollars on a DB11 V12, nothing on earth would stop me. Every time I drive one, it feels menacingly familiar, maybe like Bruce Wayne feels when he slips into the bat cowl. It’s an objectively spectacular feat of automobile design, engineering and manufacturing. Eric described it as the “skittish thoroughbred” of the group; “You feel like you have to perform for it,” he said. True, the DB11 is always “on,” and when driving one, so must you be, too. I find that sensation intoxicating and seductive, but it’s not for everyone.

Initial thoughts on the S65 were myriad, but all seemed to cement it early on as occupying the far, opulent and majestic end of the spectrum. “It’s like the minivan of the trip,” said Dave, as an honest compliment — relatively, there is so much room and such a vast array of conveniences that it was the long-haul choice straight away. Initially, I found it overwhelmingly confusing to operate, for the most part; but that impression faded even in the short time I spent with the car. It is, plainly put, a pleasure to cruise in.

After wrapping our first shoot, opinions developing with rapidity and stomachs alive with audible growls, our $600,000 caravan wound its way through the Motor City in search of food. We found it at Mudgie’s Deli in Corktown, where, over spicy noodle salad and huge sandwiches, conversation flowed as we planned our next move.

Detroit is quickly overcoming its fraught history. After a decades-long downturn, ignited in part by the automotive industry moving its manufacturing beyond the city and out of the U.S. entirely, entrepreneurs and the younger generation have found new roots, creating housing opportunities, jobs and commerce among the relics and ruins of the old city. There is, as you might imagine, much to photograph there, though we were going straight for the belle of the ball. Michigan Central Station, an abandoned, looming train hub that stands like a time machine in the middle of an evolving metropolis, was recently purchased by the Ford Motor Company for revitalization and preservation. The building is epic to behold and rife with photogenic vantage points, and as we flagrantly staged photos and blocked streets for prime angles, we drew plenty of attention, including that of a cop.

As his patrol car approached, we disbanded; he pulled up next to the Aston, glared, and I steeled myself for the worst. I rolled down my window, and without breaking the scowl on his face, he boomed, “Which one’s the fastest?” Then flashed a massive smile and offered to help us however possible, going so far to say he’d alert the precinct that we weren’t causing trouble and thanked us for choosing his city to feature in our story. Detroit gets a bad rap for its history; not only is its future bright, its present is, too.

Our day only half over, we bid adieu to the state’s re-budding metropolis and shot westward toward my hometown, Muskegon, on the Lake Michigan shore. The familiar three-hour drive gave me time to reacquaint myself with the sublime DB11, a car that’s at once taut and sinewy to its core, but also supple and plush.

I entered this GT showdown with the working theory that the Aston is the quintessential example of this kind of car. Not all my companions were totally sold.

“My problem is the usability of the car compared to the other ones,” Eric said. “There’s no real cupholder. No convenient place to put my phone. You don’t feel like you’re really inside something special. I don’t mean it has to be eye candy everywhere, but it just has to have a little energy to it, and I don’t get that on the inside.”

That’s by design, Dave countered. “You’re having the experience that Aston wants you to have, and I kind of get that. If you put other stuff on a car like that it’s like putting a fanny pack on a tuxedo.”

Trying to keep my bias in check, I showed off Muskegon’s sights: a World War II submarine; the lighthouse-studded, sandy lakeshore (where a boy walked by and asked if any of our cars had “doors that go up”); a classic West Michigan sunset. Afterward, I checked the guys into the Shoreline Inn, which overlooks downtown and the inland Muskegon Lake, and headed home with my Aston.

Decades ago, I would fall asleep in this very house with visions of supercars dancing in my head, fantasizing about the day I would park something exotic in the driveway. After I burbled into the garage with the DB11, and my dad emerged from the house already snapping photos, it hit me. Starting tonight, I’d have to start dreaming of something different.

Day 2 — Muskegon to Glen Arbor, 148 miles

During a leisurely morning with my parents (plus a curious neighbor who popped in to offer us “twenty grand” to take the Lexus off our hands), we discussed and debated the state of the grand tourers.

First, the Mercedes-Benz, with its 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12. Twelve-cylinders are signature elements of the classic GT car, Dave pointed out. “It’s not a sports car engine. It’s an oil tanker. That’s why it’s in the G65 [SUV] and that car. It just torques the earth around.” My feelings exactly: with 621 horsepower and a truly mental 738 lb-ft of torque, the earth moves for Mercedes. But do wealthy bankers actually need to be carving corners, or do they just want to go fast sometimes? “The guys who buy these probably get as much sportiness as they’re looking for,” my dad noted. “They’re not taking it on a gymkhana.”

After a long goodbye, we shoved off for a quick drive north to Stony Lake. My brother and his family were spending a few days at our lake house before the school year began, and, aside from wanting to get in a couple hours of quality time, I needed to recruit a camera car (my sister-in-law’s Explorer), a copilot (my 11-year-old nephew) and a driver, my brother Matt. His skills honed by years behind the wheel of an ambulance, my brother was more than up to the task of bombing down the oncoming lane so Dave could perform insane acrobatics to procure photos. It helped, of course, that as a teenager Matt would drive in the empty opposite lane screaming “we’re in England!” to scare me senseless — a skill allegedly passed down to him from our oldest brother, Chris.

The roads around Shelby, Michigan, are mostly arrow-straight paths through acres of farmland where grassy asparagus and rough cherry trees grow in massive patches across the entire landscape. You can see for miles down those roads, and the colors of the hay and trees and sky beat like America’s heartland — it’s a magnificent place. And good exercise for big engines to reach passing speed around tractors and slower, loping locals.

My nephew, who has soaked up a love for fast mechanical things, was wide-eyed at the sight of our high-dollar, high-performance herd. He first rode with me in the LC 500, which he claimed was his favorite; after a fast run in the DB11, he naturally changed his mind. Then he rode with Alex in the S65 and didn’t look back. Won over by the endless gadgets and gizmos, like the glass roof and the refrigerator and the night vision and the colored LED lighting system, he’d found the modern preteen automotive dream: a playground of tech on four wheels. As I understand it, he went on to lecture about the merits of Mercedes-Benz for days afterward.

My whole family was taken by it, actually. Dad was amazed by the Mercedes’s dimmable electrochromic glass roof, which changes from a light to dark blue shade should you wish to shun the sun; Mom and I closely inspected the car’s scent diffuser together. The S65 is an astonishing car, magnificently plush and so laden with technology that it would be at home in a sci-fi blockbuster.

Truth be told, it’s probably the most complicated car I’ve ever driven, and getting behind the wheel was a mini dream come true. The V12-powered Mercedes-Benz coupe was the first “fuck you” car I ever knew existed. As a budding auto enthusiast about my nephew’s age, I first figured out the excess — the non-necessity — of the early ’90s CL 600 and understood that other cars were made in its image.

But the S65 stirred contention among our ranks. “With the LC, you get a sense that there’s real deep-tissue design going on there in the architecture,” Eric said. “It’s the only one [of our three] that wasn’t a clean sheet design for the intent of a coupe. I have great respect for this car, but it does not feel like a $239,000 car. I’m sure it is, but if they were to set out with that budget and these performance parameters and design a coupe, would it be this car?”

“No. It would be something else,” Alex said.

Or, as Dave put it: “By cutting doors off, It’s like they sort of targeted a demographic… like the millionaire on Bumble or something.”

With sparse cell reception, no one was using Bumble out here in the country anyway. And, with their duties done, we parted ways with my family and recharged at the Brown Bear, the bar and restaurant with the best burgers in the state.

