Audi RS e-tron GT: This Fast EV Thrives In A Crowded Segment

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 Handbuilt Motorcycle Show Hosted By Revival Cycles Returned To Austin

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”. 

Photo: Revival Cycles
Photo: Revival Cycles

During this year’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, fans of both fast and meticulous motorcycles were treated to one fantastic weekend in Austin. With help from sponsors including BMWCarabuena TequilaCOTADellIndianPeak Design,ProgressiveRambler Sparkling WaterRanch Rider Spirits, Red BullRogueSlow & Low,  VolconZoozREV’IT!, and 805, the show delighted over 25,000 attendees. Fans got to meet plenty of the builders and learn more about their trades across welding, leather crafting, motor development, metal shaping, and design specialties.

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.

The Genesis G70 Crashes The Sport Sedan Party

The soirée for a bunch of German saloons was just shown up by one good Korean.

In a not so quiet manner, Genesis has rebuilt its brand identity, placing some well-established German marques in its sights. With each Genesis model I’ve reviewed over the past two years, there’s been an immediate enjoyment with a sleek exterior design met with a stunning cabin, and some exceptional driving impressions to boot. To attempt to sway the buyers of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, Genesis is not just using its great looks and features to accomplish the task, but the price points for its models are catching attention too.

In the smaller premium sport sedan class, the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43 have long-enjoyed the established base of drivers who want those models, and Genesis wants a slice of the pie. With the 2022 G70, Genesis freshened its looks inside and out to get up to speed with the rest of the lineup, and wants to inform the enthusiast driver that plenty of fun can be had behind the wheel too. Having tested several Genesis models and the competition it wants to grab market share from, I wanted to see if the Genesis G70 was a worthy adversary.

The Important Figures

Genesis offers the G70 sedan with two different engines, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and the upgrade to a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. The 2.0T produces a respectable 252 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.3T cranks out 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, and all-wheel-drive is optional. The Audi S4 is the only rival which has less peak horsepower (349) than the top-level G70, with the BMW M340i and AMG C43 both producing over 380. The Audi and AMG offerings both come standard with all-wheel-drive, and the BMW M340i has rear-wheel-drive standard with all-wheel-drive optional.

An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission offering in the G70, with shift-by-wire and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. For those who want to impress at the stoplight, the 4-cylinder G70 will scoot from 0-60 in around 6 seconds, and the V6 turbo with AWD can complete that task in as little as 4.5 seconds (4.8 with RWD) with the Sport Prestige package that adds a limited-slip differential, keeping it within inches of its competition at the end of a sprint. The Genesis G70 measures 184 inches of overall length, 72 inches wide, and 55 inches tall, with a 111-inch wheelbase, making it similarly sized next to its German rivals.

Genesis is smart with packaging its options, allowing for easy selections of two different packs. One (Sport Advanced, $4,300) focuses on cool features and amenities, and the other (Sport Prestige, $4,000) adds premium materials for the interior, but the upgrades to the G70’s brakes, limited-slip differential, and electric adaptive suspension are the more appealing ones. Opting for all-wheel-drive adds about $2,000 to the sticker too.

Base price for the Genesis G70 starts at $37,775 for the 2.0T with rear-wheel-drive, and the 3.3T bumps up to $42,350. The G70 tester I was sent was equipped with the 3.3-liter engine, rear-wheel-drive, and ticked both of the package option boxes to ring up a total price of $51,445 after destination. That figure is massively attractive against the G70’s foes. The S4 starts at $51,000, the M340i begins at $54,000, the C43’s base price is $60,000, with those numbers increasing significantly as option boxes get ticked.

Upgrading Your Commute

Spending hours a day commuting isn’t wonderful, but if you’ve got to waste time in traffic, the Genesis G70 is a nice place to be. Others on the road definitely give the redesigned 2022 Genesis G70 plenty of approving second looks, especially as that massive black chrome grille and split LED lights both front and rear catch a glimpse. Genesis delicately balances itself as a bargain performance luxury brand, and the G70 nicely executes an added hint of style versus its German counterparts. I definitely find it the more attractive option next to the S4, M340i, and C43.

Response from the twin-turbo V6 is nicely responsive in the comfort drive mode, and shifts from the 8-speed automatic are smooth. Go easy on the throttle to best hit the EPA fuel economy estimates of 18/27/21, because I barely hit 17 MPGs during my week-long test with this Genesis that may have involved a hint more spirited driving. The G70’s upgraded adaptive suspension is a fantastic job of minimizing any bumps in the road surface, yet still offers good response when having a hint of fun on any detours between home and the office. Steering feel is just heavy enough, without requiring too much elbow grease at city intersections.

The G70’s cabin is nicely appointed, especially with the upgraded Nappa leather ventilated seats wrapped around you. I love the quilted stitching pattern utilizing red contrasting over the soft black leather that adorns the cabin, and appreciate just enough brushed metallic trim pieces completing a sporty yet refied look. Thankfully there isn’t a single bit of piano black trim inside the G70’s cockpit either. There’s a bit of plastic used for key touch points in this entry-level Genesis, with climate knobs that are closer to Hyundai quality than other Genesis models, but the placement and controls are all intuitive.

Occupants both front and rear will enjoy a cabin that’s more spacious than it appears, with adults having enough legroom for a drive to dinner. Genesis has a smart pair of buttons on the inside shoulder bolster that allows the right rear passenger to adjust the recline and depth of the front passenger seat, in case they need additional space (something I’ve noticed in every new Genesis I’ve reviewed). Storage capacity is big too, with a passthrough and folding rear seats to improve space and access. Tech is plentiful in the Genesis G70, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I like that the G70’s instrument cluster that utilizes a digital screen for the center and right third, with the latter switching to a side view camera display when indicating a lane change.

I appreciate how Genesis groups together its option packages. The Sport Advanced package adds parking sensors, cool 19-inch wheels, a sportier trim inside the cabin, ventilated front seats, a bigger sunroof, wireless mobile device charging, a dark chrome grille, variable exhaust, power seat bolster and cushion extender, the Genesis digital key, and a Lexicon 15-speaker premium audio system that has loads of tone where it matters.

Surprisingly Good Performance

Enjoying a weekend sprint along a canyon road is something the Genesis G70 is surprisingly good at. To contend with its German competitors, the G70 packages together an exceptionally sharp handling dynamics. I was stunned with how composed the G70’s chassis was during more spirited driving. The 4-cylinder will probably provide enough power for the average driver, and can save several thousand dollars, but the V6 is the engine an enthusiast wants. Boost spools up more effectively when you smoothly apply the throttle, and displays a hint more lag when the driver smashes the go pedal, so be smart with your inputs to have the most fun.

In its sport or sport+ drive modes, the G70 noticeably changes its personality, wanting to pounce the curves and unleash its fantastic powerplant. The driver aids noticeably relax their desire to step in when in sport+ too, so you better be on your game if you’re trying to flog the G70 in this mode. Upshifts wait a bit longer than the comfort mode, allowing the engine to rev more freely, but the shift logic when needing to bounce up and down does exhibit a slight delay, so I employed the manual shifts for optimal fun.

The Genesis G70’s adaptive dampers firm up pleasantly in the two sportier modes, without being too rigid. I found that my happy custom drive mode put them in the simple sport setting, and the same went for the steering, which felt over-boosted in the sport+ setup, but I definitely enabled the powertrain’s abilities. Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires are wrapped around 19-inch wheels, providing confidence in the bends and plenty of heat allowed into the compounds before they want to break traction. If you’re in a region that experiences snowfall, dropping $2,000 on all-wheel-drive will help you better cope with the winter conditions, but I like the G70’s rear-wheel-drive setup that allows the tail-end a hint more rotation and requires a bit more steering skill from the driver. Taking some weight off the front axles is something I prefer too.

The driver who cares about having a blast on a twisty road should spend the extra $4,000 on the G70’s Sport Prestige Package that adds bigger Brembo brakes with monoblock calipers, a limited-slip differential, and an adaptive suspension. The Brembo brakes are fantastic on longer runs along winding back roads, allowing harder inputs with great feel and feedback. Opting for the $4,300 Sport Advanced package also includes a variable valve exhaust system while upgrading a bunch of tech and amenities, but I have to offer a little gripe about the big oval-shaped openings in either side of the bumper being fake while concealing two smaller exhaust tips.

