The 7 best cars I drove in 2017!

SpeedbackGT02As another year is drawing to a close, it is time to reflect back on the last 12 months, to see which vehicles made the most impact on my year. Some of the entries might come as a surprise, but they are all here for a reason, and I’ll do my best to explain why – starting with:

(7) Ford F-150 Raptor:IMG_6057 Ever since the very first Raptor model was introduced back in 2010, this beefed-up pickup has had no real rivals. For 2017, Ford made the Raptor even better, and smarter.
For starters, the new Raptor, based on the 13th generation model of the F-150, is lighter than the outgoing model, has an even better chassis with proper off-road suspension pieces, has more gears (10 speed automatic now), and more power, too.
Under the hood is no longer a giant V8 motor, instead you get a 3.5L V6. But not to worry, because that V6 motor has two turbochargers, and on full boost, develops 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, this truck can surely move very quickly, regardless of the terrain – just as long as you don’t care about fuel consumption!
As you’d expect, this is a thirsty truck. Even on a long, smooth drive on the highway, it cannot better 13.2 L/100 KM, as I found out, when I drove one from Mississauga, Ontario to Kentucky, U.S.A., and back. However, on this journey, the Raptor proved to be very comfortable, and simply sailed through the massive rain storm that I drove through on the way down.
Couple that with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, heated and ventilated seats, and the Raptor is like a premium luxury car, only bigger and tougher.
The price however, is very reasonable, for what this vehicle gives you in return – a base Raptor is yours from $68,399. So, if you’re looking for the ultimate pickup truck, look no further than the new Ford F-150 Raptor.

(6) Rolls-Royce Dawn:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the perfect world, where greed, racism and hatred doesn’t exist, and everyone gets to live a life of peace, luxury, health and wealth, we’d all ideally drive around in a Rolls-Royce Dawn. This latest convertible offering from what is arguably the most prestigious maker of luxury vehicles, Rolls-Royce, the Dawn represents everything that you’d wish for from a car. The Dawn is beautiful to behold, with an interior that not only offers style, but just about every gadget you’d ever need – including, massaging seats.

As you’d imagine, the quality of the fit and finish on the Dawn is exceptional, but what you wouldn’t expect is for it to be a driver’s car!
Bury your right foot into its deep, soft carpet, and you’ll awake its twin-turbocharged 6.6L V12 motor, that produces 563 hp, and 575 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed to just the rear wheels via a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is satellite aided, to ensure the car is always in the right gear for the bit of road you’re on – effortless wafting, it does that very well. But, thanks to its power, it can even burn rubber, on demand: Zero to 100 km/h is dealt with in 4.9 seconds, and it’ll keep going until it hits its speed limiter at 250 km/h.
But, going fast is not what a Rolls-Royce is all about, it is about covering vast distances in style and comfort, and I can honestly say, I’ve never come across a more comfortable car in my life!
I loved the Rolls-Royce Dawn, and if I had roughly $500,000 to spend on a car, this would be very high on my list.
ca1(5) Callaway Corvette SC757 AeroWagen: I have been writing about cars for 20 years now, and this is the most powerful car I have ever tested!
Callaway has been in the business of tweaking and custom building cars for 40 years now, but don’t think of them as a tuner shop – they are a legitimate manufacturer, and while their offerings are based on other manufacturers products, they do so much work themselves, that Callaway Cars get their own identity. Best bit is, all their work is covered under warranty, so no tensions or headaches to worry about, once you bring their vehicle home.
Over the years, Callaway has offered many customized versions of the Chevrolet Corvette, and starting in Spring of 2017, they added the AeroWagen to their portfolio. This conversion, in appearance, keeps most of the body panels of the Corvette, but replaces the rear hatch. Instead of the large glass canopy that all C7 generation Corvette’s have, Callaway has replaced it with a carbon fiber piece that makes the car appear like a wagon – hence it’s called, the AeroWagen.
This clever design was the brainchild of Dr. Paul Deutschman, who is (in my opinion) the greatest designer on the planet – the fact that he is a Canadian is just an added bonus.
Replacing the rear hatch of the Corvette with this AeroWagen piece changes the whole personality of the car, and I think it makes the car look better.
To make the car drive better, Callaway has upgraded the performance by installing a triple-cooled supercharger, that is quite a bit larger than the unit Chevrolet fits to the 6.2L V8 motor of the Corvette Z06. Bigger supercharger means more power, a lot more – this vehicle produces 757 hp, and 777 lb-ft of torque. All this grunt is fed to the rear wheels, via either a seven-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Trust me, no matter what gear you’re in, at any speed, you put your foot down in this car, and it just catapults forward – quickly! This car takes just 2.8 seconds to go from rest to 100 km/h, and if you are on the Autobahn, you’ll see its top speed is in the 333 km/h region – the AeroWagen is mad fast!
I got to drive one earlier this year in Bowling Green, Kentucky, U.S.A. and had a blast. It shrinks every straight piece of tarmac, and thrusts forward with a soundtrack that would plant a smile on any car enthusiasts face. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you’ve driven in the past, drive the SC757 AeroWagen, and you’ll have a really great time.
All this goodness doesn’t come cheap -it’ll run you close to $150,000 to bring one home- but it is a bargain compared to any other 700+ hp exotic. If only the rest of the body was as unique as the AeroWagen hatch -like on the Callaway C12 model, which was produced between 1997 to 2001- I would have placed this car much higher on my list.
SpeedbackGT01(4) David Brown Automotive Speedback GT: Speaking of a custom body, I have never seen a re-skin done as beautifully, and exhibit such high quality, as that of the Speedback GT.
Built in Silverstone, U.K. by David Brown Automotive, this coupe gives you a nostalgic look, but is packed with modern technology!
All Speedback GT’s start out as Jaguar XKR convertibles, but then goes through an extensive conversion. Every body panel is different – including the angle of the windscreen. Its lustrous finish is a result of 21 layers of paint, which is also applied to the car’s key fob. It is no wonder then, that each Speedback GT takes 8,000 hours to complete – even a Bentley Mulsanne takes just 450 hours to build, while a normal car like a Dodge Challenger takes about 10 hours to complete – David Brown Automotive is in a class of their own.
Open the door, and you’re greeted with a great interior, which while retains certain elements from the donor XKR, but is largely transformed, and finished in much higher quality materials. Around the back, it has a split opening tailgate, which is not only unique to the Speedback GT, but also would come in handy for when you want to take your Speedback GT on a picnic!
I was more interested in driving around in it, and I got to spend a really good amount of time with one, as drove it on highways, back roads, and even made my way through small towns. Through all of that, it performed admirably.
On open stretches, I got to flex its muscle. Under the hood is a supercharged 5.0L V8, that produces 510 hp. That is enough to propel this 1,800 kg coupe from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds, and it’ll keep going until it hits its speed limiter at 250 km/h. Want to go even quicker, David Brown Automotive offers a 600 hp engine upgrade, which should spice things up on the road even more.
Despite it’s performance, this is not a car for going quickly, it is the ultimate grand tourer, a perfect companion for covering the length of any continent – apart from Antartica, obviously!
All this exquisite engineering doesn’t come cheap, as the Speedback GT would cost you roughly $830,000 – so if I was handing out prizes based on sticker price, this would be at the very top!
IMG_6953(3) Honda Civic Type-R: This was one of the biggest surprises of the year. I was expecting the Type-R version of the new Honda Civic to be good, but just was not expecting it to blow my mind!
This, $40,890, hot hatch, is a sensation! It might look somewhat like a Civic, which is the best selling car in Canada, but in terms of performance, it takes the nameplate on to a whole new level!
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0L, four-cylinder motor that produces 306 hp, and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is fed to just the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox – no automatic, sorry posers. Put your foot down, and you’ll sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds, and can keep on going until you hit 277 km/h – please don’t try the latter on Canadian roads.
All this is impressive, but I haven’t got to its main attraction yet – that honour goes to its handling. First of all, you expect a powerful front-wheel drive car to have unbearable torque steer – this has none of that. I don’t know how Honda has managed to do this, but the Civic Type-R just manages the power you demand of it, and translates it to the tarmac. Secondly, this car goes around corners like it is on a track. Pretty much all cars, even very expensive ones, don’t really like going around corners – allow me to explain. Cars like to go straight, and when you turn the steering wheel, you can feel a force that wants to straighten the wheel. In the Type-R, you turn the wheel, the steering stays where you’ve asked it to stay, and the car just grips and goes around the corner. You can even adjust the steering angle, while in the middle of the corner, and this car just deals with it, with no drama.
I think, the Civic Type-R might just be the best handling car ever made, that is no small feat to achieve.
Any drawbacks? Well, given that it likes to drink only the finest of fuels, 91 octane or preferably higher, it isn’t cheap to run. It is also a high-strung car, which means, it never really relaxes, hence it isn’t ideal for long journeys. Then there are the looks, which are a bit boy racer-ish, although I quite like that. Trust me, if you’re looking for the best performance car bang for your bucks, look no further than the Civic Type-R.
BMWi8(2) BMW i8: Two years ago, I named the i8 as my “Car of the Year” – so why has it slipped down the ranking? Well, for starters, the car didn’t change at all in this time – although an update, which includes a new Roadster version, is coming for the 2018 model year. Also something I took into consideration, is that you can buy the car I’ve listed at number one and number three, for about the same kind of money as just one i8.
Don’t think that the appeal of the i8 has diminished in my books, because, as a total driving package, I still think it is one of the greatest cars ever made!
I love its intelligent approach to performance. It is propelled by a three-cylinder, 1.5L motor that is turbocharged – essentially the same motor you’ll find in a 2017 MINI Cooper – although it is tweaked to produce 231 hp, which powers the rear wheels. But that’s not all – powering the front wheels are two electric motors that combine to give 131 hp. When the i8’s lithium-ion battery pack is charged up, you can drive this car purely in electric mode for about 24 km. Furthermore, the battery pack gets charged up every time the car is braking or even coasting, and if you’re cruising around in “Sport” mode; that charges the batteries also.
On top of all this, there is a six-horsepower electric motor mounted to the drivetrain at the back, that sort of fills in for any gaps in power delivery – this is very clever stuff – and as a result, the i8, despite having only a reasonable combined power output of 357 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, performs better than many vehicles with much more power.
So, 0 to 100 km/h takes just 4.4 seconds, and it’ll max out at an electronically limited 250 km/h.
Numbers are one thing, how the car feels is totally different. The i8 always feels exciting to drive, thanks to its linear throttle response, and a very communicative steering system. It is not even close to being the fastest car I’ve ever driven, but every time I’ve driven an i8, I’ve felt content, and it planted a smile on my face. Some people I know, think that at $149,900 – it is too expensive! I say, these people don’t really understand cars or engineering, because if they did, they’d appreciate what this car gives in return for their investment.
IMG_7052(1) Lexus LC500: If the Honda Civic Type-R was one of the biggest surprises of this year, than the absolute biggest surprise was the Lexus LC500.
Lexus is known for making, comfortable, reliable vehicles; but not usually exciting ones. Over the years, it has given the world some good performance cars, such as the IS F, GS F, and the LFA, but these sort of vehicles have been fairly rare for this Japanese luxury car maker.
The LC500 was something I was really looking forward to driving, because I love the way it looks. When Lexus showed the production version of this car at an auto show, I could not believe that what I was looking at was a real car – not a concept.
Even the interior looks like the stuff you see from a concept car, so to be able to drive around in it, in reality, feels pretty awesome.
The drivetrain is pretty awesome, too. Under the hood is a naturally-aspirated 5.0L V8, that produces 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. All that power is sent to just the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission – a first for any Lexus model. This gearbox shifts fast and smooth, and under acceleration this car sounds really good – a quality enthusiasts look for in a sports car.
Equally as impressive, is its stability at highway speeds, and also its handling capabilities. No matter where I took the LC500, it was a joy to drive, and drew a crowd when parked.
For what it is, and what it offers, even the price is fairly reasonable – starting from $101,600.
While it would be easier to pick the most expensive car I tested (DBA Speedback GT), or the most powerful car (Callaway Corvette SC757 AeroWagen) as the car of the year, I often look at which car I could live with, every single day of the year – and with that in mind, the Lexus LC500 is the one I could happily spend the next 365 days with.
LC500
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The most silent unveiling ever! Bentley launched the Grand Convertible in the U.A.E. last month

bgc-19If you are to launch a rare, expensive, luxury vehicle, the United Arab Emirates would be an ideal place to debut it. That is exactly what Bentley did, when they unveiled the Grand Convertible last month. However, oddly, no real automotive press was invited to the launch, which was held at the Bentley showroom in Abu Dhabi. So, what are the details for this latest model carrying the “Flying B” hood emblem?
Built by Bentley’s in-house coachbuilding shop, Mulliner, the Grand Convertible will set you back $4.5-million (plus tax) to park one at your mansion.
So, what do you get for your money, apart from exclusivity? Well, you get a beautifully trimmed interior, made from the finest leather and wood. The rear deck features the largest, single piece of wood ever used on a production car. Oh, and you also get a stonking great powertrain – a 6.75L V8 that produces 530 hp and 811 lb-ft of torque.
All that power is routed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Put your foot down, and this Grand Convertible will see off the 0 to 100 km/h run in just 4.9 seconds – that is proper sports car territory.
But, the performance, and luxury features are not the important bits here – after all, the Grand Convertible is based on the platform and running gear of the Bentley Mulsanne Speed sedan – what makes the Grand Convertible… umm, grand… is its exclusivity. Only 19 people on this planet will get to say, that they own this vehicle, and that is very special indeed.
Would one of these end up in Canada? I really hope so, but chances are no, sadly!bentley-grand-convertible
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A place worth visiting, when in San Diego…

IMG_5596There are plenty of reasons for visiting San Diego, California – great scenery, good food, plenty of fun driving roads, etc. So, if you are in the area at the moment -or headed there in the future- be sure to check out the San Diego Automotive Museum.

It has a very eclectic mix of motorbikes and automobiles.

Here is a >>>quick glance<<< at what caught my attention.

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Did Aston Martin just copy Henrik Fisker?

Aston-Martin-Vantage-2018-871506

The car you see draped under the covers is the upcoming, new Aston Martin Vantage.

Now look at the car below, which has a very similar derriere – at least as far as the tail lights are concerned. Here’s the thing, the car below was unveiled a year ago, by none other than Aston Martin’s former design director, Henrik Fisker. It’s called the EMotion, and it is slated to be the first product by Fisker Inc.

FullSizeRenderAston Martin and Fisker have not had the greatest of relationships, since the two parted ways back at the end of 2004. As you may remember, about two years ago, Aston Martin tried to sue Fisker – twice in the same year, first for creating a coachbuild version of the DB9 called Thunderbolt, and then claiming that the aerial sketch of the VLF Force 1 V10 looked too much like an Aston Martin!

Now it seems, that Aston Martin has pulled a reversal, as their new car – under the sheet, at least – looks very much like the Fisker EMotion. I’ve yet to see the new Vantage from other angles, and I’m sure it’ll have a different profile to the EMotion, but just the way those tail lights look, it sure seems to be inspired by Fisker’s next electric offering.

Let me know what you – the readers – think about this. Leave a comment below, thank you!IMG_9731

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Is the new, 2018 Lexus LC500 any good?

When you think of high-performance cars, the name Lexus is probably not the first brand to come to mind. Continue reading —

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The 2017 Honda Civic Type-R is awesome, but is it flawless?

IMG_6954When Honda first introduced the Civic back in 1972, it was the entry-level offering from this Japanese manufacturer. Over the years, the Civic has grown in size, and performance, and it is now at a point where it has never been at before – at least in North America – because it is truly a road-legal track car that can monster the type of cars most people typically think of as sports cars. Ladies and gentleman, I am talking about, the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R.
Let’s start with the numbers, shall we. Under its hood, lies a 2.0L, four-cylinder motor, that features double over head cams, and 16 valves – with variable valve timing. That on its own would have made for a pretty tasty engine, but the clever engineers at Honda decided to bolt a giant turbocharger to it. End result is a motor that produces 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
All that energy gets transmitted to just the front wheels, via what is possibly the best six-speed manual transmission currently on sale, in any car. Build up some heat in its 245/30 ZR18 performance tires, launch it properly, and it’ll sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.0 seconds flat! Keep that accelerator pedal buried (on the autobahn, or on a proper race track) and its speedometer will go all the way up to 277 km/h! This is a properly fast car.
However, surprisingly, what makes this car special are not the numbers it can achieve, but how it achieves them. The Civic Type-R sits on a chassis that is stiff in all the right places, and has excellent suspension geometry. As a result, the very moment you turn it into a corner, you get the feeling that everything from camber angles to tires, to chassis and suspension, plus the steering ratio, are all dialed in to work with each other. As a result, this car can take corners at ridiculous speeds, and not lose its cool – most drivers on the other hand, will not have the skills, or the nerves, to extract all that the Civic Type-R can offer.
Aiding in its pursuit of speed, are its aerodynamics. Look all around this car, and you’ll find splitters, ground effects, and spoilers, which are not just for show. They all work together to keep this car nailed to the tarmac. It looks the way it does, not because some designer wanted it that way – it looks this way, because it has to! The fact that it looks wonderful – like a mad, anime racing car – is just a bonus.
However, don’t think that Honda went all track-focused, and forgot all about creature comforts. Not at all, as the Civic Type-R comes really well equipped with features such as power windows, locks, and mirrors. It also has a good infotainment system – which features navigation – and conveniences like a blind spot camera (a Honda exclusive technology), cruise control, and a whole lot more. However, the best button in here, is the red “Engine Start” button.
Like all current generation Civic models, the Type-R is spacious, and its sports seats are, in a word, perfect.
So, is this car flawless? It comes close, but no. First issue you have to keep in mind, is that it is a bit noisy on the highway, because it doesn’t have lots of sound deadening material in it to keep the weight down  – at 1,415 kg, it is quite a bit lighter than its main rivals. Secondly, it has a stiff ride – which gets even stiffer when you select ‘Sport’ or ‘+R’ mode – so it is not ideal for daily driving. Because it is a Type-R, it is pretty much impossible to drive it sensibly, which means, it’ll drink a lot of gas – I averaged 9.7 L/100km, and it’ll drink the finest premium fuel you can find, 94 octane please.
My biggest complaint with it, is its exhaust note – despite having three exiting pipes, it is far too quiet to be a performance car. Honda, I hope that you have a sportier exhaust coming for the Type-R in the future, because it surely deserves that.IMG_6950
However, after spending a week with the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R, I am fully convinced that it deserves its asking price – even if it baffles some people, who view it as just another Civic! That price is: $40,890 + freight, PDI, dealer fees, and taxes.
Should you buy one? Well, considering that they are all sold out for the first model year, I say, if you can find one that is not being offered at a huge premium, don’t hesitate even for a second, the Type-R is not only all the performance car you wish for it to be, it delivers much more than that.
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My visit to Kahn Design was a disaster…

DSCN6387Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work on plenty of exciting stories, and have met many high profile people from the automotive industry. Meeting Afzal Khan, the man behind Kahn Design, was the biggest disappointment of my career!

I had put in a lot of effort to go visit Kahn Design, travelled at my own expense, and made arrangements with one of their PR reps – who had been just wonderful to deal with. All was well, until I met Mr. Khan. He showed no appreciation for the work I had put in to get there, was mostly sarcastic and rude, and just wanted to brush me aside.

As a result of my interaction with Mr. Khan, I didn’t even want to do this story, but after a discussion with my editor, it was decided to do it anyway – since I had invested money on this assignment.

So, here is the >>>link<<< to the story, and as you’ll read, it’s true, the company’s very expensive, flagship SUV – the Flying Huntsman 6×6 – broke down after just 15 minutes!

So, if you’re looking for a unique, or special vehicle, and want quality engineering, don’t bother looking at Kahn Design, or any of their other brands, such as Project Kahn, and Chelsea Truck Co.

 

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