After a time-consuming morning, the rest of the day would be occupied by a winding drive along the West Michigan coastline and a search for stunning views and photo opps among the dunes and cliffs of scenic route M-22. Our destination for the night was Glen Arbor, a tiny town on the Leelanau Peninsula, adjacent to the utterly magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Under cover of night, we arrived at our stopover: the Homestead Resort, where a four-person lakefront condo awaited us. Though it’s a full-service resort with restaurants and spa, our time was limited; we had an entire state to cover. After scaring up some grub at Art’s Tavern — a college pennant-covered, Michigan beer-saturated restaurant popular with locals and vacationers alike — we hit the hay.

Day 3 — Glen Arbor to Sault Ste. Marie, 259 miles

After breakfast and a quick car wash to brighten our chariots (“No towels? Oh shucks, we’ll have to air dry…“), we headed straight to Traverse City, one of the better-known spots along the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula. It’s a summer vacation destination with sweeping views of Grand Traverse Bay, which feeds off of Lake Michigan and points straight north toward the Upper Peninsula (pro tip: locals call it the “U.P.”). It’s a quick stop, inundated by curious onlookers held rapt by our unfamiliar machines. As I drove through a parking lot, a man walked right up to the Lexus and began screaming with his arms outstretched, apparently concerned neither with his safety nor the fact that he looked deranged. I rolled down the window and he exclaimed again, as his wife shrunk away, “What IS this? It’s BEAUTIFUL!” Small crowds gathered around the Aston Martin, too, and the Mercedes drew some beguiled glances.

Rabid fans aside, we had miles to go before we rested, and heavy rain clouds quickly approached from the west. We were chasing sunlight and dry roads. Our destination, the far edge of the Upper Peninsula, was hours away.

The Mackinac Bridge is a nearly five-mile stretch of proud, tall civil engineering conjoining the two very disparate parts of Michigan. Whereas the Lower Peninsula is full of metropolitan cities and seaside resort towns, the U.P. is largely a quiet place set upon by extreme winter weather and full of vast swaths of forest. Scattered throughout are smaller towns and some cities, like Marquette, Escanaba and our home for the night, Sault (pronounced “soo”) Ste. Marie.

Massive bolts of lightning began striking the bridge when we were only a few minutes away. White cracks of light split swirling, midnight blue swirling skies as larger and larger raindrops activated our automatic windshield wipers. Were the rain to start in earnest and keep up, our plans for bridge photography would be ruined. And so, as we rolled onto the south side of the span, the merciless sky burst open and dumped an entire Great Lake’s worth of rain.

And then, as we crossed through the toll booth, a meteorological miracle: the rain stopped completely.

Navigating into Bridgeview Park to the northwest of the Mackinac, we watched as skies brightened, yellowed and cleared. We were alone in the park, with nothing but a majestic suspension bridge backdrop, a world of photographic possibility and enough humidity to require SCUBA training. Elated and emboldened by our luck, we followed Dave’s hunch and went exploring in the U.P.

There’s a small town named (very appropriately) De Tour Village tucked in the far southeastern corner of the U.P. We found our way to a sparsely occupied point overlooking St. Mary’s River, which serves in part to connect Lakes Huron and Superior in the space between Michigan and Canada. I have no scientific basis for this claim, but I am certain in my heart that never before has there been, and never again will there be, a grouping of these three vehicles on that point. I can, however, definitively state that the Aston Martin DB11 can handle light off-roading.

Our photo cup overflowing, we doubled back and headed north to Sault Ste. Marie just as the sun was beginning to glow a gorgeous amber over the farmland horizon, providing us, almost too perfectly, with a final photoshoot for the trip.
After checking in to the the Plaza Motor Motel, a throwback motor lodge so far north that Yelp suggested Canadian restaurants while we were there, we explained our cars to curious motel neighbors and set out for the open-late godsend that is Applebee’s, where all but one of us guzzled Michigan beer as the whole crew discussed our grand tourers until well after closing time.

Day 4 — Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit, 353 miles

We didn’t have much time the next day and, frankly, we didn’t need it. Photos complete, and our destination checklist totally crossed off, we only needed to head back to Detroit and fly away.