A Fantastic Alternative To The Usual German Sedan Selection

As Genesis has finished refreshing its entire lineup, the G70 is a fantastic upgrade to an already good sport sedan. Now boasting the same good looks as its siblings, the Genesis G70 is a stunner with proportions that I love. Not just possessing a body and cabin that are easy on the eyes, the Genesis G70 is a wonderful sport sedan that offers a fantastically balanced chassis paired with a potent engine.

This Korean manufacturer picks a fight with German contenders that have held onto their title belts for a little too long, and will please those who bet on the underdog that exhibits shockingly good performance at a bargain price. Against the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43, the Genesis is easily my favorite to drive along a twisty road, look at, and enjoy knowing how much cash it saves those who choose to stick it in their garage.

Porsche And Pixar Announce The Return Of Sally Carrera At South By Southwest

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sally Carrera from the animated film Cars, her original designers are reviving the model with the newest Porsche 911 generation.

Photo: Kurt Bradley

Fresh off its recent announcement of a three-year cooperation agreement with South by Southwest® (SXSW®)–the annual festival of tech and culture which brings tens of thousands of attendees to Austin, Texas each year–Porsche announced a new project working alongside Pixar. Marking the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Porsche 911 on which Sally Carrera is based, Cars Production Designer, Bob Pauley, and Creative Director, Jay Ward presented the story of how Sally first came to life, in a conversation led by Porsche Cars North America Spokesperson Jade Logan. On display during this event was the actual running model of Sally Carrera, meticulously restored by the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, following her longtime hibernation after being a touring celebrity during the years of three Cars films being released.

The discussion with Logan, Pauley, and Ward took attendees along the path from the idea of a character in Cars to be the love interest of the film’s star, Lightning McQueen. Telling the tale of Sally Carrera, the presenters described the character that is based on a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera. Sally is from California, and grew tired of life in the fast lane. She made a new start in the small town of Radiator Springs, and is the town’s attorney on a mission to help get Radiator Springs “back on the map.” She strived, always, to make a difference – to help.

A unique insight into the creative process of sketching, modeling, and rendering an animated character showed how the California-based Pixar Animation Studios team paired with Porsche to bring a road-going icon to the animated film world. From arrival of the 996, the Pixar team painstakingly captured photos of the 911 to then understand key features of the sportscar, but to adapt the design into a character with expressions and a personality. Over several months, designers and engineers took part in dissecting the Porsche 911 and rebuilding it to resemble the on-screen character Sally Carrera. The body was cut in half, overall length shortened by seven inches, A pillar raised, and the fascia remodeled to give Sally a mouth. To pair with the Southern California landscape and sunset colors, Sally is painted a unique shade of blue, which helps her character stand out next to her co-star Lightning McQueen (a bright red race car).

Photo: Pixar
Photo: Kurt Bradley

Accelerating a special charitable project intended to benefit the well-being and education of children, Porsche and Pixar have been investing months into developing a new version of the character Sally Carrera from the animated film Cars which will be auctioned for charity with RM Sotheby’s. Porsche followed up the announcement the following morning, stating that proceeds from the auction will support life-changing programs for girls and young women through Girls Inc. as well as the USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to provide aid to children and their families affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

For the 2022 Sally Carrera model, a team from Pixar Animation Studios led by Pauley and Ward will work alongside Style Porsche in Weissach and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur in Stuttgart to commemorate this milestone. Different from the initial Sally Carrera, the 992 version will be a street-legal model that the new owner will be able to enjoy along their favorite stretch of twisty road. The designers showed concept sketches and idea drafts around what this new 992-based Sally should be like, and what new features she had to possess. There was also the hint of the new model being featured on the big screen.

To accompany the new 992 variant of Sally Carrera, Porsche Design will be creating a one-off timepiece to accompany the 911 when it’s auctioned. Expect the chronograph to incorporate plenty of Porsche Design’s stunning features, but the team indicated that this unique watch will intertwine Sally Carrera details and many bespoke parts to craft a truly special piece to accompany this remarkable sportscar.

Image: Pixar
Image: Pixar
Image: Porsche

Hosted in downtown Austin, Porsche described the motto of the venue as “A Creator’s Mind” that demonstrates the secret sketch pad of its design department. Outside the venue, Porsche had its 911 Vision Safari on display. Once you step inside the space, you instantly feel small, as Porsche filled the room with massive scale versions of items you’d expect to find around a Porsche designer’s desk. While this studio was a cool interactive experience, Porsche also presented the “Porsche Unseen” studies which include a handful of Porsche concept cars few people have seen in person.

Placed throughout the room, Porsche put its Vision Gran Turismo concept car in its most prominent spot, which gamers will recognize as the model featured in the Sony Playstation game Gran Turismo 7. Also on display are the Porsche Vision Spyder, Vision Turismo, and 904 Living Legend. Attendees of this year’s South by Southwest festival will be able to take in all the stunning concepts while exchanging ideas with designers and engineers from the brand and with team members from Porsche Digital from March 11-20, 2022. For those who can’t make it, enjoy a sampling of the cars I was able to capture.

Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Photo: Kurt Bradley
Image: Pixar
Image: Pixar

The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing Renders The BMW M3 Obsolete

Cadillac introduces a new name to the fast sedan game, and absolutely crushes it.

When Cadillac first revealed the V Series brand in 2004, it did so with a CTS platform that was barely luxurious, but packed the powertrain from the C5 Corvette Z06. As a model that was designed to contend with the small speedy sedans of Germany, the CTS-V was a bargain, but with some compromises made with fit and finish. Quickly building a reputation as a less expensive American alternative to the Audi RS4, BMW M3, and Mercedes-AMG C63, the Cadillac CTS-V upped the ante by stealing the supercharged engine of the Corvette ZR1 for its second generation model in 2008, and moving up to a bigger class against the RS6, M5, and E63. Adding a coupe and wagon variant to the mix, GM gave enthusiasts several options for getting the right second generation CTS-V for them.

To improve its handling and overall build construction, in 2014 the third generation CTS-V was assembled on GM’s Alpha platform. This model prominently established the Cadillac as a true contender in its class, and solidified the brand’s identity. As this new CTS bumped up to a bigger sedan segment, Cadillac needed to keep a model offering to compete with those smaller German performance sedans. Enter the ATS-V, also built on GM’s Alpha chassis, featuring a twin-turbo V6 under the hood. At a massive discount against its German rivals, the ATS-V was a blast to drive, and when I gave it a road trip test in 2016, I said it was the model to buy while saving a ton of cash. BMW’s M3 might be the class leading seller, but the American marque wants a piece of the action.

The Detroit-based manufacturer decided to toss all V Series brand equity out the window in 2020, when it launched the latest generation with new–and somewhat confusing–naming conventions. Now known as the CT4, the ATS was replaced with a new design, improved interior quality, yet retained the chassis that contributed to its fantastic driving characteristics. The trouble was that Cadillac slapped a V badge on a lesser sedan, diluting the name, and causing plenty of head scratching. As enthusiasts, journalists, and owners cried out when Cadillac hurt its reputation, the company announced there was a new model and name coming, that would uphold the values of the V Series, and offer seriously good performance at a value price point. It’s called the Blackwing, and while its name may not make much sense, with production limited to just 139 examples, what’s underneath absolutely does.

The Good Figures

Continuing to employ the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6, the 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing produces 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. This figure is more than the Audi RS5’s peak 444 horsepower, on-par with the standard M3 output, but just less than the 503 in the M3 Competition and AMG C63. A 6-speed manual is the standard transmission, with a 10-speed automatic is the standard transmission available. Rear-wheel drive is the only choice in the Blackwing–hooked up to an electric limited-slip differential–just like the standard BMW M3, with the M3 Competition, C63, and RS5 all featuring all-wheel-drive.

Through this drivetrain, the automatic-equipped CT4-V Blackwing can rip from 0-60 MPH in 3.9 seconds, and the manual model will hit that figure in just 4.1, with both models boasting a top speed of 189 MPH. The Alpha platform has been updated, now featuring GM’s Magnetic Ride Control 4.0, passive dampers from ZF, and hollow stabilizer bars. The 2022 CT4-V Blackwing’s dimensions are comparable to the Audi RS5 Sportback, BMW M3, and AMG C 63, and sports a curb weight of 3,860 pounds in manual form, with only a slight bump in mass with the automatic transmission.

Like its predecessors, the CT4-V Blackwing may not offer refinement in its cabin that contends with the German offerings, but the price point catches the eye. At a base price of $58,995, the CT4-V Blackwing is an attractive offering at a savings of $10,000 against the base price of the M3, and is nearly $20,000 less than a C63 or RS5. Even when loaded with factory upgrades including the natural leather seats, sunroof, heads-up display, interior ionizer, ventilated and massaging front seats, and $7,000 worth of carbon fiber trim packages, the loaded Satin Steel Metallic CT4-V Blackwing I tested hit an MSRP of $77,090.

The Practical Daily Sedan

Without being overly focused on outright performance, and while maintaining some Cadillac personality, the CT4-V Blackwing is remarkably composed as a city driver. The Magnetic Ride Control dampers are fantastic, giving the CT4 great response without compromising ride quality. The 6-speed manual transmission is a gem, with a light pedal input needed to change gears, and great clutch feedback. 18-inch wheels are a refreshingly civil size on the CT4-V Blackwing, offering a bit more sidewall from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, and plenty of grip in any condition without making too much road noise.

Keeping the drive mode in the tour setup (Cadillac’s comfort setting), the CT4-V Blackwing softens any chassis disruption, keeps the engine a bit more chill, and allows the electric-assist steering to feature smooth inputs and light feedback. Continue utilizing the tour mode and behave yourself during throttle applications, and you just might hit the EPA fuel economy estimates of 15/23/18. I barely managed 16 MPGs during my week-long test, but there was no way I wasn’t going to play with the CT4-V Blackwing as much as possible.

Cabin design in the CT4 is essentially a scaled-down version of the CT5’s setup, which is a good thing. Not as cool or as finely appointed as the German rivals, Cadillac still offers a nice interior to spend plenty of hours inside. Though the belt line is high, and the roof is slightly swept, the space you experience inside the Blackwing is great for a sedan of its size. Fitted with optional natural tan leather wrapped around the sporty seats, this faster CT4 is wonderfully comfortable, with a seating position that’s perfect for cruising or hooning. Back seat occupants should probably be kids, and there’s a hint of lateral support in those rear seats, but your adult friends may not gripe much if you’re making a quick run to get food. The CT4’s trunk is big too, with a couple organized spots at each side for your smaller items.

Long gone is Cadillac’s awful Cue infotainment system, replaced by GM’s NexGen touchscreen setup, which is intuitive and quite functional, complete with an actual volume knob. I’ll admit I had never heard of AKG audio systems before testing these new generations of Cadillac models, but the system in this CT4-V Blackwing is good, with plenty of tone where it matters. Could the speaker grilles look cooler when Mercedes has badass metal ones with its Burmester system? For sure. Paired with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the CT4-V Blackwing has wireless charging for your mobile phone, with its pad neatly placed in the storage compartment under the climate controls.

The CT4’s steering wheel has a hot button to employ the customizable V Mode for your spirited driving, and if you want to switch drive modes, there’s a toggle switch next to the shifter. I appreciate Cadillac offering a “My Mode” setup in addition to the V Mode, so you can have even greater flexibility when driving. Extra tweaks to the fake engine sounds being pumped through the speakers are a funny thing to include.

Storming The Twisty Stuff

The spec sheet may not stand out, in a time when everything gets 500 horsepower under the hood, but the CT4-V Blackwing’s twin-turbo engine is stout enough. Not exceptional, especially the sound it makes through its quad square-shaped exhaust tips, this boosted V6 still provides a smooth surge of torque, especially when you’re already at a decent speed along a canyon road. I could give a shit about 0-60 times, because what really matters is how well the CT4 pulls between 45 and 75, and this is where the Blackwing shines. As pace increases, the turbocharged CT4-V Blackwing’s powerband has no tapering effect either, happily surging toward triple digits and beyond.

Clicking off effortless gear changes is a joy in the CT4-V Blackwing, with a positive sensation each time to slide that short throw shifter that shows off its 3D-printed gear pattern. Engaging the rev matching mode made downshifts easier, met with a rowdy blip of the throttle, and keeping me from having to nail my heel-and-toe efforts. Make the sacrifice in your commuting to opt for the manual transmission, as the 10-speed auto in the CT4 is the same I tested in the CT5-V Blackwing, which hunted for gears too often for my liking. Also, manuals are dying off, and fewer are being offered in fun sedans, so enjoy this while you can.

Where the Blackwing may give away some power to its German rivals, its chassis is wonderful. More compact than the more powerful CT5-V Blackwing, this CT4 setup was designed to be effectively fun to flog in any decent driver’s hands. Its steering is perfectly sharp, especially in the sport or track drive modes, offering the right amount of weight and effort required to nail every apex. This fast Cadillac’s proportions are perfect too, allowing the 109-inch wheelbase to stabilize the car alongside its 60.5-inch track. Without the extra weight–and hint of cornering confidence–of all-wheel-drive, the CT4-V Blackwing likes to slide if you smash the throttle as you exit a corner. A bit more confidence could come from adding all-wheel-drive, like the CT4’s competitors have, but I like the challenge from needing to manage control and power while taking some weight off the front axle.

A quick toggle switch for the Performance Traction Management system is mounted on the steering wheel, and allows you to let the Blackwing dance as effectively as you like. The PTM can also be customized in the V Mode, to keep as much or as little help intervening when on a track or fun road. Playing with these settings, I found that the PTM in sport was just right for twisty roads, maintaining just enough stability control while still letting me fling the Cadillac’s ass-end.

What stunned me is how composed it was during any harder session along a curvy route. Without tiny sidewalls, the Michelin PS4S tires worked in harmony with Cadillac’s magnetic dampers to quickly dismiss any bumps while eliminating any hint of chassis disruption. Brembo also supplies fantastic steel brakes, which have wonderful pedal feel and plenty of heat tolerance during reasonably fun canyon road sessions. I wish Cadillac offered the CT4-V Blackwing with ceramic rotors, like it does on the CT5 variant, for those who really want to push the envelope without the risk of brake fade. Should the gray calipers not be your thing, spend $595 to either opt for gold or red ones.

If tracking the CT4 is on your agenda, maybe opt for some better pads and fluid, and consider a second set of wheels with tires that will last longer than the Michelins (which are great for the street but melt on track). Also tick the $1,600 option box to add Cosworth’s Performance Data Recorder system that uses high definition cameras and comprehensive data logging that can be reviewed in the desktop app to get the most out of your track days.

The Really Good Things

Cadillac gave the CT4-V Blackwing reasonably tame looks, particularly up front. While it’s twin-turbocharged, there aren’t massive–and hideous–grilles to cope with the Blackwing’s additional cooling needs. The CT4’s profile looks good, without being too busy with fake sweeping lines. Even with 18-inch wheels fitted, the fender gap is perfect too.

Respect to Cadillac for only charging $600 to add massaging and ventilating front seats, although you have to upgrade the seating surfaces through another package to allow this feature. The design of quilted stitching, perforations, and contrasting piping is super cool, and the carbon structures and alcantara backing with the V logo add extra style points. If you wear dark wash jeans, you definitely need to opt for darker leather.

Cadillac now incorporates a fully digital instrument cluster that’s customizable not only in how the data is displayed, but how simplistic the pod can be. I liked being able to toggle off all the tire pressure, fuel economy, and temps to only see the tachometer and speed to minimize distractions. Track mode really kicks things up, making a wide digital rev counter stretch across the top of the screen while the gear and speed are centrally placed.

Less Than Favorable Aspects

The CT4-V Blackwing is a stylish sedan, but doesn’t look as clean and impressionable as its CT5 sibling. The angles are a bit busy, and the back end is too sharp for my liking. While some drivers want the extra carbon fiber goodies slapped around its exterior to give it a shouty “I’m a fast sedan” appearance, I’d ditch them to not only roll around in a sleeper, but to also save several thousand dollars. The carbon fiber lip splitter was also begging to be cracked any time I parked the CT4-V Blackwing, as the parking sensors didn’t seem to be calibrated for the extra few inches of expensive material.

Steering wheel controls employ actual buttons, which offer a nice click, but the audio adjustments are far from intuitive. The scrolling wheel should control the volume, and instead plays with modes on the display. The buttons on each side of that control switch through menus, rather than skipping tracks or presets. Really strange. Another odd detail that bothered me was the positioning of the indicator stalk on the steering column, which was placed too far forward. I had to physically move my left hand ahead and out of an optimal grip position to hit the blinker, and that stalk was considerably further away than the one on the right side that controlled the wipers.

As I mentioned when I tested the CT5-V Blackwing, there’s no distinguishing detail on the exterior of the CT4 model to let you know this is the fastest model Cadillac offers. After tossing the V Series’ brand equity out the window when introducing the Blackwing, the company should have made some sort of model designation on this brilliant sedan’s body. The only indication of a Blackwing model is hidden along the seat bolster’s piping, and could easily be overlooked.

An Exceptional Sport Sedan, But It’s Too Limited

When I reviewed the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, I thought it was an astoundingly good performance sedan for under $100,000, making it considerably less expensive than its German super saloon rivals. My one concern with it was that its 668 horsepower needed a wide open road or track to be fully enjoyed. With the CT4-V Blackwing, Cadillac has packaged together wonderfully useable performance, fantastic handling, and a price point that makes it more attractive. The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing possesses an engine that isn’t too powerful for its chassis, delicately balancing on looking underpowered on paper, but providing a complete driving experience that I crave more of.

Cadillac has some engineers I’d like to shake the hands of, because the CT4-V Blackwing is one of my favorite new cars I’ve driven in the past few years. The only car I’d want more is the now-unavailable BMW M2 CS, which cost around $90,000. In my ideal spec, this Blackwing would be closer to $68,000, which is seriously good value. When comparing the CT4 to the BMW M3, Audi RS5, and AMG C63, it may not be as nice inside (which might be its only disadvantage), but it’ll be more fun to use as a canyon slaying daily driver while pocketing a ton of cash. I just wish Cadillac opted to produce more than 139 of them, because there are thousands of enthusiasts who should end up owning one, and taking a big bite out of the M3’s market share.

The Ford Explorer Is The Forgotten Reasonable SUV

Not flashy nor powerful, but who says a simple SUV can’t be good for many families?

Since 1991, Ford has sold its Explorer SUV to families with modest budgets, and holds the title of the best selling SUV in America. Back when it was launched, the Ford Explorer was set to replace the Bronco II, and was built on a Ford Ranger light truck platform. As new generations launched, including 2-door and pickup variants decades ago, Ford has dedicated a new chassis platform for the Explorer, now slotting into its lineup between the Edge crossover and Expedition full-size SUV. While it has been around since George HW Bush was in the White House, its popularity hasn’t been as solid in the past couple of generations, as the marketplace for SUVs has gone wild with options.

Now in its sixth generation, the Ford Explorer sticks to its roots of providing good value and reasonable pricing in its three-row SUV package. Ford still gets to pad its balance sheet by providing plenty of law enforcement officers with its Police Interceptor models, now based on the current Explorer, rather than the Crown Victoria and Taurus in years past. For those families who want a practical and affordable midsized SUV, does the Explorer still get the job done?

The Useful Specs

The sixth generation Ford Explorer now boasts a plethora of trim levels of three-row midsized SUV to please nearly any family, whether the demands involve basic appointments, sporty looks, off-road capability, or somewhat nicer treatments inside. In a segment that includes the Chevrolet Traverse (with the GMC Acadia built on the same platform), Hyundai Palisade (and its Kia Telluride sibling), Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot, the Explorer has plenty of competitors to deal with.

Ford provides three engine options for the Explorer, starting with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder that produces 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, and a hybrid variant that is fitted with a naturally-aspirated 3.3-liter V6 which puts out 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. All new Explorers are delivered with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive, with intelligent four-wheel-drive as an available option.

The Explorer XLT I tested is the starting point for the seven trim levels Ford offers, with a base price of $37,075. At the top of the food chain is the King Ranch model, which starts at $53,995. The XLT tester was equipped with the 2.3-liter engine, and added all-wheel-drive, the XLT sport appearance package (with 20-inch wheels wrapped in self-sealing all-season tires), Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ Adaptive Cruise Control, a cargo management system in the back, and Infinite Blue Metallic paint to hit a total MSRP of $45,305.

A Practical Family Hauler

Because it’s now built on a crossover platform, the Ford Explorer is a composed daily driver, compared to its early generations that were more truck-like. Tipping the scales at around 4,300 pounds, the Explorer isn’t exactly light, but the base 2.3-liter engine doesn’t struggle to get the SUV moving, thanks to its wide powerband that I also appreciated in the Ford Ranger models I’ve tested over the past couple years. Drivers who crave more power will desire the ST or higher trim levels, with a seriously potent V6 that I enjoyed in the Lincoln Aviator I reviewed recently.

The 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and the four-wheel-drive system feels nicely sorted during any city driving. Ride quality is surprisingly refined, even without an adaptive suspension. Not boring, but not exciting, the Explorer XLT’s response in the corners is perfectly fine for a midsized SUV. Want a little tighter suspension and better handling? The ST is the way to go. Michelin Primacy all-season tires are competent enough for the task as a family SUV, and are remarkably quiet too. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20/27/23 (city/highway/combined), and I achieved 22 during my week-long test that was more focused on city driving.

There’s a full slate of drive modes easily selected with a knob mounted near the space-saving rotary gearshift, and while there isn’t an individual mode, there are a couple off-road options in addition to hill descent control for times when you take your Explorer… exploring. If your weekend and vacation excursions involve a boat or small camper, you’ll be happy to know the Explorer can tow up to 5,300 pounds when equipped with the 4-cylinder, and can bump up to 5,600 pounds if one opts for the EcoBoost V6.

Once inside the Explorer, the cabin is a no-fuss setup. Everything is intuitively designed, and touch points are placed throughout the cockpit. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is installed in a reasonably-sized touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready to supplement your user experience. The instrument cluster has a big tachometer and speedometer, flanking a multifunction digital display that shows extra data points while allowing the driver to configure additional settings. Ford also supplies USB-A and USB-C ports in the concealable storage pocket ahead of the shifter and cupholders.

Thanks to a 198-inch overall length and 119-inch wheelbase, the Explorer’s cabin is quite spacious. Shoulder, hip, and headroom are considerable for the front two rows, and the six-seat configuration made for quick access to the third row. Third row legroom is a decent 32 inches, so adults could make quick drives stuck back there, but the seat is mounted low to the floor, so adult knees will be bent tightly. Ideally kids are going to be the third row occupants, and they’ll be fine. Cargo space is more than sufficient in the back of the Ford Explorer, and increases significantly with the third row seats folded flat.

The Good Points

Ford gave the Explorer a positive facelift for the sixth generation, making the fascia more sleek, adjusting the shape of the taillights, and giving the front a wider look. Putting some thought into rear seat access, Ford installed a rugged step to the outside of each middle row seat, adding stability while making the transition to the third row easier for those of us who have struggled to hop into that space.

The Explorer benefits from tons of places to store items of any size, which is nice for big families. If there’s a space in the dash or console, Ford found a way to make it useful. Kids can stuff their belongings all over the Explorer’s cabin, with plenty of spots to have McDonald’s fries hide and stink up the interior. The rear cargo area has the usual sort of hidden compartment with an optional storage organizer, and I like the additional side pockets designed into the floor for medium sized items like battery cables or a first aid kit.

A Couple Deductions

The Ford Explorer isn’t an eye-catching package, commonly overlooked by buyers who want a more interesting SUV. While its exterior lines are tidy, the Explorer isn’t particularly interesting. Even in its upper trim levels, I don’t love its looks, and in this crowded class of SUVs, there are more attractive competitors. I chuckled when I realized the name “Explorer” is printed on the exterior five times, with a placement along the lower body cladding of each front door, inside each headlight housing, and in the center of the tailgate. Just in case anyone wondered what this SUV was.

That simple theme is continued inside, with some somewhat basic themes and materials used throughout the cabin. Even after being updated in the past two years, the switchgear and panels aren’t wonderful. The seats could use a bit more lateral support too. If you care about nicer materials, particularly on the seating surfaces, upgrade to a Platinum or King Ranch Explorer.

