The tenth edition of the famous celebration of Porsche’s air-cooled past took place at the weekend, when Los Angeles welcomed home Luftgekühlt 8.
(Feature for Porsche Newsroom)
When it comes to car culture, southern California supplies enthusiasts equally with variety and passion. From low riders and hot rods to sports cars, the region has something for everyone, and parking lots fill every weekend with purists and creatives showing off their four-wheeled treasures while admiring the tastes of friends old and new. This past weekend, Los Angeles hosted Luftgekühlt 8, a very special air-cooled gathering pulled together by Jeff Zwart, of Pikes Peak fame, the Le Mans-winning driver Patrick Long, and Howie Idelson.
With its origins rooted in LA, Sunday’s meeting at CRAFTED at the Port of Long Beach was something of a homecoming for “Luft,” as it has become known. Set in and around a pair of 1940s-era warehouses formerly used as a holding point for shipping companies, the tenth installment featured pristine examples of historic racing cars and museum-quality machines among more humble offerings driven in by local owners.
Crowds at the sell-out event mingled among highlights including a 1956 550A Spyder, a 934/5 crafted by Canepa, several 1970s Carrera RS examples, a few custom creations from California-based designers and builders, and a handful of endurance race winners covering Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona.
Hundreds more models, spanning the sports car manufacturer’s rich 74-year history, were spread out in creative arrangements that not only displayed the brand’s lineage, but ensured an Instagram-friendly feast for keen photographers.
A naked 356 chassis formed part of a display by Porsche Classic, which showcased its parts and services for owners looking to restore their cars. The new book by Type7, Type7 Volume 3, also made its US debut, with editor-in-chief Ted Gushue signing copies.
And dozens of food trucks – a staple of LA – kept the tens of thousands who attended well-nourished, with a menu as colourful and eclectic as the cars on show. After the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and 2021 was limited in size, Luftgekühlt 8 proved that there is an appetite for more than good food in California – and that Porsche people know how to party.
The Carrera S power figures may not jump off the page, but it’s a potent Porsche. Dropping the top makes this 992 even better.
Since 1982, the 911 Cabriolet has been a staple in the Porsche lineup. An open-air version of the iconic Carrera, the Cabriolet has continually moved upmarket with price, size, and performance. In the new 992 generation, figures have gone up in all those aforementioned categories, but this new Cabriolet still maintains the distinct profile of the 911, and retains a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine tucked behind the rear axle.
Having owned and reviewed several Porsche models over the years, I am striving to take more opportunities to review more of Porsche’s 992 models. Like I felt when I reviewed the base 718 Cayman last year, the Carrera S doesn’t get enough attention from enthusiast drivers who seek bigger power figures. With an extended trip in California to cover Monterey Car Week and do a few reviews in Los Angeles, Porsche set me up with the Carrera S Cabriolet for an extensive test on some of my favorite roads.
THE IMPORTANT STATS
The Porsche 911’s all-new 992 variant has been on the road for three years, and much like previous generations, there are more 911 model offerings than you can count on all your fingers and toes combined. With coupe, targa, and cabriolet options for the rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, most with either a manual or PDK automatic gearbox available, Porsche also has several levels of power output and performance to satisfy any driver on any road or circuit.
The Carrera S Cabriolet I tested is a tick above the base drop-top model, boasting a bit more power, with the rear-wheel-drive, PDK, and sport chrono options selected, so I’ll stick to its figures. In Carrera S trim, the 992 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter at-six that produces 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, both of which are healthy increases over the 991.2 generation. Through a new 8-speed PDK, this Carrera S Cabriolet can sprint from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 190 MPH, making it 0.4 seconds and 1 MPH faster than its predecessor. Porsche attributes much of the performance improvements to optimized combustion from the engine in addition to new turbochargers, the new 8-speed PDK (with better gear ratio progression), and revised engine cooling.
While proportions have increased for the 992 over the 991, Porsche has gone to great lengths to minimize weight gains, utilizing more aluminum in the Carrera Cabriolets chassis and body to keep the curb weight down to 3,537 pounds. This new platform also now sports wider fender flares all-around, with all models getting S-body curves. The 992 Cabriolet also benefits from a new soft top that is lighter with faster operation up and down, optimized rollover protection, and a new power-folding wind deflector to keep the cabin quiet when cruising with the top down.
Base price for the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet is $127,900. Interior options include Bordeaux and black leather, aluminum trim, and the premium package that adds upgraded Bose audio, ambient lighting, dynamic headlights, surround view (for parking), extra storage, and 18-way adaptive and ventilated front seats. Also fitted are the extended range fuel tank and front axle lift for greater usability, and on the performance front Porsche supplied 20″/21″ wheels, rear axle steering, and the sport chrono package that equips a sport exhaust system, lower PASM adaptive suspension, and enables quicker response and acceleration with launch control. Added up, this GT Silver tester hit a total MSRP of $157,270 after destination.
