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Special Report: Lamborghini Supports Movember

This year Lamborghini partnered up with the Movember foundation to create awareness for men’s health. As part of this partnership Lamborghini owners all over the world met up for a one day drive to raise funds for this noble cause. We were there to attend the ‘bull run’ hosted by Lamborghini Munich.

About Movember

Movember is the leading charity changing the face of men’s health on a global scale, focusing on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Movember generate the most fame by men around the world growing moustaches in the month of November.

Movember was created because men on average die much younger than women. This is in part due to more dangerous work conditions but also generally unhealthier lifestyles and lack of prevention checks play a key role. Movember raises funds to deliver innovative, breakthrough research and support programmes that enable men to live happier, healthier, and longer lives.

In addition to tackling key health issues faced by men, Movember is working to encourage men to stay healthy in all areas of their lives, with a focus on men staying socially connected and becoming more open to discussing their health and significant moments in their lives. The charity’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.

Lamborghini Huracan EVO RWD

Lamborghini was kind enough to land us a bright orange Huracan EVO RWD to join 15 local Lamborghini owners for a drive through the German state of Bavaria. This rear-wheel drive Italian bull has a 5.2 liter V10 packing 610hp and 560Nm of torque. Thanks to a weight of only 1,389 kg the Huracan EVO RWD sprints from 0-100 km/h in just 3.3 seconds. At 325 km/h the top speed is reached.

The cockpit is very driver oriented with all relevant controles either mounted on the steering wheel or directly in reach without the need to take your eyes of the road. To add to the sense of experience you have to flip a red cover up to expose the start button and fire up the engine. Once you do the heavy base tone of the V10 fills the cabin. In Strada mode the Huracan is pretty quiet but once you switch to the sport or track modes it will become impossible to have a phone call and the V10 completely immerses you with all the emotions it has to give.

The Movember Bull Run

On this early Saturday morning in November the cold air penetrates my clothes as I walk to the Lamborghini dealership in Munich. The Lamborghini flags outside wave in the light breeze. But the sky is blue and the sun is about to pop-up from behind the surrounding buildings. The parking lot is already filled with ‘Bulls’ – from ‘my’ Huracan EVO RWD to several Huracans, Aventadors and a brand new Huracan STO that will be the lead car for today’s drive.

After a mandatory Italian coffee and short briefing the pack of 15 raging bulls sets in motion. The first part of our journey leaves the Bavarian capital behind and sees us heading west on the autobahn. Keeping the pack together goes surprisingly well and the sight of Lamborghinis front and rear traveling together is one to remember.

We leave the autobahn at Landsberg am Lech and here the first bystanders ask what the deal is with the moustaches on the front bonnet of our cars. Time to do what we came here to do and explain November in a few words. With barely time for a thumbs up and a wave we continue. Leaving the main roads behind we enter the twisty roads in the foothills of the Alps. The trees are colored in the typical pallet of fall made even brighter by the low stance of the sun this time of the year.

In the shade of the forest the roads are still damp so I have to keep taming the bull and wait with unleashing its ferocious power a little longer. Lamborghini developed a special performance traction control system for the rear-wheel drive version of the Huracan EVO to make sure it gets the power down and the opportunity to try it came sooner than expected. Due to some road works the group had to turn around after which I lost connection with the group along with another Huracan.

Clearly we missed a turn somewhere as chatter on the walky-talky disappeared. Luckily I knew the next way point so just continued down this beautiful twisty road with clear visibility and above all a dry surface. As I sprint from turn to turn and make my way through the gears I’m firmly pressed in the excellent seats. The solid click of the flappy paddles is followed by a loud scream of the V10 on every downshift. What a joy!

Soon we are reunited with the group and after a few photos continue our journey to lunch. Overlooking the Staffelsee with the German and Austrian Alps as backdrop we talk about Movember and the cause. Just like GTspirit readership the majority of the Lamborghini audience is male and all know someone who suffered from typical men’s health issues. But unlike female initiatives such as Pink Ribbon, the breast cancer awareness campaign, it is much less talked about among men.

After lunch we return to Munich once again in convoy. With the sun disappearing behind the trees the Aventador in front of me is showing flames from its exhaust regularly. It is an unusual sight on the countryside – a convoy of 15 Lamborghinis passing by. The responses from the few bystanders are mixed, some cheer and show thumbs up, others can’t help themselves but release some negative comments just at the sight of these exotic cars. Sad but true that the supercar is becoming more and more polarising.

Every year we make a Christmas donation at GTspirit and this year we have chosen Movember as our charity of choice. It was an honor to be part of over 1,500 Lamborghini drivers worldwide taking part in Bullruns organised by their local dealerships to raise awareness for Movember. For more information about Movember or to make a donation please visit

Review: Dodge’s Delicious 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat AWD

Last year when we drove the the Dodge Durango SRT 392, we came away suitably impressed. The 392 had all the space and utility of the Durango with the heart and soul of a muscle car. It was the best of all worlds and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Still…there was a nagging desire in the back of our minds for something a bit…more. Not necessarily more space or more comfort or more amenities, but more…power. More…speed. More…untamed bottled rage. We wanted to see the Hellcat engine dropped into the chassis. Dodge must have been reading a few pages ahead of us because they were already hard at work at making our yet-to-be-realized dreams come true. Now that the dream has become reality, we got to spend some time putting it through the paces.

Dodge delivered a Redline Pearl example with twin black racing stripes to us. It looked meaner than the 392. I don’t know if it was the deep, sharp splitter or the huge cold-air intake on the wide hood flanked by enormous heat vents, but something about it seemed to emanate serious speed. Maybe it was the large twin exhaust pipes sticking out from beneath the tail. Or the chrome Hellcat badges on the flanks. Maybe it was all those little clues rolled up into one serious-looking speed wagon.

Red Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Inside was a mixture of monochromatic materials: black bolstered leather and suede seats with “SRT” and the Hellcat logo, black carpeting, black console and dash, with some chrome trim bits and the inimitable green and black of pressure-molded carbon fiber. With two extra rows of seats, there’s seating for six. All of it folds flat for enormous cargo capacity. The seats were quite comfortable, and with both heating elements and forced air ventilation you’d be hard-pressed to ever find yourself uncomfortable, no matter how long the trip might be.

Under the hood lay the legendary Hellcat engine, that 6.2L supercharged Hemi V8 that generates 710 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of and at full-honk those dreams are fulfilled. The power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission connected to a set of paddle shifters behind the wheel and is transferred to the pavement through all four wheels. That’s right, the Durango SRT Hellcat is a full-time AWD, pavement-wrinkling land rocket. Plant the throttle and it launches, clicking through its gears until the gearing and aerodynamics can’t overcome the wind resistance any longer. What speed is that at? I’m not sure because we weren’t about to attempt those speeds on public roads but Dodge tells us it’ll top out over 180mph. We CAN tell you that 0-60 mph happens in under 4 seconds. We tried and proved that over and over and over again. Y’know…just for scientific research purposes.

Reigning in all that speed is done by massive Brembo performance brake calipers clamping down on huge dinner-plate sized two-piece ventilated brake rotors. The brakes are a little grabby but they do an exceptional job of scrubbing speed off when you’re coming in too hot. Surrounding the brakes are unique 20” wheels shod with Pirelli performance tires.

There are several drive modes available to choose from – auto, sport, track, tow, and snow. Each influences the behavior of the engine, the transmission’s shift speed, the all-wheel drive system, the steering, the suspension, and the stability control.

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat rear

Driving the Durango SRT Hellcat is quite an experience. While acceleration is intoxicating and handling is impressive, the steering feels a little lighter than we’d like. A little more weighting would be nice. Given the kid-carrying capacity of the Durango though, perhaps Dodge is expecting moms to be the primary drivers of SRT Hellcat Durangos. Lucky moms! And while the engine generates oceans of torque and light-years of speed, the exhaust can get a little boomy inside. We noticed this with the 392 version and hoped that the SRT Hellcat model would eliminate it but it’s still there and it can get uncomfortable on the eardrums at certain revs.

The EPA estimates that the SRT Hellcat Durango will get 17 mpg on the freeway and 12 in the city. We were in the ballpark. After driving the Ram TRX, this iteration of a Hellcat-powered truck actually seemed efficient. But let’s be honest, if you’re buying a Durango Hellcat you already know you’re going to burn a lot of fuel. Worth it though.

The Hellcat SRT Durango starts at around $81,000. Ours optioned out around $91,000. That’s a lot but if you’re looking for the ultimate family hauler, boat tower, and unusual track weapon, this is your truck.

2021 Alpine A110 Colour Edition Review

Sports cars built with driving pleasure as their primary purpose are few and far between these days. Yes, there are super cars available in abundance, but sports cars without six-figure price tags are becoming rarer as business cases and the green revolution begin defining the industry. As a result, the world of enthusiasts was taken aback when Renault revived the name of a 70’s rally legend. The Alpine A110 was born again at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show and journalists from across the globe salivated. Why? Well, with an 1,110 kilogram kerb weight, the A110 was the lightweight sports cars we had all been waiting for.

Initial road tests hailed the Alpine as a car that redefined the sector. A couple of years later, I have the chance to see what all the fuss was about. I’ll be honest, the first impressions were not good. The Alpine wears no Renault badges, but when you get in the quality is what you would expect in a £20,000 Clio, not a halo product designed to rival a Porsche Cayman which is built to feel as good as a Panamera or 911. Some of the plastics are sub par, the infotainment screen escaped 2009 and some of the controls, such as the cruise control switch on arm rest, are frankly bizarre. The Recaro seats are brilliant but outclass the rest of the cabin – it really feels like a mix of many different automobiles.

As ever, I spent the first day with this press car doing what I do on my day-to-day routine, trundling around the city getting coffee and running errands. The A110 feels small on the road which is surprising and pleasing in equal measure at a time when a 992 911 occupies almost every millimetre of a European lane. Being the Colour Edition, the A110 I am driving features 4mm lower suspension and 50% stiffer spring and 100% stiffer anti-roll bars then the standard A110 and it did feel a touch too firm at low speeds on poor surfaces. As you may have gauged, I was not understanding what the allure of the little sports cars was. I was more annoyed that there was no cabin storage space (not even door bins), the infotainment was slow, laggy and was not intuitive, that the front boot was as deep as an over baking tray and that the rear boot would barely fit a thick coat let alone any substantial shopping. Being mid-engined, the boot gets very warm adding to the issues. The front truck release is in the passenger footwell and is a struggle to reach from the driving seat, this is borderline comical.