The previous night, as we stood in the Applebee’s parking lot, volleying opinions and arguments, several definitive conclusions emerged. When I asked the guys to pick their favorite among the three, we unanimously voted for the Aston. “But,” Dave said, “it’s not a fair fight.”

Yeah, it’s rigged. The Aston is, as Eric later put it, a “rare bird.” It’s exotic in a way the others aren’t — it’s handbuilt, it’s 007’s choice, it’s among the most beautiful cars on the road. “If it’s my own money… I’d probably go for the Mercedes,” Eric said. “I’m a closet bling hound. It’s got those wheels, it’s got that chrome trim. I dig the LED color-changing thing inside. It’s got shiny things inside and out, and I like that. If I wanted a car I could go out in on the weekends and do the occasional trip with my wife, then yeah, the Aston.”

“[The S65] is the only car of all three that can do the pure-luxury thing,” Dave said. “The Lexus could be a daily driver, but it’s not gonna be. You can’t throw something in the back seat. That’s why I’m riding in the Mercedes all day: my gear. But German engineers are gonna win every time. They’re going to turn everything up to eleven. I need a car that kinda sucks sometimes so I can love the parts that are great.”

Personally, I’m still torn. The DB11 V12 is a monumental car that means a great deal to me. I would love to own one. Then again, I can’t conceive of having a quarter-million dollars, let alone paying that much for… anything. But the Lexus is just such a gem. It’s light and lithe and comfortably simple, yet it delivers all the kinds of tech conveniences and modern enjoyment one might want. We all agreed that it’s the satisfying, perfect culmination of Lexus’s sometimes quizzical design exercises over the past five to ten years; all the brand’s visual cues work incredibly well here. Plus, it’s got reliable Toyota DNA and a relatable, sonorous V8 engine. In Detroit, a guy in an old Suburban stopped traffic to pull next to me and say, “I’ve been doing exhaust work for thirty-five, forty years, and you sound pretty good, brother.” It’s superb, and I’d be tempted if it were at all possible.

Alex wasn’t backing down. “The DB11 suits me. It needles you a little bit. It’s a super tight, super rigid experience. It’s not as nice ride-wise as the Mercedes or the LC. And even some of the conveniences aren’t as good. When I got bored, I turned on Sport mode. In the other cars, when I got bored, I was looking for another radio station.”

“You were driving,” Dave replied.

There it is. Driving. Grand tourers aren’t made for drag strips or gymkhanas. They’re not made for cruising Rodeo Drive or parking at your lake house. They’re made to extract the very best out of the driving experience. People notice these cars, partially because they look athletic and aggressive (as Dave pointed out, there’s chain mail on the front of the S65), and because they look opulent. But they make people happy because they look like emotion; they look like what it is to love the art and act of driving.

“All three absolutely satisfy the nebulous qualities of a GT, but at different ends of the spectrum,” Alex said. The relatively simple, light and beautiful Lexus balances out the heavy, plush, computerized Mercedes-Benz. The aggressive, sultry Aston Martin is in the middle somewhere. And so, the unsatisfying but entirely philosophical conclusion is that there isn’t a definitive choice here — not that we set out to find the “best” among these three anyhow.

The best grand tourer is what speaks loudest and most directly to the driver’s enthusiasm for driving. Do you require German opulence and locomotive torque? English aesthetics and brutish muscle? Japanese serenity and fine design? It really all comes down to whatever helps you sleep at night.

Editor’s Note: minor adjustments have been made to this story in order to accommodate online publishing.

Special thanks to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Dometic CFX 75DZW Portable Refrigerator Review: A Gift to Overlanding

The Dometic CFX 75DZW is a 70-liter capacity travel refrigerator with two individual cooling chambers that can be programmed +/- 2°F between – 7°F and +50°F. Designed for overland enthusiasts or those who enjoy extended time off the grid, the CFX is made from durable materials, can be run from a variety of power sources and has significantly higher food capacity than a similarly sized cooler filled with ice. A smart battery protection system assures the Dometic fridge won’t leave you stranded and a Wi-Fi app affords the convenience of programming either compartment remotely.

The Good: Two independent zones and doors let you separate freezer and fridge items. AC, DC and solar power options mean you can run the cooler at home or in the car. A Wi-Fi app makes setting and monitoring fridge temperatures a breeze. Built-in lighting helps you find goodies quickly in the dark. Removable trays and a drain plug allow for easy clean-up.

Who It’s For: The Dometic 75-liter fridge/freezer is for those who want to spend a week or more off the grid and have sufficient vehicle space to store and access their mega fridge. Even a high-end cooler’s ice will melt after a few days, but a large capacity fridge/freezer won’t force you to seek civilization until you’re ready.

Watch Out For: The 12V DC charging cable that comes with the fridge is very short – too short to stretch from one seating area to the next. A quick fix is a DC cord extension (widely available for about $15). Under normal conditions the 75DZW’s power consumption is modest (1.3 amps per hour), however, used in high ambient temps or without pre-cooling, the fridge can put a big drain on your battery. A deep cycle battery is a must-have, an accessory battery is highly encouraged and planned operation will make a huge difference in performance.

Alternatives: Dometic is likely the biggest name in travel fridges, but it isn’t the only option. Both ARB and SnoMaster make 70+ liter fridge/freezers that run off AC, DC, and solar power like the CFX 75. The Dometic CFX 75DZW ($1,229.99) is, price-wise, right in line of its key competitors and is the only to offer two individual compartments, a Wi-Fi app and a USB port.

Other large capacity, portable fridges in this general price range include:
ARB Fridge/Freezer 82QT ($1,294)
SnoMaster EX75 ($1,299.95)

Verdict: The Dometic CFX 75DZW is a gift to the camping community. With precise temperature control, generous capacity, and a smart dual-chamber layout, this fridge is one of the most rewarding upgrades an overlander can make. Finally, we can stop worrying about keeping our food fresh and just enjoy the adventure.

Review: Sometimes I miss the days when I needed nothing more than a sleeping bag, a ground tent and a few granola bars to enjoy a weekend outdoors. Youth had a part to play in my minimalist pleasure (sleeping on the ground these days guarantees a chiropractic visit), but it was more impacted by my obliviousness to available conveniences.

As I matured, I introduced luxury after luxury, resulting in more comfortable excursions. I traded a ground tent for a rooftop refuge, my backpack for a capable 4×4 and granola bars for a stovetop and red meat. It became increasingly difficult to camp with inferior gear, but the trips grew more extravagant and exciting, so I leaned into the change. Today, it’s impossible to imagine even an overnight escape without my accessories.

Through all these upgrades, however, I maintained a traditional cooler. At first, a $20 off-brand unit was sufficient, but it didn’t take long before I secured a double-walled, well-insulated model from a big-name manufacturer. Replenishing ice every three days instead of every 12 hours was such relief — or so I thought.

All was going well until an overland buddy brought a new toy to our group getaway. Badged “Dometic” and drawing power from his truck’s standard 12V DC port, this portable refrigerator kept food at a steady 40°F, had ample capacity and didn’t require a single ice cube. My spell was broken – I needed to get my hands on a travel fridge.

A month later, I have Dometic’s CFX 75DZW fridge stocked with food for a five-day, 2,000-mile round trip to southern Utah. Plugged into my home’s AC outlet, the fridge needs just two hours to cool from 70°F to 40°F for the larger compartment, and to 5°F for the smaller one.

At dawn, I wrap the fridge in its insulating cover, load the hefty unit onto the Dometic fridge slide in the back of my 1994 Land Cruiser, plug the DC stem into the socket, turn on the fridge’s Wi-Fi and hit the road. Before my trip, I’d intended to set up a dual battery system so the CFX could run exclusively off the accessory battery. I successfully installed the additional battery but failed to sort out the inverter. As such, the accessory battery is now powering the fridge, but the car’s alternator isn’t recharging it.

