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2018 Jaguar E-Pace First Drive Review: The No-Brainer Jaguar

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There was a certain inevitability to the Jaguar E-Pace. With its midsized F-Pace, Jaguar’s first ever SUV, powering an 80-plus percent increase in global sales for the storied British brand over the past year, and demand for the compact Range Rover Evoque blasting past 600,000 units worldwide since 2011, the decision to build a small Jaguar SUV was a no-brainer. Especially as the Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport had provided Jaguar with a platform and a parts bin as a starting point.

The E-Pace shares its basic body structure, powertrains, and sundry other pieces of hardware with the Evoque and the Discovery Sport. But JLR has worked hard to keep the two brands distinct, giving the E-Pace a unique character that’s more than skin-deep. Quicker and sportier, the E-Pace is more fun to drive than either of the Rovers. Which is as it should be. Eager to see it? It has just gone on sale in the U.S., priced between $39,000 and $55,000,

Critics will note that this is only the second-ever Jaguar built on a front-drive architecture, with a transverse-mounted engine under the hood. (The other? The unloved X-Type sedan, which was based on the Ford Mondeo.) Nevertheless, the E-Pace successfully morphs the studied emotion of Ian Callum’s design language onto a tall package with a short dash-to-axle ratio. The trapezoidal grille, power bulge on the hood, and slimline taillights are key Jaguar family visual triggers. A bold, crisply defined haunch over the rear wheels and a greenhouse that riffs on that of the F-Type sports car give the E-Pace its own personality.

Inside, the PRNDL shifter and the flying buttress that arcs down from the dash to the center console give the E-Pace cabin a dash of F-Type spice. And the TFT instrument panel and InControl Touch infotainment interface are straight from the JLR parts bin. But careful attention to materials—both in terms of quality and execution—has made the E-Pace cabin appear more discreetly upscale than that of the F-Pace. Impressive, given the price leap to the larger crossover. Significantly, there’s no wood trim available, not even as an option. The E-Pace truly is a modern Jaguar.

Dimensionally, the E-Pace is an inch longer than the Range Rover Evoque, a half-inch taller, and has a wheelbase nine-tenths of an inch longer. The difference in wheelbase is due to a different rear suspension. Whereas the Evoque has struts, the E-Pace rear axle has the same integral link design as the F-Pace and the Discovery Sport; the rear knuckles are the same as the F-Pace’s, and the subframe and control arms are shared with the Discovery Sport. The E-Pace therefore has a different rear floor to the Evoque, with more legroom for rear-seat passengers and more room for luggage—there are no strut towers intruding into the load space.

Early in the E-Pace development program insiders acknowledged the biggest problem with using the all-steel Evoque platform—which traces its ancestry back to Ford’s ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover—was its weight. Developing a new, lighter platform from scratch simply wasn’t an option, so the engineering team applied what weight-saving countermeasures it could. The E-Pace’s hood, front fenders, roof panel, and tailgate are aluminum, delivering weight savings of almost 75 pounds over comparable steel parts. The bodysides are also stamped from special, thinner steel that saves almost 8 pounds. Even so, a base E-Pace still weighs 155 pounds more than the entry-level version of the larger F-Pace, which is built on JLR’s aluminum-intensive D7a architecture.

The E-Pace is the first Jaguar in history available only with four-cylinders under the hood. No V-6. American-market buyers can choose between two different versions of JLR’s 2.0-liter turbocharged Ingenium gas engine, driving through a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission. The regular E-Pace, which is available in standard, S, and SE trim levels, gets a 246-hp variant that also develops 269 lb-ft of torque from 1,200 to 4,500 rpm. In E-Pace R-Dynamic form, available in S, SE, and HSE trim levels, the engine has been tweaked to deliver 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. Peak power in both arrives at a modest 5,500 rpm. Jaguar claims the R-Dynamic’s extra horsepower cuts the 0-60-mph acceleration time from 6.6 seconds to 5.9 seconds.

JLR’s 2.0-liter Ingenium engine isn’t the smoothest in class. There’s almost a diesellike graininess at idle and under light throttle at low speed, especially when cold. But it delivers good performance and drivability on the road. The nine-speed automatic transmission has been recalibrated to deliver smoother and faster shifts, especially in Dynamic mode, and R-Dynamic models also benefit from having paddle shifters on the steering wheel for drivers who like DIY driving in the twisty bits.

Although the platform is front-drive-based, all-wheel drive is standard across the E-Pace range. There are, however, two systems available. The regular E-Pace lineup gets a conventional setup that simply varies torque between the front and rear axles, depending on load. The R-Dynamic models come equipped with Jaguar’s electronically controlled Active Driveline, which is capable of rapidly shifting 100 percent of the torque to either the front or rear axles and between the rear wheels. In steady state cruising, the Active Driveline switches to front-drive only, decoupling the prop-shaft to the rear axle to help save fuel. But it can funnel needed power back to the rear wheels in just three milliseconds. Two electronically controlled wet plate clutches on the rear axle also send precise measures of torque to each rear wheel to help control understeer and oversteer.

Subtle chassis and suspension tweaks have given the E-Pace a more alert and agile rear-drive feel than the Evoque. On the rear axle, positive camber has been increased to help initial turn-in response, particularly at low to medium speeds, and brake-induced torque vectoring is standard. Up front, there’s more negative camber to help get the nose of the car into corners, and the two rear-mounting points of the front subframe have been bolted directly to the body to deliver a more rigid platform. The E-Pace is 20 percent stiffer than an Evoque and 25 percent stiffer than a Discovery Sport, says lead engineer Matt Eyes. In turn, that stiffness improves steering feel and response.

What’s more impressive is that this fun-to-drive character happens with smoothness and silence, too. Our tester, a loaded R-Dynamic HSE riding on 20-inch alloys and 245/45 R20 Pirelli P Zero summer tires, felt calmer, quieter, and more relaxed on jittery British back roads than Evoques we’ve driven on 20s. Impact harshness is better suppressed, and there’s much less tire noise from the rear axle.

In terms of off-road capability, the little Jaguar doesn’t give much away to the baby Range Rover. All E-Pace models can be switched between four drive modes—Normal, Dynamic, Eco, and Rain, Ice, and Snow. The latter setting allows drivers to activate the standard All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), the low-speed, off-road “cruise control” system developed by the off-road specialists at Land Rover. ASPC is masterful at exploiting every last vestige of available traction, especially when working with the Active Driveline system.

Worldwide sales of compact SUVs last year totaled 9.8 million vehicles, according to JLR, and are forecasted to grow substantially in the near future. As it gives Jaguar the opportunity to play this white-hot segment for the very first time, the E-Pace is arguably one of the most important new Jaguars in history.

Although comparisons with the Range Rover Evoque are inevitable, the E-Pace’s real targets are BMW’s X1, Audi’s Q3, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA, along with buyers moving up from mainstream U.S. and Asian brands. Its mission is one of conquest, and early indications show that’s exactly what’s happening—more than 90 percent of customers who’ve placed an order for an E-Pace in the U.S. are newcomers to the brand. A lot of buyers are looking for a stylish, accomplished, competitively priced premium compact SUV, and they are likely going to see that Jaguar has a definite place in this segment.

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Toyota Corolla XSE: Sensible compact sedan that’s easy on your wallet

WASHINGTON — Have you noticed the prices of compact sedans lately? If you want all the options, the price can get close to $30,000 — a pretty large chunk of money for a small sedan. That’s what made the Toyota Corolla’s top- of-the-line XSE trim level a surprise when it showed up with a price under $25,000. So what do you get for the money?

Car guy Mike Parris says the Toyota Corolla XSE is a roomy compact sedan with a stylish interior. (WTOP/Mike Parris)

The Corolla XSE is a roomy compact with a stylish interior. The XSE version is a sportier version of the people-mover. Blue stitching on the seats, dash and door trim pieces add a nice touch. The front seats are heated and the driver’s seat has eight-way power adjustments. The seats are finished in a material called SofTex, a convincing leather-type material. A power moon roof is standard on this model, and it’s a welcome addition on good weather days.

Back seat space is above average for a compact sedan, with plenty of space for two adults or three children. I wish there where air vents for the back seat passengers. The dash controls are easy to use with larger knobs and buttons for radio/NAV and climate controls. But there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto offered for any Toyota products as of now.

The Corolla isn’t the quickest compact sedan I’ve driven. You can have a manual transmission in some trim levels but the XSE has one transmission, the CVT automatic. It helps with good fuel economy. I managed 32.9 mpg for my week of driving. It keeps the engine in a drone when accelerating up to speed. There is a 132-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that feels a bit underpowered compared to some other cars in this compact class; you notice it when trying to merge.

