If you live in the Northeast, you know how bad this Winter has been, with frigid temperatures and endless snow. So when Toyota asked if I’d be interested in coming down to sunny Florida for a little Spring Training road trip (#ToyotaGrandSlam), I was totally down for it!
While I’ve attended my fair share of baseball games over the years (including a road trip years ago where we visited 5 baseball stadiums in 5 days), I’ve never come down for Spring Training before. So I was excited to escape the cold, take in a few ballgames, and work on my tan.
Our three-day adventure took us from Orlando (Pirates vs Braves) to Fort Meyers (Orioles vs Twins) to Port St. Lucie (Mets vs Yankees), with our group caravanning from one city to the next in a fleet of new Toyotas, including the Camry, Corolla, C-HR, and Prius.
Day One started with an early morning flight from Philly to Orlando. After getting checked-in at the hotel, I quickly changed and headed down to meet the group. From there, we paired off and made the roughly 10 minute drive to Champion Stadium. It was blazing hot at the game, and I was regretting not changing into shorts beforehand. Lesson learned.
Later that evening, a Toyota product specialist took all of us around the vehicles that we’d be driving and gave us some more info on each, before we headed off to Eddie V’s Prime Seafood for an incredible dinner (and dessert). It was a great way to end our first day in Florida, and I couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow had in store for us.
Day Two kicked off with a 4+ hour road trip from Orlando to Fort Meyers. I was hoping to snag the Camry XSE V6 (which I’ve driven before and thoroughly enjoyed), but Nick and Ray beat me to the punch. So I grabbed the keys to the Corolla instead, and I paired up with my buddy Chris from Digital Trends for the drive. One of the guys in our group mentioned there was a cool classic car dealership along the way, so a few of us decided to go check it out.
Despite that 30-minute detour (and another stop for lunch at Publix), we made up some time on the highway and pulled into Hammond Stadium just as the first ball was thrown out. The game was a nail-biter, with the Twins ultimate pulling out the win by 9-8. After the game, we hopped back in our cars and made our way to Cape Coral, where we’d be staying for the night. We had another amazing dinner (this time at Marker 92), before calling it a night.
Day Three started with pouring rain, but thankfully that gave way about halfway through the four-hour drive to Port St. Lucie. This time around, I came down early to make sure that I’d get the Camry, and I paired up with my buddy Chad from Shifting Lanes for this leg. We made it to First Data Field in record time (that 301HP V6 engine might have had something to do with that..), and that’s even after stopping for some photo opps in Lake Placid.
This was a fun game, a cross-town rivalry between the Mets and the Yankees. You could tell that the fans in the stands were New Yorkers, and the food at the stadium was full of NYC staples, including pizza, Nathan’s hot dogs, pretzels, and even cannolis. Our seats for this game were insane, right behind home plate, and shaded to boot! The Yankees pulled off an 11-4 win, and it was definitely a great way to end our Grapefruit League road trip.
Overall, I had a great time on the Toyota Grand Slam, and I really enjoyed getting some more seat time with the cars. All of them were great, but the Corolla really surprised me the most. I’ve only ever driven one as a rental before, but in top trim, the car is on a whole other level, with everything you could ever want – Plenty of room (even for my 6’2″ frame), nice finishes throughout, plenty of safety features, the latest tech, along with great gas mileage.
Thanks again to Toyota for bringing us down to Florida for a few days of fun in the sun!
On Track With The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2
There’s no question about it, the mid-cycle refresh that the 2018 Ford Mustang received was a total game-changer, with the iconic pony car getting a host of upgrades in the styling, power, and handling departments, making the world’s best-selling sports car even better than before.
With 460 horsepower on tap, a 0-60-mph time of under four seconds (with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which shifts lightning-quick), and the optional MagneRide active suspension system, this new Mustang performs like no other pony car before it, save for the track-ready Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.
But the passionate Mustang team couldn’t leave well enough alone, curious to see just how far they could push the performance of the new ‘Stang, focused on improving the car’s handling capabilities. To achieve this, they started by adding an aggressive front splitter (inspired by the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Mustang) and rear spoiler to deliver more downforce and gives the car more grip in the corners.
From there, they added a set of 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (1.5 inches wider than the wheels on Performance Pack Level 1) wrapped around 19×10.5-inch front and 19×11-inch rear wheels. These sticky tires provide a firmer grip and work with the retuned chassis to put the car more than a half-inch closer to the ground.
Custom tuned MagneRide dampers and quicker steering calibration provide better response. Other improvements over the Mustang Performance Pack Level 1 include a 67% stiffer rear stabilizer bar, a 12% stiffer front stabilizer bar, 20% stiffer front springs and rear springs that are 13% stiffer, all of which contribute to a more stable ride around corners with less body roll.
The results of their skunkworks efforts? The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, a $6,500 package for the Mustang GT that transforms the already-capable pony car into a true sports car, one that you can take to the track on the weekends.
To prove that point, Ford invited us up to Monticello Motor Club for a track day with the Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, and I was giddy with excitement, as this would be the perfect setting to showcase what this car could really do, as this challenging track will really highlight a car’s strengths and weaknesses. This was going to be a fun one!
The only problem? Rain. 🌧
Yes, Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade… literally, cutting short our time with the Performance Pack 2. Still, we managed to get in one session on the track (one warm-up lap, two hot laps, and one cool down lap) before the rain started coming down. I hoped that we’d be able to continue driving in the rain (at a slower pace), but unfortunately the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are not suitable for rain the least, with very little tread to speak of.
While I would have loved more time to really explore the Mustang PP2’s capabilities, from my brief time behind the wheel, I can tell you that this car felt right at home on the track, ripping through the course with surgical precision, with nary a squeal from those meaty tires, the Cup 2’s keeping the car glued to the road.