Gear and supplies obscure a clear view of the Dometic’s display from the front seats, so I ask my wife to pull up the CFX app to check on the temperatures. 40°F and 5°F – just as we’d left it an hour ago. She slides the temp setting for the smaller compartment down to 0°F just to be safe, then goes back to scrolling Instagram.

Two fill-ups and eight hours later, we arrive at camp in Toquerville, UT. It’s getting dark and frigid in a hurry, so we break out the headlamps, layer up and get to work. Thirty minutes later, the stove and table are assembled, the fire’s going, the tent is erect and we’re hangry. I slide out the fridge and retrieve the hamburger ingredients. A bright LED light helps me find everything quickly and individual fridge doors allow me to access the cold foods without disturbing the temperature in the frozen/smaller compartment.

After dinner, we dig into the freezer compartment for some ice cream (because why not make ourselves colder?), then stow the fridge for the night. The next morning, I climb down the tent ladder, open up the car and find the CFX display blank. Overnight, the accessory battery had dropped below the CFX’s low voltage cutoff, so the fridge turned itself off. I swap DC sockets so the cooler is getting power from the starter battery, and the unit turns on. With the outside temperature at 22°F, the CFX is even colder than our pre-set temps — the food is safe.

It’s another two hours of driving to Bryce Canyon, with several stops along the way for photos, gas, and a short hike. Outside, it’s warmed to 65°F, but when we stop for lunch, we pull chilled cold cuts, romaine lettuce, and apples from the CFX. Based on the previous night’s rushed effort to eat and clean before it got too cold, we decide to find our campsite in a BLM forest before sunset.

I kill the engine and start the countdown to when the fridge will hit the 12-volt battery cutoff. When we head off to bed three hours later, the fridge has switched to standby, meaning the internal temperature is stable at or below our pre-sets.

The same pattern repeats for the next three days and nights. From the moment we fire up the truck to several hours later when we find camp and turn off the ignition, the CFX silently saves the day. And in the interim between the fridge switching to stand-by and breakfast the next day, Dometic’s insulated cover and efficient design fight off rising temperatures.

The thought of returning to even the highest quality cooler after experiencing the bliss of a Dometic travel fridge is inconceivable. Maximizing our time and peace of mind in the great outdoors is well worth the price of admission — even if we feel a bit spoiled.

Dometic provided this product for review.

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Koenigsegg creates a lighter, special Regera with hand-polished bare carbon fiber

Though Koenigsegg sold its last Regera last year, that doesn’t mean all the cars it has sold have been built yet. And Koenigsegg clearly still has some surprises up its sleeves for the cars yet to come. Take this latest Regera, for example. It may look at first like a normal Regera with carbon fiber under a clear epoxy, but in reality, you’re looking at truly bare carbon fiber panels. Koenigsegg calls it “Koenigsegg Naked Carbon” or KNC for short.

The process for creating these panels is laborious. After making the panels in the normal fashion with epoxy and an autoclave, each panel has to have the exterior side sanded and polished down by hand right up to the carbon fiber weave. The company notes that employees have to be especially careful toward the end of the process so as not to damage the carbon fibers in the weave, and thus ruin the whole panel.

The result of all that work is a very unique finish. You can see and feel the texture of the carbon weave. Koenigsegg says that it even feels much colder to the touch without the epoxy covering it up. The company also claims it’s less likely to scratch and chip, since the carbon fiber is stronger than the epoxy. That may be the case, but we would still be worried about some sort of object hitting the weave and fraying some of the fibers at some point. Temperature and weather shouldn’t be a problem, though, since Koenigsegg left panels outside for a few years before deciding to do a whole car exterior in the finish.

The KNC material has benefits beyond aesthetics, though. Koenigsegg says that the completed car weighs 44 pounds less than one that was given a full paint job. It’s remarkable that all the epoxy and paint could add that much.

