Tag: Luxury

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

The BMW 3-Series is already a legend for obvious reasons including packaging, handling and all around sportiness. With the 2018 BMW 330e, is it a case of too much of a good thing, or is it another option for fanboys of “the Ultimate Driving Machine?”

What’s it all about?

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

The 2018 BMW 330e iPerformance is the semi-electrified version of the existing BMW 3-series four-door platform. Essentially designed to specifications of what others call a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), it is powered BMW’s well known inline four-cylinder twinpower turbocharged engine producing 180 hp at 5000-6500 rpm, and 215 lb-ft of torque at 1350-4250 rpm. This four-cylinder works in conjunction with BMWs permanent activated synchronous electric motor that adds an additional 87 hp for a cumulative total of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. That sense of urgency spurts out from the four-cylinder/electric power unit to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift levers.

Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery mounted below the trunk floor. Plugging the included wall outlet charger offers the same stimulating qualities found while watching paint dry; plug into a level II supercharger, and the task can be completed in a more palatable 2.2-hours.

Our BMW 330e iPerformance sedan, as equipped, was capable of a top speed of 140 mph. This eDrive sedan allowed speeds

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

up to 75 mph on electricity alone when set in Max eDrive mode. Auto eDrive, which was the more subtle of the drive modes, allowed electrical operation for speeds up to 50 mph. Anything above that caused the package to revert to hybrid operations. There are other user-variable settings that reduce the effectiveness of the air conditioning and other electrical operations inside the vehicle, while extending the attainable electric mileage figures.

The 330e is available in a single trim level. It will likely be cross-shopped against the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Lexus ES300h.

The view from within.

The view inside the 330e is typical BMW, as we’ve grown to enjoy through the years. If you liked the 2017 model, you’ll love the 2018 too, and most likely the 2019 as well. This sample included Venetian Beige Sensatec (“pleather”) upholstery. Our tester was ordered with the Convenience Package ($1,750), with keyless entry, a moonroof, lumbar support and Sirius XM satellite radio with a one-year subscription. Also on tap was the BMW Shadow Sport Edition package ($1,350), that added 18-inch bicolor wheels, a sport leather steering wheel, sport seats, anthracite wood trim, park distance control, ambient lighting and LED fog lamps. The only other extras were Apple CarPlay ($300) compatibility and BMW navigation ($1,700).

The BMW 330e includes a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, and 8-year/80,000-mile High Voltage Battery Warranty.

On board safety was rather basic and included BMW’s front and rear head protection system, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags and knee airbags for driver and front passenger.

Behind the wheel:

Adding in the lithium-ion battery tends to really pork up the standard BMW 3-series platform. As it were with our 330e, this four-door five-passenger Sedan ended up tipping the scales at nearly 4,000 pounds, or as they say at across the pond, 2-tonnes. But all things considered, 0-60 mph in 5.8-seconds is not terrible, just saying.

We found the 2.0-liter/electric power unit to be most effective while in highway driving mode. It’s quite evident, while driving with the huge slab of batteries under the trunk floor, that the 3-series’ handling dynamics have been jostled just a bit, thanks to the higher, and rearward-mounted center of gravity that has been thrown into disarray by the Li-ion cells. Normal driving situations are just that, normal. But we like the added benefit that comes with the four-cylinder gasoline engine when sudden energy is requested from the bridge. A jab of the accelerator causes the engine to step down, with the results being very similar to recent Formula One cars and their kinetic energy recovery system (KERS system). Sure, the sudden burst is only temporary, but it is an exhilarating boost, nonetheless.

And if we were an owner, we would be mighty chuffed over the combined 30 miles per gallon city/highway ratings. Those figures are nothing to sneeze at, taking 3.3 gallons of fuel to drive 100 miles. But the real bragging comes from the electricity plus gasoline fuel economy ratings that yield a 71 mile-per-gallon equivalency. Sure it’s probably EPA conservative, but those are still numbers you can crow about.

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

Base MSRP:  $45,600          As tested: $52,245.

Includes:  BMW Convenience Package, $1,750; BMW Shadow Sport Edition Package, $1,350; Apple CarPlay, $300; BMW Navigation, $1,700; Destination fee, $995.