On the road, the Mustang was surprisingly comfortable, and one could realistically make this their daily driver (assuming they live somewhere where it doesn’t rain). The only issue is that those massive 305s up front lead to some tramlining on less than perfect roads. Still, it is a small price to pay for the handling benefits they provide on the track and in the twisties.
Mustang chief engineer Carl Widdmann says it best: “We wanted to do a car that maximized the ability to put the power down, to create a car that you’d love driving up through, say, the canyons around L.A. It’s not the ultimate track Mustang, it bridges the gap between the Performance Pack and the track-ready GT350.”
And that’s really the best way to describe it. Ford has built a number of different Mustang GT variants (base GT, PP1, PP2, Bullitt), all with different customers in mind. For most folks, the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 is overkill. But if you’re an enthusiast like me who plans on driving your car hard, I think this $6,500 package is a no-brainer.
Game on, Camaro SS 1LE.
Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T
In general, the midsize sedan world is about as sexy as a Billy Bass with Alexa’s voice. Where supercars with curvy looks get all the credit for automotive sexiness, though, midsize sedans actually do the work of being realistic. The good news is that being pragmatic and going for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata doesn’t mean you have to settle for frumpiness, as this is a really sleek-looking sedan.
For the 2018 model year, Hyundai didn’t do much to change the already well-done Sonata. A few tweaks to the interior design, some added suave to the exterior, and a lot of extra safety features make up most of the changes for this model year. The 2018 Sonata is otherwise the top-shelf sedan it’s been for some time.
From the outside, curb appeal is eyebrow-lifting with the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. The signature Hyundai diamond-shaped grille is flanked by a curved, beautifully sculpted hood and long, narrow LED headlights. Tapered fenders and a sporty lower intake and aero baffle are set off by large intake/fog lamp bezels. The bodywork on the Sonata features a strong upper beltline groove and edge, a well-defined and curved running board cut below, and an aggressively sporty roofline and fastback rear end. Noticeably on this new Sonata, the deck lid has an integrated spoiler replacing the add-on aero from before.
The rear wheels of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are pushed to the corners’ edge while the front wheels feature some overhang ahead that promises smooth handling. Ground clearance is a sporty straight line that matches the beltline above.
This is a great look for the 2018 Sonata and it’s really set apart in the crowded midsize market. Once inside the Sonata, we found, the exterior’s beauty continues with intelligent and well-done interior design.
A new three-spoke steering wheel is fitted to the Sonata to emphasize a driver-centric feel for the cabin. The dashboard and center console have been reworked to make them less bulky and more modern. Seating is very comfortable with a lot of creature comforts available to add to that. The rear bench can seat three across and has excellent outboard positions with plenty of head and legroom despite the sloped roofline and smaller appearance of the rear doors.
Many of the additions to the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are in the technologies found behind the beautiful design work. Updated suspension and handling mean better ride quality and more engagement at the wheel. Technologies now standard in the Sonata include advanced options like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.
The Sonata has a host of trim level options (seven in all). Three four-cylinder engines can be chosen from, each with either a six-, seven-, or eight-speed automatic transmission on offer. That’s a lot to choose from, sure, but it means that the Sonata can be tailored to meet needs without sacrificing looks and comfort.
The base model is the SE, followed by the SEL, the Sport, and the Limited. These four models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 184 horsepower to a six-speed automatic transmission. A much more interesting turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (245 hp) and an eight-speed automatic transmission are found on the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trims. Finally, the Eco trim has its own 1.6-liter turbocharged four that outputs 178 horses into a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic.
Prices vary based on which trim level you choose, of course, but the base model’s price tag is lower than all but one of its competitors in the segment, and the Sonata comes with more standard equipment than almost all of the others. The Eco model is only $600 more than that, upgrading just the powertrain to improve fuel economy.
We drove the Limited 2.0T trim and would highly recommend the turbocharged two liter for its peppy drive quality, fast responses to the throttle, and smooth-shifting transmission. This combination brings a whole ‘nother level of sexiness to the 2018 Sonata and is well worth the extra money spent.
It is possible to have everything in one package and the 2018 Hyundai Sonata certainly does a good job of offering just about the whole shebang in one car.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Is The Most Luxurious SUV You’ve Ever Seen
After years of anticipation, Rolls-Royce finally took the wraps off its ultra-luxury SUV today in London, revealing to the world the Rolls-Royce Cullinan in all of its glory.
Now as you might imagine, the notion of a Rolls-Royce SUV caused quite a stir among purists, who believed that the world’s leading super-luxury brand should stick with cars. But according to Rolls-Royce, their customers were asking for a car that would allow them to “go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be.”
With the super-luxury lifestyle evolving, so did Rolls-Royce, leading to the development of a vehicle that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan, named for a diamond that’s part of the British crown jewels, follows in the footsteps of the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, offering up an ultra-luxe SUV that can satisfy the adventurous urges of their clients.
Under the hood, there’s a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine that delivers 563 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque to an all-new, all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system. This engine has been reworked to make the Cullinan comfortable even while it’s off-roading.
A “Magic Carpet Ride” air suspension system keeps things civilized in the cabin when you’re off the beaten path, because you wouldn’t want a passenger to spill their glass of champagne.
Naturally, being a Rolls-Royce, the interior is bespoke and fit for a king, with only the finest leathers and appointments. But perhaps the most interesting feature is the pair of jump seats that come out of the trunk, presumably so you can sit while falconing in the desert.
The 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is expected to go on sale late this year, with a starting price of around $325,000. Of course, one you start adding bespoke features and customization options, that price could go north of half a million in a hurry.
What do you think of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan?