2020 McLaren GT: Think Outside the Box

The GT, my favorite class of automobiles on the market. There’s a huge stereotype that engineering teams are pressed to make cars better through performance enhancements, allowing them to drive quicker, sharper, eliminating the competition through raw aggression. This segment speaks otherwise, giving Engineers the design freedom to still make a monster, but emphasize characteristics such as luxury and comfort, a different, but more desirable package to the everyday consumer. GT cars are excellent for long journeys, known to be front engined, very heavy, and extensively pampered. My realistic dream car happens to be a GT (nice try, I’m not telling you yet), and my former dream car, the S 65 AMG Coupé, was a GT that redefined the segment for years.

When I heard McLaren was coming out with a GT, I was honestly shocked. A company that literally thrives on crushing the competition with the most engaging track weapons just couldn’t have a chance against the segment veterans, including the DB11, Continental GT, let’s throw the S Coupé in there for fun. The spy shots surfaced, and I figured I couldn’t be more right; They seemed to be working on something that heavily resembled a toned down 720S, affirming in my mind there was not even a slight chance that McLaren could crack the code.

But cracking the code wasn’t McLaren’s plans; They wanted to completely redefine it.

Enter the McLaren GT, one of the first McLarens with the exception of the Speedtail not designed with the goal of being an absolute track menace. I’d even take it a step further to say it wasn’t designed with performance in mind, but without a true test drive available, that’s very hard to infer. However, the car does sit outside all other McLaren designations (Sport, Super, Ultimate) forming a new category, Grand Tourer. It’s been deemed by the company as their most comfortable car to date, claimed to be nothing like the 570GT even in the slightest. That car is essentially a toned down 570S, a little more spacious, with a clear trace back to the track. Something’s cooking, and it’s very very… Different.

To be honest, I’m still not convinced. The car is mid – engined, extremely light, and honestly doesn’t seem all that comfortable at first glance; Hopefully, the end of this review should have our minds changed. McLaren believes primary competition is the Aston Martin DB11 V8, Ferrari Portofino, and Porsche 911 Turbo S, which to be honest, is a bit concerning. I’d make the case that none of those are true embodiments of GT cars, with a slight exception for the Aston. Unfortunately, my Engineering brain says I’ve got to give the GT a fair chance. It hasn’t officially been released, but you know McLaren, they aren’t very shy.

In typical fashion, the 4.0 L twin – turbo V8 from the 720S is back once again, outputting 612 HP and 465 lb • ft of torque in this setting, because 720 HP is that much more dangerous. This unit comes with smaller turbochargers, and surprisingly, one of the best exhausts ever fitted to a McLaren. Everyone dreads the monotonic sound of a flat plane V8, and turbos don’t do it justice at all. This exhaust sounds aggressive, throaty, almost on par with the AMGs. I’m really glad that manufacturers are finally figuring this out, especially Lamborghini with the Urus, review definitely coming soon. 0 to 60 clocks in at 3.1 seconds, the car will accelerate to a top speed of 203 mph. My readers are used to these numbers, but keep in mind for a second that this 600+ HP beast isn’t a performance McLaren, yet beats…

The Audi R8, Audi RS 7 Performance, Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Jaguar F Type SVR, even the daddy McLaren F1 to 60 MPH. Woking’s tamest…

The transmission is unconfirmed, but I’d be shocked to not see a 7 – speed DCT, most likely taken from, you guessed it, the 720S. The 3384 lb curb weight, is by miles, the class leader; GT cars usually sacrifice weight in order to ensure optimal comfort, but I don’t see this car as a true McLaren if it isn’t feathers. The Bentley Continental GT, widely considered by many (including myself) to be one of the best in this segment, is a good 2000 lbs more. One of the most shocking specs was its length of 15 ft, the second longest McLaren ever made behind the Speedtail.

So we’ve got performance figures and specifications around the 570S, which for a GT, are absolutely incredible. But how on Earth will this thing drive? I mean, that’s the point of a GT, it’s the modern day alternative to air travel. No one has actually driven it yet, but we can make a few inferences.

So as noted before, the driving dynamics of the GT were based on stability and comfort, hard performance driving is not expected to be a strong suit of this car. I say this, but knowing McLaren, it’s still going to murder on the track. As I said in the Speedtail article, it’s finally nice to see automakers build a car for where it will spend most of its time, the road. It’s nice to post a decent Nurburgring time, but what does that mean to the consumer who just wants something comfortable and luxurious for a commute?

The factor setting the GT apart from all other McLarens, according to Engineers, is its suspension setup. Stereoscopic cameras and sensors are able to read the road ahead, priming the suspension through altering the spring rate in as fast as 2 milliseconds. To put that into perspective, in the time it takes to blink your eye, the GT is able to alter its suspension a whopping 150 times. And you thought you were getting stuff done today… The 720S was known for its amazing suspension behavior in non – performance modes, and Engineers say the difference between it and the GT’s ride is like night and day. In typical McLaren fashion, we have dials to alter the handling and performance of the vehicle in 3 stages; Normal, performance, and track.

With a carbon monocoque, stability is expected to be amazing in this vehicle, but without a true drive, it’s very hard to tell. A slightly more elevated body compared to the 720S also allows for better suspension travel, which in turn helps mitigate bumps. It also makes the car slightly easier to ingress and egress, and definitely alleviates any scraping of the underbody that many supercar owners have grown to expect.

So it’s a lot lighter than your typical GT, rides extremely well according to Engineers, but one of the most important characteristics of a GT is its level of luxury. Let’s talk design.

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The front and rear ends show the new language we’ve grown to love in the Speedtail, with slightly less aggressive headlights, and the LED strip taillights. Lines are much softer, but still McLaren, and a LOT of 720S. We’ve got very large intakes, nothing near as aggressive as its brother thankfully, the styling has to be toned down for a GT. As I said in my Veyron review a while back, the most luxurious aspect of anything lies in its simplicity. These beautiful 15 spoke wheels are optional, I honestly don’t think anyone does a better job with the spokes than McLaren, and they’ll forever be my favorite type of wheel. We’ve got butterfly doors, which aren’t GT at all, but this is a McLaren at the end of the day, it’s got to have a dash of flare. The integrated ducktail spoiler is a nice touch, while the mufflers and diffuser are situated in a way to prevent the driver from burning their legs upon opening the rear, apparently a huge problem in the 720S…

It’s a neat little package, and honestly what I expect McLaren’s take on GT exterior styling would be. GT cars should be able to hold quite a lot of luggage, they’re the continent crossers, the pioneers out for adventure, at least until you get to the hotel. McLaren took this heavily into consideration, offering trunks in both the rear and front of the car. The engine sits below the trunk, and don’t worry, it’s pretty much impossible to see it on any McLaren without help from the dealership.

The rear trunk offers 14.8 cubic in of space, a figure surprisingly shared by the Toyota Camry, definitely going to try and drive one for a review. Storage is pretty decent, but I noticed that vision is heavily impaired in the rear when the trunk is fully loaded. One bag of golf clubs, however, fits snugly, no vision hindrance whatsoever. The trunk also can be optioned with something McLaren calls “super fabric”, able to resist stains, scratches, you name it. Oh, it’s also fully power operated, and offers a soft close suction feature, for those lazy rich people. The front trunk comes in at 12.1 cubic in, surprise, just like the 720S. It’s not the best storage wise, but definitely fits a small suitcase or two in there, perfect for a grocery run.

So the ride’s pretty nice, there’s tons of space for the bags, but a true GT must have luxury! Have a look inside of this bad boy…

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Would you drive around in this for 6 hours? I don’t know, that’s a long time to be driving, but let’s just go with yes for now. It’s so simple, yet nothing feels left out, when will automakers get on this button wave? It frees up so much space in the car and gives it such a clean look. We’ve got a lot of aluminum accenting in the cabin, and a McLaren first, on the shift paddles! This definitely gives them a much more expensive feel compared to whatever composite they were using before, I love that icy haptic sensation any air – conditioned metal produces. The seats have quite a bit of extra padding, but I’m sure it’s no Rolls Royce or Lexus. We’ve obviously got a digital dash, the software looks different, I’ll have to look into that. The infotainment has been confirmed to be completely new; It’s got a layout similar to a mobile phone and is claimed by McLaren to be 5 times faster than the old software. You already know what I’m going to say… It’s no iDrive, and it probably never will be, keep killing the game BMW.

6 color ambient lighting flanks the cabin, excellent for altering or matching your current mood. Like the 720S and Senna, we’ve got glass all around this cockpit, producing more of a dome than a car feeling. The benefit to this? Visibility in all directions is absolutely incredible, which can definitely make up for having the rear visibility hindered by luggage, now that I think about it. We’ve got a 5 stage electrochroamatic sunroof, which runs a current through the glass to change its opacity, I’m surprised this didn’t get the Speedtail treatment, eliminating the visors as well. We’ve got a 12 speaker Bowers and Wilkens audio system; It’s one of the best on the market, but let’s be real, if you buy a car for $200K, any audio system included is going to be out of this world.

So what McLaren has done here is redefine the GT, and I’m honestly a big fan. Sure, it’s not as much of a yacht as the Bentley, definitely not as exclusive as a Wraith, and it definitely doesn’t have the sounds of that Aston Martin AMG partnership, and that’s OK. This car is like the X6; There’s a point in time where someone has to go out on a limb and go for something different without fear of reception of repercussion. I’m not afraid to say that I’m not fully convinced yet, I need to see how it drives, that’s the true mark of a GT. However, McLaren did make the Speedtail, and I’m sure they’re far from finished. Wait till they release the SUV.

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2020 McLaren Speedtail: I’m Donating Organs

Hello readers! Once again, it’s been a while, and I’m very sorry for that. This will be the last time I blame schoolwork for holding me back, due to the fact that I’m officially a Mechanical Engineer! No more homework, projects, just plenty of time to relax, and focus on the fun parts of life. Expect to see quite a lot of articles this summer; I’ve recently taken up a new morning routine to boost my productivity, I’d be glad to share that experience down the road. My aim is to post at least two articles a week; This one doesn’t count though; I need to get back into my creative groove.

The Mercedes Benz S 65 AMG Coupé was once my favorite car. She was the only one on my wall, the only one on my mind. The big boss, deemed by AMG engine manufacturer Michael Kübler, couldn’t be a more fitting name, a true benchmark in the luxury performance coupé segment. Those Swarovski crystal headlights, the silky smooth twin – turbocharged V12 able to balance a penny at idle, it’s large yet sleek styling, I felt a draw to that car that no other was capable of. 2018 brought it the technology it so desperately needed, but that was about it; I could slowly see Mercedes beginning to lose the care that made this car so unique upon launch, trying to slot it in with the rapidly growing AMG lineup. As much as I hate to say it, BMW was really stepping up their game…

The thing is, they’d always been in the game; Let me explain.

Many will deem the McLaren F1 one of the greatest cars ever made, and I can see why. For quite some time during my childhood, the F1 was the world’s fastest street – legal production car, clocking in an average run of 243 MPH. What if I told you that no Lamborgini to date was ever able to eclipse this value created by a 1992 McLaren? Not enough? Well, what if I told you the 6.1 L naturally aspirated V12 found in the F1 was produced by none other than BMW? I really just can’t escape them.

Fun fact, the engine bay was actually coated with 16 g of sheet gold, one of the lightest construction materials with superior heat dissipation at the time. For time’s sake, you’re welcome.

Alright, without further ado, welcome to my new dream car, the greatest car ever made (it’s not even close), the McLaren Speedtail! It’s the third member of McLaren’s ultimate series production, following the hybrid monster P1 and track weapon Senna. Besides the recently announced GT, and maybe the 570 GT, it’s the first McLaren I’ve seen that isn’t actually track focused, and that’s perfectly fine; I’m more than willing to compromise with straight – line speed and utmost luxury. Like it’s production figure of 106, it shares quite a few characteristics with the F1, we’ll come back to this later. In typical hypercar fashion, all of the $2.5M units were completely sold out before its world premiere in October 2018, a kidney (or two) should be enough for an allocation though, right? Stop the jokes. We don’t know everything yet, but surprisingly, McLaren’s been pretty generous; Let’s get into the performance.

The engine is not confirmed yet, but knowing McLaren, I expect it to be their 4.0 L twin – turbo V8 seen in the Senna, with a little more juice, I mean, we are going for straight speed here. What has been confirmed is a hybrid powertrain, and that’s some exciting stuff. The hybrid P1 was an absolute racket, don’t get me wrong, but definitely no match for the claimed horsepower figure of 1036 HP; That’s serious. It’s truly mindblowing how 1000 HP is now the industry standard, makes me wonder how much these manufacturers are willing to push the envelope; When does it become too unsafe for the road? It’s also very very light (well…), coming in at 3152 lbs. This 17 foot long hyper beast is lighter than my daily driven Chrysler 200, a car with one of the lowest drag coefficients… In production car history. So let’s talk acceleration figures; Normally I’d post a 0 to 60 time, but remember, this car is about top speed; 0 to 60 doesn’t really matter. 0 to 186 MPH? Now that’s more like it. 12.8 seconds. This car goes faster to near 200 MPH than it takes my Chrysler 200 to drive a quarter mile at full throttle. McLaren has also gifted us the top speed figure of 250 MPH, which, wow! I can’t lie, I was expecting something a little bit more, especially since Koenigsegg hit near 280 MPH, but who am I to talk down on 250 MPH in the driveway.

Since the car is in pre – production, no journalists have gotten the chance to drive it, but we can talk a little philosophy. First, a quick game; What does this look like?

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Stop cheating.

Alright, fine. Looks quite a bit like a teardrop, doesn’t it? A teardrop is one of the fastest shapes in nature, makes a lot of sense. I saw some from the window on a flight out of Dallas, I can confirm that statement; Gravity is going to gravity. Let’s talk a little fluid dynamics to see why they chose it;

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In order to make a car, or honestly make anything fast, it’s all about minimizing drag and turbulence, creating a body that doesn’t push but slips through the air. Looking at our bodies in the wind tunnel, we see 100% resistance due to the air having to change its path in order to travel around the object. As the foil is elongated, we notice the air has to change its path a lot less, producing smooth desireable laminar flow (the consistent lines, as opposed to circular [or turbulent] flow). The front is designed to make smooth initial contact accelerating the air over the top of the foil due to entering a lower pressure region described by a relationship called Bernoulli’s equation. It’s how airplanes are able to generate a force called lift to fly, and how the Speedtail is able to efficiently reach its top speed, keeping air tight along the bodywork, almost as if the car isn’t there at all. So regardless of how fast the car is going, it will remain stable, and minimize any buffeting that would normally slow it down. Airflow was a huge part of creating this car, we’ll come back to it during the exterior design portion.

The only real driving dynamic we know about is something called velocity mode, which essentially sets the Speedtail up for a top speed run. The car lowers, to decrease any buffeting underneath, and channel as much air as possible over the top, along the body. The camera mirrors (yes, you read that right) retract into the body for greater efficiency, we’ll come back to these later, and the hybrid system is remapped in order to provide optimal power at all times, especially when power is lost during shifts because dual clutches, better, no transmission on the market, is perfect. I’ve heard Koenigsegg is doing something gearless though, that could do the trick; I’ll investigate. It’s not a lot of information, I know, but their rationale seems pretty good.

Now, the best part, oh my GOD the best part, let’s look at the exterior. Refer to the feature image, and also the following;

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Tell me that isn’t the meanest rear end you’ve ever seen, why can’t every car look like this? We’ve got a new style of McLaren headlights, meant more to flow the air over the car, as opposed to channeling it through the car into intakes, as seen on the 720S, and they look phenomenal; I love the sleek yet aggressive design approach McLaren has become widely known for. Taillights are simplistic, but mean; Who would have thought an LED strip could do wonders for design? I was a huge fan of it on the Senna, but this, this is just worlds ahead. We’ve got a beautiful twin exhaust setup, fully automatic powered doors, and camera style wing mirrors which as mentioned in my velocity mode description, have the ability to retract right into the bodywork; Not sure how the US is going to like that one.

We’ve got 20 inch wheels up front, 21’s in the back, spoke style will always be my favorite. I’m a fan of the simple yet classy styling, and McLaren hasn’t failed me yet. What are those enormous carbon covers over the wheels? McLaren wanted to ensure airflow remained laminar and streamlined around the body; Most turbulence occurs at the front of the car during initial contact. Think of the covers as extensions of the bodywork, allowing for smooth channeling no matter what direction the air enters the surface. They’re not needed at the rear, because at that point, the air should already be streamlined to the point where no buffeting should occur. We’ve got Tesla style luggage space with front and rear trunks, Speedtail specific luggage is also optional for a price that definitely isn’t.

Let’s talk airflow, again, specifically the tail. This car is very long, about 17 feet, the purpose of this tail to smoothly return the air to infinite flow, reducing buffeting that would be caused by acceleration down a trunk; The air just “slips back into place” if you will. Ailerons are located on the back to aid high – speed stability and breaking, a much better foil than a conventional spoiler, normally seen on planes, yes, PLANES. Fun fact, the carbon fiber windscreen wipers are actually concealed, once again, to stop the disruption of airflow.

A daring design well executed, I think it’s definitely the sleekest car on the market. After seeing this, I don’t think I’d want any other spec; The blue color is calm, yet luxurious, a perfect contrasting to the silky smooth but mildly aggressive bodywork. I’ve just never seen a car that flows so nicely along all its major lines. I finally feel like this is the supercar that has reached the modern styling benchmark I’ve always dreamed of.

But Adam, how is this car anything like the F1?

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That’s right baby. This ride seats THREE! What other production supercars, even hypercars, are capable of this feat? This is exclusivity, this is uniqueness, this is what I feel people want when they pull the trigger on a hypercar. It’s more than the power, it’s more than the looks; It’s the experience! Imagine sharing that with three people! But it gets even better…

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Ohhh yeah! Drivers seat right in the middle, go – kart style! Do you see why this is my new dream car? I mean there’s no Mercedes, no BMW, no anything on the road like this! This is the poster car of our generation, this is the car I think every car should aspire to be! How much more driver – focused does it get than this!

So the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of buttons. It’s the 21st century, we’ve already got our face in screens every day, I don’t mind having a few that make driving my spaceship a bit easier. On the left, we’ve got climate control and navigation; The center is your run of the mill digital dash; Right side handles phone and media duties. The two above the vents? Those are your mirrors. I don’t know how I feel about digital mirrors yet, but I’d honestly get used to them after a while. The one thing I don’t like is the lack of a rearview mirror; This thing most definitely has a reverse camera, so I’m sure it’s incorporated into that.

I don’t know about y’all, but I love the colors in here. Not too raw and visceral like a Huracan or Senna, just simple, clean, refreshing to drive; It’s like a 250 MPH Rolls Royce, although I’m sure the ride is nowhere near that quality. The cockpit is in a complete carbon fiber tub, the passenger seats actually built right in; I wonder if they’re going to go LaFerrari and have the drivers measured specifically for them. I love the shell glass cockpit, reminds me a lot of the Senna and 720S. A lot of that glass is actually electrochromic, the picture about shows that a bit in the windshield. Running a current through the glass will change it’s opacity, eliminating the need for heavy equipment like a sunroof, or visors; Yes visors are heavy in a car hitting 250 MPH. So how on Earth do you fire this bad boy up?

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Red’s the engine toggle, blue is velocity mode, we’ve got our typical drive, reverse, neutral layout (supercars don’t have a park gear, it’s not cool), and we have our active buttons for controlling dynamics. The left I believe controls the powertrain, and the right controls suspension and traction behavior, in three tiers; It’s slightly different from models of the past, so this is all speculation. Those four window buttons aren’t all window buttons (obviously), the outer two control the power activated doors I mentioned earlier. We’ve also got this carbon fiber trim, which can be found throughout the interior, machined in a way to make it as light as possible, while producing a desirable wood effect. This is the greatest interior I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even close. Not even remotely.

McLaren McLaren McLaren. I honestly can’t believe they came out with this, I couldn’t pay attention in class at all when I saw the post on Instagram. It’s so different, so radical, yet so amazing. The colors, the long design, the simplistic interior, it all comes together to make the perfect package. Let’s not forget that centered driving position, the fact it seats THREE, and will hit 250 MPH. It’s such a refreshing sight to see an automaker come out with something that doesn’t have to prove itself on the track, without making it as bulky as the Chiron. Nothing is this sleek, this exclusive, I really just can’t think of anything out there that could even come close to how good this is. I never would have imagined my dream car as a McLaren, but after the 720S, I knew I had to take them seriously. These guys were out of the game for a long time, but now, they’re proving they can make anything; What an amazing organization, an amazing team. Cars like this are why I continue to follow this passion.

Two thoughts to end with, the fact that this has a hybrid powertrain (a pretty strong one at that) will most likely give it the ability to drive around in electric mode; Imagine seeing one of these pulling up making no sound, how cool would that be? And that driving experience, I rode in a Tesla, it’s one of the calmest things ever, just hearing the air woosh around you without acoustic interference. Also, a cool idea for a future design would be to channel air through the car; That would greatly reduce weight, but a LOT of wind tunnel work would need to be done to reduce turbulence. I said the 720S is the best car in the world; Only McLaren could come up with something to beat it. My favorite car, hands down.

2019 BMW X5 (G5): Competitor Turned Competition

Readers, readers, readers. It’s been way too long, no apology could possibly suffice. Between senioritis and various projects, I began to lose touch; A little with reality, a little with myself, but mostly with my passion; Spreading my wealth of automotive knowledge and appreciation to the masses. My last post was the Accord in August 2018, I’ll be the first to say things are way different now. I’ve got a new dream car, my first ever “unrealistic” dream car, there’s so much to share. This article had to be special, the start of a new era in my life, the start of a new era in my career. Why not the start of an amazing new era in BMW?

The E53 BMW X5, BMW’s first attempt to compete with the M Class introduced by Mercedes in 1998. I remember my first interaction with ours on a dark and rainy night at my grandmother’s house. I wasn’t sure what it was, and I certainly didn’t think it was ours, but deep down, I knew it was special. I’ll always appreciate it for that glimmering gold paint in the sunlight, the effortlessness and linearity of the M54 straight 6, propelling the car in a way no other engine could, and most importantly for saving my life at the end of it’s. With luxury and design language way ahead of its time, it was a clear choice, the only choice, for a Ballantyne family daily driver.

And somehow, after all these years, it still is.

The 2019 BMW X5 (G5). I don’t even know how to start, it’s honestly overwhelming how amazing BMWs midsize crown jewel is. The luxury is utterly ridiculous for this price point; The design is crazy enough to give supercars a run for their money, while refined enough to stand out at a Monaco hotel; The performance is excellent at every tier, while a new off – road prowess does nothing but add to the completeness of this package. It’s most definitely my dream SUV at this point in time, and will probably remain in that position until BMW ironically “pulls the plug” and decides to make it fully electric; It really, really hurts me to say this, but I’m sure that version is going to be even better.

Let’s talk performance. I’d like to highlight the powertrains currently sold in the United States, the xDrive 40i and 50i; No that wasn’t a mistake, BMW’s xDrive all – wheel drive system is now standard across the range. The xDrive 50i (the clear choice in my mind) is powered by a 4.4 L twin – turbo V8, outputting a whopping 456 HP, and 479 lb • ft of torque, identical to numbers seen in the M550i (G30). Wait for this one guys… 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds! This 5 170 lb behemoth of a vehicle sprints to 60 faster than Kia’s famed Stinger GT and the absolutely gorgeous (and equally as fast) Lexus LC 500. I don’t know why, but yes. BMW’s top dog V8 never comes cheap, a base price of $75 750 definitely tells the tale. Fully equipped models do enter the low six – figure range, a completely clear justification I hope to convey by the end of this article. Fuel economy comes in at 17 MPG city and 22 MPG on the highway for a combined 19 MPG, definitely on the thirstier side of the class. Power is channeled through a transmission the industry won’t be the same without, the ZF 8HP 75. BMW’s tuning of this transmission for the G generation has been phenomenal, it’s crazy to think that this vehicle and the 600 HP, absolutely Earth shattering M5 (G30) share the same unit. Shifts are lightning quick, and honestly make me question if the added weight of a dual – clutch unit is even worth it anymore.

Because some people don’t know how to appreciate true power (or want to save a decent bit of money, pick your poison), BMW has offered the xDrive 40i, powered by a 3.0 L turbocharged I6 in the range. Power comes out at 335 HP, torque at a clean 300 lb • ft, 0 to 60 happens in a pretty decent 5.3 seconds. The $60 700 base price can hardly be called a discount compared to the V8; However, the fuel economy of 20 MPG city and 26 MPG highway, for a combined 22 MPG will definitely be apparent in the long run. A slightly less robust ZF 8HP 50 unit channels the power, but with BMW’s amazing tuning, it’s honestly hard to tell the difference versus the 75.

I was honestly a bit afraid that the xDrive 40i would be a little weak, convinced that the 300 lb • ft of torque was insufficient; To my great surprise, people love the dynamics of the xDrive 40i so much that it might actually be hurting the sales of the xDrive 50i. The power delivery is silky smooth, the transmission clicking gears away faster than the blink of an eye. Many actually see the V8 as overkill, and not in a bad way. Due to the maximum torque being available at 1500 RPM (practically the engine idle speed), the vehicle just has so much power available so quickly. This isn’t even the X5 M, good God I can’t even fathom the behavior of that 600 HP monstrosity.

When it comes to driving dynamics, BMW has always been class leading (at least outside the supercar segment). Steering is almost too sharp for an SUV, and air shocks that are now standard across the range offer a smooth ride on the pavement, excellent handling in the corners, and off – road prowess inching towards Range Rover territory.

There are 4 main drive modes, sport, comfort, eco pro, and adaptive. Sport increases throttle response, sharpens the transmission, tightens the steering rack, and stiffens the shocks to near eliminate body roll. I can’t believe that eliminate body roll is an important characteristic of an X5 review, how times have changed. Comfort mode is more for daily driving, turning the X5 into as much Cullinan as humanly possible, softening the suspension and steering for maximum “comfort”. Eco pro dulls throttle response and alters climate control settings in order to maximize the fuel range. The air suspension will also lower the car on the highway in this mode to decrease the coefficient of drag. Adaptive, the best mode in my mind, works as a combination of every mode, sensing the best mode for the car based on user inputs.

For those wishing to take their X5 on the paths never taken, or simply to work in the winter, BMW has developed an optional off – road package with 4 modes (sand, gravel, rock, and snow) able to alter throttle response, air suspension, and traction control based on ambient conditions. BMW was so serious about proving the off – road worthiness of this vehicle that they drove and X5 across the country from their Spartanburg, SC plant to Los Angeles, CA, in a straight line (with no more than 10 mile deviations, because cars can’t really fly yet). Have a gander here, what an amazing feat.

BMW has also added a suite of driver aids to make the operation of this vehicle that much more mundane an experience. There is an active steering option, which essentially allows the car to turn all four wheels based on speed. At lower speeds, the rear wheels will turn opposite to the front, effectively shortening the wheelbase, greatly increasing maneuverability in tight spaces. At higher speeds, all wheels turn in the same direction, effectively lengthening the wheelbase, leading to greater stability on say, the highway when changing lanes. The G series has taken lane keep assist to a whole new dimension, in which the car is able to keep itself between lanes without any driver input for intervals of 10 seconds. Automatic lane change allows the car to autonomously change lanes when traffic permits, activated through indicating toward the desired lane. Traffic jam assist will autonomously take care of all driver inputs in a traffic jam (steering, acceleration, and braking), no hands on the wheel required. BMW expects drivers to remain attentive while using all these systems and has placed a camera in the gauge cluster to ensure the driver’s eyes are always on the road; Systems will completely shut off, or even bring the car to a stop if the driver is “unresponsive” for too long.

BMW’s coolest driver aid for the G series has to be the steering assistant, which is excellent for parking the X5 in those tight to reach areas. The assistant is able to store steering inputs for up to 50 m, and essentially play them backwards while the driver modulates the throttle and braking inputs. In places like London or Italy, where all urban planning seems to have been left in the 15th century, this feature would be a lifesaver.

Alright, it definitely drives, and drives very well, but let’s talk design. I will admit, it took me a while to warm up to it at first. It’s very angular, radical, menacing, a lot different from the softer, more refined X5s of the past. I honestly think the language suits what BMW is trying to convey with this car, however; Capability, presence, think modern architecture turned automotive. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, that ENORMOUS grille. The consensus is quite negative, but I’m a fan. It’s big, bold, all the things that represent a true X BMW. It’s also active, opening vents for more airflow to the engine when power is needed, and closing for better aerodynamic efficiency at high speeds, I can get into the math if anyone desires.

We’ve got a brand new set of LED headlights torching the road, but being a BMW, optional laser headlights exist, able to see 600 m down the road. Not do they see 200 m further than the conventional units, but they are also, get this, 10 times BRIGHTER! Thankfully, the beams have sensors that allow them to recognize and bend around oncoming traffic. Out back, we have larger chrome accented hexagonal exhaust outlets, beautiful LED taillights, and of course, a split tailgate that is probably the most recognizable X5 characteristic of this whole car. Both parts are fully automatic, and the rear air suspension does lower upon opening to effectively lower the load height.

I wasn’t hooked at first, but I’m definitely sold now. And seeing the new X5 in person? It’s absolutely criminal a car this good looking even exists. But the interior though, God;

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Imagine waking up every single day to commute in this? I don’t know what got into the designers, this is just cruel and inhumane punishment to know that options like this exist. The leather options are plentiful, and quilting is available, readers know how much I love my quilting. Endless aluminum and wood options of the highest quality exist for trim pieces, this is a BMW after all. Wireless charging is available, while a suite of USB and USB C ports dot the cabin. There are even USB C ports in the back on the front seats, ingenious. We’ve got a heated steering wheel and armrests, while the seats and cup holders can be heated and cooled. Don’t forget about the hot stone massage feature as well! As far as sound systems go, the “lower level” Harmon Kardon system comes standard, that’s so funny to say. A few grand buys one into the Bowers and Wilkens Diamond system, I couldn’t even imagine how to describe how incredible it must sound.

Ahh, now for the best part, all that technology! Have a closer look at the gauge cluster;

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As expected, it’s a 12.3 inch fully digital unit, which I’d even say is close to the quality of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Notice how the RPM counter moves backwards, as seen in older Aston Martins. The center portion is mainly reserved for navigational outputs (map, directions, etc.). From what I’ve seen, the left screen is mainly for driver aids, while the right screen handles performance gauges, media, and even off – road settings. It’s a very clean and well – executed interface, which seems well on its way to becoming standard across the range.

BMW has been class leading with their iDrive infotainment software for quite some time now, and iDrive 7 is no different. The 12.3 – inch screen has been claimed by many to have the crispest, cleanest display on the market to date. It’s able to be controlled through 4 manners; A center console dial, touching the screen (why?), gesture control, and also through buttons on the wheel. Apple CarPlay comes standard, while Android Auto still remains negated. The system is not only one of the easiest to use but also one of the most intuitive units on the market. BMW reverse cameras (yes, the reverse camera) are probably some of my favorites, my experience with the camera on a 740d in Austria was simply incredible. The aerial view automatically activates when objects are too near any point of the vehicle, with little flanking color – coded warning blocks based on distance. If this isn’t enough, BMW has created a whole 3D surround view of the environment with the X5 in the middle, giving the driver the ability to drag around the car and see obstacles in real time. And the clarity… Oh my God the clarity!

I wish my eyes could see in BMW reverse camera… Too much? Not enough.

I love the compartmental button layout of the interior, pictured below. All of the important driver’s aids in one neat little package. Probably saves a lot of money in production as well;

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I’d like to highlight the glass controls option, seen a bit in the picture. The shifter, scroll wheel, starter button, and volume knob can be optioned with glass casing to give the elements a “crystal” effect; Many many people aren’t a fan, but I love it. Gives the car a very modern, luxurious touch. If you’re getting an X5, I don’t see why you wouldn’t go all out with the options.

Finally, let’s talk keys. Ironically, Android phones have the capability to work as a digital key, unlocking the car in a “Samsung Pay” type manner. What were they thinking… Android key, Apple infotainment? C’mon lol. I would opt for the digital key, basically a mini iPhone for the car. This allows the user to operate the climate control and roll down the windows without even stepping in the car. Not good enough? Well, it also remote starts and will move the car forward or backward based on input and surroundings. I know your key can’t do that…

Unless you have a G generation BMW… Lucky bastard.

Niche feature, but the rear windows actually go all the way down! Not very common in cars today, and a much welcome feature. Now that I think of it though, I’m pretty sure that all BMWs are capable of this. Don’t quote me though, I’m going based off our E53.

To sum it up (in the way that I sum most of these up), I want one. But I’m actually serious, I really want to buy this car. The S 65 AMG Coupé, wow I can’t believe I’m saying this, is no longer a part of my dream garage. I could see myself driving an xDrive 50i, I connect with it on an emotional level unlike any other SUV I’ve ever experienced. It’s not my dream BMW though, just something to get me through those cold Michigan winters, that article is coming soon. I’ve unfortunately come to accept that BMW is the superior brand, at least for now. The X5 is a pioneer in the SUV class, a leader in luxury, technology, and design, and will continue to be for years to come. Everyone has always said buy a Mercedes if you like luxury and technology, buy a BMW for an enthralling driving experience.

Why not buy a BMW for everything?

I really didn’t want to spoil the next one, but;

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2018 Honda Accord: Regular Cars Matter Too

Many of my readers have pointed out that I always review exotic, expensive cars, ones generally out of reach of the everyday consumer, and they aren’t wrong. These cars are more unique, more exciting to create a thrilling, yet informative piece on, a work of art as great as the car itself. As a car enthusiast, I can’t be close – minded; The automotive world is just as complex and diverse as the cells in our bodies, the particles in our universe! This is why I took the opportunity to drive something “normal”, the 2018 Honda Accord.

When I laid eyes on the 10th iteration of the longtime Honda best seller, a feeling of pure excitement and pride ran through my body. It was beginning to dawn that every carmaker is finally producing something worthwhile; Cars I’d never batted an eye to, like the A Class, the Camry, even the Civic, have actually gotten incredible. So the new Accord; Well we have a car which is a lot sportier, loads more eye – catching, and miles more technologically advanced than its predecessor, selling over 300 000 units a year. I give Honda the utmost praise for the countless hours of design and development put into the Accord’s latest generation, especially due to the fact that crossovers pose a great threat of eliminating this market completely. For a mainstream vehicle of this caliber, a starting price of $23 570 is not even fair… To Honda.

After a brief test drive, I can conclude it’s worth at least 5 times this amount and is one of the few cars out there that heavily makes me regret buying the Chrysler. Yes, I’m talking about a mass market Honda! No, I’m not drunk.

I felt obligated to test the top trim Touring 2.0 T, intending to get the most out of my experience driving one of the best selling Hondas of all time. As many may have guessed by now, the power plant is a 2.0 L turbocharged I4, outputting 252 HP and 273 lb • ft of torque. What many may not know is that this engine is a derivative of the one found in the performance – oriented Honda Civic Type R, the fastest front wheel drive car to ever lap the Nurburgring. Anyone who knows the Accord knows its synonymity with a V6 for the upper trim levels; This generation dropped the engine completely. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t worried about this drastic change; The V6 gave the car what I call this “free” element.

We’ll come back to this.

0 to 60 MPH arrives in 5.7 seconds, which is more than respectable for an “economical” car. Power is channeled through an all – new 10 – speed automatic transmission, which despite not being a smooth dual clutch, still clicks through the gears at a quick and sporty pace. Fuel economy comes in at 22 MPG city, and 32 MPG highway in the Touring trim, offering a slight improvement over the V6.

Driving this car was more of an eye – opening experience than anything; Despite not having the V6 powerplant, the car moved swiftly and effortlessly, more than deserving of the “free” aspect I alluded to earlier. It never had any sense of restraint, linearly responding to each pedal input despite the presence of a turbocharger. Sure, the note and purr of a V6 were definitely lacking, but the torque increase more than makes up for any shortcomings this 4 cylinder could possibly have. Steering was relatively light, much easier to maneuver than my Chrysler by far around corners or into parking spaces. We have three driving modes available, heavily influenced by optional dual – mode adaptive dampers. Normal offers a smooth daily driving experience, with light steering, and a softer configuration for the dampers, a cloud – like ride if I may. Sport tightens and sharpens everything up, most noticeably through the throttle response. Economy mode cuts power and decreases throttle response, but in turn, offers immense fuel economy gains.

The biggest driving dynamic comes not within the actual experience, but through a system by the name of “Honda Sensing”. This radar – camera system not only holds the Accord’s safety ratings in the upper tier of its class but also provides features aiding in a more simplistic and relaxing driving experience. Lane keeping assist keeps the car centered in driving lanes as necessary, imperceptibly correcting sway. Road departure mitigation helps the car detect when it may run off the road, flashing visual warnings, and actually steering the Accord back onto the road; I tried it out, fearful at first, impressed in conclusion. Collision mitigation braking is a feature I thankfully didn’t get to try out, which will automatically brake the car when the system senses an impending collision. To top it off, we have our run of the mill adaptive cruise control, a system I have heavily grown to love in modern cars, that sets the cruise control in accordance to a three – tier following distance rather than a given speed.

This is standard on all Honda models, great to know that some companies place safety as their number one concern, no matter the cost. A little easter egg I found while driving the car was a brake – hold feature, which will hold the car in place after a stop without pedal depression, for instance, at a red light! This was probably one of my favorite features, and I really wonder why this is the first time I’ve ever seen it in a car.

Besides the NSX, this exterior is by miles the best one from the brand. WOW! Lower and wider than the previous model, this sportback design not only offers a more aggressive look, but also a sleekness I never really expected to see coming out of this segment. Standard LED headlights and fog lights not only add to an extremely modern design but also increase overall safety and visibility at night through a brighter, whiter output; Wonder who they got that idea from… The grill may be a simplistic strip of metal bearing the logo, but the car still has an overwhelming presence on the road. The 19 – inch spoked wheels are definitely on the larger side for this segment, but they only add to the modern sporty nature intended by designers. It continuously blows my mind that I’m looking at a Honda while writing this… And it actually looks good!

You know the drill… Let’s see that interior!

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My first experience with the interior of Accord started behind the driver’s seat, literally, behind the driver’s seat, and it also happened to be the greatest surprise; The legroom was absolutely insane! I’ve sat in the back of an S Class with the executive rear – seat package, and despite the Honda not having a level of comfort near that caliber, I just felt like I had a lot more space, a lot more room to move my feet around; Big boy needs his room. For a sportback shaped car, the rear headroom wasn’t too bad either, a huge problem that many rear seat passengers face in my sportback designed Chrysler. The leather coverage was insane, I almost forgot I was in a Honda! Every tactile point, even where the driver’s knee rests on the console, is covered in a nice, soft cushioning. Wooden accenting flanked the upper center console, only adding to a surprisingly luxurious experience. Huge fan of the darker wood designs.

Seating was nice and low, fitting for that sporty exterior design. A little compartment in front of the button – only gear shifter (which was awesome by the way) offered full wireless charging, a feature I could definitely get used to; If only I didn’t have to take the case off every time… We have physical buttons for climate controls and the radio, a huge gripe fixed from the last generation, which allow for easier use during that dreaded part of the year for us island – folk. An analog speedometer is flanked on the left by a digital unit which shows anything from a tachometer, to fuel range, time, audio, navigation, traffic signs, the list goes on. It’s no virtual cockpit but is definitely a huge step in the march towards digitization.

The technology, plain and simple, is crazy for a car of this segment. We have rain sensing wipers, which will both turn on and adjust frequency automatically depending on rain intensity. There is a 4G WiFi hotspot capable of hosting many devices, great for a long road trip or job site. A very well executed heads – up display projects information seemingly outside the windshield, be it the ground speed, traffic signs, or even the adaptive cruise control; I rarely looked at the dash thanks to this incredible, almost futuristic, feature. Our infotainment system is no iDrive, but is extremely intuitive thanks to large icons and vibrant colors. Seeming to become the norm, Apple CarPlay is standard on all trims, and that’s a good thing. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it forever; CarPlay is what infotainment should have been from the very beginning.

Maybe I’ll do an article for the iOS 12 updates to CarPlay, I’ve heard crazy things.

It’s quite simple what Honda has done here; They’ve brought the latest and greatest technology, with extremely modern design language, to the lower tier of the spectrum. I’m honestly lost for words trying to explain this because I finally feel like I am obligated to buy a Honda. It looks just as good as the big name players, it has just as many bells and whistles, it’s really hard to say this, but buying a Mercedes, or a BMW, finally doesn’t make sense. We’re entering an age in the automotive sector where pretty much every car will be good, and it’s weird. Honda puts pressure not only on luxury manufacturers but also on the everyday manufacturers, to step up their game. This car has been one of the best selling vehicles in the United States for a very long time, and with the entrance of this generation, it seems like Honda’s there to stay.

Fried Fish Recipe: Yes, I Can Cook

In the beginning, I accomplished cooking mainly through vision and repetition. I saw a dish being made, tried my hardest to replicate the process, adding a few extra touches here and there. This talent aided me to cook breakfast food from a very young age, from season enhanced breakfast meats to a complex starch mixture known widely as pancakes (no, I’m not talking about the widespread American version that comes out of a box). Even though I lacked the confidence to try making more complex lunch and dinner meals at the time, this didn’t stop my inquisitive spirit, intensely studying this art with a hope to utilize this amassed knowledge to enhance my culinary adeptness in the distant future.

Fast forward to summer 2015, college on the horizon; This marked the beginning of a serious cooking phase in my life. Cooking became more of a Chemistry experiment, carefully following a list of instructions to craft the perfect compound, while adding personal touches making the meal that much more unique and special. Equipped with a recipe or better yet, a visual tutorial, I firmly believe I can cook almost anything. It’s a given, however, that you won’t be Gordon Ramsey on the first go; I’ve been studying the craft for years, and few tasks still remain that bring me great difficulty and frustration. Anyways, I’d like to do a few personal recipe articles every once in a while, just to showcase something different, give some ideas, and equip you with the tools for the creation of an authentic home – cooked meal.

My two specialty dishes are baked BBQ chicken and burgers; I haven’t found anyone else with a superior recipe and methodology, including some of the best restaurants I’ve experienced around the world (although this place in DC called Central Michel Richard makes a killer burger, don’t worry, I’ve talked with the manager and I now know the secret). I was a little hesitant when deciding on sharing these recipes at first, but anyone with a culinary talent such as myself knows more than well that a meal is best when shared.

So, fried fish. Being a Vincentian resident for over 11 years, I have great difficulty eating American fish, believe it or not. Our abundant access to fresh fish greatly contrasts the taste; The fish I’ve eaten in America have an aged, artificial taste in comparison to this premier quality. For this recipe, use a white meat fish, I prefer the darker ones baked or grilled. I used fresh Barracuda (yes, they are safe to eat down there, or I probably wouldn’t be writing this), but Mahi Mahi, Crevalie, Kingfish, and Jackfish are excellent substitutes. Cleaning absolutely necessary, primarily removing the guts, head, and eggs (if female). Steaks or filets work great for this recipe, but the presence of a bone in the steaks allows for a greater flavor enhancement (think Christmas whole chicken vs. packet chicken breast).

We’ll make a marinade for the steaks, in order to soak and penetrate the fish with liquid – based seasoning. I’ll be the first to tell you I never season this the same way twice, but a good determinant for spice selection is through smell. Smell the spices, envision the taste on the fish; Will the spice provide the flavor you seek? We begin the marinade with soy sauce, but don’t over – do it, this is a very salty base. Hit it with some curry (this is the Caribbean after all), basil, coriander, little cumin, white and black pepper, pepper sauce (which is a far superior Tabasco, based off of garlic, mustard, papaya, and of course, peppers), cayenne powder, chili powder, oregano, cilantro, thyme, little paprika, red pepper flakes (because there’s never enough pepper), some rosemary is nice, touch of turmeric, a little mustard, and my most used ingredient in all my recipes, freshly crushed garlic (use a grater or a crusher, and put no more than a full clove). Add some lime in there for a nice citrus offset, it’s a must for fish. This is a great base to begin cooking, but feel free to add or remove spices at your discretion; Envision the flavor. Give that bad boy a nice mixing, cover with foil (because the Ballantyne kitchen doesn’t support disposable plastic), and marinate in the fridge anywhere between half an hour to a full day; The longer, the better.

After marination, we need to prepare the fish for frying through a starchy exterior coating. This will require two bowls, one with uncooked scrambled egg, to act as a sealant, and another with flour, acting as a coating. First dip a steak into the egg, making sure it’s fully coated with a nice yellow on the outside. Flour is next, get a full dip in there ensuring complete coverage. Don’t! Forget! The sides! Please! Trade secret here, repeat this process. Double coating not only gives the fish a crunchier bite but also helps seal the marinade.

Very very important, save the rest of the marinade mixture! We will need that for our side dish. Let’s cook!

Heat a pan on high heat with some vegetable oil, or corn oil. Olive oil is just a bit too thick, a bit too “fancy” for this recipe if I may, but works well with beef. Make sure that oil is HOT, then add the fish into the pan, as shown in the featured image. Don’t be too quick to flip them, let them sit on each side for about 10 minutes. This will help to seal the seasoning, marinade, and flour coating in while giving the fish what I like to call a nice “dry” fry. Once both sides are a nice golden brown, get the sides! I know what you’re thinking, won’t a “dry” fry get rid of all the flavor inside? Timed marinade ladies and gentlemen, timed marinade.

Once that’s done, take them off, and rest on paper towels to get rid of excess oil. For a side dish, we are going to add water, salt, black pepper, parsley, and a dab of olive oil in a decent sized pot. Put this pot under high heat, bringing the water to a full boil. Covering the water will heat it quicker, as it eliminates convective transfer to the ambient air, and enhances the effect of radiative heat transfer from the water (Engineering guys!). Yes, experienced chefs, we are going to add some pasta to that mixture, occasionally testing strands to determine if the pasta is finished. Once complete, drain the pasta in a colander over the sink and put it back into the pot over some low – to – medium heat. Add grated parmesan (not that bottled garbage), some more crushed garlic (because GARLIC), and the rest of the marinade into our pasta! Give that a mix, and presto! Fried fish and pasta for dinner!

Go out and impress the world!

2018 McLaren 720S: The Greatest Car Ever Made

I feel like I have to start this talking about the mainstream production predecessor in the McLaren super series, the 650S, and I don’t really want to. Sure the 650S had Ferrari killing twin – turbo V8 performance for a more reasonable price, sure it was hitting 60 under 3 seconds, I just couldn’t appreciate the car. It was a bit too analog, a bit too off design – wise for my taste, it wouldn’t do. The high – performance version 675LT soon followed, and instantly became my favorite McLaren; The design was finally polished up, handling and performance were increased dramatically, especially on the track; It was a great car all around, minus the ride discomfort on – road and exclusivity of a 500 car run. This was a telling moment for the brand in my eyes; They’d gotten the formula down, put it into a more user – friendly package and it’d be money in the bank.

This car made the P1 obsolete.

The 720S (P14) is McLaren’s latest offering in the super series, targeting the exciting driving experience found in the limited production 675LT, while offering comfort and daily – driveability seen in the wildly successful entry – level 570GT. A car meant to be the best of both worlds, a combination of performance, refinement, emotion, and efficiency as described by product director Mark Vinnels. It’s not only the most comfortable and highest performing car to come out of Woking, I believe it deserves the praise of being the most accomplished supercar, better yet, car, in existence. When spy shots emerged of the P14 rolling down English motorways, no one expected McLaren’s upcoming mid – level model to absolutely decimate the company’s extremely limited, exotically designed, demonic speeding, multi – million dollar, hybrid hypercar in every possible way. It was faster, more comfortable, more refined, and most importantly, a fraction of the cost. If I was a P1 owner I think I’d be somewhere between extreme anger and elation; My P1 just got dusted by a much cheaper car, but my P1 just got dusted by a much cheaper car! I can’t begin to imagine what the English brand’s next move will be in the ultimate series.

It’s about time McLaren used a new engine (in any model), the 720S is powered by a 4.0 L twin – turbo flat plane V8, good for 710 HP and 568 lb • ft of torque, mounted so low in the car, that they won’t even allow you to open it. Combined with mid – engine positioning, this allows for optimal placement of the center of gravity, one of the many tweaks engineers have made to ensure the handling of this vehicle is on hypercar levels. 0 to 60 MPH rushes up in 2.5 seconds, continuing onto a top speed of 212 MPH.

We need to talk about this for a second, because, Jesus Christ, 2.5 seconds. This is faster than the LaFerrari, P1,  Aventador, GT2 RS, Huracan, halo track car Senna, R8, and a lot, lot, lot of others. This ties the Turbo S, Veyron Grand Sport, the world’s second fastest car Venom GT, and a few others here and there. Then there’s quarter mile, where a 9.9 second run at 140 MPH bests the Veyron, Performante, and Turbo S, barely snipping the heels of the hypercar trio running 9.8s apiece. If this alone doesn’t convince that this car has some serious speed, I don’t know what does.

It’s faster in the quarter mile than the Turbo S! Who beats the Turbo S?!

Power is channeled to the rear wheels through a seven – speed dual clutch transmission that offers 45% faster shifts than the unit found in the 675LT, which has been closely compared by many to the God of all transmissions, Porsche PDK. Like many other McLarens, the paddle shifters are mounted in a rocker fashion, allowing for upshifts and downshifts with a singular paddle, a neat little quirk aiding in more focused driving. MPG comes in at around 15 city and 22 highway, don’t expect to see this at all. To top it off, weight comes in at around 3161 pounds, 40 pounds less than its predecessor 650S.

I really don’t know where to start with the driving dynamics, there’s so much to talk about. Activate the launch feature to receive one of the hardest launches of any vehicle, minimizing wheel spin for optimal traction and acceleration. Some of the most minimal turbo lag experienced in a motor vehicle thrusts towards alarming speeds in seconds, continuing to pull with force as shifts merely click away. If you want to have some fun, a rear wheel drive 710 HP car will light the tires up in the blink of an eye, sliding effortlessly but controlled through the car’s variable drift system. The car, however, does a great job at controlling these intense speeds for some of the most consistent lap times and drag races ever recorded, many beating the P1 with ease. It sticks to the pavement in a Huracan Performante manner but still remains effortless to drive due to a carbon fiber tub offering more rigidity and weight reduction to the previous 650S.

These dynamics are all thanks to two very important systems, the first being a selectable drive mode controller. After the “active” button on the upper console is depressed, the powertrain and suspension options can be toggled between three settings, comfort, sport, and track. I should also mention that these settings can be adjusted individually, for a more personalized driving experience.

Many of these characteristics are also thanks to McLaren’s Proactive Chassis Control II, a hydraulic suspension system offering the best of both worlds. The 720S is the first McLaren that can ride as soft as an S Class, but as dexterous as an F1 car with the push of a button. Through the use of up to 21 sensors and GPS, the car is able to read the road ahead and prepare the suspension for any impending imperfections, it’s crazy that supercars have technology of this caliber in this day and age. Famous automotive YouTuber and 720S owner Salomondrin describes it as one of the easiest cars to drive, and one of the easiest to pick up. His wife, not generally fond of the supercar driving experience, says it’s the only supercar that she genuinely enjoys driving. McLaren has really made a supercar offering an experience that not only appeals to the hardcore enthusiast, but also to the curious everyday citizen.

The exterior design was very controversial for many when the P14 was initially spotted during testing, but even up to the release, I knew this would be the best looking McLaren by miles. It’s sinister, muscular, aggressive, but still retains that slight sleekness necessary to balance the design. A huge problem with supercars is ingress and egress; Easy access is nowhere near the main design focus. McLaren has fought this issue through the use of these butterfly – gullwing – style doors, pictured below;

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The doors open with a section of the roof, making entry and exit by taller individuals a much easier process than say, a Huracan, or 488. I don’t know about you, but those things look sick. We’ve got thin strip taillights out back, and out front, the brightest LED headlights ever placed into a supercar. A huge part of this exterior design that many of you may have already noticed is the aerodynamics. There are many little vents through the headlights, bumpers, even doors, to direct more laminar airflow overtop the vehicle, restricting the more turbulent component to the bottom. This flow not only greatly increases drag efficiency, but aids in inducing the engine, cooling the brakes, and even stopping the car or adding high speed stability through flow over an active rear wing. I’m a huge fan of this design, and think it’s one of the greatest looking supercars of all time.

But the interior…

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Oh my Jesus. Nice. The best part is by far the visibility, greatly optimized from any angle by McLaren’s phenomenal Engineering team. The hood drops off almost immediately, giving the driver the clearest possible view of the road. Those roof sections of the doors and entire c pillars are completely glass! This not only gives the driver optimal view out of a glass dome – like cockpit, but also a virtual elimination of all blind spots. A center stack stages D, N, and R gears as steps, a neat little feature my the design team. We have a tablet in the middle of the dash which is no iDrive (get used to me saying this a lot) but gets the job done a lot better than other supercar units. Seats can be leather or sport, this car can easily be customized to whatever the customer prefers. Oh, the drive mode selectors are located immediately to the right on two large dials for suspension and powertrain.

I want to talk a little bit about that digital dash unit, which is actually angled slightly towards the driver, hypothesized by some to eliminate glare under sunny conditions. It’s very new age, very fitting for a supercar of this technological caliber. When the R gear is activated, this screen shows a rearward reverse camera, while the central tablet displays a 360 camera view of the car, talk about maneuverability. That’s not even the coolest feature, because when the car is placed into track mode…

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Yeah… WOW. The display folds completely forward, offering optimal vision out the windshield, and improved concentration for the driver by only displaying essentials such as gear, speed, and RPM. Tell me any other car that can do that, relax McLaren.

I mean how else do I end this, the title says it all; This is truly the best car in the world, and I want one, I can’t believe I’m saying this, maybe even more than a Mercedes. It can do straight line speed, it can do the track, and most importantly, it can do comfort, at levels near or besting their competition. Think about this, the 720S is faster and yet more daily driveable than the extremely rare halo P1, for a fraction of the price! I mean…

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It doesn’t even look one – tenth as fast as this thing. Let’s just say the future is really bright for McLaren if their mainstream models are whipping their hyper beasts.

2017 Audi Q7: Once a Favorite, Always a Favorite

Wow… That was fast. Thought it would be at least a month or two before he’d put out the next one, right? Anyways, during the month of June, I finally had the opportunity to spend some time with my dad. Our annual Georgia trip was amazing as always; First, we went to the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Braselton to blow off some steam, what a picturesque place it was! Afterward, we made a stop in downtown Atlanta to attend the Trinity Medical School graduation at the Fox theatre, which was scheduled at the same time as Hamilton! Boy was that an adventure. He even had some time in his ever busy schedule to make a stop in good ol’ Virginia, where our story begins.

My dad always visits my godfather while he’s in town, they’re best friends for life, and me being the petrolhead that I am, would never oppose a nice long drive over the Huguenot. We arrived outside his house, and there she was in all her glory; Samurai grey metallic gleaming in the sunlight, a siren luring me to my death. We went inside, talked about business, life, the future. About 10 minutes into the conversation, I couldn’t contain myself any longer, jokingly asked when he’d let me review the Q7.

He gave me the keys and no time limit. I stupidly questioned this for a solid 10 seconds, until my brain kicked in, shut my mouth, and walked me outside, never looking back.

A little history for y’all, the Audi Q7 actually used to be my favorite SUV! It was large but refined; Sleek, but with presence. The Mercedes SUVs looked plain outdated, and let’s just say that BMW was going through some dark, dark times design – wise. The Q7 was a masterpiece of pure luxury and prowess, I just couldn’t find any faults.

To the curious minds, my favorite SUV right now is the Bentley Bentayga, I’ve written a whole article on that shining British star; Maybe I’ll do a small piece on all of my favorites in the near future.

Anyways, I got to spend some time in the second generation Audi Q7, the debut vehicle on Volkswagen’s MLB architecture. The platform was so successful, that the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q8, Bentley Bentayga, and Lamborghini Urus all received the go – ahead for this architecture as well; Guess the Bentayga isn’t really a coincidence after all. By sheer size, this is the brands second largest SUV to the Q8 by a hair. Competition is generally seen as the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE Class; You will see later on in the article that I don’t agree about this whatsoever.

Many German manufacturers choose turbochargers for induction; They maximize air intake by spooling up a turbine wheel through the flow of exhaust gases, offering drastic improvements in power and efficiency through their application on smaller engines. Surprisingly, the Q7 I drove is offered with a 3.0 L supercharged V6, outputting 333 HP, and 325 lb • ft of torque. As much as I’d prefer a turbocharged setup in this vehicle, I can’t really complain. Superchargers are connected to the engine output shaft through the use of a timing belt, offering more air intake than a turbocharger, a linear power delivery, but to my dismay, a slight loss of power due to the charger slaving off the engine through the timing belt.

0 to 60 MPH happens in 6.1 seconds, which seems like a larger number than most cars I usually write about; Don’t be fooled, this thing can move. The Q7 will continue on to hit an electronically limited top speed of 155 MPH, which is quite respectable for a vehicle of such magnitude. Power is channeled through one of my favorites, the ZF 8HP55 8 – speed automatic transmission, shared by smaller sister Q5 and flagship A8 models. The tuning definitely offers quick shifts, but nothing as fast and refined as a dual clutch unit. Fuel economy is rated at around 18 MPG city and… Wait for it… 27 MPG highway! The trip computer told another story, showing an underwhelming average of 14 MPG; Let’s just say that a lot of European manufacturers heavily “overestimate” this figure.

My previous point about competition leads me to driving dynamics. The internet creates this huge misconception that the Q7 directly competes with the X5 and GLE; I’ve driven or have been driven in several of these, the Q7 simply doesn’t compare. My biggest surprise was the sheer size; The closest comparing vehicle I’ve driven was the Ram 1500. I describe my experience behind the wheel as commanding a docile tank, driving like a boat with the softest possible movements. The vehicle is also extremely quiet; I didn’t hear a touch of engine noise unless I wanted to.

The adaptive air suspension offered excellent cushioning from road imperfections, the ride was Tempur – Pedic comfortable. Steering was light, and I’m not talking feathers light; I mean driving with two fingertips light. Being supercharged, power delivery was near instantaneous, believe me when I say I held on for my life during that pull. It was a weird feeling seeing the vehicle change emotions instantaneously with accelerator depression, from a cloud drifting through the sky to a high – speed tank in combat.

Speaking of emotion changes, Audi has a vehicular dynamics system called drive select, which tunes the car for various driving conditions; I, unfortunately, remembered this feature as I was pulling into the driveway. There are five driving modes; Efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual. Efficiency cuts back on power but offers tremendous gains in fuel economy; Maybe they weren’t lying about those crazy MPG figures after all. Comfort tunes the air suspension to the softest setting, offering normal throttle response, and steering I never thought possible for an SUV of this size. Auto, the mode I was in, uses computers, cameras, GPS data, and general driver input to continuously adjust dynamics on the fly. Dynamic is for maximum performance, tightening up the steering, firming the air suspension, and optimizing that incredible supercharged throttle response. Individual, well you guessed it, allows you to customize each element to your liking.

It wouldn’t be a true Audi article if I didn’t talk about their claim to fame, the Quattro AWD system. Short and sweet, this is the best AWD system ever conceived, period; Quattro made Audi famous. This application normally runs a 40:60 front – rear torque split, able to send a maximum torque output of 70% to the front wheels, and 85% to the rear wheels as necessary.

A few bonus features, the Q7 is equipped with a feature called traffic jam assist, that completely controls steering and braking at speeds up to 40 MPH; It’s really the golden age of technology, isn’t it? There’s a trailering assistant which through the use of the infotainment scroll wheel, can vary the trailer’s backup angle to the user’s discretion. Adaptive cruise control allows for setting a following distance rather than a numerical speed, an extremely useful feature for those people who can’t seem to pick a speed; This system actually entails the traffic jam assist. Finally, we have lane departure warning, which corrects lane drift and will steer the vehicle back into its lane, and blindspot monitoring, an LED system on both side mirrors indicating whether a car has entered your blindspots. What can’t cars do nowadays?

I don’t know about y’all, but that exterior design is love. An Audi isn’t right if it isn’t grey, now you see why. The large hexagonal grill speaks so greatly to the car’s powerful nature. LED headlights and taillights flank both bumpers, a progressive design, offering the best in style and visibility. The daytime running LEDs resemble transition towards a new era for the brand, and I’m a huge fan. 21  – inch spoked wheels are definitely the best option, I mean just look at them! The second generation has this more square, more beefy design compared to the old model, and it works. It’s got a presence, but a refinement, a sleekness, a true best of both world. The Q7 looks big in photos, even larger in real life.

Look at this interior guys…

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It’s large, neat, and nothing short of the utmost luxury. The driving position is high, I truly felt the commanding sense intended by the brand. Looking across to the passenger seat imitated the feeling of a truck more than anything else, I’ll say it now and forever, the size of this thing is just immense! Leather drapes every tactile surface, everything looks and feels expensive. The seats were OK, definitely not up to Mercedes standards, but definitely fitting for the car. We’ve got a nice modern spring shifter design, just something else to set it apart from the crowd. It would be a sin, a stone cold sin, if I didn’t say anything about the MMI virtual cockpit. It’s one of the most innovative infotainment systems on the market, right up there with BMW being quite frank. The digital dash has just as much control as the central screen; I found myself retracting this central screen for most of the ride. Leave it to Audi to offer a fullscreen navigation display where your engine instruments are located.

I’ve actually written an article on this system and its numerous applications, click here to read it.  Audi has recently debuted a revised version of the virtual cockpit in the A8, Q8, and A7; Full touchscreen, 10 times the features, I’ll definitely do a piece on it in the near future.

So my opinion on the Q7? I wanted on back then, I desperately need one right now. There’s just something about a large luxury SUV that draws me in, the excessive road presence with the posh comfort we’ve come to expect from these brands is just the perfect match. When I heard the V8 was gone for good, I was a little unhappy; After driving this, however, I really feel that the V6 is on the money, providing a smooth ride at lower speeds, and exciting supercharged acceleration when necessary. My godfather told me that the most interesting thing about the car for him was how stable it was; Going 60 MPH felt no different from 30 MPH, and I can attest. The engineers at Volkswagen AG have made a once amazing vehicle that much more special, it can really only go up from here. I can’t wait for those future American winters.