SURPRISINGLY CIVIL CONVERTIBLE
Open-air driving is exceptional in the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet, with a near-silent power soft top that tucks away in just 12 seconds, at speeds up to 31 MPH. If you’re going to drive at speeds above 45 MPH, engage the power operated rear wind deflector–which pops up in just 2 seconds–to cancel out any turbulent air. Even with the screen tucked away, the cockpit is surprisingly quiet. Spending several days cruising the streets and trac-filled freeways of Los Angeles, I got to experience how livable the 992 Cabriolet is.
Composure in the 992 Cabriolet is on-par with the sublime grand touring experience behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental or Aston Martin DB11. For being a sportscar that grew up over the past couple generations, this new Carrera Cabriolet is comfortable in any driving condition, whether you’re boulevard cruising or canyon slaying. The Porsche Active Suspension Management system is compliant yet responsive, and the adaptive dampers relieve any bumps you might feel in the cabin when gliding along in the comfort drive mode. With what I consider to be the best electric-assisted steering setup on the market, Porsche gives the 992 S Cab’s rack smooth response without feeling numb on-center and not too articially boosted when you give it some quick inputs.
Concealed beneath vertical slats of the engine cover is the turbocharged flat-six that provides plenty of response when you stab the throttle, while being composed during normal applications. I’ll admit I did more daily driving with the sport exhaust’s throatier mode engaged with a tap of the dash-mounted button, because that sound was addictive. Even while utilizing this louder exhaust setting and being a fun driver around town, I still achieved an average of 19 MPGs (compared to the EPA estimates of 18/23/20). Denitely opt for the extended range fuel tank, which bumps capacity from 16.9 to 23.7 gallons and dramatically improves fuel range on road trips.
The 992 Cabriolet’s cockpit is all-new, compared to the 991 generation, carrying over the new dash and center console design you recognize in Porsche models like the Panamera and Macan. Definitely an upgrade that makes the 992 as refined as much more expensive grand tourers, the new look still retains Porsche’s classic central analog tachometer that’s now flanked by digital screens that can host a pair of circular dials or a combination of custom displays.
Updated gear selection for the PDK is done with a tiny joystick that frees up space, but it takes a hint of adjustment if you’ve driven earlier 911 generations. Fortunately through all these improvements and updates–and dierent from other Porsche models–the 911 Cabriolet still has plenty of physical controls on the dash to adjust the audio system, drive modes, exhaust, suspension, and seat heating or ventilation.
Front seats are fantastic for long drives, and still keep you nicely planted in the bends when you want to play. On a cooler night, I loved how quickly the seat heaters cranked up to warm my buns. When I was cranking away fun miles in the canyons on a hot day, the ventilation function was ice cold and blew hard. Carrying over the frunk space of the last generation 911, the 992 still has a massive cargo space up front that can easily swallow two carry-on roller bags and a backpack, making travel easy whether you’re driving across the country or making a quick run to the airport.
PERFORMANCE YOU EXPECT FROM PORSCHE
Don’t mistake this 911’s daily driving civility for softness when it’s time to play in the canyons, as the 992 S Cabriolet has capabilities ready to pounce in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t expecting the Carrera S Cabriolet to feel as sharp and performance-oriented as the 718 GT4 I drove at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles, but was impressed with its dynamics. Through extensive playtime along the canyon roads of Malibu and the Angeles National Forest, the 992 S Cabriolet exhibited some serious performance traits.
Considering the torsional rigidity took a hit by losing the roof, the Carrera S Cabriolet still felt planted and condent when I gave it long days of thrashing, and not once did I feel like the open-top chassis was compromised. Credit given to Porsche for keeping this nicely-appointed convertible’s curb weight to around 3,500 pounds, allowing the 992 S Cabriolet to still feel light on its feet.
In addition to the usual comfort, sport, and sport plus drive modes, Porsche now offers an individual setup in the Carrera S Cabriolet, allowing you to dial in your happy settings. For my hardcore canyon driving, I configured the engine in sport plus, chassis in sport, made sure the exhaust was open, and told 992’s stability control to take the day off. To have the most fun and engagement, I suggest utilizing the manual shift feature of Porsche’s new lightning-fast PDK transmission, even if the steering wheel-mounted paddles are a bit on the small side.
Scoff at the 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft figures, and you’ll quickly be silenced by the 992 S Cabriolet’s performance as it unleashes linear turbocharged acceleration out of tight bends, making any straightaway disappear as you surge toward the next set of corners. With the peak torque at your disposal from 2,300 to 5,000 RPM, the Carrera S Cabriolet allows for smooth pulls in any of the eight forward gears. I get to test all sorts of fast cars, and never was I wanting for more power in the 992 S Cab.
When a certain section of the Angeles Crest opens up a mile-long arrow-straight stretch, I pressed the 992’s sport response button–mounted within the drive mode knob–to release 20 seconds of increased engine power and transmission calibrations. This button also served as a nice push-to-pass feature when I needed to quickly get around a slow moving hiker ignoring every turnout in sight while they were driving to a campground.
Steering is magnificent in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Razor sharp response and epic connectivity to the pavement are better than I’ve felt in many performance cars. Feedback is translated through a steering wheel that boasts the perfect diameter and rim thickness, enabling wonderful feedback to your fingers. Sporting reasonably-sized 245mm wide front and 305mm rear Pirelli P Zero tires, the 992 S Cabriolet doesn’t dart around at all, and the tail end is able to slide ever so slightly while maintaining its composure. The P Zero may be a tire I often complain about, but they got the job done with this 992 Carrera S Cabriolet when I dished out some harder flogging sessions, and didn’t get too angry when their temps moved upward.
A common Porsche characteristic, braking is exceptional in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Even with the signature Porsche red calipers mounted over steel rotors, this 992 took my hard inputs and long durations of fun driving like a champ. Porsche still offers its fantastic carbon ceramic rotors paired with yellow calipers, for lower unsprung weight and less fade over harder sessions, but the steels easily kept up with my comprehensive evaluation.
THE REALLY GOOD THINGS
The design language of the 992 is lovely. The new circular headlamp housings, LED light strip across the width of the tail end that connects to the taillights, and wide, curvy rear hips make the 992 look like a modern interpretation of the iconic air-cooled 993. Overall proportions may have increased versus the 991, but this new 911 looks amazing, and the Cabriolet’s lines actually work when sitting next to a coupe model.
Cockpit noise is remarkably low. I made a few phone calls with the top down on a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, and with the windows up, the person on the other end had no idea I was driving with the top down. I also love the front axle lift system that will now prompt you to store the location and automatically raise the nose when you pull into a steep driveway any other time.
When the 992 was released, Porsche introduced a new rain driving mode that automatically detects moisture and splashing sounds in the wheel well. If the 911 senses rain conditions, it will suggest the driver makes the wet mode selection that adapts the Carrera’s traction suspension, aerodynamics, and engine responsiveness to better manage control during inclement conditions.
While retaining physical buttons rather than capacitive touch controls seen in other luxury cars, the 992 Cab has programmable steering wheel button to engage various settings and quick controls. I appreciate still having individual toggle switches for the exhaust, suspension, and axle lift, for quick adjustments on the fly.
A COUPLE TINY NEGATIVES
Because of the fixed roof and large rear window from the coupe no longer being present, rearward visibility in the 992 Carrera Cabriolet is somewhat compromised if you aren’t a taller driver. The soft top’s cool movement and storage mechanism had to go somewhere, and I think this is a fair trade.
The back seats are still laughably tiny, and are better suited to hosting a toddler’s car seat or your backpack rather than any people that need to put their legs somewhere. At least the back seats more than double cargo capacity if you end up stashing loads of gear in the front storage area.
In redesigning the center console and dash, Porsche also fitted new cupholders to the 992, with the driver one smack dab in the middle of the center console. If you opt for a manual transmission, the 992’s new fixed cupholder will be in your way. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, seeing how low Porsche manual transmission take rate is.
IT’S HARD TO FIND A BETTER ALL-AROUND 911
I had to constantly remind myself I was in a more civil variant of the 992 when I tested this Carrera S Cabriolet. Its performance was easily above expectations, and excelled during my more enthusiastic canyon driving days. The Carrera S Cabriolet is fast, agile, and still provides a driving experience you expect from the iconic Porsche 911.
At a base price of $127,000, the 911 S Cab has definitely increased over the past two generations, now out of reach for some buyers of earlier models, but what you get for that money is something special. Porsche has moved the 911 up in class against some grand touring competition, rather than against more conventional sports cars. When comparing the Carrera S Cabriolet’s worth against new rivals, it exhibits great value and performance. The Carrera S also performs about as well as earlier generation Turbo models.
Porsche offers several 911 variants with more power and torque, but if you’re upgrading from a 997 or earlier generation, this 992 Carrera S powerplant is more power than you’ll ever need. 443 horsepower is plenty of juice to get you into trouble, and more than sufficient to make any spirited canyon driving a purely joyous experience. Pair the 992’s driving experience with an open-air cockpit on a gorgeous day, and the Carrera S Cabriolet is the best way to experience a new Porsche 911.
The McLaren Sports Series swan song, this GT4 race car plays on the street.
No stranger to racing events and local track days, McLaren offers a strong selection of road cars that will slay any circuit they invade. When you think of track day road cars, immediately you gravitate toward the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista, or Lamborghini Huracan Performante. The thing is that those monsters spotted at your favorite track day are based on road cars, rather than racing cars. McLaren wanted to do things differently.
Long in the tooth is McLaren’s Sports Series lineup, dating back to the 570S which first arrived in 2015. With a few updates and versions with more power (like the 600LT), in addition to Spider variants and a fantastic grand tourer built on the platform, McLaren’s entry-level machine has had a good run. To send the Sports Series off, ahead of the new Artura’s arrival, McLaren decided to make a track special model that’s legal on the street.
Rather than starting with a traditional road-going variant of the 570S or 600LT, McLaren went wild, and decided to make a limited-run model based on its popular GT4 racer. It’s called the 620R, and as soon as you see it, you know this car isn’t messing about. While retaining the DNA of McLaren’s most successful GT race car, the 620R isn’t held back by restrictions imposed upon typical race cars. Rather than heading to the track to examine its worth, I stuck to public roads to see how well this race car for the street got on.
THE RACY SPECS AND HARDWARE
Utilizing the same M838TE 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine used in the McLaren 570 GT4, the unrestricted 620R pumps out 611 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a revised ECU and turbocharging management system. With engine mapping focused on delivering optimal lap times rather than achieving a high top speed, and employing stiffer powertrain mounts on the 7-speed Seamless Shift Gearbox, the rear-wheel-drive 620R hits a top speed of 200 MPH. Acceleration from 0-60 is just 2.8 seconds, with 0-124 MPH in just 8.1, and the 620R can complete a 1/4-mile sprint in as little as 10.4 seconds.
Since the McLaren 620R is based on the 570 GT4, it gets loads of goodies the road-going Sports Series models don’t have access to. Under its lightweight carbon skin, the McLaren 620R employs motorsport wishbones, uprights, anti-roll bars, and manually-adjustable dampers, to drop weight while toughening the chassis for optimal grip. The 620R is still built upon McLaren’s Monocell II carbon fiber chassis, but with less interior fabric and insulation, its curb weight drops to an astonishing 3,067 pounds.
Ignoring plenty of practical and comfortable features, the 620R makes no excuses as it emphasizes performance. The interior is devoid of anything involving NVH. There are no carpets, and there’s no insulation in the doors nor between all the interior panels. Colin Chapman dreams of this sort of light-weighting. Seats are pulled from the McLaren Senna, and weigh less than the cheeseburger you ate for lunch. Conventional 3-point seat belts are fitted for street driving, 6-point racing harnesses are a no-cost option for when you’re ripping up the track, and because your reach is a bit limited when you’re strapped in, McLaren was smart to fit a pull strap on the door handles and raise the center console a bit more toward you. Although stashing the fire extinguisher in the front cargo compartment wasn’t the wisest decision, if you’re in trouble at the track.
McLaren’s IRIS infotainment system is another no-cost option, with an extra USB and microphone port ready for your racing gear and coaching software embedded with the 620R’s track telemetry and three-camera system. The 620R can also be equipped with McLaren’s $4,410 optional–and exceptional–Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Cupholders are gone, as is the pocket in the front of the seat cushion to hide your key. Thankfully there are small pocket nets in each of the dihedral doors, if you need to tuck any small items away.
Storage space in the McLaren 620R is reduced by the carbon fiber bonnet and its twin nostrils that aid downforce and clean up the airflow over the top of the car. Thankfully the bonnet is still functional, and there’s just enough room to tuck away your fire suit and helmet. McLaren offers a $570 car cover and $570 charger for the lithium-ion battery when storing your 620R on days you are driving one of your other cars.
Only three exterior colors are available on the 620R, and are inspired by GT4 race cars – McLaren Orange (with white racing stripes), Silica White (orange stripes) or Onyx Black (orange stripes). Each color can be optioned with race number decals and/or partner decals. If those selections don’t please your needs, there are endless combinations available in the MSO palette.
McLaren Special Operations offers plenty of pricy upgrades inside and out, and the 620R I tested had the awesome carbon fiber roof scoop fitted (free of charge), in addition to $12,080 carbon fiber louvres in the front fenders that allow wheel wheel air pressure to release while adding downforce through the fenders, $4,370 exposed carbon fiber side sills, and massive carbon door inserts that make the profile of the 620R look extra cool at a cost of $7,670. Add these and a few other options to the base price of $275,250 (about $20,000 more than the more civil McLaren 600LT, but still about $25,000 less than the 720S), and the McLaren 620R I tested hit a total MSRP of $312,605 after destination.
REMARKABLY COMPLIANT IN THE CITY
Let’s not kid ourselves. The McLaren 620R is not going to be your daily driver, but it’s good to know this machine isn’t completely brutal on the street. Climate control is available as a no-cost option, and if you want to play on public roads on the weekends or on the way to a circuit, I highly suggest paying for the $1,950 adaptive suspension I praised in the McLaren GT I recently reviewed. Don’t be too careless over bumps and potholes, or the 620R will remind you just how low its ride height is. Thankfully you can engage the front axle lift when you’re pulling into a steeper driveway, but the extended front lip spoiler is begging to scrape.
Keep the McLaren 620R’s powertrain and handling knobs in their normal positions, and this track-hardened McLaren is comfortable while still immensely responsive. Throttle response is manageable without being overly sensitive like you’d expect in a race car. Even during normal throttle applications the twin-turbo V8 has no trouble reminding you that you’re engaging over 600 horsepower as you apply your right foot. The roof scoop makes epic whooshing noises that add an element to the driving experience few supercars can match, and because McLaren gave it a cool split design as it plunges toward the engine, it doesn’t eliminate the rear window view. Unfortunately the massive fixed rear wing–raised 12 inches above the tail end of the 620R–does that instead.
Steering feel is sharp and somewhat light in the normal handling mode, aided by a good electric boost, but there’s nothing artificial in the sensations you feel through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that’s devoid of any buttons or controls on its spokes. Equipped with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, you won’t want to take the McLaren 620R for a spin during any chilly nor rainy conditions, and the only option for rubber are Pirelli racing slicks, but only for track use. Despite its racing focus, the 620R actually has more positive brake pedal feel around town, with less of the dead travel I’ve experienced in other McLaren models.
Since McLaren focused on shaving weight, the 620R’s cabin is downright loud. The center console will buzz at lower RPMs, especially when idling at a stoplight, and if you toss your phone in the console’s pocket as you drive, it will rattle annoyingly. I decided to keep my phone in my pocket and stream music via bluetooth, rather than plugging it in. Speaking of music, the IRIS infotainment system is the same as you get in other McLaren models, which is hard to see if you wear polarized sunglasses, and it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto installed. At least there’s satellite radio and bluetooth streaming available, and the optional Bowers & Wilkins system is fantastic way to drown out any cabin noises.
Slipping into the McLaren 620R is not graceful, thanks to the extra wide sills of the carbon fiber monocoque and the carbon fiber bucket seats’ big bolsters. If you don’t love the Senna seats, you can opt for normal seats for added comfort. I like the look and function of the lightweight buckets, even if they could use a hint of lumbar support for my busted old back. I still think Porsche makes the best carbon seats in any production car, but the McLaren ones are damn good at what they’re intended to do, and look fantastic.
What surprised me is how composed the 620R is as an all-around driver in the city. Sure, it’s loud inside, and that’s because of its focus, but I was expecting a back-breaking experience around city streets, and remarkably it wasn’t. Even if it was a little harsh, I didn’t care so long as the McLaren 620R kicked ass when I ditched the city in search of twisty roads.
ATTACKING FUN ROADS
Any mild annoyances I may have had with the McLaren 620R on the street are quickly dismissed by a session along a twisty back road. In this environment, the 620R is a weapon. Engage the drive mode selection knobs to put the handling in sport, the engine in track, and only if you’re a bit talented behind the wheel, tap the ESC button once to engage the dynamic mode to unleash this beast’s fury. The instrument cluster switches over to the track setting, with a cool rev counter that arches over the cluster and shift lights as the RPMs quickly climb.
The suspension firms up, but the ride quality isn’t sketchy. Slip angle from ham-fisted steering inputs is pronounced, with a tail-end allowed to dance in ESC dynamic, so keep your hands smooth on that Alcantara wheel with its red 12 o’clock mark. I appreciate the added steering weight when in the faster handling modes too. What’s astonishing is how well the McLaren 620R manages weight transfer in S-curves and through fast transitions. Because it’s barely 3,000 pounds, the 620R isn’t shuffling loads of weight, allowing its suspension to easily cope and shift damping at each corner while you switch directions. If you’re some idiot amateur who’s pretending to be a racing driver, this racy McLaren will expose your lack of talent, and you’ll end up in a ditch… or worse.
