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.

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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.

My Austrian Automotive Experience

Hello again, my faithful readers! Sorry for my hiatus, this summer has been quite hectic on my end, but I have quite a lot to share! I may share my secret fried fish recipe I used while in St. Vincent that is guaranteed to make you the Gordon Ramsey of the household (or your money back), and I’m also thinking about documenting my experience in flight training! Many of you may not know this, but a younger adventurous Adam Ballantyne wanted to become a commercial pilot once upon a time, that story will come eventually.

Don’t worry petrolheads, more car content is on the way as well! Not to give anything away, but let’s just say that McLaren has been putting out some masterpieces lately… One in particular which I believe is the best car ever made!

So my Austrian automotive experience. If you follow me on Snapchat @afb2, you may have noticed that I traveled to the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria, for about a week near the end of March. The primary purpose of my trip was for a brief internship at a milling and drilling design, production, and refurbishing Engineering firm by the name of WEDCO Tools, what a phenomenal experience that was! Not only did I get to expose myself to the rich musical history and ancient architecture of the city, but I also had the chance to meet some amazing people, and gain knowledge in the Mechanical Engineering field that will be extremely instrumental down the road!

I loved Vienna so much, that I’ll be going back later this summer to attend a conference at the Technical University of Vienna! Because who needs orientation week, right?

So a huge highlight of my time spent there had to be my exposure to all of these amazing European cars! Austria borders Germany to the East, giving the big 3 a large presence in the country. The 12 cylinder monsters were definitely out to play as well; I saw a surprising amount of Continental GTs, and one early morning walking down the street, an M760i followed by a GTC4Lusso! I also had the chance to see a lot of diesel – powered vehicles, including the quad – turbocharged BMW X6 M50d; It’s nice to see that some countries see the true benefits of diesel, and even more so, that automakers are making a decent effort to keep them mainstream.

I also had the chance to see a Brabus B25 high – performance version of the CLA Class, souped up by well known German tuning company Brabus, it’s crazy what you find on a simple walk down the Viennese streets. By the way, remember this company.

I also had the chance to experience two very amazing cars, the focus of the article. This leads me to one huge observation I’ve made about Austria, even mainland Europe in general; The people there just seem to “care”; Be it simple service at a cafe, or on the job training, everyone there treated me with the utmost respect, and I really felt like I mattered. I wasn’t “bothering” anyone, no one ever showed signs that they were unwillingly going too much out of their way to ensure my experience was as incredible as it was. So my message is this; Value your interactions, treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve as a human being; Better yet, treat them the way you would like to be treated in return.

So the first insane car I got to experience was the Mercedes GLE Coupé, the high – performance AMG GLE 43 to be exact. People who know me, know I love myself a Mercedes Benz. People who really know me know that the GLE Coupé is one of my dream cars. Imagine what it’s like to partially fulfill a dream; The ecstatic emotion, the sheer nervousness, the sense of awe. Let’s just say that this was an amazing day.

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I encourage you to read this article to get a little background on the GLE Coupé, this is truly a stylistic and performance masterpiece. It sits in the coupé SUV segment, which was paved by the immensely popular BMW X6 circa 2007. The gist of the movement was the creation of a vehicle that had the sports car performance, but the prowess and functionality that consumers have grown to love in SUVs, with sleek sportback – like styling. Here in America, Mercedes only sells high – performance AMG variants of the GLE, probably due to the fact that the X6 heavily controls this market. Let’s talk about the most exciting part of this package, the performance.

The AMG GLE 43 Coupé is powered by a 3.0 L twin – turbocharged V6, with a respectable power output of 362 HP, and 384 lb • ft of torque. The owner runs a protective coating company named Eifeler, which happens to work alongside WEDCO to extend the life of their tools, is an amazing person; You’d be surprised how extensive this process is. We both immediately agreed that this standard output was not near enough power. Remember Brabus? Well they make a kit that bumps power up to 450 HP, torque to 475 lb • ft, and this kit so happened to be installed on said GLE Coupé. Standard 0  to 60 happens in about 4.5 seconds, I swear this thing was mid threes with that tune.

