When the folks at Buick invited me out for a “Summer Lake Escape” in Northern Michigan, I was pretty excited, as I’d heard that it’s one of the most beautiful regions in the country, with endless lakes and rivers, gorgeous scenery, and sunsets that take your breath away. It’s about as far removed from Detroit as you can get.
Our three-day adventure began in Traverse City, Michigan, where I was handed the keys to a 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir, some snacks for the drive, along with directions to our first stop, the Sommerset Pointe Yacht Club, located about 90 minutes away. I plugged my phone into the USB port, cranked up some Steely Dan, and headed off towards Boyne City.
Having done a road trip last summer in a “regular” LaCrosse, I was eager to see how the Avenir trim level stacked up. As with the GMC Denali line, Buick’s Avenir models elevate the luxury experience with unique styling cues, premium materials throughout the car, and an extensive set of standard features, letting you and others know that this is no ordinary Buick.
Visually, the changes are rather subtle, giving the car more of an upscale look without going overboard and alienating their core audience. Walking up to the car, it’s hard to miss the 3D mesh grille treatment, not to mention the massive 19-inch (or optional 20-inch) wheels. A subtle rear spoiler would have been a nice touch, but less is more here.
Step inside the LaCrosse Avenir, and you will find a wide array of advanced technologies and interior features befitting of a luxury vehicle, including heated front seats (with a massaging feature), panoramic power moonroof, heated steering wheel, wireless charging, built-in NAV, heads-up display, a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound 11-speaker audio system that sounds INSANE, and a suite of advanced safety features.
With 310-horsepower on tap, you are never lacking for power, with the nine-speed automatic transmission shifting smoothly and quickly to keep you in the powerband at all times. The optional Dynamic Drive Package dials things up a notch, with 20-inch wheels, Sport Mode selectivity and continuously variable Real-Time Damping. An Intelligent Twin-Clutch AWD system is also available for those living in colder climates.
The route up to Boyne City offered some exceptional water views, along with some fun roads where we could put Sport Mode to the test and see how it transforms the car’s handling. In a word.. impressive! Zipping through the twisties, the car stayed nice and flat, allowing me to carry way more speed than I was expecting. And on those long stretches, the adaptive cruise control was an absolute godsend, one of my favorite features.
Pulling up to the Sommerset Pointe Yacht Club, there was a gorgeous mahogany boat sitting on a trailer in the parking lot. Turns out, the boat belonged to Van Dam, a renowned Michigan custom wooden-boat builder, and we were going to be towing this bad boy in a Buick Enclave Avenir, which has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. It was quite an experience, and I was thankful to make it back without incident!
Afterwards, we got to go out on the water in another one of Van Dam’s boats, and it was pretty amazing. The sun was shining, wind in our hair, a light spray keeping things cool.. Yep, I could totally get used to this whole boat life thing. Can someone loan me $500K?
While I could have stayed out here all afternoon, we had a schedule to keep, so it was back in our cars and off to Walloon Lake, where we would be spending the night. Buick really outdid themselves here, putting us up in the charming Hotel Walloon, which is located right on the lake and offers truly spectacular views.
That evening, we had dinner on the premises, in a private little cottage overlooking the lake, reminding us once again about how beautiful this area is. It’s no wonder that Hemmingway spent so much time out there, as it akes you away from the hustle and bustle of “real life”.
Early the next morning, we headed over to Van Dam’s facility in nearby Boyne City to check out their operation and witness firsthand exactly how they build these incredible custom boats. Every one of their boats is a one-off, custom designed for the customer, with many of them taking a year or more to produce, and running well into the seven-figure range.
After touring the facility, we headed to lunch at a private residence on Lake Charlevoix. Once again, I was blown away by the incredible lake views, and just sat there for awhile taking it all in. My daydreams were eventually interrupted by the throaty roar of an engine.
No, it wasn’t a car engine, but rather another one of Van Dam’s boats that was packing some serious horsepower, and we’d be taking it back to Hotel Walloon. That was one seriously fun ride, and we were going so fast that I didn’t dare take out my phone for fear of it flying out of my hands. “C’mon, do it for the Insta!” Nope!
Riding in the boat, it was clear why people come from all over the world to get their hands on Van Dam’s custom creations. These guys are true artisans, the quality of their watercrafts are second to none, and they stand behind them with a lifetime warranty.
We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, so I decided to check out The Tunnel of Trees, one of the area’s most iconic attraction. As the name suggests, this 19-mile stretch of road is bordered by a thick hardwood forest which offers up occasional glimpses of Lake Michigan. As this narrow road lacks a centerline and has people coming from both directions, you have to follow the (very slow) speed limits here.
But we veered off the path coming up here and found some fantastic roads that were void of any traffic, giving us a chance to really open up the LaCrosse Avenir and have some fun with it. Once again, I was surprised at just how much fun this “old person’s car” is, with gobs of power on tap, and sporty handling that belies the car’s considerable size.
On the drive back to the hotel, I decided to make a little detour, pulling into the marina area, walking some of the boat docks, and just enjoying the beautiful water views. Might as well take it all in, as I’d be back home in New Jersey in less than 24 hours. 🙁
For our final night in Northern Michigan, Buick hosted a farewell dinner at a nearby lavender farm, with an incredible spread inside this cute little barn. It was the perfect way to close out our memorable getaway, enjoying one last meal with friends old and new as we recounted the past few days of our summer lake escape.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about the Buick LaCrosse Avenir. Driving around town, the car drew lots of looks from people, and I was really impressed with the great value it offers. Our fully-loaded tester came in right under $50,000, and you’re getting a lot of car for your money there, with ample power, seating, technology, and safety features.
What if you don’t need quite as much space? The just-announced Buick Regal Avenir might be just the ticket, offering the same upgraded styling, features and materials as the LaCrosse we’ve been driving these past few days, in a more youthful package!
2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo Blurs The Line Between Coupe And Wagon
BMW seems determined to change the definitions for automotive segments. All of their even-numbered X vehicles, for example, are “sport activity vehicles”–not quite crossovers and not quite coupes. The new BMW 640i Gran Turismo is along that same vein, being not quite a four-door coupe and not quite a station wagon. It’s something in between that.
The BMW 640i GT is, regardless of what segment it fits within, a beautiful car. For a week, we drove the Gran Turismo and were glad to see that it wasn’t the odd mashup the old 5 Series GT had been. This new GT is based on the 6 Series sedan, so it’s a bit larger and more powerful.
The 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo is powered by the same 3.0-liter turbocharged six that is in the 640i Gran Coupe. That engine produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Power runs to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard. The GT needs that power, as it’s fairly bulky, weighing in at over 4,200 pounds at the curb. It’s size and weight are balanced by a long wheelbase of 121 inches, though, and the engine produces its power early in the RPM band, making for quick acceleration.
From zero to 60 mph, the BMW 640i GT sprints to speed in about five seconds. That’s a pretty fair shake in anyone’s book. Handling in the 2018 640i Gran Turismo is also good, thanks to that long wheelbase and bulk, which translate to predictable glides through turns and easy power delivery thanks to AWD. There are better, faster options for fast driving and cornering, of course, but given its size and versatility, the GT does very well for itself.
Where this new BMW really shines is in everyday driving. The 640i GT is really comfortable, confident, and easy to live with. It gives enough feedback on the road to remain engaging, but doesn’t insist on spirited driving at all times or that the driver and passengers feel every road bump and crevice. It’s smooth and well-balanced. Add on the Dynamic Handling package and it gets even better, with more road-hugging (still sans the jarring) and steering appeal.
There’s a single trim level for the 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo, but it’s very well-equipped in its base $70,000 price point. It includes things like LED lighting, 19-inch wheels, keyless everything, rear air suspension for load-leveling and road absorption, a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, and infotainment. That tech is on a big 10.2-inch touchscreen with two USB ports and a wireless charging pad. Not to mention a 12-speaker stereo system. Forward collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning are also standard.
In the upper crust, all-the-goodies model we drove, the price jumps to about $84,000, but adds the Dynamic Handling package, aluminum interior trim, power-adjustable rear seats, 360° parking sensors, automated park assist, seat massage, Harman Kardon/Bowers & Wilkins sound, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and more.
The 2018 BMW 640i GT has a great feel on the road, is exceptionally comfortable inside, and has a bit more style and versatility than a standard sedan. It’s fastback look is unique and really cool, compared to the standard sedan or a larger hatchback. Cargo space stands at about 45 cubic feet with the rear seats up and about 60 cubes with them folded down.
Seating in the back is great for adults, if there aren’t more than two. Three across is a bit of a squeeze and the center seat doesn’t have much legroom either. Kids will be fine in the back of the BMW 640i GT.
The 2018 640i Gran Turismo is a great vehicle that’s a big step up from the 5 Series-based GT it replaces. It’s nicer to look at, more enjoyable to drive, and uniquely cool in its own right. We’ll take it.
The 2019 Acura NSX Receives Mild Facelift, Better Chassis, And Orange Paint
It has only been a few years since the Acura NSX was finally released, but not content to sit on their laurels, the company has introduced a handful of updates for the 2019 model to make the high-performance supercar even better than before!
Visually, you’ll be able to distinguish a 2019 Acura NSX model from it’s new body-color front grille (in place of the silver one) and high-gloss treatments for the front grille surround, front air intake mesh and rear bumper outlet mesh. High-gloss treatment is also applied to the available carbon fiber decklid spoiler and carbon fiber exterior package – including a front chin spoiler, side sill garnish and rear diffuser.
But that’s not all. The 2019 NSX is also available in a striking new color called Thermal Orange Pearl (shown above). Buyers can further accent the NSX with optional carbon ceramic metallic brakes with orange calipers. Standard brakes can now be fitted with red calipers.
Inside, the 2019 NSX can be optioned with an Indigo blue Semi-aniline leather and Alcantara theme. Buyers can also add a red color option for the semi-aniline (non-Alcantara) power sport seats, in addition to ebony. Additionally, a number of features (navigation, premium audio, front and rear proximity sensors, etc) are now standard options.
What we’re most excited about though is the improvements to the car’s performance, which build on an already impressive platform and turn it up to 11. While the powertrain remains the same (573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque) engineers modified chassis components, tires and software tuning to make NSX even more responsive to the will of the driver, elevating performance driving in all circumstances, from daily driving to the circuit.
Chassis enhancements include larger front and rear stabilizer bars (increasing stiffness by 26 percent in front, 19 percent at the rear) and 21 percent stiffer rear toe link bushings. Rear hub rigidity has increased 6 percent. Software calibrations to the NSX’s Sport Hybrid SH-AWD power unit, active magnetorheological dampers, electric power steering and VSA settings capitalize on this new hardware, as well as the grippier tire setup.
The 2019 NSX rides on new Continental SportContact 6 tires, developed exclusively for the NSX. The new tires feature a revised tread pattern, construction and rubber compound for improved handling performance in all conditions—including wet weather driving. The track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R remains an optional dealer-installed tire.
So how much will the new model set you back? The 2019 NSX starts at $157,500 (an increase of $1,500 over the 2018 model) with $4,700 in previously optional content now standard. So you’re actually saving money on the 2019 model.
The 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster Makes It’s World Debut At Pebble Beach
Now one year later, BMW returns to Pebble Beach to unveil the all-new 2019 BMW Z4 M40i First Edition, the latest chapter in the history of BMW Z Roadsters. And while it doesn’t look quite as dramatic as the concept, the production Z4 retains the athletic proportions and new emotional design language that takes the classic roadster concept into the world of tomorrow.
The open-top two-seater was designed with sporting intentions, with a central sitting position for the driver, a low center of gravity, and perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution.
Vertically stacked headlights, the BMW kidney grille sporting a mesh design, a long clamshell hood stretching over the front wheels, large air breathes on the front wheel arches and the distinctive spoiler integrated into the rear lid all contribute towards the characteristic look of the new BMW Z4.
The BMW Z4 M40i First Edition offers a number of unique accoutrements over a “regular” Z4, including a Frozen Orange Metallic paint job, a textile soft top in anthracite with silver effect, 19-inch alloy wheels in a two-tone design, and black mirror caps. The 2019 Z4 First Edition also includes a head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, two high-resolution digital displays, and a Harman Kardon surround sound system.
Powering the Z4 M40i First Edition Roadster is an updated version of BMW’s turbocharged 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder engine. While BMW hasn’t finalized output numbers just yet, we expect something around 380HP and 370lb-ft of torque, good for an (estimated) 0-60 time of under 4.4 seconds. A BMW M tuned sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport braking system and an electronically controlled M Sport rear differential should make for one fun and exciting ride in the twisties.
The BMW Z4 M40i will arrive in dealerships in the second quarter of 2019, and full details on the Z4 will be announced on September 18, 2018.
What do you think of the 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster?
Photo credit: BMW