Giving the 620R the beans in the engine’s track mode is as exciting to the ears as it is to your pulse. McLaren’s Inertia Push technology builds flywheel energy to create a burst of torque when you feel a perfect click from the extended shift paddle as you engage a higher gear, giving the 620R a more dramatic acceleration sensation. When you’re in the sport powertrain mode, the McLaren 620R delivers a cool “crack” sound during upshifts, created by a split-second cut of the ignition spark, and I loved this experience. Spend a chunk more cash, and McLaren will install a titanium exhaust that drops even more weight while opening up more roars as you stab the throttle.
While it would have been cool to test the adjustable racing suspension, which features 32 clicks of adjustment per corner for compression and rebound rates, but I’m glad this tester was equipped with the adaptive system that’s more appropriate for the street. Able to compute more calibrations as surface conditions and driving inputs quickly adjust, this setup gobbled up bumpy farm-to-market roads with ease, and helped eliminate any hint of body roll through fast turns. The semi-slick Pirelli Trofeo Rs were fantastic at sticking to the pavement, happily exercising as I dished out abuse over some hot Texas days. If you plan to track your 620R, you might want to tick the slick tire option box to fully embrace its performance.
Standard carbon ceramic rotors–measuring 15.3 inches up front and 14.9 inches rear– benefit from the McLaren Senna’s brake booster, shortening pedal travel while giving precise bite when needing to eliminate huge speeds and dissipate lots of surface heat. The McLaren orange calipers were a cool optional touch too, painted on 6-piston front and 4-piston rears. When put to the test, the 620R’s brakes can pull it from 124 MPH to a dead stop in 379 feet, and can scrub from 62 MPH to a static position in just 96 feet.
Stitching together good driving inputs with both your hands and feet is rewarded in the McLaren 620R, as its balance is wonderful as speeds increase, allowing the extra aero kit to put in work. That massive front lip and ducting for the frunk scoops direct loads of air over the front end, and the carbon diveplanes along the sides of the front bumper make sure your nose is stuck into every bend. The massive rear wing is adjustable, depending how much downforce you want from it, and the huge rear diuser makes sure all the air that’s rushing through the 620R is ensuring supreme lateral stability. In total, McLaren says the 620R produces 408 pounds of downforce across its bodywork at 155 MPH. I may or may not be able to validate these claims.
FREAKY IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS
Unlike a Porsche 911 GT3 or Ferrari Pista, the 620R isn’t a comfortable city car to occasionally take to the track. McLaren designed the 620R to be excellent in forceful driving conditions, rewarding the talented driver who pushes it to the limit. It’s a hardcore supercar that wants to be thrashed, yet has more capabilities than you’re used to. It doesn’t want to be civil. It wants to slay.
If you want a more compliant supercar for less cash, the McLaren GT is remarkable, holds way more luggage than any supercar should be allowed to, and will provide an exceptionally comfortable driving experience in the McLaren Sports Series package. If you want a ton of performance, and are willing to spend a lot more cash, the 720S is the way to go.
For an intense driving experience that’s focused on destroying canyon roads and circuits, a McLaren 620R is a fantastic way to get an obscenely fast toy that won’t have you looking like every other dude that shows up at a track day. McLaren’s Sports Series is getting replaced by the upcoming Artura, with an all-new hybrid V6 powertrain, but the 620R is one fine way to send off this epic supercar platform.
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.
Stunning looks, more standard equipment, and loads of power, this special edition Audi sportback rips.
I love fast luxury sedans more than a fat kid loves cake. Practical size and functionality, packed with power and good features, and usually some good looks. Audi is definitely clutch in the exterior styling game these days, but its AMG and BMW rivals are still in the mix. As a sportback option, Audi gives this RS5 seating for five and a big cargo area opening. Getting to review a handful of fast Audi models, including the RS6 Avant, I’m getting to understand the advantages and benefits of each segment.
When I tested the updated Audi S4 last summer, I thought it could use more power for the money, and this RS5 packs plenty by comparison. Naming this launch edition after racing legend–and two-time Formula One world champion–Alberto Ascari means this Audi has some expectations to live up to. To see how it all stacks up, I gave it a rigorous test in Los Angeles, in traffic, around the city, and along some twisty canyon roads.
THE KEY NUMBERS
Based on the same platform as the Audi S4 I reviewed, the RS5 sportback gets massive upgrades in the performance department. Under its hood, the RS5 packs a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that pumps out 444 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive, and the optional sport rear dierential, the RS5 Ascari can haul from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds on its way to a limited 155 MPH top speed. Tick the box for optional ceramic front brakes, and Audi will raise the top speed to 174.
Audi offers the RS5 as this sportback model (with four rear doors and a big rear hatch) in addition to a two-door coupe. I wish Audi had a wagon option for the RS5 in America, like it does with the RS6 Avant I tested recently. Competing with the Mercedes-AMG C 63 sedan and BMW M3, the Audi RS5 Sportback is down on power, while costing a hint more money at its base price.
For the same money as the standard Audi RS5 Sportback, you could step up to the AMG C 63 S or M3 Competition, which both boast 503 horsepower, nearly 60 more than the RS5’s. The Audi RS5 sportback also weighs a tick more than its German rivals, with a curb weight of 4,057 pounds. Audi gives the RS5 standard all-wheel-drive, which isn’t available on the AMG C63, but is an option on BMW’s M3 Competition.
Base price for the Audi RS5 Sportback starts at $75,400, and the Ascari launch edition includes a ton of popular options into one package–including ceramic front brakes (not offered on the standard RS5) with blue calipers, 20-inch wheels with summer tires, Audi Exclusive Ascari Blue metallic paint, matte alu optic trim around the exterior, a carbon fiber engine cover, dynamic steering, at bottom steering wheel covered in Alcantara, carbon fiber interior trim, RS sport exhaust, sport suspension plus with dynamic ride control, and a few cool driver aid systems–which add $20,500 to the sticker, which jumps up to an MSRP of $96,945 after destination.
A STYLISH AND FAST DAILY DRIVER
Attractive without being too flashy, the Audi RS5 sportback gets several long stares of approval from passersby. Sharp angles, a big grille and (mostly fake) vents, a long wheelbase, a high beltline with a swept rooine, and massive wheels tucked into the wheel wells make this perfectly-sized Audi appealing in many ways. I definitely prefer the appearance of the RS5 sportback over the AMG C 63 and BMW M3, even if the matte silver trim around the windows and bumpers is a bit thicker than it should be.
The Audi RS5 sportback’s initial driving experience carries the theme that catches your eye. Without being forceful, the potent turbocharged engine waits to play without being too jumpy. The peak power figure may be smaller than its primary rivals, but the RS5 sportback will easily find its way to–and beyond–the posted speed limit. Growling without being too pronounced, the RS5’s exhaust tone emitted from huge oval tips is just racy enough in its comfort mode. Surprisingly the world outside the Audi RS5 sportback is muted perfectly, thanks to plenty of attention and materials invested into reducing cabin decibels.
The comfort drive mode allows the powerplant to maintain its composure, but also enables a smooth-riding adaptive suspension to eliminate bumps along your commute. In that comfort mode, Audi’s optional dynamic steering system is a bit over-boosted at city speeds, similar to what I mentioned in my review of the Audi SQ5. Subtle shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission ensure a smooth ride around the city. Be mindful of your throttle application, and you’ll actually hit the EPA estimates of 18/25/21 MPGs.
Once you step into the RS5’s cockpit, the trend continues. Modern lines and materials wrap around the cabin, a space age instrument cluster sits ahead, and the whole space is covered with cool, intuitive controls. I do wish the infotainment screen was better designed into the dash, rather than appearing to be slapped on like an aftermarket installation. Thankfully the screen’s resolution is high, offering a clean look, with iconography and font selection that makes this Audi even cooler. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, and the Bang & Olufsen audio system is strong and clear.
Seats in the RS5 are cool while functional, with perfect support for my old back, and are styled with the same hexagonal stitching in the center inserts you see in other Audi RS models. The seats are mounted a bit tall on their rails, and I prefer them lower for a sportier feel and a lower center of gravity. Being the sportback body style, this RS5 is a functional fast four door that can seat five passengers, but truly only two adults in the back seat. The boot space is massive, with a huge power lift back setup to tuck away all your groceries and luggage. I’ll nag this Audi for the rear privacy panel rattling a bit when hitting small bumps on the road, but the cargo capacity is considerable.
MAKING CANYON RUNS
Provide an RS-badged Audi to me in Los Angeles, and you can bet your ass I’m taking it to the twisty canyon roads of Malibu and the Angeles National Forest. With a healthy dose of turbocharged power, all-wheel-drive, a sporty rear diff, and some better front brakes installed, the RS5 Sportback Ascari Launch Edition looked up to the task on some of my favorite routes. I gave the RS5’s less potent S4 sibling the same tests last summer, and while the S4 was fun, the added performance of the RS5 sportback was happily on display.
As you expect from performance cars in this segment, the Audi RS5 has a drive select system on-tap, and like the BMW M3 it sports two custom setups to allow the driver greater exibility outside of the default drive modes. Unlike the BMW M mode buttons (which look like an afterthought), Audi uses one simple button to engage the RS modes, with a quick tap of the button that’s more neatly integrated into the steering wheel controls. Like I’ve said in other Audi reviews, the default drive modes aren’t separated enough to make them feel unique, but the RS5’s dynamic mode is truly sporty.
I liked using the two RS mode feature to give myself a sporty daily driver setup in the RS1 position, but employed the RS2 option to quickly engage a more powerful setting when I wanted to storm the canyons. In that setup, I went hardcore with everything except for the suspension, which I set to comfort. I also turned the stability control to its sport mode, by tapping the button once, after learning how often the system would cut throttle mid-corner, if there was a hint of slip angle.
Settings dialed-in, this quick Audi liked to dance while trying to conceal its weight. When I hinted that the daily driving steering feel felt articial, when you increase the pace on a fun road, the RS5 feels more balanced. Steering input is heavier in the dynamic mode, with sharp response as you peg the apex. The sport rear differential does a great job of managing torque vectoring too. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel looks the part of a sporty car, but I prefer leather that doesn’t suck all the moisture from my hands.
While the 444-horsepower twin-turbo engine isn’t as forceful from a standstill–like its 591-horsepower RS6 Avant big brother–the delivery of its power is smooth yet understated, easily sending the quick Audi’s speedometer toward triple digits. I wonder just how much more fun the RS5 would be if it possessed the same 500-horsepower gure its AMG and BMW rivals boast. The mass this Audi is carrying holds back truly fast acceleration figures, and the girth is apparent in the corners. Thankfully the sport differential and adaptive suspension do a great job at managing the RS5’s balance in faster bends.
When I was ripping around the canyons of Malibu, the RS5 sportback was given a harder test, due to the tighter, slower turns, and lots of bumps. This fast Audi was definitely enjoyable in Malibu, but the weight induced loads of stress on the chassis, tires, and brakes. The test in the Angeles National Forest was more suited to the Audi RS5 sportback, with higher speed sweepers, longer straights, and a considerably longer route on which to play. I appreciate the mid-range power from the RS5’s twin-turbo V6, that helped close gaps between bends in a somewhat surprising hurry. This demanding environment exposed two challenges I have with the RS5’s setup, if you’re really pushing the car as quickly as it craves.
Pirelli P Zero rubber is far from my favorite, as the tires have a small operating range, which quickly gets too hot when fitted to heavier cars. I had to drop a lot of pressure out of them when cold, knowing the pressures skyrocket once the rubber is given some exercise. These Pirellis also get super greasy when hot, which induces loads of the already present (in almost Audi signature fashion) understeer too easily. Pirelli must be making the fast German OEMs great deals to slap the P Zero on so many models I’ve tested over the past year, and wonder how much better the Pirelli P Zero Corsa would do on the RS5. I would love to give the RS5 sportback a go with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber tted, which seem to be the most perfect all-around performance tire on the market.
Then we get to the brakes. I appreciate that Audi opted for ceramic rotors on the outright performance-focused RS5 sportback, but don’t understand why they’re only fitted to the front, with steel rotors at the back. To reduce unsprung weight while allowing for more intense sessions, ceramic brakes are great, but when mismatched with steel rear discs, the heat tolerance is inconsistent. If I tossed the RS5 around the Angeles Crest for more than 20 minutes, the rears would get too hot, and induce a strange mix of fade. Ultimately the RS5 is still great in the canyons, but there are two big factors that are hindering its true abilities.
LOTS OF PERFORMANCE, BUT NOT QUITE PERFECT
On its own, the Audi RS5 Sportback is a great car. The looks of the RS5 can’t be touched by its rivals, with the C 63 S being more subtle, and the M3 being downright ugly up front. The trouble is that I have to objectively compare the RS5 against its competition, and those have more power. Under the hood, the RS5 has a big disadvantage versus the AMG and BMW offerings, and I’d love to see how well it would perform with that extra juice.
Audi did a good job packaging the RS5 Sportback Ascari Launch Edition as a performance four-door, but the Ascari name belongs on an R8 or some extremely potent Audi supercar instead. As a daily driver, the RS5 continues the trend I’ve experienced in Audis I’ve reviewed over the last year, with loads of comfort and plenty of performance ready to strike. When you put the RS5 to a hard test on the twisty roads, a couple small flaws are revealed, but only when a talented driver pushes the limit. If you aren’t planning on absolutely caning the RS5 regularly, it’s going to be a great addition to your garage.