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Review: 2018 Infiniti QX30

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2018 Infiniti QX30

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.

2018 Infiniti QX30

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.

2018 Infiniti QX30

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.

2018 Infiniti QX30 interior

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.

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Cars

On Track With The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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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.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

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2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

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.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

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.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

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.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited - Interior

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.

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Luxury

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Is The Most Luxurious SUV You’ve Ever Seen

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Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV

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.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV

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.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV interior

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?

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