The tenth edition of the famous celebration of Porsche’s air-cooled past took place at the weekend, when Los Angeles welcomed home Luftgekühlt 8.
(Feature for Porsche Newsroom)
When it comes to car culture, southern California supplies enthusiasts equally with variety and passion. From low riders and hot rods to sports cars, the region has something for everyone, and parking lots fill every weekend with purists and creatives showing off their four-wheeled treasures while admiring the tastes of friends old and new. This past weekend, Los Angeles hosted Luftgekühlt 8, a very special air-cooled gathering pulled together by Jeff Zwart, of Pikes Peak fame, the Le Mans-winning driver Patrick Long, and Howie Idelson.
With its origins rooted in LA, Sunday’s meeting at CRAFTED at the Port of Long Beach was something of a homecoming for “Luft,” as it has become known. Set in and around a pair of 1940s-era warehouses formerly used as a holding point for shipping companies, the tenth installment featured pristine examples of historic racing cars and museum-quality machines among more humble offerings driven in by local owners.
Crowds at the sell-out event mingled among highlights including a 1956 550A Spyder, a 934/5 crafted by Canepa, several 1970s Carrera RS examples, a few custom creations from California-based designers and builders, and a handful of endurance race winners covering Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona.
Hundreds more models, spanning the sports car manufacturer’s rich 74-year history, were spread out in creative arrangements that not only displayed the brand’s lineage, but ensured an Instagram-friendly feast for keen photographers.
A naked 356 chassis formed part of a display by Porsche Classic, which showcased its parts and services for owners looking to restore their cars. The new book by Type7, Type7 Volume 3, also made its US debut, with editor-in-chief Ted Gushue signing copies.
And dozens of food trucks – a staple of LA – kept the tens of thousands who attended well-nourished, with a menu as colourful and eclectic as the cars on show. After the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and 2021 was limited in size, Luftgekühlt 8 proved that there is an appetite for more than good food in California – and that Porsche people know how to party.
The Carrera S power figures may not jump off the page, but it’s a potent Porsche. Dropping the top makes this 992 even better.
Since 1982, the 911 Cabriolet has been a staple in the Porsche lineup. An open-air version of the iconic Carrera, the Cabriolet has continually moved upmarket with price, size, and performance. In the new 992 generation, figures have gone up in all those aforementioned categories, but this new Cabriolet still maintains the distinct profile of the 911, and retains a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine tucked behind the rear axle.
Having owned and reviewed several Porsche models over the years, I am striving to take more opportunities to review more of Porsche’s 992 models. Like I felt when I reviewed the base 718 Cayman last year, the Carrera S doesn’t get enough attention from enthusiast drivers who seek bigger power figures. With an extended trip in California to cover Monterey Car Week and do a few reviews in Los Angeles, Porsche set me up with the Carrera S Cabriolet for an extensive test on some of my favorite roads.
THE IMPORTANT STATS
The Porsche 911’s all-new 992 variant has been on the road for three years, and much like previous generations, there are more 911 model offerings than you can count on all your fingers and toes combined. With coupe, targa, and cabriolet options for the rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, most with either a manual or PDK automatic gearbox available, Porsche also has several levels of power output and performance to satisfy any driver on any road or circuit.
The Carrera S Cabriolet I tested is a tick above the base drop-top model, boasting a bit more power, with the rear-wheel-drive, PDK, and sport chrono options selected, so I’ll stick to its figures. In Carrera S trim, the 992 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter at-six that produces 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, both of which are healthy increases over the 991.2 generation. Through a new 8-speed PDK, this Carrera S Cabriolet can sprint from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 190 MPH, making it 0.4 seconds and 1 MPH faster than its predecessor. Porsche attributes much of the performance improvements to optimized combustion from the engine in addition to new turbochargers, the new 8-speed PDK (with better gear ratio progression), and revised engine cooling.
While proportions have increased for the 992 over the 991, Porsche has gone to great lengths to minimize weight gains, utilizing more aluminum in the Carrera Cabriolets chassis and body to keep the curb weight down to 3,537 pounds. This new platform also now sports wider fender flares all-around, with all models getting S-body curves. The 992 Cabriolet also benefits from a new soft top that is lighter with faster operation up and down, optimized rollover protection, and a new power-folding wind deflector to keep the cabin quiet when cruising with the top down.
Base price for the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet is $127,900. Interior options include Bordeaux and black leather, aluminum trim, and the premium package that adds upgraded Bose audio, ambient lighting, dynamic headlights, surround view (for parking), extra storage, and 18-way adaptive and ventilated front seats. Also fitted are the extended range fuel tank and front axle lift for greater usability, and on the performance front Porsche supplied 20″/21″ wheels, rear axle steering, and the sport chrono package that equips a sport exhaust system, lower PASM adaptive suspension, and enables quicker response and acceleration with launch control. Added up, this GT Silver tester hit a total MSRP of $157,270 after destination.
SURPRISINGLY CIVIL CONVERTIBLE
Open-air driving is exceptional in the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet, with a near-silent power soft top that tucks away in just 12 seconds, at speeds up to 31 MPH. If you’re going to drive at speeds above 45 MPH, engage the power operated rear wind deflector–which pops up in just 2 seconds–to cancel out any turbulent air. Even with the screen tucked away, the cockpit is surprisingly quiet. Spending several days cruising the streets and trac-filled freeways of Los Angeles, I got to experience how livable the 992 Cabriolet is.
Composure in the 992 Cabriolet is on-par with the sublime grand touring experience behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental or Aston Martin DB11. For being a sportscar that grew up over the past couple generations, this new Carrera Cabriolet is comfortable in any driving condition, whether you’re boulevard cruising or canyon slaying. The Porsche Active Suspension Management system is compliant yet responsive, and the adaptive dampers relieve any bumps you might feel in the cabin when gliding along in the comfort drive mode. With what I consider to be the best electric-assisted steering setup on the market, Porsche gives the 992 S Cab’s rack smooth response without feeling numb on-center and not too articially boosted when you give it some quick inputs.
Concealed beneath vertical slats of the engine cover is the turbocharged flat-six that provides plenty of response when you stab the throttle, while being composed during normal applications. I’ll admit I did more daily driving with the sport exhaust’s throatier mode engaged with a tap of the dash-mounted button, because that sound was addictive. Even while utilizing this louder exhaust setting and being a fun driver around town, I still achieved an average of 19 MPGs (compared to the EPA estimates of 18/23/20). Denitely opt for the extended range fuel tank, which bumps capacity from 16.9 to 23.7 gallons and dramatically improves fuel range on road trips.
The 992 Cabriolet’s cockpit is all-new, compared to the 991 generation, carrying over the new dash and center console design you recognize in Porsche models like the Panamera and Macan. Definitely an upgrade that makes the 992 as refined as much more expensive grand tourers, the new look still retains Porsche’s classic central analog tachometer that’s now flanked by digital screens that can host a pair of circular dials or a combination of custom displays.
Updated gear selection for the PDK is done with a tiny joystick that frees up space, but it takes a hint of adjustment if you’ve driven earlier 911 generations. Fortunately through all these improvements and updates–and dierent from other Porsche models–the 911 Cabriolet still has plenty of physical controls on the dash to adjust the audio system, drive modes, exhaust, suspension, and seat heating or ventilation.
Front seats are fantastic for long drives, and still keep you nicely planted in the bends when you want to play. On a cooler night, I loved how quickly the seat heaters cranked up to warm my buns. When I was cranking away fun miles in the canyons on a hot day, the ventilation function was ice cold and blew hard. Carrying over the frunk space of the last generation 911, the 992 still has a massive cargo space up front that can easily swallow two carry-on roller bags and a backpack, making travel easy whether you’re driving across the country or making a quick run to the airport.
PERFORMANCE YOU EXPECT FROM PORSCHE
Don’t mistake this 911’s daily driving civility for softness when it’s time to play in the canyons, as the 992 S Cabriolet has capabilities ready to pounce in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t expecting the Carrera S Cabriolet to feel as sharp and performance-oriented as the 718 GT4 I drove at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles, but was impressed with its dynamics. Through extensive playtime along the canyon roads of Malibu and the Angeles National Forest, the 992 S Cabriolet exhibited some serious performance traits.