The top speed is normally limited to 135 MPH, we definitely got to and exceeded that mark with ease (don’t worry cops, unrestricted highway), I’d like to think the top speed post – tune comes in at around 160 – 170 MPH. The transmission is a 9 – speed dual clutch automatic unit used on all AMG 43s. The shifts are literally pops; You feel neither a power interruption, nor a jerk; The car just pops up a gear as you continue to increase in speed. Don’t take it the wrong way when I saw this, I love a good manual transmission, I learned to drive on a manual; But when I experienced a transmission like this, it’s not even close; It’s by far one of the most exciting feelings I’ve ever felt riding in a vehicle.

So how does it drive? Short and simple, smoothly when needed, electrifying at the push of a button. We were confined to highway driving, and a quick sprint around the industrial park near my work. Under slower speeds, the car felt amazing. The ride comfort was typical Mercedes, soft, but stable due to the SUV platform. Shifts were almost imperceptible, the car gliding down the road. Throw it into sport plus, and the beast becomes awakened. Acceleration is HARD, but very, very smooth. As I said earlier, the car continues to gain speed without interruption, popping shifts effortlessly. And when you let off that pedal, oh my, the exhaust crackles were a symphony, quite fitting for a trip to Vienna. Steering was precise, suspension keeping the car stable through corners at amazing speeds for a car of this mass.

As far as design goes, I love my coupé SUVs. The lowered stance paired with the sportback appearance is plain and simple, one of the sleekest looks out there. Add blacked out stylistic elements to the vehicle, and that’s a home run in my book; A true warrior of the night. 20 – inch wheels add greatly to the road – presence of the vehicle, while AMG badges flank all over as a constant reminder that you are about to enter one of Affalterbach’s best. It’s a clean looking car for a clean looking man.

My biggest surprise about the interior was by far the size. Looking at GLE Coupé on the road is quite misleading, making the car seem about 3 times larger than it actually is; I mean look at the picture, I’m taller than the damn thing! Upon entry, it’s not too large, not too small, somewhere right in the middle. The driving position gives an excellent vantage point while offering a much more aggressive and lower position than I’d expected; It’s definitely not a hard car to handle, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to someone who’s not ready to step up to a full – size SUV quite yet.

Being an AMG Mercedes, it’s a given that the interior quality was leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Black leather seemed to cover every tactile surface, including the standard AMG flat – bottomed steering wheel. Red stitching offered accenting speaking to the GLE 43 Coupé’s aggressive nature, while dark wood trim flanking the dash truly reminded me of the meticulous craftsmanship and personalization options available to a Mercedes customer. The seat comfort was decent, but not S Class; Still a lot more comfortable than most other SUVs on the market. Mercedes COMAND powered the infotainment, and despite not living up to BMW’s iDrive (I mean, who will ever be able to do that), still remains a leader in the industry. Apple CarPlay is an option, a must – have with the upcoming iOS 12 update, which will allow the use of third – party navigation! Helloooo Google Maps!

From a personal standpoint, my biggest takeaways were by far the smoothness and maneuverability of the vehicle. That 9 – speed dual – clutch is phenomenal; Around town, shifts are almost imperceptible; Open her up, those pops as the GLE Coupé runs through the gears are some of the most amazing noises you’ll ever hear coming from a car. The size is definitely interesting, turning out to be a lot smaller than I’d expected, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The car is very easy to drive, feeling so much more athletic and refined than I’d originally anticipated. The GLE Coupé remains one of my dream cars, and this experience has just pushed me to work even harder in the hopes of attaining one someday. But good God, if the 43 is that fast and loud, I couldn’t even begin to fathom what sort of monster the 63 could be…

So this second car was very unexpected. It was my last day at WEDCO, and the CEO instructed me to come outside to receive a little “present”. Blistering cold day, what on Earth could this possibly be? Voilà! Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet (997)!

