For the past two years, I’ve kept my 2011 Subaru WRX completely stock, a real rarity in the Subaru world. The car’s pretty impressive in stock form, but let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement. I’m not looking to do a crazy magazine-style project where the car’s off the road for 6-months, but rather some mild upgrades that can be done in my garage over a weekend with a standard set of tools.
Over the next few months, I’ll be tackling some of these projects and posting the progress on here for all to see.. Right now, the list includes tint, stereo/speakers, a tune, and possibly some suspension work. Nothing too wild, just some subtle tweaks to make an already great car that much better.
But before tackling all of that, we had to do something about the stock exhaust. Subaru added quad tips to the 2011+ WRX’s, and while they look great, they’re MUCH too quiet! When I first got the car, most of the aftermarket exhaust systems were carry-overs from the ’10 WRX, which meant single or dual exhaust tips. The large exhaust cutouts in the WRX bumper required quad tips to look right, so I kept searching.
A name that kept popping up in the Subaru forums was Nameless Performance. These guys had built quite a reputation in the Subaru world with their $299 axleback muffler deletes, so I decided to take a closer look.
The axleback muffler delete is exactly what it sounds like. It replaces the two factory 13.5lb mufflers with a pair of mandrel bent, TIG welded, T304 stainless steel pipes, with various tailpipe tip styles to choose from. While it’s an interesting option, I was concerned that it might be too loud for me (and the wife).
Thankfully, Nameless has another axleback system that replaces the factory mufflers with smaller 4″ mufflers, the aptly named AxleBack Muffler Replacement w/ 4″ Mufflers. It’s meant for those who want the sound and tone, but like the volume lower and more refined than their deletes. (Nameless saw a 20db reduction at idle and a 10db reduction during free revving from their standard muffler delete)
This system uses a proprietary muffler that they designed and tuned specifically for the WRX sedan, and it’s all built by their fabrication team in-house. This system costs $399, and that’s ultimately what I went with.
I received the Nameless exhaust back in mid-January, but Mother Nature was determined to keep me from installing it. About a month later, the weather started warming up, and I was finally able to install the system.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the exhaust is the quality of their welds. The exhaust is truly a work of art, it’s a shame that it’s hidden beneath the car.
The tips also looked fantastic, and I couldn’t wait to see how they filled out the rear valence. There are lots of tip options to choose one, but since I wanted a more OEM look, I went with the 3″ quad staggered double wall tips. These sit flush with the valence (while the stock tips don’t extend the whole way out), and the staggered layout looks great. If you want a little more bling, they offer a number of 3.5″ tip options, and I’ve even heard rumors about a 4″ tip being offered!
Installation takes about 20-30 minutes (unless you have some stubborn bolts that don’t want to come free), and you don’t even have to jack up your car to do the install. We took our time, took lots of pictures, and spent about an hour. We decided to use ramps, just to give ourselves some extra room.
The process couldn’t be easier. You just remove the two bolts holding each muffler in place, slide the mufflers out, slide the new mufflers in place, and bolt them back on. If you can, have a friend help you out, as that old muffler is pretty heavy, and you definitely don’t want that sucker falling on you!
Once everything was bolted back on, my buddy fired up the car so I could hear the Nameless Axleback for the first time. OMG, I was grinning from ear to ear, the sound is just INSANE! That signature boxer rumble has finally been freed, and this is how the car should have come from the factory!
This is a system that’s got to heard in person to fully appreciate. We shot some before-and-after videos, but unfortunately they didn’t do either system justice. You’ll just have to trust me on this, it’s freaking awesome!
I purposely held off on this review for awhile, because I wanted to see how the exhaust faired over time.. When I first installed it in mid-February, it seemed pretty loud, making me wonder if I should have gone with their 5″ muffler option instead. But as the weeks wore on, I found myself getting used to the exhaust, and what seemed “too loud” at first now seems perfect. The sound is easily modulated through the gas pedal, so if you’re passing a cop and don’t want to attract any unwanted attention, just get off the gas and your car will sound as quiet as stock. But if you want to attract some attention from that EVO across the way, drop down a gear, mass the pedal, and you’ll surely be heard!
I may look into some sound deadening options for the trunk in the future, as the new exhaust does make the inside cabin a little noisier than before. I have no problem talking on the phone with others through Bluetooth, so it’s not obnoxiously loud or anything. But nonetheless, a little noise reduction couldn’t hurt.
If you’re looking for a quality exhaust system for your 2011+ WRX sedan that sounds great and has no drone, then get the Nameless Performance AxleBack Muffler Replacement w/ 4″ Mufflers. You won’t be sorry!
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?