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!
Which Genesis G70 Should You Get, The 2.0T Or The 3.3T?
The all-new 2019 Genesis G70 is the company’s first attempt at taking on the midsized luxury sports sedan segment, and in particular face off against the BMW 3-Series. We’ve been eagerly awaiting a chance to drive this vehicle since it was unveiled at the New York Auto Show earlier this year, and a few weeks ago at IMPA Test Days, we finally got our chance to do so.
We were fortunate enough to sample both the affordable G70 2.0T (which is powered by a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder) and the more powerful G70 3.3T (powered by a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6) variants.
Both of these may be trim levels of the same car, but which one drives better? Here are our non-instrumented, seat-of-the-pants findings:
Acceleration Winner: 2019 Genesis G70 3.3T
This one should be fairly obvious, but when it comes to outright acceleration, the base model 2.0T doesn’t stand a chance against the 365-horsepower 3.3T, which rockets from 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds. Although the 2.0T puts out a more than adequate 252 horsepower, the 3.3T’s acceleration is just nuclear, pinning you to the back of your seat.
In normal driving, the 2.0T feels perfectly fine, but crest 4,000rpm and it quickly runs out of steam. Luckily, that’s not the case in the more powerful G70. The twin-turbo V6 is a missile, producing meaningful thrust all the way to redline.
Handling Winner: 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T
Although the 3.3T is much faster, the lighter 2.0T just feels better to drive. The 3.3T we tested had Hyundai’s H-Trac all-wheel-drive system, which coupled with the heavier V6 made the front end feel much heavier than the RWD 2.0T.
The 2.0T is more fun to whip into turns and exercise the superb chassis, while the 3.3T is more of a point and shoot affair. Sure, they share the same platform , but adding a heavier engine and AWD really changes the character of a car and the general sensations of driving.
Value Winner: 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T
With a starting price of only $34,900, the base Genesis G70 2.0T undercuts the more expensive G70 3.3T H-Trac by over $10,000 as the 3.3T AWD starts at $45,750. Between the base 2.0T and the 3.3T H-Trac we drove, it was clear that the base model is anything but base. This little premium sedan is hugely impressive at the $35K mark. The interior is sophisticated and well appointed, while the exterior’s taught body and sleek styling cocoons a well-sorted chassis.
Other Genesis G70 trim levels have a lot to offer as well. Forego AWD, and the most affordable 3.3T can be had for only $43,750. For those of you looking to row your own gears, there’s even a 6-speed manual option (for the 2.0T only) that will set you back $37,900 and comes with a limited slip differential and other performance-oriented goodies. If you want all the bells and whistles, a fully loaded 3.3T Dynamic Edition clocks in at $52,250.
Overall, we think Genesis really knocked it out of the park with the new G70 sedan, delivering a dynamic vehicle that’s a ton of fun to drive. If you’re in the market for a luxury sports sedan, you owe it to yourself to test drive one today.
Pricing For The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N Released, Starting At $26,900
While the previous generation Hyundai Veloster was nothing to write home about, the all-new 2019 Veloster is an absolute blast to drive, with plenty of power and great handling dynamics. I recently took the Veloster Turbo out on some twisties, and I couldn’t wipe that grin off of my face, that’s how much fun I was having with the car.
But for those who want to dial up the excitement to 11, the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N takes it to a whole other level, raising the car’s horsepower from 201HP to 250HP (or 275HP with the Performance Package), along with a variety of chassis, tuning and other upgrades that are sure to impress even the most hardcore driving enthusiasts.
Hyundai has been teasing us about the 2019 Veloster N for some time now, and we’ve all been speculating about how much this hot hatch would ultimately cost. And yesterday, we finally got our answer. As it turns out, it’s considerably less than we had expect.
Pricing for the 2019 Veloster N starts at $26,900, with the Performance Package model coming in at $29,000. That’s a LOT of bang for the buck, and it should put the other hot hatches out there on notice. (We’re talking to you, GTI, WRX and Civic Type R)
To me, spending the extra $2,100 for the Performance Package is a no brainer, as it gives you 275 horsepower (versus 250 horsepower on the standard Veloster N), N corner carving limited slip differential, a variable exhaust valve system, 19″ wheels with Pirelli P Zero summer tires, and better brakes front and rear.
One thing to note about the Veloster N – It’s only offered with a manual transmission. While I can appreciate their reasoning for doing this, it does limit the number of potential buyers, as many enthusiasts don’t know how (or don’t want) to drive a stick.
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N will begin arriving at dealerships in December.
7 Ways To Improve Your Car’s Perfomance
When I drove a 1996 Mustang GT, I thought it was the fastest thing on the road, with a 4.6L V8 that put out 215HP, and a 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds. But by today’s standard, that’s considered rather slow, with many family sedans (like the 2018 Camry V6) packing 250-300 horsepower, and sports cars putting out 400+ HP. Pretty crazy stuff, right?
So what can you do if you own an older sports car and you want to give it a little performance boost? Or go all out and turn it into a race car? From the laws of speed and motion, here are 7 surefire methods you can use to improve your car’s performance:
1) Aerodynamics and Weight:
Aerodynamics deal with how bodies move through the air. Physicist Sir Isaac Newton proved that the force executed by any car depends on its mass and acceleration. The higher the mass, the higher the force. This eventually increases the drag. Something like an aero kit can help your car slip through the air faster.
You can cut a car’s weight by removing heavy mechanical components. The components may include your air conditioning, heater, speakers, or even your backseats. You can also remake the interior using lighter materials, like replacing your glass windows with polycarbonates, which are strong, tough and lightweight.
2) Bushing Replacements
Most cars leave the factory with rubber bushings in their suspension. They are cheap, absorb shocks and vibrations, let the suspension turn freely, and won’t bind easily. The downside is that they compromise your car’s handling somewhat. But if you are willing to give up a little civility in the name of better handling, replacing your bushings with polyurethane ones will give you more responsive handling and acceleration.
Upgraded bushings are a quick and easy way to breathe some new life into your old ride.
3) Check Your Air Filter
Your car’s air filter is it’s first line of defense against contaminants. But it can get dirty over time, and many people neglect to replace them when they should. This can negatively affect your car’s performance, as it struggles to pull in air. So if your a mechanic recommends that you replace the car’s air filter, change it.
There are a number of aftermarket air filters (like K&N) that reportedly deliver improved air flow, which in turn leads to more power. These require more maintenance (periodically oiling your filter, making sure not to foul your MAF sensor), but it’s just another way to squeeze a few more horsepower out of your ride.
4) Use High Quality Components
You know that saying “You get what you pay for”? Well it’s true. When you’re working on your car, you want to use high-quality components from reputable sources, not some random part from eBay that you bought because it was cheap. Stick with an established brand that has a long history in the business for that piece of mind.
The same holds true for aftermarket parts. If you’re upgrading your older Porsche, you want to stick with a name like Fabspeed, who offer Porsche 996 performance upgrades that will make your car feel stronger than ever, along with a warranty on their parts.
5) Install A Supercharger
By compressing air supplied to a car’s engine, superchargers give room for more oxygen to enter the engine. In reality, a car can have a lot of fuel. But without enough oxygen, the car will hardly accelerate.
Installing a supercharger will give you an immediate boost to your vehicle’s performance, with more horsepower both off-the-line and during acceleration. It’s a great way to take your car’s performance to the next level, though it’s a costly (and complicated) upgrade.
6) Enhance Performance Using Computers
Unlike classic cars, which you could tune with a basic set of tools, today’s cars are increasingly complicated, relying on computers for things like fuel delivery, spark, and more. What’s more, cars are tuned from the factory rather conservatively, and the car’s ECU can be reprogrammed to give you better performance.
There are plenty of resources where you can learn to program your car’s engine management program. Or you can go to a professional tuner, who can put your car on a dyno and give you a custom tune. These prove especially beneficial if you’ve got a turbocharged car.
7) Install Quality Tires
What connects your car to the road? Tires. Most mechanics would agree that tires are in fact the most important part of your car. If you’re looking for faster acceleration, better braking, and overall stability, you should invest in a quality set of Ultra High Performance tires, which will dramatically change the demeanor of your car.
You should always make sure that the tires are properly inflated as well, as too much or too little air pressure can dramatically affect a car’s performance.
As you can see, speed isn’t the only factor that defines a high-performance car. Hopefully these tips will help you turn your tired ride into a high-performance car that’s able to hang with the competition on the streets.