Day two is all about exploiting a cars dynamic capabilities, finally the Alpine A110 came into its comfort zone. Sport Mode engaged, the punchy little 4-cylinder becomes more vocal, the steering weights up and the car feels much more engaging. Hold down the wheel mounted Sport button and track mode is engaged, the entire dash layout changes to display a whole host of information from steering angle to g forces. The ESC is slackened and this is where this 288bhp pocket rocket starts to make sense. Lightness is the overriding sensation, as is feel through that fixed bucket seat. The Getrag DCT even starts to feel well suited to the engine as the shifts are quick and accompanied by giggle educing parps on shifts. With 320Nm to pelt such a light car down the road, the sensation is speed is entertaining.

There is a balance and connection that is encouraging and brings confidence to push harder and harder as the drive becomes all the more rewarding. The steering is quick, there is little feel but enough to understand where grip levels are. With the ESC in track, the rear end comes into play too. Remember the ride I complained about? Well, despite not having adaptive dampers, the ride becomes much more refined as the speeds build. The entire package comes together to result in one of the most satisfying and exiting cars I have driven in a long time with fabulous poise. The feeling of lightness will stay in my memory for a long time to come.

Yes, it may not be practical or cheap (£62,958 as tested) but it offers something no other car on sale today aside from a Lotus Elise can come close to matching. I tip my hat to Renault for being so dedicated in their pursuit of driver engagement. I hope that many people get behind the wheel of the A110 to understand what the engineers in Dieppe have managed to achieve, this car is magnificent.

2020 Audi R8 Rear Wheel Drive Review

It is hard to believe that the Audi R8 is almost 15-years-old, seeing the first generation V8 on the road is still a treat – few cars have aged as well. Since its inception, the R8 has morphed from a mid-engined sports cars battling the likes of the Porsche 911 Carrera range, into a red blooded supercar with a heart shared with a Lamborghini and a price tag the makes it a very different proposition from the car Tony Stark used to daily. The current R8 range has shrunk to just three options, gone are the V8 or manual options. All powered by 5.2-litre V10 engines and available in Coupe and Spyder forms, perspective buyers can have the full fat Performance Quattro with 612bhp, the semi-skimmed 562bhp V10 Quattro or the entry level model that is the subject of this review, the V10 RWD with ‘just’ 533bhp. The difference is price between the range topper (£144,950) and the RWD (£114,435) is noteworthy and arguably makes the RWD on of the most attainable entry level supercars on the market, but does it make it any less desirable?

To me, the R8 RWD is the most compelling R8 in the current line up. The Performance variant is great, but to me it was too easy to find the limits, something I discovered just a handful of laps into my stint putting it to the test at the fearsome Ascari Race Resort in Spain in 2018. With all of the driver aids disengaged understeer would creep in earlier than expected before suddenly transitioning into snap oversteer. Admittedly, things were much better when pushing the AWD car when fitted with Cup 2 Michelins and not the PS4S.

The first impression of the 2020 R8 Rear Wheel Drive is that the front feels more immediate and communicative than the rest of the range. That being said, the numbness of the steering has not been cured, yes, you can feel a little more of the road, but there is a distinct lack of understanding of how the rubber is interacting with the surface. But let’s be realistic, this is not a Porsche GT3, the R8 is a car with a much broader appeal. Where the GT3 with its (optional) fire extinguisher, cage and harnesses is set to drive to a track day, set immense apex speeds and then drive you home, the R8 is better focused to being the daily driver that will double as the stylish supercar that will turn heads outside your favourite restaurant. There are no adjustable dampers (optional on the AWD variants) so the ride has to be as well suited to a country road as the city centre speed humps. It is well judged but it is a touch unrefined at lower speeds. Anything above 50km/h is well damped, below that it is what I would describe as ‘jiggly’. The interior is well designed and fairly spacious. Whilst the cabin still feels modern, the MMI does feel dated, CarPlay is a bonus but the entire interface does feel a generation old.

But what is it like to push on a fast flowing road? I drove the banana yellow (technically Las Vegas Yellow) RWD for 600 miles, most of which were on some of the best roads in England. Once you learn to modulate the grabby brakes and not expect to be able to feel the surface of the road you can start to find the limits of the 2020 Audi R8 Rear Wheel Drive. The experience is dominated by that mighty 5.2-litre V10 and the transmission. With a redline at 8,500 and no turbochargers in sight (woohoo!) you really have to eke out the revs. Nothing really happens before 3,000 but then things get interesting.

As you reach 4,000 the V10 really starts to come on song. Hang on and relish the bark of the V10 as it reaches peak torque (540Nm) at 6,400rpm and peak power all the way up at 7,900. By the time you’re at 8,500 you’ll be hurtling towards the next corner having enjoyed one of the greatest automotive symphonies in production today. As you hit the brakes (ceramics are not available on the RWD) you’ll pull on the disappointingly small and plastic downshift paddle and enjoy the yelps of the engine as the 7-speed DCT makes quick work of the shifts. When left to its own devices, the transmission is overly eager and seems to constantly be shifting, but the changes are smooth and seamless. Beware of kick down in the auto modes, the gearbox, alarmingly, likes to downshift into the redline.

The Pirelli P Zeros fitted to my test car and mighty and breaking traction is easier said than done. The traction control system is very quick to cut the power and stop any hooliganism so I was forced to set the traction control to its halfway/dynamic setting which was well judged and allowed a little freedom when really pushing on. But even with all of the systems off, this mid engined layout combined with the Pirelli rubber meant that the RWD would usually fire itself out of a corner with little to no drama unless you’ve got a very open space to let the R8 off the leash. Find some space and the R8 feels fast too, 0-100 is done in 3.1 and the 2020 R8 Rear Wheel Drive will keep going until it reaches 324km/h.

The 2020 Audi R8 Rear Wheel Drive is the cheapest R8 in the range, but it offers more excitement and entertainment than the other cars in the range. Day-to-day it is just as usable, practical and enjoyable as the all-wheel-drive models, aside from the jiggly ride. The engine is marvellous and that alone is a reason to seriously consider this car, after all, it seems this and the RWD Huracan are the only two-wheel-driven supercars armed with a V10 on sale. It may not be the most thrilling, driver focused supercar on sale today, but that does not mean that it is not a joy to jump into a drive.

2021 Genesis GV80 Review: Genesis Produces Another Winner

Over the last few years, we’ve had the opportunity to drive just about every iteration of Genesis luxury car they’ve introduced, from the limousine-like G90 to the sporty G70 and we’ve been impressed with them all. Hyundai, which the world once viewed as “entry level,” has given it’s luxury brand a free hand and Genesis is making better built and better thought-out cars than Lexus. The GV80, their first SUV, is no exception.

Available as a 2.5T AWD, a 2.5T RWD, and a 3.5T AWD model, we opted for the most sporting of the bunch – the 2.5T RWD. Three trim levels were available on the 2.5T RWD, Standard, Advanced, and Prestige. We opted for the Prestige, because hey – who doesn’t love bells and whistles? So Genesis dropped off a Cardiff Green Metallic 2.5T RWD Prestige for us to spend some time with. Like any Genesis, we immediately wanted to do a cross-country road trip with it as the comfort level lends itself to road tripping so well, but with over a foot of snow and freezing temperatures, we stayed local and safe.

2021 Genesis GV80 interior

It has a very fresh look to it. There’s an underlying hint of aeronautic inspiration to the design that we liked. The large front grille appears to mimic the spread wings of the Genesis badge above it; the split double-headlights and split side-marker faux-vents on the fenders coordinate with the lower front valence intakes for an aggressive and sporting look. They also match up to the taillights, carrying the theme through the entire design. The pinched waist and flared fenders give it a taut, muscular look. In a world of copycat SUV designs, the GV80 stands out like a lit road flare.

Inside is, as expected, the Genesis luxury we’ve come to expect – but we weren’t expecting this degree of luxury. The GV80 has a jeweled interior that is both inviting and tantalizing. The kind of interior you only find in the most expensive cars. From the satin-chromed switchgear to the jewel-like machined-aluminum-wrapped lucite knobs, the GV80 is full of thoughtful design cues and embellishments. Accent lighting lines run throughout the cabin. Dark woods line the center console. The leathers are top-notch and the stitching is nearly perfect. The seats are comfortable, as well as part of the climate system being heated and ventilated. The infotainment system is easy to use and has an enormous screen on the dash that also displays beautiful misty landscape scenes when not in use, giving a sense of serenity and a calm appreciation for nature. It lacks third-row seating but that’s fine – there’s really only enough room for second-row seating and it’s nice to have some legroom and usable storage space. I suspect that will appear in a GV90 model someday soon anyway.

As you can tell by the name, it has a 2.5L turbo-charged four-cylinder engine under the hood, linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. It makes 300hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. The engine has a great sound to it and moves the 4600 lb vehicle along quite quickly. It’s also a very flexible unit, providing plenty of power in nearly any situation, from leaving a stop light to passing other cars. The eight speeds do their best to make it efficient as well, and it largely succeeds. We only burned through a tank and a half of fuel the week we drove it.

2021 Genesis GV80 rear

The suspension has a multi-link arrangement in both the front and rear, with a self-leveling system for when carrying heavy cargo. The suspension gives the sizable SUV some moves that you wouldn’t expect and it feels very agile and confident in hurried cornering maneuvers. This is the kind of SUV you could hustle down back country roads exploring the countryside. The brakes are 14.2” anti-lock four-wheel disk brakes and they do a great job of stopping the GV80 from speed, while also giving intuitive feel around town in slow speed settings.

One of the things we’ve always like about Genesis is the little touches you discover as you drive it and live with it. Our favorite new technology has to be the automatic bolsters on the front seats. During spirited driving, the bolsters automatically expand to hold you in place better. As you slow, when coming off the freeway onto an off-ramp or braking for a stoplight, the bolsters deflate to allow you more range of motion. It was a thoughtful touch that made us giggle like kids the first time we experienced it. Or when we got home late and turned the car off in the driveway and the accent lighting strips continued to glow throughout the cabin as we gathered up our things before exiting the car.

Genesis estimates that you’ll get about 25mpg on the freeway and about 20mpg in the city. That’s about what we experienced. Not great but not terrible. Decent for the size and weight of it.

The 2.5T RWD starts at $48,900. The Prestige runs $57,050. Given the prices of today’s cars, and the unique design and fantastic interior of the GV80, we’d say that’s a bargain. Especially for such a safe and comfortable SUV. Beautiful car, Genesis. You’ve created another winner.

2021 Lexus LX570 Review: Luxury V8 SUV with Land Cruiser Genes

The Lexus LX570 is a gentle bruiser. To look at it, you’d suspect it was up to something – deep, black paint, black wheels, tinted windows – like one of the men-in-black that shows up in the middle of the night to issue a veiled threat against speaking out about something you shouldn’t have seen. Yet it coddles it’s passengers in luxury and a soft, relaxing ride like a dutiful butler working to make his lord more comfortable.

Maybe it’s the monochromatic appearance that makes it look so large. Maybe it’s the third-row seating. Maybe it just IS large. The monochromatic appearance does make a bold statement. Other than a few grey accents and it’s chrome light accents, it’s like a large, mildly-threatening shadow in the night. It rides on black 20” wheels and towers over most other vehicles on the road.

2021 Lexus LX570 interior

Inside everything is black leather, black plastic, black wood, and black carpet with red leather and satin-chrome accents. The interior is quite comfortable, and once you pull yourself up to the second floor, er- into the cockpit, you find you’re happy to stay there for extended periods of time. The seats are immensely comfortable, electrically adjustable, and both heated and ventilated. On our vehicle, we had the luxury package, which adds heated seating to the 2nd row outboard seats and the 2nd row is power-sliding and the 3rd row is power folding, coming to rest up against the outside walls of the truck. The view of the road and passing landscape is unequaled by anything short of a Peterbilt semi truck or large RV. You look out over other cars down the road into the distance, which gives you a great field of alertness.

There are also some knobs and switches in the center console for switching between 4H (four-wheel drive High) and 4L, as well as hill-descent control, rock-crawling settings, and suspension height settings. I can’t imagine anyone ever taking a Lexus LX570 out exploring Moab or the Rubicon Trail, but if they wanted to they certainly could. The technology is there and at the ready. We didn’t even have snow while we had it so it played the suburban transporter role and it did it magnificently.

Under the hood is a 5.7L 32-v V8 making 383 hp and 403 lb-ft or torque. It moves the enormous truck along decently, though it’s far from sports car territory. It will, however, tow up to 7000 lbs, so there’s that. Its 8-speed automatic transmission is geared for utility – towing, off-roading, and carrying heavy loads of gear. Still, slip it into Sport S or Sport S+ mode and it’ll surprise you but that’s not it’s intended role.

The adaptive suspension with height control does a great job of soaking up bumps and providing a comfortable ride while also giving it some adaptability in adverse conditions. The brakes are strong and intuitively responsive.

It’s really amazing to me how much technology they’ve crammed into this SUV. Between every comfort device known to man, from the adjustable steering wheel to quad-zone climate control; every ride-improving device, like adaptive suspension and self-parking programs; to off-road devices like 4-wheel drive and crawl control; to on-road performance devices, like adjustable suspension and sporting engine and transmission programs; and loads of towing and carrying capacity, it just boggles my mind. If you are looking for something that goes anywhere and does everything and even includes an cooler for beverages in the center console, look no further – the Lexus LX570 is probably your truck. It’s an amazing amalgam of technology.

What it doesn’t do so well is conserve fuel. Lexus estimates that you’ll get about 16 mpg on the highway and 12 mpg in the city. That’s about what we got and with it’s large fuel tank it easily requires $70-80 to fill the tank. But if you want one of the nicest, most capable SUV’s that’s the price you pay. Frankly this is one car Lexus should offer a hybrid of.

The fully-loaded Lexus LX570 comes in at $91,580 before options. After options (heads-up display, luxury package, upgraded Mark Levinson stereo system, Inspiration blackout package, and heated steering wheel), it passes the magic $100,000 mark and comes in at $100,605. I suppose if you can afford that, the fuel economy doesn’t matter quite as much. And you’ll have bragging rights over nearly every other SUV in the neighborhood along with the assurance that even your Jeep-driving, offroad-loving neighbors don’t have any bragging rights you can’t shoot down. An impressive vehicle for sure.

2022 BMW M3 Competition Review

The BMW M3 is one of the most important new performance cars launched this year. My personal experience with BMW’s iconic performance saloon goes back a few years so I jumped at the opportunity to test the new M3.

The all-new BMW M3 builds on the G20 BMW 3-Series Sedan launched in 2019. The 3-Series received a proper make-over from M GmbH to become a true performance limousine. The new M3 is offered in two variants; the ‘base’ M3 Sedan with manual gearbox and 480hp / 550Nm and the M3 Sedan Competition with 8-Speed M Steptronic and 510hp and 650Nm. We cheer the fact that BMW offers the M3 with a manual despite the fact it is slower (4.2 sec from 0-100 km/h vs 3.9 sec) and not offered in all markets around the world.

In this review we focus on the faster M3 Competition. Our Isle of Man Green M3 Competition came with M sport seats and all the bells and whistles BMW has to offer for the new M3, except adaptive cruise control. Optionally there are M carbon bucket seats available which give the car a very sporty look and feel. However tall people probably want to stick with the standard seats that come with a height adjustable headrest.

The M3 cockpit is very driver-oriented and all the relevant features are, still, available at the tip of a button. Again some praise is due for BMW’s conservative attitude to the interior. It may not look as sleek as the all-touch interiors from some competitors, but from a driver’s perspective it is a absolute pleasure. The software of BMW’s infotainment can do with a small user-friendly make-over but the controls itself with iDrive should stay as-is for as long as possible.

Now let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room. Design-wise the new BMW M3 and M4 are some of the most talked about new cars in recent years. This primarily due to the huge kidney grill that both cars received. I must say I wasn’t a fan from the moment I first saw this type of grill of the BMW 4 Concept at the IAA in 2019. It may not win a beauty contest but it is one of the most aggressive designs on the market at the moment and there might just be an audience for it.

Another thing that strikes me is the sheer size of the new M3. The base 3-Series is already a big car but the M3 with the wider fenders looks huge. I hope we reach a point soon where cars become slightly smaller and nimbler again. But in times where an electrified compact car weighs over 2 tonnes already, there is little hope cars will really become smaller and lighter any time soon.

Firing up the three-litre six-in-line is accompanied with a full-bodied sound inside. Outside the soundtrack is not quite as voluminous but that is due to the meanwhile well-known EU restrictions. Customers in the US should be in luck as their M3 and M4s should be significantly louder as their European counterparts. Throughout the journey the engineered tune gives a great sense of performance and speed and never feels artificial.

Performance-wise there is very little to complain about. It beats the last generation M3 CS which was the strongest M3 to date. Fans of the brand know that the Competition badge stands for that extra level of sportiness. And totally in line with that philosophy the bandwidth between comfort and sport is quite narrow. In comfort mode the suspension is still stiff and the car feels properly planted to a point where the title comfort is almost misleading.

The two M buttons on the steering wheel allow the driver to setup two preferred driving profiles. In the profile everything from steering and brake feel to gear changes and ESP can be set to the users preference and activated at the tip of a button. A new feature is the M Drift analyser, similar to the drift aid found in the McLaren 720S, which allows novices to set an invisible hand from level 0 (no traction control) to level 10 (impossible to drift). Although this is a gimmick that few customers will use frequently to drift, it does come in very handy on the race track when the course is wet.

I drove the new M3 Competition on a mixed route with unlimited German autobahn and flowing German b-roads. On the autobahn it is perfect when driven hard but a bit nervous when just cruising along. The 290 km/h top speed is reached with ease and the various sprints show just how strong this engine is. Leaving the highways behind, the car just loves the smooth sweeping bends of the hilly countryside west of Munich. It is very tail-happy accelerating out of tighter bends, just as a true M3 should be.

Overall the new BMW M3 Competition is a very good performance car. It has a great number of incredible details and the level of finishing is close to perfection. If you are looking for a performance car with aggressive styling and performance and handling to match; this is the car to get. It is very much a car to love or to hate.

First Drive: Maserati MC20 – The Start of a New Era

The launch of the Maserati MC20 supercar in September 2020 marked the tangible start of a new era for Maserati. The MC20 is only the first part of a 5 billion Euro investment program launched by FCA to strengthen its brands and production locations in Italy. And Maserati is taking a prominent role in the program. On this sunny day in November I find myself at the Viale Ciro Menotti plant in Modena to take a look at the revamped factory and see what the MC20 is like to drive. 

Before we move on to the car itself Maserati is keen to show what the FCA commitment meant for the Viale Ciro Menotti plant in downtown Modena, home of Maserati since 1940. Up until the end of last year the GranTurismo and GranCabrios were built here along with specific Alfa Romeo performance models. All Maserati models and said Alfas used engines produced by Ferrari a mere 20 kilometers away. But with the Ferrari engine deal expiring next year Maserati has decided to take things in-house. 

Maserati Factory Viale Ciro Menotti Modena
The Maserati Factory at Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena 40 years ago

Walking through the gates at Viale Ciro Menotti feels a bit like time travel. The beautiful red brick factory buildings remind of past times. But these nostalgic feelings fade quickly once you see the modern and high-tech interior. Maserati invested a great deal of time and money into bringing the aging factory up to the latest standards while respecting the location’s heritage. 

A new engine lab has been added to the Modena factory along with a new paintshop, an electric- and hybrid engine test center and an upcoming customization workshop. The Modena plant will be the key production location for the production of the MC20 and its derivatives. Other Maserati models like the Ghibli, Quattroporte, Levante and the successor of the GranTurismo will be built in Turin. 

Following the tour of the factory it is time to take a closer look at the new Maserati MC20 and take it out of a spin on nearby Autodromo di Modena. The test car is still a pre-production prototype and covered in stickers. Since I was not able to attend the official launch beginning of September it is the first time seeing the MC20 in the flesh. And it is surprising how much wider the MC20 is in real life. The proportions or silhouette make it look a lot smaller than it really is in pictures. 

The front and the rear are unmistakingly Maserati. The front is characterized by a large mouth with centrally mounted Tridente and a front splitter running the full width of the car.  The side profile is inspired by the famous Maserati MC12.  The rear is characterised by the full width tail-lip, LED rear lights, a centrally mounted double exhaust and diffusor. A nice touch is the Tridente shape of the cooling holes in the engine cover below which the new engine is found. 

Unlike the famous MC12, the 20 in the name MC20 does not refer to the number of cylinders but to the year of release. The Maserati MC20 comes equipped with the brand new Maserati Nettuno engine, a 3.0 twin turbo V6 engine with twin combustion technology. This technology is derived from Formula 1 and helps reach new levels of performance. The performance figures are impressive; 630hp and 730Nm of torque. Enough for a sprint from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 km/h in under 8.8 seconds and a top speed in excess of 325 km/h. 

The V6 has a 90 degree configuration to lower the center of gravity with the turbochargers mounted below the engine. The engine is paired with an 8-speed double clutch gearbox which comes with a Mechanical (standard) or a Electronic (optional) Limited-Slip Differential. 

From the start of the project about 2 years ago weight and a low center of gravity were among the key goals of the development team. The MC20 has a carbon fibre monocoque that weighs only 100 kg and ensures both safety as well as a rigid chassis. Instead of active aerodynamics the team decided to use passive aerodynamics only to save further weight. The efforts resulted in a kerb weight of less than 1,500 kg and a very low center of gravity. The MC20 has Double-wishbone suspension front and rear with adaptive dampers. The brakes are provided by Brembo and carbon ceramic brakes are available as an optional extra. 

As I open up the butterfly doors I’m in for some surprises. Unlike other mid-engined supercars with a carbon tub the doorsill is very narrow and the door opening especially towards the front rather large so it is very easy to get in- and out of the car. As I slide into the driver’s seat I also notice there is a lot more space than I was expecting. The low sleek center console finished in carbon fibre not only looks great but also adds a lot to the sense of space. 

The interior itself is crafted like a work of art. Leather, alcantara and carbon fibre are used in symbiosis to create a functional and driver oriented cockpit with very high aesthetic qualities. The number of buttons is reduced to a minimum with only the selection wheel for the five different drive modes (Wet, GT, Sport, Corsa and ESC off), the Drive / Manual gearbox selection button, reverse selection button, the window controls and a volume button on the center console. Nearly all other controls are either found at the wheel or in the landscape sized touchscreen display in the center. The driver display is also fully digital and displays all relevant information and adapts based on the chosen drive program. 

Firing up the twin turbo V6 is done with a button on the steering wheel. It does sound quite good for a V6 but obviously is no match for the V8 of the GranTurismo or the V12 of the MC12. A problem that Maserati like other manufacturers have to deal with are the ever stricter regulations for emissions and noise. US customers will be lucky, their MC20s will be significantly louder than their European counterparts. 

After a short drive through the center of Modena, with its cobblestone streets ideal to experience the MC20s relative comfort on rough roads, we arrive at the Autodromo di Modena. It is not my first time here and following a quick briefing it is time to find out what the MC20 is all about. 

Already after the first lap I’m blown away by the new MC20. Accelerating down the main straight I’m pressed firmly into the seat all the way to the braking point for the first corner. The steering is direct, precise and body roll virtually non-existent. The stopping power is equally impressive but the carbon ceramics might be a bit much for customers who will use it primarily as a road car. 

The gear changes are near instant but I don’t like the fact that it skips from 3rd to 1st gear when shifting down for a tighter corner. Although this will probably be changed in the production car. Switching back from Corsa to Sport and GT mode I can feel the car soften and become more forgiving for every day use. 

It is worth mentioning that virtual vehicle development and one of the world’s most advanced driving simulators at Maserati’s Innovation Lab on the other side of Modena played a key role in development of the MC20. The use of simulation and virtual car mathematics allowed Maserati to test more parameters in a shorter time, reducing development time and reaching better results. Setups created digitally were then installed in real world prototypes and tested extensively on the road and track to validate the results. This process led to the MC20 I was able to test today.

In addition to the standard equipment customers can choose from a range of optional extras including a nose-lift system, Sonus faber High-Premium Audio System, exposed carbon fibre parts and carbon ceramic brakes. 

The MC20 is just the start of a complete line-up. Next year we will also see a MC20 Spider followed by a battery-electric version the year after. It is no secret that Maserati also aims to return to motorsport with a dedicated racing version of the MC20. This platform versatility gives the MC20 a certain edge over the competition. Production of the MC20 starts in January 2021 with first customer deliveries expected at the end of Q1 in Europe followed by the US in July 2021. 

The Maserati MC20 is one of the most surprising new cars of this year and it exceeded my expectations in almost every regard. It truly marks the start of a new era for Maserati. 

Ferrari F8 Spider Review – Roofless Driving Perfection

It is 9.30 sharp when I walk through the gates of the Ferrari factory in an eerily quiet Maranello. In one of the two parking spots in front of the iconic factory building a Giallo Modena yellow Ferrari F8 Spider is waiting for me. Following one of the quickest and easiest test car handovers in years I’m out through the gate as fast as I came in. 

The Ferrari F8 Spider is the successor to the 488 Spider launched in late 2015. The 3.9 liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine internally known as F154CD delivers the same output as the 2018 488 Pista Spider. While delivering 720hp and 770Nm of torque the F8 Spider can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 8.2 seconds and continue to accelerate until the top speed of 340 km/h. Weighing in at just 1,400 kilograms the F8 has a power-to-weight ratio of less than 2 kg per hp. It is the most powerful and possibly last non-hybrid Ferrari V8 produced to date. 

Ferrari F8 Spider

Despite my test drive taking place at the beginning of November the sky is blue and the outside temperature already passed 15 degrees this morning. So it is time to drop the folding hardtop by pressing the button in the center console. In around 14 seconds the roof drops down and this can be done up to speeds of 45 km/h. One of my favorite features of this kind of roof is the small rear window you can open while the roof is up; it keeps the wind noise out but let’s all the beautiful tunes of the mid-engined V8 in. 

Design-wise the new F8 Tributo and F8 Spider continue in the footsteps of the stunning and incredibly sexy Pista. The S-Duct dominates the front of the car and the new side intakes and slimmer, longer LED lights give the front a wider and more aggressive appearance. The large air intakes are moved slightly further back to improve the airflow to the engine. The sideskirts taper outwards towards the rear wheel. It is a part of the car you will want to clean after every drive as they seem to catch a lot of dirt coming from the front wheels and seemingly the only part where form and function don’t go hand in hand. 

Ferrari F8 Spider front

For the first time since the F430 quad tail lights returned. Photos don’t do justice to the level of depth these LED lights provide in real life. The lower part of the rear is very similar to the Pista with a wide diffuser and two large exhaust pipes. Being a spider the engine is hidden mostly below the foldable hard top. 

Ferrari F8 Spider LED Rear Lights

The quality of the design continues beyond what you can see on first glimpse. Under the front bonnet beautifully sculptured carbon covers the inside around the actual trunk. It is details like this that set Ferrari apart from the competition. 

Ferrari F8 Spider Front bonnet luggage space

The inside of the F8 Spider is dominated by leather and carbon fibre. The carbon fibre racing seats are a perfect fit. And although the convertible has slightly less space than the F8 Tributo there is enough space to sit comfortably even for taller people. Being 1,90m tall myself I struggle to sit well in many mid-engined sports cars but in the F8 Spider I had no issues at all. This also thanks to the extremely low and elegant center console that provides both excellent leg space as well as a general sense of space. 

Ferrari F8 Spider Interior with Carbon Racing Seats

Ferrari’s have always been extremely driver oriented and the F8 Spider makes no exception. All vital controls are located directly on the steering wheel; including indicators (takes some getting used too), big beam, engine start / stop, dampers, voice control and phone, wipers and last but not least the Manettino which allows quick and uncomplicated change of drive programs from Wet and Sport to Race, TC off and finally ESP off. 

Ferrari F8 Spider HMI Passenger display

Unlike most other new cars the only touch screen is solely for the passenger. The driver can control everything by the touch of a button and I wish more manufacturers would follow this example. Key driver information is displayed only on two displays on either side of the rev counter. 

Ferrari F8 Spider Des

Time to find out what it is like to drive the F8 Spider. Normally I head South from Maranello straight into the mountains but this time I want to go East and find some new locations. The first part of the journey takes me via the truck heavy SP467 with its dense traffic and destroyed road surface. Not ideal for a 720hp V8 supercar but with the soft damper setting the F8 copes well. 

Ferrari F8 Spider

Leaving the main road and the traffic behind me as I head into the hills I can let the engine howl a bit more. The V8 packs an incredible punch and presses me firmly into my seat as I sprint from bend to bend on the first empty mountain road. The audible drama is not quite as it used to be but this is mainly due to the EU and their emissions (OPF) and sound restrictions that Ferrari has to comply with.

What is remarkable is the balance and predictability; the throttle, braking and steering are all equally easy to dose and give you a perfect sense of control. This makes that the Ferrari F8 Spider doesn’t feel like a 720hp supercar, and all the glitches that normally come with it, when you are cruising in town or in traffic but as soon as you find that perfect bit of road or hit the track it morphs into a breathtaking razor sharp machine within a split second.

Ferrari F8 Spider roof down

By chance we find a mountain road with sunlight peeking through the trees for our photographer Philipp Rupprecht to work his magic on the Ferrari F8 Spider. 

2021 Ferrari F8 Spider Rear

Ferrari F8 Spider

Ferrari F8 Spider GTspirit 86

On the second part of my journey the roads straighten and are much smoother, yet the F8 is so incredibly fast that it is hard to enjoy the full potential on any public road. From an engineering perspective we live in incredible times that you have to take a mid-engined convertible on track to utilize it to its maximum. Nonetheless I can think of few things more enjoyable than driving through the Italian hills with a prancing horse while the wind rushes through my hair.  

Ferrari F8 Spider GTspirit 91

A day with a Ferrari is always too short. If it wasn’t just for the experience itself, it is for the wonderful things that just happen when you travel through Italy in such a car. A restaurant owner obliging you to park on the no-parking space directly in front of his locale, to kids smiling from ear to ear when they see the car.   

Ferrari F8 Spider Giallo Modena Yellow

After returning the Ferrari F8 Spider at the same place where I picked it up this morning it is time to reflect. The F8 Spider is incredibly close to automotive perfection. Stunning design paired with a driver-oriented cockpit without touch screens which is a relief for true drivers. The available performance is more than sufficient in all situations except maybe at a hypercar trackday. All of my comments sound like whining at the highest level, only the lack of volume in the soundtrack is something that impacts the otherwise perfect score.

2021 992 Porsche 911 Turbo Review

The 992 Porsche 911 Turbo S took the world by storm in 2020 with many hailing it as the best 911 Turbo S ever to be unleashed my the team in Stuttgart. The numbers are bombastic. 650bhp, 800Nm, 0-100 in 2.7, a top speed of 330km/h and a price tag starting at £155,970 before options. Impressive, but is it necessary? This is a super-GT car that is more likely to find itself on the a morning commute with a child in the back than going flat out on the Nordschleife.

Porsche know this and offer a Turbo with the ’S’ knocked off the rear end. A Porsche Turbo, without the S, is still a speed and numbers freak, but not to the same extent as the biggest baddest S model. That being said, 580bhp, 750Nm, 0-100 in 2.8, a top speed of 320km/h and a £134,400 are certainly not modest, by any measure. 70bhp, 50Nm, 0.1 to 100, 21km/h at the top end and £22k are all that separate the two. Visually you’ll have to be a proper Porsche nerd to tell the two apart, especially now that S and non-S can be specced with the same wheels and badges on the rear deck. To my knowledge, the only badges that cannot be hidden are on the screens, door sills or the extendable front splitter. Debdage it and don’t let anyone in and they’ll never know you’re not in an S. The other telltale sign is the yellow brake callipers that are standard on the Turbo S to denote the PCCB ceramic brakes, but you can option identical brakes and callipers on the Turbo.

Can the Turbo show itself to be just as well rounded and the S? I flew to Germany to the Porsche Experience Centre, Hockenheim to find out. I will forever love Porsche for never messing around on launch events. I had almost an hour on track with the Turbo to gather my thoughts on how the car performed and I learnt a lot. Initial impressions are dominated by the tremendous and unrelenting force that the rear mounted 3.7-litre flat-six twin turbo engine send to all four wheel via an eight-speed PDK gearbox.

Why anyone would need the extra 70 horses, I’m not quite sure. The what the power in sent to the wheels along with the sublime PDK shifts means the Turbo launches itself from one apex to the next. Slowing down is just as impressive an experience as the car I am in is fitted with the PCCB brakes which cost around €10,000(!) and bring the 1,640 kilogram 911 to a halt with tremendous force and feel in the pedal – the confidence is unparalleled. The same can be said for the chassis, too. Th example I was piloting featured the firmer 10 mm lower PASM Sports suspension designed to enhance the agility of the new 911 Turbo. There was not a hint of roll in the body and through the fast Hockenheim GP sweeping bends the body composure was mighty. The adjustability on the limit was so soft, approachable and confidence inspiring.

This really is one of the finest allrounders on sale today. It is refined, quiet and comfortable on the road and an absolute joy to drive on circuit. That being said, it is not as focused as something like a McLaren 570S or Lamborghini Huracan, but they are not worthy of mention in the same breath when considering a daily driver. The 992 Turbo really is the Swiss Army Knife of the automotive world. It is perfectly at home in city traffic, crossing a continent or pounding around a racetrack. There really is no substitute. The Turbo offers a more affordable package than the Turbo S and one that, in the real world, left me wanting nothing more.

2021 BMW iX3 Review

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of electric cars. Having experienced battery powered offerings ranging from the Renault Zoe to the Porsche Taycan Turbo S, I can categorically say that I am not ready to drop my addiction to fossil juice for the volt life. That being said, there are a few applications in which I can picture myself driving an electric car – short, mundane and preplanned journeys. I have suffered from the stress and anguish of range anxiety on road Trips on which I’ve spent more time staring at the battery percentage and range than I did enjoying the views or fabulous roads.

The BMW iX3 is not intended to be used for cross country cruises or for blasting up mountain passes. This is a car for the school run, weekly shop and the odd trip to visit friends and family on the weekends. That is not to say it cannot cross continents, it can but there are other X3s better suited to such applications. This is the first BMW model to be available with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid or full EV powertrains to choose from.

With ‘the power of choice’ in mind, I hit the road in the iX3 to see what this 286 horsepower ‘Sport Activity Vehicle’ with a claimed WLTP range of 460 kilometres felt like. I tried to be sensible and drive in a fashion I imagine a buyer of such a car would, but as with all electric cars, I immediately engaged sport mode and floored it. The instant torque was amusing, the way that 2.2 tonnes shifted was impressive and the accompanying, configurable ‘drive sound’ added some character. 0-100km/h is dispatched in a respectable 6.8 seconds with the top speed capped at 180.

After a few accelerations the novelty wore off and I set about driving the car the way it was intended to be. I turned my attention to the braking regeneration options starting with ‘one-pedal’ driving. This was surprisingly good fun, I challenged myself to not use the brake pedal at all, it took some focus but was achievable after a few minutes of experimentation. I could not get comfortable with was the ‘adaptive’ mode where the braking force would automatically adjust itself using the navigation system to bring the car to a standstill without using the brakes. The level two autonomous systems worked brilliantly, only requiring assistance at traffic lights, roundabouts and coming to a stop with no car ahead of you on the road. I found myself trusting the systems almost immediately. The steering was accurate and did not have iX3 bouncing between the white lines.

When the twisty roads between towns presented themselves, I took control and engaged sport mode with maximum regeneration and found myself having much more fun than expected. Yes, the inherent feel and feedback in minimal, but the steering is quick and sharp and when applying max power out of bends there were noticeable rear-wheel-drive characteristics to be felt. Back to real world testing – the iX3 handled its weight with grace, the ride was firm in sport but the adaptive dampers meant this could easily be remedied. Being electric meant that wind and road noise could be intrusive at higher autobahn speeds, but not to uncomfortable levels. The cabin was well appointed and the usual BMW iDrive goodies are all you could want from an infotainment system. You could never tell this is a BMW that had been built in China. There was almost as much space as in a conventionally powered X3, the only difference was the marginally shallower boot as the electric motors hid beneath the boot floor.

As mentioned in the opening of this review, I can see the application and allure of having an electric car and this 150kW offering which can be charged from 0-80% in 34 minutes on an IONITY fast charger, certainly makes a case for itself. It is as comfortable and capable as I hoped with an added sense of humour. If you’re in the market for an electric family car that can take care of your simple commutes this may well be the car for you!

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Review

2020 has been a weird year. No one will argue that. And when things get a little too weird, you seek out things that bring you joy, things that bring you hope, and things that put a smile on your face. Things like classic Americana. Like muscle cars – big cars, big engines, big fun. So after a season of “sensible cars” we reached out to Dodge to see what flavor of Hellcat they were serving up this Autumn. The Durango Hellcat wasn’t available yet, but they offered us a Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody instead. The only thing we knew about it was that it had big ol’ fender flares around the wheel wells and manages to look even meaner than the standard Charger SRT Hellcat. We’d give it a shakedown.

The last Charger Hellcat we tested was two years ago. It was big. It was comfortable. It was loud. It looked mean. And it went like hell. We loved it and we laid burned rubber every opportunity we got. All the roads around our office had twin black squiggly stripes on them. Some short, some almost 100 yards long. It was a riot on wheels. So we were looking forward to driving the ol’ girl again.

The day it showed up, we heard it before we saw it. We knew it was arriving by the engine sound…a half-mile away. The unmistakable deep rumble of the engine through the exhaust pipes was audible from a literal half-mile away. Think about that. The driver wasn’t revving the engine, nor was he squealing the tires. He was simply driving it conservatively (don’t ask me how). The hair on the back of my neck stood up. As it pulled into view, my knees went a little weak. The TorRed (get it?) colored car with matte black hood, roof, and trunk looked amazing and the fender flares made it look incredibly aggressive. The curves of the myriad scoops and grilles and flares gave it a menacing appearance. The matte black wheels finished off the look nicely.

The interior is very straightforward. It’s basic but plush and comfortable. It is a mixture of black leather, caramel colored leather, carbon fiber, and chrome. It was a very comfortable-looking interior and we were not disappointed in that analysis. With a spacious interior and soft seats and surfaces, it proved to be an excellent cockpit from which to pilot the Hellcat, allowing long drives in maximum comfort and sporting drives in well-bolstered stability. Perfect for every Midwestern season, it comes with 10-way electrically adjustable heated seats (both front and rear) and steering wheel. The seats are also ventilated for summer comfort as well. If you can’t get comfortable in this car, you have a serious medical condition. The gauges are a blend of analog and digital. And who doesn’t love a car with a 200-mph speedometer. I was told it’ll make good use of most of that speedometer too, but we didn’t push it anywhere close to that. We like having a drivers license, thank you very much.

The 6.2L supercharged Hemi V8 feels relatively unchanged from our first experience with it. It still makes gobs of torque and horsepower and sounds like a million-bucks. Endowed with 707 hp (!) and 650 lb-ft of torque, it can move the heavy car to 60mph in about 3.6 seconds and keep on scaring the crap out of you all the way to 196 mph. The quarter-mile comes in 10+ seconds. Acceleration in this car literally confuses your brain the first few times you launch it.