A Basic SUV Isn’t A Bad One

The Ford Explorer might be somewhat simple, but it’s a humble SUV that fits the needs of many American families. It can be as nice or as basic as they desire, and has adjusted to meet demands of SUV drivers. Toting the kids to school and soccer practice doesn’t have to be done with style and luxury features, and the average family can appreciate an SUV designed with them in mind.

The segment might be filled with nicer models or cooler names, but the Ford Explorer gets the job done. It’s practical, has a price that meets modest budgets, is decently built, and offers good enough reliability from a name people trust. It’s hard to knock Ford for continuing to offer the humble Explorer for over 30 years, and I imagine it will continue to sell reasonably well for years to come.

This 2022 BMW M240i Is A Purple Pocket Rocket

An updated sports coupe gets plenty of improvements.

Proper M models from BMW are legit contenders in their respective classes, and to capitalize on this, the Munich marque was smart to slap a lighter version of that celebrated letter on several of its models. When the 2 Series got this treatment nearly a decade ago, the M235i was instantly hot. A bargain version of the iconic brand, offering some stellar performance for your enthusiast dollar. Sure, having more numbers after the M meant it wasn’t quite the hot model in the lineup, but BMW hit a sweet spot.

For 2022, the 2 Series coupe got an upgrade in both sheetmetal and powertrain, but the styling is going a different direction than its truly polarizing 3 and 4 Series siblings, while still testing the patience of BMW loyalists with its looks. Thankfully the exterior lines aren’t too edgy, and the numbers on paper catch the eye, but is this new 2 Series a true sportscar player at a price that’s easier to stomach?

The Important Figures

Under the 2022 BMW M240i’s hood is the B58, a twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six–also found in the BMW M340i sedan–which cranks out a healthy 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. A ZF 8-speed automatic is the only transmission (clutch your pearls, manual fans), and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive is the default driveline too. With this powertrain, the M240i will sprint from 0-60 MPH in just 4.1 seconds, on its way to a 130 MPH top speed on all-season run flat tires (or 155 when fitted with optional summer performance tires).

BMW adjusted the 2 Series coupe’s dimensions for 2022, now sporting a 62.2-inch front and 62.8-inch rear track, which is nearly identical to the faster M2. A 2-inch longer wheelbase now measures 107.9 inches, and the weight distribution is 53.1/46.9 front to rear. The entry level 230i coupe is standard with rear-wheel-drive, and this quicker M240i comes with BMW’s xDrive setup that spins all four wheels. Due to possessing all-wheel-drive, the M240i conceals a bit more weight than the proper M2, tipping the scales at 3,871 pounds.

Because of its compact coupe size, the power it packs, and the price point, the 2022 BMW M240i has a mixed group of competitors. Cross shoppers could consider a Toyota Supra, Porsche 718 Cayman, or Audi S3, depending on which of those categories tickles their fancy most effectively. At a base price of $48,560, the BMW M240i catches plenty of enthusiasts’ attention. After ticking a few options boxes, and adding a stunning shade of Thundernight Metallic paint, this tester hit a total MSRP of $56,845.

A Compliant Cruiser

BMW is nailing the civility challenges some sports cars can’t overcome. The M240i is a fantastic daily driver, benefitting from the adaptive dampers from the last generation 2 Series’ M2 CS–that I called the best driver’s car BMW has ever produced–that provide a sublime city driving experience. Surprisingly, the M240i doesn’t feel as heavy as it truly is, and the adaptive suspension is the primary reason. There’s good responsiveness from the M240i’s suspension, but the tech softens any chassis harshness one would expect from a sporty coupe.

Electric assistance makes the M240i’s steering feel light yet sharp in its comfort and eco modes, and only gets properly heavy when put into the individual or sport modes. Now boasting all-wheel-drive, the BMW M240i offers greater confidence when the weather is less than favorable. In standard trim, the M240i comes with a square setup of 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40/19 all-season rubber, but this tester was fitted with M Sport 19-inch wheels with meatier 245/35/19 front and 255/35/19 rear Pirelli P Zero summer tires for added grip.

The turbocharged engine concealed beneath the M240i’s sculpted hood is a gem, offering plenty of smooth torque that helps it scoot past slower commuters effortlessly. While there’s sufficient power ready to consume lots of premium unleaded, BMW does have an eco drive mode to tame the throttle response and mapping, making the EPA fuel economy estimates of 23/32/26 more attainable. I like that each of the eco, comfort, and sport drive modes in the M240i can have individual configurations, giving the driver greater flexibility for dialing in the perfect setup for any driving mood. My errand running setup was in the eco pro mode, but I made the steering tighten up, and kept the suspension in comfort.

Once you slip into the driver’s seat, the M240i’s cockpit looks identical to that in the bigger brother BMW 4 Series, down to the thick-rimmed multifunction steering wheel. Even the console for the shifter, drive modes, and iDrive puck look like they were plucked from the upper segment BMW model. Similar to the 4 Series is the M240i’s infotainment and climate control cluster, which neatly includes easy to use controls.

A tasteful update over last year’s 2 Series, the materials in the 2022 BMW M240i definitely aren’t entry level, giving it an advantage over its rivals. For an extra $150, BMW gave this M240i cool aluminum tetragon trim too. Seats are big and plush, with good headroom and shoulder width up front. Legroom in the back seat isn’t great, but this is a compact coupe, so as long as your adult friends aren’t stuck back there for anything longer than a quick run to get a bite to eat they’ll live. Trunk space is plentiful in the M240i too, and if you need even more storage, the rear seats fold flat.

BMW’s adaptive cruise control is great, which I tested thoroughly on a couple Austin-area toll roads, but it’s part of the $1,450 driver assistance package that also includes extra parking assistance, a drive recorder, and a 3D surround view on the infotainment display. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the M240i’s infotainment system, with a wireless mobile charging pad installed in the compartment which also conceals the cupholders. I suggest spending an extra $875 to upgrade to the Harman Kardon audio system, which sounds fantastic.

A Proper Back Road Plaything

It may not be a full-fat BMW M model, but don’t sleep on the M240i. Possessing under 400 horsepower doesn’t make big headlines in the sports car world, but don’t scoff at the M240i’s 382 peak horsepower output. The straight-six is pleasantly punchy, offering its peak 369 lb-ft of torque across a massive plateau from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM, allowing this purple machine to scream with ease. Could this enthusiast driver be happier with more power? Sure, but frankly the M240i’s power is more than sufficient. Exhaust notes from the M240i aren’t the most striking, but this M-lite model is supposed to be more composed than its proper M siblings, even if it’s apparent there are fake engine sounds being pumped through the speakers.

BMW’s choice to fit all-wheel-drive may have added weight over the front axle, but that is a compromise I’ll happily make because the upgrade certainly improves front-end stability when tossing the M240i into fast sweepers. If you’re really pissed about BMW having all-wheel-drive, you’ll be happy to know that the M240i will have a rear-wheel-drive option later this year. I expected a bit more understeer with all-wheel-drive, versus rear-drive 2 Series models I’ve tested in the past, but the M240i still likes to slide its ass-end, thanks to a bit of rear-wheel bias. The standard M Sport rear differential effectively manages slip angle too, making it exit any corner smoothly even if you’re heavy on the throttle.

My sport individual setup put the engine and transmission in sport plus, steering in sport (because sport plus just seemed a little too heavy and sensitive), but like every other grumpy 40-something reviewer I stuck the dampers in comfort. Unless you’re on the smoothest track, keep the suspension in its soft mode, particularly as the adaptive suspension will perfectly compensate for any bumps while providing the perfect amount of firmness faster than your synapses fire.

BMW says this new M240i has more negative camber than the last generation, helping the Pirelli contact patch stick where it’s supposed to in the corners. I still don’t love the P Zero, and will continue to crave the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S as the all-around rubber champ until something better comes along, but the Pirellis held up quite well when I gave the M240i a good thrashing session along a twisty road just outside of Austin. The bright blue calipers clamping on steel rotors didn’t get too hot during fun sessions either, and the pedal feedback was bang-on.

The M240i’s revised front end sports new kidney grilles–which thankfully aren’t massive like the M3 and M4–that incorporate air flap control to reduce drag when the engine is running at optimal temperatures while sliding open when additional cooling is required. Out back, the M240i gets a neatly integrated rear lip spoiler. While crafting a new body design, BMW claims it reduced the M240i’s lift by 50% thanks to optimized aerodynamics.