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I’d seen it in the garage a few times, figured it was way too cold to take her out for a spin. The smile on my face looked like I’d won the lottery when I saw it pulling up next to the building. Porsche makes a lot of vehicles, and they make ’em very well; Their specialty lies in the compact sports coupé segment, a class heavily dominated by the 718 Boxster and immensely popular 911, which has been their best selling vehicle since its debut in 1963. To touch on the 911 a little bit, Porsche makes one for almost every situation possible; There’s the GT3, an amazing weapon around the track, denoted by its massive rear wing. A step higher offers the GT3 RS, with a bigger engine, tons and tons of weight savings, and a look capable of stealing a man’s heart. Not enough? Slap some twin – turbos onto that bad boy, and attain the GT2 RS, which not only offers 700 HP in that tiny 911 frame, but also the fastest production car lap time in the Nurburgring! Faster than their highly praised demonic hybrid 918 Spyder, and the track weapon gotten right Huracan Performante, read this.

I got a chance to spend some time in the Carrera S Cabriolet, which is considered to be one of the “docile performing” models. Cabriolet is fancy talk for a convertible, a feature I was unfortunately unable to test due to blistering cold exterior temperatures. Despite being an entry level 911 model, don’t be fooled! The Carrera S started at around $100 000 brand new, and a quick search online yields that even today, the cheapest bare – bones 911 you’ll find still starts at $90 000! $100 000  down the hatch, and $100 000 well worth it in my opinion!

She’s powered by a 3.8 L naturally aspirated H6, better known as a flat 6, due to horizontally mounted cylinders; It’s a cute little package. The result is this amazing sound which is the most common identifier of a flat 6 Porsche; Just listen to that thing purr! Power came out at a respectable 355 HP, 295 lb • ft of torque, in a car weighing a little over 3 000 lbs, pretty crazy for a 2008 model! 0  to 60 rushed up in 4.3 seconds, can confirm this number. Power is channeled through a 5 – speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, which did have a little delay here and there, but nothing seriously interrupting power gain.

Oh yeah… About halfway through the ride… I was given the ability to DRIVE this thing! Now sit down and listen here my people…

When I tell you that this car was point and shoot, take that word for word. I’ve never driven a car, or as a matter of fact, any vehicle, that had steering as precise as this Porsche. It didn’t matter how fast or slow you were going, the vehicle was both planted, upright, and controlled through every corner, definitely my favorite aspect of the 911. Power was nice and smooth being a 3 000 lb car with 355 HP, the engine never struggled to get her going.

Then I hit the gas, put it to the floor. Throttled myself to excessive speeds, at an alarming rate. Jesus Christ, this car is fast. I’m not talking merge on the highway fast, I mean need to get to the hospital because my wife’s water broke fast. A few of you that saw my Snapchat know exactly what I’m talking about. The car is so small yet so aerodynamic, cutting through the wind with ease, rushing it over the entire car in seconds. I’ve driven in two Porsches in my entire life, and believe me when I say that you will cry for your mother when you drive in one with some turbos. The driving position seats very very low to the ground, giving a sense of becoming one with the road; There was no corner, no stretch, that I didn’t feel confident taking at speeds that would easily flip my Chrysler.

Being a Porsche, the engine was positioned normally where you’d find a trunk. This is called a mid – engine setup, which does worlds for a car’s handling; So why do Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, name a supercar manufacturer use this platform? This mid – engine model is very effective on the track, keeping the rear wheels planted, allowing for that true “point and shoot” capability.

Unlike the GLE, the Porsche is actually a lot smaller than pictures; Nothing new for me, I’d seen tons and been in one previously. No matter the generation, they never seem to make drastic changes to the exterior shape and appearance; Those bubble headlights remain, very short hood, trunk in the front of course, just very small proportions all around. I’ve never really been a fan of convertibles, but I don’t feel like the top did too much to sacrifice those amazing looks I’ve grown to know and love. They have a model that works, and they continued to stick with it for all these years; Bravo Porsche.

A $100 000 car deserves a $100 000 interior, and Porsche has never failed to disappoint. Authentic leather draped almost every surface, something I wish a lot of other manufacturers would put more time into. They didn’t hold back on this brown saddle color scheme either; I saw it on the dash, steering wheel, seats, floormats, and even the door grabs. Many think it’s a little over the top, I’m a huge fan. If a tight cockpit is your speed, you’ll be right at home in here. I’m not talking undo a belt – loop tight, we’re talking favorite shirt from 4 years ago tight. Being a bigger guy, my knees were on the steering wheel for pretty much the entire drive, and don’t even get me started on those back seats; I wouldn’t even put a baby back there. The equipment is pretty decent, a little dated seeing the car is from 2008, but the driving dynamics make up for every little flaw you’d ever find. It feels compact, it feels maneuverable, it truly feels like a Porsche.

My thoughts, well I got to drive a freakin Porsche! It was an incredible experience, my favorite part by miles and miles being the handling. For a car built in 2008, it was so planted, so precise, in every single movement. The vehicle literally became an extension of my body, handling the slightest inputs with extreme response and dexterity. So will I get one in the future? Absolutely. Porsche makes a toned town version of the GT2 RS (if you can even call it that…) called the 911 Turbo S. This monster puts out 580 HP, and hits 60 in 2.6 seconds! I feel like this thing could black someone out under acceleration, but hey, Adam Ballantyne has a need for the speed baby. I’ve heard the next one will be way over 600 HP too…

To conclude, my Austrian automotive experience, better yet, my Austrian experience as a whole, was phenomenal. Everyone treated me like family, I got to see and do some amazing things, meet some amazing people, and definitely feel like I have a second home across the pond. I couldn’t thank everyone there enough for making my time as incredible as it was, and hope that some of my readers get the chance to visit this amazing city at least once in their lifetimes. Cherish these experiences guys, you have one life to live. Make it fun, make it special, make it yours.

2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante: Finally Got it Right

I remember the 2014 release of the Lamborghini Huracan, the brand’s overdue entry – level replacement for the Gallardo. It was the perfect package; Naturally aspirated Audi R8 sourced 5.2 L V10 good for 610 HP, a completely revised wheel drive system, a much welcomed seven – speed dual clutch transmission, questionable yet elegant styling for a Lamborghini, and surprising track capability. The Huracan represented the refinement and daily driveability the brand desperately needed, while finally offering a decent platform for performance on the track.

Test mules of the Huracan’s high powered derivative started appearing in 2016, and boy was I worried. The V12 powered Aventador Superveloce’s execution was not my favorite; The looks were aggressive and exotic, but off; Performance commendable, but hindered, mainly by an outdated single clutch transmission; Handling there, but limited with a near 4000 lb curb weight. The Huracan was definitely a promising platform, but could the engineers pull this off?

Long story short, the 2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performate turned out to be a high precision missile; Through an addition of an incredibly complex computer controlled aerodynamic system, and seemingly endless weight savings, Lamborghini retained the ease of use we’d grown to love in the Huracan, while unleashing a circuit beast believed incapable of the brand for quite some time.

The Performante is powered by a heavily reworked 640 HP version of the 5.2 L naturally aspirated V10, offering a 30 HP gain over the standard Huracan. Natural aspiration provides this engine with a smooth and linear power delivery up to a screaming 8500 RPM! A retuned and revamped 7 speed dual clutch transmission offers noticeably quicker shifts, channeling power to all wheels through a torque variable rear – biased system. 0 to 60 rushes up in a face shattering 2.3 seconds, equivalent to the 887 HP hybrid Porsche 918 (remember this car) and 1500 HP quad – turbocharged W16 Bugatti Chiron. The 3000 lb curb weight amplifies the accelerational force to the point where many describe it as violent. Launch control blurs the windshield as the car rockets off the line like a roller coaster to scary speeds, topping out at 202 MPH.

The driving dynamics were the engineer’s main focus on the Performante, and boy does it show; It’s simply a car that is “easy to drive fast”. The suspension keeps the car completely flat, allowing the Performante to take corners at speeds which would easily understeer the standard Huracan; This crazy stability makes the peak cornering force of 1.11 Gs feel like nothing. The meticulous all – wheel drive system and pinpoint steering are futuristic, inspiring levels of driver confidence never believed achievable in a bull.

Three drive modes are controlled through a steering wheel – mounted anima switch. Strada, translated as “street” in Italian, retunes the car to a more daily driveable version, with a lighter but still sharp throttle response, imperceptible shifts, light steering, and relatively soft suspension. Performante still retains the ease of use we’ve grown to love in the standard Huracan, and that’s one of the most rewarding aspects of this vehicle. Sport is a slightly more aggressive strada, offering middle grounds between everyday driveability and a thrilling experience. Corsa, translated as track, provides instantaneous throttle response, the stiffest suspension and tightest steering for optimal handling, lightning – quick shifts for uninterrupted power gain, and a tachometer focused display on the digital dashboard to aid driver concentration. If you thought the V10 was loud in strada, you aren’t even ready for the others.

One of the biggest changes over the standard Huracan comes from an all new electronically controlled active aerodynamic system dubbed ALA, Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva. Through a network of valves, airflow is controlled and redirected to the driver’s discretion. Closed valves force air over the massive rear wing, offering 750% more downforce than the standard car. This increase in vertical loading greatly improves the Performate’s ability to traverse curves with speed and stability. Opening the valves allows air to flow through the car, bypassing the wing, reducing air resistance; This results in increased acceleration, top speed, and drag efficiency.

I encourage watching this video for a visual explanation, it’s revolutionary.

So, how do these improvements stack up? When tested on the Nurburgring, it achieved a production car world record time of 6 minutes, 52 seconds. WOW! This easily brought down the hypercar trio, besting the track benchmark Porsche 918 by 5 whole seconds! The destruction was so bad, that Lamborghini got accused of speeding up their footage! It still blows my mind to this day that the 918 Sypder got taken down by a souped – up Huracan. Not bad Lamborghini, not bad at all.

That held strong for about a year until, you guessed it, Porsche, knocked 5 seconds off that time with the monstrous 700 HP 911 GT2 RS. But still, how did they beat the 918!!!

As far as the exterior goes, styling is refined bedroom poster Lamborghini, a lot better executed than the Aventador SV in my opinion. We have an extensive use of this stronger lighter material called forged carbon fiber, shaving 200 lbs off the standard car. It has a “dirty carbon fiber” appearance, and I fell for it instantly; The traditional weave is too cliché in the industry, this is a refreshing and much cleaner look. The V10 sits under a glass display, forged carbon body structure visible in all its glory. A large but not overbearing wing sits atop the rear, fixing a huge problem I had with the Aventador SV. We have tons of vents for aero, a much louder dual exhaust with all the crackles, it’s Lamborghini, but it’s not too much.

The interior is something out of a video game;

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The forged carbon fiber is here to stay, be it the center console, air vents, or column mounted aluminum paddles. The incorporation is form and function, offering weight savings with a space – age appearance. Alcantara lines the cabin, a material offering a superior grip over leather during hard driving. All controls, be it the turn signals, wipers, headlights, name one, are mounted to the steering wheel, an indication of a true drivers car. We have a start – stop button right out of a fighter jet with a red flip cover, just so you’re “sure”. In the name of weight savings, there are optional carbon fiber bucket seats which are extremely uncomfortable; However, they place the driver right onto the floor, with minimal effects to visibility. Don’t worry, leather comfort seats come standard.

Under conglomerate Audi, one of the best digital dashboards in the business is a must, controlling anything from the navigation to reverse camera. It gets the job done, but it’s no virtual cockpit. Apple CarPlay is optional, a system bringing iPhone to infotainment; I’ve used it a few times, and firmly believe it’s the future of infotainment, an article will be coming soon. A single digilog screen sits atop the center console, displaying anything from oil and transmission temperatures to the ALA system operation.

To conclude, Huracan Performante is by far my favorite Lamborghini. It looks the best without being extravagant, feels the best without compromising daily driveability, and is by miles the fastest ever made. It’s really about time brand finally backs up those outrageous looks with equivalent performance.

2018 Bentley Continental GT: WOW

The previous generation Bentley Continental GT was not a favorite of mine; The exterior design was questionable, the technology from the stone age, the dynamics quite sluggish. Despite this disappointment of a car, I refused to give up on the brand; The flagship Mulsanne is the forefront of its class; The Bentayga is the greatest SUV ever made, and believe me, it’s not even close. Bentley had the DNA to make the Continental GT an incredible car; I severely underestimated their overconfidence.

The new Continental GT is 10 times the old car in every aspect. It’s the new benchmark for luxury, GT dynamics, and most importantly, design. The colors and accents elegant, yet eye – catching; The proportions larger, yet more refined; The presence, undeniably and overwhelmingly Bentley.

A heavily revised 6.0 L twin turbocharged W12 propels the beast, now with a fully aluminum engine block and cylinder heads for weight savings. Placement is lower and further back in the chassis, resulting in a 55% front weight bias. This gives the vehicle a much better center of gravity, immensely improving handling over the previous model. Power output is a blistering 626 HP, peak torque is around 664 lb • ft. 0 to 60 MPH rushes up in 3.3 seconds! What else does that? The 2017 Audi R8 V10 Spyder of course. Acceleration continues until 208 MPH, 8 MPH faster than the 707 HP Dodge Charger Hellcat.

These numbers are plain crazy, more so when the 5050 lb curb weight is taken into account. She also the largest brakes fitted to a production car, 16.5 inches in the front, 15 in the rear. A drag coefficient of 0.29 really shows how much a marvel of engineering this car really is, besting economy based architecture such as the Mercedes Benz CLA Class, Ford Focus ST, and all electric Chevrolet Bolt. Nothing leaving the Crewe factory comes cheap; With a starting MSRP of $225 000, the Continental GT is no exception.

A major highlight of the Continental GT was it’s joint development with another well known Volkswagen subsidiary by the name of Porsche. The Continental shares quite a lot with the revised Panamera, be it the new Volkswagen MSB frame, or the phenomenal 8 speed PDK dual clutch transmission, the first ever for a Bentley product. It offers smooth imperceptible shifts and lower speeds, and uninterrupted power at higher ones, speaking to the energetic nature designers intended for the car. Development of this transmission was so meticulous, that it delayed production for over 6 months.

The main focus of the new Continental lies in the driving dynamics; Engineers were tasked with creating a vehicle more energetic, more youthful, yet still retain that docile Bentley aura. The Continental is definitely more refined and comfortable, but leaps and bounds more athletic; The old model is a boat compared to this Ferrari. This is all thanks to further development of a system debuted in the Bentayga, called Bentley Dynamic Ride. Through the use of a 48 volt battery – motor arrangement and an air compression system, computers are able to completely control the car’s suspension travel, be it softening to mitigate vibration over bumps, or firming to add stability on the track. The computers are so sharp, that they are able to react to conditions in as little as 0.06 seconds.

The Continental GT is available with 4 drive modes; Comfort, sport, Bentley, and custom. Comfort mode, as described by the company, is used for luxurious cruising, softening the suspension, and making gear changes near undetectable for the smoothest possible ride. Sport unleashes this athleticism I keep mentioning to its full potential, retuning the engine for sharper throttle response, tightening the steering and suspension for optimal handling, and decreasing shift times dramatically. Variable exhaust valves open for the premiere of the 12 cylinder opera. Bentley mode is best described as a combination of comfort and sport, while the custom mode allows the driver to configure each setting individually; I’d do loose steering, soft suspension, quicker shifts and response, and of course, open valves; Once you hear those downshift crackles and upshift pops in person, you’ll want to do it to.

So, let’s talk about design, because WOW. I’m a huge fan of the shape; The old one seemed a bit too square, this is the right amount of round; The rear flares speak to its muscular nature. The colors are vivid, yet sleek, sequin blue was love at first sight. The chrome accenting is plentiful, yet elegant; It looks expensive, but not overbearing.

She lights the road with an 82 LED matrix system, dubbed due to their appearance, “crystal headlights”. Don’t be fooled, these headlights are both form and function. LEDs warm up instantaneously, and offer the whitest brightest light output in the market; I was quick to make the switch with the Crysler. The matrix system allows the headlights to shape the beam around oncoming cars, which means the Continental can run the high beam headlights at all times, without blinding oncoming traffic. The outer LEDs have a Bentley “B” embossed into the headlight, it’s the little things that count. LED oval taillights come standard. The grill sits lower and wider, offering greater road presence, better air intake for the motor, and more drag mitigation, maximizing efficiency. An active spoiler deploys at high speed for greater downforce, and dual oval exhausts flank the bumper. The exterior refresh was definitely my favorite part of the car;

However, the interior makes quite a case…

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Je – sus – Christ. My biggest problem with the old car now the best part of the new one. Welcomed are quite a few elements from the Bentayga, the steering wheel and shifter jump out immediately. Leather is everywhere, and deemed by many as the industry benchmark; The highest quality is used on tactile surfaces, while the lesser on parts barely used or seen. There are tons of standard colors to choose from, and through customization service Mulliner, you can go pretty wild if desired. The center console is lined with buttons and switches, a welcome feature in minimalist bound industry. Frequently used buttons are aluminum and diamond “knurled”, I quite enjoyed their feeling in the Bentayga. Woods are stored in temperature controlled rooms in the factory for optimal humidity, and good God does it work magic. Everything is handcrafted; The human touch is a luxury nowadays, especially one of this caliber.

Let’s talk technology. Naim makes a 2200 watt system, exclusively for Bentley, which is the most powerful stereo in the automotive industry. A 12.3 inch touchscreen sits front and center that is able to display up to three functions simultaneously. Apple CarPlay, a system allowing easier use of iPhone applications while driving, comes standard. An optional $6270 rotating display can hide the screen, showing a strip of veneer when the car is off, or three analog gauges under operation, shown below;

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That has to be the sleekest thing you’ve ever seen in a car, I know it is for me. It’s reminiscent of Bugatti’s analog speedometer, appreciated nostalgia in a heavily digitized age. As expected, Volkswagen products know how to do a digital dash (read my article on Audi’s Virtual Cockpit here); Bentley is no exception;

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Remarkable, isn’t it? The optional night vision system is front and center here, allowing the driver to see 300 meters ahead, through the use of infrared radiation. The camera also offers object detection, it has identified some sort of animal above. That’s my kind of safety right here.

Some final points, I expect to see a 4.0 L twin turbo V8 in the near future, possibly the version currently in the Bentayga; 66% of buyers opted for this engine with the previous generation. Personally, I think this car needs a W12; There’s no doubt that the engineers immensely improved the athleticism and handling, but it’s still a big grand touring coupé; The silky W12 smoothness just suits the nature of the car. The community knew that the next Bentley GT would be big; The company ended up making something continental.