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                Inline 4-cylinder

Displacement:                          2.0-liter

Power:                                     185 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm

Torque:                                    215 lb-ft @ 1,350-4,250 rpm

Fuel System:                           Gas Direct Injection

Power Unit:                             Electric Synchronous Motor

Power:                                      87

Combined Power:                  248

Combined Torque:                310

Fuel:                                        Premium

Acceleration:                          0-60mph in 5.8 seconds

Drive Type                              RWD

Gearbox:                                 8-Speed Automatic

Tire Size:                                 180 inch Low Rolling Resistance

Unladen Weight:                    3,900-pounds

Length:                                    182.8-inches

Width:                                     71.3-inches

Height:                                     56.3-inches

Wheelbase:                              110.6-inches

Cargo Volume:                        13 cubic feet

Cd:                                             0.29

Combined:                               30 mpg

MPG Gasoline / Electric       71 mpg equivalent

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”120″ gal_title=”2018 BMW 330e iPerformance”]

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2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

Do you like being watched and looked at? Being in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h is kinda like being inside the cage at the zoo. People look and point at you along the way. It was a similar feeling to what we experienced driving around our HQ in West Palm Beach, FL.

But, honestly, we didn’t mind.

Because damn it, we were behind the wheels of one of the sexiest shapes to come out of the Lexus design shop in quite some  time. Available in a buyer’s choice of the Lexus LC 500, with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine, or, as in the case of our tester, as the LC 500h , which is a gas electric hybrid powered by a 3.5-Liter V6 gasoline engine add to electric motor generators that combined to produce 354 total horsepower. The hybrid has a top speed of 155 mph, clicks off naught to 60 mph in 4.7-seconds, and manages 26 miles per gallon city/ 35 miles per gallon highway with a combined total of 30 miles per gallon overall.

And before you go thinking of a Toyota Prius with its hybrid drive system, fuhgeddaboutit.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

The Lexus LC 500h incorporates Lexus’s hybrid synergy drive which uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with the paddle shifters, coupled to a more traditional four-speed slush box which does it’s best to keep the 3.5-liter V6 running in the middle of its powerband’s sweet spot. We are not quite sure how they’re able to do it, but the gearbox is able to simulate the operation of actually being a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps the engine is a tiny bit thin when it comes to sheer grunt from the tailpipes, but maybe that’s why Lexus engineer chose to pipe some of that noise back into the cabin through an intake manifold baffle on the top of the engine.

The Lexus LC 500h rides on a multilink suspension that provides control by steering handled through an electrically assisted rack and pinion kit in front. An optional rear-steering system is part of the LC’s Performance package for a more-agile steering system. Lexus officials told us the car was more rigid than the LF-A supercar.

As for cross shopping, buyers will likely conside fellow green cars, the Acura NSX, BMW i8, and Porsche Panamera Hybrid.

Looks matter.

The spindle grille, while looking awkward on other Lexus models appears more comfortable here. Think of it as growing into one’s skin. As people reach a certain age they become more agreeable with their outer appearance. That’s the case here as the LC 500h  nose actually looks to belong.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

From the side, it’s a hunkered-down look reminiscent of drawings done in school while we were supposed to be paying attention to math and science lessons. Long nose, short tail, and shoulders that could rival any cut-and-buffed athlete, it is a well-executed look at what a grand touring near-supercar should be. As an added bonus, the hood, fender and door panels are aluminum, while much of the rest of the car is composed of composite material.

Lexus LC 500h
Lexus LC 500h

Inside the LC 500h, are a few hits, and a couple of misses, too. Two well-crafted seats are there with a wide variety of adjustments. We loved the wide view of the high-definition TFT screens but wish they found another input device from which to control it. The Lexus touch pad is not amongst our favorites. And those rear seats? Don’t even think about sitting back there unless you have a chiropractor on speed dial. They are better suited to a duffle or camera bag, or even a bambino in a safety seat. But overall? As much as we like the rest of the interior with its tan finish, we can’t help but think that it is not as pretty as that found in the Dodge Viper before it made its exit from the automotive scene. That car’s Italian heritage shone through with a tan interior from a company that supplies Ferrari. The result? Sublime.

Behind the wheel.

Our drivetime in the LC500h was a tale of both the green and high-performance worlds. A tale of two cities, if you will. Driving around town found us making the most of the Multi Stage Hybrid system with two electric motors assisting the Aktinson-cycle six-cylinder engine.

Acceleration was potent with a slight electric whine that actually contributed to the overall effect, and that wasn’t a bad thing. The car uses a two-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) that combines with an Aisin brand four-speed gearbox that actually allows the LC500h to stretch its legs more with greater (sports car) feel.

Handling on our test loop found a GT car that felt at home going right and left, and accelerating cleanly out of a turn, to boot. Despite its electric gimcrackery under the hood, we loved the sound and feel of the engine power unit as it pushed the envelope of hybrid performance. As gorgeous as it is, it is not a svelte young thing. We never were quite able to achieve the 30-mpg average that the EPA tells us to expect but we could easily live with the 27.5 mpg that we actually saw.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

About the Lexus touchpad: We find it touchy, finicky and in some cases downright dangerous, what with everything else going on around and within, and dealing with other traffic. Some items were so buried in the menus that we actually needed to pull over to adjust them.

Still, this is a Grand Tourer that will accommodate a wide variety of driving styles. Available in extremely limited numbers, there is almost a guarantee that you will be the only one in your neighborhood, heck, in your region, who owns one. 

2018 Lexus LC500h

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP:  $96,510. As tested: $102,039.

Includes: Convenience Package, $1000; Heads Up display, $900; Premium Paint, $595; Touring Package, $1,790; Cargo Net, $249; Destination Fee: $995. 

Key Specs                                            LC 500h

Cylinders:                                            6 + two electric motors

Displacement:                                     3.5-liter

Power:                                                 354 hp (combined)

Torque:                                                256.7 @4,900 rpm

Fuel System:                                       Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                    Premium

Acceleration:                                       0-60mph in 4.7 seconds

Drive Type                                           RWD

Gearbox:                                             Multi-stage Hybrid

Tire Size:                                             245/45RF20, Rr: 275/40RF20

Unladen Weight:                                4,521-pounds

Length:                                                187.4-inches

Width:                                                 75.6-inches

Height:                                                53.0-inches

Wheelbase:                                         113.0-inches

Cargo Volume:                                   5.4-cubic feet

Cd:                                                       0.33

City:                                                     26

Highway:                                             35

Combined:                                           30

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”111″ gal_title=”2018 Lexus LC 500h”]

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2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV

2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

It’s a CUV that is combination grocery getter, kid kaddy, and pet picker upper. And everything it does is performed in a manner that screams “Pronto!”  It’s the 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV. And it’s Italian. That could go both ways, by the way…

It’s quite the ride, especially when you become so steeped in Italian culture that you begin to think of yourself as il Commendatore (The Commander). I mean really! It might be because we are so excited to see the Alfa-Romeo badge back on this side of the Ocean. So, put on your latest Prada, hop in, and buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Brass tacks.

The 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport is, like the recently introduced Jaguar E-Pace, a “tweener,” that bridges the gap between, for example, the BMW X3 and its larger X5 sibling and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which will all likely be shopped against this EPA-classed Mid-Size SUV. It gets its power from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sports a turbocharger to force feed it for more power.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

Power is either a put-up or shut-up proposition. This engine deals in put-up, laying down 280-horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 306 lb-ft of torque starting at 2,000 rpm and peaking at 4,800. A ZF-built 8HP50 8-speed automatic transmission sends power via a carbon-fiber drive shaft to all four corners for all season, all-wheel drive. For those needing more in the way of oomph, there is the 505-horsepower Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

From the outside, we were impressed with the angular exterior looks that could clearly have come from the best styling ateliers in Milan. Starting with an aggressive lean that jutted forward to the express “eyes” which lead to the triangular shaped Alfa-Romeo intake, the car screams of its Italian heritage.

Inside, the Stelvio surprisingly casts off any apparent Italian flair in favor of an interior that appears much more minivan than master of the autostrada. Embossed headrests bearing the Alfa crest join the steering wheel insert as the only hint you are in anything from Italy, save for the larger than large aluminum paddle shift levers and the steering wheel-mounted ignition button.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

The center console is marked by a rather non-descript shifter, that we have seen before, and is flanked by controls that change the Stelvio’s drive dynamics from dynamic to natural to sport, while a joystick-style nob takes care of the audio system on the other side. A matrix style graphic panel stretches from right to left across the dashboard and the Harman/Kardon audio aurally fills the space, but we were left a bit disappointed by the appearance overall. Give us some tan Ferrari-style leather, we say.

The cargo hold is nicely finished with strap-in guide rails, and 18.5 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats in the upright position. Fold them forward, and that area jumps in size to 56.5-cubic feet.

Behind the wheel

Despite the interior decoration shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio, which turns out to be the sports car among other SUVs in the segment. It did not have, nor through its marketing campaign, display any off-road pretensions, which is quite alright for us in the sense that this SUV will never go camping, mudding, cruising through Baja California or so on. In fairness, even if you found yourself in a Land Rover, you most likely would not take that vehicle off-road either.

While others have complained of inherent problems from this Italian designed and manufactured vehicle, we were pleasantly surprised with an SUV that just worked. No drama, difficulties, or side of the road coffee breaks waiting for Alfa service to come rescue us. Progress, we say!

Acceleration from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder was about average for the segment and provided spirited handling throughout our weeklong adventure with it. We were disturbed by the roughness that appeared with the auto start/stop function, becoming so annoyed that we ended its pain by disabling the option. During around town driving at a somewhat respectable speed, we felt the engine had a tendency to drone on. It was quickly alleviated when we force fed it more fuel. But at the end of the day, perhaps it could be attributed to the mid-profile Continental tires.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

Still, the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio is an impressive handler, thanks to its double wishbone front suspension and newly designed and patented Alfa Link vertical rod link rear suspension. It’s quite easy to see why, despite its quirks, it is easy to have an emotional attachment to an SUV, especially when it is known by its “La meccanica delle emozioni” (the mechanics of emotion) tagline.

Bravo!

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport

Base MSRP: $43,795           As tested: $53,585.

Includes:  Driver Assistance Static Package with Front Parking Sensors, $800; Driver Assistance Dynamic Package, $1,500; 8.8-inch Display with 3D Navigation, $1,550; Sirius XM Radio, $350; Harmon Kardon Premium Sound System, $900; Dual-Pane Sunroof, $1,350; Cold Weather Package, $795; Convenience Package, $200; 20-inch Aluminum Wheels, $750; Metallic Paint, $600; Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                4-cylinder Inline twin scroll turbocharged

Displacement:                          2.0-liters

Power:                                     280-hp @ 5,200 rpm

Torque:                                    306 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,000 rpm

Fuel System:                           Gas Direct Injection

Acceleration:                            0-60mph in 5.5-seconds

Drive Type                              AWD

Gearbox:                                 ZF 8-speed Automatic with paddle shift levers

Tire Size:                                 255/45R20 Continental ContiCrossContact LX

Unladen Weight:                     4,044-pounds

Length:                                    184.6-inches

Width:                                     74.9-inches

Height:                                    66-inches

Wheelbase:                            111-inches

Towing:                                   3,000-pounds

Cargo Volume:                      56.5-cubic feet rear seat folded

18.5-cubic feet rear seat up

Cd:                                          0.32

City:                                        22

Highway:                               28

Combined:                            24

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”101″ gal_title=”2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio”]

 

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2018 Jaguar E-Pace AWD First Drive

2018 Jaguar E-Pace AWD First Drive

The concept of Jaguar producing an SUV/CUV is already a foregone conclusion that has been met with great success thanks to its F-Pace. So now it’s the perfect time to broaden the segment with the introduction of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace. Jaguar-Land Rover flew us to the French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean, which itself is a combination of Franco-Italian style and culture, to sample this exotic combination of utility and performance.

Jaguar calls the E-Pace a “tweener” and we will, too. Tweener in the sense that just as the F-Pace did not directly match up with such competitors as the Mercedes GLC, and Audi Q5, it actually ends up somewhere in between. The same can be said for the new Jaguar E-Pace. It sits decidedly between the BMW X1 and X3, the Lexus NX and above the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA.

But an SUV from a company known for such icons as the D-Type, E-Type and the XJ220 supercar that rocketed to 212.3 mph? It’s called profitability, and with the F-Pace, and now the E-Pace, the brand’s SUV and CUV lineup has nearly doubled company revenue.

A Different Kind Of Cat.

While the F-Pace featured more of a style as found in its Land Rover cousins, the E-Pace is taking advantage of the latest refinements in the Jaguar stable. A front-driver in European versions, we Yanks will receive the all-wheel drive variant with a powerplant from Jaguar’s Ingenium engine series. With two variations, the Core Model and R-Dynamic version, the E-Pace will feature a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, or 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, respectively. Essentially identical engines, the more powerful version uses increased turbo boost to add more to its bottom line.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Transverse mounted, both engines are mated to the widely used ZF 9-speed automatic transmission that functions with a shift lever or steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. While the front wheels offer torque vectoring via the brakes, our R-Dynamic model offered Jaguar’s “Active Driveline” which accelerates the outside rear wheels in a turn with up to 100-percent of the torque going to the rear axle via a wet clutch. It’s the perfect thing for drifting, if you were so inclined!

Our tester included the optional Configurable Dynamics package, which allowed us to tailor the throttle, steering, shift speed and Adaptive Dynamics system, which varied damper ratios according to sensors that “read” the road every 10-milliseconds (0.01-seconds).

The E-Pace rides on the JLR D8 platform that it shares with the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Measuring up 12 inches shorter than the F-Pace, it includes an aluminum front clip (fenders, hood), roof and tailgate but adds more high-strength steel than its larger sibling. The steel makes for a more rigid ride, but also increases overall vehicle weight.

Honey, I shrunk the F-Pace.

The new E-Pace appears like its F-Pace big brother that may have spent too much time in the dryer following an intense wash cycle.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Actually the E-Pace steals some of its big brother’s design cues including the bold grille similar to the other vehicle. LED headlamps and signature J-Blade lighting flows around the outside headlamps for a distinct appearance like no other. The sharp looks continue rearward with “tight haunches” that wrap tightly around, into blade like rear lamps that bring to mind the rear appearance of the F-Type sports car, itself already an icon. Our R-Dynamic model included the full and fixed panoramic roof, which was just enough to allow us to enjoy the surroundings of this Mediterranean sea-based island.

The E-Pace’s interior is conservative, but still all Jaguar. If you have seen and enjoy the controls in F-Type vehicles, then too, you have seen the controls in this E-Pace.

Sport contour bucket seats offered numerous ways to become accommodated in total comfort. A grab bar, similar to the same device inside the F-Type sportscar, allowed a bit of stability for passengers on twisty Corsican mountain roads. But we would offer that despite the fact Jaguar calls this E-Pace a five-passenger vehicle, its backseat was better suited to handling just two extra passengers. As such, we’d call it a four-seater.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

A 10-inch touchscreen display helps to control the Touch Pro infotainment system in handling navigation, audio, telephonic and vehicle controls. Our top shelf R-Dynamic E-Pace was equipped with an available 12.3-inch display that displayed all pertinent controls within our field of view from behind the steering wheel.

And just because, Jaguar has left little details that are what other manufacturers call “Easter Eggs.” You know, those small details designed to amuse the vehicle’s owner. In this case, it’s a Jaguar mother, and her “cub,” representative of the larger F-Pace, and its E-Pace cub. Get it? The outline is seen in several locations around the cabin, waiting to surprise and delight its owner, everywhere it is seen.

Driving Impressions.

The first thing we noticed was the spritely pickup accompanied by an engaging exhaust note from the 2.0-liter inline turbocharged engine. The paddle shift levers offered a great degree of shift control from the 9-speed gearbox. The engine, despite its being only a transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder, is raspy like a turbocharged V6 when pushed hard.

Despite that raspiness when driven in anger, the engine was relaxed at speed, as the gears climbed in the ZF 9-speed. In normal driving modes, its sound managed to keep to a very respectable level rather than going to low rumble or a high-pitched wail. Consider it having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The sweet sounds from the Meridian Audio system displayed a delicate voicing that allowed you to single out a particular instrument. It became quite soothing after a spirited run through Corsican twisty turns along our sometimes-mountainous routes.

The E-Pace offered great handling with a totally connected feel, which might be antithetical for a semi-tall CUV like this. Credit the new lightweight steel knuckle-based front suspension, which increases camber, and in the process helps minimize understeer. Lighter and greatly refined, it makes for a very responsive steering feel that becomes even stronger in the Dynamic mode. It was enhanced by the active torque vectoring that helped to shorten the length of a curve during aggressive corner cutting.

Taking the Leap(er).

The new Jaguar E-Pace proves once again that good things do indeed come in small packages. Sure, it isn’t the biggest cargo hauler in the segment, nor will it offer three-wide rear seating for a trio of burly man-types, but it will offer lots of fun both on and off-road, with capabilities that will allow you to get wet, dirty, sandy and snowy, too. In other words, this CUV is a “Cub” for all seasons.

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic AWD

Base Price: $38,600 (Core E-Pace) $47,250 (R-Dynamic)

 

Specifications:

Type: Five passenger AWD CUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder Ingenium engine series.

Horsepower: 296 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 295 torque @ 1,450-4,500

Transmission: ZF 9-speed Automatic

Length: 173-inches

Width: 78.1-inches

Height: 64.9-inches

Wheelbase: 105.6-inches

Cargo: 24.2-cubic feet, seat up

52.7-cubic feet, seat folded

0-60 mph: 5.9-secs

Top Speed: 151-mph

Fuel Economy: 21 city / 27 highway / 23 combined

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”99″ gal_title=”Jaguar E-Pace AWD”]

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

There’s nothing quite like moving down a major thoroughfare flipping your folding roof, all while moving under 30 mph. Yes, you’re cruising like a boss, driving the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet. But how about when it’s nearly 40-degrees outside. That’s just pure genius!

That genius displays itself through the Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet’s amazing AirScarf that huffs warm air down the back of our necks, while the heated seats massage our backsides to the consistency of jello. Life behind the wheel of this Merc is good.

2018-mercedes-benz-e400-4matic-cabrio-24
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

While everyone else is reveling in how the market for Sports and Crossover Utility Vehicles has launched into the stratosphere (Mercedes-Benz included), company officials made sure we were aware that the brand is here to celebrate the car, specifically this topless four-seater.

The New E-Cabriolet: Beauty and Brains.

Based on the E-Class sedan platform, the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet starts with strong bones and follows the lead of the E-Sedan, which Mercedes claims is the most advanced car ever. This seventh generation E-Class, as overseen by Chief Designer Gorden Wagener, follows his edict that if you build a house right, you don’t need to add many lines of character to it. Such righteousness has given way to the Coupe, Station Wagon, Sedan and now, this Cabriolet.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Much swoopier than others, the new E-Cabrio begins with the by-now familiar Mercedes-Benz star in the diamond-studded grille, which is divided by a single lamella wing stretching from side to side for a wider look. A newly designed badge rests at the front of the power-domed aluminum hood, which heralds the arrival of the E400’s new Sensual Purity design language. Overall, it’s a look of maturity, as seen through the restraint displayed by a lack of sharp edges, harsh lines and other character features likely found on some of its now more garish competition. At least that’s what they would like you to think. Among the E400 Coupe’s competitors is the BMW 6-Series cabriolet and the Audi A5 Cabriolet.

Extending along the flanks, it is evident that less is more. Abandoning the folded look has yielded a more muscular side appearance that traces up to the shoulders over the standard 18-inch or available 19-inch rear wheels. This leads all the way to the LED-encrusted taillamps at the rear with a new lower appearance thanks to the below bumper mounting of the rear license plate. When locking or unlocking the car, the taillamp sequence welcomes you, flashing from center outward when the E400 is open and outward – inward when it is secured.

A full-fledged four seater.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Based on the new Mercedes-Benz E-Series Sedan platform, the entire car is now almost five-inches longer. Of that, almost 4.4-inches went into stretching the wheelbase for increased space, not to mention road stability. The stretched wheelbase places almost two more inches into rear seat legroom. The width is increased by almost 3-inches. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet is a four-seater with an actually usable rear seating area, which actually accommodates two adults.

Leather is standard, both on the seating surfaces, the doors and dashboard with single-needle tailoring. Newly designed matte-finished turbine HVAC vents recall the intakes of jet aircraft engines and are nestled across the large expanse of wood inlay that looks like it came from its S-Class big brother.

Tech Talking.

The heart of the E-Coupe’s technology suite resides with the standard 12.3-inch display that controls the Mercedes COMAND system. It’s from here that driver and passenger can operate the audio, navigation, telecomm and vehicle settings, not to mention engaging a full massage to tingle from top to bottom during a blast up the ‘Bahn.

If you want a digital display wall, opt for the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Together with the 12.3-inch central display, it provides more than 24-inches of visual stimulation that operates virtually every aspect of the car and features configurable speedo- and tachometer, as well as cellular, vehicular and navigational displays in the central part of the gauge binnacle. Steering wheel-mounted touch control buttons allow the driver to operate both screens while maintaining complete control of the wheel.

Further down the center console, resides the dynamic select control switch, which offers varying styles of Throttle, Steering and Transmission inputs. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ ECO are all here, as well as Individual, which lets you select settings according to your tastes.

Safety first, last and always.

As always, Mercedes takes nothing for granted in the abilities of their own customers and those of other drivers. Our E400 Cabriolet was equipped with the standard Pre-Safe and Pre-Safe Sound features that adjust seat position, close windows and pre-tension seatbelts, as well as introduce a form of “white noise,” to engage the “Stapedius Reflex” that helps preserve occupant’s hearing when sensors determine a shunt is imminent.

Going further, our sampler included other new safety features as part of the Premium 3 Package ($9,350). They included Active Parking Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Distance Assist (Distronic), Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross Traffic Function, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Pre-Safe Plus with Rear Collision Protection.

Of the most interesting, were the Active Lane Change Assist which determined, after engaging the turn indicator for two seconds, if it was safe to overtake a slower moving vehicle. It would then take care of the steering movements to complete the overtaking.

Then there was the Evasive Steering Assist, which hurried us out of the way of a car that did not see us in his blind spot when changing lanes. The system works by adding steering wheel torque when we tried to wrench ourselves out of the way of this meathead. All of this gave us a new appreciation for the ghost in the machine.

The Powerplant:

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

The heart of the new E400 Coupe is a singular 3.0-liter Biturbo (twin-turbo) V6 engine that produces 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The latest generation of this engine is now mated to an all new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with a zero to 60 mph time of 5.5-seconds for the rear wheel drive version, and a 0-to-60 time of 5.2-seconds with the all-wheel-drive 4Matic. That’s a one-second improvement over the previous generation. Top speed is an electronically limited 130 mph.

We also experienced the available Air Body Control that provides roll, pitch and heave stabilization as well as a constant ride-height adjustment, regardless of load. On bad roads, it can raise the ride height, and then hunker back down automatically when road conditions improve.

Behind the wheel.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a technological tour de force, filled with driver enhancements and safety features that surprisingly do nothing to take away from driving enjoyment. Starting from zero, we found an eager stable of 329 horses ready to prance from the 3.0-liter Biturbo V6. Steering through South Florida streets found us wheeling it in rapid fashion to get around the excessively slow snow birding drivers, which was done with ease thanks to the variable torque of the electromechanical rack and pinion system.

Power delivery was linear, smoothly – and calmly-climbing through the nine cog gearbox, with nary a misstep or hunting for the proper gear. Overtaking required nothing more than a stomp on the skinny pedal, which was met with a drop in gearing and a nicely transmitted growl from the exhaust manifold underhood.

We experienced the E400’s ride in a combination of comfort and sport modes, which truth be told, provided a similar feel regardless of setting. Neither too soft nor too harsh, it, along with the massaging front seats, provided a relaxing and satisfying excursion through Palm Beach.

We’ll go out on a limb and say that regardless of the fact that SUVs are dominating the marketplace, the Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very desirable and capable extension of the E-Class lineup.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

Base MSRP: $68,800 (4Matic) As tested: $87,215.

Iridium Silver Metallic, $720; Natural Grain Light Wood, $150; Premium 3 Package, $9,350; AMG line body styling, wheels and interior trim, $2,500; Destination fee $995.

Type: two-door, four passenger convertible

Drive: 4Matic AWD

Engine: 3.0-liter Biturbo V6

Horsepower: 329@5,200-6,000

Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,000

Transmission: 9G-Tronic Automatic Transmission

Shift: Wheel-Mounted Paddle Shift levers

Suspension: F+R Multi-link suspension coil springs with variable damping.

Wheelbase: 113.1-inches

Length: 190-inches

Width: 80.9-inches

Height: 56.3-inches

Track: 63.4-inches

Ground Clearance: 3.7-inches (Max Load)

 

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2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

New ownership at Jaguar is not that new anymore. Tata (makers of Eight-O-Clock Coffee and others) came in and dropped the brand on its proverbial head and in the process, shook things up quite nicely, we’d say. One of their grandest achievements is the latest iteration of their flagship 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD. The ability to go topless has never been more appealing than in this personal two-seat neo-spectacular near-supercar. Sure it’s a mouthful, (with a few hyphens) but please work with us here.

Available in a variety of configurations, the Jaguar F-Type has even helped to grease the skids for its newly arrived F-Pace SUV. But is it really all that? We spend a week in the F-Type R Convertible to find out.

Breathtaking.

That’s pretty much what it will do. Designed to take your breath away from 20-feet, and mold you to it once inside, the 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD is the al-fresco (topless) version of the F-Type that was introduced in 2013. A two-door, two-passenger sportscar, it is offered with several engine flavors. Our sampler featured a 5.0-liter Supercharged V8 engine built by a Jaguar team in a dedicated facility within Ford UK’s Bridgend Engine Plant. In this guise, it produces 550-horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque that is capable of motivating the all-wheel-drive F-Type to 186 miles per hour. Power is delivered to all four wheels, as sensors see fit, by a ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission and Jaguar Instinctive All Wheel Drive.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

With its instinctive features, the system sends virtually 100-percent of the torque to the rear wheels for a typical sports/performance joint, in normal circumstances. Get in over your head (as determined by onboard sensors) and a center coupler can send up to 50-percent of the available torque forward to help control any possible over- or understeer that may swamp you. Like an insurance policy, it’s not always needed but good to know its there.

Also on board: Jaguar’s Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD). As the company explains, it is capable of sensing rain, ice and snowy conditions on the road and provides full functionality of AWD to the F-Type. Conversely under dry, optimum conditions, it sends approximately 90-percent of the traction and torque to the rear wheels. The beauty of the system, according to company brass, is that it works seamlessly and still maintains the F-Type’s Jaguar DNA.

This Jaguar now comes in five flavors ranging from base F-Type, F-Type Premium, F-Type S, F-Type R and top flight F-Type SVR. The three former are equipped with supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engines, while the two latter are supercharged V8 powered.

While not necessarily in the same wheelhouse as a rear-engined supercar, the Jaguar F-Type could almost sit at the same table. As such, it will be cross-shopped with such legendary rides as the Acura NSX, the Audi R8, the Mercedes-Benz SL and Nissan GT-R.

A looker.

The 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible, in our mind’s eye, appears shorter than its E-Type predecessor. Still, it’s plenty slick without being over the top. While the Jaguar signature grille reappears, the power bulged hood now features revised ventilation to allow trapped underhood air an escape route to aid in front-end stability.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

Designed at the same time as the coupé, the convertible has taken advantage of engineering that allowed the car’s rigidity to be a part of the initial construction rather than be cut out of it the same time the roof has been lopped off. The result is a car that is nearly as rigid as its hard-topped brother. The sidelines draw rearward in an appealingly swoopy design that culminates in signature LED taillamps and an underbumper diffuser. Oh did we mention the chrome-tipped exhaust finishers? A console-mounted button opens an internal exhaust baffle that makes the engine go from a purring gurgle to a toxic roar.

Inside lines.

With precision tailoring, occupants of the cockpit wear the Jag’s interior like a fine Savile Row suit. Constantly in flux, the F-Type’s interior has seen improvements since its introduction in 2013. While the basic design remains as it did four years ago, it has undergone refinements including updated gauges and other accoutrements. While we are not particularly warmed to the ivory and black leather color scheme, we like the way the seats fit with their adjustable bolsters and lumbar support. We did hear some whining about a hard seating surface here or there, but generally more occupants liked the seating than not.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

The F-Type now includes a standard 770-watt Meridian audio system with Sirius XM Satellite radio and Jaguar InControl Remote & Protect, and InControl Apps. With Remote & Protect, it’s possible for owners to check fuel level, door lock status, set the climate control temperature and even start the car remotely. InControl Protect automatically sends a call based on activation of a supplemental restraint trigger that alerts the emergency desk when a shunt has occurred.

Behind the wheel

The 5.0-liter supercharged V8 is an eight-pot jewel of an engine that offers supercar performance at a not-too-outrageous price. Sporting an oil filler cap with the legend FOMOCO imprinted on it, the engine shows off some of the lingering remnants of the technology swap that did, and may still benefit the two automakers. The F-Type’s electric power-assisted steering offers, for the first time in Jaguar brand history, a more efficient, and in this case, better steering feel than found in any previous Jaguar.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

The cabin remains relatively quiet while at speed, thanks to the multi-layer fabric roof, which features a mechanism that can raise and lower in under 20-seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. On the other hand, if the interior gets too quiet, an exhaust by-pass valve can be opened which makes for a throatier growl coming out of the chrome exhaust finishers located within the rear under bumper diffuser.

The ZF eight-speed Sportshift automatic transmission really threw down when asked to, with sure shifts and no hunting for a proper gear. While it operates in a seamless manner in automatic mode, working the paddle shift levers clearly appeals to a driver’s emotional side. Downshifting while heading into a tight right-hander saw rev-matching do its thing to impart a feeling of oneness with the car. It was almost as if you thought about what your next move behind the wheel would be, and the F-Type would execute it for you. Flick the switch into Dynamic mode and it instantly causes a pushback into the seats. Running on bumpy roads did soak up most of the road imperfections but some of them still made their way through the harder than average seat cushioning.

Conclusion

Between the sound, performance and looks, the Jaguar F-Type R-Spec Convertible is firing on all cylinders. Along with others under the Jaguar/Land Rover (JLR) concern, it’s clear to see that Jaguar has a range of contenders in the stable.

2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP: $108,250         As tested: $109,245.

Includes: Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                         Supercharged V8

Displacement:                                  5.0-liter

Power:                                               550 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Torque:                                              502 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm

Fuel System:                                    Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                  Gasoline

Acceleration:                                   0-60mph in 3.9 seconds

Top Speed                                        186 mph (limited)

Drive Type                                       AWD

Gearbox:                                          ZF eight-speed automatic with “Quickshift”

Tire Size:                                         255/35R20 front/255/30R20 rear

Unladen Weight:                           3,847-pounds

Length:                                            176.0-inches

Width:                                             75.7-inches

Height:                                            51.7-inches

Wheelbase:                                    103.2-inches

Cargo Volume:                              7.3-cubic feet (trunk only)

Cd:                                                   0.37 Cd

City:                                                15

Highway:                                        23

Combined:                                     18

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