Hellcat Engine

With great power comes great responsibility, so Dodge wisely fitted massive Brembo 6-piston brake calipers and dinner plate-sized vented disks to arrest that speed. They slow the nearly 2.5-ton car as quickly and easily as any lighter sport sedan. Pedal feedback is excellent and allows you to modulate the brakes in a simple, straightforward way.

The transmission is an 8-speed automatic, but offers paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. They’re much more responsive than you’d expect. While big horsepower cars like the Charger Hellcat usually respond better to letting the automatic transmission do it’s thing, In Track mode, I felt they really complemented the driving experience. It was also nice to be able to downshift approaching a stop light and listen to that Hellcat engine growl.

Since our last outing with a Charger Hellcat, Dodge has added a few features that make it easier to extract more performance. To complement their launch control, they’ve included a feature called “Line Lock.” If you engage Line Lock, it electronically disengages the rear brake lines, allowing you to step on the brake pedal and only lock the front brakes so you can send maximum power to the rear wheels for more effective launches. Launch control is still available, allowing you to dial up a pre-set rpm level for launch. A new “after run chiller” cools the engine after a workout.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Headlights

The big draw though, is what comes standard as part of the Widebody option: an improved suspension that gives the car much improved handling. The Widebody Hellcat isn’t just a body change that makes it look cooler and allows wider tires under the fenders. No, it’s really more about the suspension that wheels are connected to. Two years ago when we first drove the standard Charger Hellcat, we found the suspension to be too soft. It was floaty and uninspiring, leaning heavily in corners. It was electronically adjustable though, and switching from Normal to Sport or Track firmed things up, but the base setting was much, much too soft. Even in Sport or Track modes, it was still softer than we liked.

The new Widebody performance adaptive suspension is very firm in Normal mode and feels much more competent right out of the gate. Switch it to Sport mode and it firms up a bit and turns traction control completely off. This is also known as “Burn-the-Tires-Off” mode. This mode really allows you to be a complete hooligan and really play with the car, drifting through roundabouts in smoky lurid drifts. Switch it to Track mode and the traction control returns enough to provide the maximum balance of slip and grip to make the Charger Hellcat Widebody a track-devouring animal. The shock setting on Track is too harsh for everyday roads unless you’re hardcore though. We usually left it in Normal unless we felt like signing our names in rubber paint.

On a winding back country road, in any mode, the Hellcat Widebody just wants to run. It’s suspension is unperturbed by bumps and dips and uneven spots; it stays balanced and controlled and just wants to go faster. On the freeway, it’s comfortable and fast and unflappable. Cloverleaf on-ramps are no challenge – the Charger Hellcat Widebody just rockets around them and allows you to shoot into traffic with surprising ease. This is really the WHOLE package. This isn’t just a one-trick pony muscle car, but a balanced performance car that’s at home on the road and on the track.

Burnout Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody

And the whole time you’re burning up the tires and terrorizing the freeways, you sit in an airy, spacious cabin enjoying the comforts of the cockpit. The smell of the leather seats mixed with the acrid smell of burnt rubber soothes you. The climate control keeps temps at a comfortable spot. The fantastic stereo cranks out one AC/DC tune after another. And the cupholder holds your 32-ounce pop tightly while you drift the car sideways through yet another corner.

The Hellcat engine may be Chrysler’s greatest gift to the world, but the rest of the car provides a marvelous platform to exhibit it’s abilities in. It’s just about perfect. Are there any flaws? Not really. Everything worked perfectly, as expected. Would we change anything about the car? My first thought is to shrink it down in size, but truthfully I loved the enormity of the car. I’m the guy that usually seeks out the smallest car possible to drive, but I loved the sheer size and heft of this car and the fact that DESPITE that size and heft, it still launches harder than an F/A-18 off a carrier deck. The size also adds an intimidation factor. Nobody wants to mess with the 900-lb gorilla.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Seats

If it has a flaw it’s fuel consumption. Fuel consumption is lousy, as you’d expect. There’s a price to be paid for all that fun. But it’s completely worth it. The EPA estimates that you’ll get 12 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway for a combined estimate of 15 mpg. We actually averaged better than that, getting a combined average of 18.5 mpg. Which is pretty darned good for a 707 hp, 2-1/2 ton car.

The base price of the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is about $73,000 USD. That’s a pretty reasonable price for such a big comfortable performance rocket like the Hellcat. Our car came in at $85,000 USD with all the various options but it’d be fairly easy to keep the price closer to base if you were so inclined. None of the options on the car were essential, though that Harmon-Kardon stereo system was pretty kick-ass.

It’s amazing to us that for as long as the Charger has been on the market, it neither feels old nor outdated. Dodge does an excellent job keeping it updated and keeping it immensely fun. As long as they keep improving it and expanding the legend, it’ll always keep us wanting more.

2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupé Review

Size matters – but does 200mm make a difference? This seemingly small measure is what differentiates the 2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupé from the M8, minus the GC nomenclature. However, 200mm means this M8 can accommodate an extra pair of doors and seating for five. With four in the back things are habitable. Headroom is not great, but if you wiggle them around a bit, two 6-foot adults could handle a long journey back there. You can try and shoehorn a fifth in, but they have to straddle the central armrest and make everything a little too cosy in the back seats.

Enough of the practicalities, this is an M car and all I care about is how this massive twin-turbo V8 powered 625bhp brute performs. With xDrive 553lb ft, and 0-100 banished in a supercar worthy 3.2 seconds, the numbers look good near identical to the two-door, making it BMW’s equal-fastest production model.

The xDrive means the power can be utilised, even on the road and in almost any conditions. However, weighing in at 2,055 kilograms means that this is a car which you have to consider the laws of physics in. The way speed builds is borderline scary and you’ll swear that the speedometer is making things up as the numbers rapidly approach and fly past legal limits. With a bewildering number of settings for the steering, engine, suspension and exhaust, you’ll have to find what suits you. With everything in the most aggressive settings things are a handful and the car bounces up and over bumps. Knock the suspension back into comfort and leave everything in full attack mode with the traction control in M Dynamic Mode and you’ll be having a fabulous time. The traction control system in MDM means you can apply proper slip angles on the throttle and let the xDrive system display a true sense of humour. You can, of course go to fourth base and engage rear-wheel-drive mode, but with the weight and all of that power I was not brave enough to explore this on a wet British country road, there is no way to have 100% of the power being sent to the rear with any assistance systems engaged, you are on your own.

The M8 Competition Gran Coupé does handle surprisingly well for a car of this size, I would argue that it is a viable alternative to the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door which is worthy praise, indeed. There is a surprising amount of feedback in a car this size, but do not expect it to be as engaging as a BMW M2 CS, this is still designed to be a comfortable daily driver. This is where the M8 Competition Gran Coupé excels. The way it can be transformed from a taught speed freak into a sedate city cruiser with undeniable presence is astonishing and impressive in equal measure.

As great as a cruiser/daily driver the M8 Competition Gran Coupé is, it cannot disguise its large dimensions. The M8 coupe felt like a big car with a surprisingly small cabin and the M8 Competition Gran Coupé is not much different. On the road is looks large, I caught a glimpse of the reflection of myself in a shop window and laughed at how gargantuan the car looked. I also noticed that the car is a very good looking thing, to my eye anyway. The interior is a fantastic place to soak up the miles with all of the latest tech you could come to expect from a car priced at more than €130,000.

I would strongly recommend the M8 Competition Gran Coupé. It offers supercar performance, saloon car usability and a compelling breadth of ability. The biggest problem with the M8 Competition Gran Coupé is the BMW M5 Competition. It fulfils the same philosophy at a much lesser price. If I had the choice and did not have to consider price, the striking design and imposing face of the M8 Competition Gran Coupé would have my vote, but both would be a pleasure to own.

2020 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe Review

Don’t judge a book by its cover is the phrase I repeated in my head as I approached the 2020 BMW 4 Series Coupé, the M440i xDrive to be specific. The 4 Series caused something more akin to a tsunami than a stir when the covers were pulled back in May 2020. The design may polarise, but there is more to any BMW than its design. After all, these are supposedly the ‘ultimate driving machines’. The M3 and M4 recently broke cover and I hope to drive them shortly, but for now it is this, the M440i xDrive that is the range topper.

Having driven the M340i xDrive on track last year, my expectations of how the car would drive were high. The numbers look good, too. With a mild-hybrid-assisted 3-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine and standard xDrive, the M440i puts out 374 horsepower. This includes the 11 horsepower that the 48v system can apply to aid acceleration and economy. This means 0-100km/h is dispatched in a respectable 4.5 seconds – plenty fast for an M Performance model.

There is the typical BMW 50:50 weight distribution and the car feels handy on the twisty country roads around Oxford. That being said, when starting to push on there is a hint of understeer. The xDrive promises to shuffle power between the wheels but often felt overwhelmed, perhaps the car would be better suited to more open flowing roads than tight country lanes to display its true dynamic traits. The benefit of xDrive is, of course, the all-weather usability that was once the USP of Audis.

There is an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission which proved to be slick and quick, straight line acceleration felt strong, although the only sign of the 11hp boost being deployed from the mild-hybrid-system was the dashboard letting me know. The steering, like with so many modern cars lacked any discernible feedback and the weighting felt artificial. The same can be said for the synthesised noise that was so obviously being emitted from the speakers.

In the real world these are unlikely to ever be issues or concerns for aspiring buyers. Owners of a 2020 BMW M440i xDrive Coupé are not looking for hardcore thrills and a car that bristles with feel, these are cars that will be driven everyday, have to go to the supermarket and be comfortable over long journeys. On that note, the ride over broken tarmac was a touch harsh – seeing M Sport suspension on the spec list always sends alarm bells ringing, but these are adjustable and much better when set into comfort mode. The interior is familiar BMW with all the tech you could want with fancy bells and whistles such as gesture control and a host of driver assistance systems being offered.

Assuming that potential buyers are not put off by the styling or the price (the car I drove was priced up to an eye-watering £61,100), I am sure that the M440i xDrive Coupé will be a sales success. From my time behind the wheel it is clear that this will be a practical, enjoyable and exciting daily driver. I guess the thrills, adrenaline rushes and track day credentials will be served up by the fistful in the eagerly anticipated M3 and M4.

