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2022 Ferrari 296 GTB Unveiled

Ferrari ‘F171’

Around one week ago, Ferrari had publicly announced that they would be unveiling a brand new model on June 24, 2021 via livestream on social media problems. Since then, Ferrari has been mostly coy about details regarding their “new revolutionary Prancing Horse sports car”, though they did provide a teaser video on Facebook a day before the official reveal. It provides the first real glimpses of the car – in its entirety – while it gets driven in the countryside by Scuderia Ferrari Ambassador and F1 Client Driver Coach, Marc Gené.

Most rumors were suggesting that it would be a twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid supercar, and prototype/mule car spy shots have been assigned with the codename ‘F171’. It was also suggested that this new Ferrari will slot in under the F8 Tributo, becoming the company’s latest ‘entry-level’ mid-engined supercar. This primed the car to become a number of different things, which included:

  • The possible revival of the Ferrari Dino. This is getting a lot of airtime amongst Ferrari’s most hardcore fans, who have been longing for the return of this legendary badge. Although the new car will be a hybrid, it is the first time since the Dino that Ferrari has used a V6 engine. Hmmmm!
  • Direct competition for the recently released McLaren Artura, which also interesting features a twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid drivetrain. As 6-cylinder platform, it is likely that Ferrari also has its sights aimed on other similarly-propelled models such as the Porsche 911 Turbo/Turbo S.
  • The second Ferrari hybrid car – after the SF90 Stradale hypercar – which is also capable of moving on the power of its electric motors alone (albeit for limited distances).

It’s June 24: Here’s What We Now Know For Sure

Official Name

Ferrari 296 GTB

Sorry, Dino romantics. It just wasn’t meant to be. The ‘296’ in the name represents the car’s 2.9L displacement via a 6-cylinder layout for the internal combustion component of its hybrid drivetrain. ‘GTB’ stands for ‘Gran Turismo Berlinetta’, a traditional Ferrari moniker reserved for some of its finest rear-mid-engine 2-seaters in the past, with the 296 GTB therefore a continuation of that lineage.

Where It’s Positioned In The Ferrari Roster

The Ferrari 296 GTB is not a replacement for any models formerly or currently in its product range, with Ferrari stating that it is “creating its own segment”. As we already knew, the 296 GTB is indeed billed as the new ‘entry-level’ mid-engined supercar and is being touted as the automaker’s latest ‘gateway’ to experiencing Ferrari’s race-bred DNA.

During the livestream unveiling, Ferrari went straight to the point, immediately comparing the rear-wheel driven 296 GTB to none other than the brand’s range-topping Ferrari SF90 hypercar. This is an apples-to-apples comparison after all, as the SF90 also has a hybrid powerplant and is only one of two such cars with the 296 GTB now part of the family.

Something along the lines of how the SF90 is for those who want to experience the “peak of performance”, while the 296 GTB gives drivers the opportunity to reach the “peak of emotion”. Basically a clever way of saying that it’s not as fast and not as expensive – but for most people, probably just as good. Plus you don’t have to be Sainz or Leclerc to fully enjoy it.

Ferrari reiterated this by going as far as saying that it believes it to be the “most fun car to drive in our product range”, both on track and on normal roads.

Their “Fun to Drive” philosophy has always been a key component of any Ferrari car, and the 296 GTB is further emboldened by it”. Three ingredients are required to make this happen per Ferrari. The first is ‘sound’ – the symphony provided by the engine. The Second is ‘perceived acceleration’ – not just 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile times, but also how the car transmits the sensation of speed to the driver. The third is ‘go-kart feeling’ – how well the car responds to driver input and its connection to the road.

The epitome of sportiness, performance, and driving thrills at their best. Best in-class performance. Absolute fun to drive. “The best way to explain it, is to drive it”, Ferrari states. Valid point.

And, there’s more!

Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano

Also available is a more hardcore version of the car known as the Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano, which is named after the company’s iconic test circuit. Not many specifics were revealed about this version, but we were told that it will feature the extensive use of carbon fiber to further reduce the weight. In addition, it will be equipped with a race-derived suspension – for more extreme handling abilities – and racing harnesses. The Assetto Fiorano also gets its own special livery.

Specifications

Engine

  • 2.9L twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid engine mounted in 120 degree “hot V” configuration
  • 663 hp produced from petrol engine
  • 830 hp combined total with electric motor
  • Almost zero ‘turbo lag’ and instant response from throttle
  • Most powerful drivetrain in its segment, producing 221 hp per liter – a new world record.
  • 8-speed dual clutch transmission which is ‘fastest shifting’ in the market
  • Lightweight 7.45 kWh battery provides ~25 km of range when car is powered exclusively by electric motor
  • 0-100 km/h: 2.9 seconds
  • 0-200 km/h: 7.3 seconds

Chassis

  • New vehicle dynamic controls
  • Reduced weight as much as possible – achieves a 1.77 kg per hp ratio
  • Wheelbase is 50 mm shorter than the Ferrari F8 Tributo – less inertia and more agility
  • 6 sensors to help control better the car – includes ABS ‘Evo’ system, which helps to reduce braking distance by almost 10%
  • Light, sleek and compact architecture

Design

  • Modern interpretation of classic Ferrari DNA
  • Rear: Kammtail design with jewel-like tail lights integrated with active rear spoiler. Centrally-positioned tailpipe.
  • Front: Air intakes integrated with modernized ‘tear-drop’ headlights. Suspended front splitter, similar to that of F1 cars.
  • More compact than any other Ferrari available right now because of its short-wheel base
  • Interior: Same design language as exterior – perfect marriage between sportiness and elegance. Ergonomics spot-on. Classic “canceletto” center console. Carbon-fiber bucket seats. Lots of carbon-fiber, metals and high quality leathers.

Pricing & Availability

We’re expecting the first examples of the Ferrari 296 GTB to be delivered in early 2022. No specific word on pricing yet, though it is expected to hover around the F8 Tributo’s base MSRP of US$277,000.

We will provide updates on pricing when more information is available, as well as an in-depth review of the car once journalists have a turn at it.

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2022 Rimac Nevera: An In-depth Look

Introduction

At this very moment in time, if any of us were asked to write down a list of countries renown for producing supercars (or hypercars), it would likely turn out to be a redundant exercise. After all, almost everyone would come up with essentially the same answers; surely you’d have Italian stalwarts – Ferrari and Lamborghini – in the mix along with Porsche, McLaren and Bugatti. Fewer would make an argument for the more mainstream brands to be included, with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and heck, even Nissan, all proving in recent times that they too possess the wizardry to create some of the best performing automobiles on the planet. An even smaller (and more gear-headed) group than that, would not let us forget about “boutique” automakers such as Koenigsegg, Pagani and Hennessey.

Rimac Automobili

Ladies and gentlemen, all of that is about to change; here enters a new challenger whom hails from Croatia. The company known as Rimac Automobili – founded by its namesake, Mate Rimac – is a relatively small hypercar producer based in the Western Balkans. With a population of just 4 million people and no history of whatsoever when it comes to automobile production, Rimac is a bit of an enigma. However, the country is no stranger to seemingly improbable events. Not many people are aware, but Nikola Tesla – one of main the pioneers of electricity as we know it – also came from this part of the world.

To what degree this fact has influenced Mate Rimac and his company to focus on exclusively producing electric vehicles is up for debate, but this whole story is at the very least, a serendipitous one. Ironically, this could also give Rimac a more legitimate claim to commercializing the name of “Tesla”, though it doesn’t appear that Mr. Rimac is too concerned about getting into a bureaucratic joust with Elon Musk. Declaring war on who can produce a better electric car, though? Game. On.

Rimac has actually been around since 2009, and only recently showcased its first finished product to the world (much more on that below). Prior to this, the company has been hard at work perfecting their new electric hypercar and had unveiled two concept cars along the way – first the C_One, followed by the more production-ready C_Two. These were by no means audacious or far-fetched prototypes produced to generate little more than some fanfare and a few deposits from the wallets of billionaire prospective owners.

They were a solid, working proof of concept that showed Rimac was on to something – something game-changing. Even the old boys club took notice, with the likes of Porsche – who recently increased their stake in the company – and Hyundai pouring significant investment into Rimac. This alone tells us how important Rimac’s work is (and will be) to the broader automotive landscape, and is not just a one-off glamour project like so many other cars produced by smaller automakers. There’s no doubt that the R&D – particularly as it pertains to battery technology – from this project is being shared with the big guns, in exchange for their funding.

Nevera

Yeah, so naming your car the ‘Nevera’ is a bit of a weird one to English speakers. In fact, it’s an ominous (if not humorous) name which beckons any variation of “dad joke” in the essence of “2.4 million dollars!? I Nevera liked electric cars anyway!” It also has the potential to be cannon fodder for Tesla’s occasionally combative (i.e. Elon Musk tweets) marketing strategy. Pun vulnerabilities aside, understanding the origins of the name will help things make a lot more sense; the Nevera is named after an electrically-charged storm which often occurs on Croatia’s Mediterranean coastal line.

Rightfully so, as the Rimac Nevera is powered by four electric motors and has already proven itself to be a world-beater – and not to a detriment to the world itself (quite the opposite actually). Living up to its name, the zero emissions hypercar has certainly created a storm by repeatedly humiliating the Ferrari SF90 in a drag race and setting new production car records in the process. ‘Nevera’ is for the most part, just the new official name for the C_Two rather than a vastly more superior variant of it, although production versions will be delivered with some final tweaks and refinements.

As an automotive outfit Rimac might be small on scale, but it is the complete opposite when it comes to its impact. This car is going to redefine the hypercar, which to this point, has already been redefining what an automobile could and should ought to be. Limited to a production run of only 150 units, the Rimac Nevera is the next and most obvious step forward in this evolution. If you’re clinging to any reservations you might have about a future with EVs, the Nevera is here to put an end to that.

Performance & EV Drivetrain

Although it is not the first EV to be powered by 4 permanent magnet electric motors, the Rimac Nevera does come with its own unique electric drivetrain design. By strategically placing a pair of 200 kW electric motors in front and another two 500 kW electric motors in the rear, the engineers were able to give the rear-biased Nevera an ideal 48:52 (front:rear) weight distribution. However, a deeper inspection reveals more intricacies in the design, as the planetary gears for each of the 4 wheels are purposed in such a way that the Nevera is also optimally balanced from left to right as well. Genius.

It’s probably a good thing that this Rimac was built with a predisposition to exhibit ballet-like agility, because it’s going to need all the grace in the world to tame all that’s brewing within. In combination, all of the 4 electric motors can generate up to 1,914 hp (1.4 mW) and 1,740 lb-ft of torque (2,360 Nm). This allows the Nevera to absolutely annihilate the popular 0-60 mph benchmark in just 1.85 seconds, with an equally impressive 1/4 mile time of just 8.6 seconds – good enough to make it the fastest production vehicle ever made, by some margin. Top speed is stated as 258 mph (412 km/h).

Amongst a variety of systems marshalled by its supercomputer of an ECU, is an incredibly advanced torque vectoring system which is responsible for distributing power to the wheels in both a safe and performance-optimized manner. The Nevera is equipped with a pair of single-speed gearboxes; one located at the front, the other in the rear.

Battery & Range

No matter how insanely quick this car is, it would actually account for very little if its battery range made the driving/owning experience more of a novelty, rather than one with some semblance of practicality. I mean, what use would 1,914 hp be if you had to break a sweat about whether you’d manage a round-trip to the Whole Foods 5 mins away on a full charge? Thankfully, these fears should be put to bed almost as quickly as the Nevera can do 0-60 mph, with Rimac claiming an impressive range of 340 miles (550 km) WLTP. 

Now, don’t expect this type of range if you’re regularly hooning the car around town or on the race track. Regardless, for a car of this nature, it’s still more than most people would’ve expected. How does it manage this feat? Well for one, the Nevera is equipped with a massive 6,960-cell 120 kWh battery which sits low (in an ‘H’ shape) under the car’s flooring. This battery architecture was all designed and built in-house by Rimac – and if it sounds familiar, that’s because the Porsche Taycan uses the same design, which it also derived from Rimac.

Chassis

The Rimac Nevera tips the scales at around 2,150 kg, so while it’s not necessarily heavy for an EV, it’s certainly a bit stout compared to the typical supercar or hypercar. In otherwise normal circumstances, that would make the Nevera’s large frame more burdensome to accelerate, difficult to slow down and a chore handle. But it’s pretty clear that the Nevera is no ordinary automobile and it demonstrates exactly none of the aforementioned shortcomings. Despite the extra weight to lug around, the Nevera’s drivetrain and battery design contribute to a 48:52 front-to-rear weight distribution, which is at least on par with contemporary hypercars. Like other EVs on the market, it too benefits from having much of its weight sit near the ground and inherently possessing a low center of gravity.

In terms of good ol’ nuts, bolts and sheet metal (oh, and carbon fiber), the Rimac Nevera is also as advanced as things can get in that area.  The chassis is made entirely of carbon fiber, which Rimac claims, makes it the most rigid production car ever made. They’ve gone on to specifically state that it is about twice as solid as a Lamborghini Aventador; at this point, it would be a big ask to doubt them on this, especially when considering that it features a bonded roof, integrated battery housing and rear subframe as part of the design.

As for braking, the Nevera is equipped with massive 390 mm Brembo carbon-ceramic brake discs and 6-pot calipers. Per standard EV functionality, the hypercar also benefits from regenerative braking (which, surprise, surprise, Rimac also claims is the most effective of its kind). This not only equates to greater stopping power, but also a higher level of battery charge being restored from braking. An electro-hydraulic brake booster simulates the undulations of a more traditional braking system to give drivers all the feedback they need with regards to when to brake, and how much pedal force is required. Rimac has also stated that the forces from regenerative braking alone, are sufficient enough for “one-pedal driving” in most normal driving circumstances, though I’d suggest refraining from using this technique for anything other than demonstrative purposes.

Control Systems

We understand that the Nevera’s main ECU is actually comprised of 77 smaller computers which are programed to obey millions of lines of code. It’s responsible for controlling anything ranging from torque vectoring to active aerodynamics, and even self-driving capabilities. The Nevera also comes with a number of driving modes. Range and Comfort mode are probably what you’d be using for civil excursions around town, while Track and Drift mode are pretty self-explanatory – particularly when it comes to how soon you’ll need to throw on a new set of tires. There are also 2 Custom modes which will allow drivers to punch-in more individualized settings, while Sport mode would probably be the most centrist on the presets spectrum.

The aforementioned torque vectoring system has a special name: Rimac All-Wheel Torque Vectoring. R-AWTV is able to process 100 calculations per second, which ultimately allows the system to be both extremely predictive and responsive in its adjustments. This translates to an optimal cohesion of safety, comfort and handling precision, regardless of whether the car is being driven at the limits on the race track, or well within its potential on the city streets. Steering is also fully assisted, by an electric motor, fittingly. While not necessarily the most natural nor analog feeling steering system you’ll put your hands on, it is perfectly harmonized with the Nevera’s overall drivetrain and chassis setup. Each driving mode provides a different level of “involvement” in this regard.

Rimac is working on an “AI Driving Coach” program, which should be ready before the first examples roll off the production line. This system uses, as its name implies, an artificial intelligence which guides drivers while they’re on a race track. Using visual and audio aids, the AI will give drivers real-time tips on how to improve their lap times. An “augmented-reality” racing line will even be available for a select group of renown international race circuits. Awesome.

Design

The Rimac Nevera’s overall design philosophy is deeply rooted to aerodynamic and performance principles; it is anything but a gaudy and non-functional showpiece. It does present a contemporary silhouette as far as the mid-engine hypercar template is concerned, but as is the case with the rest of the car, the devil is in the details. Naturally, pictures will do the most justice when it comes to describing the car’s appearance, but I am obliged to at least attempt doing as much using less-than-a-thousand words.

After all, fitting a massive “H-shaped” battery within the confines of such a sublimely proportioned car must have been no easy feat. Especially when considering that its aerodynamic efficiency is over 34% better than that of the early C_One prototype. Carved in the right mold then meticulously positioned, are a combination of diffusers, splitters, fenders, wheel-arches and bumpers, which form the Nevera’s body shape.

At the front of the car is an intricate bumper with a carbon fiber splitter; one of the essential components of the Nevera’s active aerodynamics. Air intakes are strategically located to increase air-flow and provide cooling for the front brakes and electric motors. The bonnet features a large vent to allow trapped air to escape, while also improving downforce over the front wheels. Like most other exotic cars, the Nevera also features rear-fender intakes which draw-in air channeled by the car’s deliberate side profile. Instead of feeding air into a throttle body or a pair of turbochargers, they are used to cool the battery and electric motors in this particular application.

A retractable rear spoiler and motorized rear diffuser – both of which can move independently of one another – complete the active aerodynamics system. Speaking of that, this system – when toggled into the high-downforce mode – can increase downforce by up to 326% compared to its low drag setting. One of the most notable styling cues of the Nevera is its use of “butterfly” or “gullwing” doors, which were engineered in such a way that getting in and out of the car is not as difficult compared to previous applications of this design.

Interior

It would be easy to forgive Rimac, if not applaud them (hardcore enthusiasts usually endorse spartan-ism), should they have sold us short on the interior, but that was never going to be part of the Nevera’s blueprint. In no uncertain terms, the cabin is an exciting mixture of high tech amenities and quality refinements; the car’s interior serving as a largely blank canvas for bespoke customization based on the customer’s tastes. This means that any choice of seat materials, carbon fiber pieces, colors, etc. are at the behest of the buyer.

What is uniform across every build is the use of rotary knobs throughout the driver’s control panel. One of those knobs allows the driver to toggle between the 7 driving modes, while other knobs control functions such as traction/stability assists, front/rear power distribution, and the sound system volume. Rimac also supplies a proprietary infotainment system on the Nevera, which displays pertinent information on its graphical user interface. This is projected through LCD screens; the one closest to the passenger provides real-time data including torque distribution, g-forces and other performance-related tidbits, while the more central unit is your typical infotainment hub which controls features such as navigation, climate control and audio. Telemetry from each driving session can even be downloaded and analyzed on a computer.

The Nevera needs to be an absolute Einstein of a car to compute all of this simultaneously, and central to all this genius is the car’s use of the latest version of NVIDIA’s Pegasus operating system. This helps to process information from the multitude of inputs the Rimac uses to collect and make sense of data – this includes no fewer than 12 ultrasonic sensors, 13 cameras and 6 radars. Not to mention, the car will indeed be equipped to handle autonomous driving and will also be coming with the aforementioned driving coach feature, meaning that AI is at the core of the Nevera’s overall functionality. This thing puts Teslas to shame, not just in terms of performance, but also as it pertains to being a so-called “tech car”. Incredible.

Pricing & Availability

Rimac will be limiting production of its Nevera EV hypercar to just 150 units worldwide. Each example will start at around US$2,400,000 and will go up from there based on how bespoke-y the customer decides he or she would like to be. As is the nature of such automobiles, there is a general and unspoken consensus that all units have already been matched with a buyer, and that the Nevera won’t really be “for sale” in the way that most people are familiar with.

Verdict

Top Gear

“The first true pure-electric hypercar is a sensation, as is the company that makes it.”

Full article 

carwow

“Put quite simply, the Rimac Nevera is the most exciting electric vehicle on the planet. It’s phenomenally expensive, but its performance is out of this world.”

Full article

Car and Driver

“Hypercars like the Nevera aren’t for everyone, but there’s no denying its significance as the moment a battery-powered car toppled the Bugatti Chiron.”

Full article

Image & Video Gallery

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2022 Audi e-tron GT: An In-depth Look

Introduction

The 2022 Audi e-tron GT is the four-ringed company’s first entrant into the high-performance EV weight class. It looks to shake up a playing field which includes the likes of the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan, the latter of which it shares many of the same underpinnings. Specifically, the two cars – which were developed in tandem by the Volkswagen Auto Group – both utilize an identical 800-volt battery architecture, with dual electric motors and a two-speed transmission responsible for sending power to all four wheels.

In a visual context, I would be hard-pressed to refer to the duo as “twins” as they share very little else in common – other than perhaps their side profiles – thanks to the e-tron GT having distinctly Audi signatures throughout its design elements. The cars are also packaged very different, with Audi currently only offering their product in two distinct trims – e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT – which both come exclusively with all-wheel drive, whereas Porsche offers their base Taycan with a rear-wheel drive configuration, plus a myriad of other trims with the Cross Turismo models now available.

This isn’t the marque’s first EV model, as it joins up with a roster currently occupied by Audi’s e-tron SUVs. However, the e-tron GT does have the distinction of becoming the first fully-electric car to don the company’s legendary RS badge via the highest and most expensive trim level currently on offer. The base model e-tron GT predictably comes with less of the go-faster, stop-harder and look-sexier ingredients that are typically reserved for an RS model, but it does share the same 93.4 kWh battery with its more glamorous stablemate.

Audi has marketed the e-tron GT as a fully-electric grand tourer, as a opposed to a sports saloon EV like the Porsche Taycan. This sets clear expectations right away of what makes the e-tron GT an entirely unique offering – not quite as powerful (compared to the Turbo and Turbo S), a little less nimble and sharp in the handling department, slightly more utilitarian with extra cargo room and a typically impressive Audi-esque interior.

All e-tron GT models will be produced at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory in Germany – where the same can be said for the company’s flagship R8 – with the goal of rolling up to 10,000 units off the assembly line every year. This would be less than half of the number of Taycan models delivered world-wide in 2020, so the two cars certainly can’t be compared like-for-like in that regard. Audi has ultimately done a fantastic job at making the e-tron GT look and feel like one of its own, and allays the fear about it being merely a reupholstered Porsche Taycan – it truly is a legitimate and unique player in this rapidly growing segment.

Engine, Drivetrain & Performance

The entry-level e-tron GT  produces 469 hp, which can be boosted up to 523 hp when using launch control. This is good for 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 152 mph, making it most comparable to the Porsche Taycan 4S which ends up being a smidge quicker using the same measuring stick. Stepping up to the RS model will net you 590 hp with 637 hp available in overboost mode. This allows the RS e-tron GT to complete the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.3 seconds, which is slower than Tesla and Porsche’s quickest EV models by 1.3 seconds (Model S Plaid) and 0.8 seconds (Taycan Turbo S) respectively.

Aside from the statistically-driven performance figures, the cars also differ from their competitors in less black-and-white, yet just as meaningful ways. For one, Audi engineered the e-tron GT to deliver its power in a more linear and progressive fashion – much like an internal combustion car – as opposed to being the torque-monster that we’ve come to expect from most performance-oriented EVs. This feature will certainly sway buyers who desire a more traditional driving feel, and are less inclined to be amused by the gut-busting characteristics of the e-tron GT’s closest rivals. The e-tron GT also gets more usable battery capacity, managing to squeeze out 85 kWh – compared to the Taycan’s 83.7 kWh – from its 93.4 kWh lithium-ion energy source. On paper, this should translate to a bit more range, all other things being equal.

Ultimately, the e-tron GT was always going to share certain characteristics with its German cousin through its sharing of the same platform. Afterall, the two-speed transmission which was once exclusive to Zuffenhausen, allows for an optimal balance of performance and efficiency. The e-tron GT will drive a lot more like the Porsche than the Tesla – which is a good thing in my opinion – particularly as it pertains to what is referred to in the biz as “one pedal driving”. This is where the latter cars can almost be exclusively driven using only the accelerator as merely taking the foot off the pedal is sufficient to bring the car to a stop in most situations, making the brake pedal more of a luxury than a necessity. I’m not a fan of this, but apparently many people are.

Another similarity with the Taycan is the use of an artificial “engine” noise to replace the roar of the inline-6 or V8 which would otherwise be expected to power the car. Dubbed ‘e-tron sport sound’, this sci-fi-derived soundtrack gently wails through speakers placed both inside and outside of the car and varies based on throttle inputs and speeds. This is a standard feature on the RS and optional on the base model.

Battery & Range

As mentioned before, every e-tron GT model – including the RS – comes standard with a 93.4 kWh battery (of which 85 kWh is usable). On the entry-level e-tron GT, Audi has officially claimed up to 238 miles of driving range, putting it slightly higher than that of the Porsche Taycan 4s. We’re still waiting to hear the official word on how the RS will fare in the range department, although it is expected to fall short of the aforementioned due to the extra juice required to dole out all that extra horsepower.

With regards to charging, the e-tron GT is inline with other performance oriented EVs on the market today. It is able to get from 5% to 80% of its battery capacity in around 20-odd minutes using a standard 270 kW DC fast charger.  Last but not least, the advanced cooling system integrated into the 800-volt architecture allows for more repeatable performance than your typical Tesla as overheating issues are far less likely to interrupt your customary hoon sessions.

Chassis & Handling

Like the Taycan, you can expect the e-tron GT to be remarkably responsive and precise – particularly when had with four-wheel steering – but more like the typical Audi, it could feel rather numb at lower speeds. That’s not to say that the e-tron GT doesn’t go where you’re pointing it. Just don’t expect the same level of feedback and weight tantamount to that of the Porsches. Ultimately, Audi still got the handling duly on point, especially as it pertains to being a grand tourer; if anything it does have a bit more body roll than the Taycan, but probably not enough to notice unless you were to drive each car back-to-back on a race track.

The Audi e-tron GT comes standard with a three-chamber air suspension system which allows for the driver to optimize the car for a variety of driving situations ranging from daily city excursions to canyon runs or even track use. Whether comfort or stiffness is what you require at any given moment, the selectable suspension settings have you covered. The air suspension can also lift the car by up to 0.8″ so that speed bumps and curbs can be negotiated with less fanfare.

Brakes & Tires

Braking is a similar exercise with comparable outcomes to that of the Porsche Taycan. This means that any braking forces within 0.3G are achieved entirely by the electric motors, with pad-to-rotor contact a relatively rare occurrence within the confines of non-aggressive driving. Subsequently, the standard steel brakes should suffice for just about any situation on public roads while the optional carbon ceramics are there for anyone who likes playing the min-max game when it comes to stopping power. Brake regeneration can also be toggled using controls on the steering wheel.

Working with the suspension, the e-tron GT’s ride quality is incredibly compliant when driven on the 21″ wheels and even more so when equipped with smaller 19″ wheels. Audi has looked to Goodyear to provide the OE tires on the e-tron GT as it did for its electric SUVs, this time using specially-designed Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5 tires.

Design, Cabin & Amenities

Exterior

For those who care to measure, the Audi e-tron GT further differentiates itself from the Taycan by being a tiny bit longer, slightly narrower and just a whisker taller than the Porsche. This hardly makes it a mini-van, comparatively speaking, as the e-tron GT strikes a sleek, aggressive and sporty silhouette nonetheless. The e-tron GT has Audi’s DNA chiseled (quite literally) all over it, and that extends well beyond the four-ringed emblem sitting center stage.

At the front, there’s that familiar looking grille (albeit solid) and distinctive headlight design which doesn’t deviate far from the family tree. It’s a lot busier than the Taycan’s minimalist, yet somehow more exotic fascia, but I reckon this is a welcome change for buyers from either faction who prefer that there be less in common between the two vehicles.  The e-tron GT has one of the most exceptional looking rear ends of any car on the market today, with a rear lightbar connecting the decidedly Audi-esque LED taillights. The rear diffuser is a lot more pronounced compared to the Taycan’s as well – it looks really good, and I’m sure it’s very functional too.

Carbon side mirrors and a full carbon roof are also options, and can also be had as part of the Carbon Black and Carbon Vorsprung packages for the RS variants. The e-tron GT also has its own unique selection of wheels, of which the pricier choices come with functional aero blades to improve help improve driving range. Manufacturer exclusive paint colors such as Tactical Green are also available to further differentiate your e-tron GT from any other car on the road.

Interior

If there is one thing that Audi is universally recognized for, it would be the quality and design of their interiors. For the e-tron GT, Audi has decided to follow the more traditional formula that has earned them this reputation rather than embark on something groundbreaking as might have been the expectation, with the e-tron GT being a new EV and all that jazz. This equates to a palatable balance of touchscreen elements and actual plastic buttons, with a 12.3″ digital instrument cluster and a 10.1″ infotainment screen surrounded by physical toggles for the likes of climate control, driving modes, heated seats, and so on.

The finishes and materials inside the cabin are that of Audi’s highest standards, with no shortage of available luxury and convenience offerings. This includes features such as ambient interior lighting, heads-up display, heated/ventilated front seats with massage, etc. The rear outboard seats provide ample legroom, but its headroom is less generous, and the middle seat is more courteous than comfortable.

Expect to see plenty of high-quality leather upholstering and metal accents, with a generous dose of Alcantara and carbon fiber coming standard in the RS. If a more vegan approach is desired, Audi offers leather-free artificial hides made from recycled plastic bottles and old fishing nets.

For driver assistance, forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking come standard while blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning w/ lane-keeping assist are available as options.

Thanks to its dimensions, the e-tron GT is the marginally more utilitarian option compared to the Taycan with its 405L of rear cargo space plus another 81L in the ‘frunk’. That makes for ample space for luggage behind the back seats and a few grocery bags stacked up front. Two adults will be a snug but comfortable fit in the back, but rear visibility could become an issue if this arrangement is frequent enough. The standard rear-view camera and optional 360 degree camera should alleviate much of those problems, though.

Pricing

The entry-level 2022 Audi e-tron GT (Premium Plus) starts at US$99,900, while the Prestige package will add another US$7,200 on top of that. Stepping up to the RS e-tron GT will take you up to US$139,900 before options. All models come standard with all-wheel drive and a 93.4 kWh battery.

Verdict

What Other Experts Are Saying

Top Gear – 8/10

“A handsome four-door GT that plays to Audi’s strengths, with a blistering turn of pace.”

Read full review here

Car and Driver – 8.5/10

“The Audi e-tron GT excels as a stylish and sporty EV, but it’s pricier than a Tesla Model S and lacks a long driving range.”

Read full review here

EVO – 4/5

“The entry level e-tron GT is another great grand tourer but question marks remain over touring range ability.”

Read full review here

Car Magazine – 4/5

“By bravely focusing on true GT performance, Ingolstadt has diverted the e-Tron GT from an unexciting also-ran to a fascinating new addition to the Audi range.”

Read full review here

Auto Express – 4.5/5

“The Audi e-tron GT is another worthy entry in the luxury electric car market. It’s just the right mix of the new and the familiar, and it has a fair degree of separation from the Taycan because it’s a more comfortable electric grand tourer.”

Read full review here

Our Thoughts

So, what is it really? A simple reskin of the Porsche Taycan or a performance-EV contender in its own right? I think Audi addresses that big elephant in the room with a level of assertiveness that would make both e-tron GT and Taycan owners just as happy as the other with their choices.

It really comes down to looks, and to a large degree what your preference is towards either a 4-door grand touring EV, or a Sports Saloon which happens to be fully-electric. Hint: The e-tron GT is the former, as it’s literally in the name (GT is indeed meant to be an abbreviation for “grand tourer”). Think of the e-tron GT more as the gentleman and the Taycan more as the rebel; the Porsche perpetually taunting you to push it harder, while the Audi is there to keep things more civil and reserved. So, if you are a performance junkie who seeks the fun-factor above all else, you will get your fix in the Taycan, but do note that this will also come at an extra cost.

That’s because Audi made sure to play to its much-proven strengths when it came to the e-tron GT, as revolutionary as the car already is and may yet turn out to be. Dependably handsome aesthetics which are deeply rooted to the company’s philosophy. A familiarly high-class interior built around delivering comfort and quality. Superb performance and the heritage of the RS badge. All of things are done right, and done the Audi way.

With the Taycan and the e-tron GT both existing in their own elements, the latter car can also set its sights – through unmuddied waters – on the Tesla Model S. While the range and top-end performance figures are lacking behind the California-made EV, there is no doubt that the Audi provides a recognizable and trustworthy package in its electric grand tourer – comfort, elegance, and dependability, while manifesting a non-violent genre of sportiness.

It certainly deserves to be in the mix with these EV heavyweights and is by far the most exciting new car Audi has produced in quite some time. We hope that this is a sign of things to come; a car like the e-tron GT is just begging for an Avant version too, don’t you think?

Image & Video Gallery

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2022 Ferrari 812 Competizione / Competizione A: An In-depth Look

Ferrari 812 Competizione

Late last month, Ferrari revealed some of the core details surrounding the latest iteration of the company’s 812 Superfast grand tourer. We were teased with the likes of a 819 hp naturally-aspirated V12 engine which revved all the way up to 9,500 rpm, and albeit for a few photos to satiate the world’s collective visual vortex, little more was as explicit when it came to the specifics. After the unveiling today which was streamed live on various social media platforms, we now know a lot more, as was promised.

Ferrari 812 Competizione A

First, the name: it’s officially known as the Ferrari 812 Competizione. But, it can also be called the Ferrari 812 Competizione A. That’s because Ferrari surprised us by unveiling not one, but two versions of this hardcore 812 Superfast variant right from the get go. The latter – meant to replace the 812 GTS – is a Targa counterpart which features a removable carbon fiber roof panel which can be neatly stowed away in a special made-to-measure storage compartment. Besides the obvious aesthetic differences born from having an open-top configuration, the two cars are identical mechanically.

Performance

Both the Competizione and Competizione A will be powered by the same 6.5L naturally-aspirated V12 engine. In addition to producing 819 hp and possessing a symphonic 9,500 rpm of vocal range, we now also know that it also churns out 512 lb-ft of torque. Those are the peak figures of course, which are attainable at both 9,250 rpm and 7,000 rpm respectively.

Based on the power plant used in the regular 812 Superfast models, the engine needed to be revised to get it perform the way Ferrari was intending. The prancing-horse engineers started by redesigning the pistons and fitting lightweight titanium connecting rods to the assembly, so that the engine could be pushed harder and at a higher frequency than ever before. Naturally, new cylinder heads were also in order, as were F1-derived carbon-coated cams. The air intake system has also been remodeled to ensure that the V12’s cardiac requirements are being satisfied.

The engine remains mated to the same 7-speed dual-clutch transmission equipped on the regular Superfast, though the unit on the Comp cars has been re-calibrated to shift about five percent faster.

The overall result – more horsepower, a bit less torque and an extra 500 rpm to boot. Off-paper, this translates to stellar performance figures:

  • 0 62 mph: 2.85 seconds
  • 0-124 mph: 7.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 211 mph
  • Lap time (Fiorano Test Track): 1:20

These are approaching hypercar credentials, and all of this is achieved in the absence of turbochargers or a hybrid set-up. Speaking of hypercars, it’s just 0.3 seconds off the pace of a LaFerrari and a distinguishable 1.5 seconds faster than the regular 812 Superfast at Fiorano. While these are all based on the coupé version of the car, we imagine that the Competizione A would only suffer a very miniscule performance penalty, if one is even measurable at all. Such are the standards set these days by Ferrari cars of this caliber.

Aerodynamics & Design

The 812 Competizione manages to generate 30 percent more downforce than the 812 Superfast. At the front, larger air intakes flank the grill, which is enclosed by a more aggressive bumper with fins at each end appearing to function as integrated canards; a massive front splitter is then added for good measure. Air vents right behind each of the rear wheels and a reimagined carbon fiber diffuser also form part of the organism responsible for optimizing any air flow going under, through or over the VS’s silhouette. This design also helps to ensure that the engine, brakes and other heat-soaking components get adequate cooling.

Ferrari 812 Competizione

The aforementioned front diffuser opens up when the car is travelling at over 155 mph, while the the rear diffuser now spans the full width of the Comp car’s haunches, which in turn also required a rejig of the original exhaust system design. The rear spoiler remains integrated with the body, but has also been made higher, wider, and more optimized for performance in conjunction with the diffuser.

One of the most notable changes takes place at the back end of the car, with the rear glass being replaced by a body-colored panel which could be best described as a “super-louver” made from carbon fiber and aluminum. This is one element of the Competizione’s extreme-downforce mandate, which comes at the loss of some of the regular car’s utilitarian demeanor. The Competizione A instead, gets a bridge between the flying buttresses, which plays much of the same role as said “super-louver” while also incorporating the Targa design.

Chassis & Handling

The 812 Superfast VS will continue to embrace Ferrari’s most impressive tech, with familiar features such as the Side Slip Control 7.0 (SSC) traction and stability control system, and rear-axle steering coming standard. The latter system is notably impressive and is unlike any other similarly functioning system in a road car today, with each of the rear wheels able to turn at different angles independently of one another. Ferrari says this will improve rear stability and handling precision, which should be particularly useful in an 819 hp rear-wheel drive machine.

Typical of just about every performance-biased special edition car ever produced by Ferrari, is a strict carbon fiber diet – and this is no different for the upcoming Ferrari 812 Superfast VS. Owners should expect a healthy serving of the carbon fiber good stuff – inside and out – which not only upgrades the car aesthetically, but also allows for the just-as-important art of weight reduction.

With all options exhausted, including the carbon fiber wheels, the Competizione weighs about 38 kg less than the 1,525 kg Superfast, bringing it barely within the 1,400 kg range. No official details yet on how much the ‘A’ tips the scales, but the expectation is that it will be slightly heavier than the coupé – extra reinforcements, bracing, et al – despite all the extra carbon fiber that went into the Targa design.

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires will come standard on both of the Comp cars, with 20″ wheels wrapped in 275/35 and 315/35 in the front and rear respectively. These are the latest evolution of Michelin’s tried-and-tested street-legal extreme performance tire, and offer much more grip than previous iterations at the cost of a lower wear rating. The Competizione and Competizione A are ready to conquer to Nürburgring right from the showroom floor.

Pricing

Ferrari says that the Competizione coupé will have a base price of US$598,567, while the Competizione A will be quite a bit more expensive, starting at US$694,549. Production has already begun, with the first deliveries scheduled for early 2022 the coupé, and about a year after that for the Targa. Word on the street is that all allocations have already been sold / spoken for.

Official Ferrari press release can be viewed here.

Image & Video Gallery

Ferrari 812 Competizione

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FOR SALE: 1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT

The Ferrari Dino sits on the must-have list for many sports car enthusiasts. Today, one has been posted to BringATrailer with only 14 days left on the auction. This 1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT is one of 255 to roll out of the Modena factory finished in Blu Dino Metallizzato. Right now, the bid sits at $155,000 but will likely bring double or even triple that figure.

1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT FrontThe car is powered by a numbers-matching 2.4-liter V6 and paired with a five-speed manual transaxle. The interior features tan vinyl with beige cloth seats and Veglia Borletti instrumentation with only 57K miles on the odometer. Over the last three years, this Dino has received new windshield seals, rubber trim, freshening of the Cromodora wheels, a brake system refresh, new Koni suspension, carburetor rebuild, and many other maintenance items you would want to be addressed for this vintage. 

1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT interior

This gorgeous Ferrari is just one of the many cars to be sold from DriverSource’s Spring Motoring Collection. Some of the other vehicles come in the shape of an E30 M3, Aston Martin DB4, Euro 1975 BMW 3.0CSi, to name a few. If I miss out on this timeless Dino 246 GT, I can settle with another low-mile euro car from the DS collection. 

DriverSource Sping Collection 2021

Check Out an Exclusive Clip Top Gear Series 30 Premiere Episode!

It’s been a few weeks since we gave you a peek into the 30th season of BBC’s Top Gear with an action-packed trailer full of sentiment and screaming exhausts. That trailer gave car enthusiasts worldwide another thing to look forward to and I’m glad to bring you another exclusive clip from Top Gear’s premiere episode airing this Sunday, April 25th, 2021. 

Sunday’s episode takes a trip down memory lane for presenters Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, Chris Harris, and Paddy McGuinness as they are serving up a full-blown plate of pure nostalgia by taking their dads’ cars out but instead of being in the backseat like they once did, they are now taking the wheel. Sunday’s episode you’ll join them on a trip packed with motorsport and of course lots of dad-related shenanigans. 

Freddie picked up a Ford Cortina, Paddy got a Ford Fiesta, and Chris chose a BMW 323i – all cars their dads drove. 

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In this clip, the trio can be seen in Top Gear fashion with a drag race on an airstrip with their dads’ cars to see who could come closest to maxing out their respective speedometers. Though the trio wasn’t aiming for the fastest dad car, it’s comforting to see the E21 BMW cross the line first. 

Later on, in Sunday’s episode, the guys participate in a time trial around a rally course competing against The Stig’s dad and then race to catch the ferry to Windermere. Chris Harris will also be taking on the Lamborghini Sian – the Italian supercar company’s most powerful supercar – and answering the question of “What does a ‘supercapacitor’ do?”.

Sunday will be sure to bring lots of nostalgia, dad jokes, and bleats of Lamb-orghini’s!

2022 Porsche 911 GT3: Video Review Roundup

Porsche 911 GT3 Reviews

About 2 months have passed since the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 was unveiled via digital livestream on Youtube. While the Porsche brass were by all means generous with providing the important details regarding their latest 992-generation model, the next move was to get the car into the hands of mainstream journalists; their respective megaphones would be used to propagate the message that the new GT3 is everything Porsche described it to be, and more.

Well, after being afforded ample time to become intimate with the car, that moment is now upon us. Today, some of the most renown and respected automotive media outlets published their findings for global audiences to digest.

Here’s what they had to say.

Top Gear

2022 GT3 Top Gear

“It’s more apparent than ever that the 911 GT3 is part of a famous motorsport bloodline. Another phenomenal car.”

Click to read full article

Motortrend

2022 GT3 Motortrend

“What’s now the only naturally aspirated 911 was worth the wait.”

Click to read full article

RoadShow (CNET)

gt3 CNET

“Porsche’s newest 911 is exactly what a GT3 should be.”

Click to read full article

motor1.com

Porsche Taycan 4S – 9-Month Ownership Update

Hello again, everyone. It has been some time since my last post, where I provided a relatively thorough review of what it’s been like living with and owning a 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S in Canada.

To be frank, not a lot new has happened since that time; other than waiting for a brisk winter to thaw out, acquiring a couple of Taycan-related accessories, and a big software update for the car. The latter event sounds significant – and probably is in the grand scheme of things – but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it has transformed my personal experience with the car in any notable or measurable fashion. Perhaps to get the most out of the new upgrades, another excursion to the race track is in order…

I suppose there’s a silver lining that comes with the absence of having much to write (or rant) about, which would ultimately be a testament to the car’s lack of fuss and a nod to its inherent qualities. Plus, that leaves more time to write about other exciting things in the “T’s Corner” pipeline, of which details will be revealed in future posts :).

Now, more on this completely FREE software update (a big thanks again to Porsche Centre Calgary for the amazing service): it applies to 2020 model year cars, and in the most simplistic of terms, essentially updates it to a 2021 model. If you are a 2020 Taycan owner, you should have by now received a call from your dealership and been scheduled in for the service. Expect to drop off the car for the whole day.

Below is a list of what’s being updated:

“The update doesn’t affect range, but it does appear to boost performance slightly. In its press release, Porsche Cars North America noted “re-calibrated software for control units responsible for powertrain and suspension control, resulting in further improved driving dynamics and performance.”

The North American release didn’t mention specific numbers, but a European release said the Taycan Turbo S is now 0.2 second quicker from 0-124 mph, at 9.6 seconds.

The update also adds the SmartLift system from the 2021 Taycan, which automatically remembers locations where extra clearance is needed—such as speed bumps and steep driveways—and raises the adaptive air suspension when needed.

Also included is an upgraded navigation system with lane-specific information and in-depth traffic information, as well as Apple CarPlay. Customers with an Apple ID can access Apple Podcasts (including video streaming) and Apple Music lyrics. Cars equipped with ambient lighting can even change the lighting color based on what’s playing.

A Charging Planner lets drivers set the charge rate and what percentage the battery charges to. However, the update doesn’t enable Plug and Charge, which lets drivers simply plug in and charge and pay automatically through a pre-selected payment method. Porsche had to make hardware changes to the 2021 Taycan for that feature.

Customers also have the option for more Functions on Demand that can be added after the point of sale, either permanently or through a monthly subscription. The latest update adds active lane control and Porsche’s InnoDrive, which can take over the controls in some highway driving conditions, alongside the previously available Intelligent Range Manager.”

-via Motor Authority

So in essence, the car is going to drive slightly better and have a more comprehensive serving of comfort and convenience features. I would’ve preferred more range over being able to listen to Apple Podcasts, but in the end being given free access to these updates mostly eliminates the FOMO that would’ve otherwise come with being an early adopter. It will be interesting to see how long Porsche will be extending free software updates and to what degree. Hopefully for as long as I own the vehicle, as this could only be good for resale value granted that the car’s hardware doesn’t significantly change for newer model years.

It’s like a Genius Bar, but for cars.
If only it was always this easy to upgrade to the latest model…
A glimpse into what servicing a Porsche EV looks like.

What else… oh yes, I installed some wheel spacers for use with the summer/track set of aftermarket Advan GT wheels I have on the car right now. Even though these wheels shared virtually all the same specs with the OEM 20″ wheel options for the Taycan, the rear wheels in particular, appeared to be a fair bit more sunken. 20mm H&R wheel spacers seem to do the trick (and 7mm in the fronts were added for good measure).

I also purchased a SeaSucker Talon Rack so I can lug my road bike around, while unwittingly creating a monument of the city’s latest emissions-fighting dynamic duo, in the process.

-T

Chris Harris Gives His Take on BMW’s New M3

Top Gear UK’s, Chris Harris recently reviewed the 2021 BMW M3 Competition. His thoughts came from his experience with the M3 on a closed track.

The new 2021 BMW M3 comes with a fresh redesign that been talked about for the past few months prior to its release. BMW has been getting teased about the massive grille on the front of the car – these comments are coming from everyone including BMW enthusiasts.

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Chris Harris was not only puzzled about the animated and obnoxious grille affixed to the new M3 but also the lack of fitment and stance of the car. He compared the new G80 M3 to the previous generation (F80) and his comments were spot on. He pointed out that the previous generation looked perfect in almost every way especially how the body appeared to have been “wrapped” around the wheels. This was not the case for BMW’s new M3 – it lacks wheel fitment, fancy-looking mirrors, and an attractive front end. 

Chris Harris BMW Review

The G80 M3 comes with a twin-turbo inline-six capable of 510 horsepower and 480lb-ft of torque. It also comes sporting a ZF automatic transmission instead of the previous generations’ DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). Harris felt there was a bit of transmission lag during his time on the track but surprisingly mentioned there was virtually no turbo lag. 

Looks aside, Chris Harris thought the new M3 was fantastic. The chassis was nice and tight, the handling and steering inputs were precise, and the carbon fiber seats were absolutely perfect. The news M3’s steering wheel looks to be packed with buttons resembling a calculator but now we’re getting picky. 

2021 BMW M3 Comp

The BMW R&D team appears to be fans of arcade games as they have incorporated an “M drift analyzer” into the car giving the driver statistics on distance, time, and speed of drift. This sounds like fun until you get busted for attempting to beat your “high score” on your way home from the race track. 

Chris was impressed overall with BMW’s new M car but felt it was less “raw and angry” than that of previous generations. But BMW did not miss the mark, they just changed its destination with the new G80 M3.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3: Ultimate Guide

Introduction

Earlier today, Porsche unveiled its new 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 via digital livestream on YouTube. First deliveries are currently scheduled to begin sometime in the later half of 2021, where it may likely be designated as a 2022 model. This new GT3 becomes the seventh iteration of one of Porsche’s most established and beloved automobiles. More importantly, it continues to embody the spirit of previous GT3 models by amalgamating all that is awesome about the 911 – and the Porsche brand – in a single road car.

The first Porsche bigwig introduced by presenter Sarah Elsser to offer insight into the project, was Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser – former Porsche-Motorsport chief and current VP of the 911 model line. Dr. Walliser began by speaking candidly about the pressures associated with perpetually improving the GT3, but felt that the development team has fulfilled this goal with hard work; all of this, while facing the monumental challenge of navigating stricter emissions regulations and an industry-wide transition to EVs.

Andreas Preuninger – Director of Porsche’s GT program – was the next appear, first by driving the GT3 from behind the curtains and onto the stage, while making sure to throw in a few revs of the engine to excite the viewers. Once out of the car, he immediately reiterates the tremendous undertaking that was required to create the 992 GT3 , stating that it was “…the most complex, demanding task over the last three and a half years…” but asserts that “…the end product is the most extreme and exciting GT3 ever made.”

Finally, testimonials by Porsche racing legends Jörg Bergmeister, Lars Kern and Walter Röhrl really hit home just how incredible the car is, from sources that are as credible as it gets. All of them were particularly impressed by how much an improvement the car was compared to its predecessors, justifying the earlier proclamations made by Walliser and Preuninger.

Below are some key takeaways from the presentation.

Presentation Synopsis

Walliser: He talks about improving the naturally-aspirated engine, aerodynamics, chassis and suspension for the 992 GT3. Aside from the obvious technical features needed to make the GT3 better than ever, Walliser displays his deep-rooted understanding of driving enjoyment, depicting how important it was to preserve the spirit of the GT3 car from previous years, and “…bring this baby to life”.

To him, the GT3 is the 911. This is something he says “…can be immediately understood when driving in the countryside, or at the race track. That is the essence of the GT3 and what has made it so special over all the years.”

Getting back into the technical side of things, Dr. Walliser would go on to iterate that while the new GT3 has a bigger footprint, the extensive use of lightweight materials throughout have kept the weight the same as its predecessor. He glosses over a number or items, such as a carbon-fiber roof, carbon-fiber hood and ultra-thin glass, which Preuninger would go into a bit more detail later on.

Preuninger: When speaking about the technical details of the GT3, Preuninger starts by mentioning the 4.0L naturally-aspirated engine with a 9,000 rpm redline, which carries over from its predecessor with some improvements. The 510 PS (502 hp) engine he says, is “…one of the most emotionally involving engines out there.”

But the enhancements don’t stop there. “Bigger wheels, bigger brakes, wider rims.” In normal circumstances, this means more weight, which he addresses by stating “It’s a little bigger…a little bit more competent. It needed some lightweight trickery to keep the weight down, and that is dispersed all over the car. So, all boxes ticked.”

How is this achieved? He points to the carbon-fiber hood, roof and rear wing mentioned earlier by Walliser. Also introduced were some things that weren’t shown up close, such as a super lightweight battery, lighter wheels, carbon-fiber cross members, lightweight interior appointments, etc.  The weight reduction was very much an exercise of shedding “5 kg here, another 1 kg there, 3 kg somewhere else, and so on”.

The end result is a weight of just 1,435 kg, hitting the “sweet spot for a driver’s car and perfect track tool for the weekend.” Essentially, the 992 GT3 has achieved the same weight as its predecessor, but is loaded with a lot more technology. For the first time, a double wishbone suspension configuration is used in the front of the car. One of the most visually notable changes is the swan-neck rear wing derived from the 911 RSR competition car, which further emphasizes the link between Porsche’s race cars and its road cars. “What works on a race car, works on a street car, doesn’t it?”

Bergmeister: “Obviously, as a race car driver, when you get in a street car you have to lower your expectations. But on that car especially, I was shocked, how good it is… it’s so close to a race car, it’s really, really impressive.” As part of a response during the Q&A session, Bergmeister remarked that the GT3 impressed him most in the high speed sections of the Nürburgring, and that it was comparable to the 991.2 GT3 RS. “It hardly pitches when you brake, transition phases are very neutral. It has more downforce. It is the best street car we’ve ever driven in our lives“.

The 992 GT3 achieved a sub-7-minute (6:59.927) lap time at the Nürburgring. This is an absolutely insane, 17-seconds-faster than its predecessor and essentially the same time as the 991.2 GT3 RS, backing up all statements made by Bergmeister, Kern and Röhrl. This also sets the tone for the soon-to-follow GT3 RS – will a 6:40 lap time be possible?! Shortly after the livestream, Porsche uploaded onboard footage at the Nordschleife with Lars Kern behind the wheel, as well as the official ad for the car.

Engine & Performance

  • Engine Type & Size: 4.0L naturally-aspirated flat-6
  • Horsepower: 502 hp @ 8,400 rpm
  • Torque: 346 lb-ft @ 6,250 rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed PDK, 6-speed manual
  • 0-60 mph: 3.2 seconds (PDK), 3.7 seconds (manual)
  • Top Speed: 197 mph

Porsche has continued the use of the naturally-aspirated 4.0L 9A1 flat-6 power plant in the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3. The only key differences between the engine used in the race car and the one used in the 992 GT3, are the exhaust system and ECU. Otherwise, the two engines share virtually all the same components, such as individual throttle bodies. As such, the new GT3 needed no “sound engineering” and inherently sounds amazing. With its astronomical 9,000 rpm redline, the GT3 produces 502 hp @ 8,400 rpm and 346 lb-ft of torque @ 6,250 rpm. 

The GT3 will continue using the 7-speed PDK transmission, instead of a version of the 8-speed used in the rest of the 992 line-up. In essence, this saves weight (40 lbs) and makes for a better synergy with the GT3 and its intended application. But if you’d like a more hands-on approach, Porsche will offer the new GT3 with an optional 6-speed manual transmission as well.

Purists, rejoice! Walliser said that we shouldn’t count on the GT3 going electric or even hybrid, anytime too soon. It is much more likely that Porsche will transition to using synthetic fuels for motorsport and its GT line of production cars, before even considering going full-on EV. This aligns with Porsche’s intention to keep the naturally-aspirated engine alive for as long as possible – regulations and emissions standards will serve as the eventual ultimatum.

Chassis & Handling

Aerodynamics & Weight Reduction

The new 992 GT3 spent more than 160 hours across 700 simulation sessions in the wind tunnel. It generates 50% more downforce than its predecessor, and up to 150% more downforce in its “high downforce” setting. For the first time, the GT3 features an adjustable front diffuser and a fully closed rear diffuser, which on its own generates 60 kg of downforce at top speed. This means that now, both front and rear aerodynamic components are fully adjustable and can be manually set to one of four positions.

Its low weight of just 1,435 kg is achieved with a myriad lightweight components. This is includes a carbon-fiber hood, roof and rear wing, along with other items such as a super lightweight battery, lighter wheels, ultra-thin glass, carbon-fiber cross members, and lightweight interior appointments. Essentially, the 992 GT3 has achieved the same weight as its predecessor, but is loaded with a lot more technology.

Suspension & Chassis Control Systems

Porsche’s seventh iteration of the GT3, shows an unwavering dedication to the precision that has influenced the GT line of cars since day one. Inspired by the 2013 911 RSR competition car, the 2022 911 GT3 will receive a new front suspension setup consisting of unequal-length control arms instead of conventional struts, making it the first time a double wishbone suspension configuration is used in the front of a GT3. This will provide better tire contact through turns and during moments of compression and rebounding. Porsche’s new adaptive dampers are capable of adjusting every 10 milliseconds, which means the spring rates have doubled without affecting the ride quality of the GT3.

There are three available driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track ,which all provide varying degrees of driver-aid involvement and chassis settings. Aside from providing the most firm, performance-biased setup with the least amount of computer-control, initiating Track mode also changes the instrumentation and displays to “Track View”. This compiles all pertinent information to the immediate field-of-view of the driver. Important details such as oil temperature, oil pressure, tire pressures and shift indicators, are all in plain sight and easily visible.

Brakes & Tires

Porsche will continue to offer the GT3 standard with cast-iron rotors and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Likewise, upgrading to carbon-ceramic brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tires, remain as options.

Design, Styling & Interior

Overall, the silhouette of the new 911 GT3 remains a largely familiar one – and that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, this is probably great news for Porsche and GT3 enthusiasts, who would contend that there was never anything wrong with the previous GT3 in the first place. One of the most visually notable changes is the “swan-neck” rear wing derived from the 911 RSR competition car, which further emphasizes the link between Porsche’s race cars and its road cars.

The Club Sport Package (roll cage, 4-pt harnesses) will be a no cost option. However, this will probably only be for the European markets. This package was not available on past iterations in North America due to safety regulations. I anticipate that the aftermarket will step-up to fill the void with some quality products, though.

The Touring trim was confirmed by Preuninger, and there’s no reason this won’t be available state-side once again. Though he believes the standard trim is the most complete representation of the GT3, he acknowledges the appeal of the GT3 Touring for the “gentleman” crowd, who want something a bit more understated. He goes on to affirm that the Touring trim is very popular, and will therefore make a definite return for the 992.

Walliser also announced that Paint to Sample (aka, custom paint colors) will be available for the GT3 line-up. The program will commence sometime later this year. On the subject of paint, the new GT3 will be available in 14 standard colors when orders are open. 

Galleries

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“The emotions and the joy of driving. That’s why we desire the car from the heart to the stomach” – Andreas Preuninger

Official Videos

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Official Press Release

02/16/2021

Porsche takes the new 911 GT3 off the leash. The seventh edition of this high-performance sports car was also developed in close collaboration with Porsche Motorsport. It transfers pure racing technology into a production model even more consistently than ever before.

The double wishbone front axle layout and sophisticated aerodynamics with swan neck rear wing and striking diffuser originate from the successful GT race car 911 RSR and the 375 kW (510 PS; 911 GT3: Fuel consumption combined 13.3 – 12.4 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 304 – 283 g/km) four-litre six-cylinder boxer engine is based on the drivetrain of the 911 GT3 R, tried and tested in endurance racing. The acoustically impressive, high-revving engine is also used practically unchanged in the new 911 GT3 Cup. The result is a brilliant driving machine: efficient and emotional, precise and high-performance – perfect for the circuit and superb for everyday use.

The distinctive strength of the 911 GT3 lies in the sum of its characteristics. With a top speed of 320 km/h (911 GT3 with MT: Fuel consumption combined 13.3 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 304 g/km) and 318 km/h with PDK (911 GT3 with PDK: Fuel consumption combined 12.4 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 283 g/km) it is even faster than the previous 911 GT3 RS. It accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds. Porsche also offers the new model with a six-speed manual transmission for a particularly puristic driving experience.

Aerodynamics from motor racing

The sophisticated aerodynamics benefit from the experiences gained from motor racing and generate significantly more downforce without noticeably affecting the drag coefficient. In the performance position, the manually set wing and diffuser elements significantly increase the aerodynamic pressure for high cornering speeds.

This is the new 911 GT3

This is, however, reserved strictly for outings on the circuit, as it is there that the 911 GT3 can play all its trump cards. During final testing, it lapped the Nuerburgring-Nordschleife, traditionally the ultimate proving ground for all sports cars developed by Porsche, over 17 seconds quicker than its predecessor. Development driver Lars Kern took just 6:59.927 minutes for a full 20.8-kilometre lap. The shorter 20.6-kilometre track, which had previously served as a benchmark, was completed by the 911 GT3 in 6:55.2 minutes. Running on the optionally available Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres, the new model consistently delivered its performance over several laps in the expert hands of Porsche brand ambassador Jörg Bergmeister. For Bergmeister, it is “by far the best production car” that the experienced professional driver has ever driven in the “Green Hell”.

Despite a wider body, larger wheels and additional technical features, the weight of the new GT3 is on a par with its predecessor. With manual gearbox it weighs 1.418 kilograms, with PDK 1.435 kilograms. The front bonnet made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), lightweight glass windows, optimised brake discs and forged light-alloy wheels ensure weight discipline, as does the cover for the rear seat compartment. The lightweight sports exhaust system reduces the weight by no less than ten kilograms. With infinitely electrically adjustable exhaust flaps, it harmonises a highly emotional sound experience with the Euro 6d ISC FCM (EU6 AP) emissions standard. The combined consumption of the 911 GT3 is 13.3 litres/100 km (PDK 12.4).

Cockpit of the new 911 GT3 has racing genes

Its racing genes are expressed in practically all the details of the new 911 GT3. The cockpit is in line with the current model generation. A new feature is the track screen: at the touch of a button, it reduces the digital displays to the left and right of the central rev counter, which reaches up to 10,000 revs, to information such as tyre pressure indicator, oil pressure, oil temperature, fuel tank level and water temperature, which are essential when driving on the circuit. It also includes a visual shift assistant with coloured bars to the left and right of the rev counter and a shift light derived from Motorsport.

The interior of the new 911 GT3

Especially for the Porsche GT models, customers are increasingly requesting customised equipment. For this reason, the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur range is also available for the new 911 GT3 and is supplemented by GT 3-specific options such as a lightweight roof made of exposed carbon fibre. Other highlights include exterior mirror tops made of carbon, darkened LED matrix main headlights and matching Exclusive design rear lights with an arc of light with no red components. Guards Red or Shark Blue painted wheel rims enhance the black alloy wheels. In the interior, equipment details such as the dials for the rev counter and Sport Chrono stopwatch, seatbelts and trim strips set elegant accents in the body colour or other desired colour.

As exclusive as the 911 GT3 itself is the individual chronograph that Porsche Design offers exclusively to customers of the high-performance sports car. Like its motorised role model, it boasts a dynamic design, consistent performance and high-quality workmanship. Its housing reflects its Motorsport genes. Just like the connecting rods of the GT3 engine, it consists of robust, lightweight titanium. The timepiece is powered by an individual winding rotor reminiscent of the wheels of the 911 GT3. The coloured ring of the dial can be customised in the paint colours of the 911 GT3.

Info

The delivery of the new 911 GT3 is set for May 2021.

A Look Back: The 2004 Chevy Nomad

Looking Back at the 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept Car

In the early 2000’s, many American car manufacturers began introducing re-imagined, retro-looking concept automobiles that were a literal “throwback” to the vehicles of the 1950s and 1960s.  Many of these cars served as the manufacturer’s featured centerpiece at their respective displays on the International Auto Show circuit.  Some of these cars – such as the Chevy Camaro, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and the Dodge Challenger –  would find such favor at these shows that they’d move past the concept phase and actually see the proverbial “light at the end of the production tunnel.”  Unfortunately, a great many more of these automotive masterpieces served a singular purpose.  Namely, attract consumers to the shows so that they could see the future wares that automobile manufacturers planned to introduce for the coming model year.

The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.
The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.

In 2004, Chevrolet introduced the world to a re-imagined Chevy Nomad.  The Nomad was first introduced at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  This concept vehicle, while inspired by the Chevy Nomad of the 1950s, was more closely related to General Motors new Kappa rear-wheel-drive platform and served as the precursor to both the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Curve concept cars.  The designers of the 2004 Chevrolet Nomad wanted to deliver a contemporary version of the classic 1954 Chevy Nomad Concept car, which in turn had been inspired by the 1953 Corvette.

The car featured round headlights gently curving front fenders, a Corvette-inspired grille, forward-leaning B-pillars, a single rolled fascia under the tailgate, and an exaggerated tailgate with chrome ribs that was very reminiscent of the car’s much older counterpart. While each of these design cues was reminiscent of and paid homage to the 1954 Motorama car, the 2004 version also integrated some of the latest 21st-century technology into its DNA.  This new Nomad featured LED headlight and taillight assemblies.  With both sets of lights (front and rear) fully integrated into the car’s aesthetic, the LED lighting was selected for its bright luminescence as well its high degree of visibility, even from a moderate distance.  Like the 1954 Nomad, the majority of the body panels on the 2004 version were constructed of fiberglass. The fitment of the panels was vastly improved over the original Corvettes of the early 1950s.

The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.
The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.

Moving inward, the car’s interior featured a semi-circular speedometer with a top speed of 150 miles per hour.  This speedometer was integrated into an instrument cluster that gave the dashboard a three-dimensional appearance with its anodized blue aluminum background and special recessed lighting.  Other niceties of the car’s interior included black leather seats along with special “bowtie” insignias that ran the length of the dashboard.  Even the driver and passenger seats appeared to undergo a transformation.  For 2004, both the driver and passenger seats were given specialty badging on their headrests.

The latest Nomad featured a sport-car based platform akin to the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Skye, both of which were developed into production models around this same platform.  The car featured independent front and rear suspension attached to a rigid chassis that used a pair of full-length, hydroformed frame rails as its foundation.  The 2+2 passenger configuration (4 passengers total) sits on a 107-inch wheelbase.  The car was powered by a 250-horsepower DOHC turbocharged Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed Hydramatic 5L40-E electronically controlled automatic transmission.

The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.
The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept car.

Why introduce a 2+2 station wagon?  Why even bother designing one?  The answer is actually pretty straight-forward.  The Nomad was designed to be a “practical” sports car.  Unfortunately, General Motors had already made the decision to discontinue both the Pontiac and Saturn lines as part of a corporate restructuring.  As the Nomad would have likely been built at the same plants as the Sky and the Solstice, the project never moved beyond its concept phase.

Porsche Taycan 4S – 6-Month Ownership Review

Introduction

Hello again! For those of you who have been following “T’s Corner” closely, you would have become quite familiar with my adventures in a 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S. It has now been about 6 months since I first took possession of the vehicle. Along the way I have shared some of my experiences with the car; mainly, what it’s like to drive one on a daily basis, and even how it performed at the race track. 

Since I picked up the car in June, this meant I could go pretty gung-ho in first 3-4 months in terms of pushing the performance limits of the car and just enjoying it. In the first month of ownership, I had driven the car almost 3,000 km and had the opportunity to take the car to a local circuit before winter rolled in. Such was the fun that I was having, that taking a deeper dive into challenges with charging, the colder weather that was on its way (which significantly affects range), and the real cost of ownership, were put on the back burner – the latter two of which, just simply required more time to pass.

Since October, my experience with the Taycan has been a more hunkered-down one – the general global social climate as well as the winter season touching down where I live, serving as the one-two punch that has delivered these circumstances. Some would say that this is in essence, a more normalized and civil experience of the car, which likely more owners (current or prospective) can relate to – i.e. race track experiences and driving 3,000 km in a month, is probably something that a very small percentage of owners will really be interested in knowing about.

So in this post, instead of speaking in terms of lateral Gs, I’ll be focusing more on things like kWh/100 km (efficiency), general ownership costs, and what it’s like living with a Taycan during a cold (Canadian) winter season.

Cost of Ownership

Maintenance

First off, I should mention that the car has been into the dealership twice for service. Mainly for software updates, one recall for a water hose, and a PCM-related issue (which resolved itself). I don’t want to get into too much detail with the latter – which was a minor inconvenience rather than a material issue – but I will say that my local Porsche dealership (Porsche Centre Calgary), has been phenomenal to work with. I suppose it’s also important to mention that there has been no cost for any of my visits so far.

Electricity Costs

So with 6 months now passed – and with maintenance costs aside (of which there have been none) – the true cost of ownership falls entirely on what I’ve paid to keep the car juiced up. In terms of my charging habits, nothing much has changed since I’ve owned the car. I do 99% of my charging from home, and the other 1% at commercial charging stations. The latter method of charging could actually become much more important into the future, for reasons I will mention below.

First, here are the last 3 months of my electricity usage and costs, per my utility bills starting in November 2020.

The November and December bills give a pretty good indication of what my total electricity costs were (keep in mind, this is for my entire household, not just for charging the car, so there are other variables at play here). It looks like the January bill accounted for some corrections from the previous months, but did not appear to affect my average costs too much. To offer some perspective (which I covered in one of my very first “charging experience” posts), my total household electricity costs seemed to average at about $60 per month before I ever had an EV to worry about.

Keeping things simple – and based on the data from these bills – I think it’s safe to say that keeping the Taycan charged at home is costing me on average, about $100 per month more than when I wasn’t charging it. Given that I was driving about an average of 1,200 km – 1,500 km per month during those months (which had some very brisk days, leading to higher charging demands), the cost of keeping a Taycan running remains both very low and a highly attractive feature of the car.

Rate Riding

A rate rider “is a temporary credit or charge that is added to your monthly bill on behalf of the electricity or gas distributor. A rate rider collects or refunds the difference between actual and estimated costs for delivering energy”.  I bring this up because I had a very informative conversation with a prospective Taycan owner and highly respected car enthusiast, and the topic of rate riding came up.

Now, this has not applied to me yet, but in simple terms it has meant that some Taycan owners in my city have incurred electricity bills with increases of around $1,000 or more. As mentioned before, there are obviously lots of variables at play here, but it looks as though these rate riding costs are tacked on when the utility company detects an abnormal level of energy consumption and charges users in anticipation of a much higher adjustment.

As I indicated before, these bills encompass distribution for entire households and not just the outlet for the car, so it’s never going to be easy to pinpoint why someone is paying so much more for electricity when the same car is being charged in their garage, ceterus paribus. 

There are a couple of things I will say for certain though. The first, is to become familiar with how utilities work in your local area – as has been evidenced, this can not only greatly differ within your own city, but is likely to vary significantly in different provinces, states, countries, etc. Perhaps contacting your energy provider ahead of time to let them know you will be charging an EV at home going forward, will change the scenario.

The second is to charge your car strategically. What I mean by this, as alluded to before, is by using commercial charging stations more often as part of your charging routine, if required. The local 800V charger – not too far from my house – can deliver a ~60% charge in about 20 mins, costing around $7.00. Use commercial chargers if you need to fill up a lot of juice at once (i.e. you’re sitting at about a 20% charge). Reserve the home charger for “top-up” use only, plugging it in only when you’re at about a 70% charge or higher. Assuming that this all works the way I think it does, you’ll be able to leave home everyday with a full charge and not worry about the huge dump of electricity required to go from 0% – 100% , which could trigger the rate riding.

With my driving habits the way they are and with my utility bills having stayed consistent, it is unlikely that I will have to explore this avenue. But it’s good to know the option is there if I ever need to exercise it, plus others should be aware of this potentially significant matter. After all, paying $1,000 per month to keep your EV charged will certainly defeat the purpose of owning one, amongst other things.

Winter Driving

I’ve had a good 3 months to really test the car in winter conditions, and I must say that the performance has been as good as expected if not better. Paired with a set of Continental WinterContact TS 860 S tires, grip has never been an issue for the Taycan 4S. The air-suspension is particularly useful when the snow is a bit deeper, as being able to raise the car in situations that call for it, has been extremely convenient to say the least.

The only issue during winter – which is an EV-wide one, and not just specific to the Taycan – is that of range.

Here are my findings, having been able to drive the Taycan in a variety of weather conditions and temperatures.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind these are all what I achieved while in Range mode, with a combination of city and highway driving speeds – i.e. realistic driving scenarios, not intentional hyper-miling exercises. 

Ideal/Warm Weather:

17-20 kWh/100 km = ~500 km of range

Cooler Weather (between -10°C and +5°C):

22-25 kWh/100 km = ~400 km of range

Extreme Cold Weather (between -30°C and -15°C):

28-32 kWh/100 km = ~300 km of range

As you can see here, range drop-off can be significant if it gets cold enough. Expect as much as a 40% drop in range in extreme cold weather conditions. From what I can tell, there has been no detriment to performance when driving in such conditions, but you will definitely need to be prepared for significantly heavier charging demands.

Does this make the Taycan less enjoyable in winter? Maybe, a little. If your range anxieties are getting the best of you, reserve driving your Taycan during the winter only for when it is a bit warmer out (i.e. cooler weather as opposed to extreme cold weather). If you want to use your Taycan for a longer excursion to the ski hills, I say go for it! – just plan your route, and charge-up accordingly.

6-Month Review

I’m really happy with the car.

Not having to pay for gas has been a real boon. My other cars – particularly my V8 SUV, which I use from time to time during winter – are certainly not sippers of the petrol stuff, so having an EV makes this feeling all the more distinguishable.

For all intents and purposes, it costs me $100 a month to keep the Taycan juiced-up – a more than reasonable cost to incur for the amount that I drive it, and the superb performance it has on tap at all times. At this juncture, it hasn’t cost me anything to own in terms of maintenance or repairs; although, being well within the warranty period is certainly helpful here.

I do also have to add that Porsche seems to be keeping tabs on issues that have arisen for Taycan early adopters. They get resolved quickly, or at the very least, Porsche is aware of the issues that get brought up, and are often already working on a fix when they do. That’s reassuring from the company, and is another factor of what has made owning a Taycan so enjoyable.

Issues that I have experienced personally are all what I would consider “first world problems.” – Apple Car Play intermittently not working, the LTE connection dropping, Range mode being finicky at times. Note: the latter two issues seem to have been permanently fixed. More compelling issues have been brought up by other owners on forums and Facebook groups, but I won’t delve into those; this is a blog about my own personal experiences, plus those problems seem to be very few, far between and often resolved immediately by Porsche. Some are even caused by user error.

The Porsche Taycan 4S remains a phenomenal car to drive, even in winter climates. During a big snow dump a few weeks back, lots of people were getting stuck in the snow. The Taycan just went about its business like the omnipotent force it is – it isn’t just a “California specialist”. I am looking forward to the summer, though!

-T

The Best and Worst Parts of the Most Extreme Phone Camera Yet

Brand: Samsung
Product: Galaxy S20 Ultra
Release Date: 03/13/20
Price: $1,400
From: samsung.com

There are plenty of places to start a discussion about the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, the new flagship phone of Samsung’s next, renamed generation of its Galaxy S line. There’s the dual-band 5G connectivity, the 120Hz screen. Also, of course, the sky-high $1,400 starting price. But the question that jumped out to me the most when I first saw this beast, with its impressive 10x optical zoom and unheard of 100x digital zoom, is whether that camera is a revelation or a gimmick. The answer? Well, it’s both.

The S20’s ability to zoom optically up to 10x is a terrific feature, and the ability to zoom that deep without destroying image quality is a freedom I enjoy even if I use it less than I expected in practice. Beyond, to the 100x and even the more modest 30x zoom, the downsides start to overpower any practical application. Yes, it is a great party trick, but I can hardly imagine, like, using it.

10X optical zoom is incredible, but niche.

In case you forgot, zooming works like this. Optical zoom uses physical lenses to magnify your picture, letting you get closer with no compromise in image quality. Digital zoom takes a picture, crops it and enlarges, giving you chunkier pixels the further you zoom. By using a sideways mounted lens and a prism to fit inside a large but manageable camera bump, the S20 lets you get that deep 10x zoom guilt free, which is definitely incredible.

Shooting around with the S20, I found this was great for a few of my pet projects, like getting crisp, close up pictures of interesting features on buildings, and I figure it would be similarly great for shooting wildlife from a distance, or getting close ups at a concert or sporting event. At 10x magnification, it is a little difficult to hold the camera still enough to get a clean shot, especially in low light conditions or with one hand. I spent more time using 5x purely for ease of use. But that impressive zoom can help you get shots you’d otherwise need an honest-to-god zoom lens on an actual camera to capture. It’s sick, even though I didn’t find quite as many uses for it as I expected.

100x zoom is as awesome as it is useless.

If you need a steady hand for 10x, you need an actual tripod for 100x. Once you get above 10x, keeping your target in the frame while you press the button feels more like balancing a broomstick on your finger than using a point-and-shoot. It is a hopeless exercise to try this one-handed, and it is still barely manageable with two. The camera app shows you a handy mini-map in the top of the screen that you can use for reference, which is crucial since the ultra-zoom picture from the viewfinder will be nigh unintelligible. But it can only help so much since the physical act of aiming is wildly challenging.

Now don’t forget this is also digital zoom, which means you are losing image quality at the same time. The S20 boasts some machine learning tech that ostensibly helps repair your ridiculously cropped image but it can’t work miracles. Your final images, if you somehow manage to stay on target to get the shot, are basically as high resolution as a watercolor painting. I can maybe, theoretically, imagine a case where this would be useful, if you were trying to get a faraway shot as evidence instead of art. I mean, it’s cool for a second! But at best it is a party trick.

The S20 Ultra is more than just its camera, obviously.

Of course, the S20 has more going on than just its camera. With dual-band 5G connectivity, the S20 Ultra and its little brother, the S20+, can deliver the face-melting 10 Gbps-and-higher speeds the best 5G connections will be able to offer, if you can find them. Meanwhile, the baseline S20 only supports the slowest flavor of 5G. Its screen, with a silky smooth 120hz refresh rate, is beautiful though tests indicate it robs you of about the hours of battery life to have it turned on. These are both features that, like the camera, are objectively impressive but maybe not practically useful for most people. And at a $1,400 price point to start ($1,600 with maxed out specs!!!!!!) it is very hard to recommend this phone as a sensible purchase, especially when the S20 and S20+ sport more modest prices ($1,000 and $1,200) and less intense cameras (3x optical, 30x digital) that still push the limit of practicality.

It’s still ultra cool though.

Samsung provided this product for review.

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Eric Limer

Eric Limer is Gear Patrol’s tech editor. A resident of Weehawken, NJ, his current obsessions include mechanical keyboards, mechanical pencils and Formula 1.

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Is This Still the Perfect Entry-Level Smartwatch?

Last fall, Fitbit released the Fitbit Versa – and I loved it. It was a simple-to-use smartwatch that was slim and bespoke, relatively affordable, an excellent fitness tracker and it had a battery life that lasted nearly a week. It was a great entry-level smartwatch for basically anybody, but especially casual smartwatch wearers, and it worked equally well with both iPhone and Android.

The next generation of that smartwatch, the Versa 2, doesn’t mess too much with last year’s success. It has the same relative look and feel of the original Versa, but Fitbit updated in nearly every way. It has an even simpler design, a better processor, a new OLED display (a welcome improvement over the Versa’s LCD display), and improved sleep tracking. The most “touted” new feature is the addition of Alexa integration, so you can tell the smartwatch to do things like set alarms and control your other compatible smart home devices. Lastly is price: the Versa 2 comes exactly the same as last year’s Versa.

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The Good: The Versa 2 is a better entry-level smartwatch than last year’s Versa, which is something you’d both expect and welcome. The two most important upgrades are that the Versa two now has an always-on display (if you select it) and superior sleep tracking feature, called Sleep Score, which gives you a nice little rating out of 100 – the higher the number, the better your sleep. If you’re fine wearing a smartwatch to bed and you want to track your sleep, the Versa 2 is exactly what you want.

As was true with the Versa, a huge selling point of the Versa 2 is its battery life. If you elect to not have an always-on display (it’s off by default) the Versa 2 can last between five and six days on a single charge; if you have the always-on display, it lasts around three days. Either way, this battery life which is huge, especially when you consider an Apple Watch lasts roughly 18 hours and is not designed to wear while you’re sleeping.

There are two other big reasons to buy a Versa 2. First, it’s solid and intuitive fitness-tracking abilities. It has an always-on heart-rate monitor and can accurately track things like steps and calories. It also, like the Apple Watch, has automatic workout detection, so if you forget to start a walk, run, bike ride or pool workout, the smartwatch won’t skip a beat. And secondly, the Versa 2 is very slim and lightweight, and it’s one of the most comfortable smartwatches that I’ve ever worn.

Who It’s For: The Versa 2 is an entry-level smartwatch designed for anybody who wants a good fitness tracker with some smartwatch-y features (like see call and text notifications, and control music). If you’re somebody who wants to keep track of your sleeping, the Versa 2 is particularly good. It works equally well for iPhone and Android users.

Watch Out For: The new Alexa integration might come as a welcome addition for some, but it really shouldn’t be the main reason to buy this smartwatch. The fact is that most people don’t really need (or want) to talk to Alexa when they’re outside the house. Also, talking to Alexa on the Versa 2 isn’t like talking to Siri on the Apple Watch. For instance, you can’t tell Alexa to send text messages, open certain apps or even play/pause music; all it can do is answer specific queries (“Alexa, what’s the weather?”), set timers and alarms, and control some of your connected smart home gadgets. The other thing is that there’s no speaker, so you won’t be able to hear Alexa and all its answers will just appear on the screen – it’s far from a seamless experience.

As was true with the Versa, the Versa 2 lacks a dedicated GPS, meaning if you want reliable workout data you’ll have to have your smartphone nearby. This is a big bummer for runners. There’s also no LTE model available for the Versa 2.

There’s a new Spotify app that’s available on the Versa 2, which isn’t available on the Versa, but it’s not super helpful. Like with the Apple Watch, the Spotify app on the Versa 2 doesn’t let you download anything (playlists, albums, songs, podcasts) for offline listening. If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, only a select few Garmin and Samsung smartwatches do this.

Also, the Versa 2 still comes with a proprietary charger. The annoying thing is that it looks and feels just like the proprietary charger that came with the original Versa, which I didn’t like to begin with, but it’s actually not the same and won’t work with previous Versa smartwatches. I still have and use my Versa, and mixed up the chargers on several occasions, which was obviously frustrating.

Alternatives: Fitbit has a right to feel frustrated after the latest Apple hardware announcements. That’s because, in addition to announcing new high-end Apple Watches, Apple also dramatically reduced the price of its two-year-old smartwatch – you can now buy an Apple Watch Series 3 for $200, which is the exact price of the Fitbit Versa 2. Basically, if you have an iPhone and you want an entry-level smartwatch that works well with it, the Series 3 is probably a better bet.

Verdict: The Versa 2 is a better version of last year’s Versa, which was the best entry-level smartwatch for most people, Android or iPhone owner, who just wanted an easy-to-use smartwatch to track fitness. A year later, the Versa 2’s main problem is that there’s more competition, especially within its $200 price range. The Versa 2’s best qualities are its 6-day battery life, its great fitness and sleep tracking, and it’s super-slim design. If you those things are important to you, then the Versa 2 remains one of the best – if not the best – entry-level smartwatches you can buy. However, the reality is that the Versa 2 will feel more like a glorified fitness tracker than an actual smartwatch, especially if you have an iPhone or Samsung smartphone.

What Others Are Saying:

• “If you’re not wedded to Fitbit’s platform, the Versa 2 is a harder sell when you compare it with other $200 smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and the Apple Watch Series 3, which both have GPS, onboard music storage and contactless payments. One feature that could set the Versa 2 apart is Fitbit’s new subscription service, but it will take a lot to convince me to spend $80 more per year. Still, the Versa 2 is a very good fitness-focused smartwatch that offers plenty of insights into your overall health, subscription or not.” — Mike Prospero, Tom’s Guide

• “Overall, the Versa 2’s fitness tracking features are the best and most comprehensive you’ll find on any smartwatch, even though it doesn’t have a dedicated GPS radio and relies on your phone for GPS tracking.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge

• “If not for its connectivity problems, the Versa 2 would be an excellent smartwatch. It offers accurate, comprehensive fitness features and a nice design for a reasonable price. It’s also one of the longest-lasting smartwatches around, while the Alexa integration makes it more useful than its predecessor. I just wish Fitbit would get its Bluetooth act together already, and give me a better OS.” — Cherlynn Low, Engadget

Key Specs

Display: 300 x 300 pixel touchscreen AMOLED
Water resistance: swimproof; up to 50 meters
Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor, NFC
Battery life: up to 6 days; ~3 days with always-on display

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Fitbit provided this product for review.

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The Sonos Move Does It All, For Better and For Worse

The Sonos Move ($399) represents a bunch of “firsts” for Sonos. It’s the company’s first Bluetooth speaker, its first portable speaker and, thus, its first speaker to have a built-in battery (which Sonos had to build from scratch). Unlike all other Sonos speakers before it, the Move is designed to be listened to in, around and outside the home. And if you’re wondering, yes, the Move is weatherproof and drop-resistant, making it Sonos’s first truly rugged speaker, too.

Of course, the Move is still a Sonos speaker and it’s designed to work as such. It can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and, via the Sonos app, be grouped with other Sonos speakers in a multi-room system. It’s also a smart speaker, just like the Sonos One, so you can speak to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant and request a song, adjust the volume or ask about the weather.

There are a couple of big questions surrounding the Move. In terms of sound quality, how does it compare to other Sonos speakers? And how should the Move be used? Is it more of a traditional Sonos speaker that, instead of being tethered to the wall, can be carried from room to room? Or is it more a portable Bluetooth speaker, designed to be listened to outside?

The biggest question, at least for me, has to do with the “Sonos experience.” The audio company is so beloved because its speakers sound great and work with almost every music streaming service, but, most importantly, they’re easy enough for anybody to use. So the fact that the Move can be constantly be moved around, switched between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes – does that negatively impact that Sonos experience?

The Good: The Sonos Move has that “Sonos sound” – it sounds warm, lively and punchy, both inside and outside, just as you’d expect from a Sonos speaker. Sonos specially designed it with a downward-firing tweeter and forward-firing woofer, and the result is that the Move has more of a 360-dree sound than any other speaker. (Fun fact: even though the Play:1 and Sonos One speakers have a dotted grill the wraps sound most of the speaker, both are still forward-firing and not omnidirectional speakers.) In terms of sound quality and power, the Sonos Move sounds more closely to the Sonos One ($199) rather than the larger and more expensive Play:5 ($499); but it’s definitely in-between the two.

The other neat thing about the Move is that Sonos rejiggered TruePlay technology so that it works with the Move. TruePlay is the in-app feature that helps tune each Sonos speaker so that it sounds best for the room it’s in; it’s a typically a one-time process that requires you to wave your smartphone around while the speaker makes some strange noises. Sonos knew this would be a pain in the ass with the Move, to have listeners set up TruePlay every time they moved the speaker, so they developed Automatic TruePlay.

Instead of going through the app and waving your phone around (typical TruePlay behavior), the Move uses its built-in microphones and automatically tunes itself ever time you move it. It’s convenient and you can hear the difference. For example, when you move the Move from an open space to a closed-in space, like a media cabinet, you can hear the speaker lower its bass and crank up its mids and treble. All this happens in the space of a few seconds and, again, it requires nothing out of the listener (the microphones have to be on, though). Pretty cool.

When it’s not on its charging dock, or charging via USB-C, the Move has a ten-hour battery life – which is decent. That said, it has a pretty neat trick to save battery life. Anytime the speaker is not powered and it’s not playing music, meaning it could be in either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth modes, the Move will automatically turn off after a few minutes. According to Sonos, the Move can stay in this “Suspend mode” for up to five days before needing a visit back to the charger.

The biggest thing, at least for me, is that the Move doesn’t really complicate or change the Sonos experience. Because it’s the first Sonos speaker that has automatic TruePlay, it arguably makes the Move even easier to set up than other speakers. If there’s one caveat to this “Sonos experience,” it’s that the Move will automatically connect back to your home’s Wi-Fi when switching back from Bluetooth mode, but it won’t regroup with your other Sonos speakers. Basically, you’ll have to visit the Sonos app if you want to regroup your speakers after using the Move as a Bluetooth speaker. Not the end of the world, but something to watch out for.

Who It’s For: The Sonos Move won’t be for everybody. In fact, it’s a speaker with a hint of irony about it. Sonos designed it so that it could work for anybody in any situation – whether that’s indoors or outdoors, in your home or far from it – but it’s actually a speaker that’s optimal for a select few people. It’d be a great addition to somebody’s household who just wants a great-sounding speaker in every room of their house, but only wants to buy one speaker. If the person has a Sonos system and has an outdoor space (backyard or patio) that’s covered by Wi-Fi, then the Move would be a great way to extend your home’s sound outdoors. Finally, if the person is just a die-hard Sonos enthusiast, they really can’t go wrong with the Move.

Watch Out For: The Sonos Move loses many of its best features when being used as a Bluetooth speaker. It can’t function as a smart speaker, so you can’t access Alexa or Google Assistant. Its automatic TruePlay doesn’t work, so it won’t sound as good as it possibly could. It’s can’t operate as a stereo pair with another Sonos Move (both speakers have to be connected to Wi-Fi for stereo pairing).

It’s also the first Sonos speaker that you’ll have to worry about replacing its battery (because it’s the only one to have a battery). Sonos claims that its battery should last roughly three years or 900 charges, but this will be an extra cost down the road; Sonos will sell the replaceable batteries, but they have yet to announce pricing. It’s worth noting that even if the Move’s battery does die, as long as it’s connected to power it will still function as a typical Sonos speaker.

At $399, the Sonos Move definitely feels expensive for what it is. It’s also not a small speaker and even though Sonos claims that it’s a great portable Bluetooth speaker (which I feel it definitely is), I have a hard time picturing many people lugging this 6-pound speaker to the beach.

Alternatives: As far as getting an entry-level Sonos speaker, you could buy two One ($199/ea) or two One SL ($179/ea) speakers, each of which has almost the same audio quality as the Move. If you don’t care about the versatility of the Move, just the audio quality, the Play:5 is a little bit more expensive and definitely is the superior-sounding speaker.

If you’re not committed to the Sonos ecosystem, there are plenty of alternatives. For instance, the UE Blast ($100) and UE Megablast ($170+), both of which are smart Wi-Fi speakers that work with Alexa and they are two of the best portable Bluetooth speakers, too.

It’s worth point out that Bose, arguably Sonos’s biggest speaker rival, recently released the Bose Portable Home Speaker ($349), which is a very similar speaker to the Sonos Move. The Bose Portable Home Speaker works with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and can be grouped with Bose’s other multi-room speaker.

Verdict: The Sonos Move is a completely different kind of Sonos speaker, yet it still manages to feel…like a Sonos speaker. It sounds great, truly, and in some respects, it’s actually easier to set up and get playing than any other new Sonos speaker. That said, it feels a little expensive for what it is and unless you’re really going to take advantage of its versatility – take it from room to room, take it outdoors, and use it as true Bluetooth speaker – Sonos makes several other more affordable speakers that you’ll probably enjoy just as much.

What Others Are Saying:

• “For a lot of serious Sonos fans, the Move will be a no-brainer. Folks have been wondering for years when Sonos will make the jump to Bluetooth and make its famously exceptional multi-room wireless speaker systems more versatile. A lot of those people have invested hundreds if not thousands of dollars into their Sonos systems, and the idea of adding one more—one that has Bluetooth, that can go anywhere—is exciting. The Move sounds like a Sonos speaker. It works with all the other Sonos speakers. Sure, a Sonos diehard will love this thing. The average consumer just looking for a portable speaker, however, might not be so enthusiastic.” — Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

• “The Move also cannot connect to multiple phones or devices at a time either, so you only get to have one DJ at your party. Oh, and though Sonos is known for its ability to group multiple speakers into ad-hoc zones, this isn’t possible on Bluetooth. And that’s despite many competing speakers, like that Megaboom we keep mentioning, having the ability to daisy-chain together. For now, it’s clear that Sonos still sees Bluetooth as an add-on, not a core focus. Sonos could add more Bluetooth features in the future via app updates (something it does frequently), but the company’s heart still lies with Wi-Fi..” — Jeffrey Van Camp, Wired

• “The biggest question that most people seem to have about the Move is about whether it’s worth the nearly $400 price tag. Frankly, it’s a tough price to swallow for what largely amounts to a $200 Sonos One with a battery bolted to the bottom of it. It’s also a lot more money than the typical Bluetooth speaker costs. But the Move also does things that no other Sonos speaker nor any other Bluetooth speaker can do, and it does it all without compromising on sound quality, volume, or features.” — Chris Welch, The Verge

Key Specs

Drivers: One downward-firing tweeter, one mid-woofer; two Class-D digital amplifiers
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2
Battery: up to 10 hours
Water Resistance: IP56 rating
Weight: 6.6 pounds

Sonos provided this product for review.

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This Absurd Backup Battery Can Charge Every Gadget You Own and Then Some

Portable power is a quickly evolving category, and Ecoflow’s Delta 1300 demonstrates just how far it’s come. Lithium-ion batteries are not just for your phone; this compact and powerful battery bank is a lightweight gas-free, emissions-free generator that’s powerful enough to run woodshop tools, office electronics, a portable refrigerator or medical device, and light enough to carry between locations. As an emergency back-up generator, it will keep you charged and comfortable in a power outage, but it has so much functionality it won’t gather dust while you’re waiting for the next blackout. In addition to charging phone, drone, and laptop, and to running circular saws, air compressors, and lights, Delta can charge an electric car enough to eke out another five to seven miles until you can get to a proper charger.

The Good: The Delta 1300 has 6 AC outlets, 2 USB-C PD ports, 4 USB outlets, and it’s rechargeable from a wall socket, carport, or solar panel. This unit plugs into the wall with the same cord you’d use to plug in a computer. There’s no specialized, device-specific power brick required, so you don’t have to worry about misplacing your charger. The Delta can juice 13 devices simultaneously, which means you’ll be popular at festivals and trade shows with one of these in your tent, van or booth. A large LCD screen tells you how much battery the lithium-ion bank has left, both by percentage and hours. The readout is based on the Delta’s activity at any specific time. For example, it’ll likely read 99 hours when you plug in your dead cell phone. If it’s charging a large Dometic fridge/freezer, the readout will more likely be 20-32 hours. It’s super portable at around 30 lbs and the size of a toaster oven with oversized handles that are easy to grab

Who It’s For: If you’ve ever considered a gas-powered generator as an emergency backup, you’re a candidate for Delta. If you want to run power tools away from a wall plug or without the hassle of ultra-long extension cords you need one of these. If you live off-grid, whether you’re stationary or mobile, Delta can power your lights, tools, electronics and appliances. In an emergency not only will it power a fan or heater, lights, and microwave, it can power a medical device like a CPAP. It can also give people who require electrical medical devices some freedom to roam.

Watch Out For: It’ll take you some time actually using the Delta before you’ll be able to get a good handle on how long it will actually last in various scenarios. Most electrical devices pull power at a variable rate, so the number of remaining hours of power displayed on Delta’s screen may change without notice if your gadgets suddenly get a bit hungrier. I plugged a Dometic fridge/freezer into the Delta, and the screen told me I had 38 hours of run time. Four hours later, the screen told me I had 20 hours of run time. The change makes sense. When the fridge needed cooling, its energy consumption was greater. The Delta records its own power output continuously and as it does, the unit adjusts its battery life readout. When the fridge reached temperature, then the remaining battery time on Delta’s screen went back up. That said, the battery life estimates shared by EcoFlow seem to be extremely accurate and not inflated.

Alternatives: There are other battery-powered generators out there, as well as gas-powered generators. Most gas generators are more expensive, as are other powerful battery generators. Gas generators are loud, smelly and you can’t run them safely inside because of their carbon monoxide emissions. They need annual maintenance. Delta requires no annual maintenance. The battery maintains its charge for a year untouched, and the only noise is a quiet hum. The only emission from Delta is a little bit of heat.

There are other battery power banks on the market, like the Goal Zero Yeti 1400. That unit takes 12 times longer to charge plugged into a wall, it weighs 50 percent more, and it’s slower to charge with a solar panel. EcofFow’s claimed power capabilities for the Delta 1300 are considerably greater than those claimed by Goal Zero for the Yeti 1400. The Yeti 1400 is twice the price and claims a lifecycle of 500 charges, versus EcoFlow Delta’s claimed life of 800 charges.

Review:

To use Delta, you press the power button and then press a second on/off switch for AC or DC power. The LCD screen, in addition to telling you hours and battery percentage remaining, indicates high and low temperature, whether the fan is working, input, output with an overload warning.

We ran every tool we had and charged every device: circular saws, table saws, shop vacs, computers, phones, fridges and more. We were only able to fully drain the battery during the course of normal use when we plugged in a full freezer trying to cool its contents from 14°F to 0°F. The battery lasted at least 20 hours; we woke up to it needing a recharge.

Delta goes from zero percent charge to 80 percent charge in an hour, and can fully charge with just two hours plugged into the wall. EcoFlow says Delta charges in four hours via a solar panel. In order achieve such short charge times, EcoFlow also developed a charging technology, bi-directional X-stream Charge, that allows alternating current AC from a wall outlet to be directly inputted into Delta’s inverter, increasing its charging power at the same time. “By passing through the inverter directly, we can increase charging speed to more than ten times of the traditional AC to DC adapter cable,” said EcoFlow found Eli Harris. The proprietary charging technology also integrates all direct current power supplies below DC 60V, from an adapter, solar or car DC output, into one input port. The result is that users don’t need to consider whether they recharge Delta with a wall plug or solar panel. The system automatically recognizes the power source.

In addition to a new charing technology, the company built an entire proprietary internal integrated architecture from the ground up to maximize Delta’s power storage efficiency. EcoFlow designed and developed every component inside Delta, which includes more than 100 battery cells. Harris said one of the company’s biggest challenge was effectively monitoring and managing the operation of the whole system in real-time. EcoFlow’s battery management system was key. Harris and his team built it so the main controller collects the temperature and power status of each battery cell in real-time and then adjusts the charging current and the voltage to ensure the safest, fastest charging rate. When the unit is in idle, the battery management system monitors and adjusts the unit’s power status to ensure lower power consumption and extended standby power storage, which is how the company achieved a shelf-life of a year plus.

Delta is designed to take a beating. The unit we tested was pre-production, so did not have the correct casing. But we know from testing EcoFlow’s River battery bank that they know how to make their power banks durable without a heavy, bulky full-steel casing. Harris says that Delta’s housing was inspired by Tesla, and that final production will use a combination of aerospace-grade aluminum and high-strength steel to give Delta maximum strength and structural rigidity. It will be combined with impact-absorbing plastic, protective rigid metal plates, and four aluminum pillar reinforcements so that Delta is worthy of withstanding the hazards of a job site, garage project or bouncing around in the back of an off-road vehicle.

Verdict: Harris says he created EcoFlow to build this generator, and while we expect the company to blow this battery’s capacity out of the water with future versions, this one is undoubtedly worth owning for anyone who needs a reliable source of power or backup power. The Delta raised over $1M in the first 48 hours on Kickstarter, and it’s currently nearing $1.5M. Delta 1300 is an awesome solution for home or home office, van life and for powering tools away from a wired source of electricity. None of the claims made on EcoFlow’s Delta Kickstarter page are exaggerated. We were impressed with Delta’s power, versatility, quick charge time and compact size. Support Delta before the campaign closes on October 19—and as thanks for your trust in the company’s technology, you get peace of mind via a lifetime battery warranty.

Key Specs

Weight: 30 lbs
Ports: 6 AC outlets, 2 USB-C PD, 4 USB
Shelf Life: 12 months
AC Output: 1600w (surge 3100w)
Charge Time: 1.7 hours
Type: Lithium-Ion
Price: $699

EcoFlow provided this product for review.

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This Is the Best Smartwatch for iPhone Owners

The Apple Watch has been the best smartwatch for anybody with an iPhone for years, but it feels like the fifth-generation model, the Apple Watch Series 5 ($399+), has the most to live up to. That’s because its predecessor, the Series 4, set the bar so darn high. It was the first Apple Watch to look different, with a larger edge-to-edge display and a thinner, lighter body; plus Apple gave it a bunch of innovative features (like fall detection and an electrical heart sensor) and basically upgraded it in every way.

Now that the Series 5 is here, you’ll notice that it looks strikingly similar to the Series 4. It’s the same size and thinness; it has the same rotating crown dial with a little red circle; and it has many of the same sensors and health tracking features. But the differences are there. The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have an always-on display. It’s the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. And it’s the first Apple Watch to come in four different finishes, including aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic and all-new titanium.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is available in GPS-only and cellular models, and starts at $399.

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The photographed Apple Watch Series 5 has the all-new titanium case. It’s a 44mm model and goes for $849.

The Good: The always-on Retina display is the standout feature of the Series 5. Even for people who have worn an Apple Watch for years, like myself, it’s going to feel like a big deal because it actually changes the way you interact with the Apple Watch. With the always-on display, there’s no need to rotate your wrist to see check the time or see that your workout is still tracking – it’s just there. It also will probably prevent many social faux pas that were caused by previous Apple Watch models; seeing other person check the time or look at their watch can be distracting, after all.

It’s true that the always-on Retina display is always-on, but it’s not always bright. The watch face still lights up when you raise your wrist, just like it did with the Series 4, but it then transitions to an idle dark mode when you lower your wrist back down; what’s happening is that the display’s refresh rate gets lowered to one screen refresh per second (or 1Hz), which allows the Series 5 to use very little battery life and give the appearance of always being on. This allows the Series 5 to get the same full-day battery life as its predecessor. Apple updated all its old Apple Watch faces so they work with the Series 5’s always-on display – pretty cool – plus they added quite a few new ones, too.

The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. There’s a dedicated compass app on the Series 4, but other Apple Watch apps, like Apple Maps, take advantage of it.

As mentioned before, Apple is offering the Series 5 in more options than ever. The aluminum version of the Series 5 is the most affordable and is the only one that can be purchased without cellular. The stainless steel version is heavier and more durable, so it feels more premium, but it starts at $699. The brand-new titanium version is significantly lighter than the stainless steel version, and it’s also more scratch-resistant, corrosion-resistant and hypoallergenic. And then there’s the ceramic version, which a high-end material that’s usually reserved for luxury watches. If you purchase any Series 5 through Apple Watch Studio (meaning online or in an Apple Store), you can pair it with almost any watch band you want (there are some restrictions).

The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. There’s a dedicated compass app that you can access, which I rarely used, but the real benefit of the compass is how it works with other Apple Watch apps, such as Apple Maps. For example, when you’re using Apple Maps you can now see which direction just by looking at your Series 5. You’ll see the “field-of-view cone” rotate with direction you’re looking, which makes Apple Maps on the Series 5 feel way trustworthy. (Previously, you’d have to take out your iPhone to get the same sense of direction.) For those who are easily disoriented when navigating from A to B, like me, or have difficulty grasping your bearings when getting off the subway – like me – this new Apple Watch feature will save you a headache and a five-minute walk in the wrong direction.

The best part of the Series 5, and maybe you’ll roll your eyes, is that it feels like an Apple Watch – familiar – and it has all the best features of the Series 4. You can still pair it with your AirPods and listen to music sans iPhone. It still has the heart rate sensors and built-in ECG. It still has fall detection and Emergency SOS. It still has a GPS and it can track your runs. It’s waterproof enough so you can wear it swimming. It still tracks your steps and other metrics so you can complete your activity rings. And, of course, it works super well with iMessage.

The last thing to note is that all Series 5 models have 32GB of internal memory, which is actually twice as much as the 16GB on the Series 4. This might not be a huge deal for people who don’t plan on downloading music or a bunch of extra apps on the Series 5, but if you do, or if your current Apple Watch is already nearing its max storage, it might make sense to upgrade to the Series 5.

Who It’s For: Any iPhone owner who wants Apple’s best-ever smartwatch. Or if they desperately want an Apple Watch with an always-on display. Or if they want one of the Series 5’s higher-end finishes (and they’re willing to pay for it). The last big reason to get the Series 5 is if they’re going to take advantage of the Series 5’s built-in compass.

Watch Out For: No matter which Apple Watch Series 5 you buy, aside from the obvious difference between cellular and GPS-only models, they’re all going to have the same functionality. That means that the $1,300 ceramic model and the $399 aluminum model are built with the same internals and will keep track of the same metrics. There’s little downside to getting the cheaper models, other than how their aluminum finish looks and feels. (Although the stainless steel and titanium models are slightly more durable.)

One thing that I’ve been hoping for awhile is that the Apple Watch will start playing better with Spotify. Yes, there’s a Spotify app for the Apple Watch. And yes, if you have an LTE model you can stream music, but I wish the Spotify app would allow you to download albums and playlists for offline listening, similar to what several Garmin and Samsung smartwatches can do. As with previous Apple Watch models, the Series 5 is really only designed to download and store playlists from Apple Music.

Alternatives: The Apple Watch Series 4 is the most obvious alternative, but Apple did something a little bit sneaky this year – they stopped selling it. You can still purchase the Series 4 for third-party sellers like Amazon or Best Buy, for a slightly discounted rate. The Series 4 looks and feels (especially the aluminum models) very similar to the Series 5, and it’s a great option for Apple Watch wearers who don’t need always-on display.

If you don’t want to pay that much for a Series 5 (or Series 4), Apple is still selling the Series 3 but it lowered the starting price to just $199 – it’s undoubtedly the best entry-level smartwatch for people with an iPhone. The trade-offs are pretty clear, however, as the Series 3 doesn’t have the large nice display, the slim design or the many fancy sensors that enable a lot of the Apple Watch’s newer features. The Series 3 does have a built-in GPS and it’ll still accurately track your runs.

Verdict: The Apple Watch Series 5 is undoubtedly the best smartwatch that Apple has ever made, and it comes with the feature – an always-on display – that most people having been asking for. That said, with a few spec bumps and a few new capabilities, the Series 5 is admittedly an iterative upgrade over last year’s Series 4. If you’re not swayed by the premium materials, like the new titanium case, it really comes down to Series 5’s always-on display and how much you want it.

Key Specs

Case sizes: 40mm or 44mm
Case options: Aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and ceramic
Display: Always-On Retina display
Processor: 64-bit dual-core S5 processor
Storage: 32GB
Sensors: electrical and optical heart rate sensors, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass
Water resistance: 50 meters
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

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Apple provided this product for review.

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

2019 Airstream Bambi Review: The Stylish, Easy Way into Camping Trailer Life

By this point, the only way you don’t know what an Airstream is if you’re a vampire who’s been asleep in a cave for the last century. The aluminum-sided travel trailers have been rolling along America’s roads since the ’30s, their iconic design capturing eyes with the same ease they reflect sunlight. They’ve been featured in countless films and TV shows, and transformed into homes, AirBnBs and works of art.

For 2019, the eight-decade-old company has added a new model to its lineup: the diminutive, adorably-named Bambi. Ask Airstream where the name “Bambi” came from, and they’ll say founder Wally Byam named it after a type of agile deer he saw while overlanding across Africa in the ‘60s. (Dollars to donuts he actually named it after a certain Disney movie, but that’s neither here nor there.) It’s been a common nickname for the company’s small, single-axle trailers for more than half a century — but now, the name has finally been given the honor of formally becoming part of the team, signifying the two-wheeled rigs that are the most affordable way to hop aboard one of the company’s classic aluminum trailers.

The Good: It may be compact, but the Bambi crams more usable space and features into its limited length than most studio apartments. My Bambi 19CB tester was the second-smallest variant, yet in spite of being a mere 18 feet 11 inches long — shorter than a Rolls-Royce Phantom — it had space for a two-burner gas stove, a stainless steel sink, a refrigerator and freezer, an LED television (with integrated antenna), a built-in stereo, a memory foam mattress (sized somewhere between a twin and a double), even a shower and a flushing toilet.

Even with all that gear inside, the interior has a fair amount of space to spread out. During an impromptu Brooklyn tailgate party, I managed to fit seven or eight adults (and one large dog) inside comfortably, with room to spare for snacks and a soft Yeti cooler backpack. A family with kids might find it cramped, but it’s more than spacious enough to serve as a good base of operations for a single adult or a couple.

Who It’s For: First-time Airstreamers looking to dip their toe into the world of trailering adventure; empty-nesters who want to roam freely in retirement but don’t want to wrangle giant trailers and full-size pickup trucks.

Watch Out For: Backing up. As the model that seems most likely to be adopted by trailering novices, you might think the Bambi would pack some sort of technological magic to help maneuver it in reverse more easily.

Nooooooooooooooooope.

Spinning my trailer 180 degrees required a good 30 minutes of Austin Powers-style shuffling back and forth, and that was with the help of the kind owner of the Hipcamp camp site we were staying at — a man whose own history included training people how to drive heavy equipment in the army. A backup camera is standard, though it wasn’t hooked up on mine; regardless, it wouldn’t have done much beyond tell me where I would have gone were I able to keep the thing moving in a straight line for more than three seconds. The first company to sort out some sort of idiot-proof trailer-reversing technology — brake-based torque vectoring? Computer-controlled active steering? SpaceX-inspired compressed air thrusters? — deserves to make a mint.

Alternatives: Safari Condo Alto R-Series ($29,500+); Homegrown Trailers Woodland ($39,495+); Forest River Alpha Wolf ($25,995+); Airstream Nest ($45,900)

Review: Full disclosure: In spite of more than a decade of driving and writing about automobiles, I can count the number of times I’ve towed a trailer on one hand. Actually, I can count the number of times I’ve towed that weren’t under the well-supervised confines of a media junket on one finger; that sole instance involved towing a U-Haul U-Box through a couple dozen miles of country roads, then winding up stuck at a closed bridge on a one-lane road because I couldn’t reverse to a turnaround spot.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I hitched the Bambi up to the Ford Ranger XLT I’d borrowed as a tow vehicle for a weekend of criss-crossing New Jersey and the lower boroughs of New York City. Yet the Bambi-and-Ranger duo proved blissfully easy to handle, even when winding them through the tight streets of Brooklyn or on the open highways of the Dirty Jerz. The tidy proportions meant turns never proved a problem (at least, when going forwards); the trailer’s brakes were reassuringly dependable and solid, always snapping on in sync with the Ford’s discs; and the Ranger’s EcoBoost engine made easy work of the trailer’s weight, hauling it up to mile-per-minute velocity without issue. Going much beyond that felt a mite worrisome, however; by 70 mph, every imperfection in the road seemed to be magnified into a shimmy in the Bambi that prompted unwanted visions of tank-slapper flips or pileup-causing detachments.

Still, Airstream life isn’t about speed; it’s about taking things slow and easy, leaving troubles and stresses behind in favor of the freedom of the open road. (There’s a reason the Indiana-based company offers a Tommy Bahama trim level on some models.)

Once the driving and parking (and reversing, and re-parking) was done and I’d settled truck and trailer in the tree-lined camping spot within spitting distance of the Delaware River, the Bambi came into its own. The starboard-side awning’s coverage area is on the smaller side, but it’s enough to keep the sun off one or two chairs — or to give you a place to dry before coming aboard in a squall. The nice weather meant I parked my butt in a nearby camping chair instead, but it was nice to know it was there if needed.

My hosts provided fresh water and a power hookup, but I wound up needing neither; the on-board battery never came close to losing all its power, thanks to the solar panel mounted atop the roof. (Pre-wiring for a solar panel is standard, but the panel itself is an option; considering how well it worked, I’d suggest making it the first box you check.) Running the air conditioner built into the roof would probably guzzle the electrons faster than the solar panel could replenish them, but I never needed it, in spite of summertime temps; between the shady interior, the twin roof-mounted ventilation fans and the plentiful screened-in windows (and the screen door), the Bambi’s interior stayed breezy and cool all day long, in country and city alike.

The toilet situation, should you be curious, is best described as “acceptable.” The 19CB variant’s loo occupies an odd middle ground amongst Airstream lavatories; while smaller trailers and touring coaches place the toilet in the shower and larger ones have a miniature bathroom with an actual door, the 19-footer uses an odd W-folding wall that’s designed to offer some semblance of privacy for the tight corner. In practice, it’s less than ideal; let’s just say you should ask anyone else in the trailer to vacate the premises before using the restroom. Functionally, however, it works just fine.

Admittedly, I didn’t have a chance to use the shower — folding my frame inside that tiny space seemed like a violation of the Geneva Convention — so I can’t vouch for the efficacy of its handheld nozzle. (Exhibitionists might have better luck with the outdoor “shower,” a similar handheld nozzle with hot and cold knobs tucked away in one of the exterior ports.) That said, I never had any issues with the flow or temperature of the water blasting from either the kitchen or bathroom sink — which, like the keyholes in a nuclear missile silo, are exactly far apart enough that one person can’t use them both simultaneously — so I have no reason to assume the shower would be anything less than effective.

Another reason to assume the best from the hot water supply: the two-burner gas stove proved as adept as any found in a modern house, if a mite smaller. Same could be said for the kitchen table, which has room for four provided everyone’s comfortable rubbing flanks and knees; same goes for the fridge and freezer combo, too. (The latter can reportedly be quite the power suck; should you rather save the electrons, a good Yeti cooler and a couple bags of ice will likely be every bit as effective for 24-48 hours.)

Indeed, all told, the Bambi does an exceedingly good impression of a tiny, efficient apartment — good enough to tempt this New Yorker away from his hard-won one-bedroom. The night before I had to return the trailer, after my friends had left, I wound up laying in bed watching football on the television, eating a s’more made over the gas stove’s burner. The TV reception was better than in my apartment; the memory foam mattress was comfy than my couch; the sounds of the park beside me more relaxing than the rumble of cable trucks making their way home to their garage near my place. In that moment, it wasn’t hard to see the appeal in tossing that Great American Dream of Homeownership out in favor of living out my days in an elegant rolling apartment.

Verdict: By striking a perfect balance between size, style and comfort, the Airstream Bambi delivers the right combination of features to endear it to anyone who’s long harbored dreams of rolling across the land with a shiny trailer behind them, following the whims of the road. Sure, you can snag a new travel trailer for far less money — but doing so would mean swapping those timeless looks for the blocky looks and garish pseudo-airbrushed designs of most travel trailers and RVs, which are utterly lacking in both elegance and Instagram-ability. (Let’s not pretend the latter is unimportant.)

Indeed, the Bambi pulled off something I never would have expected: It made me into a camping trailer person. I spend my time stuck in traffic fantasizing about car camping trips out West; now I fantasize about doing it with an Airstream.

2019 Airstream Bambi 19CB: Key Specs

Length: 18 feet, 11 inches
Weight: 3,650 pounds
Windows: 11
Refrigerator Size: 4.3 cubic feet
Sleeping Capacity: Up to four people, but two of them better be tiny

Airstream provided this product for review.

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iPhone 11 Pro Review: Hands Down, The Best iPhone Ever

The most compelling and conspicuous feature of the iPhone 11 Pro is its triple-camera system, and after using it for the better part of the week, it’s definitely the best and most versatile set of cameras that Apple has ever put in any iPhone. The ultra-wide lens will feel like a pretty significant upgrade for anybody who has an older iPhone, but as the iPhone 11 has it too, it really comes down to the telephoto lens and how if you’ll take full advantage of it. This extra lens enables the two Pro models to take two different kinds of Portrait Mode photos, one that is really zoomed-in (which is similar to what the iPhone XS could do) and one that is more zoomed-out (which is exactly the same Portrait mode as the iPhone 11) for those who want to grab for background in the photo. If you find yourself taking a lot of photos of people and pets, rather than landscapes, this extra telephoto lens feels like a real selling point.

The nice thing about all three lenses is that they all take the same quality photo. Each is a 12-megapixel camera that has its own high-quality sensor, so you can expect a pretty decent photo nobody which lens you’re using (this is not the case for most other smartphones with a multi-camera system). Each of the three lenses is capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps, which is a nice feature for vloggers and videographers to have. It’s worth noting that despite the extra lenses, like the iPhone 11, the Pro’s Night Mode only really works while using the wide lens (you can technically use Night Mode with the ultra-wide lens, but it’s really just a blown-up shot taken by the wide lens.

Night Mode on the new iPhone 11 Pro is pretty incredible.

Aside from the size and triple-camera system, the third big selling point of the iPhone 11 Pro is its hardware. Its OLED display is significantly better than the LCD display of the iPhone 11, but it’s also better than the Super Retina display of last year’s iPhone XS; the new “Super Retina XDR” display is brighter (1,200 nits versus the iPhone XS’s 600 nits) with double the contrast ratio. It’s easy to get lost in the tech jargon, but the bottom line is this: iPhone 11 Pro’s display is the best and brightest display ever in a smartphone. So if you’re somebody who plays a lot of mobile games or streams lots of shows on your iPhone, that’s a good reason to upgrade to the Pro.

Battery life is the last big reason to upgrade to the Pro if you have an older iPhone. To date, the iPhone XR has been the gold standard of long-lasting iPhones, getting almost two days of juice, and the iPhone 11 Pros are almost at that level. Apple claims that both iPhone 11 Pros get four and five hours better than their predecessors, the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, and it’s actually pretty noticeable. The secret to the improved battery life is, yes, the A13 Bionic chip helps with energy efficiency, but Apple also put a slightly larger battery in its newer phones. This is a pretty significant thing, as it also means that the new iPhones are ever-so-slightly heavier and thicker – Apple is sacrificing design for usability, which is actually a breath of fresh air.

There are a quick few things to add to round out the “good” features. Apple says the Face ID is 30-percent faster on the new iPhones and even better at recognizing your face when resting flat on a table; however, in the week I’ve had the phones I’ve actually had a difficult time telling the difference – it’s still fast. Apple also improved AirDrop on the new iPhones, allowing you to point your iPhone at other new iPhones and AirDrop files to whomever you’re pointing at (although the iPhones must have Apple’s new U1 chip and iOS 13). And, finally, Apple is including an 18-watt USB-C wall adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable in the box, which makes the iPhone 11 Pro feel a little bit more “Pro.”

Galaxy Note10+ Review: Big, Beautiful, Best in Class

For years, the Samsung Galaxy Note has been catering to faithful fans of the stylus and, this year, there are two options on the table, a first for the line. While smaller (“smaller”) Galaxy Note 10 is the chief successor to the Galaxy Note line, with a 6.3-inch screen and form factor that’s similar to its forebear, the Note10+ is attempting to carve out a larger, more premium niche with its gargantuan 6.8-inch screen, beefier batter, surplus of RAM, and staring price of $1099. The result? A beautiful phone with hardly any serious flaws other than that it may just be far more phone than you need.

The Good: The Galaxy Note10+ is a beautifully made device. Samsung’s build quality has been top notch for ages and the Note10+ is no exception with its satisfying heft and screen that curves over the edges. It comes in a variety of colors but the “Aura Glow” version I tested is notably eye catching. Like the underside of a CD, it changes color as it catches the light and while it struck me as over the top at first, the effect really grew on me.

Like any good, big phone, the Note10+ has a big, 4,300mAh battery that lasts ridiculously long. Even a Saturday of strenuous use streaming Formula 1 and then reading far too much Twitter for hours on ends was not enough to take its battery much lower than 30 percent by the end of the day.

The Note10+ sports a terrific camera system, very similar to the one currently offered on Samsung’s line of S10 models, which means it takes fantastic photos, as any phone at this price point should, but doesn’t quite offer any surprises.

The S Pen, now updated with an accelerometer and gyroscope, now has increased utility outside of just writing on the screen. Waving the pen through the air like a wand will allow you to do some a few potentially useful tricks like change camera settings on a phone that you might not be holding.

Who It’s For: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is, at its core, for one type of person very specifically: the kind who absolutely loves a stylus. With its powerhouse performance, fantastic build quality, great camera, and stellar battery life, it’s a suitable and satisfying computing companion for anyone, but if you aren’t dying for the stylus, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus slightly smaller but otherwise comparable in almost every way, with the added bonus of a bigger battery and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Watch Out For: While the S Pen’s new wand-like air commands are novel and theoretically useful, I didn’t find a lot of value to them in practice. They also support a limited suite of apps, perhaps most noticeably the camera, where it could come in handy for long-range selfie set up. Maybe. And though Samsung has provided the software tools for other apps to make themselves compatible, it seems hard to imagine this becoming much more than a gimmick.

At 6.8-inches, the Note10+ is _a lot_ of phone. I’m a man with relatively large hands and still had trouble negotiating its heft one-handed on the train even with the aid of a PopSocket. Of course that is part of the 10+’s appeal, but it’s something to be aware of, especially considering the smaller, 6.3-inch Note10 also exists and will be, for most normal people, indisitinguishable in terms of performance despite its slightly less overkill supply of RAM.

Alternatives: If the stylus isn’t your main concern, there are many. Chiefly the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus which is slightly smaller, slightly cheaper, but otherwise extremely similar. Google’s Pixel line, with its cleaner version of Android, also provides a possible substitute, with the Pixel 4 due for announcement in the next month or two.

But if the stylus is your bag, a Note is pretty much your only choice. The smaller Note 10 is a great way to get almost the same phone but with a smaller screen (and slightly less RAM, less battery power) for $100 cheaper if the Plus’ gargantuan size isn’t a must for you. If you’re not sold on the latest and greatest, the Note 9 is also an option. It only has a two-camera cluster, and sports a fingerprint reader on its back instead of under the screen, but is still a more than capable device you might be able to find at something of a discount.

Verdict: The Note10+ is a real powerhouse of a phone and if it has a primary flaw it is only that it may be more phone than you need or want to pay for. But if its price or size doesn’t make you wince at the prospect, it won’t let you down.

Key Specs
Size: 6.8-inch
Display: Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Rear Camera: 16MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front Camera: 10-MP dual-pixel (f/2.2)
Durability: IP68
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB internal, up to 1TB with MicroSD

Samsung provided this product for review.

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