While not very sporty, the Corolla is a pleasant commuter car soaking up most bumps well. There is clear vision out of the car. One thing I noticed on the highway is that it’s a little louder than some other compact sedans I’ve driven lately. The Toyota Safety Sense-P adds radar cruise control and a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection that works really well. There is also lane departure warning with assist which will steer the car a bit if it veers off road or wanders trying to get back in the lane.

Usually when you think Corolla, “stylish sedan” isn’t the first description out of my mouth but times are changing at Toyota. The Corolla has upped the styling lately and the XSE trim level is the most daring of them all. There’s a lot going on visually up front. It has a large, wide grill that’s blacked-out that leads farther up the front fascia to LED headlights and smaller openings between the lights. The side view is tamer in comparison but nicely done with sporty looking 17-inch alloy wheels and blacked-out trim around the windows to give it a more upscale look. The rear-end styling is normal and there is a nicely integrated rear spoiler that adds details to the Corolla.

The Toyota Corolla XSE certainly looks different from past Corolla models. But underneath, it’s still a solid compact sedan that has been popular for decades. While still not the most exciting to drive, it does everything a small sedan should do. Now with some advanced safety features, the Corolla is a safer compact sedan and at nice price, too.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

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2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 First Look: Big Power, Big Wing, Big Bet

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It’s official. After spy shots, speculation, and leaks, the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 formally breaks cover here in Dubai, home of the fast, rich, and fabulous.

Yes, this latest iteration shares much of the bones of the Z06 but adds more power, refinement, a giant optional rear wing, and a pledge that this really fast car is for everyone. Even though the new ZR1 has a top speed of more than 210 mph, the Z06 and Camaro ZL1 1LE still corner the market on crazy.

General Motors chose Dubai for the global premiere of the last celebration of the C7 generation Corvette and the return of the ZR1 crown that was applied to the third-generation Corvette in 1979, C4 in 1990, and C6 in 2009. “We don’t do a ZR1 every generation,” said chief engineer Tadge Juechter. “It’s not an automatic.”

The private unveiling was held a few days before the Dubai auto show. Corvette continues to grow in popularity in the fast-growing Middle East, making Dubai a good choice for the global debut, said Tom Peters, director of exterior design for GM performance vehicles.

The car goes on sale this spring, and GM expects to make 2,000-3,000 of them at the plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but production will not be limited.

Pricing has not been announced but could easily exceed $130,000. The 2009 ZR1 started at $105,000; a carbon fiber package alone added $15,000. The 2018 base Stingray coupe starts at $56,490 and the Z06 starts at $80,490. Juechter said the ZR1 won’t be double the price of the Stingray.

Many of the suspected details were confirmed. The new coupe continues with GM’s 6.2-liter pushrod small block V-8, but the automaker calls this updated version of the supercharged engine the LT5. It’s confusing because the expectation is LT5 would refer to a switch to a DOHC V-8. The ZR1 sticks with Corvette’s traditional overhead valve, two valves per cylinder.

And just when you thought that engine couldn’t squeeze out any more power, GM tells us it’s rated at 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft of torque. “After driving this around for a while the Z06 feels really sluggish,” said Juechter. It’s a nice exclamation point in the dying embers of C7 before C8 goes mid-engine and DOHC.

“I’ve never driven a Corvette like this before, and nobody else has either, because there’s never been one like this before,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “Its unprecedented performance puts all other global supercars on notice that the ZR1 is back.”

A major difference: This is not the supercharger of the 2009 ZR1 or the 2015 Z06. The Eaton supercharger is 2.9 inches taller with a more efficient intercooled system that Chevy says has 52 percent more displacement than the Z06’s LT4 supercharger. Cooling has always been a Corvette bugaboo. The heavier supercharger changed the weight distribution so Chevy made the front wheels a half-inch wider for more cornering stiffness.

Another big difference: GM’s first dual fuel-injection system. It has primary direct injection and supplemental port injection. A cool by-product: It is said to shoot flames from the exhaust.

The Corvette keeps the seven-speed manual, but buyers can also choose an automatic for the first time in a ZR1 with GM’s eight-speed with paddle-shift. There was speculation the model could receive GM’s new 10-speed co-developed with Ford, but Juechter said that unit doesn’t fit the Corvette architecture and was never designed to. Instead, they updated the eight-speed to shift faster.

The ZR1 has the stellar carbon ceramic brakes of the Z06—not the non-ceramic Brembo brakes in the Camaro ZL1 1LE1. ZR1 made the right choice, they are among the best on the planet, as we discovered in Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car testing.

The look of the most powerful Corvette to date reveals the efforts Chevy has gone to for greater performance. The strip of carbon fiber down the middle of the hood is the cover for the bulging engine that Peters did not want to be any taller so the driver can still sit low in the seat and see over the hood. It was a craftsmanship challenge to match the weave of the many pieces of carbon fiber that had to come together.

The front clip is all new and the new front fascia has four new radiators which means 13 heat exchangers in total. “The front end has almost no fascia; it is almost all openings,” Juechter said.

And the crankshaft has been strengthened. These changes, and the larger supercharger, add about 60 pounds of weight to the car. Curb weight is 3,560 pounds for a car with the most carbon fiber to date.

The latest king is designed to perform better on the track with the option to forego the regular low wing for a crazy high wing that produces an estimated 950 pounds of downforce for the track. The adjustable high wing is part of the ZTK Performance package and is attached right to the chassis. It can be adjusted about five degrees but it’s not an automatic adjustment; it requires changing the bolts. Even the low wing generates up to 70 percent more downforce than the Z06’s base aero package, and it’s much easier to get at your gear in the back.

This is the first Vette to get a front underwing to assist with downforce. Historically GM would use front splitters to push the nose down, but balancing the big wing would result in a front that too easily scrapes the ground. Borrowing some race tech, incorporating underwing creates low pressure to keep the car down, said Peters.

The ZTK package includes a front splitter with carbon-fiber end caps, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer-only tires, and tuning of the chassis and Magnetic Ride Control for better cornering grip—another area where Corvette needed improvement.

And if you like orange, the Sebring Orange Design package is, you guessed it, Sebring Orange with matching brake calipers, rocker and splitter accent stripes, seatbelts, stitching, and bronze aluminum interior trim. There was a strong customer pull for orange, Juechter said. “We’ll see if they show up with their money.”

The ZR1 has leather-trimmed seats with a suede-like microfiber and an option to make them heated and cooled. Or you can opt for a sport seats and a carbon-fiber rimmed steering wheel.

Based on all the spy shots out there, the new coupe with a removable hardtop will be quickly followed by a convertible ZR1 with a soft top.

We doubt it’s a top priority, but the estimated fuel economy is 15/22 mpg in city/highway driving with the manual and 13/23 mpg with the automatic.

GM has been getting ready for the 2019 ZR1 as well as the mid-engine Corvette in the works. Production of the 2018 model at the plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, stopped for three months to retool for future products.

The 2019 Corvette ZR1 will be on display later this month at the Los Angeles auto show.

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Tesla unveils electric truck with 500-mile range — and teases a new sports car

Elon Musk unveiled the new Tesla Semi on Thursday night — and surprised everybody with a working prototype of a new Roadster sports car whose purpose, he said, is to “give a hard-core smackdown to gasoline cars.”

Musk claims the car will rocket zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds — the first production car to perform the feat in under 2 seconds, he said. Top speed is 250 mph. Price: $200,000.

“It’s just stupid,” he said excitedly, with an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred serving as cheerleaders and on-again, off-again girlfriend actress Amber Heard watching from the wings.

He said production is aimed at 2020.

Need for Speed Payback review – Polygon

I hope you like the car you choose in Need For Speed Payback. You’ll be spending a good long while with it.

For me, almost six hours into the story, I was still driving the Honda S2000 I had picked as my first ride in the opening of Payback’s story campaign. The unrelenting challenge posed by brute-force AI racers prioritizes making upgrades to a single vehicle over acquiring new rides, much less personalizing them. Cars, parts and all of the customization options that have given the Need For Speed franchise its variety and glamor are bought with the same in-game currency, forcing an unpalatable choice: Drive the same car in different races, or drive different cars in the same races, to grind out currency and diversify my holdings.

Need for Speed Payback

Ghost Games/Electronic Arts

It’s a shame because there’s a strong arcade racer under the hood of Need For Speed Payback. Notwithstanding the lunkhead competitor AI and trivial pursuit vehicles one encounters, the handling and power inside the cars made the strongest invitation for me to explore Payback’s open world — vacant though it is. The wild oversteer and braking power takes some acclimatization, but it’s there to help users of all levels through the game’s wild drift-racing events, and to whip through right angle turns in getaway chases.

The problem with Need For Speed Payback is that the cars aren’t really the stars. Neither are the humans, in a hackdraft story that is pure expository dialogue and cornball reversals. Sure, there are three main characters with three specialties — the street racer, the drift/off-roader, the wheelwoman. But to give any of them a new ride — Mustang, Lotus or Charger — is to effectively start over, grinding through low-level races one has already beaten for currency, “speed card” upgrades and other items to then fashion the vehicle into something competitive.

And competitive it must be. Each story mission in Need For Speed Payback helpfully gives a recommended vehicle rating to beat it. A car that matches that rating, or is even 15 points better, is still going to have a hard time on the first try or two. Cars south of that number by more than 5 points will be left in the dust, particularly in technical events like drift racing on pavement.

I don’t mind a stout challenge, even in an arcade racer where I know the AI is going to race a perfect line and hit each corner at top speed. And the progressively better handling and higher performance of unlocked vehicles in Need For Speed Payback did feel like a reward for learning how to gut out white-knuckle laps with shaky rides earlier in the game.

It would be a lot different if the story’s detours from street racing to the drag races and getaways paid off with better cars on the spot, or resources to apply toward ones sitting idle (speed cards awarded in these events are applicable to the class of car that raced them). Cars may be unlocked after beating questline events but they still have to be bought with the same in-game currency used to tune up everything else you race. Somewhat to the game’s credit, you can’t just buy a tranche of that currency for real-world money. But it is part of the “shipments” that are available for “speed points” which are available for real dough. So while the road between real cash and in-game currency isn’t direct, it’s still paved and waiting for those who wish to take it.

Need for Speed Payback

Ghost Games/Electronic Arts

Shipments still come every day for logging in, and they include a chunk of in-game cash, a batch of parts tokens (exchanged on a 3:1 basis for a speed card) and a vanity item that can be exchanged for the aforementioned money. It’s not an extravagant bounty but it is a help. Still, Need For Speed Payback’s punishing grind, loot boxes and multiple currencies offers a tacit encouragement to spend money to bypass its automotive chores while holding a fig leaf over the bad PR of a true pay-to-win scenario.

A more user-friendly system would allow drivers, as they tackle one branch of the street racing series, to put what they earn from it into a new vehicle for another. But in every race I felt I had to bring a car with optimum performance to the starting line. The closest I came to a real economy of scale is where I plowed through the initial getaway storyline with few upgrades to the car (a really smooth Audi SS Sportback), because none of the events were against a racing field. I used everything I earned from that — currency and speed cards — to acquire a suped-up Honda NSX Type R and easily pass the first two events of the drift-racing storyline.

But then I was still quickly out of dough, feeling forced to push money into the braking and nitrous upgrades that sustain the long power slides that win those beauty pageants. There’s a live-tuning option (for attributes like vehicle stance, brake bias and the like) that I appreciated because it didn’t require me to fast-travel to a garage. It’s particularly useful for the drifting cars, but it took a lot of trial-and-error to get it to a point where I could feather the brakes and gas (or hit the NO2) to keep a long slide going.

The driving events are well connected to the story of Need for Speed Payback, but the story isn’t much richer than movie theater popcorn. Tyler, the leader of the good guys’ alliance, got screwed on a deal. He and his friends, drifter Mac and getaway driver Jess, are gonna, race-by-race, take apart the super uncool organization called The House, which is fixing races in their Vegas-like paradise of open highways and wide boulevards. All of the characters are outrageously hip; my favorite was the Underground Soldier, leader of the Shift-Lock crew, described as “that anarchist-hacker-drift racer.” They all gave me lively banter during boss races and a respectful nod after taking them down. Payback splurges on the glamor of the street racing scene, and it’s all in good fun, but the narrative is always a garnish, not an really an edible item on the plate.

The big set pieces felt like reformulations of events I’d finished before, where the really unusual maneuvers, like pulling up next to a big rig with my teammate hanging out a window, were largely managed by quick timer events. The boss battles supporting the story arc, though, raced through well designed courses that demonstrated the boss character’s driving specialty while allowing for a good stretch to get past them with old-fashioned muscle. So even if the opposing drivers pose a formidable challenge, the game usually leaves room for a lesser-skilled driver to keep up and win.

Need for Speed Payback

Ghost Games/Electronic Arts

Wrap Up

Need For Speed Payback doesn’t do many favors for itself. It’s a fun racing game whose flashy story would be fine if I felt like I was building a blinged-out career worthy of it. Instead, I felt driven toward pure stats upgrades, heedless of what the car was or what it looked like.

Coupled with a desert city and countryside that feels lifeless despite being packed with racing challenges and collectibles, it’s the equivalent of a bland paint job surrounding a high performance engine block. Considering how little I customized my cars in Need For Speed Payback, much less wanted to, that’s the best epitaph I can give it.

Need for Speed Payback was reviewed using final “retail” Xbox One download codes provided by Electronic Arts. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

  • 6.5

    PS4 Score

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    Xbox One Score

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Many Words On the Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Earlier this month, RT editor-at-large Sam Smith attended the global media launch of the 700-hp 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Smith’s formal drive review of the GT2 RS will see print in an upcoming issue of Road Track. In the meantime, he emailed us his first dispatch on the car, in the form of an interview he conducted with himself. He writes this way a lot. Don’t ask why. We don’t know.

If you want a more straightforward review of the 911 GT2 RS, please visit our sister publication, Car and Driver, and read correspondent Mike Duff’s thorough dissection. For now, here’s an awful lot of words on an awful lot of 911. —Ed.

What are we dealing with here? Besides that nutso rear wing.

The GT2 RS is a heavily modified, two-wheel-drive, track-focused version of the current 911 Turbo S. That car costs $188,100, weighs more than 3500 pounds, and is four-wheel-drive; its 3.8-liter flat-six produces 580 hp. The GT2 RS uses a 3.8-liter flat-six to produce 700 hp at 7000 rpm. Porsche says the car weighs 3241 pounds. It costs $294,250 but is lighter than the Turbo, faster, festooned with carbon-fiber, and generally the angriest, weirdest new 911 that money can buy. Plus the fastest factory-built 911 road car in history.

So it’s a 911. Like every other 911.

Not really. From a performance standpoint, this car makes every other current 911, including the naturally aspirated, 9000-rpm GT3, look like a rusty VW Beetle with three wheels missing. In Porsche’s testing, the GT2 RS lapped the Ring 10 seconds faster than the company’s own 918 Spyder, which cost just under $1 million when new. This is no small accomplishment.

But what of the special features and neat tricks? Dear God, there must be special features and neat tricks. Please tell me of the features and tricks.

There is an optional set of carbon-fiber sway bars; they are paired with carbon-fiber end links. The RS’s roof is magnesium, with an option to go for carbon-fiber instead. Ceramic brakes are standard. The rear wheels are 12.5 inches wide and wear 325-section tires. (Perspective: The now-dead Dodge Viper wore 355s out back; when that car left production, those tires were the widest of any contemporary mass-production car.) Water injection, for cooling the engine’s intake charge, is standard. Optional magnesium wheels. A titanium muffler. Carbon hood hinges. Lightweight carpet.

And here I thought it took dunkel. #991gt2rs #porsche911 @roadandtrack

A post shared by Sam Smith (@thatsamsmith) on Nov 3, 2017 at 4:54am PDT

Whoa. That’s a lot of stuff.

There’s more! The GT2 RS’s glass is thinner than that of the Turbo S. There is less sound deadening; from the cockpit, you can hear road debris bounce off the car’s underside. There is also significantly more spring rate, a quicker-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission, and more aggressively tuned dampers. You can delete air-conditioning and opt to not install a navigation system, from the factory. There is no rear seat, just a carpeted shelf. The front seats are hard-shell carbon buckets like those found in the 918. In Europe, the car comes standard with a steel interior roll bar. A titanium bar is an option.

No manual gearbox, huh?

Nope. Porsche is adamant about this: RS cars are the most focused part of the company’s lineup. Speed is paramount. And a manual is noticeably slower than PDK, Porsche’s famed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. Which is, admittedly, the best on the market. It’s a mind-reader, both smooth and blazingly quick.

Aw, boo.

Well, sure, we think so. Manuals are more fun and require skill to operate. Automatic gearboxes are basically condoms: The motions are undoubtedly the same, but unless you’re a robot, the joy of the process takes a hit. If you think motion is the sole purpose of a fast car, then hey, great. If you like the process and want to feel stuff, stay with a clutch pedal.

But all isn’t lost. If you want this kind of performance without losing three pedals, the 755-hp Corvette ZR1 still offers a manual transmission. Go figure.

The GT2 does not sound slow.

Porsches with a “GT” in their name are usually not. Porsche says the car will find 60 mph, from a standstill, in 2.7 seconds. The company also claims that the car will do a 10.5-second quarter-mile.

This is slower than the 918 Spyder, which ran a 9-second quarter and sprinted to 60 in around 2.2 seconds. But again, that car cost nearly a million dollars. And is slower around the world’s most demanding road course.

In Porsche-badge-speak, “RS” stands for renn sport, or rennsport. Motorsport. Literally, “racing sport.” A nice definition, but not exactly indicative of what you get. When I first got started in club racing, a Porsche-loving friend told me that “RS” meant “RipShit.” “It’s what those cars do,” he said.

Those numbers don’t mean much to an ordinary person.

Consider the 911 Turbo S. It is a shockingly fast and remarkably durable car. It will, without hesitation or mechanical hiccup, run 0–60 sprints for weeks at a time without a fall-off in performance, and allow you to win nine out of ten stoplight drag races pretty much anywhere in the world. And, like most modern supercars, if you go by American speed limits, the Turbo S is illegal about halfway through second gear.

Porsche says the GT2 RS is 300 pounds lighter than a Turbo S. The GT2 RS also makes 120 more horsepower. The GT2 RS is thus basically the Turbo S minus the mass of a middleweight superbike. With that bike’s engine output thrown in the trunk for good measure.

Or, you know, the power of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, minus around 1200 pounds of weight.

Put another way: The average household refrigerator weighs between 200 and 300 pounds when empty. The GT2 is Hellcat thrust, minus the weight of at least four refrigerators.

Barely impressed. You heard of Koenigsegg? Their One:1 makes more power and weighs less. Or that Hennessey Lotus turbo-V-8 crazy thing. Or the cars from [insert tuner nutjob here].

First off, that Koenigsegg is bat-guano. You see the video of that thing doing a top-speed run in Nevada? It is now the world’s fastest car. Pay attention to how hard the car pulls when the driver stops short-shifting, close to 200 mph. Sweet Jesus.

More important: Yes, tuners and specialty manufacturers make more powerful, and often lighter, cars. It is reasonably safe to say that those cars are not delivered with the warranty, or with the durability, service-interval, and comfort/HVAC standards of a major manufacturer. Or the breadth of envelope.

This is partly because small carmakers are small carmakers, and large carmakers are large ones. Scale brings benefits. It’s also because Porsche designs its cars to pass international safety and emissions standards, and to be used every day.

When you are not railing on the GT2 RS, it is a relatively calm device. Loud. But comfortable, easy to see out of, designed to be driven every day. By way of illustration, a fortunate friend is currently considering the purchase of a GT2 RS for daily-driver use in Ohio. He recently checked with his local dealer and discovered that Porsche offers a factory snow-tire fitment for the car.

People do not do this sort of thing with a One:1. Most chunks of tuner weirdness would collapse in an Ohio winter. You can probably guess why.

That Ohio man is a hero.

He’s a good dude.

Seven hundred horsepower. From a 3.8-liter 911. How?

Thank the magic of turbocharging. The technology is basically ubiquitous at this point; you can buy a three-cylinder Ford Fiesta with a single turbocharger, or you can buy a Bugatti Chiron, with four. Porsche’s basic engine designs are so durable, with such a safety margin in their construction, that chasing power is often simply a matter or knowing where to look. Next to the Turbo S, the GT2 uses larger turbochargers, unique pistons, a modified engine crankcase, and a reworked cooling system, among other details. The compressor side of the turbocharger alone goes up 9 millimeters in diameter, from 58 to 67. The ducts on the rear fenders feed 27 percent more air, in volume, to the intercoolers.

The output curves are absurd. Monstrous.

Sounds diabolical.

Oddly, it’s not. The engine is the star of the show, obviously. If the GT3 makes you work for shove, nothing below 6500 rpm or so, the GT2 has grunt always. Explosively. Everywhere. It madhouses its way to the horizon, finds it, and then madhouses its way wherever the hell else you point it.

Or at least, it feels that way for the first few laps. Then you realize that the engine really needs to be revved to go from Quick as Hell to Obscenely, Outlandishly Fast. So you start revving it more, maybe a gear lower here and there. At which point the back tires move around on exit throttle, little dabby slides. No straight is ever long enough, as with most supercars. None of what happens is freakish or surprising. There’s a noticeable, if modest amount of turbo lag in the bottom third of the tach, but there’s so much torque off-boost, it’s hard to care. The torque hit is addictive, just a wall of instant smack aimed at the small of your back. Compounding, instant, smack.

Maybe this sounds nuts. It feels nuts, if I’m honest. The press event I attended took place at the Algarve International Circuit, in Portimao, Portgual. Fast track, with big elevation change and a few ballsy-fast corners. The drive day was half dry, half wet—sun at first, then rain around lunchtime. I was allowed a handful of dry laps, and a handful of laps once the circuit was well and truly soaked. We drove a bit on the road before and after. A mix of mountain twisties and suburban highway. The car just seemed friendly, in all of it.

What do you even do with a 700-hp 911 track special on the road?

Break laws, mostly. Gratuitously, and in spurts, when you feel like you can get away with it. You also listen to rocks pinging off the underside, because the GT2 has as much sound deadening as a tin hat. At one point, my ears followed a particularly interesting pebble from the front wheel well all the way back to the rear bumper. The car is enough of a loudbox that you can pinpoint precisely where on the car a rock goes. I think the ting! that pebble made before it left came from the titanium muffler.

But really, most of what you do is groove into the GT2’s killer mechanical grip. If you don’t want to get arrested, you drive it like you drive any supercar on the road: Gliding through corners at double the speed limit while barely leaning on the tire. It’s not as engaging on a back road as the GT3, mainly because it doesn’t make that car’s obscene yowl and seems to want more pace in order to feel like it’s working. Like most fast modern Porsches, the shocks have a heavy amount of rebound damping, and the car is stiffly sprung, so lumpy pavement occasionally puts wheels in the air. (In Portugal, I saw the rear wheels come up at least once, on a sweeping, fast two-lane covered in relatively minor, 70-mph yumps. We came down fine, no drama, but it happened.)

The GT2’s engine also puts out a boomy, annoying drone in cruise between 2500 and 4000 rpm. It is worth noting that no GT3 in history has ever been referred to as “annoying.” At least not by anyone with half a brain.

So you’re saying this is really for track people.

Not exactly; it’s a fine road car, if a bit demanding in terms of ride quality and cabin noise. But given the price, there’s not a relative amount of added joy, on the road, over most current 911s. The car wants a track. I’m a decent club racer, not incompetent, but not Schumacher or Hamilton, either. And two laps into that media event, on a track I’d never seen, the GT2 RS felt like an old friend. Like a GT3 with more stability at high speed and a little more front-end grip. It sounded like a 935 I drove once—quiet in some moments, guttural and chesty in others.

The previous GT2 required a bit of care at the limit. It had to be delicately put into or dragged out of a corner. High-speed work required underwear fortitude. The engine’s turbo lag necessitated a decent amount of forward planning. Not bad, not in the slightest, just a lot to handle. A big gun.

This is also a lot to handle, but it’s different. When the RS slides, it does so gradually. I could be wrong—the last GT2 I drove was almost ten years ago—but I don’t remember the old car being this docile. You have to assume it has something to do with the 991’s longer wheelbase, stiffer structure, and more refined suspension geometry. Plus tolerance stackup from a zillion changes related to where the car carries its mass. It feels less rear-engined than you’d think; it seems to ask less of you than you expect, in terms of wanting special treatment in a corner.

The rain was a hoot, by the way. Wipers on full blitz, fast as they would go. Braking down from a buck-fifty or sixty or whatever into a gloss of standing water. A wash from the nose if you didn’t carry the brake properly. Slow hands on the wheel to go fast, or big hammy ones if you want the car to dance.

Wait. Are you seriously saying that a 700-hp Porsche 911 is easy to drive in the rain?

Well, no. But it’s not exactly terrifying, either. Given the reputation of the classic, high-powered, rear-drive 911, you would think it would be terrifying. Instead, it just requires respect.

And is hilarious. Should-not-be-possible, hilarious.

Do they all look like this? Fillips and crazy headliner colors and carbon-fiber “stripes” on the hood?” What the heck are those ridiculous, gaping holes in the front bumper?

From certain angles, yes, it looks ridiculous. The GT2 RS is not my taste, but then, I like subdued classicism, and supercars do not generally deal in that. At least, modern ones don’t. Maybe this is your taste. Maybe Ferry Porsche, rest his soul, would love this. Or maybe Ferry Porsche would see the giant P-O-R-S-C-H-E lettering on the top of the GT2 RS’s rear wing, available with the optional $31,000 Weissach Package, and the plastic body cladding that seems to climb halfway up the rear bumper. And maybe he would roll his eyes hard enough to see the forward half of his spine.

Styling is subjective. Few modern cars are truly beautiful. This one really only looks great in profile, when it resembles a 911 RSR viewed through a tab of acid.

Still, you don’t have to buy it in a crazy color. Or with a crazy interior. One of the cars on the launch was a particularly subdued shade of gray called Chalk. It looked nice, if a little at odds with itself—like an AK-47 painted with pink polka dots. Wearing a sun dress.

I guess I like it? I mean, it grows on you. The front—those air intakes—it kind of looks like Ambrose Burnside. If Ambrose Burnside were a car. And peeved.

Porsche makes a lot of 911s. The company currently offers 23 variants of the car—from base Carrera to GTS and GT3 and Turbo and Turbo S, with a few convertibles and targa-topped models thrown in for good measure. If you buy a GT2 RS, if you spend that three hundred grand and rip out of the dealer’s parking lot with your 700 hp, you probably want your car to look a little different from the 370-horse base Carrera that some subpar dentist just paid $90,000 for.

Put another way: An old line holds that fast 911s are really only bought by people who want fast 911s. The car is weird and compromised enough, at the upper limits of its price range, that you have to specifically want it. As opposed to fast Ferraris, for example, which are often just bought by folks who want the most expensive Ferrari and don’t care what it is. For the same money as a GT2 RS, you could buy a lot of other vehicles. Some of those vehicles are Italian and look like rolling sex.

When you are spending more than a quarter-million dollars on an automobile, you are almost certainly buying a serious piece of machinery. Rolling sex is what Italian carmakers do when they get serious. Porsches are engineered and (often) built in Germany. When German carmakers get serious . . .

Well, they’re always serious. So they get more serious. This is what that looks like, if you blend it with 50+ years of tradition (the 911 has been around, in one form or another, since 1963), an adherence to a certain mechanical and philosophical blueprint, a mild dose of tacky details (insert joke about German culture here) and the unique needs of a 211-mph (speed-limited) automobile shaped like a throwback airfoil. You get an odd cross between awkward and muscled, loose and constrained. Like most German art.

There’s also the whole culture-caricature thing. Porsche undoubtedly could have packaged the GT2’s talents into a more cosmetically subtle, less obvious vehicle. If history is any guide, this is not what the supercar market wants. Generally speaking, the people buying a quarter-million-dollar German car do so because it oozes a specific time and place. Because it does things in a way that a quarter-million-dollar American car, or a quarter-million-dollar Italian car, would not.

At this price point, you are dealing with vehicles that address the rarefied fringes of human want. And the fringes of want are rarely subtle.

Wait. Two hundred and eleven miles per hour . . . and it’s speed-limited?

Fun fact: Only two series-production Porsches have ever been electronically speed-limited from the factory—the 997-generation 911 GT2 (620 hp, 205 mph, launched in 2011) and this car, which is built on the 991-gen (current) 911 platform. All the rest were limited “naturally”—by gearing and/or aerodynamic drag.

Why limit the car? What do these people have against GT2s?

Nothing, really. I think they quite like them. The problem is tires. One Porsche rep I spoke with unofficially estimated the 2018 GT2’s top speed to be 220–225 mph. Porsche expects its cars to be capable of their VMax for sustained periods. Hours, days at a time, whatever. No problems of engine temperature or tire management, not a hiccup until the fuel runs out. Like virtually everything engineered by human hands, however, tires are the result of compromise. They must balance lateral grip with water evacuation, water evacuation with high-speed stability, steering feel with everything.

If Porsche asked a tire manufacturer—likely Michelin or Dunlop, the GT2 RS’s current suppliers—to build a tire capable of withstanding 220 mph, that tire would likely not produce the lateral grip and transient behavior necessary for a 6:47 lap of the Ring.

So Porsche chased one metric over the other. Guessing, rightly so, that more people will care about an impressive (if somewhat nebulous) Ring lap than the ability to do an extra 10 or 15 mph on a derestricted, low-traffic autobahn. (Assuming you can even find that magic pairing, because the German highway system is becoming more crowded by the day.)

After the rain. The traditional sticker, replacing the hood badge. Weight savings, ostensibly—though it sure seems like they left other weighty bits on this thing, stuff you could do without. Whatever. Sticker is cool. #991gt2rs

A post shared by Sam Smith (@thatsamsmith) on Nov 3, 2017 at 10:58am PDT

Neat. Give me some random trivia I can think about when I put my head on the pillow at night.

The hood badge on the GT2 RS—Porsche’s famous crest—is a sticker. This was ostensibly done to save weight, but really, we’re talking grams. Not a huge difference in how the car behaves, plus or minus, though you could argue that grams add up. (Cue outcry from forum weenies: I replaced my badge sticker with the heavier enamel one and was cursed with crippling understeer! I write this from a hospital bed after plowing headlights-first into a fence, after which they had to amputate my tuchis! PORSCHE COMMUNITY, I BESEECH YOU, SAVE YOURSELVES, DOUBT NOT THE FACTORY, LEARN FROM MY ARROGANCE!)

The now-discontinued 911 GT3 RS also wore a nose-crest sticker. No badge. The tradition dates back to the 1960s 911 R, when Porsche was young and its cars were lighter, smaller, and more simple. In the modern era, you have to assume that Porsche’s GT department uses the decal because they like it.

But the specifics are neat. In 2016, Porsche won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall. The 919 hybrid prototype that took that win also wore a crest-sticker on its nose. And you can buy that exact sticker at your local Porsche dealer—all you have to do is give them the part number for the nose badge of a GT2 RS. It’s the same part.

That’s cool as hell. I want one of those stickers. And the whole car.

I know. I don’t want a GT2 RS, but that’s just me. It’s monstrously fast but too much of a blunt instrument. Several new cars at or below this price point, including Porsche’s own 911 GT3, offer more involvement with only a slight downgrade in pace. If you want to be the biggest dog at your local track day, and you have almost three hundred grand, and you have to have a new commute-worthy German road car with a warranty . . . Hey, go nuts.

Still, it’s a remarkable achievement. Seven hundred horsepower, in a track-focused special, and relatively friendly. Wow.

Are the Porsche purists going to have some kind of problem with it?

Probably. A predictive list of potential and yet undoubtedly irrelevant or incorrect gripes: The front tires are too narrow; the car’s too big; it’s comically styled; it doesn’t sound good enough; it’s cynically priced; it’s a 3200-pound track beast with a carbon roof and fabric straps for door handles, but heavy door panels and a complex folding cupholder. Whatever.

Something tells me the people who buy this thing aren’t going to care a whit.

You are almost certainly correct. They will laugh all the way to each and every apex, and then they will laugh all the way to the bank, a few years from now, if they go to sell the car. This is how Porsche GT cars work. Haters hate. Fast Porsches get faster and more powerful. And somehow, in one glorious and thoroughly eye-popping moment, we arrive at seven hundred horses.

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Need For Speed Payback review


What is it? The Fast and Furious films boiled down to repetitive arcade racing.
Expect to pay £55
Developer Ghost Games
Publisher EA
Reviewed on Windows 10, i5 6500, 16GB RAM, GTX 1070
Multiplayer Up to 8 players
Link Official site

It’s hard being Need For Speed in these modern times. The old staples that once ensured a Christmas chart-topping release—puke green Skylines out-NOSing each other to the finish line—have drifted out of contemporary appeal in the wake of Forza’s blockbuster simcade titles. 2015’s series reboot didn’t set the 23-year-old franchise back on track, and sadly nor has this much more ambitious effort from Ghost Games.

The problems begin with the esteem Need For Speed Payback holds the Fast and Furious franchise in. After all, if Vin Diesel one liner-ing his way through wafer-thin scripts about cars driving through skyscrapers makes for a box office smash, why can’t a game appeal to that same appetite? Everything about Payback—the quasi-Vegas setting Fortune City; the revenge plot; the love for tuners getting airborne and smashing things—harks back to those movies. Those movies which, famously, exist on a precarious ‘so bad it’s good’ appeal hanging above every set-piece like the sword of Damocles.

That appeal, the central kitsch of FF, is lost in translation in Payback. The Hollywood set-pieces are jarring cut-scenes that rob you of the satisfaction of pulling them off, and the corny dialogue comes across as inept, rather than knowing. Central trio Mac, Tyler, and Jess have voice talent trying their hardest to make their lines sound like human beings communicating, but there’s evidently only so much you can do with lines like “Wow, the torque on this thing!” and “Guess I’ll just have to beat you all.”

More so than in previous games, Payback wants you to pay attention to its story. It wants you to care about taking down crime syndicate The House. It wants you to root for Tyler, Mac, and Jess as they plot the eponymous Payback on the underground racers who double-crossed them. It doles out cut-scenes like rewards. By doing so, it makes an inevitable weak point in the game’s construction impossible to ignore, and highlights the simplistic way story and in-game action are brought together.

If you want to do the thing Need For Speed has been about for over a decade (turning road cars into wide-body monstrosities), you need to grind for it.

Payback also badly is misjudges its pacing and draws out any sense of progression. This is an open-world game of The Crew and Forza Horizon’s mould, full of race events which become available as you make your way through the story, and shorter activities you can partake in upon discovering them. As the game’s radio frequently reminds you, this means there’s always something new to do in Fortune Valley—perhaps a new batch of drift storyline events, a jump to earn a three-star rating on, or a rival racer to beat in an impromptu faceoff. 

That’s the theory, at least. In reality Fortune Valley just isn’t a very interesting place to drive through. Police appear only at scripted points during races so there’s no cop-baiting to be had while cruising. Finding jumps, speed traps, and billboards to smash quickly becomes repetitive, and doing these activities is required if you want to customise your car’s appearance. In other words, if you want to do the thing Need For Speed has been about for over a decade (turning road cars into wide-body monstrosities), you need to grind for it. Meanwhile, the Speed Cards which improve car performance, and indeed cars themselves, feel prohibitively expensive for much of the game, so there’s not much opportunity to experiment with cars or build up a large collection without a big time investment. Aka: grinding. And like I even need to say it, you can speed this whole process up with microtransactions—the icing on a flavourless grey cake.

On a GTX 1070 and i5 6500 running at 2560×1600, Payback can’t quite keep to 60fps at ultra settings, so some degree of graphics settings adjustment is required to hit that smooth v-synced frame delivery. The range of ten options is modest but enough to dial in an acceptable fidelity/performance balance on most systems, and but the engine seems prone to frame drops and slow downs on all settings. These drops, and the occasional car you drive right though in the game world, suggest a less than stellar technical foundation.

What Payback does well is what the series has always excelled at: satisfying arcade handling and a sense of speed. The exterior view’s camera sells you a sense of danger and being on the edge of control, and simply being in control of a car feels weighty and compelling. Then there are Side Bets, a tonally consistent new mechanic which throws in added objectives each race and alleviate the sense of repetition. Unfortunately they can’t compensate for the structural and narrative missteps which feel more grating the longer you play, until eventually the breezy powerslides and 150mph overtakes simply aren’t enough anymore.

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2018 Hyundai Accent First Drive Review: Basic No More

No Obligation, Fast Simple Free New Car Quote

Utter the words subcompact car and most visualize cheap, basic transportation, but there aren’t too many bare-bones vehicles left—compact cars are now available with features originally reserved for luxury vehicles, and subcompacts are following suit. Despite consumers moving more toward crossovers, there’s still room for affordable subcompact cars in a market whose thirst for vehicles with extra ride height seems unquenchable. The redesigned 2018 Hyundai Accent is out to prove that affordability doesn’t equal bare-bones transportation.

The 2018 Hyundai Accent follows the rest of Hyundai’s lineup in wearing the brand’s new cascading grille, which is said to be inspired by liquid metal being poured out. Its exterior is the latest take on Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language, and it works well despite the 2018 Accent’s small footprint. There are no odd angles and unfinished lines that give many subcompact sedans odd proportions. From hood to trunk, the silhouetted flows smoothly and without interruption. Its headlights sweep back and wraparound taillights, giving it the familiar Hyundai corporate look.

Hatchback buyers will be sad to know that the 2018 Accent will only come as a sedan. Mike Evanoff, product planner for small cars at Hyundai Motor America, revealed that 75 percent of Accent buyers bought the sedan and only 25 percent opted for the hatchback. As a result, only the sedan will be available in the U.S. market. Like the rest of the new Hyundai vehicles being introduced, the 2018 Accent’s body is composed mainly of high strength steel (54.5 percent), increasing its torsional rigidity by 32 percent. The updated suspension features rear dampers that have been moved closer to the wheel, and the subframe is stiffer and door seals are thicker for a quieter cabin.

A revised 1.6-liter I-4 rated at 130 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission is the only powertrain choice offered. The stick will only be available on the SE trim, and Hyundai expects a take rate of 5 percent. Power figures are down for the new generation because the engine has been retuned for improved responsiveness, more low and midrange torque, and fuel economy, which came at the cost of peak output. EPA fuel economy ratings are 28/38 mpg city/highway for the automatic and 28/37 mpg with the manual.

On the road, the 2018 Hyundai Accent drove home a point: subcompact cars are no longer penalty boxes. The small car drives in a way you don’t expect from a vehicle in its class. Getting out of Las Vegas and on the freeway toward the Valley of Fire State Park, the little 1.6-liter I-4 pulled well. It has plenty of low and midrange torque on tap, so it doesn’t feel lacking and had no trouble cruising at 75 mph even with three people. The six-speed automatic shifted smoothly and quickly, going about its business invisibly. When you drop the hammer, it downshifts immediately, putting you back into the engine’s powerband. Sport mode makes the throttle more responsive and causes the transmission to hold gears longer. However, forget that the manual mode on the automatic exists because it’s unresponsive and doesn’t improve the driving experience.

After exiting the freeway, we encountered some winding roads that are more ideal for a sport sedan; however, the 2018 Accent performed admirably. It’s no sport sedan, but it handles securely, thanks to well-controlled body motions, a well-tuned chassis, and Torque Vectoring Control, which applies the brakes on the inside wheel ever so slightly to mitigate understeer. The car’s steering is reasonably weighted but could use a little more feedback. Ride comfort, on the other hand, has been improved because of revised rear shock absorbers. However, because it retains the torsion beam out back, the rear end has a tendency to get unsettled and bounce around over less-than-perfect pavement. The optional 17-inch alloy wheels mean you’ll have less sidewall protecting you from road imperfections because it’s shod with 205/45/R17 tires.

The 2018 Accent has comfortable and supportive front seats and spacious rear accommodations that can easily fit two passengers on a long drive or five for a lunch run. It has a 13.7-cubic-foot trunk, which can be expanded via the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Material quality is good, with padding strategically placed where your arms would fall; however, don’t expect much soft-touch plastics because the dash and the door panels are made of hard plastic. Thankfully, they feel solid and don’t sound brittle. Cabin sound insulation is good with minimal wind noise but there’s excessive road and tire noise on rough pavement and is especially apparent near the wheel wells.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard on the SEL and Limited grades; however, there’s no available built-in navigation system. Hyundai’s integration of both apps is one of the best. Voice commands don’t require any specific phrases and are easily accessible via the voice command button on the steering wheel. The main touchscreen functions like a smartphone embedded into the car, with quick responses to inputs.

Key features on Android Auto include the ability to reply to messages via voice commands, and it helps that the app can easily understand basic speech so you don’t have to get too specific when you use speech to text. Google Maps is integrated beautifully on Android Auto and features everything from the app found on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Waze has been integrated into Android Auto as a separate app, giving you a second map app in addition to Google Maps.

Standard features included in the base SE trim are a 5.0-inch touchscreen, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, 15-inch steel wheels, and a rearview camera. The SEL trim adds 15-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, rear disc brakes, and a second USB port as standard. Limited models gets LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats, a 3.5-inch multi-information display, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, a sunroof, and automatic climate control.

With a generous list of standard features on each trim, the 2018 Hyundai Accent proves that buying a subcompact car doesn’t mean you’ll be driving something extremely basic. Sure, there’s still some road and tire noise, but it’s better than the old car and quieter than rivals such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Ford Fiesta. The car’s exterior is stylish, and its driving dynamics have improved. With all of the improvements made to the new car as well as its long warranty, the 2018 Accent might just win over buyers who would otherwise only consider a used vehicle.

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2017 BMW M240i review: One of the best cars you can buy today

This is the BMW that BMW should be building. While not as radical as the M3/M4, or even the M2, the M240i is sporty and spry enough to keep me happy. If this had the M-Sport seats up front and didn’t have the automatic, then I’d say this is a better bargain than the M2. Sure, the M2 is the king of the 2-Series lineup, but having driven similarly prepped versions of both cars, I can say that you’re not getting much more out of the M2. Hell, I’d say that the M240i is the best bang you’ll find at a Bimmer dealership.

Well, almost the best bang. This particular tester is loaded with a lot of extras that don’t do too much for the overall sporty experience. Wireless charging? Save $500 there. Retractable headlight washers? Don’t need those to enjoy driving — there’s another $700. Parsing this down to stripper status makes it an even more attractive option in the BMW lineup; it saves weight and it shaves the price.

The M2 has some more horsepower, but I’d be hard-pressed to call the M240 anything but fast. The turbocharged 3.0-liter I6 spits out enough power to get you into serious trouble with the law. The eight-speed automatic shifts quickly enough to make you think it’s a dual-clutch, but you should still chase down a manual to optimize your dollar-for-fun-ratio. It might be cliché at this point, but the automatics aren’t as much fun, even when shifted by paddles, as manually rowing your own gears.

The rest of the M240i? Well, the suspension is aptly stiff, and without a lot of sidewall on the tire, you’re going to feel bumps. You won’t mind — at least I didn’t. It doesn’t shake you to death like the ultra-firm jobs from AMG, but you’ll feel more connected to the pavement than, say, an X3. Without throwing it on the track, it’s tough to say how the brakes really hold up to abuse, but spirited driving on the street proved them to be fadeless and firm.

You could argue that getting similar metrics from a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro for cheaper makes more sense — and I’d generally agree. The new Camaro is a track star in its own right, and dollar-for-dollar the GT350 Shelby Mustang is more fun than this 2-Series, but it doesn’t give you the same luxe-German experience. This 2-Series is an impressive performer, but still has the tactility and substance of a premium car.

–Wesley Wren, associate editor


So the M2 starts at $53,000 or so; this starts at $46,000. Would you, I, spend the extra 7 grand? That’s a sixth more expensive, and it feels like a pretty big chunk to me. For the record, the base 2-Series and base 3-Series both start at $33,150. And this M240i is very, very good.

The eight-speed automatic just rips through the gears with the paddles, and though I didn’t get on the racetrack with it like Señor Stoy, it was fun to drive in all other circumstances.

Power comes from the now turbocharged I6 and with 335 hp, it whips this car around with a vengeance, without being as high-strung as the M2. There doesn’t seem to be any dips or peaks in the torque curve and no turbo lag either. Inside the car, you can’t really hear the song of the I6, but flat-out at GingerMan Raceway, it screams.

The reason I might take this over the M2 is the chassis. It’s like one level softer than the M2, but plenty stiff for corner carving and apex nailing. Thankfully BMW didn’t put run-flat tires on it and ruin it. It’s just short-wheelbase, predictable goodness, with no harshness, except for when the city cuts out a square of road for repairs, leaving a 2-inch edge of cement to bang over.

Again, it always comes back to steering feel. This is an electronic power steering setup, but you’d be hard-pressed to guess that after a little time behind the wheel. It seems to weight up at speed, and as you get closer to lock. The wheel also springs back to neutral as soon as you let it go. The Q50 Red Sport’s, and the Q60’s wheel for that matter, just lazily make their way back to 12 o’clock no matter what state the car is in.

The M2 is also very aggressive looking, and there’s something to be said for sneaking under the radar, both figuratively and literally. You should still get the manual though.

–Jake Lingeman, road test editor

2016 BMW M2 Coupe review and test drive

I’m increasingly convinced the 2-Series, in its various forms, is the best car BMW makes today, and the M240i hits a glorious sweet spot just shy of the M2’s competition-focused equipment. You give up 30 hp but gain 26 lb-ft of torque, the weight is about the same and the less-aggressive tire package makes track days a little less expensive, all for a substantial savings. I see Jake’s point, though — the M2 is such a performance bargain, it’s hard not to justify the few grand extra on paper. But word about the M2 has gotten out, and I suspect the price of an M2 at a dealer (assuming you can find one) will have a fat markup. Don’t forget the “S” in MSRP stands for “suggested.”

I was fortunate enough to play with our M240i at GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan for an afternoon, and I can say whatever the car gives up to the M2 in absolute performance numbers, it makes up for in willingness. Set the drive mode to Sport+ and the M240i rewards with near-perfect balance; dynamic traction control lets the tail get loose, but the car communicates exactly when it’s about to happen and responds predictably with a touch of steering correction; apply power and off you go.

Our tester had an automatic transmission, not ideal for track work but with shift times and programming that don’t leave much on the table — it’s as good as any automatic I’ve driven. Consistency is the key here, and our M240i helped me turn two identical back-to-back lap times at GingerMan.

Yes, I’m still left wondering what an M2 would have been like on the track, and I hope to find out in the future. But I refuse to regard the M240i as a consolation prize — it’s too good — too capable — both at the track and during the six-hour round trip to and from GingerMan along the pockmarked asphalt of I-94. The M240i deserves to be chosen for its own merits.

– Andrew Stoy, Digital Editor

2016 Shelby GT350

As a kid two cars I loved were the BMW 507 and the 2002. I just loved them. The first time I saw Albrecht von Goertz’s 507 my jaw hung down for a couple hours. If I remember right the 2002 cost about $2800 in the late ‘60s. I thought that was an absolute steal.

I digress. I agree with the above, this might be the best car BMW makes. It feels so connected and so controlled. Steering-wheel feedback might be the best in the car biz this side of a 911. Comparisons to the M2 are inevitable I suppose and the 240 takes the M2’s speed and feel and response and dials it back juuuuust a touch.

I love this engine. Love it. Smooth and powerful, it just begs to be flogged. The midrange poke is especially impressive and the higher you rev it the cooler it sounds.

The 240’s ride isn’t too harsh, even in Detroit. I was frankly surprised it wasn’t rougher. The 240 felt like a better everyday car to me. Less edgy perhaps is the way to put it. I left it in comfort mode mostly, it performs as its name implies. Set the mode to Sport+ and the M240i becomes nearly the rocket the M2 is. The car’s grip impressed me no matter the mode, or at least as much as I could fling it around on the street.

Back to the M2 comparison, I would say this: If you want to do track weekends, the M2 is probably the better choice. For a fun little around-town car I’d save the $$$ and get this.

–Wes Raynal, editor

2017 BMW M3 quick take: All the details

The M2 might be my favorite M-car, but this has got to be my favorite present-day BMW. It does just about everything right: Good chassis, good engine, great balance. It doesn’t mind being pushed a bit, but it’s not too rabid to be a comfortable everyday driver.

None of this is surprising; we all said essentially the same things about the M235i several years ago. Model-name inflation hasn’t messed up the basic equation, fortunately.

Assuming I was going to go the German route (an American pony car is more my style, but I accept that the buyer crossover is narrow), this is the way I’d go. The M240i may be less of a style-statement than the C-Class coupe or the S5, but it’s a more engaging driver than either of them. And I’m not sure there’s any scenario in which I’d opt for the M2 over this for daily use; it’s simply a more organic, comprehensible car to a non-track-rat like me. Just jump in and go, as quickly as you’d like — it feels comfortable with itself at any speed.

I’d like to try out the inline-four take just for a point of reference, but I suspect it will lack some of the magic of the I6. It’s just such a classic BMW formula…

Hilariously, the 2-Series coupe and the 3-Series sedan are (in base trim at least) within $300 of each other when it comes to starting-price. I know that volume makes lower prices possible, and there’s a premium for two-door body styles, but it’s almost like BMW doesn’t want to sell too many of these appealing coupes in any configuration.

In any case, the closer you can get this one down toward the base price, the better. I do like that wireless phone charging pad, though…

–Graham Kozak, associate editor


OPTIONS: Navigation ($1,950); black dakota leather ($1,450); driver assistance package with rear-view camera, park distance control ($950); cold weather package with heated steering wheel, heated front seats, retractable headlight washers ($700); wireless charging ($500)

By Autoweek Staff

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $45,145

As Tested Price: $50,695

Powertrain: 3.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I6, RWD, 8-speed automatic

Output: 335 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 369 lb-ft @ 1,520-4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,519 lb

Fuel Economy: 21/32/25 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Pros: 90 percent of the M2 for 75 percent of the price

Cons: The M2 will always be out there, teasing you

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PowerSteering: 2018 Audi A5 Review

Audi sure knows how to stretch its investment in a single car platform. Take, for example, the Audi A4’s fertile underpinnings. They form the basis for a diverse array of different and satisfying vehicles, including the A4 and S4 sedans, the A4 Allroad crossover wagon, and the A5/S5 variants in coupe and convertible flavors. Impressively, all of them are desirable vehicles, and each is different enough to appeal to a particular audience.

The latest permutation of this component set is the A5 Sportback, which brings hatchback utility, a coupe-like profile, and passenger sedan friendliness together in a sexy, pleasurable package. And with a starting price of $43,575, it’s the least expensive member of the A5 family.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback photoFor this review, J.D. Power elected to examine the new A5 Sportback. The test car arrived in Premium Plus trim with Manhattan Gray metallic paint, walnut wood interior panels, 19-inch Design Line aluminum wheels, the Cold Weather Package, the Navigation Package, a Bang Olufsen audio system, and summer performance tires. The price came to $52,620, including the $575 destination charge.

What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new Audi A5, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this car, and what they liked most and least about their A5s.

J.D. Power survey data shows that more women own A5 models than the typical Compact Premium Car, and that A5 owners are older and more affluent. The data shows that 40% of A5 owners are women (vs. 32% for the segment), the median age of an A5 owner is 61 years (vs. 57 years), and an A5 owner’s median household income is $179,167 (vs. $153,420).

More than half of Audi A5 owners identify as Performance Buyers (55% vs. 42% for the segment). They are less likely to agree that they avoid vehicles that they think have high maintenance costs (70% vs. 79%), and they are less likely to agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is reliability (89% vs. 93%).

Audi A5 owners are also less likely to agree that they need a versatile vehicle that accommodates their busy lifestyle (61% vs. 68%), less likely to agree that they’re willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (47% vs. 51%), and less likely to agree that they’re willing to pay extra to ensure that their vehicle has the latest safety features (76% vs. 83%).

Owners report that their favorite things about the previous A5 were (in descending order) the exterior styling, engine/transmission, driving dynamics, interior design, and seats. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous A5 were (in descending order) visibility and safety, the climate control system, the infotainment system, storage and space, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the new 2018 A5 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2017 APEAL Study.


This is one seriously fetching automobile. Stand facing it and the character lines veritably emanate from the trademark Singleframe grille, drawing your eyes and letting them linger as they slide from the aggressively seductive headlamps to the sculpturing along the sides.

Thanks to its 5-door hatch configuration, the A5 Sportback allows for a more fluid silhouette than a sedan with a proper trunk, and Audi takes full advantage, installing frameless windows evocative of a sports coupe even though the car supplies 4-door utility.

The test vehicle wore optional 19-inch Design Line wheels, giving the low-slung vehicle a strapping stance, one underscored by serious Manhattan Grey metallic paint displaying a luminescence that emphasized the lines and curves of the car.

Owners of the previous Audi A5 indicate that they’re happy about their car’s looks. They should be thrilled about the Sportback.


If you are at all familiar with the Audi brand, you know that it’s a given that the cabins are touched by the indulgent hands of a talented designers. The A5 Sportback is no exception, relfecting beautiful, high-quality plastics, metals and wood trim, all laid out in a proportionate and pleasing manner.

It’s worth noting that leather upholstery comes standard on the A5 Sportback, whereas for most vehicles in this segment buyers must pay extra. Audi also supplies a panoramic sunroof and a power liftgate, at no charge.


For both the front and rear passengers, getting into and out of the A5 Sportback requires more ducking and crouching than might be preferable. Compared to the A4 sedan, the A5 Sportback’s roofline is lower, the rear door openings are smaller, and the ride height is closer to the ground. Such is the price to paid for seductive styling.

Once you’re settled in, however, few people will have any complaints about front seat accommodations. With multiple power adjustments and a good amount of bolstering, most folks should find an ideal perch. Those planning to drive in a more assertive fashion might want to check out the sport-bolstered seat option, which also supplies ventilation.

The rear seat is not quite as accommodating. Although Audi says that legroom and shoulder space are comparable to that of the A4 sedan, the A5 Sportback feels more cramped, mostly because of reduced headroom. Otherwise, two people will be happy with the space, although three people will find it quite cramped.

Climate Control System

Rear seat passengers will, however, be happy to discover that the standard 3-zone climate control system gives them greater power over the temperature in the back. For front seat occupants, the controls are easy and intuitive to use with clearly marked buttons and knobs.

Infotainment System

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation, an optional feature with Premium Plus trim, never fails to astonish the driver with its bright, crisp, beautiful graphics.

Most impressive of all is the Google Maps satellite imagery, rendered on the 12.3-inch instrumentation display screen and providing a top-down view of the area in which you are driving. You can even zoom down onto the street you’re traveling to get a perspective of the neighborhood that most navigation systems can’t offer.

A little less impressive is the handwriting recognition technology that comes with Audi’s Multi-Media Interface infotainment system. I never did get the hang of it, finding it inferior to Audi’s conventional MMI controls clustered on the center console and steering wheel in order to input commands.

People new to MMI might like the handwriting recognition technology, as long as it interprets their writing properly. I find that one acclimates to the MMI’s standard control knob and buttons pretty quickly, though I can’t figure out why Audi still doesn’t offer a touchscreen infotainment system display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection brings even more familiarity to the system.

Storage and Space

Previously, the A5 came only in coupe and convertible form, so it’s no wonder that owners weren’t happy with the storage space. The new A5 Sportback changes the equation with its impressively large cargo hold.

As a result of its sloping rear glass, rather than the angled shape of a regular trunk, the Sportback supplies 21.8 cubic-feet of storage space, according to Audi. During testing, that held a week’s worth of luggage for a family of four.

Folding the rear seats down opens up 35 cu.-ft. of space. While a crossover vehicle will give you much more space for your things, you won’t be able to find many SUVs whose shape and bearing are described in as enthusiastic terms as are the A5 Sportback’s.

Visibility and Safety

Because you ride fairly low to the ground in the A5 Sportback, the dropped perspective takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re coming into one from a vehicle that gives you a taller ride height, such as a crossover. Furthermore, the windshield pillars are somewhat thick and angled, and the rear window is downright tiny.

Good thing plenty of technology is available to assist with visibility and safety, including a standard reversing camera. My Premium Plus test vehicle included a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, along with a feature called Vehicle Exit Assist. That latter feature alerts the driver if a car or cyclist is coming up fast from behind after you’re parked on the street, warning you not to open your door.

Every A5 Sportback is equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, each engineered to keep you from getting into a collision in the first place. If a crash is unavoidable, sensors prepare the vehicle and its passengers for impact, and an automatic post-collision braking system brings the A5 to a stop following a collision to minimize the possibility of a secondary impact after the air bags have already deployed.

As far as crash-test ratings go, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not performed assessments on the A5. The federal government has, giving the Sportback an overall score of 5 stars. Note, however, that frontal-impact ratings measure just 4 stars.


Nestled into the A5 Sportback’s engine bay, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder stirs up 252 horsepower from 5,000 rpm to 6,000 rpm, and 273 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,600 rpm and 4,500 rpm. It’s capable of moving the Sportback from zero to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds, according to Audi.

Part of the appeal of this engine is the delicious, silky urgency with which the ponies are delivered, as if the engine is pleading for a bit more pressure from your right foot. This, combined with a meaty band of torque that minimizes the effects of turbo lag, makes driving this car a thrill.

Delivering power to the standard Quattro all-wheel drive system, a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission makes the most of power by shifting quickly and smartly no matter how the car is driven. It’s as though the transmission is reading the driver’s mind.

Fuel Economy

Many owners of the previous A5 were the most dissatisfied with the car’s gas mileage. Anyone hoping for efficiency gains from the new A5 may need to recalibrate their expectations. Despite the promise of excellent acceleration combined with terrific fuel economy, the A5 Sportback delivers only on half of that pledge.

The EPA says I should have expected 27 mpg in combined driving, but I extracted just 22.5 mpg from the car. Sure, I made a few aggressive acceleration runs. OK, more than a few. Still, this result is disheartening. Perhaps the proper frame of mind is that you can get excellent acceleration or terrific fuel economy, but not both at the same time.

Driving Dynamics

The Audi A5 Sportback not only looks like it has moves, it’s got moves. On both sinuous mountain roads and crumbling city streets, the chassis bore down hard on the asphalt while masking most of the road anomalies. Still, I bet the optional adaptive damping system, available only on the Prestige trim level, would make the car even more sublime.

Note that the optional 19-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires did transmit some extra noise, vibration, and harshness. They did, however, supply impressive grip in turns. Buy them for performance, and you won’t care about the extra racket and jiggling. Buy them for style, and you’ll probably complain.

In the normal driving mode setting, the steering is a bit lighter than I’d like, but it certainly proves precise and accurate, and you can always increase effort levels by choosing Dynamic mode. Slowing is almost as fun as going, as the A5 Sportback’s brake response is flawless.

So, does the new Audi A5 Sportback have what it takes to keep up with something like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is its conceptual doppelgänger? For all intents and purposes, only the most particular drivers are likely to establish a dynamic preference between the two.

Final Impressions
The 2018 Audi A5 Sportback is one vehicle that I was bereaved to see leave my driveway, and for good reason. Audi has masterfully synthesized the passenger friendliness of a sedan, the functionality of a hatchback, the performance of German sport sedan, and the indulgence of a luxury car, all wrapped up in a gorgeously rendered vehicle.

Audi supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 A5 Sportback review.

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