2020 Mini John Cooper Works GP3 Review

There are few things as exciting as a naughty little hot hatch. There is something cheeky about taking a small car and pumping up the power to deliver accessible thrills on the road. Supercars are all show and no go in a world of poorly surfaced roads, speed bumps and narrow lanes. Other road users won’t turn their noses up at you in a hot hatches and they make sense with modest power figures and relatively modest price tags.

As a result I was giddy with excitement when Mini unveiled the Mini John Cooper Works GP3 with its crazy carbon body extensions, giant wing, the news that it packed a mighty 306 horsepower and that just 3,000 units will be produced – my time to drive the pocket rocket could not come soon enough.

Walking up to the Mini GP3 is an occasion in itself. The car looks like someone sent the blueprints of a base Mini Cooper to an 8-year-old and told them to go crazy with the crayons for their evening homework. There are vents, extensions and wings everywhere you look. I love that it is fit to reside in a mental asylums underground car park, but can understand that your grandmother may be a little embarrassed emerging from the passenger seat outside the bingo hall. Stepping in, things are just as bonkers. There are bucket seats with huge bolsters to hug you, and that’s where the seats end. The rear ones have been removed, replaced by a cavernous space and a red beam which serves no purpose other than to look cool.

Under the fake-grill garnished hood there is the powertrain from the most recent BMW M135i shoehorned into a Mini body. The 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder engine sends 306hp and 332lb ft through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Where the BMW and other hot hatches such as the Mercedes-AMG A35, Audi S3 and VW Golf R, the Mini features no four-wheel-drive trickery. Instead, all the power is sent to the front wheels via a limited-slip differential.

Other changes include 10mm lower springs, beefier brakes and the GP style wheels. The plethora of visual changes are all style and very little substance as it is not stated that there is any aerodynamic benefit or downforce. At 1,255kgs, it is light, but not mind-blowing given its size and when you consider that half of the interior is missing.

Enough on the details and specs, time to drive it. First impressions were that the gearbox feels lethargic, real hot hatches need manuals to be as riotous as they should be. Into the first bend the gearbox decided not to give me the downshift I requested, frustrating, but let’s move on. Turning in, the grip was mighty as was the lack of any conceivable body roll, it just stayed flat. The trade-off of such body control makes itself apparent when I turned onto the first country road on my route. The ride is beyond harsh. I can understand a GT3 RS or Mercedes-AMG GT R being hardcore, but in a Mini? It was one trait I could not put to the back of my mind. Under heavy throttle there was torque steer and the differential felt overwhelmed on many occasions, wildly sending power haphazardly seemingly giving the steering a mind of its own and making me work to keep the car heading in the intended direction.

The Mini GP3 is amusing. The exhaust it loud, not particularly tuneful, but it will make you smirk and the body control had me turning into corners at scarcely believable speeds. Behind traffic, I turned my attention to the interior which does feel special. The seats play a big part in this, the rest of the cabin is funky Mini with functional BMW switchgear scattered around the place. The iDrive system is good, as is the rather odd looking instrument binnacle.

The Mini GP3 is an exciting car, unfortunately to the detriment of the usability and driver satisfaction. It feels blunt, angry and not particularly rewarding. I left the driver’s seat wishing it wasn’t as powerful as it is, was a touch softer and had a manual gearbox as both of its predecessors had. I wanted to love it, I enjoyed that it was a challenge, but it isn’t a car I am left yearning to have the keys again.

McLaren 620R Track Review

McLaren have a reputation for releasing new models quicker than Apple unveils new iPhones. From the expected LTs and Spiders to the surprise HS, MSO and Carbon Series models, it is fair to say that the line up can be a touch perplexing. One model that was not predicted was the 620R, a car based on the GT4 car which was based off of the 570S. ‘Just buy a 600LT’, I hear you pine – well, this is a different proposition. Where the 600LT is a fine road car with track day credentials, the 620R a race car which can be used on the road.

Whenever pushing a road car on track, even something as focused as a Senna, the general criticism is that the tyres are always the limiting factor. Bolting on a set of slicks is no simple feat as it requires significant geometry adjustments. Being a race car at heart, the 620R is an exception. It requires no chassis adjustments to accommodate a slick, in this case rubber which has specifically been formulated for the 620R by Pirelli. This is an entirely more track focused proposition than the 600LT, a toned down racer, not a turned up road car. So long as you find a way to have a spare set of wheels shod in the slick at the track you’re heading to, you can drive the 620R to the track on Trofeo Rs, swap over to the track tyres before swapping back to the road legal rubber and heading home. In my mind, this makes more sense that the Senna does, and at a fraction of the price of the Ultimate Series car.

I jumped behind the wheel at the Goodwood Motor Circuit during SpeedWeek. There was no road drive, but I hope to remedy this soon. Being cold and damp in places, the Trofeo R was the tyre for my drive, seeing as the circuit is such a high speed one, it was a chance to feel the aero offered up by the slightly altered GT4 package which now produces 185kg of downforce at 250km/h.

It is not just the downforce figure that is impressive, this is the most powerful Sports Series car yet with 612bhp and 620nm on tap meaning the 1,282kg (1,386kg wet) 620R will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 322km/h. What does this unique package cost? There will be 225 620Rs built, each starting from £250,000. For and additional £25,000 there is an optional R Pack available in EMEA regions which comprises of a titanium SuperSports exhaust, fully-functional roof scoop and visual carbon fibre upgrades to add to the race car vibe.

Enough of the details, what is this race car with numberplates like on circuit? If ever a car drives the way that it looks, this is it. The 620 looks light and extremely aero focused with it large wing, splitter and dive planes. The Goodwood Motor Circuit is an extremely high speed circuit and above 250km/h you can feel the downforce working. This in conjunction with the magnificent hydraulically assisted steering makes the 620R incredibly stable and surefooted. This encourages you to push harder and try to find the limits of the grip. Having only had a few laps to enjoy the car, I was far from exploiting its full potential, but can report that the 620R is one of the most balanced, planted and confidence inspiring cars I have driven on track. I left the drivers seat telling the McLaren team that I wished I could have had a weekend on track with it. This is a car you learn more about with every addition lap you complete.

Where the 765LT makes you think twice about how you deploy full throttle, the 620 is on your side and lets you focus on honing your skills and learning the lines of a circuit. Furthermore, you are treated to a much louder and raw experience courtesy of the titanium exhaust and the whooshing sounds of the air rushing through that towering snorkel. I cannot imagine how much more dialled in it would feel on a slick and look forward to completing this review with a road drive to understand what a road car transformed into a GT4 and then fettled with to become road legal once again, is like to drive on the street.

2020 Toyota 86 GT TRD Performance Review

“Would you be interested in driving the 2020 Toyota GT 86?” the Toyota rep asked.

“We’d love to,” I responded. “But we drove and reviewed it just last year.”

“Yes, but this model has the TRD Handling Package, a TRD performance sway bar, and a TRD exhaust system.”

“And how soon could you bring it by?” I asked, wringing my hands with anticipation.

Two weeks later, it rolled into our parking lot dressed in a handsome Halo White with black and silver 18” wheels. We enjoyed the predictable handling dynamics and traditional front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout of the 86 GT the last time we drove it. The manual six-speed transmission kept a smile on our faces as we rowed through the gears, trying to keep the engine on the boil. We were looking forward to wringing out the performance goodies.

The body looked just as sharp and fresh as the 2019 model we drove last year, from the stylized front headlights to the exposed taillights and thin wing spoiler across the rear deck. It’s a nicely balanced design.

Inside is a more colorful interior than the monochromatic one we spent time in last year. This years car had bright red leather bolsters and red leather swipes in the door cards. While not a radical change, the extra color livens up the interior a bit. Both the driver and passenger seats were also heated.

Under the hood is the red crinkle-painted Subaru 2.0L flat-four, making 205 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. It redlines at 7500rpm and pulls stronger the closer it gets to it.

It’s hooked to a very nice 6-speed manual transmission. The clutch is light and the shifter readily slips from gear to gear without any notchiness or hesitation.

The power is transmitted to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential that makes positive traction and keeps the rear power distribution more evenly balanced.

BRZ Seats

But what we were interested in were the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) performance parts. Replacing the MacPherson struts are Sachs dampers and red Brembo brakes. This makes up the TRD Handling Package. The Sachs dampers provide a slightly firmer ride than stock and, combined with the TRD sway bar, less lean in corners. The Brembo calipers and ventilated disc brakes do a great job of stopping the car and they provide great feedback, without sponginess or grabbiness – just firm, controllable, and predictable stopping power.

Driving some entertaining local roads with a variety of dips and hills and a vast assortment of corners, the improved suspension felt more confident than the stock suspension, keeping the motion of the car’s body in check better while keeping the wheels glued to the road and soaking up the road’s imperfections. There was a noticeable improvement over stock, and we’d heartily recommend the TRD Handling Package if you’re a true driver and love a responsive car on good roads or the track.

Our car also came with the TRD Exhaust System. This is more than just larger oval exhausts for show, this improves the sound of the car immensely. As you wind that little 2.0L engine out to redline, you can better enjoy the sounds that the boxer engine makes. And they’re good sounds too. It’s a little louder than stock, but every time you step on the throttle and hear that exhaust sound it’s worth it.

2020 Toyota 86 GT TRD Rear Side

The TRD performance parts and Handling Package take an already great little drivers car and improve it. If you were on the fence about the 86 GT, I’d urge you to spring for the performance parts and go for it. You won’t regret it.

The 86 GT starts at $30,115. The TRD Handling Package is $1,270, installed. The TRD Sway Bar is a dealer option for $550 installed. And the TRD Exhaust System is $1100 installed.

Special Report: Why a Porsche 718 is The Sports Car You Need

Boxster or Cayman, Base, S, T, GTS, GT4 or Spyder – The Porsche 718 family is broad. There are manuals, PDKs, 4-cylinders and 6-cylinders to choose from. The shared chromosome in the family DNA? The enthusiasm to connect the driver to the tarmac and administer joy like few other automobiles can.

Think mid-engined cars and you’ll most likely conjure images of a howling Ferrari V8 or shrieking Lamborghini V12. It’s all drama, power and fuel exploding glory. The 718s are mid engined cars that still benefit from the dynamic traits of supercars that cost five times as much, but combined with significantly more practicality, usability and accessibility. Regardless of the engine/transmission blend that you choose, you will be driving a class leading car. The competitors in the relevant classes, with perhaps the exception of the Alpine A110 or a Lotus of some flavour, will not be able to match the balance and sublime handling characteristics of the 718. The 718 family can offer the complete package.

I was one of the first people that was not a Porsche employee to pilot a 4-cylinder 718. No, I was not the biggest fan of the Cayman S which I was driving, but then I considered that this was not the flagship model, this was a sports car designed not to just be enjoyed a handful of times a year before being stored in a covered garage and plugged into a trickle charger.

This was a car that could genuinely be driven everyday. Furthermore, there was a band of torque which meant the performance, and that magnificent chassis, could be enjoyed without having to push into the upper echelons of the rev range as you would do in an NA car. Any reservations about the 718 evaporated with the introduction of the GT4 and Spyder. These were the special GT models that felt extraordinary courtesy of the reintroduction of naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engines and a plethora of parts from the 991 GT3, notably the suspension and subframe. But not the GT3 4.0 engine, this was all new and based on the 3.0 Carrera engine bored out and freed of turbocharging. It is so different that Porsche engineers say there is almost no carry over from the 911 engine.

That brings me to this, the 718 Spyder. A side note, it is no longer the Boxster Spyder but carries 718 badge which was reintroduced to help relate to the 4-cylinder, bizarre as this is a 6-cylinder. For the first time, the Spyder shares all of its mechanical organs with the GT4. With the previous 981 generation, the Spyder was a slightly less frisky and less focused than the GT4. This was a decision that I thought was a tad strange, thankfully Andreas Preuninger did too and he is now in charge. The Spyder is now just as potent, making it just as, if not more, appealing than the GT4, in my mind anyway.

Unlike most convertibles which are conceived as coupes with the roof removed and additional strengthening in the floor, the Cayman is derived from the Boxster. This means that there is no compromise having the Boxster (or Spyder) over the Cayman (or GT4), this is reflected in the weight of the cars with both coming in at 1,495 kilograms (wet). That being said, unlike most convertibles, the Spyder has no heavy electric/hydraulic systems to raise and lower the roof, no, that’s powered by you – as with the Speedster, it is a manual affair.

Put the hood down and leave it there. The Spyder is best enjoyed topless on a sunny morning whilst all the boring people are asleep or watching BBC Breakfast. The is all about dynamic driving, just a well as that is what makes it one of the most phenomenal cars on sale today, regardless of purpose or price. The way you can barrel into a corner, enjoy oodles of feedback from what is one of the best EPAS systems in the game and feel the chassis balance through the turn. You may not be adjusting the rear end on the throttle like you might in an M2, but this is a dialled in, focused machine that rewards you with supreme precision and communication.

The same can be said for the rest of the 718 family, but the Spyder is a peach. I would struggle to choose between this and a GTS 4.0 as Porsche have exceeded expectation with the sportiest non-GT car and the full fat Spyder and GT4. Choosing between the two is not a bad problem to have as both pay testament to the class leading engineering and devotion Porsche has towards making drivers cars and not just for the very few. As long as you can cope with having room for a single passenger, there is a 718 for you. I implore you to have a go in one that in any configuration that suits your lifestyle and budget, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d 4MATIC: 5 Things We Enjoyed

It is Mercedes’ most luxurious SUV, with the Maybach variant sitting at the top. Our test car, the GLS 400d, was equipped with just about every equipment available, which made it the perfect car for touring around.

The GLS 400d is powered by a 3.0 litre inline 6 diesel engine with 330 hp combined with 700 Nm of torque. Sprint from standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) is done in 6.3 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 238 km/h (148 mph). Here are 5 things we loved about it after driving around in it for a week.

The Looks

Completely in black, Obsidian black as Mercedes calls it. Of course there are other colors to choose from but we loved the road presence it presented in this particular spec. The overall look has also improved and one can easily tell this is a sophisticated luxury SUV just from the looks.

7 Seater

The most common feature of SUVs in this segment is the option for 7 seats or 3 rows. The GLS offers the 2 persons on the last row of seats, a pleasant sitting and comfortable position. A 1000 km drive as an adult might not be fully comfortable, but the GLS will do it better than rivals in this segment without compromising on luggage space. The total length of 5.34 meters is fully used in this way.

Parking in the city

You can’t possibly expect a car like this to park like an A Class. But it still surprised me how easily I could park it even in very small spaces. Of course this is made easier by the all-round 360° camera . Other than underground parking spaces with low roofs, the GLS will give you an easy time driving around in the city.

Going off-road

The real off-road work, up to the belly in the mud and more is rarely spent in a GLS, especially since our test car drove on normal street tires. But still we couldn’t resist a quick off-road detour. We chose a route filled with bunkers of world war 1 through Flanders. At no time did the GLS have any trouble with a hill, a ditch or other obstacles along the way. The suspension does a great job, to give you the most possible comfort.

Of course, we played it safe and brought a friend along who owns a Land Rover Defender. However, to our surprise…

The Defender got stuck, and we even had to call 3 friends each with a Defender to pull him back out. What an adventure and fun we had! As you can expect, the part where the Defender was stuck was not part of the route, but our friend wanted to prove what a Defender can do … mission failed if you ask me!

Pictures by Wouter Desmet

2020 BMW M2 CS Review

The BMW M2 CS: this is the one I’ve been waiting for. When I first drove the M2 in early 2016, I was perplexed by the choice BMW M made to not drop the M3/4 engine into the M2. A remedy arrived in 2018 with the M2 Competition and the introduction of the S55 from the F80 & F82. On the launch I questioned BMW M directors as to why there was no option of adaptive dampers in the baby M car. It was openly discussed that it was a key differentiator between the M2 and it’s bigger brothers with which it shared an engine. 

The M3 and M4 are no longer in production and finally, the M2 can be uncorked without fear of it showing up the big boys – meet the M2 CS. It’s got the same S55 as the now discontinued M2 Competition, but it’s putting out the same 444bhp as the F80/82 (up from 404), torque remains unchanged at 406lb ft. As mentioned, it comes with the welcome addition of adaptive dampers and even a carbon roof which is constructed using a stunning chequer board weave. Furthermore, carbon ceramics can be optioned for the first time on an M2 and that’s not where the carbon ends. Inside there are massive lengths of the shiny stuff on both sides of the central tunnel and door handles. Back on the outside, the entire bonnet is carbon and vented, the entire is part is a carbon copy of the one used for the CS Clubsport customer racing car. At the back there is a sizeable spoiler made of carbon that is so tall it can be seen in the rear view mirror. Furthermore, the front splitter and rear diffuser are also constructed out of motorsport inspired material.

Enough of the brochure talk, what is the M2 CS like to drive? It is certainly a step on from the M2 Competition and a large part of that is down to the dampers. As with the steering and engine, there are three settings – Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, Sport being the default setting when firing the car up. Comfort is where thing are noticeably different, the secondary ride relating to the handling of lumps and bumps brings a new level of composure to the M2 and the way it handles itself when attacking a bumpy road.

Where the original M2 would be bouncing around like a rabbit on a pogo stick, the M2 CS remains calm and collected bringing greater confidence levels which allow the fun to continue over less accommodating tarmac. Sport is well judged and deployable on a good road surface, Sport Plus is best reserved for the track. The engine and dual-clutch transmission are as brilliant as in the Competition but with an added punch in the sportier modes. For those looking for freedom from the electronic nannies, the M Dynamic Mode allows for more slip’n’slide in the M2 CS before cutting in to stop you making it into a YouTube crash compilation. That being said, you’ll have to be on your worst behaviour to unstick the CS now that it is fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber that makes the a significant difference over an M2 Competition and its Pilot Sport 4S compound. The optional carbon ceramics are supreme and the gold callipers look fabulous, to my eyes anyway. 

Much like the M2 Competition, this car wants to be driven hard. The harder you push the M2 CS the more you can feel the additional hardware at work. After my first spirited drive I was not convinced and wanted more, it felt like an M2 Competition. A 5am spanking the next morning revealed just how impressive it is when you really put the M2 CS through the wringer. The front axle grip is beyond belief, turn it in and grips and goes. This is an M2 turned up to 11.

But it is not perfect. The Comfort steering mode is too light and Sport too heavy, Sport plus is best left unused. The interior could be more exciting, the main difference in the CS is the removal of the armrest along with its storage space and the added carbon and alcantara. The steering wheel is still very thick, it can be forgiven as the seating position is sublime. The most significant gripe is the disappointing exhaust tone, although the same can be said for almost any car fitted with particulate filters. 

All up, the changes are significant, but there is an elephant in the room. The M3 & M4 CS were released with a hefty premium over the standard models. The used market for these cars reflects what many believe to be their true values. When new the M4 CS without costly options such as ceramic brakes, cost £87,150. A 5,000 mile used M4 CS can be yours for £57,000 just two years on. The production run of the M2 CS is limited by time not a set number, the base price is £72,600 before options. After adding a the DCT box, carbon ceramics, electric seats and reverse camera, the car I tested came in at an eye watering £83,260 with taxes and fees. That puts it in the direct line of fire of a Cayman GT4, although the GT4 arguably appeals to a different audience with no rear seats and mid-engined layout.  

Without a doubt, the M2 CS is an incredibly exciting proposition. It is one of the best M products I have ever driven, the move from passive to adaptive dampers combined with the boost in power and addition of Michelin Cup 2s really has brought out the best in the M2 chassis. I suspect I would be walking into a BMW dealer to register my interest if I had been given the manual press car to play with, but the price tag sours the package. If the rumours are true and production numbers are very limited, this may become a collectors special. If you can swallow the price and fancy an incredible drivers car, go out and get one – preferably in Misano Blue with gold wheels. If it isn’t justifiable for you, don’t fret, an M2 Competition will give you almost as much joy for substantially less cash. BMW have done brilliantly with the M2 CS (and the Competition). Let’s see what the next generation M2 has to offer, it has big boots to fill.