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2019 Mazda CX-9 Review: The Best SUV I’ve Ever Driven

In search of the perfect family SUV (and because my editor wouldn’t let me test the MX-5 Miata RF), I took to California’s Highway 1 and put the Mazda CX-9 thoroughly through its paces. Does it hit the handling highs set by other Mazdas? Does it eschew the lumbering oafy-ness of most SUVs? Would its body roll induce seasickness previously only known to high-seas sailors? There was only one way to find out.

The Good: Like all Mazdas that we’ve tested, the handling and steering on the CX-9 are top notch. It’s predictable, does not exhibit body roll like similarly sized SUVs/crossovers and is genuinely spectacular to drive. Though it may look big and lumbering, the turbocharged four-cylinder does more than enough to get the CX-9 up and moving with its 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The handling and engine, paired together with an interior that leaves little to be desired, makes for an SUV that fights well above its weight.

Who It’s For: The CX-9 makes for a great family car. It’ll keep the driver entertained while still offering plenty of space. It’s also great for outdoor-minded types that like to get outside and onto gravel and dirt roads in snow and sun. The SKYACTIV all-wheel drive works admirably and will get you where you need to go.

Watch Out For: I have few qualms with the CX-9, though minor. First, I find the steering wheel to be a bit thin. (I know, it needs a steering wheel that finds a middle ground for all hand types and shapes.)Second, I wish that the CX-9 got slightly better gas mileage. 20 city / 26 highway isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t setting any records.

Alternatives: The best alternatives to the CX-9 would be VW’s Atlas V6 ($34,095+) and Subaru’s Ascent ($31,995+). Both are excellent options and are among the best in their class. You can read our review of the Atlas here, or the Ascent here.

Review: My first experience with Mazda was a 2003 MPV. For the unfamiliar, the MPV was Mazda’s Honda Odyssey minivan fighter. Not much else needs to be said in order for you to gauge my opinion on it; suffice it to say… not great. But the CX-9 is a different beast altogether. The first CX-9 replaced the MPV in 2006 as the SUV/crossover craze was taking full flight and has continued to be improved upon since. The most recent update, aside from a few cosmetic upgrades here and there, is the addition of Apple Carplay and Android Auto. But those updates are, frankly, unexciting and any modern car priced above $25k should come standard with those capabilities.

Instead of talking about the small technological advancements made to Mazda’s infotainment system, I’m going to talk about how the CX-9 was to drive, how it made me feel and the reactions I got from passersby.

Given Mazda’s reputation for producing cars that handle extremely well, I felt the best place to test a 4,383-pound SUV was to drive from Jenner, California to Sausalito via Highway 1, then up and over the Panoramic Highway. It’s a windy, labyrinthine stretch of asphalt that for some would be motion sickness-inducing. The CX-9 handled it far better than I would have anticipated. In fact, I’d even argue that it was the perfect car for the job. The bolstered, cooled leather seats kept my organs in place and of a regulated temperature. The steering felt tight, smooth and predictable. The brakes were adequate and as soon as the road straightened, punching up to the speed limit forced me back in my seat just enough to make things interesting.

And as promised, the reactions of passersby: I got more reactions to the CX-9 than I did in a Durango SRT, which was shocking to me. People were struck by the crisp body lines of the Mazda. In fact, I actually had someone walk 200 yards down the cliff where these photos were taken to ask me about what I thought of the CX-9.

Verdict: Sure, the CX-9 is no MX-5 Miata, but if you crave a big hulking SUV with handling on par with some of Mazda’s smaller offerings, the CX-9 should be at or near the top of your list. It’s peppy enough to keep you entertained when the kids aren’t in the car and still has enough space for kids plus luggage – plus skis plus plants plus cases of soda plus two medium to large dogs and on and on. It’s refined and comfortable in a way that it shouldn’t be for just over $40k.

Key Specs

Horsepower: 250
Engine: turbocharged 2.5 four-cyclinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain: all-wheel-drive
Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons
Curb weight: 4,383 lbs

Note: Mazda provided the 2019 CX-9 for review.
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