There is a new breed of crossover-style utilities that are becoming popular in the luxury segments. They are part station wagon, part crossover-SUV, part sport coupe. BMW calls them Sport Activity Vehicles. For Infiniti, their premier SAV is the QX30, which is a sport-tuned, coupe-like hatchback crossover that is priced below almost every other subcompact luxury crossover-SUV on the market. All of this makes the 2018 QX30 an extremely likeable vehicle.
For some, the exterior of the 2018 Infiniti QX30 might take some getting used to. This is true of most SAVs, though, and of the options, the QX30 is probably the prettiest. The coupe’d design is very well done with a swooping roofline and nicely clipped rear deck. The interior is also very good, with Infiniti’s signature attention to driver-centric details. A realtor would describe the QX30’s interior as “cozy,” a nice way of saying “almost cramped.” That’s endemic to the QX30’s segment as all subcompact crossovers share this attribute.
We are fans of the Infiniti’s excellent front seating and well-done cabin, but we aren’t fans of the back seating (which is cramped for both head and legroom) or the poor visibility the driver has in every direction but straight ahead. The good news is that with the taller AWD models, getting into the front seats is easy. The bad news is that getting in the back, no matter the drivetrain, requires a little yoga.
The 2018 Infiniti QX30 utilizes a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. A seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard as well. All-wheel drive is an option and one we’d recommend getting for the added stability and better traction it provides. Going to AWD means giving up the base model and foregoing the Sport model trim, but it’s worth it as the Sport trim’s upgrades aren’t really all that. The Premium trim level, which we drove, is a better choice for its price point and amenities returns.
The Premium trim builds on the Luxury trim level’s leather upholstery, more adjustable front seating, and stitched leather in the dash. The Premium adds LED fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, useful roof rails, and a premium sound system from Bose. Upping to AWD adds over an inch to the QX30’s ride height for more clearance. To the Premium trim can be added a host of packages for even more luxury, including a Technology package we’d recommend because it brings 360-degree cameras and several advanced safety features. Technophiles will also want the Navigation package, which adds on a color display for the instrument cluster and Infiniti InTouch apps.
Driving the 2018 Infiniti QX30 is where this little SAV begins its flirtatious love affair. The QX30 has very sharp handling, a fun presence, and acceleration in this SAV is like a tart candy, hitting you faster than you’d expect. That’s assuming you stay out of E (eco) mode, which makes everything about the QX30 sluggish and boring. In Sport (S) mode, the 2018 QX30 hits the bricks with energy, letting the transmission bounce through gears quickly as the little crossover flies. Manually shifting with the paddle shifters is also fun, but there will be a learning curve to getting the timing right as the delay between paddle pull and actual shift is count-able.
When driving, though, a distinct feeling of confidence is felt from the QX30 with responsive braking, precise steering, and plenty of feedback from the road via the pedals and wheel. This does mean that some may not like the comfort levels when driving the QX30, which are more sports-car than luxury crossover. Cushiness is not a thing in the QX30, but anyone shopping in this segment shouldn’t really be expecting to get that. The point of a subcompact luxury vehicle is fun. Sport is and should be in the vehicle’s name.
In all, we had a great week with the 2018 Infiniti QX30 and very much enjoyed its responsive nature and fun appeal. It may not be the best choice for family hauling, but it’ll get the groceries and keep you entertained while it does.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Is Muscle Car Mayhem
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye officially shatters the automotive barrier that used to define muscle cars from supercars.
With its seemingly inexhaustible limit to horsepower and tire-smoking supercharger trickery, Dodge continues to get maximum mileage out of the Challenger coupe. First, the Hellcat nudged the muscle car goalposts beyond 700 horsepower, much to the annoyance of Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang fans. Then along came the Dodge Demon, an 840-horsepower speed machine built for drag racing. Among its other attributes, the Demon proved that folks will pay loads of cash for a car that comes with only a driver’s seat as standard.
The good news, at least for Demon owners with some friends and family to haul around, was that the front passenger seat and entire rear seat could be optioned back for one buck, apiece.
The 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye now blends of these two extreme vehicles. On one hand, the 797-horsepower supercharged Hemi V-8 is a no-excuses monster with a top speed of 203 mph and, according to Dodge’s stopwatch, the capability to run from 0-60 mph in only 3.4 seconds. But the fact that it’s so easy to drive under normal circumstances (note, the operative word here is “normal”) only makes this Dodge more endearing, in a huggable-gorilla kind of way.
Just never forget that this car is also capable of shredding its rear tires – and your driver’s license – at pretty much any moment, courtesy of its supercharged 6.2-liter engine. In fact, the Redeye’s 2.7-liter supercharger has a larger total displacement than entire engines fitted to many popular cars and SUVs. A wild motor like this one needs plenty of air so, with this in mind, Dodge fitted a new twin-snorkel hood to help keep the Hemi breathing freely. This hood also keeps the Hellcat Redeye more stable at its 200+mph top speed, which is substantially more than the 168-mph maximum provided by the now-discontinued Demon.
While Dodge provided a wide range of funky exterior hues during our test drive in Portland, Maine. Yet at a glance, it’s almost impossible to spot a Redeye from a standard Hellcat. The side badges on the Redeye are now black, rather than the silver used on Hellcat models. When you look closely, the eyes of that angry kitty logo are now fashioned out of red cloisonné. (And yes, for the record, your author did initially wonder why Dodge had named its latest muscle car after the most horrible of flight options.)
Dodge engineers on-hand during our drive explained the horsepower gap to the Demon is due to a variety of factors. Remember, the Demon’s 840 horsepower figure was only achievable when the car was running on race fuel. We still have the nagging suspicion part of the reason for this difference in output was done simply to appease Demon owners, who can rest easy knowing their version of the Challenger retains top horsepower bragging rights.
Honestly, with this much power, who cares?
A few extra ponies were the last thing we needed when hustling the Hellcat Redeye on the sublime Club Motorsports race track, located in Tamworth, New Hampshire. This brand-new facility has sweeping turns and dramatic elevation changes that showcase the sheer grunt of the Redeye. With instructions to leave the traction control on – advice we didn’t mind heeding – the Dodge gobbled up the road with alarming speed, but it didn’t fall to pieces when heavy doses of braking were needed.
Credit the massive Brembo calipers, not to mention an overall ride and handling balance that’s surprisingly docile given this car’s capabilities. If anything, the Hellcat Redeye feels a little too heavy and roly-poly in corners. Ironically, this can be an attribute on public roads, where it happily settles into a relaxed cruise when you’re not in the mood to terrify everyone with a gratuitous display of chest-thumping power.
If you want the ultimate in muscle car soundtracks, however, you might want to check out the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt we recently test drove. While the Ford’s 480-horsepower V-8 sounds incredible and is retro-fantastic, the 797-horsepower engine in the Redeye is…well, dominated by a whole lot of supercharger whine. Purists might also wince at the fact the Redeye is only available with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox does a great job when it comes to power delivery, though the car itself can be difficult to transition smoothly, simply because the throttle pedal can unleash such a torrent of thrust with so little effort.
One particularly cool feature is what Dodge refers to as the SRT Power Chiller. This system routes the car’s A/C coolant to the supercharger, where it helps lower the temperature of incoming air and then flows to the system’s heat exchangers. We’re also fans of the optional “Widebody” exterior, which bumps out the fenders and gives the Redeye and even more menacing stance.
There is a price to be paid for all this lunacy, of course. The Hellcat Redeye carries a starting price of $70,000, though that’s before factoring in a $1,700 gas guzzler penalty, not to mention a supercar-like destination charge of around $1,300. Really?!
We drove several examples of the Hellcat Redeye and, with a few options, the price usually hovered around $80,000. That’s big money for an old-school American muscle car, though you could argue that on a dollar-per-horsepower scale, the Redeye is an absolute steal.
Top 5 Used Cars That Are Sure To Put A Smile On Any Enthusiast’s Face
Before making the decision to purchase a new car, there are several questions you need to ask yourself. Perhaps the most important one is whether it needs to be a “brand new” car at all, as a car tends to depreciate pretty substantially in the first few years of ownership.
Instead, you might want to consider finding a used car that offers more bang for the buck than a new one, while saving some much-needed cash in the process. Below are a few car deals that will be good on your pocket and still satisfy your needs:
1. Ford Mustang GT
There’s no question that the new Mustang GT is one of the best muscle cars around. But if you can’t quite swing the $50K price tag, consider one from the previous generation. The 2013-14 Mustang GTs are going for dirt cheap, with low mileage examples for as little as $20K. Spend some of that money you saved on mods, and pocket the rest!
2. Volvo S60 R
If you’re looking for a race car in sheep’s clothing, look no further than the Volvo S60 R. With so few of them out there, you’re bound to stand out from the crowd with your unique ride. You can only get one with a manual, but honestly it’s more fun rowing the gears yourself anyway. And it’s a great asset to have for any emergency auto equity loan.
3. Honda Civic SI
The Civic SI has always been a fun ride, one that can pull double duty as a daily driver and a weekend racer. They’re also very durable, have well-tuned suspensions and powerful motors, making them an excellent choice for someone who’s looking for a budget ride that they can build up over time. Parts are reasonable cheap, and the sky’s the limit with them.