Considering the torsional rigidity took a hit by losing the roof, the Carrera S Cabriolet still felt planted and condent when I gave it long days of thrashing, and not once did I feel like the open-top chassis was compromised. Credit given to Porsche for keeping this nicely-appointed convertible’s curb weight to around 3,500 pounds, allowing the 992 S Cabriolet to still feel light on its feet.
In addition to the usual comfort, sport, and sport plus drive modes, Porsche now offers an individual setup in the Carrera S Cabriolet, allowing you to dial in your happy settings. For my hardcore canyon driving, I configured the engine in sport plus, chassis in sport, made sure the exhaust was open, and told 992’s stability control to take the day off. To have the most fun and engagement, I suggest utilizing the manual shift feature of Porsche’s new lightning-fast PDK transmission, even if the steering wheel-mounted paddles are a bit on the small side.
Scoff at the 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft figures, and you’ll quickly be silenced by the 992 S Cabriolet’s performance as it unleashes linear turbocharged acceleration out of tight bends, making any straightaway disappear as you surge toward the next set of corners. With the peak torque at your disposal from 2,300 to 5,000 RPM, the Carrera S Cabriolet allows for smooth pulls in any of the eight forward gears. I get to test all sorts of fast cars, and never was I wanting for more power in the 992 S Cab.
When a certain section of the Angeles Crest opens up a mile-long arrow-straight stretch, I pressed the 992’s sport response button–mounted within the drive mode knob–to release 20 seconds of increased engine power and transmission calibrations. This button also served as a nice push-to-pass feature when I needed to quickly get around a slow moving hiker ignoring every turnout in sight while they were driving to a campground.
Steering is magnificent in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Razor sharp response and epic connectivity to the pavement are better than I’ve felt in many performance cars. Feedback is translated through a steering wheel that boasts the perfect diameter and rim thickness, enabling wonderful feedback to your fingers. Sporting reasonably-sized 245mm wide front and 305mm rear Pirelli P Zero tires, the 992 S Cabriolet doesn’t dart around at all, and the tail end is able to slide ever so slightly while maintaining its composure. The P Zero may be a tire I often complain about, but they got the job done with this 992 Carrera S Cabriolet when I dished out some harder flogging sessions, and didn’t get too angry when their temps moved upward.
A common Porsche characteristic, braking is exceptional in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Even with the signature Porsche red calipers mounted over steel rotors, this 992 took my hard inputs and long durations of fun driving like a champ. Porsche still offers its fantastic carbon ceramic rotors paired with yellow calipers, for lower unsprung weight and less fade over harder sessions, but the steels easily kept up with my comprehensive evaluation.
THE REALLY GOOD THINGS
The design language of the 992 is lovely. The new circular headlamp housings, LED light strip across the width of the tail end that connects to the taillights, and wide, curvy rear hips make the 992 look like a modern interpretation of the iconic air-cooled 993. Overall proportions may have increased versus the 991, but this new 911 looks amazing, and the Cabriolet’s lines actually work when sitting next to a coupe model.
Cockpit noise is remarkably low. I made a few phone calls with the top down on a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, and with the windows up, the person on the other end had no idea I was driving with the top down. I also love the front axle lift system that will now prompt you to store the location and automatically raise the nose when you pull into a steep driveway any other time.
When the 992 was released, Porsche introduced a new rain driving mode that automatically detects moisture and splashing sounds in the wheel well. If the 911 senses rain conditions, it will suggest the driver makes the wet mode selection that adapts the Carrera’s traction suspension, aerodynamics, and engine responsiveness to better manage control during inclement conditions.
While retaining physical buttons rather than capacitive touch controls seen in other luxury cars, the 992 Cab has programmable steering wheel button to engage various settings and quick controls. I appreciate still having individual toggle switches for the exhaust, suspension, and axle lift, for quick adjustments on the fly.
A COUPLE TINY NEGATIVES
Because of the fixed roof and large rear window from the coupe no longer being present, rearward visibility in the 992 Carrera Cabriolet is somewhat compromised if you aren’t a taller driver. The soft top’s cool movement and storage mechanism had to go somewhere, and I think this is a fair trade.
The back seats are still laughably tiny, and are better suited to hosting a toddler’s car seat or your backpack rather than any people that need to put their legs somewhere. At least the back seats more than double cargo capacity if you end up stashing loads of gear in the front storage area.
In redesigning the center console and dash, Porsche also fitted new cupholders to the 992, with the driver one smack dab in the middle of the center console. If you opt for a manual transmission, the 992’s new fixed cupholder will be in your way. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, seeing how low Porsche manual transmission take rate is.
IT’S HARD TO FIND A BETTER ALL-AROUND 911
I had to constantly remind myself I was in a more civil variant of the 992 when I tested this Carrera S Cabriolet. Its performance was easily above expectations, and excelled during my more enthusiastic canyon driving days. The Carrera S Cabriolet is fast, agile, and still provides a driving experience you expect from the iconic Porsche 911.
At a base price of $127,000, the 911 S Cab has definitely increased over the past two generations, now out of reach for some buyers of earlier models, but what you get for that money is something special. Porsche has moved the 911 up in class against some grand touring competition, rather than against more conventional sports cars. When comparing the Carrera S Cabriolet’s worth against new rivals, it exhibits great value and performance. The Carrera S also performs about as well as earlier generation Turbo models.
Porsche offers several 911 variants with more power and torque, but if you’re upgrading from a 997 or earlier generation, this 992 Carrera S powerplant is more power than you’ll ever need. 443 horsepower is plenty of juice to get you into trouble, and more than sufficient to make any spirited canyon driving a purely joyous experience. Pair the 992’s driving experience with an open-air cockpit on a gorgeous day, and the Carrera S Cabriolet is the best way to experience a new Porsche 911.
The McLaren Sports Series swan song, this GT4 race car plays on the street.
No stranger to racing events and local track days, McLaren offers a strong selection of road cars that will slay any circuit they invade. When you think of track day road cars, immediately you gravitate toward the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista, or Lamborghini Huracan Performante. The thing is that those monsters spotted at your favorite track day are based on road cars, rather than racing cars. McLaren wanted to do things differently.
Long in the tooth is McLaren’s Sports Series lineup, dating back to the 570S which first arrived in 2015. With a few updates and versions with more power (like the 600LT), in addition to Spider variants and a fantastic grand tourer built on the platform, McLaren’s entry-level machine has had a good run. To send the Sports Series off, ahead of the new Artura’s arrival, McLaren decided to make a track special model that’s legal on the street.
Rather than starting with a traditional road-going variant of the 570S or 600LT, McLaren went wild, and decided to make a limited-run model based on its popular GT4 racer. It’s called the 620R, and as soon as you see it, you know this car isn’t messing about. While retaining the DNA of McLaren’s most successful GT race car, the 620R isn’t held back by restrictions imposed upon typical race cars. Rather than heading to the track to examine its worth, I stuck to public roads to see how well this race car for the street got on.
THE RACY SPECS AND HARDWARE
Utilizing the same M838TE 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine used in the McLaren 570 GT4, the unrestricted 620R pumps out 611 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a revised ECU and turbocharging management system. With engine mapping focused on delivering optimal lap times rather than achieving a high top speed, and employing stiffer powertrain mounts on the 7-speed Seamless Shift Gearbox, the rear-wheel-drive 620R hits a top speed of 200 MPH. Acceleration from 0-60 is just 2.8 seconds, with 0-124 MPH in just 8.1, and the 620R can complete a 1/4-mile sprint in as little as 10.4 seconds.
Since the McLaren 620R is based on the 570 GT4, it gets loads of goodies the road-going Sports Series models don’t have access to. Under its lightweight carbon skin, the McLaren 620R employs motorsport wishbones, uprights, anti-roll bars, and manually-adjustable dampers, to drop weight while toughening the chassis for optimal grip. The 620R is still built upon McLaren’s Monocell II carbon fiber chassis, but with less interior fabric and insulation, its curb weight drops to an astonishing 3,067 pounds.
Ignoring plenty of practical and comfortable features, the 620R makes no excuses as it emphasizes performance. The interior is devoid of anything involving NVH. There are no carpets, and there’s no insulation in the doors nor between all the interior panels. Colin Chapman dreams of this sort of light-weighting. Seats are pulled from the McLaren Senna, and weigh less than the cheeseburger you ate for lunch. Conventional 3-point seat belts are fitted for street driving, 6-point racing harnesses are a no-cost option for when you’re ripping up the track, and because your reach is a bit limited when you’re strapped in, McLaren was smart to fit a pull strap on the door handles and raise the center console a bit more toward you. Although stashing the fire extinguisher in the front cargo compartment wasn’t the wisest decision, if you’re in trouble at the track.
McLaren’s IRIS infotainment system is another no-cost option, with an extra USB and microphone port ready for your racing gear and coaching software embedded with the 620R’s track telemetry and three-camera system. The 620R can also be equipped with McLaren’s $4,410 optional–and exceptional–Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Cupholders are gone, as is the pocket in the front of the seat cushion to hide your key. Thankfully there are small pocket nets in each of the dihedral doors, if you need to tuck any small items away.
Storage space in the McLaren 620R is reduced by the carbon fiber bonnet and its twin nostrils that aid downforce and clean up the airflow over the top of the car. Thankfully the bonnet is still functional, and there’s just enough room to tuck away your fire suit and helmet. McLaren offers a $570 car cover and $570 charger for the lithium-ion battery when storing your 620R on days you are driving one of your other cars.
Only three exterior colors are available on the 620R, and are inspired by GT4 race cars – McLaren Orange (with white racing stripes), Silica White (orange stripes) or Onyx Black (orange stripes). Each color can be optioned with race number decals and/or partner decals. If those selections don’t please your needs, there are endless combinations available in the MSO palette.
McLaren Special Operations offers plenty of pricy upgrades inside and out, and the 620R I tested had the awesome carbon fiber roof scoop fitted (free of charge), in addition to $12,080 carbon fiber louvres in the front fenders that allow wheel wheel air pressure to release while adding downforce through the fenders, $4,370 exposed carbon fiber side sills, and massive carbon door inserts that make the profile of the 620R look extra cool at a cost of $7,670. Add these and a few other options to the base price of $275,250 (about $20,000 more than the more civil McLaren 600LT, but still about $25,000 less than the 720S), and the McLaren 620R I tested hit a total MSRP of $312,605 after destination.
REMARKABLY COMPLIANT IN THE CITY
Let’s not kid ourselves. The McLaren 620R is not going to be your daily driver, but it’s good to know this machine isn’t completely brutal on the street. Climate control is available as a no-cost option, and if you want to play on public roads on the weekends or on the way to a circuit, I highly suggest paying for the $1,950 adaptive suspension I praised in the McLaren GT I recently reviewed. Don’t be too careless over bumps and potholes, or the 620R will remind you just how low its ride height is. Thankfully you can engage the front axle lift when you’re pulling into a steeper driveway, but the extended front lip spoiler is begging to scrape.
Keep the McLaren 620R’s powertrain and handling knobs in their normal positions, and this track-hardened McLaren is comfortable while still immensely responsive. Throttle response is manageable without being overly sensitive like you’d expect in a race car. Even during normal throttle applications the twin-turbo V8 has no trouble reminding you that you’re engaging over 600 horsepower as you apply your right foot. The roof scoop makes epic whooshing noises that add an element to the driving experience few supercars can match, and because McLaren gave it a cool split design as it plunges toward the engine, it doesn’t eliminate the rear window view. Unfortunately the massive fixed rear wing–raised 12 inches above the tail end of the 620R–does that instead.
Steering feel is sharp and somewhat light in the normal handling mode, aided by a good electric boost, but there’s nothing artificial in the sensations you feel through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that’s devoid of any buttons or controls on its spokes. Equipped with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, you won’t want to take the McLaren 620R for a spin during any chilly nor rainy conditions, and the only option for rubber are Pirelli racing slicks, but only for track use. Despite its racing focus, the 620R actually has more positive brake pedal feel around town, with less of the dead travel I’ve experienced in other McLaren models.
Since McLaren focused on shaving weight, the 620R’s cabin is downright loud. The center console will buzz at lower RPMs, especially when idling at a stoplight, and if you toss your phone in the console’s pocket as you drive, it will rattle annoyingly. I decided to keep my phone in my pocket and stream music via bluetooth, rather than plugging it in. Speaking of music, the IRIS infotainment system is the same as you get in other McLaren models, which is hard to see if you wear polarized sunglasses, and it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto installed. At least there’s satellite radio and bluetooth streaming available, and the optional Bowers & Wilkins system is fantastic way to drown out any cabin noises.
Slipping into the McLaren 620R is not graceful, thanks to the extra wide sills of the carbon fiber monocoque and the carbon fiber bucket seats’ big bolsters. If you don’t love the Senna seats, you can opt for normal seats for added comfort. I like the look and function of the lightweight buckets, even if they could use a hint of lumbar support for my busted old back. I still think Porsche makes the best carbon seats in any production car, but the McLaren ones are damn good at what they’re intended to do, and look fantastic.
What surprised me is how composed the 620R is as an all-around driver in the city. Sure, it’s loud inside, and that’s because of its focus, but I was expecting a back-breaking experience around city streets, and remarkably it wasn’t. Even if it was a little harsh, I didn’t care so long as the McLaren 620R kicked ass when I ditched the city in search of twisty roads.
ATTACKING FUN ROADS
Any mild annoyances I may have had with the McLaren 620R on the street are quickly dismissed by a session along a twisty back road. In this environment, the 620R is a weapon. Engage the drive mode selection knobs to put the handling in sport, the engine in track, and only if you’re a bit talented behind the wheel, tap the ESC button once to engage the dynamic mode to unleash this beast’s fury. The instrument cluster switches over to the track setting, with a cool rev counter that arches over the cluster and shift lights as the RPMs quickly climb.
The suspension firms up, but the ride quality isn’t sketchy. Slip angle from ham-fisted steering inputs is pronounced, with a tail-end allowed to dance in ESC dynamic, so keep your hands smooth on that Alcantara wheel with its red 12 o’clock mark. I appreciate the added steering weight when in the faster handling modes too. What’s astonishing is how well the McLaren 620R manages weight transfer in S-curves and through fast transitions. Because it’s barely 3,000 pounds, the 620R isn’t shuffling loads of weight, allowing its suspension to easily cope and shift damping at each corner while you switch directions. If you’re some idiot amateur who’s pretending to be a racing driver, this racy McLaren will expose your lack of talent, and you’ll end up in a ditch… or worse.
Giving the 620R the beans in the engine’s track mode is as exciting to the ears as it is to your pulse. McLaren’s Inertia Push technology builds flywheel energy to create a burst of torque when you feel a perfect click from the extended shift paddle as you engage a higher gear, giving the 620R a more dramatic acceleration sensation. When you’re in the sport powertrain mode, the McLaren 620R delivers a cool “crack” sound during upshifts, created by a split-second cut of the ignition spark, and I loved this experience. Spend a chunk more cash, and McLaren will install a titanium exhaust that drops even more weight while opening up more roars as you stab the throttle.
While it would have been cool to test the adjustable racing suspension, which features 32 clicks of adjustment per corner for compression and rebound rates, but I’m glad this tester was equipped with the adaptive system that’s more appropriate for the street. Able to compute more calibrations as surface conditions and driving inputs quickly adjust, this setup gobbled up bumpy farm-to-market roads with ease, and helped eliminate any hint of body roll through fast turns. The semi-slick Pirelli Trofeo Rs were fantastic at sticking to the pavement, happily exercising as I dished out abuse over some hot Texas days. If you plan to track your 620R, you might want to tick the slick tire option box to fully embrace its performance.
Standard carbon ceramic rotors–measuring 15.3 inches up front and 14.9 inches rear– benefit from the McLaren Senna’s brake booster, shortening pedal travel while giving precise bite when needing to eliminate huge speeds and dissipate lots of surface heat. The McLaren orange calipers were a cool optional touch too, painted on 6-piston front and 4-piston rears. When put to the test, the 620R’s brakes can pull it from 124 MPH to a dead stop in 379 feet, and can scrub from 62 MPH to a static position in just 96 feet.
Stitching together good driving inputs with both your hands and feet is rewarded in the McLaren 620R, as its balance is wonderful as speeds increase, allowing the extra aero kit to put in work. That massive front lip and ducting for the frunk scoops direct loads of air over the front end, and the carbon diveplanes along the sides of the front bumper make sure your nose is stuck into every bend. The massive rear wing is adjustable, depending how much downforce you want from it, and the huge rear diuser makes sure all the air that’s rushing through the 620R is ensuring supreme lateral stability. In total, McLaren says the 620R produces 408 pounds of downforce across its bodywork at 155 MPH. I may or may not be able to validate these claims.
FREAKY IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS
Unlike a Porsche 911 GT3 or Ferrari Pista, the 620R isn’t a comfortable city car to occasionally take to the track. McLaren designed the 620R to be excellent in forceful driving conditions, rewarding the talented driver who pushes it to the limit. It’s a hardcore supercar that wants to be thrashed, yet has more capabilities than you’re used to. It doesn’t want to be civil. It wants to slay.
If you want a more compliant supercar for less cash, the McLaren GT is remarkable, holds way more luggage than any supercar should be allowed to, and will provide an exceptionally comfortable driving experience in the McLaren Sports Series package. If you want a ton of performance, and are willing to spend a lot more cash, the 720S is the way to go.
For an intense driving experience that’s focused on destroying canyon roads and circuits, a McLaren 620R is a fantastic way to get an obscenely fast toy that won’t have you looking like every other dude that shows up at a track day. McLaren’s Sports Series is getting replaced by the upcoming Artura, with an all-new hybrid V6 powertrain, but the 620R is one fine way to send off this epic supercar platform.
A New Generation Of The Iconic Hot Hatch Has Arrived, But How Good Is It?
For decades, the Volkswagen GTI has enjoyed being the go-to hot hatch for enthusiast drivers who crave a fun, practical car. Arriving in Europe in 1976, and landing on U.S. shores in 1983, the GTI has been a massive success for longer than I’ve been alive. Growing up from a truly inexpensive, basic, and peppy little three-door hatchback, VW has kept it real, making reasonable upgrades with regard to power and features in the GTI over the previous seven generations. When I tested the Mk7 GTI two years ago, I looked at it as a sendoff for what I considered the best generation of the model’s extensive history.
With this new eighth generation, VW has given the GTI a full makeover, with a bump in power output while receiving fresh exterior looks and a redesigned, more tech-focused interior that brings the hot hatch into the current decade. VW has a good group of competitors aiming to take its spot atop the hot hatch throne, with Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota in the mix. Thankfully the hot hatch market is still a healthy one, but is the VW GTI still the right one to buy? I took a week-long test to sort that out.
The Useful Specs
The 2022 VW GTI packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque (up 13 and 15 ticks over the Mk7 GTI, respectively), giving it an advantage over the updated Honda Civic Si I reviewed earlier this year. With your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG, this tester was equipped with the two-pedal setup. The Mk8 GTI can sprint from 0-60 in 5.1 seconds, which is about 0.7 seconds quicker than the last generation. Top speed is still limited to 155 MPH, which no one should ever try to hit in a little hatchback.
Built on Volkswagen’s long-used MQB modular platform, the GTI shares its underpinnings with several fun compact VAG models. With a full slate of touch-ups to the suspension and chassis, VW claims this new generation of the GTI is more composed yet more capable in the corners. Making several design changes with the body, the Mk8 GTI also looks a bit more upmarket while offering some striking angles. The cockpit receives plenty of changes too, giving the GTI a more modern take on the hot hatch cabin you’ve been familiar with for ages.
Offering three trim levels, VW added a bit more standard equipment to the base S trim, with the SE and Autobahn trim levels still available as the price increases in reasonable chunks. The base price of the GTI S starts at $29,880, SE models begin at $34,630, and the Autobahn has an MSRP of $38,330. The test model VW sent me is the SE trim level, painted a fantastic shade of Kings Red, with Titan Black–and plaid–cloth interior, optioned with the 7-speed DSG (an $800 option), which hits a total MSRP of $36,485.
The Enjoyable City Hatchback
It should come as no surprise that the Mk8 GTI is a great city car that can serve a small family nicely while being a fun weekender. With the standard Golf no longer in the VW lineup, the GTI is the only hatchback from the German manufacturer offered to Americans, with the push for people to buy the Taos crossover. VW also axed the 3-door GTI option, with the 5-door being the only way to take this hot hatch home, which is the practical option for most people.
Sticking to its roots, the Mk8 GTI makes any boring commute or errand run more entertaining. As the car market has cranked up engine specs to levels few people can truly handle, the GT packs enough juice under to satisfy your thirst for fun. Sneaking in and out of slower traffic is definitely enjoyable in this new GTI, and never was I thinking it was lacking power. VW’s refinements to the GTI’s suspension make it cope with bumpy downtown streets with ease while still offering good feedback. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/34/28, and I managed 27 MPGs during my week with the GTI. Not bad considering I was driving it with more fun intended, rather than trying to optimize efficiency.
Updating the styling of the GTI was done perfectly. Sharper lines are done tastefully, and the new headlight housings add a hint of anger to the package. The Mk8’s wheelbase matches the previous generation, at 103.6 inches, but the overall length bumps up to 168.8 inches. At 57.6 inches high and 70.4 inches wide, a more planted look is given to the Mk8 GTI, met with wide front air intakes at the front and a punchier shoulder line. Sporty 18-inch wheels complete the refreshed GTI’s look wonderfully without looking too busy.
With proportions that fit four people and their stuff, the new GTI might be small next to traffic filled with crossovers, but it’s perfectly sized for reasonable people. The updated seats look the part of a modern hot hatch, while the plaid pattern in the center material gives a nod to GTIs of yesteryear. The front buckets definitely keep you in place when playful driving happens, with lateral support nicely designed where it’s needed. Cargo space isn’t massive, so don’t expect to take a family of four on a road trip with the Mk8 GTI, but the hatch will easily carry a week’s groceries and handle a few roller bags.
A new cabin design theme adds a more tech-heavy setup, with a new 10-inch infotainment screen commanding your attention in the center console. VW gives the new system Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are frankly better to use than the native software. Screen taps and swipes are a little on the slow side, which isn’t great for this new system. The all-digital instrument cluster is a nice upgrade compared to the somewhat basic analog dials in the Mk7 I reviewed, with all sorts of ways to configure your GTI’s ideal display. Digital controls make their way to the steering wheel too, which don’t have any feedback when using them, and are easy to accidentally tap when turning the wheel.
My biggest gripes with this new setup are divided between the lack of a volume knob–opting for a digital slider instead–and the same style of buttons for the climate control. Neither of these are backlit, so making adjustments at night is a complete guessing game. Why VW overlooked illuminating these controls is a mystery, and losing physical temperature buttons or a volume knob is something too many OEMs are doing to otherwise good cars.
Playing In The Twisty Stuff
Escape the daily grind, and seek your nearby curvy farm-to-market routes, because that’s where VW’s eighth-generation GTI shines. Opt for the sport drive mode, and the GTI quickens its pulse without feeling too feisty. I liked the custom drive mode to let the suspension feel a little smoother, but even the sport setting wasn’t too firm when I gave the GTI a good flogging. The turbocharged engine doesn’t exhibit much lag at all, and the throttle response is steady and direct. Exhaust notes from the GTI aren’t the most inspired, but it’s not too boring either. I’d also like a bit more real noise from the tailpipe rather than some fake tones sneaking through the cabin speakers.
While most GTI buyers will opt for the DCT, to reduce the effort needed to motor around, VW still offers a slick-shifting manual for the purist. Being an analog driving experience fan, I have no complaints with the dual-clutch ‘box in this Mk8 GTI, with a stubby little shifter like Porsche uses for the 992 with a PDK. Hooked up to an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential that adds to grip and confidence in the corners, the front-wheel-drive GTI doesn’t exhibit the usual torque-steer twitch typically felt in front-drive cars equipped with a mechanical LSD. When providing quick steering inputs, the Mk8 feels smooth and precise, as one would expect from this iconic hot hatch. Brake feel was a bit on the soft side, but never did I feel like the GTI wasn’t equipped with enough braking power to control and scrub speed as needed.
VW threw a ton of suspension upgrades at the Mk8 GTI, and compared to the Mk7 I love, this new generation feels more compliant yet easier to stuff into a fast bend. 225/40/18 H-rated Pirelli P Zero All Season rubber is definitely the limiting factor in truly unlocking the fun times behind the wheel of the Mk8 GTI. Damping is great, considering the S and SE trim levels stick with traditional dampers. If you want adaptive dampers, you’ll have to spend a bit more cash for the Autobahn trim, which also gets leather seats and a few other comfort upgrades in the cabin, but the 19-inch wheels wrapped with summer performance tires are a big advantage. Craving the ultimate performance from your hot hatch? VW still offers a Golf R variant that packs 315 horsepower and all-wheel-drive.
The Popular Hot Hatch Improved, But It Isn’t Perfect
With a history spanning generations of loyal buyers, VW continues to satisfy the demand of an enthusiast driver with the new Mk8 GTI. This iconic hot hatch may be inching its way upmarket while increasing its price, but VW is still delivering a fantastic driving experience in a practical package. Not without gripes in the cabin, thanks to some button-less controls, the new GTI is still a wonderful successor to the Mk7 I praised. The challenge is that the GTI now has some great competition in the form of the Civic Si and Hyundai Veloster N.
Even though it’s down on power versus the GTI, I still prefer the handling dynamics of the new Honda Civic Si I tested, which had sharper steering feedback and more enjoyable sensations in quicker corners. Honda only offers the Si as a sedan, which gives the GTI one advantage in my eyes. The Si also has one of the best feeling shifters currently fitted to any new car, and costs $8,000 less than the GTI SE. With a price that sneaks up near $40,000, the GTI is pricing itself against Honda’s Civic Type-R, which is due for a new generation later this year. However you decide to spend your money, I can easily say you’ll still be happy opting for this new GTI.
The cousin to the Porsche Taycan ticks different boxes, yet still rocks as an enthusiast driver’s electric car.
If you’re in the market for a large electric performance four-door, you have no shortage of options. In a field Tesla enjoyed being the only entrant into for ages, Porsche, Lucid, Mercedes, and Audi have decided to snag good-sized pieces of the pie. With options to suit any driver’s needs for luxury, outright performance, long range, or a special cool factor, electrified speedy sedans are now all over the road.
As if the Volkswagen group didn’t have a strong enough seller with the Porsche Taycan, with its full slate of trim levels and body styles, it decided to throw an Audi option into the mix. Audi’s e-Tron line started with the practical hatchback A3, and later added crossover options, but it didn’t have a sedan. Fixing that problem, Audi introduced the e-Tron GT, which you might recognize from Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame film.
In its standard form the new Audi e-Tron GT is stylish, well-equipped, and properly quick, but for some enthusiasts, that didn’t quite do the trick. To scratch their itch, Audi delivers something a bit more stout, and added its RS badge to the equation. Having tested a bunch of good EVs over the past couple years, I wanted to see what was up with Audi’s new RS e-Tron GT, and was lucky to get one for a week.
The Juiced Specs
Audi packs the RS e-Tron GT with a 93 kWh battery pack that cranks out 590 horsepower in normal conditions, and bumps up to 637 in boost mode, paired with 612 lb-ft of torque. This power output is in between the Porsche Taycan GTS and Turbo variants. With a permanent magnet motor strapped to each axle, a single-speed transmission up front and a two-speed transmission at the rear, Audi connects its quattro all-wheel-drive to propel the RS electric four-door from 0-60 MPH in just 3.1 seconds on the way to a top speed of 155 MPH.
The RS e-Tron GT’s battery pack is set up with an 800V electric architecture, offering DC fast charging. EPA estimates that the RS e-Tron GT can cruise up to 232 miles of range on a full charge (only sacrificing 6 miles compared to the standard e-Tron GT, and offering about 30 more miles than its Porsche cousins), with MPGe estimates of 79/82/81 (city/highway/combined).
Pricing for the standard Audi e-Tron GT starts at $102,000, with the RS variant bumping up to $139,900. with the Year One package optioned (which adds 21-inch wheels with summer tires, laser headlights, black Audi rings and badges, ceramic brakes, loads of carbon fiber trim inside and out, Nappa leather all over the cabin and seats, power steering plus with rear wheel steering), and Tango Red Metallic paint gracing its exterior, this RS e-Tron GT tester hit a total MSRP of $161,890 after destination.
The Fun Way To The Office
Commutes to work and errand runs are a blast in the RS e-Tron GT, and every single person you pass will give it favorable second looks thanks to sharp styling lines that take some cues from Audi’s attractive A7. Quickly I was reminded that this EV has an RS badge slapped on the back, with the batteries ready to dump their energy to shove you past slower moving traffic. Using the steering wheel paddles engages the trio of brake regen modes, which the most aggressive works nicely for one-pedal driving around the city.
I toyed with the individual drive mode in Audi’s Drive Select system, and put the power in the most efficient mode, tightened up the suspension, and calmed the fake engine sounds to enjoy a refined sport sedan that was still ready to strike in an instant. In the comfort drive mode, this e-Tron will feels remarkably composed, with the three-chamber air suspension softening the bumpiest city streets, and neatly masking the 5,100-pound curb weight as I maneuvered around town. Even putting the suspension in its sportier setting doesn’t disrupt ride quality, while sharpening response when you want to be more playful.
Bang & Olufsen provides the audio system to this electric Audi, and they thump nicely with exceptional clarity. Those speakers definitely feed in a variety of propulsion sounds depending on the drive mode, but you’re able to customize this, but I was surprised how much road noise made its way into the cabin. Attribute some of this to the more eco-friendly version of Goodyear’s Eagle F1 rubber fitted to the optional 21-inch wheels.
Seats in this RS model definitely hit the marks for a performance model, but are refreshingly comfortable during longer drives. Having heating, ventilation, and massage modes for the front buckets are great too, although the ventilation fans are quite loud compared to other cars I’ve tested. Stuffing the kids in the back seat of the RS e-Tron GT won’t punish them, but your adult friends will feel cramped in a space that doesn’t offer much more legroom than the smaller Audi RS5 Sportback I drove last summer.
Trunk space is a bit small too, which is a shame for a four-door with such big dimensions. I wish Audi had some sort of wagon option for this fast EV, or at least made this e-Tron a sportback, but imagine the Volkswagen brass didn’t want to cannibalize the Porsche Taycan’s Sport Turismo and Cross Turismo options. If you really need a bunch of boot space from a fast Audi, the RS6 Avant I reviewed–albeit petrol-powered–will be the way to go.
The RS e-Tron GT has a fantastic cockpit design, which is more conventional than the Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S, thankfully filled with physical buttons for all the useful controls. Audi’s virtual cockpit controls the 12-inch instrument display, with plenty of ways to configure your perfect layout and data points. If you’ve spent time in any new Audi in the past few years, you’ll have no trouble getting acclimated to the switches inside the RS e-Tron GT. The steering wheel features the great controls Audi has implemented for nearly two decades, sticking to the “if it ain’t broke…” methodology.
As I’ve praised in other Audis I’ve reviewed in the past couple years, the latest version of MMI is wonderful. Featuring a cool design that’s still intuitive, the high-resolution 10-inch touchscreen is neatly integrated into the dash, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed. There’s also a wireless mobile charging slot vertically hidden in the center armrest. I like how Audi hid a pair of USB-C ports under the center of the rear seat, making it easy for your friends and kids to charge their devices.
Electrified Performance Aplenty
Audi didn’t just smack its RS badge on the back of this EV lightly, because this e-Tron means business when it comes to flogging it along a canyon road. Engage the dynamic drive mode, and this electric performance car adjusts its mood to be a madman. Unleashing the 600+ horsepower results in a savage shove of acceleration, with a noticeable kick from the second gear change from the rear gearbox, and no difficulty planting you firmly into the seat back for the duration of any go pedal application.
While it may not boast silly peak figures like its rivals, the RS e-Tron GT will happily rip from corner to corner, instantly making straightaways disappear. To keep up with its Tesla and Lucid rivals, Audi should probably introduce some sort of wild power package to keep up with those competitors that offer some truly ridiculous peak figures. Not that the power in those models is fully usable, but there are buyers who want that flex and are willing to spend stupid money to acquire it.
An alcantara-wrapped version of the same steering wheel I liked in the RS6 Avant is installed, with the perfect rim thickness to allow for feeling a crisp turn-in. I appreciate the optional power steering plus and rear axle steering fitted to this e-Tron, making cornering wonderfully sharp, seemingly shrinking the size and mass it actually possesses. The Goodyears are good at managing grip in the bends, but do give up a hint of traction in faster corners. I wish there was a tire more focused on outright performance fitted to the RS e-Tron GT instead of one that has a bit of its design meant to improve battery range. That big carbon fiber diffuser out back actually manages airflow nicely, improving stability while cleaning up turbulence to maintain a super slippery 0.24 drag coefficient.
Carbide brake rotors are fitted to the RS e-Tron GT by default, compared to steel ones on the standard model, and the ceramic discs included in the Year One package came in handy. Because the RS e-Tron tips the scales at over 5,000 pounds, any harder back road thrashing session would likely induce some fade in the non-carbon rotors. Initial pedal feedback is lighter than I prefer (especially in one of the less aggressive brake regen modes), but firmer applications will result in a good bit of bite to effortlessly slow this performance EV when approaching a corner.
The Usual EV Demands And Challenges
Because it packs an 800V architecture, the Audi RS e-Tron GT can rapidly charge to get you back on the road. Find a super fast charging point, and Audi says this e-Tron model can juice up from 5% to 80% in as little as half an hour. Like the Porsche Taycan, Audi fits a pair of charing docks to the front fenders of the RS e-Tron GT, with a Level 1 & 2 jack on the left side, and the DC fast charging port on the right side. While having a fast charging setup in the RS e-Tron GT is great, maximizing its capabilities at a public charger isn’t truly likely in the States.
Even though the Volkswagen group has rolled out a decent charging network–thanks to Dieselgate–Electrify America doesn’t have enough charing points within major cities, typically placing them at the edges of metro areas to make longer drives easier to manage. If you want to juice up on EA’s wickedly fast charging points, you’re likely to waste a lot of miles to get to them and back home. The Electrify America points near Austin are far from the city center where I live, stuck with the nearest one being about 30 miles away at an outlet mall.
I’ll concede that buyers who can afford the RS e-Tron GT will likely have a home with a garage paired with the budget to install a fast charger, but public charging infrastructure still has a long way to go to promote real EV adoption growth. Thankfully Audi’s native navigation system allows drivers to search and filter charing station results based on charging speed and availability, which can come in handy if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory.
At 232 miles of maximum range on a full charge, this fast Audi EV doesn’t have miserable range, but it’s not fantastic either. While it has a bit more to offer than its Porsche relatives, Audi needs to give the e-tron GT more range if you want to enjoy it on a road trip. With Tesla offering around 400 miles of range as an option in its Model S, and Lucid stretching range up an astonishing to 520 miles, the game has changed, and this Audi should provide more. Given that most RS e-Tron GT owners will likely stick to their local area and rarely take a long road trip, this EV’s range will probably be fine for them.
The Segment Didn’t Need It, But Audi Supplied A Great Fast EV Anyway
Audi’s e-Tron lineup is only growing, in a time when OEMs need to reduce emissions and improve economy, but thankfully the RS badge is getting added to the mix. Because it lands in the middle of the Porsche Taycan sampling, both in terms of performance and price, the e-Tron’s justification comes down to the sharper appearance and more traditional cockpit layout to get my attention. I imagine Volkswagen is happy to have people considering its fast EV options across multiple manufacturers.
Because the Taycan GTS has a Sport Turismo option (which this wagon lover adores), boasting a bigger cargo area with better access, it gets my vote. If the storage space isn’t a hot ticket item for you, the Audi RS e-Tron GT will be a fantastic performance EV sedan to scoot around the city while being an absolute blast on canyon roads. Should the enthusiast driver not be ready to make the switch to a fully electric car, the less expensive Audi RS6 Avant is still a wonderful dino juice-chugging wagon that’s sitting on the same showroom floor.
The Raptor doesn’t have to be the only good way to take a Ford F-150 off-road.
Resting on its laurels is not something the Ford F-150 is capable of doing. Even though it has been the best selling vehicle in the country for 45 years, the F-Series continues to kick the collective ass of half-ton pickup class. With a different trim level and equipment sampling for all sorts of pickup drivers, the F-150 can satisfy any truck need. While the F-150 has been offered with an FX4 off-road package for some time, it isn’t great for more severe off-road work. For the past several years, F-150 drivers who wanted to take on the most demanding trails were left with one option, in the form of the Raptor. A hardcore pickup that was fitted with all the right kit for blasting any off-road park, the Raptor also carried a price tag to match.
Beating up your budget with its MSRP, and getting marked up wildly at dealers, the F-150 Raptor wasn’t the most approachable pickup to own. Knowing it had to provide something a little easier on the wallet, Ford has introduced the Tremor trim level across its Ranger and F-Series lineups, sporting some goodies for off-road fun, but not going wild with the most rugged gear. The F-150 being the latest to receive the Tremor treatment, it quickly caught my attention. After doing several off-road tests in hardcore vehicles, including the Ford Bronco Badlands I adore, I wanted to see how a full-size Blue Oval model got down.
The Big Stats
Ford offers a bunch of engine options for the F-150, including three different gas V6s, a turbo diesel V6, a 5.0-liter V8, and a hybrid version of the most popular F-Series 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. The F-150 Tremor I tested was fitted with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, so I’ll stick to its figures. In this F-150 Tremor, the EcoBoost V6 produces 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. Also equipped to my tester was a 10-speed automatic and electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive, with two-wheel-drive being the standard driveline for the F-150.
Built on a high-strength steel frame, all current F-150 models feature a high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body. The F-150 has regular cab, super cab, and SuperCrew cabin options, and beds that can measure either 5.5, 6.5, or 8 feet. In the case of the Tremor, Ford ships it in SuperCrew configuration with a 5.5-foot box, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the 10-speed automatic transmission plus standard four-wheel-drive. The F-150 Tremor’s exterior and interior show off a few details that quickly distinguish it next to its F-Series siblings, and underneath there is plenty of off-road ready equipment installed to brush off anyone calling it a mall-crawling poser. I’ll dive into the off-road parts and details later in this review.
The standard F-150 4×4 SuperCrew has a starting price of $49,505, and the Tremor package tacks on an extra $6,065. This Stone Gray Metallic tester also added Ford’s CoPilot 360 Assist 2.0, a power sliding rear window, the 2 kW Pro Power Onboard generator, interior work surface, trailer tow package, partitioned lockable cabin storage, front axle with the Torsen differential, tailgate step, 360º camera package, and Ford’s Toughbed spray-in bedliner to raise the total price to $63,120 after destination. For comparison’s sake, a base level Ford F-150 Raptor starts at just under $70,000.
A Practical Daily Driver
Off-road capabilities might be the emphasis of this Ford F-150’s setup, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a decent truck for your usual commuting and errand running. Even with rugged suspension components and all-terrain tires fitted, the Tremor’s ride quality is surprisingly compliant. Ford’s engineers do a great job of providing steering feel that is responsive yet not too heavy. I was shocked how nimble the Tremor was around the city.
Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is the perfect option for its F-150, with plenty of power and torque across a wide rev range, even if old school truck guys scoff at it being a V6. I tested the 5.0-liter V8 last summer, and liked the noises it makes more than the EcoBoost, but frankly the V6 has better response and torque on-demand. My favorite F-150 engine is the PowerBoost hybrid option, which cranks out even more torque while adding a big bump in fuel economy and range.
Cabin design in the F-150 Tremor is fantastic. The F-150 seats, both front and rear, are massive yet supportive, allowing occupants to ride in complete comfort for several hours. The Tremor seat material has a certain urban camo look to it too. I also like how Ford designed smart storage bins under the rear seats that pop up 60/40. Cupholders are big and deep too, ready to secure your Whatasize drinks.
There isn’t a wasted inch of space inside the F-150, with no shortage of places to stuff away anything you’d want inside, and every single switch and control is right where you think it should be. Proper buttons are used on the steering wheel controls, in addition to the climate system. Ford’s Sync 4 infotainment system’s 12-inch touchscreen is intuitive too, and provides exceptional visibility when backing up and towing, thanks to the 360º camera system.
The Working Class Hero
Upholding the company’s long-running reputation as a pickup that can please any owner on any job site, the F-150 Tremor is a fantastic workhorse. Rather than a bunch of gimmick features, Ford loads the F-150 with tons of useful functions inside and out. Equipped with lockable tie-down points, and the optional Toughbed spray-in bedliner and tailgate step, Ford makes this F-150 Tremor’s bed ready for your gear. In this tester’s setup, the payload capacity is a respectable 1,885 pounds, which makes it ready to handle your dirt bikes, quad, or overlanding camping setup. With the capability of towing up to 10,900 pounds, the F-150 Tremor has no trouble pulling a family’s camper or boat.
When the workplace goes remote, the F-150’s interior can be a mobile office. With a 4G LTE hotspot installed, a 120V/30A outlet next to the climate controls, and the optional interior work surface (which has a power folding feature for the gearshift while allowing the center armrest to fold over to a flat space over the shifter and cupholders) box ticked, the Tremor can be a comfortable place to hammer out some work on your laptop.
Like other F-150 models equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, Ford’s Pro Power Onboard is available with 2.0 kilowatts of exportable power (via a 120V outlet) in the bed for tools, an air compressor, electric chainsaw, or a good assortment of entertainment components at your football tailgate party. If you’re looking for even more power in the bed of the F-150, upgrade to the PowerBoost engine package to get access to the 2.4 kW and 7.2 kW (which upgrades to one 240V and two 120V outlets) onboard generator options. Feel free to take a deeper dive into the Pro Power Onboard specs and capabilities on Ford’s site if you want to know more.
Tackling The Trails
Looking the part of an off-road attacking pickup, Ford gives the F-150 Tremor plenty of kit to make it stand out next to its F-Series brethren. Unique gray matte-finish 18-inch wheels are wrapped with 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires which are great for hooking into rocks and gravel. The Tremor’s hood and front-end are redesigned to give a punchier look, while a Tremor-specific grille has a blacked-out Ford oval and details painted the signature Tremor color of Active Orange. The two front recovery hooks also get the Active Orange treatment, in case someone needs a little help along the trails.
Fixed running boards that look like those fitted to the Raptor are mounted close to the body to minimize damage, and a cutout rear bumper makes room for high-flow dual exhaust tips that flank its two rear recovery hooks. There are also Active Orange-highlighted badges on the F-150 Tremor’s fenders, bed side, and tailgate. The Tremor’s cabin gets a few unique treatments too, with seat trim that sports special stitching, and there are Tremor-specific materials and finishes for the instrument panel, center console, and doors. Not just a cool looking package, the Tremor is packing plenty of hardcore parts underneath.
The Tremor’s suspension features retuned springs to raise ground clearance to 9.4 inches. Revised front hub knuckles and upper control arms are accompanied by Tremor-specific monotube front and twin tube rear shocks which are tuned for softer damping at low speeds, with additional damping and control for more severe off-road sessions. There’s also a big bash plate under the front of the F-150 Tremor to minimize damage. The F-150 Tremor boasts an approach angle of 27.6º, a breakover angle of 21.2º, and a departure angle of 24.3º. There’s also an extra inch of front and 1.5 inches of rear suspension travel versus the normal F-150 4×4 giving more confidence over rougher terrain.
The F-150 Tremor may not have the G.O.A.T. modes (mostly cooler branding) that the Ford Bronco I tested possesses, but it still has smart drive modes for taking on any trail, including normal, sport, tow/haul, eco, slippery, deep snow/sand, and mud/rut modes. The rock crawl mode automatically engages the rear locking differential, turns off stability and traction control, reduces throttle response, adjusts shift points, and displays the available 360º camera view on the massive infotainment screen. This mode allowed this amateur off-road driver to do fun things on the trails with ease. Ford also planned for its Tremor drivers to add accessories, so there’s a six-position auxiliary power switch pack mounted in the overhead console so owners can easily add off-road winches, air compressors, and lighting (with several off-road lighting systems available as dealer-installed options).
Like in the Bronco, Ford gives the F-150 Tremor the one-pedal drive mode to allow for left foot braking and greater control over more challenging surfaces. I also appreciate Ford giving the F-150 Tremor the Trail Turn Assist system that I also liked in the Bronco, which made for making shorter turns around tight spaces in this full-size pickup. This system also made it easier to do silly donuts in the dirt. There’s also a locking rear differential and the option to upgrade to a Torsen limited-slip front diff. Upper trim level Tremors get upgraded with a torque-on-demand transfer case similar to the installed in the F-150 Raptor that merges all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive capabilities to better conquer more demanding off-road environments.
I like that the Tremor gets standard hill descent control, which made rolling down a gravel-covered dirt trail easier to navigate, but this Tremor I tested didn’t get the available Trail Control (which operates like cruise control for off-road use). At no point did I feel like I needed any extra off-road equipment installed on the F-150 Tremor to handle some reasonably challenging trails. If you really want a meaner-looking F-Series, the Raptor does boast a more pronounced grille and bigger tires, met with some more rugged suspension parts tucked under its wider fenders, but prepare to drop significantly more cash.
Ford’s Bargain Alternative To The Badass Raptor
Ford figured out that off-roading F-150 drivers needed a less expensive option in the lineup rather than having to spend over $70,000 on a Raptor. With the Tremor package, off-road enthusiasts get plenty of the hardware and software Ford provides to the more hardcore F-Series option at a much more attractive price.
There’s little the F-150 Tremor can’t accomplish for a truck owner, and I think Ford hit a home run with this new off-road ready pickup. The F-150 Tremor packs plenty of off-road kit in a more subtle body package, making it look less like the brotastic pickup the Raptor is sometimes judged for being. For the better price point, and the sleeper appearance, I think the Ford F-150 Tremor is the right off-road full-size pickup to buy.
Bask in the glory of this massive assortment of spectacular custom motorcycles.
Back in 2014, the team at Revival Cycles decided to put on a massive event to showcase not only its fine work in custom motorcycles, but to display the work of friends and experts in the segment, called The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show. After a brief break during the pandemic, the team got everyone back together in Austin, Texas, and put on a better-than-ever showcase during the weekend MotoGP made its stop at Circuit of The Americas. Under one roof, encompassing over 100,000 square feet of space, more than 200 motorcycle builds were on display, including 12 unique builds by Revival Cycles and 116 motorcycles by builders from all over the United States.
“The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show was originally conceived as an excuse to get together with motorcycle builders from all over the world who inspired team Revival. What it has developed into over the years is an artistic display driven by a passion for motorcycles that far exceeds our wildest expectations,” said Alan Stulburg, founder of Revival Cycles and The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.
The jewel of the show was Revival Cycles’ The Fuse. The Ducati Fuse was crafted and built by Revival Cycles in collaboration with the build’s client Ed Boyd – the former Global head of design for Dell computers. With more than 1,000 hours and almost 7 years put into this custom bike, it is truly one-of-a-kind. The public debut will be featured inside the Design Lounge, sponsored by Dell Computers.
Revival’s Alloy Guzzi was also debuted during this year’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show. Originally conceived as a vintage track bike and over time morphed into an elegant custom design and achieved a level of execution with a fit that is more fitting of a show bike. The bike’s frame is painted in an industrial green inspired by the original legendary Moto Guzzi V8 GP bike and has details throughout.
Red Bull action sports athlete, Aaron Colton performed freestyle stunt demos on his gas & electric bikes. Artist Makoto Endo live-painted motorcycles with ‘chopsticks’ as fans looked on (and the crew at Revival snapped a couple pictures they shared with me). Revival had a massive merchandise setup for fans to take home gear, and several vendors showcased their goods that attendees could also purchase. Portland-based Rogue Ales set up a beer bar serving a variety of its brews, including this year’s design Revival Cycles design collaboration in limited edition “Knuckle Buster IPA”.
Having visited the show over the past several years, I was happy to have the Handbuilt Motorcycle show back in Austin, and was given early access to the space. With a camera in hand, I snapped loads of photos, not just to highlight some builds that caught my eye, but plenty of the meticulously crafted details crafted over thousands of painstaking hours. Enjoy this smattering of handbuilt two-wheeled gems.
A fun open-air experience doesn’t need an impressive spec sheet. This quick German convertible is a hoot.
The Audi S badge means a more performance-focused model over the standard variant, built to deliver its drivers in comfort while covering miles at a rapid pace, and the S5 model has been around since 2007. When Audi chose to offer the S5 as a Cabriolet a couple years later, it replaced the S4 version that had grown seriously long in the tooth. Taking on a couple iterative updates in this generation, the S5 Cabriolet now looks sharper, and adds a bit more tech to the standard features list.
Somewhat more tame than its RS5 sibling–which I enjoyed testing last summer–the S5 model doesn’t flex big stats, but intends to deliver a solid driving experience. In its Cabriolet guise, this two-door Audi’s fun increases considerably with the element of an open-air experience. Competing with the BMW M440i convertible and Mercedes-AMG C43, the S5 has some strong rivals. With some good weather in the forecast, I happily accepted the arrival of this fun-focused drop-top Audi.
The Key Figures
Audi’s A5 is the standard form of the coupe and cabriolet model, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, with the S5 being the more fun-focused variant. Stuffed under the angular hood of the Audi S5 Cabriolet is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The S5 Cabriolet’s output is just less than the drop-top versions of the BMW M440i and Mercedes-AMG C 43, but the Audi’s acceleration figure is nearly identical. Through an 8-speed automatic and standard quattro all-wheel-drive, the Audi S5 Cabriolet can sprint from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 MPH. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20/26/22 (city/highway/combined), which is on-par with its other German rivals.
Pricing for the base A5 Cabriolet begins at $52,200, and the quicker S5 increases the base figure to $63,400, making it similarly priced to the M440i and C 43. Thankfully Audi makes packaging easier on buyers, with three distinct trim levels that package lots of features, and I tested the top Prestige trim–an upgrade costing $8,100–which adds a Bang & Olufsen audio system, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, Audi’s virtual cockpit instrument cluster, head-up display, and a stack of tech and safety features. With a stunning shade of District Green paint (a $595 option) and 20-inch wheels and summer tires fitted, this S5 Cabriolet hit a total price of $73,540 after destination.
A Composed City Convertible
While the Audi S5 Cabriolet is designed to be a blast to toss around, it’s still a luxury car at heart. Thanks to thick insulation within the acoustic top, cruising around with the roof closed makes the S5 Cab remarkably quiet. I appreciate how well the S5’s suspension smooths out the bumpiest city streets without disconnecting the driver from a responsive chassis with balanced feedback. The hint of electric assist to the steering rack makes city streets simple to tackle, and maneuvers in tight parking garages effortless.
The twin-turbo V6 may reward a spirited driver on a fun route, but keep the Audi Drive Select in the comfort mode, and the behaved operator will enjoy a daily driver that’s refined and comfortable. The turbos and exhaust tone down fun noises out of the back of the S5 Cabriolet, so if you want raunchier sounds, the dynamic drive mode is your friend. Shifts from the 8-speed Tiptronic are nearly imperceptible in the comfort mode, and sharpen ever so slightly in the dynamic drive mode.
The S5’s seats look sporty, but are definitely comfortable for long treks. The back seats are only going to carry younger kids, so don’t try to stick your adult friends behind you when driving unless they’re professional contortionists. Instead of worrying about seating capacity, I deployed the manually-fitted mesh wind deflector that covers the rear seating area to calm cabin turbulence. Dropping the S5 Cabriolet’s roof takes about 20 seconds, including operating all four of the side windows, and tucks away into a storage box that has to be manually dropped in the trunk.
Touch points are intuitive and use quality materials, and I like that there’s just enough digital instrumentation throughout the cockpit. The Audi Virtual Cockpit features a 12-inch high-resolution screen that allows for three distinct viewing modes, in addition to a simplified display for less distraction when taking night drives with the top down. As many manufacturers concede that drivers will opt for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both are standard with wireless connectivity in the S5 Cabriolet), Audi still delivers a great MMI infotainment system that has clear and easy software incorporated into another high-resolution display that measures 10 inches across.
Wonderful Open-Air Performance
Compared to its faster RS5 sibling I reviewed, the S5 is definitely more tame, but don’t sleep on its capabilities when you attack a twisty back road. Toggle the dynamic drive mode, and instantly feel the engine adjust its mood, with the idle rising while the exhaust tone gets throatier. Boost from the S5’s turbocharged V6 engages smoothly, delivering surprisingly quick response to help this quick convertible close long gaps between the bends. A performance car doesn’t need a massive horsepower figure to be a blast, and the S5 Cabriolet is more than competent as an open-air sportscar.
Grip from Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive is fantastic, aided by the Dunlop Sport Maxx summer tires that are part of the 20-inch wheel upgrade. Even in its sportiest settings, the S5 Cabriolet is still composed, and does an exceptional job of concealing its 4,167-pound curb weight. I’d like a hint firmer ride in the dynamic mode, but the S5 still drives like it’s on rails. If you demand more cornering abilities from the S5, tick the $2,500 S Sport package option box to equip a sport rear differential, adaptive dampers, and cool red brake calipers, and the $1,150 dynamic steering system will add electric assistance to the steering rack to improve the S5’s steering in any condition.
Audi prepares the 8-speed transmission with shorter gear ratios for the lower gears, pairing with the twin-turbo V6’s low-end torque to enable quicker response and acceleration, but wisely fits taller ratios for the upper gears to keep revs low while conserving fuel. I played with the manual shifts with the paddles, and enjoyed the flexibility, but was still impressed with the automatic shift mapping Audi gave the S5 Cabriolet.
The Positive Points
This S5 Cabriolet is in its second generation, with Audi making significant updates in 2020. Most noticeably, the S5 Cab’s exterior was sharpened to be more impactful, with a cooler fascia with a grille that resembles the look of the one fitted to the quicker RS5 model I reviewed last year, and sports more aggressive lines from nose to tail. I can’t say enough good things about the District Green paint applied to my tester, which has pink and bronze sparkles lightly mixed in which erupt in the sunlight.
Audi does a great job of providing a cabin that’s subtle yet cool. A good blend of leather, carbon fiber, and metallic trim completes a cockpit that’s sporty yet upmarket. If you’ve been inside any Audi over the past ten years, you’ll have no trouble using every switch and button inside the Audi S5 Cabriolet, applying the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset effectively. The Nappa leather sport seats are not only upholding the Audi Sport lineup theme, but provide great support in their basic setup, while having great power lateral boosting to keep you planted when tossing the S5 Cab into corners.
A Couple Deductions
Making use of the convertible feature will significantly eat into the storage capacity, making my run to the airport during this test a little more complicated to stash a carry-on roller bag in the boot. When driving with the top up, the blind spot on the passenger side is significant, making you rely on the side mirrors and blind spot indicators. This is why I prefer roadsters over coupes adapted into convertibles, which make a fewer compromises. At least the top stores away completely concealed, with a hard panel covering it.
I didn’t apply too heavy a right foot during my week-long test with the S5 Cabriolet, but managed to only achieve 16 MPGs on average (versus the 21 city EPA estimate). I also feel that the drive modes Audi offers in its S and RS models could have better distinguished characteristics to provide a better overall experience. These complaints are tiny though, as the overall positives of the S5 Cabriolet far outweigh the negatives.
This Drop-Top Is Surprisingly Good
Audi does a great open-air sportscar with the S5 Cabriolet, providing plenty of fun in a great looking package. As is the case with many Audi S and RS models, the company does a fine job of blending style with a luxury car that will happily gobble up miles on longer adventures. I’d happily take road trips in the S5 Cab, and make sure to make several detours along winding routes.
If more hardcore performance is what you need, the Audi RS5 variant will tickle your fancy but sadly there’s no cabriolet version in the RS line (only offering a coupe or four-door sportback) which gives the BMW M4 an advantage against Audi and Mercedes. If a bigger stat sheet isn’t as important, the S5 Cabriolet will be a great addition to your drive, no matter if it’s to the office or along a canyon roads.