The Pros And Cons

Thank you, BMW, for offering the M240i with this wildly cool paint as the launch color. Thundernight Metallic isn’t just a cool name, but the deep purple shade has a great amount of metallic flake mixed in to create a stunning look when any dose of sunlight hits it. Reshaping the new M240i was an overdue task, and this finished product has mixed results. Overall, the look is good, and the more pronounced fender flares give this compact sports coupe a more muscular stance, but BMW didn’t get the fascia right. The new kidney grilles are cool and functional, but I don’t understand why the angled side vents are so big and sharp. Then there’s the tail end. Much like the front, the lines seem too edgy, and slightly cheapen the look of this upmarket sports car.

Details around the M240i have some positives. I like the new adaptive LED headlight housings, which have circular lighting projectors within the sharper housings. The texture worked into the daytime running light element is futuristic too. Gray metallic caps are used over the side view mirrors, offering a hint more contrast to this compact BMW’s body, and the shadow line trim around the bumpers and grilles is a nice feature. The M240i’s seats are comfortable to spend hours in, and subtle in appearance, as opposed to the ones fitted to the M3 and M4. I also like the blue contrasting stitching that completes a sporty look.

There are a couple points deducted in the cockpit. I am not a fan of the gauge cluster. It is now a fully digital display that can be customized, but the needles for the tachometer and speedometer are tiny, and the numbers all blend together too easily. Nothing about them truly stands out to make a needle nor number clearly visible. Drive modes have individual buttons, so you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you’re pressing the correct one. I wish there was a knob for this function, like there are in other German sports cars.

The climate control system doesn’t have a sync button on the dash, so if you want to align all the ventilation, you have to tap the A/C menu button and make a couple extra adjustments on the infotainment screen. Buttons are also less than intuitive on the steering wheel, with the roller used to change menus on the gauge pod, rather than adjusting volume. Instead that’s done with the + / – buttons. Those last two items are small complaints though.

A Great Little Sports Coupe

BMW gave the M240i a great stack of updates for 2022. Its power is plentiful, the steering is precise, and the handling is fantastic. The new M240i’s exterior appearance may not be as tidy as its predecessor’s, but the refreshed body is more stylish without being as polarizing as the M3 or M4. The M240i may not offer flashy stats like its bigger M siblings, but there’s more than enough performance to satisfy this enthusiast. I won’t deny that I look forward to reviewing the next iteration of the M2 and its faster variants, but this lesser M model still ticks plenty of boxes.

When I evaluate the M240i’s capabilities, its compact packaging, and its sub-$60,000 price, I compare it to BMW’s E46 M3. Still one of my favorite performance cars from the early 2000s, it offered stellar performance at the right price, with proportions that nailed it for me. When viewed in that light, the M240i is a modern interpretation of that iconic analog driving gem, ready to put a massive grin on your face as you conquer a twisty road, and I think that makes it a big hit.

The 2022 Honda Civic Si Keeps It Real

The updated bargain sport sedan still hits its marks.

Since the 1980s, Honda has cranked out the ideal fun car for those with more modest budgets, in the form of the Civic Si. When it first arrived, the Civic Si was a compact hatchback with a slight bump in performance over its normal offerings, focused on the driver who wanted a little more enjoyment from their weekday commute and weekend drives. Having previously owned three earlier generations of the Civic Si personally, I was easily the target demographic that loved what Honda produced in the segment.

When I tested the 2020 variant of the Si just over a year ago, I thought it was the best way to spend $26,000 on a new car. It may have had some edgy styling cues that would please the youths more than the responsible adult, but Honda sold tons of them. Now in its eleventh generation, the Honda Civic has moved upmarket inside and out. With fresh exterior lines that resemble those of the Civic’s Accord big brother, the 2022 model tidies up its appearance with a more mature look, but underneath it still possesses the goodies the fun driver wants. To see if the new Civic Si was still holding up its reputation, I gave it a fun test around the streets of Austin, Texas.

The Key Specs

For 2022, Honda built an all-new Civic, and when I drove the top-end Touring trim last fall, I thought it was a great new edition of the best-selling compact sedan. Carrying over the majority of the powertrain from the 2020 Si, this new one has a retuned version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that 200 horsepower at 6,000 RPM. In revising the Si’s engine mapping, the 2022 model’s torque curve is wider, with its peak 192 lb-ft of torque available 300 RPM sooner, and staying steady from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM. Unlike its early versions, the 2022 Honda Civic Si is not the high-revving VTEC screamer of those B-Series years, now having a redline of just 6,500 RPM.

A 6-speed manual is the only transmission in the 2022 Civic Si, hooked up to a lightweight single-mass flywheel and helical limited-slip differential to drive the front wheels. In spite of having a more flexible power band, the 2022 Si accelerates from a standstill slightly slower than the car it replaces. Now hitting 0-60 MPH in 7.1 seconds, and tripping the lights at the end of a 1/4-mile run in 15.3 seconds, the 2022 Si isn’t going to leap off the page, but Honda isn’t focused on winning drag races with this new Civic.

Competing with the VW Jetta, Subaru WRX, and Hyundai Elantra N, this new Si has some strong rivals in the bargain fun sedan segment. As one would expect from an all-new model that takes on a bunch of upgrades, the 2022 Honda Civic Si price is up around $2,000 versus the 2020 model. Thankfully Honda makes pricing simple, with one factory option being stickier summer tires over the standard all-season performance rubber. The 2022 Si’s base price is $27,300, and the HPT (high performance tire) option adds just $200. This tester added Blazing Orange Pearl paint, for another $395, to hit a total MSRP of $28,910 after destination.

A Daily Driving Sleeper

Act surprised, a Honda Civic Si is great to drive as a city car. The turbocharged engine is punchy enough to make your errand runs run, without exhibiting the erratic energy of a heavily caffeinated terrier. Jumping onto a freeway is definitely enjoyable, with enough power to effortlessly scoot past slower moving traffic. Opt for a shade a paint more subtle than this orange example, and you’ll easily sneak up on fellow motorists who underestimate the fun this Si packs.

Because its powerplant doesn’t have to rev to the stratosphere to make its power, as opposed to earlier Si models, the 2022 Honda Civic Si offers good flexibility across its rev range without the need to downshift if you’re under 4,000 RPMs. Keep the Si in the normal drive mode, and the throttle response is composed and light, making it easier to achieve the EPA fuel economy estimates of 27/37/31 (city/highway/combined) MPGs. I was a bit more playful during my week-long test in the Civic Si, and only averaged 27 MPGs.

Though its suspension includes plenty of upgrades to improve its performance on more fun stretches of pavement, Honda didn’t make the Civic Si too firm when completing more typical errand runs and commutes to the office. Gone are the adaptive dampers I appreciated in the last generation Si, and I suspect this was to reduce costs. I was shocked Honda included them in a car that was under $30,000, and hoped they’d stick around in this all-new Si, as they worked nicely to calm bumpy city streets while offering more confidence when playing behind the wheel of the Si. With a hint of electric assist, the Civic Si has light yet precise steering feel, and the leather-wrapped wheel fits neatly into my hands.

The 2022 Honda Civic Si receives the same cabin upgrades as the standard models, getting hardware that a new Accord driver would recognize. The new infotainment touchscreen measures 9 inches across, and the updated instrument cluster features a new 7-inch LCD setup with customizable gauges. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment pumping through a new 12-speaker Bose audio system, which Honda claims is the best system ever featured in a Civic Si. Sticking with USB-A ports, Honda provides a pair of them just ahead of the shifter, where there’s a good cubby to toss your phone, keys, and any other small items.

Practicality is still at the high Honda standard, with plenty of storage space (and big bottle holders) in the doors, center armrest, and in the trunk. Properly functional cupholders are placed between the seats, with good depth to keep a massive fountain drink cup stable. Legroom and headroom are great for back seat passengers, thanks to Honda adding 1.4 inches to the Civic Si’s wheelbase, now a class-leading 107.7 inches. There isn’t much in the way of lateral support for the back seat, so don’t get too wild when running to lunch with a couple coworkers in the Si.

Those who care about safety will be happy to know that Honda still makes its Honda Sensing® suite of driver-assistive and safety technology standard, and added traffic sign recognition and a driver attention monitor to the 2022 Si. A couple under-appreciated features are Honda’s adaptive cruise control that smoothly maintains speed without that rubber band sensation, and the lane keeping assistance system that continually centers the Civic without that ping pong effect between the stripes.

Keeping Up A Sporty Reputation

Days of the wrapping up the tach to get any fun out of a VTEC engine are gone, and the 2022 Honda Civic Si allows the driver to enjoy some punch at nearly any RPM. Sure, this 1.5-liter engine loses some revs, but Honda figured out that the enthusiast will appreciate some available torque that doesn’t resemble the low-end output of a weed eater. Honda also says it revised the engine’s power to not taper off as the tachometer needle surges past its peak output, while also sharpening throttle response. The result is a good little motor that still likes to rev, but provides some good pull when you want it to take off at lower RPMs.

Like most sporty cars, Honda gives the 2022 Civic Si a drive mode selection for normal, sport, and individual modes, although the individual one doesn’t have many variables to toy with. Thankfully there is good separation between the sport and normal modes, giving this updated Si noticeably different moods. It won’t blow the doors off many cars at a red light, but that doesn’t matter to me. The power band in the Si is smooth, and the engine is a joy to set free. Tight gear ratios provide a little extra punch without falling out of the boost too easily, and the exchange of each through the new shifter is nothing short of exceptional.

When I drove the Civic Type-R Limited Edition last summer, I thought it had the best shifting this side of a Porsche 911 GT3, and the Civic Si exhibits very similar directness and a positive click, with 10% shorter throws than the 2020 Si. The leather-wrapped aluminum knob is not only cool looking, but fits my hand perfectly. Clutch engagement is simple and clearly established, and I praise Honda for sticking to its roots by only offering a stick in the Civic Si. The 2022 Si now has rev-match control to keep the RPMs in the sweet spot, while make you look cooler when downshifting with a friend in the passenger seat. Speaking of seats, the front buckets in the Civic Si keep you planted when flogging this quicker Civic.

The new Si’s suspension sports stiffer springs (8% stiffer in front and 54% stiffer in the rear), firmer dampers, and its anti-roll bars are thicker (27 mm hollow front and 18 mm solid rear) than a standard Civic, translating to fantastic sensations on twisty roads. Borrowing the front and rear compliance bushings, upper arms and lower B-arms from the Civic Type-R, the Si is ridiculously composed in the bends. I just wish Honda didn’t get rid of the fantastic two-mode adaptive dampers the last generation benefitted from. Steering feel is improved using a 60-percent stiffer torsion bar connecting the steering shaft to the steering rack pinion gear. Thanks to an extra half inch of rear track and a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase than the 2020 model, the 2022 Civic Si allows the driver to toss it around with greater agility. Lateral grip is surprisingly high in the 2022 Si, shrugging off the understeer you’d expect from a front-wheel-drive compact car. Attribute much of that stability to the limited-slip diff, and Honda’s tinkering with the steering system that greatly improves feedback in the bends.

I appreciate Honda offering sportier tires as a factory option on the Civic Si, but I’m not a big fan of the Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber that’s wrapped around the cool black 10-spoke wheels. While they’re more than confident in the corners, with a square 235/40R18 setup, the noise level is a bit high. I love the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S over damn near any tire, but understand that every OEM isn’t going to equip them. Maybe Bridgestone’s 5001 would be a good alternative, like I’ve tested on a few affordable fun cars. An upgrade over previous generations of the Si, this 2022 model gets bigger brakes than the standard Civic models, now with 12.3-inch front rotors (up 1.2 inches), and 11.1-inch rear rotors (0.9 inch larger). If your weekend plans include track or autocross duty, you’ll want to upgrade the pads and fluid, as a longer stint of tossing the Si got the brakes to exhibit a bit of fade.

Rather than being a bit over-the-top like its Type-R sibling, the Civic Si receives more subtle styling. Honda wants people to recognize the Si as a fun variant, and I appreciate that its packaging is more tame. Simple badges adorn the decklid and front grille, and a reasonable black rear lip spoiler is fixed to the trunk. Even the exhaust pipes are more civil on the 2022 Civic Si, using a small tip on each side of the rear bumper, a departure from the big central trapezoidal outlet that was fitted to the 2020 model. The note resonating from the exhaust isn’t exactly gnarly, but at least the turbocharged Si isn’t totally muted in an era of OEMs being concerned about melting glaciers.

Some Pros And Cons

Revising the Civic Si’s looks was a smart move by Honda. The 2022 Si can attract slightly more mature buyers who still want a fun yet practically priced car. Gone are the aggressive and downright pointless exterior angles, replaced by smoothly flowing contours from nose to tail. The Civic Si’s cockpit is neatly upgraded too, getting a smaller version of the good steering wheel from the Accord, which utilizes physical switches and buttons for the audio and cruise control system. Deviated red stitching completes a sporty effect too. Honda is now offering a cabin that’s as nice as the one in the VW Jetta, and is definitely better sorted than its Subaru and Hyundai rivals.

The Si’s front seats are woven with sporty red cloth centers, get black Alcantara outer sections, and are pulled together with red stitching. Not as flashy as the seats in the Civic Type-R, the 2022 Si’s are slightly calmer. This theme carries over to the door cards, competing a tastefully fun interior. My one gripe with them is that Honda got rid of the heated function to the front seats, which was a standard feature in the previous generation Si.

In its effort to move upmarket, the Civic gets a few treatments from its Accord big brother, including a similar instrument cluster. I’m not in love with this gauge pod, as it’s a bit too spartan. The last Si had a more prominent speed display in the center, and the overall look of the cluster was more sporty. Now it’s kind of plain. With a huge amount of cargo space in the trunk, the Civic Si can haul a ton of your stuff, with added capacity when folding the rear seats 50/50. I just wish there was a bit more versatility and compartments in there, to better stash smaller items away.

A honeycomb design element is featured in the quick Civic’s front grille, and there’s a hint of that look used in the cabin’s vents. While they’re cool at first glance, what’s lacking in the Civic Si is dual-zone climate control, which was standard in the last generation, and is only available in more nicely-appointed Civic trim levels. As someone with a frequent passenger who’s often colder than me, that’s a big feature to delete, Honda. At least the control knobs for the climate control system have a nicely textured finish and a positive detent.

Still The Affordable Fun Car You Want

Honda has continually upgraded the Civic Si with each new generation, but it maintains its identity. It’s a blast to drive, offering enough power for a car of its size, boasting plenty of grip in the corners, and has one of the best manual shifting experiences available. At the same time, the Civic Si is still the practical sedan you expect from Honda.

I can’t help but offer a tiny gripe that Honda has taken away a few creature comforts while bumping up the price a couple grand. In the past generations, the Civic Si was a steal in its class, offering a load of standard equipment and performance for less cash than its competitors. While sneaking in at just under $30,000, which is on-par with its rivals, Honda still delivers a great value play with the Civic Si, and it’s definitely the fun compact sedan I’d opt for.

THE MERCEDES-BENZ S580 RAISES THE EXECUTIVE SEDAN BAR AGAIN

Boasting supreme luxury and cool styling, this loaded flagship sedan leads the field.

When Mercedes-Benz launches a new S-Class, the industry takes note. Always the pinnacle of the German marque’s capabilities, the S-Class brings new tech, features, and styling cues to the lineup, and makes the competition step up its game. Recognized as the sedan that hauls bank executives, dignitaries, and celebrities alike, this Mercedes-Benz icon has serious expectations to conquer.

Competing with the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Maserati Quattroporte, the S-Class will always have rivals at its heels. In its newest form, Mercedes has unveiled its executive sedan to suit the driver as much as the driven occupant. Having reviewed a variety of ultimate luxury sedans including the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur, I wanted to see how a slightly more attainable luxury sedan got along, so I gave it a comprehensive test.

THE KEY SPECIFICATIONS

Mercedes-Benz offers the new S-Class with two different engine options. In the S500, a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six (shared with the AMG GT 53 I reviewed) makes its way under the hood, coupled with Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48V mild-hybrid system, producing 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. In S580 guise, Mercedes provides its exceptional 4.0-liter biturbo V8, also equips its EQ Boost system, which bumps the output to 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S580 is driven by a 9-speed automatic that powers all four wheels, and the sprint from 0-60 MPH takes only 4.4 seconds.

At 208 inches long, 77 wide, and 59 tall, the S-Class has a 65-inch front and 66-inch wide rear track, and a wheelbase measuring 126 inches. In its ultimately appointed–and more expensive–Maybach offering, Mercedes extends the wheelbase and overall length seven inches, providing the rear cabin occupants a massive space to be driven in. Thanks to extensive use of aluminum in its construction, this luxobarge tips the scales at just 4,775 pounds.

Mercedes offers the S580 in three distinct trim levels, with the Luxury Line being its standard model, at a base price of $117,700. The upper trim is the Executive Line model, which adds seating and entertainment upgrades to the rear cabin, focused on the driven occupant. The model I tested is the AMG Line, in the middle of the lineup, adding sportier details inside and out, with a base price of $122,000.

Painted Obsidian Black, treated with Sienna Brown and Black Exclusive Nappa leather, and trimmed with Slate high-gloss poplar wood trim, my tester added 22-inch AMG wheels with performance tires, rear-axle steering, the Burmester 4D high-end audio system, warmth and comfort package, night package, and 3D technology package to hit a total MSRP of $142,090.

THE BEST WAY TO COMMUTE TO THE OFFICE

As expected from a car of this caliber, the all-new Mercedes S580 is wonderful to spend time cruising in. While the standard inline-six in the S500 is a good powerplant, the biturbo V8 stuffed into the S580 is the one you want. With its peak 516 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 – 4,000 RPM, there’s no hesitation when you want the S-Class to surge ahead, complimented by the smoothest torque-ll provided by Mercedes’ EQ Boost mild-hybrid system. Unfortunately Mercedes no longer has a 12-cylinder option in the S-Class, like is standard in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I enjoyed, and is optional in the Bentley Flying Spur and BMW 7 Series.

The S-Class glides over the bumpiest city streets, thanks to its adaptive AIRMATIC suspension that prevents any disruptions inside this massive chassis. Despite being a huge executive sedan, the S580 is remarkably nimble, and the rear-axle steering is a great option box to tick for added agility. Pirelli P zero rubber is wrapped around the 22-inch wheels in the AMG Line, which denitely help it cope in the bends. I took this S-Class along twisty roads on multiple occasions, and was more than pleased with how confidently it carved corners.

The dynamic drive modes offer eco, comfort, sport, and sport plus defaults, and my favorite individual setup involved putting the engine in comfort, the suspension in sport, and the steering in sport too. I liked a hint firmer response–but not too stiff–from the adaptive dampers, as the comfort mode was more floaty than I prefer. Demand even more cornering prowess? Drop $6,500 on the E-Active Body Control that employs a stereo camera system that works in harmony with the 48V electronics in the suspension to minimize body roll, pitch, and dive characteristics under any driving condition. Even if that drive is only made between one’s massive house and the office or country club.

The new S-Class is treated to a cabin that’s upholding the new Mercedes look that perfectly balances cool and luxurious. The S580’s seats are supremely good, with loads of support in the right spots, and heating, ventilation, and massage modes that will spoil you along any drive. The pillows attached to the headrests are a nice touch too. I suggest taking a long road trip to truly exploit the comfort provided in this flagship Mercedes.

The Burmester 3D surround audio system (a $6,730 option) is among the best I’ve heard in any car, even versus the Naim for Bentley system in the Flying Spur and the Bespoke Audio in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I reviewed, detailed with cool metallic speaker grilles (featuring tweeters that unscrew outward when the system is on). If the speakers aren’t potent enough, Mercedes supplies laminated glass that’s heat and noise-insulating, and IR-reflecting, to make sure you aren’t affected by any outside elements.

BEING DRIVEN IN COOL LUXURY

While driving the new Mercedes S580 is great, spending time in the back seat is fantastic. Even without opting for the Maybach model that boasts an extra seven inches of wheelbase that benefits the rear cabin, the legroom rear passengers will enjoy in the S-Class is massive. The optional warmth and comfort package adds rapid heating, cool ventilation, and power adjustments to the rear seats, while also giving the front passengers added heating in the center and door armrests.

If you’re the person being driven more often than driving, spend the extra cash for the Executive Line S580 that enhances the seating setup with massaging modes, a footrest on the right side, four-zone climate control, and upgrades to the MBUX infotainment system to allow for easier controls while utilizing a tablet that docks in the cooler center armrest that also conceals a wireless charging pad.

THE EXCEPTIONAL DETAILS

While the Mercedes-Benz S580’s exterior may project that it’s an understated executive sedan, but there are countless details that make it cool. The sculpted panels carry subtle styling lines that flow smoothly around its body, cleanly connecting the headlights to the taillights. The classic grille contains the cruise control radar components, and there’s still the iconic Mercedes-Benz hood ornament installed.

Under its fine sheetmetal, Mercedes-Benz has gone wild appointing its interior with some of the coolest tech you’ll spot inside any car currently on sale. An additional $3,000 will upgrade the cockpit with an augmented reality heads-up display and a 3D instrument cluster. The 64-color ambient light modes can be adjusted as desired, but I went for the cool Miami Sunset theme that cycles through retro pastel shades.

While cool speakers, ambient lights, and space age materials aren’t new to luxury cars, Mercedes has a party trick few can match, tucked into its infotainment’s settings: “Energizing Comfort” modes. Whether the S580’s occupants are in need of a boost of energy, want to calm themselves after a long day, or have just taken a dose of their favorite psychedelics (please don’t do this and drive), the S-Class will set up a mind-blowing experience.

Depending on the mode selected, an adaptive color theme is introduced through the ambient lights, the seat and armrest heaters crank up if it’s a warming theme or the seat ventilation fans activate, a unique massage mode begins, and the Burmester audio system flexes its prowess as instrumentals blast through all its numerous speakers. It’s an immersive experience like nothing else, and I strongly recommend making friends with a new S-Class owner, wandering to an open space at night, and firing up one of these modes.

THE POSITIVE POINTS

As more luxury manufacturers are making bold styling changes, Mercedes insists on keeping the S-Class refined. Every panel has the tiniest gap that is perfectly measured around the entire body. Soft-close doors silently operate, yet still have a solidly-weighted feel. Door handles are similar to those found on a Tesla Model S, but with smooth and silent extending and concealment when entering or exiting the S-Class.

I expected the new S-Class to be extremely well-assembled inside, but this S580 is exquisite. A blend of big high-resolution displays for the instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment system, fine quilted leather, and cool metal trim that compliments large wood panels complete a cabin I adore. Follow any stitching, wood, or metal trim line, and you’ll never spot a deviation or imperfection. Considering the S580 costs half the price of the Bentley Flying Spur and a third of the cost of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, the interior detailing of the S-Class is on-par with them both.

A FEW TINY COMPLAINTS

Where the complete outer proportions of the Mercedes S-Class are great, the front grille is a little large when presented between the smaller headlamp housings. I get that Mercedes wanted the front-end to be striking, but the main grille element needs to shrink about 20 percent. This is about as much of a complaint as I can find around the S580’s body, as it still looks ridiculously good.

Continuing the trend throughout its updated cabin designs, Mercedes has incorporated more capacitive touch controls for the seat adjustments, and I would prefer some physical movement that’s given more of a positive click when making each of the many seat sections move. The same gripe extends to the steering wheel setup that I didn’t love in the Mercedes E350 I drove not long ago. With physical controls being eliminated, Mercedes makes you take your eyes off the road to adjust the climate control or volume of your favorite music. At least the volume slider adjusts intuitively when you slide your finger either direction.

“THE BEST OR NOTHING” EPITOMIZED

More than a catchy tagline, the principle of “The Best or Nothing” is effectively applied to the new Mercedes S-Class. As is the case each time Mercedes-Benz releases a new S-Class, the luxury flagship benchmark has been reset with this newest edition. Best of luck to the S-Class’ rivals, in an attempt to compete with what is the best offering in its class by far. The S580 demonstrates the finest engineering and craftsmanship Mercedes can produce.

Met with timeless looks outside, the S580’s cabin is treated to wonderfully modern styling touches and a cool factor like no other flagship sedan. Pair a refined chassis with a mild-hybrid powertrain that creates a truly smooth surge, and the Mercedes-Benz S580 is as joyful behind the wheel as it is from the back seat. There’s nothing like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and I think it is absolutely the executive sedan to buy.