4. Mazda Miata
What can I say about the Miata? While new models can set you back $30K, there are plenty of used models that are super affordable. Find a well-cared for example, and prepare for the ride of your life, as these cars are SO MUCH FUN. Amazing handling (thanks to that 50/50 weight distribution), an amazing shifter, and a top that drops to let the sunlight in. If you like to keep it simple, this is the vehicle for you.
5. Saab 9-3 SportCombi Aero
Got a family, but still want to have some fun? The Saab 9-3 SportCombi Aero is just want you are looking for. Despite the fact that it’s a decade old, the wagon still looks great, and they’re highly reliable. They’re a bit harder to find, but do the legwork and you’ll be rewarded with a great car that you’ll look forward to driving each and every day.
With all of that said, the outward appearance should not be a significant factor when getting a car. Some may look good at first glance, but not nearly as good when you peek inside. Beware of shocking cheap used car from strong brands; they are cheap for a reason, which will end up being a more significant liability than it should be.
Take a good look at your finances too and set a reasonable budget putting into consideration all the factors that come after purchase like insurance and maintenance. Good luck!
Channeling Our Inner Steve McQueen In The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt
Last week, Ford brought us out to San Francisco to drive the new 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt. A fitting venue, given that 50 years ago, one of the most iconic car chase scenes in Hollywood history was filmed there. Of course, I’m talking about 1968’s Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen.
In the movie, McQueen drove a Dark Highland Green ’68 Mustang GT fastback in an epic chase scene that spanned 12 minutes. And unlike today’s movies, it was the real deal, with no CGI to rely on back then. Cars were jumped, hubcaps were lost, and ultimately, one car went boom!
The 2019 Mustang Bullitt pays tribute to the original, painted in classic Dark Highland Green, equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission with rev matching (which can be disabled), and a gear shifter featuring a white cue ball shift knob.
Other features paying tribute to the car McQueen drove are subtle chrome accents around a unique black honeycomb grille and side windows, 19-inch classic torque thrust aluminum wheels and red painted Brembo brakes. There’s minimal badging inside and out, with only a circular faux gas cap Bullitt logo emblem on the rear decklid adorning the exterior.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that the Bullitt is just an aesthetics package. Building off of the Mustang GT Performance Package, the new Mustang Bullitt gets a performance open air intake, Mustang Shelby GT350 intake manifold, plus a larger 87-mm throttle body and unique PCM calibrations. The exhaust has also been retuned to give the car its signature burble.
These changes give the Mustang Bullitt a nice bump in performance, with 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, along with a top speed of 163 miles per hour. That’s 20 HP more than a standard Mustang GT, with an 8 mph increase on the top end!
We took the Bullitt through the winding Skyline Boulevard at a pretty healthy clip, and the car felt fantastic, staying firmly planted in the twisties, never lacking in the power department. In fact, I kept it in 3rd gear for most of this stretch, as the car as torque for days. Could we notice that extra 20 HP? Not really. But it’s worth it just for that glorious exhaust note..
The following morning, I got up SUPER early with one goal in mind, To retrace Bullitt‘s iconic chase scene in the 2019 Mustang Bullitt. And with most of the city still asleep, I had free reign of the roads, barreling through town like I was Steve McQueen.
It was rather surreal pulling up to Bimbo’s 365, which looks the same as it did 50 years ago. We jumped out, grabbed a few photos, and then headed towards Taylor Street, where those sweet jumps happened. Much like in the movie, we drove up and down this street a few times, but at a slightly safer speed. The only thing missing? A green Volkswagen Beetle.
From there, it was on to Filbert Street, the steepest street in San Francisco. Needless to say, I triple-checked the parking brake here before hopping out to take a few photos, as I didn’t need this car rolling away! Then it was off to Chestnut Street, where the Charger had a serious case of oversteer and slammed into a parked car. Steve missed the turn and is forced to do a smoky burnout in reverse. We may have left a few tire tracks of our own here as well. 🙂
Afterwards, we headed down Laguna Street, before hopping onto Marina Boulevard. And with that, our Bullitt chase scene had come to a close. Not many people can say that they drove in the footsteps (tire tracks?) of Steve McQueen, in a Mustang Bullitt no less!
“When making a Bullitt, there are certain things it absolutely must have,” said Carl Widmann, Mustang chief engineer. “It has to have the right attitude and it has to be unique in some way from a Mustang GT. More than anything, it has to be badass.”
The 2019 Mustang Bullitt delivers badassness in spades, and you will definitely stand out from the rest of the Mustangs out there in one. We got LOTS of thumbs-up from people as we drove through, many who probably never even saw the movie. But there’s just something about the Bullitt that resonates with people. Must be that baddassness.
With a starting price of $46,595 and a fully-loaded price of $52,980, the new Bullitt might give some folks sticker shock. But trust me, you’re getting a lot of car for your money.
What do you think of the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt?